Bumbershoot will be upon us in a matter of days now, and the lineup is looking better than ever. Even if the weather doesn’t cooperate, the bill of amazing artists that will be at the Seattle Center on Saturday alone will be cause to gleefully prance around in the rain from stage to stage...or something like that. Here’s a rundown:
STAR ANNA & THE LAUGHING DOGS (1:15-2:15 - Starbucks Stage)
Star Anna is a singer/songwriter from Ellensburg (that’s right) with an rich, powerful, and incredibly affecting voice that is nothing short of trance-inducing. Along with her band The Laughing Dogs, she plays soulful alt-country with a raw, electrified punch that gives the music an intensity that complements Anna’s slow passion perfectly. They’re getting ready to start recording a third album, so expect for them to test drive a few new songs in front of the live audience.
THE MALDIVES (3:00-4:00 - Starbucks Stage)
If you aren’t familiar with The Maldives by now you just plain haven’t been paying attention. The local alt-country ensemble led by singer and guitarist Jason Dodson have been playing everywhere that will have them as of late, to the point where it just doesn’t seem right if a local festival doesn’t have them on the lineup -- just in the past month or so they’ve played the Doe Bay Music Festival, the Capitol Hill Block Party, and the No Depression Festival. Naturally then, seeing their name in print doesn’t arouse the same level of excitement as it used to, and it’s easy to forget just how good they are. They never fail to remind you though, and though I’d already seen them several times, I was absolutely blown away by their jammed-out extended version of “Blood Relations” at the Block Party. Well, it’s been a few months now, and I think I’m ready to be reminded again. Stop by for yourself and see what I’m talking about.
JUSTIN TOWNES EARLE (4:45-6:00 - Starbucks Stage)
I only need to see Justin Townes Earle‘s name to know that I’d pay to see him play. He’s the son of Steve Earle, who named him after Townes Van Zandt. I think I’m going to like what I’m about to hear. Initial namesake-related associations aside, Justin Townes Earle plays great Tennessee country in his own right, and while clearly his father’s son, he’s reached the point as a performer where he’d be turning heads if his name was John Doe. He clearly takes his cues from the originators of the genre, playing country the way it was meant to be played. His songs are timeless and fresh at the same time, and his latest album Harlem River Blues is full of feel-good blues songs that will make you smile in appreciations that JTE is carrying on the tradition, while expanding on it at the same time. If you can’t make it out to the Seattle Center on Saturday, he’ll be playing live, on the air from KEXP’s Music Lounge at 1:15 PM.
THE BUDOS BAND (5:30-6:45 - Fisher Green Stage)
The Budos Band, the instrumental Afro-funk outfit from Staten Island, play forcefully smooth lounge rhythms that sound like they could be the soundtrack to a 70s action-soul movie. More generally, their music is basically the soundtrack to cool, and all of their funky, horn-laden breaks are interminably groovable. They just released their third album Budos Band III on Daptone Records weeks ago, and it’s more of the same goodness and is already garnering acclaim. This performance will be something to behold if for nothing else than for the sheer number of musicians that will be binging it on stage (at least 10). And like Justin Townes Earle, The Budos Band will be playing live on KEXP from the KEXP Music Lounge at 2:30. If you’re listening in your car, resist the urge to get into a high speed chase through the city.
BOB SCHNEIDER (6:45-8:00 - Starbucks Stage)
Perhaps having the opposite effect of Justin Townes Earle’s, Bob Schneider‘s name seems to actually repel people from his music, or at least giving it a try, sounding nerdy, banal, and not befitting of someone you’d want to pay money to see -- most people probably expect for him to sound like a C-list comedian trying to play a guitar. It really is a shame though, because it’s at least partially contributed to his being one of the most under-appreciated musicians of the past 10 or 15 years. I’ve probably seen Bob Schneider live 20 times in that time span, and he’s brought it every single, mother-fucking (as he would say) time. He’s been an incredibly prolific and versatile songwriter, an even more prolific touring musician, and has written some of the best lyrics I’ve heard. His albums have softened up and gotten a little sappily romantic over recent years (he is 45 years old now, but amazingly hasn’t seem to have aged), but with Schneider it’s ALL about the live show and he has been rocking crowds in Austin and around the country for over twenty years (Bob Schneider live basically taught me how to party when I was growing up). He’s a badass pleasure-seeker and gentle, romantic heartthrob all at the same time, and has stayed as down-to-earth as it gets through everything. Considering the conflicting schedule is pretty slim when he comes on at 6:45, there’s no excuse not to at least check him out.
