Bumbershoot 2014 Recap
Sunday, August 31
Words by Chris McCann
Photos by Jim Toohey
The first thing I noticed as I walked into Bumbershoot on Sunday was the lack of lines. No lines to get in, no bag-check lines, no torrents of people creating Class 5 rapids near the Shiskaberry’s stand. It was strange. Still, the sun was peeking out from between the clouds, I’d just downed a cup of fizzy raspberry lemonade and it was time to check out Hobosexual.
The Seattle duo was doing their best to roil up the mellow crowd, but with the exception of a short-lived pit created and dominated by a young man in a red hat, we were all just a sea of bobbing heads. We all needed about six more beers and some late-afternoon haze, but it was only 12:45 p.m. and there was still much to do.
I strolled past the Polyrhythmics show, which sounded brassy and funky, on my way to check out a few bands at the indoor Pavilion Stage. I arrived in time to catch the last five minutes or so of Manatee Commune. Grant Eadie’s swirling, hypnotic rhythms sounded incredible, and I wished I’d seen more. He’s playing the Decibel Festival at the Crocodile on September 24, a show that is definitely worth checking out.
Next up were Golden Gardens, presenting their “dreamscapes and anthems for magical minds.” Aubrey Bramble’s spectral voice was the pitch-perfect soundtrack for an apocalyptic prom, and I wished I were watching this show on a bitterly cold January night. Songs for empty cities, flashing lights, the rain turning into ice. When I closed my eyes, I could get there, although the sun streaming in from an open doorway interrupted my reverie and I realized it was time to return to the daylight.
I got to the Fisher Green Stage in time for the last five or six songs of We Are Scientists because I was meeting some friends who were into them. I wasn’t really feeling their clever, buoyant, kinda angular pop, and it seemed like they thought they were rocking harder than they actually were. But they were definitely having fun. And as bassist Chris Cain said (commenting on the awkward, yet passionate dancing of a middle-aged gentleman), “Great enthusiasm, sir. Technique comes. You can’t buy enthusiasm. You can drink it, but you can’t buy it.”
Speaking of drinking, it was time for a Thai iced tea and a stroll around the Visual Art exhibitions. Jini Dellaccio’s wide-eyed portraits from around the world provided a serene oasis of quiet, while the Finger Power installation by Let’s was a wildly buzzing, colorful dance party full of children, their parents and the enthusiastically baked. The rock poster exhibition Flatstock was brilliant, as usual, and I would have bought a bunch of stuff except for the fact that I didn’t want to carry it around all afternoon.
As the afternoon progressed, I headed over to Memorial Stadium to see Justin Vallesteros’ Craft Spells. They played a short set, just 30 minutes, but each track seemed to unfurl and unfurl, with sinuous synth lines intertwined with hummable riffs, all backed by some rock-solid drumming. Above it all, Vallesteros’ voice—fragile, hopeful—sailed along like a bird on the thermals. Certainly one of the highlights of the day.
A day that only promised to get better as I ate some coconut shrimp and fries while waiting for the Replacements to take the stage. When a grinning Paul Westerberg bounded out wearing a Batman t-shirt and the band launched into “Favorite Thing,” I knew we were in for an amazing show. Early highlights included a cover of the Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back” that was sadly abandoned halfway through, a searing version of “Take Me Down to the Hospital,” and the perfect “Valentine,” which Westerberg dedicated “to anyone who’s ever slept in front of a church.”
The band was both tight and endearingly sloppy at the same time, but what was so remarkable was that they all seemed to be having a great time. And the crowd, well, we were loving it. The second half of the show just got better, with favorites like “I Will Dare,” the ever-winsome “Kiss Me on the Bus,” and an oh-so-sweet version of “Androgynous.” And despite Tommy Stinson’s apology of “we don’t do that good playing in the daytime; we’re a bar band,” the Replacements perfectly channeled the anger, wistfulness, humor and despair of their classic songs. When they ended the show with “Can’t Hardly Wait,” “Bastards of Young,” “Left of the Dial,” and a transcendent “Alex Chilton,” even those of us who’d dare to hope this show would be something more than special were completely overwhelmed.
And exhausted. So where else could I go then the gala performance of Big Star’s Third/Sister Lovers, which is more like an Alex Chilton solo project. As the moon was rising behind us, the Seattle Rock Orchestra was tuning up. A star-studded cast proceeded to pay homage to the songs they all clearly loved. Highlights included Ken Stringfellow of the Posies singing the absolutely lovely “Take Care,” Brett Harris and Skylar Gudasz’s gorgeous take on “Femme Fatale,” and “O, Dana,” by the Dream Syndicate’s Steve Wynn, who said he “once took a bus 2,000 miles from L.A. to Memphis just on the chance that I’d meet Alex Chilton.” Peter Buck, Mike McCready, Scott McCaughey (looking a lot like Jerry Garcia these days) and Jon Auer also sang and played in the tribute.
After they ran through the album, they stayed on for three more Big Star songs, which were, if possible, even better: Skylar Gudasz’s heartbreakingly beautiful “Thirteen,” Jon Auer’s incredible take on Chris Bell’s “I Am the Cosmos,” and Mike Mills just destroying the crowd with a rousing rendition of “September Gurls.” Walking out after the show, we were all smiling in that idiotic, grateful way, knowing we’d just seen something really special.
It was a magical Bumbershoot Sunday. There was a part of me that wanted to stick around for Los Lobos, but as I walked through all the happy people heading in all directions, I knew it was time for me to go home.
More Bumbershoot 2014 coverage:
- Photo Set: Bomba Estereo
- Bumbershoot 2014 Day 3 Recap: Seattle Puts its Dancin’ Shoes On
- Photo Set: Negativland @ Bumbershoot 2014
- Bumbershoot 2014 Day 1 Recap: The Refrain is the Same
- Bumbershoot 2014 Day 1 Recap: Gemma Avoids “The Twerk Talk”
Great Moments in Bumbershoot History:
- Against Me! (2004)
- The Locust & Flogging Molly (2005)
- Iggy & The Stooges (2005)
- Kanye West (2006)
- John Legend (2007)
- Man Man (2008)
- Monotonix (2008)
- Patton Oswalt (2009)
- Macklemore & Ryan Lewis (2011)
- Tony Bennett (2012)
- Panel: Barsuk Celebrates 15 Years (2013)