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Monday, September 4, 2006

Things I Saw at Bumbershoot Yesterday

Posted by on September 4 at 13:07 PM

In about eight hours, I managed to squeeze in the following delights:

•Twenty minutes of Jeremy Enigk.
•Twenty minutes of Mike Daisey.
•Twenty minutes of Mates of State.

The rest of the time was spent in line, squeezing through the fellow crowd members, and browsing the trinkets. It would’ve been nice to see more. I also ate a hot dog and a third of a funnel cake (those things SUCK).

I could be wrong, but it seems like the elimination of Friday made the audience denser and more desperate to cram it all in. I’m not complaining; Bumbershoot is a cool event, with lots of good features that attract a more diverse audience than would normally attend any of these events if they were held independently (there were probably more African Americans, for example, at the two indie rock show fragments I saw than at all the I.R. shows I’ve seen this year combined). Not that diversity alone is its own reward, but there’s something to be said for art that can withstand being performed in front of people who aren’t already in its cheering section. There’s a strong sense of being out among people who only leave their houses once a year. I think it’s great that Bumbershoot gets them out of their Kirklands and into the world. And I think it’s great that standard-issue city folk are forced to be shoulder-to-shoulder with them. It can make for an uncomfortable mash-up of Seattles: old and new, suburban and urban, pre-fashionable and effortlessly chic. And every possible thing in-between (faux-hawks included). Though my heart was screaming to leave, my brain felt like this had to be a positive jamto be taken out of your zone of comfort and forced to be cheek-by-tie-dyed-fanny-pack with the same people you scream at on the freeway (or who scream at you on the street even as they try to run your bikes over): surely, that is city life. At least in this city.

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So that's what makes Bumbershoot great? That it makes you feel terrible?

So we get bigger crowds with one fewer day, higher ticket prices, fewer acts to pay, yet the same people who constantly almost mindless champion Bumbershoot will all come back en masse anyway, so the organizers can pull a better profit.

The ratio of crowds and long lines to the actual amount of entertainment were what drove me away and I'm definitely not alone in that sentiment. And now, first hand accounts that those very things have indeed gotten even worse.

It's the local equivalent of an annual tourist trap.

the lines sucked ass. half the time you couldn't see wht you wanted unless you showed up an hour and a half early to line up.

the first two lines i got in ended telling me they were at capacity. AND HOUR AHEAD OF SHOW TIME???

what the fuck.

but i did see the gossip, heard blondie from a grassy null, saw trapped in the closet, and got a days fill of roller derby.

seriously, the lines were abnormally long this year.

I wentr Saturday - and the amount of assholes cutting in line made me flip out at one point.

Not people holding places for friends mind you, full-on walking up and stepping in front of people who had been waiting forever to secure a place in the small venues cutting! And the fact that no-one in line called them on it or reacted sucked - thank God for the awesome Bumberstaff who pulled these jokers out of line when they saw it happening.

In other news, all the scheduling was too tight, too many kids (I hope families who saw Slovin & Allen are cool with their children seeing close-ups of man-junk) and Aziz Asrani is my new favorite.

you guys are lame. There are fewer indoor stages with limited capacities and more stages out doors this year. Much easier see cool bands than in years past.

If you line up for a show an hour before it starts, you are part of the problem of long lines. It means people who are lamer than you have to get in line an hour and 15 minutes before the show.

Clearly you're delusional. Funnel cakes do not suck! Did you get it with strawberries and whipped cream?

People Singing and Talking, the 826 benefit on Friday, was excellent. A way better spend $30...

yeah, you guys are lame. what? do you feel obligated as journalists and music writers to attend bumbershoot? i mean it's only been going on since 1970. it's not some deep Seattle tradition. i've paid my dues in going to bumbershoot a few times. yeah, it was cool to smoke a bowl and ride my bike there and wander around the center grounds avoiding all lines catching the lesser known acts like Friends of Dean Martinez, Richard Thompson (great cover of B.S.'s Ooops I did it again) and numerous collectives at the mural ampitheater. But since being in the northwest since the late 80s, I've happily chosen to be at the big labor day festival a handful of times. Mr. Emeritus, save your jadedness for the next overly advertised Talking and Singing.

bumbershoot took every ounce of energy out of me on saturday. i even opted not to see kanye, even though it only took me 5 minutes --that's right, 5 minutes, NO line at 2:30 pm for mainstage passes, you tool -- to get my pass. maybe if you used your brain and waited till the line died down you would have been able to see more than an hour of music in your pissed-away day. bumbershoot was a festival full of asshole teenagers and wannabe hipsters. never again.

The lines will always be a problem you can't get rid of not only because of the huge attendance, but some of the locations where the lines are hold a small number of people, e.g., emp sky church, and the theater where they have the comedy acts.

That being said, Roller Derby and the Rat City rollergirls:), Erase Errata (for a few songs), Thee Emergency, Common Market, and the Blue Scholars rocked my socks off.

Kanye a little overated--the samples overwhelm a lack of originality in his music.

Sean, I totally agree with you.

