The Bumbershoot Festival always throws together one of the more eclectic line-ups in the nation, with a fair combination of “must see”‘s, “I’ve heard about them”‘s, and “who the hell are these people”‘s spanning across all genres in the musical world. So, with a packed schedule, and a surprisingly gorgeous summer weekend in Seattle’s hands, I trekked in to try and make sense of it all.

Seattle Center – Seattle, WA – September 4th, 2011

nomeansno

These aging Canadian art-punkers are anything but old men. Despite having been around for over 20 years, the trio launched into their own meticulous blend of math-rock fused with slight jazz overtones. The crowd was quite receptive to it as well, and there were a surprising amount of attendees despite the early start time. Nomeansno haven’t lost a single step in their tour of duty, which is an impressive feat considering the technical aspects of their style. The guitars and bass start and stop with the drums constantly hammering away. The older crowd showed preference to the older songs, but everyone ate up the new stuff as well.

thee oh sees

I’ve heard a lot (from pretty much everyone I’ve ever talked to) that this Bay Area product is a must-see, if for anything, for the strength of frontman John Dwyer. If anything, this analysis hardly does the band justice, as they smashed through their set with a nonchalant attitude about them — and not in a negative way; Thee Oh Sees are just playing music for the love of playing music. The band has a love of the art about them, and it seems like they would play just as hard in front of one person as they would in front of one thousand. Thee Oh Sees’ final song was the real strength of the band, as they fuzzed their way about the rock and roll genre, stopping on the drop of a dime and just as easily launching back into it. The hype is justified with these guys/gal, and there is nothing better than a great rock act under the sun.

atari teenage riot

I wanted to leave out griping about the well-known terribleness that is the Exhibition Hall Stage this time around. Unfortunately, this is where Bumbershoot stashes all of its heavier, more upsetting bands, and it is a cavernous debacle of a stage. Terrible sound echoes, signs proclaim no food, no drink, no moshing, no crowd surfing, and basically, no fun. And to add to the problems, in 2011, the staff apparently had a very difficult time keeping the stage on time. So the crowd eagerly, then less eagerly, then more disgruntledly, stood in line, and stood in line, for the electronic hardcore stylings of Germany’s Atari Teenage Riot. Once inside, this once angry crowd took out their lashings on each other. People were thrown out for jumping too aggressively, but it’s hard to blame them. Atari Teenage Riot just drive anger down your throat. The strobe lights and lasers ran amok, smoke kept filling the stage, and the hard beats and even harsher screams of the trio was exactly what I was expecting, yet was equally not prepared for. Watching Atari Teenage Riot was like viewing Tron with the German translation of Blade Runner in subtitles.

das racist

The New York City irony-rappers are best known for the humor in their raps, and also known for being a hit or a miss on stage. Their Bumbershoot appearance is chalked up as a miss. After a mediocre 10-minute DJ session to open up the set, the rest of the group meandered on stage with a heavy lethargy that points to one substance — something the crowd was overindulging in as well. The group’s raps, though sometimes coming across on point, don’t translate as well from the studio to the live show. And Das Racist weren’t prepared to pick up the charge that was lacking in the crowd, either. Hip-hop shows are supposed to be wild affairs of emotion and energy. Das Racist didn’t do too much to suck it out of the air, but they didn’t instill a whole lot into it, either.

warpaint

The psych-rock quartet of ladies from Los Angeles smashed the unfortunate gender barrier that exists in the genre and were the big surprise of the day. The harmonies in the vocals were layered thick, and the spacey psychedelic influences echoed throughout the guitars created a very pleasant mesh of a dream pop-oriented tune with a darker, smokier, music underneath. There is a lot going on in Warpaint’s sound, and pretty much all of it is good.

toro y moi

Chaz Bundick is the most unlikely of musicians. The soft-spoken gentleman from South Carolina seems to lack all the extroverted qualities required to make it in this musical world, and yet here he is at the forefront of the chillwave trend. But if there were a genre to work for the man, it would be the soft and dreamy electronic sounds that he specializes in. This time around, Bundick brought a live band with him so that he could focus more on the keyboards, which limited his effectiveness to a certain degree. Watching him previously mash around on a variety of samples — like a madman trying to make it all work — was half of the appeal, and the loudness of the live drums, bass, and guitar really made the chillwave less chill (for a lack of better words). However, at times the sound really meshed together well and Toro y Moi was clicking in a way that one man cannot. As the sun set on Seattle Center, the crowd was dancing, and Toro y Moi could not have been a more perfect counterpart for the moment.

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