While big names like Stone Temple Pilots, T.I., Beck and Paramore rocked Seattle's Bumbershoot festival this weekend (read the mainstage report here), as usual the 36-year-old event's secondary stages were packed with talent. Here's a breakdown of the best:
• Darondo, the 61-year-old SF Bay Area soul legend, made a rare appearance on Saturday, backed by a band half his age. Anyone squeamish about sexy seniors would've blanched as the zoot-suited singer pushup-humped the stage and riffed on "whip cream and titties," but Darondo redeemed himself with a Al Green-flavored liberation manifesto called "Let My People Go" to end his set.
• Sunday's heroes were the Saturday Knights, longtime hometown favorites forever on the brink of going huge. Backed by a trio of horns, drummer, and guitarist, the roguish hip-hop trio rhymed over Seattleites-of-the-moment Fleet Foxes, turning their "White Winter Hymnal" into a mock cocaine anthem. Their sunset set under an illuminated Space Needle was like a lawn party thrown by old friends.
• U.K. superstar-to-be, iTunes victim and RS Artist to Watch Estelle seduced a massive crowd with around-the-way-girl ease. She played with an eight-piece band, including three backup singers and a DJ. To introduce "Wait a Minute (Just a Touch)," she pulled a young dude from the front row. "This is you, Seattle," she said, and the kid popped and locked and looked as giddy as he probably felt.
• Howlin Rain drew a surprisingly small crowd for a major label band, but the balding, bearded foursome played more to the gods than the audience. "This might be my new favorite band ever," Whigs drummer Julian Dorio said backstage. An hour earlier, his bandmate Tim Deax did some inspired gear humping when his bass strap snapped during "Right Hand on My Heart." The two were opposite sides of the same coin, the Whigs impeccable garage rock soul, Howlin Rain ragged arena-rock glory.