After COVID-19 derailed the past two years, the Capitol Hill Block Party returns July 22-24 with more venues than ever before and a lineup headlined by Charli XCX, Jai Wolf and Diplo.
Whereas other iterations of CHBP have featured a “something-for-everyone” approach, this year festival owner Jason Lajeunesse and talent buyer Evan Johnson have gone for a tighter program focusing on electronic music.
“I think the multigenre festival has become less appealing to folks,” Lajeunesse said. “I remember one year we had [singer-songwriter] Angel Olsen go into [EDM star] Diplo, and it was pretty obvious that didn’t work. Our interests in all kinds of music were proving to be less practical on a festival concept.”
Part of the appeal of past iterations of CHBP was the somewhat random lineups, but Johnson said it’s a problem if someone buys a ticket to a festival and only ends up enjoying 40% of the show.
“People know what they want, and if you are going to make the investment in a music festival at this point, it’s hundreds of dollars, it’s traveling,” Johnson said. “It’s a full commitment.”
Due to that commitment (CHBP’s three-day pass was $60 in 2010 and is $215 this year), Johnson and Lajeunesse said they wanted to make sure that attendees had a better chance of enjoying the most acts possible, including those from the Seattle area.
“This is still an avenue for up-and-coming and emerging artists,” Lajeunesse said. “We just added three new stages this year, almost all local bands. We’re booking over 150 artists this year.”
Look out for local acts like Tacoma-based Enumclaw and Them, a four-piece rock band from Seattle.
Enumclaw, with major influences like Oasis and Nirvana readily apparent, might be an outlier in the electronic-heavy Block Party lineup. Them only have a handful of songs out, but they already have a legion of fans ready to support them.
“I just remember being tagged on the Instagram post when we announced our lineup, and it was the most ‘liked’ comment I’ve maybe ever seen: ‘Where is Them on this poster?’” Johnson said, describing fan outcry after Them was left out of the initial lineup reveal. “So we had to go and make sure they were on it. They’re a younger group that for future years should be really, really big.”
For folks who remember past headliners like Built to Spill, The Flaming Lips and Neko Case and are feeling left out by CHBP’s turn toward the youthful exuberance of electronic pop, Lajeunesse and Johnson created a second festival, Day In Day Out, which debuted last year.
“The city has changed so much over the last 20 years, we had to kind of cater to that while still maintaining a lot of what Block Party is known for, and I think we’ve done a good job of that,” Johnson said. “There are certain things that we would have programmed 15 years ago that wouldn’t necessarily make sense on Block Party now but obviously we want to be bringing those types of artists to Seattle and giving an outlet to that type of music lover, so having Day In Day Out just allows us to do that.”
While Block Party now stretches across 11 venues including the recently relocated Cafe Racer, the indie-focused Day In Day Out will occupy Fisher Green Pavilion Aug. 12-14 and features headlining acts The National, Mac DeMarco and Mitski along with an assortment of familiar indie artists such as Soccer Mommy, Animal Collective and La Luz.
“What we realized last year is Seattle doesn’t have many music festivals that happen in King County, in the city proper.” Johnson said. “It’s exciting and it’s different challenges we have to deal with, but I think any Seattleite, whether you’ve lived here for a year or your whole life, would appreciate the idea of live music underneath the Space Needle.”
What to catch at CHBP
Some highlights at this year’s Capitol Hill Block Party:
Brent Amaker and The Rodeo: Local country raconteur Brent Amaker was the last person to play Neumos before the pandemic shut the city down in 2020, and is among the first to return to the stage during CHBP Day 1. Come for his fun take on country music, but stay for the world Amaker transports you to.
Toro y Moi: Festival favorite Toro y Moi returns on Day 2 riding the momentum of this year’s excellent “Mahal,” his seventh studio album. Expect chillwave-tinged indie pop that should be a fun lead-in to headliner Jai Wolf’s pop anthems.
Remi Wolf: It would be a mistake to define Sunday performer Remi Wolf by her 2014 appearance on “American Idol.” The 26-year-old Californian’s funky debut album “Juno” (Island Records) was a critical darling in 2021 on the back of the infectious single “Liquor Store,” and her set is a chance to see an artist on a crash course with stardom.