There were no crowded streets. No hot pavement baking under the summer sun or fighting through a densely packed city block to catch a glimpse at the headliner, which sounds a little gnarly anyway in the age of the mask mandate.
Day In Day Out, the new festival from the team behind Capitol Hill Block Party, opened Saturday with sounds similar to what we’ve come to expect from the beloved bash in the heart of Seattle’s liveliest nightlife district. But the laid-back vibe at the fledgling fest at Seattle Center couldn’t have been more different.
In a sense, the more intimate, two-day fest, which continues Sunday afternoon, felt like Block Party without the hassles of Block Party, where a frenetic, stage-hopping pace is part of the appeal. Throughout most of the day, fans were divided among Day In Day Out’s three sections — a VIP terrace atop the Fisher Pavilion, a 21-plus beer garden below and an all-ages area in front of the stage — leaving plenty of room to stretch out on the lawn near the festival’s lone stage.
Earlier this week, Day In Day Out’s lineup took a hit when two of the five acts slated for Saturday dropped out. First it was Portland rap star Aminé, one of the weekend’s top draws, who canceled after testing positive for COVID-19. Hours later, Seattle R&B darling Parisalexa also pulled out, citing a non-COVID illness.
The lineup hits continued Sunday morning when another marquee act, Portland indie-dance producer Big Wild, also canceled after someone in their team tested positive for COVID-19. Seattle singer-songwriter Tomo Nakayama is now set to open Sunday, but it’s another tough blow to a first-year festival that has now lost two of its top four artists.
Nevertheless, local R&B singer/rapper LIVt more than capably filled Parisalexa’s Saturday slot, epitomizing the relaxed afternoon vibes while sailing through her airy “Sade to Infinity” — a pandemic-penned song about “complicated love in complicated times” — before a still-gathering crowd.
Cooler than patio misters on a hot summer day, LIVt set the table for a pair of hometown rap faves Sol and Travis Thompson — familiar faces, at least to some in the crowd, who devoted chunks of their sets to new material after time away from the stage.
“Let me just say, this is live music right now!” exclaimed Sol, who was added after Aminé canceled. “I may or may not cry tonight, let’s go!”
Flanked by ubiquitous collaborators Elan Wright (guitar/bass) and Nima Skeemz (keys/electronic percussion), the Seattle rap vet showcased a pair of new songs with resonant lines about canceled tours and “the wrong Amazon burning,” adorned with Wright’s dreamy guitar licks and Skeemz’s soulful keys.
Fresh off releasing the biggest album of his career this summer, Thompson burst onto the stage like a rock through an abandoned car windshield with an abbreviated “7/11” — the explosive opening track off his “BLVD BOY” LP.
“[Expletive], that’s the first time I ran out on a festival stage in a minute,” a slightly gassed Thompson told the crowd.
The new album finds the Burien rapper pushing himself into new sonic terrain, with the smoothly melodic “Crossfaded” and West Coast banger “Dead Prezis,” two vastly different songs, though both proved festival-ready on Saturday. Still, Thompson clearly didn’t play all his new cards on the album, debuting an unreleased party rap number called “Registration,” bouncing with ’70s funk.
When Day In Day Out was announced back in early July, forever ago in COVID time, organizers planned to cap ticket sales at 8,000. As the delta variant flared up, there was talk of decreasing that number further, though in the weeks preceding the festival, a sellout seemed increasingly unlikely. Organizers pegged Saturday’s attendance at roughly 3,000, a number that felt comfortable as a spectator, though small by festival standards. Proof of vaccination or a negative coronavirus test was required for entry, though no one checked mine at the gate. With a King County mask mandate for outdoor events with 500 or more people taking effect Tuesday, a number of fans voluntarily masked up, though the vast majority did not.
By the time electronic star Kaytranada took the stage beneath an illuminated Space Needle, the energy felt larger than the crowd size, as fans finally coalesced in front of the stage. The Grammy-nominated producer’s hour-and-change set was like a long-sipper of a night cap, dealing one cerebral groove after another as thousands of feet pounded the earthen dance floor. Fans clearly weren’t ready to call it when Kaytranada’s soul-cleansing set ended promptly at 10 p.m.
Fortunately, the low-key party continues Sunday, with synth-pop veterans Chvrches, Portland’s STRFKR and more scheduled to play.