B’shoot Review: Down North and the Misplaced Downer

It seems that the Bumbershoot organizers have figured out how best to use their newish footprint, which shifted dramatically following the recent introduction of the Chihuly Museum to the Seattle Center. Of particular note is the Plaza Stage, which has been shifted so that the EMP Museum frames it perfectly.

Christening the stage this afternoon was Down North, a Seattle soul punk act fronted by a peacocking Anthony Briscoe, whose pink pants were nicely set off by the museum’s rippling metal façade of fuchsia. As the band fittingly played music that, in part, tips its hat to the EMP’s patron saint Jimi Hendrix, Briscoe flittered about the stage doing his best Michael Jackson impersonation and puffing his chest, which featured a message: “Your Girlfriend Loves Me.”

“This next one was on Living with the Kardashians,” Briscoe said between songs. “Sorry about that.”

With that the band churned through one of its funk songs, the bass punching me in the throat. The crowd of a few hundred approved, and continued the groove through a gritty cover of the Stevie Wonder classic “Superstition,” with a beat-box intro from the lead-singer.

Midway through the set, Briscoe took a break from his band’s grinding soul punk and tried mightily to break through the carnival to deliver a message.

“On February 20, my little sister passed away,” he said. “She helped be write this song. It’s about domestic abuse, and the thing about it is that she left this world because of domestic abuse.”

The song, a searching soul ballad, was barely under way when a man made up like a zombie walked by me, clearly a part of the festival’s weekend-long zombie walk programming. His face was a studied lack of emotion, as if he were mocking the feelings being spilled on stage where Briscoe delivered soulful shouts on bended knee. Ballads dedicated to the deceased just don’t work when the undead are an official part of the festivities.

The crowd’s fervor was fading, and Briscoe seemed to notice. “Let’s hear it for the band,” he said, trying to refocus the crowd’s attention in an unscripted break from the emotion.

Undeterred, he was moonwalking again a few minutes later, a true showman.

 
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