Wow, another year of Bumbershoot action already over, and what a ride it was! This year's festival was truly a different beast. With the new overhead having a full year to strategize and plan logistics, it seemed like by day 3, a lot of these were starting to go out the window. Crowd rushing in the Key Arena line on day 1 made the line an absolute chore to navigate on day 2 and 3, not only to get into the Arena, but also to get past it into the KEXP stage area. Macklemore crowd crush resulted in forgoing the fancy wristband counting techniques at the memorial for lack of effectiveness. Then, even today, the amount of people stacked in for Third Eye Blind at the Fisher Green resulted in tightened, chaotic security for the final show of the night, Billy Idol. There are definitely some growing pains to work through for next year to be the best ever, but hey, that doesn't mean there wasn't plenty of fun to be had here today. With the exception of the incessant dance party that was Key Arena, the festival took a decidedly rock-oriented turn on day 3, not only with headliners Tame Impala and Death Cab for Cutie but also with the acts leading up to them. Recent Sub Pop signees So Pitted threw down a merciless set early on the Fisher Green stage, setting the bar to be met by none other than Billy Idol later in the evening. And while many Key Arena attendees today had one singular goal in seeing Porter Robinson, the lead up involved great sets from Compton rapper YG, Norwegian producer Cashmere Cat, and Seattle's own Manatee Commune. Here's to next year seeing Bumbershoot thrive in new, brilliant ways that still remember the Seattle-centered nature that has made it such a cultural staple for so many years.Nathan Rodriguez and Jeannine Koewler were objectively the coolest people at Bumbershoot on Sunday, and the vast majority of that comes from not caring whatsoever about trying to fit into the single rock-oriented day at this year's otherwise dance-centric Bumbershoot. "You guys know Sub Pop?", Rodriguez smiled, clearly aware of the audience's lack of familiarity with his trio, "we're on that". That's it - no other explanation needed. So Pitted kicked off their set with Liam Downey leading the band through a couple numbers that sounded much more akin to his other band The Fabulous Downey Brothers before Liam and Nathan switched instruments and the band broke into material off of their lauded debut, neo. But before he manned the drum set, Downey took the time to throw plenty of fresh produce from the nearby Safeway out into the crowd, including quite a few habañero peppers and mushrooms. So Pitted's sound is 50% melody, 50% raw noise. For "cat scratch", Rodriguez ended the song with a gnarly guitar solo involving swinging his guitar around between monitors and speakers to create a cornucopia of feedback before dancing himself silly making faces at Dude York in the crowd. So Pitted brought the rock in forms no one else had the bravery for this weekend, and they are better people for it. I hope they sold a couple copies of neo to the remnants in the crowd still looking for something new to believe in and fall in love with.
After yesterday's intimate set at the KEXP stage, we can only assume that Manatee Commune had to pinch himself a couple times when taking the Key Arena stage today. "I saw Hall & Oates here", Eadie laughed, "that was my first concert, and now I'm playing on this stage". Thanks to the absolutely bonkers process of getting into the Key Arena, Grant's initial audience was a bit sparse, compared to the packed out state it would be in for Porter Robinson later. But throughout Grant's forty minute set, crowds poured onto the floor in droves, and by the time he ended, this was easily the biggest crowd that has simultaneously witnessed Manatee Commune yet. Grant made good work on the lack of familiarity, playing a solid set of his bubbly, eclectic instrumentals, and working the crowd pretty damn well despite never using the microphone during his tracks. More than anything, it's just fun to see what an open spot at the Key Arena really can get a young artist in Seattle. Grant's visuals, yesterday projected on a small standee in front of KEXP's DJ booth, now towered above the crowd on the IMAX sized screen behind him. His tracks felt their full worth of bass and snap in the massive piles of speakers and subs lining the stage. With Manatee Commune being Bumbershoot 2016's sole double booking, Grant Eadie made it count and no doubt won plenty of new fans in the process.
