My Experience at Bumbershoot 49: The Bear Essential Bumbershoot

My favorite set at this year’s Bumbershoot was The Lumineers (above)

One week ago was Bumbershoot 49. The reviews are in.  For every even handed review, you have a review where the reviewer wants you to know Bumbershoot was expensive, different from their favorite Bumbershoot a decade or two ago, and they felt old in the young crowd. I always love reading those reviews. They read like a high school student who was required to go to a play for his art class. The person writes as if they were forced to go, coupled with a lot of padded paragraphs concerning the periphery of the event like history and critiques of transplants, and then like 2 or 3 paragraphs of their experience. They’re pretty funny.

20190901_194203
Jai Wolf at the main stage, Day 3

I attended Bumbershoot 49. I grew up in Seattle and this was my 8th consecutive Bumbershoot. I did what I try to do every year at Bumbershoot. I tried to have a great time. I went out and met people. If I ran into artists, I complimented them on their sets. I danced. I drank. I tried to hear new music objectively. I tried to put out a positive vibe and hoped I would get that energy back.

20190901_200817
ReignWolf, Day 3

Speaking from experience this year’s Bumbershoot felt “less”. There were at least 3 less stages. With less stages, there were less slots for performers, so there was less performances to check out. There was no “Flatstock”. There was no dance arts stage. There was no KEXP presence. There was no Sub Pop or other branded pop up shop. The ticket price remained as high as ever. The film selection at SIFF cinema was lacking. The SIFF programming was 2 documentaries about the space needle that took up a one hour block, followed by a 4 hour block of music videos. The whole festival on paper felt like a group got together, decided to throw a “Bumbershoot”, and the first thought at the pitch meeting was, “We don’t want to spend too much money but we also want to give people the “Bumbershoot experience”, what’re the bear essentials of Bumbershoot?”.

20190831_235208
Posters for Bumbershoot 2019 (left) and Bumbershoot 2012 (right). The reductions are pretty obvious.

As harsh as that critique may seem, that was all information that could have been gleaned from one review of the schedule, map, or lineup prior to the event. I usually purchase my tickets before they announce the lineup because I expect Bumbershoot to be Bumbershoot. It’s a local tradition. If you still bought tickets even after researching that information, then it’s on you for purchasing tickets for an obviously reduced event.  Despite all of this, the actual mood of the event was positive. It felt like more people had attended this year’s Bumbershoot, than last year’s Bumbershoot. Maybe the reduced experiences, caused more people to congregate at stages in heavier volumes, but it definitely felt like the crowds were heavier than they were in 2018. Folks were lined up for laser light shows at Pacific Science Center, half an hour before the show, only to fill the room to capacity. Every stage had pretty sizeable audience turnouts. I hate to bring this up, but the Jai Wolf crowd, broke the barrier on Saturday night and other than being emblematic of an enthusiastic crowd it’s also emblematic of a well attended set.

20190901_153945Longtime Bumbershoot fans getting things started on Day 1

Chatting with folks around the festival, everyone seemed to be excited. One of the first bands I saw on Day 1 were the School of Rock kids. Prior to their set, a group of long time Bumbershoot fans had congregated at the Fischer Green stage (where they would be most of the weekend), and had already begun dancing even before the band took the stage. One of the couples told me about how they were in their 70’s and had been to every Bumbershoot except for one. When asked who they were looking forward to seeing that weekend, the gentleman in the couple said, “The Dip and Rezz.” I went to see The Dip later that night. I stacked up as close as I could to the barricade. A younger fan and her dad stood next to me. I asked the younger fan if she was enjoying her day? She told me about how she was 12, this was her first Bumbershoot, and she was having a great time. I told her about how I was impressed that she would get this close to the stage to see The Dip. It’s stuff like that that makes me happy. It’s reminiscent of the family heavy crowd that attended Reignwolf on Day 2 (the following day). I didn’t think it would be appropriate to mosh at Reignwolf seeing how many children were with their parents in the audience. Those kids are going to go to their first days of school and be able to brag to the other kids how they went to a music festival and were front row for The Dip, or were on their dad’s shoulders for Reignwolf. It’s just so cool.

20190903_224054
Sol, Day 1

As great as it was to meet an experienced Bumbershoot couple and a first time fest fan, I think getting to interact with artists is one of the bigger appeals of Bumbershoot. Other than nodding up to Sol when I would run into him at random stages, or standing next to Nestra for a song or two as he yelled at Pink Sweat$ (who was wearing literal pink sweats in direct sunlight), “Isn’t it hot?!”, my favorite Bumbershoot 49 artist run in was during the Kolars set on Day 3. I had stacked up at the front of the stage. Yogashoot hadn’t wrapped yet, but Kolars had already took the stage and were ready to begin their set. A dad and his kids had posted up right next to me. I chatted with this couple on my other side, but I glanced over at this dad every now and again and mentioned how great this next band was and how we were all looking forward to this set. As Kolars began to perform, two songs in, the lead singer dedicated a song to that dad next to us, “This next song is for Mike.” It didn’t take me too long to realize, Oh wow, that’s Mike McCready from Pearl Jam. The dead giveaway was when he took out his Polaroid camera and began taking shots of the band. All I could think was I have his book “Of Potato Heads and Polaroids” at home, how cool is it that he still takes Polaroids at shows? haha. Realizing he was on family time, I didn’t ask him for a photo, I just thought it was a cool Bumbershoot moment. I got to watch Kolars next to Mike McCready.

