Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Saturday at Bumbershoot

Saturday was a beautiful day in Seattle and a great day to listen to lots of bands at the Seattle Center. Dana and Ben went with me and we got there early enough to catch the early acts. First up was Lights From Space, a local band that I've read interesting things about their influences include some of my favorites from the sixtes like the Beattles and the Kinks. Tough list to live up to, but they were fun and interesting live. 2012 Bumbershoot Saturday 001 Good rhythms, catchy tune, nicely done full sound for a trio.

Next we scored tickets for Serra Cahoone's KEXP indoor set. It's always easier early in the day since the crowds haven't picked up yet. The sound was awesome and the performance was excellent and the audience was very attentive. I like Sera's expressive voice and the tasty backing vocals kicking in, and the pedal steel guitar is wonderful. Talented performer in a setting that really showed her favorably, very nice.

Next up was TacocaT at the Sub Pop stage. I enjoy TacocaT's upbeat slightly punky sound, and they're always fun to watch; with the sunlight and bubbles they were even better!

Back over to the TuneIn stage for Don't Talk to the Cops We saw them last fall at Reverb Fest and they were an immediate favorite, and they haven't lost a step. Great fun upbeat show, just as good out in the sun as in a club - or maybe even better!

Next into the concrete box - the Exhibition Hall - for Spittin' Cobras. The sound in the Exhibition Hall can be pretty tough, but if you put in hearing protection and get close it's not bad - the echoes are drowned out by the loud music from a band like Spittin' Cobras. Unfortunately the heavy bass tends to overwhelm my Flip's microphone, so the audio isn't great, which is totally a problem with my equipment, the live sound was actually quite good - and heavy! They ended up with "Criminal Mastermind" as their final song and I quite enjoyed it. Good loud thundering sound, wish my equipment had done a better job though.

Next up was Polecat at the new Promenade stage. The venue was nice - the Promenade between the Opera House and the Exhibition Hall, and the band was excellent. A classic old country sound with a fiddle and a couple of guitars, upright bass and drums and a good dual vocal approach. I grew up listening to a wide variety of my Dad's music and this sounded very familiar - and I mean that as a definite compliment. Good old time sounding music with solos as the vocalist calls out the musicians, this sort of a performance from 60 or 70 years ago was one of the contributing streams that led to modern rock music, and decades later Polecat gave an excellent example of some of the roots of modern rock and roll.

Next was Unnatural Helpers at the Sub Pop stage Another wonderful band that I thought I'd never heard before - but I was wrong! I saw them at Bumbershoot in 2010 and they were memorable enough for me to mention in an old blog. The drummer sings - and sings well - and I love the fast rock sound. As I play the video back my son is humming along within a single repeat while he's reading and not really paying any attention - definitely a catchy hook, fun and fast and well executed.
Seven great bands well worth seeing in the first 3 hours - I was enjoying myself but not pacing myself too well, there were just too many good bands. Hmm, is that a real problem?

Next was Skerik's Bandalabra at the Starbicks stage. Another good show, this band had very talented musicians - the saxophone in particular blew me away (heh heh, but seriously). I actually ran into the sax player later at the Promenade stage watching other bands so I made a point of telling him how much I had enjoyed the show and he seemed to appreciate the compliment. I'm often a little too shy to say anything.

Next up was JC Brown and the Uptown Sound at the TuneIn stage Another excellent performance, JC's vocals are powerful and he's a very charismatic performer, and the band was tight and funky. They play around with timing and vary the beat, and jump in and out of changes as they go, very cool stuff.

Too much good music combined with my lack of pacing caught up with me so I ended up taking a break and not seeing any bands for a while. I'm a little annoyed at myself - I missed Black Breath, Cosmetics, Gotye, Serah Cahoone (at least I caught her KEXP set, so I didn't miss her completely) and Ayron Jones and the Way. Sigh, oh well I've never caught every act on any given day, and if I really tried I'd probably get so burned out that I wouldn't enjoy it all that much. Enough whining, back to music!

After a break and some food we checked out King Khan & the Shrines Good performance, nice horn section and fun visuals, it got me back in the mood to see more of the acts and I needed the energy.

Next was Prong in the Exhibition Hall The sound is rough; heavy metal bands in the Exhibition Hall are always a bit loud for my equipment. Too bad, they were another loud fun loud raucous band and I enjoyed it.

Next was the Barr Brothers at the Promenade stage I love the vocals and the lyrics, and the way music feeds into the song's progression. Enjoyed the show, makes me want to see more of them. I also want to dig through their lyrics more carefully, I like the contrasts and images.
My FLip was out of storage so I switched to my other Flip and got some more footage of the Barr Brothes, nice stuff:

Next it was back to the Sub Pop stage for THEESatisfaction, this one is Bisexual: They have a style of hip-hop different from any other I'm familiar with. I'm not well educated when it comes to hip hop so that doesn't mean too much, but I love the approach, the way the vocals play off each other, the dance moves, and the lyrics are creative and fascinating. Bisexual in particular is quite witty and interesting. I got some more footage including Deeper here: Again, the lyrics are witty and fascinating - "My melanin is relevant."

Next was "The Heavy" on the TuneIn stage, this one's "The Big Bad Wolf": I like the saxophone and the audience participation, they made us work! Fun stuff.

Over to the Promenade stage to listen to Western Haunts Amusing chatter and a very nice sound, I like the vocals in particular and the way the rhythm drives the song around 1:16 in.

EYEHATEGOD played the Exhibition Hall Loud heavy metal show, pretty good "clean" sound for a distorted heavy metal show, if that makes any sense - you can here the different instruments and track the beat and even hear the almost screamed vocals pretty well.

Oberhoffer played the Sub Pop stage 2012 Bumbershoot Saturday 130They play fun upbeat music with some interesting lyrics: I'm pretty sure the "first time playing on this coast" comment was tongue in cheek, they played the Sunset last April and they've almost certainly played LA and so on.

Alela Diane played a nice solo acoustic set on the Promenade stage 2012 Bumbershoot Saturday 139 Nicely evocative song, beautiful performance. I bit of a caveat: I've never seen Alela Diane before, so I'm assuming that's who this is based on the Bumbershoot schedule; if there was a substitution then I could be completely wrong on the singer's name. Hopefuly I'm right, but feel free to comment or send me a message if I misidentify anything. Whether it's Alela Diane or not, she has a beautiful voice and played some gorgeous songs for us.

Next was City and Colour playing some nice tunes at the TuneIn stage You may notice that as the day progresses the videos are taken from further back and to the side - the crowds were picking up, and I was zipping around from one act to another, so unless I wanted to be pretty pushy I ended up with a somewhat poorer spot to record from. That's OK, the sound was generally pretty good and I enjoyed City and Colour even though I wasn't front and center.

Next I caught Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit on the Starbucks stage, this is "Codeine:" Wonderful composition, I love the way the phrases bookend the sections - "one thing I can't stand" and "one thing I can't take" - lovely, definitely sticks in my head. Sad song of loss, it sort of sneaks into your heart, it takes a while to reveal the depth of the loss and what the song is really about, quite effective.

Next was the Helio Sequence on the Sub Pop stage: I often end up with a fragment of a song to start with - the song already playing when I work my way into the crowd. I used to wait until the next song, but a few times when I did that I missed the last song, so now I usually just go ahead and record the song from the middle just in case. This was nice enough that I went ahead and posted it, then recorded another song too: Wonderful sound, quite full for a two piece band, and the songs are powerful.

Back to the Promenade stage to catch Damien Jurado do a powerful version of Nothing is the News: References to ghosts, doors being closed, standing outside, walk upon the clouds in my eyes, the song builds a powerful sense of isolation and alienation, and I love the way the instruments build into the song's emotion. The spacey synthesized accents (some sort of sound like a theremin, others waver in pitch rapidly) also add to the disjoint sense of the song. Wonderful song!
I got Maraqopa on video as well Jurado writes phenomenal songs and listening to them performed live is wonderful.

There were still many interesting acts I'd like to see Saturday night - Pezzner, The Jayhawks, M. Ward and more - but I was out of energy and still had two more days to make it through. Jurado was a great act to end the day on, though.
I'm going to have to be a bit smarter the next couple of days, take painkillers in the early evening, watch the alcohol intake, or probably both; I always regret missing acts at Bumbershoot.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Saturday at Bumbershoot

I've been looking forward to Bumbershoot all year, it's the first festival I budget for: buy the Bumbershoot tickets, then think about what (if anything) else I want to see and can afford. I've been going since I was a teenager in the seventies and it was free for 4 days. I especially loved it because I got to see all of the bands that normally only played bars and were thus usually unavailable. I take my kids as much as they can stand it, and they're good sports so the girsl go all 3 days with me. Ben just hit 13 (teenager!) so he went one day with us this year too.

Logistics always have to be dealt with. Get your supplies, sun block (if you're lucky and the weather calls for it) or rain gear as needed, some food and water, and make sure all of the cameras are charged and cleared of old pictures or videos. I always try to get there at 11AM so I can check out the arts and so on, but always run late so I'm lucky if I get there at 12 when the bands start.

Once again we arranged to pick up my daughter early and get to Bumbershoot as it opened so we could check out the visual arts for an hour before the bands start - always the optimists! I ran late enough getting out of the house that we were down to 30 minutes before the bands if things went well. Things did not go well.

As we got my daughter we noticed that I failed to get all of the correct tickets for the festival (I inadvertently swapped a Sunday ticket in for a Saturday. Doh!) We headed back towards home, losing more time, only to find that my car wasn't going to be able to complete the trip. We had to get a ride back to my daughters after picking up the correct ticket so that we could have her drive us, losing even more time. Sigh. Ended up missing the first few bands. Rats.

On the other hand, the weather was gorgeous and there were lots of bands! We made it to the Key Arena to see Brite Futures, kicking off this years Bumbershoot with fun dancy party music, nice way to start!

