I just had so many “Whoa, this is really happening!” moments at Bumbershoot.
1) Met Daryl Hall of Hall & Oates. He was just walking around checking out Ian Moore & The Losy Coils briefly before we said hi and he rushed into the KEXP lounge.
2) Got to sit next to Fitz & The Tantrums in the KEXP Bumbershoot Music Lounge while Phantogram played. Singer Noelle Scagga of Fitz & The Tantrums, in particular, was just as excited to see them as I was and said, “Oooh I love the song,” when Phantogram played “When I’m Small” at the end of their set.
3) Phantogram’s KEXP session. They played 2 songs off their new EP coming in the fall. The first single is “Sixteen Years” and the second new song was “Don’t Move.” New music always makes my day. More about their stage performance later in the article.
Less notably, I checked out YACHT and GRAND HALLWAY.
Whenever I hear local bands talk about Grand Hallway it tends to be in the context of a reporter asking, “What are your favorite Seattle bands?” The answer sounds something like “I would say Grand Hallway, but everyone always says them, so I’ll say some other awesome local band.” So I figured they were hot stuff. From the few songs I caught, I was really excited about their orchestral sound but their vocals sounded young and amateurish.
YACHT singer Claire L. Evans had a Bowie-like stage presence. She really took command of the stage. If you’ve ever seen the 1954 Peter Pan Musical, Evans reminded me of Mary Martin except if Mary Martin played Tinkerbell. Also contributing to this comparison was the lost boys-looking white cloth jump suit Evans wore. And her blonde pixie hair. They have a fun sound but nothing too memorable. What they would be perfect for, however, is composing and performing in a musical. At the very least, YACHT is fun, funky, silly, bubbly, glam, indie pop.
Now for the things I loved:
I have so much love for PHANTOGRAM. The usual duo of Sarah Barthel and Josh Carter was joined by a tour drummer, Tim Oakley. Sarah’s adrenalized dance moves, soft but powerful voice, and the mystery of what she really looks like (her hair nearly always covers her face) made all the guys around me say “She’s so hot. What more could you want?” It’s a consuming experience.
As much as I love watching Sarah play synth, sing, and loop and make beats, the extra drummer enriches the sound much more than I expected. Their sound is even more provocative and the sweet and heavy dynamics are all the more dynamic. They are a band I will see every time they are in the area. Their new songs, mentioned earlier, “Sixteen Years” and “Don’t Move” especially excel in their bridges and break downs. Phantogram has everything going for them and I really wish them the best. They are sassy and thankful. If you like electronic/indie rock/trip hop, give them a listen.
The best new discovery of my day was SHARON VAN ETTEN. A friend I ran into at the festival recommended I watch her and from the minute I heard her sing during sound check I loved her voice. I also have listened to nothing else since the festival ended. If you’re a fan of The Antler’s, she is the female vocalist on “Thirteen” off Hospice. Van Etten is a darling New Jersey native who is nothing short of the most endearing artist at Bumbershoot. Stage banter highlights:
“Sometimes I think I have to work on my enunciation. Pizza doesn’t always sound like pizza. I’ll say ‘Let’s go get some pizza!’ and it doesn’t sound like pizza at all.” I’ll just let you think about that one for a moment…
“I’m trying to find my normal voice, like how I would talk to friends, and not like I’m trying to be a caricature of myself.”
“I’m tuning my guitar and not very good at talking and tuning at the same time but it’s okay now; I’m done”
“Isn’t everything in Seattle organic?”
After playing “One Day” in which a lyric is, “One day I’ll be fine with that,” she says, “Some people think I say ‘one day I’ll be fine with Dad. It’s really not about daddy issues I swear. But this [next] one is definitely about men issues.” After she played “Tornado,” I thought about how bands must get so tired playing the same songs every show, but then I realized that when those songs are this good, you want to play them.
Feeling slightly more at ease with the crowd, she asked the sound engineer how much time was left. “20 minutes?!” she exclaimed. “Oh, that’s some time…” Solution? Crowd requests. At one point my friend leaned over and said, “You should try to be her.” I asked why and the answer was simple: “So you can be this awesome.” Maybe she’s just my new girl crush and I’ve always been a sucker for a singer-songwriter on guitar, but I doubt it’s just that; her music is moving.
Another favorite quote of the day by Legendary Oaks before they covered Tom Waits’ “Fish & Bird”: “I don’t know if it’s appropriate to play this. Does Tom Waits ever actually exist during the day?”
According to SPLATINUM’s website they are “the sonic adventure of two intergalactic space pimps destined to paint your mind.” I can’t say it better than that. They played in thick poncho/KKK-looking cloaks that glowed in the dark. If you like Skrillex, they are a spacier, crunchier, sometimes dirtier, more consistent version. With large crowds like this at the Decibel Stage shows, I expect Decibel Festival to have extremely high attendance this year.
I also need to praise SIFF Cinema for showing some exceptional films in the “Around the World in 50 Minutes” segment. Four films were played from England, Africa, Canada/China, and Australia. The Abyss Boys was a devastating story and beautifully composed visually. London’s We Are What We Drink was perfect for Seattle due to sometimes ridiculous and pretentious drink orders. This short’s laughs were built upon the following coffee order (remember to say it in your head with a strong British accent: “Short, fat, bold, with a small prick.” Now imagine the customer as a man.
Jeremy Ball’s Sync was a brilliant synthesis of steam-punk elements and abstractions of time. The narrator relays musings about time shrinkage, time ceasing, and time travel. Then music, beautiful footage set in a train station, and perfect sound design carry the rest of the film. Quite reflective. It’s the kind of short that makes you want to make a movie. I would love to see a feature from this director.
Thank you to Free the Robots, STRFKR, Warpaint, Sharon Van Etten, Splatinum and Phantogram for another memorable Bumbershoot. I hope it never stops.