7 Artists to Check Out at Bumbershoot 2019

Bumbershoot’s initial teasing of their 2019 lineup should serve as a textbook “how not-to” guide for any major rollout. May 6th brought with it a PR blast on all the festival’s social media platforms, a flashing, diamond-studded graphic of Bumbershoot’s “B” logo, accompanied by the caption, ““B”umbershoot 2019 Lineup coming Friday. You’ll like it.” We were waiting with bated breath to lay eyes on what everyone’s favorite and least flawed Seattle festival had to offer after a 2018 lineup that cut attendance nearly in half. Flash-forward to that Friday, the 10th, Bumbershoot’s Twitter posts an image — “BRB” written in their flashy logo — captioned, “We’re still tinkering. “B” right back.” So what, did they drop it the following Monday? Friday, the 17th? Try June 3rd, when they finally returned from picking up milk and cigarettes, announcing that, “Summer sounds are on the way.”

Fortunately the wait was worth every second, as when the lineup was thrust into our laps, it was met with resounding fanfare, the radiant optimism and bit-champing vigor of which rivaled the excitement that used to come with each annual Sasquatch drop in its glory years. “The poster is nice. That is the only positive thing I have to say about this lineup.” Wrote one enthused fan on the r/Bumbershoot subreddit. “This is sad for two reasons. One, it’s a weak lineup. Two, this means this is probably the last year of Bumbershoot.” Another pompom-toting crusader writes.

It’s safe to say the folks at AEG knocked this one out of the park. They cuffed the ball with their bat, forged from pure, hardened obliviousness, so hard that it lodged itself deep in the face of anyone that was hoping for even the mildest return to form after the uneven and largely inconsequential offerings of Bumbershoot 2018, caving their nasal bone into their brain and killing them instantly.

We’re living in an age that spawns more good and exciting music, at a faster rate, than any previous musical era in history to an overwhelming degree; with the sheer availability of access in the information age, it doesn’t take a cognoscente to find an infinite-calorie buffet of said music if you know where to go looking. Bumbershoot, meanwhile, seems to curate their lineups by looking at what’s doing well in the plastic, pre-packaged world of officially-curated Spotify playlists, the McDonald’s of music and music discovery. Sure, McDonald’s is fine if you’re dying of malnourishment and need something quick down the hatch, but you (hopefully) wouldn’t pay $220 before service fees for the opportunity to eat as much McDonald’s as you can keep down over a three-day period.

With very few exceptions, the artists we’re supposed to be excited for as headliners seem so scrambled together, like Bumbershoot found them in between the couch cushions while trying to find enough loose pocket change to afford more headliner-worthy performers. It ultimately feels like the first two or three rows of headliners are absent altogether, and maybe they are, because the running rumor among those of us wondering what in god’s name happened to this lineup is that AEG had Cardi B in the bag as their mega expensive, flashy headliner.

However, due to Cardi’s well-publicized plastic surgery complications that left her debilitated and unable to perform periodically, Bumbershoot had to cancel her at the last minute, leaving them to present their crammed, one-third-finished book report to the class. No concrete evidence substantiates this rumor, and Bumbershoot hasn’t and won’t ever comment on the matter, but with the specific emphasis on the “B” in their teasing, and the inaugural tweet’s specific mention of “You’ll like it,” a reference to her smash hit “I Like It” with Bad Bunny, it’s not exactly an Infowars-level conspiracy.

Cardi B is currently charging anywhere from $300,000 to $900,000 for a single performance. One wonders how much of Bumbershoot’s advance they got back, and if they either tried redistributing the return into booking exciting acts and dramatically failed, or just said “Fuck this” and pocketed the money for life support when this year’s shriveled, withering festival inevitably causes them to get taken to the backyard for a bittersweet assisted suicide. They did tap Lizzo after leaving one blank line of five stars atop the lineup as a special mystery slot; I guess not realizing that at show time, it won’t have even been a month and a half since the last time Lizzo was in Seattle, headlining a competing festival, no less.