The girls and I saw Brite Futures perform as Natalie Portman's Shaved Head four and a half years ago at the EMP Sound Off and I've seen them several times since and each time is a bigger party. Hair is a recurring Brite Futures subject:

We stopped in and listened to a bit of the Great Mundane, the Sky Church is an excellent venue for any kind of music.

We didn't stay to dance much since there were more bands to see like Kris Orlofski and the Passenger String Quartet:

The strings and rich deep multipart vocals give the music an almost orchestral feeling, much more layered than typical rock or pop, very nice:

Back outside for an excellent Champagne Champagne set

Champagne Champagne puts on reliably fun shows, they're getting to be one of my favorite local hip hop groups.

Wagon put on a fun set of guitar oriented classic rock to western influenced sounding numbers that had a good chunk of the early crowd dancing, the song "Keep It On the Down Low" builds to a nice climax that had the audience moving and applauding:

Next it was back to the Key Arena for a family favorite: The Presidents of the USA!
We've all seen the Presidents multiple times at Bumbershoot, Presidents Day shows, even a secret Microsoft show and they always deliver. Speaking of delivering, here's a mailman themed song in honor (sort of) of my dad:

So many Presidents songs are silly and insane and just fun as hell to rock out to. Spiders driving dune buggies gets me very time:

Spiders fat ass abdomen stuck in the bucket seat - who else but the PUSA could've written that?
The Presidents also have an excellent sense of movement and their rocking out transitions kick ass. A song about peaches that gets us all jumping then singing along, then moving to the harder guitar in the verse repeatedly, classic Presidents and really nobody else does anything quite like this:

I got several other good songs by the Presidents like Love Everybody, Old Man On the Back Porch, I Will Survive and Kick Out The Jams/Shout was killer, you can track those down on my youtube channel.
They ended like they usually do with "Video Killed the Radio Star" and nailed it:

It's always interesting coming out of a dim indoor venue to the bright sunlight, somehow it feels like coming back to reality; maybe I'm just flashing back to the seventies concert experience. I was able to catch Yuni In Taxco even though I had missed their set earlier, since they did a YR Radio tent interview and performance I was able to catch - kind of a make-up, which was cool!

I only managed to catch a bit of The Nortec Collective: Bostich and Fussible on video:

The sun washes it out, and it's too short to do them justice. Describing them doesn't really do them justice either but I'll try. They had a tuba player and an accordian player playing against some sequenced tracks, quite different but quick and uptempo, talented musicians having a good time, definitely fun.

We also caught Vasen, they use an instrument I'm unfamiliar with, it's a string instrument played with a bow and it has keys that change the pitch of the string, quite different. Fascinating classical sound to my ear with the way the melodies, themes, and timing intertwine.

Valient Thorr in the Exhibition Hall with lasers! Fun show, amusing band name and the facial hair seemed to follow Brite Future's theme of the day.

P.S. I Love You put on a great set on the Fountain Stage, I saw P.S. I Love You earlier this year at the Vera with Diamond Rings and they get a very full sound for just 2 people. The drummer plays a loud thrashy fast style and the guitarist plays a bass pedal and sings with the result being surprisingly musical and full sounding, not what i would've anticipated, but they put on consistently excellent shows with fun fast songs every time.

I only managed to catch a bit of Shabazz Palaces, I've heard they've played some shows with Thee Satisfaction lately but there was no sign of Thee Satisfaction in the bit I saw:

We caught the MarchFourth Marching Band, not a great angle visually but the music is amazing for a marching band. The dudes dancing on stilts were fun too!

Pentagram put on a hard powerful set in the Exhibition Hall, I caught the laser effect spelling the band name at the beginning of this bit:

As a technical geek I love the laser effects. I got a more complete song by Pentagram too, the sound isn't great (too much volume overwhelms my Flip) but it started out pretty distorted so it isn't changed that much:

Vetiver was quite a contrast, lighter and calmer, well constructed songs, very nice:

I had never heard of Little Dragon (not that unusual, perhaps 1/3 of the acts were unfamiliar to me) but they quickly won me over with their upbeat catchy pop tunes.

Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue had a nice horn oriented groove, very fun to listen to:

We caught a little of the Lawnchair Generals, as usual the lights/visual effects in the EMP Sky Church were great:

STRFKR put on a good set too. When I saw them at the Vera Project they were kind of crowded together and some musicians were facing each other rather than the audience. Perhaps the Fountain Stage is larger or maybe they just decided to face the audience, but I aplaud the choice. Facing the audience makes the performance more immediate and engaging.

I saw one song by Craft Spells but I didn't get it recorded.

I'm sad to say that I wimped out by 9PM and ended up missing Minus the Bear and Ray LaMontagne and Mavis Staples, too sore and tired. Dang. I did catch a street musician on the way back to the car,

but that was the end of the evening as far as music went.

One day of Bumbershoot complete, 22 performances watched, 2 more days to go.