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Reviews from the massive Bumbershoot Festival in Seattle.

So I have to start off this post with an apology. Without getting into much details, Randomville and Bumbershoot encountered some technical issues today while working together, so we might not be able to update as much as we would like. I will likely only be able to update at the end of each day, but Zoe and Nate will probably be okay. Gizmo is loose!

So one of the first things I did was check out the Visual Arts area. I soon discovered that anyone can become a model for a Portrait Challenge, and anyone can also draw this model. I couldn’t resist and posed for the camera, anxiously awaiting the results later in the day…

And the results were amazing!

Next, this creates sound based on a motion-detector system:

Made out of cassette tapes, Debbie Harry:

And Lauryn Hill:

Jonathan Brilliant created this fascinating piece of art out of thousands of coffee stir sticks. The kicker: They’re held together by tension, and not glue!

Artwork by Ward Sutton:

and Jim Woodring:

Seattle Street Bieneale 2010:

Dave’s Killer Bread:

My first music experience of the day was Grynch, who laid down a smooth and steady hip hop flow that wasn’t too fast that it was hard to keep up with the lyrics. His DJ made him laugh by laying down beats by Warren G and Naughty by Nature sporadically.

Next was Caspar Babypants, a side project of The Presidents of the United States of America frontman Chris Ballew. About every toddler on up at Bumbershoot was in this audience, and as expected, the song lyrics were silly, catchy and designed for kids. Ballew had a  trio with him on guitar, a percussion (and kazoo player!) and grand piano friend. “Baby Bear” was a cute tune, as was the song about his missing dog “My dog is dog gone, dog gone gone.”

Caspar Babypants

I rarely sit through a whole set at Bumbershoot because it takes up a lot of time and I like to see as many acts as possible. But I’m becoming a big fan of Star Anna, plus I had heard about the “special guest” who would appear with her later. She has a sporadic, smoky touch to her vocals, sounding like a cross between Alannah Myles (“Black Velevet“) and Erika Wennerstrom (The Heartless Bastards). As a band, there are mixes of alt-rock, alt-country, boogie-woogie, some blues and The Wallflowers. Her band mates are not bad, but other than the organ player, I wouldn’t call any of them outstanding either.

Earlier this year I got to hear Anna tear it down for a charity show with her cover of “That’s How Strong My Love Is” by Otis Redding. When she digs deep into the history of soul like that, she tends to be like a female Joe Cocker with the body twitches and passion in the vocals. But it’s raw; and awesome. As expected, Mike McCready from Pearl Jam joined the band for the last few songs, just completely shredding on guitar during solos and lighting up the home crowd. The final number was a new song where Star Anna really dug deep into her own soul, almost crying out “We’re both alone in this together/ We’re gonna make it,” and the band just echoed her passion with a huge build up. Shivers. Down. Spine.

Mike McCready

Zoe will probably have a lot to say about The Constellations, but this guy dug them…

Justin Townes Earle. Damn that kid looks like his old man! One of the first things I heard him say was that tomorrow night he’d be playing a secret show at The Tractor Tavern under the disguise name of “Alabama Finger Bang.” Well then…

As for outfits, Earle was dressed in a fairly moderate gray blazer, though the twang in his voice would suggest a cowboy hat with matching boots. His stand-up bass player topped him though with her purple dress and fish net stalkings. “Mama’s Eyes” was a pretty, mild-country ballad as an ode to his parents. It was slightly out of the way though as most of his songs sang today were “good riddance” songs to ex-girlfriends. Any fan of Pete Seeger will have room in their heart for JTE.

The legs were needing a little rest, so I went to see The Axis Dance Company with some friends. It’s a theatrical troupe where some of the performers are in wheel chairs and have disabilities. Honestly, it’s something you really have to see for yourself to really appreciate:

The stamina of these performers was pretty admirable. During one of the acts, a guy (wheelchair) was in a duo with a lady (walking) and part of their theme was being well connected when physically touching, but not functioning properly when apart. The rest of the performances were rather sporadic and kind of difficult to follow a pattern. The groups did acknowledge the disabilities, and sometimes in a playful way, which was respected.

Austin, TX performer Bob Schneider had the crowd laughing with a hilarious, Adam Sandler-esque song about veggie burgers and ceasar salads. Even more funny was how silly his accordion player was dressed. “Ass Knockin” was also amusing and he settled down with the song “2002” as I left.

Bob Schneider

All day long, everyone was buzzing about Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. I guess that was literally everyone, because thousands upon thousands showed up at the suddenly small Broad Street Stage to see this act. So many that the beer garden had to be shut down due to over-capacity (Talk about angry drunks!). I saw Devendra Banhart on this stage a few years ago and Sharpe and his dozen friends are kind of like Banhart, but without that spook-folk and more enthusiastic, with dashes of dance pop at times.

Sharpe was all over the stage, shirtless and looking like he hasn’t eaten in about a week. His energy was very fluid, the band all played well in support and the crowd roared after every song. They had all been waiting to here “Home” and when they finally started that whistling, the crowd kicked off the dance party and sang along to “Alabama, Arkansas…”

Alex Ebert of Edward Sharpe... signing autographs after his set

Against the advice of friends, I decided to go see Bob Dylan for my first time, so I can say I saw the legend. In two songs (that’s all I could stand), I literally understood zero lyrics as it sounded like he had a bad cold. That was a terrible two songs, yet the entire football stadium was jam-packed. I don’t get it.

Another surprise to me was how much I liked Ozomatli. They did a Latin funk, hip hop, Cinco de Mayo 24/7 party show and it was a total blast! Trumpets and sax accompanied a riveting bass player who had that “Another One Bites the Dust” groove. Justin Poree adds the right amount of hip hop flavor and he could move faster and (though not quite funkier) than James Brown (who he respectfully name-checked) when dancing.

Unlike many jam bands, Ozomatli wouldn’t just sit on one beat for a half hour, as they constantly changed up the groove and kept the crowd pumped up like they were handing out cans of Red Bull. They brought kids from the audience up on stage for a couple songs as the bass player lead them in a train around the stage. Finally, they ended the night by climbing down into the crowd to play their instruments, with “The Hokey Pokey” being one of their final jams as  they snaked their way through the crowd. Ultra fun band!!

Ozomatli in the crowd

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