September 11th, 2008

Bumbershoot 2008: Saturday

I had a pretty good time at Bumbershoot this year. I was going to do a single post about it, because I thought I could keep it short, but of course it's just gotten longer and longer as I write. So, I'm going to do separate posts for each day after all. All of my photos can be found in my Bumbershoot 2008 set on Flickr.

Read about Sunday at Bumbershoot 2008.

Read about Monday at Bumbershoot 2008.

Saturday

Beehive had an unenviable slot, opening Bumbershoot at noon on Saturday, and a difficult space, being on the smallest stage, tucked away in a corner of the Seattle Center out of sight or even hearing from most of the festival. So I was concerned whether they'd have much of an audience, but fortunately the seats were mostly full by the time they started, and stayed that way through the set with additional people wandering up too. Beehive went for a heavier rock sound to start and covered Queen's "We Will Rock You" as well as the Beatles' "Helter Skelter", presumably to help warm up a crowd unfamiliar with their work. They've been playing "Helter Skelter" for a while and bring their own sound to it, but I felt "We Will Rock You" didn't fit so well with the rest of their songs. Still, it was a good set overall and they definitely won over some new fans. [Beehive photos start here.]

After Beehive, I wandered a bit, running into the dance troupe acornDance doing a funny performance, until I met up with my friend Gina, and we went to see Barcelona. Quite simply, Barcelona sounded like they heard Jeff Buckley's song "The Last Goodbye" and said, "Let's make a band!" Sure, they picked a good song to emulate, but... they needed a little more than that. Gina and I wandered around for a while after that, and stumbled across a performance of Byron Au Yong's "Kidnapping Water: Bottled Operas", which involved musicians playing percussion in the Du Pont Fountain pool and playing the water itself as a percussion instrument. That was pretty cool, and I wish I'd seen more of it or caught another performance later in the weekend. However, Gina and I both wanted to get some food and try to catch Nada Surf in the secret KEXP Lounge, so we didn't stick around for the whole thing. While we were eating, we missed out on getting spare tickets into the Nada Surf show, which perhaps is poetic justice. [Photos of acornDance start here and photos of "Kidnapping Water: Bottled Operas" start here.]

Gina had to leave early, and after hanging out with David and Alethea of Beehive for a while, it was time for me to catch Mono in VCF. Despite spending at least 10-15 minutes on a sound check before their set started, the band suffered from feedback problems for the first half of their set. Several of the songs also sounded a bit rushed, as though they just wanted to get through as many songs as they could, which was unfortunate as their lush, expansive music needs space to breathe to achieve its full effect. On the positive side, the EMP's SkyChurch performance hall is well-suited to their sound and image, and undoubtedly they made a better impression on new listeners because of it than they would have on one of the outdoor stages. They played a couple new songs and brought out Mark Pickerel as a guest vocalist to sing a duet with Kim Miller, the Lee Hazelwood song "Some Velvet Morning". It was a good set, but I've heard them play better, and much as I love their debut I'm still eagerly awaiting more new music from them. [Just three photos of Mono in VCF, starting here.]

After Mono in VCF, I left Bumbershoot for the day, as I already had plans to go see Freezepop at El Corazón. I'll write up that show once I've finished the rest of the Bumbershoot reports.

Bumbershoot 2008: Sunday

I had a pretty good time at Bumbershoot this year. I was going to do a single post about it, because I thought I could keep it short, but of course it's just gotten longer and longer as I write. So, I'm going to do separate posts for each day after all. All of my photos can be found in my Bumbershoot 2008 set on Flickr.

Read about Saturday at Bumbershoot 2008.

Read about Monday at Bumbershoot 2008.

Sunday

Sunday afternoon I stayed at home to do housework, but I made sure to get down to Bumbershoot in time for Sons and Daughters. I didn't recognize many of the songs and I expect they were mostly from the latest album, This Gift, but they did play "Rama Lama" and "Dance Me In" along with a few other older songs. The band was clearly having a great time, with singer Adele Bethel and guitarist/singer Scott Paterson both avowing several times that they loved Seattle, and the audience loudly returned their love. I'd still like to hear them mix in the acoustic sound of their previous album rather than play all electric, but I enjoyed the performance very much. [Sons and Daughters photos start here.]

