Tag Archives: Thunderpussy

Bumbershoot 2016, Day Three: Finding Flatstock wasn’t easy

I was talking to a former co-worker who has a stall at Flatstock, one of the visual-art mainstays of Bumbershoot. This year the exhibit, which features dozens of local graphic and poster artists, was moved into the Exhibition Hall.

Anybody who used to go to concerts in the ExHall knows it’s a crappy place to listen to music. Evidently, it’s also a crappy place for Flatstock.

The problem is that Flatstock, whether in the Center House — oops, copious apologies, make that The Armory — or Fisher Pavilion, was a destination for some, but a welcome walk-up thing for many others. Folks in the area with a little time to kill could stop in, and maybe shop in. It was good for the vendors, and a nice change of pace for a lot of Bumbershooters.

But the ExHall venue is out-of-the-way for most attendees. Traffic through this year’s Flatstock was “awful,” according to my ex-colleague. It looked awful, even though he said Monday was their best day of the three, and it also looked weird to not see people four deep in every aisle, checking out the posters, t-shirts and other wares.

New Porno0914_flavrbluegraphers and Schoolyard Heroes never deserved to have to play in the ExHall. And Flatstock doesn’t deserve to have to show there, either. Maybe AEG can figure out a solution by next year.

A few impressions from Day Three:

  • More Venue Bitching: Got to the KEXP stage 20 minutes early and was still shut out from seeing one of my Festival Objectives, Thunderpussy. Checked back a couple of times during their set, but there was always a long line, and no one could go in until someone came out. And that, owing to the kinetic nature of Thunderpussy’s shows, wasn’t happening. Again, it’s nice that KEXP has its own cozy venue. But a lot of their artists aren’t getting the exposure they should, either because the place is a bit of a trudge to get to, or because, once you’ve made the trudge, you might not be able to get in, anyway.
  • Even More Venue Bitching: The long lines for KeyArena‘s shows were re-arranged somewhat for Sunday, after Saturday’s cluster(you-know-what). Wait times seemed shorter Sunday; I don’t know if that’s because some of the artists didn’t have the drawing power of the Saturday ones, or if any refinements in the system eased the pressure. It still seemed like there were thousands of kids waiting an inordinate amount of time just to get in. If there’s a push to keep KeyArena full throughout, this is an unhealthy side effect.
  • I wonder when running became such a thing in the Memorial Stadium venue. Not a few people, once in a while, trotting to catch up with friends or to fill a vacant spot before someone else beats them to it. No, lots of people, individuals and groups, trying to Usain Bolt their way across the crowded stadium floor. Hacky-sackers are one thing, but when you’ve got whole track teams worth of sprinters bearing down on you, oblivious to anyone’s presence but their own, there are accidents waiting to happen. I have bruises to prove it.
  • Speaking of Sunday’s Memorial Stadium shows, I will never be a fan of Tame Impala. And you can’t make me. I think they should immediately be renamed White Urkel.
  • From the bad news of not getting in to see Thunderpussy comes the good news of getting to see two of the day’s other best acts, Seattle’s The Flavr Blue (pictured above) on the Fisher Green Stage and Maiah Manser on the Starbucks Stage. The Flavr Blue’s electronic hip-hop R&B, with a taste of guitar-band bravado thrown in, is totally engaging, and Hollis Wong-Wear, Lace Cadence and Parker Joe put on a show that is utterly professional and lots of fun at the same time. Star power. Manser was one of several big voices on the Starbucks Stage Monday, along with indie pop belter Bishop Briggs and a pair of country singer-songwriters, Margo Price (traditional country; good) and Maren Morris (country/hip-hop, if there is such a thing; better). If you like a little variety, the Starbucks probably was the day’s strongest stage.
  • Out of curiosity — in large part because they’re such a young band that was given a plum spot on the Fisher Green schedule — I checked out Grave and the Pink Slips, a punky little outfit fronted by 17-year-old Grace McKagan, daughter of Guns ‘n’ Roses and Velvet Revolver bassist Duff McKagan. The songcraft was limited, partially because they’re really young, but more likely because they simply ran out of lyric possibilities that rhymed with “F**k.”
  • Didn’t stay long at Third Eye Blind‘s set. Still mad at them from an awful Memorial Stadium show the last time they were here, when I was seriously contemplating rushing the stage and seeing how many of them I could punch in the throat before being wrestled to the ground by security. Not to mention that “Semi-Charmed Life” still is the soundtrack for many of my nightmares …
  • On my way back to the ferry, I noticed that Mark Farner was playing last night at the Triple Door. Mark — Grand Funk, “Closer to Home” — Farner, for Pete’s sake. Why wasn’t he at Bumbershoot? I didn’t even know he was in town, which is one of the major embarrassments of my career.

