Once a year, those of us lucky enough to live here or travel here get to add a giant blend of music to our playground with one of the most storied music and art festivals in the country.
2015 isn’t the first year that I have covered Bumbershoot for Lemonade. I have been fortunate enough to see some of my favorite bands and artists headline on Labor Day weekend including Weezer, Lights, Band of Horses, The Frames, Nada Surf and Best Coast (just to name a few).
This year was a pretty special one though, since my assistant/photographer (who happens to be my cousin as well), Tom and I were able to cover Bumbershoot for the first time together and it just so happened that one of my favorite artists (Kacey Musgraves), one of his favorite bands (Atmosphere) and quite easily one of our two bands (Brand New) all happened to be performing. Top that off with the fact that Owner (Aaron Mannari) and Head Writer (Wyndi May) got to cover Monday for the first time, it was shaping up to be one hell of a weekend.
For myself and Tom, we started our 2015 Bumbershoot experience with L.A. based artist, Phoebe Bridgers. Neither of us knew much about Bridgers when we headed to her set and understandably so, since she does only have three songs available to the public after all. Thankfully for us, it didn’t take long to find our first hidden gem as Bridgers didn’t disappoint. The majority of her material is pretty heartbreaking and sad, but the kind of sad that captivates rather than brings you down. Maybe it’s the emo fan in me, but I loved every second of her set.
After Bridgers finished up, she made way for the extremely energetic, Elle King. Now if the name doesn’t ring a bell right away, perhaps her current hit “Ex’s and Oh’s” would jog your memory as it seems to be everywhere right now. King (and Bridgers) performed at the medium sized Starbucks stage which sits at the bottom of a hill under the shadow of the city’s iconic Space Needle.
Every inch of ground on the natural amphitheater was packed with Elle King fans from 12 – 112 (or so it seemed) who were absolutely rabid for the native Ohioan and her signature raspy growl. Her fans put this writer to shame as they knew every single song from start to finish and excitedly continued as she covered The Beatles’ “Oh Darling”. King’s stage presence and giant personality between songs could have just as easily been on the main stage. That said, I get the feeling King feeds off of the sort of intimate setting that the Starbucks Stage provided.
From there we made our way to the Bumbershoot Main Stage at Memorial Stadium to see Atmosphere pump up the Day 1 crowd. When we got there, a rapper by the name of Lil Dicky was on stage….and well, that’s all we’ll say about him. The moment Slug walked out on stage, the hundreds of Atmosphere fans in the crowd went nuts. A fan next to me in an Atmosphere shirt seemed to almost be in tears repeating “I’ve waited my whole life to see them!” mind you, there was a fragrant cloud of smoke above us that could have added to the already happy concert goers glowing dispositions, but regardless, it was absolutely incredible to see how relevant a band who’s been around since 1989 still was with fans of all ages. Atmosphere performed some of their biggest hits (“Fuck You Lucy”, “GodLovesUgly”), as well as throwbacks that true fans went crazy for like “Woman with the Tattooed Hands”.
Midway through the show, the sunny skies that greeted us at Bumbershoot started to cloud over and I could feel a few stray rain drops hit my head. Moments later the skies completely opened up and drenched the crowd. Between songs, Slug looked out into the crowd and asked “is it raining out there? Well you guys are used to this right?”, the Seattle natives roared in response and then Slug spoke again saying “I tell you what though, let’s see if this song clears things up” before ripping into “Sunshine”.
The track from Sad Clown Bad Summer 9 didn’t do much to help the suddenly wicked weather though, in fact after finishing the song, a bolt of lighting flashed over the stadium accompanied by a rumble of thunder that was barely audible over the already raucous crowd.
Atmosphere would be the final act of the day to start on time as the festival was forced to postpone all of the outdoor afternoon shows due to the multiple lightning strikes that danced over Seattle Center. Tom and I ran back through the monsoon and decided to wait it out in the 80 degree warmth of my Ford Focus. After nearly an hour of delays, we were ready to get back to the music.
First up after the storm had passed was another one of my favorite bands from the last five or ten years, Airborne Toxic Event. The Emerald City deluge had left the Seattle Center grounds completely saturated, as well as all the outdoor stages which resulted in much of the equipment giving the crews grief. Mikel Jolet and the gang marched through every bleep and bloop and went out of their way to interact with the soaking wet crowd singing along to each and every song. At one point violinist/keyboardist Anna Bulbrook bravely dove into the crowd despite the slick conditions.
With the majority of the afternoon shows over, it was time for us to grab some dinner. The gigantic line at Mod Pizza didn’t fit into our schedule, so I headed over to Kabab and had a Greek Salad Sandwich (I am still craving it by the way). The Armory at Seattle Center had quickly become the it place to get a break from the elements, so I was happy to enjoy some good food and catch a little bit of the Seattle Sounders game that was playing on a few of the TV’s there.
Once our appetites were taken care of, we had a decision to make. Because of the earlier delays, country star, Kacey Musgraves, and one of the biggest names out there right now, The Weeknd, ended up starting their shows at roughly the same time. Either we could split up and each see a different show or we could stay together. In the end we both decided to head over to the Starbucks stage and see Kacey Musgraves do her thing before we called it a night.
If you follow us here at Lemonade, you already know that we (especially me) are pretty big fans of Kacey already and she did not disappoint. She sang a good mixture of songs from both of her last two albums including, “Pageant Material”, “Follow Your Arrow” and “Merry Go ‘Round”, as well as surprised us all with covers of TLC’s “No Scrubs” and Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots Are Made For Walkin'”. Needless to say, her twangy twist on those songs, as well as her Texas charm won over a crowd who was already all in.
That ended the night for Tom and myself as we headed home and planned out Bumbershoot Day 2. All in all Day 1 was a blast regardless of the miserable weather. Big props to all of the artists who made the most of it and kept us captivated.
Editor in Chief of Lemonade Magazine
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