I hate summer. It’s too hot all the time, you can’t wear sweaters or over-shirts without dying of heat stroke, you run a much greater risk of running into people you know at the mall; it’s pretty much my kryptonite. However, summer 2014 was a terrific time for concerts. Seeing such bands as Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and Slint, as well as two out of three days at the Capitol Hill Block Party, summer 2014 was nothing short of stellar, and Sunday, August 31st marked the most stellar possible ending to a great season with probably the best I’ve been to all year, Bumbershoot day two.
My day of pure halcyon began a little before 12:30 at the Pavilion Stage, where Manatee Commune was playing, one of the people I was really excited to see for the first time live. I’ve previously expressed my mad love for his debut album Brush that came out recently, and I’m always a sucker for a good electronic music show, so I was really excited to let Grant start out my day. And, in retrospect, it was the perfect way to start out my day.
Manatee Commune’s set was a great 45-minute chill-out session. The music that Grant Eadie composes under this name is very serene and atmospheric, and in a live environment, it really sucks you into another plane of existence that’s nothing short of amazing; it’s like DMT in electronic music form. While, as you might expect, it wasn’t the most showy and involving live performance, Eadie is a great producer, and I think a lot of the little details of his production show themselves a lot more in a live performance, especially when it comes to the stringed instrumentation – particularly in the use of the viola he busted out towards the end of his set. I’m glad I chose to open my day with Manatee Commune. His Pavilion set put me in just the right mood for the amazing day that would only get better and better.
After Eadie’s performance, my party and I made a foray to the Fisher Green Stage to catch a little bit of pop-rock band We Are Scientists. I’ll be the first to admit I’m not a fan of this band even a little. The kind of rock music that they produce sounds like the kind of sugary, easily-digestible pop-rock that soundtracks straight-to-DVD animated movies that come packaged with dolls for little girls like Bratz and My Scene, and when it comes to pop-rock, there are tons of more worthwhile bands in the style I’d rather listen to.
Though I’m not at all a fan of We Are Scientists’ music, I’m willing to admit they had a pretty amusing live show. Their live show was, well, lively, with pretty impassioned stage presence and a lot of light-hearted banter with one another in the brief time I spent with them. Their music still wasn’t my cup of Sleepy Time, but it was made a lot more bearable when partnered with their live performance. It was a nice little way to kill ten minutes, for what it’s worth.
We made our way to the awkwardly-placed End Zone Stage sometime before 2:00, just in time to catch hip-hop trio ILLFIGHTYOU’s half-hour set before ScHoolboy Q. I had never heard of this group before seeing them live, but before their set, my colleague told me they were awesome. As fate would have it, he was right. The group’s set was a half hour of pure chaos, cursing and overwhelming franticness.
ILLFIGHTYOU is a one of many hip-hop groups that sacrifices insightful and thought-provoking lyrics for just complete energy and good times throughout their music; ILLFIGHTYOU is pretty much the kind of hip-hop that makes rockists shrivel up and melt like a Fruit Roll-Up on a hot summer day. This group isn’t breaking any sort of ground with their lyrics, but goddamn are they a blast to see live. The vocal deliveries of UGLYFRANK, KHRIS P and GLENN are so loud and so bellicose that it just puts you in the right mood, whether you want to be or not. This was definitely helped plenty by the great beats brought on by their live producer that had a body-rumbling amount of bass to them.
The members were constantly asking “What’s up, Bumbershoot?” to get as much applause out of the audience as possible, and their charisma during the songs was palpable, favouring stage diving, tossing merch and other things into the audience, and climbing all over their equipment. It was just an all-around great time, and I can definitely see why they’re huge in the Seattle hip-hop scene.
When ILLFIGHTYOU’s brief set was over, we walked for about 20 seconds over to the Mainstage to wait a short while for Black Hippie founder and member ScHoolboy Q, whom I was super excited to see, as this performance was coming off of the heels of the release of Oxymoron, one of my favourite hip-hop albums to come out so far this year. His set began with his producer (I’m not sure who he was) going to his equipment and soon thereafter telling the audience to get “turnt the fuck up” in preparation for ScHoolboy, and he played the original version of Baauer’s mega smash hit meme and trap song “Harlem Shake”, and the audience got entry-level turnt up.
After that, ScHoolboy Q came out and performed his opener “Fuck LA”, and the crowd got slightly more wild and crazy. As the set progressed, he performed several more hits off of Oxymoron, including “Man of the Year”, “Break the Bank” and “Collard Greens”, though sadly there was no Kendrick Lamar surprise appearance. All throughout his set, Q was constantly speaking at lengths with the audience at large, talking about how he never plays concerts at 2:45 in the afternoon, talking about how many white people were in the audience, and at several points throughout, encouraging everyone to bootleg/torrent Oxymoron, as he himself admits to doing with albums as soon as they’re released. He was a pretty funny dude, and he seemed very genuine in everything he was talking about, especially when talking about the importance of his fans.
Even though the Mainstage acoustics were as miserable on the second day as they were on the first, I thought ScHoolboy Q’s set was great. Q’s rapping was on point, he had an incredible amount of stage presence, and it was obvious he was having a great time performing for Bumbershoot. In fact, I’m pretty sure he was having more fun than the audience was. I’m not sure if the audience was just having a bad day or if they secretly hated hip-hop or what, but the audience was shockingly bored and stationary throughout the concert. Compared to the Great Big Mosh Pit that was Danny Brown’s set the day before, you’d think ScHoolboy Q’s crowd was seeing Explosions in the Sky or something.
