We're coming up on one of the biggest weekends in the year for Seattle music lovers, and no one is busier than Capitol Hill Block Party owner Jason Lajeunesse. He took some time to tell us why Capitol Hill, what to bring, and what to look forward to this year.
Why do you think Capitol Hill is the best neighborhood suited for this festival?
Capitol Hill is the center of Seattle’s artistic community. Every year we have lots of bands playing who live and work right in this area. That, combined with the fact that the neighborhood is centrally located, easy to get to by bus and has an abundance of unique, independently-owned bars, night clubs, restaurants and shops. It’s the ideal location for our event.
CHBP is the only independently owned festival of its size: why do you think this is? And what does that mean for both you as the owner, and for the festival itself?
These days it’s getting harder and harder to do anything in the music industry “independently,” because the size and economies of scale give large production companies an advantage when it comes to talent, sponsors and support. What that means is that CHBP is even more unique. We have to really watch what’s going on and get bands that are on their way up. Our ability to pick really cool emerging national artists and pair them with a ton of great local bands gives CHBP a much more personal, communal feeling than I get at other festivals.
What’s new this year that you’re excited about?
What’s new is an expanded VERA stage, which resulted as a direct response to feedback we received from our under 21 fans. We’ve invested a lot of time and money into expanding the talent and production for the second outdoor Vera stage and we hope that’s something people will be excited about. We’re putting all of the national touring acts there or on the main stage so that those sets are all-ages. We wanted to make sure that all the national and out of town artists were available for everyone to see.
What do you see for the future of CHBP? Getting bigger? Longer?
We’re doing a lot to extend the CHBP brand beyond the three days of the festival in Seattle. In early December we hosted a “Shop the Hill” event in Capitol Hill to draw attention to the amazing independently-owned businesses in that neighborhood. We also co-sponsored the Cal Anderson Park Alliance’s 4th of July picnic this year and we’re involved with some amazing nonprofits like Creative Advantage, a Seattle arts and music initiative that helps raise money to keep the arts in our public schools.
Compare CHBP with other local festivals (Bumbershoot, Sasquatch). Other than size, what are the main differences you see? Is that type of festival what you strive for?
Bumbershoot and Sasquatch are both fantastic festivals, but we don’t aspire to become like them. We love having CHBP in the heart of the city, bringing attention to local independently-owned businesses and restaurants, and booking a ton of worthy local talent among our national headliners. If we adopted a big-festival model we couldn’t do any of those things.
Three things people should bring to CHBP: go!
Friends, family and acquaintances. The fact that there are so many restaurants and bars within the CHBP grounds makes it an ideal meeting place. It’s an event that should be shared with old friends and new ones. If it's your first time at the festival, or you’re just not super familiar with the Capitol Hill neighborhood, take some time to explore and get to know it!