Reviews

Bumbershoot 2011: 5 September 2011 - Seattle

Greg Bem

This is festival. This is festive. But we're almost exhausted after running around for nearly 28 hours in the past two days.

Bumbershoot Music and Arts Festival

City: Seattle
Venue: Seattle Center
Date: 2011-09-05

Monday was the day of Reckoning. All bets were off. Joe and I were equally exhausted from running around for nearly 28 hours the previous two days. We decided to take it easy, cover what we could, and make it out alive. We showed up later than usual, rushing through the waves of heat, not really know or caring what to think, but just accepting what we had planned, and making half an effort to go through with said plans. At this point your ankles are in pain. Every move you make feels like it might be the one where your leg gives and you have to sit down, have to tell someone: I can’t go on, I’m just going to sit here for a while. That didn’t happen. We did have strength left.

I got to see an amazing performance by Charles Bradley at the Music Lounge. He spread his wings, that Screaming Eagle of Soul, and let out that voice like his life depended on it, and his life did, and does, depend on it. The bass guitar, the trumpet, the keys, the drums, the sax -- the band as white as can be were utterly unnoticeable. I was all Charles, and he made me shiver with the red coat lighting the stage up like a machine, a machine from another era but was perfect then and is perfect now. Joe arrived right before the set ended and snapped a few photos before sitting down, disregarding his role to just watch. I would have been satisfied with just that performance to last the whole day, but I got up and faced the music -- the other music. It was sad.

We moved to the Sky Church to see DJ Introcut, but got there too early. I stared at the swirls beaming down from some nook in the walls and watched them spill around like liquid light. The venue never failed to impress. With his two turntables and his Macbook opened, Introcut's bass/hip hop/glitch mode, combined with the aggressive scratching, was somewhat pleasurable but nothing worth writing home about. We slowly walked past the food carts, pretty much entirely of disgust, and stopped by Head Like Kite, who also provided little in the ways of satisfaction. They sported white costumes with red, white and blue eagles printed on the fronts. The drums, guitars, synths -- it was all lackluster compared to the other acts. We were tired and when Dave Einmo cheerfully screamed at the audience “I wanna see you people dance!” we were still tired. Einmo started chanting “The roof is on fire” and I knew that was our cue to get out.

Joe and I trekked without much care over to the Bagley Wright Theatre, a venue we hadn’t yet ventured into. It was gorgeous and begs a return, soon! Whim W’Him was the ballet performance we went to check out, and I’m so glad we did. Featuring the work of Olivier Wevers, a Pacific Northwest Ballet principal dancer. The two scenes of the collection we saw featured couples dancing in provocative, new forms. I’m not a connoisseur but I could tell these dances held a certain level of important where avant garde art is concerned. In the first dance, two males dressed in grey and red moved back and forth across the stage in an elegant, horrifying reliance upon one another. The representation of the relationship was exquisite. As one dancer showed his pride and beauty, another was lost in pain and shame. There was the symbolic gesture of covering the face, and the dualistic pointing into a singular direction. I didn’t want it to end, but it had to. The second dance featured a male and female and it covered equal themes beneath an auditory banner of heavy electronic bass/percussion. The dancers, lying on the ground the majority of the time, manipulated each other’s body in animalistic/electric fashions. Repositioning, dragging, and dominating were all forces at play.

Though we wanted to stay, we instinctively knew we had to keep moving. There was only a small amount of energy left and we needed to see as much as possible with it as our motivation. We checked out the extremely impressive Purity Ring, who used an abstract “light tree” (a strange form of drum machine/responsive percussion instrument), and glitch/pitch-bending vocals to produce a more youthful, spastic Bjork sound. The show took place on the Third Level of the EMC, and it was the first and only indie show (and first non-jazz!) we got to witness there.

Before Joe and I decided to call it quits and return to our bubbles of silence, we checked out three acts. YACHT played at the Fountain Lawn stage. The crowd was not nearly as enthusiastic as I thought it would be, but it was huge nonetheless. Following, we checked out Dom, lo-fi rockers based out of Worcester. They played what they played well but it was just another testament to a genre long-since established and perfected. Finally, we checked out the Dennis Coffey set, whose funk/jam session lasted well over an hour and was well beyond the range of music we were interested in devoting ourselves to. Instead, we wrapped up the day by browsing the giant room full of print-screen vendors and making a few final rounds throughout the grounds before bouncing.

Had we the energy, we could have seen Phantogram, who apparently were amazing, say the reports. And we missed Lake, and Vendetta Red, and Sharon Van Etten, and the Reverend Horton Heat, and Hall & Oates, and the legendary Grant Lee Buffalo. There were things that the human body kept us from seeing, experiencing, but that said, what we did was good. Some of it was weird, as is the tradition of Bumbershoot, and some of it was highly accessible and easy to digest. The grounds were impressive and the festival as a whole never too out of control. What it comes down to is merely adventuring into it. With minor preparation, an extremely packed and extremely rewarding series of events are not that difficult to jump into.

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