Seattle Centre, Seattle WA September 4 to 6
With age comes wisdom ― and, it seems, a penchant for nostalgia. Bumbershoot, Seattle's annual three-day festival of music, arts, and culture celebrated its 40th anniversary over Labour Day Weekend, essentially reliving its early 20s with a line-up that included Hole, Weezer, and the legendary Bob Dylan. Held on the sprawling Seattle Center grounds under the looming shadow of the Space Needle, Bumbershoot is easily the largest and most diverse festival of its kind in the Pacific Northwest, with programming offered at 15 venues from 11 a.m, till 11 p,m.
The best thing about Bumbershoot isn't just seeing one's favourite acts, but rather the surprises that knock the wind from your chest they're so unbelievably good. Each day of the fest offered at least one of these "discoveries": Saturday's treat was alt-country-rocker Star Anna and the Laughing Dogs, while Sunday offered up the string folk harmonies of Horse Feathers. Monday featured Bobby Bare Jr., a Nashville-throwback with songs both bitingly hilarious and achingly heartfelt, and pop rock harmonies from the dreamy duo Jenny and Johnny, featuring real-life couple Jenny Lewis and Johnathon Rice.
Canada was well-represented by two Vancouver bands who couldn't be more different ― indie-pop group Parlour Steps and garage-rock duo Japandroids ― both of whom proved wildly popular, drawing huge crowds that pushed capacity limits (Parlour Steps) and braved the beginnings of a downpour (Japandroids). And Monday's headliner, Drake, made for a perfect lead in to R&B queen Mary J. Blige.
But ultimately, this year's Bumbershoot was all about Saturday and Sunday headliners, which featured the Decemberists. who debuted three new songs from their upcoming album (more of an alt-country-rock sound with plenty of nature references); Neko Case who was in scrappy, saucy form; and Dylan who played plenty of his signature songs, including opener "Rainy Day Women #12 & #35," while sounding absolutely wretched. It's understood that part of Dylan's charm is his raspy warble, but this was my note by the third song: it's like Cookie Monster after 30 years in prison.
Hole, which was really just a surprisingly competent Courtney Love with a backing band, reminded everyone why Love used to be a force to be reckoned with in her own right, not just what she's become now: A Twitter-spewing basketcase wearing couture. But, ultimately, it seemed the weekend's biggest shock was just how much Weezer can still rock. A stadium full of five generations, minimum, sang along at the top of their lungs to the band's biggest hits, with Cuomo running, jumping, climbing, and trampolining (!) all over the stage and into the stands, fittingly performing the grating "Beverly Hills" atop two port-o-potties. The Weezer front man perfectly summed up the sentiment, shouting, "This is a good night for Generation X!" It was. And a damn good weekend, too.
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
My review of Bumbershoot is online now at www.exclaim.ca