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Bumbershoot Revisited

(I tried to find as many pics from the event as possible but aside from the main stage it was slim pickings.)

2010 is a special year. Not only does it mark my first Bumbershoot Festival, it’s also the 40th Anniversary of Bumbershoot. Accompanied by my compatriat Matt “Nancy” Carstens, there were some big draws this year with not only Neko Case and The Decemberists but Bob flipping Dylan! The poet laureate of folk-rock right in front of me? How could I resist?

We started out at about noon. After finding some sketchy parking, we decided our top priority would be to acquire comedy passes for later in the day. Walking over to the comedy booth it took us a few minutes to realize said passes required waiting in one of the longest lines I’d ever seen. So we were like “f&#k this” and went on to check out our first band.

First we saw the The Submarines, an L.A. Pop/Rock group led by the bubbly Blake Hazard. I’d heard them in some iPhone commercials so I had to take advantage of seeing a band I kind of knew. I felt bad they had to do their own sound check while everyone watched impatiently, but they were great. My favorite member was their laptop, it was like a pocket symphony. Nancy liked the drummer who looked like Ben Stiller with an afro. It was a good way to start the morning.

Afterwards we tried the comedy booth again, which now had many signs reading “standby line only” a guy at the booth politely told us that basically meant, “You guys are f@#ked.” So we wandered for a bit, walked by Chris Ballew of Presidents of the U.S.A’s performance, doing a kid’s music side project… We kept walking. Eventually we ended up in the art gallery filled with political and racy paintings, like one of Fred Flintstone drunk. There was also a gigantic popsicle stick sculpture, but whatever, it didn’t even have a riddle on it.

Not wanting to spend double digit dough on fried pickles we then left to go to Dick’s. Good choice. When we returned we decided to see Zoe Muth and the Lost High Rollers. They turned out to be a country group, but it was the good kind of country, you know? Their steel guitar player was like 60-years-old and I couldn’t stop laughing after Nancy pointed out their mandolin player made Harry Caray expressions. The audience was mostly mad old people, it was enjoyable, but after 20 minutes we got the idea and decided to check out Wheedle’s Groove.

I’d heard of Wheedle’s Groove from a documentary that played at the Seattle Film Festival, but didn’t know much about the group. Supposedly, they’re one of Seattle’s most influential and important 1970s soul acts, so this was a must see. They were introduced surprisingly enough by Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn, who lots of people booed. Wheedle’s Groove was a nice and funky addition to the day. Nancy and I felt like they were holding back musically–more solos and jamming would of been nice–but they only had about 40 minutes to play 40 years of music. It was exciting seeing a funk brass section and they had about a dozen guest musicians. I liked the performance but Nancy and still left early to secure a good spot for The Decemberists.

Oh yeah I almost forgot to mention, we saw Donald Glover walking by before we saw Wheedle’s Groove, awesome? We went to the main stage at Memorial Stadium. It was a tough call deciding between standing room or seats, but I had to be close for Bob Dylan so standing room it was. Not long after The Decemberists took the stage. Apparently, they hadn’t played a show since the previous January, but they were great. They started with laid back numbers and worked their way to the heavier stuff. I wished they had played “The Crane Wife 3” one of my favorite of their songs, but they had a good energy regardless. I could have done with less audience participation, but it was still fun. Neko Case followed with a breezy alt-country set. Her voice was strong and her backup band was entertaining. Her bass player looked like a long lost ZZ Top member. She jokingly dedicated multiple songs to her missing three legged cat Wayne–named after “The Great One.” I wish I’d prepared more for her set, but I still enjoyed what I wasn’t familiar with. What’s important is she played everything I wanted to hear from Middle Cyclone. The only problem was it was hard to concentrate knowing what was soon to follow.

Anticipation grew as fans flocked closer to the stage. Nancy, I and some other people tightly held our spot, no one was getting through. A half hour must have passed when finally the lights dimmed and the iconic Bob Dylan introduction was delivered. Bobby opened with a Bluesy rendition of “Rainy Day Woman #12 & 35” much heavier than I’d ever heard it. What would follow would be an equally rocking set I had many feelings about.

Dylan is an icon and you’d be hard pressed to find another musician these days with such presence. Though I couldn’t help but notice ‘ol Bobby was getting a little long in the tooth. His voice has definitely gone from raspy to full on gargling hot asphalt and he really struggled to belt out some of his own choruses. “Just Like a Woman” or “Like a Rolling Stone” come to mind. In some cases the voice is perfect on the haunting “Ballad of A Thin Man” or “Thunder On The Mountain.” Naturally, I long for the nasally howl of yesteryear, but times change. I would have also liked to see some more ballads. The songs at times blurred together in a blues rock mumble, but it was always interesting.

I think there’s a lot of ways to look at it. For the most part, we should feel fortunate the 69-year-old Dylan still had the energy to perform at all. It may not be the show to end all shows, but it’s a solid show nonetheless that I will never forget. I’d like to see Bumbershoot top this kind of star power next year.

Bob Dylan’s Set
1. Rainy Day Women #12 & 35 (Bob on keyboard than guitar)
2. Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right (Bob on guitar)
3. Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues (Bob on guitar)
4. Just Like A Woman (Bob on keyboard)
5. Rollin’ And Tumblin’ (Bob on keyboard)
6. Desolation Row (Bob on keyboard)
7. Cold Irons Bound (Bob center stage with harp)
8. Tangled Up In Blue (Bob center stage with harp)
9. Highway 61 Revisited (Bob on keyboard)
10. Simple Twist Of Fate (Bob on guitar)
11. Thunder On The Mountain (Bob on keyboard)
12. Ballad Of A Thin Man (Bob center stage with harp)

13. Jolene (Bob on keyboard)
14. Like A Rolling Stone (Bob on keyboard)