The good: shows by Macklemore, Run the Jewels, Halsey, The Pink Slips and Tyler, The Creator; the weather; and wristbands that let you roam with beer in hand. The bad: Crowd control, leading to long, slow lines.
In its second year of transformation by production company AEG, Bumbershoot, which ended Sunday (Sept. 4), was a dramatic success on many fronts — though it is still experiencing some growing pains.
A spectacular two-hour performance by Seattle rapper Macklemore at Memorial Stadium Saturday will likely be remembered for years to come and a strong contingent of up-and-coming local acts gave the festival a tasty regional flavor.
Some of the whimsy and spectacle of the old Bumbershoot returned, with buskers popping up here and there, parades by the Lieu Quan Lion Dance Team and the Blue Thunder Drum Line, as well as an inspiring giant hoop of balloons that soared over the grounds, festooned at night with lights.
Good weather smiled on the festival for most of its three-day run and though final attendance figures were not yet available, it would be a surprise if they did not outstrip last year’s 80,000-person mark by a wide margin.
One welcome improvement was the institution of a new policy that allowed patrons to secure an over-21 bracelet each day and to then roam the grounds with beer or wine in hand.
By contrast, the festival’s crowd control was often unpleasant, angering many people trying to get into KeyArena Friday. Long lines snaked glacially into the venue, forcing people to wait far too long to see music at a festival they had already paid to enter. At Memorial Stadium, another bottleneck occurred when fans’ wristbands were scanned twice, once to get in, then again if they wanted access to the stadium floor.
Though the nonmusical arts continued to hover around the edge of what is now essentially a pop music festival aimed at young people, one of the highlights of the weekend was a hilarious, hourlong performance at the Bagley Wright Theatre by Chicago’s brilliant Improvised Shakespeare Company. Comedy acts were notable this year, too, with standup by Ron Funches, Rachel Walls and Nick Thune.
And while Bumbershoot may be a pop fest, it must be said that it is a very, very good one.
In addition to Macklemore, who pulled out all the stops in a show that featured nearly his entire catalog, many other acts stood out. Los Angeles producer and Odd Future founder Tyler, the Creator, gave an explosive, also humorous performance that drew one of the largest crowds to the stadium.
At the same venue, new vocal star Halsey, posing on a high platform like a dominatrix, raced through hits such as “Hold Me Down,” driven by ceremonial, stylized beats.
Also there, Run the Jewels — Killer Mike and El-P — erupted with political as well as creative energy.
Over at the Key, chart-busting rapper Fetty Wap was volcanic, offering an intoxicating mix of light, easy pop melodies with the beats of trap and hip-hop.
Good music graced the smaller stages, as well. At Fisher Green, violinist-singer Andrew Bird looped lines and vocals like waves lapping against a shore and newcomer Grace McKagan (daughter of Guns N’Roses bassist Duff McKagan) and her band The Pink Slips delivered a tough, punked-out, ironically vampish set. The 17-year-old singer demonstrated the performance maturity of a woman twice her age.
At the Mural Amphitheatre, where the soulful spirit of the old Bumbershoot flourished, the Blind Boys of Alabama offered an infectious, sanctified set as older fans were “baptized” by one of Friday’s infrequent, misty showers.
At the KEXP stage, Seattle duo Pony Time offered, sadly, a sparkling farewell set, as the band announced it was going on “indefinite hiatus.”
Still to come at press time Sunday were much-anticipated performances by Death Cab For Cutie, Tame Impala and Kamasi Washington.
Note: Alexa Peters contributed to this review.