The lineup isn’t even worthy of anger, it’s more so utterly disappointing and pathetic that a city long renowned and infamous for its music culture would offer a shockingly vacant set of performers at its household name festival. If you’re going all in with your chips in a game of Poker, it’s advisable to bet on a more substantive hand than a pair of 3’s, one Jack, and a beat-up Derek Jeter rookie card.

Not to mention, why is the hip hop count so low on the lineup? I understand that gentrification has done to Seattle what heroin did to Boy George circa 1985, so perhaps the curators’ thinking was that the almost parodically wealthy, retina-meltingly white audience of Bumbershoot’s modern age wouldn’t be as receptive to hip hop as all the boardroom-curated, limp-dick pop and electronic music we ended up with. But look at absolutely any lineup from a renowned, massively-attended festival in the past two or three years, you’ll see hip hop is only ever minimally booked when the handlers have oatmeal for brains, and don’t realize that’s what the youth wants and is constantly listening to, far more actively than the Lumineers.

We have a couple good headliners, to be sure. Rezz wasn’t on my radar at all before seeing her as a major headliner — the main headliner on Sunday, no less — but upon discovery, the Canadian producer paints elaborate and dense worlds with her endlessly chromatic textures backed with beefy percussion, offering the listener a free ticket to board her stroboscopic rollercoaster that twists, turns and goes upside-down through her self-created alternate dimension. Tyler, the Creator is currently riding a deserved wave brought on by a one-two punch of the most critically-acclaimed albums of his career, Flower Boy and the utterly unique IGOR, his most colorful and artistically adventurous album to date. Meanwhile, Jai Wolf‘s heat-lining, wan but nonetheless fun-in-the-sun blurring of indie pop and post-ODESZA future bass is a welcome addition to any outdoor summer festival.

However, even if you’ve fallen out of favor with someone you once loved, once you find yourself by their bedside in the hospital while they’re in a coma following a severe brain hemorrhage, there is that part of you that’s compelled to try and find the positives in what they had become in their final moments. So join me today as I relay seven reasons to dance among the daisies with Bumbershoot before they push them up by next year.


The Midnight

There are only three things certain in life: death, taxes, and synthwave being awesome. Los Angeles natives The Midnight broke in the middle of the decade with their stylish, self-referentially nostalgic flair, favoring gleaming analog synthesizers and a gentle reverb coating their soundscapes. You’d be forgiven for calling it somewhat breezy, but those of you with a soft spot for immaculately-produced and transporting electronic music can’t go wrong. Days of Thunder is the must-have release that demands recommendation, but their 2018 sophomore LP, Kids, is a unique concession to a strikingly pop-oriented sound, while still maintaining the aesthetic conceptions of their earliest releases.


SOB X RBE

Even if SOB X RBE’s taste in production does tend to sound like the hyphy answer to the music in exercise tapes your mom used to work out to in the living room, there’s a certain charm to the way the quartet flows over these beats with the playful energy of a child that shotguns two Pixy Stix and runs around the house for an hour. Try listening to “Carpoolin’” and sitting still, I challenge you. Their intentionally just-off-beat flows work oddly smoothly in an E-40 way; it’s like the mood is so hot that even they can’t keep up. If this isn’t one of the most hype performances of Bumbershoot 2019, then humanity has failed.


Carly Rae Jepsen

As far as pop music goes, having to follow up E-MO-TION, Carly Rae Jepsen’s unexpectedly refined and utterly lovable 2015 album, is like releasing Led Zeppelin IV and then being tasked with directly following it up with a Zeppelin V. But in Dedicated, Carly was up to the challenge, hitting her captive audience with her most mature album to date, without losing a sliver of the carefree personality brought so naturally on previous releases.

In a better world, “Now That I Found You” would be the inescapable summer anthem spammed on every Clear Channel radio station, but as it stands, it’s just one of the best pop singles of the year with a chorus deserving of being shouted from the rooftops, with some of the most boisterous production on a pop single in recent memory. Dedicated ventures into less immediately explosive songs, the comparatively moody “Right Words Wrong Time” and “Happy Not Knowing” serving as perfect pop mid-burners. Shortlist for the biggest draw of this year’s Bumbershoot.


Alex Lahey

A fresher face in the world of indie upstarts, Australia’s Alex Lahey makes the perfect soundtrack to wanting to cut loose in summertime, but instead of sitting alone drunk in your hot room imagining different lives you could have lived. “I Don’t Get Invited to Parties Anymore” is the perfect kicker to her latest record, The Best of Luck Club, a song peppered with subtle detailing in its lyrics, of which you may be able to relate however many meltdowns later, and is so catchy and melodically infectious, you don’t want it to stop.

Lahey’s lyrical personality is a charming standout, foregoing the vapidity of the average modern indie songs about love, longing and heartbreak, in favor of detailing personable portraits of a tumultuous life. Throw in a scuzzy, crunchily-produced indie rock aesthetic, which occasionally contrasts with the occasional flourish of subtle synth textures coloring the mix, and you have one of the more promising acts of the festival.


Zack Fox

You know the pickings are slim when you have to resort to a pick from the comedy portion of the lineup in a list of musical artists to see. But it’s Zack Fox’s world, we’re just living in it. Zack Fox is a plugged-in comedian, a thinker, an intuitive mind. Following him around the internet is a gift; he’ll do anything from tweet about how he wishes his foreskin had a box cut to threatening to use Ben Shapiro as his fleshlight in a Genius video that’s closing in on two million views.

As a rapper, Zack Fox has set us undeserving mortals’ Air Pods on fire with two tracks, the all-out attack “Square Up” and the enlightening “Jesus Is the One (I Got Depression),” on which Zack vividly portrays the emotional struggles of a young man who puts his dick in a bag of Doritos and makes a bitch suck the dust off the tip. Why don’t you believe in God yet?


Nothing,Nowhere.

In an age where no young person is happy, and with each passing day we only find more and more reasons to believe this place has it out for us, the prevalence of gut-wrenchingly sad, unapologetically honest hip hop makes sense, as a shoulder on which to experience existential terror together. Among the ever-growing wave of emo-infused music with digital audio workstation production goes, nothing,nowhere.‘s sung voice sounds the most like the production could be seamlessly swapped out for an instrumental off a Fearless Records album and fit just as well.

On tracks like “Clarity in Kerosene,” his voice has a sense of scratchiness and emblazoned passion in equal measure, his style of screaming over this style of production feeling way closer to an Oli Sykes or a Vic Fuentes than the average aggressive, diaphragm-based screams found in other underground trap songs. Even on the songs with a higher volume threshold, there’s a sense of genuine apathy and personal discomfort running through each line and vocal performance. A set worth checking out, if your exciting days in the Seattle sun can handle a brief glimpse into a grim, but inarguable reality.


Art d’Ecco

Conventions are meant to be broken. If we only ever embraced atavism without ever looking forward, we’d all still be wearing breeches and waistcoats and talking like a creative writing major after a back-alley lobotomy. For this, we should always embrace going against the grain.

Art d’Ecco’s music may not reflect a punk spirit in volume — fans of the broodingly comforting sheen of Depeche Mode or the lavish singularity of art rock will feel right at home with his sound — but d’Ecco is a creator that wants you to pay attention. A thick, gothic atmosphere of murk permeates Trespasser, their 2018 record, which melts new wave, post-punk and elements of glam into one melting pot to gently pour over the listener’s face once cooled to room temperature. Those of you in the mood for a set that will ooze style and inspiring fearlessness, don’t miss Art d’Ecco.


Who are you most excited to see at this year’s Bumbershoot 2018? Let us know @NW_Music Scene. Follow Jess’ further exploits @PAXILPARTY.