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Don’t Fear the Bumber: Chris on the Festival’s Last Day

Posted by September 11th, 2008 No Comments »

Bumbershoot Blog 2008
Day 3: Monday, September 1
By Chris McCann 

The last day of Bumbershoot – a pleasantly breezy day drifting from sunny to overcast. The crowds, while heavy in places, are sparse compared to earlier days, and everyone here has the mellow, slightly bleary good cheer that comes at the end of a long, debauched weekend. Photographer Jolie Bergman and I grab our credentials and head in.

Mark Pickerel and His Praying Hands
When original Screaming Trees drummer Mark Pickerel isn’t jetting off to London or Spain to play drums for Truly, he’s here in Seattle helming his local alt-country supergroup the Praying Hands, with occasional help from Steve Fisk, Heather Duby and the Sangster brothers. Today, we come upon Mark and company launching into a salsified version of Leonard Cohen’s “Bird on a Wire”, followed by “Graffiti Girl” from the much-lauded recent album Cody’s Dream. The twangy ballads go over just right with the sunny crowd, and Johnny Sangster’s crackling guitar lines bring the whole thing to life.

From a sunny lawn to a faux-rave in the EMP Sky Church, where Greives are throwing down a sample-heavy hip hop set. I wasn’t able to find out much about these guys, but “This Is What I Do” grooves along smoothly, and the vocalist switches easily between a slacker rhyme flow and some sultry baritone R&B singing.

On the way out of the Sky Church, photographer Jolie Bergman suggests a ride on the old Windstorm roller coaster. Your reporter, with some trepidation, agrees. After the first drop, I spend the rest of the ride with my eyes shut and my teeth clamped together, bracing for the moment of impact when the aged coaster sends us flying into the concrete like so much hamburger. Thankfully this moment does not come and we are free to resume our journey.

Blitzen Trapper
We head down to the Rockstar Energy Drink(tm) stage for a band I’ve been curious about: Blitzen Trapper has already produced enough hype to short-circuit my record buying impulse until people can basically come to their senses (similarly I hope to give the first Vampire Weekend record a listen come spring 2011). A live exposure was needed, and I came away happy enough with the results. Blitzen Trapper has three guitars, three vintage synths, and more random toys than a Carrot Top concert. Their sound wanders from the kind of dancey, punked out thing I was expecting all the way into a druggy, funky mush that reminds me of the Eagles with ADHD. In every song there is at least a minute of stuff I liked, and at least two minutes of stuff I could do without. Overall I give em a tentative thumbs up and plan on giving the record a chance.

As you can see, they put them on the big stage in order to keep them separated.

As you can see, they put them on the big stage in order to “keep them separated”

The Physics
Back on the main lawn, the Physics are riling up the steadily growing crowd with some old school hip hop, arguing with each other about which side of the lawn can get the livest, and exhorting us to shout our lungs out, which most of us happily do. The Physics are repping South Seattle, but bring out the agile rapper Yiddim to speak for the CD on “Gotta Let Em Know”. This is some pure, no-frills, West Coast hip hop goodness, and the group has the main lawn eating out of their hands.

Weird Opera People On Poles
Not sure what to say about this – some weird opera people balance on poles up above the fountain lawn, dressed as vagabonds and elegant ladies with white greasepaint faces, singing or miming to some opera-type recording. No one seems to know quite what to make of it. We stare for a while, then move along.

The Offspring
On “Keep ‘Em Separated”, they have some huge dude walk up to the mic and do the title part, and I find myself wondering whether this is the guy who did it on the original recording, or whether they maybe invite a different person up at each show to do it, or maybe there was a contest? Then I realize that I don’t care, not even a little bit.

That Old Guy with The Purple Thing
Oh old guy, with your purple blanket or cape or whatever, dancing around shirtless on the lawn, your ragged grey locks whirling, what would outdoor music festivals be without you? I’m pretty sure guys like these never have to pay to get in – the event staff sees them coming and just waves them on through.

Langhorne Slim and the War Eagles
Photographer Jolie Bergman and I decide to sample the wares of the Bumbershoot beer garden, said wares turning out to be five dollar kegger cups of lukewarm Miller Lite. While we enjoy this repast, we lend our ears to the dulcet strains of Langhorne Slim, whose jangly yelpin-and-yowlin nu-folk sound places him somewhere between the Mountain Goats and a happy Neutral Milk Hotel, if such a thing can be imagined. The backing band is in fine shape, and Slim’s painfully simple (think Sesame Street) lyrics find a special place in some listeners hearts, at least as evidenced by the long line of well-wishers waiting to shake his hand as he steps offstage.

There are two of them.  They are gallant.  Or so they would have us believe...

There are two of them. They are gallant. Or so they would have us believe…

Two Gallants
It’s been many years since the days when Tyson and Adam Gallant would roll into town to throw down at a punk house party on Delridge or in the Central District. These days you’re more likely to catch them on Jimmy Kimmel or at the Redding Festival, so it was nice to be able to see them again without binoculars. Of course they left no doubt in anyone’s mind as to how they’ve come so far: their songs are heartbreaking, breathtaking landscapes of American loss, hope, love and despair. Every year on the road sharpens their delivery, and every show is a harrowing experience that one feels lucky to survive.

Death Cab For Cutie
There was some discussion about staying to see Death Cab. It was a short discussion.

That’s it for this year! Viva la Bumbershoot!

Photos by Jolie Bergman

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