A late bus kept one of our writers from being able to attend yesterday's Alt-J (also somehow known as ∆) show at the KeyArena, so I thought I'd "take one for the team" and see what the kids are into these days. Though I don't think this kind of soothing, vast, koo-koo-dazzlement is really up my alt alley, I do think I could have enjoyed the set more if I had been able to find a seat and maybe smoked a little something prior. I was feeling wired on free Red Bull and irrationally crabby at the person who told me "the seat next to me is taken," even though I waited through THREE SONGS before I even asked. I still think she just wanted a place for her purse! And now I'm irrationally angry all over again. Screw you purse girl!
ANYWAY, poor Alt-J, it's not their fault I couldn't hang because I'm 1,000 years old and cranky about packed stadiums. Please enjoy these beautiful photos! And think about how neat/strange the lead guy's voice is—like he's singing out of his throat after swallowing a spongecake and getting hit on the head really hard...
Festivals are funny. They're a conglomeration of all different kinds of people sharing a similar experience, which always makes for some very interesting etiquette conversations. I don't mind it when people try to, briefly, capture a moment with their cell phone cameras. So long as they're not waving it around for the whole set or shooting, refocusing, shooting, zooming, for minutes at a time, it's fine with me when folks try to get a shot for prosperity or Instagram.
iPads, though, are a different story. iPads are large, bright, and intrusive. Monopods are also bullshit. Don't stick your camera onto a monopod and hoist it above the crowd, surely displeasing those further back. How rude!
But which is worse? The guy who recorded David Bazan with his iPad? Or the guy who shoved his way to the front and kept lifting his camera up above the crowd in order to snap Superchunk shots?
Vote now! The "winning" photography method will be banned from every live show for the rest of eternity.
[This post has been updated and moved up—now with beautiful hair photos from Trevor Crump!]
I had finally recovered from attempting to drink half a Bud Light Lime-A-Rita (don't do it!!) when I saw Redd Kross this afternoon, and their set was pretty much the highlight of my day.
The band features the McDonald brothers, who started their music career together in middle school and played with all the cool LA area punk bands of the early/mid '80s. I mean, their first show ever was opening for Black Flag! And best of all, they have always seem to have an amazing sense of humor. Their subject material over the years lead me to believe that they had (awesome) obsessions with Hayley Mills, the Carrie Nations, Yoko Ono, and Os Mutantes.
I thought they'd be a bunch of really old dudes, but since they've been playing since they were tweens or whatever, they totally just looked like your typical rocker dudes, with what may be the most gorgeous hesher hair of the entire festival. Kerry Zettel of See Me River was watching the show next to me, and pointed out that the bass player was wearing a sick Stryper T-shirt, which Stranger editor Emily Nokes captured on her iPhone by the porta-pottys after their set.
A photo and a YouTube video of Redd Kross covering "Rhiannon," from some rare 7" after the jump!
Nothing attracts sun-baked Jimmy Buffet dads quite like hand drums. I caught Aurelio Martinez and Garifuna Soul at 1 pm yesterday (so early in Bumbershoot time!), and there was already quite the assortment of batiked shirts, straw fedoras, and shirtless/shoeless folk who have definitely thought about shirking their responsibilities to live indefinitely in Belize or really anywhere with a beach and alcohol.Aurelio Martinez is a Honduran musician (and political figure), who plays music in the tradition of the Garifuna, which Martinez explained is a mix of Caribbean and African people who live by the beach and have a good time! The music is definitely an extension of that sentiment: warm, laid-back, and made for moving your body to. The band (I'm not sure if the backing band is referred to as "Garifuna Soul" since that's also the name of Martinez' most popular album) played a few bouncy songs before walking to the front of the stage, turning around, and shaking his butt in a way that puts both Miley Cyrus and Big Freedia to shame—and with like, half the effort. He'd shake his hips, turn and laugh, then hold up the sides of his white jacket to shake some more. The audience was getting into it, too—some were better butt-shakers than others, but there wasn't really a wrong way to get down on such a beautiful sunny day. Except for maybe the interpretive dad-sters—though I guess I could see how sometimes, you just gotta wake up early, down several rum drinks, and let your Labor Day fly.
Holy shit, you guys, it took me 25 years to see Superchunk live. They were AMAZING at Bumbershoot yesterday. WHAT HAVE I BEEN DOING WITH MY LIFE?
