Three Imaginary Girls: Our beloved Bumbershoot picks and misses

Chona Kassinger

Every year I hear and/or say the same things about Bumbershoot -- it’s too expensive, the lines are too long, the lineup isn’t as good as it has been (or as good as Sasquatch or Capitol Hill Block Party), I’m skipping it this year (or this’ll be my last one), they booked Fergie, etc... It’s quite the monstrosity, yes, but we go every year even as the lines get longer and the tickets get more expensive. Maybe it’s because we have Labor Day plans by default or maybe the masochists in us enjoy all that. Or maybe it’s the existential arguments we have with ourselves about whether we go see Beck, !!! or Nada Surf on Saturday night (!!! for the win).

Still, for all the bitching we hear about Bumbershoot, we also have Bumbershoot memories that transcend long lines, expensive tickets and appearances by Fergie. For me, I will always remember the acoustic Black Rebel Motorcycle Club set in the KEXP Music Lounge and the final Lillydale show from last year. Every year, Bumbershoot really does book the best local bands, and it is an excellent chance to see the many of the same bands that we have really wanted to see but were never able to because it’s sometimes difficult to fit in a Tuesday night at the High Dive into our already busy days. Last year, I was blown away by The Fucking Eagles, who quickly became one of my favorite rock bands in the Northwest. Asking if the well-meaning but not clued-in guy at the official record kiosk if they carried the CD by The Fucking Eagles was priceless (they didn’t, but Easy Street Records did).

This year there isn’t any act that whose appearance will complete part of my life, but that is similar to last year. It was, and is, a solid lineup with lots of excellent bands worth your time. Earlier in the year, a musician friend asked me to write her one-page biography, which I readily agreed to do. It was unusual for me to see it being excerpted directly into the Bumbershoot guide online (which was perfectly acceptable -- it was a more a press release and much less a review and I’m no Neil Kinnock). Because of that (or maybe because of tight deadlines and laziness on my part, I can’t be sure), I’m going to crib from my own reviews and offer a few recommendations based on stuff I’ve already written and artists I’ve already seen.

Beehive at Wells Fargo Stage - Saturday, September 30 at noon
Beehive is largely a classic rock band put through the filter of an electronic duo. Using mostly guitars (with lots of reverb), synths, laptops and a drum machine, David Miller and one-named band member Alethea (who also goes by the name “Butterfly Beats”) craft a sound that is not too dissimilar to fellow-travelers like LCD Soundsystem. At one point late in the set they even brought to mind a psychedelic jam band -- with programming. The next song they rocked an unexpected cover of “Helter Skelter.” (October 24, 2007)

Nada Surf at Starbucks Stage - Saturday, September 1 at 8:45p
Nada Surf is a rare band that crafts songs that sound equally well acoustic and plugged-in. Caws’ harmonies worked especially well without being obscured by reverb and distortion. Most of the songs were slowed down and mellow but the evening ended in a celebratory fashion. Playing “Blankest Year,” Caws got the crowd to sing along to the “ah fuck it” parts in the chorus. (February 4, 2008)

Sons and Daughters at the Rockstar Stage - Sunday, September 1 at 8:45p
When Sons and Daughters played at Neumo’s last Tuesday, it is easy to see why they have become critical favorites (at least here at TIG). Their set was loud, and equally tight and sloppy (which is possible but harder to pull off than it sounds). They blew through songs throughout their catalogue, especially focusing on This Gift. My favorite song of theirs, “Gilt Complex,” was the opening track and it only improved from there. Other favorites like “Dance Me In” and “Darling” (which Bethel said was a number one hit back home and a pro-abortion song) were also greeted well by the appreciative crowd. (May 5, 2008)

The Saturday Knights at Fisher Green Stage - Sunday, September 1 at 7:45p
[T]here is no real definitive “Saturday Knights sound.” There are 13 songs on the album -- and the worst you can say about any one of them is that it is merely “very good” -- and not one sounds like the one that precedes or follows it. It is the most consistently solid but inconsistently sounding record I’ve heard in a while. On “I Go”, they employ a Van Halen-like guitar intro (from Soundgarden’s Kim Thayil) and follow it with “The Gospel”, a Southern Rock/country ditty that bears little to (but not to none of) the hip hop sound that runs through quite a bit of Mingle. (June 30, 2008)

Ingrid Michaelson at Starbucks Stage - Sunday, September 1 at 8:45p
Playing songs mostly from Girls and Boys, Michaelson sounded understated and lovely through Nectar’s PA system. Her first song, “Breakable,” immediately reminded me of Regina Spektor, and at other times she appeared to have been influenced by listening to Cole Porter musicals. Michaelson captivated the crowd for most of the night with her low-key, but often very pretty, singing and her clever stage banter. She sat down and played a keyboard throughout most of her 70 minute set, only joined by another young woman to play guitar and sing backing harmonies. (January 25, 2008)

Dan Deacon at Exhibition Hall Stage - Monday, September 2 at 4:15p
What Deacon did was bring lots of people (many of whom were stepping inside of a rock club like Neumo’s for the first time) out of their homes on a Sunday night for a set that was always engaging and entertaining. I saw several Dungeons and Dragons nerds dancing on the stage. His fans sang along to every word when there were words and danced when there weren’t. He’s a populist who tries to get everyone involved in the show. Some of his songs I really enjoy, others I’m not feeling. His music is often disjointed and lacking a cohesive structure (but that’s my problem, not his), so of course it’s going to be hit or miss. I may not always like the destination, but that doesn’t mean I’m not happy to go along for the ride. (January 24, 2008)

See you out and about,
Chris Burlingame
*Three Imaginary Girls*

(Three Imaginary Girls is a Seattle-based website that showcases the great music of the Northwest and beyond to music lovers worldwide. We post a Seattle live show calendar to help you fill your day-planner with loads of great shows, as well as record reviews, live show reviews, and an imagi-blog to entertain you throughout the day.)

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