The Top 40 Artists to Check Out at Capitol Hill Block Party 2018

Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Great Grandpa, and More of Our Music Critics' Picks
July 18, 2018
Clockwise from top left: Lo' There, FKL, Great Grandpa, FACS
Unless you have access to a cloning machine, you won't be able to make it to each of the 100+ sets at this weekend's Capitol Hill Block Party. To keep you from wandering around in aimless indecision, our music critics have chosen their picks for the best artists to see, from joyous indie rockers Great Grandpa to melancholic hiphop/pop group Brockhampton to oak-barrel-voiced star Father John Misty. Follow the links below for all of their recommendations, find the full schedule on our complete Capitol Hill Block Party calendar, or see at-a-glance grids for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. You can also buy CHBP tickets here and see a festival map here.

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FKL is an abbreviation of the German word “funktionslust,” taking pleasure in what you do best. For the wife-and-husband duo of Seattleite Sage Redman and Londoner Joe Gilick, that’s making delightfully dreary electro-pop that draws on equal parts of their respective grunge and grime musical upbringings. With just enough hints of pile-driving sound to give their music a jagged edge, FKL eschew the lushness so common to a setup like theirs. Whatever possessed them to trade Gilick's rainy London for Redman's rainy Seattle, we're lucky we won the coin toss. GREG SCRUGGS
Vera Stage, 6 pm

Kelly Lee Owens
Last year’s self-titled debut from Kelly Lee Owens, a former indie rocker, is full of form-defiant techno that recalls James Blake in its evocative lyrics, spacious production, and attention to detail and atmosphere. ANDREW GOSPE
Vera Stage, 8:15 pm

The adjective "lush" gets tossed around a lot in reference to Seattle electro-pop mavens NAVVI, whose first single dropped back in 2013. It's an easy catchall for the enveloping sonic environment that Kristin Henry and Brad Boettger conjure through judiciously applied reverb, intricate guitar, and Henry's soaring voice. The cavernous confines of Neumos should be ideal conditions for you step into NAVVI’s world when they surge into “Polychrome” or “What Reason Do We Need,” both off their debut album, Omni, released on local imprint Hush Hush Records. GREG SCRUGGS
Neumos, 11:15 pm

Occupying the lush soundscape between relaxation and revving up for a night out, Yaeji’s richly textured lo-fi beats are perfect for a cool walk home after partying the night away. Brooklyn-based Kathy Yaeji Lee’s addictive, ASMR-like blend of house, hiphop, and English-Korean lyrics has all the fun of a DIY affair, and the cool confidence of a music sensation who knows that she’s killing it every step of the way. SOPHIA STEPHENS
CHBP Main Stage, 5:15 pm


Canadian outfit Alvvays have been at the periphery of my aural landscape since their inception, but they never made music I liked enough to pay attention to until recently, churning out sugary indie pop shaded with elements of shoegaze, twee, and dream pop as driven by the hushed, dulcet-creamy vocals of Molly Rankin, who sounds both apathetic and filled with longing. It’s pleasant, easy-on-the-ears type stuff, but gets more so when the band steps outside of its usual realms, à la “Plimsoll Punks” off 2017’s Antisocialites; it sounds both punchy-retro and timeless, with a fast beat and smart lyrics (“When I chip through your candy coating / You're stuffed with insulation / Just strawberry ice cream floating / With a sprinkle of indignation”). LEILANI POLK
CHBP Main Stage, 7:45 pm

The Black Tones
The Black Tones are a Seattle power trio (guitar-slinging frontwoman Eva Walker, skins-pounding twin bro Cedric David Walker, and bass-banging Robby Little) that self-describes as a “mixture of Kurt Cobain and corn bread.” Eva has a rich, throaty howl that can be a sultry siren call or a demanding call to arms that soars over a seething, churning mix of hard rock, blues, punk, and old-school heavy metal. RIYL: The London Souls, Earl Greyhound. LEILANI POLK
Barboza, 7 pm

