One of the many great things about Bumbershoot, Seattle's annual arts and music festival, is the opportunity to see time-tested favorites next to bands that you've never heard of. Unlike the majority of festivals that cover our great country, Bumbershoot attracts a far more diverse lineup and offers a taste of music that spans the entire world.
After another blowout year basking in the wonderful Seattle summer, we offer you a sampling of what our ears consumed. We hope you enjoy the menu.
SUN CITY GIRLS
The Sun City Girls may be the weirdest shit I've ever seen--and I've seen some really weird shit. I'd heard they were "hit or miss" and always a handful, but on this afternoon in Seattle they were beyond bizarre. Barely even music; it was more self-indulgent stage antics. The EMP Sky Church where the show was held is a very cool venue, a bit cramped, but built for psychedelic journeys. The time I spent with the Sun City Girls involved dodging whiffle balls being hit with golf clubs from the stage, staring at their costumes, and a great deal of speechless, vague glances to the people surrounding me. After the almost unbearable "Killing Me Softly" rendition and repeated screams of, "Fuck you and your American bullshit system. Fuck hip-hop, FUCK YOU" we ended up leaving, perhaps with our tails between our legs, clearly defeated by the Sun City Girls... yet happy to just get out of there. -The Kayceman
Sun City Girls :: 09.03 by Mary Grace Dunn
DEATH CAB FOR CUTIE
Death Cab for Cutie on the Main Stage proved to be a strong set as they stole the show from Presidents of the United States of America (who headlined). Showing a keen sense for songwriting with pop leanings and enough instrumental prowess to keep me interested, Death Cab for Cutie seem to just about live up to the immense amount of hype they have garnered over the past year.
The Burning Spear, Mr. Winston Rodney is one of those rare living legends. Having grown up listening to his music and witnessing his live shows, I'm sure the Spear will go down as one of the most important musicians of our lifetime. Showing little signs of his age he once again had the crowd swaying to his congas and nodding in affirmation to his righteous, positive lyrics. One gets the impression that music lives through Burning Spear as opposed to simply being performed by him. Touching on a variety of classics from "Marcus Garvey" and "Slavery Days" to "Dry & Heavy," his early evening performance at Bumbershoot was as uplifting and smoke-filled as one would assume. Not breaking from convention is perhaps one of his strong suits; you know what you're gonna get, but it's always what you need. -The Kayceman
Burning Spear :: 09.03 by John Crouch
SATURDAY :: 09.04.04
THE BLACK KEYS
Coming out of Akron, Ohio in 2002, the duo of Dan Auerbach (vocals/guitar) and Patrick Carney (drums) are The Black Keys. These college dropouts are becoming one of the hottest bands around--all of sudden they're in Rolling Stone, Time, and on the Billboard Top 200. This gritty garage rock band reaches deep into the blues, wearing their Junior Kimbrough and R.L. Burnside influences on their sleeve and coming across as almost 100% genuine. Perhaps not breaking any new ground, it's refreshing to see a duo play so hot and heavy, in the interconnected manner that only a duo can. Their passionate set at Bumbershoot only helped to raise their stock. Keep your eyes open and you will definitely see The Black Keys in your path. -The Kayceman
The Black Keys :: 09.04 by Mary Grace Dunn
If you haven't yet caught the Drive-By Truckers, you're truly missing out on one of the most impressive bands to emerge in the last few years. The Truckers are doing everything in their power (which is quite a bit) to bring back the days of rock 'n' roll... real, unforgiving, loud as all hell rock 'n' roll. Playing the majority of their new release The Dirty South as well as a fine selection from their catalogue, the Truckers' set was without question one of the top shows of Bumbershoot. Even when they falter and seem to have trouble finding the right words (as guitarist Mike Cooley did during "Carl Perkins Cadillac"), they're able to salvage any moment by simply stepping forward and letting their three-guitar attack unfold. With Jason Isbell on guitar and Shonna Tucker-Isbell on bass the band has finally secured their lineup and appear ready to jump to the next level. -The Kayceman
The Drive-By Truckers :: 09.03 by Mary Grace Dunn
SUNDAY :: 09.05.04
Seamlessly blending elements of African, Cuban, and Brazilian beats with soul, funk, and hip-hop are Seattle's own Quasi Nada. They play percussion-laden dance music, adding rich texture with Fender Rhodes and a three-piece horn section. The superbly delivered husky vocals are beautifully melodic, deceptively intense, and delivered in both English and Portuguese. Their new album Interrupt This Broadcast was recorded in Seattle and Rio and reflects the band's love of not only Latin music, but the lifestyle. I wouldn't be surprised in the least if Quasi Nada got on the festival circuit, eliciting international rave reviews. -Court Scott
Quasi Nada :: 09.05 by John Crouch
Cobra High was another band I had never heard and was eager to check out. While they didn't blow me away they definitely had something going on. I'm always impressed when a band has their own sound. While it was possible to hear certain influences creeping out from this Seattle-based band they are adding something unique to the current musical landscape. Loud and at times assaultive, lead singer and keyboardist Justin Schwartz leads this synth-driven, guitar heavy quartet. Comparisons to Pink Floyd (as the Bumbershoot program stated) seem to be a stretch, whereas the Sex Pistols (maybe on valium) seems more apt. -The Kayceman
Hailing from Mexico, Plastilina Mosh was perhaps the coolest music I had never heard of at Bumbershoot. Sort of an early Beck meets young Beastie Boys, this electronic-based rock band is definitely doing their own thing. With English, Spanish, and Spanglish lyrics moving atop programmed beats and sly guitar work, this is definitely a band worthy of attention. Touching down in the disco realm and bumping with hip-hop, rock, and more, it's obvious why they were nominated for "Best Alternative Music Album" at the 2004 Latin Grammy Awards.
Soulive are a pretty fine trio in their own right, but when you add a mega-talent like Reggie Watts to the lineup, you can let your backbone slip and let the groove do all the work. Way more energetic than I have ever seen them, Soulive seems to have morphed from a seemingly straight-laced soul jazz group into a more hip, playful, and aggressive band; no surprise much of that comes from the addition of a vocalist. A friend said that they sounded like a new twist on a Stax or Motown act, and I think that's pretty accurate. Whether Reggie's crooning, beat-boxing, or initiating all-in audience participation, he's able, as most good showmen are, to involve the crowd in superlative ways. The trio's playing and stage presence have risen to the challenge of taking on a front man, increasing their power through comfort.
Soulive with Reggie Watts :: 09.05 by John Crouch
You don't miss a chance to see Public Enemy. With Chuck D Flavor Flav, Professor Griff and even the S1W's leading the charge, this massive affair rounded out my Bumbershoot Top 3 (below Critters Buggin and Drive-By Truckers). They brought the noise, welcomed us to the Terror Dome and mixed in plenty of anti-Bush rhetoric. Chuck D was in prime form as he got a full call/response going with the crowd:
Public Enemy :: 09.05 by John Crouch
When I say "FUCK," you say "GEORGE BUSH."
