Published Sep 06, 2011Recent Bumbershoot headliners included Bob Dylan, Kanye West and Katy Perry. This year gave us Hall & Oates. Sure, they're one of the most prolific pop acts of all time, but one that just two days previously had played a free show at the PNE, Vancouver's annual fair. Welcome to Bumbershoot 2011: the Recession.
There were almost no hipsters, fewer stages than previous years and less star power, but humble failed to hinder the festivities. In fact, the smaller scale meant a return to Bumbershoot's roots: discovery.
Saturday kicked off with Campfire OK, an indie folk/Americana band who have one of the catchiest singles in recent memory with "Strange Like We Are." Craft Spells followed with an '80s sound inspired by Echo and the Bunnymen and the Cure but fuzzed-out guitars that begged for something slightly more refined. Trombone Shorty's "secret" KEXP live broadcast concert was mesmerizing. His swagger is the perfect complement to the trombone's innate awkwardness, and when he deviates from instrumental to singing those sexy R&B/funk songs, well, let's hope Usher enjoys early retirement.
Sunday brought the revelation that indie pop band Tennis are likely one of the few acts capable of going directly from a music festival to a country club without changing clothes. Their sound -- polite, pretty, perfect -- would be at home in any Wes Anderson film. Rock band Massey Ferguson started their set by bragging (or warning) that the band are composed of "four very male Americans." True to their word, they sounded like the Hold Steady covering Bruce Springsteen. Toro Y Moi crafted the project's usual beautifully dreamy soundscapes, fusing seemingly disparate influences like folk and French jazz into electronic dance numbers.
The Seattle Symphony previewed their new mission statement with a program called Symphony Untucked, which featured everything from familiar classics to daring derailments (a solo piece for double bass that involves playing and talking the entire time), sure to get some hoity-toity blue hairs clucking their tongues in distaste. But it was Broken Social Scene's fantastic mainstage show that stood out as the day's highlight. They reached far back into their catalogue for some old favourites, before Kevin Drew suddenly announced that this would be the band's last show "for a long time," leaving everyone to speculate whether BSS are going on a break or actually breaking up.
Monday brought YACHT's typically fantastic electro-dance fun. The duo have evolved into a five-piece band and the addition of live instruments adds welcome texture to their song/manifestos. Indie electro-pop trio Phantogram debuted "16 Years" off their new fall EP. If it's a hint at their new direction, think aggressive drums and even airier vocals -- a juxtaposition that shouldn't work, but it does.
Fitz and the Tantrums, the mainstage's penultimate act, had the stadium vibrating with energy and excitement and held the crowd longer than festival closers, rock legends Hall & Oates. In a puzzling twist, the 1980s faves opened with "Maneater," arguably their best song. It got the crowd going -- despite the fact that Hall seemed to shout to cover up the thinness of his vocals -- but it also gave everyone an easy out. Four songs of varying calibre later and partially deaf, many in the audience took them up on it.