One name made this years Capitol Hill Block Party more epic than ever: Sonic Youth. The New York indie rock veterans are arguably the largest band to grace the festival's bill, ever, and proved to be worth way over the $20 ticket prices. The booze-filled fest was hosted under a rare scorching Seattle sun, making it a tiring but celebratory event. Regardless of the boiling heat, flannel, beard, and skinny jeans ensued, as well as local celebrity sightings of the Fleet Fox and Long Winter kind. And suprisingly, the street-cart food was amazing: phad thai and red curry, fresh tacos with limes, and famous Seattle hot dogs, cream cheese and all. But the thing I enjoyed most was the crowds, or the lack thereof. Last year, the crowds were unbearable, presumably sparked by the sudden frat boy obsession with Girl Talk, the teeny bopper Juno lovin' Kimya Dawson fans, and the blogger favorite, 15-minute of famers Vampire Weekend.

This year was a different story. There was a perfect amalgamation of indie rock legends (Sonic Youth, Built to Spill), up-and-comers (The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, Japandroids), buzzworthy locals (the Gossip, the Moondoggies), and the outright insane (Truckasaurus, Wild Orchid Children).

So, among the 100+ acts to grace three-stages over two days, who stood out?

1) The Wild Orchid Children: This band is the funnest band I've seen in ages. The Kid Rock-esque singer, sporting long hair, a white trash persona, and a Run DMC tanktop, was just the tip of the psychadelic iceberg. The Seattle band summoned the ghosts of At the Drive-In, the sporacticness of the Mars Volta, and the angsty energy of Rage Against the Machine all the while taking you on an acid trip you don't want to come down from. With more drums and tamborines than you could shake a stick at, the band put beauty in the details, along with synth medellings and enough guitar effects to make Tom Morrello jealous. In some ways I want this band to blow up. In other ways I want to keep them one of Seattle's best kept secrets, watching them play at hole-in-the-wall DIY venues.

2) The Thermals: The Thermals have never been a stand-out band...and that's what's always made them standout. Their simplicity in song craftsmanship is admirable, and their pop sensibility in undeniable. Their covers of Nirvana's "Sappy" and Green Day's "Basket Case" were charming, yet somehow unironic, fitting perfectly within a set of the band's best songs that spanned their entire career, including the No Culture Icons EP as well as their newest efforts Now We Can See .

3) Maldive: I literally stumbled into this set. I had never heard of the band, nor intended on seeing them, but I was at the right place at the right time, I guess. Plus there was a huge fan near the bar and I was drenched in sweat. The band filled the stage, with members of acoustic, electric, and slide guitars, banjo, drums, and anything else alt-country you can think of. They were all sorts of Whiskeytown, with a twist: they were a jam band too; ballads with extended endings. Cliche' country themes of booze, girls, and heartbreak never sounded so good.

4) Built to Spill: This one's an obvious choice. Built to Spill is known for their live shows. Doug Martsch and the rest of the Crazy Horse obsessed rockers really know how to jam, with a setlist spanning their career, from "Kicked It In the Sun" to "Going Against Your Mind", extending some songs way past their album running times. With a hint of evening drizzle in the air, just standing there amongst hundreds of others was a visceral experience. Or maybe that was just from the second-hand smoke.