Bumbershoot Music Festival 09/04/11
Words/Photos by Jakobross424
Bumbershoot, Seattle’s family friendly labor day weekend festival that usually hosts big names, decided that this year they would give local bands a chance to shine. Last year’s headliners were Weezer, Bob Dylan, and Mary J. Blige. This year’s headliners are Ray LaMontagne, Wiz Khalifa, and Hall and Oates. Since there were very few bands on the lineup that I actually wanted to see, I decided not to go this year. That all changed when I won free tickets.
My dad and I entered the 3-mile radius of the Seattle Center where Bumbershoot takes place, utilizing Key Arena as the main stage, and using numerous other inside stages and outside stages. The first thing I noticed was the wide variety of food that was available. Kebabs, Mediterranean cuisine, Russian dumplings were just some of the available options. It was pretty weird and I was a bit skeptical at first but I grabbed a beef kebab with some rice, and prepared for the first show – Internet kings (and queen) The Gregory Brothers.
To see a comedy show, you needed a free comedy pass, or else you had to wait in the standby line with hopes that you might actually get to see the show. So we got a comedy pass and were at the front of the line. As we were sitting down in behind the rope separating us from the doors, two of the Gregory brothers actually went in that door and waved at us. More waiting, some more waiting, and a little bit more waiting, then we were let in by a fat Hispanic guy and two old ladies, who didn’t seem to take too kindly to the mostly geeky crowd. We went in and sat front and center. The stage was circular and the seats were auditorium style so everyone could see. It wasn’t a big place either; maybe 200 people could fit in there at the most.
The first guy to come on was a black comedian named Barry Something. He was pretty funny, and he did his 10 minute set then he left. The next guy to come on was Wayne Federman, who wrote for Jimmy Fallon and has been in a few movies. So I expected him to be funny, and he was. He played a few songs like Radiohead’s “Creep” (which he parodied as “I’m Asleep”), Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin”, and Maroon 5’s “Hard to Breathe.” He was funny overall, but we were all ready to see The Gregory Brothers perform their hits live.
They came on and thanked us for coming and thanked all the “talented writers” they had worked with. They introduced the first song as one they co-wrote with one of the most talented writers of all time; Charlie Sheen. With a backing band behind them the brothers busted out “Winning.” They played some songs I knew and some songs I didn’t. They had a medley of songs they “co-wrote” with members of Congress, including the Turtle Fence guy, former Senator Barack Obama, and Anthony Wiener. They ended their set with the Antoine Dodson smash hit “Bed Intruder,” followed by “Double Rainbow,” the latter of which was very intense.
No pictures were allowed during the comedy shows, so I abstained.
After the show, we waited in line next door for underground Canadian punk trio Nomeansno. I knew I would be in for a show as the band is known for their humorous song writing, their outspoken political views, and their long songs. There were more people in the line than I expected, and the crowd ranged from pre-teen to old people. What seemed to be a recurring problem of the day was the issue of bands not going on at the posted time. So at 2:45, the time Nomeansno were supposed to come on, the guards finally let us in. The set up of Exhibition Hall was kind of like that of Seattle’s Showbox Sodo. There was a beer drinking garden in the back, which was the only place you were allowed to drink beer, which was fine with me.
There was an announcement thanking the sponsors, and I noticed the “NO MOSHING AND NO CROWD SURFING” sign a few feet away. I thought, “Yeah, like that’s going to happen.” Turns out I was wrong, it actually happened.
Nomeansno came out and they were very old. The guitarist could not have been more Canadian. The singer looked like Jack Frost on cocaine, and the drummer looked like Dr. Drew. It was an odd group, but they were awesome. They played songs like “Keep It Steady” “Brother Rat/Slayde” and “I’ve Got A Gun.”
Lo and behold, some moshing started. And the guards were ready. They went right in there with flash lights and kicked out whoever started it. Then towards the end of the set, this guy got right next to me, bent over and lit a joint, took a hit off it, and was immediately spotted by a guard. Nice job, bud. There were some hardcore fans out there, and it was cool to see Nomeansno get some recognition like that. They put on a great show, and suggest you catch them if they come through your town.
