Bumbershoot 2009 Festival Preview
Here’s How to Stalk Tyson Lynn this Weekend
Saturday, September 5
Natalie Portman’s Shaved Head
NataLie Portman’s Shaved Head is easily the worst band name at Bumbershoot this year. However they will be bringing one the best, energetic sets to the weekend festival. Odd how these things work out.
Formed by Luke Smith and Shaun Libman back in the day at The Center Shool, NPSH is built around winking acknowledgement of their influences (Devo, electroclash), skill limitations (they started on keyboards and drum machines ‘cause that’s what they knew), and the understandable, ubiquitous motivation of every band member ever: to attract sexy people. Despite their incorrigible flirting with low-minded art prank, NPSH opened big and kept trending upwards.
After a first gig at the 826 Seattle writing center and Greenwood Space Travel Company, they’ve gone on to play internationally with CSS, Matt & Kim, The Go Team; continentally with Lily Allen; and indefatigably for thousands, save the one you might expect. She’s always on the guest list, though, in the off chance she drops by. One of the perks of being in the band name.
Glistening Pleasure, NPSH’s debut full-length, dropped a little over a year ago, and work on the follow-up continues. While we wait to see how that shakes out, you can get shook up at the Broad Street Stage Saturday at 2:30, when unstoppable dance-pop meets immovable punk in a beautiful quake of people.
The Whore Moans
Unapologetic and inspired, The Whore Moans have climbed out of the rock trenches to the top of Mt. Fuji. Taking cues from roadhouse rockers, rollers, and shit-talkers, da Moans don’t so much craft songs as boyishly hurl riffs off cliffsides and let em become men on the way down.
But there’s nothing angry about their approach. They come on like like four guys who think a little loud never hurt nobody and come off all sweaty and alive. Hello From the Radiowasteland just dropped on Mt. Fuji Records last year, and the single “Holy Fucking Moment” can be found on the fantastic new edition of the Live at KEXP series. Both show off the band’s irrepressible hooks and brawling energy.
Thee (it’s only a matter of time) Whore Moans play the EMP Sky Church at 6:30. My suggestion: get in early and get up front. You’re gonna make a lot of friends. Four of them are in the band.
Telekinesis makes smart, twisty songs. Songwriter Michael Lerner (also: drummer and vocalist) keeps it humble, though, hiding the craft under earnest melodies and deceptively easy hooks. Music like this sounds easier to make than it is. Their newest, the more or less self-titled Telekinesis!, recently got picked up by Merge Records, and for good reason.
Written during trips abroad and across, <i>Telekinesis!</i> was produced, engineered, and mixed by Chris Walla; he and Lerner spent only one day per song, tracked and mixed, before waking up and starting on the next. You wouldn’t know it. Lerner’s sweet voice and fills are propulsive, the mix clean and pleasing.
Onstage, Lerner is joined by guitarists David Broecker and Chris Staples, and bassist/keyboardist Jonie Broecker. If you want these songs stuck in your head, they’re on it with fearsome cohesion. If you don’t, then you’re being obstinate for no reason. Knock it off and listen:
Wasn’t that lovely? Wanna hear it again? Telekinesis plays the EMP Sky Church stage at 8:00.
Sunday, September 6
I’ve seen Hey Marseilles couple dozen times now, and I’ve never once been disappointed, except for those labels that keep refusing to pick them up for whatever reason. Perhaps they’re distracted by something shiny.
Anyhoo, Hey Marseilles is one the best unsigned Seattle bands playing these days, a 7-top wash of sound from the sort of seas Greeks used to base epic poems around. Featuring its own string section, a trumpeter, accordion, a couple guitars, I think a mandolin, and–last time I saw them, anyway–a tuba, HM yokes far-flung influences to the service of effortlessly singable songs. Try this one on for size:
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And you really should sing these songs, if you know them. If you don’t, here’s your chance to get started. Hey Marseilles play the Broad Street Stage at 12:45.
A former member of Seattle’s seminal Carissa’s Weird, Sera Cahoone took a left-field path to her own fame, acknowledging her past by tackling her roots; y’know, the ol alt-country line. Maybe that’s too breezy. Sera’s been in the dirt awhile.
