Bumbershoot Music and Arts Festival
Days of rain led up to Seattle’s 46th annual Bumbershoot Festival, but that didn’t stop thousands from flocking to the grounds of Seattle Center for three days of music and arts that have become known as “Seattle’s Festival.” By the time the first acts hit the stage, the skies were clearing, and we jumped right in.
Known for showcasing local artists, Bumbershoot had plenty of them lined up to play at partner KEXP’s stage, but hip-hop outfit Cosmos won their spot via EMP’s Sound Off! last year and played early on Friday to open the festival. Fisher stage held a slew of radio-friendly groups including energetic Brooklyn electro-pop outfit, Secret Weapons, St. Lucia and front man Jean-Phillip Grobler’s hair blowing in the wind of a fan before he decided to climb down into the crowd to sing, and Atlas Genius, whose passion was clearly on display. Tyler, The Creator’s energy on the Memorial Stadium mainstage was intense, with high-flying jumps and trademark pointedly-caustic commentary.
Father John Misty seemed to be too debonair to be on stage at that precise moment. He sported all black, eyes hidden behind impenetrable round sunglasses, an unflinching poker face. The epitome of “cool,” he wooed the crowd which swayed along. Chevy Metal – the 70’s rock cover band featuring the Foo Fighters’ Taylor Hawkins on drums/vocals, claimed to be a wildly over-paid wedding band as they launched into their own versions of other artists’ tracks with the technical proficiency you’d except from some of the greatest rock musicians in the world.
Fetty Wap drew maximum capacity crowds to KeyArena, and with a huge smile delivered an energetic performance. Electro-pop singer Halsey abandoned her signature pixie haircut for a long, dark wig, and Kygo lit up the night headlining the stadium. His massive DJ stand and stage born bright LED presentations, he lit of smoke and sparkles, and beachballs bounced over the crowd before fireworks finally closed out the set. Still going though was Michael Franti and Spearhead, entertaining the stragglers. Franti would run out to a tiny stage out in the crowd and play there, leaving his band on the main stage and bringing people on to his little satellite to dance. At one point he did a tiny rendition of Taylor Swift’s “Shake it Off” in tribute to his foundation that brings terminally ill kids to concerts. He commented that he never thought he would be buying this many Taylor Swift tickets.
Nashville rock five-piece Blank Range opened day two along with British soul singer Desi Valentine, who must’ve been hot in his full suit, but delivered a fantastic performance. Flatbush Zombies, the flamboyant Brooklyn hip-hop trio, dove into their golden-era psychotropia with wild abandon, Reggie Watts delivered incredibly unique, soulful vibes, and buzzworthy LA producer/DJ Tokimonsta dropped the big beats and heavy bass in the dark of KeyArena.
Multi-hyphenate talent Anderson .Paak and The Free Nationals prowled the mainstage, .Paak winning “best vest” award while his giant smile and fierce energy proved why he’s being recognized as one of the best new voices in hip hop/R&B. One of the most underrated bands to perform that day was the New Jersey-based pop punk outfit The Front Bottoms. Well known in the alternative music community, but not on the festival scene, they’re outrageous lyrics are a fan favorite. Marshmello could be seen throughout the festival grounds all day, taking selfies with fans… or was it him? With how many Marshmello masks were walking around the fest it’s anyone’s guess. He opened with an insanely bassy snippet of Slim Shady, my name is, my name is MARSHMELLO.
El-P and Killer Mike, of Run The Jewels, looked genuinely happy to be performing and it came through in the set they threw down. They’ve been pulling a sneak attack on the scene, and their live shows are half the appeal. It’s strange to call any tour or concert by a 24-year-old a comeback but that’s exactly what pop singer JoJo’s recent shows have been as she makes a resurgence after her initial stint as a pop star the age of 14. Her performance was polished, her vocals were crisp and her moves were on point.
Night two’s mainstage headliner, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis could not have been more “Seattle.” They opened with an actual explosion, shocking the crowd with dramatic effect. After a few hits Macklemore took some time to speak to a program he started with the EMP to help inner city kids record, then had three of them come up on stage and perform. They were flat out incredible. The duo pulled all of the stops for their performance and gave it their all for the entire two-hour set. They performed every one of their hits, including “Same Love,” “Thrift Shop,” and “Can’t Hold Us.” During “White Privilage II,” the trumpet player on stage, who happened to be a black man, rapped during the portion of the song that usually has pre-recorded audio of Black Lives Matter supporters speaking. Macklemore had some opinions on current politics, but one of the best sound bites he had to offer was “I don’t want to be scared of diversity I want to be inspired by diversity.” From bringing the Seattle Seahawks on stage to throw bags of Dicks’ burgers to the audience to the big, pink car-wash elephant embroidered on his back, Macklemore brought his town into his set fully and completely, and closing out night two of “Seattle’s Festival” could not have felt more appropriate.
Local post-punk rock trio So Pitted brought all the weird to the lawn for a sludgy, alien-rock-sesh and a bag of candy. Barns Courtney mentioned that Bumbershoot was the only festival that he’s been to where backstage there are four joints waiting for you before pausing for a moment to assure his mom he only smelled them. Strangers You Know were just about the most adorable electro-pop twosome you’ve ever seen, and Bishop Briggs was energetic, showing exactly what the buzz is about. Her voice is surprisingly deep, soulful, and passionate; though her speaking voice reveals her youth. As soon as “Wild Horses” hit, the crowd swelled, completely packing the lawn.
Grave and The Pink Slips were like a young version of The Kills, lead singer Grace McKagan a throttling 18 years old, and probably the fiercest female lead of the weekend. Melanie Martinez was a wash of pastels and fog and fankids screaming every lyric. The crowd surged forward so much for G-Eazy that security had to announce (more than once) for them to move back before the set could start. Young Gerald worked his commanding stage presence, and the women in the audience ate it up completely. It wasn’t long before bras were thrown, promises of passionate love were declared, and drones flew down and interacted with him on stage. Yep, drones.
Third Eye Blind released their hit single, “Jumper,” nearly 20 years ago, but it was the biggest hit of their set. That, and “Semi-Charmed Life,” are what propelled them to stardom, and it’s what the fans wanted to hear. They also performed some of their newer songs, including a brand new single. Stephan Jenkins also crowd surfed and generally proved his rock star status via sunglasses, hoodie, and plenty of posing. Logic raced onto the stage in a bright orange astronaut suit, followed by a masterful unleashing of verbal fire, his lyrics fun and poignant in perfect balance. Tame Impala enveloped a packed stadium crowd in their luscious psych-pop, a wash of brilliant light and fuzzed out rainbow harmonics.
Death Cab For Cutie put on a pretty standard set to an explosive light show, making the most of the mainstage and moving a bit more than usual. Ben Gibbard’s vocals were impeccable as usual, and the local rockers drew a big crowd. But we closed out the last night with Billy Idol, an artist that many concertgoers were buzzing about all day. While he might not have the energy of today’s youthful stars, he and his incredible band gave it their all. Idol is not particularly old, but his age is beginning to show and he doesn’t seem to hit the notes as well as he used to. If anything, he seemed a little tired. Most fans didn’t seem to mind though, and happily sang along to some of Idol’s best tracks, including “Mony Mony,” “Dancing with Myself,” “White Wedding,” and “Rebel Yell.”
Review contributors: Kriston McConnell, Renae Koepke, David Endicott, and Stephanie Dore
Photos by Stephanie Dore and David Endicott