Bumbershoot: Flaming Trumpets, Grooving Beats

Sunday, my day at Bumbershoot, I started out the afternoon with a rock-a-billy band literally on fire, grooved out to African music and a jazz band that included the marathon drummer famous from Woodstock, braved a mosh pit full of teenage fans of that Mraz guy to see Michael Franti, and ended the evening with soul music so good the crowd would not let the band leave.

It was raining cold and hard earlier in the morning, but I’ve lived in the Northwest too long to wimp out, and besides I had already bought my ticket months ago, when it was half price (sign up for Bumbershoot’s e-mail list or go straight to their website when they first announce the line up to catch that deal). Fortunately, the weather improved, and I never needed my umbrella, but we had sunny t-shirt weather, rain, cold, sun again – all in the first set.  Ahh – Seattle!

I even braved a crowded bus, tourists on the Ride the Duck singing and gesturing “YMCA”, and walking past the loneliest amusement park on earth to get there!  Sad, but true, on the latter for “Fun Forest.”  When there’s only two people on a ride while the rest of Seattle Center is packed, including families with kids, you know it doesn’t have long in this world.


I knew I wanted to get there in time to catch the Dusty 45s, our wild and raucous home-grown rock-a-billy band! Slightly scary, too, but in a fun way.

Here’s a YouTube clip from a show at The Triple Door in Seattle last year:

While the crowd cycled through shedding and adding layers of clothes as the seasons changed during the set and the tent released all it’s stored up rain water in a torrent (streaking the mural behind the Mural Stage), the band had a blast and was on fire.  Literally! 


Trumpet player and lead singer Billy Joe Huels set his trumpet aflame and kept playing it as it burned on.  What a finale!

Billy Joe said they’re playing New Year’s Eve at the Tractor Tavern.  Flaming trumpets in Ballard!  I’m there!

I went to buy their new 3 song Fortunate Man EP and saw they were going to sign autographs, so I stood in line and got it autographed by Billy Joe; lead guitarist Jerry Battista; Jeff Gray, who plays the upright bass (which he made a little drawing of!) and drummer Kelly Van Camp (yeah, that’s right – the drummer from Mike McCready’s Flight to Mars crew).

I wandered around some after that.  Heard a good soul song from the Fisher Green stage, but it turned out most of that band’s music was rap.

Yeah, I know, who am I to be calling Fun Forest decrepit?  Seattle Center is two years younger than me.  Worlds Fair, baby! The Elvis movie one.  There’s a lot of things I don’t get these days – rap; sleepy, weepy,indie music; energy drinks.  What’s in that stuff?  They were giving them away free at the gate, but I figure they either have to have dairy, fizz, or both (neither of which I can drink with my health problem); but I realized, I really don’t have a clue.  Other than caffeine, I have no idea this stuff is, and the kids are loading up on it!

In any case, I caught a little jazz, ate dinner, and as I was walking by a pass booth realized I hadn’t gotten my main stage pass when I came in, and I wanted to see Michael Franti & Spearhead, who were opening the Main Stage, evening show this year.  Whoa.  After all these years of Bumbershoot, to forget something like that!  They still had them, though, so I was fine.


After dinner, I checked out the Fisher Green stage again, and heard some good African music from Extra Golden. They really got the crowd moving, and it was teenagers to grandparents.

Here’s their promotional clip on YouTube:

 Next, I wanted to catch some jazz with Michael Shrieve’s Spellbinder. Last month, the Seattle Times did an article on Michael Shrieve, who is famous for his drum solo with Santana at Woodstock, and is currently playing with Spellbinder, including a long standing gig every Monday night at ToST in the Fremont neighborhood of Seattle.


Beautiful music, living up to their name.  Here’s a clip on YouTube from the Bumbershoot set (there area a couple jumps):

It was really crowded and I found myself a place on the ground.  Some people did get up to dance, though.  Now, here I am, complaining everyone never dances; and about how when we do dance, there are always more women then men; and I didn’t get up to join the “old white people dancing”, as someone said; mostly guys!


