Lester Black

Capitol Hill Block Party is officially upon us. The 23rd edition of the three-day multistage midsummer music festival features more than 100 acts spread over outdoor stages and in clubs around a several-block radius in Seattle's hippest neighborhood. Under-agers sneak in alcohol and weed. Over-agers grumble about dealing with all the young fucks. The crowds on Pike Street often thicken to a claustrophobic's worst nightmare. However, we've managed to make at least one element of your experience manageable: picking which acts to see. Below are the performers who've earned our highest recommendations—the top 20 that'll give you the most bang for your buck and are most likely to cause FOMO among your friends who bailed.


Outdoor Performing Arts Festival featuring over 100 artists, food trucks, a beer garden and more!
Celebrate the return of the live arts in a safe, outdoor setting. Capitol Hill, Sep. 18-19.

It'll be hard to find a band louder and rowdier than Seattle-based post-hardcore punk makers Actionesse. Self-described as "post-horncore"—which should be a strange enough sell to draw you in—Actionesse boast horns that are often in a delightful screaming match with their howling vocalist. The loudness can get otherworldly. And fun. They once invited The Stranger to one of their house shows, and we saw the lead screamer dive off a piano, splat on the floor, and shout into a blasting trombone. It was transformational. I would not be surprised if they inspired their audience to riot. (Fri, 6:45 pm, Cha Cha Stage) CHASE BURNS

Courtesy of CHBP


Remember when Rose City rapper Aminé took out that giant yellow billboard in Portland that read: "YES, THERE ARE BLACK PEOPLE IN PORTLAND"? Wild. The now LA-based rapper is by no measure anyone's underdog (his latest freestyle, "Places + Faces," both boasts and laments his new "different city every weekend"-type lifestyle), but there's still something down-to-earth about him. ONEPOINTFIVE, Aminé's most recent EP/mixtape/album/whatever, pulls from a diverse range of references (from Jack Black to Chingy), his moods quickly changing from reflective ("Dr. Whoever") to silly ("Cantu"). Plus, his shows often feature a giant, colorful, and interactive backdrop. (Sun, 7:45 pm, Main Stage) JASMYNE KEIMIG

Blues-punk post-grunge makers/Hendrixian rock-and-roll torchbearers the Black Tones are led by the fabulous Walker twins, with brother Cedric pounding out the heavy, calculated rhythms, and sister Eva belting it out in a rich, sonorous vocal that varies between full-bodied operatic and fuck-your-face fierce. Sure, we recommended them as a must-see at last year's CHBP, but that set surpassed even our own high expectations. And this year saw the release of their Jack Endino–produced debut full-length, Cobain & Cornbread, which they celebrated with a sold-out release show in April. The Black Tones have been generating a national buzz, too; they were included in a recent NPR shout-out highlighting 15 Seattle musicians redefining our city's music "beyond grunge." In sum, don't sleep on this one. (Fri, 10:45 pm, Neumos Stage) LEILANI POLK

Courtesy of CHBP


It's hard not to sway to the bilingual dream pop of Cuco. His lo-fi lullabies are infectious; "Lo Que Siento," his most popular single, has more than 51 million streams on Spotify. But while his music is decidedly chill, this Hawthorne, California–based solo artist has been down a tumultuous path producing his first album, Para Mi, out July 26. Last October, Cuco and his band were involved in a terrible car accident that wiped out most of the album's material. But now, after recovering, the 21-year-old is one of the most sought after rising artists, recently the subject of a bidding war that culminated with Interscope—the record label that's home to Billie Eilish, Lady Gaga, and Lana Del Rey, among many others—buying him out for seven figures. SEVEN! His brokenhearted love songs are about to be everywhere. I'm not mad about it. (Sun, 9 pm, Vera Stage) CHASE BURNS

Seattle quartet DYED peddle effusive post-punk and danceable, synth-powered rock from the Reagan years with a well-earned hauteur. They're a party band, but they also lace their songs with caustic guitar textures and ill keyboard oscillations (I swear that "First Bourne" mimics the crazy fibrillations of "Fuck Machine" off The Holy Mountain soundtrack), the better to fill you with a subliminal paranoia as you dance your worries away. DYED's potent sonic cocktails are going to sound fantastically apropos in the Cha Cha's scarlet-hued, fever-dreamy basement. (Sat, 8:45 pm, Cha Cha Stage) DAVE SEGAL

Newly instated into the rotation of KEXP's long-running Expansions program, techno/house DJ/producer Hanssen has garnered yet one more impressive achievement in a career that dates back to the late 1990s with the great left-field house duo Jacob London. For decades prior to this promotion, Hanssen has been spinning engrossing sets in area clubs and producing a body of work that encompasses kosmische ambient and playful, melodious tech-house for labels such as Hush Hush, Pleasure Boat, and Innerflight. This is a rare chance to experience a master of underground dance music do her transcendent thing. (Fri, 7:45 pm, Wildrose Stage) DAVE SEGAL

