Bumbershoot 2008 and The Gay '90s

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Beck, Saturday night on the Mainstage. Photo by Renee McMahon.

The Offspring were just getting warmed up during its mid-Monday set on the Mainstage when bassist Noodles announced that, after flying (he's a pilot) into town on Saturday, he hadn't stopped drinking or patronizing our purveyors of pornography. For The Offspring, it's still 1998.

From Beck's Saturday-evening headlining set and Stone Temple Pilot's reunion episode Sunday, to Flobot's 311-inspired revival in the Exhibition Hall, Bumbershoot 2008 was chock full of references to the halcyon days of post-grunge alt-rock radio. I even spotted Peter Parker drummer, Steve -- better known as Steve the Producer on 107.7 the End during the late '90s -- twice on Sunday.

But while the handbill screamed nostalgia, the scene between the gates signaled change. To pass through the gates of my first Bumbershoot, in 1997, I paid with a $10 bill and got change. "Magicians" performed for tips on Denny to scratch together the fare. Inside, more performers of all stripes littered walkways and free patches of grass. The intersections -- most notably at the corner of Mural Amphitheater and Center House -- shored up seas of humanity. The journey between stages, the eye candy, and the inevitable discovery that ensured, truly was the destination.

At present day, the four-day festival has been trimmed to three, and the cost of a ticket the morning-of is $40, the un-scheduled performance artists have been cut by at least half, and the intersections are not nearly as crowded. I used to wonder why people would groan over a "weak" Bumbershoot lineup, as if the festival itself did not produce enough attraction. I'm starting to understand. The fiscal realities behind attending the annual festival appear to have boiled the pitch down to seeing an artist, not experiencing Bumbershoot.

As much as programmers were able to exorcise the '90s, I'm sure the bean counters would love to revisit those days of comparably deflated artist costs and far less competition for talent (Sasquatch! didn't exist, nor did many other regional festivals of its ilk around the nation).

In spite of the mounting changes and challenges, I would still consider Bumbershoot 2008 a massive success. Sunday, when I was treated to Howlin' Rain, Jakob Dylan, The Black Keys, and Kathleen Edwards -- ranks among my most musically satisfying Bumbershoot days ever. And it was certainly a alt-country coup to twin Neko Case and Lucinda Williams on the Mainstage Saturday afternoon.

But, on my way home, I find myself a little underwhelmed, a wee bit nostalgic, and not quite as enchanted as I've grown accustomed to finding myself at the end of a long Labor Day.

 
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