Today felt like the day Bumbershoot really started. It felt like Seattle. It was a weed-friendly, hip-hop heavy day. It was also clear how consolidated the layout feels even with more vendors present; much less time is spent getting lost or traveling between stages (while occasionally getting lost again, mind you).
One of my favorite parts of Bumbershoot is Flatstock, a poster art showcase featuring designers selling their posters. There tends to be an emphasis on artists that are playing the festival or artists that are local to Seattle. If you ever go, be sure to check it out. It’s really inspiring and since the artists are there, they’re really excited for any attention or questions about their process.
SOL opened the festival today with local special guests including Geo from Blue Scholars and Grynch who joined him on “Spliff” his self-proclaimed 420 theme song. Ray Dalton (the singer who also joined Beat Connection during their Arcade Fire cover yesterday) later joined him for “The Times.” He showed appreciation that all-ages shows like Bumbershoot thrived before encouraging as much marijuana use as possible. Sol fits in well with much of the Seattle hip-hop scene like Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Blue Scholars, and Shabazz Palaces. He’s empowering, liberal, and sings about issues, love and dreams: “the realest shit I ever wrote,” he sang.
For me, Sol cemented the idea that Seattle hip-hop has a lot of heart and unity. And then I saw MAD RAD…
In one word, Mad Rad is over-hyped. They appeared chaotic onstage but the crowd seemed to like their encouragement to do “fucked up things.” They seem so different from the issue-focused Seattle hip-hop scene much of Seattle seems to love. Mad Rad is all about one night stands and blunts according to their songs, causing much frustration with the security guards. Two men came over to the edge of the crowd saying, “It’s just too much!” referring to the amount of joints being smoked. They played “I Want Your Blood” and then changed it up to include more electronica-influenced beats, almost like a less exotic sounding Yeasayer. I see the appeal: Mad Rad rivals Top 40-style beats in dirty club dance-ability and the chill factor, but that’s about it. A guy behind me saw me writing and asked, “Good review or bad review?” I waved my hand “so-so” and we agreed: Over-hyped.
THE LONELY FOREST was equally underwhelming for me. Their crowd was bigger than Brite Futures and seemed mostly under 18. At first listen, they sounded like a cool kid’s, indie, local teenager’s version of a boy band complete with teenage angst with mild wisdom. However, they never had that lyrical moment where you think, “Hey, I know what that feels like; they just said it better.” I just couldn’t get on board with the vocalist John Van Deusen, but he redeemed himself a little when he said, “It feels really good to wear a Sonics’ jersey in the Key Arena after they died.”
BROKEN SOCIAL SCENE managed to remind me of U2 at first with Brendan Canning’s echoing vocals. The band got up at 5 a.m. this morning to leave LA to play this show. They played “Texico Bitches” (my personal favorite off the 2010 Forgiveness Rock Record) and then the set turned bittersweet fast: “This is a church. This is our last tour for a really long time. Thanks for the last decade.” Before playing “Fire Eye’d Boy,” Canning must have realized it was time to be funny, adding: “This is our first stadium show. Don’t believe we ever done this before. Sorry about your basketball team.” At this point, a crowd member yells, “It’s not funny!” and Canning continues, “I blame Ben Gibbard. Is that fair? I don’t know if that’s fair. The rappers aren’t that great either.”
WARPAINT performed beautifully. Each time Theresa Wayman and Emily Kokal alternated vocals their voices melded into the rhythms of the guitars. They cooed and squealed and yelled and used every bit of their voice. Their whole set soared. When one guy in the audience shouted that he loved them, Warpaint shouted back that they loved him too, and each other, and a seagull flying by, and the Space Needle. Every so often I caught Kokal or bassist Jenny Lee Lindberg smiling at drummer Stella Mozgawa like someone had made a mistake or like they were sharing an inside joke. That smile made their final song “Elephant” even better. It’s my favorite song and the ending turned into a long jam session with Lindberg and Kokal teasing the audience for a couple minutes, alternating between loud and soft drum fills and guitar lines until the jam slowly found its end.
Then came TORO Y MOI. I was expecting to see Toro Y Moi as a one-man show, not aware that he had hired a band to tour with him. Frankly, he doesn’t need the band and it would be way more impressive to see him work alone. I’ve heard his solo performances are mellow like his albums, but with a band, they sounded so much like the bands Holy Fuck or Sinewave. Not to be redundant, but there was a huge jam band feel, not quite rock, not quite electronica–just some ordered happy chaos that the crowd loved.
Silence feels really strange now. I recommend ear plugs if you tend to stand close to stages (like I said yesterday, speakers can feel like fans). One more day guys! Some of my favorites like Phantogram, Fitz & The Tantrums, and Splatinum will be there!