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Music Festival Review: Capitol Hill Block Party Day Two, 7/23/11, Seattle

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Day two of Seattle’s Capitol Hill Block Party saw me sticking closely to the main stage. Normally, I would venture out more and try to check out some unknowns-to-me, but the main stage lineup was packed with great acts and I wanted to be as close as possible for headliner TV on the Radio.

Unsurprisingly, TV on the Radio did not disappoint, and their headlining set was just the last in a series of killer main stage performances. Local bands Fences and Telekinesis mined opposite ends of the pop spectrum early Saturday, with Christopher Mansfield’s brooding indie-rock of Fences taking the downbeat path and Telekinesis’s Michael Benjamin Lerner’s bouncy, driving tunes exploding as tightly wound capsules of exuberant power-pop.

Fences sounds like what you’d expect a Seattle band to sound like — and that’s certainly not a knock against it — but Telekinesis is defiantly incongruous, both in its place of origin and the time period in which it’s being made. That almost makes the irony-free enthusiasm from Lerner all the more appealing. Saturday’s set saw him playing songs from new album 12 Desperate Straight Lines and debut Telekinesis! — the exclamation mark was a dumb move, he admitted — with fervor, despite the pain from a recent bicycle accident.Tim Harrington of Les Savy Fav. Photo by Nate Watters.

Also on the main stage Saturday was dreamy surf rock act Best Coast, which somewhat eschewed its lo-fi trappings for garage-rock guitar abrasiveness layered under the longing vocals of Bethany Consentino. In between wishing that she was smoking the weed whose smoke was wafting toward the stage and telling the crowd how much her recent show in Hollywood sucked, Consentino captivated with her truly remarkable singing voice, which can occasionally get buried under the band’s fuzzy sound.

I’ll admit I didn’t know what to expect going into Les Savy Fav, a band I’ve heard songs from intermittently, but which hadn’t established much of an identity in my brain. So when four regular-looking dudes took the stage, I braced for some technically solid but slightly boring rock ‘n’ roll. Wrong.

Soon, frontman Tim Harrington emerged, cloaked in gold-sequined fabric, and proceeded to launch into an hours’ worth of antics that are among the most balls-out crazy I’ve ever seen on stage. Not that Harrington spent that much time on stage, often going out 50 feet or more into the crowd, climbing on various structures and even visiting a second-story apartment near the stage, where he performed hanging out the window. As a thank-you to his hosts, he stole a potted plant, which he later tossed into the crowd where it was quickly decimated.

If there were anything contrived about Harrington’s behavior, it might get tiresome quickly, but one gets the notion that he’s just making this up as he goes. This isn’t manufactured unpredictability; it’s the real thing,

TV on the Radio ended the evening with a stunning 90-minute set, where the songs from their latest, Nine Types of Light, were electrified in a way that the album hadn’t done for me yet. There’s no doubt the band excels at making intricate, cerebral rock, but it’s a testament to the abilities of the band that they can retain those qualities while rocking hard at the same time. Vocalists Tunde Adebimpe and Kyp Malone cranked up the urgent, fun atmosphere, and made my tired, aching legs forget their troubles.

Saturday’s unsung heroes:
The tech crew during Les Savy Fav’s set, who somehow managed to keep amps from tumbling and cords from getting tangled while Harrington made the entire area his personal playground.

Musician friendliness:
Seattle rapper Macklemore, not performing at the Block Party this year, stopped by the main stage early Saturday and chatted with a few fans, while Handsome Furs’ Alexei Perry took a photo with a fan after the band’s set — and then proceeded to graciously accommodate the long line that quickly formed.

Wrong time, wrong place:
A dude puking in the middle of a packed crowd during the headlining act suddenly makes everyone get even cozier.

Upcoming on Day Three:
The festival closes out with The Posies, Battles, The Cave Singers, and Explosions in the Sky.

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About Dusty Somers

Dusty Somers is a Seattle-based editor and writer. He is a member of the Online Film Critics Society and Seattle Theater Writers.