Capitol Hill Block Party 2019 was a week ago, here’s my highlights.

If I’m honest, I wasn’t expecting Capitol Hill Block Party to be as awesome as it was this year.  When I think about my approach to Block Party, I picture how most professionals would approach an industry trade show.  Like an industry trade show every company invited is given the opportunity to present a sample of their offerings, some companies are given bigger booths than others, you see some industry regulars, and you make friends/network with people who seem to gravitate to the same booths you do.  The key differences being the “companies” are bands, the “booths” are stages, and the “offerings” are performances from these bands.  What you’re seeing on stage is that band’s best sample of their show, because they want you to follow their product. They want you to be a fan of their work.

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Otter Pop (left), Marshall of Marshall Law Band (right)

This year’s lineup didn’t initially “wow” me but I was more than happy to attend for three days and give each artist I saw as much attention as if I had come to Block Party to see them perform specifically.  Of the 27 performances I saw, here are my top 3 acts from each day:

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JPEGMAFIA

Friday
JPEGMAFIA
– JPEGMAFIA came highly recommended by some of my younger friends. This was my first time seeing/hearing him perform. I had no idea what to expect. Having forgotten his laptop, JPEGMAFIA plugged in his phone, and proceeded to have one of the most high energy sets of the weekend.  His performance was for sure “hip hop”, but this really felt like a manic “hardcore”/”punk” show.  There were mosh pits, stage dives, and moments where JPEG just yelled into the mic.  I decided to get in the mosh pit.  With a big smile, I proceeded to slam dance with people a little over half my age.  After a few kids asked how old I was and I told them I was 30, more than a few lit up and asked if they could square up with me for the next few songs. I happily obliged them, of course. I asked one kid, what does age have to do with this, and he explained, they were just impressed that someone my age was so down to get down to JPEGMAFIA. (haha)

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Mitski

Mitski –Mitski was the performer I was most excited to see at this year’s Capitol Hill Block Party.  I enjoyed her 2018 album “Be the Cowboy” and had posted up at the front against the barrrier to see her perform live.  Once I saw her with a tape measure before her set putting down tape markers I knew we were in for something special.  Her performance was creative, the choreography was compelling, and her voice really drew you into the feelings she was trying to evoke.  More than a few people near the front were tearing up.

Bear Axe – After Mitski, I made my way to the Neumos stage to catch Bear Axe.  I’ve seen Bear Axe on lineups around Seattle but I had never seen them perform.  Bear Axe put on a mind blowing performance.  I would describe their sound as a mix of funk and punk. Shaina Shepherd’s soulful vocals really stood out especially in their cover of “Where did you sleep last night?”. I definitely want to see Bear Axe perform again.

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Tres Leches (Upper Left), Episcool (Upper Right), Perry Porter (Bottom)

Saturday
Perry Porter – If there was any performer that engaged the audience in a memorable way, I would have to give it to local hip hop artist Perry Porter. Perry was one of the early acts of the day.  The stage set up were canvases with his paintings on display, a tarp and several plates with paint and brushes.  Upon taking the stage, he told everyone at random points throughout the show he would invite folks up to paint his all white outfit.  Folks drew in closer just to see his outfit evolve throughout the set, however when he jumped off stage still covered in wet paint and tried to get folks to mosh with him, that’s the only time members of the audience backed away. The performance was one of the more memorable of the weekend for the creative audience engagement Perry had provided.

Tres Leches – I read a Seattle Times article put out a little after Capitol Hill Block Party that described a moment during Tres Leches’ set where they performed a protest song addressing how Block Party had compensated local bands.  If I’m honest, I don’t remember hearing this moment.  Not saying that it didn’t occur, I didn’t hear it because I had initiated a decent sized mosh pit at the end of their set.  This couple had pushed to the front during the last 2 songs of their show.  The male in the couple shoved his girlfriend into me and immediately they began apologized.  I smiled and said, “No need to apologize, I’m down if you’re down.”  The guy smiled, and I shoved him hard into the crowd behind him.  Next thing you know we were slam dancing to close out the Tres Leches set.  I’ve been to around 10 Tres Leches shows and this is the first time I’ve been part of a crowd who wanted to mosh during their set.  This is probably why I missed their protest moment.  The fact I was in attendance for their protest song was pretty ironic.  I had attended their set because a main stage performer, Saba, had effectively squandered half his set.  Saba was scheduled to have an hour slot at the main stage.  I remember when Rolling Stone magazine named Saba one of their artists to watch, so I was excited to see him.  He began his set 15 minutes late, and once his set started the first 15 minutes was his DJ hyping up the audience.  That would mean an hour long set was effectively cut in half.  I bailed after Saba performed 2 songs for the Tres Leches set.  At the time, I thought cutting your set in half felt disrespectful which is why I left, but after reading Tres Leches’ comments in Seattle Times concerning compensation, I feel great about my choice not indulge in his performance.

A Tribe Called Red – This will probably go down as the year of Lizzo.  Lizzo was the reason a ton of my friends had attended Block Party.  That was by far one of the most densely packed, long stretching crowds I’ve ever seen for a headliner.  I made it as far as the Sushi restaurant. After about fifteen minutes of being pushed and being packed against other people, I decided to bail and go watch A Tribe Called Red.  The crowd didn’t thin out until “Out of the Closet”  Thrift Shop.  That was one of the best decisions I made all weekend.  A Tribe Called Red put on one of my favorite sets all weekend.  The crowd was happy and dancing.  The imagery they used during their set was powerful.  It was native imagery.  Not just native Americans, but native peoples from around the world.  A friend pointed out to me, the images were not about glorifying the stereotype in the images but instead reclaiming it.  Taking the image back, and using it as a way to teach and grow.  To me, that was impressive.  We can all dance, have fun, and hopefully learn, and that’s what A Tribe Called Red presented to the crowd.

