by Mark Teppo / Craig Young / Hope Lopez

While Merriam-Webster defines bumbershoot as an umbrella, to the people of Seattle this final blowout of summer is the biggest and baddest block party around. 2,000 performers, 74 acres, 18 stages, 4 days and the physical press of nearly a quarter million people. Armed with those numbers you begin to realize just how staggering an event this Labor Day festival is. Even more phenomenal is the collective calm which radiated from the staff of One Reel, the non-profit organization that has hosted Bumbershoot for the past 19 years. Maybe they just kept an eye out for us and warned one another through their omnipresent headsets of our approach. "Shhh. Here comes eP. Get your shit together. Stop that crying. Look tough." And then they'd dissolve again after we left. But, more truthfully, they simply handled the logistics nightmare which all those numbers above represent with aplomb, a polite grace which never disappeared, and a microscopic attentiveness to each of the cogs and wheels of the Bumbershoot machine.

That, and because the performers came to the Seattle Center with the intent to entertain: to rock, to croon, to swing, to sway, to knock you on your ass, to overwhelm you with unusual majesty, to cause arguments at dinner parties in the following week over the topic of "best new discovery," to make you fall in love with a genre of music you can't even pronounce much less trace the historical roots of, to make you lose your breath, your way, your companions; but most of all, to remind you of one small thing: music, played with passion, has universal and unlimited access to your soul.

Even Mojo Nixon. He wasn't having any fun until the gal in the front row of his show finally cracked a smile. It might have been the sing-along element which he commanded from every song during his set. It might have been the second verse of "She's Vibrator Dependent." It might have been his attempt to not mention his grandmother and blow jobs in the same sentence.

It doesn't really matter. She smiled.

With so much to see, hear and taste, it's easy to succumb to the nagging anxiety that somewhere on the festival grounds there is a performance going on you're going to regret you missed, unexpected surprises like The Master Musicians of Jajouka substituting for the last minute cancellation of Baaba Maal on the Rhythm Stage. And while the big names filled the big venues, for the most part we stuck to the smaller stages. It's not often you get to stand inches away from the sultry voice of Macy Gray, who made a late announced appearance on the Bumbrella Stage, or dance to the sexy rhythms of The Funky Meters an arm's length from the band.

[ click here for some of the sights from bumbershoot '99 ]
Click here for some of the sights from Bumbershoot '99

Armed with a schedule (that miraculously survive the weekend intact and legible), a notebook, several pens, fresh batteries for the digital cameras, Joel's homemade cookies, and enough water and smiles to last several days, your intrepid correspondents set out onto the Settle Center grounds and into the front lines of Bumbershoot '99 to bring back to you firsthand why this festival is not only a Northwest tradition, but a living, breathing entity all its own. Buckle your seatbelt and sit back as we begin our own Fantastic Voyage and journey to the heart of Bumbershoot.

Click on a day below to read more about Bumbershoot '99

[ click here for friday ] [ click here for saturday ] [ click here for sunday ] [ click here for monday ]
[ click here for the bumbershoot start page ]

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