Bumbershoot Day 2: Packed With Great Acts, Top to Bottom

Dream Syndicate at Bumbershoot. Photo by Morgen Schuler

Dream Syndicate at Bumbershoot. Photo by Morgen Schuler

Many seasons have passed since Honcho had stepped through the gates of Seattle’s Bumbershoot Music and Arts Festival and I have grown increasingly weary. No joke, I can’t begin to remember what year I attended last. Has it been that long or has the addition of “little d” and “little h” to the Grouch clan further tampered with my memory? Either way, it has been too long. So this year, when the opportunity presented itself, I decided to take the press pass by it’s horns and tame the wild beast that is Bumbershoot 2014. It literally kicked my ass and here is why.

I was unable to make the Saturday shows and the esteemed Christian Webber kindly picked up the slack for me, so be sure to read his far superior writing about day one of the fest. Try not to judge me too harshly on how crap my writing is after reading Christian’s.

There is a strangely quiet and other worldly quality about a music festival venue before the unwashed, drugged, begrudged, giddy throngs invade the open spaces. But that quiet was quickly broken by “d” and “h”(5 and 2 respectively)  deciding the empty fountain lawn was a special treat just for them. Mrs. the Grouch was volunteering at the Noise For The Needy booth Sunday morning but would soon join me on my quest for the best this bronco of a festival had to offer.

First up, Flatstock at the Armory. If you don’t know Flatstock, in its 12th Bumbershoot iteration, is a collection of amazing artists showcasing their talent making show posters giving collectors a chance to shake some hands, talk shop, and buy some limited edition art. Thirty-two artists and studios participated this year; the number seemed down from the last time I attended, but being housed in the Armory brought a new level of casual viewer to each booth. I spoke with Nat Damm who was pulling double duty; manning his booth at Flatstock and later in the day, playing drums in Seattle metal band supreme Sandrider. When asked what was the easiest poster collaboration for a show, Nat responded with “Brian Posehn” and pointed up at his booth to a show poster from 2012. Following up with the hardest assignment, Nat quickly answered with a smile and “No Comment”. A true pro.

Grabbing “d” and “h”, we headed over to the Pavilion Stage to see Manatee Commune. Not knowing what to expect for music or stage and whether “d” and “h” would be able to handle it, I was happy to see banks of LED boards, strobe lights and purple and pink spot lights to entertain the little Grouches.

Manatee Commune is the solo project of Bellingham native, Grant Eadie. Playing long form electronic music that fuses Ableton triggered samples with synths, electric guitar, drum pads and violin, the songs aren’t locked into a set beat or style and the crowd was able to enjoy the sounds mixed with the visuals and be taken away to a world free of Skrillex or the MCP. “d” and “h” were dancing around the room and ignoring me, so Honcho approves.

Bumbershoot is more then just music, they also have areas devoted to the visual arts. We quickly popped into the Fisher Pavilion to check out some art and kill some time. We loved Interstitial Theater, a interactive art installation, using various mediums and projectors to bring light and color to a darkened space. “d” and “h” went bananas for the boxes of white sand that you could brush around and the overhead sensors would see the light refracting on it and color the sand with digital rainbow pixels. The kids would have stayed in there all day, but Bumbershoot must be experienced in full.

Crossing over to the Fountain Lawn Stage was not as wide open and tranquil as it was earlier in the day. Now there were: families, free range children, hippies, roving packs of tank top wearing bros, girls in diaper jeans and old dudes like me in punk shirts that no one knows or cares about. But with a lot of cajoling and promises of fountain time, we made it to SANDRIDER!!!!

Comprising two thirds of defunct Seattle heavy weights Akimbo, Sandrider was one of the heaviest bands playing Bumbershoot this year and they did not disappoint. Nat Damm took time out of his booth at Flatstock to play drums in their Bumbershoot debut. Lead singer and guitarist Jon Weisnewski spoke about seeing hard rock bands in the past at Bumbershoot and how honored they were to be playing at the same festival and in front of such a large crowd. It was obvious that the guys were having a blast while playing and the songs off of 2013’s Godhead and their self titled album of 2011 brought out the Seattle fist pumps and head nods from the crowd and “d” and “h”. Weisnewski’s mix of singing and scream-o style vocals don’t always match up for everyone, but the “heap big riffs” and heavy, murky bass surely bring out the metal fans. Honcho approves.