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A Tribe Called Red

Sunday
Actors – What’s Capitol Hill Block Party without taking in a good “goth band”?  From the first song, I knew I was going to enjoy this group.  I loved it when the lead singer said after asking the crowd if anyone knew who they were and they were answered with a one person cheer, “Just wondered cause there’s an absence of black t-shirts in the audience.  We’re just a buncha goths out in the Summer.”  Dude.  The fact the group was wearing all black in direct sunlight in upper 80 degree weather was impressive (haha). I would describe their sound as danceable goth music.  It felt like late 80’s New Wave with an edge.  I’m sure I wasn’t the only one loving what I was seeing on stage.  After Block Party I bought their album “It Will Come to You” and their EP “Reanimated”.  I recommend checking these folks out.

Episcool – When I was deciding who to write about,  I really wanted to keep my list to three acts per day.  Deciding who I wanted to feature between Episcool and Nick Weaver was a pretty big decision for me.  Nick Weaver is one of Seattle’s best currently active hip hop artists.  I could have easily wrote about his performance, but instead I decided to focus on a performer I’ve never seen until I saw her performance at Block Party.  Episcool came totally out of left field for me.  She performed probably one of the most crowd energizing sets I saw that weekend.  I just happened to be wandering into Barboza, noticed the room was packed, everyone was dancing hard, and there were no camera people covering the action.  I feel like this set flew totally under the radar from the press covering the event. I made my way to the front, snagged some photos and videos, but the drops were just infectious.  I found myself dancing alongside the rest of the crowd to this mix of dubstep and a kind of trance electronic beat.  It was great and it truly felt like the energy of the crowd was fueling the set, despite Episcool being so focused on her craft.

20190724_121914(Upper left) Nick Weaver, (Upper right) Bear Axe, (Bottom) Actors

Razor Clam – The 9:00 to 10:00pm slot on Sunday was one of the tougher choices of the weekend.  Within the same time slot you had Razor Clam, Cuco, Kung Foo Grip, and Marshall Law Band.  With his awesome hairstyle, I figured Marshall Law Band would have drawn a large crowd to the Barboza basement.  Cuco in particular was a performer some of the younger crowd had bought tickets to see.  It came down to Kung Foo Grip and Razor Clam.  I had seen both bands perform one other time before and even if Kung Foo Grip had a memorable show (I saw them perform at Bumbershoot in the KEXP open space), I hadn’t seen a performance at the Cha Cha stage during this Block Party, so I decided to see Razor Clam.  I posted up next to one of the speakers and even if it was hot in that basement, once I saw lead singer Aya being carried to the front (which I think was improvised) I knew I made the right choice.  There performance was a mix of femme glam rock and soft goth sentiments.  I was dancing and just admiring the amount of confidence on display in their set.  I do have to apologize to the lead singer.  At one point, she asked the audience if she could get a sip of anyone’s drink. I let her have some of mine, but honestly I was hesitant to give her some as it was a cheap beer that had basically gotten warm in that hot basement, and probably did not taste great (haha).  Otherwise, Razor Clam put on a fun memorable set, that I would recommend others check out live.  Also, check out their EP.  I’ve seen them twice and loved their song “ITB”.  It wasn’t until I heard their EP, that I realized what that song is about (haha).

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Razor Clam

This year’s Capitol Hill Block Party will go down for most as the year of Lizzo, but for me, I got to see a lot of performers who I would love to see perform again.  I bought a lot of albums based on the performances I saw, and will keep an eye out for future line ups featuring those acts.  Some performers did let me down, but the ones who shined, really shined.  In a lot of cases, folks really exceeded expectations.  With what was on display, I would be surprised if the stock of these performers didn’t go up after their sets at this year’s Capitol Hill Block Party.

For more videos and pictures from Capitol Hill Block Party weekend including moments I described here, check out my Instagram: Cakeintherain206

Capitol Hill Block Party 2019: “So you want to avoid the main stage?”

Capitol Hill Block Party 2019 is next weekend.  What I love about Capitol Hill Block Party is that it’s an opportunity to discover some great talents in the local music scene.  If I were to describe the ratio of local acts to main stage acts I would say it’s a little over 4 to 1.  That would mean for every one main stage act, there’s probably four other great acts performing around the same time at a different stage.  This year’s line up features some of the Seattle’s best performers.

If you want to avoid the crowded craziness of the main stage but have no idea who any of these non main stage performers are, the following are some of the bands I suggest checking out at Capitol Hill Block Party 2019:

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Danny Brown, Capitol Hill Block Party 2017, Main Stage 

Friday

  • MirrorGloss – Neumos Stage, 5:45 to 6:30p – Dance pop meets hip hop duo, MirrorGloss are ready to captivate and get the party started.
  • Actionesse – Cha Cha Stage, 7:45 to 8:15p
  • Little Wins – Barboza Stage, 8:30 to 9:00p – One half of Sisters Andrew Vait’s solo project, Little Wins, is worth checking out.
  • Wimps – Cha Cha Stage, 8:45 to 9:15p
  • Bearaxe – Neumos Stage, 9:30 to 10:15p
  • Black Tones – Neumos Stage, 10:45 to 11:30p – the must see Blues-Punk trio that are always a highlight of festival lineups.

