There’s probably a joke somewhere in the fact that Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats played a rousing workout of a show on Bumbershoot‘s first (and, in quintessential Seattle fashion, only) warm afternoon, but it wouldn’t illustrate the Denver, Colorado-singer’s performance any better than simply saying that his stage-opening set was a clear highlight of Monday afternoon. To say that Rateliff’s transition from pensive folk songwriter to Stax/Volt-style howler has gone well is an understatement – it’s almost shocking that he held back this much energy onstage prior to this project. Playing to one of the afternoon bigger crowds of the weekend only added to Rateliff’s frenzy as he led the Night Sweats up and down the stage, red-faced from shouting out the words to his songs as his white knuckle-tight band followed his every move. Putting an upbeat, crowd-interactive R&B act onstage in the afternoon is a festival programmer’s can’t-fail move, but that’s hardly a bad thing, and if his Bumbershoot performance was any indication of what’s coming next, Rateliff will be leading festival crowds through his soul-bearing and soul-heavy tunes well into next year.
The sun was setting during Minus The Bear‘s performance of “Pachuca Sunrise” at Bumbershoot and in terms of quintessially Seattle moments during the weekend, it was pretty high up there. But corny coincidences aside, the Seattle quartet’s performance, which was a sort-of warmup ahead of this fall’s Menos El Oso anniversary tour) had more than a few non solar-related highlights to it. As the band settled into their staccatto rhythms and nebulously anthemic spaces, they shifted between knotty, borderline-prog workouts and cracking jokes with one another onstage. Jake Snider and co. were clearly having a good time throughout the evening, but their nonchalance nearly masked how sharp the band still sound, and more importantly, how singular their sound and legacy are in Seattle in 2015. During the better part of the 2000s, Minus The Bear were often tagged as a band who never quite made the jump to a bigger stage, but Monday’s loose-but-fantastic evening set made a compelling argument that the group took the right path seeking consistency over popularity.
In a lot of ways, DeVotchKa might have been the most Bumbershoot-esque band at Bumbershoot 2015. The first reaction to Bumbershoot’s lineup has often been surprise at just how wide of a net they try and cast for their audience – even during this year’s AEG-produced lineup, in which Faith No More, of all bands, shares top-line space with pop star Ellie Goudling. Likewise, on paper, DeVotchKa can seem like a band that’s trying to cover as much ground as possible in their output. And that’s not entirely untrue. The Eastern European sounds that anchor their music have been augmented with Eastern strings, punk spirit, Parisian smoothness, cinematic scale, and whatever else Nick Urata and co. have decided to go with, but at the core of their music, there’s a universal sensiblity that appeals to a wide audience. They have songs that are easy to dance to, songs that are built for laying down on the grass and soaking in, songs that play like soundtracks to evenings, songs that sound like they’re built for playing first thing in the morning. And as one of the final acts of the festival, DeVotchKa’s wide appeal couldn’t have been more perfectly placed, serving as the final show for many of the weekend’s attendees. In a grab-bag set that had something for everyone – from diehards to people who couldn’t even pronounce the band’s name on the first try – DeVotchKa, if just for an hour, captured the wide-reaching, diverse Bumbershoot spirit that the Seattle media fretted so much about the festival losing in the week prior to the festival.