As the sun went down, the bass boomed while Alabama rap star Flo Milli nimbly delivered sexually empowered lyrics and gleeful boasts over hard-hitting beats that threatened the structural integrity of surrounding buildings. With arms locked, groups of friends snaked through the human sardine can that was a packed Pike Street between Broadway and 10th Avenue. Some of them got lost anyway.

For the first time in three years, a Seattle summer tradition — either the party or nuisance of the year, depending on your address — has returned. The Capitol Hill Block Party came roaring back Friday with a huge, eager crowd that came ready to let loose on a glorious summer day.

The long-running music festival, which typically draws around 10,000 people per day, awoke from its pandemic hibernation with attendance seemingly as strong as ever. Despite the time off, the three-day street fest on steroids picked up right where it left off, restoring a sense of familiarity to a popular summer pastime. The only real noticeable difference was that the Shell gas station that had long served as the main stage’s urban backdrop is now a 76, with prices per gallon that would have shocked 2019 festivalgoers.

But this year did bring some more substantive, yet subtle, changes from Block Parties past. The 2022 edition added a few club stages, including Cafe Racer, which moved to the neighborhood last year. Aside from the local bands filling the stages inside the neighborhood’s bars and clubs, this year’s lineup leans more heavily into the electronic and alt-pop artists that have been a staple in recent years.

Organizers with parent company Daydream State have shifted the bigger-name indie rockers who once made up a sizable chunk of the Block Party’s lineup toward their new Day In Day Out festival, which returns to Seattle Center next month.

Friday’s headliner Charli XCX has been left of pop music’s center long enough for mainstream tastes to start to come around to her. Over the past decade, the British pop singer’s amassed a sizable cult following clamoring for her superstar ascendance. While she may not have a bank of chart-topping singles to draw from, Charli XCX is a performer of the highest caliber who consistently outpunches her minimal stage production, and last night was no different.

Advertising

Flanked by two dancers, her high-motor choreography and unflappable vocals were striking as ever, yet through no fault of her own, the response was mixed. Charli XCX’s surprisingly enduring breakout “I Love It” — the audio equivalent of a thousand confetti cannons — was the ecstatic jump-around moment of Day 1. But the casual fans who lost their minds for those two and a half minutes weren’t sure what to do with more experimental detours like the thumping “Visions,” an Auto-Tuned hyperpop explosion that left pockets of loyalists salivating.

Although Charli XCX was Friday’s biggest name, it was Seattle pop singer Archie who brought the most choreographic thunder opening the main stage in the afternoon. After playing smaller rooms in past Block Parties, Archie delivered in her main-stage call-up, putting every inch of the larger stage to use with a six-person dance troupe and a high-energy performance more than compensating for a tendency to lean a little too hard on backing vocal tracks at times.

Despite the festival’s shift away from guitar bands, rockers still found their moments to shine. Chicago power-pop quartet Beach Bunny, a main-stage outlier, ignited a daytime crowd with rollicking, pop-punky numbers that would have played just as well on the Warped Tour 20 years ago.

The Capitol Hill Block Party continues Saturday and Sunday with cerebral future bass star Jai Wolf, Toro y Moi, hyperpop face-melters 100 Gecs, Diplo and more.