Capitol Hill Block Party, Day 2: ODESZA, Pure Bathing Culture, Tourist, Porter Ray

Capitol Hill Block Party, Live Reviews
07/24/2016
Gerrit Feenstra
photo by Melissa Wax

Much talk surrounding Capitol Hill Block Party's 2016 notes the intentionally electronic turn that the festival made this year with its headlining choices. Of those, the crowning evening of the weekend had to go to Saturday night, where hometown heroes ODESZA played to maybe the biggest crowd ever at the Block Party. The band's mixture of sonic influence painted a perfect pinnacle for the day's events, as plenty of excellent hip-hop, house, and pop music led the way to the band's return to the Block Party main stage (their first time since 2013). Early on in the day, rising Seattle rapper Porter Ray brought festival-goers through the gates by the truckloads. In the afternoon, the excellent house sounds of London producer Tourist kept the energy up. Then in the evening, before ODESZA took to the main stage, Portland dreampop band Pure Bathing Culture brought a solid crowd for an excellent set of fan favorites. Altogether, Saturday saw some of the best action of the weekend and showed the phenomenal sway that electronic music has on Seattle's above-ground music scene this year.Porter Ray continues to rise as Seattle's crowned prince of hip-hop, taking the Block Party main stage for the first time this weekend in an excellent performance. After signing to Sub Pop back in 2014 for an eventual LP, Porter Ray has spent the last few years gathering ground below him, releasing three mixtapes since then, most recently Nightfall (complete with a plethora of Samurai Champloo samples), and the collaborative tape Electric Rain alongside Tele Fresco. Porter Ray is poised for greatness for more than a few reasons. First off, his performance chops only get meaner and cleaner as time goes on. Today's main stage performance was his best yet, watching a growing early afternoon crowd become entranced with every passing song. Furthermore, Ray is entrenched in the local scene and loves putting on talent that deserves the attention. Collaboration with Tele Fresco may be his most recent, but collaborators like JusMoni and others are always down to perform alongside Ray, making good on his rolodex and amping up the crowd with more faces. Much like his Neumos performance at last year's Block Party, today's performance was a great snapshot of the progress he's made with yet another year under his belt. If this trajectory continues for the young rapper, only the sky is the limit.

Porter Ray (photo set by Melissa Wax):

London producer Tourist (William Phillips) made his first trip to Seattle this weekend to find himself an immense crowd eagerly awaiting him. Last month, he dropped the highly anticipated LP U, featuring the fantastic single "Run" that has been making waves on the internet in the past few weeks. U is Tourist's biggest statement yet, and it's evident that its gaining exactly the traction that Phillips was hoping for. The massive, swooping textures of his house productions isn't hard to fall for. Phillips does a great job balancing size and scope with empathy and emotion. There's never a time when the sheer force of his music overpowers the creeping humanity underneath. Crowds packed forward for the duration of Tourist's set, kicking off the turn of the evening from rock and roll to an EDM haven. Yet, Tourist made the transition gently, never letting ego mask the guiding introspection of his emotive musical wanderlust. Phillips finished his set with "Run" to massive applause, floored at the size of the crowd and their response. Hopefully, this will be enough for Tourist to return soon.

Tourist (photo set by Melissa Wax):

Taking to the Vera Stage as the sun descended past the horizon were one of Portland's dreamiest pop acts, Pure Bathing Culture. It doesn't really feel so long ago that PBC were playing Neumos at the 2013 Block Party lining up for Dirty Projectors. Back then, the band was still fresh off of a making a name for a fantastic Fleetwood Mac cover. But in the few years between, the band has made a name entirely for themselves, and the great turnout of fans at their Vera performance tonight paid great tribute to that fact. Last year's Pray For Rain took the airy pop whisperings of their debut to soaring new heights. While Daniel Hindman's guitars still soar and dive and twirl like a majestic eagle in the Cascades, Sarah Versprille has gone from being a soft-spoken muse to a mystical and rapturous vocal powerhouse. Like smoke on crystalline water, her navigation of dynamic melodies made for one of the most captivating performances of the day. The band worked through the best of both of their records, and worked in every screamed request from the audience. Cooling off a day of punk exquisiteness with a dreamy shoegaze wash, Pure Bathing Culture earned their primetime slot with ease.

Pure Bathing Culture (photo set by Brittany Feenstra):

In quite a few years of attending the Block Party, I'm not sure I've ever seen the likes of the crowd that packed out for ODESZA this evening. Of course, the signs should have been clear. Last December, the band finished out their massive tour in support of 2014 LP In Return with no less than three sold out nights at the Paramount, each night hosting a different lineup of opening support to play to each of their influences. And that's no pandering - truly, ODESZA do filter their sound through a cornucopia of electronic soundscapes, pulling from experimental house, hip-hop, EDM, and bedroom DJs all with ease. It's what makes them so ridiculous approachable and liked by everyone from your fourteen year-old cousin to your mom. Three nights at the Paramount is a lot of attention, and it was evident that pretty much anyone who attended any of those shows last year had the good intention of being front and center for Odesza tonight (all 10,000 or so). This made the Pike corridor a bit of a treacherous space to navigate Saturday evening, but once you found your footing, ODESZA made sure that the only thing left to find was a good time. ODESZA's touring light show was scaled down to the capacity of the stage at hand, but plenty of exploding sculpture and grandiose visions abounded. ODESZA were joined by a handful of guest performers, including a full horn section and a vocal guest spot from Beat Connection (and the Dip) singer Tom Eddy. Even in the wake of massive global fame, Harrison and Clayton haven't forgotten how much love Seattle throws up for them when they come back to town, and tonight's entertainment was a pretty stalwart testament to that fact.

ODESZA (photo set by Melissa Wax):

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