Bumbershoot, the longstanding annual international music and arts festival held in Seattle, is unique among festivals for its diverse lineups and varied stages. For those accustomed to large festivals, it can be a refreshing experience to walk out of an actual door to make your way into a festival. Just about every festival involves some level of camping or roughing it coupled with remote locations, adding up to a grueling endeavor for some. Situated at the Seattle Center, Bumbershoot affords easy access to a festival with spectacular views of the Space Needle, Elliott Bay and downtown Seattle.
Of the outdoor stages, the Mural Amphitheatre stage provided the best views of the Space Needle and a very intimate setting to see up-and-coming bands. With only a few feet of elevation between fans and the band, crowd interaction was high. Notably, Sofi Tukker could not help but reward the fans dancing the hardest and shaking their moneymakers to one of her infectious guitar-house songs by making a foray into the crowd. Easy access to and from this stage ensured that the opportunity cost of checking out an unfamiliar band was low. Strong performances were observed by The Skins, melding hip-hop, rock, soul and punk; Chicano Batman, performing pseudo-psych soul from another era in '70s prom attire; and Con Brio with their electronic soul-jazz stylings showcasing a cover of Nirvana’s “Heart-Shaped Box” that Prince could appreciate.
Another outdoor venue, the Monster Energy Stage at Fisher Green, was situated in the center of the festival along the main pathways of the Seattle Center. Showcasing more established artists, like The Roots, Conor Oberst, Spoon, Red Fang and Flo Rida, the Stage at Fisher Green attracted larger crowds and curious passersby. During The Roots' set, a particularly enthusiastic sign language interpreter got down and interpreted the ever-funky music and lyrics, proof that Bumbershoot offers a little bit for everyone.
Catering to rap and EDM crowds, KeyArena provided a thrilling venue for the senses, with smoke, lasers, balloons and confetti. For those lucky enough to make it down to the floor, Ninja of Die Antwoord crowd-dove his way during a blizzard of confetti to emerge triumphantly standing during a rare Bumbershoot encore. For those relegated to the stands, great views of stage and the sheer totality of the pulsing crowd made dancing in the stands novel.
With the greatest capacity and exposure to the elements, the Western Washington Honda Dealers Main Stage was home to the most radio-friendly acts. While entrance to this stage might have been more arduous than other stages, a large playground along the path provided another reason to make the journey. A trip up the massive rope ladder/cargo net and down one of the two massive slides made the playground irresistible to anyone who still had a modicum of child left in them.
Behind a stunningly large two-tiered LED screen, an all-red Big Sean laid out his personal ethos, “I Don’t Fuck With You,” to a crowd happy to sing along with similar vitriol. Paying homage to Nashville and the blues, Kaleo performed gruff, soulful country rock, belying their Icelandic roots. And Rivers Cuomo of Weezer rocked a guitar covered in stickers ranging from Shakespeare to Boba Fett to Kumamon. Opening with “Hash Pipe” and “My Name Is Jonas,” Weezer played a diverse range from their catalog and even made time to unveil their own take on Outkast’s “Hey Ya!” —Corey Pierce