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.

10 Photos That Remind me How Cool 2018 Was.

In 2018, I attended 80+ shows and events. I saw well over 300 different acts and got to spend a lot of time meeting and mingling with dozens of people in the local music scene.

When looking back on the year as a whole and reviewing photos I took throughout, I kept having moments of revelation.  I saw so many interesting acts this year that as I see some of these images, it hits me, “Oh yeah! You were there for that.”  Below are 10 photos that remind me how cool my 2018 was:

20180811_180934View from the Beer Garden – Sub Pop 30th Anniversary – Alki – 8/11/18
As much as I thought Sub Pop 30 was a cool event and definitely an anniversary party fitting a record company that had such a positive impact on the community, at a certain point in the afternoon it just got crowded.  A combination of recognizable names, no admission fee, and the sun coming out, really caused the crowd to balloon. I took this picture on the way to see Shabazz Palaces.  The sky just looked so cool.

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Kailee Morgue – Neumos – 11/30/18
This photo is a personal favorite of mine.  It’s just a great visual representation of how it feels to go to a smaller live concert “today”.  It also features one of my favorite out of town performers.  I first saw Kailee Morgue live at Bumbershoot, and I instantly fell in love with her sound.  Of the young acts I saw this year, I believe Kailee will be one to keep an eye on in the years to come.

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A Tribe Called Red – Neumos – 3/14/18
This picture is just visually amazing.  The lighting kind of cast a purple light on the room, but the amount of colors coming off of the Native costume worn by this dancer during this set was incredible. A Tribe Called Red put on a show that was as visually pleasing as it was to hear.

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Monsterwatch – Mercer + Summit Block Party – the corner of Mercer and Summit – 8/18/18
If I had to pick a favorite top to bottom event, I would have to say this year’s “Mercer and Summit Block Party” was something special. Other festivals like Upstream, Bumbershoot, and Linda’s Fest had great things to offer and had moments that were memorable, but from beginning to end, I felt like every act at this year’s “Mercer and Summit Block Party” really brought it and the crowd seemed to really accentuate a good vibe throughout the day. I snapped this photo at the end of Monsterwatch’s set. Of all the acts, I felt like Monsterwatch really had a breakout performance at this festival.

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The Regrettes – Bumbershoot: KEXP Stage – Seattle Center – 9/1/18
Bumbershoot for me is a “reset”. Everyone has to have something, that brings you back to “earth” and makes you feel like you’re ready to approach the world after letting out some steam. An act that stood out at this year’s Bumbershoot mainly because of how absurd their set was, were The Regrettes.  Their set this year was at KEXP and they (in short) motivated the crowd to mosh, crowd surf, and even have a wall of death in the KEXP public space.  (haha!) I love this shot because all the members are featured. They’re the most prominent focal points of this photo.

20180920_131047The Pink Slips – Bumbershoot: Main Stage – Seattle Center – 9/2/18
The main stage at Bumbershoot is huge.  I feel like it would be hard for groups to make use of the whole stage unless they were highly seasoned or had elaborate set pieces and visuals.  The Pink Slips made great use of the stage, and created opportunities for photographers to snag some great shots of their set.  I like this shot because of the activity in it.  The bass player’s hair and the lead singer’s facial expression are just small examples of how this photo captured the activity of this set.

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Tres Leches – Upstream Music Festival and Summit – Pioneer Square – 6/3/18
Tres Leches had a pretty big year this year.  I saw their name on multiple lists, they released an album, and I feel like I saw them perform at multiple events and concerts. This photo is interesting to me because you can’t see any of their eyes.  I think it was just timing and position, but it makes a fascinating photo.  This photo is also special for me because it was the first time my oldest cousin came with me to the front of a crowd for a local show.

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The Requisite – Chop Suey – 12/8/18
I first saw The Requisite at this year’s Capitol Hill Block Party.  When I saw them take the stage I thought, “Oh cool. I have no idea what this act is, but they look like a bunch of metalheads.”  When I heard them perform, it wasn’t metal, but I was impressed by the punk rock that I heard.  They had a great sense of humor about themselves, and they were an act I wanted to see again.  I took this photo at a show they headlined at Chop Suey.

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Taylor Swift – Reputation Tour – Century Link Field – 5/21/18
Taylor Swift’s Seattle stop of her Reputation Tour was the only stadium sized concert I attended this year.  Being at a show this massive was impressive.  I was in a crowd where everyone seemed to know the lyrics and had the urge to dance.  It’s just humbling seeing the size and scope of this event.