NEKO CASE (7:15-8:30 - Main Stage)
The lovely Northwest favorite Neko Case should be one of the highlights Saturday when she Main Stage at 7:15, directly preceding Bob Dylan. Her latest album Middle Cyclone sounds great, and her smoothly exuberant country pop will be a delightful mid-evening warm up for the festival headliner.
From Middle Cyclone: Neko Case - People Got A Lotta Nerve (MP3)
EDWARD SHARPE & THE MAGNETIC ZEROS (7:30-8:45 - Broad Street Stage)
For all of you locally inclined music fans, think of Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros as a psychedelic, tripped-out version of The Head and the Heart that sound like they came out of 1960s San Francisco. They definitely have the feel-good, family band vibe going, and their communal, celebratory music is incredibly infectious. Since the release of their amazing 2009 debut album Up From Below, they’ve been feverishly making the festival rounds, passing on the good vibes to as many people as they can all over the country (you might remember their powerful set at Sasquatch! a few months ago when lead man Alex Ebert, formerly of Ima Robot, came down into the crowd). Their live show is one of the most positive, uplifting musical experiences you can have, the highlight of which (if I have to pick one) is co-front person Jade’s voice, which is absolutely soul-piercing (see video below). The entire band is great though, and I wouldn’t recommend missing this show if you can help it.
BOB DYLAN (9:00-10:30 - Main Stage)
You’ll be hard-pressed to find a bigger Bob Dylan fan than myself. When I was sixteen I drove from Dallas to Oklahoma City by myself to see him play at a minor league baseball park. I ended up missing the show in Oklahoma City, but was able to see him the next night, and the last date on the tour, in Kansas City (really long story). That was my first experience seeing the man himself live, and I was so caught up in the fact that Bob Dylan was mere feet away from me that he could have been playing the triangle and drooling on himself and I still would have thought it was the best show I had ever seen. I’ve seen him twice since then, once at another festival and once at Key Arena, and have been relatively bummed-out both times. It’s admirable that’s he’s still doing it, but his live chops have deteriorated to the point that it’s often hard to even recognize what song he’s playing, especially if you’re only familiar with the album versions (at one show it took me a good minute and a half to realize that he was playing one of my favorite songs of his, “Stuck Inside of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again”). While freaks of nature like The Rolling Stones can still kick the ass of an entire stadium, Bob Dylan has aged like the rest of us, and his live show in 2010 is probably not going to resemble the Bob Dylan most of us know and love. Nevertheless, it IS Bob Dylan, and just seeing the greatest songwriter of all time perform live is something to be remembered forever; we should be thankful that he’s still touring so that a whole new generation can say that they saw him. Aside from the sentimental aspect, it will undoubtedly be a good feel-good show to see at the end of the day (I know I will be there). Just don’t except too much more than that.
THE RAVEONETTES (9:30-10:45 - Broad Street Stage)
Psychedelic indie pop duo The Raveonettes are fittingly playing after dark. Their music, ripe with desolate, discordant, reverberating guitar riffs and Sune’s effortless vocals, will be a worthy alternative to Bob Dylan and Visqueen. And though it’s a shame they’re all going on at about the same time, fear not, because they’ll be playing live on KEXP from the Music Lounge at 5:30 PM.
VISQUEEN (9:45-10:45 - EMP Sky Church)
Saturday at Bumbershoot is going to be a great day for female vocalists: you have Star Anna, Neko Case, Jade of Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros, Sune of The Ravonettes, and closing out the day at the Sky Church stage, Rachel Flotard of Visqueen. The local band is a favorite of anyone around Seattle, and there should be a huge crowd out to see them Saturday night. The band took a hiatus in the middle of the decade so that Flotard could care for her ailing father before releasing Message To Garcia last year. The album, full of familiar feel-good power pop and rock, has been universally praised and only enlivened the Northwest’s love for the band. Live appearances have been rare, however, (although Flotard did open for Black Francis at the Triple Door the other week), so you can bet that every Visqueen fan within driving distance will be bubbling over with excitement when they take the stage Saturday night. They’ll also be playing live on KEXP at 3:45 PM!