Mark Teppo:  I woke about 4am to the sound of rain pounding on the roof of my apartment. I love the sound of rain, especially rain that is really falling. That morning, snuggling down under my blankets, listening to the rain and realizing that I could stay home today, I really loved the rain.

Four hours later, the sun was out, drying my roof and shining right into my face. Welcome to Seattle.

Welcome to the last day of 60,000 people trying to find enough room to swing a drum stick. Okay, not everyone was banging a drum, but I was starting to think I was the only one who hadn't sat down with a stick and a spot of cow hide to demonstrate to the world at large that the basic concept of "2" and "4" were not properly covered during my stint in elementary education. Come on, people! If you want to make noise, stay home and smack rocks together in your basement; if you're looking to experience the transcendence of a rhythmic pulse so great that it supersedes your natural inclination to breathe erratically, then take a moment to pick up the rudiments of the quarter note phrase. Or at the very least, watch the guy who is perched atop the fifteen foot drum. It's called the stroke, kids, and it's what made the trireme such a terror on the Aegean Sea about 2500 years ago. Principle hasn't changed.

I am such an elitist. But before you fire off a nasty-gram to my illustrious-out-at-Maktub-while-the-writers-are-home-slaving-away editor [mark, did i mention the played the sickest version of "no quarter" at the show? --ed.], let me tell you a story. Flashback to 1985. Glenn Johnston, the trombone instructor at Montana State University is trying to instill some sense of rhythm into his first year jazz band students. "Play on the back side of the beat," he instructs. A trumpet player in the back row raises his hand and inquires, "You mean, you want us to drag?" True story.

[ looking skyward at the space needle ]
photo by mark teppo

Now that my rhythmic credentials have been firmly established, let's get right to the last day of Bumbershoot '99. It begins with drums--the Seattle Kokon Taiko. Everything done well in the Japanese culture involves an understanding of movement--from the flick of a brush across rice paper to the down swing of a blade to the patterned sound of the taiko drum. It isn't just a matter of blasting away on a drum (that was being done with mind-numbing regularity back at the Rhythm Equator), it is an exercise in understanding your presence within the music when you aren't making music. A little Zen, I know, but to watch Taiko drumming is to witness precision and grace amidst the thunderous storm. The addition of bells, whistles, and flutes to this rampaging rumble creates Heaven and Earth for the artist to move between. Moving easily between the instruments, the Seattle Kodon brought the final day of the Rhythm Stage to life. Their pieces ranged from the somber remembrance of the trinity of atomic explosions which culminated in the blast over Nagasaki in 1945 to a festival piece written by the first Taiko sensei to come to American shores.

The other unspoken heroes of the weekend were the stage technicians and sound managers. For the most part, they had a half hour to clear one band and set up for the next, addressing the myriad of miking issues which each band brought on stage with them in such a short amount of time. There were glitches, sure, but the bands were always so congenial and engaging that most hiccups became opportunities for interaction with their audiences. Only once did I see a crowd get restless and that was for Trilok Gurtu & the Glimpse. The show was forty minutes late and there were hotbeds of restlessness running through the audience. The performance was a dazzling display of Indian music and Trilok's incredible tabla skills, but the audience was a little hot (even the quick rain spell which passed overhead wasn't enough) and a little frayed and they took a while to warm to the performance.

Meanwhile, Mickey Hart's Planet Drum was pounding the walls of the Main Stage and I wandered in long enough to get coated by the thick sound rolling off the stage. Corpulent with a heady atmosphere of rhythm, the Planet Drum ensemble was keeping a half stadium's worth of Bumbershoot attendees happy. It looked like Mickey Hart's singular agenda to preserve native rhythms was being successful. The crowd was all set to "receptors on."