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My desk at my day job – 10/25/18
The last photo in this set is one of my desk, at my day job. I decorated at first for Halloween, but I kept it up and just kept adding to it. I made the doorway a glam rock explosion with lanterns and streamers weaved overhead.  It was just so much fun having that stuff up.

2018 for me was fun, but I look forward to what 2019 has in store.  I think I’ll take this blogging thing a little more seriously (haha).  Have fun everyone!

 

XYLO and Corey Harper: An Eclectic Combo

I was in line for the bathroom at Barboza. Corey Harper had just wrapped his set. There was no other way to describe the night’s lineup than eclectic. The two acts who just performed, Gavin Haley and Corey Harper, were what I would describe as kind of an alternative style that leans a little towards R&B, while I knew the night’s co headliner, XYLO, had more of a dance music lean. As I stood in line, a cute blonde girl came up and stood next to me. She leaned in and said, “I hope you don’t mind, but could I cut in front of you?” The folks in the restroom before us were taking a while, but I replied, “Sure, but if these folks don’t hurry up, I may just use the upstairs restroom.” She smiled and said, “Thanks! I’m getting nervous. I’m performing next and I’m nervous they might go on without me.” I paused and said, “Hold on. Are you XYLO?” She smiled again and said, “Yeah.”

Of all the chance encounters I’ve had at concerts, this one was one of the more unique. Barboza is such an intimate venue that having the opportunity to meet a performer isn’t out of the question, but the headliner asking if she could cut in front of you to use the restroom because she is nervous her band will take the stage without her, now that’s a story.

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Gavin Haley
The first performer of the night was Gavin Haley. I found out afterward, this was his first tour. For someone I had never heard of prior to performing, I felt like his set had a lot of depth. Hearing his stories about his background, and how his first exposure to a wide range of music was through XM Radio was interesting. His voice sounded great, and the acoustic guitar and piano combo lent well to his performance. A song that stood out from his set was “Better Off”. I kind of regret not getting one of his long sleeve t shirts, that he was selling with the choice of an apple or banana included with each purchase.

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Corey Harper
The first headliner of the night was Corey Harper from Vancouver, Washington. As a Washington native, if not most, then a good portion of the crowd was there to see Harper perform. Harper mentioned it was his third time as a headliner and all three times the shows had sold out, so he was very happy for the support. His set was not quite country and not quite R&B, but felt like music you could go on a road trip to. The crowd was silent as Harper performed songs like “On the Run”, “California”, “I Fall Apart”, and a unique cover of Coldplay’s “Yellow”, among others. You could say his set was mesmerizing.

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XYLO
In a continuation from the story in the intro, XYLO’s band did not take the stage without her (haha). I enjoyed her set. She did her best to engage the crowd and bring the energy to the Monday night audience. Her hair started in braids, but with all the jumping and dancing by the end of her set it did not remain that way. Songs like “Don’t Panic” and “I Still Wait For You” sounded great live. It was my first time hearing the song “America”. After the show, I downloaded it. The story it tells is compelling (to say the least). In the end, the crowd was already dancing, but the song that had us jumping was her collaboration with The Chainsmokers, “Setting Fires”. Overall, seeing XYLO perform live on a Monday was a great way to energize for the week ahead.

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As the show wrapped, I made my way to the merch table. All three performers were milling around, meeting fans, and hanging out. As I walked up to XYLO, the first thing she said was, “We met at the bathroom, right?” (Haha!)

That reaction alone made my week.

Sure Sure has an “Infectious Live Show”

Tuesday night. Mid Term election night in America. After a rocky two years, hearing the news that the Republicans will maintain control of the Senate and the Democrats will now control the House, I felt like I could breathe a sigh of relief. This mid-term really had brought things down to the wire, and it felt like it was time to celebrate a little. If not, relax a bit. Which brought me to Sure Sure and Wilderado at Chop Suey.

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I’ve heard Sure Sure prior to this show and was very interested how they would play live. Their show description said they had an “infectious live show” which has “quickly solidified them as one of the most exciting up and coming bands out of LA”. Based on their albums they did sound like a fun experimental pop band, but I wasn’t entirely sure how it would translate to a live experience. On the other hand, I had no idea who Wilderado was going into this show. Rather than research, I wanted to be surprised.

When I got to the show, the first thing that jumped out was majority of the crowd seemed to skew to the 23 and younger range and were very enthusiastic. More than a few were sporting Sure Sure t-shirts.

Wilderado took the stage around 9pm. I’ve been to a few shows at Chop Suey, and Wilderado is the only band I’ve seen not enter through the stage door, but rather weave through the crowd and climb onto the stage from the front.

