And so it came to this, the last day of Bumbershoot 2013. Although Day 2, on Sunday, featured some of the festival’s biggest names in terms of bands whose heyday was in the past (The Zombies, The Animals, Death Cab for Cutie), Monday’s acts seemed to represent more of the present. As the sun-crisped crowds filed into the Seattle center at 11 that morning, there was an absence of the fatigue and weariness that might normally be expected on the last day of a music festival. Perhaps this was because Bumbershoot’s centrally-located position in the heart of downtown Seattle allowed its attendees to return home each night to rest and regroup. Whatever the cause, the day’s outlook seemed bright right from the get-go, and one of Bumbershoot’s first acts certainly didn’t dampen that enthusiasm.
The Maldives are a cherished hometown group that Seattle has held close to its heart for roughly a decade. The band’s ubiquitous presence at Sasquatch, the Capitol Hill Block Party, Bumbershoot, and other smaller Washington music festivals has earned them a loyal regional following, and the respect of most locals. For those unfamiliar with them, The Maldives have a folk revival rock/jam band feel, yet with a Northwestern slant a-la The Decemberists. Their music has a twangy backbone that they’ve grown into a very sharp sound, and it acted as the perfect launching pad for the day’s festivities.
Next up, on the ‘Main’ stage, was Alt-J, an English rock quartet that’s only just broken out in the last year. They’re debut album, ‘An Awesome Wave,’ was released in May 2012, yet in that time they’ve garnered a lot of attention on both sides of the pond. Their songs have a haunting quality at times, for their vocal harmonies dance and weave between each other in overlapping sets that complement the delicate rhythms of the song beautifully. Though Alt-J uses a great deal of electronic instrumentation, they often juxtapose this against acoustic guitars and pianos, something that makes for a wonderfully unique and beautiful sound.
Conveniently, the next act up on the ‘Main’ stage after Alt-J was MGMT, something that allowed for a little extra time out of the sun, and off one’s feet. While it could have been the cooled, comfortable environment, or maybe the unusually long stretch of time in just one place, or perhaps the hypnotic, dark instrumentation of MGMT, but their set nearly caused this particular journalist to pass out. True, MGMT has gotten people dancing in the past, and their brand of music certainly isn’t “sleepy” by any stretch of the imagination, but after almost an hour of their set, other, more invigorating musical adventures seemed to await elsewhere.
These were found at one of Bumbershoot’s smaller set-ups, the ‘Plaza’ stage, where The Kopecky Family Band was playing. A full-steam-ahead, up-tempo group based out of Nashville, Tennessee, The Kopecky Family Band still had all the early enthusiasm of a group still excited to be playing in front of crowds bigger than a handful of friends and family. The band sports both a male and female vocalist, something that gave their dirty indie rock pop sound a nice Pixies flavor. The sudden arrival of a lap steel guitar and plunging female vocal occasionally grounded The Kopecky Family Band back into their Southern (with a capital “S”) foundation, yet not in any kind of way that took away from their sound. In all, it was a good performance, and a wonderful look at a band that’s on the rise.
One of the next acts of note was actually not a band, but a comedian, one Mr. Patton Oswalt. Bumbershoot consistently books a number of comedic acts each year, and Patton Oswalt has frequented the festival a number of times. Easily one of the funniest comedians working today, Oswalt shared a little over an hour of time with three other comedians, and spent the majority of his set talking about one of the most horrific (yet profitable) gigs he’s ever suffered through. As it happened, this performance was here in Washington, at the Tulalip Casino, where Patton got the Five Star treatment from the hotel and casino management, and a Five Star heckling from the blind-drunk crowd in attendance. It made for a great set, and a nice change of pace leading into Bumbershoot’s evening hours.
One of the best of this latter part of Monday was Deerhunter, a band from Atlanta that has a classic rock, Rolling Stones slant with a considerable grunge influence in the vein of Sonic Youth, et al. There’s a lot of distortion and reverb in Deerhunter’s music, yet when watching them live, there’s a mad, chaotic beauty to it that suggests some order to the madness. Lead singer Bradford Cox has a very aggressive, all-out stage persona that is in startling contrast to his somewhat restrained vocals. Coming on just after the sun had gone down, Deerhunter’s steady, almost locomotive-esque rhythms found the perfect balance amongst a crowd looking to keep their energy up, yet save enough stamina for the evening’s final acts.
For those looking for a full-tilt boogie dance party, there was Bassnectar on the ‘Main’ stage, where legions of hard-partying souls went to sweat themselves into a sleepy stupor. Those who were looking to enjoy the lovely 10 p.m. weather outdoors with a band no less exhilarating peeled off to go see The Joy Formidable, and were largely vindicated in their decision. An irresistibly poppy, garage brand of rock and roll, The Joy Formidable are a recent addition to the musical landscape, and bear all the influences of late-20th century predecessors like The Foo Fighters and Jimmy Eat World. Their guitar playing was wonderfully dirty and chord heavy, yet was complimented by creative tempo progressions and pitch-perfect harmonies.
It was the perfect way to close out not just an evening, but a weekend as well. Bumbershoot offered up yet another year of diverse, fresh, familiar, yet well-arranged music and comedy over a Labor Day weekend that had plenty of other options vying for a person’s attention. Until the next sunny summer at the Seattle Center, Lost in Reviews and Bumbershoot parted ways, hopefully to meet up once again on the other side of 2014.
By Warren Cantrell