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Tuesday
Sep052017

Bumbershoot 2017: Part One

“Who are these scantily-clad children and where do they get their money?”

-       Inner monologue

Bumbershoot is too expensive. It is not what it used to be (namely, free or at least affordable). It is hard to get as excited about a festival in September after there were 25 other festivals already this summer. Have I covered my bases? It’s hard to argue with any of these points. What was once a city-wide celebration of culture has evolved (devolved?) into a celebration of culture for those with $150/day to celebrate it.

That said, the actual experience once you walk through the gates isn’t all that different. Lots of food, music, visual art, dudes jumping over a line of 4-5 people, statue people, buskers, and retail booths. It’s a little bit of a lot and, with the beautiful weather, there was more than enough to do.

 

The Spider Ferns

Seattle mainstay The Spider Ferns kicked things off on the KEXP stage in style. With live psychedelic visuals by CTPAK Film Crew’s John Theroux and two interpretive dancers, their set offered a preview of their forthcoming album “Blossom”. Already known for their fever dreamy, down-tempo electro grooves, their new songs expand that territory and mine new domains of sonic interest. More guitar-driven than their previous releases with occasional baroque electronic flourishes, The Spider Ferns commanded the stage and the collective imagination of their audience effortlessly.

 

Acapulco Lips

In an industry that celebrates innovation (real or imagined) as its holy grail, there is a lot to be said for a band that does conventional rock really well. Acapulco Lips are just such a band and the packed crowd inside KEXP went along for the ride without reservations. Blistering through a set of catchy psych-surf party rock, the band evoked an image of Link Wray and Dick Dale crashing a Cramps rehearsal that ended with everyone high and happy.  

 

Foster the People

I won’t claim to be a super fan of Foster the People but I will say that I’ve always respected them as dorks with the ability to write a great pop song. At Memorial Stadium, those dorky indie kids were replaced by leather jacket-wearing, paint-by-numbers extras from “Grease” who were out to prove that they were…tough or something? They kicked their set off with some aggressive, undeniably catchy electro pop from their most recent release “Sacred Hearts Club” that had the crowd moving before launching into their hits “Pumped Up Kicks” and “Helena Beat”, among others. Artistic evolution is essential but the tough guy makeover was a little distracting.

 

Moon Duo

If I ever get murdered in the desert, I want Moon Duo to be playing on my killer’s stereo. Dishing out roadhouse guitar riffs with smart synth parts that bound together effortlessly, they played for an intimate, engaged audience. Long psychedelic instrumental passages and haunting, disembodied melodies added another layer of surrealism and escape that I needed after a solid 4 hours of stage-hopping.

 

It was at this point that my photographer Sidney and I were sitting at a fountain when a long line of women, dressed in what looked to be red prison uniforms, marched single-file directly to where we were sitting. They paused for a long time. Then they marched single file into Seattle Center’s big-ass fountain and walked around it for quite a while. It didn’t take long till there was a young man jumping around, acting as though he was leading the march and two teenage-ish girls following them and taking selfies feverishly. I never did find out the purpose of it. But it was worth noting.

 

Broods

Playing to a small but enthusiastic crowd at the Fisher Green Stage, Auckland, New Zealand’s Broods gave a solid performance of their danceable electro pop (how many times do you think I’ll say electro pop before it’s over?) that was pleasant enough, if not terribly distinctive.

 

Watksy

I didn’t know a thing about Watksy and I only caught his set because the grass at the Fisher Green stage was really comfortable. It was a happy accident. With a full live band blasting epic funk rock, blues and jazz, George Watsky commanded the stage and the crowd, at one point leading everyone in a “Fuck Donald Trump” chant. His raps alternated between social consciousness and silliness but were always amusing, at least. Toward the end of the set, his marathon flows did get a bit tedious but overall, this was a stand-out performance that I won’t soon forget. 

Die Antwoord

Nihilism with a budget. Die Antwoord live is everything you’d expect them to be: hilarious, crass, hyper sexual, hyper stylized and…well, hyper. With DJ Hi-Tek perched high atop a glorious LED rave pyramid, Ninja and Yolandi Visser kept the energy high with what may be the loudest sub-bass tones I have ever heard in my life. If you were expecting back-up dancers dressed as sexy ghosts, you were in luck. If you wanted LED animals with gigantic penises and testicles, you were in luck. Even with Key Arena slightly less than half full, the energy was palpable. Bottom line, this was a celebration of righteous excess, the music was secondary, and nobody cared. This was sensory overload and a great way to finish the night.

 

Words by Patrick Galactic

Photos by Sydnie, Deer Creek Media

 

 

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