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Bumbershoot 2014: Top 10 Sets + Photos

Festival Review

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    Photography by Brittany Brassell and Breanne Joyce 

    Seattle’s Bumbershoot has been a local mainstay since 1971. It’s about as Seattle as you can get. The whole thing literally takes places under the all-seeing eye of the Space Needle. We even got a bit of gray skies and rain this year, all too appropriate considering the festival’s name.

    For those who’ve attended one or more festivals over the summer, Bumbershoot feels like the day spa of musical destinations. There are countless food and clothing stands, massage sessions available, and you get to go home to rest and shower every night. Plus, two of the most magic words any festivalgoer will gasp at: indoor plumbing. It’s about as restful as you can get for three days of music outdoors.

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    Bumbershoot is also often praised as being extremely family-friendly. It’s not uncommon to see parents walking with their young kids through the crowds or teenagers enjoying their first taste of concert freedom. This year’s lineup strongly played up to that generational divide. Bands ranged from legacy acts like The Replacements and Elvis Costello to trending party rap like Danny Brown and Schoolboy Q. It was a chance to see young artists share a bill with the artists who laid the groundwork for them. Going from new wave to Wu-Tang could be a bit disorienting, but it offered a little bit of something for most everyone.

    –Dusty Henry
    Contributing Writer

    Most Amount Of Ass Everywhere

    Big Freedia

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    Ass. Butts. Rumps. Derriere. No matter how you phrase it, Big Freedia’s set was an ode to the human backside. Decked out in all black with silver jewelry and shades, she and her twerk team gave Bumbershoot an indoctrination on what bounce music is all about. This is why Big Freedia is going to conquer the world. Her ode to ass may seem exclusive for the club, but Big Freedia can’t be limited by these superficial boundaries. She can take an early afternoon set in the rain and turn it into the biggest party of the weekend.

    Though her latest record, Just Be Free, is an adrenaline rush in itself, it’s an experience that really can only be translated correctly live. Most of the crowd up-front knew what they were in for and reveled in every twerk-filled moment, but it was more amazing watching the people in the back who just happened to find themselves there with mouths agape and awkward smiles. And no disrespect to Freedia’s killer dancers, but there was no bigger reaction than when the Queen Diva herself bent over on the DJ table and showed her own moves.

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    Headliner Your Dad Wishes You Would’ve Gone To

    Elvis Costello and the Imposters

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    As mentioned earlier, Bumbershoot has a split generational demographic. Walking into Memorial Stadium, it was clear where all the older attendees had wandered off to: Elvis Costello and the Imposters career-spanning set. But the younger generation could’ve stood to learn a thing or two from “elders.” Costello’s set was as vibrant as his periwinkle hat. People danced in their seats and erupted in applause after every track. The band was in top form, sounding nearly indistinguishable from even Costello’s early records. Ask your dad to borrow some Costello records and mourn your decision to skip his set in favor of G-Eazy.

    Most Bittersweet Moment

    The Lonely Forest

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    The Lonely Forest has been a Seattle mainstay over the past nine years. In a way, it’s almost too appropriate that their last show would be a set at Bumbershoot. As the stage’s emcee introduced the band, he assured the crowd that this should be a celebration instead of a mourning. But it was hard advice to take. For their part, the band played in top form and focused the set on material from their fan-favorite sophomore album, We Sing The Body Electric!, bringing out deep cuts like “Centennial” and “They’re on to Something”, but they still brought out a fair amount of material from their Chris Walla-produced Arrows.

    As frontman John Van Deusen bantered with the crowd, it became clear how many die-hard fans came out to give a proper send-off to the group. But despite how great they sounded and how much heartwarming camaraderie the band had, it was all undermined by the depressing notion that this was the last time any of us would see them perform again (assuming they don’t hit the reunion circuit later down the road). It was an emotional send-off with the band taking shots, embracing, and throwing themselves into the crowd.

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    Most Nostalgic

    Wu-Tang Clan

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    Considering all of the drama between the RZA and Raekwon as of late, there was buzz around the festival all day on who was actually going to show up for the Wu-Tang Clan’s headlining performance. Those concerns were quickly put to rest. Aside from Method Man’s glaring absence from the lineup, the Wu took the stage in full force. The RZA came out spraying champagne over the crowd, chanting “Wu-tang killer bees,” repeating this action throughout the set. It set the tone right: this was going to be a celebration of all things Wu. The legendary hip-hop outfit ran through the majority of their seminal debut, Enter The Wu-Tang Clan: 36 Chambers, bringing the motherfucking ruckus and teaching patrons da mystery of chess boxing.

    For most of the verses, the clan rapped together with select spotlights on each member. Though little material from the rest of their catalog was featured, it was a crowd-pleaser for casual fans and diehards alike. Just to see the Wu enjoying themselves and putting aside the drama was a prize within itself. The RZA positioned himself as the lead, with most every track ending with him giving diatribes and hyping the crowd. He’s often been seen as the mastermind who keeps it all together, and the group’s Bumbershoot set proved that he can still rally the troops when the world needs the Wu.

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    Best Guitar Tone

    Dream Syndicate

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    Bumbershoot’s lineup was so packed full of legacy acts from the ‘80s that it’d be easy to get lost in the shuffle. Dream Syndicate made themselves known and drew in their loyal fans with frontman Steve Wynn’s scorching, brutal guitar tone. During their opening number, a cover of Blind Lemon Jefferson’s “See That My Grave Is Kept Clean”, the band made it clear that they weren’t here to play mild-mannered versions of their former selves; Dream Syncidate was there to melt faces. This tenacity carried over tenfold as they transitioned into their 1983 single “Tell Me When It’s Over”, giving a brutal twist on the track’s chunky guitar chords. The band was able to hold their own against bands half their age playing the festival, sounding meaner and fiercer than they did in their heyday.

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