Dude York
Dude York have proclaimed themselves as America’s Band, and their love of Cheez-Its, La Croix, and rock and roll only bolster that reputation. Released earlier last year on Hardly Art, their second record, Sincerely, navigates dark themes of love, depression, and anxiety under the guise of singsong alt-pop. Guitarist Peter Richards and bassist Claire England switch off on vocals, and with Andrew Hall on drums, this trio’s live show gets loud. ANNA KAPLAN
CHBP Main Stage, 4 pm

Chicago band FACS look like they might be this year’s edgiest CHBP act. With roots in the clangorous post-rock group Disappears (Brian Case, Noah Leger) and a member (Alianna Kalaba) who played with Cat Power, FACS purvey a malevolent strain of rock that falls somewhere between This Heat and Liars. Check out their latest album, Negative Houses, for a blast of white-knuckle dynamics, scathing textures, and dank atmospheres. Do not miss them. DAVE SEGAL
Vera Stage, 5 pm

Lo' There
Moody, heavy, melodic rock with no fear of math runs deep in the veins of the Pacific Northwest, and Tacoma’s Lo’ There are worthy heirs to that tradition. Though their sound probably owes more to contemporary progressive rock modes, you can also hear traces of Sunny Day Real Estate, Jawbox, and other unreconstructed emo bands that predate the era when “emo” became a code word for shitty, indulgent music made by and for emotionally stunted children with terrible taste. Maybe Mogwai is a better referent? Or, better yet, maybe you should hear them for yourself. SEAN NELSON
Barboza, 6:30 pm

First of all: impeccable name. And second, if every band could summon as much new-wave, garage punk spirit as they do on the recent Z O T EP, no one would have the nerve to feel alienated from rock and roll circa 2018. Monsterwatch’s killer take on the eternal chaos of guitar-bass-drums trios would’ve sounded just right from the stage of any of the first five years of CHBP. This year it’s going to sound even better. SEAN NELSON
Neumos, 4:30 pm

Quid Quo
Opening for James Chance and the Contortions last year, Quid Quo acquitted themselves with feral aplomb and won over a packed Lo-Fi crowd. The newish Seattle trio’s short songs slash and burn with highly torqued precision, blurring the line where punk and post-punk converge. Quid Quo adhere to the evergreen entertainment dictum “Always leave ’em wanting more,” and when you hear their galvanic debut album, APAINTEDROOMISASMALLROOM, you will be champing at the bit for more of their bruising, rousing music. DAVE SEGAL
Cha Cha Lounge, 6:45 pm



Chet Porter
Toronto’s Chet Porter is the cuddly face of dubstep-informed EDM. He merges sentimental melodies with medium-weight bass drops and beats considerate enough not to annoy your downstairs neighbor. Porter sounds like the guy you want if enchanting thousands of suburban teens is on your agenda. This is where popular music is in 2018—alienating the olds with its manicured electronic textures and friction-free vocals. DAVE SEGAL
Vera Stage, 7:30 pm

Shelf Nunny
One of the most interesting acts on Alex Ruder’s Seattle-based Hush Hush label, Shelf Nunny (aka local producer Christian Gunning) specializes in down-tempo electronic music that unobtrusively gets funky while aspiring to chill you out and tickle that part of the brain that enjoys pretty, delicate melodies. At these tasks, Shelf Nunny excels with understated brilliance. For fans of Boards of Canada, Casino Versus Japan, and Múm. DAVE SEGAL
Barboza, 5:45 pm

Vox Mod
Across a few well-received records over the past several years, producer Vox Mod (aka Scot Porter) has collaborated with some of Seattle’s heavy hitters, most notably Erik Blood and Shabazz Palaces. So it’s notable that latest effort Sense of Us is essentially a solo album where Porter’s voice stars throughout. The instrumentals, though, are in line with Vox Mod’s history—mid-tempo, loop-based, acid-inspired, gradually evolving. ANDREW GOSPE
Neumos, 3 pm


Assembled from an online-forum casting call, Brockhampton are an explicit callback to Odd Future’s push at the beginning of this decade, with all their punk ethos and internet savvy, but with an aim to improve on the model. Instead of the OF dynamic of having both homophobic shock lyrics and queer members, Brockhampton ringleader Kevin Abstract, who is gay, is lyrically upfront about his sexuality. The crew’s mix of melancholy, motivation raps, and misanthropy has a pretty, melodic pop sheen that feels as post-Neptunes as their Odd forebears’ does, just a whole lot friendlier. Their Saturation series of albums is a map of their quick growth and deepening chemistry. While their individual members aren’t household names, and only a couple stand out, their collective vision is surprisingly compelling. LARRY MIZELL JR.
CHBP Main Stage, 10:30 pm


Busty and the Bass
Trained in the jazz program at Montreal’s McGill University, the nine-strong ensemble Busty and the Bass make smooth, libidinous funk and R&B that can slip easily into a hiphop context, if necessary. They put excellent musicianship into the service of rocking a party with sophistication. If D’Angelo’s sly, seductive groove science and Parliament-Funkadelic’s audacious arrangements float your boat, Busty and the Bass will make you sweat, classily. DAVE SEGAL
Vera Stage, 5 pm


Unabashed acolytes of the original wave of post-punk and danceable, synth-enhanced rock from the Reagan era, DYED—Jayson Kochan (Airport, Midday Veil), Meg Huffman, Ruben Mendez (Coconut Coolouts), and Gabrielle Myer—write songs that embed themselves in your brain with alacrity and panache. They’ve opened for some great bands—including the Peacers, Lavender Flu, and X__X—proving themselves capable mood-setters. It’s only a matter of time before they’re headlining their own shows. DAVE SEGAL
Cha Cha Lounge, 5:45 pm

Gavin Turek
A native of Los Angeles, Gavin Turek serves up disco shimmer, house music unz, and electro-pop catchiness, though her latest track, “Birdie Bees,” is a funky R&B number with head-bobbing beats. She’s like Donna Summer in her ability to belt and coo and hit high silky sweet notes or lower sultry tones, but she’s got Beyoncé’s on-point dance moves (she was a professional dancer before switching gears to singing and songwriting), and Diana Ross’s fabulous hair and 1970s-era fashion sense. LEILANI POLK
Vera Stage, 8:45 pm

Great Grandpa
Everything about this band is a complete joy. Their 2017 album, Plastic Cough, remains one of the best releases by a Seattle band in recent memory. The lyrics are sharp, the loud guitar tone is the friendliest kind of distortion, the melodies stick in your brain like a pickax, and the influences are pleasingly familiar to 1990s indie rock adepts without going over. If you’re young, they’re just an excellent band. But if you’re old, Great Grandpa is like bumping into an old friend you haven’t seen in years, only to discover that it’s actually their kid. SEAN NELSON
Vera Stage, 10 pm

After 20 years as a band, Seattle’s Kinski continue to deliver groovy, kraut-tinged grunge riffs. Their vast psychedelic sprawl recalls early/mid-1990s Sonic Youth’s noise-rock dirges, sometimes peppered with prog flourishes or what I like to call “long-form flute breakdowns.” BRITTNIE FULLER
Neumos, 6:30 pm

Mirror Ferrari
Seattle trio Mirror Ferrari explore a dark, hazy strain of psychedelic rock that doesn’t exactly scream “summer music festival fare,” so it’s apropos that they’re playing indoors at Neumos. There’s a great chance that the band’s chilling, stormy songs will offer a cool respite from the likely heat enveloping CBP’s outdoor stages. DAVE SEGAL
Neumos, 2 pm

Spirit Award
Seattle trio Spirit Award display the sort of outsized ambition of rock bands like Echo & the Bunnymen and the Church, as they combine elegant, expansive song structures with propulsive, heroic melodies, and full-bodied rhythms that sometimes veer into motorik/krautrock territory. Their 2017 album Neverending is one of the most accomplished debuts in recent local rock history. Prepare to get swept away. DAVE SEGAL
CHBP Main Stage, 2:15 pm


The Dip
Seattle septet the Dip revitalize ’60s soul with irrepressible joie de vivre. With compositions that are both tight and loose, the Dip find many ways to move bodies and lift spirits without resorting to tired mannerisms. They make high-quality, feel-good music that’s earned the approval of Emerald City Soul Club DJ extraordinaire Mike Nipper. DAVE SEGAL
CHBP Main Stage, 6 pm

Falon Sierra
Falon Sierra's soulful voice draws comparisons to Ari Lennox or Amy Winehouse—but make no mistake, it's her dreamy storytelling flair and quirky twists (like sampling a Lars von Trier film) that prove she's doing her own thing. Also, that girl can emote. AMBER CORTES
Barboza, 6:45 pm

Jamila Woods
This “Blk Girl Soldier” spins anthems of resilience for the melanin-blessed—Jamila Woods’s work in social justice and her beliefs take a stand in her music with tender but informed songs like “VRY BLK” (featuring Noname) and “LSD” (featuring Chance the Rapper) that don’t shy away from the hard topics. Woods’s mastery of R&B, hiphop, and soul will have festivalgoers hooked, while doses of acoustic-folk and pop sounds are sure to top off the party. SOPHIA STEPHENS
CHBP Main Stage, 4:45 pm

At only 19, Parisalexa already has the sophisticated voice and performance chops of many musicians twice her age. Her setup is simple—keyboards, vocal loops, maybe a guitar—but the effect is striking. And it's worth listening to every spellbinding word (some of which she makes up on the spot). AMBER CORTES
Vera Stage, 6:15 pm



The Teskey Brothers
You’d never know this quartet hails from Australia, or that its lead singer was a young, fair-haired white man, unless you beheld them with your own eyes—Josh Teskey is a dead vocal ringer for Otis Redding, his pipes perfectly smoky with a hint of whiskey-soaked rasp. And his namesake band with bro and backup singer/lead guitarist Sam Teskey craft sounds close enough to the high-quality Motown/Stax soul, blues, and R&B of yesteryear that you won’t even care it’s not really Otis. LEILANI POLK
Vera Stage, 3 pm


Cashmere Cat
Cashmere Cat has made great hay of his signature sound—chiming software bells, harps, and flutes atop contorted digital rap beats—collaborating with pop stars like Ariana Grande and the Weeknd. ANDREW GOSPE
CHBP Main Stage, 7:45 pm

Canadian dance goth duo TR/ST (formerly Trust—pick a stylization and go with it, people) wish so hard you wouldn’t compare them to Crystal Castles. So you won’t, but suffice it to say their go-to blend of pixelated synthesizers, pouty singing, clattering drum machines, and monochromatic aesthetic may bring back memories of another pair of malcontents from the North. When done well, on tracks like “Capitol,” TR/ST vamp up the melodic melodrama to stratospheric heights; when done poorly, the songs wither in a gray gruel of half-hearted hooks and lead-footed drum programming. For the most part, they nail it, though, skewing darker and colder than their Canuck contemporaries, with an emphasis on foggy ambience and bleak, bellowing vocals that sound genuinely desperate, as opposed to just disaffected. Somebody call the help-line operator. KYLE FLECK
Vera Stage, 7:30pm


Fantasy A
If you haven't seen a Fantasy A poster, then you’ve never lifted your eyes from your smartphone while walking around our fair city. Fantasy A is Seattle's undisputed king of hustle, a title earned from stapling and taping every damn vertical surface in this town. The 25-year-old on-the-spectrum rapper struggles with his flow, but his self-deprecating style is sui generis. His debut film, Fantasy A Gets Jacked, is not about his admirable physique, but about getting robbed repeatedly. GREG SCRUGGS
Cha Cha Lounge, 7:45 pm

Ryan Caraveo
Slightly brotastic, but not egregiously so, Ryan Caraveo puts words together in a fashion that sounds confident and cool. LARRY MIZELL JR.
CHBP Main Stage, 5:15 pm


Blood Drugs
Good to Die is one of those rare record labels that I can trust. The simple fact that these tastemakers of Seattle's heavy underground rock scene endorse a band is enough for me, even if I’ve yet to hear the music. Seattle’s Blood Drugs issued their debut self-titled LP on Good to Die several years ago, and it maintains the label’s perfect record for winning releases. The nine tracks of raging post hardcore on Blood Drugs fit somewhere between Fugazi and Moss Icon—just a little more unwound and aggressive. Long live Good to Die, long live Blood Drugs. KEVIN DIERS
Cha Cha Lounge, 2:45 pm

