By 2007 I felt like a Bumbershoot savant. I knew when to stand in line for comedy, how early you needed to go to the Sky Church, and, finally, to wait until Sunday afternoon to splurge on precious Flatstock booty. By the final day of the festival, I was looking for a low-key spot to start off the end of my weekend.
On that Monday afternoon, I was in solemn repose, perched in the high seats of Memorial Stadium, passively waiting for John Legend, an artist popular enough that I recognized his name but little else. He, at least, would provide a velvety milieu while I plotted out the rest of my day.
From what I remember, it was a really beautiful afternoon. Since Bumbershoot sits at the precipice of autumn, the weather is somewhat of a crapshoot. Generally speaking, the weekend is a glorious encore before the entire city dusts off their pea-coats and thick socks, and gets rained on for nine dark months. Only one Bumbershoot weekend sticks out as having terrible weather all three days, and I’m certain everyone left with head-colds and the only true winners existed within our pho economy.
But that afternoon was crystal clear as Legend took the stage and began coolly running his hands down the keys, producing a twinkly backdrop to complement the classical soulfulness of his voice. He was so at ease, his movements seemed unnaturally fluid. I distinctly remember when he started into “Ordinary People” and people near the stage rushed over, looking like molecules trapped in a chemical reaction from above.
He ran through a few of his own songs, album singles probably, before addressing the audience. The man, whose stage name was bestowed upon him by Yeezus himself due to having a legendary voice, cheerily offered up some banter before running through popular songs famously sung by other artists. I assumed he was doing some sort of pop medley before he stopped to explain he’d written all those songs.
While I was initially drawn to live music for the raucous camaraderie of a sweaty basement show, Legend’s polished bravado appealed to me in a similar sense. Here was a hyper-talented musician quietly feeding hit songs into his set, giving both a new perspective on hit songs and allowing a stadium full of people to feel as though they’re in on a pseudo-secret. He was unabashedly bookending song snippets with “Oh, betcha didn’t know I wrote this” and “I know I didn’t keep this one, but I love it so much I’m just gonna do a bit of it.” Legend wasn’t putting on a traditional performance so much he was exploring a musical train of thought. He was happy to oblige random suggestions from people, sometimes resorting to “No, they do it much better” or “What?! I didn’t write that one!” We weren’t a massive group of paying audience members; we were transported to his living room on a warm post-brunch Sunday. He made a stadium feel cozy.
I implore you to see at least three artists you know nothing about during each day. In 2007 the following artists played smaller stages and were deceptively easy to miss if you were careless (like me): St. Vincent, Fleet Foxes, Tokyo Police Club, Viva Voce, The Avett Brothers, Devendra Banhart, Andrew Bird, and practically a billion others.
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)
- Man Man (2008)
- Monotonix (2008)
- Patton Oswalt (2009)
- Macklemore & Ryan Lewis (2011)