Jump directly to picks for:
Jackie McCarthy recommends:
Billy Bragg & the Blokes—Backed by a crack team, Bragg brings his sly wit to the people. In the wake of his Wilco collaboration on Woody Guthrie material, Mermaid Avenue, the singer-songwriter has released Reaching to the Converted, a remarkable collection of 17 tracks previously unavailable in the US. 9-10:15pm. Opera House.
Olodum—This amazing Afro-Brazilian percussion ensemble will help kick off Bumbershoot and also play every day of the festival, so you can't miss 'em. 12:30-1:30pm. 5:30-6:30pm. Teatro Circo.
Joe Henry—Previously a twangy collaborator with the Jayhawks, Henry has spent the latter half of the '90s reinventing himself as a moody pop performer. His latest groove-filled record, Fuse, carries on the transformation with style and grace. 8:45-10:15pm. Bumbrella Stage.
Tom Tom Club—This funky Talking Heads offshoot took a five-year break in the mid-'90s, but now they're back in fighting form. They describe their latest material as "very romantic, especially for girls who like to wear track suits." 7:30-9pm. Rhythm Stage.
The Hankdogs—Stark and dark acoustic melancholy from a family trio who wear their dysfunction on their sleeve. 7:30-8:30pm. NW Court Stage.
Richard A. Martin recommends:
Son Volt—Led by Jay Farrar, this alt-country mainstay has become a masterful live band with one of the deepest repertoires on the rock circuit; they're today's answer to Creedence. 7:30-9pm. Blues Stage.
Murder City Devils—They may not be original, but the Devils' updated take on Motor City Madness makes for an explosive live show, especially at big events such as this. 9-10pm. Bumberclub.
PH Balance—Since they've got an album out on Indigo Girl Amy Ray's Daemon Records, it's not surprising to find pH Balance opening for their benefactor, but the Atlanta trip-hop group's got merit of its own. 7:30-8:45pm. MainStage.
Julian Snow Trio—A young Portland jazz group, this trio hinges on the roiling Fender Rhodes of frontman Julian Snow. Fans of Medeski, Martin and Wood take note. 6-7pm. Jazz Stage.
Tight Bros. From Way Back When—Over-the-top rock from down Olympia way, with histrionics thrown in at no extra charge. 7:30-8:30pm. Bumberclub.
Jackie McCarthy recommends:
Source of Labor—Seattle's busiest hip-hop crew gears up for the release of a full-length record with this show. Few local acts in any genre can match SoL's live intensity. 1-2pm. Rock Arena.
Pharaoh Sanders Quartet—You can't please all of the people all of the time, as jazz legend Pharaoh Sanders' career has proven. Whether or not you agree with his musical direction, the saxophonist can still move an audience with just the majesty of his presence. 4:30-6pm. Opera House.
Kelly Willis—This Austin chanteuse of twang brings old-fashioned grace to the country arena. 6:30-7:45pm. Bumbrella Stage.
Swayzak—Two pale, skinny limeys in cute hats who turn out intense, intelligent house music that's as fun to listen to as it is to dance to. 9:30-10:45pm. Bumberclub.
Africa F괥 Tour—A good bet for the nonperipatetic festival-goer. Stay in one place and hear Zimbabwean "big voice" singer Oliver Mtukudzi, the duo of bluesman Taj Mahal and Malian kora player Toumani Diabate, and the always incredible Senegalese vocalist Baaba Maal. 5-10:30pm. Rhythm Stage.
Richard A. Martin recommends:
Pavement—Left for dead by fans and critics alike, indie-rock godfathers Pavement rebounded for a stellar summer of nonstop touring, playing some of their most energetic shows ever along the way. 5-6:15pm. Rock Arena.
The Pretty Things—A contemporary of the Beatles, Kinks, and Stones, the Pretty Things reemerged from obscurity last year and have rekindled their grungy pop prowess. 5-6:15pm. Blues Stage.