After clambering on stage as a pre-teen to hold a beat for some bluesmen, she’s never really climbed off. A stint in the Weird, some time with Band of Horses, and now her newest release on Sub Pop, Only As the Day Is Long. Following the same gentle muse as her self-titled debut, OATDIL explores atmospheric countryside, soundtracked by crickets, lit by fireflies. Check out:
Her band is staffed with several awesomely talented sidemen, notably Jeff Fielder, who plays slide like he majored in recess and minored in your mom. They’re playing the Starbucks stage at 6:00. Be ready to swoon.
Brett Dennen always manages to come out ahead of easy comparisons. Smarter than Jason Mraz, cheerier than that Brit David Gray, leaner than Dave Matthews, he’s carved out a nice little niche in adult contemporary:
The public has definitely responded. His songs have tracked moments on Roadtrip Nation, Grey’s Anatomy, The Unit, and House; and he, himself, has played to the nation on Conan, Ellen, and Leno. Three albums into his career, he’s toured with Guster and Rodrigo y Gabriela. He’s kind of a big thing? Hell, Rolling Stone said so.
But more than that, he’s a genuinely nice guy* who puts his talent towards higher service. From Dennen’s Wiki: Dennen has been a part of The Mosaic Project, a San Frcisco Bay Area-based non-profit organization, since its inception. The Mosaic Project works towards a peaceful future by uniting young children of diverse backgrounds, providing them with essential skills to thrive in an increasingly diverse society, and empowering them to strive for peace. As The Mosaic Project’s Resident Rock Star, Dennen created an original musical curriculum for the program, which they released as an album called Children’s Songs for Peace and a Better World, in 2003. It won a Children’s Music Web 2004 Award and a Parent’s Choice 2004 Approved Award.
Do you think he gets business cards with that title on them? I hope he does. Dennen plays the Starbucks stage at 8:45. We should ask him.
*I’ve interviewed him, which is why I can make that claim. Of course, he could of just been on his best behavior, being on record and all.
Monday, September 7
Janelle Monae is a cyberfunk time-traveling goddess. And has she got a story for you. See, in the future, an Alpha Platinum 9000 android is on the run after falling in love with a human being which is totes illegal. Doesn’t make sense? Don’t worry. Your grandchildren will explain it to you later, after you once again completely muck up the ocular interlace receiver in the rest pod. Geez!
Like George Clinton before her, Monae uses this off-kilter backstory to cyclepump head-nodding funk into your wavy lobes. Get on the mothership:
Reprogramming your hips with high-bandwidth beat transmissions, Monae is every bit the performer you see above. She came through Seattle a few months back and unexpectedly stole the Showbox from headliner Jamie Lidell. Which was ultimately good, since it turns out the Showbox was the last piece Lidell needed to complete his bio-mesh exovirus. It could have been a bad night for a lot of people.
In addition to her onstage chops, Monae is also a founder of the Wondaland Arts Society–an Atlanta-based studio, independent record label, and mystery school that designs capes for superheroes and art for aliens. It’s hard to say for sure, but I think two-thirds of that is definitely true.
Monae takes the Fisher Green Stage at 5:45. This is a show you should not miss. One–once we reach year 2084, when time-excursions become commercially viable–you should see again.
The Beta Society
With their roots in improv (quite a few Jet City alums), The Beta Society doesn’t have a hard and fast structure, although I do after watching this:
Since most of their output is filmed shorts, I’m supercurious as to what their live show holds. Capsac sale pitches? Gorillas fellating lectern mics? Scenes from a hat? Who the hell knows? Well, you will. The Beta Society holds court at 1:15 on Comedy Stage West. I’ll see you there.
There’s a path out by Jacobsen’s plot, towards the southwest corner where he started and abandoned the barn, that takes off into the fields. It’s mostly overgrown, with weeds at least waist-high at all times and in the summer higher. Since hardly anyone uses it, it’s pretty common to lose where you’re going and have to turn back to re-read the ground. If you get through dead stick valley, you’ll end up way high up on the north face of the crag. The older kids, the experienced ones, do it at night. The view is exceptional. You grow up there. You grow until the stars brush your skin and their old light is your own.
That moment there is what Akron/Family is always after:
I’m doing a terrible job of describing their sound in technical terms, but that’s ok. Akron/Family is a band best described in feeling, not specifics. They play the Broad Street Stage at 6. Of everyone at Bumbershoot this weekend, A/K are who I’m most excited to experience.