7M83web.jpg
Renee McMahon
Anthony Gonzalez and M83 played Key Arena on Monday at Bumbershoot.

From the muddy acoustics, to the awkward seating configuration, to the fact

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What Does It Take To Sound Good in Key Arena? Lessons from M83 and Best Coast, Plus More Bumbershoot Monday

7M83web.jpg
Renee McMahon
Anthony Gonzalez and M83 played Key Arena on Monday at Bumbershoot.

From the muddy acoustics, to the awkward seating configuration, to the fact that seeing a show there involves slinking into the dark on one of the nicest weekends of the year, Key Arena is the most maligned stage at Bumbershoot--not to mention one of the most griped-about venues in Seattle. It takes a certain kind of band, then, to overcome its limitations.

On Monday, M83 was that group. The French electronic band has a gigantic, filled-out sound; a killer, seizure-inducing light show; and a frontman in Anthony Gonzalez who can both fill an arena with his vocals and optimize his band's sound for such a large space. Gonzalez claimed Key Arena was the largest venue his band had ever performed in, but that was difficult to believe. Featuring earth-shaking bass, humongous buildups, and seemingly improvised, arpeggiator-driven breakdowns, M83's songs were practically EDM-worthy--an ideal fit for a less-than-ideal venue.

Also less than ideal? Bumbershoot security's bizarre crowd-control policies. After letting less than half the floor fill up (apparently for fire-code reasons)--and unsuccessfully trying to get a crowd at a music festival to sit down like kindergarteners between sets--they cut off access to the hordes of M83 fans trying to reach the floor. Needless to say, it didn't end well.

If Key Arena proved the perfect venue for M83's widescreen synth anthems, it sounded like the world's largest garage during the performance from Best Coast that preceded it. Bethany Cosentino doesn't have a voice that can cut through the venue's murky acoustics, which didn't do her sunny pop songs any favors. Neither did the fact that Key Arena is, you know, indoors. The worst venue-artist pairing of the weekend, bar none.

Other observations from Monday:

--Overheard during Best Coast's set: A little kid whining to his dad that "I don't understand what she's saying." You and me both, dude.

--The dumbest feature at this year's festival had to be the live tweets on the big screens above the main stage. Here's an approximate breakdown of what people were saying before M83's set:

40%: "I'm waiting for M83 right now, and I'm also very excited to see M83!"

30%: "I'm waiting for M83 right now, and I'm also very excited to see Skrillex later!"

30%: "I don't have anything interesting to say, but please put my tweet up on the big screen anyway!"

--The award for "Set that would have fit best at Seattle Center's other arts festival" goes to The Debo Band. The 12-piece Ethiopian funk group's world music grooves, and the ensuing hippie dance party they caused at the front of the stage, would have been a hit at Folklife.

--Surprisingly enough, one of the festival's best pure rock sets came from The Pains of Being Pure at Heart. They've been touring constantly since their self-titled album came out three and a half years ago, and the Brooklyn group has matured into a solid live act.

--I didn't come close to hearing all the hip-hop at Bumbershoot this weekend, but the best of what I did hear came from Chilean rapper Ana Tijoux. Fleshed out by a live drummer, her Spanish-language, politically conscious tunes were a needed antidote to the money-and-bitches hedonism of Yelawolf or Big Sean.

--Fishbone was exactly as much fun as you'd expect, blending funk and ska with some killer slap bass while ignoring Bumbershoot's rules against crowd surfing.

--Local songwriter Star Anna played a laid-back set of simple country rock with her band The Laughing Dogs, offering up a nice contrast to the deluge of electronic music that characterized Bumbershoot on Monday.

--I caught about 20 minutes of British four-piece Fujiya & Miyagi, enough time for two-and-a-half minimalist krautrock grooves, which were better suited to head-nodding than full-out dancing.

 
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