Day One at Bumbershoot

I visited friends last year.

I house-sat and spent the weekend enamored with a new relationship two years ago.

Before that, I’d been too uncomfortable with going to concerts alone. I’d been too strapped for cash. I’d been tethered to plans back at my old stomping grounds.

This year, though, I knew how I would spend my Labor Day weekend almost as soon as I found out I was moving to Seattle. I would, at long last, take in Bumbershoot.

Going into the first day of the festival, I’d been most excited about New Orleans’ Soul Rebels. News broke late last week that the brass band would be stuck in New Orleans, however, due to lingering effects of Hurricane Isaac. When I heard the news, my heart sank a little; outside of the Soul Rebels, I hadn’t been in love with the Saturday lineup. So as I popped my Bumbershoot cherry shortly after 11 a.m. yesterday, I was about as excited as you might be for a trip to the grocery store.

That was a mistake. My first day at Bumbershoot was an eyeopening mix of fun live music, hilarious stand-up comedy, and fascinating visual art displays that has me already looking forward to next year. (Not to mention Monday, when I’ll return.) A few highlights:

Heartless Bastards

My former boss is a big fan of this roots rock outfit, so I was curious to see what the hype was about. The Ohio foursome turned in a solid, workmanlike set that reminded me a bit of the Black Keys, only with more of a country influence.

J.C. Brooks & The Uptown Sound

The Bumbershoot festival program implored fans to seek out music they’d never heard before, so I obliged after reading about this Chicago band’s blend of old-school funk and soul. J.C. Brooks was born to stand at center stage; by set’s end, he had a good chunk of the crowd shaking its hips and shouting back with gusto during the call-and-response sections.

The band grooved through danceable songs about heartbreak, the healing effects of weed, and how “Baltimore is the New Brooklyn.” J.C. Brooks saved the best for last, though, when he ended the set with a funkified cover of Wilco’s “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart.” Wilco’s original is a plaintive, mournful affair; in other words, it’s the least likely candidate to be covered by a funk band. J.C. Brooks, meanwhile, turns it on its head by crafting an upbeat, exciting number about love lost and troubled love regained. (Listen to an in-studio performance.) It was a captivating conclusion to a surprisingly fun set.

Damien Lemon / Karen Kilgariff / Brian Posehn

Each comedian brought something unique and different to their 20-minute sets.

Damien Lemon called Seattle “the place where white people go to be white,” talked about his deepest fantasies involving a Dyson Airblade, and complained about porn breaking the fourth wall.

Karen Kilgariff told a few stories about life in New York and played a few humorous songs on her guitar. She even shouted down two loud crowd members during the set, making everyone momentarily uncomfortable — at least until the next funny joke came.

But Brian Posehn stole the show. He claimed that he didn’t make cheap “fart jokes” but rather told “fart stories” — one involving Christian Slater. He ended his set with diatribes about his three-year-old son trying to mix comic book universes and how George Lucas is evil for re-re-re-re-re-releasing the “Star Wars” series. I laughed pretty uncontrollably for the duration of the set and am eager to check out more of Posehn’s work.

“Christopher Martin Hoff Remembered”

Christopher Martin Hoff was a Seattle plein air artist who painted local scenes and cityscapes. I’d never seen his work before yesterday but was instantly mesmerized.

Hoff might paint industrial scenes and bathe them in color — all while painting the buildings and sky in the background with muted grays, blues, and browns. All of a sudden, those blighted industrial scenes were stunningly beautiful. Or he might paint street scenes and leave out the background altogether. Or he might inject a little humor into his work by leaving the wheels off dumpsters, forcing the viewer to do a double-take. Tellingly, he always left people out of his paintings.

It was a fascinating exhibit, full of new looks at Seattle and industrial landscapes. And it showcased just what I’ve been missing out on all these years: Bumbershoot brings together an eclectic mix of inventive music, visual art, stand-up comedy, literary readings, and performing arts … and somehow, it all makes sense.

I might not have been excited as I walked onto the festival grounds, but I was overwhelmed with joy and inspiration as I left twelve hours later.

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One response to “Day One at Bumbershoot

  1. Pingback: Day Three at Bumbershoot « I Gotta Shine·

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