Chromeo at Capitol Hill Block Party. Photo courtesy of Renee McMahon.
Let's start with the good part: if it weren't for the Capitol Hill Block Party, I would never have known how fun Chromeo is live. Before this weekend, I never would've gone to see them of my own volition unless it was in a festival setting. So, now I know.
The main problem with any music festival, though-- especially one with an awesome line-up like this year's Capitol Hill Block Party-- is that you can never, ever see all the bands you want to see, because there will always be scheduling conflicts. Sure, you feel like you should see the mainstage bands to get your money's worth, but you also don't want to neglect your favorite local bands. Also, you think that maybe if you go into one of the smaller stages/venues, you might escape the mainstage crowds (what a joke, right?)
Frankly, this whole dilemma helped me make one crucial discovery: I'd much rather go to a show or one-band concert than a big festival. Even though I know what I'm in for by this point in my career, I always feel cheated out of seeing all the bands I like, and navigating the crowds saps my energy. And the VIP tent, which is supposed to offer some respite? Also pretty packed.
Fortunately, I've seen most of the main stage acts live before (nothing will ever top the time Les Savy Fav's lunatic frontman Tim Harrington danced on me-- me! and fed a banana to my friend...), so I tried to check out more of the local stuff instead. Not that it helped me escape the masses of bodies. Today, my leg muscles still hurt (it's all very mysterious, but I suspect it's from dancing a lot to Chromeo et al). Anyway, a few of the non-mainstage bands I saw:
The Physics-- I had never seen these guys live before, and we felt compelled to go see them because I'm pretty sure they were Saturday's lone strictly-hip-hop act, aside from secret special guests The Saturday Knights. The Physics did a great job at getting the crowd involved and waving their hands to the beat, but ultimately, I felt like some of their jams were much, much better than others, which is the kind of discrepancy that exists when you're still working on perfecting your craft. Grynch and Macklemore made an appearance, though, which was pretty righteous.
Darker My Love-- I really liked these guys; they played the sort of psychedelic rock 'n roll that makes you want to go to Joshua Tree and go on a vision quest like Gram Parsons. Only without the ODing on opiates part.
The Builders and the Butchers-- I adore this band. I've written about them before, and already knew what to expect from attending their sold-out CD release show in Portland, where they reside. The band can always be relied upon to put on a fun, interactive show (you're supposed to USE those tambourines sitting at the edge of the stage, folks!), and though they have certain jug band qualities, it's got enough of a rock band thing going on to mitigate all that. They do often invite comparisons to the Decemberists; that said, disliking the Decemberists will not necessarily prevent you from liking these guys, BRIAN BARR. Also, I love watching their two drummers interact. Aside from the Helio Sequence drummer, Benjamin Weikel, these guys look like they're having the most fun on the drums of any band I've seen live.
Throw Me The Statue-- So help me, I prefer listening to these guys recorded to watching them live. Something was missing, and I don't know what. But Moonbeams is an awesome record and I encourage all of you to go pick it up.
Velella Velella-- Love these jellyfish! They play funky electro stuff that is jazzy and good for dancing. And thankfully, their set at King Cobra was less crowded than Neumo's was all day, because the Hold Steady was playing at the same time. Which meant I had to hop back and forth to see them both. Sigh. They're playing Bumbershoot, too, which I think I will have to check out.
In conclusion: the whole thing was exhausting. Next year, I'm going to take a couple of No-Doze just so I can keep up with all those teenage rabblerousers.
Also, a humble request: can next year's block party start a little later on Friday so that those of us with 9-5 type jobs can make it there in time to see the opening acts? Thanks, friends.