Afterward, following my sister's directive to "find out if he's any good for real for real," I headed over to see Final Fantasy, the solo project of violinist Owen Pallett. Although his MySpace page lists his genre simply as "pop", his music had little in common with the conventions of modern pop or rock. Rather, he essentially plays baroque fugues, building the songs by sampling himself playing short parts and looping the samples one on top of the next. I thought of this as "techno-baroque", although using "techno" may be misleading as it had nothing in common with the electronic genre of dance music. He occasionally used a keyboard to create loops as well, tapped on the violin for sound effects, and also sang lyrics. I noted that he held his bow baroque-style, a little higher than the modern style, and also mostly held the violin baroque-style in front of him; this style seemed to facilitate the other performance elements (pizzicato, tapping, and singing). Pallett certainly was a skilled violinist with good tone and vibrato, switching smoothly between plucking and bowing the strings, and just as smoothly picking up a complicated part from a loop and playing it live again. He did play one song "acoustic" as he called it, using no sampling or loops, which helped me assess his talent. I was also quite impressed that he could keep track of all the different parts at once from memory, adding and dropping loops throughout each song. Lyrically, the songs did not seem to be geek-heavy despite his video-game-inspired name; what I picked out sounded more like typical themes of relationships and modern life. After hearing Final Fantasy, I have to say that he is indeed quite good for real for real... but I'm still not sure how much I actually enjoy his music. I have had a few bits of his songs stuck in my head since then, so I think I need to pick up one of his albums to consider it some more. [Just two photos of Final Fantasy, here and here.]

Bumbershoot 2008: Monday

I had a pretty good time at Bumbershoot this year. I was going to do a single post about it, because I thought I could keep it short, but of course it's just gotten longer and longer as I write. So, I'm going to do separate posts for each day after all. All of my photos can be found in my Bumbershoot 2008 set on Flickr.

Read about Saturday at Bumbershoot 2008.

Read about Sunday at Bumbershoot 2008.

Monday

Monday I made it down to Bumbershoot toward the later half of the afternoon. I had no plans before seeing Battles at 7:45, so I wandered about for a while. I stopped to watch some of Strange Fruit, a sort of mime theater performance done by two couples atop tall flexible poles. It was indeed strange, but also funny and cool. I hung out by the Du Pont Fountain for a while, hoping to catch another performance of the Bottled Operas that I saw on Saturday, but they did not come by before I had to head across the Center for the Battles set. However, while I was there, a couple people came by and asked to take my picture with their friend, Little Roy the Corduroy Boy; you can see the photo of us here. (I didn't realize at the time that Little Roy's appearances were actually officially scheduled events.) [Strange Fruit photos start here.]

Battles were hands-down the best act I saw at Bumbershoot this year, and no question gave one of the best performances out of all the acts. Drummer John Stanier reminded me of Animal from the Muppets, flailing fast and furiously at his drums, although with a precision and control Animal could never match. I almost expected Stanier to explode Muppets-style with a flash and bang, leaving nothing behind but a wisp of smoke. The rest of the band were slightly more restrained but no less enthusiastic, and together they roared through a thunderous set of instrumental, highly-danceable art rock. The first part of the set, from the opening bass loops of "Race: Out", was a continuous half-hour of music, and they barely paused later to do more than say hi to the crowd while setting up the next song. I didn't recognize all of the music, so some of the first half may have been new, but they definitely finished with the two singles "Tonto" and "Atlas", followed by an extended "Race: In". They led into "Atlas" just with a very simple sampled beat, a steady tik, tik, tik, tik, for a good two minutes while they were adjusting other equipment, but that simple beat was enough to get the audience clapping along in anticipation. When they finally broke into the song, a bunch of kids surged forward and nearly started a full-fledged mosh pit, causing a Bumbershoot staff member to wade in to the crowd and warn them to simmer down a bit. Battles played a full hour of exciting and vital rock that ought to kill the label "math rock", and I can't wait for their next show. [Battles photos start here.]

After that set, pretty much anything was likely to be a bit of a let-down. Still, I went to see Mike Doughty, since my sister said I should introduce myself to her friend Andrew "Scrap" Livingston, who was playing bass for Doughty. As a solo artist, Doughty's gone the singer-songwriter route, playing folk-tinged rock à la Dave Matthews, and frankly I just didn't find it that interesting, even when he covered his own Soul Coughing song "Circles". After listening for a few songs, I wandered off in search of ice cream and then went to hear the first couple songs by Minus the Bear. I returned for the end of Doughty's set, waited around for about 15 minutes until Doughty came out from backstage briefly, and managed to catch him before he disappeared again just to ask him if he could get the bassist for me, which I thought was a little funny. After chatting briefly with Livingston, I went back to hear the last 20 minutes of Minus the Bear, who sounded all right and finished with "Knights", the single I recognized from airplay on KEXP. Although the high point of Bumbershoot had passed already for me and the final acts weren't so great, I still left feeling quite satisfied with the evening and Bumbershoot in general. [A few Mike Doughty photos start here.]