Festival Review: Day 2 of Bumbershoot 2023 in Seattle, WA

A little rain and some clouds never slowed Seattle down as day two of the Bumbershoot Festival weekend kicked off. Sunscreen was swapped with raincoats as attendees spread across Seattle Center, the Space Needle towering above the five stages of music. Just like the day before, it was wall-to-wall, non-stop entertainment until noise curfew, capping off a triumphant weekend for Bumbershoot’s revival.

Local funk and soul outfit True Loves kicked off the Fountain Stage with a joyous set, the brass section humming as guitarist Jimmy James smiled from side to side while wailing out riffs. Seattle locals Beverly Crusher kicked off the Vera Project’s stage in style. The trio delivered hard-hitting songs with catchy, singalong punk melodies, grungy distortion, and face-melting solos. They had a fun set and packed the room early to start the day out right.

Out at the Fisher Stage, Shannon And The Clams delivered a refreshing set of garage surf rock with a flare of doo-wop. Shannon performed the night before with Hunx And His Punx, which was also a really fun set. The Rebirth Brass Band are a staple of New Orleans, and their set at Fountain Stage was really good. I ran into several folks who asked if it was band from HBO’s Treme, but the full group’s history goes back 40 years. It was just pure joy and dancing, photographers in the pit doing a half-dance-half-work shuffle as one turned to me and shouted, “You havin’ fun?!” then promptly went back to it.

Russian anti-fascist group Pussy Riot came up next, with a blend of performance art and dance pop with flares of guttural screams straight out of a metalcore tour. The celebrity of the group was on full display as fans and media alike swarmed to catch some of their provocative set. Cassandra Lewis started off the KEXP Stage with a toast to the crowd and a little story about how she had just escaped from Burning Man to make it on time for the festival (and pointed out that her ex was still stuck there). Her voice was strong and commanding, a mix of country and soul, all while lyrics elicited laughter and smiles through the set.

South Africa’s own Uncle Waffles came up next at the Fountain Stage, announced by the crowd chanting “Waffles!” over and over. She started the project during the beginning days of COVID-19 lockdown, growing a following online, and that translated to a great draw at the festival that was ready to dance and party.

Valerie June marked her return to Bumbershoot and delivered a powerful set, a blend of R&B, soul, jazz, and folk. Her voice rang out in the chorus of “Call Me A Fool” then moved to a warm smile as she strummed her guitar. At this point, I was able to hurry over for a few songs of locals Them, a young pop group out of West Seattle. The room was packed when I got there. They commented that several of the members had just graduated high school a few months prior, making me feel ancient. After that, they played a beautiful rendition of The Head And The Heart’s “Rivers and Roads” as a bubble machine floated bubbles across the stage.

Descendents at the Fisher Stage was a highly anticipated set for me, and they did not disappoint. The band started by making a joke about heart attacks, referencing their singer Milo’s recent health scare, and then Milo came on stage and made a heart exploding motion with his hands and stuck his tongue out wide. They immediately jumped into “Everything Sux” and rocketed through a massive 28-song set, hitting a wide range of the band’s catalog over the years. The whole time, they were tight, energetic, and sounded great. At one point, Milo jumped down from the stage up to the barricade of the crowd, and one thing was for sure, Descendents have no intentions of slowing down.

When Bumbershoot veterans Band of Horses took the stage, singer Ben Bridwell unfurled a Sonics banner proudly to the raucous applause of the Seattle crowd. The band opened up with “Is There A Ghost,” a perfect, dreamy intro to their packed-full set that featured mostly songs from their first two albums Everything All The Time and Cease To Begin. Between songs, Ben smiled and sighed, then said how much they had been looking forward to that evening and how good it was to be playing the festival again.

Jawbreaker came out and launched into “I Love You So Much It’s Killing Us Both.” They sounded tight and true to sound. Next they went into “Chemistry” and then dipped back in time a little more for “The Boat Dreams From The Hill.” About half the set was from the band’s 1995 album Dear You, with sprinkles of their other albums mixed around the set. The band sounded great, and they approach the set with no extra flashes and thrills or light shows, just get the stage lights on and play the music folks want to hear. They finished up with “Unlisted Track” into “Accident Prone.” As the last note rang out, Blake thanked everyone and waved goodbye.

Phantogram started off their set in a cloud of stage fog and dark red lights to the beats of “Don’t Move,” but about half way through the song, someone in the crowd had an emergency that caused singer Sarah Barthel to call on the rest of the band to stop. Once everything was good with the crowd, Sarah said that they would play the song over. The set featured a lot of songs off Voices and Three, the songs ringing out through the plaza of the Mural Amphitheatre stage as the dark night took over.

Algernon Cadwallader closed out the Vera Stage’s programming for the evening, another packed set in the room. I missed a couple songs on my way over from overlapping sets, but I made it just in time for “If It Kills Me.” The band had an absolutely stacked set of songs, about an hour of music including two-thirds of the album Some Kind Of Cadwallader, and they sounded true to form. New Orleans’ own The Revivalists opened up the final set of the Fountain Stage with the catchy “Good Old Days,” saxophone ringing out in the chorus. Singer David Shaw worked the crowd, jumping down to the barrier multiple times, backlit by the Space Needle’s spire. The band’s blend of genres made for a fun set, mostly compromised of songs from the band’s latest album Pour It Out Into The Night.

The last artist of the weekend was finally here, the one everyone asked about through the whole weekend to see who was going to catch the set. Fatboy Slim took the Mural Stage, a space that felt way too small to contain an artist as anticipated as he. He came out arms spread wide to the piano of “Praise You” ringing out. What came next was a non-stop sweaty dance party expertly mixed and executed. “Don’t Stop Me Now” by Queen rang out next to everyone singing along the lyrics and then the night really got started. “Eat Sleep Rave Repeat” shouted out boldly on the LED screens on stage as the crowd shouted back. “Sex On The Streets” made the crowd go especially wild, and artists like New Order and The Rolling Stones had mixes featured as well. It was quite the memorable set, and certainly the best way to cap off the weekend.

Bumbershoot may have taken a few years off due to the prior organizers moving on and the COVID-19 pandemic, but new management came in with a renewed purpose to get back to its roots. The effort has paid off. The weekend was packed full of music, fashion shows, film screenings, and an all-out embrace of the arts that made Bumbershoot a community event when it started. Organizers seem confident in the renewal and have eyes now on the future: “We’ve only just begun.”

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