Sunday at Bumbershoot 2013 was just about as good as it gets at Seattle’s hometown festival. Beginning with Kithkin’s tribal hair-cutting and ending with an incredible turnout in Key Arena for Death Cab For Cutie’s 10th anniversary performance of Transatlanticism and packing pretty much everything else in between, Sunday was a balanced collection of new and old favorites. Present on the lineup were many Barsuk bands, all helping celebrate the label’s 15th anniversary this year (Death Cab among them) with fantastic sets across the board. Overall, not a one in the massive crowds went home unhappy.
If you have yet to see to Seattle’s Kithkin live, there is a piece of your soul that is waiting to be awakened, and it won’t happen until you do. On their Bandcamp, the band describe themselves as “a Cascadian youth tribe”, talking about “the end of things” through use of “witchee rhythms and chaotic sorcery”. This isn’t too far off – the four young men on stage wear masks and paint and they scream and yell and make all kinds of noise, but somehow, it all fits together into a groove, albeit a pagan one. For their epic penultimate track, a haircut was given on stage before further brutal grooving and an ending note going more melodic than the rest. I’m not completely sure about anything I saw on stage, but I did love every minute of it.
California folk rockers The Mowgli’s brought their bright energy to the TuneIn stage early on in the day. Draped in Woodstock garb and rocking a bright jam band sound, they drew a massive crowd for the early hours and got plenty of dancing going. While they might be new faces to a lot of Seattle, it wouldn’t be a bit surprising if their Bumbershoot set garnered a group of new fans.
Barsuk’s Ramona Falls took to the Fountain Lawn stage early on in the afternoon for a great set. Brent Knopf’s music has always rung true in the hearts of the Pacific Northwest – he’s a veteran of the Portland scene, first working with Menomena and now on his own work as Ramona Falls. To no surprise, the set was wonderful and left crowds hungry for more of Sunday’s action.
Opening up the main stage for the day was an excellent set from Tegan and Sara. This year, the Quin sisters have punctured the pop market more than ever with Heartthrob, the ridiculously catchy new LP featuring “Closer”, “Now I’m All Messed Up”, and “I Was A Fool”. Key Arena was packed to the gills full of Tegan and Sara fans as well as Fun. fans (the sisters are on tour with Fun. now), so it was prime opportunity to show off how fantastic they can be live. Sure enough, the Quins rose to the occasion, pulling out all the stops for a massive, interactive set all in the early afternoon. Playing most of the new record as well as old favorites like “Alligator” and “Back In Your Head”, the set catered to fans and new faces alike. Ending the set with the back to back dance floor shock of “Feel It In My Bones” and “Closer”, the Quins opened up the Sunday stage with grace and ease.
Tegan and Sara:
A stalwart of the Seattle scene, it was fun to see David Bazan take the Fountain Lawn stage in the afternoon to an excellent crowd. As the founder of Pedro the Lion and another Barsuk vet, it was to no one’s surprise that the turnout was massive. But for this acoustic set, the crowds went completely silent – a rarity for festival performances. The whole lawn was captivated as Bazan spun his tunes with beauty and ease. Definitely a highlight of the day, David Bazan reminded us once again why he is so well loved on the Seattle scene.
Filling in for Charli XCX’s last minute cancellation on the TuneIn stage was Seattle’s own Katie Kate. Bringing her typical eclectic nature and high-energy performance, Kate kept plenty of attention circulating the stage even with the sudden change-up.
Capitol Hill jam band The Comettes took the Plaza stage in the early afternoon to solid crowd. The band’s 70s rock vibe is tight and impactful, keeping a jam feel while driving forward with excellent song structure and catchy hooks.
Barsuk band Mates of State write excellent songs – that is the one thing that everyone walking away from their Fountain Lawn stage performance knew without question on Sunday afternoon. The husband and wife duo have been doing this for a while, but with time, their spinster skills haven’t depleted. Mixing quirky arrangement and strong harmony, Mates of State gathered a huge crowd across the lawn and not a one left until the end of the set. They brought all of the energy and joy that we have come to expect from them in an excellent festival style set and reminded me (among others) to go home and pull out those Mates of State records once again.
