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September 1, 2008 11:27 PM

Death Cab capped a stellar Bumbershoot weekend

Posted by Jeff Albertson

Death Cab for Cutie just closed out the labor-day weekend at Bumbershoot with an extensive set that was as long as it was memorable. The four-piece Bellingham band (they'll always be a solo-project of some kid from B-ham to me) played a marathon set that stretched into the late evening and featured an astonishing 22 songs.

Singer/guitarist Ben Gibbard jumped and jerked his way around the right half of the Memorial Stadium stage with an astonishing dexterity in both his guitar playing and vocal prowess. Beside him bassists Nick Harmer pounded his bass while drummer Jason McGerr kept a much harder and driving beat than I'd assumed this band was capable of. Rounding out the lineup is multi-instrumentalist Chris Walla, who is as accomplished on guitar as he is on the Rhodes piano. Walla added texture to the already atmospheric sound the band employs.

Towards the end of their hour-and-a-half set Gibbard spoke to the crowd: "Hi, we're Death Cab For Cutie and We're from right down the block. We'll see you in the neighborhood eating pizza and shopping for groceries."

It was endearing and true. Individually the members of Death Cab for Cutie are as unassuming as the sound of rain. They could easily blend in to the crowds on any college campus and if you didn't know any better you might mistake them for a video-store clerk or a neighborhood barista. Their music is similar to their style in that it is introspective and mellow, but capable of being dark and melodic all at once.

Gibbard took the time to repeatedly thank opening band Superchunk -- for good reason. Superchunk were a college-radio favorite and a massively popular indie-rock band during the mid to late 90s. They helped pave the way for bands like Death Cab For Cutie and Gibbard acknowledged it by thanking them profusely.

Some highlights from the set were "I Will Posses Your Heart," "The New Year" and "I Will Follow You into the Dark," in which Gibbard performed solo with just an acoustic guitar.

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September 1, 2008 8:25 PM

A discombobulated attempt to sample literary fare at Bumbershoot

Posted by Michael Upchurch

Keeping track of Bumbershoot’s Monday literary doings didn’t quite go as planned. First I took too long to figuring out how to work a laptop while I did my first two blog entries, so I missed Edmund White and Samantha Hunt discussing historical fiction. Not only that, but I completely mislocated the friend I’d come with.

At a loss, I dropped in on William Gibson, Eileen Gunn and John Osebold and friends, who were giving a concert/reading. Osebold (of local band “Awesome”) played a suite of Gibson-inspired songs, with help from two fellow “Awesome”-ers. One spooky little piece with an accordion/percussion/theremin lineup was especially beguiling. Local writer Gunn then hit a sweet spot (although she was sure it would ruin her reputation) with a fantasy variation on Mr. Spock and Captain Kirk fleeing the Starship Enterprise, styrofoam weapons in hand, so they could have babies together. By comparison, Gibson - I know this is sacrilege - came across as dull and opaque … but maybe I was worried too much about my missing friend? Would Bumbershoot eat him?

I wound up wandering the grounds again, and happened upon some oddly dressed, polymorphous perverse Australians bobbing around in mid-air (a cheeky, entertaining troupe called Strange Fruit, out of Melbourne, who performed on 10-feet-high flexible poles). After that, I tried blogging again, but the Blog Machine, which I hardly knew how to use anyway, was otherwise occupied.

So I dropped in late on another literary panel I’d hoped to catch, and I saw Alaskan governor/Republic VP nominee Sarah Palin onstage. What was she doing here?

It took me a moment to realize the woman was actually one of my favorite writers, Joan Silber. But the resemblance was uncanny. She was there to read and talk with author Nathan McCall. Here, finally, I got my Edmund White fix: he was in the audience, challenging Silber and McCall on their claims that they don’t write with any readers in mind.

McCall’s response: “If you’d read my first book, ‘Makes Me Wanna Holler,’ you’d know that I really don’t care about readers.” But he said it with a smile.

Later McCall quoted Picasso: “Art is a lie which helps us see the truth.” I’m not sure blogging does the same.

Oh - and I did find my friend, waiting for me in the line for Pacific Northwest Ballet.

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September 1, 2008 7:41 PM

Pacific Northwest Ballet ends with a bang, with new piece by Kiyon Gaines

Posted by Michael Upchurch

The most packed house I was in all day was Bagley Wright Theatre for Pacific Northwest Ballet. True, it’s not Memorial Stadium - but it’s still a sign that there’s something vital going on at Bumbershoot besides all the rock music.

