Here we are. Bumbershoot.
Seattle’s flagship festival (much like every other festival these days) seems to inspire a range of reactions amongst observers: annoyance, excitement, confusion, a sudden desire to be intoxicated. But whether you like it or not, Bumbershoot is here, and this year’s festival is packed to the gills, yet again, with all the music AEG’s money could buy.
But trust me, you DON’T want to run up in there all uninformed. You’ll end up dazed and confused on the floor of the mainstage, wondering what you could have done to avoid seeing unsupervised pre-teens obviously ingest drugs and put their hands in each other’s pants. THINGS CAN GET OUT OF HAND QUICKLY, is what I’m saying.
But never fear! I’m here to help you navigate the raging waters of Bumbershoot and get out unscathed. Let’s dive in.
PVRIS + LANY
Monster Energy Stage (lol, vom.), 4:55 PM and 6:00 PM, respectively
If we’re being entirely honest, the pickings are a tad slim on Friday, but you paid an obscene amount of money to spend your weekend being berated by corporate sponsors and watching teens from Bellevue have their sexual awakenings, so we’ll work with what we have. I put PVRIS and LANY together for two reasons – because they both make similarly moody but entirely accessible synth-pop, and because I’m trying to keep the amount of time I spend typing stylized, all-caps band names to a minimum. Ok, but despite my pessimism, both of these bands are actually quite good. Both make that well-constructed, Spotify-friendly brand of melancholic, shimmery pop music that would be annoying if it weren’t so catchy. Put down the Haterade for like, two hours and go bask in a Hot Indie™ playlist made manifest.
Mural Amphitheatre, 6:30 PM
Chicano Batman make vintage-sounding, Tropicalia-inflected, blues rock, which seems like it should be a mess, but in execution ends up being delightful. The four dudes with a penchant for vintage formal wear and South American pop music met up in LA, formed up in 2008, and have since released two full albums of slightly askew psych-rock that sounds like something your dad used to listen to that took you years to fully appreciate. In short, they’re really cool. Go see them.
Mural Amphitheatre, 2:55 PM
There are just some things a person can’t forgive, and this sentence from Peach Pit’s bio is one of them: “Peach Pit was brought to life in 2016 with the release of their now coveted debut EP, “Sweet F.A” (F.A. meaning “fuck all”, after lead singer Neil Smith’s love for the lazy life).” But while I’m L-ing OL about Mr. Smith and his purported love of “the lazy life,” I should mention that the Canadian foursome’s dreamy, washed out, pop-rock is worth your time to see. Put on your chillest outfit, meander down to the Mural, bask in tunes that sound like the soundtrack to some Valencia-tinged short film about best friends getting high in the woods, and laze away.
Mural Amphitheatre, 3:45 PM
I would accuse J GRGRY of being cheesy if his music didn’t feel so earnest. GRGRY, the stage name of Seattle native Joe Gregory, is a remarkably adept purveyor of electro-pop balladry – not an overly common thing in this town. And of course, there’s the raucous pageantry of his live show, which garnered a healthy amount of buzz during Upstream Music Festival earlier this year. Actually, now that I think of it, earnest doesn’t sound half bad.
Monster Energy Stage, 3:15 PM
At this point, it feels kind of hack-y to compare a white dude with a guitar to Eliott Smith, but in the case of Jason McCue, it’s hard not to. McCue’s lo-fi folk vibrates with Smithian delicacy, his vulnerabilities spun into ruminative, neurotic songs of love and isolation. McCue’s local profile has raised considerably since his victory at MoPop’s Sound Off! Underage music competition, due in large part to his strange, yet captivating style of live performance. My guess is that Jason McCue will blow up soon. Better make sure you can say you saw him way back when.
Joel Kim Booster + El Sanchez
Multiple times, multiple stages (NO EXCUSES THEN)
Comedy is one of the most underrated portions of the festival and this year features two sparkling gems that are definitely worth forgoing whatever EDM-lite band is tepidly playing at the Monster Energy Stage. Joel Kim Booster is from Brooklyn. El Sanchez is from Seattle. Both are very funny and very gay and both seem like they’d be phenomenal late-night diner confidantes. GO LAUGH AT THE GAYS, DAMMIT.