Mates of State:
Bob Mould brought power and grace to the TuneIn stage in the late afternoon. You probably know Mould from his work with Hüsker Dü in the 80s and Sugar in the 90s, but today, Mould keeps things alive with new tunes and new direction. Last year’s Silver Age was an excellent new addition and proves that age is slowing Mould down one bit. Today’s performance was no exception – Mould brought all the fervor and musicianship we could have hoped for in a great set that kept the day’s excellent lineup cruising.
Local band The Grizzled Mighty threw down at the plaza stage. This lively duo has played shows with the likes of Reignwolf and others, and it’s easy to see why: they make a lot of noise and incite a lot of riotous response. The Grizzled Mighty proved their worth and maybe even secured themselves a spot higher up on the bill for next year – altogether, a fantastic set.
The Grizzled Mighty:
After playing a crazy good set at the KEXP music lounge, Tamaryn took to the Fountain Lawn stage to bring their reverberated, watery sound to the masses. Entering with a bouquet of roses and a tamorine, Tamaryn captivated the audience with her surreal onstage vibes. The band sounded excellent – a tight knit drum and bass mixed with infinite layers of reverberated guitar made for a dream of a festival set. In particular, their extended cut of single “Prizma” was phenomenally intense, showering waves of shoegaze goodness out across the crowds. For their first time at Bumbershoot, Tamaryn made quite the impact.
The Breeders made a comeback this year to celebrate the 20th anniversary of their 90s staple Last Splash. Complete with the hit single “Cannonball”, Last Splash has had a lasting impact on plenty of fans around the globe, so it’s fun to see the Breeders putting on this gig for those of us who have loved the album for decades. Kim Deal and the band have pulled out all the stops too, borrowing back gear they used to record 20 years ago and featuring guest performers that appeared on the record just for the hell of it. It was a historical experience for all, and the band wasn’t afraid to make it such for all the fans present. In a fleeting moment of nostalgia and celebration, the Breeders set was a delight for all.
The Zombies may have been a double take on the lineup for a lot of people. After all, the band has been making excellent, progressive pop music since the 60s. In 2011, the band released their 5th studio record in almost as many decades. But far and wide, the Zombies were a heavily anticipated act. Playing old classics like “Time of The Season” as well as the new material, Zombies met this excitement with a very respectable set, leaving no one disappointed.
At around 6:30, the line to the main stage started to reach gawking levels. Crawling all the way around Key Arena, back down the main drag in Seattle center almost all the way to the Plaza stage, the grounds were packed with fans excited to see Barsuk’s excellent anniversary celebration finale. Death Cab For Cutie, together with a great set from Ra Ra Riot, ended Sunday evening with a bang. The band’s 2003 record Transatlanticism has had unspeakable impact on so many of the band’s fans in the decade of its existence that when the band announced it would be doing two shows celebrating the anniversary, not being there was out of the question. As the lights went down and the band entered, Key Arena went nuts. After “The New Year” and “Lightness”, Ben Gibbard stepped up to the microphone and said quietly, “Usually we try and say something witty between songs, but that’s not how an album works, so we are going to play the whole thing through”. From there, Gibbard and the band kept their word. After ridiculous amounts of applause for every track, the band was silent, simply switching instruments and prepping for the next track on the well loved record and playing all the way through. The energy in the room reached cataclysmic levels with the title track, as the entirely of Key Arena sang “So come on!” at the top of their lungs as the band pounded forward. If you were there and your skin wasn’t crawling with goosebumps, then you obviously weren’t actually there. After the quiet power of “The Passenger Seat” and “Death of An Interior Decorator”, the band broke the album’s perfect rhythm to play a phenomenal 11 minute cut of “We Look Like Giants”, complete with a dueling jam-out between Chris Walla on guitars and Nick Harmer on bass, while Gibbard and Jason McGerr pounded out a double drum setup, bringing energy to an all time high. It was everything anyone could ask for. That is, until Gibbard and Walla closed “A Lack of Color” and Ben stepped up to the microphone saying “Thank you… and so closes part 1 of our set tonight”. The place exploded. The band all grinned and started in on the epic jam of “I Will Possess Your Heart”. After a few more favorites, the band exited and re-entered for an encore. For this special closing, the band tended towards the Barsuk years, playing a stripped down cut of “405” and The Photo Album classic “A Movie Script Ending” before closing with Plans favorite “Crooked Teeth”. Altogether, Death Cab couldn’t have closed the night any better – a Seattle favorite for Seattle’s favorite music festival.
Death Cab For Cutie: