The festival slog has ceased, and alas, Seattle's Capitol Hill will be back to its cool, calm and collected state come sunrise Monday morning. CHBP has come a long way since its first year as a humble one-day, one-stage affair, which Kathleen Wilson of premier Seattle alt-weekly The Stranger once recounted thus:
"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." It's fair to say the only words in that depiction that would accurately describe CHBP 2012 are "beer," "music" and "middle of the street." Saturday was heavy on the electro-raving; it was clear by Sunday afternoon, day 3, that a sort of collective hangover hovered over the crowd like a low fog, so perhaps the slotting of indie-rock band Cloud Nothings near the start of the day was a shrewd decision.Originally the lo-fi project of Ohioan Dylan Baldi, Cloud Nothings has evolved into quite the noise-rock affair. Baldi may have an Average Joe look, donning spectacles and a heavy beard, but the guy can howl like Cobain, and his band's rumbling, atonal jams bow to the buzzing dissonance of Sonic Youth, especially on the clattering calisthenics of the long-winded breakdown in "More Than This." Closer "No Future/No Past" got some bros in the audience pumping fists for some reason, even through its muddy, grungy, narcotic build called for more of the hang-your-head-low-and-sway moves the Seattle kids were popularizing two decades ago.
From there, the misty Pac-Northwest moodiness skulked its way to the Neumos stage, where Portland trio Blouse glowed under the dark lights, as their soporific, Dum Dum Girls-esque dream pop wafted through the club with the lightness of manmade steam. Frontwoman Charlie Hilton looked a little like Zooey Deschanel, doe-eyed and swallowed by bangs, but instead of playing "adorkable," she's opted for "adarkable." (Sorry, that was bad.)
Next, I hopped over to the main stage for The Lumineers, a Denver folk collective of sprightly kids (some even wearing dots of face paint) whose bubbly melodies were a welcome change of pace. But after lifting my spirits with the jumpy "Ain't Nobody's Problem But My Own," I headed over to get my brain beaten in by one John Maus.
Playing at the Havana Social Club for Rhapsody, the Minnesota native and philosophy professor was banging the hell out of his head like one of those toy drinking birds on too many of those Monster Energy drinks they were passing out for free. His electro-Goth-jock-punk and Henry Rollins-like delivery was warped into an even further land of weird by layered vocal effects and several beastly neck-vein-bursting roars. I had no idea what was going on -- perhaps it was some sort of shamanistic ritual or philosophical statement in which the meaning of life could be decoded; I mean, the guy is a professor, after all. Either way, it was a sort of fitting conclusion to this three-day musical slog-a-thon, because at the end of it all -- the multiple bag checks, the steadfast security standoffs, the free Monster Energy drinks, and, oh yes, a helluva lot of weird, wild and wonderful music -- I think all of us CHBP attendees felt like cathartically thrashing our heads around and screaming, too.