Review: Capitol Hill Block Party 2015 (Day Two)

The Coathangers

My fateful walk up Pike Street to day two of Capitol Hill Block Party 2015 brought with it a growing sensation of searing excitement and impatience. Day one of the festival was as enjoyable and well-received as a blowjob in a wind tunnel, so there was no reason whatsoever not to be excited about the second day, especially with the mouth-watering rap sheet of performers set for both stages. A leisurely stroll turned into a hurried sprint as I made my way to the festival, distant live music becoming more and more audible with subsequent steps. Eventually, I made it, excitement surging through my body, and I was promptly treated to another helping of amazingly good goddamn live music.

My day two started as many others’ did, with Seattle hip-hop outfit The Physics tearing up the Main Stage. I was looking forward to their set after hearing roundly good things about their live performance, and considering the massive local following they have, I figured people had to be seeing something in them. Upon finally getting to see them live, suffice it to say, I wasn’t disappointed. All throughout their 45-minute set, there were copious amounts of stage working, audience interaction, and all around just great charisma and stage presence. The accompanying live band sounded great, and the occasional use of a trombone to replicate 808 bass hits was a clever utilisation. The Physics’ set got the day off of the right start, for sure.

Soon thereafter, the Vera Stage was treated to another local hip-hop outfit, albeit one I’d never heard of, One Above Below None. They were a hip-hop duo, also backed with a live band. Some point into their set, they’d mentioned that a lot of the songs they were performing, they’d never performed live before, which surprised me, because considering how much charisma and proficiency they had live, it seemed like they’d been doing this for quite a while now. The duo masterfully tag-teamed verses, and brought so much energy that it was impossible to deny. Though the crowd was small, the applause between songs was massive. They’re certainly a local act to watch out for.

One Above Below None

One of the more hotly anticipated acts of the day, New Zealand-via-Portland quartet Unknown Mortal Orchestra were up to the task of putting the Capitol Hill Block Party audience in a delirious trance for a good 45 minutes. A good portion of their set was cuts off of their pretty great third full-length LP Multi-Love, and all of the songs translated perfectly in the live setting. UMO figurehead Ruban Nielson’s voice has a lot of power to it, and gave these songs a good deal of power live. While not the most showy live performance of the weekend, the band performed wonderfully, and was a delight to catch live. Not to mention, standing off in the corner, watching the band while Sky Ferreira and the members of Diiv were standing behind me for most of the set, also being entranced by the band’s performance, enhanced the joyous atmosphere laid out by the band.

After a half-hour interlude and catching a curious, grueling half-a-song from local Xanax rock band Smokey Brights on the Vera Stage, I returned to the Main Stage to catch a bit of Seattle indie pop outfit Ivan & Alyosha. I’d never heard of them, nor was I particularly blown away by their live set. Their energy and stage banter were all there, but their sound left a lot to be desired. It sounded like somewhat unimaginative indie folk-pop that you’d hear in between songs you know and like on alternative/indie radio. Their set just seemed like an uninteresting follow-up to the bands that had come on before them.

I conked out after the photo pit cleared to catch Big Wild on the Vera, another one not on my radar. Big Wild was the first in a long, long sea of producers that utilise progressive and forward-thinking approaches to beat-driven electronic music to take the stage at Capitol Hill Block Party on day two. His live set was a pretty nice half-hour dance party, complete with hip-hop-influenced beats and sunburnt synths all over. Though he didn’t amass the largest crowd in the audience, those in attendance were moving all around to the music, and gave him a very warm reception. He was a good start to what would prove to be a long and great string of electronic music producers blowing the roof off the place.

If you told me to start picking favourites and pick the best performer that I saw on all of day two, I’d have to give it to Californian electronic music producer Charlie Yin, aka Giraffage, who was next up on the Main Stage. Like on day one, I was faced with a crushing schedule conflict, this time between Giraffage and Girlpool on the Vera Stage, but I ultimately decided I had to see Giraffage again. His last stop in Seattle, at Neumos with Spazzkid in February, was a fantastic sugar rush of a live set that was just as pleasant as it was bouncy, so I knew that his performance this time around wasn’t one to miss.


What I wasn’t expecting, though, was for it to be one of the most blood-pumping live performances I’ve been to in some time. His set was a slow burner at first, staying beatless for the first couple minutes or so, but right from the first drop, the crowd was flipping out, and showed no signs of stopping anytime soon. The thing is, especially after his comparatively reserved and head-bobbing Neumos performance, Giraffage never really struck me as the type of artist whose live set would translate that greatly into an outdoor festival main stage spot with a large crowd, but after Saturday, I think his music is better suited for this type of setup.

Charlie Yin’s stage presence isn’t the most crazy and awe-inspiring in the world, and is ultimately way more about the music itself, and the vibe that comes with being in such an animated crowd. Songs like “Tell Me” off of his No Reason EP were remixed live to follow a much easier-to-groove-to four-to-the-floor rhythm, in order to be better for a live setting. Much of his set was material I’d already heard from his Neumos performance – stuff like his alternative dance-y remixes of “Who Let the Dogs Out?” and Miley Cyrus’ “Party in the U.S.A.” – which is usually a big no-no for me (I’ve seen Godsmack live in concert twice, two years apart, and both performances were literally the same from beginning to end with no variation at all). However, in this new context, it took on a completely different level of enjoyment, with the whole crowd singing along to “Party in the U.S.A.” and head-nodding and hip-shaking as instructed. It was just an infinitely more massive and powerful set thanks to the larger audience.

Like Jamie xx the day before him, Giraffage remained somewhat quiet throughout most of his set, only butting in to give small barbs like “How’s everyone doing?” and “What’s up, Seattle?”, which only went a step further to spotlight the performed music rather than the performance itself. This may have rubbed some people the wrong way, who wanted more of a “performance”, but frankly, I don’t see the problem with making a live musical showcase be, you know, about the music. There was one moment in the set where the state of the intensity was so high that Yin accidentally knocked his laptop over and it closed, stopping the set immediately in its tracks, which you might think would be a disaster, but no one moved an inch, because they weren’t done having the time of their lives, and would’ve waited as long as it took to feel the good feelings again. After a minute or so, everything was back to normal, and the life-having resumed.

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