Tonight in Seattle:  

Capitol Hill Block Party 2012 review: Best year yet?

{Grimes crowd / by Brady Harvey}

Monday has come and gone, and we're still having sweet, only slightly-sticky memories of this year's annual Capitol Hill Block Party. This year's was definitely the least hot or humid, making it pleasurable for those of us who aren't too into the sun (no offense to the lovers of the big yellow lava-lump in the sky). Saturday heated up as the musical apex of the fest rose, with Brooklyn's The Psychic Paramount awesome possum-saucing new fans on the Main Stage (and then again at a semi-secret show at unofficial CHBP venue The Comet on Sunday, with a whole bunch of fellow psyche freaks a-jambling).

Special little shows erupting here and there through the fenced-in Broadway neighborhood that surrounds The Stranger offices was a topic of much chatter as we walked between Neumos, the Vera Stage, et. al., to catch the already delightful scheduled line up Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Duff McKagan of Guns N'Roses immortality played a little bass for Walking Papers, a new thang he had swinging in the always-chuffed-and-stuffed bunker of the Cha Cha. There were a lot of other hidden thrills, but this is possibly my favorite Capitol Hill Block Party ever simply because there was so much sweetness going on officially, you couldn't not hear a great band just a few feet away from wherever you stood / swayed / jitterbugged / passed out in a tipple pool. I saw maybe one or two bands that didn't light my fire, but they were up-and-comers and may burn brightly later on when I catch 'em another time.

Now let's get to what was seen and supremely dug, by the EMP's photographer and Tea Cozies' Brady Harvey and myself, since Friday afternoon, July 20:

Father John Misty (Friday, 4 p.m., Main) craftily created a record worthy of an L.A. Wolf King earlier this year, but it was no warmed-over homage to SoCal succubi and champagne made by long-haired millionaires filling up your daddy's and mama's orange crated elpee collections. Josh Tillman perfected a musically appealing (and at times satirically astonishing) journey to the end of the weird scenes in one man's gold-dust mind. There was no reason to think this one-time drummer for the Fleet Foxes wouldn't blow everyone away by loosely, confidently, and joyfully singing the songs from this new persona's one platter oeuvre, but his personableness and professional surpassed expectations. I have never experienced such a warm, welcoming, wowing start to a festival. We were all into the music and J. was into us, his lanky frame curling its upper limbs into the air, pointing at the gods, tearing at the moon's face paint, calling out to friends like Joel Cuplin and Eric Fisher (of Constant Lovers), his band aces all the way. Hey, I could have left the festival then and been pleased as deadly nightshade. But the trip was just starting to ball.

Deadkill (Friday, 4:15 p.m., Neumos) somehow juggles being ferally fearsome with sometimes being really funny (lyrically), reminding me slightly of the late 90s rosetta stone of performance art punk, Raft of Dead Monkeys. But the humor is more reserved, and that is probably the only thing one can describe as reserved about the band, as they make sounds that smell like a Detroit muscle car factory spitting out speed flames. Lead singer Bryan Krieger has tattoos as if he's ready for some mixed Martial arts and a body to match it, and his boys don't slag watching his back in total panther-rock attack. Ecstatic. Great rawk, no holding back. OK, I'll stop "pa-rapping" now.

Crystal Stilts (Friday, 5:15 p.m., Neumos) was good, and made me appreciate them more by seeing them live. No, I am not a fan, but a casual admirer at least. (Put down your shoegaze; don't hit me with their I'm-so-high heels.) There is something about the Stilts' sound that is mesmerizing, but also an aspect that seems like it could be beefed up somehow. Live, it's a wonderful flow -- it moves me more seeing them grind their organs, lurched over stacked keyboards and singing like they're peeved poets at the bottom of an ennui well. Old man flashback: they kind of remind me of Polyrock from back in the very early 80s, being both fuzzily dissonant but also new wave streamlined, and not too concerned with direct listenership connection. 

Doomtree (Friday, 5:15 p.m., Main), on the other hand, which I walked out to from CS, roared and bounced and spun soul music and gave crazy good advice about living and exploded like a firecracker party on a hot asphalt island. You could not help but be pulled in by their thick-groove, big-hearted, Minneapolis funk and flow. Nothing ambivalent about this hip-hop, it's rooted in a head scene but it's sheer body rocking beauty. Dessa's deeply adored for a reason, and I found more than one to feel the whole way about Doomtree this day. How'd I arrive at this jam so late? People were loving this, really loving it.

