Thursday, August 18, 2011

Late Pass: Rollin’ Down the Block…Party, That Is (CHBP 2011 Review)

Catch: Let me explain something for y’all: Fireball is the DEVIL.  Because of this all-too-easy-to-drink fireballcinnamon potion of goodness, the Capital Hill Block Party finale is really pretty blurry to me.  Not that this should come as a surprise to anyone who regularly reads the words that fill up this blog – well, historically speaking, anyway.  Regardless, it seemed a fitting end to a somewhat forgetful Block Party.  Don’t get me wrong, there were certainly some highlights, but as far as hip-hop being represented at the annual hipster-gala, the weekend was probably deserving of the good dousing of whiskey it received on Sunday night.

Maybe it’s the fanboy in me (hella-hetero), but Mash Hall was the star of the show.  Or at least tied for top-billing with an artist to be named later.  Their typical energy-outpouring is enough to light up any stage on any evening.  But following Metal Chocolates – who put on a pretty nice show themselves – the artists formerly known as They Live coulda powered the entire Emerald City…for a got damn week!  I’m sure the return of Janae Jones helped fuel the fire here, but whatever it was, Them Team was on. fucking. POINT! 

I’m sure that many of the people crammed into the cozy confines of the venerable Neumos venue might point to the ever-crazy Mad Rad for energy-exerting bragging rights, but this is where I will ask you to re-read the very first line in this write-up.  Seriously, between myself, Benny, innocent-bystander Brainstorm, a friend and fellow blogger Jonathan, and a couple of other randoms that I barely recall (no offense), there were plenty of rounds filled with fiery libations…the receipt I found wadded up in the bottom of my pocket the next morning proves it.  You remember any of this, B?

Benny: Hazy at best. I spent a majority of the final act, until Mash Hall took the stage, bouncing between taking shots at Neumos and pounding free PBR's at Vitamin Water Lounge (shout out to Brainstorm on the VIP bracelet hookup). I remember sauntering (I saunter people, I don't stumble) back into Neumos after getting a "Mash Hall asshole" text from Catch and feeling like I just walked in to Japanese Bath with 600 fully clothed complete strangers. You could tell that high amounts of energy had been expended up to that point so I decided to camp out near the 2.5 ft tall industrial fan to try and stay cool. Courtesy: David Lichterman

Needless to say, once Mash Hall hit the stage that fan was like someone blowing hot breath in my face that smelled like a mixture of elbow sweat, beer, and indo. I was actually stoked to see Janae Jones back on stage singing hooks and rapping along while El Mizell and BlesOne bounced, danced (?), and cartwheeled across the stage. Ok, Ok, maybe there wasn't a cartwheel in there (that may have been the Fireball) but you get the picture. It would be awesome, though, if Larry and or Bles would throw one in next time.

Catch: Actually, I think that was me doing the cartwheel…Fireball, homes.  Anyway, like I said, Mad Rad closed it down (as far as I know), which is fitting since P-Smoov’s other outfit – Fresh Espresso – was the opening act of the three-day event.  Why not book-end the Block Party with Seattle’s own unlikeliest-looking hip-hop-hero?  The only hip-hop group to grace the main stage, FE brought their usual captivating stage presence along for the ride, much to the delight of the crowd.  Unfortunately, that there lies the problem: I feel like I’ve seen this same set/show about 15 times over the last two years.
 
Courtesy: Bobby McHugh
Don’t get me wrong: I’m a HUGE fan of P, Rude and Radjaw.  That said, I’m ready for some new shit.  There is hope, of course, as I did hear a couple cuts I hadn’t heard thus far (one of them including a shoutout to Mr. Stephan Gray – get yours homie!), but I’m not sure how many more times I can hear P say: “New album coming soon!  Holler atcha boys!”  HOLLER, already!  Regardless of all of this, they killed it…as usual.


Benny:  No surprise there, Fresh Espresso kills it every time...and that new "Barcelona" joint is crazy.
The Vera Stage was where we would remain for a majority of the rest of the evening as Sol, Shad, Kung Foo Grip, Brothers From Another, and THEESatisfaction would be gracing the stage. I should preface this by saying that I've been (and continue to be) a fan of Sol. He's smart, insightful, has some catchy lyrics and, if you follow him on twitter, seems like a down to earth dude. That being said, I wasn't all that impressed with his performance.

