The first day of Capitol Hill Block Party is in the books. As usual the festival had plenty to offer with an almost overwhelming number of bands spread across six stages (eight if you count the sets that happened at Sole Repair and Havana) and there was plenty of local goodness to be experienced in one of the city’s most vibrant neighborhoods.
Block Party’s opening day wasn’t as crowded as it has been previously and I’m not sure why. Maybe it was the lack of a big-name headliner, maybe it was because it was a Friday, or maybe it was the slightly overcast weather. Whatever the cause, the noticeable slide in attendance created a comfortable and almost intimate vibe (for a festival) which was a welcome change to the packed like sardines on Pike Street feel of years past. But just because the crowd wasn’t as big as previous years doesn’t mean the quality of the festival suffered. Good times and good music are areas where Block Party always delivers and here’s some of what I was able to soak in during Day 1.
Headliners Fitz and the Tantrums delivered two sets, the first was a KEXP session at The Barboza around 5:30 and the second happened about five hours later on the main stage. The Barboza set was a hot and steamy affair due to the size of the venue and the number of people crammed into the small space to see a brief set by the night’s main event. Remember the reference to being packed like sardines earlier? That’s what it was like.
It was my first time visiting The Barboza and my initial impressions left me really liking the place. While it was definitely way too small for Fitz (I think it’s capacity hovers around 200), the KEXP sessions are a great part of Block Party and the venue is a good fit for the smaller bands the station likes to champion. The vocals carried well in the room but the low-end was a bit muddied. I’m not sure if this got fixed because after taking in a few songs I left the set early because I didn’t have the best view and The Barboza was getting too hot for my liking.
A few years ago former Guerrilla Candy contributor Mike Ramos hipped me to Minneapolis hip-hop collective Doomtree and I’ve been meaning to check them out live ever since reading his review of one of their shows. I had my chance during Block Party and I was not disappointed. I’ve always been a fan of hip-hop collectives and groups because they tend to bring a different type of energy to the stage than just an MC and a DJ and Doomtree definitely delivered in the energy and stage presence department. The seven-piece crew oozed charisma and immediately drew the crowd in with hard-hitting beats and slick rhymes. I’ll be seeking out their material and studying up so I can be better prepared for the next time they come to town.
Jet City Stream offered up a session with The Grizzled Mighty, a band that quickly became my new favorite local rock group. The two-piece — guitarist/singer Ryan Granger and drummer Whitney Petty — play loud, fun, garage rock and it’s a blast live. Granger is a solid guitar player (he also plays in Fox and the Law) and Petty hits hard with an unorthodox style that involves holding the drumsticks by their narrow ends and hitting with the thicker portion of the stick. See the video of their performance below to get a taste of their style. On a side note, there must be something about local duos because I just keep falling for them. There’s my recent discovery of The Mad Caps, the dreamy pop of Lemolo and of course I can’t leave My Goodness. So, yeah, I guess you could say I have a thing for local twosomes.
As great as The Grizzled Mighty were, The Oh Sees managed to be the most rock ‘n’ roll thing I managed to see all day. Their energy combined with a musical attack of a dual guitar, no bass, and arrangements that are heavy on the percussion was the perfect early evening aural cocktail.
Over at the Vera stage the one-two punch of soul and hip-hop that is Fly Moon Royalty made bodies move. The set included the always enjoyable “Betty’s Kitchen” and ended with Fly Moon’s sultry and sexy take on “Baby Got Back,” which looks like it might become a staple of the group’s live show given the big reaction it received. Action Jackson’s production skills and Adra Boo’s soulful sexiness are a combination unlike most everything that’s happening in Seattle and their star continues to shine bright locally.
Speaking of soul and rising stars, I can’t say enough about how impressed I was by Allen Stone’s main stage performance. I’ll write a little bit more Allen later, but for now I’ll say that if his self-titled debut doesn’t move units when it is released by Dave Matthews’ ATO Records on July 31, well, to quote the great Eddie Argos “The record buying public must be crazy.”