The acts at Bumbershoot 2015 cover the waterfront, from hip-hop and EDM to indie rock, roots rock and country. Both KeyArena and Memorial Stadium will be put to use at Seattle Center this year, too.
This is a dramatic, make-or-break year for Bumbershoot, with concert promoter AEGLive stepping in to run the festival and foot the bill, rain or shine.
AEG couldn’t start booking music until a new deal was struck with the city, Seattle Center and 35-year festival producer One Reel (which is still handling the arts side), so they were at a severe disadvantage, embarking on a process in January that normally would have begun months before.
All things considered, AEG did a pretty good job, though the lineup skews toward millennials and chart-toppers — not a new trend at Bumbershoot, certainly, but one that tosses few bones to boomers (no Bob Dylan, Bonnie Raitt or Jackson Browne this time, folks.)
That said, the festival has both of its big rooms back this year — Memorial Stadium and KeyArena — and the not insignificant and occasionally inspiring stars who will light them up are sequenced nicely for homogeneous crowds and cover the waterfront, from hip-hop and EDM to indie rock, roots rock and country. The festival gates open at 1:30 p.m. Saturday-Monday (Sept. 5-7), Mercer Street, Seattle Center; tickets from $85 (bumbershoot.com).
Saturday, Sept. 5
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Saturday offers a flash trio of R&B/hip-hop acts.
■ The biggest booking coup is The Weeknd (9:15 p.m., Memorial Stadium), aka Abel Tesfaye. The Canadian R&B singer’s massive hit singles “Can’t Feel My Face” and “The Hills” hadn’t yet enveloped the Top 10 when he signed for probably a tenth of the money he would get now to play a festival this size. Tesfaye is a riveting, soulful performer, whose high voice and intense delivery evoke both Michael Jackson and Prince, especially since he has mostly abandoned the gloomier downtempo mood of his early work. This is probably the no-miss show of the — well, weekend.
■ Connoisseurs of hip-hop production may beg to differ with that assessment, with Flying Lotus (9 p.m., KeyArena) landing the same night. The nephew of jazz giant John Coltrane, Flying Lotus (born Steven Ellison) recently scorched the Neptune Theatre with his “You’re Dead” show, which featured a stunning, three-dimensional laser light show and his trademark mix of trancey bass throbs, industrial clanks, world percussion and machine-gun raps.
■ Soft-spoken Southside Chicago MC Chance the Rapper (10:45 p.m., KeyArena) — born Chancellor Bennett — was chosen in 2013 by Spin magazine as rapper of the year when he was only 19, for his breakout mixtape “Acid Rap.” This past May, he released “Surf” for free, online, and netted more than 600,000 album downloads the first week. Bennett combines creative, silky backdrops with spiky, literate raps — think Stylistics meet Jack Kerouac — with a social consciousness that prompted him to call out Miley Cyrus for her tasteless use of the word “Mammy” while hosting the VMA awards last weekend.
If you hanker for a little country music, mosey over to the Mural Amphtheatre, where the refreshingly unconventional Kacey Musgraves (8:45 p.m.) performs, as does successful songwriter Chris Stapleton (7:30 p.m.), whose debut album for Mercury, “Traveller,” reached No. 14 on the album charts. Other Saturday highlights include energetic Los Angeles neo-soulsters Fitz & the Tantrums (7:30 p.m., Memorial Stadium) and expressive violin phenom Lindsey Stirling (9:45 p.m., Fisher Green).
Sunday, Sept. 6
Sunday should warm the hearts of Gen-Xers, with Social Distortion (6:45 p.m., Memorial Stadium) and Faith No More (8:45 p.m., Memorial Stadium) on the bill. Though Southern California punkabilly band Social Distortion first formed in 1978, it is best known for its 1990 hit, “Ball and Chain,” and a daring cover of Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire,” both from its self-titled album of that year, the 25th anniversary of which the band is celebrating by playing it in full on its summer tour. Frontman Mike Ness has been promising a new album for a long time, but so far it has not materialized. By contrast, San Francisco alt-rockers Faith No More, who had a huge MTV hit, “Epic,” back in the day but broke up in 1998, did release a new album this year, “Sol Invictus,” though it has been poorly received. No doubt they will offer tracks from their only No. 1 effort, “Album of the Year.”
Sunday also offers the closest you’ll get to a boomer hero in the Northwest’s beloved country rocker Neko Case (9:30 p.m. Fisher Green), whose Seattle show behind her album “The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You” was a knockout. Case fans will do doubt come early to get a good seat for the rousing neo-folk of the Punch Brothers (7:45 p.m., Fisher Green). And in another nice bit of sequencing, in this case for the dance set at KeyArena, DJ’s J2K and Autobot, aka Flosstradamus (8:15), lead into EDM superstar ZEDD (9:45 p.m.), whose hit singles “Shave It” and “Slam The Door” will no doubt set the key spinning.
Monday, Sept. 7
Monday (Sept. 7) boasts an even heavier EDM star in return visitor Bassnectar (10 p.m., KeyArena), whose 2013 Bumbershoot set literally blew a fuse after filling the room with chest-throbbing bass so loud it felt like a strong wind, and a light show — on six screens — brilliantly coordinated with the music. Setting the stage at the Key for Bassnectar are the hilariously raunchy Peaches (7:15 p.m.), a kind of rap-explicit Eartha Kitt, and the Canadian live electronic “trap” band, Keys N Krates (8:30 p.m.).
Bassnectar (given name Lorin Ashton) had a major hit on a remix of “Lights,” by cooing pop songbird Ellie Goulding, who’s also coming (8:45 p.m., Memorial Stadium), and whose infectious “Love Me Like You Do” has quickly become an anthem for that paean to suburban sexual fantasy, “Fifty Shades of Grey.” Prepping the crowd for Goulding is the full-voiced, blues-and-jazz-inflected singer-guitarist-songwriter Hozier (7 p.m., Memorial Stadium), whose breakout Grammy-nominated single, the hymnlike “Take Me To Church,” has netted more than 77 million YouTube views. Hozier seems to have a direct line to the haunting blues of John Lee Hooker, which should sit nicely with fans of blues man Ben Harper (9:15, Fisher Green). The Mural Amphitheatre has a nice Northwest indie rock stream Monday, with Hey Marseilles (5:45 p.m.), Minus the Bear (7 p.m.) and Built to Spill (8:15).
Have fun out there!