This year marked the debut of Bumbershoot After Dark, an after hours event held from 10 pm to 4 am on Saturday and Sunday nights in the Exhibition Hall at Seattle Center. Curated and co-produced by Decibel (the organizers of Decibel Festival), it featured sets from seven different DJ acts (one being a duo) across the two nights. Saturday night was anchored by DJ Craze, with The Dowlz and Jokers on the Scene opening and Claude VonStroke closing; Sunday night, DJ Z-Trip was the anchor, Dam-Funk opened, and Four Tet closed. I attended both nights, but unfortunately the logistics of getting home and being up for the next day at Bumbershoot meant that I couldn’t stay late into the night. I only stayed through the beginning of each night’s headlining set, and missed out entirely on the closing acts, Claude VonStroke and Four Tet.
Out of the five acts that I did see, hands down I most enjoyed Dam-Funk, spinning a set of electro-funk, soul, and disco. He was the most engaging, as he actually talked to the audience like a regular radio DJ, announcing the tracks (including the year they were released) as he started them. Not only that, but he would also groove along with them, at times air-drumming or otherwise miming playing one of the instrument parts. And then he took things two steps beyond: first he sang along with some of the tunes, and then he broke out a keytar and played a couple of his own original compositions. That for me was an unexpected delight. Dam-Funk did pull off one feat I found odd: he both filled and killed the dance floor simultaneously, by slowing things way down to a soul beat and then finishing his set by playing an even slower original on his keytar.
Out of the other four acts I saw, I most liked the heavy drum ‘n bass and dubstep The Dowlz spun. For what little I heard of Z-Trip, I didn’t care so much for the heavier hip-hop beats he used, but he was definitely mixing in a variety of other cool song samples, and he won me over when he dropped the Godzilla theme into the mix. I liked Jokers of the Scene but found it a little harder to get into dancing to their mix, and didn’t care as much for what I heard of DJ Craze, though again I only heard just a bit before I had to leave to catch the bus. In any case, all of these acts were certainly working well for most of the audience, as plenty of people were dancing.
I do want to mention the really impressive visual display, though pictures here speak louder than words. The DJs were ensconced in a square cut-out in the midst of a huge wall of videoscreens, with laser arrays on either side of the screen wall and in the middle of the cut-out above the DJs. Videos were projected from the soundbooth in the middle of the floor, which also had a separate laser projecting the DJs names and other visual art onto a side wall of the hall. It was a very cool setup, and enhanced the thrill of the event quite well.
I believe Bumbershoot After Dark is an excellent idea, and Decibel (with One Reel, Seattle Center, and Kaos Theory) did a great job for the inaugural event. I’m looking forward to seeing how it develops.