Grunge may be long gone, but a handful of the Seattle bands that played at the Capitol Hill Block Party festival in their hometown this past weekend proved that the Emerald City’s music scene is still one of the country’s best.
Competing for the attention of the 16, 000 strong crowd with the likes of headliners Sonic Youth, Built to Spill, Gossip, and Deerhunter, the following four local bands put on some of the weekend’s best shows.
There can never be too much weed rap, and They Live! does bouncy, blunted hip-hop with a love that can’t be faked. Backed by head-spinning members of the Mash Hall b-boy crew, MCs Dro Boy and Bruce Illest blew up the indoor Neumo’s stage on Friday night with tracks like “Weed Murder” and “(It’s) My Weed,” but the place really erupted when Dro Boy dropped verses over Illest’s remix of the Dirty Projectors’ “Stillness is the Move.”
Wild Orchid Children unleashed a tribal punk freakout that mashed together Beastie Boys, Deep Purple, and Lee “Scratch” Perry like it was always meant to be. Five dudes on drums (including Kirk Huffman and Kyle O’Quinn of Gatsbys American Dream) + one guitar shredding Doug Henning doppelganger=ridiculous, hilarious music.
Past Lives played a set of new tunes that downshifted their usual epileptic art punk into intense, ice-cold grooves. The former Blood Brothers gave an entranced Vera Stage crowd-including Fleet Fox Robin Pecknold-something new to love.
The Moondoggies‘ lazy-river roots rock was perfectly mellowed for a hot Saturday afternoon. Theirs is the sturdy, studied sort of Americana that’s usually best done by Canadians (props to the Band, Neil Young), but these young Seattle natives are shaggy enough and tuneful enough to get it right.
Aside from those bands sterling sets, the weekend had plenty to offer. In fact, some of the best moments at Block Party weren’t technically part of Block Party. Local coffee roasters Caffé Vita turned their warehouse, accessed through a sprawling beer garden, into a coffee-scented concert hall. Backed by stacks of 50-lb burlap sacks of unroasted beans, cabaret pop ensemble Hey Marseilles, country rockers the Maldives, and a solo Kevin Murphy of the Moondoggies — so nervous before his band’s main stage set he lost his lunch — all turned in intimate afternoon performances.
Next door, the bad trip of a bar known as the Cha Cha — hipster ground zero on most weekends, rapturous during Block Party — hosted a slew of up-and-coming bands, including angry dub-punks the Absolute Monarchs, smartass electro-hop outfit Champagne Champagne, and black metalsmiths Book of Black Earth. Don’t be surprised if they’re all headlining in your town this time next year.