Bumbershoot 2016, Day 1: Fly Moon Royalty, St. Lucia, Chastity Belt, Andrew Bird

Bumbershoot, Live Reviews
Katy McCourt-Basham
Photos by Melissa Wax

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 favorite, Fly Moon Royalty Gets everyone bumpin' and grindin' right from the get-go with their unique fusion of soul, hip hop, funk, and electronica. Boo's voice is prodigious, at home among the great soul divas past and present, from Etta to Aretha to Diana. Pair that with her powerful stage presence, and she's the ultimate frontwoman. Illvester's rhymes and Boo's show-stopping voice marry beautifully, creating music that had everyone in the gathering space truly feeling the funk. "Funky Shoes" brought everyone to their feet, while "In The Woods" brought things down to a soulful sway. The crowd was hooked, grooving to the driving beats and erupting into thunderous applause after every song, and no one on stage could stop dancing either. They brought things to a spectacular close with their single “Grown Man," released earlier this year.. Boo’s powerful voice and infectious energy tore through the crowd. The set was 40 minutes long, but it felt about 40 minutes too short. I guess time flies when you're having funk.

At the Fisher Green Stage, a crowd gathered under threatening storm clouds to watch electro-pop artist St. Lucia, the stage moniker for South African-born, Brooklyn-based Jean-Philip Grobler. His set was high-energy from the get-go, but it took a while for the crowd to rise to meet him. Within the first few notes of his 2015 single “Dancing on Glass”, the crowd’s inhibitions were behind them, and the dancing and jumping began. His music gives you a feeling of unspecified nostalgia, like the soundtrack to a montage of people enjoying being young and good-looking. The production is big and the sound very tightit’s so hard to imagine them playing a smaller stage, it’s as if they came into being as a festival band.  The rain had started in earnest by the end of the show, but the spirited set left the damp audience smiling and rosy-cheeked.

Photos by Sarah O'Connor

Formed only a few years ago while in college in Walla Walla, hometown heroines Chastity Belt already have two albums under their belts (No Regerts and Time to Go Home, both on Hardly Art), and with one just recorded, it looks like their upward trajectory isn’t slowing down any time soon. Their songs are low-fi and grungy, but with a bit of a melodic bent and a compelling low-key energy. They approach the difficulties of being a millennial woman with both humor and grace. Theirs is a world where not taking shit is a given, where we all roll our eyes at the constant onslaught of societal garbage.

A sizeable crowd had formed in the KEXP Gathering Space, escaping the rain to be warmed by some fuzzy goodness from Chastity Belt. They kept things mellow and spacey for a while, opening the set with “Drone,” and crowd favorite “Cool Slut.” Frontwoman Julia Shapiro has a unique stage presence, simultaneously engaging and disaffected, her detached voice waxing and waning over almost-beachy guitar riffs. Their show percolated slowly, eventually reaching a climax with some brand new songs: “5 AM” and “Used to Spend,” which saw drummer Gretchen Grimm moving front-and-center, and Shapiro behind the drum kit. Chastity Belt finished on a high note with “Joke,” a lighthearted tune about letting things go and getting stoned with your buds.

Photos by Melissa Wax

Andrew Bird's set at the Fisher Green stage was a complete delight from start to finish. He played a wide sample set of both newer songs and the well-worn favorites on a 70-minute wander through his discography. His audience was not as big as might be expected, but where they were small in numbers, they were big on energy. Andrew Bird classics like "Heretics," "A Nervous Tick Motion of Your Head to The Left," and "Plasticities" had an incredible power over the audience, carrying the enthusiasm over to his newer material. Sometimes it's hard to keep an audience's attention when the big favorites have been played so early, though I when you're a fan of musician that is spaghetti western one moment and soulful wailing the next, you're always ready to be surprised. Bird is a dynamic musician and an engaging performer, earnest without being saccharine, jumping between genres and instruments at the blink of an eye, and truly pushing the limits of what it means to be a violinist.

Photos by Sarah O'Connor

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