BUMBERSHOOT 2012 – Day by Day Recommendations

Since 1971, the annual Bumbershoot Music & Arts Festival has been held at Seattle Center, an area that was originally constructed for the 1962 World’s Fair and is home to the Space Needle (erected for the same purpose).  Throughout the mid-1990s through the early 2000s, my friends and I sneaked in just about every single year.  It’s been about a decade since my last visit, but Monster Fresh is gonna be covering the festival this year and I’m genuinely pretty excited about it.  Sure the ticket prices are astronomical again (compared to 20yrs ago) and I’m way too old and out of shape to jump a fence in my old age, but I’m still getting in for free like the good ol’ days, so fuck it.

But seriously folks… The reason that I’m really excited is partly because of the nostalgia and because I’ve had a lot of lifelong memories formed through this festival in the past.  Bumbershoot is what you’re supposed to be doing in Seattle over Labor Day.  When I moved to to King County, there was a ton of all-ages shit for kids to do to prevent them from simply stealing their parents booze, getting into fights, and breaking thangz.  There were events for the community and constant reasons for us to want to ride a bus up to Seattle from the suburbs and spend the day up here with something to do.  These days I live in the city and there isn’t much that excites me like it used to.  I often wonder now what the fuck the youth is getting into, but through all of the changes, diminishing of all-ages venues, and funding cuts, Bumbershoot is still here for the community.  It’s crowded and there are both families and skethed-out wingnuts in spades, but it’s an experience full of music, comedy, and even intimate Q & As.  Over the years I’ve had the pleasure of witnessing a variety of acts perform such as WEEN, David Byrne, Built to Spill, Benevento Russo Duo, Daniel Johnston, The Ramones, Tiny Tim, Public Enemy, Sam Bush, Maceo Parker, Sonic Youth, Rat Dog, and was even pulled off and beaten down after trying to breakdance on the mainstage during Beck.  Even in going as a member of the media, I’m still really hoping to see some hooligans trying to work their way into this festival and the looks on the faces of someone experiencing an act that they would have never come in contact with otherwise, but is exposing them to something remarkable.

Below I have provided a list of recommendations for acts that you might want to check out.  With the assumption that you’re not only too lazy to come up with your own ideas about what acts to see, but also too incompetent to organize your own fucking schedule, this list has been separated chronologically by day and time, just for you.  Alright, let’s get started.

Here’s a list for…

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 1st

FLATSTOCK

(recommended every day)
11:00am – 8:00pm @ Armory (Armory)

It’s a convention style set up with various screenprint and poster artists. Whenever you’re not doing anything and have some down time, check it out. It will be up every day. The set of complimentary WEEN posters pictured above were created by Gregg “Gigart” Gordon, who’s work we’ve featured before on Monster Fresh. Also appearing at Flatstock will be other past WEEN poster artists like Justin Hampton and Justin Santora, as well as site favorites like Nakatomi Inc’s Timothy Doyle. Go pick yourself up something nice.

 

TacocaT

12:15pm – 1:15pm @ Sub Pop Stage (Fountain Lawn)


Local, awesome, energetic, they like to rock, they like to roll, their name is a palindrome. WHAT ELSE DO YOU NEED?! How about the fact that they are all such pleasant, salt of the Earth ladies and a gent? They can afford to be that way, because there’s nothing that they can’t prove with their own musical abilities. Note to everyone else: when you’re an elitist dick it will eventually reveal itself through your music. If you want to have a good time and set the entire festival off by getting your head and energy calibrated right, get there early and hit up the TacocaT set. And, if you miss them, you can still catch them doing a brief 20 minute set from 3:30 – 3:50 p.m on the Toyota Free Yr Radio Stage at the Vera project.

Here, see how they get down live.


