(For a photo gallery, click here.)
The Wu rocks it
The legendary Staten Island, N.Y. rap crew Wu-Tang Clan closed down the mainstage Saturday night with eight members — less the late, great Ol’ Dirty Bastard, and with no Method Man to be found either, but longtime “10th member” Cappadonna filling his absence.
A majority of the crowd present looked like they hadn’t even been born when the group’s debut “Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)” came out in 1993, and the audience participation (especially during classic shout-alongs like “Clan In Da Front”) sure didn’t match the amount of Wu-shirts present. But as de facto frontman/main producer RZA noted, the group fed off of any enthusiasm the crowd had to give. Though the set list stuck to the basics, it was still crazy fulfilling to see almost all of “36 Chambers,” plus solo hits like “Liquid Swords,” “Ice Cream,” “4th Chamber” and second-album smashes “Reunited” and “Triumph” performed live.
— Mike Ramos, Special to The Seattle Times
The crowd at Afghan Whigs was a little smaller then usual for the Fisher Green stage, with a much higher percentage of thirty- and forty-something’s. The band was competing with Wu-Tang Clan and Mavis Staples, which I’m sure frustrated more than a few people. Still, raw-boned hard rock (three guitarists!) delivered by 20-year veterans of the genre is hard to ignore. To counterbalance the triple guitar assault, the group made liberal use of violin, with a cello also making a brief appearance. These strings smoothed over rough sonic edges at crucial moments. Greg Dulli’s singing fell perfectly in between aggressive and melodic.
— Joseph Sutton-Holcomb, Special to The Seattle Times
Elvis is in the building
The first thing that stood out about Elvis Costello’s performance (besides the singer’s exquisite purple blazer and blue hat ensemble) was the organ player, who punctuated the spaces between Costello’s verses, giving the songs a playful, hopeful air. Somewhat surprisingly, he had only three supporting musicians (keys, bass, and drums with his guitar), but they made a lot of noise. At one point Costello put a megaphone in siren mode and pointed it at his guitar so the amp picked up the screeching sounds. He continued to conduct cheeky experiments with noise and distortion over the course of his show.
Danny Brown the pro
Detroit rapper Danny Brown had the Fisher Green stage (and its adjoining beer garden) packed despite a rather early 4:30 start time. His EDM-trap-hybrid party jams escalated things quickly from there. Rocking a Frank Zappa “Hot Rats” T-shirt to compliment his side-shaved, green-tipped, high-top fade haircut, Brown tore through selections from his acclaimed “Old” and “XXX” albums with skill and professionalism, unaffected by seemingly unfamiliar crowd’s failures to complete or repeat his hooks and punchlines. And though the large audience might’ve not known all of his songs, they couldn’t help but turn up — and turn up hard, in broad daylight — to his raunchy, electro-rap bangers like new Rustie-produced single “Attak,” “Kush Coma,” Purity Ring-featuring “25 Bucks,” and the Kanye West-quoting molly anthem “Dip.”
Big Freedia’s bounce
A renowned figure of the New Orleans bounce rap scene, Big Freedia approaches hip hop with ultra-glamorous-yet-intensely-provocative mentality often seen in drag shows. Her dancers, the lynchpin of her live performance, elevate “twerking” to an art form in a way that never seemed possible. It feels good to support progressive gender expression while shaking one’s booty.
Early in the day, the rain ruled
It started out as a soggy day in Bumbershoot Town.
One young woman standing in line next to me, under a tattered umbrella, even wondered aloud, “Is this worth it?”
But by 12:30 p.m. the rain had dissolved to something scarcely qualifying as mist, and the modest crowds circulating Seattle Center’s grounds had few apparent concerns about the weather.
Fly Moon Royalty, one of the first acts of the day, offered a standard-issue combo of canned electronic beats, soulful singing by Adra Boo and white-dude rap by Action J.
More satisfying musical lift off was achieved by Otieno Terry, fresh from winning EMP’s Sound Off! competition in March. Terry, whose vocals ranged from a hush to a full-on wail, crafts complex songs with a real dramatic arc to them, reminiscent of Jeff Buckley’s. And he seems to be the nicest guy imaginable. He led his audience in singing “Happy Birthday” to his mother, followed by his own “Lady Bug,” a tune that had some of the jazz-standard classiness of an item from the Great American Songbook.
Backing vocalist Ariana DeBoo had the spotlight on a couple of numbers. She delivered some blues-y torch-song fare, including a slowed-down duet version of The Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” with Terry. Both are talents to watch.
Steady crowds filed through most of the art exhibits, including one of photographs by the late Jini Dellaccio (a last-minute substitute). The show looked beyond Dellacio’s 1960s rock photographs, which made her famous, to include her sumptuous fashion photography, striking portraits of people she met on her global travels and even one mid-ocean shot so spectacular it made you wonder if she’d gotten the waves to perform for her on command.
Headlining acts appeared in Memorial Stadium this year, rather than KeyArena, and the set-up is a bit peculiar. A mainstage is set up in front of the north bleachers (for optimum viewing from the south bleachers and football field), while an “End Zone” stage accommodates smaller acts. Not a bad idea, perhaps — but distracting “End Zone” soundchecks are done during maintage performances (at least on Saturday, when Panic! at the Disco were in full swing).
Several hundred fans gathered on the field for Panic! a full hour before showtime, and by the time the band hit stage, almost every south bleacher seat was filled. Lead singer Brendon Urie, wearing a gold lamé sportsjacket over a low-cut black T-shirt, was a bouncy ball of energy — and wondrously flexible too (he ended the show with a back-flip off a low riser).
One highlight of their 19-song set was a note-perfect cover of Queen’s classic “Bohemian Rhapsody” (complete with stratospheric wails).
The lad has one heck of a voice, and the whole band is ridiculously good-looking. Urie’s showmanship — especially that back-flip — brought some circus flavor to a festival that isn’t nearly as carnivalesque as it used to be.
Indeed, a whole spectrum of Seattle’s exciting cultural scene is missing this year. There’s no dance, no classical music, and no circus arts or physical theater that might delight younger kids.
Bumbershoot is 90-percent a music festival these days, for better or worse.
— Michael Upchurch, Seattle Times staff reporter
For our Sunday must-sees, go here.
11 a.m.- 11 p.m. Sunday and Monday, (Aug. 31 and Sept. 1) at Seattle Center (206-673-5060 or bumbershoot.org).Tickets: $70 either day; $150 Monday “gold” ticket.