Last Friday night on Capitol Hill, Big Mario's, the new New York–style pizza joint co-owned by Capitol Hill Block Party co-owner David Meinert, Neumos co-owner Jason Lajeunesse, and Caffé Vita proprietor Mike McConnell, is spilling over with musicians. Kinski's Chris Martin is sharing meatballs and marinara with Unnatural Helpers frontman Dean Whitmore. Sultry Thee Emergency leader Dita Vox is behind the bar, which is stacked with a smattering of the artists getting ready to play the CryBaby Studios Comp 2010 release party at Neumos to celebrate the local studio's inaugural compilation CD. Farther down Pike Street, in front of the Wildrose, rubberneckers stop to catch a glimpse of American Pie star Jason Biggs, who is in town shooting the film Grassroots for the next few weeks.
Biggs eventually slides into a red vinyl booth at Mario's, texting furtively while his makeup artist playfully musses his hair into a semi-bouffant. Baby-faced multi-instrumentalist and singer Joel Schneider, whose bands My Goodness and the Absolute Monarchs! both have tracks on the CryBaby compilation, is nursing a beer at the bar and procrastinating, making his way to Neumos. He shares with me the splendid news that My Goodness is currently hammering out plans to record a full-length. "Let Me Free," their contribution to Comp 2010, is probably the most exciting local single I've heard since, well, the Absolute Monarchs!' "Killing the Old" (from their self-titled EP) earlier this spring.
When My Goodness takes the stage shortly after 9 p.m., Schneider struts and hollers, the quiver in his voice and the confidence in his bluesy swagger reminiscent of Jon Spencer's brash balls, but with more Fugazi-esque finesse. He and drummer Ethan Jacobsen also have that unmistakable lightning-in-a-bottle quality that broadly hints that they could handle stages much bigger than Neumos in a heartbeat.
The immediate future will find the duo on the distinctly smaller and undoubtedly sweatier "stage"—aka the floor adjacent to the bar—at the Cha Cha during this weekend's Capitol Hill Block Party. Programmer Kerry Zettel, who also fronts See Me River and runs local label Aviation Records when he's not bartending at the Cha, has booked a staggering 18 bands into the bowels of the Pike Street hipster vortex. Starting with comedic punks the Young Evils on Friday at 5:45 p.m. and culminating with the celestial pop of Aveo on Sunday at 7:45 p.m., Zettel's thoughtful lineup includes several of the bands on Comp 2010 and essentially reads like an insider's guide to the best up-and-coming local bands, including a handful of big names like hard-and-heavy melody makers Helms Alee (Fri., 9:45 p.m.) and Feral Children (Sat., 9:45 p.m.).
Along with My Goodness (Sat., 3:45 p.m.) and the Absolute Monarchs! (Fri., 7:45 p.m.), the other big buzz bands to watch this weekend include metal mavericks Hairvest (Fri., 8:45 p.m.), neoclassic rockers Virgin (Sat., 7:45 p.m.), Sportn' Life hip-hop artist-of-the-moment SK (Sat., 8:45 p.m.), and the beautifully off-kilter lo-fi folk of A Million Years Ago (Sun., 4:45 p.m.).
"Booking the Cha Cha Lounge stage is a lot like making a mixtape of local bands for a friend on the East Coast," explains Zettel of his approach to programming. "You want to put as much really cool stuff on there as possible, but you also want to throw in some stuff that makes 'em say 'What the fuck?!'"
The Block Party scene is understandably not for everyone, and tickets will likely be sold out by the time this goes to press, so if you can't or don't want to fight the masses along Pike Street, the Tractor Tavern is a great north-end option this weekend. The Ballard club is hosting Scott McCaughey's reliably rollicking Young Fresh Fellows on Fri., July 23. Opening that bill are the Basements, an act half-consisting of local vets Kurt Bloch and Jim Sangster, who take their name quite literally and specialize in garage-rock covers of songs about basements, including the Ramones' "I Don't Wanna Go Down to the Basement."