Unsettling way to enter my first Bumbershoot since 1995: berated by three different sets of Jesus freaks on my way in this afternoon. Fortunately, it became clear that God—or whoever—was shining upon the revelers inside while the crazies outside were left to screaming the Lord’s word at nobody in particular.
The Cave Singers by Morgan Keuler
The Cave Singers’ early afternoon set sounded great in the noonday sun; just as they proved at the KEXP BBQ a couple weeks back, they do outdoors and sunny just as well as indoors and gloomy. They played to a few hundred people, a suitably mellow but intense set to start things off. Seattle’s favorite Appalachia-by-way-of-Cap Hill chamber folk trio is headed to L.A. this week to film a video with a friend of guitarist/bassist Derek Fudesco, but they’ll be back in late September to celebrate the release of their Matador Records debut, titled Invitation Songs.
Dyme Def by Morgan Keuler
Dyme Def played at the Tron-rocking Electric Skychurch stage, another local trio (plus DJ BeanOne) ready and able to flex their muscle before a major Bumbershoot crowd. Their set on Friday night at the War Room was short and sweet (major props go to Brainstorm for landing second place in the Big Tune producer battle; major congrats go to Sabzi who, it must be said, won the contest outright from his first beat). Their set at the Skychurck was absolutely massive—with that 50-foot-tall LED screen behind them, the boys came off larger than life. There’s nothing stopping Dyme Def right now—they’re young, talented, smart, and hard-working. Like they say, “The game’s like bums—it’s beggin’ for change.”
The Saturday Knights by Morgan Keuler
The Saturday Knights played the most energetic set I’ve seen from them to a mostly stoned crowd at Fisher Green. The band sounded as tight as ever, but their Bumbershoot set proved that they really need some new songs: They encored by playing the same song they ended the set with. “45” might be their best number, and the second time around it perked the listless crowd, but that’s no reason to play it twice in the same set.
The Avett Brothers by Lee LeFever
The Avett Brothers… I’ve said and written and gushed a lot about the trio from North Cackalackie, and if you saw them today you know exactly why I believe they’re the best thing going in new live music right now. Raw, passionate, tighter than a banjo string, their set today was the Avetts at their absolute best, and even featured a cello player for the second half. They played a couple new tunes (“Pretty Girl From Seattle,” it turns out, is about our own Kelly O—see our video page for sort-of proof) and most of their latest masterpiece, Emotionalism, and with a sweat-drenched, string-busting, throat-scratching set won a couple thousand new fans. If you saw the band today, you’ll agree: The Avetts are something special. Tattooed punks, tight-pantsed hipsters, dreadlocked hippies, fanny-packed moms and dads—everyone at the Mural Amphitheater was taken in by their unabashed enthusiasm, and they played out the set as long and as hard as they could. The final song, an ode to the power of familial bonds, might’ve brought a tear or two to some Stranger scribes, but you’d have to ask them to find out.
A note to Esurance: Henceforth, whenever one of your cheesy blue and white beachballs comes into my circumference, I will destroy it. Beachballs brought by civilians are fine; beachballs sponsored by corporations deserve to die a slow, deflated death. I was blindsided a couple times during the Avetts’ set, and I’m no killjoy, but shit was distracting as hell during their heartsleeved ballads, and I won’t stand for it. You’ve been warned.
Gogol Bordello by Morgan Keuler
I’m gonna go out on a limb right now and say that Gogol Bordello delivered the set of the weekend. Yeah, we’ve got two days to go still, but MY GOD WHAT A BAND. I tried taking notes while they were playing, but they’re stupid and illegible. By far the rowdiest, crowd-surfing-est crowd all day, the people on the Green were WAY into the unbridled energy of the polyglot gypsy punks.
“What is Gogol Bordello?” you ask. Imagine a Ukranian borderland bazaar and all its table vendors—of bootleg CDs, salvaged Russian military outfits, broken musical instruments, disco shoes—amplified on a giant stage, playing the Pogues. This sort of approximates Gogol Bordello. Eugene Hutz certainly owes a huge debt to Shane MacGowan, but he also pulls from hardcore Flamenco, heavy metal reggae, forgotten American FM pop, witchdoctor blues, and a whole host of globe-spanning influences. I’ve never paid attention to these guys, despite hearing hyperbolic rantings from friends for years. Now I will. On that limb again: It’ll be hard for any Bumbershoot act to top Gogol Bordello this weekend. (Wu-Tang, show us whatcha got.)
Devotchka by Morgan Keuler
Someone somewhere in the One Reel office thought it was a good idea to schedule them directly opposite Devotchka, the only other slightly gypsy-jazz ensemble at the festival, and that someone was dreadfully wrong. I have no idea where Gogol hails from, but I know Devotchka comes from Denver, Colorado, and despite their geographical handicap, they play the Eastern European Mexicali Left Bank cabaret rock like they were born for it. Theirs is a more romantic sort of gypsy punk than GB’s, but still as passionate. Which trumps, tuba or electric bass? Devotchka goes with the brass. And a theremin. And a bazouki. And Nick Urata, the emo-voiced leading man of the Colorado quartet. Urata decided to pour a bottle of red wine over his head to close out Devotchka’s set—check the Stranger video page to find out why.
Today was easily the best full day of music I’ve had all summer. Bumbershoot is currently rocking my world. It’s been a while since I’ve been here for it, but to me it’s worth every elbow in the ribs and every line for a Port-a-Potty. There’s SO MUCH music happening in such a small area, and it’s a very scenic area, and it’s very good music.