Going in, this year’s Bumbershoot festival was of the most buzzed-about in recent memory. Even with the huge expectations, it not only lived up to the hype, it exceeded it. Across three days, and six different stages, festivalgoers were treated to an incredible mélange of acts from across nearly every genre of music. Overall, it was an event with more peaks than the Cascade Mountains, but here are 10 performances that really took it to another level.
10. RA Scion: Across a decade of making music, this Seattle rapper has repeatedly earned his status among the best the city has to offer. With a touch of theatricality, an array of guest performers – including singer Adra Boo from Fly Moon Royalty – and an energy that was as caustic as it was gripping, Ryan Abeo aka RA Scion gave one of the best performances of the first day and served as a perfect primer for the legendary Wu-Tang Clan.
9. The Dream Syndicate: This L.A. rock group first made a name for themselves well over 30 years ago with their critically lauded debut “The Days of Wine and Roses.” They disbanded eight years later, but have recently reunited and, from the sound of it, they haven’t missed a beat. As expected, much of their set was dominated by tracks from their first record, but they also mixed in a fair share of surprises, including a cover of Blind Lemon Jefferson’s “See That My Grave is Kept Clean.”
8. Hobosexual: Just as they did at Sasquatch three months ago, Hobosexual took an early festival crowd and turned it into a mosh pit. What this duo have going for them really is inexplicable. We’ve been trained to think that two musicians equals stripped-down garage rock, but somehow, some way, guitarist/singer Ben Harwood and drummer Jeff Silva produce something more in common with early Zeppelin or mid-career AC/DC.
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7. Mac DeMarco: Going into Bumbershoot, this gap-toothed Canadian singer was one of the most buzzed about artists on the bill. When the time came, the crowd in front of the Fountain Lawn stage was overflowing with spectators eager to hear what he was all about. DeMarco delivered a show heavy on irreverence and strong on spontaneity. If you haven’t given it a listen yet, stop reading and go out to get a copy of his latest release, Salad Days.
6. Bootsy Collins: Put plainly, the sound of funk music is the sound of Bootsy Collins. For the nearly 40 years since he and his bass were enlisted by the late, great James Brown to lay it down, the man has been an innovator and a performer of the highest caliber. At 10 p.m., with Los Lobos performing off on one stage and the Head and the Heart mid-set in Memorial Stadium, Collins had the grounds around Fisher Green flooded and jumping to some of the greatest funk jams of all time. “Ha da da dee da hada hada da da!”
5. Elvis Costello: No one at Bumbershoot had a greater wealth of material to draw from than this New Wave icon. Costello’s set lasted just 75 minutes, and he used his tight time to play the songs that he knew the crowd had turned out to hear, including “Alison,” “Watching the Detectives,” “What’s So Funny About Peace Love and Understanding,” and “Radio Radio.” If given another 75 minutes, he could have made it through the other half of his impressive list of indelible hits. Come back soon, Mr. MacManus!
4. Schoolboy Q: Chalk this one up as the surprise everyone thought might happen, but still went out of their minds for when it actually did. The L.A. rapper made waves earlier this year with his critically acclaimed release “Oxymoron” and was generally well-received by the early afternoon crowd. All hell broke loose, however, when Seattle’s own Macklemore made a cameo appearance to duet on his song “White Walls.”
3. Big Star’s ‘Third’: Talk about an ensemble! You had half of R.E.M. with Peter Buck and Mike Mills, Greg Dulli from Afghan Whigs, Steve Berlin from Los Lobos, and Mike McCready from Pearl Jam all on hand to perform one of the greatest records ever recorded live in its entirety. The love and passion emoted from each performer on the smaller Starbucks stage for the work of Alex Chilton and Big Star – from the big names to the brass section – was palpable. For those able to watch and listen, it was an unforgettable highlight, and one of those special things you can only find at a festival like Bumbershoot.
2. Wu-Tang Clan: Though the Wu were down a man – Method Man was noticeably absent, presumably gearing up to tour with his pal and collaborator Red Man – it was amazing to see the near complete lineup of one of the greatest rap groups of all time. The first day closing show was dominated by material from their classic record, Enter the Wu: 36 Chambers and every member was given their chance to shine. To his credit, with Ghostface Killah and Raekwon the Chef surrounding him, the leader and producer of the Wu, RZA, stole the spotlight and kept the crowd on their feet and with their hands in the air.
1. The Replacements: Live performance is always best when you don’t know what to expect and that’s one of the greatest appeals of this band. Sometimes it even seemed as if they didn’t know where they were headed next. Through the inside jokes, the fluffed notes, the unexpected covers and a set replete with great music, the Mats managed to make Memorial Stadium as intimate as your local late-night tavern. This was just the group’s ninth performance since reuniting last year, and it was plain for all to see what made them one of the great rock bands.