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.
Capitol Hill wasn't like it is now, when members of your favorite bands walk Pine Street all day long. Nor were members of your favorite bands sponsored by huge companies like Levi's or Adidas or Seven jeans, as many of them are today--and the Capitol Hill Block Party wasn't backed by the Recording Academy (the Grammys folks), as it has been for three years now. Because of all that, the Block Party grew in proportion to the neighborhood, essentially. It's like we've grown up a little and realized that what may seem like selling out is actually joining with someone who has the means to help create a gigantic showcase of local music presented especially for music fans--the kind of fans who go to shows regularly, you know?
Over the past three years, local talent has been revving like a Moto Guzzi, and right now, we have the most expeditious rock scene in the country. No other city can possibly have so much good stuff at once. Yes, the local rock stars look richer in their nice shoes and jeans, and the Block Party is a huge, two-day explosion of bands--but, as always, it's an opportunity to see something new while getting blasted in broad daylight in the middle of the street.