Bumbershoot Music & Arts Festival Day 1
September 5, 2015
By Cameron Deuel; Photos by Jim Toohey
After the eleven consecutive years I’ve attended Bumbershoot, Seattle’s summer end-cap music and arts festival, it feels like the event still doesn’t have a clear notion of its own identity.
This year the culprit is likely AEG, which handles booking throughout the city for venues like The Showbox and Key Arena. The partnership between AEG and OneReel, who have been responsible for putting together Bumbershoot singlehandedly for years, seemed like a win-win. Bumbershoot would make the necessary alterations as directed by AEG and, who knows, start to chip away at the looming debt it had accrued in recent years.
I’m not entirely sure what happened, though. Comedy programming, a major draw for a somewhat niche audience, was noticeably put on the backburner and the layout for music each day felt decidedly sparse in comparison to the last several years when days were jam-packed with both. The gates opened at 1:30 p.m. instead of 11 a.m. (COOL!), which led to inevitable delays (LAME!). My point is this: It wasn’t pretty but it was different and will get better.
But you didn’t come here for all that bs. You want a recap. You’re practically screaming for one right now! In the words of Waka Flocka: “Oh, let’s do it.”
I headed to the Starbuck’s Stage on Saturday to spend quality time with Seattle’s cool artistic aunts and uncles. The beauty of the Starbucks Stage is how everyone – shiny new babies, centuries old hippies, youths in infinite stages of undress, the stout fellow I’ll just call Ganja Lorax – is on the same page. For the most part, the music is universal enough for everyone to hang in their brightest colored flowy clothes(?) and let the #vibes wash over them.
Elle King kicked things off and she performed an almost convincing set. She had her loud and soft parts in order and even threw in some swears (in front of the babies, even!). The way she headed her soul-encrusted garage rock was like a maudlin take on Jenna Maroney’s knock-off Janis Joplin impression from 30 Rock. In a word she was “rockin’.” There. That’s all I got.
Seattle’s Deep Creep performed to a criminally under attended audience. To be fair, they seem better equipped for a darkened basement show when you’re a few Rainiers deep but let’s be civil. They sounded great. Please go buy their debut twice because it’s that good. I love Deep Creep.
And then the heavens opened and roughly ten oceans of rain dumped on a crowded event and everyone took it personally. I get it, fellow music journalists, you need to meet that word count somehow.
Smash-cut to a short while later when your boy was watching a talk by the writers of Brooklyn Nine-Nine, one of the best new shows around. The panel was pleasant enough but ultimately proved to be more of an excuse to get out of the rain than anything.
“Is it possible to go to Bumbershoot and not see Fitz and The Tantrums perform?,” I wondered while watching Fitz and The Tantrums perform just before The Weeknd. They’re mild and consistent enough for everyone to just deal with them at this point.
The one major scheduling conflict took place on Saturday night when Flying Lotus, The Weeknd, and Chance The Rapper all practically stepped on each others toes, which is why I was perched in Memorial Stadium for F and the Ts.
At the time I figured having Fitz open for The Weeknd is like a clown troupe tumble around a strip club stage before the main event dancers come out. If you’ve ever heard The Weeknd you know how much of his persona is informed by his voice and its aesthetic. It’s sexy. He’s mysterious. Sploosh. But his live performance, I would come to find out, is anything but that.
The Weeknd is super cool at a distance, where he’s broing down with Drake and crooning from the abyss. But, when he hops around on-stage, keeps making pseudo-threats to fuck the entire city (“Y’all like it when I’m doing it like this for you Seattle?”), and point-blank refers to himself as “The Weeknd” it starts to pull back the facade where he’s less of an international vagabond and just soberingly Canadian.
I managed to leave Memorial Stadium as the exact right moment to grab a nice spot inside Key Arena for the final performance of night one. Future Illinois governor, Chance The Rapper was easily worth the price of admission alone. He dances like his legs are on fire and squawks his way through already classic cuts from his catalog. One minute he’s bouncing around in front of home movies starring a young Chance then he’s suddenly he’s covering the theme song from Arthur. Despite moving fast, Chance’s modus operandi is simple: be kind and believe in yourself. Who can argue with that?
- Bumbershoot 2015: Day 1 photo album
- Bumbershoot 2015: Day 2 photo album
- Bumbershoot 2015: Day 2 recap
- Bumbershoot 2015: Day 3 photo album
- Bumbershoot 2015: Day 3 recap