2011 Capitol Hill Block Party Day 1 Recap (Friday)

Kurt Vile at the 2011 Capitol Hill Block Party in Seattle, WA (07/22/11)
Kurt Vile at CHBP 2011
Words and Photos: Drake Lelane

Capitol Hill Block Party: Day One (July 22, 2011)
It’s been a fairly cool Summer so far in Seattle, so when the clouds gave way to the sun this past weekend, there were both audible sighs of relief and a clamoring to make the most of the temperature. That fact that the first fully sunny Summer weekend coincided with the Capitol Hill Block Party only made the festival that locals love to hate (and hate to love) that much more lovable (and, conversely, hateable).

Unknown Mortal Orchestra
One of the most criminal of scheduling woes had to be having Portland’s Unknown Mortal Orchestra basically opening the festival. The psych pop outfit is led Ruban Nielson, formerly of New Zealand and Flying Nun label darlings The Mint Chicks and features the teenage drum prodigy Julien Ehrich. The band requested there be no stage lighting in the already dark Nuemos, so it was difficult to capture via photographs. Apparently, Nielson was a bit nervous performing with the Fresh & Onlys in attendance. He didn’t need to worry as the bendy guitars and affected vocals sounded great, even with the butterflies (and an odd mix from the soundboard). A performance that set the bar pretty high for the rest of the festival.

Kurt Vile & the Violators
Kurt Vile’s laid back, yet noisy slack pop was perfect for a sunny afternoon. The Philadelphia native only occasionally poked his head out of his hair to interact with the audience, until he unleashed the crowd pleaser “Jesus Fever” from one of 2011’s best releases, Smoke Ring for My Halo.

The Fresh & Onlys
Like Kurt Vile, The F & Os were coming off a very buzz-y performance at Pitchfork Music Festival and, like that festival, both were playing again at the same time. (At the same time that Fucked Up were playing a side performance for KEXP in the Bean Room, as well.) As a result, I only caught a bit of both sets, but from what I did see, it was obvious that I’d need to see the F & Os again when they came into town. The psych pop outfit played loose, but somehow with a savage intensity as well — and I need to see that again.

Thurston Moore
Sonic Youth were at CHBP just a couple years back, so they must have had a decent time for Thurston Moore to come back solo. Sticking primarily to his latest acoustic-based release, Demolished Thoughts, Moore weaved a dissonant-yet-pretty net around the audience. Contributing to the sound was a harpist and a violinist, making for some freakishly beautiful sounds.

The Head and the Heart
Since I knew I assumed I wouldn’t be seeing them on the main stage, I took in THATH’s abbreviated set for KEXP in Cafe Vita’s bean room. The band stripped down to just the trio of Josiah Johnson, Jonathan Russell and Charity Rose Thielen and performed a few songs off their self-titled debut on Sub Pop. The band gets a lot of criticism from the more snobbish circles in Seattle, and I can see where the folk-y earnestness might offend some sensibilities, but I happen to know these folks are genuine and it’s not an act or some kind of cash grab. Just bearded sincerity wrapped in luscious harmonies. That said, the abbreviated set was all I needed (they played ALL the time last year and are headlining Doe Bay Fest in a couple weeks).

Cults
By the time Cults came on, Neumos was at their (and beyond our) capacity, with growing lines forming at every entrance, proving the NY band has reached the zenith of their buzz. The stage lighting was still minimal and there was no place to move your arms, so again I leave you with little photographic proof I was even there. The band opened with their self-titled debut opener, “Abducted,” hooking the crowd immediately. By the time they got to their hit “Go Outside,” I was willing to heed the song’s call, leaving to get some air. As I suspected this made the road back inside for the act that followed, Toronto’s Fucked Up, nearly impossible.

Fucked Up
I listened outside the room, looking in with a sad look on my face. To quote one fan the next day: “That shit was epic.” I’m sure if I’d waited it out longer, I could’ve gotten in for the end of Fucked Up and stayed through for Yuck, but between the overcrowding and the lack of lighting at Neumos, it was time to call it a night.

More photos from Day 1 (Friday, July 22) of the 2011 Capitol Hill Block Party after the jump. (All photos by Drake except where otherwise noted.)

Unknown Mortal Orchestra
Unknown Mortal Orchestra at CHBP 2011

Unknown Mortal Orchestra at CHBP 2011

Unknown Mortal Orchestra at CHBP 2011
Photo: Nate Watters

Kurt Vile
Kurt Vile at CHBP 2011

Kurt Vile at CHBP 2011

Kurt Vile at CHBP 2011

The Fresh and Onlys
The Fresh and Onlys at CHBP 2011

The Fresh and Onlys at CHBP 2011

The Fresh and Onlys at CHBP 2011

The Fresh and Onlys at CHBP 2011

The Fresh and Onlys at CHBP 2011

The Fresh and Onlys at CHBP 2011
Photo: Nate Watters

Thurston Moore
Thurston Moore at CHBP 2011

Thurston Moore at CHBP 2011

Thurston Moore at CHBP 2011

The Head and The Heart
 at CHBP 2011

 at CHBP 2011

 at CHBP 2011

 at CHBP 2011

 at CHBP 2011

 at CHBP 2011

Cults
Cults at CHBP 2011

Cults at CHBP 2011

Cults at CHBP 2011
Photo: Bobby McHugh

Fucked Up
Fucked Up at CHBP 2011
Photo: Nate Watters

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