I am a musician and also someone who spends way more time “figuring out how to do something” than actually doing it. Thus, if there is any gathering close by where I can go “study” how to be a rockstar, you’ll usually find me in attendance. It’s the best.
Oh but I’ve given up on the Capitol Hill Block Party. Too fucking crowded. When I saw Vampire Weekend 2 years ago it took me a half hour to cross what is usually a normal city street. Instead, every surface of my entire body was in contact with other people. We we’re all drunk. Or angry. Or something. And then I look down in a breif moment of space and see my sandled foot covered in red blood. My foot doesn’t hurt, and I’m pretty sure the blood isn’t mine. Vampire Weekend sounded like shit just like all the other bands that played the mainstage. They’re a great band, but the audio issues involving sound working between tall buildings and 4-way intersections weren’t quite dialed in.
So fuck the Cap Hill Block Party. Blood and all. Until the next year. A couple of movie starlets in town decided it would be a fun thing to do while in Seattle. I was working on set and decided it’d be worth it to be their host. They we’re drunk when they got there at noon. And they outdrank me. So that was fun.
Flashforward to 2012 the night before the mess begins. Fuck the Cap Hill Block Party. Mainly a financial necessity this year. Ticket prices have gotten higher, and I’ve never had the money anyway. Turns out I score a Resident Pass. Three days free, with special entrances.
It was a privelege to see the set up. I work close to the grounds so during a break I took a walk around to see what companies were there, how they were rigging the stage… How do you throw a musical festival in the middle of a busy intersection? Businesses had been bought out for the weekend, repainted, and repurposed. Cables snaked along the curbs. My favorite radio station in the world was broadcasting Live from the basement of the bar across the street. I walked down and shook my favorite DJ’s hand, and walked back across the street, got to work, and listen to his broadcast like I always do.
I cannot remember anything from Friday night except that I stayed up until 4 a.m. I played a lot of Pinball. I was exhausted.
Saturday I woke up with a conviction. I had seen some contemporaries play the festival earlier and I was ready to become their equals. I kept thinking all weekend where I should really be in the matrix of this festival. I’m employed in production work so I was studying the lights and the power and paying close attention to the design of the whole thing. I realized somewhere between Fri. night and Sat. morning that where I wanted and needed to be, what aligned with my dreams… was to be onstage. I should be getting paid to play this festival. And then heading somewhere else to share my love and music with people who want to receive and clap and dance and throw it right back. And I just haven’t done the work to get there. So Saturday morning I grabbed my guitar because I figured I’d see more people flocking to this damned city block today than would come to any single one of my gigs (so far). So I played… on the street. I played on Broadway and brought a pile of my comics and some junk with a sign that said “Do any of these things interest you?” and a sign in my guitar case that read Pinball $. Among the items displayed were a video camera with a ratchet strap around it, a banana (eventually removed), and a biography of Steve Jobs that I recently finished. I’ve tried to talk about this damn book with about everyone I know and I feel it makes them bored. I’ll admit I was fishing.
And then I really went to the Festival. I made an effort to see Lemolo play their Live on KEXP set in the basement of Neumos. They are friends of friends who I had recently accosted on Twitter because I am ultimately jealous of them. But also, I’m a real person, and I like them, and I believe in myself, so… I say hi. I know its a weird dichotemy. I was curious to see how filled the room would be for their warm up set essentially. It was packed. I know they are big and getting radio play. But this was the confirmation I needed to see that Meghan (sp?) and Kendra we’re legit. The music does not challenge me which is my only critique compared to how much I enjoy watching the two women release the spirit that needs to be released. And they do it very differently, and yet in tandem. Beauty ensues… And the audience watches…
Beers. Beers. Beers. And then I found a real piano made by Digital Kitchen that could hear me talk and understand my voice and then play my request. I remembered what happened on Friday. An old friend recognized me and she ended up preaching up top the staircase on wheels that I have at my work. Her friend drove the forklift. We went to the Cha Cha. Which is the rule at the Cap Hill Block Party in times of stagnancy. And for all of those who are wise. When in doubt… go to the Cha Cha. Then we played the following pinball games… Funhouse. The Simpsons. Lord of the Rings. Baby Pacman (pinball/vid combo). Fish Tails. The Twilight Zone. Midevil Times. Extreme Stiker. Johnny Mnemonic. Demolition Man. And my personal favorite… Junk Yard.
On Saturday… then REIGNWOLF attacked me. I had heard this man on the radio on Friday playing Live for KEXP and I kinda stopped what I was doing. I listened in. If he was half as good as he was coming across the airwaves, I would do what I could to make an effort to see him. There is only REIGNWOLF. He is the reigning wolf. It says so, on the festival program. Right… there. At 4:30… it says Reignwolf.
Reignwolf will eat your face off… with a guitar, and there will be no one else on stage. He Will be upon you… before you can run. His hoard of Silver Guitared Mongolians will audibly charge into your ears. He is sweating and shaking and you’re pretty sure he wants more. REIGNWOLF! Points to your jaw and says, “DROP JAW!” You obey. He wants you to know There Will Be No Other. And your head turns to the side beacause you want proof… “Are you seeing and hearing and experienceing what I’m experienceing right now?
Sushi. Spliffs rolled on the back of a millionaires car.
And then I was done. I had been on fumes for so long, I had started to think I could do it. It’s the delerium I’ve only felt on set during a week of night shoots. You are no longer the human you once knew. You turn part steam and drift from place to place, your head in a druggy fog that you’re barely aware of. If I could I would’ve stayed for Aesop Rock… and Grimes (I am interested in you), and lastly Helms A-Fuckin Lee to close out the Cha that night would have been the place to be. But I was sleeping.
Sunday what day? This festival continues? And I have to work from 7pm-9pm tonight. In the past two days I had met 3 KEXP djs, an old friend from college, Lemolo, contacts in the industry, neighbourhood business owners, and done my homework studying the present state of rock-n-roll. Also, I am a single fish in the ocean and this was a well stocked pool.
Sunday morning is wonderfully deserted. It’s not what the bands are after, but I love walking up to the front of a big stage to see a talented band throw down just for me and a few others. I’ve seen some big bands this way, and it’s always special. They usually get me as a fan. Cloud Nothings did this Sunday morning. They played a nice guitar heavy rock set that masked itself in pop music, but there was a lot more going on. I heard they we’re from Cleveland. “Where’d you get that suit? Cleveland?” – Dead Man
The real gem of Sunday however, and the second best band I saw all weekend… was Mama Utah. I’m not sure if it was the pig head necklace that the lead singer decided to put on part way through the show, the operetic lead guitar player in yellow underwear singing the notes he was played on his guitar, the mixed crowd that stared in awe at noon on a Sunday. Nobody had any idea what was going on, but we we’re all there smiling in awe… and we all weren’t leaving. There are a few outlets to really let your freak flag fly in public and rock and roll is one of them. You really can’t blame a guy for doing anything in the name of rock-n-roll. So when in doubt… in fact, i’ll go as far as to say as… go to the Capital Hill Block Party SO you can go to the Cha Cha during the day. Get a midday buzz on, and check it out. It’s one thing I’d bet my life on.
I went to work. I came back. Neko Case was unfortunately done on the Main Stage. But the after parties continued. I heard of a man called Space Ghost Purrp. My brother reported frontflips. I danced to disco and eventually worked up the courage to ask a girl if she would like to dance. She said, “I am dancing.” I thought that was pretty good.