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Tuesday, September 4, 2007

I Heart Bumbershoot

posted by on September 4 at 3:39 AM

For real: What an wonderful event, what a hard-rocking, hiphopping, local-loving, national-caliber feather in Seattle’s cap. This was my first Bumbershoot in 12 years and I can’t get enough. An urban music festival, a 30-minute walk from my apartment, in the middle of a beautiful city, with a lineup that appealed to every demo imaginable—truly something special. I’ve been to Bonnaroo, I’ve been to SXSW, and what Bumbershoot has going for it is the city of Seattle. I agree that Seattle Center is a weird and usually sad no-man’s land, but the way Bumbershoot occupies that space is symbiotic. It’s a shame there aren’t more Bumbershoots to keep Seattle Center righteously busy throughout the year. As sore as my feet are and as exhausted as my ears are, I still wish I were going back tomorrow.

Today was spectacular, weather-wise, crowd-wise, music-wise. Wu-wear was in full effect all day; every stage I went to people were throwing up double-wu hand signs in anticipation of their Bumbershoot-closing set. I’ll get to that in a minute.

IceCreamMan_Bumber2007_090307_3780.jpgThe writer and the Ice Cream Man by Justin Renney

Kelly and I did a video interview with Matt Allen, aka the Ice Cream Man, who told us he gave out some 2,000 fudgesicles, drumsticks, popsicles, and other delicious frozen goodness during Bumbershoot’s three-day run. Allen is a terrific guy for a terrific job, traveling the country, hitting music festivals, and giving out free ice cream. He told us he’ll be hitting children’s hostpitals and other non-profits next year, taking the good vibes where they’re most needed. Allen’s such a gregarious guy, and his crew is so nice, and his ice cream is so free, that I missed Lyrics Born because I was eating a choco taco at the ice cream truck. Look for the interview on Line Out in the next day or two.

IMG_5133.jpgFleet Foxes by Morgan Keuler

I already gushed about Andrew Bird and the Blakes; Fleet Foxes was the next set I saw, and it was awesome. They’re one of the current local crop that’s got me really excited about Seattle music right now. Their set at EMP was gorgeous—as pastoral and wintery as their sound is, the band was a little out of place in the EMP’s gigantic electrified stage, but they played strong and intimate to a huge crowd. Robin Pecknold’s got a voice of gold, and the songwriting is powerful, rich, hooky but not hokey. Many hours—and many Wu-beats—later, I’m still hypnotized, singing their songs… “My love, oh my love…” “I was following the/I was following the/I was following the/I…” Who’s gonna pick them up and release their long-awaited debut? Hardly Art seems a shoo-in, but given Sub Pop’s recent run of quietish, panoramic folk-rock, they could easily go there too. Kelly O’s got a video interview with Robin that you’ll find on Line Out in a day or two.

IMG_3340.JPGLupe Fiasco by Jonathan Zwickel

Lupe Fiasco was a crap shoot. I saw him a year ago in San Francisco and the show was awful (check out my man Sam Chennault’s Pitchfork show review); he had major issues with his hype man then and just seemed green all around, so I wasn’t sure how his Bumbershoot set would go. All doubting aside, his set today proved the kid is the truth.

To answer your question, Eric, the reason Lupe is under so much scrutiny and skepticism is simply because of his raw talent, his potential. Dude is in place to become a much-needed hero of hiphop, and hiphop fans take this stuff very seriously. His set at the main stage started strong, if not entirely transcendant. His 2006 album Food & Liquor has four certifiably great songs and a bunch of merely good songs, and the first half of the set brought only the merely good. Once he dropped “I Gotcha” halfway through it took off. He brought out Gemini, a Chicago accomplice and accomplished MC in his own right, and the two of them proceeded to run an enormous stage by themselves. “Kick, Push” featured new beats for every verse, a total reworking of his most familiar hit. “We On,” posted on his MySpace, a single either from Gem’s upcoming album or Lupe’s, was huge on the main stage’s massive soundsystem, and Lupe played “Daydreamin’” like the instant classic that it is. Yes, he’s got a Kanye-like messiah complex—Andrew Matson calls it “low-grade schizophrenia”—but he pulls it off. A couple new tracks—one about superstardom that was somehow universal and not self-conscious, and another about G.W. Bush and America’s war fixation—were huge metaphors pulled off expertly, with intelligence and badass beats. Thanks, Lupe, for keeping the hiphop dream very much alive.


WuTangClan_Bumber2007_090307_3982.jpgWu-Tang by Justin Renney

Just in time for the Wu-Tang Clan to snatch that dream and blow it up into mythology. Tonight the Wu showed why they’re the cultural force they are. I was shocked at how many people in the massive, main stage crowd were rapping along to every lyric, Wu-hands held aloft song after song, heads nodding like metronomes. I’m really not even sure where to begin or end with this set—it was legendary on so many counts that it’s hard to parse. No Ghost and no GZA left Method Man holding down the bulk of the set, a role he easily filled. No, not easily—dude was working hard for every “ho” and hand-wave he got, stage diving into the crowd and rapping while being held upright. The longer they played the more into the music the audience was, the more into it the Wu was. They were obscenely tight and well-rehearsed, showing the confidence and skill that several dates on other large festival lineups will give. There was a lot of love for Seattle—the band shouted out the city, Bumbershoot, and Pabst Blue Ribbon. “Hotel 1000, afterparty,” Meth repeated towards the end of the set. “We’ll be getting drunk in the parking lot after the show.” The set ended mysteriously, with a track from the “upcoming” Wu-Tang album played over the PA as the lights slowly came up and the band slowly left the stage. Couldn’t figure out if it was the end or not. Or maybe it was just me not wanting it to end. A half-hour later, lightning was sparking the skyline and thunder rolled through post-party downtown streets. The Wu truly is a force of nature.

Bumbershoot hit all the right notes, and even after seeing three full days of music, I didn’t want it to be over.

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