Arts enthusiasts from across the region will make their way to the 42nd annual Bumbershoot Festival in Seattle for three days of music, food and entertainment this weekend. One of the largest (and oldest) urban arts festival in North America, this year’s musical lineup features headliners from a variety of genres – including pop classic Tony Bennett, rock ’n’ roll veterans Jane’s Addiction and electronic music producer Skrillex.
For those not interested in braving crowds at the main stage at KeyArena, the fest features a crop of up-and-coming Northwest acts. Here’s the scoop on five acts you don’t want to miss:
For Bellingham-based act Polecat, getting people to dance is just part of the job.
Formed in March 2010, the bluegrass/Americana five-piece has been making a name for itself throughout the Northwest for its expressive roots tracks and explosive live shows.
Consisting of Aaron Guest (vocals, 12 string acoustic), Jeremy Elliott (electric guitar and vocals), Karl Olson (drums), Cayley Schmid (fiddle), and Richard Reeves (upright bass), Polecat got its start playing weekly gigs at Boundary Bay Brewing & Bistro in Bellingham before the group even established itself as a band – or had a name.
“I just went in (to the restaurant) and said I’m gonna have a band, and I think it’s gonna be fun,” Guest said.
Five months and several gigs later, the weekly show had become one of the most sought after parties in town. The band has since recorded a self-titled EP, a full-length album called “Fire On The Hill,” and played more than 200 shows in the past two years. The group, represented by In the Pocket Artists, is scheduled to record its next full-length release at Bear Creek Studio in December.
Rooted in bluegrass tradition, Polecat’s music delves into a variety of moods. Some of it is triumphant and celebrates life, love and spending time with friends, and some of it is dark.
“I think we really respect our audience,” said Schmid, whose mastery of the fiddle and familiarity with traditional Irish music, have become driving forces behind the group’s live show. “We don’t just play the same thing for three whole minutes and expect them to be entertained. We mix it up every 30 seconds.”
This, along with the band’s conscious effort to set itself apart from other acts in the Americana genre, has found the group experimenting with fuller, percussion-driven tracks alongside rhythms of the Eastern European and Caribbean variety.
Known for producing stomp-worthy dance tracks, Polecat’s live show is an experience. It’s sweaty and loud in all the right ways – and it’s sure to get you on your feet.
Having recently played sets at the Subdued Stringband Jamboree and Summer Meltdown festivals to rave reviews, the group’s debut slot at Bumbershoot is sure to be another stomping good time.
“We would like for people to leave the show saying, ‘They belong at Bumbershoot. They belong at a festival with crowds this big – and that’s what they should be doing,’ ” Elliott said.
Polecat plays the Promenade from 1:30-2:30 p.m. Saturday.
Originally from Tacoma, this low-fi pop act, led by vocalist/guitarist Brad Oberhofer now calls Brooklyn home. Touring in support of his debut album, Time Capsules II (Glassnote Records), Oberhofer and his band have been making the festival rounds this summer – bringing upbeat electro-fuzz pop tracks and spastic live shows to fans around the world. Oberhofer will play Bumbershoot’s Sub Pop Stage (Fountain Lawn) from 7-8 p.m. Saturday.
The Cellar Door
Like a lot of acts coming out of the Northwest at the moment, this Seattle-based six-piece delivers earthy ballads of the folk persuasion. But what sets this group apart is its intricate arrangements, poignant lyricism and soaring harmonies. Driven by the thundering new single, “Spring,” this act is sure to gain new fans during Labor Day weekend. The Cellar Door plays the Starbucks Stage (Mural Amphitheatre) from 11:45 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Monday.
Jordan Cook, AKA ReignWolf, makes more noise as a one-man rock show than most hardcore bands on the scene right now. A native of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Cook recently relocated to Seattle. He’s quickly become one of the best live acts in town. Known to put the crowd in a frenzy, Cook’s howling vocals, wicked riffs and animalistic energy provide for a raw rock ’n’ roll experience not to be missed. Frankly, the dude can shred. ReignWolf plays the Starbucks Stage (Mural Amphitheatre) from 1-2 p.m. Monday.
Seattle-based singer-songwriter Noah Gundersen is fast becoming one of the next big things to come out of the Northwest. In the same vain as alternative indie crooner Conor Oberst (of Bright Eyes), Gundersen delivers tightly arranged folk tracks that showcase his husky vocals, soaring melodies and affecting storytelling. Accompanied by violinist sister Abby, Gunderson’s songs are rich with feel-good tales of love and life. He’ll play the Promenade from 1:30-2:30 p.m. Monday.