As the third and final day of the Capitol Hill Block Party dawned, attendees broke out their festival wear for the 80-degree weather. Maiah Manser’s impressive vocal skills opened the Main Stage, while ‘70s heavyweight champs Stallion brought the heat at Cha Cha. Clams Casino’s atmospheric beats got feet moving in the street while The Spider Ferns grooved out with beautiful art installation lights in Neumos. Phoebe Ryan was gifted a flower from side stage by the instantly recognizable local rose peddler. Portland party synth boys STRFKR inundated the crowd with a sea of green dinosaur floaties, while two astronauts (and Champagne Champagne’s Pearl Dragon) rode pink flamingos into the sunset. The Cave Singers soothed audiences at the Vera Stage, while Chvrches brought the house down for the headlining set of 2016. Another year had come and gone.
Check out the gallery of our photos from the final day as well as the day’s highlights below.
SASSYBLACK’S APPROPRIATELY SASSY STAGE BANTER
Since the end of beloved hip hop innovators THEESatisfaction, Catherine “Cat” Harris-White has been hard at work recording No More Weak Dates. Her early evening set on the Vera Stage Sunday was the perfect balance of playful and soulful. Harris-White wasted no time teasing the crowd, saying things like, “I make beats. I made these beats. None of y’all care, you’re like, whatever,” with a cheeky smile. Feeling it may have been too harsh, she repented, “I’m sorry, I get to preachin’. It’s a Sunday after all.” She laughed and continued, “If you didn’t want me to talk crazy, why’d you give me the microphone?”
The Seattle scene is still mourning the breakup of the dynamic rap duo, but SassyBlack will surely fill part of the void. One new song from the record was “Comicon” about the city’s annual event (“I’ll set my phasers to stun, you’re quite the stunning one . . .”). After the song ended she spoke in a lucid tone, almost thinking out loud, “Star Trek realized that life is about survival and race, and I will acknowledge that as well.” It was a poignant moment that rang true to the relentless instances of violence against black and brown bodies in the news.
J GRGRY’S EXPANDING HORIZONS
J GRGRY (pronounced J Gregory) makes music that sounds like the Pacific Northwest feels. Thoughtful vocals layer over orchestral textures and big drums, like peering out through a rain-streaked windshield at evergreens streaming past. They’re songs for processing huge life transitions. Seattle native Joe Gregory took time off of music to address his depression and addiction, playing his first show in years at the Crocodile in December 2015. With echoes in his music of The Killers and Gotye, Gregory shapes his stage with impressive art direction, combining makeup and projections for emotional effect. “Rare Poisons,” “Giants,” and “Floodlands” filled the Barboza room, huge compositions clearly meant for a bigger space. In addition to original tracks, Gregory and his band covered “Love Vigilantes” by New Order. Seattleites wishing to catch him live should keep an eye out for his show at The Neptune in October. He won’t be playing small venues for long!
SASHAY, THE MOST CAPITOL HILL OF THE CAPITOL HILL BLOCK PARTY
Describing itself as “Grindr core,” Sashay is Seattle’s preeminent queer hardcore band. As singer Vincent Morales bopped around the Cha Cha stage, his petite stature and friendly face belied the brutal irreverence of his words. There’s the track “SIX SIX DIX,” meant to resemble 666, which proclaims that “Six six dicks have touched my body.” There’s “Gaysted” about drunken queers, and “Drag Queen.” It’s like if Bad Brains or Minor Threat collided with a rainbow, and it’s exactly the kind of noise needed in this rapidly shrinking alternative gayborhood.
The set continued the trend of Cha Cha bands throwing shade at the festival outside. Morales said of one of their songs, “That was ‘America’s Next Top Bottom,’ obviously written about anyone who came to Block Party this weekend.” Despite their feigned discontent, the band members were having a blast, bouncing around and beaming. Morales introduced each of them, then said, “ . . . and I’m Mariah Carey. Thanks for coming out!” At one point, Cha Cha bartender Victoria Liss came to the front and lifted Morales onto her shoulders. She held him up while he pin-wheeled his legs coquettishly. These antics and more are what made Sashay’s set a standout this weekend.
WAMPIRE’S ERIC PHIPPS SHREDS WITH A BROKEN ARM
As STRFKR ended their party of a set on the Main Stage, bassist Shawn Glassford said, “You all should head to see Wampire or Absolute Monarchs! Love those guys!” Those who took his suggestion were not disappointed. Fronted by Rocky Tinder and Eric Phipps, Wampire make energetic, danceable psychedelia. They’ve released two records on Polyvinyl (produced by Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s Jacob Portrait) and played with acts like Temples and Mac DeMarco.
“The Amazing Heart Attack” was arresting (no pun intended), demanding the crowd’s attention as the boys layered anthemic vocals over urgent chord progressions over chugging bass lines. “Giants” was a zany, toe-tapping rocker, with a synth-heavy warbled freakout at the end. “Wizard Staff” was a more relaxed number highlighting the skills of the band’s groovy saxophonist. The music video for the latter showcases the duo’s silly sense of humor, casting them as two detectives riding a tandem bike, hot on the trail of a mysterious wizard.
For their last song, Phipps put down his guitar to wander the stage singing. As the music grew and grew, he dropped to his knees and rolled slowly around on the floor, wrapping himself in his mic cord. It was then I noticed the full cast; he’d played the entire frenetic set with an injured arm.