Authors: Cameron Payne & Frances Divinagracia
First and foremost, a Bumbershoot is an umbrella. I didn’t know this. Okay now that we’ve covered the elephant in the room; WOW, what a weekend! Bumbershoot is a three day music festival at the Seattle Center (home to the Space Needle and the Museum of Pop Culture) that was held September 1st-3rd this year. Some may argue (us, we argue) that this is the perfect time for a music festival because the weather’s not too hot and it’s not too cold so you can enjoy yourself without either freezing or overheating. Not to mention watching your favorite bands with the Space Needle as their backdrop at sunset is literally transcendent. In addition, there are hundreds of vendors giving out free samples (this year included Odwalla, Redvines, NitroBrew, Tito’s Vodka, Naked Bread and more) as well as an abundance of booths selling some of the most incredible food. There was something for everyone food wise (sushi, quesadillas, pizza, hot dogs, boba, you name it). Bumbershoot was iconic, and we couldn’t ask for anything better for our first festival coverage!
Cold War Kids: The Cold War Kids have been one of my favorite bands since I was in high school. My music class performed “Hang Me Up To Dry” when I was in 10th grade (I played the drums it was pretty bada**) and ever since then I’ve been hooked. Comparatively, to the rest of my music taste, it’s super different. Cold War Kids are more alternative rock than what I usually lean towards and the band itself comprises of four (super cool, super talented) middle-aged white guys–a demographic that usually doesn’t produce music I relate to but they somehow do. I’ve dreamt of seeing them live forever so when I found out they’d be at the Fisher Green Stage on Sunday I knew I had to be there. They performed “Hang Me Up To Dry” towards the beginning which really took me back, I was totally filled with nostalgia and adrenaline and there was an incredible vibration that filled the audience. The band has an insane stage presence and because of the intimate nature of the Fisher Green Stage, I really felt like I was up there with them. The next song that really stuck with me was “Love is Mystical” from their 2017 album, LA DIVINE. I’d actually never heard the song before but the second it started I knew it was going to be a new favorite. The explanation really is in the title; it talks about the healing properties of love and how being in love for the first time in a while really is a type of rebirth. They sang and performed it with such conviction that I think everyone fell in love with the experience in that moment, creating the perfect simulation for the entirety of what the song was about in the first place. Somewhere in the middle, Nathan Willett (the lead singer) announced that they were going to cover a Rihanna song and I seriously started tearing up then they started singing “Love on the Brain” which is my FAVORITE Rihanna song so then I actually started crying and it was such an incredible performance. Covering Rihanna is risky because, well, it’s RIHANNA, but they completely made it their own and it was almost like a different song but with the lyrics I know and love making it a foolproof cover. Lastly they performed their most popular song and my favorite, “First”. It’s one of the most electric, intense sad songs I’ve ever heard and it’s always been a go-to for me when I’m going through it. He prefaced it by saying that it’s one of those songs about rock bottom and I already KNEW they were about to do us real dirty with this one. Songs like this live are always insane, it’s one of those melodies that really makes you feel something so hearing it live was overwhelming in the best way. There’s a part in the recorded track where there’s clapping in the background and during that part at the live show the entire audience and the band filled in the clapping part and it was so unifying. I’m so glad I got to cross Cold War Kids off my concert bucket list at Bumbershoot this year!
AJR: So in 2014, when my music taste was young and underdeveloped, AJR came out with an EP titled I’m Ready and it had five songs. My cool, edgy boyfriend showed it to me and it was pretty much all I listened to for the entirety of the 10th grade. “Growing Old on Bleeker Street” was my -ISH and my favorite love song for a minute. I honestly haven’t listened to them since but when I found out they were playing the main stage at Bumbershoot I decided I had to be there strictly for nostalgic purposes. Unfortunately they didn’t perform any of my 2014 faves but believe or not their music got BETTER with time and their new stuff blew me away. The lead singer was wearing a ski hat of sorts which has stuck with me because it was like 75 degrees making it an iconic fashion choice and every song had me dancing my a** off. My favorite song they performed was “Sober Up” off of their 2017 album The Click (which I’ve had on repeat since the concert, literally every song slaps), which incorporated violin, one of the best sounds in my opinion, especially in pop music. It’s such an unexpected addition to electric beats and I absolutely love how it sounds. Towards the end they played “Weak” from the same album which I actually knew but I forgot I knew it and it was unbelievable live, there’s a bass drop somewhere in the middle and the whole crowd went wild everytime, it was a super exihlirating show to be apart of and I’m so glad I could be reintroduced to AJR.