[ seattle kokon taiko ]
photo by mark teppo

I kept moving 'cause I had a date with Imperial Teen. Out supporting their latest album, What's Not to Love?, the quartet took the stage in the Rock Arena with ease and popped us around with an hour of their infectious little ditties. Singing love songs for the generation still in its infancy of emotional security, Imperial Teen is bubble-gum pop hooks snapped tight around the seductive injection of vocal harmonies. Their punk roots not forgotten, the band kept the songs tight and focused, delivering their sonic wallop, letting you reel for a second or two, and then socking you again. Throwing in a little instrument hopping to keep the audience on its toes, the quartet demonstrated their pert independence from the dark trap of love's frailties and turned the squirming audience in the Rock Arena into a packed house of amorous suitors. And, as first dates go: call me eager, but I'm not waiting the requisite three days before I call.

Ducking into the darkness of Bumberclub to hide the infectious grin on my face, I wandered into the sonic distortion that is Hovercraft. From the back, you can't believe the whirlwind of sound which is shearing past you and, trying to see over the swaying stalks of heads between me and the stage, I attempted to fathom how many instruments and bodies were required to make that kind of noise. Only three. Lost in front of the stroboscopic flare of their movie screen, the members of Hovercraft curled around their respective instruments (drums, bass, and guitar only) and drew forth an unholy wail of sound and fury. Billed as being highly improvisational, I have to disagree after watching. The film running behind them was a jump cut montage of lava flows, scientific films on the ant, and extreme close-ups of bees and wasps. And, after a while, you realized that the film wasn't totally random, nor was the sound of the band in front. They were a little too tightly tuned to the visual impact of the film to be just "winging it." There was an underlying method to their sizzling disturbance, one that worked its magic on you with a subtlety that belied the force of the music. You realize suddenly that you've been standing in one spot for an hour, swaying back and forth in response to psychic breeze generated by the thick screeches and wails and sub-bass rumblings coming out of the sound system. You're entranced, rooted to one spot. Bumbershoot staff was going through the house after that show and prying people off the floor with pitchforks and plucking them down from the walls where the sonic thrust of the music had planted them. Protected by the eP mantra of "must see everything," I escaped with only a crack addict's burning desire to return for just one more hit in the back of my throat.

Somehow I ended up in the Northwest conference rooms by the PCC stage, checking out the Visual Arts displays. Shows just how disoriented I was. Bumbershoot is more than just music and, cultural philistines that we are at eP, we--well, I--hadn't caught any of the other "arts" this weekend. There are entire stages devoted to classical music, spoken word and literary readings, theater, and dance companies. Not to mention enough kid-oriented activities that if they hadn't been checking size requirements I would have gotten in on some of the fun. Always wanted a Pikachu mask. Could have made one. If I had been eight, and I haven't been mistaken for eight for a long time. So I tried to atone instead by checking out the Visual Arts showcases.

[ imperial teen play the rock arena on monday ]
photo by mark teppo

The coup of the show was the collection of velvet paintings by Edgar William Leetag. Further demonstration of the axiom that one man's basement bathroom wall coverings are another man's most prized possessions, the collection brings together 25 of Leetag's paintings of nubile south Pacific women, all adorned with that somber mastery that only velvet can bring. Hailed by some as the "American Gaugin" and others as the "Rembrandt of Black Velvet art medium," one can't look upon Leetag's art and not be struck by the intensity and robustness of his painting. And the kitsch. Sure, the price on a Leetag original is only going up and collectors worldwide are foaming to get their hands on one, but you have to ask yourself how badly do you want to have one hanging in your living room? And, if you do, what are the chances someone is going to say, "Oh, a Leetag" before someone else comments that they had a velvet painting once too. Only theirs was of Elvis and they ended up with it somehow after a weekend bender in Tijuana.

Wandering through the other galleries which highlighted American Consumption as well as a "Phresh" look at Northwest Art, I saw a couple of things which caught my eye. Mark Abramson's "Sweet Tea," an orange and red Cibachrome print which drew me into a muddy red delta with a forlorn houseboat permanently ensconced in a pool of brackish water. Elizabeth Jansen's charcoal print entitled "Clock of Secrecy" not only spoke of a Dark Crystal puppet which had been left abandoned by the side of the road, but also of enough longing and despair that it was named "Best of Show" by the PNWAC. Ellen Ziegler built a giant pearl that gurgled and splashed with an internal water engine and Jesse Paul Miller responded with a glowing green "Seeding Device" that contained the echo of rushing water. Great things to have in your house. The "Sculpture: 40000 Years Later" show had some interesting pieces, though Brandon Zebold's "Pinnacle," "Gateway," and "Pilaster" transcended their surroundings with their graceful arches and carved surfaces, reminding me of religious landmarks from a lost civilization that marked the spot of discarded cities and pinnacles of human achievement long forgotten.