Saturday

  • Wild Powwers – Vera Stage, 4:00 to 4:30p – local Grunge band Wild Powwers, have been described as: “made you feel like you might want to smash some bottles down by the train tracks with your juvenile delinquent friends while skipping 5th period”.
  • OK SWEETHEART – Neumos Stage, 4:00 to 4:30p – Folk pop and soul come together in the music of singer song writer Erin Austin’s band OK SWEETHEART.
  • Reader – Barboza Stage, 4:45 to 5:15p
  • Tres Leches – Neumos Stage, 6:30 to 7:15p
  • Dyed – Cha Cha Stage, 6:45 to 7:15p
  • Scarlet Parke with Jake Crocker – Neumos Stage, 7:45 to 8:30p
  • A Tribe Called Red – Vera Stage, 11:00 to 12:00a – Canadian Dance music collective A Tribe Called Red, blends indigenous cultural influences with modern hip hop and electronic music production styles.

Sunday

  • Left at London – Wildrose Stage, 4:30 to 5:00p
  • Whitney Monge’ – Wildrose Stage, 6:45 to 7:15p – “Alternative Soul” artist Whitney Monge’ blew me away with her performance at Volunteer Park Pride Fest, and I am looking forward to seeing her perform again.
  • Nick Weaver – Neumos Stage, 6:30 to 7:15p – One of my favorite Seattle based hip hop artists who’s lyric style has to be seen to be believed.
  • Marshall Law Band – Barboza Stage, 8:45 to 9:15p
  • Razorclam – Cha Cha Stage, 8:45 to 9:30p – if you like New Wave and 80’s synth pop, femme glam rock band Razorclam is the band for you.

20180721_230452Capitol Hill Block Party 2018, Main Stage

When I go to Capitol Hill Block Party, some years I’ve camped out at the main stage the whole day and watched every main stage act, while other years I’ve avoided the main stage entirely and just hung out at the side stages. I’ll try to take time to catch performers I’ve either never heard of, or have heard of but have never seen perform live.

My biggest piece of advice when going to any music festival is to be open to checking out music you’ve never heard of, and know that if you’re not enjoying what you’re hearing/seeing, there’s probably 4 other acts performing at the same time also worth checking out.

Outdoor Music Festivals for people who “live near downtown Seattle, don’t have a car, and love local music”.

I haven’t had a car for the past two years.  When it comes to live music choices and not having a vehicle, you’re limited to what you feel comfortable getting to either by foot, rideshare, bus, or bicycle.  Lucky for me, I live on Capitol Hill.  Live music is abundant when you live near downtown Seattle.  It feels like every neighborhood within walking distance, from West Seattle to the Central District, has at least three or more live music venues unique to that neighborhood.

When the “Seattle Summer” hits and we get that two to three month window of nice weather, outdoor music festivals are something you have to take in and enjoy.  Each event not only showcases the diverse neighborhoods around the city, but also it’s a chance to listen to new music and make new friends.  The following are the 5 best free outdoor music festivals, and 3 best ticketed outdoor music festivals, within walking distance of downtown Seattle, worth checking out this Summer.

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Black Pistol Fire, Elysian Search Party 2017

5 Best Free Outdoor Music Festivals
Seattle Pride at Volunteer Park – June 8th – In terms of free “all ages” day music festival lineups, this year’s is one of the best.  Local favorites, Thunderpussy, headline the stacked lineup alongside JGRGRY, Whitney Monge, Sassyblack, and Left at London.  It’s a great chance to experience a piece of Seattle’s Pride festival in one of Seattle’s most iconic parks.

Lindafest at Linda’s Tavern (on Capitol Hill) – late August – If you want an alternative to the mainstream Seattle music scene and want a 21+ event with more of a grunge almost heavy feel, then Lindafest is something you should check out.  Each year, Linda’s Tavern on Capitol Hill hosts a mini festival in the area behind the bar.  The event is free and showcases a local line up.  I usually learn about this event from street posters, so keep an eye out for more information.

IMG_20170715_002203_435Purple Mane, West Seattle Summer Fest 2017

West Seattle Summer Fest at The Junction – July 12th to 14th – I grew up in West Seattle.  West Seattle Summer Fest to me was always the big street fair that shut down large portions of the Junction every summer.  In recent years, it’s also set itself apart from other street fairs with it’s diverse music lineups.  This year’s Fest includes local favorites Jenn Champion, Razor Clam, Grizzled Mighty, DYED, among others.

South Lake Union Block Party at South Lake Union – August 9th – South Lake Union Block Party definitely feels like a reflection of South Lake Union today.  I remember there’s food trucks and plenty of activities for families, but the beer garden takes up 3/5ths of the whole festival space which shows how much the event tailors to the younger professionals who work in that neighborhood.  The music lineup is made up of local favorites, headlined by The Dandy Warhols, alongside Naked Giants, Polyrythmics, Whitney Monge, and Sisters.

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So Pitted, Mercer X Summit Block Party 2017

Mercer X Summit Block Party at the corner of Mercer and Summit – Mid August – This event is by far my favorite free music festival.  A good number of performers curated to play this event end up on larger festival lineups or on local television shows like Bands in Seattle.  It also feels like a purely neighborhood event.  Most block parties end up feeling bloated with corporate sponsorship, but Mercer X Summit feels like a bunch of local businesses got together and decided to throw a summer party for the neighborhood.  If you want an opportunity to work on your concert photography skills, this one is the perfect festival.

