Read about Saturday at Bumbershoot 2008.
Read about Sunday at Bumbershoot 2008.
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.]