Saturday, Sept. 2 @ Seattle Center
By Gary Horn
Photos by Travis Trautt
If you’re going to Bumbershoot – Seattle’s four decade old music and arts festival – for just a single day, you really should target Saturday. It usually boasts the most popular artists and the highest attendance (assuming that people-watching is your thing). This year was no exception.
Camping out at the Main Stage at Memorial Stadium proved to be unusually hot, both musically and weather-wise, as evidenced by the crowd’s gathering in the small shaded areas.
But it was worth it. Six bands, hailing from Seattle to New Zealand, commanded the stage from mid-afternoon through the city’s 11 p.m. curfew.
My day began mid-afternoon with Ruler, an appreciative Seattle indie rock band led by singer/songwriter Matt Batey. The group delivered a set of happy-go-lucky tunes supported by colored waves and geometric animations on the big screen behind them.
Next up was DREAMERS, a young trio claiming to be from Los Angeles but led by Seattleite and singer/guitarist, Nick Wold. With a stage nearly void of gear, the band delivered a high-energy set which included the day’s single crowd surfing incident… by Wold himself. It was a fun set, filled with hits you’ve probably heard of but didn’t realize were theirs. Regardless, they were able to generate public dancing both near and far from the stage… no easy feat in the Emerald City.
Highly Suspect, an up and coming threesome from Brooklyn, showed both confidence and attitude throughout their 45-minute set. Overcoming a guitar malfunction at the outset, Johnny Stevens (vocals/guitars/neck tattoos) quickly picked up a replacement and launched into “Bath Salts.” The crowd was slow to respond to the group’s hard-hitting sound and no-nonsense stage presence, but warmed up with each successive song. Check out our short interview with brothers Rich and Ryan Meyers captured backstage before the show.
Fourth on the main stage bill was Kaleo, an Icelandic group that now calls the U.S. their home. A deep, soulful band, Kaleo delivered a safe, polished, digestible version of the blues, perfect for the young, clap-happy crowd. Though the group’s music is moving and memorable, there wasn’t much else to note about their performance. I wish someone would have at least broken a sweat.
By the time Weezer took the stage the giant stadium was more than half full. Boasting the festival’s largest drum riser and unique videos supporting each song, the seminal geek-rock band was able to capture and retain the listener’s attention throughout their set. In fact, it was the rare for the crowd NOT to be singing along.
Highpoints of Weezer’s performance included an unexpected medley (how else are they going to fit all of their hits in?) and a speedy slideshow of strong female figures during “Thank God for Girls.” (Princess Diana, Tina Fey, Michelle Obama, etc.) which drew increasingly deafening squeals from the crowd.
Main man Rivers Cuomo (guitar/vox) kept it humorous with periodic costume changes (a sombrero for “Beverly Hills” and crown/cloak for “King of the World”) and failed attempts at getting the VIP’s to dance along with the people in general admission.
Headliner Lorde took the stage around 9:30 p.m., when most local shows are just getting started. Although the fan count was unchanged, the cheering was noticeably louder.
With her musical backline kept in the shadows, Lorde leveraged five dancers through most of the concert, mirroring interpretive imagery with her poetic lyrics. Although the choreography was a bit much at times, Lorde herself seemed to speak from the heart between songs. For example, she reminisced about her first show in Seattle at the Showbox and how girl’s shrieking nearly caused her to go deaf, but reminded her of the power of womanhood.
Special kudos for Lorde actually running out between the audience during one song (so that’s what the gated path was for!) and her ability to create intimacy on such a large stage (often sitting at the edge of the stage, singing to fans with outstretched hands).
If not for the martial law approach to scanning badges and lack of adult beverages, Memorial Stadium would’ve been the best venue at Bumbershoot. Luckily, such first-world problems were quickly forgotten by day’s end. The night ended with surprisingly well-timed Bumbershoot-wide fireworks above the various stages. The crowd streamed slowly out with smiles on their faces, worn out and content with the performances.
Click on the image below to check out more of our pictures from this year’s Bumbershoot 2017.