Festival Review: Bumbershoot - September 2018, Seattle

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Bumbershoot returned to the Seattle Centre complex for its 47th year, bringing a wide variety of up-and-coming musicians and global acts together under the Space Needle. With five different stages, and amazing acts on all of them, the weekend was set to be filled with a lot of running around in the sun, desperately trying to catch every act.

Friday got off to a strong start with UK pop duo, Let’s Eat Grandma, opening up the Fisher Green Stage. Their upbeat electronic pop sound and seemingly infinite musical talent (there were keyboards, guitars, saxophones, and recorders) drew a good crowd which then stayed once they saw how fun these two 18 year olds are, twirling around the stage as well as randomly flopping down during instrumentals. The next few hours of the day quickly departed from the upbeat, pop sound and headed into more rap and hip hop, with Duckwrth and Hobo Johnson & The Lovemakers following up on the Fisher Green Stage, Xavier Omär and Bhad Bhabie (AKA 15 year old Danielle Brigoli AKA the Cash Me Outside How Bout Dat girl) on the Main Stage in Memorial Stadium.

The second half of the day included more indie bands like Poolside on the Fisher Green Stage, Sloucher inside the KEXP Space, and Arkells and Noah Gunderson on the Mural Stage. The day was highlighted with the chill soul of Moses Sumney mixed in on the Fisher Green Stage as well. While the afternoon had a lot more running back and forth between different stages, it felt a lot more relaxed. The KEXP Space is an inside stage with air conditioning, couches, a record store, and a coffee shop, so it is easily the most pleasant and homely stage to see an act at. The Mural stage is fairly relaxing as well, at least as an audience member: your back is to the sun in this natural amphitheatre, so you can relax on the grass while you watch the artists perform. Once the sun had gone down after Noah Gunderson’s set (watching this man perform as the sun goes down is truly an experience), we headed back over to the Fisher Green stage for Mura Masa’s set before heading back over to the Main Stage to catch the headliner of the day, The Chainsmokers. While The Chainsmokers’ set was visually impressive, it seemed as if they were trying to fit as many beat drops into as short a time period as possible without playing an entire song, but instead 30 seconds of each of their biggest hits.

Saturday kicked off with rappers Jack Harlow and Yung Pinch on the Fisher Green Stage. As someone who has never listened to any “soundcloud” rappers, this was a truly confusing experience. I have never seen so many young teenagers shouting “gang gang” or “squad squad” in unison. My confusion was quickly forgotten as we headed over to the Mural stage to catch indie pop/punk trio Skating Polly absolutely rock out (I had already decided I loved them before I even found out bassist Kelli Mayo spells her name the same as me). Immediately following, I made my way over to KEXP to catch Vancouver band Jo Passed, recent signees to Seattle-based indie label Sup Pop, rock it out on that stage.

Eight member indie pop group Superorganism were up next on the Fisher Green Stage, with their out of this world visuals feeling a little out of place in the mid-afternoon sun, but still remaining just as effective. Next up were indie-rock trio Cherry Glazerr on the Mural Stage, then another Sub-Pop signee, pop artist Yuno, in the KEXP space. New York rapper Bas followed up back over on the Mural Stage. Playing in the same time slot as auto-tune legend T-Pain over on the Fisher Green Stage, Bas, who has recently signed to J.Cole’s label Dreamville, still had a decently sized crowd and put on a great show, clearly proving that Dreamville is the right label for him. To close out the night we headed back over to the Fisher Green Stage to catch two vastly different, but great Canadian acts. DVSN was a lovely and welcome surprise with their smooth R&B crooning, and Chromeo closed out the night with their electro-funk jams and fully chrome stage set up.

Sunday was somehow the most relaxed day of the weekend, while having the most amount of acts I knew about beforehand and was excited to see. The morning did start off with two surprises by way of Kailee Morgue and The Pink Slips, both on the Main Stage. Kailee Morgue is an indie pop, Ramona Flowers type, and The Pink Slips are one of the most thrilling acts I have possibly ever seen. Fronted by Grace McKagen, they hit the stage with a rage they didn’t hold back. Seemingly possessed at times, McKagen and bassist Charlie Anastasis threw themselves around the stage without a care, but no lapse in musical talent. It was an …interesting… contrast to go from that punk rock experience to seeing Ella Vos on the Fisher Green Stage in all her ethereal loveliness. The next act up was lovelytheband, also on Fisher Green, who were undoubtedly the act I was most excited to see this weekend. With only having their debut album out for exactly one day less than a month, the trio pulled in a wonderfully sized crowd for their mid-afternoon set.

We headed over to the Mural Stage next, to catch UK singer/songwriter/folk/country princess Jade Bird, who is undoubtedly my favourite person right now. Her songs are powerful, and her stage presence is strong while she jokes around with the audience and belts out her lyrics. We caught up with her and lovelytheband for a couple of quick portrait sessions, which will both be up soon. Next up were two artists from LA, Olivia O’Brien on the Fisher Green Stage and The Regrettes over at KEXP. After playing the Main Stage at Reading+Leeds in the UK, I was quite surprised to see The Regrettes playing such a small stage, but it goes to show the divide between what’s popular on either side of the Atlantic. Despite playing the smallest stage, the group drew in the biggest crowd I’d seen in the KEXP building all weekend, and absolutely killed their set. From there we headed over to the Ex Hall Stage to catch electro-pop queen Elohim’s set before heading back over to the Fisher Green Stage to sit down on the grass and finally relax while we watched the one and only Blondie close out our weekend with Debbie Harry’s seemingly never-ending energy and pop classics. Sadly they weren’t allowing any photographers, so I wasn’t able to photograph the glory that was this set.

Bumbershoot always has an excellent mix of genres to cater to all different groups, which creates a truly unique vibe for the inner-city festival. Sometimes the harsh jumps in genre on each of the stages can be jarring, but it can also expose people to new music that they wouldn’t necessarily seek out, which is a core part of the festival’s identity. This year’s lineup was absolutely wonderful, and I cannot wait to see who graces the stages at Bumbershoot 2019!

Words and Photography by Kelli Anne Lane