Courtesy of CHBP


The rare youngish American rapper to get featured in highbrow British magazine the Wire, JPEGMAFIA (aka Jamaican American MC Barrington Hendricks) has used his experience of racism in Alabama and travels in the air force to shape his lyrical outlook and sonic approach—both of which are among the most galvanizing in modern hip-hop. Hendricks's military service has likely conferred a rugged discipline to his MCing and production skills—as well as a biting cynicism and darkness that are exhilarating. His latest album, 2018's Veteran, is a wild ride through rhythmic and verbal extremism. JPEGMAFIA's set is destined to be a Block Party highlight. (Fri, 5 pm, Main Stage) DAVE SEGAL

Courtesy of CHBP


Lizzo is hot shit right now, and for one very important reason: Cuz I Love You, her righteously excellent third full-length. Its cuts range from satisfying to hell-fucking-yeah fist-pumping, ass-quaking, get-down-with-your-fine-self perfection, effortlessly cruising between pop, R&B, funk, hip-hop, and rock, often in a single track, and encompassing soulful torch songs and kiss-offs ("Cuz I Love You," "Jerome,"), dirty, slinky, Prince-channeling grooves ("Crybaby," "Lingerie"), good-time bops ("Juice"), and saucy club-bangers ("Tempo" with Missy Elliott, "Exactly How I Feel" featuring Gucci Mane). Check the deluxe edition for "Boys," "Water Me," and "Truth Hurts," the last prompting your best stank-face hip-shrug, like how you look before you're about to read a bitch. Lizzo sings, rhymes, and plays the flute with surprising athleticism. She is, quite simply, a badass. (Sat, 10:30 pm, Main Stage) LEILANI POLK

Queer Seattle pop star Michete has a proclivity for the earwormy, the gutter, the club. Which is to say, her music is really fucking fun. Which is to say, I've been listening to "Miss Shitty" on repeat after hearing it during an intermission at a Kremwerk drag show. "Hey, I'm young Miss Shitty / young Miss Cunt, bitch / Run this city" has been on an endless loop in my brain. The only thing I want to hear after a night out dancing is her dick-sucking anthem "Yum Yum Big Slurp," and sometimes, yes, I need a reminder that I'm a "Stupid Girl," that I'm a dumb bitch. Michete—who produces all her own beats—is a very quotable, very boppable good time. (Sat, 6:45 pm, Barboza Stage) JASMYNE KEIMIG

Bao Ngo / Courtesy of CHBP


Recently, I've been thinking a lot about a tweet from Brooklyn-based rock star Mitski's (now deleted) Twitter account: "I used to rebel by destroying myself but realized that's awfully convenient to the world. For some of us our best revolt is self-preservation." This fucks me up (in a good way). I keep it close. Still riding the wave of her fifth release, 2018's Be the Cowboy, the classically trained musician morphed her trademark angsty, fuzzy, guitar-heavy sound into something lusher and more danceable. "Nobody" pulses with disco-influenced beats, while "Lonesome Love" has country twang, but beneath everything is still a throbbing, a wanting, an unheard desire. (Fri, 7:30 pm, Main Stage) JASMYNE KEIMIG

Peach Pit describe their style as "chewed up bubblegum pop"—which is fitting—but I'd add that their sound is also informed by a heavy dose of "dad rock." And earnestness. The indie-rock outfit from Vancouver, BC (though you'd think they were Georgia natives), combine clean, complex, and jammy guitar riffs with narrative and unique lyricism. "Seventeen" is a bright, upbeat tune about being an asshole teen; "Alrighty Aphrodite" is a broody, riff-heavy rumination on a fickle lover. If their Audiotree Live page is any indication, Peach Pit give a solid live performance. And, like cartoon characters, they wear the exact same clothes at seemingly every public appearance. Keep an eye out. (Fri, 9:30 pm, Vera Stage) JASMYNE KEIMIG

Courtesy of CHBP


The New York two-piece led by musicians Sarah Barthel and Josh Carter purvey electro rock that culls elements of trip-hop and dream pop, but has surprising teeth. Their synth textures are thick, fuzzy, and room-filling; the pair makes three times as much sound in a live setting as you expect from just two people. Barthel's sweet soprano can be both ethereal and commanding, while Carter's occasional contributions range from straightforward to pitch-shifted and warped (see: "Turn It Off," "Running from the Cops"). He also lends his pipes to new, big-beat-driven, hope-amid-the-melancholy single "Into Happiness," which apparently "embodies the personal journey that both of us have taken since we released [2016's] Three; it's been a long path, coming out of the darkness and into the light." (Fri, 10:45 pm, Main Stage) LEILANI POLK

Seattle's Red Ribbon have been on a rapid ascent during their brief existence while undergoing many personnel changes. For this Block Party appearance, the lineup will consist of guitarist/vocalist and former Dræmhouse member Emma Danner, flautist Veronica Dye (TERMINATor), bassist Matt Berry, keyboardist Patrick Latham, and drummer Josh Hart. Red Ribbon create chill, midnight-blue rock that induces nuanced degrees of elation and melancholy, and their 2018 album Dark Party is a self- explanatory gem. Its hushed, alluring songs have filled the void left by Hardly Art stars La Luz when they departed Seattle for LA. (Fri, 7 pm, Neumos Stage) DAVE SEGAL

