Seattle’s Capitol Hill Block Party Round-Up, Part I


The sun was out and the atmosphere was pleasant for the 14th annual revelry of the Capitol Hill Block Party in Seattle this past weekend. The three day festival at first included three stages, which became four stages, which finally evolved into a five-stage event barely a day before beginning. The festival was composed almost exclusively of local bands playing a variety of sounds from a steady stream of hip-hop, to infrequent bouts of metal, to constant pop-rock.

The two-block radius was packed with eager Seattleites from the first beat to the final cheer. Tickets sold out for Friday and Saturday days before the Block Party even started, while Sunday was nearly at max capacity. The rooftops and apartment balconies were full of spectators, and at times it seemed as though the Block Party was in an auditorium as opposed to a city street. The sound of the main stage blasted through the neighborhood of Capitol Hill, faintly audible even half a mile away.

Unexpected collaborations were aplenty, beginning during the very first set when opener Macklemore invited Champagne Champagne and Mad Rad to the stage. Both Mad Rad on Saturday and the Blue Scholars on Sunday called on the local bands/musicians Head Like a Kite and Grynch respectively. There was a strong sense of hometown pride in many of the performances, which was accentuated by these collaborative shows.

The main stage featured primarily hip-hop, dance indie-pop, and punk/post-grunge rock throughout the festival. Monday’s line-up saw keenly anticipated rappers Macklemore and Shabazz enthrall the audience in different-yet-effective ways. Macklemore’s sincere and accessible demeanor lay in contrast to Shabazz’s aloof grandeur, however the disparity of both performances kept the Block Party feeling fresh. Holy Fuck produced a solid electro/pop set as the sun was beginning to set, and though they struck me as a bit too playful with their bouncy melodies, it admittedly synchronized excellently with the vibe of the Block Party.

Saturday had a noticeably larger pool of rock shows on the main stage. The Redwood Plan’s Leslie Wood sang energetically to kick off the day, bouncing vigorously on her heels. Gentle melodic-rock and pop-rock groups dominated for the remainder of the day, from the soulful Blitzen Trapper to the disco/blues/desert-rock confusion of !!! (pronounced chk chk chk). Blonde Redhead cancelled their set due to an illness and were not replaced, which caused a damper on the evening for many of the Block Party goers.

The streets were a mess by the time Harlem, an odd hybrid of ska and post-grunge rock , opened on Sunday with a selection of feel-good jaunty songs. Mad Rad went on stage with an entire band (unheard of for them) and performed an interesting and compelling set that had a fuller sound than they generally produce. The Blue Scholars, one of the most renowned local acts, had fans singing along and waving their arms in the air, exerting whatever was energy left after the three day bender.

A look at the other stages will be appearing on Friday, so check back to hear about the notable performances of over 35+ bands!