While the annual Bumbershoot Music and Arts Festival has always leaned local, it’s safe to say the 2013 edition was its most homegrown yet. With a roster that included Alt.-j, Fun. and Bassnectar alongside Heart and Death Cab for Cutie, it also may have been the Seattle festival’s most eclectic.
Key players in the growth of recent Rolling Stone cover star Macklemore (the rapper graced a variety of Bumbershoot stages in the years leading to this year’s breakthrough), it’s no surprise the masterminds behind Bumbershoot brought to the Northwest one of the most talked about rap artists of the year, Kendrick Lamar. While the set time was uncharacteristically early – the rapper’s slot was pushed up to accommodate a performance at “Made in America” the following day – the set easily drew one of the biggest crowds of the weekend.
Day one came to a close with a headlining set from arena rockers Heart that made evident why the group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this year. Opening with arguably their biggest hit, “Barracuda,” the set spanned three decades including “Heartless,” “What About Love” and “Magic Man,” among others. The quintessential rock moment may have come during Heart’s final number, when Pearl Jam‘s Mike McCready joined the band for 1976’s breakout single “Crazy on You.” Or it may have come when, with 20 minutes left of their allotted time, the Wilson sisters brought to the stage tourmate Jason Bonham for a six-song, all-Zeppelin cover set that peaked with a rousing version of “Stairway to Heaven.”
Pop duo Tegan and Sara proved one of the main draws on Sunday afternoon, booked alongside tour mates Fun. “Seattle has the best dance moves,” Tegan chimed midway through the duo’s set. While the statement couldn’t be further from the truth, the sentiment had pockets of the crowd aptly riled up as the pair sliced into a set list that pulled heavily from their recent release, Heartthrob.
Sunday’s lineup, in particular, paid homage to the local music blueprint – and more specifically Northwest label Barsuk Records – as acts including David Bazan and Ra Ra Riot performed on stages across the festival grounds. The bookings, made in partnership with the label, celebrated 15 years of the local imprint’s existence. Yet the main event clearly proved to be the headlining set by local superstars Death Cab for Cutie, who closed the night out playing their 2003 Barsuk release Transatlanticism from start to finish. Though the act parted with Barsuk prior to releasing the chart 2005’s Plans, the indie-rock five-piece can attribute much of their initial buzz to the previous record.
As the closing notes of “A Lack of Color” sank into the crowd, the somewhat somber sing-along turned into a celebration. Upon finishing the album performance, the band continued the show with up-tempo cuts including “I Will Possess Your Heart,” “Sound of Settling and “Crooked Teeth.”
The final day of the festival included buzz acts (and vibe gurus) Alt.-j and MGMT garnering the biggest attendance of the day. Many would argue it was the local ties that kept the majority of festival attendees around throughout the afternoon, as captured during Seattle-based soul singer Allen Stone’s 8 p.m. set under the stars. Stone, who first brought his greasy throwback soul to Bumbershoot two years ago, returned this year to serve as conductor of one of the festival’s rawest, most hip-shaking sets.
It was this 85-minute jaunt of spontaneous elation and unstoppable dancing that really summed up what this year’s festival was all about: a trbite to the region’s impact on the music industry, and why the country should be paying attention to what’s coming next.
Bumbershoot’s comedy bookings are always among the best on the festival circuit, and this year was no different. In addition to hosting Patton Oswalt and the writers of Parks and Recreation, this year’s comedy schedule also included IFC stars Scott Aukerman and Reggie Watts, who brought their improv-based sketch show, Comedy Bang! Bang! – and zany musical banter – to the stage Monday afternoon.