Bumbershoot is a three day explosion of everything music, theatre, comedy, ideas and food. It delivers everything from grandiose performances by chart topping musicians to emerging comedians in intimate theatres. The festival takes place smack dab in the epicentre of downtown. The festival grounds, ample venues and space needle backdrop make for a eclectic experience of everything Seattle and beyond.Festival goers are offered a wide array of selection, every venue is vastly different along with those that inhabit it. Young boisterous types are often found lining up to the EDM concerts at the Key Theatre while silver haired intellectuals are next-door digesting a live podcast. The following are my personal highlights from this three day excursion.
Father John Misty
Father John Misty is the unique and invigorating singer-songwriter that derived from many bands including the harmonious Fleet Foxes. He commits entirely to each and every handwritten song he has brewed directly out of his zany and brilliant mind. His concerts are exhibitions of his true talent which is classy, clever yet unusual. He was clad in a tailored suit while he sang his heart out at the Memorial Stage at sunset hour in Seattle. It was a perfect transition from day to night- relaxing but vibrant. Everyone watching appeared transfixed, hanging onto every word of his poetic and abstract lyrics that are packed with aptitude.
The Improvised Shakespeare Company
The Chicago based Improvised Shakespeare Company had their crowd roaring with laughter at the Bard themed intricate plots of romance, double meanings, love triangles and British domination all on the fly. On Friday they wove together a tale inspired by an audience member suggestion of a Black Beard pirate themed surprise party. They worked off each others creation of theatrical monologue, duelling clever taunts, dance, song and sexual innuendo to continue the storyline. They skillfully produced a complicated story that had the large crowd enthralled with the clever Shakespearian tradition interpreted with modern wit.
Reign Supreme Breaking and Street Dance Competition
Over the three days Reign Supreme Breaking and Street Dance Competition provided a variety of dance exhibitions involving teams and individuals from all over the world. There is an international shared language of B boy that is peaceful and collaborative. It was a competition, yet it didn’t feel competitive. Contestants were consistently empowering and supportive to one another. The multi- cultural performers gave introductory backgrounds that highlighted issues of social justice and providing space for marginalized youth. The DJ’s played the finest hip-hop that was notably intuitive to each performance.The audience sat on the floor of the basement in a large warehouse, immediately addicted to this refreshing art form.
Anderson. Paak and The Free Nationals
Anderson. Paak has had a wildly successful year after the release of his groundbreaking album “Malibu”. Malibu is Paak’s fourth album that has received a remarkably strong critical response. Paak’s music is jazz and funk infused ruthless hip-hop that bursts with passion and power. His voice is dynamic, rich and the man can rap a mile a minute. His performance was nothing short of amazing; his bravado and unapologetic attitude is contagious and palpable. He mesmerized the audience; it was impossible not to dance along. The sound was notably crisp as the Free Nationals are fine tuned musicians. Paak alternated between playing drums while singing quite impressively to taking the centre stage and captivating thousands with his presence.
Macklemore and Ryan Lewis
Seattle born Macklemore and Ryan Lewis provided a grand two hour home- crowd worthy extravaganza at the Memorial Stadium that echoed across the Seattle skyline. Macklemore provided homage to Seattle with guest appearances including Seattle Mariner quarterback Russell Wilson. The cavernous Memorial Stadium shrunk into an intimate music experience with Macklemore’s powerful vocals. Even the police in the crowds had tears in their eyes, specifically for the emotional ballad “Same Love”. He invited a group of young inner-city hip hop artists he has worked with to the stage who executed their craft beautifully. The Seattle symphony was also a part of this larger than life exhibition. It was more than I expected and I expected a lot.
Saxophonist extraordinaire Kamasi Washington has quickly become one of the most impressive musicians on the contemporary jazz map. His 2015 triple album “The Epic” is a three hour celebration of jazz music that shattered the music industry. Washington has also collaborated with Kendrick Lamar, Flying Lotus and Thundercat. He has a solo project consisting of a wall of remarkable musicians, in this particular performance he invited his father Rickey to play clarinet on stage which was quite riveting. Rickey is also a renowned musician from jazz group the Raw Soul Express, he inspired Kamasi to play the saxophone. This particular concert was truly memorable and virtually flawless. It took place on the closing Sunday evening at a small and intimate outdoor stage. Everyone watching was completely engrossed in his tide of talent. His music is a graceful blend of classic and modern jazz that is easy to get completely lost in. This feeling is multiplied several times over in his live performances, the experience swallows you whole.
Seven member Colorado Band The Motet provided the only possible follow up performance to Kamasi Washington. They kept the jazz fumed theme going and peppered in just the right amount of funk. This band delivered a get up and dance set with ample horns provided by Matt Pitt on saxophone and Gabe Nervine on trumpet. Lead vocalist Jas Ingber delivers the ballads with classic Motown flare. I witnessed front man Ingber at every other concert I attended and wondered who this incredible dancing machine was. The Motet offered a perfect last night performance that left everyone wanting more.
- Bumbershoot offered an array of amazing local food booths that featured one dish from a Seattle adorned restaurant.
- In the far southern corner of Ex Hall music poster vendors demonstrated a wide variety of concert posters and musician inspired impressions. These strongly talented artists deserved a better location.
- The KEXP stage provided a cozy place to listen to music and a chance for people to see the interior of the renowned building. They sold great coffee and baked goods that paired perfectly with their well chosen performers during the festival. The coffee ranked up there with some of Seattle’s finest and that is saying a lot in the American mecca of good coffee.
- Bumbershoot is unlike any other festival, every venue has something completely different to offer along with wide variety of talented performers.