Pete Krebs & the Gossamer Wings—A Seattle favorite (though he lives in Portland), the crafty singer-songwriter straddles roots, punk, and folk idioms on his way to creating spirited music; he plays with his 7-piece band. 12-1pm. Rhythm Stage.
Richard Buckner—This hard-travelin' troubadour has gained a reputation as a stellar folk-rock songwriter, and his live shows can become whimsical gems if he's in the right groove. 7:30-8:30pm. NW Court Stage.
Larry Barrett—This low-key Seattle singer/songwriter has quietly released three discs of plaintive, sparklingly constructed tunes; he's a dark horse at Bumbershoot, but could pay off big. 5-6pm. Music Box.
Jackie McCarthy recommends:
Master Musicians of Jajouka—Beloved by everyone from late Rolling Stone Brian Jones to jazz innovator Ornette Coleman, this Moroccan ensemble carries the depth of a 4,000-year tradition in its piping horns and dense beats. 12:30-2:15pm. MainStage.
Sonic Youth—Last year, these veteran NYC noisemeisters brought a Moore Theater audience to floor-crawling ecstasy. Imagine what they can do with a stadium crowd. 2:15-3:30pm. MainStage.
Rennie Harris Pure Movement—The Philly flash of breakdancing, this 10-member troupe literally brings hip-hop to the opera house. 5-6pm. Opera House.
The Funky Meters—The New Orleans party band that set the standard. This is not the same lineup that played behind Dr. John, Earl King, and Paul McCartney among others, but chances are good that they've still got the funk. 8:45-10:45pm. Rhythm Stage.
Earshot Day—Another conveniently scheduled block for those who hate to fight the crowd. These five acts run the gamut of experimentally minded jazz, from the gritty skronk of Stinkhorn to the hypnotic, percussive heaven of Manah. 1:30-8:30pm. Jazz Stage.
Richard A. Martin recommends:
Cibo Matto—This New York-by-way-of-Japan electronic hip-hop duo has expanded into a quintet that includes Sean Lennon, and they've been earning raves for their spirited live sets. 4-5pm. Rock Arena.
Queens of the Stone Age—This burn-'em-up rock band's become a favorite nationwide, gaining fans of their gutsy, grimy, and sometimes gross live shows. 6:45-8pm. Rock Arena.
Sunset Valley—This Portland power-pop quartet's readying its second full-length of catchy, enigmatic, and highly melodic songs. 12-1pm. Bumberclub.
Kevn Kinney—Expect an enthusiastic crowd for this cultish singer-songwriter, best known for his work in the folk-meets-metal outfit Drivin' n' Cryin'. 3-4pm. NW Court Stage.
Rocket From The Crypt—One of the festival's sure bets for a fantastic show filled with rough-hewn riffs, howling horns, and bone-crushing rock rhythms. 9:30-10:30pm. Rock Arena.
Jackie McCarthy recommends:
Los Van Van—This 14-piece ensemble, led by bassist Juan Formell, pioneered songo, a mix of Cuban son, African and Brazilian rhythms, and free-ranging, jazz-inflected improvisation. Formed way back in 1969, Los Van Van didn't even make it to the West Coast till 1997, so catch them while you can. 12:15-2pm. MainStage.
Lo'Jo—The highlight of WOMAD 1998 returns. Hailing from Algers, France, Lo'Jo mixes Parisian musette, reggae, African percussion, and Arabic and Gypsy flavors into a musical carnival. 8-9pm. Bumbrella Stage.
Bis—Three Glasgow kids barely out of their teens crank out punk-rock disco style. Rock on! 9-9:45pm. Bumberclub.
The Roots—Philly's venerable hip-hoppers play in the wake of member Rahzel's new album, Make the Music 2000, and the incredible group effort Things Fall Apart. Expect righteous philosophy, human-beatbox madness, and the occasional drum solo. 9:15-10:30pm. MainStage.
