Reviews

Bumbershoot feat. Joss Stone, John Legend, Wu-Tang Clan, the Shins, Fergie, and Panic! At the Disco

John Legend

PopMatters' Steve Horowitz braves the Seattle sun (!?), bringing you the highlights of Bumbershoot 2007.

Bumbershoot 2007

Bumbershoot feat. Joss Stone, John Legend, Wu-Tang Clan, the Shins, Fergie, and Panic! At the Disco

City: Seattle, WA
Venue: Seattle Center
Date: 2007-09

While the weather in Seattle is always cause for concern, the two biggest problems at this year’s Bumbershoot were 1) deciding who to see at the seven musical stages, three comedy venues, and four film and performing arts venues (not to mention the studio galleries), and 2) competing with the large crowds of people drawn out by the quality of the performers and the unusually sunny conditions. No simple answers to these dilemmas existed. One simply had to choose who or what to see knowing that something else good was happening nearby, and that, not mater what choice you made, hundreds of other people were sure to make the same one. That said, the three-day event still held many highlights: in the first concert I attended, beloved Australian act Crowded House played old hits and new songs to a crowd that included Seattle native Eddie Vedder (who later joined the group for two songs). On the other end of the weekend, the closing night’s bill saw me happily bouncing between the revamped Wu Tang Clan extravaganza, Steve Earle’s stirring folk-rock revival, the funk of the Greyboy Allstars, and the crunchy punk-like stylings of Ted Leo and the Pharmacists (all taking place at the same time). Held at the Seattle Center -- former home of the 1960 World’s Fair -- Bumbershoot boasted a roomy multi-acre facility with two fountains, lots of shady places, and both indoor and outdoor restrooms. The biggest names played the Samsung Mainstage, a cavernous locale suited more for sporting events than music. Of course, it did offer plenty of bleacher seating and a stage elevated high enough for all to see. The artists used to arena rock performances -- Fergie and Panic! At the Disco most notably -- used it well. While Fergie’s vocals lacked projection, her energetic stage presence and choreography were fun to watch. Similarly, P!ATD’s use of multicolored lights and smoke turned the band’s show into a celebration for party seekers. Other acts, like John Legend and the Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, gave solid musical performances but seemed a little lost in all that space – the sound system was simply unable to carry the intimacy of their sets beyond the first dozen rows. At the opposite side of the spectrum was radio station KEXP’s secret music lounge, which hosted more than a dozen private shows for VIPs holding special tickets and listeners who knew where to pick up individual passes. The climate-controlled, cushion-seated room felt luxurious after experiencing the noisy crowds outside. All the acts that performed in the KEXP locale also played bigger venues, but these 30- to 45-minute shows were special. Among the highlights: Eddie Argos of London’s Art Brut rallied the audience, begging to take them to the “Top of the Pops”; Allison Moorer joined her self-proclaimed American patriot husband Steve Earle on an anti-war anthem; Seattle’s own Fleet Foxes offered their transcendent take on freak folk; and more traditional British folkie Bert Jansch transported the crowd with nimble fingerings and rasping vocals. The members of the audience ranged in age, and it seemed that many families had attended together, only to split up to see different artists. There was even a people-powered, environmentally friendly carnival with rides for the kids. In terms of older citizens, a group of about 50 grey-haired men and women gathered in front of the Starbucks Stage as soon as the gates opened and demanded (successfully) that the sound person put on the Beatles’ “Good Morning”. One of the more amusing pastimes was keeping track of the cover songs played by artists over the course of the weekend. After dropping “a sexy song, one about boys and girls fucking”, Panic segued into the Band’s “The Weight” -- an incongruous pairing if ever there was one. My Brightest Diamond sang a lovely, operatic version of Roy Orbison’s “It’s Over”, while Ted Leo and the Pharmacists ended the night with Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark”. Allison Moorer (again performing with Earle for a song during her set) sang Pete Seeger’s “Where Have All the Flowers Gone” -- changing the lyrics about the soldiers to “young boys and girls” to reflect the current situation of the troops. And, for their part, Art Brut broke deliciously into Amy Winehouse’s “Rehab” mid-set. Other performers just played their own stuff. The best-received acts included indie-rock darlings the Shins, who some consider local heroes because they record for Seattle’s Sub Pop label; ribald Gypsy-punk band Gogol Bordello, whose bawdy “purple” behavior got people shouting and dancing; Lupe Fiasco, whose hip-hop histrionics garnered an animated call-and-response reaction; and Joss Stone, whose fans seemed to know every word. It should be noted that the comedy acts were also well-attended, and almost all of the performances -- including acts like Janeane Garofalo, Eugene Miraman, Fred Armisen, and the Cody Rivers Show -- were booked full more than an hour before they started. That’s despite the fact that each comedian did at least three separate sets. All things considered, whether music, comedy, or whatever, all of the shows had large and enthusiastic audiences. By that measure alone, Bumbershoot 2007 could be said to be a roaring success.

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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Music

The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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