I was really hyped for this year’s Capitol Hill Block Party lineup announcement. Last year’s CHBP was one of my favourite local shows I went to in 2014, and it really showed to me that the curators of this three-day festival have far more attentive ears than most other festivals to grace Seattle, with a greatly diverse lineup that played more to the underground side of the modern music spectrum, but not to the point of alienating less “in the know” music listeners, with moderately mainstream artists like Spoon and Chromeo headlining. And despite some head-scratchers in last year’s lineup, my body was ready for whatever they were ready to throw at us.
And, with the 2015 Capitol Hill Block Party lineup being recently announced, I’m glad to report that the lineup did not disappoint. I’d say it has more mouth-watering headliners than 2014, and it has more consistently strong smaller-text support than 2014. There are no CHILDBIRTH’s on this lineup, to put it bluntly. One of my other favourite things about the lineup is how singular it is. The curators of this year’s CHBP didn’t just grab whichever rising stars are hitting up every major festival in the country in an attempt to directly compete with everyone else. Rather, they opted for a more unique selection of artists that aren’t just going to be spammed elsewhere, and I think it’s really paid off.
With that said, welcome, welcome, to the second annual “Artists You Should See at Capitol Hill Block Party” extravaganza. Keep in mind that this list is entirely based on artists that I’m personally excited to see live, and as a result, I think deserve to be checked out by other people as well. For the sake of this list, though, I’ll only be listing off artists that aren’t major headliners, because you should see all of them, and don’t need me telling you why. Let’s get started.
One of the finest rising stars in underground electronic music, Giraffage is a name that should be on everyone’s tongue. While his style definitely isn’t without its forefathers in lo-fi music, downtempo, trap, as well as dream pop and indietronic music, producer Charlie Yin stands out as a much sharper songwriter than a lot of other up-and-comers you’ll encounter that are shooting for a similar style. This guy definitely knows how to twist some knobs. I saw Giraffage live during his last Seattle performance, and while it isn’t the most showy live setting in the world, he does do a good job of making his live set worth remembering with some interesting divergences thrown into the mix.
The Julie Ruin
I’m a pretty non-closeted die-hard for the riot grrrl movement of the 1990s, so when it came to my attention that two members of Bikini Kill, one of the best bands in that style, were in a new band, The Julie Ruin, I got really excited, and was curious to hear how singer-songwriter Kathleen Hanna’s trademark diatribe would translate into the 2010s. People familiar with Bikini Kill will most likely be jarred by the style taken on The Julie Ruin, as this project sounds far more DFA Records than it does Kill Rock Stars. The guitars on this project are surprisingly clean, and there is a pretty big influx of synthesizers and electronic programming, giving it sort of a post-punk flair. It likely won’t be for everyone, but I think it goes over without a hitch, and they’re absolutely worth seeing over the weekend.
The Flavr Blue
Of the several atmospheric, vaguely experimental synthpop acts on the CHBP lineup, the only one that stands out to me as being great is local act The Flavr Blue, mostly because they take this somewhat trendy and commodified style of pop music and just, simply, make it better. The instrumentals in this group’s music are far more diverse than usual for this style, with varied inspirations ranging from trap music to trip hop to psychedelic music, as well as alternative R&B. Lead singer Hollis brings a lot of personality to these tracks, and her skills as a songwriter are put on full blast. They’re a local group well worth checking out.
BADBADNOTGOOD is fucking awesome. Their music is an incredible experimental fusion of jazz music and instrumental hip-hop, with some breathtaking performances and improvisations. I’m not even sure there’s much more I can say about them, they’re just a phenomenally talented group. You owe it to yourself to check this band out.
Seattle hip-hop duo Shabazz Palaces is one of the craziest and most creative projects in hip-hop we have right now. Rapper Ishmael Butler demonstrates a lot of technical ability as he puts forth these abstract and sometimes very thoughtful and poetic lyrics, while Tendai Maraire matches it with some incredibly strange and progressive instrumentation, with constant beat changes, bizarre sound effects, and really creative uses of channel panning. On top of the fact that they kick ass, they’re well worth seeing live just to see how all this sonic weirdness comes together in a live setting.
If you’re looking for a really great punk and alternative rock band that will punch your face out through your asshole, The Coathangers need to be on your radar. Driving guitar riffs that sound like they’re coming straight out of 1990s underground rock are topped with impassioned and commanding vocals from all three members. You’re doing yourself no favours by not checking this band out.
I nearly came in my pants when I saw this name on the festival bill. Flatbush Zombies are an insane and insanely awesome hip-hop trio out of Brooklyn that I’ve been dying to see live ever since I first discovered them. This band’s music is just an all-out attack of killer flows, great production by Erick Arc Elliott, as well as just some of the craziest vocal deliveries and inflections you’ll ever hear in contemporary hip-hop. This trio is a must see.
Among this current breed of electronic music producers that try their hardest to make their music sound like it’s from the 1980s, Ghostly signee Com Truise is among the least shitty out there. Despite his sound being heavily rooted in nostalgic throwback, Com Truise’s productions are somewhat progressive in their mind-bending sound manipulation and sometimes jarring pacing and structures. If you’re in the mood for a set that will be equal parts groovy, surreal and radical, be there.
It’s kind of stunning the amount of great electronic music producers they have at Capitol Hill Block Party this year. Of course this was the case last year, when they had the likes of Manatee Commune, Slow Magic, and ODESZA performing, but this year they’re just killing it. One that I wasn’t familiar with, but was very impressed by, was Brighton producer Ambassadeurs, whose style I think is a nice mix of Brainfeeder-esque experimental beat music with sugary, upbeat house synth timbres and vocal samples. This is a set I’m sure will be getting the crowd moving.
If you’re looking for a goth’d-out, reverbed post-punk band to be intoxicated by, check out Protomartyr. This band is what you’d call a rising star in underground music, and for good reason. Their album that came out last year Under the Color of Official Right is a pretty solid modern-day entry in the genre, and says to me and many other people that they’re a band well worth watching out for. I recommend giving them a try.
And that does it for this year’s roundup of artists I think you should check out come the next Capitol Hill Block Party. Hopefully I’ve turned you onto some new stuff that you dig, and I hope that you’ll join me there in July. Or don’t, see if I care.