20190901_150628
Kolars, Day 3

The performances I saw were fabulous. After seeing their sets at Bumbershoot, I immediately went out and downloaded albums from both Donna Missal and Bryce Vine. Their sets had me chanting as if I were at a pro wrestling show, “Please come back!”. Carly Rae Jepsen proved why her latest album “Dedicated” should be up their as one of the top releases of 2019. LP delivered a memorable set. The Lumineers’ performance on Day 2 made me put away my camera and just be there in the moment. Something about hearing the song “Cleopatra” and dancing and singing with the strangers around me, made me realize I want to just be “here” now.  Taking Back Sunday on Day 3 brought me back to high school. It was a special performance for a number of reasons, but the lead singer being unable to climb back on stage mid set and making the executive decision to just wander the crowd while singing, hugging and dancing with everyone was something myself and fans who were there won’t forget.

20190903_224152
Taking Back Sunday, Day 3

Finally, Rezz closing out the festival was just fun. I normally go to festivals alone and just meet up with freinds at sets we all mutually want to see. Rezz was a performer all my friends who attended Bumbershoot wanted to see. Being able to spend time dancing with them in that crowd felt special. At one point I disappeared for a bit, in order to eat a lobster sushi burrito.  I got closer to one side of the stage so I could dance and chow down.  Randomly a member of one of the bands (no joke, I think it was one of the DJs from Louis the Child) tried chatting with me about how he had eaten a lot of food at catering and how I, dancing while eating during Rezz, was “Living the best life”. All I could think of while dancing, eating, and chatting to this musician was, no one else is probably having a Bumbershoot experience like mine.

20190903_223839
Rezz, Day 3

On paper, this will probably go down as one of the most lackluster Bumbershoots, but for me and a lot of those who attended I can’t say it was a negative experience. I felt like I had a great time, met some awesome people, danced, heard some great artists, and made some great memories. Where it stacks against my prior Bumbershoot experiences, I can’t say it was one of the best, but no where near my worst. I feel like everyone I spoke to after the event have had similar opinions as well. It wasn’t a terrible Bumbershoot, but also was no where near noteworthy. If I were to give a straight no non sense opinion about Bumbershoot 49, it made me excited for next year.  =)

20190903_223727Carly Rae Jepsen, Day 2

See ya next year, Bumbershoot!  I hope Bumbershoot 50 is something special.

20190901_202441
(All photos were taken by me.  Check out my Instagram at: Cakeintherain206)

Tips for a Great Bumbershoot 2019

Bumbershoot is one of my favorite events of the year.  Growing up in Seattle I would always hear about the festival, and since 2012, I haven’t missed a single Bumbershoot Music and Arts Festival.

I always come back from Bumbershoot having met new people, seen some great bands, and overall feeling like I had just been “recharged”.  Friends will ask “do you have any tips to help maximize my Bumbershoot experience?”  Here are my 5 tips to help maximize your Bumbershoot experience:

5.) The best beer prices are at SIFF Cinema.  If you want to beat the heat, and get away from the crowd, go to SIFF Cinema and catch a collection of films.  Cans of Rainier (in years past) are only $3, there’s non port-o-potty restrooms available, and it’s just an opportunity to sit in the dark away from the sun and the overwhelming crowd for a bit.  It’s a just a good way to rest.

20170901_222334
Flume, Bumbershoot 2017

4.) In years past, the best entrance to the festival grounds is adjacent to the Bagley Wright Theater.  It normally features multiple entrance lanes, a separate entrance for VIP/Emerald pass holders, and a separate ADA entrance.

3.) Review the schedule and plan ahead before attending the festival.  If you want to see a particular act up close and they’re performing at the main stage, get there early.  If you aren’t VIP and the performer is later in the day, expect to get there at least a two or three sets early, and be prepared to stand for long hours.  If they’re not at the main stage and are at one of the minor stages, 10 to 15 minutes before the performance should be fine unless they are the headliner of that stage, then you may want to hang out during the prior performer’s set in order to get a great view.

20170903_214100
Cody Jinks, Bumbershoot 2017

2.) Check out the non musical experiences.  The Bumbershoot team always book some great non musical performers throughout the weekend.  I once saw a panel/podcast recording featuring Bill Nye, Eugene Mirman, and Pete Holmes.  I once saw Paul F Tompkins and Matt Gourley do improv.  The food selections at the B-Eats section are amazing as well.