On record, Superchunk can flirt with an array of genres—punk, pop, emo, rock—but live they're a powerhouse of energy, shunning some of the more varied dynamics of some of the songs to deliver 'em with pep and quickness. Even the "ballad" "Driveway to Driveway" was played with a pogo-able element.
And let's talk about Jon Wurster's drumming for a minute, okay? He's a machine. A happy drumming robot who appears to sing along with each beat as he hits the drums—mouthing "boom" or "bop" or whatever—and it is hypnotizing. Seeing as how Wurster also played with Bob Mould on Sunday, I would like to declare him Drum King of Bumbershoot 2013. Call me to claim your high-five prize, Mr. Wurster.
I apologize for not bothering to keep track of the setlist—I wanted to savor every moment. They played "I Hate Music," "Slack Motherfucker" (hearing hundreds of people shout "SLACK MOTHERFUCKER!" at the same time was a weekend highlight for sure), "Driveway to Driveway," and so many more. During "Digging for Something," Mac McCaughan and the band brought things down for a minute, just as everyone started to clap along, to tell stories about past Seattle summers. Like the dad that he is, he started to go off on tangents—our arms ached, not wanting to cease keeping the beat, as Mac talked about getting a brown Mudhoney 7" one summer, and touring in a van that caught on fire and having to finish out the tour in a rented Taurus, but it was okay because they made it to Seattle in time for Lame Fest. Just as the crowd was clearly unable to clap for another beat, they kicked back into the end of the song, and powered through a few more after that, even, to squeeze out every second of their allotted time slot.
Seeing as how they've been a band for over two decades, Superchunk doesn't have to try so hard—honestly, they could probably phone it in and the fans would still have a great time, but they do not do that. Despite the title of their new record, they fucking love music as much as everyone standing in front of them, and watching them yesterday was a fantastic reminder that loving music, being moved by music, isn't a thing that dies as we get older. Or, at least it doesn't have to. Thanks for that, Superchunk. <3
A couple more photos after the jump!
When the sun goes down on the last day of Bumbershoot, then you shall know true fatigue. It was in those circumstances that Atlanta quintet Deerhunter took the Fountain Lawn Stage before a very large crowd that skewed young. For their first eight songs, Deerhunter kind of turned it into the Fountain Yawn Stage (thank you). Oh, the songs were pleasant enough: jangly shoegazed anthems for the disaffected, mostly coming from the newest release, Monomania. And frontman Bradford Cox donned a convincing bowl-cut wig that made him look like a member of the Seeds. But the overall vibe was tepidly safe and it made me think that indie rock has become as mired in stagnant tropes as the blues.
Cox acknowledged the crowd’s relative disengagement with a withering dose of sarcasm. “You guys are out of control! Take one step back and chill out. Lockett’s going to sing this next one because I don’t want to be singing when the world ends in a whimper, not a bang.” They then shrugged into a dull run through “Desire Lines.” Later, Cox said, “Thanks for your polite applause. Here’s a polite song.” They then shrugged into a dull run through “The Missing.”
It wasn’t until the last three songs of the set that Deerhunter jacked up the energy level, and then shit got about 150 times more interesting. “Nothing Ever Happened” combined the irrepressible propulsion of the Velvet Underground’s “Foggy Notion” with that of Neu!’s “Hallogallo.” Deerhunter should’ve ridden this amazing tune out to the end, but even though they didn’t, it was the night’s most epic jam and it redeemed the previous 40 minutes of indierockzak™. They finished with “Back to the Middle” and “Monomania,” the latter ending in a noisy, chaotic climax—including a triple-decker feedback sandwich—during which Cox literally flipped his wig. Thanks for 1/3 of a great show, guys.
When I heard that Timothy and his excellent What You're Not Wearing column were leaving Line Out (the column has a new home right here), I decided that I had to do my part to keep the legacy of The Stranger's Seattle internet fashion alive any way that I could. Kind of like when your favorite sitcom replaces a character with another actor while pretending that nothing at all is different!
These Rainier bottles:
This garbage can full of hair:
More photos after the jump.
But then a few songs in, I started to catch the undertone of sickly sweet phoniness in their songs, the sort of easy, safe vibe that all these propped-up major label bands have. Kind of like what a Starbucks frappuccino with like three pumps of extra sweetner would sound like if it were a band. And they did what may very well be the twentieth cover of "The Chain," that I've heard this year. Why did every band at every festival in 2013 feel the burning need to butcher that song??? How about we just give "The Chain," a breather for a few more years, okay?
