It isn’t exactly what you’d expect to hear from a festival organizer, but then again, the Capitol Hill Block Party isn’t your ordinary music festival.
“We actually don’t want [the Block Party] to get any bigger,” said David Meinert, co-owner of the Block Party and owner of The 5-Point Café in Belltown. He also runs Onto Entertainment, a management company and record label.
“I think those are the biggest size bands we want to play,” Meinert said, in reference to popular acts like Sonic Youth, who headlined last year, and MGMT, who have top billing for the festival’s opening day on July 23. “We don’t really want to make it into Bumbershoot or Sasquatch. We want to remain independent and kind of in the spirit of [Capitol Hill].”
But in response to its fast-growing reputation, this year’s Block Party will see one major addition: a third day.
Only one stage was used when the festival, then just a one-day gathering, was started 14 years ago by Jen Gapay. In 2000, Meinert and Marcus Charles took over, adding a second stage and then a second day a year later.
Meinert said anything that will potentially have an impact on the Capitol Hill neighborhood needs sign-off from its businesses and residents. So when trying to add a third day to the festival, he and other organizers went door to door looking for support.
“It’s a complex neighborhood,” Meinert explained. “When the Block Party started up there 14 years ago, that area was mostly non-residential, commercial use — not even retail. And then, over the years, a bunch of retailers have moved in — new bars, restaurants and also condos. As that’s happened, the neighborhood’s really changed.”
Besides the Block Party, Capitol Hill is also home to other events throughout the year, such as the Pride Festival. Going door to door was a way for Block Party organizers to connect with neighbors to mitigate issues like noise and parking.
That’s especially important, because unlike other music festivals, the Block Party is held in the streets.
“We’re not in a big park, it’s a neighborhood festival,” Meinert said. “Local businesses that are there are really a part of our local festival. So it’s important for people going to it to support them — drink, shop, see them.”
The pressure Meinert says he hears all the time, to make the festival bigger and suggestions to do this or that to get more national attention, isn’t on the festival’s radar.
“You know, we don’t really care,” he said. “It’s really important to us [that] the people locally like it and want to go to it. If Spin doesn’t care about it, I’m not really worried. That’s not really what it’s about.”
And with local, independent bands and artists still filling out the lineup, along with a unique urban setting, the Block Party manages to keep its special feel and local flare. That it manages to stay true to its roots does lead to one warning for festival goers.
“It’s really for the local alternative communities,” Meinert said. “If you don’t like freaks, if you don’t like the more alternative side of Seattle’s music scene — you should not come.”
Reach reporter Bryden McGrath at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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