250 Mags, Four Acts, and Two Falafels: A Saturday-Afternoon Bumbershoot Recap

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Christopher Nelson
Craft Spells
After Reverb Monthly's launch earlier in the week, my boyfriend and I arrived at the Seattle Center early to distribute copies--with its handy Bumbershoot guide--to the first arriving festivalgoers. Competition was fierce and already in effect, but we held our own, and within an hour our giant stack was gone. Our hands were black with newsprint, but the early-in-the-day sense of accomplishment was worth it, knowing participants were well-informed with Reverb's in-depth guide in their hands. After witnessing a gnarly car accident (a fire hydrant was run over and ripped off), we sped through the Mercer Street entrance to catch the bands on our list.

We had worked up an appetite, but couldn't quite stomach the deep-fried Twinkies; a few falafel sandwiches hit the spot during Campfire Ok's set. Maybe I'm just a fun-hating curmudgeon, but I wasn't exactly sure what they were doing. The band's energy was high enough, but Hanigan's (that being the only name I could dig up as pertaining to the nasally, whiny vocals of their frontman) John Darnielle-meets-Jeff Mangum vocal style and the group's screeching female singer rattled my nerves and grated my ears. It was indie, pop, and folk all at once with none of those genres a strong suit.

The clean, country sounds of the Caleb Klauder County Band carried us through the noon hour at the Mural Stage. The straight-ahead old-timey five-piece from Portland played to an older, mellow crowd, and a sizable contingent of whirling toddlers and carefree adults. Klauder's high and lonesome raspy twang belted out Dolly Parton ("Rockin' Years") and George Jones ("Lonesome Me") covers along with songs of his own, and the band leader alternated between a string-popping mandolin and acoustic guitar through the set.  

We followed the '80s dance pop of Craft Spells over to the Fountain Lawn Stage. It was blazing hot in the sun, and the fountain mist occasionally wafted through the young crowd as they bopped to the tunes. Think The Cure meets New Order in a hot-tub time machine and you've got the right idea. This band was easy-listening, disco-rhythmic fun--not unlike the island vibe and steely, arpeggiated guitar of Vampire Weekend, but just as nice to hear in the sun.

Champagne Champagne at the Fisher Green Stage followed next with teens rushing the stage for the set. MCs Thomas Gray and Pearl (in homemade "Stop Snitchin'" and vintage Beavis and Butthead tees, respectively) arrived with full swagger, with DJ Gajamatic rocking an electric guitar, synthesizer, and small drum kit looped over gritty beats. Some sound issues plagued the show; an amp blew more than once and brought the energy down a notch, but Pearl's antics (rapping atop an amp stack, hopping into the crowd) and Gray's wildness kept them breezing through the dirty, crunchy (if far away) sounds of "I Fell Through" and "Peer Pressure."

With a weekend of prior commitments ahead of us, we left Bumbershoot shortly after Champ's set, four shows under our belt, delicious Lebanese food in our bellies, and, sadly, a whirlwind afternoon that seemed to end before it ever began.

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