After 36 hours of wet, discouraging weather, Bumbershoot saw its biggest crowds on Monday for final-day headliners Modest Mouse, Franz Ferdinand and Black Eyed Peas. Props to the young music fans of the Pacific Northwest: without enthusiastic teens and 20-somethings braving the dreary conditions, this year’s festival would’ve been a literal washout.
Semi-locals Modest Mouse — they’re from Issaquah, a former mining town 20 minutes east of Seattle — characterized the indigenous breed of suburban alienation during a 75-minute, festival-closing set at Memorial Stadium. Six musicians rotated through a Guitar Center’s-worth of instruments, whittling their wall of noise into layers of little melodies and familiar that still came off really weird. Isaac Brock barked through the band’s catalog, from set-opening “Gravity Rides Everything” and “Education” to a sprawling “King Rat,” with Brock on banjo, and “Lives/Your Life,” a medley-crescendo turned hoedown with upright bass and fiddle.
Leading into “Blue Sedan,” Brock told the crowd he was performing with what he believed was a cracked rib. “Fuckin’ sucks, but I did it to myself,” he said without further explanation. Later in the set, “Float On” was a humongous, mosh-pit-swelling sing-along — humongous enough to keep Modest Mouse onstage til the cusp of 11 p.m. curfew, encoring with old fave “Paper Thin Walls” and “Bury Me With It” from 2004’s Good News for People Who Love Bad News.
Just prior on the same stage, Franz Ferdinand played a fitting prelude. The foursome from Glasgow, Scotland, stayed rakishly casual under even the most frenzied circumstances, as singer Alex Kapranos preened atop a head-high speaker stack and pulled the crowd into “Do You Want To” and “This Fire.” Their blue-neon-grid backdrop was barely more involved than Modest Mouse’s sparse, black stage; both bands seemed intent on delivering musical rather than visual thrills. During the second half of Ferdinand’s set, all four Scots took sticks to Paul Thomson’s drum kit for “Outsiders,” but the highlight was unquestionably “Lucid Dreams,” a newly minted rave-rock classic that outtros via 10 minutes of electro-instrumental dance-floor ecstasy.
No doubt Black Eyed Peas were the money band at Bumbershoot ’09. They lived up to the hype with the weekend’s most elaborate (i.e. expensive) stage setup, choreography, and costume changes, not to mention equipment failures. Thirty minutes into the Peas’ 75-minute showcase of brilliant, brainless hip-pop hits, the stadium sound cut out, dropping the chorus of “My Humps” into oblivion. Will.i.am spent the next few minutes trying to lead the front rows in a sing-along, but really, this is a band that can’t do much without electricity.
They got back on track with “Imma Be,” and later Will offered up a freestyle that reminded just how nimble an MC he can be. He and Fergie both shouted out the myriad crowdsurfers — guys and girls — swimming across the throng. “Boom Boom Pow” went into “I Gotta Feeling” and the sound cut out again, mid-confetti canon climax, so Will bounded down into the pit, averting certain crowd-wide buzzkill.
Local love: The Cave Singers sang beneath the Space Needle, Truckasauras rolled through EMP, and Wallpaper (actually from Auburn, Washington) covered their own greatest hits. Bumbershoot had its troubles this year, but Northwest talent wasn’t one.