Once a year, Seattleites take over a few blocks of Capitol Hill to enjoy music, drinks, and the summer weather. The Capitol Hill Block Party has come to be a favorite for many who live near Seattle. Boasting three days of musical acts, the CHBP encompasses a wide variety of genres to give those attending the block party a chance to hear new music they have never heard before while at the same time bringing in a few larger top notch acts that attendees know and love.
This year is no exception with the Capitol Hill Block Party bringing in acts such as Chromeo, A$AP Ferg and Rocky, ODESZA, Spoon, and The War On Drugs to headline while flushing out the lineup with amazing up and coming acts such as RAC, Manatee Commune, Slow Magic, and many more. I was given the chance to interview the man who works tirelessly behind the scenes year round to produce the Capitol Hill Block party and operate most of your favorite clubs and music venues in Capitol Hill; Jason Lajeunesse.
Jason Lajeunesse has worked in the music industry since the mid-1990s, starting his career as a talent buyer for venues in the Pacific Northwest. Jason now is managing partner at Neumos, Moe Bar, Big Mario’s Pizza, The Comet Tavern, Barboza, Pike Street Fish Fry, Lost Lake Cafe and Lounge, and Sealed With a Kiss Presents, all of which are located in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood. In 2012, Jason became the producer and owner of the Capitol Hill Block Party (CHBP) after acting as Program Director from 2006 to 2011. That year, Seattle Magazine included Jason in their “Most Influential Seattle People” round-up. Jason has served on the Board of Directors at the Vera Project and currently serves on the Board of Directors at The Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce. He continues to work in the music industry and ties his love of creative process, community, and business together throughout all his endeavors.
Getting to interview the owner of such an incredible festival was quite an honor for me, and after working with other members of the OTB Family, a list of questions was compiled for Mr Lajeunesse. Here for your reading pleasure then is Jason Lajeunesse on the Capitol Hill Block Party.
Behind The Beat | Jason Lajeunesse
OTB: What has been the most rewarding aspect of running CHBP?
Jason: It has been an honor to take over the festival’s production and running operations and ensuring its long-term success. The CHBP helps us raise over $25K a year for nonprofits we support and believe in. This year, we’re proud to be teaming up with a City of Seattle Arts and Music Initiative called Creative Advantage. We were able to orchestrate collaboration between one of the CHBP main stage artists and the Washington Middle School drum line. There’s more information on Creative Advantage available here: http://www.creativeadvantageseattle.org.
OTB: What's the hardest logistical thing about putting on CHBP?
Jason: This year, it has been difficult to work around all the various new projects under construction around the city. Thus far, the developers we’ve worked with, and everyone from the city, have been very accommodating to help address our issues and have made it possible for the CHBP to continue to be a success.
OTB: What do you think has been your biggest success since taking over the CHBP?
Jason: It’s very important for me to ensure that the Capitol Hill neighborhood, where we have the CHBP, benefits from the festival every year. I try my best to make sure that the neighborhood, and the small businesses in the area, are happy and involved. If that happens, I think it’s a great success.
OTB: If you could change one thing with the CHBP, disregarding all the political red tape that you would have to cut through, what would it be?
Jason: It’s hard to say what I’d want to change, but I think it would be amazing if Cal Anderson Park could become a more viable option for expansion. Otherwise, the city has been a GREAT supporter and resource for us.
OTB: What are your plans for the future of CHBP? Will we see the event grow to be larger or flushed out with more “activation of the space?”
Jason: I don't see the festival growing in geographical size. However, we hope to grow our online reach globally and continue to promote and support the Capitol Hill neighborhood beyond the city of Seattle.
OTB: What's something fans will notice that is different about this year's event?
Jason: We’ve really invested a good amount of money into talent and production for the second outdoor stage and we hope that’s something fans will notice. It's definitely a proper second stage now, so we’ve been able to book national level artists there. It’s also all-ages this year, so we’re excited that these bands will be accessible to everyone, even if fans are under-21.
OTB: Is there anything you'd encourage people who are new to the event this year to do?
Jason: We always highly encourage all attendees to check out all the awesome local businesses within and around the CHBP area. If it's your first time at the festival, or you’re just not super familiar with Capitol Hill, take some time to explore!
OTB: Who is one artist you'd love to book at CHBP?
Jason: I try and book Les Savy Fav every year. They’ve already played at CHBP twice, but I always try to get them to come back.
OTB: Do you take input from fans when deciding which acts will play at each year's festival?
Jason: We love getting input from our fans! For example, we’ve done surveys to get some insight, but this is an area where we are always seeking to improve.
OTB: I know you have talked in the past about not booking one artist that sells all of the tickets (MGMT as example). Do you have plans to make the event feature three “larger” acts (one on each day) and then smaller more undiscovered acts flushing out the rest of the time or keep the CHBP as a more “indie/non-mainstream” event with lots of talented yet underappreciated artists?
Jason: When it comes to booking acts, we’re able to bring in headliners that are relative to the size of the festival, but 95% of the programming revolves around up-and-coming acts. That is the model we work with each year.
OTB: With the recent surge in electronic music, how has the CHBP tried to incorporate electronic acts into the mix? Dillon Francis and ODESZA last year were big hits, and with ODESZA returning this year along with Chromeo, XXYYXX, and RAC, is the plan to feature more electronic acts in the future?
Jason: We cannot deny the fans what they want, and there has certainly been a ground swell in electronic music, so we try and include as much as we can. That same principle applies across all genres, which is booking up-and-coming acts that share an integrity with the heart and soul of the festival and the Capitol Hill neighborhood. The community is diverse, and so is the programming.
I would like to thank Jason Lajeunesse for taking the time and answering our questions as well as Megan Trevarthen for helping setting up the interview as well as general CHBP support. For more information on the Capitol Hill Block Party, check out the links below to the CHBP website as well as other OTB articles on the CHBP.
CHBP Artist Spotlights: