Monday, September 19, 2011

Bumbershoot Virgin

While I was waiting and planning to move to Seattle, I followed the news and happenings here.  I saw the publicity for Bumbershoot last year and so wished I were here to celebrate my birthday.  This year, I was not going to miss it.  We could only afford and commit to one day this year, and I had one hell of a time picking the day.  Since I had not heard of most of the bands, I totally geeked out and listened to partial songs on iTunes, comparing and contrasting and trying to chose.  That still made it difficult because there was just so much damn good music on each day.  That is not even to mention the art, film, dance, etc.  Our schedule had so many events overlapping, that it would have been impossible to follow.  I was excited.

Is this where Frasier Crane was given the key to the city?

Now I have heard all of the locals griping...

I have heard all the griping about how Bumbershoot used to be so much better and it sucks now and it is too expensive and ... blah, blah, blah.  It is a damn fine festival and it was tons of fun.  Even if you do not drink.  It is a great deal really if you consider the amount and quality of music and art you get to take in compared to regular concert tickets and club covers.  On the other hand, I will admit that I dropped entirely too much money at the food tents and beer gardens.  It is a little weird that drinkers have to be confined to gardens away from the stage, but we adapted to the alcoholic ghettos.

We arrived in style via the monorail.  This seems like another thing locals love to hate, but what a great thing the monorail is.  I love to imagine monorails covering the entire city, as originally envisioned.  The monorail, like a bunch of cool stuff in Seattle, is both retro and futuristic at the same time.  It is a symbol of the optimism, creativity, and innovation that defines this city.  But I digress.

We did not arrive at the very beginning of the day, so I quickly dictated that we would take in as many acts as possible, to make up for the missed few.  We changed venues every 14 to 21 minutes in a quest not to miss anything.  We took in some Brite Futures, a bit of Craft Spells, the Great Mundane, Champagne Champagne, Natasha Kmeto, Astronautalis, Nortec Collective presents Bostich and Fussible, and PS I Love You in quick succession.  I was not crazy about Brite Futures.  They seemed a little over the top in their sunny earnestness, which came off as false.  I know this sounds crazy, but I could not tell if they were being ironic or if this was just their thing and it just did not seem real because they were doing the same thing night after night.  The producers, Kmeto and Mundane were good.  I still cannot get too excited about just watching a dj spin, no matter how much they move around.  The video wall and lights helped a little bit.  The beer garden helped more.  Some heavier drugs might have done the trick.  All the other groups were solid, but I loved Nortec Collective.

I suppose that with any of the acts, the written descriptions only give you clues.  They can never really capture what you are about to see and hear.  So you can wander around and see what you like.  Or if you are trying to plan it out, and you have not heard their music, you have to read between the lines and guess what they might be like.  Even listening to recordings online will not fully prepare you for the live shoes.  This group was described in terms of the Tijuana electronic scene.  But of course.  Yes, that was sarcastic, I have not heard of the scene either.  But it sounded intriguing, and it turned out that they were really fun.  They had two live musicians playing horns and accordion.  Then the two electronic guys played off of a contraption that looked like the computer from a very old science fiction movie (black and white maybe), though they really seemed to be playing off of attached iPads.  I will be buying their music.

Seattle Center is a unique setting to have a bunch of different venues in close proximity without just creating a tent city.  It did not feel temporary.  I liked the variety of venues from the Sky Church of the Experience Music Project to the Key Arena.  But after a while, we just realized with such spectacularly beautiful weather, we needed to spend all of the time we could outside. And we started slowing down, not just because of the beer consumption, but because we wanted to enjoy more full sets.  I had to come to terms with the idea of just missing some potentially good music.  It is the nature of a large music festival.  Damn my diverse tastes!

MarchFourth Marching Band were so much fun on so many levels.  Their music was great and really got the crowd going.  The band was far funkier than a mostly (if not all) white MARCHING band has a right to be.  And they put on a show.  I am not just talking lights and dancing.  They had stilt walkers and acrobatics.  Hell, these brave and nimble stilt walkers actually danced their way through the crowds giving high-fives to anyone who raised their hand.  I had a smile on my face the entire show.  And no, it was too early to just have been the beer.  It was the band.

My favorite discovery of the day was Little Dragon.  Their infectious electronic pop was joyful and fun.  My partner has much different and more limited musical taste than me, and he agreed that they were awesome.  Whether or not they really blow up, this Swedish group can count me as a big fan.  On my way to iTunes now.

STRFKR and Minus the Bear were solid.  I enjoyed them, but like visiting a large art museum, there is only so much one can get excited about in one long day.  We heard some great music and ate some delicious food.  We drank a few good beers.  At the end of the night, I was happy as we left.

Events like these can be tiring just dealing with the crowds.  Standing in line and trying to push through masses of humanity to get somewhere can take its toll on a guy.  I was happy to find out that Bumbershoot was not like this, but was incredibly well run.  We moved around with ease and rarely stood in line (with the exception of the massive line to get in the place).  I was unhappy to later learn that this phenomenon was in part because attendance was way down from its peak a few years back.  We will see if I am such a fan of the festival after the economy comes around and attendance swells again.  But for now, I must say that I had an amazing day.

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