You realize, of course, that I write this stuff when I’m bleary tired, so anything you don’t agree with, you can just shrug it off. Won’t bother me in the least …

Anyway, another Bumbershoot is in the books. Forty-six of ’em now. And next Labor Day weekend, we’ll have a chance to do it all again, complain about every little thing that’s wrong, and still have the best weekend of the year.

If you go — and you should — say hi …

— MM

Bumbershoot 2016, Day Two: Three places at one time?

I already felt bad enough that I was going to have to split my time between two of the acts I really wanted to see in Day Two action at The ’Shoot, hitting the first half of Lemolo‘s show on the KEXP Stage and then catching the last half hour of the triumphant return of Reggie Watts to Fisher Green.

It wasn’t until day’s end, as the Hyak nursed its way back to Bremertron on one engine, that I realized there was yet another band I should’ve been seeing. I’d been curious about the alt-country edge of Escondido, but they were on the Starbucks Stage at the same time as both Lemolo and Watts.

Curse Bumbershoot. Curse KEXP and AEG. Curse them all, for not consulting … me, I guess. I would’ve told them to space those three acts out a little. And I would’ve been right.

At least I got to see two out of three, if half-sets count. Lemolo — Meagan Grandall, with drummer Adrian Centoni, predictably filled the little coffee-house cubby-hole over which those hipsters from KEXP preside, and were doing their usual mesmerizing job, leaning heavily on tunes from “Red Right Return.” And Reggie, well, he just manages to be the best bandleader, soul singer, beat-boxer and comedian on the grounds, all at the same time. He makes you laugh and dance at the same time.

I couldn’t help but watch, while Lemolo was limbering up and then breaking into their set, the seemingly endless stream of people being herded through the maze of walkways that, eventually, funneled them into KeyArena. (At least I hope they did. Come to think of it, I don’t remember seeing any of those kids again later.)

I know, once they got in, they got what they wanted in the Key; the musical equivalent of car chases and explosions. But I still felt sorry for all that time they waited in line, while I was experiencing two different kinds of music that invited me to listen, and think, and interpret, and didn’t simply appeal to me on a visceral level.

On the plus side, I guess, with all the kids waiting in line and crammed into the Key, it leaves a little elbow room outside for the rest of us.

A few notes on Saturday’s BumberDay:

