1997: The first Capitol Hill Block Party

This weekend, more than 20,000 people are expected to attend the 2010 Capitol Hill Block Party in Pike/Pine. Hard to believe this is the 14th year for the festival. CHS did not attend year one. Or years two, three or four, even. But we did go looking for  online accounts of the inaugural CHBP. We found one mention worth sharing for its brief but interesting color about the summer of 1997 on E Pike, six years after punk ‘broke,’ and three years after the murder suicide of Kurt Cobain.


Don’t know what a ticket cost you in 1997 — but, according to inflation calculators, if it was anything less than 17 bucks, you’re getting ripped off in 2010. Here’s a piece of the account of CHBP’s first year we found via, of course, the Stranger from its 2003 Block Party guide:

I remember walking up to the first Capitol Hill Block Party in 1997 and feeling that Pike Street had been turned into a giant, hot outdoor gay bar. Pretty boys in leis served up cocktails and beer while people lounged around on thrift-store couches and chairs, each piece thoughtfully accented with its own coffee or end table on which to place your drink. I don’t recall much music, except for maybe a performance by the Dudley Manlove Quartet or something. It was more about the sheer pleasure of sitting on a gaudy crushed-velvet davenport and getting blasted in broad daylight in the middle of the street. Block Party II, however, was all about music, clowns, and carnival games, and much of the proceeds went to JAMPAC. Krist Novoselic loomed as the crowd’s biggest rock star, and he was hounded for autographs.

Anybody go in ’97 or ’98 when it sounds like the CHBP first hit its stride? My favorite Block Party was 2007. It was cool to see Spoon but what makes it the best was going to a rock show with my brother. We were already old by then and it had been a long time since we were fighting to see who could discover the next great band first.

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8 thoughts on “1997: The first Capitol Hill Block Party

  1. Actually the first block party was in 1993, put on by the skate board shop 11th & Pike, Crescent Downworks. We had a little skate board course, and one of those strength testing games where you hit the thing with a mallet and it sent a thing up to ring the bell and I don’t remember what else. Some promoters called Thirsty Girls did it for us the next year and then I don’t know what happened. But when they started charging to get in, it stopped being a block party.

  2. I remember the rummage sale going on selling stuff they didn’t want but others delighted in, all the diy stuff, art, people hanging out, wandering around. I too don’t recall too much live music either, but there was this guy with his boom box and sodas for sale. And tickets???? There were no tickets that I remember. In fact, my girlfriend at the time and I happened upon the event without even knowing it was going on.

  3. I’m pretty sure it was free the first few years, and hardly anyone went. I remember a really small stage outside the Comet. It was pretty good the first few years. Now, it’s becoming bumbershoot, the sound quality sucks, and it’s ridiculously overpriced.

  4. This party is so ungay bringing in the straight suburban crowd along side the doucebag U-Dist crowd. The only thing that makes it fun is that this is just about the only thing going the under 21 crowd these day (gay or straight). I will be staying as far as from this as I can this weekend since I imagine it will make finding parking for Cuff quite a challenge.

  5. The first block party was put on by Crescent Downworks when they had the skate shop at 11th and Pike (now 35th North). It was 1994 or 1995. We had a skate board street course race and some circus like games and music. The city let us close off half of the street. The next year we were approached by a couple of promoters who called themselves Thirsty Girls and we did it again, it was a little bigger. Then I am not sure what happened to it but it stopped being a block party when they started to charge for it. (2nd posting, not sure why the first didn’t go up)

  6. Capitol Hill Block Party has nothing to with equality. Many gays like it which is fine. It’s not for me because of the vibe. Imagine it may anger some but my feelings have been festering over the many years and as the crowds get even bigger it just makes me feel even more sick about it.

  7. Well now, how to say this, the “block party” is very loud and sound quality just horrible. Please talk to people at the Gorge for next year … please, oh please.

    And it is most un gay crowd that C. Hill has seen in 30 years.

    BUT, eye candy abounds. Where they all come from is — who cares — but they are imported for sure.

    Tons of cops – who picks up the fresh steaming horse shit?? – I was surprised by that, real country touch. Overtime chance for gray haired cops, easy duty??

    The bands on the stages totally suck.