Well, that’s a wrap on another year! Bumbershoot 2014 closed out with yet another incredible day on Monday, seeing the last good weather before a big rain and the last tour appearance by several bands before heading back to the studio. But the farewells were all in great spirits - fantastic sets abounded throughout the day. Seattle R&B wonder Shaprece and Tendai Maraire’s Chimurenga Renaissance both dominated the End Zone stage early in the afternoon before Twin Shadow and Nada Surf took the Fountain Lawn stage by storm as the night cooled off. Then capping off our 2014 festivities was a blistering set from rockabilly veterans The Reverend Horton Heat - what a way to end one of Bumbershoot’s most eclectic years yet.
Shaprece may currently be Seattle’s best kept secret for electronic R&B magic, but that won’t be the case for long. She is set to drop a full length album this fall and when that happens, there’s no question that she’ll explode. Until then, it seems like it’s just going to be one brilliant show after another for Shaprece, this Bumbershoot appearance being no exception. Shaprece started Monday’s action off wonderfully, with an excellent set and a great crowd excited to see the singer up close and personal while they can.
Bringing all kinds of wonders to the End Zone stage before J. Cole took the mainstage, Tendai Maraire’s Chimurenga Renaissance made for a beautiful addition to the Monday Bumbershoot action. Maraire may be most famous for his brilliant work in Shabazz Palaces, but with Renaissance, he takes his musical explorations back to their roots, pulling heavily from traditional Zimbabwean music and adding a modern hip-hop flair. As Maraire’s father is credited with bringing this music to the Pacific Northwest, it is incredible to see progressive hip-hop acts carrying the torch forward. Plus, anyone dissatisfied with the amount of mbira that appears on Shabazz classic “An echo from the hosts that profess infinitum” got plenty more here today. Acts like Chimurenga Renaissance remind us that we of the Pacific Northwest truly are spoiled with the amount of eclectic brilliance that emanates from this area.
Seriously, is there any cooler band out there than Twin Shadow? Decked head to toe in leather, George Lewis Jr. rips one murderous guitar solo out after another, belting out his 80s power ballads while synthesizers and drum machines keep the rhythm moving forward and an Andy Warhol double pumps out infectious bass lines. Aesthetically alone, Twin Shadow are a festival necessity, but top their new wave biker gang characteristic with a dozen radio-ready power pop tracks about love lost and you have yourself a surefire winner. Bumbershoot was Lewis’s last tour stop before he and the band return to the studio for album #3. That being said, forward thinking was definitely the name of the game here today. Only one track – all time classic “Castles In The Snow” – came from debut Twin Shadow LP Forget, and for that matter, only a handful came from 2012’s excellent Confess. New material and new angles seemed to dominate the mood here today. Newest Twin Shadow single “To The Top” had the whole crowd singing at the top of their lungs, while Grand Theft Auto V contribution “Old Love/New Love” had a dance pit going crazy. And to top it all, Lewis ended the set with Confess classic “Run My Heart”, extending the outro and mixing in a bit of Sade Love Deluxe classic “No Ordinary Love”. To answer the question posed at the beginning of this paragraph, no, there really isn’t.
After playing a stellar KEXP session earlier in the day, long-time Barsuk favorite Nada Surf took the Fountain Lawn stage for a fantastic performance. The band will begin recording on a new record shortly, but for the time being, here today they drew a massive crowd and put on a spectacle for fans of any length of time. The set we got to hear today was a special one, with material as old as Proximity Effect’s “80 Windows” to the breathtaking “Jules and Jim” from the band’s 2012 LP The Stars Are Indifferent To Astronomy. Everywhere in between, Nada Surf reminded us how deeply effective their mixture of melancholy melody and compassionate introspection can be. For The Weight Is A Gift classic “What Is Your Secret?”, Matthew Caws enlisted the backup vocal talents of fellow Barsuk stalwart John Roderick, who helped the band out on the record back in the day as well. Hearing the two together on stage today was a priceless treat. The band’s set moved back in time as it went along, and by the time Nada Surf got to 2003 classic Let Go, they had the crowd wearing their hearts on their sleeves. For “Inside of Love”, Caws convinced the crowd to do a two-step back and forth throughout, which, judging by the size of the crowd, I’m sure looked amazing from the stage. To end the set, the band pulled out a party-ready deep cut – The Weight Is A Gift’s “Blankest Year” – to which long time fans freaked out. Nada Surf continue to be one of the most consistent and moving live bands there are out there, and we couldn’t be happier to see them here today with a great crowd and great friends more than willing to join the fun.
Closing out Bumbershoot 2014 with a bang were The Reverend Horton Heat, who took the Starbucks stage to its knees Monday night. Twenty-odd years later, the rockabilly suckerpunch of “Psychobilly Freakout” still puts chills down your spine. Maybe it’s Jim Heath’s maniacal laugh, but more likely, it’s the way he shreds his guitar to pieces without even acting like it takes effort. Meanwhile Jimbo Wallace moves with inhuman speed up and down his stand up bass while Scott Churilla keeps the pace at breakneck speed from the drum set. The band only lets up on the energy when they want the scorching flame beneath them to simmer a bit. For “Loaded Gun”, a slow six lets Heath make every guitar accent spark like a flame in the dark. The band’s mixture of dance, sex, and hellfire hasn’t seemed to age a day. But even without 20 years to age the classics, the Reverend Horton Heat sound as good as new on the fresh material. “Smell of Gasoline” and “Let Me Teach You How To Eat” from the 2014 record Rev were among the highlights of the set. Oh yeah, then later, Wallace drops the bass so Heath can solo on top of it while Wallace continues to play on a horizontal. That was pretty great too.
The Reverend Horton Heat: