Block Party Block Party Saturday: A Partial Recap
posted by July 29 at 3:47 AMon
First off, I just want to say that I’m extremely glad that the hassle of listening to / dealing with corporate sponsors at the Block Party this year was tolerably minimal. I didn’t have to look at that stupid pink-haired cartoon filly trying to sell me Esurance everywhere I went, and I support progressive politics so the Washington Bus can say whatever they want for as long as they need. Someone forgot to turn off Dave Meinert’s bat-signal inside Neumos once the festival started, but it didn’t seem to really bother anyone. And the free cans of liquid meth from Monster kept everyone in good spirits, unless they drank too many, then they felt like a strung-out piece of shit.
Sean Na Na, also known as Sean Tillman (and Har Mar Superstar) caught me off guard with his stripped-down guitar pop. I’ve heard both his acoustic and his hip hop efforts, but for the Block Party he had a band and rocking out. It didn’t blow me away, but I was once again impressed how that man’s pop sensibilities know no one genre. Forgetting he was live on KEXP he let an F-Bomb slip between songs and remarked, “Sorry about that, children. If you need to find me, my name in Steve Aoki. I own Dim Mak records.”
I saw Fleet Foxes at the Block Party last year and was mildly impressed. This year I was floored. Their new songs are amazing, and they perform them live beautifully. Singer Robin Pecknold’s voice has all the richness and vibrancy of Rufus Wainwright’s but without the irritating theatric tilt, and is nicely harmonized by K.C. Wescott on keyboard. Wescott, who joined the Foxes since the last time I saw them, is a great addition. His roles in former bands Seldom and the Vogue were gold, and it’s no different this time around. Their song “White Winter Hymanal,” which is featured in this year’s Bumbershoot video, is not going to be leaving my head any time soon.
Gabriel Teodros and his band had everyone inside Neumos waving their hands as they brought up all sorts of friends from the local hiphop scene to take turns on the mic. They specifically brought up female MC and Seattle Poet Populist nominee El Dia (Angela Martinez Dy) to join them on a song about “Women Warriors.” It can be hard to get a lot of energy out of a hiphop crowd, but Teodros’ band had everyone eating out of their hands. Live hiphop is always better when there’s a good band actually playing the music.
With the lights dimmed extra low and their own lamp brought for ambiance, Cave Singers definitely set the mood in the packed room. Down-home southern guitar, light drums, and a small, average-looking man doing a Stevie Nicks impression: so much could go wrong. But it doesn’t, and thus Cave Singers have thus succeeded in making a sound that is both unique and refreshing.
Grand Archives is a group I’ve heard a lot about, especially in the context of being Seattle’s “Next Big Thing,” but I wouldn’t give them that glory after my first taste of their live show. Their faster songs, with lush backing harmonies and great energy, made me want to drive down the coast at sunset… I was almost ready to believe the hype. But then their slower songs bored me something terrible and drove me out to the fresh air. Honestly though, there’s a decent chance part of my negativity was due to my several hour deterioration in the muggy Neumos balcony. But as soon as I took off for outside they started up their last song, another fast one, and I turned to the stage immediately thinking, “wait, this sounds cool again.” It just wasn’t cool enough to make me want to spend another moment inside Neumos.
The dudes in Dyme Def are young, fresh, and very impressive on the microphone. They faced some technical problems, forcing them to share two mics between the three of them for most of the set, but they didn’t let it slow them down one bit. If these guys play their cards right they could have some big deals in their future.
Spoon came out with no introduction (which is awesome) and went right to it. At first I had my doubts that they could hold the attention of such a huge crowd, but I wrongly doubted how great a band they really are. Britt Daniels has amassed a seriously impressive collection of good to great songs, and he had no problem pulling them out one after another all night. I guess I also doubted how many huge Spoon fans there were around here. When I bought Kill the Moonlight four years ago I never would have guessed I’d see a whole city block chanting the lyrics to “The Way We Get By,” but it happened, and it was cool. My favorite moment during the set was in “Small Stakes,” when after the line “I Don't Dig The Stripes But I'll Go For Har Mar,” the Superstar himself Sean Tillman ran onstage shirtless, twirling it above his head, and no one had any fucking idea who he was. Spoon was totally smooth, totally cool, and they sounded just as good live as on record. I left very impressed. Twas truly a good party.