3 Best Ticketed Outdoor Music Festivals
Capitol Hill Block Party – July 19th to 21st – Aside from the major names which pull in the crowds, Capitol Hill Block Party is a great showcase for local talent.  At last year’s Block Party, it felt like every local performer put on some of their best performances.  This year’s lineup features a number of solid local acts including Kung Foo Grip, Wild Powwers, OK Sweetheart, Mirrorgloss, Nick Weaver, among others.

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Lizzo, Capitol Hill Block Party 2017

Elysian Search Party – July 6th – I’m a big fan of the Elysian Search Party.  For a little over $35, you get 4 beer tickets, and access to a great party backed by an action packed music lineup.  This is a great chance to try out nearly all of Elysian’s beer catalogue (40+ beers on tap) and also know that all proceeds (100%) will benefit local organization, The Vera Project.  This year’s lineup features The Darkness, The Murder City Devils, Black Pistol Fire, and local performers, Pink Parts.

Bumbershoot at Seattle Center – August 30th to September 1st – For many, Bumbershoot has become the local “Coachella”, but really I don’t think there’s comparison between the two.  If you approach Bumbershoot as a social media post, then you’re missing out on what a bunch of locals love about the event.  It’s really about the vibe.  If you go in wanting to have a friendly good time, not trying to harsh anyone else’s good time, then the event will be a great experience, but if you go in expecting a “Coachella” style experience, then of course you’ll be disappointed.  I’ve always approached Bumbershoot looking for a good time, hoping to find some great new music, and trying to find chances to experience curated activities outside of the music lineup (catch some movies at SIFF cinema during Bumbershoot).  This year’s lineup features many performers, that are known to put on a great shows including The Lumineers, Rezz, Tyler The Creator, among many others.

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Tyler the Creator, Bumbershoot 2017

Honorable Mentions
Concerts at the Mural at Seattle Center – every Friday in August – Every Friday in the month of August, the mural in Seattle Center hosts a series of free shows featuring three band lineups.  This year’s series includes Cherry Glazerr, Wolf Parade, Weyes Blood, Helado Negro, among others.

Events held by Friends of the Waterfront at the Waterfront – The diverse events held at the Waterfront by Friends of the Waterfront is pretty incredible.  Aside from the Rock the Docks concerts, I remember seeing the Parkour Visions Classic (a national Parkour competition), the 206 Zulu Beat Masters competition (an elite local DJ competition), and a KPOP concert, all hosted by Friend of the Waterfront.  Check their site for future events.

IMG_20180101_014141_627Kolars, Thunderpussy New Year’s Show 2017

I hope to see you out there this Summer!

Sub Pop 30: The Most “Seattle” Event I Ever Attended

I was at Barnes and Noble when the latest copy of Uncut magazine (November 2018) caught my eye. Other than David Bowie on the cover, the magazine included a free Sub Pop mix CD compiled by label head Jonathan Poneman. The mix is a really good blend of what Sub Pop has to offer from the grunge sound that the label had become known for in its early years, to the notable “alternative” artists the label represents today. Whenever someone mentions “alternative” as a genre, it usually means “we couldn’t think of a good label to put this artist in, so because they bridge and blend genres, they are now alternative”.

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The mix CD was great. It motivated me to actually pick up three albums from artists I had heard for the first time on this mix (*LOMA, Mass Gothics, and King Tuff). The label head not only selected great artists to feature but picked some of their best songs. The corresponding article to the album discussed each track, but also talked about Sub Pop Fest 30, one of the most “Seattle” events I attended this past summer.

I’m from Seattle. Born and raised in West Seattle. My experience at Sub Pop Fest 30 (SPF 30) was ultimately positive, but from the weather to the crowd, SPF 30 on Alki had to be the most Seattle music event I ever attended.

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I remember getting to the event site and the first band to open the festival was Jo Passed. Jo Passed impressed and did a great job opening the event. The hair flipping, the running around the stage, the getting tangled in wires, it really painted a picture of what you could expect as the day went on, and really drew the crowd even as it began to rain. Once Jo Passed wrapped, the rain began to pick up. The crowd undeterred still milled around the various stages. I remember catching Moaning and LVL UP, but the next act to really catch my attention was LOMA. I had never heard LOMA before this event but their set was so different from the other sets that were presented that day, that it really stuck. It was a much softer, somber set in comparison to the heavier grunge and hip hop that populated the afternoon.

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I left LOMA close to the end of their set, in order to get a good spot for Bully. I was next to the front of the stage for Bully, when I ran into several people who I had met at other local shows, some as recent as a week or two prior. As Bully began to play, the group of other concert regulars and I tried to start a pit, but the crowd wasn’t into it, so we eventually let it rest. Bully was great. I had seen them perform live for the first time at this past Capitol Hill Block Party, and they played so well there, I had to see them again at this event. As they wrapped, I made sure to get a great spot for Clipping. As I was milling around the crowd I met a group of Canadians who had come down just to see Clipping. We discussed the rest fo the lineup and they had no clue who they were. They were there for Clipping. I hung with them for a while and caught Clipping’s set. They were nothing short of impressive. Aside from whipping the crowd into a frenzy, their talent showed me why these Canadians came down for this set in particular.

