I love music festivals. And, living in the Bay Area, we get plenty of them. In fact, I think I’ve spent more weekends at music festivals than not this Summer, without having to travel anywhere. However, sometimes you’ve got to see how it’s done elsewhere. So I ventured up north to Seattle to enjoy some surprisingly sunny and warm weather and the 42nd edition of the Bumbershoot Festival.
The first thing I noticed about Bumbershoot was how quick and easy it was getting in. Everyone working the main door was incredibly happy. I’ve never had a more pleasurable experience entering a festival. They made sure we had maps and schedules, and were very, very friendly. They were also really helpful. Pre-show research told me that everyone with a ticket to the event got a ticket to one comedy show per day. Since they were still subject to capacity, I asked where to go to get a comedy ticket. They gave me clear and quick directions. Once I made it to the line, I saw that there were quite a few people there. However, the line moved rather quickly. Sadly, I didn’t get to the show early enough to see Patton Oswalt. I did get tickets for Competitive Erotic Fan Fiction instead. A delightful second choice. Even better was that the line was right along the Fountain Lawn Stage.
I wasn’t expecting to see this band. I actually had The Mowgli’s written down as the band I wanted to see first. However, Redwood Plan’s perky electro pop was exactly what I wanted. I was bummed that Charlie XCX couldn’t make it, but Redwood Plan more than made up for the missing pop. They managed to take the Icona Pop (another band that bailed on the fest) brand of sexy and perky pop music. They managed to get the early afternoon crowd up and dancing, too! A very pleasant surprise.
Tegan and Sara
After feeling comfortable with the fact that I got to enjoy the comedy show that I wished for, it was time to really explore. While exploring, I ended up accidentally stumbling across the Key Arena. It’s kind of a trip to be at an outdoor music festival where the main stage is indoors and feels like a regular headlining arena tour. They split the arena up into two sets with an opener and a headliner. The early set was Tegan and Sara & fun. I walked in and found some pretty good seats. (A music festival with seats to watch the big bands? Wow!) Tegan and Sara took the stage to rapturous applause. They played a set that was for more synth oriented than previous sets I’ve seen them do, and they played with the most energy they’ve ever exuded. The crowd was amazing, too. There was an actual circle pit in the crowd, which may be a first in the entire history of the band.
Los Angeles’ FIDLAR were the band I was most excited about seeing. And, despite how small the crowd was, it was definitely one of the most excitable. The crowd was in a full on mosh from the first chord, with nobody in front of the stage standing still. The band itself played a brilliant brand of NOFX styled pop punk. The hooks were infectious, the lyrics were snotty, and the banter was even snottier. They even threw out in the middle of the set an unrecognizable cover of Nick Cave’s “Red Right Hand.” It was an uncharacteristically serious moment in an otherwise cheerful set. The best part? Jared Leto’s phone number was written on the bass amp. 661-904-0973, in case you were wondering. Leto loves it when you call him and ask him questions about My So Called Life.
Competitive Erotic Fan Fiction
One of my favorite parts of Outside Lands was Competitive Erotic Fan Fiction. I liked it so much that I opted not to see WTF with Mark Maron to enjoy the best premise for a comedy show ever. This time we got to enjoy it with a slew of gifted Seattle comics in order to tell us sexy tales of our favorite books, movies, and historical figures. The brilliant Emmett Montgomery opened the show with one of the most beautiful pieces of writing I have ever heard: the story of Jim Henson and Frank Oz in the style of Ray Bradbury. It was brilliant. Not quite as deep was Travis Vogt’s bee on human sexy tale inspired by Bee Movie. Douglas Gale treated us to a dirty tale of Bill Gates. Derek Sheen opted for a tale of Bumbershoot itself. Shane Torres told a tale of Die Hard, specifically Bruce Willis and Michael Winslow doing insavory things together. New York funnyman Dave Hill thrilled us with tales of the production of The Princess Bride. The most entertaining one, however, was when an audience member asked Sean Jordan to tell a tale of Zardoz. He didn’t know what Zardoz was, so he opted to tell a tale of how he didn’t know what Zardoz was. And made sure sex was involved.
Mates Of State
Right outside the theater where Erotic Fan Fiction happened, Mates of State were halfway through their set. I maneuvered myself through the crowd and found a great spot for one of Barsuk Records’ finest acts doing a greatest hits set. Unlike several recent Mates of State tours, this set was just the Kori Gardner on keys and vocals and Jason Hammel on drums. No violinist or guitarist to fill out the sound, making it feel just like old times. These duo is one of the most well oiled machines in rock. This couple, who have been married for years, have the best chemistry in music, It was great fun to enjoy music that I could sing along with.
I had just seen The Breeders play The Fillmore a few days prior to the festival. They played The Last Splash and Pod, the bands first two records beginning to end. It was one of the best sets I have ever enjoyed by any band. They were playful, energetic, and played a those records with great fluidity. Tonight, and I really hate saying this, as they are one of my favorite bands, but this set left a bit to be desired. There was something off from the very beginning of the set. Josephine Wiggs and Kelley Deal both seemed full of life and energetic. However, there was something wrong on the right side of the stage. Kim Deal couldn’t look straight at the crowd, and whenever she tried to talk to the crowd, she just couldn’t do it. She eventually confessed to being a bit stoned. This explained why she flubbed a fair amount of music and lyrics, and it was all just stiff. There was a moment where it Wiggs glared at Deal. It was still a fun set full of some of the best bits of songwriting of the rock n roll era.
After a The Breeders stumbled through The Last Splash, I decided to skip seeing Pod again and headed to the Starbucks Stage to see another groundbreaking band. I made it in time to see them play their biggest hit, “Time Of The Season.” Lead singer Colin Blundstone’s voice was as crisp and beautiful as it was 46 years ago when the song was first recorded. The rest of the set consisted primarily of post-Zombies material (The band was broken up for 40 years) that leaned for towards the prog rock sounds, but without the pretense and boombast of many progressive rock bands. They closed up with another classic 60’s track- “She’s Not There”- and it looked like they wanted to keep going, however they had already gone nearly 30 minutes over their allotted set time. I feel I made the wrong decision and should have caught this set instead.
Matt & Kim
I’ve been hearing about Matt & Kim for ages. I was told that they were “pure, concentrated happiness.” Sure enough, this drum and keys duo exceeded these expectations. There was pure, unadulterated energy with the crowd dancing up a storm. The setlist was perfectly designed for maximum crowd enjoyment. They balanced out the originals with several excerpts of hits ranging from Alice Deejay’s “Better Off Alone,” Salt n Pepa’s “Push It,” Bauer’s “Harlem Shake” and more. Both Matt & Kim were full of ecstatic energy that borderlined on ADD. Early on the set, Kim went into the crowd to dance on the audience, only to push Matt out to do the same roughly 45 minutes later. It was by far the most fun I’ve ever had with live music. I can’t wait to see them play their own show.