Seattle – Hacky sack circles, animal onesies, bubble machines, and electrical fires…just another typical day at the neighborhood block party.
After two stellar days of music Friday and Saturday, Sunday closed out the annual Capitol Hill Block Party with blowout acts, rounding out with headliner Ratatat. Throughout the day, however, festival goers could find quality music at any of the five stages. Check out these five acts Best New Bands saw on the closing day of the festival.
Originally known as Dive (after the Nirvana song), Brooklyn-based DIIV is the shoegaze/dream pop projected of Zachary Cole Smith, along with guitarist Andrew Bailey, keyboardist/guitarist Colin Caulfield, bassist Devin Ruben Perez, drummer Colby Hewitt. With their upcoming sophomore album Is the Is Are set to release in October, the group performed many new songs, which promise a slightly more heavy, garage rock sound than on the 2012 debut album Oshin. DIIV did play several older tracks, including the surfy, 80’s synth-filled “How Long Have You Known” and the enchantingly distorted and dissonant “Oshin (Subsume).” Though it was early on the main stage, the band members enjoyed themselves immensely, taking swigs of Jameson, thrashing about, and banging their curtains of hair.
Fronted by Matt Sheehy, Portland’s Lost Lander crafts catchy indie electro-pop/rock and includes Sarah Fennell (keys, vocals), William Seiji Marsh (bass), and Patrick Hughes (drums). Opening with “Kangaroo,” off their 2012 debut DRRT, Lost Lander begins with a poppy melody before building to a heavier, bluesy sound. Transitioning into the bouncing, glistening keys of “Walking on a Wire,” off their latest effort Medallion, Lost Lander creates an anthemic chorus with, “Hold on to that thread/We will not sleep until we’re dead,” Fennell’s harmony warm and Marsh’s bass slapping. As the band plays through their set, with another standout “Belly of the Bird/Valentina,” it becomes apparent that Sheehy’s compositions are more complex than previously expected, each seeming to hold several movements or suites rather than typical ABABCB. Their smart use of melody and rhythm also make for good dancing – even one of the security guards joined in. Closing the set with another new track, “Feed the Fever,” Lost Lander earned the superlative of one of the afternoon’s most enjoyable sets.
The Julie Ruin
Kathleen Hanna is back in the game. Though a battle with her long-undiagnosed Lyme disease put a hiatus on public appearances, the celebrated riot grrrl and former Bikini Kill frontwoman took the main stage to thunderous applause. Walking out with a big smile and waving her hands, Hanna joined guitarist Sara Landeau, bassist Kathi Wilcox, keyboardist Kenny Mellman, and drummer Carmine Covelli as the group kicked things off with “Lookout.” On the upbeat “Party City,” Hanna and Mellman delightfully tossed vocals back and forth. During instrumental interludes, the frontwoman danced with abandon, sometimes 60’s moves like swinging her arms straight out, up and down, sometimes moving like a broken doll. Each time, however, she would reach down to pull up her pantyhose: “I’m sorry I keep adjusting my pantyhose…I think I bought a size too big,” she announced to the laughing crowd.
“South Coast Plaza,” The Julie Ruin’s version of the Song of the Summer, showed Mellman’s theatrical chops on lead vocals. What works so beautifully about this group is their collective years in the industry; each band member is a pro, and their confidence onstage shines through. Hanna also used the spotlight to talk to the crowd about the importance of art, especially for young people. “When I was an activist, I would throw rocks through the wrong windows – I was yelling at people who were already listening to me,” she said. “I realized I didn’t have to yell. I could sing.”
The crowd drank in her candid, magnetic presence, cheering her every move, every statement, and dancing along with her to the remaining songs in the set, including “Goodnight Goodbye” and the favorite “Oh Come On.” With such a short set, it was a shame not to have heard tracks from the Bikini Kill or Le Tigre catalogues – until next time, dear Kathleen.
Since interviewing with Best New Bands back in March, Chastity Belt has toured with Courtney Barnett and been nominated for a Stranger Music Genius Award. Saturday at the Vera Stage, the four-piece, made up of Whitman College alums Julia Shapiro (lead vocals, guitar), Lydia Lund (guitar, vocals), Annie Truscott (bass), and Gretchen Grimm (drums), delivered their tongue-in-cheek lyrics set to sweeping indie rock. Chastity Belt opened with the man-splaining number “Drone,” the first track off their acclaimed 2015 LP Time to Go Home. One of the band’s hits, “Cool Slut,” drew massive applause as the group celebrated girls’ rights “to be slutty.” “Lydia,” also off the new album, featured the eponymous guitarist on lead vocals, while on “IDC,” Shapiro nonchalantly ponders if it’s “cool not to care.” The group closed their set with the mellow “Joke.”
Father John Misty
Saturday evening on the main stage, Father John Misty explained just how far he’d come since “performing” at his own neighborhood block party when he was younger. “My brother and I played our block party – but we weren’t invited to play…We played ‘Wild Thing’ over and over,” he said, drawing amused laughter from the crowd.
Times have changed since Josh Tillman was a boy; he’s now one of the most sought-after artists, having released a masterpiece of an album earlier this year. Pike Street was near to bursting with CHBP goers who came out to see him perform songs off I Love You, Honeybear. Kicking off with a dynamic rendition of the titular track, Father John Misty owned the stage, thrusting the microphone stand into the air, twirling and writhing all over his performance space. Throughout songs like “True Affection,” “Only Son of the Ladies Man,” and “Chateau Lobby #4 (In C for Two Virgins),” he jumped on top of the drum kit and into the crowd, ever the colorful showman. In between songs, he bantered with the audience, highlighting his sarcasm and wry sense of humor. “I would now like to bring the f***ing house down,” he paused, “with a ballad. Eat your heart out, Ratatat.” As the audience cheered and laughed, he performed “Bored in the USA,” before picking things up again with “Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings.”
To close his set, Father John Misty careened into “The Ideal Husband,” raucously swinging his mic and guitar as the band jammed behind him, livening up Capitol Hill Block Party as the rain finally ended and the sun was breaking through.
Top photo by Jim Bennett – All others by Caitlin Peterkin
With degrees in journalism and music, Caitlin’s written for Paste Magazine, The Chronicle of Higher Education, and MajoringinMusic.com. She loves cheese, laughing at GIFs of corgis, road trip sing-alongs, and connecting with people over good beer and good music.