Robyn Hitchcock—For those who missed Hitchcock's recent Showbox appearance, here's another chance. The singer's music remains as melodic and cracked as ever, whether he's searching for a cheese alarm, waxing nostalgic about a punky reggae party, or celebrating Sea Tac. 2:15-3:30pm. Opera House.
Richard A. Martin recommends:
Built To Spill—Former Seattle resident Doug Martsch has made the city the launching point for his Boise band's promising career, playing more than a dozen shows here this year and capping it with a special Bumbershoot appearance that's not to be missed for any guitar-loving rock fan. 6:45-8pm. Rock Arena.
Alejandro Escovedo—A well-traveled Texan, this singer-songwriter twists twang, folk, country, and more into his own stylish narratives and smartly chosen covers. 8:30-10pm. Blues Stage.
Macy Gray—Almost from out of nowhere, this Midwestern native has electrified the modern funk scene based on the grooves and outrageous singing on her major-label debut, On How Life Is. 1:30-2:30pm. Bumbrella Stage.
Sex Mob—Slide trumpet whiz Steven Bernstein leads this eclectic avant jazz troupe from New York, which made its name recasting pop tunes like "Sign O' the Times" and "Macarena" into experimental jazz pieces. 6-7pm. Jazz Stage.
Imperial Teen—This cute 'n' cuddly quartet summed up their M.O. on their second album of giddy pop, What Is Not To Love? 4-5pm. Rock Arena.
David Schmader—Writer/performer David Schmader looks like a suburban Scoutmaster, which makes his piece Straight, all about the wacko world of "conversion therapy," all the more enjoyable. The efforts of fundamentalist Christians to change homosexuals to "normal people" through prayer, therapy, and yoga is a big fat zeppelin of a target for a satirist, but Schmader's piece is also a sensitive critique of the gay community as well. Regardless of your sexual predilection, there's plenty to enjoy in this writer's wry take on an unlikely subject. Bagley Wright Theater. Sun noon-1:30.
Lauren H. Weedman—If you've only seen her in the occasional skit on Almost Live, you have no idea just how amazingly good Lauren Weedman is as a physical actress. At times this hyper-energetic performer seems to strive to be in several places at once as she performs Yea Tho I Walk—and to the best of my knowledge may actually succeed in doing so (I'm still waiting for the photos to come back from the lab). Weedman's pseudoautobiographical story jumps times, countries, and characters repeatedly in an exploration of death, its rituals, and theories about what comes after the last goodbye. Bagley Wright Theater. Sat 7-7:45.
Cabaret Europa—Several of the performers who are the starring attractions of Teatro Zinzanni give a little taste of what they excel at for those who've yet to pony up the big bucks for that dinner-and-a-show cabaret. Ukrainian juggler Sergey Krutikov learned his stuff at the Moscow Circus, and he mixes up traditional objects-in-air stuff with some stunning balance feats. The French trio Les Castors specialize in "Risley," or body juggling, where balls, kegs, trunks, and all manner of objects are sent spinning via the feet, not the hands. And, finally, the duo Les Mandragores combine contortionist and balancing performances for an elegant and beautiful exercise in "body sculpture." Teatro Circo Stage. Fri 2-3 and 4-5; Sat 1-2 and 4:15-5:15; Sun 1-2 and 4:15-5:15; Mon 1-2 and 4:15-5:15.
Rain City Projects Showcase—Although listed as a "literary event," this is a chance to hear readings of favorite works and works-in-progress from six of Seattle's premiere playwrights, including Drew Emery, Bret Fetzer (who promises to keep his clothes on), Ki Gottberg, John Moe, Suzy Schneider, and Matt Smith. Emceed by Olga Sanchez, this is a fine opportunity for folks to take the temperature of Seattle's most interesting writing for theater. Starbucks Literary Stage. Sat 1-2:30.
