Aug. 31 – Sept. 2
By Todd Terry
Photos Casey Brevig, Maurice Harnsberry and Todd Terry
I went to my first Bumbershoot a few months after moving to Seattle in 1996. For a mere $10 I saw the Sex Pistols, Combustible Edison, Goldfinger, Mudhoney, and MxPx on a sunny Friday.
I have been back nearly every year since then, and, needless to say, in the year of our lord 2018, it is a very different animal than it was back then.
Bumbershoot organizers have definitely been trying to appeal to a younger audience in hopes of turning a profit and staying relevant in the crowded music festival market. With the full realization that I am no longer in the targeted demographic, I grabbed my pen and notebook (because I’m old school like that) and jumped headlong into my Saturday at Seattle Center.
Like any reasonable person, I started my music festival experience with a live recording of a podcast. I waited outside the Charlotte Martin Theatre with the podcast nerd crowd and witnessed several overzealous fans trying to open the locked doors.
OMNIBUS! features Jeopardy champion and author Ken Jennings and Long Winters front man, writer, and politician John Roderick as they create a reference guide of strange but true stories. The topic of discussion this time around was the Disco Demolition Night held at Comiskey Park in Chicago 1979 that ended in a riot. Three things I learned during their discussion: 1) the inherent racist and homophobic overtones of the Disco Sucks movement, 2) the fact that John’s uncle Al Rochester inspired the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair, and 3) “The Clash are the only white reggae band that matters.”
Over at the Mural Amphitheater stage, Skating Polly proved that some young people still like rock music. Their high energy set featured lots of instrument swapping, high kicks, and a sweet pair of glitter creepers. The two front women traded off on vocals while the drummer, who was on the far right of the stage, pounded away on an island of his own.
Skating Polly. Photo Todd Terry.
Over at KEXP, Jo Passed singer / guitarist Jo Hirabayash was looking Madchester but sounding more shoegaze. His band’s music was very dynamic, with quiet delicate passages segueing directly into full-on dual guitar freak-outs accompanied by lots of hair swinging.
I’m guessing that this Vancouver, British Columbia band that recently signed to Seattle’s Sub Pop Records does NOT have an agreed upon “band uniform” because the guitarist wore shiny gold boots and the drummer only wore black socks.
I only caught a little bit of Superorganism at the Fisher Green stage, but it was quite an experience. There were colorful raincoats, multiple people playing triangles and items of fruit, heavy bass sounds, and a charming young vocalist who was either overwhelmingly excited or completely bored to death. I didn’t know that it was possible to ride that line, but she made it work.
If the internet became sentient and decided to start making its own music, I think it would sound something like Superorganism. The group’s performance was adorned by what appeared to be random memes and clip art dancing on screen in the background. It reminded me a little bit of watching the Saturday morning acid trip that was The Banana Splits Adventure Hour.
Knife Knights is a collaboration between Ishmael Butler of Shabazz Palaces and Digable Planets fame, and acclaimed engineer, producer, and composer Erik Blood. The project takes the spaced out psychedelic hip hop of Shabazz Palaces, and ads in elements of soul, shoegaze, and ambient noise.
On the KEXP stage, in what I believe was their first public performance, they put on a low key, but incredibly engaging set. At times they sounded like 70s Stevie Wonder meets Parliament-Funkadelic in space. For some reason I was reminded just a little of bit Michael Ivey’s BYOB (Bastard Youth of Basehead) project, but I think I just really want to drop a Basehead reference.
I tried to check out T-Pain, but there were just way too many people to get anywhere near the stage. Apparently people love T-Pain and really liked to put their hands in the air. I wanted to avoid the crowd but still wanted to be able to hear, so I went to a beer garden on top of Fisher Pavilion. I ordered a Fremont Interurban IPA and when I went to pay, they said there was no charge. What the what? Was it possible that I was having some sort of fever dream? I played it cool, listened to some T-Pain, and eventually I very cautiously ordered a PBR, which also turned out to be free. Somehow through pure dumb luck I had managed to stumble into the VIP Emerald Lounge.
While I was tempted to stay in this magical place forever, I had to check out Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever back at KEXP. These guys were freaking great and played what I could only describe as clean cut Australian indie jingle-jam rock. That’s a thing, right?
The band has three singer / guitarists who each take leads on different songs, but their voices and instruments are constantly intertwined. They had people dancing like kids at a sock hop in a malt shop. That was a thing, right?
The Revolution was Prince’s backing band from 1983-1986, and played on seminal releases like Purple Rain and Around the World in a Day. After Prince passed away in 2016 the group got back together to perform his songs. I have to admit that I approached their set at the Mural with great curiosity mixed with some apprehension. It turns out that The Revolution without Prince is just plain confusing. The songs are still amazing, but without The Purple One it just felt like seeing a decent cover band. The crowd was way into it, but it was not working for me.
Also, does anyone know if keyboardist Matt “Doctor” Fink really a disgraced surgeon? Or is that just an urban legend?
I left The Revolution behind and hurried to the Fisher Green stage to catch Chromeo midset. The group was in full light show / reflective surfaces / dance party mode and the crowd was loving it. Their electro-funk made people dance and smile, and their shout outs to “old school Chromeo fans” were met with rapturous approval.
Visually, Chromeo has the look of a true dynamic duo. Lead singer / guitarist Dave 1 was cool in his leather jacket and sunglasses while keyboardist and talk box aficionado P-Thugg was sporting a bushy beard, red beret, and leather vest. At first I thought they should definitely be out fighting crime, but then I realized it was more like if the guys from Mythbusters had taken a different path.
Drink of Choice
- Lucille IPA
- Long Hammer IPA
- Fremont Interurban IPA
- Pabst Blue Ribbon
As far as anti-audience participation goes, I actually saw a shirtless white guy in a Native American headdress. Can that really still be a thing? Fuck that guy.
What do you call a large group of young woman in tank tops, short shorts, and tons of body glitter? Is it a “covey,” like you would use for a flock of quail?
Regardless of the proper terminology, they were everywhere. And they seemed to be having a good time. I felt it was proper to give them a wide berth and they were happy in their own world. You do you. It’s your festival now.
Most Valuable Player
So many choices, but I think I have to go with Marquetta Miller from Break and Swells who performed with Knife Knights. When she wasn’t singing she casually swayed along to the spaced out grooves but her verse on “Give You Game” was a magic moment. “I brought flowers to your field, made a sweeter wind blow through them…”
Here are more shots from Saturday’s action by Casey and Maurice. See our full 2018 Bumbershoot album on our Flickr page. – Editor