Saturday's Capitol Hill Block Party: Lovers, Yuni in Taxco, and an Escape From the Fest

Megan Holmes
Saturday's Block Party once again started off with a bang with a set from Portland's Hausu on the Vera Stage. The young band played up-tempo, British-inspired rock, topped with frontman (and Seattle transplant) Ben Funkhouser's comically deep vocals. The affected delivery may grate on some (cough, cough Eric Grandy), but hey, some of us are big Orange Juice fans. There's a similar thing going on with local acts the Nightgowns and Craft Spells. Three makes it a trend, right?

There was time to catch a few minutes of Champagne Champagne's party-hop on the Main Stage before the next set at Vera. An enthusiastic crowd waved their arms in the air at every request while MCs Thomas Gray and Pearl Dragon bounced up and down onstage to sampled Starfucker. Back at Vera, locals Yuni in Taxco launched into their set of shape-shifting rock, transforming from sunny world influences to moody prog to straight commercial rock within the course of a song. With two handsome singers, musical muscle, and an unapologetic approach to weirdness, they're a bit like a more-interesting Surfer Blood. Definitely a band to watch, and they apparently come Mike McCready-approved--the Pearl Jam guitarist tweeted that their set was not to be missed.

The day's next performance of note came from another Portland act, the bewitching Lovers. Singer Carolyn Berk had the crowd in the palm of her hand with songs that mixed '80s dance structure with lyrics that explored sexuality and friendship from a clearly female/feminist perspective. Her husky, powerful voice reminded a bit of Sinead O'Connor or The Cranberries' Dolores O'Riordan. The result was hypnotic, as pulsing synths (played by Kerby Ferris, who threw in a few womps for good measure) and pounding drums propelled the crowd into dancing ecstasy. The cheers from the small audience were the loudest for any act not on the Main Stage I heard all weekend.

Lovers' set marked the end of my Saturday Block Party experience (OK, I caught a few minutes of Handsome Furs but it was hard to get a feel for their set from way back in the crowd, where you couldn't see them at all and sound quality was far from ideal). But never fear, the music continued at a house show in Ravenna, where, seated on a living room rug in a beautifully decorated home, I heard sets from Portland's Kelli Schaefer and the godfather of Seattle folk himself, Damien Jurado.

Jurado, who when we walked up was perched on a scooter in the yard in the last rays of the evening sun, spoke of his excitement over recently finishing a new record with producer Richard Swift. He hopes the follow-up to Saint Bartlett will once and for all shake the pesky notion that he is a "folkie." The new songs sounded great, energetic and insightful in the way only Jurado can be, while the peaceful setting was a welcome respite from Block Party mayhem. Proof that life (and music) goes on outside of the festival.

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