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Bumbershoot 2016 Recap: The Year of the #Saxmoji

Posted by September 6th, 2016 3 Comments »

Bumbershoot 2016
Sept. 2-4 @ Seattle Center 

Before we get started, I have to make a few corrections from my Bumbershoot 2016 preview.

First, Bumbershoot 2016 was only my twelfth consecutive time attending, not my thirteenth. My apologies for the error. I guess that’s what happens when you get older. I can’t wait to play “Where did I put my car keys?” (Hint: They’re in the freezer!)

Second, I need to address my taking umbrage with the festival starting on Friday instead of Saturday like it has in years past. To be honest, I was frustrated, not only because it would require me to take off from work and eliminate Monday as the festival finale, but because it was change and change is scary. But I was wrong. You have to embrace change.

Speaking of change, I used a 5-saxmoji (saxophone emoji) grading scale to rate each Bumbershoot act I saw over the weekend, mostly because people don’t utilize that one enough. While many acts were vying for the prestigious five saxmoji score, only a handful got close, and some even surpassed it! Here are the highest rated acts from each stage.

Fisher Green: JoJo (31/5 saxmojis)

The Fisher Green stage has transformed into the location for artists with a larger, devout following that won’t necessarily encroach on the capacities of either Memorial Stadium or Key Arena, and that dynamic creates some beautiful combinations. For example, you can see early 2000s R&B sensation JoJo run through thirty minutes of hit singles and new material to an audience filled with fans who undoubtedly associate those songs with hilarious nostalgia connected to middle school crushes. The only way to describe her performance of poppy, unrequited puppy love is joyful catharsis.

JoJo. Photo by Casey Brevig.

JoJo. Photo by Casey Brevig.

Key Arena: Fetty Wap (1,738/5 saxmojis)

In the one year since Fetty Wap’s self-titled debut album released I’ve listened to it no less than seven billion times. There are few feelings better than hitting every note of a Fetty Wap vocal run as loud as you possibly can while zooming through traffic or after having way too much coffee. Now, after seeing Fetty take the stage with his beloved Remy Boyz, it appears we are not so different.

Fetty Wap @ Bumbershoot 2016 by Travis Truatt for NadaMucho

Memorial Stadium: Macklemore & Ryan Lewis (5/5 saxmojis)

Let me first say this: Macklemore & Ryan Lewis get a bad rap. (Pun intended.)

This show wasn’t just another slot in Bumbershoot programming. This was a homecoming for the biggest artist in Seattle. Between the goofy costume changes and human rights grandstanding and Seattle Seahawks cameos and crowd-participatory dance-offs and Dick’s cheeseburger tosses were reminders of Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ greatest strength: their overwhelming sincerity.

It trumps every argument against them. Are you angry at their success? They’ve started a program with the EMP to help young artists find their voices and hone their skills. You don’t like Macklemore’s haircut? He let three kids from the program on-stage during his set to let them each spit original hot sixteens. They seem phony in some way? That’s subjective but here’s what you have to remember: He’s the rapper Seattle deserves, but not the one it needs right now.

Their set ended, fireworks cracked off, and James Brown’s “I Got You (I Feel Good)” started blaring as everyone left a perfect Bumbershoot performance grinning. 

Macklemore. Photo by Sunny Martini.

Macklemore. Photo by Sunny Martini.

Starbucks Stage: Maren Morris (4/5 saxmojis)

Since Maren Morris released her fourth album, Hero, back in June she’s received a ton of love listeners and critics alike and, after several songs during her set on Sunday, I quickly learned why. Aside from being one of the sharpest vocalists and songwriters around, she’s found a way to construct songs that are pop-country hybrids. Before I receive #wellactually responses in regards to pop country, let me explain. Rather than devote her entire sound to one genre, she builds contemporary pop verses around country-influenced choruses. Maybe this perspective is a result of my inexperience with country as a whole, but I loved every second. Is it possible to get cowboy boots with Nike Air insoles? 

KEXP: Deep Sea Diver (4.5/5 saxmojis)

Deep Sea Diver are so good I’m going to be obnoxious about them. Loved ones can expect to find Deep Sea Diver’s latest album, Secrets, in coat pockets and glove compartments at inopportune times. I’m planning to huck copies from the car window at every intersection while blaring their fully realized, grand and somber take on indie rock. Honestly, I hope I hit a bike cop by accident so that I can make the news and, with my one phone-call from jail, I’ll ring up KEXP to play “See These Eyes” because I like to get down a lil’ bit.

Bumbershoot 2016 (12/5 saxmojis)

There were other slight changes to the festival that were pretty easy to overlook but made the biggest differences in the world. Attendees of drinking age were awarded with a magical wristband that allowed them to carry drinks throughout the festival grounds. Instead of committing to one beer garden overlooking one stage you could purchase a sweet little bevvy and literally skip throughout Seattle Center. I try to quote Drake and Future as much as possible so let me say this: what a time to be alive.

The vendors were also minimized in such a way that the areas historically known for being congested were suddenly opened-up. Non-food vendors were in one, easy to explore (or avoid) row, which made it way easier to navigate the festival. Also, utilizing Teatro Zinzanni is a fantastic way to prioritize comedy without sacrificing a venue on-site.

My main gripe with the festival this year is how Key Arena was a black pit of despair. There was a line malfunction on Friday that made it nearly impossible to see Fetty Wap leaving everyone feeling like this. I watched a group of stylish teens abandon their friend who just missed the line cut-off and, if you listened closely, you could hear “My Heart Will Go On” playing in the background ever so faintly.

If you wanted to see any of the line-up offerings in Key Arena, you basically had to commit to an amorphous line for up to forty-five minutes before even entering the spooky, cavernous interior. It’s like the Upside-Down from Stranger Things but with way more rompers. Perhaps next year the festival can build more time between sets in Key Arena, giving people more time to flow through the arena or they can start keep artists that draw larger crowds exclusively on the Memorial Stage.

But, more than anything, the Key Arena line system made it difficult to locate the KEXP stage, which is the heart and soul of festival that claims to have a focus on local artists. Again, this could be easily remedied by altered set times and, honestly, more obvious signage.

Overall, Bumbershoot seems to be hitting an impressive stride in terms of talent programming and daily festival offerings. I’m already looking forward to next year but, for now, I must return to hibernation for the next 362 days.


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