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Close to the end of Clipping’s set, I made my way to see Hot Snakes. I had caught Hot Snakes at Upstream and I had to see them again. There set was fun. I read later reviews about how it wasn’t technically proficient, but really it’s grunge/punk music. I think the point is to hear the lyrics, head bang, and mosh if you can. I remember running into a group I had met at the TacocaT show 2 weeks prior. We saw each other, and next thing you know we were moshing. I finally got to get into a pit at a Hot Snakes show! I was tired after the Hot Snakes set, and made my way to Shabazz Palaces. At this point in the afternoon, the clouds had opened up and it was a beautiful afternoon. I don’t know if it was the sudden nice weather, or that more recognizable names were taking the stages, but this is when the crowd began to swell. Up to this point in the afternoon the crowd was also a lot of people I’ve seen around the local concert scene. People you would recognize as faces in the crowd at shows. I would say around 6:15pm in the afternoon, it was less of those familiar faces, and more families, folks who didn’t seem like the regular “stand for hours for your favorite band” concert crowd, and people who were more interested in the spectacle than the music.

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I couldn’t see Shabazz Palaces. The crowd was too large to navigate and was it extended into the beer garden which was a “soccer field” away from the stage. I stood as close as I could get (close to the back but still mid crowd-ish), but everyone in the spot I was standing were talking full volume as the show was going on. It’s as if a concert wasn’t happening. Mid set I decided I would get a good spot for Mudhoney. I got there early and posted up mid crowd. The crowd looked excited. Many of which looked like some of their fans from the 90’s sporting various very worn Mudhoney shirts. As Mudhoney began playing, inevitably a pit formed. As I tried to make my way to it, several crowd members blocked myself and a few others from joining. This ring of dudes had decided no one was going to get past them as they wanted a great view of the show and anyone who would make them shift from their spot, would ruin it. They weren’t dancing, head banging, or smiling, they just watched the show from their spot and talked. Like the whole set they stood and chatted. Eventually it got very contentious. A lot of people got in their faces about preventing people from joining the pit or moving up, and they did things like push people back or put palms in people’s faces when they would try to talk. I felt like they had a point in not wanting others to ruin their view, but it really killed the vibe. Not to mention it didn’t seem like they were having a good time. After seeing a handful of scuffles and someone climb the port-o-pottys, I decided to check out Beach House.

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The crowd for Beach House was just as packed. It was full and people were talking as if a show wasn’t happening. I decided I would let this one coast and met up with a friend in the beer garden. We drank as the sun began to go down, and Beach House played in the background. We ended the night by making our way to Father John Misty. This would be my 5th time seeing Father John perform and I was pretty excited. The crowd seemed good. A lot of families were posted up for this set. There were also a lot of tense looking people. This was evident when Father John began his set, and seconds into the first song, stopped and called for security to take care of some situations that sprang up mid crowd. Father John was as incredible as he always was and as the sun hit that point between day and night where the sky was almost purple and orange, the moment was almost surreal. You had to stop, listen to Father John talk about humanity, take in the setting and Alki, and think this was a perfect ending to the event. As Father John wrapped, I made my way back to the Water Taxi and that was my memory of SPF 30.

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For me, SPF 30 was great before 6:15pm. I saw a lot of familiar faces, got to see a lot of bands I enjoy seeing perform live, and everyone seemed to understand regular concert etiquette. After 6:15pm, it felt tense and crowded. I felt like it wasn’t a crowd that attended shows regularly, but rather were there to see the spectacle and also catch a lot of the bigger names. This in no way is a negative. It’s good that Sub Pop was able to throw an event that could draw a diverse audience, but when people were willfully getting into fights at the drop of a hat over positions in an audience, or talking full volume during a concert not close to the back of the crowd, it makes you wonder what shows has this person attended where that was normal/acceptable behaviour? Overall, I’ll remember SPF 30 as one of the most Seattle events I’ve ever attended. On Alki, in the rain and the sun, we danced, moshed, head banged, and had a great time until it got too crowded, then those of us who were already there from the beginning made the best of the situation (haha). It was very Seattle.

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(All photos were taken by me. I have a bunch more from the day. The one of the sun finally coming out of the clouds, I call “My view of Shabazz Palaces from SPF 30”)

Last Minute List: 10 Acts Bumbershoot 2018

(I wrote this blog post 45 minutes before the gates opened on Day 1 of Bumbershoot.)

Bumbershoot has always been my favorite local music festival. Ever since the Experience Music Project gave me a free ticket back in 2012, I haven’t missed a year. It feels like a “reset” or a “recharge”. Sure the price has fluctuated like crazy and sometimes the crowd can get overwhelming, but it seems like it’s still a point of pride for a local performer to take part in the event and on more than one occasion acts have built their popularity in the local scene from an amazing set at Bumbershoot.