{Black Breath / by Brady Harvey}

{Black Breath / by Brady Harvey}

Black Breath (Friday, 6:30 p.m., Neumos) played all the songs I love on Sentenced to Life, this year's shredder from the band -- but it's much more thrilling to watch 'em recreate it all live, with hair whipping around like furry pinwheel muppet heads. To quote Brady, "I've never seen so much hair on one band before. Metal's not really my thing, but they were INCREDIBLE." Agreed!

Colonies (Friday, 7:30 p.m., Barboza) was okay, but the set seemed to get weaker than stronger, and not knowing if the opening tracks are new ones (which would be awesome, as those were great), would like to hear this Tacoma band's next release to find out.

At this point, I met CryBaby Studios' own Leigh Stone for the first time, and she took me upstairs to Neumos to catch the last half of Light Asylum (7:45 p.m.). This Brooklyn electro duo may have been my favorite new discovery of CHBP 2012 (thanks, Leigh!): Think a Betty Davis-throated protest soul singer with a guy who could have been beating the shit out of a noisebox for Wax Trax in the mid-80s, fiercely driving an apocalyptic asymmetrical death disco stomp into the dancefloor. Oh hell yes! We all threw our fists in the air and pretended to live like Baudelaire. Need a record, need a record, need a record of theirs.

{Thee Oh Sees / by Brady Harvey}

Brady checked out Thee Oh Sees (Friday, 7:45 p.m., Main): "Per usual, an incredible sweat fest. People were losing their minds -- throwing bras and trash, and trashy bras. I stopped taking photos after awhile so I could dance my ass off too. I left it there, among a pile of missing shoes."

Back downstairs to Baboza for Leigh and I to see Nouela (Friday, 8:30 p.m.) which was as smooth, creamy, dark, and delicious as-- OK, I won't make that joke. Ms. Johnston deserves better than that, and her first name is pretty and deserves to be the tag on her new, drum-driven blues-and-texture swoon. I was a big fan of People Eating People (giving that solo album of hers loving love here at TIG) but hadn't gotten around to listening to Nouela's Chants yet. That has been corrected all day today. Intimate but wide-screen, swelling with sweet sadness and hard-learned lessons in pain, seeing Nouela's new work was another CHBP high point this year.

In full disclosure, I was the publicist for Eighteen Individual Eyes (Barboza, 9:30 p.m.) and so I'm not allowed to officially say how incredibly KICK ASS they are here. So I won't. But Jonathan Cunningham of the EMP was at the Block Party and he says they are. Thanks, Jonathan! OK, I'll shut up about EIE now.

Saturday, July 21:

Nightmare Fortress (Saturday, 2 p.m., Neumos) was certainly a strange choice to have at this "2" on the clockface, with nocturnal spurnings and spectral sway more app for darkwave dungeons past the midnight hour. Not too heavy, but emotionally intense electro-pop for witchy-poo warrior children. Alicia Amiri (also of Lovesick Empire) has a seductively commanding voice even if she's casting some sort of voodoo spell on some dude who broke up with her or damning some government conspiracy. Then there's the bloops and the beats, and if Joss Whedon ever starts a label, this might be his first signing. I was silly for a bit here but they carried this off quite well.

Absolute Monarchs (Saturday, 2:15 p.m., Main) ROCKED. Far too hard for this early in the afternoon, but far too well not to thrill everyone who heard them. And I think everyone on earth probably heard them. 

Pollens (Saturday, 3 p.m., Neumos) are better bred than I on art music: I have no idea what genres all their skittering and wailing comes from. It's mostly happy-sounding and happy-making though, caught in a whooping world of cosmopolitan tribalism. In full disclosure, bass player Lena Simon is also in Tomten (which I also publicize), but as this band sounds nothing like that one. Actually, Pollens don't sound like any band I've heard before, though they make a great team-up with the rafters-shaking, sometimes-similar-howliing raze of Kithkin (who also played CHBP but I missed). If Vampire Weekend is your Paul Simon, make Pollens be your My Life in the Bush Of Ghosts.

{Spoek Mathambo / by Brady Harvey}

Spoek Mathambo (Saturday, 3:30 p.m., Main) was an interesting contrast to Pollens, especially in stepping from the latter into the space jammy dirty dubby trenchyard skronk-pop of the former, self-named artist-band. Spoek seems to have gorged on grooves since birth, sent in care packages to his township and played along with till he played everything all at once. I actually prefer it on album (I recommended it highly here earlier this year) when it's sliced into silvery delectables of sound; but maybe catching him again when it's later at night and I've already imbibed some relaxants would change my opinion on that entirely. In any case, I think this is an extremely important new artist to watch and hear.

