Click the photo for a slideshow of Kings of Leon and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. All photos by Renee McMahon.
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Notes by Travis Ritter
Natalie Portman's Shaved Head
Natalie Portman’s Shaved Head (“the greatest band name of the weekend” according to the emcee) kicked off day 2 of Bumbershoot at the EMP Sky Church. It has been more than six months since I’ve last seen the electro-dance-pop band, back when it was four mischievous, still-in-high-school goofballs with three part falsetto vocals, a cheapy synth, and guitars. But in such time, they have added a live drummer, giving the band a much larger, fuller sound of dance-punk freshness that is both catchy and infectious. They took the stage donning tasseled baseball jerseys, and greeted the crowd with “hey what’s up,” like they were just passing by in a hallway between classes. Even before they began, the room was at capacity, made-up almost entirely of high-school age chums who just get this quirky bunch (and will clap-a-long like it’s they’re last day with hands). Outside, the queue stretched more than 200 deep. If this band isn’t signed in the next year, I’ll take on the A&R on my own.
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
Left at 1 to make it over to Memorial Stadium, where Black Rebel Motorcycle Club were playing. The opening slot in the stadium is always a test, and at 1:20, five minutes after they were supposed to go on stage, the sound techs were still screwing with the guitars and amps. But when the smoke machine started blasting and a rural blues sing-a-long saying “the devil is rising” piped in, the four black-clad SF greasers appeared, and broke into material off their latest, Baby 81. It was odd to see this band, whose sound fits better with some dank and dingy rock n roll club than under the bright blue sky, but it didn’t take away from the performance, even though the lead guitar cut out in the third song, from what I recall was their first big hit on their debut album, and the band played as a two piece while they got the guitar situation settled. Once fixed, BMRC pushed their amps to the limit, crunching and squealing with enough bombast to make a group of older ladies behind me dig into their pockets for a pair of foam earplugs.
Ice Age Cobra
I missed Menomena, but did catch Ice Age Cobra at the Bumbershoot Music Lounge, where KEXP was broadcasting live. The seated crowd and almost formal setting of the theater didn’t stop the trio, appropriately Seattle’s sexed-up version of the MC5, from jumping on the monitors, and roaring through an upbeat, adrenaline-laced set of songs that sound classic today, and will ten years from now.
Kings of Leon
Having never given Kings of Leon much of a chance, recorded or in concert, I boogied back over to Memorial, and found myself tapping my foot throughout most of the foursome’s fuzzed-up set. This was the second time where I felt the youthful spirit of today kick into full gear, from the kid perched on his bopping dad’s shoulders, to the twenty-something band of brothers (and cousin). Their set compromised a lot of their recent Because of the Times, as well as their last effort, Aha Heart Ache. I think I’m going to have to listen to these guys a little more deeper from here on out. Even though some of the band caught a bug, and nearly canceled their performance, they managed to play one of the best sets I’ve seen all day.
Only caught the first few songs of Seattle MC Gabriel Teodros, whose set was kicked off by a performance by his San Francisco-based cousin singing in Ethiopian to an acoustic guitar. Very nice introduction. When Teodros appeared, he came with a synth player, guitarist, drummer, bassist and turntablist, and laid into a funky, summertime hip hop vibe that was captured on this year’s debut, and reminded me of Kid Koala’s Bullfrog project from a few years back.
Coming up: Art Brut, Dyme Def, Seaweed, Devendra Banhart, Andrew Bird and more.