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Other than the major names on this year’s lineup (Blondie, Illenium, Lil Wayne, SZA, etc.) here are ten (“other”) acts I’m looking forward to this year in no particular order:
RL Grime – a solid debut EP, this EDM artist will definitely excite this year’s crowd with his raucous beats and bass drops.
Travis Thompson – this kid is amazing. From being featured on a track with Macklemore and Dave B to his Friday Fire Cypher on Sway’s show, this MC is making West Seattle proud.
Cherry Glazerr – Sounding sweet while having a sound that remains totally grungy, Cherry Glazerr fits perfectly with the “Seattle Sound”.
Great Grandpa – Ever since the release of their debut album, Great Grandpa has become a staple in the local music scene.
Elohim – A description of Elohim I read once said she’s a performer with a great message, great transitions within her songs, and a voice that’s fluid and able to glide throughout the melody.
Wimps – I just like watching Wimps. (haha)
Jo Passed – Jo Passed stood out to me at Sub Pop 30 earlier this month. From the hair flips to the other stage antics, Jo Passed are a band that look like they’re having fun on stage and it translates well into their sound.
The Regrettes – I saw the Regrettes at Chop Suey and these young punks really impressed me. I’m sure they’ll do the same at this year’s festival.
Black Pistol Fire – One of the most manic stage shows by a rock duo. The lead guitarist is a site to see as he runs around the stage, jumping, while also maintaining impressive skill on instrument.
Offbook! The Improvised Musical Podcast – If you’ve never heard about this podcast be prepared to be impressed. The premise, two improvisers welcome a guest and in the course of an hour they improvise a 45 minute long musical.

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Of course there are many acts that will entertain at this year’s Bumbershoot, but these ten are my picks for acts you might not have heard of that I think you should make time for. This is why I like Bumbershoot. It’s a chance to hear new music, watch a clown, or see a comedian you’ve only seen on television. Anytime I see people complain about the lineup, I always think to myself venting about it won’t change it, so you have two options in this situation you could either buy a pass or not. If you do, then keep an open mind. If you don’t, then the party’s still going to happen. (haha) I hope I see you there!

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(All photos were taken by me at Bumbershoot 2017)

10 Acts Not to Miss at Capitol Hill Block Party 2018

Capitol Hill Block Party. When all the different social groups around Capitol Hill decide let’s avoid the weekend awkwardness that defines a summer weekend on the Hill and let’s party.

My experiences at Capitol Hill Block Party have been nothing but easy-going. You would think the diverse lineup would attract social groups that just wouldn’t mesh with one another and in any other situation you would be right, but Capitol Hill Block Party has always been different. For example, last year they had Angel Olsen play before Diplo. Rather than Angel Olsen fans push their way past Diplo fans who posted up near the front since opening to get a good view of Diplo, I saw a number of fans ask if they could stand in the front for Angel Olsen and once her set wrapped give back the spots to the Diplo fans. Their was no fighting, no tension, just a trust that they could get along mutually to see the bands they paid to see.

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What I always loved about this festival is that the diverse lineup brings out the neighborhood. It’s easy to be cynical about Capitol Hill Block Party. It’s easy to say that it perpetuates things that people don’t enjoy about this neighborhood mainly the annoying crowds that flood the hill on weekends bringing to light a type of toxic “bro” culture, but really, if that’s all you want to notice about this festival then you’re forgetting the main reason we all came to this festival to begin with, the music. If we could gather together for great music and if this festival could expose local bands to new listeners, then I’m more than happy to come out and support.

These are my picks for ten bands to check out at Capitol Hill Block Party 2018:

Alvvays – Friday, Main Stage 7:45p to 8:45p – Canadian indie pop rock band Alvvays are ready to impress at this year’s Block Party. Their last album ‘Antisocialites’ is a must hear mesh of fun dreamy vibes that sounds fun to sway and dance to.

20170128_204028The Ramblin Years – Friday, Neumos Stage 8:15p to 9:00p – Seattle-based country rock band The Ramblin Years (left) bring their ‘Merle Haggard’ reminiscent style of music back to Capitol Hill Block Party. The Ramblin Years have always been a personal favorite of mine and their recently released full length album ‘Small Town Lights’ will give you an early preview of what you can expect at Block Party.

The Black Tones – Friday, Barboza Stage 7:30p to 8:00p – The Black Tones describe themselves as “A goody bag of BLUES, PUNK and BLACK POWER!”. I’ve seen this trio perform several times and could not think of a better descriptor. Songs like “Welcome Mr.Pink” and “Plaid Pants” are great examples of what to expect from this set.

20170811_203419Ayron Jones – Sunday, Neumos Stage 7:10p to 7:40p – I’m a little surprised how I almost let an Ayron Jones (left) set nearly fly under the radar. His latest release ‘Audio Paint Job’ is a great example why many describe this artist as a combination of Prince and Nirvana. His shows are always a great time, and normally when he headlines they are sold out, so this is a great opportunity to see a local fixture of the Seattle rock scene.

Moorea Masa and the Mood – Friday, Neumos Stage 7:00p to 7:45p – I first saw Moorea Masa and the Mood perform live at last month’s Upstream Music Festival. I thought she was fantastic and have been listening to her debut album ‘Shine a Light’ ever since. Her easy R&B almost jazz sound is sure to captivate audiences looking to beat the heat at the Neumos Stage.

20171108_223417Gavin Turek – Saturday, Vera Stage 8:45p to 9:30p – Gavin Turek (left) is proof disco, new jack swing, and classic R&B are alive and well. It’s hard not to be drawn to Gavin Turek when she is on stage. Her voice mixed with her dance moves are simply alluring. If you like to dance, check out her album “Good Look For You”, and catch her set on Saturday

Bully – Sunday, Main Stage 3:45p to 4:30p – Sub Pop band Bully is pure grunge/punk fun. Hearing lead singer (and album engineer) Alicia Bognanno’s scream laden lyrics on their latest album ‘Losing’, paints a picture of artists that are sure to energize.