Red Fang at Bumbershoot. Photo by Morgen Schuler

Red Fang at Bumbershoot. Photo by Morgen Schuler

Mrs. the Grouch soon joined us at the Fountain Lawn Stage to see Portland, Oregon’s much revered and amazing awesome metal band, Red Fang! These guys bring the metal of Black Sabbath and add a coat of reverb, flannel shirts and Portland’s attitude of, “whatever man” and turn it up to 11. It was a sight to behold as a multitude of parents brought their little shredders out to see Red Fang and teach them how to “throw up the horns” and head bang to the beat. All the instruments sat so well in the mix: the bass wasn’t to sludgy, the cymbals were crisp without being sharp and painful, the vocals were intelligible with hints of reverb and harmony, and the guitars…were epic! Seeing them live made me think of hearing the first record by the Sword and thinking “YES, this is how metal is supposed to be played!!” Judging by the massive crowd, many festival goers were in full agreement, Honcho APPROVES!!

Leaving Mrs. the Grouch and “d and h”, I made my way over to the Starbucks Stage/Mural Amphitheatre to see the reformed 80’s band The Dream Syndicate. Lead singer Steve Wynn mentioned that the band hadn’t played in Seattle in 30 years. The crowd was more then enthusiastic in support of the L.A. based alt rockers. The Dream Syndicate are commonly pegged as a “Paisley Underground” band, but they spoke of their fondness for fellow L.A. band, Black Flag and quickly ripped into one of their hits. Which one? I don’t know, I was never into Black Flag. Honcho doesn’t mind.

The Replacements at Bumbershoot. Photo by Morgen Schuler

The Replacements at Bumbershoot. Photo by Morgen Schuler

Gathering up all the Grouch’s, we made our way to the Mainstage/Memorial Stadium to see one of the seminal bands of college radio, The Replacements! Now I know that most of the old guys are going bitch and moan that this isn’t really The Replacements, but I am sorry but “F YOU!” If there is Paul Westerberg singing/playing lead guitar and Tommy Stinson playing bass, it’s The Replacements and I am seeing it and taking in every moment. Only playing two West Coast dates, Coachella and Bumbershoot, The Replacements brought all the fire, spit and heart from their recorded music and laid it all out on the sun soaked Mainstage for all to hear. The first half of their set was filled with their earlier, more punk influenced material, but then the “newer” and more well known material started to make it’s way into the set: “Kiss Me on the Bus”, “Left of The Dial”, “Bastards of Young” and “Alex Chilton”. This music is so good and so important to so many people…seriously, there are no words I can type to describe how amazing this show was. Honcho approves 100%.

The Head and the Heart at Bumbershoot. Photo by Morgen Schuler

The Head and the Heart at Bumbershoot. Photo by Morgen Schuler

Playing the last slot on the Mainstage on Sunday was The Head and The Heart. Playing their homecoming show in front of an enthusiastic crowd of fans, our boys (and girl) from Conor Byrne Pub brought the heat! Jumping between songs from the self titled debut and 2013’s sophomore release “Let’s Be Still”, co-lead vocalists Josiah Johnson and Jonathan Russell filled each song with the urgency and feeling that is hard to fake and even harder to come by honestly. When violinist and vocalist Charity Rose Thielen sang, Mrs. the Grouch was in no mood to talk, all she wanted was to hear that voice whenever she lets the beast out. The newer material uses bandmates Kenny Hensley on keys and Chris Zasche on bass to a greater degree. With a wider influence and the clout to explore varied sounds and textures, the songs off Let’s Be Still are better suited for the expanse of Memorial Stadium. But The Head and The Heart have come along way since Open Mic night and songs from their first SubPop release have been reworked and given a new punch, due in large part to Tyler Williams on drums. The highlight for me was hearing “Kenny’s Song” live one more time. There is something about that song…the simple but classic guitar part, the three separate voices on each verse…. Mrs. the Grouch, holding two sleeping lil’ grouches in her arms, was overcome by emotion. Honcho approves.

This was the perfect way to cap off the Grouch families first day at Bumbershoot 2014. This bucking bronco wasn’t tamed yet, another full day of music, masses and mayhem ahead on Labor Day Monday.

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