Recap: Capitol Hill Block Party Day 2

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On my next level secret handshake game with Macklemore. Photo by Michael Raley

One of the joys about Capitol Hill Block Party is that you never quite know where the day will take you.

Sure you can make plans to see a certain number of bands, or map out a strategy that includes hopping from stage to stage to make sure you get the maximum amount of music for your money, but eventually at some point in the day it will get ruined and you will deviate from your plans. There’s simply too much going on for any day of Block Party to go exactly  how you planned it. You’ve got friends everywhere, alcohol, odd people wearing facepaint, odd people swinging lightsabers (Lightsabers are the new Native American headdresses for hipsters people. You heard it here first), alcohol, bands walking through the crowd, random Macklemore sightings, food trucks, alcohol, and other interesting happenings of note that make any given day of the three-day bonanza of bands, booze and sunshine a more than memorable event.


It’s these distractions that makes Block Party such a fun and enjoyable summertime tradition. And it was those distractions that, you guessed it, shaped my experience during the second day of Capitol Hill Block Party. My original plan of attack included watching 10 bands, drinking at least 10 beers and catching all of Reignwolf’s three sets.

What really ended up happening ?

Six bands, six beers and one Reignwolf set with lots of fun distractions thrown in for good measure.

Reignwolf started the day with a KEXP session at Barboza. It was my first encounter with the fast-rising rocker and my second with The Barboza and I walked away very impressed with both. Reignwolf lived up to the hype and Barboza continued to impress me because it has my favorite beer, Manny’s Pale Ale, on tap. It’s the little things people. Also, the sound issues with the KEXP session I attended yesterday seemed to be solved as Reignwolf’s guitar assault was loud and very much an in-your-face experience, which is how his music is best served. I’ll write more about my thoughts on Reignwolf later (as well as showcase some amazing shots of his live show by the supremely talented Jason Tang) so look for that soon.

Typically at Block Party I try to avoid the indoor venues if possible because they often become extremely hot and sweaty quickly, which makes things too uncomfortable to enjoy music for my tastes, but I couldn’t resist the temptation to drop into the Cha Cha to watch the Blink 182 cover band Silly Goose perform. Fronted by Jenn Ghetto (formerly of Carissa’s Wierd) the band opened with “All The Small Things” and the vocals were barely audible. I stood about 20 feet away from the stage in a sweaty pack of boozed up hipsters and I almost couldn’t make out a word Ghetto was saying. The band sounded tight and the were on point, but I left in frustration because I couldn’t hear a word from the stage. It was disappointing because I really wanted to enjoy the goofy irony of a Blink 182 cover band playing Block Party but I guess it just wasn’t meant to be. You can almost hear my disappointment along with the non-vocals in this video of “Dammit.”

Spoek Mathambo

What wasn’t disappointing was Spoek Mathambo who brought an unexpected party with his left-of-center hip-hop from South Africa. He performed with a hyped-up percussionist and guitarist and occasionally rapped into a microphone that made his voice sound like a robot. Maybe it was his accent, but in some ways his performance sort of reminded of Dizzee Rascal. The music definitely not grimey like Dizzee but it has some of that personality and edge that Dizzee brought with his debut album eight or 10 years ago.  I captured part of a song on video so check  that out below.

Apparently white is the new black because when I dropped into Neumos to watch my pals Brent Amaker and the Rodeo I noticed that they changed things up a little. More specifically they changed things up in the wardrobe department. The Men in Black are now Men in White with an all-white color scheme and they looked damn snazzy. They played through old favorites like “Saddle Up” and “U.S.A.”and performed a few new songs off their upcoming record “Year of the Dragon.”

The new tracks featured the newest Rodeo member, vibraphonist Jacques Willis, and his addition adds a bit of a new flavor to the group’s country-western sound. I ran into Mr. Amaker after his performance and he filled me in a little on Willis’ background. He’s an instructor at Seattle Drum School, an accomplished jazz musician and, get this, he’s a MMA fighter who specializes in wrestling submissions. Talk about an interesting background.

Back at the main stage two performances really caught my attention. The first was from locals Beat Connection. Their sunny pop-rock was the perfect soundtrack for the afternoon. The band already won me over after I gave their latest record, The Palace Garden, a listen a few weeks back and watching them execute the songs of that record as well as last year’s Surf Noir was a piece of summertime bliss. I especially enjoyed “Silver Screen” which featured a horn section.

Brent Amaker and the Rodeo

The other main stage act that made an impression was Grimes. If you know anything about my musical tastes you should know that I’m pretty skeptical when it comes to Pitchfork favorites and flavor of the month indie groups that momentarily capture the spotlight. I can’t speak to Grimes’ staying power but I will say that the few songs I saw were enjoyable and that her bass-heavy dance tunes won me over. Well, okay, I didn’t actually see Grimes (here’s my view of the main stage during her set) but I did enjoy what I heard.

A few other  things of note happened during Day 2 of Block Party that merit mention:

  • Macklemore and Ryan Lewis dropped by the Jet City Stream VIP room to do an interview on Google + with Marco Collins. I attempted to eavesdrop but there was so much background noise it was tough to make out what exactly was being said. I joked with Fly Moon Royalty’s Action Jackson that it was the perfect opportunity to practice our Mystery Science Theater 3000 skills. The parts of the interview I did hear involved Referendum 74 and Macklemore’s Irish heritage. You can hear the entire interview on Monday when it will air on Jet City Stream at 3 p.m. I’ll post it here when it’s available as well.
  • Speaking of Fly Moon Royalty, they were on hand for a Jet City Stream session as well as a guerrilla performance on top of a food truck which happened at midnight. I wasn’t there for the midnight set but based on the accounts I’ve heard it will be remembered by all who witnessed it for quite some time.
  • The Cha Cha hosted the debut of a new local band, Trash Fires, which will likely become a local heavy you’ll be hearing a lot about in the near future. The band features former Schoolyard Heroes bassist Jonah Bergman (who is currently one-half of Vendetta Red’s rhythm section), Curtis Hall of Grand Archives and Austin Hicks. Check out a video from their set here.

And now, a clip of Spoek Mathambo’s main stage set:

Travis Hay

About Travis Hay

Travis Hay is a professional music journalist who has spent the past 14 years documenting and enjoying Seattle's diverse music scene. In 2009 he established Guerrilla Candy and is currently the site's editor and publisher. He has written for various media outlets including MSN Music, the Seattle-Post Intelligencer, Seattle Weekly, and others and was the founder and editor of defunct music site Ear Candy.