In terms of surprises, the biggest one that happened all weekend came in the latter half of ScHoolboy Q’s set, when he started touting that he had a surprise for the audience, and was singling out the white people in the audience, obviously hinting at something to come. Then all of a sudden, he told someone off-stage to “just come out”, and then fucking Macklemore came out on stage, very explosive and antsy in his stage antics. After a small little introduction, they went into a performance of Ben’s hit song “White Walls” off of The Heist, which ScHoolboy Q has a feature on. Both artists sounded great and had a lot of great chemistry together, but still the audience was unfazed, which made me feel really out of place as someone who was greatly enjoying themselves. Either way, ScHoolboy Q was one of the most fun performers I had the pleasure of seeing all weekend, and he’s added to my list of musicians I need to see live again.
After staying for ScHoolboy Q’s entire set, as well as catching a song or two from Luscious Jackson’s set after that, which wasn’t really worth noting, I made my way to the Fountain Lawn Stage for the performance that I knew for a fact would be the highlight of my entire weekend, the Schoolyard Heroes’ reunion set at 5:30. I stand by my assessment that the Schoolyard Heroes are the greatest shock rock group of all time, and arguably my favourite band to ever come out of Seattle. They’re just such a unique, incredible rock band. However, I’d never seen them in concert before, so this was an even huger ordeal for me.
So, you may all know better than I, and it goes without saying, but Schoolyard Heroes very well may be the great live band I’ve ever seen. From the first note played, the band was unbelievably crazy and ridiculous, but also consummately charming and lovable at the same time, though I’ll admit, roughly 90% of the draw of Schoolyard Heroes’ live performance was entirely because of their frontwoman Ryann Donnelly. Donnelly’s voice and personality have always been my favourite part of the band’s music in general, but in a live environment, her antics are borderline ferocious. Running and dancing all around the stage, lying down on the stage whilst performing, taking refuge on the off-stage speakers, Donnelly just couldn’t be tamed on Sunday.
Luckily, the Schoolyard Heroes delivered on their sound and song choices as well. The group’s setlist was a nice mix of songs off of their three studio LPs, playing various songs such as “Bury the Tooth of the Hydra and a Skeleton Army Will Arise”, “Dude, Where’s My Skin?”, “The Plastic Surgery Hall of Fame”, and my personal favourite song of theirs, “The Mechanical Man vs. The Robot from The Outer Limits”. All of these songs were performed with a striking amount of vigour and fire, and even songs of theirs I don’t really care for like “Boyfriend” and “Sincerely Yours, Jonathan Harker” were very pleasing to hear live, being belted out with such lofty passion.
This was the Schoolyard Heroes’ first live performance in about five years, and you could tell they were just having the time of their lives performing together once again, especially for the insane audience their set attracted. I was about two or three people from the barrier, but whenever I looked back, it seemed like half of the entire festival was there to see Donnelly and co. completely bring the roof off the Fountain Lawn Stage. They were without a doubt the best band I saw all weekend, and we can only hope this isn’t the only reunion show the Schoolyard Heroes have planned.
I decided to futz around the festival for about 45 minutes – during which time I caught a brief moment of Iamsu!’s performance on the Fisher Green Stage – and then after that time was up, I again went to the Fountain Lawn Stage to catch post-punk legends Mission of Burma. They’ve never been one of my favourite bands in the style, but they’re legends among their kind, so I figured seeing their performance wouldn’t hurt.
I stayed for a few songs of Mission of Burma’s set. I wasn’t absolutely turned into a fan at the hands of their live performance by any means, but it was clear that the band members had a lot of experience under their belts. The vocals traded off by Roger Miller, Clint Conley and Peter Prescott were all effectual and sounded very seasoned, and the instrumentation the foursome delivered was very well-performed, with some very rattling solos. In between songs, drummer Peter Prescott assured the audience that they “look better when it’s darker outside”, alluding to their older age than a lot of other bands playing the festival. Overall, Mission of Burma’s live performance gets an endorsement from me.
A good 45 minutes later, I again returned to the Fountain Lawn Stage (I’d say it had the best overall lineup of day two) to close off my night with indie rock darlings The Dismemberment Plan. Although I’m not living and dying for the group’s seminal 1999 album Emergency & I like a lot of other indie rock fans are, I like the eccentricity and quirkiness of the group, I like their very lively and dance-rock-esque songs, as well as the great instantly-recognizable vocals from long-time frontman Travis Morrison. I was super excited to see them live, if for no other reason than to say I have.
The Dismemberment Plan’s performance was fantastic. I wasn’t expecting a whole lot, but I got a whole lot more. The band’s live sound was great, with a great variation of material performed from The Dismemberment Plan Is Terrified to Emergency & I to a handful of tracks off their 2013 “comeback” LP Uncanny Valley. All of the group’s different instrumentation – from their guitars to the keyboard to the heavy amounts of electronics Morrison played throughout the set – it all came together in a very compelling way.
There was a great sense of togetherness during The Dismemberment Plan’s hour-long set. From the vocal interactions Travis Morrison and fellow guitarist Jason Caddell had with individual members of the audience to the giant audience-wide sing-along during the choruses of “What Do You Want Me to Say?”, it was clear that both the band and the audience were in an unbreakable state of delirious joyousness. They were easily one of the greatest bands I saw all day, second only to Schoolyard Heroes. After their set, their drummer came over to my side of the audience and tossed out both of the drumsticks he was using throughout, one of which happened to be caught by me; you can find a picture of it below. It was an incredible bookend to my day.
All in all, I had an indescribably good time at Bumbershoot’s second day. Highlights for me were definitely Manatee Commune, ScHoolboy Q, Schoolyard Heroes , and The Dismemberment Plan. I wish I had seen Kishi Bashi, Negativland and Savant, but what I did happen to see was incredible. I’m more than looking forward to Bumbershoot 2015, and I hope you’ll join me then.
(Below are a handful of pictures taken of various artists throughout the second day. Photo credit goes to Dan “Half-Chub” Tice.)