PNB offered a three-part program. First up was Twyla Tharp’s classic “Nine Sinatra Songs,” which starts on a suave note (Karel Cruz and Kari Brunson looked every inch the elegant nightclub couple in “Softly As I Leave You”), but soon winds into more unbridled, not to mention silly territory. Highlights included the pratfalls of Carrie Imler and Jonathan Porretta in “Somethin’ Stupid” (he kept getting stuck in her decollete), Carla Korbes and Jeffrey Stanton offering a swell-egant turn in “All the Way,” and Kaori Nakamura and Olivier Wevers in a mood of road-worn abandon in “That’s Life.”

PNB dancers choreographed the other 2 items on the program, which both premiered at PNB’s Choreographers’ Showcase this past April. Porretta, best known for his comic turns with PNB (see above - or his celebrated role as Puck in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”) confounded expectations with his quiet, wistful duet, “Lacrymosa,” which showed off Cruz and Chalnessa Eames to good effect, but was over almost before it had started.

Kiyon Gaines’ “Interrupted Pri’si’zh’en,” for five male dancers, was a different story. It was a slicing, dicing, hyperkinetic, endurance-test knockout. There was a “Carmina Burana”-like drive to some of the (recorded) Fuzzbox String Quartet score…and to much of the movement as well. I’m not quite sure what’s involved in officially bringing a piece into PNB’s repertory (Gaines’ earlier “[SCHWA]” had that honor last year), but PNB director Peter Boal might want to consider bringing this baby into the fold ASAP.

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September 1, 2008 7:38 PM

Cheb i Sabbah rocks the Casbah

Posted by Patrick MacDonald

Cheb i Sabbah & 1002 Nights are what Bumbershoot is all about. The world-beat DJ and his troupe of musicians, singer and dancer were challenging, fun and entertaining. Their sundown set at Fisher Green was about community, with people of all ages unified by the propulsive, body-slamming rhythms that had everybody moving and shaking. It was about world community, too, with irresistible party music from Arabic, Asian and African countries that demonstrated that we are all unified by music and dancing. "We haven't played any Arab terrorist music yet," Sabbah said mischeviously in the middle of the set, then blew the place up with the poundingest bass sounds of the whole show. Vocalist Riffat Sultana, in brightly-colorful dress, was exotic to Western ears -- high-pitched, joyful, sultry -- and wonderful. The young female dancer, with silver and gold accents on her clothing and makeup, was playful and charming, with fascinating moves of hand, head and body. The wildly appreciative demanded, and got, an encore.

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September 1, 2008 7:00 PM

A little early, Monday recap

Posted by andrew matson

I'd written this recap of today at Bumbershoot for tomorrow's printed paper, but my editor Mr. Tazioli and I decided to use photos instead. So as not to waste effort, here's what I thought of today, in a blog entry as I wrote it three hours ago:



Continue reading this post ...


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September 1, 2008 5:55 PM

Cheb i Sabbah mixing it up

Posted by Marian Liu

If I can introduce you to anything off your radar, it has to be Cheb i Sabbah, which I was delighted to see on the Bumbershoot lineup.

The San Franciscan DJ fuses world sounds, hip-hop and electronica beats. I used to listen to him back in the Bay to warm up to write. He's a resident DJ at at several San Francisco clubs - so if you visit, you have to check out a night.

On top of that, he's a great guy to talk to. I've interviewed him in the past and he's got an intriguing musical mind to pick with many influences.

Right now, he's got turntables, different kinds of drums and a belly dancer on stage - how can you beat that kind of fusion?

Here's his site, check him out - www.myspace.com/chebisabbahji

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September 1, 2008 5:40 PM

Bumbershoot for first-graders

Posted by Lynn Jacobson

Here's what catches a 6-year-old's eye at Bumbershoot: A woman on a big bouncy ball tossing three juggling pins; four performers on big wobbly sticks, dancing and clowning (Australia's Strange Fruit); a little black pug in a baby stroller; skateboarding stuntmakers flying on a half-pipe; science activities in the Center House; a guy in an unidentifiable brown and green costume ("from a scary dog show," according to one small informant) waving "hello"; a concrete ball in front of KeyArena, just right for climbing; and one piece of pepperoni pizza. All without standing in a single line.

