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July 28, 2008 1:13 PM

Last word on CHBP2008

Posted by Patrick MacDonald

It was the best Block Party ever. The lineup was a smart mix of national and local bands, the site was perfect, the sound was good, the stages were professionally run, and the crowds were great -- young, enthusiastic and in good spirits, even when the Party got a little too crowded.
The Party celebrated the strength of the Seattle club scene, so it was fitting that two of the four stages were in two of the city's biggest and best rock clubs, The King Cobra and Neumo's. The Vera Stage may have been off in a corner, but it belonged there, where under-21s could have their own spot with their own bands.
The biggest band on the Main Stage bill, Vampire Weekend, closed out the Friday night lineup with an impressive set that matched the tone of the Party. They came off like a glorified club band, with their interesting mix of world rhythms and clever songs about being college guys. "We played every single song we know," lead singer Ezra Koenig happily told the crowd, after they did everything from their only album, and some new stuff.
The most anticipated set on Saturday had to be Fleet Foxes' late afternoon Main Stage performance, because the five harmonizing musicians are, as Billboard put it last month, "hometown heroes." The band, headed by Robin Pecknold, is the latest Seattle group to make an international splash. Its album on SubPop debuted at No. 82 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, after glowing reviews in Rolling Stone, Spin and England's MoJo. The Party crowd actually quieted as the Foxes' sweet harmonies and Northwest wilderness-inspired songs wafted in the smoky, hotdogs-with-onions-scented breeze.
Shortly before hitting the stage, Pecknold was just another bearded, scruffy guy having coffee at Caffe Vita, which was within the Party grounds and doing brisk business. Vita was one of the oasises from the crowds, along with nearby Via Tribunali, where you could watch your pizza cook in a round brick oven, then sit and enjoy it at the communal table, surrounded by sacks of flour and stacks of pizza boxes.
When The Stranger put a naked rock star on the cover of its Party program, they probably weren't thinking of Tim Harrington, the balding, dumpy, red-bearded lead singer of Les Savy Fav, who stripped down to his blue underpants and jumped into the massed crowd at the Main Stage Friday evening. Ewwwwww! Gross! But the music was tight.
Catching Natalie Portman's Shaved Head right afterward at the Vera Stage was like a refreshing, cleansing experience. The young band was having loads of fun and so were their young fans, who were dancing in the street. That was what the Block Party was all about.

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