Forty years later, the festival has snagged Kendrick and FIDLAR, sparing us Cal Tjader and Joe Venuti, and has also booked a well-conceived barrage of comedy -- including Patton Oswalt fresh into "quitting" Twitter -- rather than hiring literal clowns. And Seattle, a city I've never been to that has been a thorn in my musical side (seriously, Nirvana was that good, everyone?) welcomed me. Having freshly exited St. Louis for the allure of Los Angeles, my summer had quickly become a series of driving across the (mostly) beautiful nation. Indiana, Ohio, Kansas, check. Florida, done. California, I made it. Washington, let's go.
Kendrick Lamar, in a white-tee and pair of red Cortez Nikes as promised, played personal trainer to a crowd far from paying full attention. The all-around strange scene included a packed upper deck, a half-full floor and more glazed over, cell-phone-glued eyes than hands in the air -- at least "M.a.a.d. City" shook the Bumbershooters into temporary focus. Why, oh why Bumbershoot, do you not put your biggest act in a headlining slot?
Always a laugh: when an underage drinker gets kicked out amidst a sea of burning joints. Security ignored half a dozen of the home-rolled en route to getting the underage kid, his beer and escorting them out.
Also: Supersonics jerseys, 0. Wes Unseld jerseys, 1. What the hell, Seattle?
ZZ Ward came next on the to-see list crumpled in my bulging pocket. Completely in her element, she beamed through the show as the crowd responded to her wispy highs and lows. Think a down-n'-out country bar hosting Def Poetry Jam: the binge's apex, "Waiting For Charlie," typified ZZ's sound by way of an Etta James cover. Her lead guitarist espoused Stevie Ray Vaughn licks until Ms. Ward ran out of ex's to put in their place.
!!! reestablished the lightheartedness for Bumbershoot while breaking the seal on dancing. Nic Offer, bouncing off the walls like he refused meds that morning, came out in short shorts with the Rolling Stones "Some Girls" design screen-printed on them. The clothing symbolizing his shame: barely there. Then he gyrated the stage support like he could convince the wrought iron to make it rain.
Just as "We were born in the wrong decade" could be overheard, Jason Bonham's Led Zeppelin Experience was sure to follow. The kickoff, "Heartbreaker," displayed a few rough edges but "Nobody's Fault but Mine" borrowed the prominent mantle of Led Zeppelin -- that of head-banging blues thunderstorms and utter sexual tension. Those versed in Led Zeppelin lore got a bonus -- the Edgewater Hotel isn't even a mile away. In Jason's words: "...Red snapper...or sandshark...an incident that may or may not have occurred."
Then another instant memory happened I didn't think I'd ever be privy to: "When the Levee Breaks" live. The flood of sludge ravaged the KeyArena; an incomparable, overwhelming display of pure power.
With the day winding down, Bumbershoot's scheduling finally worked out. Down-tempo act Washed Out swapped his usual digital components for a tambourine and full live backing band. Oddly enough, Ernest Greene sarcastically remarked on Kendrick with a "Zoolander" callback: "He's so hot right now."
Making up for Doug Benson having dipped without so much as a quip earlier, I ended up watching Washed Out with Nic Offer. Intoxicated on the approach, he offered up his go-to move on being recognized -- do what Paul McCartney does. Kinetic on-stage and thoughtful off it, Offer added some much needed coherence to Bumbershoot for my disoriented first day.
Washed Out closed on an expanded, showcase of solos for a rendition of the single "Soft." Hitting on the subconsciousness of the crowd, Washed Out's live show is a testament to knowing one's fans. The music itself a redeeming mix of fresh, laid-back grooves that payoff, a preferred antidote to the bland ad naseum womps of standard EDM.
Walking out, a glitter-spattered body turned to me and stated the obvious: "Give them a good review. Oh yeah, we're high."