Skerik’s Bandalabra

2:15pm – 3:15pm @ Starbucks Stage (Mural Amphitheatre)


Skerik is a local music staple, punk-jazz saxophonist, and frequent Les Claypool collaborator who is in more projects than I could ever dream of counting–all of them really amazing. This one is, apparently, heavily influenced by both the Music of Fela Kuti and minimalism. I’ve seen him perform more times than I can count and he never disappoints. Also look for Skerik to pop up at random; he’s known to make a lot of cameos during the sets of others. It’s been a while since I’ve caught the festival, of course, but I can’t remember a time when I didn’t see him sit in with at least somebody.


King Khan and the Shrines

4:15pm – 5:15pm @ TuneIn Stage (Fisher Green)

King Khan is known for 2 projects primarily: his doo wop and punk inspired BBQ Show and his raucous as all get out psychedelic/garage/soul outfit, King Khan and the Shrines. The latter, which will be making it’s way to the festival this year, has become notorious for it’s large sound, horns, and the scantly dressed front man’s high energy performances. While the recorded music sounds great, it’s hard to bring them up without referring to them as a live act. Those with Platinum passes will have an additional opportunity to check them out during a more intimate performance in the Music Lounge at 1:15pm.


John Waters

8:30pm – 9:45pm @ Bagley Wright Theatre (Bagley)

My friend Gavin is originally from Baltimore. It’s the same area that cult-filmmaker, John Waters, helped to provide some of us, who have never visited the Maryland city, with our only impression of the place–a kitschy, drag queen filmed, wonderland. According to Gavin, he had only ever come in contact with the “Pope of Trash” once and it was while he was in a liquor store back home. Apparently, as Waters was leaving the store, he accidentally bumped into some wine bottles, which then fell smashing to the ground. His only reaction to what he had done was to say, “Tell them that I did it and sell ’em for more!,” before turning back around and walking out. With absolutely anyone else, it would seem like despicable behavior, but somehow it becomes even more endearing coming from a filmmaker who launched his career by having his star eat dog feces on camera.

I’ve seen him speak before and his appearances are definitely something you’ll want to catch. Part memoir, part standup, part monologue, part lecture, part… I don’t know, I guess it’s 100% John Waters. During the last time that I saw him, he told a story about a woman yanking out her tampon to have him sign it. Odds are that, if nothing else, you’re gonna come away with something memorable.





SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 2nd

 

Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings

 1:45pm – 2:45pm @ Bumbershoot Mainstage (KeyArena)

Daptone records has been at the forefront of what has repeatedly been referred to as a “revivalist” movement for the soul sounds of the 1960s through mid-70s, but unlike other resuscitated sounds of the past that are currently in favor with the youth of today, such as the overwhelming onslaught of generic 80s synths flooding the virtual airwaves, the Daptone catalog sounds much more authentic and doesn’t seem to be cursed with irony or contrivance. Maybe that’s because some of their artists, like Charles Bradley and Lee Fields (performing at the festival later in the day), have been at it for most of their lives. Sharon Jones is no exception and, along with her group the Dap-Kings, she’s become the break out force for the label, helping to put it on the map. In fact, her debut release was the very first full-length released by the Daptone a full decade ago. The Dap-Kings have gained further notoriety by being the band that backed Amy Winehouse on her critically acclaimed, Mark Ronson produced album, Back to Black, and when Phish threw their 3-day festival known as Festival 8 at the Indio Polo Fields over Halloween weekend in 2009, Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings joined them on stage to recreate the classic Rolling Stones album, Exile on Maine St in it’s entirety. These guys have an incredible resume and are beyond impressive. You don’t want to miss this set.

Here’s a video that features a cameo by Lee Fields, who you can catch later in the evening from 7:30pm – 8:30pm @ TuneIn Stage (Fisher Green)


Yelawolf

 4:00pm – 5:00pm @ TuneIn Stage (Fisher Green)


Alabama native, Michael Wayne Atha (aka Yelawolf), looks a lot more like a member of a random Warped Tour band than a Southern rap star, but that’s exactly what he’s become. His career has taken some of the typical turns that plague struggling artists, by being signed and dropped (by Rick Rubin no less) and enduring years of trying to get his name out there by methods that range from TV appearances–both reality and dramatic–to working the mixtape hustle. I first heard him on a Big Boi track and his flow is incredibly identifiable and unique. Now signed to Eminem’s Shady records, the only “notable” comparison between the two artists is their choice of genre and skin color. He’s likely adopted some more mainstream subject matter on his newer material, but I discovered him through backwoods and hood-as-fuck cuts like “Pop the Trunk” where he spits verses about blasting fools to death with shotguns.