{Trash Fire / by Brady Harvey}

{Trash Fire / by Brady Harvey}

Trash Fire (Saturday, 4:45 p.m., Cha Cha) is a fuller sounding band than their name would imply. They're bold and blazing, and very boy. Gasoline fumes are there, but it's no mere sparks or fits -- it's full-on raging. A great cover of "For Your Love" near-closed the set. Jonah Bergman (Schoolyard Heroes) and Curtis Hall (Grand Archives) were part of the line up that played to a completely swamped Cha Cha. 

{Slow Dance / by Brady Harvey}

Slow Dance (Saturday, 5:45 p.m., Cha Cha): Back to Brady: "I was drawn to Slow Dance by their wacky 'Pac-man-esque' ghost balloon marketing. They unleashed several floating ghosts branded with their name out onto the winds. When I finally made it into the room, there was nowhere to stand so I left. Ha ha!" Cha Cha Stage, get bigger NOW!

{Reignwolf / by Brady Harvey}

Reignwolf (Saturday, 6:30 p.m., Neumos): Again, take it away, Brady! "This was my first Reignwolf experience. Forwarned by the other photographers that this crazy babe was going to tear up the stage and blow my mind, I wasn't let down. When Reignwolf plays guitar you can feel it in your crotch. This guy can wail a solo and bang up a full drum kit at the same time. He may even be an alien. Pretty sure everyone that plays guitar, or has ever picked up a guitar in Seattle has a crush on him. There was definitely a horde of straight men openly drooling with happiness at this indescribable feat of rock."

{Grimes / by Brady Harvey}

Yowza! I myself spent the next couple of hours floating between Grimes (7:30, Main) and The Psychic Paramount (7:45 p.m., Neumos). I wish I could have died right there, and my own ghost repeated the process for eternity. Strange poles clanging together toward heaven and Nod in a sonic temple. 

Sunday, July 22:

Cloud Nothings (2:30 p.m., Main): The Stranger's own Megan Seling (who has an achingly awesome looking cookbook coming out soon, watch for it!) gave me the scoop on these guys: Lead singer has that McLuvin kind of smoochy-nerdy charm; and I heard the squall they were making which to her was kinda like Built To Spill without the noodling. They're a rock band unafraid of mathy noise, which is nice. But they may not fail us and go lame meat-and-potatoes indie or full-on wankery any time soon, hopinghopinghoping.

{Jaill / by Brady Harvey}

Jaill (5:15 p.m., Neumos): I absolutely loved That's How We Burn, last year's Sub Pop debut from Jaill, and live they brought all the energy I hoped for from that classic full-length. Talking with Stranger scribe (and dapper mod con himself) Travis Ritter, we agreed this and the next band to be reviewed are the kinds a lot of music writers are never ready for. We get all goosily hyped up on the bloopity-bleep and the wocka wocka flame (wait a sec, that's an actual band name there I think) but when the year is over, we found we've played the total HELL out of a simple guitar bass and drums basement rock record. Like, every week in the last year. And it may not have made as many best of lists that it should've. Anyways, Brady's chiming in on this one too: "Jaill seemed honestly surprised that anyone was taking photos of them, which was silly, because they sounded like Weezer. And you can't go wrong with that." 

{King Tuff / by Brady Harvey}

King Tuff (6:30 p.m., Neumos): Kyle Thomas released his Sub Pop debut this year with King Tuff (last year he recorded the happy hazy crazy Happy Birthday album for the same legendary label). But Mr. Ritter had turned me on to his work on his last elpee, which was a bit more lysergically lyricized and bomp brutal than the eponymous S-P full length. But I LOVE it. "Baby Just Break" is like a Mick Jones song written for the 101ers; "Loser's Wall" is the Cheap Trick never played; and through it all, Mr. Thomas plays his "Bad Thing" (guitar, silly). Live, he's just as tight and unabashedly cheerful. There is nothing pretentious, self-possessed, or depressing about King Tuff, and the world is a much better place for it. The final analysis from Brady: "When I entered Neumos a couple of songs into their set, the whole place smelled like dirty junk. Nobody seemed to care though. King Tuff reminds me of a punk rock 70s jam band, and i like it. Based on the crowd, Seattle likes them too. I had to shove my way through pumping fists and armpits just to make it out a side door."

Capitol Hill Block Party 2012: ALL PUMPING FISTS AND ARMPITS!!! Yay! Anyways, that's what we saw we wanted to write about. Thanks, Brady (and Jonathan and Megan and Travis) and great work, CHBP people! This was a beginning-to-end big year of success. 

{All photos courtesy of Brady Harvey. From top: Black Breath. Thee Oh Sees, Spoek Mathambo, Trash Fire, Slow Dance, Reignwolf, Grimes, Jaill, King Tuff.}

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