I didn't say much about Trilok Gurtu earlier because it wasn't until Bumberdrum that I was fully astounded by his rhythmic ability. Not really understanding the purpose of Bumberdrum, I went and discovered that it really is just an extended showcase for all the percussionists who have been a part of Bumbershoot. Not a bad way to spend an evening, but I had been hoping more for an exploration of the melding of disparate rhythms and not so much an episodic soloing of each drummer. But Trilok was a sight to see. Curling himself around his tablas, he proceeded to create such a mesmerizing rhythmic environment that included the passing of a thunderstorm and the spatter of rain down the drain spout as well as the percussive equivalent of hail bouncing and chattering on the top of your house that the audience became transfixed. Until he was finished and then they were all on their feet, cheering and clapping. Rhythm always seems to be put separate from melody, but that was not the case with Trilok Gurtu. Rhythm became melody and what we heard was an elemental force moving across the surface of the instruments.

[ trilok looking a little sour ]
photo by mark teppo

Not wanting to get caught in the Drum Love free-for-all that was going to take the audience of the Opera House out onto the lawn for the final festivities, I snaked out and went back to the Bumberclub to rendezvous with the rest of the eP gang and catch the Bis show. Scottish lads and lass do electronic guitar punk with youthful enthusiasm. Marred by a mix which pushed the electronics too far forward, their sound was a bit rough, but their infectious energy was unmistakable and, as we quaffed a few pints, we couldn't help but get caught by the groove rolling off the Bumberclub stage.

The Final Spectacle of Bumbershoot '99 was the burning of the Bovinasaurus Con Leche. A giant statue that is part cow, part dinosaur, but mostly just freakin' weird to look at, the cow is the Bumbershoot version of the Burning Man. Okay, for those reviewers who didn't get it: this is a ritualized burn of what you have to offer--either the objects which you wish to have removed from your life, or the wishes upon which you desire to build your future. It's slightly pagan, so it might seem a little strange to those who haven't considered any religious possibilities beyond FatherSonHolyGhost, but it is just like making a wish on your birthday and then blowing out the candles, though in this case, the Seattle Fire Department is standing by and your candle is a 20' cow. It has nothing to do with Woodstock '99! That was Rene Girard's worst-case scenario come true. This is the hopeful gathering of a society which is present at the ending of one cycle and their transition as a community into the future. You burn the past because it is no longer accessible to you, and, as that circuit is closed, you move forward, cleansed and complete. It is a ritual meant to bring us together and, that night on the lawn as Bumbershoot ended and the cow burned, the crowd clustered close together and cheered.

For a few minutes, the rest of the world didn't exist. It was just us, the cow, and the four-day experience still coursing through our bodies--these were the only constants in the world. And this light we made, pillaring high into the sky, this was our passion and our regeneration made real. This was our rebirth brought about by a weekend of music and theater and art and dancing. Bumbershoot is exhausting and there is too much spectacle for one man, woman, or child to fabricate a complete panorama. But you aren't really supposed to try to consume it all. You are just meant to be reminded that art--any art--is integral to your life and those who suffer without it, do suffer indeed. And, as the cow was consumed into fine ash, sparking and twisting into the air, we hoped that each wish--each smile, laugh, and joyous instant--which had suffused our hearts over the weekend was going up with those ashes and would blanket the earth.