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I had never heard Wilderado prior to this show, and if I were to describe their set in one word, it would be “impressive”. Granted it, it felt like they weren’t as seasoned as some other bands, but the way they played at this show it felt like these guys could be something to keep an eye out for in the future. In terms of genre, I couldn’t nail it down. One minute they were playing a rock song, then a country song, which would be followed by a hard rock song. I asked the lead guitarist after their set if he could define their genre, and he just said “We play what feels good, so I can’t nail down our genre either.” Can’t dispute that answer, their sound felt good. Also, props to them for agreeing that Seattle is the most respectful crowd they’ve played in front of (haha). As they wrapped their set, they exited the way they came in, by jumping off the stage single file, right into the crowd.

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Sure Sure had one of the most unique sets I’ve seen at Chop Suey. The young crowd was very into the music which really set the tone for the rest of the show. There was a lot of dancing and jumping to music I didn’t think would garner such an involved reaction. I expected there to be audience participation with songs like “Hands Up Head Down”, but hearing songs like “Freinds”, “New Biome”, and “This Must Be the Place”, I expected more of a head bobbing reaction, but the crowd was pretty active. The crowd would only get more active when the band introduced an award for “The Best Crowd Member”, which would be presented at the end of the show. Once the prospect of being awarded “The Best Crowd Member” became a possibility, all the audience members who had already been pretty actively engaging the band, just grew way more energetic. Smart move on the band’s part. This kept the audience involvement going throughout the show.

The band themselves looked very intent in their performance. I’ve never seen a bass player so involved in crowd participation. The lead guitarist at times was rocking harder than the song seemed to warrant. While the rest of the band would be kind of grooving he would be jumping around, jamming as if the song was a harder rock song than what was being performed. This isn’t a negative as it’s always great seeing a musician enjoying his art form.

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Overall, I enjoyed seeing both Sure Sure and Wilderado. I feel like Sure Sure surpassed my expectation of how they would perform live. With the recordings I’ve heard, I wasn’t expecting the audience to be as active as they were and I didn’t expect the band to kind of egg them on. Wilderado on the other hand, since it was my first time seeing/hearing them, I was thoroughly impressed. I wouldn’t mind seeing them again if they came through town.

Both bands did great and I would classify Sure Sure as a band who’s live show experience is different from how they sound in recordings. I would agree with their show description. Sure Sure definitely has an “Infectious Live Show”.

10 Questions with Alaia (Tres Leches and AlAIA)

It’s 8:35pm. Monday night at Rhein Haus Seattle on Capitol Hill. It’s Rhein Haus’ weekly “Meat Raffle Monday”. Starting at 7:30pm and ending at 9:30pm, two raffle tickets are drawn every half hour. Each ticket costs $1. With each raffle win, the winner selects a premium meat (steak, a half chicken, etc.) and also a set of in house made sausages. It was mid way through this event that my interview with Alaia began.

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Alaia to me has always been a fascinating member of the Seattle music scene. I would see her name pop up as a camera operator on a KEXP Live video. I would read an article about one of her music projects (Tres Leches, and AlAIA) in a local paper or magazine. I would catch one of her shows, or even just see her in attendance at a local show.

You would think a person who has exposed themselves to this much music or has remained this active in the local scene would have a high opinion of themselves in terms of musical taste but regarding Alaia that could be further from the truth. If there is anything I can say from the amount of time I’ve known Alaia, she is more than happy to not only talk about music but also explore what makes a person interested in music. It’s from this fascination of the other, and this backdrop of a meat raffle at Rhein Haus, that I decided now was a good time to ask Alaia these 10 questions…

Thanks again for doing this:
1.) I’ve enjoyed the Phonic Earth series on Youtube (Alaia has an ongoing mini series of videos that explores how music connects us). How did you select the topics for each video?

The topics are general interest topics connecting human lines that I found to be most relatable through music. Some people find connectors through food or visual art. For me the most accessible medium is music. There’s only so much we understand about the human brain and art and music connects us in these intangible ways. I was talking to a person who had a parallel experience of art looking at Petroglyphs in Arizona as I did, looking at Monet’s “Water Lilies”. We were both put on a surreal plain by a piece of the world represented in an unfamiliar way. The human mind has unknown brilliance and music can connect us to this unknown.

Wow. Okay. Going off the creation of videos and their connection to music…
2.) You’re a videographer for KEXP. Of the performances you’ve seen, which one was a must see and who was your personal favorite?