Support The Stranger

Enthralled with British indie rock and the short-lived "baggy" movement of the late-1980s/early-1990s, Seattle's Spesh sound like they're ready to be signed by Creation, the legendary label that released so many definitive shoegaze and Britpop records. Formerly of pop-punk faves Boyfriends, singer Michael McKinney channels charismatic English vocalists such as the Stone Roses' Ian Brown, Happy Mondays' Shaun Ryder, and Adorable's Pete Fijalkowski. Spesh's debut album on Killroom, Famous World, abounds with beguiling, buoyant songs that chime with a muted optimism and ingratiate themselves within seconds. I don't wanna jinx them, but I predict Spesh's sly, melodious rock will be much bigger by 2020. (Sat, 7:45 pm, Cha Cha Stage; Sun, 7:45 pm, Barboza Stage) DAVE SEGAL

Courtesy of CHBP

Still Woozy

The Oakland artist otherwise known as Sven Gamsky doesn't have a huge amount of recorded material under his Still Woozy alias—the fresh 2019 Lately EP and several stand-alone singles—but what's available is bright, breezy, languid anti-pop crafted in his garage with a combination of electronics (synths, drum pads) and organic instrumentation (guitar, bass, piano). Gamsky has a hushed cooing vocal that can reach falsetto notes while maintaining its lovely sighing quality in songs like the swishing and skidding bossa-nova-influenced "Ipanema" (featuring Omar Apollo and Elujay), the sumptuous amorousness of "Habit," or the easy, bouncy of Montreal–evocative "Lava." (Sat, 9:45 pm, Vera Stage) LEILANI POLK

Lauren Rodriguez


Featuring former members of Rose Windows and Dræmhouse, Seattle trio TERMINATor are one of our city's most interesting rock groups. Their sound is at once methodical and ramshackle, their guitar tones redolent of 4AD goth/post-punk iconoclasts such as (early) Dead Can Dance and Dif Juz, and their use of FX'd flute is a goddamn blessing that adds a disorienting eeriness to their songs. TERMINATor—drummer/flautist Veronica Dye, synth/bassist/guitarist Lauren Rodriguez, and guitarist Albie—come at rock from oblique angles and refute the commonly held notion that bands need to be "tight" to be good. It is exactly their loose-limbed offness that makes TERMINATor's music a slow-motion epiphany. (Sun, 6:45 pm, Cha Cha Stage) DAVE SEGAL

Toe Jam was initially started as a recurring, very underground event that sought to unite the rap and hip-hop movers and shakers from the Puget Sound area under one roof. To party. Though still operating somewhat secretively, Toe Jam now partners with big sponsors like Red Bull (and CHBP). This after-hours dance night is sure to feature some of the best hip-hop DJs in the area, as well as being one of the best places to dance and twerk as much as you please. (Sun, 11:30 pm, Neumos Stage) JASMYNE KEIMIG

Carlos Crus

Tres Leches

Another group that earned some love in that NPR piece about bands redefining Seattle music, Tres Leches are a power trio in the untraditional sense: There are three members (Alaia D'Alessandro, Ulises Mariscal, and Zander Yates), but none of them are anchored to their instruments, instead trading off between guitar, bass, and drums. And their sound isn't static, either. Their self-styled genre description is pretty apt—"art punk, distortion pop, dark basement"—and finds them flexing their chops within an established theme before gracefully (or raucously) sliding into another one. Check out "Reading Rainbow" off 2018 debut studio LP Amorfo for archetypal Tres Leches. It's a fine slice of seething weirdness and crunchy intrigue marked by odd melodic flourishes, staccato lead shouts, and backing vocals that swirl, coo, and echo in ghostly layers. (Sat, 6:30 pm, Neumos Stage) LEILANI POLK

Blending the sounds and sensibilities of First Nations powwows with the blaring syncopated rhythmic patterns of dubstep, Canadian DJ collective A Tribe Called Red create a new context through which we can celebrate and experience contemporary indigenous cultures. "All we really did was match up dance music with dance music," founding member Ian Campeau (DJ NDN) told Al Jazeera back in 2013. Campeau has since left the group, but that revelation—though simple—is key in understanding ATCR's approach to music. The collective is currently made up of Bear Witness (Cayuga First Nation) and 2oolman (Mohawk, of the Six Nations of the Grand River). (Sat, 11 pm, Vera Stage) JASMYNE KEIMIG

Courtesy of CHBP

Yves Tumor

Yves Tumor is the project of Florida-born, Italy-based Sean Bowie. The experimental electronic music producer's moody songs can invoke disorientation—sporadic beats, screeching stringed instruments, Tumor's voice careening through the fuzz straight to your eardrums. But there are undeniable layers of punk, hip-hop, and soul throughout. "Licking an Orchid" is a strangely sexy and acidic love song, and "Noid" is an energetic neo-disco number that takes a left turn into a jarring and satisfying cacophony of electronic goodness. Tumor's voice is the through line here, at once disaffected but grounded, pleading and stone-faced. (Sun, 7:30 pm, Vera Stage) JASMYNE KEIMIG