For my final pick for the Bumbershoot Weekend, I'd leave the Seattle Center altogether and head down to the Market Theater for Carlotta's Big Bumbrellashoot Wing-Ding, a "minifestival" by that eccentric purveyor of Southern charm, Carlotta Sue Philpott. Carlotta's a middle-aged Southern lady whose stints as a cleaning woman, checking clerk, and small-town busybody have perfectly prepared her to be a variety-show host, where with her bizarre assortment of family (including her son Kenny, a postal time-bomb waiting to happen) and friends (writer Michael Hood, Poetry Slam curator Todd Davis, accordion player extraordinaire Bonnie Birch, and comedian James Inman, among others), she treats her audience to a visit to grandmother's house—assuming that your grandmother was a sweet but bizarre drag artist whose comic sensibilities lay somewhere between Carol Burnett and Artaud's Theater of Cruelty, that is. The Market Theater, 1428 Post Alley, 781-9273. $6. Fri 9/3-Sat 9/4 at 8.
Starbucks Bookfair—This is always a browser's delight. Spend five minutes or a couple of hours perusing the ample field of fine presses, book artists, lit mags, and 'zines. How could anyone go wrong? The lineup this year includes such presses as A Fine Line, Blue Begonia, Rose Alley, Copper Canyon, Confluence, The Mountaineers, nine muses, Wood Works, and Seal Press, among many others. Or, for the periodical hound, there's The Bloomsbury Review, Asia 2000, Find Madness, Prism, Calyx, and, as with much of this weekend, much more where that came from. Snoqualmie Room. Daily, noon-8.
Gregory Hischak—I've got a huge soft spot for this slam poet, whose zeal for making the complex facile and the facile a bewildering conundrum is hard to ignore. Hischak, who is the current Seattle Slam Champion, is often found reading at, among other places, KCMU, KUOW, and the Titlewave Reading Series, and with his compadres in verbal vigor, Anna Mockler and Doug Nufer. Starbucks Literary Stage. Sat, 2:45—4.
Bumbershoot Poetry Championship Bout—In the far corner, it's New Orleans-based writer and NPR commentator Andrei Codrescu, who is out for blood in this year's contest. A year ago, Codrescu lost his World Poetry Heavyweight Championship title to none other than the poet in this corner, Victor Hernᮤez Cruz. Apparently, tempers and tongues are flaring. Recently Codrescu was quoted as saying, surely through gritted teeth, "Just lemme at him again." Referees are Anne MacNaughton and Peter Rabbit, of the Taos Poetry Circus. Be there. Bagley Wright Theater. Sat, 8:15-10:15pm. Codrescu also appears at the Starbucks Literary Stage to read, Sat 4:15-5:15, as well as in a panel discussion of "The Role of the Writer," Mon at 1. Cruz reads at the Starbucks Literary Stage, Sun at 7:30.
Matthew Stadler—With the advent of his Seattle-Paris novel of male angst, Allen Stein, Stadler is making his mark. The former books editor for The Stranger, Stadler is one of those locals who are on the brink of something B-I-G. And, as anyone who has the slightest bit of fascination for seeing authors read in person should know, this on-the-cusp moment is perhaps the best time to catch a rising star. He's really good looking, too, if that helps. Starbucks Literary Stage. Sat, 7-8.
Dennis Cooper—This could be a rollicking good time or a wannabe get-together. Either way, you're in good company. As a contributing editor at SPIN magazine, Cooper is known for his celeb tracking, most notably of Leo di Caprio and Courtney Love. His latest book, which provides the content for this reading, is All Ears, a collection of his essays that includes a whole section on obituaries of the rich and famous. Starbucks Literary Stage. Sun, 7:30-8:45.