  • I really wanted to dislike Joywave, 10926338_767676469953333_6782854157808700237_othe Rochester, N.Y. band that preceded Watts at Fisher Green. But their music was smart, catchy and had a sense of humor, and they won me over
  • The Starbucks Stage was a much hotter place to be than on Friday, with several strong acts. I can’t vouch for Escondido (see above), but enjoyed retro R&B crooner Desi Valentine, fun and sultry crooner Donna Missal and — especially — the charming pop-punk of the all-female Spanish four-piece Hinds (pictured). The problem with the Starbucks Stage this year is that it’s used as much for a conduit for people coming in from the Broad Street gate, who in past years were able to fan out in several directions. The grassy amphitheater, for many, is merely a place to be walked through, and the bands on stage often don’t get the attention they merit. I saw that happen a few years ago when they tried a stage outside of EMP, on the pavement where a lot of the Fun Forest used to be. I was shocked that people came in through the entrance and blew right past a fine little band called Lake Street Dive. Spectators were on their way somewhere else, ignoring a band that was on its way to big things.
  • Speaking of problems with stages … While I guess I enjoy the hipster aesthetic of KEXP’s venue, it’s not very conducive to discovery of bands by casual fans. Some of my favorite memories from Bumbershoots past are of idling around and happening upon a performance that became a highlight. The old Flag Plaza Pavilion, now the cheap seats for Fisher Green, was one of those places you could be walking past and hear somebody (Peter Himmelman and Phat Sidy Smokehouse come to mind, if that gives you any idea how long ago this must’ve been) that stopped you in your tracks. The KEXP Stage is the opposite. You have to very specifically be going there, and you have to go a ways away from much of anything else (except those long, serpentine lines into KeyArena) to get there.
  • I was surprised how much I liked the evening Fisher Green set by JoJo (Levesque), who was a pop princess in the early 2000s, but has been pretty quiet. She and her band delivered a set filled with hooks and energy, and she does have some vocal chops. She seems like she’s ready to elbow her way back onto the scene.

Sunday, we’ll see if I’m still around for Death Cab for Cutie‘s 9:10 set in Memorial Stadium, or if I’m worn out by Billy Idol (8:30, Fisher Green). There’s another three-places-at-one-time conflict (Thunderpussy plays at KEXP at 4:10, and The Flavr Blue starts at Fisher Green at 4:30) to be resolved, leaving Maiah Manser (4:20, Starbucks Stage) as the odd act out.

If you go, say hi …

— MM

Bumbershoot 2016, Day One: It’s all beer, all the time

It was, I suppose, inevitable: The entire Bumbershoot festival is now one big beer garden.

The fences are down and the beer-swilling hordes now mingle with us tee-totaling bumpkins. This year, once you’ve had your ID checked and are issued an wristband, you can sidle right up to one of the beer and wine dispensaries that are as plentiful on the Seattle Center grounds as Starbucks on the downtown streets.

The good news there is that there’s a lot more shoulder room for non-drinkers, who were left with increasingly less space at the venues in recent years as the beer gardens and sponsored “VIP” enclaves multiplied like fruit flies.

The bad news is that the brewski is now omnipresent. It’s ubiquitous. It’s everywhere. And its consumers reel among us, all tipsy and oblivious to things like kids and decency and everybody else’s personal space. In other words, this Bumbershoot is a little bit more like a fraternity party than any previous edition.

Probably because of the rain — and perhaps in part because much of the teenaged attendance block seemed to cloister themselves in Key Arena all day to take in whatever super-amplified swill was being force-fed them — Day One didn’t seem all that crowded. Memorial Stadium was less than half full for Father John Misty, although things picked up quite a bit in anticipation of the evening’s 1-2 punch of Halsey and Kygo. And the once prestigious Mural Amphitheatre — oops, fervent apologies, the “Starbucks Stage” — didn’t draw flies until the evening set by Zella Day, ostensibly a set-up job for closers the Blind Boys of Alabama which turned out to be a star turn for the 20-year-old singer-songwriter from Pinetop, Arizona.

Some impressions from Day One:

