The days are noticeably shorter, our lungs are no longer breathing in forest fire smoke, some of our favorite trails are closed because people are murdering ducks. All of this can mean only one thing…it’s Bumbershoot time.
That’s right, although the legendary festival is now in our rearview mirror, “Bumbershoot Time” encapsulates the whole month of September in my opinion. The word “Bumbershoot” is another word for an umbrella after all and September is traditionally a return to the weather that we call “liquid sunshine” in Western Washington. Along with that, Bumbershoot always tends to give festival-goers memories that make up the majority of their conversations throughout the month. I know that it’s like that for me at least. Hell, I still talk about past years with a smile on my face. Whether it was my first Bumbershoot watching Matt Costa in his “The Life Aquatic” inspired beanie or watching Russell Wilson torpedo footballs into the crowd while on stage with Macklemore (my brother badly misjudged Russell’s arm at that particular show).
2018 was no different for me, besides the fact I was only able to cover one day due to another show that I was covering up in Whistler, B.C. (Lights Rocks Whistler Olympic Plaza). Day three was my day to take in all the art, music, and secondhand weed that has become a holiday for me as a lifelong Washingtonian. As I entered Seattle Center under an arbor of umbrellas, I smiled in a way that one does when they’ve come home after an extended hiatus. There is a rush of excitement each and every year as soon as you hear the muffled sound of the stage monitors several blocks down Mercer St. You absentmindedly speed up your gait wondering who’s muffled setlist it is; is it another new artist on the brink of superstardom?
My day started at the Fisher Green Stage. lovelytheband was playing and I have been absolutely obsessed with them all summer. Their brand of indie pop is infectious to a point where it will more than likely become an epidemic. Their album finding it hard to smile is written with a similar theme to Paramore’s After Laughter, albeit a very different sound. The songs though are very upbeat and make you want to dance, but the lyrics are a reminder of a generation coming to grips with being open and honest about mental health issues. The Los Angeles natives tore through their discography only stopping to cover Ginuwine‘s “Pony” near the halfway point. Vocalist/Guitarist Mitchy Collins prefaced their take on the club hit by telling the crowd a story of how his mom asks him before every concert “you’re not going to play that song today, are you? That’s a dirty song.” “You should never lie to your mother…” Collins added “…unless it involves playing this song.” The band finished the set with their breakout hit “Broken” while the packed crowd sang along. I can say with 100% honesty, lovelytheband is one of my favorite acts that I have ever seen at Bumbershoot. It was an incredible show.
My next stop was the main stage at Memorial Stadium. I walked past the giant unicorn that had quickly become a hit with everyone who was graced by its presence and made my way down the steps to the home field of the Seattle Reign Women’s soccer team. Bishop Briggs was minutes away from grabbing the mic and I was anxious to hear her live for the first time. Co-owner, Aaron Mannari had already seen her in concert multiple times and he told me that it was a must. He wasn’t wrong either. Briggs burst onto the stage singing acapella, evoking goosebumps from every person in the crowd. Her voice is out of this world, it should be a weapon choice for the zombie apocalypse and the look on her face as she delivers each lyric means business. I expected that persona to carry over to her banter between tracks, but instead much to my surprise, the sweetest, most lovable human being emerged. Briggs played several of her hits including “White Flag” and “River”, as well as her latest release, “Baby”. Whether it was the badass siren bouncing around the stage while rocking out or the gentle, kindhearted person who called for love, peace, and unity between songs, it was all fantastic.
Much to everyone with a pulse’s dismay, Bishop Briggs did have to end her set at some point, but that did mean Portugal. The Man was next to take the stage. I personally have been a fan of the Oregon/Washington by way of Alaska band for over a decade, but their worldwide success has been more recent with the release of their super hit “Feel It Still”. Bass Player, Zachary Carothers started the set by introducing two women representing Coast Salish Native Americans. Portugal. The Man has been doing this at every tour stop this year as a way to give local tribes a chance to educate each community about themselves and some of the hardships they are facing. It is certainly something we need to see more of. Shortly after, the rest of the band took to the stage, led by John Gourley who sported a Hunter S. Thompson inspired outfit complete with the bucket hat and smoky aviator shades. The last time I had seen them in concert, they were touring for In the Mountains in the Cloud and I can’t lie…I was hoping to be surprised by a few of those tunes this time around as well, but they stuck heavily to tracks off of Evil Friends and Woodstock instead. Mind you, all three albums can be found on the “heavy rotation” portion of my Apple Music account, so I was far from disappointed.
As the day progresses, the separate stages tend to overlap and it’s hard for one mortal human being to be at every stage at once. After Portugal. The Man was done “kicking it like it was 1986”, I jogged back to the Fisher Green Stage where The Cold War Kids were already a few songs into their set which included a cover of one of my favorite songs, “Love On The Brain” (Rihanna). Aaron Mannari (who was taking photos that day) had joined up with me halfway through Bishop Briggs‘ show and we both wondered if she might make a surprise appearance, as they usually sing the song with her, but Nathan Willett was left to tackle it alone this time. They did an excellent job entertaining a crowd made up of their own fans and people waiting for the legend that is Blondie.
When I first noticed Blondie would be performing at Bumbershoot, I knew I couldn’t miss it. I have been on many long drives that would have absolutely sucked without “Heart of Glass”, “The Tide is High”, and “Call Me” to sing along to. I just hope everyone who witnessed her concert understood how lucky they were to be in the same space as someone who paved the way for so many artists making music today. At the first sight of Debbie Harry, the crowd went berzerk as she came out swinging with “One Way or Another”. She didn’t take her foot off the gas until they finished the night with “The Tide is High”. I met two fellow concert-goers there (shout out to Marley and Tashina) after bonding over the phenomenon that is exceptionally tall people sprouting up out of the blue in front of shorter people at concerts. Marley seemed to know her stuff when it came to music, so I decided to follow her lead for the remaining hour or so before I had to head home.
My Bumbershoot 2018 ended with a lively performance from Tinashe, a show that was much bigger than the Mural Stage she was performing on, as well as a portion of SZA closing down the main stage. I have to give credit to the organizers this year who really did go back to the basics. In recent years, they had relied heavily on scanning bracelets not only at the entrance but also at different stages and even at the barrier between the bleachers at the main stage and the floor. It was clunky, frustrating, and worst of all the security hardly ever knew the actual rules. This year there was none of that. Bumbershoot felt like that taste of freedom once again. Drifting stage to stage, taking as much in as you possibly can. Pure bliss.
As always I want to thank One Reel and all of the organizers who allow us to cover this historic festival each year. It’s an honor and we are beyond grateful you include us….and that you had Beanitos in the media room this year. Until next year, it was a blast.
(All photos by Aaron Mannari and Brandon Enyeart)
Editor in Chief of Lemonade Magazine
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