Craig Jaffe: I joined KXSU’s blog staff as a reporter my freshman year of college and Craig was editor. He was encouraging, warm, and gave me a place where I felt comfortable and safe during the terrifying transition between high school and college. He also pushed me to do more at KXSU and pursue bigger roles and now two years later I’m covering Bumbershoot and he graduated from Seattle U, PERFORMING at Bumbershoot and he absolutely KILLED IT. He could have sung his grocery list and I would have been sobbing, going wild in the audience, but regardless his performance was incredible. Craig started with a cover of “My Church” by Maren Morris which he said he heard Morris perform from backstage two years ago when he was volunteering at Bumbershoot at the very same stage he later performed on. I’m not religious by any means but like now I might be? It was the most invigorating version of a country song I’d ever heard and I was literally dancing the whole time. Craig was having the best time up there and it definitely seeped into the crowd. Another song that really stuck with me was “For You, Again”. It’s a softer ballad about a breakup that’s just a little bit harder to get over. It was a beautiful end to an INCREDIBLE set and I know I speak for everyone at KXSU when I say we couldn’t be prouder! (Editor’s note: Cameron sure as heck can speak for all of us, hope we’re making you proud Craig! -Emma)
Marian Hill: Marian Hill is another one of my long-time favorite bands. They came to Seattle at the end of my freshman year and it was one of the best shows I’ve ever seen. The synth-pop, electronic duo is comprised of Samantha Gongol and Jeremy Lloyd. My favorite part about their performances is that Lloyd mixes and produces the sounds live on stage while Gongol sings. It’s so invigorating to see the entire process live. They performed all of their hits such as “Down”, “One Time”, “Got It” and “Whisky” but something unique and AMAZING about this performance is that they brought out jazz musician Steve Davit who added a whole other element to the show. The mix of Lloyd’s electric beats, Gongol’s voice and Davit’s saxophone was earth shattering. The whole crowd was going wild the entire time and the enthusiasm by the band was being played off of by the crown and vice versa, I seriously didn’t want their set to end. If Marian Hill ever comes to your city, they’re a MUST SEE whether you know their music or not.
T-Pain: For the longest time, T-Pain was just that one rapper that used way too much autotune and was featured in almost every song in the 2000s. I listened to a few of his own songs throughout my life but was never seriously into him. But let me tell you — this was such a fun set to go to! I realized that I actually knew so many of his songs, and they weren’t just the ones that he was featured on! I was really getting down to “Buy U A Drank,” “Bartender,” and “Booty Wurk” when he performed them and it was honestly a religious experience in my opinion. I’m sure Cameron will agree with that last statement. It just really felt like I was at a middle school dance with a bunch of random strangers and I was oddly okay with that. Thank you so much, Mr. T-Pain.
The Chainsmokers: OKAY OKAY OKAY HEAR ME OUT — I really was just wanting to see these dudes for the bit. They’re such a meme and their music is annoying yet catchy, but I had to see what the hype was about. We all know The Chainsmokers for their songs such as “Closer” and “Roses,” and how they make music for stereotypical college students getting absolutely smashed on the weekends at frat house parties, so I went into their set thinking I was going to be laughing at all the middle schoolers that were actually genuinely excited to be seeing The Chainsmokers. But let me tell you, I was absolutely not prepared for them to go off the way that they did! We got to the main stage and their set was filled with incredible pyrotechnics and fun lighting in coordination with each of their songs, especially with all the beat drops. At first we were watching them from the bleachers, but a few songs in we realized we wanted to get up and DANCE to The Chainsmokers. I know — crazy, right? But it was exactly the kind of upbeat and uptempo pop electronica dance music that you just had to be standing up and moving your body to. Don’t even get me started about how I felt when I heard the first few notes of “Closer” starting to play. I pretty much screamed every single word and I wasn’t even the slightest bit embarrassed about it. I’m not saying that I have converted into a The Chainsmokers stan after this experience, but I definitely don’t think I can say anything bad about them now that I’ve publicly admitted my surprisingly positive experience seeing them live and that I have the slightest crush on the lead singer. Sorry about it.
J.Cole: This was such an amazing artist to finally get the chance to see live. I have been listening to J. Cole since I was a sophomore in high school and I was so excited that he decided to make a stop at Bumbershoot on his KOD Tour. I’m listening to him right now as I write this review because it’s just so nice to relive all of his songs that I got to see him perform, and it truly is motivating me. Addiction and drugs is a major theme throughout his new album, KOD, and I really respect him for rapping about these issues, especially because so much of his fan base consists of teenagers and young adults dealing with the pressures of life and how they choose to escape from it. It was awesome to see him perform songs from his new album such as “Photograph,” Motiv8,” “ATM,” “1985 – Intro to ‘The Fall Off,’” and obviously “KOD” (which I have a video of me doing the shoot dance and the milly rock to; DM me if you wanna see it). He performs his songs with so much passion and intensity, you know that he means every single word he says, and you can feel it in your body when you’re seeing it live. I felt a sense of nostalgia when he performed a few of the songs that I used to listen to when I was in high school. My best friend and I used to drive around Sacramento listening to his music and we absolutely loved him and the things he was rapping about. He performed “G.O.M.D.,” “January 28th,” and “A Tale of 2 Citiez” as well, and I was just absolutely ecstatic at how happy 16-year-old me would have been to know that 20-year-old me got to see J. Cole at Bumbershoot.
Fleet Foxes: Seeing this band perform was ethereal. I didn’t know a lot of their songs except for “White Winter Hymnal” and “Mykonos,” but their sound is so soft and melodic and hypnotizing that I was completely lost in their set. We saw them on Day 3 so it was really nice to take a step back from so many of the other artists we saw that had a lot more hype to them and just be present and listen to lead singer Robin Pecknold’s soothing voice. Their lighting and graphics were insanely beautiful and like I said, their music is just very calming and makes you want to snuggle up in bed while the rain falls on your windowsill. I totally understand if that’s not your vibe, but they are an amazing band and I’m so grateful that I got to catch them!
SZA: ALL HAIL THE QUEEN. I can 100% confirm that I fell in love with SZA more than I already was after seeing her perform at Bumbershoot. She was the main reason I wanted to go to the festival so badly in the first place. Her album Ctrl came out last summer and became an anthem for women everywhere to recognize their worth and reclaim themselves as beautiful and worthy individuals, even when no one else would. Her music is raw and emotional, and she completely poured her heart out on that stage. I was beaming with pure happiness every time she introduced each song with a cute back story and was really purposeful with trying to connect with the audience. She even told us that she woke that morning and wasn’t feeling that great, but that being there and performing at Bumbershoot and seeing all of us made her feel so much better. I really loved the way she introduced “Normal Girl” by talking about how she used to feel so weird in high school in comparing herself to others and that for once she just wanted to fit in and feel like . . . well, a normal girl. It’s one of my favorite songs by her and it’s always so surreal to hear your favorite artists talk about their insecurities and the challenges they face, because they’re people too! Even a goddess like SZA has her off days, and I’m glad she was able to share that with everyone who was there. It was so cute how grateful she was to be there and all of us were just like, “No, thank YOU.” She basically performed her whole album, and I was especially excited to have seen her perform “Doves In The Wind,” “Drew Barrymore,” “The Weekend,” “Go Gina,” “Garden (Say It Like Dat),” “Broken Clocks,” and “20 Something.” I was completely encapsulated in her music and her lyrics during her set and I can’t stress enough how much in disbelief I was that she was right there on the main stage. Her visuals playing in the background were also so amazing, especially for “Drew Barrymore,” because she just smashed a bunch of clips from her movies together. SZA is a forced to be reckoned with in the music world, but I think we already knew that.
Overall, we had the time of our lives at Bumbershoot. It was both of our first three-day music festival and we were exhausted by the end, but it was absolutely worth it. We had a little trouble in the press room — and we promise we’re writing a post about that experience soon — but other than that it was a magical weekend. Thank you so much KXSU for giving us the opportunity to attend and cover Bumbershoot! We hope to see you all there next year!
CAMERON PAYNE | KXSU Senior Arts Reporter
FRANCIS DIVINAGRACIA | KXSU Arts Reporter