Steal Shit Do Drugs
Designated by Stranger music critic Dave Segal as "Seattle’s whirlwind arsonists of rock decorum," local delinquents Steal Shit Do Drugs (SSDD) will whip through your mind on a slimy, distorted tear.
Cha Cha Lounge, 6:45 pm


Ayron Jones
Ayron Jones and the Way have a stronger all-of-us-together band sensibility and a more traditional sense of soul music, fuller and further from the bone. But he can sing, strum, throw in Hendrixian guitar solos, and put it over. ANDREW HAMLIN
Neumos, 7:10 pm

Whether you’re feeling fed up with the Seattle Freeze, pretty for a night out at the rock show, or somewhere in between as you attempt to figure out this shitshow called life, Bully’s got a song for you. Alicia Bognanno’s voice veers between defiant declarations and crooning sweetness with the gritty grace of a self-crowned punk queen, so keep watch for loyal subjects headbanging away during their set. SOPHIA STEPHENS
CHBP Main Stage, 3:45 pm

Father John Misty
Three things I’ll give Papa John: He’s got a voice like an aged oak barrel, spot-on cool uncle dance moves, and an excellent head of hair. Other than that, his swirling cult of personality is a bit much for me—as it stands in its current form of traveling-preacher-bard-probably-axed-from-the-Big-Fish-script. His last album, Pure Comedy, comes up against that classic thematic crossroads of utilizing memory versus instilling nostalgia—but as expressive and plainspoken-poetic as Josh Tillman’s work can be, it falls so heavily on the sword of nostalgia, it prevents itself from making anything memorable. Its 2018 follow-up—God’s Favorite Customer, released last month—commits similar folly but with a smidge more grace and vulnerability, ending up somewhere in the territory between Big Dick Energy and Big Dick-Head Energy. In the time between albums, I had hoped that Misty would move from repeatedly mansplaining cultural irony to actual introspection, and he does make some movement, if only about halfway to the mark. KIM SELLING
CHBP Main Stage, 9:30 pm

To prepare for their debut album, Drink Champagne, Andrew Vait and Emily Westman—also known as SISTERS—put together an “exhaustive” playlist of their favorite songs, made a mental Venn diagram of where they overlapped, and sculpted the sound of the album, which includes telltale traces of the Beatles, Jim James, Motown, '80s synth pop, Talking Heads, St. Vincent, the new Solange album, and Chance the Rapper. Honing what they call their “together sound" is a process of constant sonic compromise. AMBER CORTES
CHBP Main Stage, 2:30 pm

Two Feet
It’s possible you know Two Feet (singer, songwriter, and producer Bill Dess) from his viral track “Go Fuck Yourself,” a down-tempo jam built on fuzzed-out bass drops and a punchy little guitar riff, with his sexy, breathy vocal caresses slathered over the top. All his music resides in these grooving electro and starry-eyed soul realms—ideal for a late-night rendezvous or an all-night fuck sesh. LEILANI POLK
Vera Stage, 9 pm

Unknown Mortal Orchestra
Multi-instrumental frontman/songwriter Ruban Nielson always sounds like he records Unknown Mortal Orchestra albums in a room with fuzzy shag-carpet walls. The 1970s-vintage film of warm fogginess is likely achieved using pedals, filters, and other effects on their blend of indie-pop and psych-rock, with Nielson’s silky falsetto injecting hints of austere R&B and soul. Sex & Food—the new outing from the Portland-by-way-of-Auckland outfit—maintains a sense of positivity and focus on life’s good things while offering abstract commentary on how fucking strange modern reality has become, from the crunchy, driving rock that is “American Guilt” to the mellow, heady grooves of “Ministry of Alienation.” Meanwhile, “Hunnybee” is a love song to his daughter disguised as a loose and yacht-y disco ode. LEILANI POLK
CHBP Main Stage, 6:30 pm

Whitney Ballen
Issaquah chanteuse Whitney Ballen makes music that sounds like it belongs on the Twin Peaks soundtrack. With all the spookiness of a mist-coated forest, Ballen’s voice is also tender enough to charm you into exploring the unknown. The mystery continues with the release of her sophomore full-length, You’re a Shooting Star, I’m a Sinking Ship, which drops on August 24. SOPHIA STEPHENS
Barboza, 3:45 pm