Sun, thunder and lightning, long lines and good music marked the up-and-down first day of Bumbershoot 2015.
Sunny morning skies gave way to thunder, lightning and weather delays Saturday afternoon, matching the up-and-down vibe on opening day of Bumbershoot, Seattle’s historic but struggling music and arts festival.
Long lines of mostly under-30 festivalgoers ringed the Seattle Center grounds Saturday before gates opened at 1:30 p.m., a later start time than in the past (a computer glitch didn’t help the in-flow of ticket holders).
It’s just one of many things different about the 2015 edition of this decades-old festival. With concert giant AEGLive now producing the three-day event, which was in danger of fading into history after last year’s financial losses, the flow and feel have changed.
Through Monday, Sept. 7, Seattle Center; for ticket prices, visit bumbershoot.com.
Concert stages are in familiar parts of the grounds, but getting to them can be roundabout, at least in the case of the Rhapsody stage in the shadow of the Space Needle.
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An outdoor food court is near the EMP Museum in the Northeast corner of the grounds, but you won’t find many food concessions along the corridors popular in the past. They’ve been replaced by booths promoting commercial services and products, from insurance to coconut water. Overall, things seem leaner and more streamlined, which may be expected on a make-or-break year.
Finding beer, wine or spirits is easy, though. Beer gardens seem to be everywhere, perhaps a reflection of the younger demographics driving the festival today.
Another change is the electronic wristbands that serve as “tickets.” Wristbands are scanned at entry points — and sometimes exit points. They allow entry into the festival grounds as well as all of the venues, except for the popular comedy clubs, which require a separate pass — free but subject to availability — distributed on the grounds.
At the Starbucks stage at the Mural Amphitheater, Los Angeles singer-songwriter and acoustic guitarist Phoebe Bridgers played laid-back, melancholy folk-rock songs. “I hope I’m getting you guys pumped,” she said with little conviction.
The crowd packed tightly around the stage and sprawled on the lawn grew to near-capacity when Ohio-born singer-songwriter Elle King (backed by a four-piece band) took the stage for a sassy, eclectic performance of mostly original songs blending rock, blues, soul and country. She was clearly happy to be playing Bumbershoot. “I’m obsessed with Seattle,” she bellowed.
At Seattle Center Pavilion, a lively, thumping breakdance exhibition drew a large, cheering crowd. Outside, the Street Art Pop Up featured local artists Charms, Q. Quigg, Sneke, TheyDriftand 179 creating spray-paint art on cellophane panels.
The first act to play Memorial Stadium on Saturday was rapper Lil Dicky, who lived up to his name with smutty but humorous raps about living the low life in suburbia. Last spring, Lil Dicky released his “Professional Rapper” album, yielding such songs as “Lemme Freak” and “White Crime.”
As the afternoon wore on, and the weather worsened, thunder and lightning caused temporary delays on several stages.
After things resumed, chart-topping pop-rock group Fitz & the Tantrums took the mainstage at 7:35 p.m. Frontman Fitz is a natural showman and he led the group in an explosive set featuring some of the band’s best songs.
With concertgoers jammed against the stage, Fitz thanked Seattle for supporting the band early in its career. From there the group rose quickly up the charts. The set featured a Eurythmics cover, “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)”; “Don’t Gotta Work It Out” and the huge hit, “Moneygrabber.”
The Weeknd, also known as Abel Tesfaye, helped drive strong ticket sales for the first day of the festival. The Grammy-nominated Canadian singer, whose soulful, energy-charged vocals kept the massive crowd in thrall, owned the mainstage with his powerful R&B set. Hit songs “Can’t Feel My Face,” “High for This,” “The Hills” and “Wicked Games” have made him an in-demand performer, and his presence was huge a coup for Bumbershoot.
Chicago artist Chance the Rapper brought day one to a climactic close in KeyArena around midnight. Together with the band The Social Experiment, he performed a high-energy set of fan favorites from his breakout mixtape “Acid Rap” and “Surf” — a startlingly original Social Experiment album that was released as a free download on iTunes earlier this year. The group’s mix of syncopated rhythms, jazzlike trumpet volleys, inventive lyrics and dazzling lights and projections sent the audience out into the cool night with high spirits.