Bumbershoot 2016 is overwhelming. This weekend the annual festival will turn the Seattle Center into a hive of music fans who’ve shelled out for the hefty ticket price, and are ready to party. Earlier this week, in anticipation of making my personal schedule, I downloaded the app (because of course there’s an app), and was immediately rendered anxious and blabbering by the number of things that can happen in a single weekend at the Seattle Center. Music, comedy, panels, food, pop-up shops, the list goes on. But, dear Jetspace reader, from my toil and my nervous sweating comes your reward: a handy-dandy guide to some of this weekend’s highlights. This list obviously isn’t comprehensive, but it does highlight some acts that you don’t want to miss.
Additionally, since standup comedy is such a large part of the weekend, and since I know nothing about it, I called in a ringer. My good Judy, BFF, newly-minted screenwriter’s PA and bona-fide comedy nerd, Katie B gave me her must-sees. I’ve included some of them as well, so you’re getting twice the guidance in one completely unofficial guide.
Top Picks: Chastity Belt @ 6:40, KEXP
Chastity Belt are one of the best and most important bands currently working and abiding in Seattle. Combining keen social commentary with the diffuse, wry boredom of slacker rock, the ladies of Chastity Belt languidly lay waste to anything that gets in their way and standout tracks like “Cool Slut” oscillate effortlessly between humor and biting political awareness. Lead singer Julia Shapiro has a voice like an avalanche, huge and uncaring, and their live performances vibrate with a rarely seen vulnerability. Don’t. miss. this.
Living Legend: The Blind Boys of Alabama @ 8:30, Starbucks Stage
One of the greatest strengths of this year’s Bumbershoot lineup is that devotes a fair amount of space to amazing acts that might not normally be featured at mainstream pop music festivals. One of these is The Blind Boys of Alabama, a legendary gospel group that has existed since 1939. Historical black music (which, let’s be very clear, has been the primordial breeding ground of every major movement in American popular music for the last century) finally seems to be receiving its due. Who better to celebrate that rich musical heritage than a group that lived through it?
Katie B’s Comedy Must-Sees: Kate Berlant @ 5:30, Vera Project
“Kate Berlant isn’t just a comedian, she’s a goddamn artist. She’s weird and hilarious and subversive and strange and wonderfully feminist. Berlant recently appeared in her own episode of Netflix’s The Characters, an original series showcasing character work of some of today’s best comedic actors, and she brings the same energy to her in-person standup. Her delivery is so singular and specific (a cross between a liberal arts professor and her liberal arts student), I’m convinced she could read the phonebook and make it hilarious.”
Top Picks: Run the Jewels & Anderson .Paak and The Free Nationals @ 7:20 & 6:00, respectively, Memorial stadium
For a description of Run the Jewels, let’s just ask Run the Jewels. Killer Mike, take it away. “The passion of Pac, the depth of Nas, circa nine three/ Mix the mind of Brad Jordan and Chuck D and find me/ I spit with the diction of Malcolm or say a Bun B.” Well ok. Boasts aside, Run the Jewels is one of the most intellectual, socially engaged rap groups currently in the game. Anderson Paak, eschewing political commentary, opts instead for virtuosic impressionism. The hip-hop/ R&B polymath utilizes a sonic palette that transcends genre, and reportedly puts on a riveting live set.
Wild Card: Manatee Commune @ 4:10, KEXP
Manatee Commune (nee Grant Eadie) is a producer/electronic musician/multi-instrumentalist and if you think that series of modifiers is impressive, you should listen to his music. Crafting thoughtful electronica that utilizes analog instruments and orchestral vision, Manatee Commune is a singular local artist.
Local Treasure: Pony Time @ 3:00, KEXP
Pony Time are very funny, which is not exactly a comment on their music but is important nonetheless. I honestly bought their latest album, Rumors 2: The Rumors Are True, because the cover made me laugh (and Fleetwood Mac humor is very personally on-brand). Thank Stevie Nicks I did! Rumors 2 is a phenomenal record, marrying garage rock dynamism with a rare sense of polish and refinement. For some bizarre reason, Pony Time seems to miss out on some of the acclaim accorded their peers Tacocat, Chastity Belt, et al, which is a.) ludicrous and b.) all the more reason you should go support them.
