Block Party Friday: Father John Misty, Youth Lagoon, and Starbucks Soul

Chona Kasinger
Father John Misty
Who would have thought that the best act on the main stage all day would be the first at bat? Father John Misty's updated take on Lee Hazlewood-style "cowboy psychedelia" sounded the freshest of any to grace the stage at Friday's slightly damp festivities. By now we're familiar with the hip-swiveling stage persona of Josh Tillman and the strange allure of his album Fear Fun, but his live set truly shows this formerly bored drummer is a limelight-loving performer who throws himself wholeheartedly into the Father John Misty character. Simultaneously dazzled and befuddled, the crowd stood with knitted brow during songs like "Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings," then applauded furiously at the end.

Speaking of crowds, it seems yesterday's uncharacteristic July downpour (and/or the fact that it was Friday) put a damper on attendance-- even at the main stage, audiences were far from brimming, reminding of nothing so much as last year's sparsely-attended Bumbershoot. Both fests tried a new approach to booking that led to smaller artists and, at least in Bumbershoot's case, smaller crowds. As clouds threaten for another day, we'll have to see whether Block Party can pick up steam.

Popping into Neumos for a bit of Brooklyn '80s aficionados Crystal Stilts' set, I was reminded that it's still strange to see a show there in the daytime. Once the Stilts got into a groove, they stayed in it, building layers of tom-heavy rhythm, distorted guitar, and singer Brad Hargett's sonorous vocals. Though fun, their post-punk/C86 worshiping songs fail to progress beyond those already-explored boundaries. A friend quoted Bare Naked Ladies: "It's all been done."

Chona Kasinger
Thee Oh Sees
Up next on the main stage, Boise's Youth Lagoon built a wall of sound impressive for two dudes. Though it was critically adored, I found last year's debut The Year of Hibernation snooze-inducing, so I was eager to see what, if anything, changed live. Though the songs held slightly more energy, the funniest thing was watching fans try to get down to the sleepiest of singles. Conclusion: A more boring Beach House. When garage-pop psychos Thee Oh Sees took the stage half an hour later, the crowd found what it was looking for. People moved, grooved, and even crowd surfed, albeit in the most polite, Seattle way possible.

Out of a sense of obligation, I stuck around for the main stage headliners, though nothing scratched my itch after Thee Oh Sees left the stage. If any of you Allen Stone/Fitzmaniacs can explain what you see in those bands in the comments, I'd be forever grateful. To me, it's Starbucks soul-- smooth, bland cream of wheat that lacks any semblance of the character or the memorable riffs of Motown. As for Mr. Stone, dude can certainly sing, but his Muppet-esque delivery of lines like "How are all you beautiful people doing tonight?" grated. But both Stone and Fitz brought the biggest, most enthusiastic crowds of the evening, so clearly I'm in the minority on this one.

On the whole, Friday's main stage lineup failed to turn my crank. But with two more days to go, there's plenty of time to turn it around, and seeing more locals and alternative-space performances ought to broaden my view of the fest.

Overheard: "I'm such a nerd. He's, like, my new Michael Jackson," said a woman in the Allen Stone crowd.

What was your take on day one of Block Party? And why, oh why, do you like Allen Stone? Add your thoughts in the comments!

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