Bumbershoot reached a significant milestone yesterday with the arrival of its 7 millionth visitor on Day 3 of the long-running music and arts festival produced by One Reel.
“We closely track the gate scans, and we expected it to happen at about 6 p.m.,” Aubrey Gerbauer, One Reel’s senior director of community engagement, said yesterday afternoon.
The lucky visitor — a nurse from Tacoma — comes to Bumbershoot every year but just bought her ticket several days ago.
“We had some bells and whistles that went off at the gate when she arrived,” Gerbauer added. “She also received a really nice swag bag of Bumbershoot memorabilia from years past and some good stuff from this year, too. And a little surprise gift for Bumbershoots to come.”
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Aside from welcoming its 7 millionth visitor in 40-some years, Bumbershoot was projecting that attendance would rise sharply compared to last year. The festival sold 120,000 advance tickets and could top that number when receipts are tallied sometime next week. A third day of mostly sunny weather didn’t hurt.
“It’s been tough the last three or four years, not just for us, but for festivals in general,” said Jon Stone, executive director of One Reel. “Attendance has been down in recent years. But now it’s moving in the right direction.”
Keeping the festival relevant to the Northwest is key to its success, Stone said. And not trying to compete with major music festivals, where the focus is almost entirely on national acts.
“It’s become clear to us that, no, we’re not a Coachella or a Bonnaroo,” he said. “We’re a regional arts festival. And we’ve decided to plant our flag there for the future. It’s a long-term commitment. That’s what we want to be.
“But the original concept of Bumbershoot holds true. You use your national and international acts as a hook to draw people in and then when they’re all here, you use that as an opportunity to showcase all your local talent.”
This year, more than 40 percent of the musical acts were from the Northwest.
The day began with local bands Hot Bodies in Motion, Cascadia 10 and Bellamaine playing different stages at Seattle Center.
A good example of the festival’s emphasis on local talent was Anacortes pop-rock band Bellamaine, which performed a spirited set at the Fountain Lawn Stage. Led by husband and wife Nick and Julianne Thompson, the group has a warm, dreamy sound.
Seattle’s Hot Bodies in Motion, performing at the Starbucks Stage, offered a powerful set of soul, blues and R&B that recalled the past, but with modern execution and dazzling guitar work.
At the Starbucks Stage, local folk revivalists The Maldives, led by singer-songwriter Jason Dodson, played an acoustic/electric set of beautifully arranged folk-rock songs.
Between 1 and 2 p.m., a long, long line of festivalgoers snaked through the Center grounds, awaiting the start of British group Alt-J’s performance (blending rap, psychedelica and avant-garde “folktronica”) at the Main Stage at KeyArena. (The band led a double bill that also featured MGMT, the five-piece outfit that combines contemporary rock with ’60s psychedelica and other styles.)
California singer-songwriter Lissie, playing at the Starbucks Stage, performed a sassy, soulful set of original songs with a punk edge. Voted “Best New Solo Artist” by Paste magazine in 2010, Lissie may be entering a higher-profile stage in her career.
Scheduled to close the big stages at Bumbershoot were garage-rockers Deerhunter, acoustic band Trampled by Turtles, electronic dance-music artist Bassnectar and British rockers The Joy Formidable.
The hot spot at Bumbershoot Monday evening was Fisher Green, where the festival’s promise to showcase Seattle music was kept — in spades. Crowds crushing the lawn there for rapper Sol and smiling soul man Allen Stone must have been secretly thinking how lucky they were to live in a city so brimming with homemade talent.
Sol, who has been on the road for nearly a year, offered his first homecoming gig. With this crisp voice cutting through chimey synth sounds and atmospheric background vocals — and an in-the-pocket live band that hit on all cylinders — the young rapper had fans in the palm of his hand as he sang the title track from last year’s “Yours Truly.” The crowd shouted back “Hey! Ho!” and swayed raised arms back and forth with mass approval.