1.) Go to Bumbershoot with friends but don’t go as a group.  I can’t say this enough, go to Bumbershoot alone.  Going alone to Bumbershoot alone, doesn’t mean you’re by yourself.  Everyone there is on the same mission you are, and as long as you understand that you’re there to have a good time and you’re not trying to ruin anyone else’s good time, everyone will want to have a good time with you.  I usually let my friends know what performers I plan to see that day, and wherever our schedules line up we try to meet at those place, but we never let each other fully dictate our day.  If one person wants to leave early to see another performer, more power to them, we’ll meet up later.  Try going to Bumbershoot alone.

20160902_174317Tyler the Creator, Bumbershoot 2016

If I could sum up my advice for Bumbershoot weekend it would be this:
Try something new.  Open your ears to new music.  Dance with strangers.  Wear a funny hat or try an entirely new look.  Catch a play or a clown or a debate or podcast or a comedian.  You’ll never know who you’ll meet, who you’ll see, or what you’ll do.  If anything if you leave yourself open for something new, it’ll be different than what you expected and provide you an experience, you never knew you could have.  Have fun, stay safe, and stay hydrated.

“Have you Ever Heard of that Place?”: A Review of ‘Phonic Seattle’

When searching for films about the Seattle music and arts scene, you’ll be hard pressed to find any.  On one hand, Seattle is a footnote in many bands’ histories.  Documentaries about Pearl Jam, Foo Fighters, Ray Charles, and a number of other performers usually have a feature about Seattle.  You might also find 30 to 45 minute specials which provide short profiles of the Seattle music scene.  However, when it comes to full length documentaries solely about Seattle music culture only two major ones come to mind, the grunge focused “Hype”, and the jazz focused “Wheedle’s Groove”.  Both documentaries feature a snapshot of Seattle music culture and have been released nationwide to a mostly positive critical response.  Last Friday I was fortunate enough to attend the premiere of a new documentary about the Seattle music scene, “Phonic Seattle”.

20190816_204208
Art by Izzi Vasquez on display during the premiere

The film’s director Alaia D’Alessandro looks to introduce musical spaces and performers you never knew of, by following three local musicians, Carlarans, Julie-C, and Reese Tanimura, to their favorite underground music spots and events around Seattle.  The film’s decision to follow three musicians representing different backgrounds is brilliant as the documentary spotlights a diverse range of venues and events around the city.  The documentary’s approach to introducing this premise is unique in that it hits the ground running.  The documentary lays out the premise almost immediately and goes right into the first of the three musicians.  This quick paced approach of interview, segment about the venue, coupled with clips of a live performance carries through the entire documentary, and creates a feeling kind of like a DJ mixing at a night club.  It’s an ebb and flow approach where the music being mixed, are the video segments and the great camera angles.  At first it feels a little manic, but the more you watch it, the more it doesn’t feel like a simple compilation of interviews.  Rather it feels more like a visual mixtape of our community.

The documentary aimed to introduce new venues and performers, but I believe the real takeaway is how so many diverse music experiences exist almost independently from one another within the same city space.  It’s incredible to think you could experience nearly every musical genre on any given night in the city.  The documentary demonstrates Seattle isn’t solely a grunge city or a jazz town anymore.  This documentary shows how the changes in our communities and the economic flow are helping dictate the direction of the music and arts scene, and in some cases causing others to be more steadfast in their response to that change.  It felt like the response to the changes was just more creativity.  Creativity in what a space can offer.  Creativity in what defines the audience.  Creativity in marketing campaigns.  It seems like for the community to survive the influx, the performers and the spaces adapted their definition of self to the influx, and this feeling of adaptation is on display in the documentary.

As a person who was born and raised in Seattle, I felt like this was a great representation of our city and definitely fulfills on it’s tagline of “introducing musical space and performance you never knew of”.  I attended the screening with my cousins and on more than one occasion we found ourselves leaning in and asking one another, “Have you ever heard of that place?” or “What was the name of that artist?”.  If you have people who are engaged in the local arts and music community, who grew up in the city, asking one another if they recognized something, then you really have accomplished your tagline.  When it comes to the question of welcoming “outsiders” into the music community, I felt like the best response to this question came from both Carlarans (who hosts “The Beat”) and also the owner of Clock-Out Lounge.  Carlarans explained that it’s okay for “outsiders” to come into these new experiences as long as they do so under the understanding that they’re guests.  The owner of Clock-Out Lounge, reiterated the same message and added “Also, just don’t be an a**hole.”  I feel like this is the perfect reflection of Seattle and for me the biggest takeaway from the documentary.  Everyone is welcome, be cognizant of the people who established the longstanding community structures, and above all else, just don’t be an a**hole. (haha)

From a born and raised Seattle person, I recommend checking out Phonic Seattle.