Chet Porter – Saturday, Vera Stage 7:30p to 8:15p – I attended a Chet Porter show last year with no idea exactly what to expect. What followed was what I can only describe as a mix of Porter Robinson blended with popular dance music. To be fair, Chet describes his sound as “music to pet dogs to”. You be the judge on Saturday.

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Kuinka – Saturday, Neumos Stage 9:30p to 10:15p – Kuinka (above) is Seattle’s emphatic answer to the modern pop folk craze. In the same vein as ‘Vance Joy’ or ‘The Lumineers’, Kuinka is going to get crowds moving with their joyous vibes. Their latest EP, ‘Stay Up Late’ will give you an idea of what to expect Saturday.

Brockhampton – Saturday, Main Stage 10:30p to 12:00a – Of all the headlining acts, Brockhampton is the one I am most excited to see. The story of the group is interesting. Self described as a hip hop boy band, the group formed on a Kanye West fan forum. Including 7 lyricists and several members behind the scenes (estimated 17 members), this group reminds me of a modern Wu Tang Clan, just a collection of unique performers with very distinct styles uniting to create art. To get an idea of what to expect check out the ‘Saturation’ trilogy, or even their performance of ‘Tonya’ on the Tonight Show.

There are a lot of acts to be excited for at this year’s Capitol Hill Block Party. It was hard to pick ten. I can’t say I’m not excited to see Father John Misty, Betty Who, Oh Wonder, Navvi, Great Grandpa, Close Encounter, Dude York, Mirror Ferrari, or even Hibou, among others. Really, it would be hard to explore this upcoming weekend and not find an act to fall in love with. All I can say is stay safe and stay cool.

(All photos were taken by me. Check out my instagram at “Cakeintherain206”.)

Upstream Music Festival and Summit 2018 – My “Living Playlist”

Friday night. Outside the Zocalo Stage. Outside the restaurant venue, a large man wearing a 3 day festival wristband is yelling to passersby, “This Festival sucks! There’s no blues, no metal, no jazz, and not enough rock. All the artists are young, it’s like they rejected all the old talent. And you can’t find anything. The venues are too spread out…” This quote is a perfect example of the wrong way to approach Upstream Music Fest.

20180601_191502(0)If you approach Upstream Music Fest as a series of opportunities then it could really be something special. I spent my weekend exploring new music (left, SuperDuperKyle), connecting with members and fans of the local music scene, and enjoying main stage caliber performances both on the main stage and in intimate venues. This festival feels tailored to folks like me. People who are more than happy to give artists a chance. The artists I saw were seasoned. The sets I saw demonstrated talent who have dedicated themselves to their craft. Age is one thing, but time spent gaining experience is another. You can tell these folks put in the time. It’s hard to say most fall into one specific genre. If anything, the artists I saw that weekend seemed to blend genres. To lump them as one label kind of marginalized their act and limits the perspective of what they do.

Here’s a breakdown of my Upstream experience.

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KEXP Stage @ Little London Plane – The mini sets performed at the KEXP Stage this year were amazing. I was lucky enough to catch a set each day of the festival. I was able to see Little Dragon, Zola Jesus (left), TacocaT (above), Hot Snakes, and Khris P., all perform sets broadcast live on air. The atmosphere provided by the venue lent well to each artists performance. It was great getting to head bang outside the windows during Hot Snakes. Zola Jesus hung around before and after her set, and was very approachable. Seeing how relaxed she was showed a direct dichotomy from how heavy her sets eventually were. A major highlight during the Tacocat set were the characters milling around in the windows behind them. There were confused tourists, photographers, street performers, and even a man wearing a full purple jumpsuit, rainbow helmet, and carrying a magenta shovel.

Friday

The Summit – I started my Upstream by attending the Summit. The Summit portion of Upstream was aimed towards educating people about the music industry. This year’s Summit was a vast improvement from last year’s. The separated venues allowed for little to no sound bleed, and the cheaper price tag facilitated a definite increase in attendance. Of the two talks I saw (Roadmap to Success, and Artist Management), attendance was well enough so that people were standing along the edges as most of the chairs had been filled. Overall, the talks were informative and the crowd seemed engaged.

20180601_203548So Pitted – At this point into the festival, I had attended the Summit, saw Zola Jesus, Little Dragon, and SuperDuperKyle all perform. Last year, So Pitted’s set was a highlight of the festival after one of the members cut off his pony tail and tied it to the front of his head during the set. Not wanting to miss another possible highlight, I attended So Pitted’s (left) set. If the outfits of the members didn’t catch your attention, then the culmination of this punk rock trio’s set definitely did. At the culmination of the set, one performer threw a giant inflatable cube into the crowd. The crowd confused at how to proceed, picked up the cube and tossed it around as if it were a beach ball. Then a member of the crowd grabbed the cube walked it to the front and began spinning, while another band member put down his guitar that he was playing, jumped off the stage wearing a light on his chest, and plugged himself into a floor plug-in the ballroom. As the light began blinking on and off, the performer’s brother jumped on stage and continued the set with the band until the set ended. The member with the blinking light was then brought the cube, which he posed with. Awesome. (Video of this on my Instagram.)

Storme Webber – I had time between sets (after So Pitted, but before Miguel), so I decided I would walk around and just see what sounded good. As I was walking I saw a guy who looked like he was in a hurry and was carrying a lot stuff, so I offered to help carry a box to his set. He was grateful and asked if I would be interested in checking out his set. I had time, so I decided to sit in. The performer’s name was Che Sehyun, and he was performing with Storme Webber. This set was different from everything else I saw at Upstream. Storme Webber, Avery R Young, Che Sehyun, and Tuesday Velasco brought social issues to the forefront and made me feel inspired after their performances. I didn’t think a performance with such a social conscience like this would be showcased at Upstream. In the end, I walked up and thanked all the performers. A few days later I was surprised to see Che had an article written about him in the latest issue of City Arts Magazine (page 19).