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September 1, 2008 5:06 PM

Dan Deacon parties with the lights on

Posted by Jeff Albertson

Dan Deacon, the one-man band and absurd electronic composer from Baltimore, told the crowd that when he agreed to play Bumbershoot he assumed it would be outside so he left his lights at home. When faced with playing in the cavern-like enclave that is the Exhibition Hall Deacon made the most of it.

DanDeacon 017.jpg

"Let's pretend this outside," Deacon said adding that the bright lights above would have to replicate a spotted and florescent sun.

Under the glare of the overhead lights Deacon looked homeless. He's incredibly out of shape, balding and his clothes are stained and dirty from constant touring. His glitched out electronic dance music is flushed out by vocoder effects that make his voice sound like a high-pitched robot drunk on nitrous.

The crowd, mostly younger and sporting a rainbow's mix of day-glo colors, reacted with euphoric enthusiasm. Like Monotonix before him, Deacon set up on the floor. After a lenghty and long-winded monologue Deacon commanded the crowd to lose all inhibition. Hands were held and kisses exchanged all before he played one note.

During the show he had the crowd form a giant circle, splitting the crowd into two teams for a giant dance-off competition.

Here are the rules:
1. Sassy as f*** all the time.
2. When you're done dancing you get to pick the next competitor.
3. No cowards.

Luckily the audience ate it all up and no one chickened out.
DanDeacon 033.jpg

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September 1, 2008 4:36 PM

Mainstage: A Drunk Offspring

Posted by Marian Liu

I just waded through lines of folks to catch The Offspring. There were so many people, fans even moo-ed in line, shuttling through like cattle.

Guitarist Kevin "Noodles" Wasserman admitted to the crowd that since Saturday when he flew in he's been drunk. Yet, their set was still rousing, playing such hits as "Come Out and Play (Keep 'Em Separated)," "The Kids Aren't Alright," "Self Esteem" and "Why Don't You Get a Job?"

Lead singer Dexter Hollard encouraged fans to crowd surf, breaking their record of 999 folks crossing the barricade.

Fans ranged in age, but I saw some standouts that made me wish my camera wasn't broken:

  • a girl dressed as a furry pink flamingo with flourescent yellow fishnet stockings
  • another girl wearing white fairy wings
  • and a third girl in tight silver spandex

Halloween came early this year!


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September 1, 2008 3:15 PM

Interview with Vince Mira

Posted by Marian Liu

Right after his set, I caught up with Vince Mira backstage with his family.

Donning a black Rockabilly shirt, black slacks and black Converse shoes, the baby-faced crooner was eager to talk. Without hearing him sing, one would never have guessed that Johnny Cash could come out.

On the deep soulful voice: "It just happened. I tried it out one day and it got better over the years."

His older brother introduced the 16-year-old to Johnny Cash. And even now, he admits that he doesn't listen to top 40 hits. He also said that he into Bob Dylan's music even more than Johnny Cash songs, only he doesn't think he could be like Dylan.

But what drew him to Cash was the legend's ability to crossover to many different people and genres.

"Young and old, country, rap and rock, anybody can relate to him," said Mira. "He's the only artist I know that can do that."

Oh, and on an interesting note - that guitar he played on stage - was a gift from talk show host Ellen DeGeneres.

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September 1, 2008 3:10 PM

Monotonix are too dangerous for Bumbershoot

Posted by Jeff Albertson

Just three songs into a wild and intense show by the Tel Aviv band Monotonix, at the Exhibition Hall venue security shut the show down.

"Sorry folks, the show is over. Please exit the building," advised the security guard from the stage as the sound was cut and the house lights came on.

The audience responded with heavy roar of disapproval and boos.

Monotonix didn't just blur the line between audience and performer. They obliterated it with the intensity of a nuclear blast.

Monotonix1.JPG

The band set up their equipment on the floor in front of the stage, rather than on it. From the second they blasted in to the first song it was apparent that security had no idea what was to come. Singer Ami Shalev immediately launched himself into the crowd. He stood on top of the drums. He dumped a trash can over his drummer's head. He stole the kick drum and took it into the crowd. The crowd reacted with equal intensity. Heads were banged. Fists were pumped while a shirtless and very hairy Shalev moved through the crowd like a man possessed.

More photos after the cut.

Continue reading this post ...


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September 1, 2008 2:59 PM

Nina Berman's "Purple Hearts: Back From Iraq and Marine's Wedding"

Posted by Michael Upchurch

A sobering start to Bumbershoot on Monday afternoon -- I stopped by the Northwest Rooms, where photographer Nina Berman's "Purple Hearts" is part of the "Power of 1" exhibit. Berman's portraits of disabled Iraq War veterans are strong studies of pain, dignity, despair, disillusionment. The soldiers' testimony is posted next to their photographs.

