Bumbershoot, the long-running music-and-arts festival, is back this Labor Day weekend, Aug. 31-Sept. 2, ready to take over Seattle Center with a deep slate of music and comedy, and arts offerings ranging from film to theater to visual arts.
Music-wise, despite the addition of insipid EDM-pop cheeseballs The Chainsmokers as Friday’s headliners, there’s a lot to love, with big-name rappers, buzzy newcomers and Northwest favorites. Here are 12 exciting artists not to miss.
Friday, Aug. 31
He was one of the hottest rappers in the game, with a penchant for absurdist punchlines about his penis that magically walk the line between cringeworthy and puerile brilliance. But a protracted beef with his label boss Birdman derailed his perpetually delayed “Tha Carter V” album. A June settlement reportedly has a contractually freed Weezy closer to dropping the highly anticipated project, but in the meantime, we’ll see if the idled hip-hop star’s still got it.
Earlier this year, veteran Seattle MC Gifted Gab and San Francisco’s Blimes Brixton set the internet ablaze with their bar-shredding “Come Correct,” a tongue-twisting back and forth that made rap nerds quiver. After its viral success, the verified spitters officially teamed up as B.A.G. (Blimes and Gab), forming a dual-headed lyrical flamethrower that makes its Seattle debut this weekend.
One of the weekend’s most interesting acts, this art-pop virtuoso earned raves with last year’s “Aromanticism,” his debut album imbued with hints of chamber pop, jazz and acoustic-folk balladry strung together by Sumney’s stunning falsetto. The L.A.-and-Ghana-reared songsmith has since added a few players to what was once a looping, one-man live show, but look for his enchantingly layered vocals to shine just as bright.
Saturday, Sept. 1
Throw a pair of freethinking Seattle heavy hitters with a decade worth of chemistry together, not to mention a stable of talented artists in their orbits, into the studio and it’s no surprise hip-hop experimenter Ishmael Butler (Shabazz Palaces, Digable Planets) and Seattle/L.A. superproducer Erik Blood color outside the box. The first few tracks released off their upcoming “1 Time Mirage” LP, due Sept. 14, smear genre lines (hip-hop, soul, electronic psychedelia) leaving a trail of rainbow-colored cosmic dust.
Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever
After a couple of buzzy EPs, Sub Pop snatched up these Melbourne lads trading in well-honed guitar pop cozily steeped in juuuust enough reverb. Led by a trio of singers/guitarists, Rolling Blackouts C.F. contrast darker lyrics with jangly, summery guitars that glint like the setting sun through the sides of gas station sunglasses on their first full-length, “Hope Downs.”
The Purple One may have split for the big velvet symbol in the sky, but Prince’s heyday ’80s band has been touring steadily since the music icon’s death, reportedly doing a mix of deep cuts and the hits. It’s hard to say how this step-above-a-tribute-act will fare with the younger Bumbershoot demo, but if “Purple Rain” can’t capture intergenerational hearts, the world may be doomed after all.
It’s a sign of the digital times when an intercontinental collective whose teenage to 30-something members bonded over Skype can catch fire before ever setting foot in the same room. So began the file-sharing octet behind one of 2018’s more inventive pop albums when its bouncing-slo-mo single “Something for Your M.I.N.D.” took SoundCloud by storm. Found sounds and other odd samples of cans opening and rocket takeoffs flash throughout breezy indie-pop thumpers like a whimsical GIF reel on the crew’s self-titled debut.
Sunday, Sept. 2
Top Dawg Entertainment’s first lady captivated the music world with her sultry love dramas on “Cntrl,” the blossoming R&B star’s cerebral breakout LP that shot to the top of many critics’ year-end lists and helped her earn a handful of Grammy nominations. The charmingly relatable singer delivered a magnetic set at the White River Amphitheatre this spring, proving her smooth jams hold their own on a big outdoor stage.
Portugal. The Man
The Northwest indie-rock vets became the surprise story of 2017 when their hooky-as-hell “Feel It Still” waged a pop-radio incursion, hitting No. 4 on Billboard’s Hot 100 and earning the self-described “Lords of Portland” a Grammy for best pop duo/group performance. It’s a bold new world for these psych-rock Top 40 rebels (just for kicks, now) — including guitarist Eric Howk, formerly of Seattle’s The Lashes — launched to another level of fame.
The genre-blurring up-and-comer turned heads collaborating with the likes of Solange and Gorillaz while her debut album was incubating. However, the Ethiopian-American singer’s best was yet to come, as her intoxicating “Take Me Apart” LP arrived last fall, her electro-R&B confidently steeped in heady downtempo tracks and indie-pop sensibilities.
After a six-year album drought, the Seattle-spawned indie folkies returned with last year’s worth-the-wait “Crack-Up.” While there’s no single that leaps off the page a la “White Winter Hymnal,” the quintet’s gracefully ornate third LP is its most compelling work to date, with methodically flowing arrangements that make for an immersive front-to-back listen.
Despite glowing reviews and some SXSW buzz, this rising Brit hasn’t garnered quite as much attention on this side of the pond as some of her peers among a recent wave of precocious female singer-songwriters splashing onto the scene the past year or two. But that’s starting to change, thanks in part to the Americana ace’s folk-pop rocker “Lottery,” the lead single off her upcoming full-length debut, which topped the adult alternative song charts.
Bumbershoot. Friday, Aug. 31, through Sunday, Sept. 2. Seattle Center, 305 Harrison St., Seattle; $130-$225 single day, $240-$775 three-day pass; bumbershoot.com
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