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Miguel – Easily Miguel (above) was the most packed performance at the main stage that weekend. People were pushed up against the beer garden rails. My favorite part of Miguel’s set was when he told everyone to put away their phones and just be there with each other. Enjoy the moment. I took two photos and put away my phone for the remainder of the set. This was a good set.

Saturday

20180602_203037Great Grandpa – By the time I was at this set, I had seen Tacocat, Zola Jesus, Hot Snakes, and Strange Ranger. Great Grandpa (left) was a band I was looking forward to seeing again live. They remind me of an early No Doubt. I stood on the far left side. As we saw the lead singer captivate the crowd, all of a sudden a bubble machine went off. A combination of the packed crowd and the direction the bubble machine was pointed, caused the bubbles to both fly over the crowd and also cover anyone standing near the machine in soap. Most other crowds I feel this would be a negative, but covered in soap we all looked at each other and just laughed. One guy commented, “I guess Great Grandpa just helped me skip a shower.” The set was great, the ground was slippery, and was definitely a performance to remember.

New Track City – This was the first set I saw at the Comedy Underground. This venue was perfect for a hip hop show and lent great to a high energy duo like New Track City. A moment that stood out to me from this set was when one performer prompted the crowd, “We’re from Federal Way. Who here’s reppin Federal Way?” (light cheers) “It’s all good. I take it ya’ll reppin Seattle then?” (loud cheers). I like seeing a performer surprised when they realize they have a great following outside of their home neighborhood, especially a duo like New Track City who I felt with the performance they put on deserve the following they’ve cultivated.

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Jawbreaker – I had one goal for Saturday: Get in the mosh pit at Jawbreaker (left). I showed up to the set a little late so I hung around the edge of the crowd trying to scope out where the inevitable pit was. I finally saw the pit in the heart of the crowd and not wanting to be a jerk, I gave it 5 songs before I saw my opening to run in. I charged in and had a great time. I found myself jumping, pushing, and singing along with fellow fans. I ran into a few friends (literally and figuratively) and pretty soon arms on each others shoulders we were in this kind of unbelievable situation. I never thought I would be able to say I moshed at a Jawbreaker show, but I seized the opportunity at Upstream.

Sunday

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Moorea Masa and the Mood – I don’t know why but the third day of Upstream I was more in a partying mood than I was any other day of the festival. By the time I was watching Moorea Masa and the Mood (above), I had seen Khris P, The True Loves, Whitney Ballen, and Spesh, and I had maybe a drink or two at each venue. By this set, I was feeling it. Even in that haze, I remember hearing Moorea perform and falling in love with her voice. Her set was impressive, and reminded me of the first time I heard Norah Jones. I bought her album after the festival concluded.

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Tres Leches – By the time I made my way to the Central Saloon to catch Tres Leches’ performance, I was pretty “faded” and had already stopped imbibing. I had seen a few bands perform at prior shows, and Tres Leches I had most recently seen perform at Folk Life the week prior. I remember dancing during their set and enjoying the style of music they dubbed “Dark Basement”. You know a band must be special when you look around the room and see members of other bands (pretty sure I saw Tacocat and Terror/Cactus) as well as local personalities (like fashion blogger Fresh Jess). At one point in the set, one of the band members took a globe with South America cut out with the words “Trapped” and “Denied” scrawled across it, put his mic in the globe, and began yelling into it as the other members continued playing. The set was fun but also controlled chaos I would want to see again. As the set ended, I met up with some freinds, and we all made our way to the Flaming Lips set.

The Flaming Lips – I saw The Flaming Lips (below) perform last year at the Paramount and remember having a feeling of elation. People around me were crying from being overwhelmed with emotion during that Paramount set. The set I saw at Upstream was entertaining but nowhere near the emotional trip the Paramount set had been. The set had a lot of the same gimmicks (balloons, the unicorn, etc.), but I think what I’ll remember the most from this experience was being in that crowd singing along to the music. As the alcohol was wearing off, it was while singing “Do You Realize?” that it hit me just how cool this festival had been, and how great this crowd was. Any crowd where you could turn to your neighbors and see everyone singing the same song will probably give you that feeling.

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Eventually my festival experience had to come to an end. It was a weekend of great opportunity, fun, and just deep appreciation. I appreciated every act I saw that weekend. I feel like if you approach this festival with a sense of exploration and love for music, any music really, you can come away feeling like you had a great time.

I split away from my friends and began making my way to the street car. On the way I heard a sound coming from the Starbucks stage. It sounded fun so I decided to go in. I made my way close to the front and began dancing. This band had a ton of energy and although the crowd wasn’t too large and looked pretty tired, were really giving it their all. I danced even if it seemed like those around me were more grooving, if anything. Eventually after maybe 3 songs had passed, I turned to the person standing next to me and asked a question that perfectly encapsulates both my experience and also the spirit of “Upstream Music Festival and Summit”, “Do you know what band this is?”.

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The band was Lavoy (above). I bought their album after the festival.
All photos were taken by me. Photos of all the acts I saw can be viewed on my Instagram: Cakeintherain206