I really liked the audience around me, however. Half a dozen older women busted out the most perfected Grateful Dead style dancing towards the back, the weed was flowing freely and the girl reading next to me on the grass was almost to the end of Game of Thrones. Maybe I was the only one mad about that cheesy fucking cover of "The Chain."
So many family bands are playing Bumbershoot this year: Redd Kross, the Breeders, Heart... But I just found out that the Kopecky Family Band are not actually family. And to be honest, they were really not my thing—it kind of reminded me of the band I saw the one time I got tricked into going to christian youth group in high school. But I'll give them props for their fantastic whistling skills. I couldn't help noticing that these two dudes in the crowd were rocking out the hardest:
What are your names?
This is Matt, and I'm Micah!
What do you like about this band?
Kopecky band are real fun and poppy! Real light-hearted. We pretty much love everything, and are down with everything!!
Thanks, Matt and Micah!
Five youngish white guys from Brooklyn, the Men are an archetypal 21st-century indie-label (Sacred Bones, to be specific) hard-rock unit from Central Casting. There’s something generic about their MC5/Hüsker Dü/million tuneful punk groups lineage, but if we have to have generic hard rock in 2013 (and it appears we do), the Men are probably one of the best doing this thing right now. Oh, they have their country-rock moments that recall Neil Young’s “Danger Bird” or the Stones’ “Sweet Virginia,” but the heart of the Men is a speedy, surging blare of sound—linear, frills-free, tight yet sloppy, loud yet not deafening so. They are not about surprises—at all.
I’m not very familiar with the Men’s song titles, but the sixth track they did today at the Fountain Lawn Stage—maybe “Night Landing”?—found the group at their absolute peak. It started with an unadorned beat reminiscent of the Human Beinz’s proto-motorik “Nobody But Me,” and then the three guitarists and bassist joined in for what could be considered an apotheosis of lean, savage rock. It recalled Thee Oh Sees’ similar krautrock flame-outs during their own Bumbershoot set on this very stage in 2011. If the Men had done a 45-minute version of this tune, it would've been all right with me.
Our Beats Antique appraiser was not able to make it to the show yesterday, HOWEVER, a source who did attend says: "As usual, the show was very theatrical and visual. Perhaps the most interesting part was that the band reportedly had some of their musical equipment stolen recently and supposedly winged the whole set they played..."
After a brief introduction by a KEXP representative, Bob Mould took the mic on the TuneIn Stage in a businesslike manner simply to say, "We only have an hour and we have a lot of songs, let's get going." And thus began my favorite set of the entire BumberFest.
In an almost scientific fashion, the initial twenty minutes of the set was comprised of scorching versions of the first five tracks from Sugar's 1992 landmark alterna-record, Copper Blue. It was thrilling to hear such a solid band (Jason Narducy on bass and Jonny "Earthshoe" Wurster on drums) open with a fucking excellent version of "The Act We Act" and then play the rest of the songs in the sequence that I was familiar with, like winning a sweepstakes again and again.
Compared to the Breeders set an hour later, the sound produced by the Mouldster & company could be described as nearly perfect.
After the excellent "Hoover Dam," the mega-trio blasted into the second third of the set, which was made up of solo era material, most of it off of Mould's latest, Silver Age. I'm a little less familiar with this batch of songs, but they were perfectly enjoyable. Bob Mould seemed to know what a festival crowd was going to want, shying away from his electronic material of the early 2000s. Paying attention to the time, I was anticipating the final 20 minutes to be made up of Hüsker Dü material, and indeed it was.
From what I could tell, somebody in the crowd requested something off of Sugar's Beaster, to which Mould replied that they'd play something "older than that" and then launched into "Celebrated Summer" from 1985's New Day Rising. After that, "I Apologize" from the same record and then a torrential sonic wall of the best song on Zen Arcade, "Chartered Trips." Curiously after that was a song that I didn't recognize, which could have been an obscure Hüsker nugget or the band abandoned the formula to throw another era into the mix. Just when it seemed that the hour was up, Mould left the stage only to return seconds later in a semi-encore of the title track off of New Day Rising that gave me goosebumps. It was a brilliant set that could only have been improved if they'd played Land Speed Record all of the way through, which really would have only taken 25 minutes. Bob, if you're reading this, next tour maybe?