Every year, Bumbershoot makes sure to do set aside one night as a hip hop showcase for the mainstage. In the past it has featured such legendary talent as Public Enemy and Mos Def. This year that day falls on Sunday, and the mainstage features much younger acts like Big Sean and Mac Miller. Sean has made a name for himself after accosting Kanye West at a radio station trying to slip him a demo tape. Mac Miller is another up and comer who, apparently, already up and came, getting the major mainstage headlining spot over the whole festival for the day. Meanwhile, Yelawolf isn’t part of that lineup at all and will be performing on a small sidestage at 4pm next to the centerhouse, in the middle of the festival grounds where families and young children stroll through. For me, that’s enough. I just want to see what kind of wingnut shit this guy is rapping about and the looks on the faces of innocent, unsuspecting on-lookers while he does it.


Writers of Futurama

7:00pm – 8:00pm @ Words & Ideas Stage (Leo K Theatre)

One of the great features of Bumbershoot is that they host a number of talks, Q&As and lectures each day. If you feel like changing up the pace of your day and are planning to try and hit one of those up, why not go to one with the writers of Futurama? This event conflicts with Mudhoney’s set, who has remained a consistent live act with one of the most engaging frontmen ever, in Mark Arm, but I’ve already seen them a million times over the years. If you haven’t seen them before, that might be the way to go, but if you live in Seattle, chances are that you’ll be able to catch Mudhoney again. The energy between the two are like night and day so, depending on where you’re at with your own energy and how you feel about it, it should be easy enough to make a determination between the two, based on that.

Here’s a bit of a description of what to expect from the talk, via the Bumbershoot website:

Writers of Futurama will discuss the unique opportunities and challenges of writing an animated program, and will present a world-premiere clip of an episode currently in production for broadcast in the 2013 season. Moderated by Kurt Braunohler, star of Bunk on IFC.


Blitzen Trapper

8:30pm – 9:30pm @ Sub Pop Stage (Fountain Lawn)

Being from the Northwest, I’ve seen Portland’s Blitzen Trapper quite a few times at this point. Nothing against these guys, because I think that they’re a really talented and solid group of musicians, but after seeing them so often, I felt burned out and didn’t really see the point of checking them out again. Then, towards the end of last year, we hosted a ticket giveaway for a Seattle performance that they were co-headlining with the band Dawes. Being offered a free ticket and photo pass, I figured that I might as well swing down to check it out at the last minute and get some shots. Not only did they blow the other act completely out of the water, they definitely made a case for themselves as a live act worth catching again and again. [Read our review of that show HERE.]

Whether you consider them to be an indie, folk, alt-country, or psychedelic act, might be irrelevant. At their core, Blitzen Trapper is a rock band that might make it look impressive, but doesn’t make it look easy. They’re a group that pushes their sound out with grit and elbow grease and puts their soul into all of it.  They might wind up doing aerial maneuvers in a spacecraft traveling through an inter-dimensional portal, but they get that machine off of the ground with a push start and the hand crank of a propeller on a bi-plane. If you want to see something honest and witness a group that’s churning something out with everything they have, make the effort to slip by the Sub Pop stage at 8:30pm to see for yourself if it’s worth sticking around. They seem to be getting increasingly better each time that I see them and it’s a safe bet that you’ll want to spend the next hour watching Blitzen Trapper rip the fucking stage apart.



