Either by design or happenstance, Friday evening at the Capitol Hill Block Party seems to always have a few notable gems that play straight to the Capitol Hill faithful as everyone else is getting off work. This year, Pillar Point (as well as Sango, see below) was one of those quiet highlights, checking off all the unofficial Block Party act qualifiers (Local? Yep. Electronic elements? Plenty. Danceable? Absolutely.) in one fell swoop as Scott Reitherman lead his two bandmates through a taught set. Reitherman's work under the moniker shows that he's often at his best when he dresses his electronic-tinged rock up in funk grooves – shoutout to the borderline Zapp-level vocoder of "Part Time Love" – so it's no surprise that some of the set's brightest moments coincided with when he busted out the bass guitar to compliment his two percussive bandmates. Riding those feet-moving grooves, Reitherman and co. busted out half an hour of what very well could stand as the platonic ideal of a CHBP 2016 set.
Sango (words by Gerrit Feenstra)
Seattle's own Sango brought the electronic energy to the main stage early on in the day with a great DJ set. Sango hails from the Soulection collective, which has done wonders for Seattle globalizing and modernizing the city's take on DJ presentation and sound. Sango is no exception to this rule, with heavy Brazilian influences on his low-impact hip-hop vibes. For the crowds set to later enjoy the dancehall influenced rhythms of MØ and the lush atmosphere of Washed Out, Sango was an easy sell to get the day started off right. With a breezy 45 minute set, this Seattle producer earned his spot on the main stage, watching crowds pile in and get dancing started off right as the block party festivities got rolling.
MØ (words by Gerrit Feenstra)
Danish pop star MØ took to the main stage early in the evening to a massive crowd, showcasing truly what a crazy few years its been for the young singer. Only two years ago, MØ was playing the Crocodile to a growing fanbase, and now, just a few days ago, she's releasing songs alongside Justin Bieber. Her 2014 debut LP No Mythologies To Follow was no doubt a phenomenal jumping point, with endorsements from Diplo and other master curators of the global EDM variety. But last year, MØ made a name for herself with "Lean On", the Major Lazer single that went platinum in a hot minute, and since then, it feels like it's only a matter of time before MØ is playing her own massive headlining shows at whichever venue she chooses. Her trajectory towards album #2 (hopefully sometime this fall) has been blistering, with dancehall-flavored jams like "Kamikaze" and the new Major Lazer feature "Cold Water". Here at the Block Party, MØ had little difficulty translating her feature fame to flesh and blood pop royalty, as fans poured into the main stage corridor for a huge turnout. MØ's stage presence remains as stalwart as ever, bouncing around the stage and channeling invisible energy to spit back out into the crowd. It's a refreshing, unique take on pop presentation, and one that will only do MØ more favors as her fame continues to grow. Having her bless the Block Party with positive, youthful energy was a treat.
The idea of an Alice Glass-less Crystal Castles has existed, at least in recorded form, for over a year now, but as a live act, Ethan Kath and new singer Edith Frances have been far less active. This summer is the group's first real tour since Glass's departure and as far as replacing one of the most inimitable frontpeople in music goes, they're facing quite a tall order. And their answer to that challenge, which was on full display at Block Party, was to simply not try and replace Alice Glass. The core setup of a Crystal Castles live show remains essentially unchanged – load the stage up with a metric ton of seizure-inducing strobes, have a live drummer crunch out the percussive side of things, and then look scarily intense while you're performing. The only difference is in the place of the whiskey-chugging, crowd-surfing/thrashing singer who made Crystal Castles a top-tier live act is a singer who stays onstage, hovering close to her mic stand while maintaining an enigmatic presence. Frances' performance was decidedly not an imitation of Glass – even her voice sounds distinctly lighter, distinguishable through all of the processing that comes with every Crystal Castles tune – and that made all the difference between the set being a triumph and a pale imitation of what the band used to be. The Frances-era songs in the set fit in seamlessly with longtime favorites like "Celestica" and "Not In Love", but despite a lengthy break in the middle of the set due to technical difficulties, Kath and Frances' inaugural Seattle show was, perhaps surprisingly, an effective display of the still-intact qualities that made Crystal Castles great in the first place.
Washed Out (words by Zach Frimmel)
After Crystal Castles primed the crowd, the Sub Pop-backed chillwave icon Washed Out (Georgia-born Ernest Greene) closed out the evening for the main stage with a trance-inducing set to a completely packed crowd. With only two full-length releases since 2011, the fact that Washed Out can headline main stage without having released new music since 2013 is a testament to how captivating their live show is and the indelibility of their quality-over-quantity music. That being said, Greene has been laying low on the live setting as he started off saying that they haven't played a show in a while and was very happy to do so starting in Seattle. After the crowd went wild the dream pop cadences commenced and everyone was in full hands-up bliss mode floating and dancing in unison - all knowing that they were all waiting to hear Washed Out's Portlandia-famous banger "Feel It All Around." And of course, mid set they gave it to us. Equipped with a full band, the undulating groove of the bass and drums, the riptide of synth, and the pure surrealism of the guitar and vocals all make for a maximum listening experience. Additionally, the fog-hazy light show curated a whimsical tone throughout the set that literally had the band members looking washed out of the foreground and at times even blending in and out of fog. They played for an hour and finished around midnight to a crowd screaming for more. Not too bad for being back in the saddle.
Twenty freaking years. That's how long this ridiculous party has been going on in Capitol Hill. Every July, we all march up the hill and pack out the block for a madcap weekend of music and festivities at the Capitol Hill Block Party. $1 Rainiers at Sam's, free snacks everywhere, the Bus trying t...