He was good on stage, played to the crowd, had Dice on back up vocals (which was nice BTW), but it was hisCourtesy: Nate Watters song choice that got me most. I felt that after the few joints he did from the first two Dear Friends tapes, the songs just fell off. It crash landed for me with the song "Trojans", an ode to the time-tested, male-approved prophylactic. My feeling was that he was playing to the crowd in attendance, like he should, of which a vast majority were beyond shitfaced emo teens in skinny jeans (or cutoff skinny jeans) waiting to see Ghostland Observatory. (Side Note: I do have to say that Ghostland put on quite the light show: best I've seen since Kanye's Glow In The Dark tour.)

Here's where I get my Marty McFly on and fast forward for a minute or two. I had heard a thing or two about Kung Foo Grip - Greg Cypher and Eff Is H -  but had yet to hear or see much of them, so I was looking forward to seeing their short set before Brothers From Another. Unfortunately, and to no fault of their own, the sound for both groups was shit and the mic was in and out through each set. To their credit, the young dudes continued to rock the stage and the crowd with even more intensity instead of just layin back. More on these two groups to come.

Courtesy: Nate WattersTHEESatisfaction closed out the Vera Stage in their usual funky, eclectic, soulful, hip-hop manner, in a sense calming what was otherwise a pretty raucous crowd.  But, by far, the highlight of the Vera Stage, in my opinion, was Shad. I think Catch would agree with me on this one.

Catch: Shit…highlight of the Vera?  I’d say it was about the highlight of the weekend!  Remember when I said Mash Hall was tied with someone else for top honors?  Yeah, that was Shad.  My favorite Kenyan-Canadian rapper took the stage to a genuine cheer from the crowd, drawing an equally genuine smile from the only non-local hip-hop act of the weekend.  What followed was 30-40 minutes of pure, unadulterated lyricism. Courtesy: Left Coast Letters

Despite a couple of minor miscues between he and DJ Hyphen, the set was jam-packed with verbal dexterity you just don’t get as much anymore.  It’s not often that I find myself waving my hands in the air anymore – more so because I’m getting lazy in my old age – but my hands seemed to have a mind of their own and didn’t want to come down throughout the show; the spirit got ahold of me!

Shad had the whole place humming (some of that might have been feedback from the “awesome” sound, but I digress).  From his perch in the front-middle of the crowd – where he stayed for almost the entire show - I’m pretty sure he wrung every last bit of ability out of that mic: in fact, he left that thing broke down and gasping for air.  Which probably explains the troubles that BFA and Kung Foo Grip had…that, or the sound folks just blew.

Benny: Speaking of: remember when I mentioned "more to come" on BFA and Kung Foo Grip...yeah me either, but lemme get back to them. On Sunday we headed over to the Café Vita Bean Room to catch a replay, Courtesy: Left Coast Lettersand hopefully better sound, as the two young groups took the stage once again. The sound was exponentially better and both kicked it to a capacity crowd of a whopping 50 people. Apparently Seattle Fire came and inspected the enclosed stage area and stated that the Max Capacity was only 50 people. Lame. Anyway, those four young whippersnappers came out like they had something to prove from the previous night and did a hellava job. Shout out to El Mizell for the Lil B and Dipset joints between shows, lol.

All in all, I felt the amount of hip-hop showcased this year at CHBP was small in comparison to the past. That being said, it seemed that every artist performing went above and beyond to prove that hip-hop should continue to become a larger part of CHBP in the future. I thought it was a great weekend for music and, of course, drinking. Thanks to Dave Meinart, Steve Manning, and the rest of the CHBP staff for having us and I look forward to doing it again next year.

Catch: P.S. – We had to miss Champagne Champagne and Don’t Talk to the Cops on Saturday, but I have no doubt that they tore it up.  Sorry we couldn’t make it…it won’t happen again.  Until the next time it happens.

P.S.S. – Fireball don’t play...but DAMN if it ain't deeeeelicious. 

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