Ten Acts Worth Seeing at This Year’s Bumbershoot

From hip-hop to country to improv Shakespeare, the Labor Day fest offers something for everyone.

If you decide to take in Father John Misty’s set at Bumbershoot, you may leave perplexed, vexed, or even ecstatic, but you definitely won’t leave bored. During a festival show in New Jersey last month, the former Fleet Foxes drummer ranted for six full minutes on the stupidity of entertainment before playing just two songs—neither of which were his—and then left the stage 30 minutes early. He’s like the indie-rock Kanye: talented, frustrating, but never boring. Memorial Stadium, 6:50 p.m. Sept. 2.

The Blind Boys of Alabama have been together in some form for 70 years (take that, Rolling Stones), having first assembled at the Alabama Institute for the Negro Blind in 1944. After playing the gospel circuit for most of their career, the group found mainstream success in the new millennium, racking up a slew of Grammys and recruiting Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon to produce 2013’s I’ll Find a Way. Starbucks Stage, 8:30 p.m. Sept. 2.

Though it’s been two years since Run the Jewels’ RTJ2 topped scores of year-end album lists, the rap duo has hardly been idle. Killer Mike hit the campaign trail with Bernie Sanders, and El-P produced the just-released album from British indie rockers The Veils. The pair have also been hard at work on RTJ3, and provided an incendiary guest spot on DJ Shadow’s “Nobody Speak.” Their live set is equally furious. Memorial Stadium, 7:20 p.m. Sept. 3.

Though they don’t have a singer, post-rock quartet Explosions in the Sky makes music as dramatic and dynamic as any of their contemporaries do. Whether making albums that sound like film soundtracks (this year’s excellent The Wilderness) or actually making film soundtracks (Friday Night Lights), the Austin band has nearly two decades of spellbinding shows under its belt—and as its name implies, you should expect fireworks. Fisher Green Stage, 9:50 p.m. Sept. 3.

Seattle’s Thunderpussy is the kind of band that doesn’t exist much anymore: a gritty, blues-influenced hard-rock act of the type that dominated FM radio in the ’70s, but which seemed to die with John Bonham in 1980. The all-female quartet puts on a great live show too—equal parts sex and swagger—and they’re primed for festival crowds with previous appearances on both the Sasquatch mainstage as well as Capitol Hill Block Party. KEXP, 4:10 p.m. Sept. 4.

Bellingham’s Grant Eadie, the one-man band known as Manatee Commune, brings his chillwave tracks to life onstage by switching among guitar, drums, and viola, which he plays over laptop loops. There aren’t any lyrics, but perhaps more than any other artist at Bumbershoot this year, Manatee Commune captures the mood of changing seasons. KEXP, 4:10 p.m. Sept. 3 and KeyArena, 4:30 p.m. Sept. 4.

Margo Price may be new on the country-music scene but her sound is totally retro, conjuring a honky-tonk jukebox filled with Emmylou, Loretta, and Dolly records. She had to pawn her wedding ring to help fund her debut album Midwest Farmer’s Daughter, which was eventually picked up and released by Jack White’s Third Man Records. Starbucks Stage, 6 p.m. Sept. 4.

Each time it performs, the Chicago-based Improvised Shakespeare Company presents an original show made up on the spot. But unlike other improv troupes, the ISC imbues its performances with the language, themes, and rhymes of the Bard, which add a weighty spin on the genre. The rotating cast, which sometimes includes Thomas Middleditch of Silicon Valley, has hosted actual Shakespearean actor Patrick Stewart in recent performances, and The New York Times called it one of the country’s elite improv companies. Bagley Wright Theater, 5 p.m. Sept. 3 and 7 p.m. Sept. 4.

Billy Idol may be 60, but his trademark look—spiky bleached-blonde hair and shirtless torso—has stood the test of time, as have his fist-pumping New Wave hits like “Rebel Yell” and “Dancing With Myself.” Idol’s set, which also features longtime guitarist Steve Stevens, ought to be firing on all cylinders. Fisher Green Stage, 8:30 p.m. Sept. 4.

Lisa Prank is the nom de plume of Robin Edwards, who plays bedroom pop-punk, if there is such a thing, and who unironically covers Blink-182; think New Found Glory as channeled through Angel Olsen. Edwards moved to Seattle from Denver at the urging of fellow local band Tacocat, and her career has taken off ever since. Both her songs and her live set are intimate, with Edwards playing electric guitar and singing sunny melodies over three chords and a drum machine. KEXP, 3 p.m. Sept. 4.

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