by Mark Teppo / Danny Murphy / Craig Young

Labor Day weekend is traditionally the Grim Reaper of summer--the last days of festive frolicking before the kids go back to school and the weather starts to fall. For those of us in complete denial, there's always Bumbershoot--Seattle's weekend-long arts and music festival that sprawls over the Seattle Center and keeps us all rocking just a few days longer. Celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, Bumbershoot brought out over 200 performers (scattered across 40 stages) and more than 200,000 celebrants of the labor-free last weekend of summer.

The Earpollution gang packed sunscreen, stockpiled batteries for their cameras, sharpened their pencils, and waxed their elbows in preparation of the event. We won't pretend that we saw it all--no single individual could--but we bring you the interesting and the arresting of Bumbershoot 2000, eP-style.

Cirque Spectacular -- Teatro Circo Stage

[ click here for a slideshow tour of bumbershoot 2000 ]
photo by mark teppo

Click here for a slideshow tour of Bumbershoot 2000
Some of the things marketed for kids are actually the most charmingly innocent entertainment that one can find. There's a picture somewhere from last year's Bumbershoot activities of Craig--our chief whip cracker--actually enjoying himself without a care in the world. What was he doing? Watching the sideshow hysterics of the Teatro ZinZanni. Since the ZinZanni circus has packed up and taken their big-tent fun down to San Francisco, Bumbershoot had to find other entertainers to fill the Teatro Circo Stage this year for their three or four daily shows. The Cirque Spectacular performers went the brazen and blazing route, displaying incredible feats of dexterity and physical skill that continually charmed their audiences this weekend.

This is where we started on Friday. It had been a long week and I needed to wash all of the grit from the workplace away before I got down and boogied. From the opening pair of sky-climbing bell-ringers to the closing aerialists draping themselves above the stage in red cloth, the Cirque Spectacular always diverts, entertains, and makes you laugh so heartily that your stomach uncurls and your tense muscles loosen. Bumbershoot can be crowded and tiring, but the circus shows always rejuvenate. I even came back at nightfall when they did the nocturnal version, complete with the Ignis Mundi fire dancers. Who wouldn't? Dangerous acts with flaming sticks. Now, if Lemmy could figure out how to make your ears bleed with Orgasmatron, and perform with a flaming stick, Motörhead would be terribly hip again. X-treme even.  -Mark Teppo

Seattle Guitar Circle -- Kendall-Jackson Music Hall
Self-described as "atomic chamber music," the Guitar Circle concept revolves around five or more guitars all tuned to varying harmonic ranges which results in a tonal mist of ambient proportions. The Kendall-Jackson Music Hall just screams "nap time!" after being out in the sun all afternoon with its low-lit environment, but the interwoven melody lines of the Seattle Guitar Circle kept our alpha waves peaking.

Based in the studies and work of Robert Fripp, the idea of Guitar Circles brings together like-minded individuals who explore the interaction and sometimes surprising improvisational nature of music. Robert Fripp sums it up best in his introduction to Guitar Craft: " its name implies, is a way of craft. We develop an instrumentality of personal functioning which can be directly responsive to the creative impulse of music. Put simply, the musician becomes a trained instrument to be played by music. We approach the intangible by working upon the tangible. At a certain point of application, of concentrated effort, craft becomes an art. This is quite straightforward, exceptionally difficult and continually mysterious."

Which is a much better definition than calling it an hour of soft-rock, folky, jazzy, classical speed-pickin'.  -Mark Teppo

red fish blue fish -- Kendall-Jackson Music Hall
Even in his grave, Dr. Seuss is screaming bloody murder. Swiping a line from a classic Seussian rhyme for their name, red fish blue fish [sic] go for the childlike appeal to whimsy. They're also supposedly going for those easily intoxicated by a blend of "classical, jazz, Afro-Cuban, and Tibetan ritual music." However, if you can't get the rhythm section to agree on where the beat is falling, you haven't even got enough for the schoolkids to sing-along with a nonsense poem.  -Mark Teppo