After years of climbing up the rungs of the production credit ladder, last year, Norwegian producer Cashmere Cat finally saw his welcome to the spotlight with Kanye West's The Life of Pablo closer "Wolves". The track debuted at one of West's Yeezy Season fashion spectacles, and has undergone several transformations since then, but with each pass, Cashmere Cat's presence only seems to be felt stronger. The importance of "Wolves" in this producer's life and career arc was felt strongly in today's set, with different versions of the track mixed in both at the beginning and in the center of his time. With EPs like Mirror Maru and Wedding Bells, the producer experimented with a unique set of sounds and atmospheres, highlighting warm, emotional tonalities against a cold, hard landscape. It's this specific sound that has allowed Cashmere Cat to thrive in the modern world of production, where other producers can become a dime a dozen. Today in the Key Arena, the pummeling strobes of prior DJ acts were toned down to focus on beautiful, black and white overhead shots of freezing natural beauty, while Cashmere Cat made his way through a strong set, dominated by original material and remixes, and even highlighting some new material from his upcoming debut LP Wild Love. Where Cashmere Cat could choose to dominate the masses with throbbing bass and incessant house beats, his actual skill as a producer and sculptor comes in the quiet. Dialing down his set, Cashmere Cat exited with his amazing remix of Hudson Mohawke's "Forever 1", followed by the subtle wonder of the Weeknd-featuring Wild Love title track. By the time the title track dropped, Cashmere Cat left the stage completely, letting the music speak for him and letting the audience soak in the track in a single fleeting moment of solidarity without distraction. Cashmere Cat is exactly what the dance scene needs right now - a quiet voice bent on empathy against a frigid backdrop, that still knows how to traverse the cold when it's time.
From the first moment he arrives on stage, Compton rapper YG makes his Bumbershoot priorities very clear. As he drops "I Just Wanna Party", Key Arena lights up in the solid red of his "Still Brazy" album cover, and the place goes off. YG put out his new album Still Brazy earlier this summer, quickly accompanied by a sold-out date at Neumos, but now he's back to party with another batch of fans. One number after another, YG brings the energy higher, inspiring plenty of dancing throughout the arena, especially on "Twist My Fingaz" where YG does his dance (there's no use trying to explain it in words - you just have to see it). He's incredibly candid and down to earth on stage, not asking much more from the crowd than some simple dance-alongs and smiles. The result is an absolutely monumental forty minute party of which the crowd will need ample recovery time before Logic. While some fans who stuck it out in the gnarly Key Arena line may have been sad to miss some of the Memorial Stadium action in the meantime, YG made up for it by bringing out G-Eazy for a live feature on "FDT Part 2" (Macklemore, unfortunately, did not also make it for his verse). Up to party like nobody's business, and more than willing to share the stage with those that can keep up, YG showed off why he is riding the top of the rap game right now, and how he's never needed anybody's help to get to where he's at. Still brazy, and still a taste-maker, YG is welcome back any time he wants.
If Third Eye Blind's Fisher Green performance wasn't enough of a "What year is it?" moment for you, there was really only one place to go from there, and that was 80s rock icon Billy Idol. Idol returned to the music scene in 2014 with the release of new album Kings & Queens of the Underground, his first in almost 10 years (there was a Christmas album in 2006 and Devil's Playground in 2005). While some fans might begrudge the speed of his output over the last two decades, one thing they can never fault Billy for is his on stage charisma. As soon as the lights go up, the band explodes into "Shock To The System" (still one of my favorite music videos of all time) and Billy brings the prized rebel yell with ageless magnificence. With a festival like Bumbershoot, rock fans get so many opportunities to see the genre dumbed down to a sleepy shadow its former self. But with freaking Billy Idol rounding out the Fisher Green stage's action here tonight, everyone had an opportunity to see rock music done right. "Dancing With Myself" gives Billy the ubiquitous crowd tease opportunity, while later classics like "White Wedding" will be the true sing along moments the crowd has been waiting for all weekend. Bringing together multiple generations of rock fans and, more than anything else, just people that want to have a good time, Billy Idol showed off exactly why he still remains a legend.
Check back to the KEXP blog for more coverage of the final day of Bumbershoot!
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With a rare chunk of time to spare between great acts at Bumbershoot, a stop at the Sub Pop installation was in order. A short walk down the hill from KEXP to the International Fountain Pavillion to check out the installation and pop-up shop from the legendary Seattle label. Only up for the weekend…