Wanda Jackson and the Dusty 45s

9:30pm – 10:45pm @ Starbucks Stage (Mural Amphitheatre)

74 year old Queen of Rockabilly and Rock n Roll Hall of Fame inductee, Wanda Jackson had to prove herself early on in her career. At first rejected from a contract with Capitol records due to their claim that a female artist wouldn’t sell any records, she later moved more than a few units for the label, while becoming a widely popular musical sensation. With her wild growl, steamrolling delivery, and glamorous twists in style and delivery, she made tremendously positive and groundbreaking impacts on the perceptions of the capabilities of women in the industry, as well as on music as a whole. She might be well known for her romantic relationship with tour mate, Elvis Presley, in her youth, or for her more recent collaborations with long-time fan, Jack White, but if there’s one artist who doesn’t need either of these rock stars to define them, it’s Wanda–she’s more than proven that she’s a legend in her own right. Make sure to catch this legend live, while you still have the opportunity.

Here, check out some of this raucous throwback jive..






MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 3rd

 


LOW

 2:30pm @ KEXP Music Lounge
and
6:45pm – 7:45pm @ Sub Pop Stage (Fountain Lawn)


LOW emerged in the first half of the 1990s in the midst of the grunge revolution and decided to take a completely different approach to making music; they made it really fucking slow and really fucking dreamy. The root of the group are original members and married couple, Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker, who have known each other the majority of their lives. Creating a counterpoint to the heavier driving music that was dominating the airwaves at the time, their basic setup featured Sparhawk on guitar with Mimi playing a stripped down drumkit that consisted of a simple floor tom and cymbal, which she primarily played with brushes, and the low end slowly growling around, providing a solid yet malleable structure of support –the current bassist is already their 4th. In a time when aggression was returning to popularity, Low became like an oasis of hypnotic and meditative sound, with their delicate harmonies buoying and skimming slowly across their tones like a paper boat.  They’re like the musical equivalent of whatever that derelict from American Beauty was getting off on, by watching that plastic bag aimlessly float around.  At some point while searching for their own sound and using their own unique approach, they inadvertently helped to spawn another extremely generalized and broadly titled musical genre known as “slow-core.” While those who have been stamped with the slow-core identification aren’t generally too keen on the label, as is usually the case with these outside categorizations, Low has become somewhat synonymous with any mention of the genre.

Since 1994, the trio has released an impressive number of studio albums and eps and has even gone through some minor changes.  In the 200os they signed with Sub Pop records and, at some point, they even gave Mimi a snaredrum, which benefited what was becoming a slightly rockier sound.  But even a rock song by Low would be a slower track on a release by someone else.  They’ve also added some electronic accents into the mix, which plays off some of the post-rock textures that they’ve hinted at over time.  If you’ve been yelling at Mormons when they come to your door, this is an opportunity to go support a band of Latter Day Saints (seriously) and wipe your conscious a little cleaner.  In fact, if you happen to have a platinum pass, which grants you access to the KEXP Music Lounge shows at a “secret” sidestage, then you will actually have 2 separate opportunities to catch Low performing on Monday.  Unfortunately for me, both of them seem to slightly overlap with other acts that I’m planning on catching (Ty Segall, Fishbone).  But, if you do have access to the music lounge, an intimate performance space such as that, would definitely be the ideal spot to see them live.


Ty Segall

 3:15pm – 4:15pm @ Sub Pop Stage (Fountain Lawn)


Ty Segall is arguably one of the most, if not thee most, prolific artists to come out of the thriving Bay Area garage rock scene in recent years (think Thee Oh Sees and Sic Alps). That’s something that everyone likes to mention. After playing in various projects, Segall quit his band the Epsilons 4 years ago to embark on his solo career. That’s another thing that people really enjoy mentioning. The reason for that, however, is because the fact that he’s only been putting out solo material for such a short period of time, is what really makes his amount of output so impressive. Since 2008, he’s released 7 full-length LPs, with his 8th, titled Twins, being released on Drag City Records in October. That’s not including another full-length called Slaughterhouse that he released as “The Ty Segall Band” on In the Red Records, earlier this year. It also doesn’t include, Hair, his collaboration with White Fence, also released on Drag City earlier this year. Then there’s the endless other collaborations, singles, EPs, and split albums that he’s released, one of which was a split with Ty Segall Band member, Mikal Cronin, who alone released one of my absolute favorite albums last year with his self-titled debut. While Segall can easily maneuver through variations in his style from release to release, which range from psych-folk to all out sonic distorted chaos, simply based on my own experience, his live shows seem to favor the latter. His Drag City debut, Good Bye Bread (2011), was much more of a sedated approach to songwriting with folky psychedelic pop numbers, while Slaughterhouse, which was recorded with his touring band, is much more of an eviscerating, explosive, aptly titled, and driving release reflective of that live experience. Sure, this guy has an endless supply of tunes to draw from and, no doubt, endless more that haven’t even been laid to tape yet, but that shouldn’t matter; whether you’re familiar with the material or not, you’re pretty much guaranteed to get swept up in his tornado of swirling high energy grooves, screeching guitars, and infectious melodies. Plus, whether you’ve just seen Low or are just getting the day rolling, this should really kick the things back into gear.

