One complaint I've heard over and over again about the Capitol Hill Block Party in the past few years is that its headliners are too big, its lineups not enough of a locals-only party, and (here's where the complaint gets silly) that it shouldn't be allowed to call itself a "block party" (despite being a party on city blocks) unless it's a free neighborhood party, presumably with a weenie roast. Well, you'll still have to pay for tickets this year ($75 for a 3-day pass), as it's still a sizable rock festival and not a neighborhood watch meeting, but if you ever thought that CHBP was too big and its lineup too crazy, well, this might just be the year for you.
Let's talk about why...
Now, Major Lazer is no slouch in the party-starting department, with their jokey, daggering dance-hall and Beyonce-ready beats (bonus: comes with free Diplo DJ set on the side), but the rest of the top few rows looks pretty weak in comparison, at least for a big, festive bash. Neko Case makes lovely Americana (with Tacoma shout-outs), but it's not exactly the most thrilling live show. Nor is the sleepy-eyed down-tempo indie-electronica of Phantogram, the washed-out indie-pop of Youth Lagoon, or the mannered, suspender-clad folk of the Lumineers (who are like Fleet Foxes, only CHBP's Dave Meinert's Fuze Music manages them). Fitz & the Tantrums' car commercial-tame take on soul is improbably popular, but in terms of hipness probably belongs more at Bumbershoot (or ZooTunes) than at a fest that aims to be its cooler, smaller alternative. You've got Aesop Rock, taking over for previous years' Atmosphere, holding down the white-guy backpacker hip-hop demo.
Of course, you do have awesome garage-rock weirdos Thee Oh Sees, and Grimes, whose wispy, looping electro-pop record Visions remains one of the year's best so far. And for local partisans, this initial partial lineup announcement has a lot to like, from rising rapper Nacho Picasso and clouded production team Blue Sky Black Death to industrial screamers Crypts to punks Nu Sensae and many, many more. And maybe at the relatively low festival price of $25/day, that's a good deal, a lower-key Capitol Hill Block Party--but it's hard to get too excited about. [/jaded] (Oh, also: John Maus is the worst, most pompous joke-art-pop blight this side of his buddy Ariel Pink--that is a most unfortunate booking.)