Petrichor is a word constructed from the Greek “petra”, meaning stone, and “ichor”, the fluid that flows through the God’s veins. It refers to the smell created when rain hits dry earth.
The west coast is suffering through a drought currently, and Seattle, one of the rainiest and greenest cities in the country, is seeing cracked soil in gardens and straw colored grass in parks. It’s barely even drizzled for months here, and 85 degree days are the norm, with the sun blazing above. Then halfway through TV On The Radio’s set at Block Party the sky opened up, the rain-phobic retreated into nearby bars, and those remaining danced. Petrichor rising from the cement beneath everyone’s stamping feet. A projector casting images onto a nearby building is taken over, and falling rain becomes silhouetted on walls.
Block Party comes in July and lasts for a single weekend. At this time the streets of Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood swell with twenty-somethings dressed in their Saturday night best, everyone thinking of ingenious ways to smuggle liquor in their tote bags. This music festival spans several city blocks, and all restaurants and bars inside its perimeter jam up with 4x the business they see on an average night.
Quinns serves a $14.00 burger and roasted bone marrow, and in the past has taken to serving a variety of jello shots during Block Party. The Comet, Capitol Hill’s beloved “dive bar”, floods with girls in wide brimmed hats and boys in varying colors of plaid. The usual pint glasses are replaced with 12 oz plastic cups, which are served half-full of foam in the bartenders haste. Elliott Bay Book Company, usually open until 11:00pm, just says “fuck it” and closes its doors early. This party is a hipster’s paradise.
I’ve lived in Seattle for one and a half years now, and each summer I’ve spent here, I’ve spent at block party. In 2014 a group of us hung out in nearby Cal Anderson park between sets while people with coolers handed out free coconut milk (after years in Philly the wealth of this city confuses me). We drank beer from brown paper bags while cops on patrol looked the other way. Inside the festival, alcohol can only be consumed in the designated drinking gardens, where tall-boys are sold for $8.00 a pop, the usual ballgame fares. Because of the exorbitant fees and stringent id-ing within Block Party’s limits, parks in the area become a drinking playground.
The security is quite relaxed though, and unless you’re being exceedingly disruptive, you can drink as you please. I witnessed one inebriated man politely being lead to a designated drinking garden by security, the guard holding a beer can and saying in a calming voice “I’m not taking this, I’m just taking you to the drinking area then I’ll give it right back”. The man followed behind, staring at his beer with whimpery puppy dog eyes. This year I was in San Francisco when the Warriors won the NBA finals, and cops there would yank bottles from passersby hands, pour the contents onto the street, then throw the empties onto the ground. I mean, you’re being an asshole about it and you’re littering. Though cops in Seattle are far from ideal, the security at Block Party is so accepting and so tender it melts my little heart.
Block Party has five stages, guaranteeing a band will always be on. Once an act ends on the mainstage you can have a drink or head over to another block for more live music goodness. I’d say what plays is a mix of progressive-dj-techno, indie-art-rock, glitch-metal, and folk-rap. I’m bullshitting those titles though, and have no idea how to label some of the bands. TV On the Radio, Spoon, and Matt & Kim played over the years whom we can just call indie-rock. Then there’s Hundred Waters who were great, and I would describe as what a siren song sounds like as you’re drowning. Jamie XX is a remix artist and DJ from the popular band The XX. His wikipedia page describes him as “post dubstep” and “future garage”, but his music is so perfect for sweaty dancing who cares what it’s called.
I have no images from the sudden rainstorm. I guess it couldn’t even be described as a storm since it lasted for only 15 minutes and left everyone only mildly wet. Most of the time when I see something fleeting and gorgeous I instinctively reach for my camera or my phone. Sometimes Carl gently touches my moving arm, he says nothing but this lets me know just to experience what I see, rather than try to record it. I never grabbed for my camera during the rain. I was only concentrating on the vibrating pavement I stood on, the muffled claps I heard, and the way roving lights caught rain for a split second, before the sky turned black again. And though there’s no photographic evidence of all of this, trust me. It was perfect.