My Highlights of Bumbershoot, Day One: Health, Jamie Lidell, and Neko Case (Come Home, Wayne!)

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Renee McMahon
Neko Case
Just a couple of hours ago, I was standing in Memorial Stadium not very far from Bob Dylan; he was playing "Tangled Up In Blue," a beautiful cool breeze was blowing through, and I was reminded of why I look forward to Bumbershoot every year. I spent the day in my own city watching multiple impressive musical acts, was ending the day in the presence of a historical living legend, and best of all (and here's where, for me, the 'shoot has a major leg-up on Sasquatch!), after the magic of it all I get to go home to my own bed. But before I hit the hay tonight, here are some of the highlights of my first day of Bumbershoot:

Who: HEALTH

When: 3:00

Where: Center Square Stage

I've been wanting see Health's live show since I got into their record Get Color earlier this year. Health's music has a metallic, industrial sound and I was curious to know how that would translate on stage. The answer? Very powerfully -- the L.A. quartet wreaked havoc to the new Center Square Stage. The set was largely instrumental; the crowd was somewhat muted and maybe a little confused by the atonal noises coming from the band's synthesizers and samplers and the heavy, super-loud percussion that would have belonged better in an African drum circle by firelight. It's heavy stuff -- they don't so much strum their electric guitars as tear into them, like they're furiously ripping up chunks of paper. When he does sing, Jake Duzsik's vocals are slithering and creepy (I kept thinking this set would have had much more of an impact by night). The climax to Health's set came during the frantic and panicky "We Are Water;" their closing number, "USA Boys," with its skittering synth -- sometimes whistling like birdsong, sometimes clinking like someone throwing pebbles at a tin can -- and overlapping vocals, was also incredible.

Who: Jamie Lidell

When: 5:45

Where: Broad Street Stage

At 5:45, I had never heard Jamie Lidell sing a single note, by 5:50 I was in love with him. Lidell, a British soul singer, was flanked by his band, who were all very hiply dressed in all-black; conversely, Lidell's get-up was pretty dorky -- he wore baggy slacks, thick black-framed glasses, and a blazer covered in hideous crocheted fringe. He had his stage kitted out with two drum sets, a bass player, a guitarist, and about 3 or 4 keyboards (two of which were covered in neon masking tape imprinted with the words "Kooky Kokk" and played by a mustached, mulleted man named Mr. Jimmy who occasionally got up from his seat to shimmy around the stage like a young Michael Jackson). Lidell himself, geeky outfit aside, is effortlessly charming, a true showman in the style of James Brown. He is convivial with the crowd, smiling and telling them he wants to be a cell phone that vibrates in their pockets; he obviously loves to sing, and Lord, can he sing. Lidell's voice is bright and honey-smooth on his freewheeling and unpredictable songs like the sunny fan favorite "Another Day" and the finger-wagging ode to monogamy, "Enough's Enough." His set was pure, simple fun, proving that music (and life) doesn't always have to be complex. At one point, the band left Lidell to perform "A Little Bit More" on his own; in the instruments' stead, he beatboxed and looped countless layers of his own vocals; it's the kind of hopelessly funky song that Justin Timberlake would give his left testicle to write and record.

Who: Neko Case

When: 7:15

Where: Mainstage

Neko started her mainstage set a little shakily -- she looked great, in slim jeans and a red cardigan, but she admitted that she was a little unprepared, using Rachel Flotard's guitar, the Decemberists' guitar strap, and Bob Dylan's pedals. It wasn't the most dynamic show I've seen her do. Still, her voice pierced through the dusky sky on "Maybe Sparrow," and things got rolling when she played the fiery "People Got A Lotta Nerve," followed by the lovely lullaby "Margaret Vs. Pauline." Kelly Hogan sounded beautiful on backing vocals, as always, particularly while harmonizing on the ballad "Middle Cyclone" while the music box played. Neko's voice towered on "The Pharaohs" and by the time she played the majestic "I'm An Animal," she was finally in control and on her A-game. Her voice and active presence are such that even on soft songs like "The Tigers Have Spoken" and the heart-rending Harry Nilsson cover "Don't Forget Me," she sounds like a commander. There was also a cover of "The Train From Kansas City" -- made famous by the Shangri-Las. On a sadder note, Neko dedicated not one but three songs to her three-legged cat Wayne, who is missing/possibly in a coyote's stomach by now. Come home, Wayne! Your mother misses you!

Click through to see the coolest fashion statement I saw all day.

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Bob Dylan fan. Respect.
 
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