Capitol Hill Block Party, Day 3: STRFKR, VHS, The Cave Singers

Capitol Hill Block Party, Local Music, Live Reviews
Zach Frimmel
photo by Zach Frimmel

There are, without any doubts, few live acts that measure up to the ecstatic energy, out-of-this-world playfulness, and endless fun that is experienced at a STRFKR show. They've got it down to a science and hopefully we'll see more of their mastered craft after they reminded us tonight that they're working on a new record. If you've ever seen, or even heard of, the party shenanigans of their uncontrollably dancey electro-pop rock show then you know it's impossible to disagree, and they left none of their favorites on the table at this year's Capitol Hill Block Party. We're talking twelve people in spacesuits! We're talking about streaming confetti canons! We're talking about blowup flamingo rafts and dinosaurs! We're talking about people dressed up in spacesuits crowdsurfing... on not one, but two life-sized flamingo rafts... shooting off confetti canons! What?! That certainly gave CHVRCHES, the festival's headliner right after them, a run for their money. Of course, these are all staple gimmicks for the live show of the Portland-hailing outfit - they just decided to go big instead of go home. Let's also not forget the subtle and cerebral quirks that the group still salutes. They don't only just exist as a seminal spectacle of the electric dance macrocosm, but for many years they've incorporated sound-bit quotes from the erudite mind of Alan Watts, which they valiantly did Sunday night starting off their set. Props to that. So as the Watts' quote dissolved, the beat dropped into their first song and they proceeded to signal security guards to spray water from hoses into the crowd to immediately set the tone for the rest of their set. So between the pristine serenading and Korg dominating of Joshua Hodges, the heavy-hitting bass and synth grooves of Shawn Glassford, and the pacemaking precision of Keil Corcoran's acoustic and electric kit, the band could do absolutely no wrong. Easily one of the most unforgettable shows of the weekend.STRFKR (photo set by Melissa Wax):

In keeping theme with the weekend's dissonance downstairs and synth ubiquity upstairs, Reno-now-local antiheros VHS (Violent Human System) delivered thirty minutes of nonstop 80 post-punk punches in Barboza Sunday afternoon. Fresh off their June release of Gift of Life on Casino Trash records and also having just been Song of the Day on KEXP a couple weeks back, the foursome of fury got downbeat dirty with their drug-laced lyrics, Cure-echoing guitar effects, and gutter rock. At first the bar was occupied by about forty people, but by the middle of their set there were easily ninety strong (many who probably trickled over from Sashay) that watched intently as the squad of surly gents all broke sweats while viciously strumming and drumming.

VHS (photo set by Brittany Feenstra):

Last, but certainly not least, to play Vera for the weekend was one of Capitol Hill Block Party's most stripped-down acts and one of the Emerald City's most effortlessly glowing gems, The Cave Singers. As Block Party came to an end, so did the supergroup's (Murder City Devils, Hint Hint, Cobra high) recent bout on the road touring for their 2016 record Banshee, which is their first self-released album and a departure from their record label Jagjaguwar. After STRFKR had blown everyone at main stage out of the water and before CHVRCHES' crushing communion had commenced, the folk-reveling trio served as a back-to-the-basics, blues-y buffer. However, don't let Pete Quirk's Appalachian beard, Marty Lund's washboard percussions, and Derek Fudesco's seated stance fool you. Fudesco played fingerstyle picking on an arsenal of guitars from electric to a classical ran through distortion - also slapped some bass for songs like their Banshee opener "That's Why." Quirk chirped on the harmonica when he wasn't alt-country crooning or playing what looked like a guitalele. Lund drummed and sneakily didn't drum one song but instead picked up an acoustic guitar -while still on his throne - and picked along. There was dancing and there was singing. There was hootin' and there was hollerin' from the crowd. But dancing to the Tractor-Tavern twangy music of The Cave Singers is a different kind of dancing and celebration. It's an old-timey, foot-stomping parade lush with the pure pedigree of soulful folk.

The Cave Singers (photo set by Brittany Feenstra):

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