While the past two days displayed perfect concert festival weather, it wasn’t until the last day of Bumbershoot Festival where Seattle showed it’s famous gray and misty atmosphere. While that didn’t stop many concert goers from enjoying the festivities, there was a noticeable difference in attendance than the last two days. This was probably due to the main stage’s departure from indie / modern rock and it’s direction toward hip-hop and R&B.
I wasn’t too thrilled to be walking around in the cold rain all day either. So it was quite obvious I was going to see a comedy show or two and phone it in early if it got worse. Plus the line-up was not as impressive as the past two days, not because of the hip-hop direction of the main stage, but when you have Booker T. and The Thermals closing the last day, you can’t expect a huge draw.
So first off I decided to catch Doug Benson, Tig Notaro, and Marc Maron perform in the early afternoon. All comics got their fair share of laughs from the packed auditorium; with Doug talking about the legalization of marijuana (of course), Tig Notaro’s story about messing with faded ’80s-’90s pop star Taylor Dayne, and Marc Maron’s battle with drugs, alcohol, and more recently, junk food. It was a nice break from the weather and perfect time to rest my legs before I went back into the fray.
[mp3] Marc Maron – No Plan B from Final Engagement (2009)
I went back outside to discover that the rain had tapered off a bit, so I went to watch a few songs by Athens, GA based rock band, The Whigs. I missed their performance at this year’s Outside Lands and was rewarded with a pretty solid set from this dirty yet intelligent band. A bit heavier than I remember when I first heard of them, but that made for an intimidating and asskicking show from this underrated act.
[mp3] The Whigs – Nothing Is Easy from In the Dark (2010)
Next I caught a few songs from local Seattle hip-hop/soul groups, Helladope and THEESatisfaction. Neither act lacked in charisma or passion but the EMP Sky Church’s sound was not doing them justice at all. These were acts that needed a venue that was slightly more personal and had a bit less distorted sound system. However, thanks to the sophistication and charm that these bands projected live, I was inspired to check out more of their material down the road.
[mp3] Helladope – Just Do You Know from Return to Planet Rock (2009)
Soon after the EMP Sky stage, I walked over to catch The Moondoggies and the always insane, Japandroids. I had never heard anything from Americana-folk act The Moondoggies, but from the handful of songs i heard, I enjoyed it thoroughly. Their precision-based harmonies reminded me of a young Blitzen Trapper or Midlake with a bit more polish. Now witnessing the Japandroids was not unlike their Bonnaroo appearance; rapid fire, raw, and ruthless. Japandroids are one of those few bands that can capture their live sound on record, but seeing them adds that extra “umph” to pull you into that tornado they cause on stage. Always a joy to see.
[mp3] The Moondoggies – It’s a Shame, It’s a Pity from Tidelands (2010)
While I didn’t stick around too long for Savannah, GA metal band, Baroness; what I did experience was a band not unlike the mighty Mastodon. Brilliant, haunting, and straight up brutal, they were entertaining for the amount of time I was willing to stick around.
One of the main acts I was looking forward to catching during this festival had to be everyone’s favorite struggling metal band, Anvil. Like pretty much anyone at their performance that day, I became familiar with the band through their 2008 documentary, Anvil! The Story of Anvil. It was quite entertaining to watch the band’s humorous facial expressions and see lead guitarist, Lips break out the famous metal vibrator on his guitar. The music, if you’re not familiar, is thrash/speed metal in it’s truest form and while I am not a biggest fan of the genre, I felt blessed to witness these guys play.
[mp3] Anvil – This Is Thirteen from This Is Thirteen (2009)
After Anvil I listened to a little bit of Jenny and Johnny (Jenny Lewis of Rilo Kiley) at the Starbucks stage. I wasn’t there long enough to make any kind of criticism but they seemed to have decent chemistry up there. Plus their music is a whole lot more upbeat than either of their past material. I then made it over to the Charlotte Martin Theatre to watch Patton Oswalt and Friends and escape the cold Seattle mist. As usual Patton was absolutely hilarious as well as his guests; Nick Thune, Eddie Pepitone, and Tig Notaro (who performed an almost identical set from earlier that day). After that show I decided I’d watch a few songs by Mary J. Blige at the Main Stage. The crowd was surprisingly dismal, barely comparing to both Bob Dylan and Weezer. That didn’t slow Mary down though. She performed a very passionate and powerful set despite the minuscule crowd. The feeling of watching Mary perform went from, “I guess I can say I saw her” to “Holy shit this is amazing!” She may not have brought the crowds that day, but she made sure that those who did stay remembered why she’s the Queen of Hip-Hop Soul.
[mp3] Jenny and Johnny – Big Wave from I’m Having Fun Now (2010)
What else is there to say? Bumbershoot is a well organized, well balanced, well oiled machine of a festival that scoffs at it’s rivals. Yes, there were too many kids, wannabe hippies, drunk Weezer fans, and junk food (but look at those Shishkaberries! SO GOOD!…..) but Bumbershoot has shown that it’s got the experience and local flavor to satisfy any concert goer. I’ll be definitely be attending next year, Shishkaberry in hand.
written by Shawn Robbins
photos by Shawn Robbins and Erin Lodi