And on call the entire stadium of about 20,000 deep did their part (with middle fingers in the air). The very impressive set included Flavor leading "911 Is a Joke" and showing his skills on the drum kit. Capping off the dance-heavy political showdown was a guest appearance by none other than the Geto Boys' pint size rapper Bushwick Bill. POWER TO THE PEOPLE. -The Kayceman
MONDAY :: 09.06.04
Tangletown is the brainchild of Seattle local Michael Shrieve, former drummer for Carlos Santana. With a varying roster, Tangletown plays primarily instrumental tunes, encompassing African, Middle-Eastern, and Latin influenced "modern global" rock to something more muscular, something deliciously close to metal. Six or seven tunes evolved from a musical phrase or idea, were then vamped on, and ultimately given form. It's a bottom-up approach, but it has worked well. As with any band where there are more than six or so members, there is the tendency for the sound to become a bit full and saturated--overcooked, if you will. This particular lineup featured Shrieve and drum 'n' bass prodigy Kevin Sawka on kit, bassist Paul Kemmish, Ryan Leyva and Danny Godinez on guitars, conga player Jonny Conga, and keyboard player Michael Stegner. There was also a vocalist, new to me, named Ernest Pumphrey, Jr. You get the feeling every show is a learning experience and that they're really having fun; I would absolutely recommend checking them out. -Court Scott
Mexico's Control Machete took to the Bumbrella stage Monday afternoon and immediately snagged many stragglers (myself included), in addition to playing for a number or hard-core fans, most of them Hispanic teens. The comparisons to Cypress Hill and Ozomatli are inevitable, but with good reason given their high-energy Mexican melodies and riffs layered over live hip-hop drums and guitar. What they lacked in live horns they compensated for in the form of a DJ and two enthralling MCs. Singing or chanting in Spanglish, these were two of the most symbiotic vocalists I've ever heard. The Machete played at the same time as the Marley Brothers (Bob's boys), one time calling out across the Seattle Center grounds, interlacing "Could You Be Loved" with popping, charged vocals to much success. Hailing from Monterrey (two hours south of Texas), Control Machete's lyrics and political stance have been compared to Rage Against the Machine. Their third album, uno, dos: bandera, was released in 2003 and nominated for a 2004 Latin Grammy. Although I could understand only a bit of the subject matter, it was clear that they had their finger on the pulse of a galvanized flag-waving crowd, and it was understandable how these guys sell out stadiums south of the border. -Court Scott
Galactic's evening set started out deceptively laid back under the shadow of the Space Needle. "Bring the funk," I silently urged, and slowly they gained steam and force. Before long Galactic was bearing down on the ever-growing crowd. But more than a funk show, this was a solid rock show. A few older tunes like "Something's Wrong With This Picture" mixed well with tunes off Ruckus like "Never Called You Crazy." It wasn't anything that I haven't heard from Galactic, even a bit similar to the show they played here a year ago. But that's fine--it was still a Galactic show! As Critter's Buggin were set to follow Galactic, it was a treat, but no surprise that both Skerik and Mike Dillon sat in for a spell. I could sense a friendly complementary competition, a kind of, "Yeah? Well follow this, man" between the band and the guests. Both percussion and sax duels gave way, blowing the energy through the proverbial roof. I was glad to hear that the Houseman was performing, but saddened to learn that it would be one of his last shows with Galactic. We certainly wish him the best while looking forward to some strictly instrumental Galactic on their upcoming tour. -Court Scott
Galactic :: 09.06 by Alyson Jones
CRITTERS BUGGIN AT THE LOFT
One of the absolute best things about a festival like Bumbershoot is the out of town talent that rolls through Seattle. Luckily we have our own talent in Seattle and when the two coalesce the sky's the limit. This was most evident to me at Monday night's loft party. I stood on the edge of the stage trying to contain myself as Brad Houser, Stanton Moore, Mike "The Missing Link" Dillon, and Skerik jammed the tar out of everything from Coltrane to Public Enemy and Bad Brains. The first set was funkier as they were joined for a bit by Ben Ellman on sax and then by a random freestyle MC, who Skerik taped, looped, and sampled the rest of the night. Jazzier, darker, more seat-of-the-pants, though no less intense, the quartet was joined in the second set by guitarist Andy Coe. As the night turned a definite corner towards morning we were treated to one last punk rock slam-down so high in energy that Mike D nearly threw his conga through the window as Houser's forearm tendons strained beneath his tattoos. Full-throttle, Stanton looked like he was about to expire and Skerik appeared gleeful as he goaded them along. It was the most intimate setting for the best thing I heard all weekend. As host Brian DeWaide said, it was under the radar and over the top! -Court Scott
The Loft :: 09.06 by Court Scott
The Kayceman & Court Scott
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