Living Legend: JoJo @ 7:30, Fisher Green
OK, OK, so I may be stretching the definition of “legend” juuuuuust a tad. But remember, I was a tween in the early to mid aughts. As far as I’m concerned, the reemergence of JoJo is nothing short of miraculous. After blessing the world with her R&B-infused, self-titled debut, and a solid follow-up record at the tender age of thirteen and fifteen respectively, and achieving 2000s “it-girl” status, JoJo was mired in a year-long legal battle with her record label that left her unable to release music. However, after overcoming the litigation, JoJo has returned with a vengeance, touting several new releases and a tour.
Katie B’s Comedy Must-Sees: The Improvised Shakespeare Company @ 5:00, Bagley Wright Theatre
“Guys. I know this sounds lame. Improv? Shakespeare? NERD ALERT. But you’d be wrong. It’s not lame. It’s fucking art. The beauty of improv is that each show is new and fresh and created right before your eyes. The beauty of Improvised Shakespeare is that it’s fresh and new and created right before your eyes and then it’s also in the language of and using the themes of the dang Immortal Bard himself. The players are Chicago improv pros and include Thomas Middleditch, star of Silicon Valley and UCB golden boy. You don’t have to love Shakespeare or improv to enjoy it, but if you love either, you’ll absolutely adore this show (and you’re a fucking nerd).”
Top Picks: Kamasi Washington @ 8:00, Starbucks Stage
Kamasi Washington is a celebrated saxophonist who has worked with Snoop Dogg, Flying Lotus, and Raphael Saadiq and who contributed to Kendrick Lamar’s staggering To Pimp a Butterfly. He also made his debut with his own band last year on the three-disc The Epic, which lives up to its name in scope and musical depth. Washington is a prodigious talent and any chance to see him at a festival like Bumbershoot is a real opportunity.
Wild Card: So Pitted @ 3:00, Fisher Green
Local post-punkers So Pitted make sludgy, experimental, fuzzed-out, sweaty bodied, tattoo parlor, garage-core, dark-corner-of-the-internet rock music. So Pitted crash over you on a tidal wave of noise with snarling acerbity, pulling you out into the undertow. Don’t try to resist.
Local Treasure: Shaprece @ 5:35, Fisher Green
Shaprece fold olds R&B and soul into a holographic Mobius strip, flinging you out to the far reaches of the known universe with a voice like the velvet dark. There’s a structural uneasiness to everything Shaprece makes–tonal uneasiness or sometimes bizarre instrumentation–that lends her music an air of melancholy. Even on the standout “Her Song,” which is the closest she ever comes to pop convention, Shaprece focuses on the shadows. Her live show is certain to be an event.
Living Legend: Billy Idol @ 8:30, Fisher Green
There are almost too many reasons to see this. So many questions need answering. Like, what on earth is a Billy Idol show in 2016 going to be like? Has he retained his beautiful elfin cheekbones that are simultaneously intimidating and really, really hot? Please God, tell me he still has those cheekbones. Will leather pants still seem appropriate on a sixty-year-old man? Also Billy Idol is sixty! That’s not even a question, it’s just a statement of fact. And think about the hits: “Dancing With Myself,” “Cradle of Love,” “Mony Mony,” “Rebel Yell,” “White Wedding,” “Hot in the City.” I mean COME ON PEOPLE. I will not be held accountable if you decide not to go.
Katie B’s Comedy Must-Sees: Ron Funches @ 5:00, Bagley Wright Theatre
“It’s been said so many times before, but it bears repeating –Ron Funches is the stoned teddy bear of comedy. His delivery is so gentle and darling that his jokes hit twice as hard because they’re more of a surprise. Even though his jokes seem quiet and adorable on the surface, it’s clear they’re well crafted and finely tuned. They represent his geographical influences- born on the Southside of Chicago and then transplanted to Oregon–somehow both hard-hitting and laid back.”