By Josh Hughes
Seattle is, to say the least, a fast paced city with music hiding in every possible crevice. In my 5 days there this summer, I saw more mouth-watering and jaw-dropping tour posters for bands I thoroughly love than in my whole teenage life here in Albuquerque. With the likes of How To Dress Well and Jenny Lewis staring at me on seemingly every light post, I had no better pre-music festival experience. In other words, all I could think about leading up to July 25th was seeing A$AP Ferg and Spoon jamming out in a crowd of people in hipper band shirts than I own.
The 17th annual Capitol Hill Block Party was headlined by the aforementioned Spoon, Chromeo, and A$AP Rocky, spread out through a 3 day festival of beer gardens and food trucks. I only had the luck to go on Friday, which I didn’t really mind, mostly on the fact that I could be guilty of almost fangirling over Britt Daniel. Anyhow- I showed up by myself (an awkward idea for a music festival, I would not entirely recommend) around 4:00, and was immediately paraded by the usual people begging me to register and give money to one thing or another. I perused my way through the some four blocks that take up the party and ended up at the main stage, which was surprisingly vacant.
Around 4:30 four people came on stage, banded together under the moniker Shy Girls. With two keyboards, one drum machine, an occasional clarinet (!!!!), and gorgeous crooning vocals, they played for a good half hour. Seriously, I can’t overexpress how crazy good this guy’s voice was- this curly haired, white t-shirt white guy. It’s, in no other possible words, sex music. With acts like Autre Ne Veut, Rhye, and How To Dress Well popping up everywhere, their music wasn’t much of a surprise, but it was nonetheless extremely fun to hear.
After their set, I meandered my way through the vendors and eventually returned to my hotel (right around the corner) for a brief while to charge my phone for the full night. I got back, ate some Indian tacos, and realized if I wanted a good spot for the whole evening, I’d need to hurry back up to the main stage.
At this point, the crowd shifted to more of a bucket hat, button down A$AP Ferg crowd, considering none other than, well, A$AP Ferg, was about to perform. Let me just say that if you need a crisper definition of summer than A$AP Ferg performing Shabba with random twerking and dancing girls he invited on stage while the lead singer of Chromeo stands to the side and waves at you because you’re the only person that recognizes him, you need to reevaluate what you call summer. Beyond that, I don’t really know if I can do justice to the pure fun of his set. There was little beyond the excitement of seeing the trap lord, as his performance lacked in the generally enjoyable rapping part, but I don’t think that’s the point of a 45-minute trap rap set.
After the rambunctious turn up of Ferg, I’d gotten pushed up pretty close to the stage, and settled in between a miraculously compact amoeba of people. Next up were Seattleites Odesza, two chilled out producers that would fit perfectly under that section of YouTube filled with “chilled out vibes” over photos of the beach, or something. It toned down the antics of the last set a notch, but still got people dancing and enjoying themselves. Another perfect summery group to see, they blasted through a typical DJ set with a Disclosure looking setup.
By this time, most people in the crowd next to me seemed to have seen all they cared about, but kept waiting for Matt & Kim because, why not, it’s more summer fun. Let me just say I am not a Matt & Kim fan whatsoever, but as far as festivals go, they were another somewhat enjoyable piece to the whole. Despite their weird fascination with playing clips of “Wiggle” and “Turn Down For What”, and Kim twerking on the hands of the crowd, which were both certainly memorable, they put on a pretty solid show. “Daylight” is the only song I care about of theirs, which was perfectly placed at the very end of their set.
Finally, around 10:30, it finally hit me I’d stood for four hours already and the best was still to come. Through the surprisingly intensity of Matt & Kim, I finally approached the front of the stage, and before Spoon came on, I made it to the front row. My anticipation couldn’t really get any higher at that point, so when they came on and Jim Eno opened with the drums of “Rent I Pay” I was in complete blissful summer mode. Eight albums in and they still know how to put on a show. They speeded through the first two tracks off their upcoming LP They Want My Soul, and in my screaming the lyrics; at one point Britt Daniel gave me a nod and a smile.
In hindsight, I just keep thinking about how amazing of a greatest hits album they’ll have some day. Between their gritty swagger of “Don’t Make Me a Target” and “The Beast And Dragon Adored” to the quiet moments of “I Summon You” and “Black Like Me”, I was completely entranced for an hour and a half. Of course they went through all the classics (“Don’t You Evah”, “The Way We Get By”, “I Turn My Camera On”, etc.- the list really never ends), and ended with a one-two-three punch of their new bubbly anthem “Do You”, followed by “Way We Get By” and “You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb”.
In a live space, there’s really no denying that Spoon is an utterly American rock band. I mean, these guys are gonna have as many hits as The Beatles some day that doesn’t look too far in the future. But with the gleaming guitars and keyboard flourishes, and ever-steady drums, Spoon took the night by storm. At the end of the show, I rushed my way to the merch stand to get a shirt and a hat in time, then got a hot dog and called it a night. I’m already melancholic about missing The War on Drugs, Angel Olsen, xxyyxx, and Chromeo at the other days of the festival, and I wish I could’ve seen some of the acts off the main stage. But, nothing beats as summery of a set as what I saw. I can now check off one more of my favorite bands on a long list of concerts I have to go to, and I got to find some new music along the way. Capitol Hill Block Party couldn’t possibly have been more of a Seattle ordeal, perfect for a clear midsummer Friday night.