Since Atari Teenage Riot was the next band we planned to check out we figured we would stay put. However we were kicked out and forced to once again line up for the show. So we grabbed a corn dog and waited in line. Once again, we weren’t let in until like 4:50, 5 minutes past the time ATR was supposed to go on stage. We went in as smoke and lights filled the stage. About ten minutes later, the sponsor announcement once gain came on and I saw the same NO MOSHING AND NO STAGE DIVING sign. There was also a NO CAMERAS sign so I didn’t get to grab any shots. Even if I did, they would have come out poorly due to the lights and smoke coming from the stage.
The German digital hardcore band graced the stage, Alec Empire, Nic Endo, and CX KiDTRONIK. I wasn’t sure which was which, but one was black, one was white, and one was Asian. So draw your own conclusions. They came on, said their name a few times, and jumped into “Activate,” the first song of their new album Is This Hyperreal? They played mostly songs from their new album, but some old stuff was thrown in there like “Kids Are United!”, “Start the Riot”, and “Revolution Action.” It didn’t matter what songs were played it was all about the feel. It felt like an actual revolution and a lot of people left or were thrown out. By the end of the show, the people were heavily concentrated in the front, and there were a few stray people hanging out towards the back. But many people were thrown out for not following the rules. No less than nine mosh pits started, it was enjoyable watching event staff earn their paychecks trying to contain the madness. ATR put on a better (and longer) show than I expected and as they played their last song, we made our way out to grab a Shishkaberry. Draw your own conclusion on what a Shishkaberry is.
We went back to see Anti-Flag, but it was already late and the line was really long, so we decided to skip them and get a close spot for Butthole Surfers, a band I hadn’t seen before. We ate our delicious Shiskaberries and waited for underground rap group Das Racist to finish their set. We also got to see the incredibly long line outside Key Arena for people who wanted to see Wiz Khalifa with local rap outfit Macklemore & Ryan Lewis as the opener. I personally don’t see what’s so great about either rapper, but that’s just my outlook. Das Racist finished up their set so we got up front to see the roadies attempt to set up the video screens and tune the instruments for the Butthole Surfers set. They were doing fine till it came time to set up Gibby’s electro-box No one on Earth except Gibby Haynes himself could figure that thing out. So once the big box with an upside down BHS was planted on the stage, the Gibster came on stage and fined tune his magical box. Holding a glass of water and a burning cigarette, the Butthole Surfer front man looked remarkably like Droopy Dog.
You could hear some people yelling “Gibby! Gibby!” in the crowd but he ignored them. A few mic checks later, and the Surfers were ready to go. They came on stage roughly 10 minutes late right after yet another announcement thanking the sponsors and jumped right into an abridged version of “100 Million People Were Dead.” I got a glimpse of the set list so I know the first half included “Cowboy Bob,” “Suicide,” “Negro Observer,” “Rocky,” “BBQ Pope,” “Hey,” “Mark Says Alright,” and “Edgar.” They jumped from song to song with little-to-no hesitation. The screens displayed horrifyingly odd images of cannibalism, guts, and murder. There was the iconic “exploding head” scene of Scanners, the scene from Hot Fuzz where the big boulder fell on that dude’s head, and even the Muppet’s sketch “Manamana” found its way into the Butthole Surfers visual presentation.
Some other songs they played included: “Graveyard” “Goofy’s Concern” “Who Was In My Room Last Night?” “I Saw An X-Ray of a Girl Passing Gas” “Lady Sniff /Pepper” and an energetic set ending “The Shah Sleeps in Lee Harvey’s Grave.” Overall, an amazing set and the Surfers put on a great show. I am glad I got the chance to see them.
After the Surfers, I was ready to kick back and chill with The Kills. I decided to stick around for a few songs and get some photos, but overall I didn’t plan on staying for the whole set. At around 9:30 (15 minutes later than the scheduled time) The Kills came on, with Allison Mosshart sporting red hair. The group sounded fine and Mosshart is a great singer. I felt there just wasn’t enough energy. Butthole Surfers are a tough act to follow, and when you only have a guitarist and singer, the energy level dropped significantly.
So the Kills played “No Wow” “Future Starts Slow” “Heart Is a Beating Drum” “Kissy Kissy” and “Satellite” before we decided to take off.
Overall a pretty good day at Seattle’s Festival of the Arts, but Bumbershoot had its fair share of problems:
1: No band plays at the scheduled time.
2: Limited merchandise.
3: Inside venues get cleared out in between bands.
Despite these small issues I still had a great day. Bumbershoot is a fun environment, with a no-nonsense inside venue security. So when it says no moshing, it MEANS no moshing. Just remember that.