If Saturday at the Capitol Hill Block Party was defined by the mountain of local talent that filled the Cha Cha, Sunday could have been most notable for the amount of electronic music that occupied Neumos, including Seattle's The Spider Ferns, whose blend of jittery and ghost-like elements proved to be an excellent antidote to the seemingly-blazing summer sun that occupied much of Sunday. Singer Kelly Fleek was at once enigmatic and bold in her performance, her voice full of volume but her lyrics never quite explaining the evocative scenes she and the band's electronics painted. A sharp, downtempo contrast to both the big tent EDM that dominated much of the adjacent main stage throughout the weekend and the blistering, sarcasm-damaged punk that seemed to define the festival's local presence at points, The Spider Ferns' silvery swirl stood out on a day – and to be fair, weekend – where electronic music reigned king.
Laura Gibson's four years away from the spotlight is an eventful story, to say the least, but now that she's returned to music full-time – in support of this year's fine Empire Builder – she seems completely revitalized from a lull that didn't really happen. It's not that Gibson's previous work was too slow or inaccessible, but the richness of her new songs, as well as the band she brought with her to Block Party, was such a pleasant surprise for the songwriter, who has traded a reedy intimacy for a more expansive take on her folk rock style. Playing to a solid crowd under the Seattle evening sun, Gibson's return to the stage was one of the weekend's most unexpected surprises for both longtime fans and neophytes alike, as Gibson, with the possible exception of The Cave Singers, emerged as the warmest and most inviting folk act on the weekend's bill.
Sometime last year, CHVRCHES stopped a pretty good live act and became a great one, so this summer was the time for them to display their newfound top-tier status on a bevy of festival stages, ending their North American festival run at Block Party as they closed out Sunday night. And while there weren't any jaw dropping moments during the set – although the sight of the second-biggest crowd of the weekend (the biggest was, by a mile, for Odesza) singing the chorus of "The Mother We Share" came close – it's remarkable just how consistent CHVRCHES were onstage for the duration of their headlining set. Lauren Mayberry is a better frontwoman than ever, and with two more-or-less bulletproof albums of synth jams built with an anthemically-emo edge to them, the band have at least 90 minutes of material to pull from without digging into their lesser one-off tracks. Sometimes, all you have to do is tweak the little things to reach a new height, and by fine-tuning rather than rebuilding their live set, CHVRCHES showed why they're such a reliable, rewarding festival staple on Sunday night.
While all you hipsters were at the Capitol Hill Block Party this weekend, I was across town at a completely. different. event. You had man buns, tattoos, ripped jeans. I had mini-vans, lawn chairs, and sensible khaki cargo shorts. To be fair, we both had to endure screaming crazies with drinks sp...