Bumbershoot Sunday: Shitty Sound, Half-Empty Crowds, and One Buzz-Killing Rave

Atari Late-Thirties Riot
If Bumbershoot Saturday was pleasant and chill, my Bumbershoot Sunday was largely about disappointment--too much shitty sound, too many half-empty crowds (judging on T-shirts spotted, I understand Macklemore did not have that problem), and one terribly buzz-killing rave. There were some bright spots, though, so let's do those first.

Atari Teenage Riot were a fucking blast--frozen in amber from the mid-'90s, all shrill high-speed breakbeats, punchy distorted bass hits, looped guitar riffs, and much screaming and ranting. Alec Empire, looking like a miniature Trent Reznor, kept shouting at the crowd to make some fucking noise and "let's go!" (Once when he said "thank you," he shouted it with the same blown-out delivery.) They played a mix of new material and old burners like "Into the Death," "Atari Teenage Riot," and "Sick to Death." They lectured about the corporate war machine, class war, anarchy, and Barack Obama over sick peals of feedback. Empire did a lot of jumpkicks. Oh, and there was a shit ton of lasers. All in all, a deeply satisfying show for my inner angsty trenchoated teen.

Lusine at the Sky Church at the end of the night was exactly what I needed from Decibel at Bumbershoot: clear, quality sound and lights; some deeply smart dance grooves; and a friendly, animated crowd. Although local, Lusine plays out infrequently enough that you might forget to rank him among our city's finest techno producers--this would be a mistake, as his live shows have repeatedly demonstrated. When making an argument for Seattle's homegrown electronic scene, Lusine is some compelling evidence.

More after the jump . . .

Also good: Thee Oh Sees's yipping, noisy garage rock grooves, led by John Dwyer's inimitable skill on the six (and 12) string electric and abetted by Lar Finberg of the Intelligence on second drum kit and another metronomically head-bobbing guitarist who kept some impressive rhythms going; Mad Rad's still ill anthem "My Product" and its resulting fist pumping and crowd-surfing; Broken Social Scene's multiple orgasm trumpet swells on "Meet Me in the Basement" ("let's hear it, this is an exorcism, let's go!" Kevin Drew said between crescendos, but with the half-full arena, it didn't feel like an exorcism) and their politely professional cover of Modest Mouse's "The World at Large"; Butthole Surfers' stoner rock weirdness in general and their delivery of freak hit "Pepper" as rock guitar squall.

Now, the bad:

Das Racist, I love you, but holy hell did that set sound like shit. I've seen Das Racist kill it, and I've seen Das Racist falling down drunk be killed, but I've never seen them so apparently do their job well yet still sound like wet, muffled fart. Was it the sound guy's doing? Something on DR's end? I don't know, but you had to get up into a pretty tight triangulation between the speakers to hear anything resemble bass or treble or anything that might move you. And, as is Das Racist's style, they goofed and didn't give a fuck. They led chants shouting out the Space Needle and did the "two handed wave" and Heems did a lot of syrupy slow-motion air guitaring to a microphone held at phallic instrument level, and they basically led a seminar in how to lose what had at first been a packed crowd. Bummer.

DaM-Funk seemed similarly disinterested in holding the crowd, as he follow his muse wherever it took him--from piano-pounding free-jazz rave up to his more typical keytar- and vocoder-accented electro-funk jams--with no regard for keeping any one groove in the air. The stylistic roulette landed right at least once, though, as the crowd seemed to perk up for a few seconds of crunchy digital Glitchmob type shit that ended one song.

And then there was Bumbershoot After Dark, which I'm sorry but I think we have to count as a pretty dismal failure. This was a rave with all the vibe of a high-school dance held in a juvenile detention center. To be fair, security seemed pretty nice about just doing their job--when I leaned too hard on a table and it fell over, they walked me outside, confirmed I was only regular drunk, not crazy liability drunk, and let me back in--but the last time I saw that many narcs I was getting burned alive to death at the Branch Davidian compound. But whatever, the real buzz-kill had nothing to do with the security or the anemically small crowd, but with Z-Trip. Judging by the order of the lineup, I had hoped to see DaM-Funk, then Four Tet, then have Z-Trip go on just as I would be looking to split. Regrettably, Z-Trip went on second, after a pleasant set of funk from DaM, and proceeded to dish out two hours of groan-inducing lowest-common-denominator mashups. I didn't write any specific blends down, but each one seemed dumber than the last. Now, I know that Z-Trip is a technically great DJ, skilled, populist, all that jazz--but if you like that shit, you're an idiot. By the time last call rolled around and it was time for Four Tet to go on, I didn't even care anymore, despite There Is Love in You being one of my top albums of last year. I split. Thank God there's Decibel Festival proper to look forward to.

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