The Twenty Best Live Music Shows I Saw at Bumbershoot 2012 [Photo Gallery]
Now that the Bumbershoot tsunami has subsided, it’s time to sift through my photos of some 41 (holy cow!) bands and offer some sort of overview of what I saw and heard.
I enjoyed all of the acts that I caught this weekend on Bumbershoot’s smaller stages, and discovered more than a few pleasant surprises (more on that later this week). But of all of the live music performances I witnessed last weekend, these twenty were the most prominent keepers for me.
20) M.Ward (Tunein Stage, Saturday): Sometimes, artists as dusky and dark as M. Ward can get swallowed up by a big festival setting. But sometimes (as was the case Saturday), they deliver magic.
19) Keane (Tunein Stage, Sunday): The unabashed radio-ready enormity of Keane’s sound is so inarguably un-hip, that excess baggage almost obscured the anthemic, clarion beauty of their set Sunday night. Almost, but not quite.
18) The Young Evils (Promenade Stage, Sunday): If ever there was a band able to pull off hard-candy pop live, it’s The Young Evils, and sure enough, much pogoing occurred.
17) Unnatural Helpers (Sub Pop Stage, Saturday): Dean Whitmore’s band of indie-garage crazies bashed out a great, no-frills set, replete with at least one offhand Cheap Trick reference.
16) Super Geek League (Exhibition Hall, Monday): Bumbershoot audiences got a full-meal deal from Super Geek League Monday afternoon–dancing girls, butterfly women on stilts, a full horn section in white suits and glowing headgear, giant mutant eyeballs, and a throatily-soulful female lead singer atop the whole unlikely mix. Fortunately, the music (think Shirley Bassey covering Residents songs backed by Rage Against the Machine) was as strong as it was weird.
15) Passion Pit (Tunein Stage, Monday): Passion Pit frontman Michael Angelakos is one hot teetering-on-the-edge mess personally, but you’d never know it from his and his band’s transcendental set of dance pop Monday evening.
14) Eighteen Individual Eyes (Promenade Stage, Sunday): EIE’s most recent full-length, Unnovae Nights, enchanted me thoroughly when I first heard it back in March. Live, though, their balance of lush beauty and walloping noise flat-out shines.
13) Katie Kate (Promenade Stage, Sunday): Boasting a ton of internationally-informed beats, memorable self-penned tunes, and better singing than ever, Seattle’s new pop diva delivered and packed the Promenade area in an epic way.
12) Prong (Exhibition Hall, Saturday): These New York metal/punk pioneers pummeled the Exhibition Hall with an overwhelmingly heavy crush of dense, twisty rock. Too heavy for punk and too punk for metal, they sound fresher (and more brutal) than ever.
11) JC Brooks and the Uptown Sound (KEXP Stage, Saturday): The Uptown Sound’s turn at the Tunein Stage that afternoon hit all eight cylinders, but the sinewy, dark-city-night vibe of their music (and Brooks’ roof-rattling voice) really flourished in the more intimate confines of the KEXP session they played later that afternoon.
10) Ana Tijoux (Tunein Stage, Monday): One DJ, a drummer, and a charismatic MC rhyming in Spanish really is all you need to get a conscious party started.
9) Foxy Shazam (Exhibition Hall, Monday): Over-the-top glam delivered by true believers with enough energy to power the Seattle Center lights for the next week.
8) Mudhoney (Sub Pop Stage, Sunday): They’re living legends and the embodiment of the Seattle Sound, blah, blah, blah. At a time when most rock bands have become musty relics, Mudhoney still utterly slaughter live.
7) THEESatisfaction (Sub Pop Stage, Saturday): ‘Tis a foolish mortal who’s not in love with Seattle’s most beguiling hip hop ensemble, especially after hearing Stasia’s and Cat’s butter-toffee voices singing over their rhymes and rhythms with sun-baked warmth.
6) Don’t Talk to the Cops! (Tunein Stage, Saturday): It was high time for me to get a live peek at one of Seattle’s most irrepressible party bands in action, and they did not disappoint.
5) The Dirtbombs (Tunein Stage, Sunday): Detroit garage-rock elder statesman Mick Collins and his crew delivered a potent, ragged, and unerringly fun hour.
4) King Khan and the Shrines (Tunein Stage, Saturday): Rock frontmen don’t get more wild and woolly (and feather-bedecked) than King Khan, and the Shrines’ soulful garage sounds thoroughly energized a sizable audience.
3) Lee Fields and the Expressions (Tunein Stage, Sunday): Take the ‘neo’ out of the neo-soul label, and you’ve got Lee Fields and the Expressions. Fields’ authoritative, charismatic Muscle Shoals groove transfixed the crowded Fisher Green.
2) TacocaT (Sub Pop Stage, Saturday): I won’t lie. Run a bubble machine on your performance stage, and I’m close to being your bitch. Run a bubble machine on your performance stage while singing a catchy punk-pop ditty about how Kevin Costner should die, and I resolutely am your bitch.
1) Reignwolf (Starbucks Stage, Monday): What else is there to say about this one-man rock and roll fireball’s blistering live shows that hasn’t been shouted to death by the local rock press? Not a lot, I’d warrant. His mid-set jam with a bucket-playing street musician on the Starbucks Stage Monday stood as just one highlight of the best live performance I saw at Bumbershoot all weekend.