Recap and photos—Bumbershoot 2010, Seattle
– text by Shawn Conner/photos by Robyn Hanson
The rumour that Bob Dylan was sick was greatly exaggerated, at least judging from Maximum Bob’s closing Mainstage set Day 1 of Bumbershoot, Seattle’s three-day arts ‘n’ music fest ‘neath the shadow of the Space Needle.
Although it would also be hard to say that he is actually well; the title words to the song “Simple Twist of Fate” came out of his mouth like jagged bits of rock. That the songs were recognizable at all owes less to Dylan than to his crack band – the musicians’ song intros, usually just a snatch of melody, were the first clues in the long-running Bob-in-concert game, “guess the song before it’s over”.
However, maybe after a full day of getting caught in bottlenecks in the pathways around Seattle Centre, and seeing a slew of other bands, many of which didn’t make one work half as hard, maybe one didn’t feel like playing along. Nevertheless, Memorial Arena was full, and you had to wonder how many people were there for the legend, for the myth, the man, the songs, or because they thought Weezer was supposed to play. (Weezer actually headlines tonight, Sunday.)
The day began for your correspondents at the Broad Street Stage for The Submarines. The L.A.-based pop quartet introduced a batch of new songs including a big guitar-rock tune that ended the set. The plinky-plop keyboards of “You, Me and the Bourgeoisie”, the group’s biggest hit (think iPhone commercial), spread good cheer under the overcast Pacific Northwest skies.
Plants and Animals, one of the few Canadian acts (the others include Vancouver’s Parlour Steps and, uhm, Anvil) at the fest, impressed with a set of sharp-edged indie guitar-rock, elevated from the average by exceptional songwriting and being French-Canadian. The trio also played the Broad Street Stage, which basically serves as homebase for indie-rock fans.
Visqueen played a small-ish indoor theatre that was part of local station KEXP’s acoustic-set series. This was a shame, because the Seattle band played with just guitar, cello and bass, and without drums, the songs from its powerful 2009 release Message to Garcia fell a little flat. But singer/songwriter/redhead Rachel Flotard, playing with the band’s bassist and cellist, kept things rolling along with her between-song banter.
At the folk-fest-y Starbucks Stage (the Seattle-based caffeine pusher has a huge presence at Bumbershoot), Justin Townes Earle was making cracks about dad (Steve) in-between some enjoyable if not spectacular roots-rock tunes. One of the songs was about fried chicken and women.
Jamie Liddell looked great in his macrame-adorned blazer, and his six-piece band was excellent at evoking early ’70s Stevie Wonder, but “Superstition” never appeared. Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes played a fun set of their indie hippie pop, the highlight of which was of course “Home”, the hit everyone was there (and the Broad Street Stage was packed) to hear.
After that it was all Dylan, at least for about half an hour – long enough to hear “Desolation Row”, “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues”, “Tangled Up in Blue” (which was tangled up, all right), and the highlight, a rockin’ “Highway 61”. By then the feet were hurting, the back was collapsing, and the bar was calling. Bob kept on playing, though, and for all I know he’s still there, mumbling his way through “Blowin’ In the Wind”.
More Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes at Bumbershoot 2010 photos: