As I start to dwell on the modern era of Bumbershoot history, trends are becoming more and more obvious and the lineups start to lose their unshakeable tinge of nostalgic timeliness. Artists like 2008’s headliners Paramore, Neko Case, T.I., The Black Keys, and Beck still reign supreme. They’ve each released an album in the past year (or will soon, *cough cough* T.I.) and would undoubtedly find themselves in a Memorial Stadium slot should they return to the festival in the future.
Longevity is such a rare quality for musicians. How many times has a band blown up for a year, never to be heard from again? It’s bizarre, actually, looking at a year with still relevant headliners. Sure, names like Lucinda Williams and Keyshia Cole may be somewhat fringe for the laymen, but I felt heavily conflicted as each day drew on. Do I see Stone Temple Pilots or Superchunk because I may never get the chance again? Death Cab for Cutie or Minus the Bear? The Offspring or Dan Deacon? Now, for most of these conflicts, I found myself favoring the headliners, mistakenly assuming their wide-scale appeal somehow made their performance more valuable when that couldn’t be any less true.
This seems to be a common train of thought. Whenever I talk to people about Bumbershoot, their concern about cost is met with an expectation of seeing main stage acts to make their ticket “worthwhile”. Sometimes people don’t even look past the marquee names, which is a shame for a festival that provides a platform for so many up-and-coming musicians who, more likely than not, will find their way to larger stages.
My point is that I decided to skip Band of Horses to see another band instead. I’d only known a few songs by the experimental rock band, Man Man, before stumbling upon their late afternoon performance on Bumbershoot’s opening day in 2008. Their recorded music held a theatrical quality bolstered by raw energy and lyrical guile. There isn’t an obvious genre or band to which I could compare them, except maybe as Gogol Bordello’s sophisticated, bipolar cousin.
When they came out, dressed in all white, there was a brief moment of silence as they gravitated toward their instruments and took final sips of water before we were transported to the lower deck of a sinking Viking ship wrought with measured calamity. The side of our vessel had been struck by canons from a royal ship. We’d been out to sea for six months; it may as well end in flames. Plunder slid off the side of the boat and into the nighttime abyss. Man Man banged on pianos and tortured their guitars while lead singer, Honus Honus, belted out modern day shanties in gruff, manic spurts. Songs were titled delirious things like “Van Helsing Boombox” and “Banana Ghost” and, when the water rose to our knees, they brought out the good hooch.
If you find yourself at Bumbershoot, get to the main stage for a few bands but don’t cocoon yourself in the bleachers for the whole day. There’s a specific charm that comes from unknowingly trapping yourself in oblivion.
Photos by Chris Graham
This year’s Bumbershoot lineup includes Wu-Tang Clan, Elvis Costello, Afghan Whigs, Schoolboy Q, Mavis Staples, Capital Cities, The Replacements and hundreds more. Tickets are still available.
More in this series:
- Against Me! (2004)
- The Locust & Flogging Molly (2005)
- Iggy & The Stooges (2005)
- Kanye West (2006)
- John Legend (2007)
- Monotonix (2008)
- Patton Oswalt (2009)
- Macklemore & Ryan Lewis (2011)