It was going to take something special to get the mainstage started off right on a drizzle dampened afternoon at Bumbershoot. Iska Dhaaf had just the formula. With a drum laced adrenaline shot of up-tempo jams and raucous stage theatrics, the band shook the ever-growing crowd of early attendees and late arrivers into pulsing life. More than that, their noir colored beats, held steady by an ample dose of sub-bass and rock solid drums, thrust listeners to attention. Mixing the atmospheric wash of shoegaze guitar with the immediate urgency of punk-rock vocals, Iska Dhaaf created an aura equal parts mysterious and enthralling. Their set culminated with lead vocalist Nate Quiroga crowd surfing to an audience sing-along of “Everybody Knows” that ensured anyone in attendance started their festival off on a high note.
Bob Moses’ less is more take on dance music breathed life into a genre often boxed in by robotic performances and predetermined peaks. With live piano laying the foundation for the rest of the band to groove the audience into motion, every highlight from the show felt organic and deserved. Aptly avoiding another common pitfall, the band made sure listeners never fell into a lull, even adding a psychedelic twist to their set with the tripping vocals from “Far From the Tree.” Finishing things off with crowd favorite “Tearing Me Up” made sure they ended with a bang, proving that slow and spacious builds can lead to the biggest rewards.
Don’t for a second think DoNormaal’s name is a rally call for the ordinary. The Seattle based rapper does things her own way, and the music world is better for it. In fact “norms” as a concept get a quick and remorseless death in many of her lyrics. Even the flowing white gown she wore stood in contrast to hip-hop’s traditional garb, as did guest rapper Raven Matthew’s children’s t-shirt paired with shorts over pants look. Although, to limit DoNormaal’s barrier breaking style to wardrobe and lyrics alone would be a disservice the depth of her creativity.
Perhaps most notably unique in DoNormaal’s set is her delivery. Where other rappers fall into a predictable, if not satisfying cadence that favors strong endings and punch lines, DoNormaal’s pitch flows high and low with seeming disregard for where one idea ends and the next begins. The result is a stream-of-consciousness feel that is only betrayed by the poignancy of her lyrics. Lyrics such as “Take my hand and jump/take my hand or die” are simultaneously too strange and too smart to be ignored. DoNormaal is breaking all the rules and still making a more satisfying product than most. Seattle hip-hop has been put on notice.
Father John Misty:
Father John Misty is a better writer than most people on earth, so when he describes his songs as existential honky-tonk, there’s no real reason argue. At least, on the last show of his album cycle, it’s clear he knows exactly what he’s working with and how to use it. When he casually remarks that it’s his 250th and also last show off the I Love You, Honeybear album cycle, and that he’s proudly only had one meltdown, the thought seems as usual as any other artist asking the audience “how they’re doing tonight.”
Of course, Father John Misty will always be funny, irreverent, and poignant on stage, but he will also always sing his ass off, and bring down the house in what feels like a mass religious revival experience. Friday night was no different. In singing, “You See me as I am, it’s true” from “When You’re Smiling and Astride Me”, it’s hard not to feel like he’s singing to every person in the audience. With the openness of his lyrics and performance, everybody feels like they get to come home with a piece of the artist. That level of vulnerability is a gift, but also a sacrifice. In that sense, Bumbershoot may well have seen the transformation of a Father to a saint.
Michael Franti and Spearhead:
Speaking of a quasi-religious experience, if you need a super-charged dose of uplifting energy in your life, please buy a ticket to the next Michael Franti and Spearhead show as soon as possible. (Arcata, CA would be the nearest non-sold-out opportunity.) Franti’s Bumbershoot set had all the frenzied joy and mass jubilation of a mega church service without any of the exclusivity or judgment. The core tenements of his teachings were simple to follow: feel the love, spread the joy, and, most importantly, put your hands up.
Kicking things off with what seemed like a sped up version of his hit, “Sound of Sunshine”, Franti rocketed the audience into what would become a high-octane experience from beginning to end. With injections of Drake and Adele songs into his own tunes, large numbers of audience members invited on stage, and a Franti led pseudo-square-dance wave through the crowd, even the most jaded attendees couldn’t stave off the blissful vibe. Though ostensibly reggae/world/pop music, no genre was off-limits if it meant whipping the crowd engagement up another notch. Polite dub step breakdowns and zinging EDM synths were just more tools in Franti’s epic though easy-going arsenal of songs. Of those brought on stage, one middle-aged woman bawled tears of joy, while one young boy with an injured foot jumped gleefully on his on his non-injured foot with a stagehand helping him keep balance. Countless others simply bounced around in unbridled circles of happiness. In the end, who made it on stage and who didn’t was never important, because if there’s one takeaway from the Michael Franti experience, it’s that everybody deserves to feel like a star.
KEXP in-studio performances continue on Day 2 of Bumbershoot with Jagwar Ma. The Sydney psych band may have blown the world away with their 2013 debut Howlin’, but with the first few singles from upcoming album Every Now & Then, it looks like they are bent on maintaining their skyrocket traject…
Fly Moon Royalty lit up the KEXP stage this afternoon with their glorious, funky jams. Originating as a twosome in Seattle in 2011, with the powerful voice of Adra Boo and the rapid rhymes of Mike Illvester, they've now grown into a full band, synchronized backup singers and all. Always a crowd fav…