Must see is definitely Floating Points. It’s jazz that puts you… It’s like future jazz. A soundtrack to a future where everyone gets raw. It’s very improvisational and very rooted in jazz. There’s this kind of Wurlitzer that sounds like they put it through a teleportation device. There’s like 7 people in this group and this also pushed us to be more creative in the way we filmed the session in order to incorporate everything that was going on. Another one we shot was Boogarins. I love Dinho’s voice. Dinho’s so nice. Whenever Boogarins comes to town Dinho always give me a list of Brazilian bands to listen to. He just turns me on to such great music my favorite being Jupiter Apple. He’s a person you just feel light around. He just has the best smile and his voice is fucking amazing. I don’t think you can beat that Brazilian psych-jazz style.

So I should definitely check these out? (haha)

Yeah and you can. (haha)

3.) I read somewhere you are a fan of pinball? Best Machine?

Yeah! There’s a cool machine over at Jupiter Bar in Seattle. It’s an older kind of bootleg Baseball machine. There are lights around the board showing you where to hit the ball to get a single or a double or whatever and also if you get a home run, you get baseball card.

Wait. You get a baseball card? (haha)

Yeah an actual baseball card comes out of the side! I like the Monster Mash, too. It might be the knock off Monster Bash. Jupiter bar is probably the best place for pinball in Seattle.

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4.) I read a recent interview you had done for KEXP. I like your view about having compassion for person’s situation and the view that it’s survived natural selection. That compassion is a powerful tool, is a profound viewpoint. Can you expand on that? Like what shaped that mentality?

You kind of asked me a meditative question, where I have to think about how did I get to this point? I don’t know. I think people will use history and science to shape any narrative they want. If you stop and take a look around you- well, I have a lot of really great people in my life that don’t have to be as great as they are. They have every reason to not treat people with the kindness that they do, they have every reason to treat people bad, yet there’s something in them where they don’t want to do that. That doesn’t serve them. That doesn’t serve them at their core. They’re not the people who hurt them. If you view things through natural selection some people think everything is cruel. Survival of the fittest, only the best can survive. There’s that view, but somehow there’s also compassion existing. I don’t know if there is a “why”, but there is an “is”. That is just the way that it is, in that compassion has survived.

You can see it in humans, but you could also see it in animals. When they’re fed and they have their resources, you’ll see these videos where a cat is helping a bird. The cat has its resources and since it has it’s resources it doesn’t have a reliance on those to survive. It demonstrates that once you have access to those resources, it doesn’t have to succumb to that cycle of the need to survive. Like once you have that access you have time to help and time to think. When you are able to have your resources you are able to expand on the mind you have, and a lot of people when they’re not terrified for their own life, I think a lot of people will gravitate towards helping others. A lot of people want to help, and in that way they find meaning. I think it’s what keeps some people around even. I think it’s what makes life worth while for some people.

20171031_2127085.) You and your band’s music videos, on stage presences, and film styles are fairly unique. What helped shape that style?

(Small break as they call out the last meat raffle tickets.)

We do everything ourselves. We make our visual performance art ourselves. We each have general interest about learning about the world. We each are interested in the worlds in ourselves. Ulises is very interested in science and quantum theory, and his experience with immigration also influences his art. It’s not all of what he’s about, he’s an artist with a lot of views and he has to do a lot of reflection on himself to find out what that means to him. We’re all just interested in learning. The heart performance art during the Halloween show for example was all about learning about myself. That was during a time in my life where found myself alone which I wasn’t used to. I was always scared of being by myself and being able to do it shows a way that I am trying to overcome that fear. Zander showed me a lot about literature and videos and really helped me cope with being alone. I was very afraid of being alone. Those thoughts of “You’re not enough”, “You have nothing to say”, “You have nothing interesting to put out there”…that’s not true. That’s never true. There’s so much that could be said and done. So I know Zander is very interested in learning too because he’s taught me things. He’s very interested in looking into himself as an individual as well. This was a long way of saying we’re all interested in learning.

6.) I saw the music video for “What are you doing?”. What’s the coolest thing I can do in Seattle if I had only one day in Seattle?

I really like going to the Northwest African-American Museum and also San Fernando Peruvian Roasted Chicken Shop. That museum is a terrific way to learn about the Northwest and when you get done you can walk through the park. Judkins park. You can learn so much at the museum, then as you meditate on what you’ve learned, you can walk down this beautiful park, and you’ll end up at one of the greatest places to have roasted chicken in Seattle.

What’s the best thing to order there?

I almost don’t want to tell people about this place, but I want them to stay in Seattle, so I hope they get all the business they can. Get the Arroz con Mariscos. That’s my favorite thing, but for sure try the chicken. The green sauce is really good.

