Luckily, most of these kids were still asleep when the day’s first act, Kithkin, hit the stage. Squinting through a sun only minutes away from hitting its zenith, the band charged into their set with the same reckless abandon for which they are quickly establishing a reputation. Lost in Reviews caught Kithkin’s act at this year’s inaugural Timber Music Festival, and the same hard-driving, percussion-fueled rock madness was on display at Bumbershoot. The only game in town for fifteen minutes, before the next few acts started up at noon, Kithkin took full advantage of the opportunity, and enticed a majority of the assembled crowd to stay through their pulse-pounding set.
The fun couldn’t last forever, however, as one of the festival’s biggest names was on not long after Kithkin wrapped up. Twin-sister duo Tegan and Sara have been peddling their brand of easy-going synth-pop for more than a decade, now, and don’t show any signs of slowing down. From the look of the audience jam-packed into Key Arena (Bumbershoot’s ‘Main’ stage), that certainly seemed to be the case, anyway. Still, their success and rabid following is something of a mystery to this particular journalist, as Tegan and Sara sound like a cross between A-Ha, and Rick Springfield…with Cyndi Lauper on vocals. Besides their recycled, heard-it-30-years-ago sound, Tegan and Sara’s chord progressions are fairly pedestrian, and reveal a startling lack of creativity. All the teenage girls in the audience seemed to be loving it, but…meh.
There was plenty to look forward to in the day, however, including the appearance of two classic rock bands that are rightly considered part of the foundation of the classic rock pantheon. Eric Burdon and The Animals came on just before 5 p.m., and played a tight (if somewhat tame) set that included many of the band’s expected standards. The Animals all looked excited to be playing in front of such a large, enthusiastic crowd, yet it was difficult to take the measure of Burdon, as he was wearing sunglasses and a hoodie pulled tight around the face. The man’s voice remains fairly intact, and if one closed their eyes, it was easy to imagine the group in their youth again.
This was also the case with the day’s second British Invasion revival, when The Zombies came on stage. While they played around the same time, The Zombies had a much softer, more rhythmic sound than the soulful, blues-inspired brand of rock The Animals subscribed to. This divergence was obvious once The Zombies took the stage, and started in on their easy-listening, unobtrusive set. Although it was enjoyable in a nostalgic way that is fun for half an hour or so, with other, more rollicking acts performing just around the corner and only barely out of earshot, it was hard not to wander away at the Siren’s song. When leaving, if one threw a glance at the assembled crowd swaying gently to The Zombies, all the fifty-to-sixty-somethings did appear thrilled, but…meh.
Part of this anxiousness may have been the result of the fantastic set Mates of State put on between the performances of The Animals and The Zombies. A husband and wife duo composed of Kori Gardner on keyboard and Jason Hammel on percussion, Mates of State is known for their high-register harmonies, up-tempo song structures, and infectious live performances. Their set on Sunday certainly didn’t disappoint, and had those gathered for the late-afternoon show dancing and singing back to the band. There was surprisingly little competition from other acts during their time slot, something that allowed for one of the largest non-Main stage crowds Bumbershoot saw all weekend.
Another band that saw a very healthy draw for their set was The Breeders, a 1990’s rock powerhouse that has been somewhat overshadowed by founding member Kim Deal’s other band, a little group called The Pixies. And that’s too bad. As dynamic, influential, and downright fun as The Pixies are, they’d only be half a band without Deal’s contributions as both a singer and songwriter. As The Breeders ripped through their set, grinding out the distortion-filled rhythms of the songs off their seminal sophomore offering, ‘Last Splash,’ it was enough to make a Seattleite a little misty. Here, on stage, was the soundtrack of the rebellious, non-mainstream 90’s. Although The Breeders aren’t a Seattle band, their sound spoke to a new brand of post-punk rock anarchy that would change Seattle forever, and helped give birth to a new genre: Grunge.
As the sun began to set behind The Breeders, an excited energy began to vibrate through the Bumbershoot grounds. Acting as something of a bridge between the acts wrapping up around 8:30, and those scheduled to close the day with their 10 p.m. sets, Beats Antique came on at 9, and might have easily blown the roof off a building had they not wisely been put on an outdoor stage. An electronic and jazz-inspired collaboration that mixes Middle Eastern music with hip hop and afro beats, Beats Antique is unlike anything else out there. In between songs, one of the group’s members explained that a laptop containing all the group’s music and beats had been misplaced/stolen not long after they arrived at Bumbershoot, hence their set was mostly free-form, and improvisational. The quality of the performance certainly didn’t suffer as a result, and the crowd seemed only more supportive once they learned of the band’s misfortune.
Beats Antique was a splendid warm-up for the day’s penultimate performance as well, for an audience that had got its blood flowing and toes tapping were only further encouraged to continue shaking asses once Matt & Kim came on at 10 p.m. Of course, there was an alternative option at the main stage – a sour, depressing, mysteriously popular band called Death Cab for Cutie. Those who wanted to wallow in the memories of a depressing breakup from eight years ago, and sway tenderly to a bunch of sad-bastard music went that direction; those who wanted to rock out, dance, and generally have the best time of their lives went to see Matt & Kim.
A take-no-prisoners duo comprised of lead-singer/keyboardist Matt Johnson, and the unstoppable force of nature that is drummer Kim Schifino, Matt & Kim made sure those who had sided with them in the great Death Cab-Matt & Kim decision of 2013 felt justified. Everything that seasoned, experienced Matt & Kim fans were expecting was on display Sunday night, including an energy-filled set that was the rival of any performance the band has ever given. Kim walked on the crowd, but this evening also saw Matt give the vaunted feat a try as well, something that delighted the enthusiastic Bumbershoot crowd.
In all, it seemed like the perfect way to close out an evening, and what little energy that may have remained in a person’s system was unquestionably gone after Matt & Kim’s full set. Indeed, the pair were so enthusiastic, and unshakably buoyant, it was as if they were sucking their charge directly from the audience (who didn’t feel the effects until the set closed). This was altogether good, for there was still a full day of festivities lined up for Monday, Labor Day, when such acts as The Maldives, Alt-J, MGMT, Deerhunter, The Joy Formidable, and BASSNECTAR were scheduled to perform. If not encouraged by a day’s worth of dancing and rocking to get to bed and rest up for Monday’s final push, a person damn-well should have been.
By Warren Cantrell