Admittedly, I don't know if I was the right person to review Ra Ra Riot on the mainstage last night, mostly because it meant I didn't get to watch the Breeders OR the Zombies (har har har). I was curious, what kind of person would make the conscious decision to go see Ra Ra Riot when those two big wigs were playing? A lot of persons, it turns out - predominantly teens and their bitter looking fathers shotgunning nachos!
I arrived on the later side of things and grabbed a seat in the upper level overlooking the freaking chasm of festival goers, next to a teenage boy whose Bumbershoot snap bracelet got away from him and landed in my lap. The lights dimmed and everyone on the floor level rushed to the stage like moths to a sexy flame! The electro pop-rock frenzy began as Ra Ra Riot played material off of their new Beta Love album and the crowd appeared practically feverish with elation.
They sounded Passion Pit-esque without the piercingly shrill vocals and it was exciting to see someone playing a bedazzled violin. Frontman Wes Miles agiley flitted across the stage as he sang with so strong a voice and pitch so perfect I almost felt suspicious. It quickly became apparent to me and all the chaperons why Ra Ra Riot has a stadium full of fans - their songs were catchy and fun! And their lyrics weren't nearly as mindless as some other popular acts.
I might've snuck out a little early, to catch the last few Breeders songs and console myself with an elephant ear.
...wasn't just her music (or her funny onstage banter ("I'm going to Italy, and I'm going to eat ALL the pizza and ALL the lasagna!"). And the best part wasn't when the zombies chased her around onstage. I think the best part was watching this guy, way off in a far corner LOSE HIS MIND to her music. He went into a dance trance or something. He could NOT stop moving, or chanting up to the heavens. It was kinda beautiful. Photos after the jump!
Personally, ever since that freakazoid in Florida ate that poor homeless man's face off (GAAAAAH!), I tend to shy away from the all the zombie stuff. It all just seems a little too real now. But hey, that's just me! WHAT DO YOU THINK of all the zombies at Bumbershoot this year?
Right before they began their set, drummer Paul Alcott, of Portland's Ramona Falls asked the crowd, as he pretended to not be a member of the band, if we liked rock n' roll to which we responded with a resounding "Yes! Please play us the rock music!" They then proceeded to play songs that were equal parts delicate, folky melodies dotted with sweeping feelings-inducing drum fills and sometimes an attempted heavier break down bit thrown in (queue the synth!).
Ramona Falls was at times directionless, yes, and frontman Brent Knopf's (of the adored Menomena) almost manically-happy facial expressions made me uncomfortable, but it was still full of sonic intricacies and solid attempts to lasso potentially discordant sounds into a semblance of something symphonic and easily digestible enough for indie pop fans.
FIDLAR, which stands for Fuck It Dog Life's a Risk, was the undeniable opposite of Ramona Falls as they dolled out loud and fast punk jams and naughty boy life lessons. I got there early and the preteens were already out in full force, under-butts and feathery mustaches ablazin' with their tiny fists and limp devil horns in the air eager for some hot mosh pit action. I started off in the front but halfway through relented and went to the outskirts with the rest of the adults - those kids were fucking wild! They were hurting each other! They were taking acid! And all the while, FIDLAR was adding fuel to the hormonal fire with gritty vocals and perfectly ramshackle ballads about cheap beer, cocaine (you know, that video featuring Nick Offerman!), not having any money for weed, how rehab sucks, and a really haggard, awesomely chuggy cover of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds' "Red Right Hand".
Seattle's own The Comettes played to an initially sparse crowd (all the way) at the Plaza Stage that quickly beefed up as their dreamy surf rock plumed across the festival - a refreshing, more subdued alternative to some of the more raucous acts yesterday.
They played a few songs off of their new Golden Blue EP that were cinematic and hypnotizing, with exuberant swells and drum fills. Keyboardist and fake name have-r, Timmy Sunshine, flung free vinyls and CD's into the audience demonstrating an impressive frisbee arm. Listening to their set was like watching an epiphanous scene in one of those coming-of-age dramas that they release around Christmastime where a teenager is running at night, enroute to confess their love for someone - yeah, just like that.
Who wore it better? More photos after the jump.