The 22nd annual festival on the Hill included some great music — and also reactions to accusations against Seattle nightlife entrepreneur David Meinert.
Block Party review
The sun beat down on the gathering masses. Clouds of weed and vape smoke of every flavor billowed over a sea of bobbing heads on Friday as New York DJ/producer Yaeji kicked primal house beats tailor-made for a dingy Brooklyn rooftop party.
The 22nd annual Capitol Hill Block Party was just underway and, if not for The Comet Tavern’s neon bar sign looming over the back of the main stage area along Pike Street, it would almost be too easy to forget about the news that shook Seattle’s nightlife and music scene a day earlier. On Thursday, KUOW reported that five women have accused local nightlife impresario David Meinert — co-owner of The Comet and former Block Party producer — of sexual misconduct, including rape.
In interviews with KUOW, Meinert reportedly “denied the specific allegations of rape and sexual assault made against him,” but admitted to being “handsy.”
The fallout was just beginning. The accusations against Meinert, and concerns about consent, were a recurring theme over the weekend.
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On Friday, even as Yaeji loosened up the first-day crowd with uninhibited tracks like her breakout “Raingurl,” Seattle band Hey Marseilles, who has been managed by Meinert’s Onto Entertainment, released a statement distancing themselves from Meinert, who is also a partner in Capitol Hill’s Lost Lake Cafe.
That first night, Seattle rapper Sam Lachow, a last-minute fill-in for GoldLink, who was reportedly hospitalized, largely appeased the eager young crowd, despite actual lyrics like “I like drugs. Druggy drug drugs.” Still, credit the bro-y emcee for stepping up in the clutch. Later on the Vera stage, London producer Kelly Lee Owens delivered a more inspired set, one of the weekend’s best, wielding dystopian techno beats, deliriously pranging synths and warped vocals.
On Saturday, though, fans trickling in to festival grounds were greeted with fliers on utility poles calling for a boycott of Meinert’s businesses. Inside, howling soul-laced rockers Sundries performed a raucous send-off show at Barboza before singer/guitarist Sadie Frank moves to California. “Everybody remember that consent is affirmative consent,” Frank said before blues-punk burner “Saturday Night.” “And don’t go to the Comet.”
Jason Lajeunesse, who took over Block Party in 2011, is also a part owner of the Comet and Lost Lake.
After Australian singer Betty Who delighted a modest main stage crowd with sparkly dance-pop anthems, local rockers Great Grandpa echoed Frank’s sentiment introducing a song about consent. “Please, while you’re in this environment ask for consent before you touch people,” said frontwoman Alex Menne, who implored the small crowd to stop supporting Meinert’s bars.
The #MeToo movement also hit Saturday’s headliners Brockhampton, who stormed the main stage without Ameer Vann, a recently dismissed founding member accused of sexual misconduct by two women in May. There was no dramatic acknowledgment of Vann’s absence, as there was during the self-described boy band’s first show without him. Instead, the cult-favorite hip-hop collective bore through an abbreviated but ballistic set, unleashing shout-rap bangers one minute and detouring to singer/producer Bearface’s solo guitar ballad, “Waste,” the next. With eclectic beats standing in contrast to the trap du jour, the six rappers/singers worked up the dense crowd with the airtight verses and upbeat gang-vocal hooks that have made the inclusive group born in a Kanye fan forum a refreshing addition to hip-hop’s new class of stars.
Despite 29,500 attendees throughout the weekend, navigating between the six stages and the artificial grassed beer garden was relatively painless, aside from when shoulder-to-shoulder fans shoved their way into the main stage area for each night’s headliners. With a lighter Sunday turnout, day three felt more relaxed as upbeat R&B singer Amber Mark sparked a disco-soul dance party while Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s Ruban Nielson channeled a dosed Jimmy Page during crunchy psych-rocker “American Guilt” on the main stage.
Even the heartbroken new material of folky satirist Father John Misty couldn’t kill the summer fest’s good vibes. The soft-rock troubadour closed the fest by often turning existential dread into a cathartic reprieve. His 2015 snark-de-triomphe “Bored in the USA” sounded lush as ever, ribbing the maladies of modern American life, while “The Ideal Husband” made for a bruising walk-off.