The Capitol Hill Block Party: It's all the punk you can eat. At this Seattle music and general fun festival, hard-edged, minimalist rock bands serve as the main course reinforcing...
The Capitol Hill Block Party: It’s all the punk you can eat.
At this Seattle music and general fun festival, hard-edged, minimalist rock bands serve as the main course reinforcing the notion that punk remains the driving force behind Puget Sound music (remembering, of course, that grunge was a metal-ized version of punk).
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Like any good barbecue, the Capitol Hill Block Party has plenty of trimmings to go with its main course. More than 50 bands will be performing on four stages tomorrow and Sunday, with many of Seattle’s top young bands.
Indie pop is well represented by the Long Winters, a relatively new two albums band, led by ex-Western State Hurricanes singer John Roderick. Smoosh is another indie-pop band, even younger two sisters, ages 10 and 12, who bring solid musical skills and tons of charm. The first Smoosh full-length recording, “She Like Electric,” is coming in September.
The fine Japanese-American duo IQU (1:30 p.m. tomorrow) plays electronic pop, and crowd favorite United State of Electronica (4:15 p.m. tomorrow) is sure to have the audience dancing to neo-disco numbers like “Emerald City.”
Though there will be B-boys and DJ’s around the festival, the live-music is short on hip-hop with one notable exception in living legend Sir Mix-a-Lot (8:30 p.m. tomorrow).
For the most part, though, this is a thrashing guitar, pounding drum screamfest, hitting various punk sub-genres: hardcore, speed-metal, emo-punk, indie-punk, pop-punk etc.
Musical agility? No, not really.
Volume and intensity? You bet.
Bands like Kane Hodder (10:15 p.m. tomorrow), Mea Culpa (9 p.m. Sunday), Akimbo (7 p.m. tomorrow), Schoolyard Heroes (9 p.m. Sunday) and the Catheters (8 p.m. tomorrow) will bring the noise and aggressiveness to the block party stages.
Most of these young bands, if they stay together, will anchor the Seattle music scene for years. Some will gain wide enough audiences to tour regularly. And a few might break out big. Bellingham teenage duo Idiot Pilot (1 p.m. Sunday) displays the beats-and-screams skills that got it a major label (Reprise Records) deal.
Pretty Girls Make Graves (7 p.m. tomorrow), led by singer Andrea Zollo and former Murder City Devils bassist Derek Fudesco, is one of the most successful midlevel rock bands going. This punk/indie band tours almost obsessively next month, PGMG will be in Austria, London, Hamburg, Berlin, Paris …
And then there’s the screamiest of the screamers, the Blood Brothers (7:15 p.m. Sunday), one of Seattle’s latest breakout bands, though its road to establishing a national audience has been as rocky as it has been sudden.
Formed in 1997 on the Eastside, the Blood Brothers were heavily influenced by local hardcore a post-1980s version of punk band Botch, and quickly became the rage in the local hardcore scene. Audiences at all-ages clubs like the Old Fire House, Paradox and Vera Project were blown away by the band’s roaring music intensity, and the preternatural screams of dual vocalists Jordan Blilie and Johnny Whitney. They were just starting to develop a regional following when Ross Robinson, best known for his work on Korn and Limp Bizkit albums, was turned on to a demo of the band and let it be known he wanted to produce a Blood Brothers album.
The band’s Robinson-produced, ARTISTdirect release, “Burn Piano Island, Burn,” received rave reviews in The New York Times and many other publications.
Yet the relationship with the would-be major label was not terribly pleasant. “I can summarize it in one word: trainwreck,” said Jordan Blilie, stopping in Wyoming as the much-traveled band made its way back home from another tour.
“That’s as far as I can go into it, it’s been a source of frustration for some time.”
The Blood Brothers got out of their two-record deal with ARTISTdirect and will now be on V2 Records, home of Grandaddy and the White Stripes. V2 will release the band’s second national album, “Crimes,” in September.
Before his cellphone cut out, Blilie said that, if you haven’t been to a Blood Brothers show in a while, you may notice a big change:
“A couple of years ago, we were playing the songs we had written for ‘Burn Piano Island, Burn.’ I think we were in a place then where we were a lot more interested in harder music and more technically proficient music.
“Right now, we don’t have any interest in hardcore music, at all. I think that’s reflected in the new album a lot more rhythmic, a lot more variety from song to song.”
Working with Sleater-Kinney producer John Goodmanson, the Blood Brothers spent the first part of this year in a Seattle studio, reworking new songs they had been playing on tour, and adding cello, acoustic piano and accordion parts.
Yes, we’re still talking about the Blood Brothers.
So how does this new attitude match up when, say, the Blood Brothers are playing the hardest of the hardcore songs from “Burn Piano” in concert?
“We don’t play them maybe three or four,” Blilie said with a laugh. “The rest is new stuff. … For a year-and-a-half to two years, we played (‘Burn Piano’) songs to death. I don’t think any of us have had that much interest in hardcore music for a while.
“It seems like a genre that’s been stagnant for a while. … It was time to move on.”
Blilie’s distancing from hardcore was lost on a Punknews.org (a Web site for the punk-rock community) reviewer, who was wildly enthusiastic about a recent Blood Brothers show in Cleveland:
“The band deserved all the praise the audience was heaping upon them, as they are truly one of the best bands in hardcore right now.”
Tom Scanlon: email@example.com