  • If you want to see Lemolo (5:30 today, KEXP stage), get there early. The venue is tiny, in the rooms west of the Northwest Court (north of KeyArena) where the art exhibitions held court for the festival’s first 44 years or so. There’s a coffee joint and a vinyl record shop built right into the space, which is probably pretty nice the other 362 days of the year, but simply take up space that could’ve been spectators for Lemolo, Thunderpussy (4:10 Monday) and all the other acts booked in by KEXP.
  • Friday, anyway, the KEXP Stage seemed haunted by weak bands with weak gear; the Starbucks Stage, at least early in the day, was weak bands with better gear; and the Fisher Green stage was weak bands with really good gear, perhaps a single streaming on one of the services and maybe a song “featured” on the CW network. St. Lucia seemed like something right out of the Nineties, and Atlas Genius and Bob Moses never really popped.
  • The Starbucks Stage didn’t fare much better until the set by the aforementioned Zella Day (pictured), who delivered a short (scheduled that way), intense set of dramatic originals, sung and occasionally shrieked by Day, who had a nice — but entirely too loud — bmaxresdefaultand behind her. She was the first artist I saw all day who seemed like she was really trying to make an impression. She did.
  • One of the reasons I liked Day so much was that I had just come from an embarrassing set at Fisher Green by Chevy Metal, a side project of Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins. I thought covers (the Van Halenized version of the Kinks’ “You Really Got Me,” for instance) were verboten at Bumbershoot, but I wouldn’t have minded if they’d been better covers.
  • Joshua Tillman, Father John Misty’s frontman, called their main stage show “the last show of the current album cycle.” He said the massive tour numbered 240 shows. And, frankly, the band seemed utterly without pep. Still sounded pretty good, though.

Saturday, it might come down to a coin flip between Lemolo and Reggie Watts, both of whom play at 5:30 p.m. (Watts will be doing his beat-boxing, improv-ing thing at the Fisher Green Stage.) I could try to go half-and-half, but if I invest the time to get to the KEXP shoebox early enough to get so see Lemolo for my first time in a couple of years, I ain’t leaving. If it goes down that way, Reggie will understand.

It’ll be back to the stadium to see Macklemore and Ryan Lewis (8:50 p.m.), who I didn’t get to see when the “Camping Trip” tour stopped at the Admiral last Wednesday — although, judging by the Thursday water-cooler conversations in the Sungeon, just about every other Sun employee did.

If you go, it’s liable to be warmer and drier than it was Friday. Use sunscreen, and drink mucho liquid. God knows that’ll be a pretty simple proposition, given that you can’t throw a rock at Seattle Center this weekend and not hit a beer stand. There are a few water stations, too, so re-fill early and often. Have fun, and say hi …

— MM

Bumbershoot’s KEXP stage has a Kitsap feel

Bumbershoot released the final schedule for the 2016 renewal of Seattle’s music and art fair, with Olympic High School graduate Ben Gibbard‘s band, Death Cab for Cutie, tying a bow on things with a 9:30-10:50 p.m. Memorial Stadium performance Sept. 4, closing night.

But Gibbard won’t be the only thing Kitsap about this year’s Labor Day weekend celebration (which, curiously this year, doesn’t include the actual Labor Day, as this year’s renewal will be a Friday-Saturday-Sunday affair), thanks to the stage sponsored by KEXP, which apparently moves back this year to the lawn adjacent to Broad Street on the Seattle Center campus.

Lemolo, the dream-pop brain child of North Kitsap singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Meagan Grandall (pictured below), plays at 5:30 p.m. on Sept. 3 . Day 2 usually is the busiest of the Bumber1023_KSFE_Lemolo1Days, and this year looks no different — Lemolo, for instance, is scheduled in exactly the same time slot as festival favorite Reggie Watts, who’ll be on the Fisher Green stage, a13909191_1823425694545724_2048973451823129016_ond the evening headliners are Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, fresh off their “Camping Trip” tour of small Washington venues that included an Aug. 31 gig at the Admiral Theatre.

Sept. 4, fast-tracked Seattle band Thunderpussy — who include Bainbridge Island expatriate Leah Julius on bass (at right in the photo at left) — will be on the KEXP stage. The all-female quartet recently won the distinction of being the first band invited to play the main stage at Sasquatch without yet having a record release on their resume. The Sept. 4 lineup also includes Bumbershoot’s annual unearthing of some excellent dinosaur-rock act, this year’s being Billy Idol (8:30 p.m., Fisher Green).

The schedule and ticket information are at bumbershoot.org

— MM