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7.) What band(s) should I be listening to now?

Benjamin Clementine is the person I always tell people is the best.

(A freind interrupts to offer us a portion of a giant pretzel.)

Elaborating on Benjamin Clementine. I don’t think I know of another current artist that created another genre. He’s very inspired by Chopin and Debussy, but with a kind of Brit Rock feel but it’s different stylistically in that it’s not always a completely Westernized song structure. He just ascends to this other place and will maybe reference that place later in the song, but never go back to that place. He’s so good at melody, but each piece makes you feel like you’re at home and you don’t realize this song has no chorus (or at least I can’t place the chorus). He also has great subjects and experiences which he translates to his work. His music really puts me at ease. Lyrically he’s incredible and his story is something you should read into. He’s the most inspirational person I’ve ever one met, and two just that I’ve ever listened to. I work around music. Like I’m around music all the time and I’ve never been more shook than when I’ve met Benjamin Clementine.

These questions are from my last interview Bree McKenna:

8.) Who is the cutest member of the band Hanson?

Oh no what if you don’t know who that band is? I can look them up (haha)
Yeah.

(Googling Hanson and watching music video for MMMBop. There was some surprise that a guy was the lead singer for MMMBop. After we found a picture of them when they were in their prime…)
I think Bree has to define what cute is and that’s my response to that. (haha)

9.) What TV show are you binge watching right now?

There’s a couple. Right now I’m watching Kitchen Nightmares with Gordon Ramsey. Pretty much anything with Gordon Ramsey. I almost feel like I’m doing an intensive on Gordon Ramsey. Like I’m watching Hell’s Kitchen, then Kitchen Nightmares, Master Chef, and even Junior Master Chef. I think it’s really funny watching him blow up. Like it’s so far from anything I can express. It’s so interesting. It’s so far from who I am, how I’d treat people and what I’d like to be around. It’s interesting watching him tear down the owners who treat their staff like shit though. Forcing them into a position where they have to be held accountable. I’m interested in these interactions because it’s such a different culture from what I am used to.

Alright and Bree’s last question…

Wait can I throw this in?

Sure.

I also like Kim’s Convenience. I think it’s a Netflix show. It’s a family show where the character’s are very relatable. I think the writing’s really good and it makes me laugh a lot.

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10.) Describe your dream stage outfit?

There are some things that come to mind but I want to be sure I’m intentional about it, and not just go right to let’s Paul McCartney this sh… (haha)

(haha) I know right. Let’s Lady Gaga this one.

Fire and meat everywhere! (haha)

I wanna do like Madonna and roll on stage in a wedding gown.

I really feel like…okay, I saw Angels in America in New York and the way they did the angel is so amazing. She looks like- she’s not goth, but she’s very Tim Burton-esque. Just ghost white, frizzy hair, but tattered and torn and wings are just raven wings, but there’s still a bit of color. Like I think she was wearing a body suit underneath that was rainbow. I really like that. The way they did it, the wings were puppets, but I really think it would be cool if the wings were attached to you so you could fly into the audience. So then you could fly to people and sing to them. You could demand their attention like if they’re on their phones. If it’s a small space then it’s like an ice breaker, but if it’s a big space then it’s a connector to everyone, not just the front. Like the balcony. There’s so many times a performer will be like, “How are the poor people in the balcony doing? haha. Sorry you couldn’t afford to be down here.”. You could just fly up there. You could piss a bunch of people off and just fly up there and just switch perspectives of the show.

No joke I went to a Taylor Swift show. A friend offered me tickets, and I thought why not?

Sure, that’s why you went. (haha)

Okay fine, I’m a Taylor Swift fan and wanted to go see her live. (haha) Mid show she’s performing on the main stage. All of a sudden there’s a basket that came down on the stage. Then there were what looked like platforms positioned furthest away from the main stage and in front of people near the back of the stadium. She got in the basket, it took her up, she landed on these platforms on the far end of the stadium, and then continued the show for about 3 or 4 songs on those platforms. (haha) It’s what you described, these people paid a lot of money to be right up front and be next to the stage, and Taylor got in a basket and took the show to people on the other end of the stadium. (haha)

(haha) I like that. I like that a lot. There you go. This goes back to the idea that people have way more in common than you think. I would think Taylor Swift and I have nothing in common but hey, there you go. We both want to fly across a stadium and engage as much of the audience as we can.

 

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(You can catch Alaia and Tres Leches at Mercer and Summit Block Party next Saturday at the Cove stage from 2:!5 to 2:45pm. Thanks Again Alaia!)

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”.)