Two made an especially strong impression on me: SPC Jose Martinez who said, "I had this dream where everything was going to work so good and everything would be fine. Three years in the Army, I'll be in and out. Now I look back on my thoughts and think all it was, was a fantasy. That's kind of what it was."

The left side of his face is a mass of scar tissue, the result of a land-mine explosion while he was on patrol in Iraq.

At the other extreme: Spc Sam Ross, who writes that he has no regrets: "It was the best experience of my life." This, despite his having lost his eyesight, his hearing in his left ear, one of his fingers, and his right leg below his knee. What really has him down is being back in his hometown in Pennsylvania: "It's a s--t hole. Same thing it was when I left."

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September 1, 2008 2:56 PM

Cowboys, cheerleaders -- and a puppet yearning for life: the world of Joe Goode

Posted by Michael Upchurch

Joe Goode Performance Group -- a movement theater company from San Francisco -- made a big impression with excerpts from one of their older works, "Maverick Strain" (1996), and a full staging of a new work, "Wonderboy."

The first was a "deconstruction" of Arthur Miller's screenplay, "The Misfits," and it blended dance, song and dialogue that kept getting scrambled and redistributed among the players. The cowboy and bar-girl costumes were by way of Las Vegas (tight-fitting grey leatherette and purple velveteen pants for the guys). Campy humor gave way to some beautiful moves in a middle section set to a wistful score by Beth Custer. Agile partnering and ever-changing constellations of body formations -- five or six dancers at a time -- made a strong visual impression.

The visuals were just as good in "Wonderboy," with weightless lifts and smooth balancing between dancers keeping the eye entranced. But the text, about a lonely puppet wondering if he'll ever make contact with the wonders of the life that he sees passing before him, could be cloying at times. Fortunately, most passages highlighted the dancing. The high point: a cheerleading session that took this nascent gay boy out -- all the way out -- of the closet.

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September 1, 2008 1:55 PM

Vince Mira has Johnny Cash's soul

Posted by Marian Liu

Vince-Mira-and-Band.JPGI woke up early this morning to mainly catch one artist at Bumbershoot - Vince Mira.

At Sasquatch, I was walking to the drink stand, when this voice caught me and sent shivers down my spine. Mira was the embodiment of Johnny Cash in a 16-year-old.

Today at Bumbershoot, he bellowed out Cash classics like "Ring of Fire" and "I Walk the Line," along with the legend's other songs: "Get Rhythm," "Rock 'N' Roll Ruby," "I Got Stripes," "25 Minutes to Go,"and "A Boy Named Sue." He also sang the popular Hank Williams' song "Your Cheatin' Heart" and Elvis Presley's "That's All Right."

His voice was deep and full, yet when he stopped to spoke - out came a little voice that said, thank you.

Beyond the novelty of sounding like Cash, Mira showed off some of his own songs, that also displayed an old soul. The subjects also mirrored his idol - of love lost, pain and suffering - topics I wondered if he projected or if he already went through.

Either way, teenage hipsters in tight pants gazed with their mouths open and a senior couple was swing dancing to his beats. Mira is definitely one to keep an eye on - his album release show happens November 1st at the Showbox.

(photo courtesy of Bumbershoot press)

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September 1, 2008 12:54 PM

Diamond in the rough

Posted by Jeff Albertson

Wandering in to the NW Court I was greeted by a charming and personable introduction from the stage: "Hi, we're Kate Tucker and the Sons of Sweden," said Kate Tucker. Immediately someone from the audience replied: "And you ROCK!"

I couldn't argue. Tucker and her four-piece band were in the middle of winning over an early Bumbershoot crowd. Blending sensitive alt-country ballads with harder country-rock tinged tunes made for the perfect early afternoon welcome. Under concrete-gray skies, Tucker, who could be mistaken for a hipper, younger Neko Case, had the kind of charm and charisma onstage that seasoned performers dream of. On top of that she's got a powerful voice that's as bittersweet as it is silky smooth.

katetucker.jpg

It was refreshing to see such a young band perform with such confidence. The four-piece from Ballard has been getting a lot of love from critics and fans alike. I'm sure we'll be seeing and hearing more of this band in the future.

Enjoy: Kate Tucker and the Sons of Sweden

(Photo by Jeff Albertson)

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September 1, 2008 11:58 AM

Stone Temple Pilots

Posted by andrew matson

Stone Temple Pilots got popular in the '90s when grunge did, but the band was always ripping off better ones. To this day, the Pilots steal whole songs from Alice In Chains, and Weiland steals his vocal inflection from Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder.

Last night, I realized Weiland's shallow, destroyed voice isn't rich enough to actually sound like Vedder's, so instead he settles for sounding like he's trying to sound like Vedder. Twice as bad.

An amazing amount of people seemed to love what they saw and heard in Memorial Stadium, singing along and cheering for their hero in tight pants.

Do people seriously think he's a real rock star? Why, because he did hard drugs and lived to tell about it? Because he wears skin tight clothes and "rock star" stuff like satin vests? I'm baffled if Weiland's slithery, toned-down hippie-chick dance moves turned on anyone last night. To me, he was completely stock, working with an archetype I just don't buy. His band looked slick and played slick, intentionally doing stuff grunge rockers did without thinking, like hitting sloppy guitar harmonics and playing slow and slack.

Down to the cheesy Windows 2000 screensavers on the giant backdrop behind the band, everything seemed choreographed and (as Patrick said in his blog post) out of date, labored and deeply uncool. Ironically, stuff like this was why grunge started in the first place, out of contempt for overblown actors.

The uncoolest part of the concert was when Weiland & Co. tried a heroin-paced, minor key, space-traveler version of Bob Marley's "Redemption Song." Unbelievably bad idea. Weiland actually scatted some lines, proving he was feeling it.

Watching Stone Temple Pilots rehash other people's dead ideas and come up with a few awful ones of their own, I wondered, "Can't we do better than this? Like, as humans?"

"Why?" Memorial Stadium seemed to respond. Everyone sang along to the '90s Pilots hit "Creep," one of the band's many songs about nothing.

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September 1, 2008 11:40 AM

Lee "Scratch" Perry

Posted by andrew matson

72-year-old Lee "Scratch" Perry is about as famous a reggae star as exists today. He and his three bandmates brought hard drum beats and sleepy island tempos to Fisher Green last night, while Stone Temple Pilots performed at Memorial Stadium.

Lee Perry looked about five feet tall, rail thin, and wore a hat with bits of refuse and mirrors on it, an art mosaic on his head. He sang songs that seemed improvised. He sang a song called "Inspector Gadget" that didn't seem to be about anything. He sang "rub a dub dub" and other gibberish. He sang holding a large red candle. He sang while lighting a handful of incense sticks and then put them in his hat. He looked like a candle, smoking out of his head. In a breath of coherence, he called for the legalization of marijuana. It appeared to be legal already, by how many people smoked it. Even deep in the crowd, I swear I could smell his incense wafting from the stage.

The way he shuffles around and says whatever he thinks, Lee Perry is clearly crazy. Or at least happily in his own world.

Feeling I caught his drift, I left to see Stone Temple Pilots at the Main Stage.

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September 1, 2008 9:53 AM

Stylin'

Posted by Jeff Albertson

I spotted a few folks rockin' mad flavor yesterday.

Ann Layman, Alena Chalupka and Haley Williams' hair was teased up and full of glitter. Nice work girls, keep it fresh.
hair.jpg

Brittney Burt's street style was off the chain. Seriously, look at the size of that gold chain. I want one.

Props to Tilson of the Saturday Knights. The man takes his style serious. Check these colors out.
Picture 009.jpg

And the buckle? Forget it. Tilson for the win.
buckle.jpg


(Photos by Jeff Albertson)

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September 1, 2008 9:47 AM

The weather

Posted by Jeff Albertson

It is chilly and cloudy right now, but the clouds should blow over by noon and give way to more sun (hopefully).

Labor Day always feels like the last day of summer for me. It's usually the first weekend of late summer in which I'll need a jacket and the first time the crisp air sends me scurrying for warm covers and a good book.

Bummer.

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Recent entries

Sep 1, 08 - 11:27 PM
Death Cab capped a stellar Bumbershoot weekend

Sep 1, 08 - 08:25 PM
A discombobulated attempt to sample literary fare at Bumbershoot

Sep 1, 08 - 07:41 PM
Pacific Northwest Ballet ends with a bang, with new piece by Kiyon Gaines

Sep 1, 08 - 07:38 PM
Cheb i Sabbah rocks the Casbah

Sep 1, 08 - 07:00 PM
A little early, Monday recap

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