It was a lovely end-of-summer moment, the air still warm but with a hint of fall blowing in, and light, puffy clouds lining up along a northwest axis.
There was more to come. Stone, an unlikely soul singer if there ever was one, with his long, curly hair and big glasses and broad smile (there does not seem to be any suffering in his music, only joy), took the crowd even higher, after night fell.
With an assist on one song by Dave Matthews trumpeter Rashawn Ross — who took a bravura solo — Stone mesmerized the crowd with the aching, slow-song triplets of “Is This Love,” dramatically falling to his knees at the close. Stone’s band captured groove after groove, his falsetto soaring, offering soul music as medicine. To end his set, Stone divided the crowd in half and asked the two sides to compete, for fun, in a “dance-off,” which seemed to be mostly a matter of arms wiggling in the air, but everyone seemed to love it.
Stone may be unlikely, but he’s got magic.
There were other flavors to sample Monday. Savannah, Ga., punk-metallers Baroness offered suitably if monolithically loud vocals, as John Dyer Baizley yelled lyrics over a storm of guitar noise. The crowd at the Fountain Lawn seemed merely bemused at first, but eventually a small mosh pit sprouted.
Later, on the same stage, indie rock legends Superchunk offered a bland set that mostly confirmed music has moved on from the stripped down style that 20 years ago, to many, seemed so refreshing
Over at the Plaza Stage (by EMP), where small but focused crowds gathered, sideburned guitarist Mark Pickerel offered rockabilly twang and a voice that casually veered down to resonant bass notes, Jim Morrison-style
A larger pack formed at the Plaza to catch popular neo-folkies Ivan & Alyosha, which proffered its lusty, three-guitar strum and pub-style harmonies, drawing the crowd in with the evocative lyric on “Don’t Wanna Die Anymore.” Lead singer Tim Wilson threw himself dramatically into the song, grimacing and looking up to the sky.
Over at the Mural Amphitheatre, singer-songwriter Justin Townes Earle, wearing a tweed jacket and jeans, applied his sandpaper voice to romantic loser lyrics, lamenting in his between-song chatter that Nashville seems to have forgotten Hank Williams and the blues. True enough. A lovely pedal steel guitar wafted in to accompany his amusing line, “If you aren’t glad I’m leavin’, girl, you oughta be.”
One of the pleasures of Bumbershoot was the intimate Soundwave stage, where bands that had already done a scheduled performance played a short set for a handful of fans. Ojai, Calif.-based quartet Lissie, with lead singer Elisabeth Corrin Maurus, was a knockout on “They All Want you” and definitely has a bright future.
By 6:30 p.m. a new cohort had started to flow onto the Seattle Center grounds — shirtless guys and bespangled, shorts-and-halter-top girls were there to dance to festival closer Bassnectar.
They were not disappointed, though for about five minutes it looked as if the set might be cut short when DJ Lorin Ashton, hair flying, suddenly walked offstage and KeyArena went silent. After all that rafter-shaking, chest-throbbing bass — the sound was so loud it was like wind — the lack of noise felt weird. It turned out Ashton had blown a fuse in the building, which was soon repaired and the ecstatic dancing resumed.
Bassnectar’s light show — on six screens — was as creative and full of variety as his beats. At one point, after playing a sample of a field-slave-type work song, up popped an old photograph of bebop jazz pioneers Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie and Max Roach. Nashville may have forgotten the blues, but it is alive and well in electronic dance music.
The gyrating crowd — though surrounded by what felt like an overkill of security guards ensuring that fans didn’t leap from the stands to the dance floor — was sweet and friendly, tossing out smiles and peace signs, behavior supported, no doubt, by various chemical agents.
Out of the street, you could still hear Bassnectar — and the whole KeyArena — throbbing from several blocks away as Bumbershoot came to a close..
Paul de Barros: 206-464-3247 or firstname.lastname@example.org