It was another beautiful day at Seattle’s Bumbershoot Festival, which was surprising considering the weather was supposed to be overcast for most of the weekend. This set the stage for some impressive performances by some of the best up and coming bands from the North West.
I had some time to kill before my first act so I wandered over to the Flatstock showcase at the Center Building. If you ever wanted a concert poster by your favorite band by one of the best concert poster designers in the business, Flatstock is the way to go. Basically the convention showcased hundreds upon hundreds of concert posters as well as designer t-shirts to curious music fans. I for one gravitated toward the Dead Weather posters (which are always so dark and creepy) but ended up buying a Conan O’Brien poster as well as a few other gifts for myself and the lady. If there is one thing that annoyed me about the whole convention, it was that I could not buy the whole place up.
First up I watched the entire set of Portland based folk act, Horse Feathers. As a huge fan of their recent release, Thistled Spring, it was nice to hear the new songs presented in front of an unfamiliar crowd. The most noticeable aspect of the show had to have been the immensely respectable silence that occurred during each song by Horse Feathers. It’s almost as if they paralyzed the audience for 4 minutes at a time with their brand of delicate and honest string-based folk music. I can’t recommend seeing these guys enough and stress that you check out their latest record.
[mp3] Horse Feathers – Belly of June from Thistled Spring (2010)
After Horse Feathers I made my way to the Charlotte Martin Theatre to catch a live taping of comedian Marc Maron’s podcast, WTF Podcast. As a dedicated listener of the show, it was nice to watch Marc’s love for his syndicated program as well as his connection with fellow comedians and guests Patton Oswalt, Doug Bensen, Donald Glover, and Eddie Pepitone. Not to mention the hilarious Nick Kroll’s character, El Chupacabra. Some topics of discussion included the manifesto of the Discovery Channel kidnapper, the rise of Don Glover, and Eddie Pepitone’s fight with a Bumbershoot attendee the night before. Hilarity ensued.
I wandered around a bit more after the WTF Podcast and checked out Lonely H, who seem a bit too polished for my taste. Next I was impressed by the lyrical workings of Seattle’s Hey Marseilles, who sound like a younger and more naive version of The Decemberists or The Mountain Goats. It’s only a matter of time before they will be headlining their own festival; so you better get on these guys quick.
[mp3] Hey Marseilles – Rio from To Travels & Trunks (2010)
I then made it over to see Surfer Blood rock out at the KEXP lounge. It wasn’t any different from the last time I’d seen the band; tight grunge crescendos, subtle dance moves from the lead vocalist, and manic behavior from the keyboardist/drummer with the afro-esqe hair. I will admit that they’re always fun to see live, however I feel like I’ve been overexposed by the band despite them releasing their debut album this year.
[mp3] Surfer Blood – Swim from Astro Coast (2010)
While I didn’t see Hole perform acoustically (above) or at the main stage; I did hear that Ms. Courtney Love was her usual trainwreck self. The acoustic set included a sloppy version of Pearl Jam’s Jeremy and a few newer songs that no one probably knew. There was that trademark banter that people know so well; which featured her blabbing about how the local paper portrayed her as a mess (I wonder why) and how she wonders how her band can even stand her. Join the club Courtney.
A few local Seattle bands on Sunday were able to convince me that the city has a blossoming scene of some unique acts. Particularly Fences, who looks like an ex-punk rock headkicker turned singer-songwriter. His voice and style is painted with experience of hard times and heartbreaking loss. I’ll be researching this guy a bit more. In addition, I caught a few songs by Ra Ra Riot, who still sound like a poor-man’s version of Vampire Weekend even with the new tunes. Plus I was able to see Motion City Soundtrack bust out a few pop punk songs to a sea of adoring fans. While very animated on stage, the music is pretty much for anyone that hasn’t graduated high school yet.
[mp3] Ra Ra Riot – Boy from The Orchard (2010)
[mp3] Fences – My Girl the Horse from Fences (2010)
While I did miss Bouncing Souls at the Center Stage, I was able to see them perform acoustically a few hours after their main performance. While I’m not too familiar with their music, it was quite humorous to hear an acousitc version of their aptly titled song, East Coast! Fuck You!
Going from straight-up punk rock to chillwave / dance, I stuck around for Spain’s Delorean. Not only did the band sound fantastic, but the energy and postivity they displayed was palphable. So much so that the audience went completely nuts. It was nice to see so many people skip Hole’s performance at the main stage and enjoy this genuinely creative band. They played almost all of their critically acclaimed recent full length, Subiza, much to the delight of the adoring crowd.
[mp3] Delorean – Stay Close from Subiza(2010)
Those who also wished to skip the Generation X-fest going on at the main stage made their way to the Starbucks Stage to watch prolific UK folk punk artist, Billy Bragg. While I only caught a few songs, it was clear that Billy still has that magnetic humor and commedable candidness he’s been known for over 30 years. A real treat for anyone that enjoys true-hearted songwriting.
After Bragg I snagged a decent spot for Weezer, a band I had no expectations for considering I haven’t listened to a Weezer record in years. Nor have I heard much about their live shows. Once they started though, it was clear that this was a band that does not hold back. I’ll admit, it was probably the best show of the night. I felt 14 again with songs like Undone, El Scorcho, Say It’s Ain’t So, and Surf Wax America. I even found myself enjoying somewhat mediocre songs like Beverly Hills, Hash Pipe, and Pork and Beans. Rivers definitely has as much, if not more energy as any other pop rock band out there right now; leaping off speakers, climbing up bleachers, leaning into the audience, and making the stage his own. Around the tail end of the show, the band broke into an MGMT cover mash-up with Lady GaGa’s Poker Face, which makes sense considering River’s love for mindless pop music. Only the most cynical person could not enjoy themselves that night.
Surf Wax America
Dope Nose (Scott Shriner on lead vocals)
Say It Ain’t So
Island in the Sun
My Name Is Jonas
Hot for Teacher
Pork and Beans
Kids (MGMT cover)
Poker Face Played within Kids (Lady Gaga cover)
(If You’re Wondering If I Want You to) I Want You To
I was pretty satisfied with how smooth the festival was running at this point. Barely anyone ran late, the stages were a fair distance away, and with the many acts performing at the same time, nothing seemed overcrowded and disorganized. Plus the weather was cooperating. It wasn’t until Day Three where all that would change…
written by Shawn Robbins
photos by Shawn Robbins and Erin Lodi