As the event celebrated its 25th anniversary, crowds flocked to the Pike/Pine corridor for the sun-soaked festival. It featured more than 100 musical performances, including up-and-coming local acts like Sea Lemon and i///u, as well as bigger, national names, like dancey duo Sofi Tukker, electronic stars Louis The Child and high-energy rapper Denzel Curry.
No matter where you found yourself during Block Party — ducking into Big Mario’s for a slice and some shade, or rocking with the goths in the bowels of Barboza — the music kept playing. Drawing from a weekend of great sets, our writers chose 10 superlatives. Here’s what they saw.
Best main stage call-up: Sea Lemon
One of the best parts of Block Party is watching local artists step in front of crowds larger than they might draw with a typical club show. After an infectious side stage performance last year, Seattle dream-poppers Sea Lemon got a deserved call-up to the main stage, kicking off Friday with a sun-soaked happy-hour set as fans trickled in. The brainchild of singer-songwriter Natalie Lew, Sea Lemon recently inked a deal with Luminelle Recordings, the same Fat Possum imprint that snatched up fellow rising locals Enumclaw, and their first release for the label arrives Aug. 25. With a gauzy, sunny-side-up approach to shoegazey textures, Sea Lemon’s “Stop at Nothing” EP doesn’t disappoint. Definitely a band to watch.
— Michael Rietmulder, Seattle Times music writer
Timeliest remix: Sofi Tukker, “Barbie Girl”
It was Taylor Mania in Seattle over the weekend, but the rest of the country was flipping over another American icon: Barbie. In honor of the premiere of Greta Gerwig’s highly anticipated “Barbie” flick, Friday headliner Sofi Tukker broke out a fun-loving reworking of ‘90s dance-pop hit “Barbie Girl.” Between their stage setup, which looked like someone built a jungle gym in front of a Greco-Roman/“Miami Vice”-themed casino on the Vegas strip, and a rangy arsenal of four-to-the-floor thumpers, the indie-dance duo proved a perfect top-line act for Block Party, dispensing cool, South American-inspired groovers and go-hard EDM cuts with mass appeal, such as the pound-and-release Deadmau5 and Kaskade collab “Sacrifice.”
Most soulful party starter: i///u
Sunday at Block Party got off to a sleepy start, with the afternoon sun bearing down on a mostly empty Pike Street. Still, Seattle-based alternative soul band i///u kicked off the day with some much-needed funk. The crowd went crazy for lead singer Katyrose Jordan, who paired mesmerizing vocals with killer flute solos. i///u adds a futuristic sound to multi-instrument funk, like a jazz band from space. I think I fell in love with the alto saxophonist; I’m a sucker for the sax. i///u, whose debut EP is dropping soon, is another band to watch.
— Nathalie Graham, freelance reporter
Best vibe-maintainers: Samurai Del and the Mariner Moose
Day 2 of Block Party got going with Samurai Del on the main stage, opening Saturday with a lively performance that sent energy through the audience and all the way to Neumos, the epicenter of the festival. The Block Party felt fuller on Saturday, while early-Friday crowds were a bit more sparse at the get-go. The energy was buzzing, and even our local baseball mascot joined the fun: Mariner Moose was spotted taking photos with fans on the blocked-off streets.
— Grace Blethen, Seattle Times intern
Most likely to frighten children: ONONOS
Cha Cha Lounge, God bless it, continues to be a CHBP sanctuary for the punks and weirdos, and never was that more evident than ONONOS’ Friday set. Liquor laws may have something to do with it, but the age restriction on the 21-plus side stage assuredly prevented the masked synth-punk duo from corrupting the youth with the demonic dance party they threw in the basement cantina. Even a few day-walking civilians who stumbled upon the twisted, propulsive synths and gravelly barks of vocalist Marcus Wilson were helpless against ONONOS’ dark powers.
Purest crowd connection: MUNA
Red-hot indie-pop-rockers MUNA left the audience star-struck with their jaw-dropping Saturday set. The crowd was impressed with lead singer Katie Gavin’s crisp vocals, encouraging folks to enjoy the summer night to its fullest with her stage presence. Fans held signs expressing their love for Gavin and her band, and the environment overall was very uplifting. The crowd was so big, it took me several minutes to escape after watching the set.
Best reason to cancel a family vacation: DRAMA
Through the walls of the port-a-potty, I heard a woman say she rescheduled a family trip to Orcas Island for DRAMA, who took the main stage as afternoon baked into evening. The Chicago-based duo and their mix of house music and R&B — with jazz, bossa nova, pop and hip-hop influences — brought the energy. Lead singer Via Rosa danced across the stage in front of pulsating visuals and crooning backup singers, the crowd grooving to the wholly original sound. Like a multigenre pied piper, DRAMA pulled the Sunday crowd out of their hangovers.
Toughest choice: Rico Nasty versus Slayyyter
At festivals, artists you love sometimes overlap. When electric “Sugar Trap” rapper Rico Nasty took the main stage Sunday, people bobbed bucket-hatted heads; the sun beat down on already sweaty bodies; puffs of weed smoke caught the evening light. Halfway through Nasty’s set, Slayyyter started at the Vera Project Stage. The Missouri pop sensation, wearing hot-pink lingerie, ramped up the reverb, accompanying her breathy, synth-laced pop with body rolls and hip thrusts. The crowd screamed when Slayyyter sang, “Lipstick is red and my bag is Prada, he lives for love and I live for drama,” from her new single “Belladonna.”
Steamiest collab: Acid Tongue and Shaina Shepherd
Friday’s second most dangerous band, Acid Tongue, turned Neumos into a veritable sweatbox burning with good old-fashioned rock ‘n’ roll adrenaline. Garage-rocking frontman Guy Keltner’s guitar playing and vocal delivery have grown more soulful in recent years, without losing their punked-up edge. As if their set wasn’t steamy enough, Keltner & Co. turned up the heat when Seattle singer-songwriter Shaina Shepherd joined them for their collaborative “Suffering for You” off Acid Tongue’s well-received “Arboretum” LP. Who knew a song about an unhealthy relationship could make for such a fun, rocking party tune?
Most notable booths: drinks, education, confessions
Free Celsius energy drinks, Yerba Mates, mushroom coffee and bottomless Coca-Cola from the Coke Studio: The vendor beverages left me vibrating with caffeine. At another booth, hosted by Ohio-based nonprofit This Must Be The Place, I got free Narcan, aka the overdose-reversal drug. The group aims to end the epidemic of opioid overdoses by raising awareness about fentanyl-laced drugs and equipping people with life-saving medicine. Concertgoers could also gain entry to the 21-and-over beer garden by baring their souls at the Fireball confessional booth. Some highlights: “I peed my pants at Cap Hill Block Party 2019 :)”; “Sometimes I bite my own toenails off”; “I Voted 4 Trump”; and more that was not fit for a family newspaper.