Visual arts picks
Jacob Lawrence and Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence: Together in the World—"Together in the World" exhibits the work and lives of Jacob Lawrence and Gwendolyn Knight, espoused artists. The title is a clue to the show's larger theme: the web of connections between Jacob and Gwendolyn and between their intertwined lives and the communities that have nurtured them and influenced their art. Shaped by the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s and '30s, these artists, based in Seattle for 30 years, tie our art community back to that rich artistic world. The artists received a Golden Umbrella award this year for lifetime achievement and the exhibit is one aspect of that award, as is a $25,000 purchase of their art. Artist Barbara Thomas, who coordinated the exhibit, has created a multimedia installation displaying the tools of their trades and a photo-history of their lives, accompanied by a video documentary produced by KCTS. Thomas chose Lawrence's Toussaint L'Overture print series, coupling it with a selection of Knight's monoprints. Thomas' aim is to deliver a simple message: "Despite all their awards, Jacob and Gwendolyn are the humblest people I know. The exhibit shows who they really are: Two working artists who have woven their lives, art, and community together for more than 50 years." Olympic Room.
Sculpture, 40,000 Years Later—That this show features some of the Northwest's most interesting sculptors—including Mark Calderon, Doris Chase, and Gerry Tsutakawa—is reason enough to go. But there's a more sublime point to this show, curated by Julie Speidel (a noted sculptor herself). Her exhibit takes us back to aesthetic basics: Art is communication between human beings. We have been communicating with each other through marks—on stone, paper, canvas, clay—for more than 40,000 years. It's no wonder that by now we take for granted our ability to understand the meaning invested in those marks. Speidel's exhibit reawakens our wonder at this everyday occurrence, showing how modern sculpture still evokes archetypal images. She describes Mark Calderon's Trunk as "sensual and mysterious; it's part of a woman's body, both clumpy and precariously delicate, created in reddish-orange clay. When you walk around the piece, you get lost in it." Trunk deliberately echoes one of the most famous of early sculptures—the Venus of Willendorf, a fertility figure. Sculpture has an entrancing power, and the pieces Speidel has chosen for this year's Bumbershoot communicate that power. As Speidel herself says, "When I make sculpture . . . I know it's done when I see that a symbol has emerged from the raw material—a simple mark has become charged with some mysterious, electric power..." Rainier Room.
Phresh: A Look at Northwest Art—Seattle Art Museum's Pacific Northwest Arts Council turns 25 this year, and their mission of educating, promoting, and exhibiting art is well served by "Phresh," curated by Trevor Fairbrother, SAM's deputy director of art and curator of modern art. Over 300 Washington artists submitted slides for the exhibit, and the 50 artists chosen represent an amazing diversity of style, subject, and materials (from bull kelp and brass wire to MasterCards and matchbooks). Some artists are familiar—Robert Yoder and Carolyn Krieg have had several strong shows in the last year. You may have seen others, like Mark Abrahamson, in the current annual shows at the Tacoma and Bellevue Art Museums. But some are brand new models, giving us a rare glimpse into the future of Seattle art. Given the PNAC's mission—to link Seattle residents to emerging artistic talent—it's appropriate that they open our eyes to Seattle's new crop of artists. This is the first juried exhibition sponsored by PNAC, and the Seattle art scene could benefit from an annual event of this nature, possibly co-curated with COCA's NW Biennial. We have many more artists than gallery walls to display their work; if they go unseen it will be our loss. Lopez Room.
More: A Show About American Consumption—This is a funny, sometimes raunchy show that skewers American consumption. It's a familiar target, but one that merits our continued attention—and a human-sized bunny vomiting chocolate Yoo-Hoo will certainly grab your attention. Many of the artists in the show were connected with Project 416, which was recently forced to close its doors. The shows at Project 416 usually made you laugh or think or both, and this show continues that tradition. Leslie Clague and ArtSpace's executive director Christian French co-curated the show, and French describes it as a cultural critique of our relentless binging on consumer objects. "It was going to be a food-based show at first, with a pie-eating contest and other dramatic representations of consumption," French said. "We've expanded the theme to other consumer objects." French describes America as a place where "we start with everything we can possibly need, and then we crave more. We're taught to be dissatisfied, but promised that more consumption is the cure to that empty feeling." The show is a perverse celebration of how that emptiness articulates itself in American life. A life-size mural of Pamela Lee Anderson praises a modern Barbie doll. Bill Fellows' New Car Toothpaste blurs the line between our possessions and our own bodies. Even art collecting—perhaps the loftiest form of consumption—is satirized, in Demi Raven's collectors' plates featuring Spam, Velveeta, and Kool-Aid. Surely life will be better once these plates are yours. Fidalgo Room.
On the local side, choreographers KT Niehoff and Crispin Spaeth share a bill and an interest in movement that is highly kinetic, incorporating skills from ballet, gymnastics, and improvisation. Along with fellow Bumbershoot performers D-9 Dance Collective, they represent the current vanguard of Seattle modern dance. If you need a quick primer in the local style, these are the people to see.
D-9 Dance Collective—D-9 will be performing excerpts from three works on their upcoming "West Works" concert, featuring West Coast choreographers. We're just getting dances from the Pacific Northwest section of the menu, with a trio set to Boccherini by Portland-based Gregg Bielemeier and ensemble works by Seattle artists Peggy Piacenza and Amii LeGendre. Think of this as a preview of the full meal the following week at On the Boards. Bagley Wright Theater. Sat 6:30-7, Sun 1:45-2:15.
Intensely Fun Dance Theater—Dixie FunLee Shulman may be the quirkiest artist in this year's program. She's often in danger of being swamped by the sheer number of ideas she brings to her work, but certain pieces have real clarity. In an earlier solo, Twirl, she explored the tension between the objectified image of a majorette and the actual skills twirling requires, exhibiting a mastery of something she seems to both admire and despise. If she brings this same sensibility to her new work, Web, the performance could be worth standing in a Bumbershoot line. Bagley Wright Theater. Sat noon-12:45.
Brazil Alive!—Brazil Alive! is performing a mixture of Brazilian dance styles, from the extravagant samba of Carnival time to the resilience of capoeira, a martial art developed by African slaves working in the sugar cane fields. They will be joined by members of the Ewajo Dance Workshop, which raised the roof at the "Dance This" concert earlier in the summer. Bagley Wright Theater. Sun 3:15-4.
Bumbershoot Bach Fest—"Social satire" probably aren't the first two words that come to mind when you hear the name Bach, but in 1732 he did spoof the current coffee craze in his "Schweigt stille, plaudert nicht," BWV 211, a.k.a. the "Coffee Cantata." It's feather-light entertainment in which a father and daughter argue—in arias, duets, and recitative—about her java jonesing. (Doesn't seem like a topic Seattleites will be able to relate to, but there you are.) Highlights from this piece, the closest Bach ever came to composing an opera, will be part of the first-ever Bumbershoot Bach Fest. Featuring the area's preeminent period flutist, Jeffrey Cohan, keyboardist George Shangrow, soprano Terri Richter, and the Encore Chamber Players, the Fest also includes arias from Bach's St. John Passion, his Italian cantata "Non sa che sia dolore," his Brandenburg Concerto No. 5, a flute concerto by son C.P.E., and more arias by Handel. Classical Stage, Mon at 5.
Contrafacta, BOMB—For Seattle concertgoers, the Early Music Guild is practically a Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval indicating first-rate performances in any corner of the pre-Beethoven repertory. Two groups are playing back-to-back slots (Saturday at 12:30 and 1:30) under the Guild's auspices. The quartet Contrafacta presents "Li Nons d'Amors," a collection of love songs from medieval French trouv鲥s, performed by soprano Linda Strandberg, Sally Mitchell on recorder, baritone (and harpist) Bill McJohn, and Ronn Fullerton on vielle (medieval fiddle). For the last three seasons, the Benevolent Order for Music of the Baroque (BOMB) has been busy enlightening any poor fools who still think of early music (with all its dance rhythms, virtuoso flamboyance, and bawdy lyrics) as stuffy and academic. Anchored by the duo of flutist/recorder player Kim Pineda and cellist/gambist Elisabeth Reed, BOMB offers anecdotes and attitude along with its program of Renaissance recorder trios, Bach cello music, and French baroque flute pieces. Classical Stage, 12:30 (Contrafacta) and 1:30 (BOMB).