It does, however, seem like an indisputible fact that if you come to Bumbershoot to see your favorite entertainers, one by one (rather than to merely spending the day trolling among the creepy jugglers and Everett-based tourists, admiring their ICP-meets-al Qaida taste in textiles) you must build a 1.5-hour wait time into your schedule.

Unless they're playing Memorial Stadium, of course; I saw The Gossip on Saturday (front row, close enuf to be hit with Beth's tit sweat), and it was the greatest show I'd seen in weeks -- until the 13-year-old girl next to me passed out from heat stroke.

Then, I waited in line to see Horatio Sanz and the Upright Citizens Brigade -- a good hour before the show but plenty of time to secure a front-row seat (where I again tasted tit-sweat).

Then I left. Greatest Bumbershoot ever.

I caught Bumbershoot for the first time this year. Man did it suck.

The commute to Black Rock took hours. There wasn't a rock and roll band in sight, only techno. The place was crawling with unattractive naked people smeared with paint. I almost got run over by a car covered in fur. As if it wasn't hot enough, some asshole goes and lights a huge wooden statue on fire.

Fuck Bumbershoot, I'm staying home next year.

I saw 11 comments and expected 10 different people to piss all over me for daring to question the validity of Seattle's Labor Day Festival of Fun.

But I'm glad to see I'm not the only one who sees the forest for the trees.

I quit going to B-Shoot years ago. At one time it was a local music festival with actual local music. When I was a kid, it was the only time of the year I could hear the bands I read about every week in the Rocket. (You kids with your VERA and your Interwebs...) For me, it was glorious. Now it's crap.

When One Reel discovered they could make money from it, they packed the schedule with big-draw national acts, squeezed out most of the local acts, quintupled the ticket prices, and crammed as many people as possible onto the grounds to fight it out for limited audience space. The biggest music festival in the country! Who needs that?

At the same time I also got older and grouchier, so I'm sure that's a factor.

While Bumbershoot was time-sucking vacuum of mismanagement, allowing the average person to see two of seven of the comedy performances in a day for example, it's still, as David Cross says, "Something that could only be pulled off in Seattle," and would be easily fixed with an explosion of outdoor areas.

Four days was ridiculous when you consider the biggest music festivals in the world max at three, where anyone can see everyone, but a move to tents would finish the fix -- following the festival tradition of free-roaming over spot-hugging.

Hell, build bunkers of underground parking and do it at Discovery Park.


Yep, Sean, I'm with you. That was one of the more unpleasant Bumbershoot experiences I've had in recent memory. I tried to be optimistic and supportive of the festival this year, and just ended up frustrated and disappointed. Saturday was so annoying that I just didn't come back for Sunday or Monday.

This year /really/ sucked (and I don't say that every year).

The crowds were easily twice as bad as last year, the festival area was smaller (but with twice as much beer garden!), the outdoor stages filled up hours before show time, and the staff made an airport-securty style joke of the re-entrance procedure (A hand stamp, a ticket stamp, AND a barcode scan? Really? Where do we give the urine sample?)

Bumbershoot is pointless if you can't wander from show-to-show to sample new and interesting acts. And when the fucking Bumbrella stage is packed, you know the situation is hopeless.

Also: the visual art exhibits were terrible this year. Quite a change from last year's absolutely /stellar/ installations (not to mention the great Aperture show from two years ago).

(Also, also: The knitta woman. Can her 15 minutes be over now? When it comes to tree socks, more is not better. Thanx.)

I also saw a guy wearing a utilikilt and a Journey t-shirt. He looked younger than me. Everyone did.

Blue Scholars
Atmosphere with Brother Ali
A Tribe


This was the hip-hop 'Shoot. All the rock bands were tepid and boring. If you avoided rock, ate food, and attended the greater than ever Flatstock (Guys, Dale Flattum formerly of Steel Pole Bath Tub and Milk Cult was there.) then you had a good time as I did.

Yeah, it's work to have fun at this event as always, but I didn't have issues with lines. If they were too long, I just got food instead.

Damn, I'm fat now.

All of you ignore the altar of the BRICK O' FRIES aka Zieglers Curly Fries. Have a brick, and enjoy life.


funnel cake rules.

Instead of bitching about how bumbershoot sucked, why not figure out a better way to do the event. If you have gotten old and fat, it is not bumbershoot that sucks, it is you that sucks. Time to realize that you have grown up but tried to stay in the same scene.

I went on Monday, and the crowds were no worse than in years past. Saturday is always the worst day.

That said, I didn't have as much fun this year, and I don't think it's B-shoot's fault. I think it's because I'M GETTING OLD.

Crowds, lines, bad food - none of that shit matters when you're young. I used to wait in line FOR HOURS to be in the front row at mainstage shows and I had a blast the whole time.

Now, I'm 38 and the whole thing just has less appeal. Maybe this year was an exception, but it might be time to face facts.

You kids enjoy B-shoot. It's a great festival.

Yeah, I'm not old, and this year still sucked. :)

I entirely agree that the ratio of waiting-to-entertainment was way off. My girlfriend and I eventually just parked ourselves at the backyard stage and stayed there because we got tired of battling for a place at this venue or that.

