By Ian Bremner
Seattle’s biggest music and arts festival is named after an umbrella. Although perhaps appropriately named, “Bumbershoot” is the celebratory bridge from summer to fall. The now slightly crisper air is filled with the sounds of bass reverb from neighboring stages, people chatting in line waiting for beer and the overall buzz of a city gathering. Though there is always a threat of precipitation in this town, not this time. The festival stayed dry, on time and was fueled with end-of-summer positive vibes.
From a fan’s perspective, the fest went off without a single hitch. The sets were full, yet easily maneuverable. Each stage had a different feel, yet all very “Seattle.” The Fisher Green stage was right out in front, playing to a green grassy hill. The Starbucks Stage was in front of the mural and under the watchful eye of the Space needle directly behind it. The old-school Seattle-styled Memorial Stadium and Key Arena hosted the high profile acts with high profile-production to boot.
Maybe because most of the young party-people spent their time in the Key Arena for the electronic dance sets, but Bumbershoot had more of a down home feel than most big festivals. There were families with babies wearing headphones during Run the Jewels’ emotionally provocative set and older folks dancing along to Anderson.Paak, G-Eazy and Macklemore.
To be fair, age and/or child responsibilities were no excuses not to go see Anderson.Paak. His album, Malibu will fall onto nearly all Top 10 list of the year and his band’s live show has been gaining confidence and steam as they have been playing all over the world. From the absolute get-go as Anderson came shooting on stage solo, the energy was palpable. Two songs in, his band, The Free Nationals came in and played a hip hop set with punk rock feels. Loud guitar, bass and front man bravado.
Margo Price held it down for the honky-tonkers. Her 6 o’clock set at the Mural was the perfect lighting and temperature for her sharp-tongued country tunes. Her record Midwest Farmer’s Daughter will certainly join Anderson.Paak on all of those lists.
Hometown, genre-bending singer, Shaprece featured a local youth choir to help her showcase her upcoming album COALS, as the young singers joined her for nearly the entire set. She may reside in Los Angeles these days, but she loves her hometown and you can feel it.
Black Joe Lewis is part time soul crooner and part time garage rocker. He and his band, the Honeybears blend the two genres seamlessly with a lot of noise and fuzz. Anyone within earshot, which had to have covered a lot of ground, was drawn into the show.
The Vera stage had stand up comedy all weekend from local and national comedians. Nick Thune may also live in Los Angeles, but certainly has not forgot his northwest roots as he shared a story about being 1 of 2 “Notable Alumni” of Bellevue college despite not ever finishing a quarter.
Sunday night, as the festival was winding down, Tame Impala had just finished their incredible, mind-melding psychedelia set and the crowd was making their ways home or to headliner, Death Cab For Cutie. Walking back towards the main festival grounds, you could hear Billy Idol’s White Wedding coming from the Fisher Green Stage. Then you realize, that IS Billy Idol! Again, judging by the age-diverse crowd, Billy Idol wasn’t necessarily the artist expected, but it was good metaphor for the entire weekend. Bumbershoot 2016 was great music and arts across all genres, styles, and cultures with a few surprises sprinkled in.
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Photos by Ian Bremner and Austin Blair (@abstee.z)