The big news for the 44th Bumbershoot, running Saturday-Monday, Aug. 30-Sept. 1, is that Memorial Stadium is back, which — if it’s not raining, anyway — is lots more festive than KeyArena.
Though the annual Labor Day spree nods to other arts — theater, literature, comedy, film, visual art — music is the heart of the matter and this year’s lineup is above average.
Booking the talent for a huge festival like Bumbershoot is a real challenge, in that the goal is to appeal both to families and the young and hip, all with a budget nowhere near that of a big rock festival like Coachella or Sasquatch.
That has usually made for a combination of evergreens — artists everyone has heard of but may not have seen (or want to see one more time) — and acts that were just breaking (or at least appearing to) when contracts were signed earlier in the year.
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One of not-to-miss evergreens this time around is Wu-Tang Clan, a ’90s group so influential in rap that even if you never liked the genre you will enjoy seeing and hearing them — they’re that smart, tight and full of conviction.
The other star, of course, is Elvis Costello, who since rewriting the pop song playbook in the late ’70s with his hard-hitting, three-minute masterpieces, seems to have dipped into every genre on the planet, from jazz to classical. At Bumbershoot, he’ll play high-test rock’n’roll.
Other acts sure to draw a crowd include soul/gospel singer Mavis Staples, pop rockers Foster the People, ’80s rockers The Replacements, Seattle’s own neo-folk stars The Head and the Heart, eccentrically self-effacing singer-songwriter Jonathan Richman and Latin rockers Los Lobos.
Lower profile acts also recommended include Seattle’s La Luz, up-and-coming rapper Schoolboy Q and the best thing to happen to jazz vocals since Joe Williams — Gregory Porter.
Off the musical track, Northwest writing giant Tom Robbins is also on tap, as are writers from the hysterical online “news” magazine, The Onion, and the TV show, “The Simpsons.”
And just for laughs, Bumbershoot has some comedy for you, too, in the person of Seattle’s Bill Nye the Science Guy, plus W. Kamua Bell, Rory Scovel and others.
For more details, see our daily highlights list.