Live at Bumbershoot 2014, Day Three: Julianna Barwick, Hurray For The Riff Raff, and Real Estate

photos by Victoria Holt (view set)

Julianna Barwick – 5:30 p.m.

If Julianna Barwick had been placed on an outdoor stage, soundbleed would have all but ravaged her performance, so it’s worth commending the Bumbershoot curators for not only booking such an experimental artist, but also putting her in a venue that she would shine in. As unpredictable as Bumbershoot’s lineup is every year, it doesn’t typically book someone as avant-garde as Barwick, and her ambient creations stood singularly in the weekend. The Brookyln singer/composer’s set was stirring in its ability to conjure emotion without relying on the sensory overload that often dominates festival sets, relying more on a slow-building, free-breathing atmosphere that allows her voice, a hypnotic, siren-esque wail, to shine at the forefront of her electronic instrumentals. With all of the chaos that goes on in the Seattle Center during Bumbershoot, Julianna Barwick’s otherworldly set was unlike anything else that happened over the weekend, and was a welcome, ethereal reprieve from the general business of the Seattle Center.

Hurray For The Riff Raff – 6:15 p.m.

With the release of their major label debut earlier this year, Hurray For The Riff Raff have started to more regularly play festivals, which means they’ve had to figure out how to translate their live show, which was developed in smaller, more intimate settings, to a larger setting. But where some bands stumble in adapting to a larger audience, Alynda Lee Segarra and company have risen to the challenge. The melodies in Segarra’s songwriting aren’t built for audience-baiting call/response sections or chants, but rather, fluid harmony with the band’s arrangements, leading the other members to shine just as much as their frontwoman, particularly Yosi Perlstein’s performance on the fiddle. As “Blue Ridge Mountain” and “Look Out Mama” rang out over the Mural Amphitheatre, the setting sun painted a late summer evening that was as beautiful as they come as Hurray For The Riff Raff brought many Bumbershoot attendees’ weekend to a close.

Real Estate – 9:00 p.m.

“We wrote this song about how much we love playing in Seattle,” said Real Estate guitarist Martin Courtney before playing “Wonder Years”. When the audience laughed, Courtney earnestly replied, “no, really, we did.” Real Estate are a tight, almost mechanical live band in how precise their performances of their already sharply-crafted songs are, but the band’s tautness belies the emotional subtleties of the band’s songs, and on a brisk Monday night, that was more poignant than expected. The ways that Courtney describes the elements of his life is probably fairly relatable for a lot of the Bumbershoot audience (fellow middle-class, artsy-leaning types), but as Vampire Weekend showed on their then-divisive debut, privilege doesn’t always limit one’s self-awareness, much less one’s ability to dissect their surroundings, which is what Real Estate have done with flying colors two albums in a row now. While they aren’t the most frenetic live band in the way that, say, fellow Bumbershooters The Dismemberment Plan or The Replacements are, they’ve always been able to find meaning in seemingly superficial things, which makes comments like the aforementioned shoutout far less insincere than than they appear. Like Bumbershoot 2014 as a whole, there’s a lot of things to like about Real Estate on the surface. They have a great sense of melody and sound great live, but as enjoyable as their musical skill is, they have a level of depth that requires some effort, but leads to a much more rewarding experience. Likewise, Bumbershoot’s lineup heavyweights were undoubtedly some of the best aspects of the festival, but when experienced as a whole, engaging the visual art, the smaller bands, the food, the crowd, and the location, it leads to a more memorable, richer weekend.

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