Bumbershoot 2012 Wrap Up
This was our second year at Bumbershoot, Seattle’s Music and Arts Festival. Three days to soak up the warm summer sun and bathe in the cool evening moon. Three days to enjoy the sounds of some of the best music happening right now. The main stage is inside Key Arena but most of the other stages are outside, scattered around Seattle Center and within eye shot of the Space Needle. Last year was great. I hoped this year would be as good. As it turns out, it was even better.
Diversity. I think that word best describes this year’s Bumbershoot. Everything about it is diverse. The lineup panders to no single genre. In fact the three days are filled with multiple styles and mixes of music. And people of all ages were there. On Monday night I saw an eighty+ year old woman at Skrillex. She was with what appeared to be her extended family, which included a couple with a baby in a stroller. That’s a wide spread demographic! This year’s lineup was certainly one of the most diverse ever. It was my first, and probably only, opportunity to see Tony Bennett. And what an opportunity it was.
Key Arena had the holy presence of the Sistine Chapel. At 86 years young, Tony Bennett killed it! The guy was completely incredible. His voice was supple and full of emotion. And his vocal range was enviable by singers of any age. He told stories of his young life starting out with Rosemary Clooney, and of being given the stage name “Tony Bennett” by none other than Bob Hope. His songs have all passed the “hit” stage a long time ago. Now, they’re simply known as “classics” and “standards.” Their melodies echoed through the stadium like wind through trees, and it was as if time itself was melting away. I was so glad to have been there and part of what felt like a very special event indeed.
There were many great bands at this year’s Bumbershoot, and very few disappointments. On Sunday night Keane played to another diverse crowd. In the ten+ years that this band has been around, they have generated so many hits. It was one after another, and the entire audience was singing along. Everybody knew the words. The following day Lights had the same effect on her audience. It was mostly young people and many were singing along. Her set was full of dance oriented songs with lyrics that were empowering and yet heartfelt. Lights is from Toronto, which is a new music haven these days.
I spent some time visiting with Steven and Andrew McKellar from Civil Twilight before their show on Sunday. A couple of years ago I saw them play at the Glasshouse in Pomona, California and I’ve been a fan ever since. They were scheduled to play the Exhibition Hall, which is the only other indoor stage at Bumbershoot. The band played a strong set, but the venue sucked. It was stifling hot. The hall has a low ceiling and monolithic columns spread throughout. It was like watching a thoroughbred race horse in a cage. There was no way for them to stretch and get up to speed.
The biggest disappointment of the weekend was Ian Hunter. I was looking forward to his show and had hoped for more, considering his Mott The Hoople pedigree. While Tony Bennett seemed to defy his age, Ian Hunter wore his 73 years like a ball and chain. He was sweating hard and breathing heavy through his mouth. It wasn’t a pretty picture. To top it off, the guy mixing the onstage monitors was wreaking havoc for half the show. At one point there was so much low end feedback that the band had to stop, right in the middle of “All American Alien Boy.” Hunter jumped up from behind his piano, ran over to the sound engineer and screamed half a dozen rapid fire expletives at him. Then walked back and resumed the song from the beginning of the second verse. His voice sounded haggard and tired and nothing sounded that real or believable from him or his band. Unfortunately he was but a shadow of his former self.
M83. Holy shit. I didn’t expect that. Even though their latest album is their 6th release, I’ve only been listening to Anthony Gonzalez and company for about a year now. I just didn’t expect such a strong show. I think it caught a lot of Bumbershooters off guard. There was a high level of euphoria running through Key Arena and everyone wanted to get closer to the stage. There was a dangerous rush of people down one of the aisles. They pushed and shoved and finally broke through the security line, with many security guards ending up on their backs. It was dangerous looking. I was glad not to have been in the middle of it.
The Bumbershoot mind blower was Skrillex. After the M83 fiasco earlier that day, security was tight. There were extra cops everywhere, which didn’t dampen the spirit of the fans in the least. Skrillex’s show was more like being on acid than acid itself. Key Arena was packed and many loyal fans, who stood in line for hours, ended up in the nose bleeds. The place to be was on the floor. The audience was pulsing and moving as one. People dressed as animal characters handed out glow wands (bigger than glow sticks), which added to the striking visuals on the floor. The sound was staggering and the lighting effects were truly unbelievable. There were lasers everywhere and they danced across the ceiling of the arena. It was balls-to-the-wall, in-your-face for exactly one and one half hours… and then it was over.
Skrillex was a fitting end to a great three days of music. Everyone went home on a total high, not to mention the few I saw being wheeled out by paramedics. This year’s Bumbershoot topped last years, for me at least, and I can’t wait until next year. I wonder who will headline? Any ideas?