Bumbershoot 2009 Review
Monday, September 7, 2009
By Greg Lehman
Every year Seattle either trades their 4th of July weather for their Memorial Day Weekend weather or vice versa. Since we had a great 4th, it seemed only fair for the weather to be crappy for Bumbershoot.
On the flipside, crappy weather means less people and less people means I got to see more in the span of 10 hours than I ever had at this festival: The Cave Singers, The Knux, The Minus 5, Say Hi, The Lonely Forest, The New Mastersounds, Mirah, Oren Lavie and three art installments. The only thing I couldn’t get into was the comedy. Apparently people like to laugh.
Arriving via shame train – the number 5 bus – the weather kicked into absolute downpour as soon as I got off. Being from Seattle I have the ability to walk
between raindrops, which is why I (like other locals) do not own an umbrella, so the weather didn’t really phase me.
First stop was the on-air KEXP concert with The Cave Singers. With my rain-dodging ability steadily losing ground to the day’s
actual weather, a women in-line (ironically named Hope) shared her umbrella. This is how the whole day went – not only were performers better at Bumbershoot than I remembered them sounding elsewhere, they seemed relatable, endearing and downright hilarious at times.
Take the Cave Singers for example. I’ve been a fan of their blend of one part Fleetwood Mac and one part O Brother Where Art Thou since picking up their album Invitation Songs, but I had never seen them live. Not only did this rag tag bunch of locals
impress me, but they had the entire water-logged crowd mesmerized to their hillbilly stomp. They played all their familiar hits and towards the end of “Dancing On Our Graves” came to a hilarious crashing halt. Tank-top wearing lead singer, Pete Quirk, pointed out that this was the first time their drummer had been trapped in a panic room (regarding the Plexiglas panels surrounding him) and went on to promise that, their evening show, “something would be put in someone” then he paused and laughed to himself… “well that’s what she said.”
Next I headed towards The Knux only to catch the part in every rap show where they say “get money money… somebody scream.” This time it was to House Of Pain’s “Jump Around” (a song that needs to be boxed up and buried) with the onstage
crowd and familiar audience jumping. I heard no rap, just hype, and then it ended. To be fair I asked a few of the crowd members and they said it was a great show.
Sub-pop comedian Eugene Mirman was next on my list, but the line extended too far and my pass was only good if I arrived 15 minutes prior. I decided to walk around and caught Peter Buck’s The Minus 5 and a straight-forward Modest Mouse sounding Say Hi before heading over to the EMP to see 2006 Sound Off! winners, The Lonely Forest.
The Lonely Forest has the crowd draw of the Jonas Brothers and the showmanship of Coldplay, but their music is what makes them a strong band. Part pop, part rock with poetic lyrics that kick the emotion bone, the Anacortes Four are of the same ilk as Pearl Jam and Death Cab For Cutie. With the right exposure these guys are destined to be huge yet they remain firmly grounded and family oriented (the drummer’s dad acts as their guitar tech during the shows).
After playing all their hits, hat swapping, and singing with the crowd they ended their set with the tremendously catchy “We Sing In Time”. There was something quite beautiful as the young and the old sing the chorus “In time trees die and light will fade. But I hope for a new breath, a new life to take me away” together.
Mirah‘s dreamy shoeless ballads flowed with innocence out into the largely female crowd. As the wind blew through the stage it acted almost as a back-up singer to the mid temp music creating the perfect combination of nature and artistic expression.
The New Mastersounds were plugging away at some deep funk as I headed over to the Rockstar Energy Drink Vert Ramp. I couldn’t believe the sheer bravery of these X-gamers. Not only were they performing on an incredibly insane ramp, but it had just stopped raining. I watched for about 15 minutes then headed to Northwest Court Stage to catch Oren Lavie.
Lavie’s show was a combination of Leonard Cohen and Tom Waits and a level of fun sophistication that reminded me of those KCTS Michael Buble specials. I caught about five songs then disappeared into the deeply tucked away art galleries. The most impressive was the interactive life model drawing, sowing, graffiti wall and music. Not being diagnosed with ADHD this quickly became too much going on for the size of the room and I needed to escape to my home and food. A fitting end to a day at Bumbershoot.