FRIDAY, AUGUST 31
DoNormaal (4:15 p.m. at KEXP) – DoNormaal rightfully earned the nod as Seattle’s Best Hip-Hop Act earlier this week. If you’ve yet to experience her trippy, free-flowing brand of rap wizardry live, Bumbershoot provides the perfect opportunity to see that DoNormaal lives up to the hype.
Emily Heller (5:40 p.m. at Cornish Playhouse) – Stand-up comedian Emily Heller possesses a wonderfully no-nonsense approach to her craft. Her blunt style doesn’t try to dance cutely around topics like body shaming or nerd culture—she goes straight for the kill. After taping a very good (yet-to-be-released) special at The Showbox in June, Heller returns to town to scorch more comedic earth. Oh, and her Trump/Air Bud bit (see video below) is either the best or second-best political stand-up joke of the past few years. (Additional performances: Saturday at 3:55 & 5:40 at Cornish Playhouse | Sunday at 2:50 at Vera Project.)
Wimps (6:25 p.m. at KEXP) – As we previously stated: “We live in garbage times where garbage people make everything feel like trash for everyone else. Wimps is here to provide the apropos soundtrack.” The Seattle punk trio’s short and funny blasts of catchy punk rock about insomnia, pizza, and modern anxieties can cheer up even the rainiest (or smokiest) Seattle days.
Laser Outkast (9:30 p.m. at Laser Dome) – The first night of Bumbershoot isn’t lacking hip-hop headliners. But you have to ask yourself one question: Will Lil Wayne and Ludacris have lasers? Bumbershoot’s Laser Dome slate at Pacific Science Center might not be live music, but it’s always a fun, hit-filled escape from the rest of the Seattle Center mayhem, and vibing out to classic Outkast tunes like (presumably) “B.O.B,” “ATLiens,” and “Hey Ya!” while watching colorful lines dance across the dark dome sounds blissful. (Additional performance on Sunday at 8:30.)
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 1
Parisalexa (1:55 p.m. at Fisher Green Stage) – It’s your last summer-festival chance to check out rising local R&B star Parisalexa, one of our “5 Must-See Local Acts of the Summer.” Must-see is right there in the title, so you don’t have a choice.
The Omnibus Project with Ken Jennings and John Roderick (2:15 p.m. at Charlotte Martin Theatre) – There are few Seattleites whose brains marry the humorous and the intellectual like Jeopardy! champ/author Ken Jennings and The Long Winters frontman John Roderick. Each week on their Omnibus! podcast, they tackle an often-strange topic that fascinates them (Christian Science Reading Rooms, the Voyager Golden Records, The Anarchist Cookbook, etc.) and achieve it in detail in hopes that future generations can enjoy it. It’s hard to argue with the combination of learning and laughing.
Skating Polly (3:40 p.m. at Mural Amphitheatre) – Don’t sleep on Tacoma’s music scene. If you are, then Skating Polly is here with a jarring musical wake-up call. The band’s new album, The Make It All Show, boasts a riot-grrrl ethos, ripping through 11 tracks of fangs-out grunge-pop glee. Skating Polly’s ability to transition among dashes of indie melodicism, vocal shredding, creeping bass lines, and aggressive guitar licks at the drop of a hat leaves little room for a dull moment during its live shows.
Off Book: The Improvised Musical (4 p.m. at Charlotte Martin Theatre) – While they lack choreography or any set design, Los Angeles improvisers Jessica McKenna and Zach Reino are ready to put on a full-blown musical for Bumbershoot patrons. The catch? They’re gonna make it all up on the spot. With the aid of genre-fluid pianist Scott Passarella and a special guest, the duo will record a live version of the zany and always hilarious Off Book podcast (complete with a post-show talkback) on Saturday. (For more on Off Book, check out our interview with McKenna and Reino.)
Knife Knights (5:25 p.m. at KEXP) – The Seattle-born partnership of Ishmael Butler and Erik Blood is nothing new. Since Shabazz Palaces’ inception, Blood has served as producer and engineer for the group, mining the most out of Butler’s music and rapping on every one of the acclaimed hip-hop act’s experimental tracks. But now the pair has truly teamed up as one entity to form Knife Knights. The group will release its debut album—1 Time Mirage—on Sub Pop next month, but you can get an early preview of the far-out funk during its first official live performance (KEXP in-studio excepted). Knife Knights might feel more upbeat than Butler and Blood’s norm, but it’s just as sonically rich as ever.
SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 2
Great Grandpa (4:15 p.m. at KEXP) – Did we mention Bumbershoot is the last chance to see our “5 Must-See Local Acts of the Summer?” (We did.) Well, the indie-rock dazzlers of Great Grandpa are on there too. Again, must-see.
The Regrettes (6:35 p.m. at KEXP) – Members of the Regrettes are still can’t-legally-buy-cigarettes-aged teens, but the melodic punk outfit has hooks beyond its years. The band oozes potential, with frontwoman Lydia Night radiating a Gwen Stefani-like rock-star charisma live. See the Regrettes now so that you can brag about seeing the band before it got huge later.
Blondie (8:15 p.m. at Fisher Green Stage) – Over the past couple years, Bumbershoot has almost completely distanced itself from big-name legacy acts. It’s a bummer, because for so long the young/old dynamic of Bumbershoot performers set the fest apart from many of its peers. Thankfully, there’s at least one classic act on this year’s slate—Blondie. Led by Debbie Harry, the New Wave icons still put on a lively show, glamorously blitzing through hits like “Heart of Glass” and “Call Me” with the confidence that comes with being seasoned vets.
SZA (9:40 p.m. at Memorial Stadium) – With the release of 2017’s Ctrl, SZA firmly established herself as a force in the modern R&B landscape. Singles like “The Weekend” and “Love Galore” capture the smooth, slow-burn sensuality of her voice, one that’s led to her being a sought-after collaborator for stars from Kendrick Lamar to Maroon 5 to Lorde. But when she closes Bumbershoot’s Main Stage, she’ll be the one commanding all the spotlight.