This year, Capitol Hill Block Party won’t be competing with the Timber Outdoor Music Festival in Carnation, as the 2015 edition of yet another Pacific Northwest music festival took place last weekend. Still, CHBP owner and producer Jason Lajeunesse said the flood of music industry cash into festivals — one of the few highly profitable corners left in the business — is increasingly having an effect on CHBP. “It’s been challenging to book the types of acts that we want to attract,” he said. “Overall, expenses have doubled over the past five years.”
In response, CHBP is looking a little more Capitol Hill in 2015. It started in March, when organizers rolled out new branding for the festival’s 19th installment, featuring a map-inspired logo representing CHBP’s Pike/Pine venue.
Some familiar neighborhood groups are also playing a bigger role in this year’s festival. In an effort to bring back visual art elements to the weekend, CHBP is teaming up with Capitol Hill Art Walk and Capitol Hill Arts District. CHBP commissioned a large mural that was unveiled during this month’s Art Walk and supported a poster show at Grim’s, which featured 40 different prints inspired by CHBP bands. The festival is also earmarking $10,000 to support the neighborhood Art Walk.
“We found it challenging (in past years) to do scalable art that would work in the festival setting,” said Lajeunesse. “It’s important that we don’t lose it.” Organizers are meeting the challenge this year with a 25-foot inflatable installation dubbed “The Lone Ranger.” UPDATE: Due to installation issues, CHBP is postponing the giant inflatable cowboy. Better luck next year, partner.
Of course, Block Party will also have some spiffy new Capitol Hill crosswalks coloring the festival streets.
In the meantime, Lajeunesse told CHS on Wednesday that everything was on pace for the weekend festivities. Without any major logistical changes over the past few years, organizers and regular festival-goers should more-or-less know what to expect.
Street closures will start in the wee hours of Friday morning so crews can erect stages and run cables in a tightly coordinated procedure to have everything ready to go on Friday afternoon. CHBP does have a new production manager this year as the festival’s longtime manager stepped aside for a less stressful position. Streets will be cleaned and re-opened by 5 AM on Monday.
Seattle trio The Flavr Blue will kick off main stage performances on Friday at 4 PM as electro pop duo Crater play the Vera stage. You can find the full schedule here.
For the third year in a row, Red Bull is sponsoring a local artist showcase on Sunday at Neumos. With practice spaces on Capitol Hill, Pitted and Cuff Links will make up the hyper-local section of the evening.
The 2nd annual CHBP Speaker Series will run from 10 AM – 2 PM on Friday at Elliot Bay Books Company. Topics at the free event will include band promotion and marketing, gender equity in the music industry, and the future of Seattle’s music scene. Block Party tickets are not required, just RSVP here.
Elected officials and local celebrities have made stage appearances in previous years, but Lajeunesse was coy about what to expect this time around. “We may have some surprise guests, but it would not be a surprise if we told you … so …,” Lajeunesse told CHS in an email.
Block Party ticket sales are on pace to hit last year’s mark at around 28,000 over three-days, Lajeunesse said. You can still buy three-day and single-day tickets here.
It seems the weather will also be dialing up the local character in 2015 — a departure from the hot, sun-soaked festivals of recent years. No umbrellas allowed, so pack a poncho:
Once again, the festival will be happening in the shadows of Pike/Pine’s continued development upheaval. One active construction site falls within the festival boundaries this year, which will halt work during party time according to SDOT’s Brian de Place.
“Contractors have been asked to button up sites, and ensure all materials, barricades and fencing are properly secured,” he said.
Lajeunesse said CHBP only had to make a few minor adjustments to the Vera stage as the work on Mill Creek’s development Modera continues.
With project sites eating up parking and loading spaces in the neighborhood, 12th Ave will also be closed to parking this year. Parking will also be affected on Broadway, E Union, and E Pine. In other words, just avoid driving near Pike/Pine altogether. All buses in the area will be running regular routes.
UPDATE: An SDOT official tells CHS the 12th Ave no-parking areas are not connected Block Party activities. Contractors have reserved parking near 12th and Pike while the Seattle Humane Society has reserved several spaces closer to E Union.
Businesses located within the festival area will only be accessible to CHBP ticket holders. They include:
Ballet, Comet Tavern, Lost Lake Cafe and Lounge, Neumos, Barboza, Moe Bar, Pike Street Fish Fry, Sole Repair, Quinns, Caffe Vita, Big Marios, Cha Cha, Bimbos, Widrose, Havana, Poquitos, Polyclinic, Sams Tavern, Cafe Pettirosso, Castle Megastore, Out of the Closet
Recently completed Chophouse Row will also have its doors open during the weekend. For many retailers along the festival’s edge, CHBP is typically a losing weekend, though many still make a go of it.
“We can’t afford to close,” said Retrofit owner Jon Milazzo. In a letter to local businesses, CHBP recommended that all deliveries for the weekend get wrapped up by Thursday night.
While the Block Party in its current iteration has reached its 19th summer, the event dates back to 1997 — and back further still, some contend, if you include the early events that were more street fair than massive music festival.
CHS will be at the Block Party again in 2015 to cover the event from a community and neighborhood perspective. Here is a look back at what we saw in 2014: Capitol Hill Block Party Open Threads — Day One | Day Two | Day Three