The Capitol Hill Block Party is possibly one of the best-kept secrets in the world of summer music festivals. But that may change this weekend, when the festival takes over the main Pike/Pine hub of an area some call 'êParty Mountain'ê due to its sometime raucous nightlife scene.
On the surface the CHBP is your typical Seattle summer music festival with corporate sponsors, lots of local buzz and a lineup that includes some heavy-hitting headliners peppered with loads of amazing local talent. Dig a little deeper and you'êll find the things that make Block Party such a great event, which is why it might not be our little secret anymore.
For starters the three-day festival, which starts Friday (July 23), packs a lineup of almost 90 bands on four stages. Its outdoor urban setting, limited to just a few blocks, helps create a strong party vibe in an environment that can feel both intimate and spacious at the same time.
Since Block Party isn'êt as big geographically as Bumbershoot or Sasquatch! — its two local contemporaries — it offers a limited number of tickets and (as a result) doesn'êt attract huge national names. But this works in Block Party'ês favor because it can keep ticket prices cheap.
A three-day pass costs $60, compared to as much as $120 for Bumbershoot and $258 for Sasquatch!. But don'êt rush out to buy those three-day passes because they sold out last week. As of earlier this week all tickets for the opening day of Block Party were gone. So you'êd better act fast if you want to attend Saturday and Sunday'ês festivities.
Low ticket prices and location aside, this year Block Party is making a push to compete with its bigger-budgeted peers. The biggest change is that Block Party will be a three-day event instead of just two. Earlier this year festival founder and booker Dave Meinert scrambled to petition the city for a permit allowing the expansion. Rumor has it the push for a third day was mainly to accommodate the touring schedule of Jack White'ês goth-blues band The Dead Weather.
The other main difference from years past is the caliber of the headlining acts. Block Party has booked solid headliners in the past, but this year it booked groups that are getting airplay on mainstream radio. Previous headliners have included indie-friendly bands like Sonic Youth, the Jesus Lizard, Vampire Weekend and The Hold Steady. These are all bands more suited for the KEXP crowd and not the KNDD set, which is the opposite of how things turned out this year.
The big names anchoring the 2010 edition are Dead Weather on Sunday and freak-psych rockers MGMT Friday night. Sandwiched between them is pioneering cult emo-rapper Atmosphere who will be headlining Saturday. The festival has always catered to the indie crowd which makes the headliner choices curious. But that'ês not to say CHBP has completely strayed from its roots, as Dead Weather and MGMT are of the rare breed of bands that are respected by indie fans and modern-rock lovers alike; and Atmosphere is an indie rap icon. Plus there are plenty of indie bands on the bill to please the Pitchfork crowd (Obits, Blonde Redhead, !!!, Happy Birthday, to name a few).
The festival also is sticking to its roots is by keeping things local. Those who stray from the main stage will discover dozens of homegrown acts to satisfy their appetite for new music, including the gritty and raw punks Unnatural Helpers, chamber popsters Grand Hallway and the dance party of a band known as Head Like A Kite. More than 50 of the bands on the bill are from the greater Seattle area, making CHBP one of the biggest showcases for local music. If 2010 is indeed Block Party'ês coming-out party, the festival won'êt be the only Seattle secret that gets exposed this weekend.
If you go: Capitol Hill Block Party, Friday 4 p.m.-midnight (sold out), Saturday 2 p.m. 'ê midnight, Sunday 2 p.m. 'ê midnight. Single-day tickets cost $23 in advance, $25 day of show online, or $30 day of show at the gates.
With nearly 90 acts to choose from, you might need some help deciding what to see at the Capitol Hill Block Party. Here are six locals to keep your eyes on:
Macklemore (4 p.m., main stage): This hilarious and poignant MC knows how to get a party started right, which is exactly what he'êll do as the weekend'ês first act on the festival'ês main stage.
Shabazz Palaces (6 p.m., main stage): A mysterious project by Digable Planets MC Ish Butler, it's the hottest hip-hop to come out of Seattle in a while and is something that must be experienced live to be fully appreciated.
The Head and the Heart (2 p.m., Vera stage): Favorites of several local bloggers, this band beat out Eminem, The Black Keys and others to be the No. 1 selling CD at Sonic Boom in its first week on shelves.
Born Anchors (6:45 p.m., Cha Cha stage): The group'ês latest album, Colorize the Gray, is one of the best local releases of the year.
Blue Scholars (6:15 p.m., main stage): The best-known local hip-hop group will be debuting lots of new material opening for The Dead Weather.
Ravenna Woods (4:15 p.m., Vera stage): These guys have breakout potential written all over them.