Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Jason Mraz Battle the Rain at Bumbershoot

September 7, 2009 12:55 PM ET

A rain-soaked morning had fans puddle-dancing during the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' early "afternoon headliner" slot at Bumbershoot yesterday. The audience and band both withstood soggy weather and swirling winds that wreaked havoc on main-stage sound, but Karen O was still a bright spectacle clad in a green and purple stretch suit and cape. As she swallowed the mic or brandished it like a scepter, glitter-painted fans kicked and rolled across Memorial Stadium's wet Astroturf floor.

Bumbershoot in photos: Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Modest Mouse and more.

They opened with "Runaway" from this spring's It's Blitz!, then looked back with "Gold Lion" and "Miles Away." Her voice worn thin from this summer's incessant festival gigs, O fell short of "Skeletons"' ice-queen clarity, but she growled "Heads Will Roll" as if possessed, wrapped in a patterned shroud and swaying like a rock-couture banshee. A pair of giant inflatable eyeballs bounced over the audience as O introduced a backing keyboardist/guitarist named Jessica who, she said, "officially joined our ranks today." "I feel lonely if you don’t sing along," she pleaded in the middle of "Maps," so the whole stadium sang along.

Day Two closed with a festival-wide soul serenade. Blue-eyed crooner Jason Mraz ambled through a wholly inoffensive set, affable but unremarkable, brightened by the Grooveline Horns, a slick trio from Austin, Texas. Besides his hat, Mraz's primary asset was social lubrication. "Turn and give a high five to the person you came with," he said to introduce "Anything You Want." "Now turn and give a high five to a stranger next to you." The crowd — lots of couples of varying ages — sang along to "I'm Yours" like a greeting-card anthem.

Simultaneously at the Experience Music Project's super-tech Electric Skychurch stage, DJ Spooky was putting on a Stax-soul clinic to breakdancers, trainspotters, and gawkers of all ages. When he scratched Booker T and the MGs' "Green Onions," behind him towered vintage footage of guitarist Steve Cropper, blown up 40 feet tall on the Skychurch's massive digital backdrop. Outside on the Fisher Green Stage, Raphael Saadiq was doing his own version of throwback soul, playing with a horn section (two-piece), a pair of backup singers (male + female), and a whip-tight R&B band (guitar, bass, drums). It certainly wasn't blue-eyed, and the soul was palpable, humid — part Saadiq's Oakland upbringing, part swaggering homage to New Orleans. He closed with a gospel-powered version of "Let the Sunshine In," just as much a tease to today's sun-starved crowd as Roy Ayers' butter-smooth acid jazz standard "Everybody Loves the Sunshine" hours earlier.

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