Weezer + Lorde
Main Stage, 7:35 PM and 9:35 PM, respectively
Honestly I don’t think I should have to convince you to go see either of these acts. One is an amazing rock band with an impressively large body of work and the other is the most prominent pop chanteuse of the age. You know what to so.
Monster Energy Stage, 9:45 PM
Please see above, but insert “one of the most legendary, Grammy-winning hip-hop/ R&B groups in existence.” How will you manage to get to both Lorde and The Roots, you ask? Not my problem – Figure. It. Out.
Key Arena, 6:15 PM
Perhaps the Northwest’s current hottest hip-hop export, Amine is Portland’s premiere young MC. His debut album, Good for You, is a multi-hued mosaic of hip-hop, R&B, funk and afrobeat that seems both contemporary and deeply rooted a love of those traditions’ histories. It’s impressive enough to make music with such a large sonic vocabulary, but it’s even more impressive to sidestep pretension and manage to make it cool. Amine manages.
Monster Energy Stage, 6:00 PM
In my day job, I work for Tacocat’s management company, so I would probably be compromising my journalistic ethics to recommend them to you. So I won’t. I will NOT tell you that listening to Tacocat is like being abducted by glittering, party-hopping aliens who used to read back issues of Sassy and love to look at animals on social media. I certainly would NEVER tell you that they’re one of the best bands in Seattle, and major champions of the local scene. And I definitely WOULD NOT tell you to go see them. I have standards! I’D NEVER DO THAT.
Monster Energy Stage, 9:40 PM
Two great things will never be in short supply with the Haim sisters: polished, thoughtful pop music featuring razor-sharp harmonies and immaculately structured songs and long beautiful hair. I’m a fan of both, so you better believe that I’ll be on the green strutting my stuff. Haim, comprised of sisters Danielle, Este, and Alana released their second LP this year entitled Something To Tell You, sees the gals elaborating on the vaguely retro quote-rock-unquote that made their debut Days Are Gone such a sunny delight. The new stuff isn’t quite as buoyant, but the arrangements are lusher and Haim’s ability to craft perfect pop songs hasn’t diminished a bit.
Main Stage, 7:50 PM
My first instinct is always to be flippant, but something about Solange makes that near impossible. Solange Knowles has been making fantastic music for a long time, but the release of Seat at the Table, her latest endeavor, has seen her explode into the cultural stratosphere. That album was a stunning, subtly-rendered portrait of contemporary black womanhood, a lovely-wrought hymnal that abounded with beauty and sadness and all of the shades that exist somewhere between those two poles. It’s easily one of the most powerfully beautiful pieces of work released in the past few years, and if the numerous Instagram and Youtube videos of Solange’s live show are to be believed, her performance will be a fully-realized production.
Key Arena, 5:20
Leikeli47 (pronounced Leh-kay-lee) is a one of the strangest players in mainstream hip-hop. Bedecked in a rotating collection of ski masks, she makes songs speckled with old-school boom bap rap, EDM and weirdo internet music that all vibrate with a kind of furious good-times attitude. It’s strange and fun and totally disarming and people are into it. Leikeli47 has garnered praise from basically every (and I cannot put enough scare quotes around this phrase) “taste maker” you can name – Complex, The Fader, HypeTrak, et al.
Stas thee Boss
Main Stage, 3:20 PM
I just have to be real with y’all; I’m still not over the fact that THEESatisfaction is done. But! Praises to the most high god! Both members are still blessing this plane of existence with their extraterrestrial tunage. Blessed be. Stas, one of the halves of that group and the host of KEXP’s Street Sounds in the wake of Larry Mizell’s tragic departure, recently released S’Women, her very good solo release. S’Women sounds like toking up on your dude’s porch in the middle of summer, fresh and breezy and full of Stas’s unhurried, poetic flow. It’s beautiful, and any chance to see her perform should be approached seriously.