Hey, I don’t have my AARP card yet!  Umm, about 8 months from now. . . Many of the people dancing looked like they could have been at Woodstock, a few like they never came back. Yeah, there’s still a few hippies around in Seattle.

After Spellbinder’s set, it was almost time for Michael Franti & Spearhead. I think the last time I saw Michael Franti was at the Fisher Green stage at Bumbershoot, 2 or 3 years ago.  I don’t know how to describe his music – a mix of rock, reggae, funk, hip hop; and always very socially aware. I’ve been lucky enough to table a couple of his concerts for Amnesty International, and we actually had people signing petitions right up to the show was over after 1 in the morning.  They’d notice us when they went out to catch a breath of fresh air, all exhausted.

I got to the Main Stage after walking through a very long line, starting at Key Arena, going to the huge stadium.  I made my way up front, and this year, they had the very front section was roped off into a kind of mosh pit.  Mosh pit area was very packed, with security not letting people stand past a line forming a corridor in back of the area.

So, I made my way down the corridor, to the other side of the stage and found a way into the back of the crowd of. . . mostly teenagers.  A very packed crowd of mostly teenagers, some of whom, politely (this is Seattle!), pushed there way through in hopes of getting closer to the stage.  So, I figured (correctly, it turned out), most of the crowd was there to see Jason Mraz, who Michael Franti was opening for.


It was all chill.  Michael Franti got them moving, grooving, and jumping up and down, anyways. Not the more political crowd I’m used to at his shows.  Maybe a good idea having him open for Mraz.  Get a little education in there while they’re having a good time.  Some of them weren’t quite sure what to make of Time to Go Home at first, but I think realized he’s for the troops, just for getting them back home safe.

YouTube clip from the 2008 Sasquatch Festival at the Gorge:

Actually, I don’t think Franti’s sentiment on this is too controversial anymore.  Sunday morning before the show, I heard George Will agree with The Nation’s Katrina vanden Heuvel that it’s time to bring our boys and girls home from Afghanistan. 

Hey World (Don’t Give Up):

Of course I was right about most of the kids being there for Jason Mraz.  They went nuts when Franti brought him on stage to sing with him on his current (and first!) top 40 hit, Say Hey.  I still don’t get it, even after hearing him live.  That’s okay, though.  More room for all of them when I and all the other Franti fans left.

Regarding the mosh pit, though, Bumbershoot really didn’t do that the right way.  I know the reason for doing that, even though there was a lot of room back on the rest of the stadium lawn, is for safety concerns.  So people don’t get crushed in a rush to the stage.  Which is why at other shows I’ve been to that do that, they carefully count off how many people can enter that section.  At Bumbershoot, they let as many as could squeeze in go into it.  They weren’t turning anyone away, other than keeping that corridor. Ironically, creating the kind of packed situation where what they obviously feared could have happened.  It was the most packed crowd I’ve ever been in (even with the real mosh pit at the Mudhoney show). All the kids were mellow, but still. . .


I was off to hear some soul, though.  I caught Raphael Saadiq at the Fisher Green Stage.  Now dark out, a good size crowd there now. I know they call his music neo-soul, but it sounded like good, old-fashioned Motown soul to me.

I found video this time from the actual Bumbershoot show:

Raphael has some Clark Kent/Superman action going on when he takes off his glasses and loosens up his tie, finally down to a black, sleeveless t-shirt (with some of the girls screaming “Take it off!”).


He’s got a great band and back up singers, too; and we just wouldn’t let them leave.  After their first encore wrapped up with a Let the Sunshine In crowd sing along; with it being around 10:53 pm and the house even playing some recorded music, I thought people were crazy for sticking around, hoping for more.  I was starting to head toward the Center House on my way out. . . and. . . they came out for one more, and probably more than that, but the stage manager came out after that one, right at 10:59 and said the city won’t let them play any longer.  Ahh, curfew!  Probably a good thing for the band, or we would have kept them there all night!

Wow!  It was a great afternoon and evening.  I was aching the next day, though. Like Fun Forest, I’m not so young any more!


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