Bumbershoot is what a city festival should look like. Much like my two favorite city festivals, Buku Project and Movement, Bumbershoot takes over existing city structures rather than putting massive stages in a city park. Expertly built into The Seattle Center, Bumbershoot almost felt like a group of separate events rather than a music festival. Part arena show, part food and cocktail expo, part massive stadium event, Bumbershoot was a little bit of everything.
We came to Seattle for a weekend of music, adventure, food, and booze, and that’s exactly what we found at Bumbershoot. And while nothing in life is perfect, it was a damn good festival. From Die Antwoord’s incredible set on Friday night to ODESZA’s perfect close to the weekend, this is what we experienced in the heart of Seattle over Labor Day Weekend.
Production: Bumbershoot is a major festival with major production money, and it showed. The KeyArena, which played host to most of the weekend’s electronic acts, boasted booming sound and incredible lights, exactly what you need for those shows. The bass shook me, whether I was on the floor for Jauz, or in the stands for Dillon Francis (I am not trying to dance with teenagers ever again). The Main Stage, located inside Memorial Stadium, was everything you’d expect out of an outdoor main stage. Big screens, bright lights, and plenty of space.
Food + Booze: Bumbershoot’s drink scene was restrictive but still excellent. The Miami Vice Bar provided an escape from the festival madness with craft cocktails, reasonably priced craft beer, and drunk adults trying to do karaoke. While Bumbershoot’s strict policy of keeping alcohol to the various drink areas was sometimes maddening (I don’t ever want to see Weezer without a drink in my hand), it did provide a welcome relief from the teenagers that covered the festival grounds. The food was also excellent, with the B Eats tent providing restaurant quality food in a beautiful lounge area that overlooked the park.
The Lineup: Bumbershoot’s lineup appealed to everyone, and as such, no stage ever felt overly crowded. Not into Weezer? Go see E-40 or Sofi Tukker, depending on your mood. Don’t like Flo Rida? Neither does anyone else, go see Flume or Die Antwoord (or both if you run fast enough). The eclectic lineup was solid from top to bottom, and thus the crowds at most stages were not only manageable but also usually there for artists that they actually wanted to see.
Bouncing from Stage to Stage was a chore and a half, thanks to security points at the two biggest stages, which forced festival goers to scan in and out of the venue, creating bottlenecks where there should be easy traffic flow, and making the already annoying task of trying to see conflicting artists nearly impossible. On Saturday, I left Dillon Francis fairly early into his set to catch Lorde at Main Stage, and after maneuvering through ridiculous checkpoints, was only able to catch the last five songs of her set. It was everything I wanted to hear, and Lorde was perfect, but with less checkpoints, I could have caught an additional 10-15 minutes of my Kiwi Goddess.
Goddamn Teenagers: In my old age, I’ve grown to abhor all-ages festivals. At this point, even 18+ festivals are moderately annoying, but I’ll tolerate them. Bumbershoot had no such age limit, and thus was peppered with bright-eyed teenagers coming from all over to get fucked up before the festival and then unleash themselves on those of us who can handle our substances. It was almost impossible to walk anywhere without passing someone either crying, puking, or both. On night two, my friend found a bag of drugs in the bathroom, something that would never be left behind by an actual adult. The whole weekend I had flashbacks of Lollapalooza, America’s premiere home for dehydrated teenagers. If I could change only one thing about Bumbershoot, it would be putting an 18+ age limit next year.
Lorde: Despite only catching half of Lorde’s set on Saturday night, leaving the festival it was all I could talk about. My Kiwi Goddess put on a show like no other, with a stage presence that is unrivaled in the pop music world. She performed songs like “Team” and “Perfect Places” with an intensity that you can only achieve when you’re belting lyrics that come from your own heart. My biggest regret of Bumbershoot is not leaving Dillon Francis’ earlier, but how was I to know the absolute perfection that was awaiting me on the other side of the festival grounds?
ODESZA: One of my main reasons for attending Bumbershoot was to experience the debut of ODESZA’s A Moment Apart Tour, and the boys did not disappoint. Bringing out a slew of live instruments, a full drumline, and special guest vocalists from the new album, ODESZA put on the show of the festival. The crowd was unsurprisingly large, but it never felt overly crowded. Everyone was there to listen, love, and dance, and made sure everyone had space to do just that. When Naomi Wild came out to perform “Higher Ground” the smile on her face was as wide as the stage. In that moment, she was feeling that same pure ecstasy that everyone in the crowd was feeling. ODESZA hits you right in the feels, and it was completely present at that show. It was the absolute perfect way to end a fantastic weekend.
Overall, Bumbershoot had it’s flaws, but that’s to be expected at any all-ages festival taking place in the middle of a massive city. They put together an incredible lineup, creative planning, and an overall experience that went beyond the music and embraced the city of Seattle. Bumbershoot is definitely the place to be on West Coast every Labor Day Weekend, and you’ll see us here again next year.
All photos via Bumbershoot and ODESZA