Capitol Hill Block Party a sign of the timesJuly 19, 2012 @ 11:02 am (Updated: 10:51 am - 7/20/12 )
Local music lovers pack Neumos during the 2011 Capitol Hill Block Party (Seattle Weekly photo)
When the founders of the Capitol Hill Block Party first set up a couple of stages and launched the effort to showcase the local music scene 11 years ago, they could hope, but never dream it would grow to what it is now. Ten thousand-plus people a day, major corporate sponsors and nearly 100 bands including national acts like Neko Case and Fitz and The Tantrums.
So what is it with the rise of festivals these days? Long-time producer and Capitol Hill businessman Jason Lajeunesse says it's simply a sign of the times. Fans demand more for their money and bands can't make a living by just selling records.
"Artists have had to find other ways to make money and really depend on touring, which is why all of a sudden festivals like Coachella can get these amazing reunions together because artists are needing this income," he says.
That's great news for promoters like Lajeunesse, who bought the festival from co-creators David Meinert and Marcus Charles after working with them. He says it makes it easier to book bigger acts, fueling the growth of the festival and hundreds of others that have become a thriving summer business across the country.
Along with the ability to continue drawing bigger acts, the Capitol Hill Block Party continues to evolve. Much like Sasquatch, Bumbershoot and many of the others, the festival has significantly increased its non-musical offerings.
There are films, art installations and more, all geared to creating what Lajeunesse says is a need to create broader experiences to keep festival goers happy and coming back.
"When we sort of hit, I think what was a reasonable ceiling in terms of the most people we could have at the festival grounds before it became uncomfortable, when we realized what our perfect capacity is, it gave us an opportunity to think of how do we change the user experience and how do we keep existing every year."
And the festival is dramatically expanding its reach beyond Capitol Hill. Renowned visual artist and Seattle local Chase Jarvis has been enlisted to broadcast select performances and special content online, exposing the brand to audiences worldwide.
In all, what started as a humble local music event has become something dramatically different. And for Lajeunesse, who also has an ownership stake in a number of Capitol Hill businesses, it's become a virtually year round undertaking.
"You know people think of it like it's a three-day event and so it all gets crammed in like months beforehand or something. It's funny to hear people's expectations some times, but essentially, we'll put Block Party down for a minute and then pick it up again in September."
The Capitol Hill Block Party runs Friday July 20 through Sunday July 22.
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