Bumbershoot | 2015 Preview

bumbershootFor us, it’s never about the “main stage” or the names of any specific acts: It’s about the overall experience.




Dear Bumbershoot:

We are psyched to see you again this year!

For three days each year, you make Seattle Center our favorite place in the world. We love festivals, we love music…heck, we love all artistic expression. The music is the focus for us, but the rest of it is essential to the experience. You give it all to us, from the dancers and the visual arts to the music. It used to be so overwhelming, but with fancy apps and links on your website, we can take our time sorting through the 150-plus acts. We live in an age of wonders.

You have been around for 45 years. That’s longer than anyone in our family has even been alive! My wife and I have gone for all 15 years that we have lived in Seattle, and our kids have been going every year of their lives. In fact, when they were toddlers, they would point to the Space Needle and say “Bumbershoot!” Now, using the vocabulary of Pixar’s Inside Out, at 7- and 9-years old, they attribute many of their “core memories” around music and family fun to Bumbershoot.

Last year, you gave us back the outside main stage with the Replacements and Capital Cities in the sun, after a few years of forcing us inside Key Arena. You even changed the configuration of the stage, making for better dancing and crowd dispersion. While we have always enjoyed other outdoor stages, we are excited that the main stage will continue to be outside.

(Side note to readers: Due to funding challenges in 2012, the main stage moved from the outdoor Memorial Stadium to the indoor Key Arena. This was a bummer for all sorts of reasons…but in 2014, additional sponsors brought the main stage back outside.)

For us, it’s never about the “main stage” or the names of any specific acts. As I mentioned earlier, it’s about the overall experience. Interactive art, like coloring a wall with crayons or playing with sound/color loops, is just as important as shaking your groove thing. Speaking of dancing and specific names, we would like to thank you, Bumbershoot, for teaching our kids that they have the funk. They know Bootsy now.

(Another side note to readers: That’s Bootsy Collins, the Parliament and Funkadelic bassist, who blew our minds with a “solo” set that featured all manner of colorful characters and musicians.)

You often test us, by raising ticket prices and creating exclusive VIP systems, but that is just part of the way festivals are managed these days. Also, you are a crowded festival, and bringing kids to any crowded festival is always a test. That’s not your fault. Nor was it your fault that a crazy person ranted on the bus ride home with my then-seven-year-old daughter, causing the bus to pull over so police could intervene. We are reminded of that unsettling moment when we ride the bus. That conversation also always leads to the amazing female-fronted rock powerhouse we had seen that evening, the Joy Formidable, and the general wonder and majesty of Bumbershoot. In other words, the test is always worth taking. There are lots of lessons for us all.

This year, you will give our family the opportunity to share some old favorites across a few genres: the quirky fun of Cake (who will hopefully play “Going the Distance,” the song my son and I used to listen to on a running mix when he was in a jogging stroller), the worldly eclectic-ness of DeVotcha, the soulful guitar wizardry of Ben Harper, the hometown heroes of Neko Case (that voice!) and the Cave Singers (both of whom we have seen as a family several times), and the dance party of Fitz and the Tantrums.

We will have the opportunity to teach our kids about Social Distortion, Faith No More, Lee “Scratch” Perry, Babes in Toyland, and even the Melvins. We will be able to experience some recent acts with big mainstream success, such as the Weeknd (“I Can’t Feel My Face” is one of our faves this summer) and Hozier (I know that there is more to him than “Take Me to Church”). There are a bunch other bands Seattle’s legendary listener-powered radio station KEXP brought to our ears who we are excited to see, including the dance-y, ’80s tinged Classixx, the blues funk of Grace Love and the True Loves, and difficult-to-categorize indie acts such as Mikal Cronin, The Airborne Toxic Event, Motopony, and Hey Marseilles. We are looking forward to young roots-flavored acts Kasey Musgraves, Nikki Lane, and Elephant Revival to keep things dusty. Maybe the adults can slip away for some crazy R-rated performances by electropunk Peaches, or the gritty hip-hop majesty of Atmosphere and Chance the Rapper.

One thing our family is very excited about is the Reign Supreme breakdancing competition. The mix of positive competitive energy with hip-hop, athletics, and several age groups makes any breakdancing competition worth attending. As the self-proclaimed biggest competition in the Pacific Northwest, the Reign Supreme is sure to build on the passion my kids already have about breakdancing. There are also a bunch of fun kid-themed performances and activities (dubbed “Youngershoot”), along with the general fun of simply frolicking in the two big fountains.

But, Bumbershoot, you always seem to leave us with both love and wonder mixed with confusion and frustration. For many years, Bumbershoot has offered free admission for kids 10 and under. This year, free admission has down to kids 6 and under—meaning those above age 6 will have to pay full price. This will mean that many of our kids’ friends will not be attending because it is now cost prohibitive. A family of four would need to pay $700 to $900 for a regular three-day pass, or $300 to $500 for a single-day pass. Bumbershoot, we’re disappointed, and hope that this will be another of your attempts at experimentation with festival management and cost cutting that, like having the main stage inside, will be discarded in future years.

Even with disappointment over things like that, we will always be there. We embrace everything about you, flaws and all. You bring us together as a family and provide consistent surprises and experiences each year. Returning to the vocabulary of Pixar’s Inside Out (a movie that had a huge impact on us this summer), you are a part of our “Music Island” and “Family Island.” We embrace all the emotions that you give us—joy, anger, disgust, fear, and sadness—and understand that rich experiences have several emotions attached to them.

Thanks for always being there for us; like Christmas, Halloween, and summer vacation, you are an important touchstone of the year. We are counting the days until we see you!

Art saves us!

Tony, Lorie, Daisy, and Riley

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