Chata Addy and Susuma -- Kids Stage
The great thing about Bumbershoot is that even if you pick something to hear and it is just not to your taste (a polite way of saying that we didn't stay long for red fish blue fish), you can always skip out and find something else that might tickle your fancy. In fact, with the gazillion-and-one stages scattered around the Seattle Center, the odds are good that something somewhere will set right in your ear and entrance you across the grass. Case in point: Chata Addy and Susuma. Traditional African instruments and melodies arrayed against Western instrumentation for a full crowd-shaking hour of explosively energetic music. Whether singing in his native tongue of Ga or in English, Chata Addy brought the entire crowd to their feet. Which was pretty spectacular for a mid-afternoon Friday crowd. That kind of ass-shaking you normally don't see until later in the weekend or evening. I'm talking the whole crowd. Pretty damn stunning music.  -Mark Teppo

[ seattle guitar circle - photo by mark teppo ]
photo by mark teppo

Jonathan Richman -- Tesoro Bumbrella Stage
Jonathan Richman has an amazing pull. And not just on my fiancée. We had been hoping to catch a little bit of the Maktub show, but as they were running late in their setup, we had to hustle back to the Bumbrella stage for Jonathan's show. We were early, but not early enough. The SRO space in front of the stage was already packed and the crowd only thickened as Jonathan and Tommy Larkin got into the swing of the show.

(Was it just me or were the stage crews slightly out of it this year? Jonathan--agreeable and genuinely nice in his presence--couldn't get the stage crew to give a rat's ass about getting his guitar miked properly. To the point that Tommy barked at them as the audience waited expectantly. Come on. I can understand the passive-aggressive ego trips that might be engaged if the musicians were pompous fuckheads, but that kind of treatment for Jonathan Richman? I only hope he remembers the enthusiasm of the audience and not the subpar treatment of the stage crew when he reflects on his Bumbershoot 2000 experience.)

It's not surprising that some of his great songs are over twenty years old. There is a sparse delight to his music (him and his guitar, Tommy Larkin providing drums) that shrugs off the passage of time and makes for a wonderful hour of great songs like "Pablo Picasso," "I Was Dancing in the Lesbian Bar," and "Little Airplane." He even came back out for an encore and did "Vampire Girl." A complete treat, as always.  -Mark Teppo

[ jonathan richman - photo by mark teppo ]
photo by mark teppo

Jonathan Richman "Pablo Picaso" MP3

360 BPM -- Bumberclub
Demonstrating that they're not completely out of the modern music loop, Bumbershoot had more than one electronic event (though still lacking a decent experimental venue). The Bumberclub turned over their sound system and wide dance floor to local DJ talent every evening. Friday night was the harder sounds of heavy techno and drum and bass. By the time we got into the building, the crowd was in a pretty heavy frenzy as 360 BPM was thundering through their incredibly rapid set. Spitting out music that only the truly spastic and caffeine-throttled could keep up with, DJs Nitsuj and Zacharina lived up to their moniker, keeping the crowd moving through the point of exhaustion. Bumbershoot Day One ended with the raging sounds of an ecstatic rave.  -Mark Teppo

George Clinton and the P-Funk All-Stars -- Mainstage
George Clinton and the P-Funk All-Stars took over the Mainstage of Bumbershoot with a marathon performance. The voodoo master of funk, George Clinton has the incredible star power you'd expect from someone who forged a genre of music, fashion, style and lifestyle. He commanded the stage like a preacher of a religious cult and delivered his sermon of funk to a huge audience of loyal followers and bright-eyed newcomers. I felt privileged to finally see the legacy of musicians who have inspired decades of followers and emulators. While I naively grew up believing funk had something to do with the '70s, Parliament, The Ohio Players, and George Clinton, I had only ever seen and listened to the new school bands like The Red Hot Chili Peppers or Primus, who took the foundation of funk and made their own music. Seeing George Clinton perform reinforced who the real architects of funk are and made me feel as though I missed a great deal of musical history somewhere along the way. George Clinton and the P-Funk All-Stars are the masters of funk and if you catch them live you will be educated too, by the guru and his cohorts.  -Danny Murphy

The Coup -- Rhythm Stage
The best kept secret of Bumbershoot was The Coup, who delivered my favorite performance at the festival this year. While they performed on the Rhythm Stage of Bumbershoot, I couldn't help feeling that they belonged on a bigger stage that would pull in a larger crowd. The Rhythm Stage is pretty isolated from the rest of the festival, but that didn't sway The Coup from putting on an exceptional show. Boots Riley is an incredible rapper; he voices the views of his hometown hood Oakland, California with power and eloquence that is rare in any music today.

