We all complain about festivals; don’t lie, you do it too. We say they’re annoying, that they clog up the city, that they attract affluent Bellevue bros like rats to a Cal Anderson trash can. Except in this case the trash can charges a bajillion dollars for entry and the rats leave, drunk off their asses, and end up terrorizing some poor service-industry rat who’s just try to get home to watch the rat equivalent of Game of Thrones. And it’s true. But if you peel off the layers of irony that cover your body, that cling to all full-grown Seattleites like a weird fungus, they can actually be a lot of…fun?
Over the weekend, I experienced real highs and very real lows. I was almost mobbed by a herd of teenagers chanting “Trump, Trump, Trump” in what I think was a joking manner – sweet Jesus, let it have been a joke – and I found time to ruminate on my two-year anniversary of moving to Seattle whilst ZZ Ward did her swampy rock star thing. It was a weird time, but a good time. Let me give you the low-down.
I always seem to forget how much I like Acapulco Lips (let’s blame that on the poppers). They’re just a good band. They played an instrumental about weed, songs about death and love, and a song that charted in Mexico. Literally what else could you ask for?
I don’t think that I realized how much of a jam band Chicano Batman is. They’re very cool, very suave, and their music is smooth, but WOWEE do they jam! They’re like a Latinx Dave Matthews Band with better everything. Their songs are good enough that I almost didn’t mind the jamming. Almost.
I did not see Slushii, because I am not fourteen and the only thing I get high on is Life (and marijuana) but here is a list of things that I saw/heard while walking past the line to see him: a girl yelling “Slushii time! Slushii time!” as she ran past me and her boyfriend cloaked me in a veritable cumulonimbus cloud of vape smoke; a girl going to the medical tent; another girl in a very cute maxi dress drunkenly falling down; an aggro bro fighting with his girlfriend and repeatedly yelling “KENZIE IT’S FINE!” in a manner that suggested that it was not fine. At this point it was 7:32 p.m..
Before ZZ Ward’s set, I wandered over to the Mural Amphitheatre and spent a lot of time staring at the Space Needle and the skyline of the city behind it. I thought about how I moved to Seattle two years ago with very little money, no place to live, and no job. I thought about how crazy that is, and I thought about how easy it is to be negative about this city – the rising costs and displacement and all the other things we yell about in bars at 1am. Yet despite all of that, it was hard not to feel grateful while staring at the city lights at night, watching them glimmer like tinsel in a blue night.
Then I went to Flo Rida’s set and all of that evaporated because it was ACTUALLY INSANE. First, I got caught in the middle of the all-ages section, crushed by a wave of prepubescent bodies. At one point during the pre-show, a group of teens started chanting something that turned into “USA!” and then into a smattering of what I think was “Trump!” Maybe I totally misheard, but at that point my faggoty ass, cloaked in an NKOTB t-shirt and a vintage blouse, wasn’t taking any chances. I made my way to the side of the stage where I thought I was cool until SUDDENLY men in dark clothes started grabbing women from the audience. I later realized that it was the crew bringing ladies on stage for “Where Dem Girls At” (surprisingly a man whose name is literally the three syllables of a state isn’t into subtlety?). But in the dark, high on anxiety and lack of food, I truly believed that I was witnessing a Flightplan situation and frankly I do not have the constitution of Jodie Foster. Once I escaped, I located my friends and watched the rest of the set which was, I realized, TOTALLY BONKERS. Mr. Rida brought a girl up on stage and had her sing the chorus to “Wild Ones” and then talked about his dead sister and then suddenly fireworks went off and he was dousing everyone in champagne and then, a la Roxxxy Andrews, he whipped off his soaked black tank top to reveal…ANOTHER BLACK TANK TOP! Wow. I’m exhausted just reliving that.
Madeline Kenney is lovely and stirring. I listened to her and thought about how the bay Area is killing the dream-pop game these days.
Kevin Abstract had more fun than anybody else at Bumbershoot and I will go to the mat to defend that statement.
I headed to Weezer‘s set assuming it would be pretty good. I’m not a Weezer superfan, so I figured it would be enjoyable, but ultimately function as the appetizer for Lorde. Like mozzarella sticks but with more hang ups about masculinity. But quite honestly, the set was amazing. You can’t fault Weezer for not understanding what the people want; they played all the hits, there were costume changes, and they covered “Hey Ya.” There was also something strangely awe-inspiring about seeing a band predicated on Rivers Cuomo’s excavations of his own neuroses get blown up to a cosmic scale.
And then Lorde happened. All the haters can hate, but WOW LORDE WAS SO GOOD. She took the stage, backed by a crew of dancers dressed in matching powder blue clothing, and for an hour she luxuriated on stage, dancing in her bizarrely compelling way and monologuing about parties and boys in between songs. Full disclosure: I cried a little during “Green Light.” How could you not??
I spent most of Sunday watching comedy (although I did watch most of White Reaper’s very solid set). The afternoon culminated in a back-to-back-to-back lineup of Joel Kim Booster, Debra Digiovanni, and Guy Branum in which I visibly annoyed other audience members with the volume of my laughter. Booster is snide and warm simultaneously. Debra Digiovanni is a comedic blitzkrieg – all flailing limbs and pedal-to-the-medal timing. Guy Branum told jokes about flagging and chided the straight white men in the room for a particularly tepid response to his call for applause by saying “Not very loud for people who literally control everything in the world.” IT WAS AMAZING.
Last and most high was Solange, who ascended to this mortal plane and alighted on a stage of red – red fabric, red light, red-clad instrumentalists. She proceeded to smolder through an entirely cohesive performance of dance and song that pulled from both her immaculate album A Seat at the Table and the prismatic EP True. She cajoled, she comforted, she screamed and looked grotesque. She existed with a kind of fierce vulnerability that revolutionary. It was the kind of set that reminds you what music is for.