May, 2010: Wallingford resident Dave Matthews announces that for the first time since anyone can remember, the Dave Matthews Band will be taking a year off from the road, and not tour in 2011. This is good news for Bumbershoot, which, for five consecutive summers, has had to compete with DMB's three-night residency at the Gorge over Labor Day weekend. During those years--when Matthews was drawing upwards of 20,000 people a daily--attendance at Seattle's music and arts festival shrank.
"I certainly haven't made any plans," he said. "The way I was thinking about it maybe I was always thinking, 'Maybe I'll play the Gorge.' But I hadn't actually thought of that. So maybe you've added a new twist for me into how to view whether or not to (play) that show, or what to do with it. Maybe do Bumbershoot instead."
December 2010: Bumbershoot exec Jon Stone says the festival would "love to have Dave Matthews involved with the festival in any way, shape, or form. It's his hometown festival, you know."
Sometime later: Bumbershoot calls Matthews' people. "The agent was open at first to the call," says Aubbie Beal, the associate director of One Reel, the fest's nonprofit parent.
A little later: "And then it just kind of ceased," Beal says.
March 9: Camp Matthews announces the DMB will host and curate four regional summer festivals, including one in September. Operating under the assumption that the September date would be at one of Matthews' favorite venues--the Gorge--over the usual weekend--Labor Day--fans snap up every spot at the nearby Wildhorse campground.
March 14: Bumbershoot announces that it will move its mainstage from Memorial Stadium to KeyArena as it repositions itself as a smaller festival. Matthews will not be involved, and all signs indicate that Bumbershoot will be competing with one of the nation's biggest concert draws once again.
"The reason that they didn't call back, it's obvious now, is that they were planning their own festival," Beal says. "And that's OK."