[ burn baby burn! ]
photo by mark teppo

Hope Lopez:  Goal numero uno was to check out Saul Williams--or as The Stranger's Bumberguide noted, "Saul Williams: Musician"--because later he would be speaking at a Poets Forum with Wanda Coleman at which the time conflicted with Cornucopia at Bumbrella. So I gathered up my gal pals and dragged them along to meet my traditional literary quest at Bumbershoot. Since I've been here, Bumbershoot was just as much about the writers/poets who were performing as the musicians. Most memorable were Diane DiPrima and the Beats, Jim Carroll and Patti Smith. With the last two along with Saul Williams, the ability to lay their rhymes atop music makes it more meaningful for me. Anyway, we headed off to the Rhythm Stage under the Space Needle to catch Williams. There was a good sized crowd of teens to the folks in their thirties. The wiry Williams was onstage with his notes and his band consisting of a violinist, guitarist, bassist and a drummer. Inspiring to all in attendance, Williams' voice spoke to each of our souls. After each piece, the crowd was entranced and moved by his phrasing, his message and the Funkadelic-like beautiful chaos created by the musicians backing him. Reading from his first collection The Seventh Octave and his current She, Williams spoke of universal truth and the human connection to it. His ability to keep the subject matter relevant by combining hip hop and pop culture with the literary academia creates a perfect balance that appeals to many. Williams ended his set letting us know that he's putting out a CD that's being produced by Rick Rubin and also urged the audience, "Don't support bullshit."

Cornucopia, 6:15 pm Bumbrella Stage. If you're in the know within the local soul/funk/jazz scene, you know who Chris Littlefield is. He's the talented trumpeter/composer who has worked with many locals such as Phatsidy Smokehouse, etc. You can usually catch his awesome playing at the 700 Club Friday nights at Jambalaya which features some of Seattle's well known musicians jamming together. Well, today at Bumbershoot, Littlefield's debut of his '70s-inspired soul/jazz Big Band appropriately called Cornucopia. An over-the-top ambitious effort, Littlefield's compositions and arrangements for the entire band came across beautifully. Vocals by Plush's Whitney James were a plus.

The Roots with Macy Gray. I found Macy Gray as an opener a surprise and at the same time, quite a disappointment. Not ragging on Macy entirely, I am aware of her star quality but having been moved earlier in the day by Saul Williams, it was hard for me to switch gears. Anyway, I heard that her performance at the Bumbrella stage earlier that day was amazing, so perhaps those kids who checked that out got the real deal.

I'm not sure what happened to The Roots but they never showed up. Seeing them at the Fenix earlier this year, I wasn't too hyped to see them in such a large arena as Memorial Stadium but at the same time, I felt like a majority of the crowd didn't realize that the main crew of Rahzel, Black Thought, ?uestlove , Scratch, Hub, etc. weren't the MCs onstage. The MCs' version of "You Got Me" didn't carry well but I give props to those guys for their effort to keep the show on. I've been checking the Official Roots website for details why the guys didn't show but an answer still hasn't been posted. I'd be curious to know what happened...Anyway, I think I was more concerned during this set about the fire on the other side of Memorial Stadium...

[ macy gray performing earlier in the day at the flag pavillion ]
photo by craig young

Craig Young:  Monday, glorious Monday! The past three days of Bumbershoot have left me completely exhausted. There's been so much to take in that I'm feeling a little brain-toasted at the moment. However, eP vows to persevere! Armed with several bags of Joel Lennox's world famous homemade chocolate chip and oatmeal raisin cookies, we set out once again to conquer the sights and sounds of the last day of Bumbershoot '99. Mark's busily snapping pictures of the Bovinasaurus Con Leche, a 30-foot tall half-cow half-dinosaur sculpture who will be burned during the closing ceremony tonight. All weekend long the "rat cow" (as one person put it) has been stuffed with the wishes of any festival goer brave enough to write it down. What did I wish for? I considered the obvious: winning lottery numbers, an express lane through the crowds, the smoke from the Cajun fried salmon food stands (whose smoke kept a good deal of the fountain lawn dwellers in an impenetrable haze most of the weekend) to disappear in a puff of smoke itself, manual shutter speed on my digital camera, Earpollution to continue with its quest of subversion through archaic sonarchy ("you will know them by the numbers '1' and '9'"), a new pair of Fluevogs... Oh so many choices. So what did I opt for? Happiness. I know, I know. I was seized by a moment of hopeless sentimentality and that's what I wrote down on the tiny slip of paper.

