eattle's Bumbershoot festival celebrated its 50th anniversary by returning its focus to GOOD music and abandoning the popular model of music festivals pedaled by the industry overlords. In a move to ward off the troublsome drug addled teenagers that listen to Top 40, a new outfit called New Rising Sun took over Bumbershoot's creative direction after a four year hiatus. In many ways the new organizers wanted to capture Seattle's true ethos with this new brand of festival that focused on local influential acts as opposed to trendy headliners. This punk metropolis nestled in the gorgeous Pacific Northwest has been a musical hotbed for the past 75 years and this lineup paid homage to that history by showcasing the Seattle bands that made it while also utilizing their highly attuned taste to highlight the new acts from around the globe that are turning heads.

Valerie June

To understand Seattle’s music palette, you have to realize that Seattle musicians like Jimi Hendrix, Ray Charles (started his first band at 18 in SEA) and Kurt Cobain revolutionized the way music sounded. This epic musical innovation is what Seattle music fans are used to and it’s really the only thing that can awaken them from their Vitamin D deficient haze. It became my quest at Bumbershoot to find out why this beautifully bleak town produced so many good artists.

This is an audience that is so accustomed to amazing music, you have to present something wildly different even to pique an iota of their interest. This was highly evident during the Maya Jane Coles set where fans happily sat through a series of songs that would have normally had a stadium of 50,000 up and jumping. They are happy to see artists from a long distance just as long as they have a nice place to sit, a semi-full alcoholic beverage, and a lit joint. But then again, those same grass sitters were dancing with big smiles on their faces when it started pouring rain during A-Trak's set! They also seem to respond to extremely scary music because Pussy Riot (the lead singer is on Russia's Most Wanted List) had a crowd of thousands screaming "FUCK YOU" like death metal singers. To put it bluntly, this is a weird crowd.

Pussy Riot

Then it dawned on me, this is a city on the fringe. The fringe of politics, music, culture and the North American continent. Now all the pink hair makes sense, in Seattle being weird is normal. Breaking taboos that were initiated by old white men long ago is a daily occurrence in the Emerald City. It is not surprising that this edgy culture has strong association to almost every genre in music. Let's start with PUNK!


Have you heard of Descendents? I didn't either until I went to Bumbershoot but apparently they inspired my first favorite band to start playing. Descendents is a So Cal band that set the boyish pop punk sound in stone and inspired bands like Blink-182! Blink-182 was my first concert in 8th grade and I had no idea their sound was a semi-pastiche to Descendents! This deep knowledge in all things punk is why this year's lineup was stacked with names like Jawbreaker, Sweet Water, Sleater-Kinney (Started in SEA), RIDE, AFI, Sunny Day Real Estate, and of course Descendents. There were many other artists at Bumbershoot that carried that zero fucks punk attitude to more traditional genres.

Matt & Kim

Pop acts like Matt and Kim, The Revivalists, Band of Horses (SEA), Phantogram, Bomba Estereo, Brittany Howard, Valerie June (not really pop but traditional americana with a psychedelic twist), The Dip gave it their all at Bumbershoot this year. The energy in each performance either rekindled a forgotten fan girl within you or confirmed your notion that these bands are timeless. Psychedelic rock was also properly represented at Bumbershoot with amazing sets from The Dandy Warhols, Temples, Thunderpussy, Warpaint and more. There also was some sweet hip-hop acts like Dave B, Benny The Butcher, Sol and more. The last big genre in this year's lineup was EDM (my favorite!).

Fatboy Slim

Bumbershoot enlisted some legendary electronic acts from across the pond like Fatboy Slim (UK), Maya Jane Coles (UK), Major League DJZ (South Africa), Uncle Waffles (South Africa), and Trinix (FR). They also had a stellar lineup of North American talent such as A-Trak, Zhu, Anabel Englund, Chong The Nomad, Pressha, and more.

At the end of this awesome festival, my white whale became taking a photo that included a seagull, the space needle, a person with green hair, a person with a nirvana shirt and a person with Seahwaks merch on. This is the closest I got. At the end of day it's nearly impossible to truly describe a culture as multi-faceted as Seattle's but Bumbershoot would be my closest definition. Because it wasn't just about the music. Bumbershoot had art galleries, stripper pole pavilions, fashion shows, cat circuses, naked wrestling and so many more activities that fuel the creative spirit. Thank You Bumbershoot!

Photos by
Pedro Acosta