Yesterday was the first day of Seattle's 3 day Labor Day festival: Bumbershoot. Due to my work schedule I was only there in the latter part of the day yesterday(I will be there for a similar amount of time today, but I plan on attending the entire last day tomorrow.).
When I walked in the gates at Seattle center yesterday afternoon/early evening all of the mainstage passes were gone/accounted for. You see, despite having a festival pass you need an additional(free) pass to get into the mainstage to see the last two performances each night on that stage. Day 1 headliner was Beck, and I was already planning on seeing M.Ward instead of Beck anyway, but I was very disappointed to learn that I would not be able to see Band of Horses(denied!).
Upon walking in to the fest I approached the info booth and asked for a schedule/festival map. "We're all out," I was told. "You're kidding right? This is the first of three days isn't it?" I retorted. They were not amused.
I was close enough to an energy drink sponsored stage to hear the announcement that The Walkmen were next! So I made my way over to catch a few songs. I walked by the table of said energy drink company as their volunteers were emptying cans into paper cups and there were literally hundreds of cups on the table and probably a thousand in the trash cans around the table. "Hey can I have as much as I want?" I inquired. "Absolutely!" responded the excited and caffeine fueled rep. "So why are you wasting so many paper cups if this is a carbon neutral event?" She was not amused.
At this point I tried to make it to the theater where they are having plays during the festival. I really wanted to see Reefer Madness: The Musical! Not having a map made this trek seemingly impossible. For one, I didn't really know where I was going. Suddenly I was at the food lines, and there was no pathway around the lines. I had cut through line after line of hungry concert goers. This was quite possibly the worst layout of any festival that I have ever attended.
I was lost and disoriented. I found another info booth. I asked for a map/schedule. "We are all out, but you can look at the schedule that we have here." "I don't need the schedule, I need the map so I know where things are, and so I don't get lost trying to find Reefer Madness: The Musical!, do you know where that is playing?" The person at the info booth stared at me blankly, and then she suggested that I wander around until I find a map/schedule on the ground that someone had discarded. I am not making this up, that's what she told me.
I was becoming increasingly frustrated, and the other info booth volunteer(a hot punk rawker) could tell, and she took pity on me and told me where I might be able to get another one. Then she pointed and told me how to get to that building. Finally, I was able to acquire a map!
I got to where Reefer Madness: The Musical! was playing, and I was 15 minutes late and they would not let me in. At this point, I seriously needed a drink.
I ran into Dan, and he had a photographer's press pass. I went into a building with him that I should not have had access to, but they saw Dan's pass and just assumed I had one too I guess. I was able to get free coffee, an apple, and I was able to use a bathroom instead of one of the too few for the amount of people in attendance porta-potties. Did I mention that this was a really poorly laid out and organized event?
I think this is when I made my way over to see Saul Williams. He came out in full Niggy Tardust regalia with his face painted, feathers in his hair, and a brightly colored outfit. I have certainly seen better Saul Williams performances, but this one was definitely a high energy affair which the crowd was really eating up. The sound was not the greatest, and I couldn't hear his politically charged vocals for the first part of set. My friend Jessica said that there were sound issues all day.
Saul Williams waited until before his last song before he talked to the crowd about change, revolution, and how exciting of a time it is that we are living in today. I was really hoping for this to lead to "Om Nia Merican" from 2001's Amethyst Rockstar, but instead the set closer, and highlight, was the song, List of Demands (reparations) from his self titled release.
M. Ward was my day 1 headliner, and the one performance that I was most looking forward to this weekend. He did not disappoint. He opened with One More Goodbye and I was immediately giddy. After the first song he thanked everyone for being there and said, "I guess you've all heard Devil's Haircut on the radio enough times," which elicited laughter from the, mostly under-aged, crowd.
Fans swayed together, some danced, some shoe gazed, but overall the crowd was filled with a childlike wonder and we all held on to every lyric. When the band left the stage the crowd refused to yield. "I've never seen an encore on the side stage," said Jessica who was standing beside me. Well there's a first time for everything and the band came back out to play Big Boat from the album Transistor Radio. M. Ward thanked us again for choosing to be in front of this particular stage and he added, "I'm here for all of you!"
Despite the rather horrendous start to my first Bumbershoot, it couldn't have ended in a better way. Well, aside from Jessica and I walking a mile or so before we got a cab- but that's a story for another blog I'm sure.
Today I am most excited to see The Weakerthans! And right now I'm still not sure if I am seeing Tapes 'n Tapes, Final Fantasy, or Thee Emergency in the evening spot. I can guarantee that I will not be seeing Stone Temple Pilots, but I do hope that I can get a mainstage pass so that I can see The Black Keys tonight. I do love them so, and I have never seen them live.