We stop by the press room to treat the staff to Joel's homemade cookies. They've been great to us and bust ass with little reward. The only time they get noticed is when something is amiss, and with their hard work Bumbershoot '99 was a success from all sides.

First on the hit list today is Chan Marshall's one person musical outlet, Cat Power. The Opera House is packed, but it's so quiet that I can hear the zoom on my camera scroll back and forth. In fact, its loudness is disconcerting enough that I put it away after only a few shots. Chan starts out at the grand piano ("I can't believe I'm playing a Steinway," she remarks) and softly begins her simple, deceptive melodies. Her simple phrasing builds repetition and her melancholic voice floats throughout the theater. After a few songs she stands up and dons her guitar, again to repeat the sparse chord phrasing and hushed lyrics. It's quite beautiful, really. But it's also lulling me to sleep. It's 1pm and I need to stay awake so I quietly make my way out the backdoor and out onto the fountain lawn in time to feel the raindrops from a quick afternoon shower.

[ cat power at the opera house ]
photo by craig young

Heading over to the Bumbrella Stage I take shelter in the artist's tent near the monitor board. Macy Gray is filling in for Terrell, who cancelled earlier. It's great catching her up front. Her backing band is tight, and her cat-like voice purrs over top the funky rhythms. She's been compared to Aretha Franklin. I would disagree with that, but her voice is very seductive and her songs hold up quite nicely as well, with one song at times deftly dropping into Bob Marley's "No Woman No Cry."

Shortly thereafter it's over to the Rock Arena, Death Cab for Cutie take stage to a near full house. This foursome from Bellingham craft intelligent pop songs in the emo-core vein. It was my first time seeing the band and I was quite impressed by both the music and the musicianship. A large number of fans had turned out, several even going so far as to hold aloft "I Love Death Cab for Cutie" signs. Johnny Renton was rumored to have been waving to the band, but in the midst of so many cheering fans I couldn't make him out. Perhaps he and Patrick McDonald were off trying to figure out how to report on bands they probably didn't even see.

After Death Cab for Cutie it's back across the festival grounds to the Bumberclub for Hovercraft's set. The best explanation of this noise trio comes directly from the band: "Music, like all language, is drawn from observation...Hovercraft is language, specifically the communication between three individuals, each in a hyper focused state of mental and physical struggle, filtering into music the world around them." To the unknowing, a Hovercraft performance like an experiment in disorganized noise. But if you follow the music, there is definition and purpose. And if you aren't getting it, then you're not looking in the right places. As with all their shows, behind the band a film plays; a collage of old NASA and government footage and the only light source on or off stage. As the film starts the band slowly release their immensely loud musical assault. Both music and film build for several minutes, each feeling the other out. And then, as if on cue, the band dives into their arsenal and as a loud kaboom blows the crowd off its feet, the film jumps into a hyperactive collage of visual and mental distress. Standing next to the main speakers is like trying to walk upright on a ship in a storm. Over the next 40 minutes both the aural and visual dynamics rise and fall together. The drumming sounds like the bellows of Hell, with the bass the strong arm pushing the air out and feeding the fires. Campbell 2000's guitar histrionics seep into the brain like a thousand nails across a chalkboard. You feel your psyche slowly being picked apart, you start to regress into early childhood memories; fractured associations and blurred memories. You want to curl up in a ball and hide and cry, but your eyes are fixated on the band and the images being splayed on the screen behind them. And just when you feel like Hovercraft are going to make you a certifiable drooling loon, both band and film stop on a dime--performance over. Finished. When you gather your senses back up and ponder what you just experienced it dawns on you that the band and film were perfectly synched, and that there were no tip-offs onstage on when or how the band should follow the film. It then becomes painfully obvious that Hovercraft have spent a lot of time honing their music (not the structure so much as the dynamics) to fit the film, and vice-versa. Each communicate with the other without conscious thought, each are an inseparable, together they form from the formless.