Note that this show conflicts with the M83 set over on the main stage. For me personally, the side stages always win in a tie and Ty will be performing on the Sub Pop stage on the fountain lawn. Ironically enough, out of all of the labels that he’s released things on, I’m pretty sure that Sub Pop isn’t one of them.

Here the band is playing in a steam room


The Pharmacy

4:30pm – 5:30pm @ The Promenade (The Promenade)

Beginning as the 4-track project of Scottie Yoder and eventually gaining traction via the introduction of drummer Brendhan Bowers and classically-trained pianist Stefan Rubicz, local trio The Pharmacy has grown into an impressive act that consistently churns out smart, energetic bursts of cheeky garage-pop. The band has toured all over North American and Europe with acts varying from Japanther and Vivian Girls to Kimya Dawson and Matt+Kim.

Ok… so all of that was simply cut and pasted directly from the Bumbershoot site. Now that we got all of the “cheeky garage-pop,” descriptors and bullshit out of the way, let’s really break it down for you: The Pharmacy does not fuck around. Even if you’re planning to start your day off slow-core, after you see see Ty Segall, you might as well keep your feet off the brakes and keep this beast rolling until the wheels fall off. It’s the last day of the festival for chrissakes, so it’s time to get weird and end this goddam fiasco the right way. The Pharmacy is the type of band that you expect to see loading equipment into a van and driving out to SXSW to play a bunch of grimy sweat-drenched venues while slamming back dented tallboys and kickin’ out the metaphorical jams, but they’re not a group that exudes that “Let’s keep at it chums, and some day we’ll really make it!” vibe. Not unlike Segall and his crew, they look genuinely comfortable and content with where they are, not because they have no “larger” aspirations, but because their aspirations are already to create and perform with everything that they have. They’re doing this shit, because it’s what they want to be doing and what they’re meant to be doing. You know, the way that it’s supposed to be? After exhausting themselves while opening for Ty Segall earlier this year, Pharmacy members continued to fling themselves from the stage during the headliners set, crowd surfing and pumping their fists into the air in support. They weren’t just supporting their friends, or another band, they were in support of the entire environment. They were supporting the party and being a party to the party. They’re showing up offering to perform as an entry fee into the raucous and if there’s no raucous already in effect for them to join in, it won’t matter, because they’ll definitely be bringing their own.


Fishbone

 6:15pm – 7:15pm @ Exhibition Hall Stage (Exhibition Hall)

Fishbone was one of the first concerts that I ever saw, way back in 1993 at Lollapalooza. Their oversized band stomped around pumping out ska-tinged, punk rock/funk numbers while Angelo Moore proved why he is one of the most dynamic frontmen ever to hold that position. In the back drop was a giant mechanical cartoon-like fishbone, resembling Moore with a short dready mohawk, that hung from the rafters as smoke billowed out of it’s mouth. Norwood Fisher slapped out ridiculous bass grooves, horns soared in unison and Angelo tossed his body haphazardly into the raging crowd with his maniacal trademark mad scientist smirk plastered across his face. My young mind was blown. Later during Primus’ set, Les Claypool invited Fisher out to play on stage with him. For a bass player of Claypool’s caliber to invite another bassist out to share the stage and shine like that, you knew that he held a huge amount of respect for what Norwood was doing and what he represented.