When you see The Coup, you get more than a rap show: you get a message, without even feeling like someone was preaching. The Coup will make you dance your way into social revolution. These guys don't use politics and the voice of the inner city as a formula like a lot of popular rap. This music comes from neighborhood activists who also need to perform in order to spread their word.

[ george clinton - photo by danny murphy ]
photo by danny murphy

I've always been partial to rap that has musicians performing along with samples and rappers. The Coup come complete with a jazz guitarist, an incredible drummer, a groovin' bass player, and a keyboradist that will take you into outer space with his Peter Frampton vocal effects. All of these elements layered within the complex rhymes and a natural ability to entertain make The Coup a show not worth missing. With The Coup the message goes beyond race and deals with the equally important issue of class. The group that brought us albums like Genocide and Juice and Steal this Album are still bringing smart innovative rap music with a funky jazz feel after ten years of struggling with lineup changes and conniving record executives. They are also not afraid to break from the set list in order to improv some jams and create new songs in the middle of a set.

The best part of The Coup performing way over on the smaller Rhythm Stage was that their music was more accessible and interactive than other shows at the festival. On top of that, fans were able to greet Boots at the end of the show, where he seemed not only blown away but flattered by the mob of people posing for pictures, getting autographs, handing over demo tapes, and thanking them for coming to Seattle. It's obvious that the band appreciates their fans and it's important that people appreciate them by hunting down their albums and seeing them play whenever The Coup comes to town.

I wouldn't be surprised if The Coup single-handedly ignited social revolution. This power they have has made EMI, BET, and other forms of the mainstream media choose not to play their music to major audiences. The Coup are ready for you to listen, the question that remains is: Are you afraid to hear what they have to say? Go find out, you won't be disappointed. Even if you are afraid of social change, I know you're not afraid to be entertained.  -Danny Murphy

The Magnetic Fields -- Opera House
I came to Bumbershoot just to see The Magnetic Fields. I was blown away by their three-CD box set, 69 Love Songs, that came out in early 2000. They play songs with a wealth of musical styles; songs that range from new wave to country. With all of these styles, The Magnetic Fields have created a new style of music which will stick in your head, make you laugh, cry, and make you stay a home alone, drink some tea and make you wonder if there is any hope for your loving endeavors.

It's music that you can share with just about anyone, from your parents to your friends who are into obscure independent bands. Their music has the power to speak to a lot of people. It is music that expands the common denominators of listeners rather than lowering itself to the Britney Spears Top Forty demarcation. How is this possible? That is the allure of The Magnetic Fields. Maybe it's that the songs have a lo-fi feel, or that they have a Cole Porter/Irving Berlin kind of construction, or maybe it's that the songs are brutally honest about something everyone can relate to: Love. I enjoy The Magnetic Fields because they were able to make sixty-nine excellent songs on three CDs that I can listen to endlessly and not get bored. I was dying to see them live, because I had read that Steven Merritt doesn't like to play live or tour. At Bumbershoot it was obvious to me that he was uncomfortable sharing his music. The performance was very formal with one song leading to the next in almost the same order of the CD set.

[ the coup - photo by danny murphy ]
photo by danny murphy

The Coup "Repo Man" MP3

I was somehow disappointed by their performance; maybe it had something to do with me being in the "nose bleed" seats of the Opera House. I really wanted to see them in a more intimate setting. Despite my disappointment, they made a great impression on the audience. The managed to take a crowd that was three times the size of any audience they have previously played and show them just how great their songs are. It seemed as though everyone knew the songs because they applauded at the beginning of each of the more memorable songs of the CD set. I wish I could have been closer to be more a part of their show. I was amazed at how NPR the crowd seemed; it wasn't a show filled with punks or indie rockers, it was a show with families and middle-agers. This didn't really matter to me, it just wasn't what I expected. No matter what--it was still great to see them play and I still love their music. Although I felt like I was at some college music hall watching The Magnetic Fields present their senior recital, I will still attend their next performance and continue to buy their music.  -Danny Murphy

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