[ hovercraft and their dark wall of noise ]
photo by craig young

Knocking my head in an attempt to reset my neural pathways I slowly and carefully make my way over to the Rhythm Stage, not entirely sure that I'm still a complete person. Onstage are the Red Elvises, and all I can say about them is: Believe the hype! Three Siberian surf rockers living in helLA who happen upon a Texan drummer. Too good to be true? Well, it's the truth kids. These fab-four play surfabilly intermixed with Russian folk music. The bass player has this huge, pink, three stringed beast called a balalaika, and their sense of humor can only be described as...Russian. And that's a compliment! The crowd was packed and everyone, everyone, was getting down to their sounds. At one point while they covered "Blue Moon" (interjected with much comic relief), a lady in the audience tried to crawl her way over the barrier to kiss singer Igor Yuzov. After having survived the brain numbing psychosis of Hovercraft, the Red Elvises patched me up and sent me on my way with a huge smile on my face.

After the Elvises is a race back over to the Rock Arena for everybody's favorite indie sons, Built To Spill. The Key Arena was packed and it was very nice to see the band play such a large venue to a receptive audience with a spectacular light show. Opening up with "Carry the Zero" from this year's Keep It Like a Secret, Martsch and company spent their set drifting across the band's catalog, and were even joined onstage by Caustic Resin's Brett Netson, who played one of his songs with the band and stuck around for several more. eP corrections dept. to the nice people at Wall of Sound: Brett Netson (not Nelson) is the singer/guitarist for Caustic Resin. Brett Nelson is Built to Spill's bassist and longtime friend and musical companion of Doug Martsch (anyone remember Farm Days?). Just thought we'd clear that up for you.

Inhaling the bliss of Built to Spill, it was off to the Bumberclub again for Scottish synth-pop band Bis. Consisting of two guitarists and the lovely Manda Ran on keyboards (who pogoed enthusiastically throughout their set--so much so that I kept looking for a trampoline under her feet), their sound was The Cars meet Devo on the disco dance floor. For me, it was "okay." Most of their sound was being kicked out via samplers, and you could not really make out any of their own instruments, which makes the band look a bit silly as they're jumping around stage playing air guitar. Ah well. It was a nice close to a fantastic musical weekend, and surly Bumberclub employees aside, a good time all around.

[ the red elvises give it up on the rhythm stage ]
photo by craig young

"We're not done yet," Mark informs me. Huh? "The burning of the cow, man! We've got to go to the burning of the cow." Right, right. Heading back across the fountain lawn opera music wafts towards us. Next to the dinosaur cow is a 40-foot platform upon which a large lady dressed in full operatic regalia is singing "mightily" (or at least that's what I wrote down in my notes). Excited like a kid on Christmas morning, Mark throws his backpack at me and dives headfirst into the crowd with his camera, determined to capture every moment of the burning from as close as possible. "Umm... Mark, where are we going to meet..." I say to myself after he disappears. Ah well. I've got his backpack and my car keys. His problem, not mine.

The fat lady finishes singing and we know the end must be near now. A lightning bolt descends from the platform and strikes the mad jalapeņo pepper, who has stood next to the cow all weekend, match in hand, waiting for the appointed hour. Smoke curls out from inside the cow and in short order it is on fire and burning "mightily" (damn, I wrote that down twice?!). The fire rises to engulf the beast and as the flames climb into the night sky the several thousand audience members are lit up with its glow. Every one cheers and I can't help but hear the words of Jello Biafra ringing in my ears: "Burn baby burn! Burn baby burn!" The 10,000 plus wishes are sent skyward on the smoke and ash of the fire and Bumbershoot slowly comes to a close. After feeling worn and exhausted earlier in the day from 4 days of being on the front lines of the festival, I suddenly feel rejuvenated. I find Mark at the press gate to the Roots and, having missing their performance, we head home, blathering incessantly the whole way about the performances we saw; wondering just how the hell we're going to get it all down on paper...

[ built to spill's doug martsch ]
photo by craig young

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