The South Central Los Angeles group was actually one of the very first bands to ever really capture my attention. Being uneducated about musical history, as far as Jamaican roots and the skatalites, etc, Fishbone were what ska music was to me and the very first time that I ever heard the term was through them. When bands like No Doubt appeared in the 90s, they immediately, and rightly so, sounded like pure bullshit to me. When I heard the album Truth and Soul (1988), with their cover of “Freddie’s Dead” from the Superfly soundtrack, it was my first exposure to Curtis Mayfield. It was probably my first real exposure to funk music and a lot of other shit too. This year’s festival headliners, Janes Addiction were coming up at that time, as were Primus, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers were still doing their Mother’s Milk thing, but out of all of them, Fishbone seemed to fade away and never fully seize that big break. Out of all of them, they may have also been the most original.

The recent documentary Everyday Sunshine: The Story of Fishbone, narrated by Laurence Fishburne, sets out to explain who Fishbone is, was, and why they never really broke out the way that they probably should have and definitely deserved to. The short version is that they’re black. The slightly longer version is that they are an incredibly eclectic group of black men that formed 33 years ago in the ghetto, playing punk songs with a horn section and nobody knew what to make of them. The much longer version involves internal conflicts, brain washing, a member taking another member to court with accusations of attempted kidnapping, and everybody else quitting on the regular. Overall, their biggest strengths became their biggest weaknesses, because there never was supposed to be a frontman, per se, and there were way too many cooks with so many ideas in the Fishbone kitchen. When I first saw them, it was already 14 years after their inception and they were taking a huge turn into darker, heavier, territory with Give a Monkey A Brain… I was down with it, but I know that they were starting to shake a lot of their fanbase even back then. About a decade later, I interviewed them when they played a small club in Olympia, Wa, and they still put everything that they had into playing for that small crowd. Now they’re appearing on a side stage at Bumbershoot, and hopefully making their way back up, thanks to some new found notoriety. They were always ahead of their time; here’s to hoping that their time is 2013. These guys are the real deal.



The Vaselines

 8:30pm – 9:45pm @ Sub Pop Stage (Fountain Lawn)

It looks like the Sub Pop stage continues to do big things on Monday, closing down their run at the festival with legendary Glasgow duo, The Vaselines. “Isn’t that the band that Kurt Cobain made famous?” The answer to that question is… basically. It’s hard to deny that Nirvana’s choice to cover songs like “Jesus Wants Me For A Sunbeam,” “Son of a Gun,” and “Molly’s Lips” weren’t the catalysts that brought them not only mainstream attention, but any attention outside of their home country of Scotland. By the time those covers were being recorded and a subsequent compilation of their material was released by Sub Pop, the duo had long been broken up, both as a band and from a romantic relationship. Their reformation 20 years after their demise may have seemed like a bit of a novelty, but I’ve seen them twice in recent years and they sound amazing. Their songwriting is obviously solid, but as a live act, they are surprisingly great. Plus, it’s nice to see that their rapport with each other is as strong as ever. In fact, it would be easy to claim that the banter is the best part of their live shows, if the music didn’t always sound so fucking good. Go see the Vaselines; they’re better than you think that they’re gonna be, even if you already have fairly high expectations.

[If you want to know more about what to expect from a Vaselines show, check out an old review that I wrote right after the first time that I saw them, HERE.]

Dead C

Located in Seattle, Dead C is the founder/editor, as well as the principal writer and photographer, of Monster Fresh. Creating the site in 2007, he did so with a specific dream in mind. Unfortunately, being a muscle relaxer-fueled fever dream, it's hard to recall all of the details. "I remember that my mom was there, but it wasn't actually her in the dream, it was actually 70s heart throb, Jan Michael Vincent. And everything took place here, in this room... but it wasn't actually here... it was different. The colors were washed out and, for some reason, there was a raccoon kicking it with us and it was wearing a holographic monocle."

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