“Whyyyyyyyy?!” mourned one fan wearing a tie-dye T-shirt and a “Make America Go Hard Again” hat, staring at the Lizzo-less schedule.
For many Bumbershoot fans on Friday, the grief over Lizzo’s last-minute cancellation due to a sinus infection was real. The poor guy’s whimsical Daffy Duck socks seemed to offer little solace.
The ascendant rapper/pop star’s absence, coupled with the previously dropped Alina Baraz, blew a considerable hole in the 49-year-old festival’s opening-day lineup, with two of the top four artists missing in action.
The silver lining was electronic duo Hippie Sabotage sliding into Lizzo’s mainstage slot instead of overlapping with headliner Tyler, the Creator. The Sacramento bass-mongers drew easily the largest pre-Tyler crowd, as the afternoon mainstage slots at Memorial Stadium were modestly attended. This year, the stage has been moved from the end zone to the side of the stadium, giving bleacher fans a more direct view while effectively shrinking the space directly in front of the stage — a smart move forcing the crowd to condense more, making it feel like there was less vacant floor space.
The brotherly duo, one of whom mostly served as an unnecessary hype man, pummeled the crowd with deep bass lines that forced their way into your body and eventually took control, like those little Demogorgon slugs from “Stranger Things.” As their trapped-out future bass swerved from brain-scrambling headbangers to atmospheric cool-downs — including their remix of Tove Lo’s “Habits (Stay High)” — the pro-weed bros wielded visuals that at times screamed “stoner Montana film student with excess joint-lighting B-roll on a ‘Yellow Submarine’ binge.”
Hippie Sabotage, who apparently battled some technical difficulties earlier in their set, walked off in a fusillade of midrange buzz-saw bass and aural fireworks. Depending on your age and tastes, this might not sound pleasant, but the real jarring stuff came when the Ed Sheeran house music turned on.
While the EDM tandem worked up the crowd of teens and early 20-somethings, hip-hop still reigned on Friday. Peppy pop-rapper Bryce Vine had the strongest showing of all the secondary stage acts (and even seemed to cure Mr. Make America Go Hard Again’s Lizzo letdown).
Uplifting Seattle rapper Sol was reliably solid, leading his soul-inflected live band with slick punchlines in front of a mostly 21-plus crowd that drew an equal mix of fans and those unfamiliar with the hometown fave. Earlier on the main stage, California emcee Snow Tha Product was on a tear, burning through her dense bilingual bars on “AyAyAy!” and pulling a dozen or so audience members on stage for a twerk fest Lizzo would have approved of.
Things took an awkward turn when a meticulously orchestrated crowd-surfing voyage took several minutes and a false start to materialize. When it finally happened, it felt uncomfortable for everyone with Snow Tha Product accusing someone of trying to pull off her shoe (uncool). Predictably, the second attempt didn’t fare any better.
But none commanded more excitement than Tyler, the Creator, the shape-shifting rapper whose headlining set served as a tour kickoff on the heels of his first No. 1 album. Emerging in front of a blue curtain in his blonde wig and Key lime suit to roars, Tyler drew heavily from this spring’s kaleidoscopic “IGOR” LP out of the gate. “I look cute as [expletive], right?” he asked, alluding to his Igor alter ego’s ensemble, before calling Seattle his favorite American city other than his L.A. hometown.
The more experimental new material, which pushes the gravelly voiced emcee toward more psychedelic R&B, funk and soul terrain, found Tyler flashing his low-key singing voice, some fresh dance moves and shrieking love-tormented passages that played well with fans old and new. Despite the focus on the new sound and look, Tyler’s trademark dark lyrics were still on display, garnering some of the biggest roars with his 2011 breakout track “Yonkers,” even if he seemed more interested in playing his adventurous newer songs.
Bumbershoot resumes Saturday and Sunday with performances from the Lumineers, H.E.R., Jai Wolf, LP, Rezz, Bob Moses, Clairo and more.