The good news: Zero 7 was AWESOME. You were at Kanye? Sucker!

Bumbershoot could raise the prices to the point that fewer people go. Hmm.
Or they could have a Gold or Platnum Pass as an option... you pay a little more to skip the lines. Yes... Yes!

I scalped my ticket to Kayne to a 15/16? year old kid from Everett/Kent? for $5. So did two more of us. Not really the Bumbershoot spirit, so I felt bad... until I bought some Bahn Thai with the money.

In about eight hours, I managed to squeeze in the following delights:

•Twenty minutes of Jeremy Enigk.
•Twenty minutes of Mike Daisey.
•Twenty minutes of Mates of State.

Yeah, I know what you mean: in three days I only managed to see Po'okela Street Band, P:ano, The Epoxies, The Thermals, Of Montreal, Cloud Cult, The New Pornographers, the last half of Dengue Fever (whom the programmers cruelly, cruelly slotted opposite the New Pornos), The New Fangs, Mike Daisey, one hour of the film festival, The Village Green, Mountain Con, Greil Marcus, The Invisible Eyes, Go Like Hell, enough of CocoRosie to make me want to puke, and Metric.

The *only* show which I wasn't able to easily get within a few rows of the stage for was CocoRosie (which sucked anyhow -- though it was majorly crowded). The only show for which I waited more than 45 minutes or so in line was the New Pornographers -- but that's only 'cause I'm totally obsessed with them.

I did miss Jeremy Enigk, assuming that Mike Daisey would be sold out if I'd caught that show -- though this turned out not to be the case.

I say it was the best Bumbershoot in recent memory (though I would agree that the first half of Saturday's selections was underwhelming).

The problem with Bumbershoot is the same problem with almost all of Seattle's little festivals - namely, they were born from and designed for a city of 500,000 or less. What makes Bumbershoot, Bite of Seattle, and Seafair the drags that they've become is that the Seattle-King regional area now tops 3 million people and they all come to the Center for events. So those cute, quaint little festivals have turned into something decidedly different.

It's probably sacrilege to even suggest this, but perhaps Bumbershoot has outgrown the Center. Perhaps it needs something like a fairgrounds and management that is up to the task of redesign and relocation. Same with the Bite. Since the Bite has become, more or less, Adventures in Kiddieland, perhaps it needs a new venue as well.

It's almost a physical law: things deteriorate as word gets out how good they are. It happened to California. It happened to grunge. It's happened to a lot of Seattle.


I admitted it, I'm old and grouchy, and I never claimed not to suck.

I would fix Bumbershoot by eliminating most of the big name acts and focusing on locals and acts that are just about to break. That would keep the fannypack brigade to a minimum, and allow lower ticket prices. Put most things on outdoor stages with open sitelines, as others have said. Schedule Friday again, and make Friday free. Try not to be the biggest music festival in the country.

Maybe it's time for a new music festival, or maybe the CapHill Block Party is it.

1. Mike Daisy was amazing.
2. Crowds tend to be stupid. The bigger the crowd the more stupid it is. Bumbershoot is not imune to this.
3. No more dogs at Bumbershoot. No, I don't believe your pommerainian is a Steve Miller fan.
4. What the hell is the deal with people and their expedition packpacks.
5. No more filling giant waterbottles at the drinking fountain.
6. Do the security check at the entry points to Seattle Center not in every venue line. Have people with big packs wait in a separate line so they can enjoy waiting on the person in front of them.

I love the crowds because I moved here from the Upper East Side to live in a real city. Manhattan streets are packed, and I can't wait for downtown Seattle to be packed with Bumbershoot type crowds every day. Then we'll get the great nightlife, delicious restaurants, and vibrant urban living that comes with density.

So, Density, you moved here, away from Manhattan, and now you miss Manhattan and wish Seattle were more like Manhattan. Why not just move back?

New York's too expensive, I bet.

Expensive because of all that vibrant urban density.

I went Monday. Way too expensive. Not going again next year.

oh, and I agree - it was draining.

don't know why. I've been to other years, skipped last year, but it just sucked the life out of me, my girlfriend, and her six year old son.

not sure why.

oh, I did enjoy Fly Like An Eagle - twice! and my girlfriend noticed the overabundance of scantily clad teen/twentysomething girls - I think she hadn't seen what local high school kids dress like (she just moved here from Everett).

I didn't mind. But still mentally tired.

If they don't fix it ...

Sean - I'm curious about what acts you missed because of lines. Enigk to Mates accounts for three of your eight hours.

While the smaller comedy stages often looked overbooked, I thought that the organizers did a nice job of putting a wide variety of high quality acts on wait-free outdoor stages.

A Suggestion: Fewer mainstream acts would a) allow the organizers to drop ticket prices and b) probably scare the masses who come to see said mainstream acts away and reduce the crowds.

Just a thought, because the festival is total fucking crap as it is.

I managed to really enjoy Bumbershoot by leaving my apartment in Belltown for the weekend and driving down to Oregon where there's no sign of ridiculous festivals put on by One Reel.

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