Vamshidhar Kommineni

September 5, 2006

The joy of Bumbershoot (& Seattle)

Filed under: Seattle — Vamshi @ 12:49 am

One of the things I love so much about Seattle is the gorgeous summer weather and all the fun festivals that accompany it. Bumbershoot is one of the better ones at the tail end of summer. An annual labor day weekend¬†event in Seattle (going on 35 years now), it is held for 3 days and has a huge variety of musicians, artists, theater performers, comedians, authors, etc. The emphasis is certainly on music but there’s something different for everyone.

Common criticisms leveled against Bumbershoot include the fact that it is too crowded (which it kind of is), there’s too many high school kids there (which there are) and it is a little too chaotic (which it can be). But there’s very few other places in the country where you can go out and listen to 4 or 5 great indie bands over the course of the day, listen to a comedy act or a performance and look at some pretty interesting art all for the princely sum of $30.

I discovered Bumbershoot last year when Navin and Dan (friends from the UIUC days) were visiting Seattle. Navin and I had a good time there and I decided to a bit more planning and go back this year. Tim (another friend from UIUC who lives and works in Portland) decided to come up as well this year, and I hung out with him, Praveen, Divya and Mani at Bumbershoot on Sunday.

It was a perfect day to hang out at the Seattle Center: 75F, almost no clouds in the sky,¬†just gorgeous. We heard a couple of good bands in the afternoon, The New Pornographers being the highlight of the afternoon (they’re a great indie rock band). Spent a bit of time wandering around the art at Flatstock rock poster display as well. Interestingly enough, it was sponsored by the XBox 360, which I think was a good move for Microsoft, since they handed out a bunch of the posters people purchased in 360 bags and people seemed to be enjoying the few demo 360s out on the floor.

The highlight of the day for me was Mike Daisey’s monologue "Monopoly" in the evening. He’s the guy who first gained national fame for his monologue 21 Dog Years about his days as a customer service rep at Amazon. I watched that monologue online a few years ago, but had never seen him in person. This show was about Nikola Tesla interleaved with the history of Monopoly, the game and a few great barbs at Walmart and Microsoft. It was a great show and by itself worth the price of admission for Bumbershoot. His criticism of Microsoft around feature-itis was so spot on and funny, it could have come from someone internal to the company. I think it would be great for his segment on Microsoft to be required viewing internally :).

Another gem of a band after the Daisey show was Great Big Sea, a Canadian folk rock band from Newfoundland. Great band, great tunes and a completely random find on our part. Well worth the live performance (their songs do gain something with the live audience).

Other bands that we heard through the day were Mon Frere, Spoon, Dengue Fever and Ivan Neville’s DumpStaPhunk. Strange sounding names, I know, but they were all cool bands…

I do have one criticism to level against Bumbershoot. There’s a real overabundance of choice with too many interesting acts overlapping with each other. Having to pick and choose from such great acts is no fun. Also, having three consecutive days of stuff is a bit too much (maybe I’m getting too old). I was pretty tired by the end of Sunday and I’m guessing it would start to feel like a drag if I went back there three days in a row. I guess I’ll just have to be more selective next year and spread out the fun over the three days.

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