Matson on Music
Block Party 2012 weekend wrap: overarching trends
Capitol Hill Block Party wrapped Sunday night, and if you've been to the three-day music fest, you already know the deal: loud music blasted out of every corner of every building in the middle of one of Seattle's rockingest neighborhoods.
Sometimes the sun shone, and paper plates saturated with orange pizza grease littered the ground. It was a muggy, noisy party attended by 24,000 people, according to festival owner Jason Lajeunesse.
A few overarching trends cropped up. The main one was that Block Party has become mainstream. Back in the day, it was only for people in the neighborhood. Now it caters to everyone. This year moms and dads got Allen Stone and Neko Case; punks and partyers got Trash Talk and Major Lazer. The music was still well-chosen, but the look of the crowd (happy families, tons of young people) spoke volumes. Not bad. Just different.
As always, the early shows were among the best, before the sun faded and alcohol became a factor. Opening sets by local groups Father John Misty, Stephanie and California's Dam-Funk were excellent.
Block Party felt more corporate than in the past. The new, giant projection of the name "Capitol Hill Block Party" on the wall above the nightclub Neumos felt very "establishment" -- and so did the Google-sponsored satellite venue on the Block Party grounds at Sole Repair, a private venue that hosts sponsored events.
There was lots of overflow energy, and business-minded people used it smartly. Local soul group Fly Moon Royalty staged a guerrilla performance in the food court and drew almost as many fans as other bands had at their official shows.
Musically, the trend was computers. Digital accompaniment featured prominently in the main stage's biggest performances, by Grimes and Major Lazer, Saturday night. That meant programmed beats and live playing of electronic devices, fewer microphones and overall better sound quality through the speakers. (Anything that can be plugged directly into a mixing board sounds better than something you have to hold near a microphone.)
Locally, the big music story was rapper Nacho Picasso, whose lewd, crude dude persona and dark synthesizer beats drew a cultish crowd. The intensity of his show Friday at the Vera stage was impossible to deny, as was his hold on his fans, who knew every. single. word.
Most fans left Sunday evening after Case's mellow, beautifully sung Americana rock. But some stayed until the bitter end, moshing, screaming and accidentally dropping beers on the floor at Neumos, as local dance-rap band Don't Talk to the Cops! closed the fest with a bang.