Bumbershoot review, day one (featuring Jane’s Addiction, Sera Cahoone, City + Colour, THEESatisfaction and lots more)
The first day of Bumbershoot proved to be one of unexpected twists as the Sub Pop stage proved to boast butt loads of talent – and headliners Jane’s Addiction failed to impress.
Bellingham-based bluegrass act Polecat started my day at the Promenade stage, where they delivered a cheery set of Americana jams. Rookies to the festival, Polecat’s generally rowdy live show seemed more subdue Saturday afternoon – something I’d attribute to the early set time and a severe lack of beer in the audience. But there were a handful of dancers in the first few rows (yes, lady in your sixties, jumping throughout the crowd, I’m talking to you).
Though I’ve seen Polecat play more than a few times over the course of the past two years, they continue to amaze me with their spirited live performance. Even in a city that’s known for being stiff armed and judgmental on the dance floor (come on, Seattle, can we lighten up a bit?), a steady current of feet stomping could be seen rippling through the growing crowd.
The act seemed to stick more closely to their Americana-influenced material for this set, playing a handful of originals before cover Bill Munroe’s “Have A Feast Here,” and a twangy rendition of Men At Work’s “Land Down Under,” – the latter of which had the crowd contributing a boisterous thunder sound. And as the crowd became more receptive, the group segued into some Reggae and Ska inspired instrumental breaks.
Without fail there is a guy wearing overalls, sans shirt, at every Polecat show I’ve ever been to – and Saturday’s set was no exception. While I have an inkling that said overall-wearer may be a close friend (and avid fan), the fact that I’m not completely sold it’s the same guy, makes his presence at every show I’ve been to all the sweeter.
Next on my agenda for the day was local singer-songwriter Sera Cahoone, who played a riveting set of tunes at the Sub Pop stage. Known for her unique mix of indie rock and country-western sensibilities, Cahoone’s throaty vocals proved a perfect soundtrack to a sunny afternoon that had music fans lying lazily across the lawns, napping and soaking in the moment.
One of the most interesting acts of the day came in the form of THEESatisfaction, the local hip-hop meets R&B soul sisters who’ve been building a name for themselves for their sensuous urban tracks.
Consisting of Stasia Irons and Catherine Harris-White, the duo’s set on Saturday was not only one of the most entertaining – featuring the duo dancing in synch while pairing sassy rhymes with fervid vocal riffs – but the most empowering. On tracks “Queens,” and “Bitch,” the duo delved into the realm of political consciousness, Irons rhyming about sexuality and equality. And although the sound system seemed a bit off – the reverb of the bass drowning out Harris-White’s vocals for much of the set, the vibe emitted was feel good and fancy free. The fever pitch reached a new high when friends Shabazz Palaces joined the duo for two more tracks.
Following THEESatisfaction was Brooklyn-via-Tacoma act Oberhofer, a lively, fuzz pop act led by multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Brad Oberhofer. Having grown up with a handful of the guys in this group, I try to catch their live show whenever they’re in town.
As is standard of Oberhofer’s live show, the set was loud and excitable. Front man Oberhofer and bassist Dylan Treleven danced manically across the stage, weaving in and out of each other’s cords just in time to miss collision. But what really set this performance apart was the obvious improvement in their sound: the sound was fuller, the songs tighter, and the presentation cleaner than I’ve heard the previous three times.
Vocalist Oberhofer is starting to become known for his eccentric stage antics – and Saturday’s set was no exception. At one point the vocalist asked if anyone wanted to jump in the fountain, at which point he proceeded to jump from the stage, guitar in hand and run to the fountain. Other highlights included the dance friendly “Crusin’ Down FDR,” and “oOoO,” – the latter of which featured a bass line so heady you could feel it in your loins.
Canadian crooner City + Colour (real name Dallas Green) was likely the highlight of day one. Fact: Green makes music for people in love – or for people falling out of it. And while his songs tend to skew the line of sad and soothing (I saw more than a few tears throughout the night) they’re absolutely beautiful.
There is something very classic about the way Green makes music – the soaring melodies, the romantic themes, the folk-y accents remind me of the warmness of Bon Iver, but without the grandness the Wisconsin singer-songwriter insists upon. Where Bon Iver is elaborate and layered, Green keeps it simple.
Honing in on the raw emotion of each song, you can feel Green pouring every ounce of his soul in to each new note. At one point during the set, the singer asked the audience to put away their cell phones, for just one song, so that we could worry less about capturing the moment, and more about experiencing it. The quiet darkness left by hushed clicks and halted flashes was overwhelming – and despite the one song rule, seemed to remain throughout the show.
The most anticipated – and most disappointing – set on Saturday came in closers Jane’s Addiction. Taking the stage shortly after 9:30 p.m., the act not only sounded terrible (a combination of the Key Arena’s muddled acoustics and vocalist Perry Farrell’s excessive intoxication) – but looked bored out of their minds.
I’ll give them this: Farrell and guitarist Dave Navarro know how to play the part. Shirts off, tats out, the pair can work a stage (and an audience) like the best of them. But drunk dancing and slurred lyrics is not something I’d pay to see. Add to the mix the weird combination of hookers, sadism and disturbing video clips featured as part of the live show, and you’ve got one of the most disjointed, weird sets I’ve ever seen.
I guess you could say highlights included the band’s take on classics “Jane Says,” “Been Caught Stealing,” and “Mountain Song,” - but that’s more attributed to the fact that I could actually make out the words on those ones.
And while I’m by no means an expert on the group, even diehards could be seen fleeing the arena halfway through.
Keegan Prosser is a writer in the Seattle area.