The Lonely Forest – 3:30 p.m.
The Lonely Forest played its last ever show (before heading on hiatus) on a drizzly, gray Saturday afternoon to a medium-sized crowd of local fans and their hometown following from Anacortes, and it couldn’t have been any more fitting. Emotional, but never overbearing, the band certainly acknowledged that the band who meant so much to those in attendance (including themselves) was ending, but the show felt like more of a celebration than a funeral. The band’s usual staples – ”Turn Off This Song and Go Outside,” “We Sing In Time,” “Coyote,” the Pacific Northwest tribute “I Don’t Want To Live There” – took on extra significance as a slightly emotional John Van Deusen thanked the crowd in between songs. By the show’s end, the sun had come out, and as Van Deusen and guitarist Tony Ruland crowdsurfed back to the stage, it was clear that this wasn’t The Last Waltz or Shut Up And Play The Hits; it was something more intimate, and for many of the audience members who quite literally grew up with the band, something a little more personal.
Elvis Costello and the Imposters – 6:15
Elvis Costello has always been a little precocious, but, as a recent 60-year old, that he can show up to Bumbershoot – not on a tour or album cycle – and deliver an hour-plus of classics with gusto is something that very of his peers can do. His catalog is one of the broadest in modern rock music, and while he hasn’t put out an album with The Imposters (his backing band on Saturday) since 2008′s great Momofuku, the four musicians remain as taut (and sharply dressed) as ever, plowing through greats like “Radio, Radio”, “Watching the Detectives”, “Everyday I Write The Book”, his cover of Nick Lowe’s “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding”, and more than a few others. Costello’s penchant for restless genre-hopping has defined the last few years of his career (his most recent releases have been collaborations with The Roots and T-Bone Burnett), so Saturday’s set was a refreshingly direct and accessible 70 minutes of (mostly) the garrulous punk-informed rock that Costello cut his teeth on.
The Both – 8:00 p.m.
After charming those who were lucky to attend their set in the KEXP Music Lounge, Ted Leo and Aimee Mann did it again for a bigger audience, but the larger space didn’t take away from the duo (and drummer Matt Mayhall)’s magnetism, either in their personalities or their music. Regarding the latter, the duo filled their time in between songs by continuing a back-and-forth about Hobbits and science fiction that had been going on at least since their Portland show (Leo admitted that he’s a massive Tolkien fan who used to contribute to a Lord of the Rings Usenet group). Musically, The Both’s melodic, smart pop-rock also continued to resonate, with “Hummingbird” and “Milwaulkee” serving just as much as highlights from Mann and Leo’s solo catalogs, represented by the set closing pair of ‘Til Tuesday’s “Voices Carry” and Leo’s “Bottled in Cork”. Relaxed and engaging from the beginning, The Both’s nighttime set was a reminder of two great songwriters, one great collaborative project, and, if music fails, one great potential podcasting duo.
The Afghan Whigs – 10:00 p.m.
With barely any between-song chatter, a new drummer (The Raconteurs’ Patrick Keeler), and an hour’s worth of pummeling, three-guitar attacks, The Afghan Whigs continued their reunion campaign on Saturday night, reminding the audience that, in the thick of a slew of 1994 retrospectives, they were always a singular, underrated force during their initial run. Playing the majority of their excellent reunion album, this year’s Do To The Beast, harder and faster than the recorded versions, frontman Greg Dulli and company pulled no punches, augmenting those songs with other Afghan Whigs staples (“Gentleman”, “Fountain And Fairfax”), a choice cover (“Heaven on Their Minds” from Jesus Christ Superstar), and a massive, rousing closing version of “Faded”. It’s rare that a band continues onto a new album cycle after the seemingly-inevitable reunion tour these days, and even rarer that said band makes a good album to continue to tour behind, but the Afghan Whigs have done just that.
Mavis Staples – 10:00 p.m.
Set against the ruckus of Wu-Tang Clan and the crime scene confessionals of the Afghan Whigs, Mavis Staples brought Bumbershoot home on Saturday night. Backed by a top-notch backing band dressed in black, the red-clad Staples proved to be as warm and amiable as she was in 1967, and her voice remains a powerful, incomparable tool. Although there were cuts from her recent Jeff Tweedy-produced albums, the unmistakable highlights of the set were when she dipped into The Staple Singers’ catalog; singing “I’ll Take You There”, “If You’re Ready (Come Go With Me)”, and “Let’s Do It Again” on a brisk Seattle night are surely moments that won’t be forgotten by the crowd. Lots of festivals close out their festivities with spectacles, but the calm, familial atmosphere of Mavis Staples’ Saturday night set was a brilliant, beautiful contrast to those shows: a legend from another era coming transcending decades to sing with and remind us that we are not alone.