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BUMBERSHOOT Music & Arts Festival – DAY 3
September 3, 2012$3 - $125.00
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.
Each day in the suggested events page, I have included a list of recommended acts
Here’s a list for…
MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 3rd
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 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 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 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
“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’d 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 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 flung himself 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.
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.]