Day two started off about as Seattle as you could get with local guitar virtuoso Ayron Jones and the Way tearing up the Starbucks Stage beneath the shadow of the Space Needle as Jones’ producer, local hip-hop legend Sir-Mix-a-Lot, looked on with pride. Their original material is amazing but it was their insanely psychedelic cover of “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)” that won the most attention. On the TuneIn stage the sunny California melodies of the Mowgli’s complemented the perfect 75 degree weather.
The afternoon mainstage show started out with Tegan and Sara, hard to tell apart, extremely talented sisters who make some of the catchiest, most accomplished pop-rock around. They left out their breakthrough hit, “Walking with a Ghost.” They closed out the set with the title track off their most recent album, the straight from eighties “Closer” to a standing ovation. The afternoon headliner was Fun. They were about how you’d expect. Their album, Some Nights, is reasonably solid and contains their three monster hits. The problem is 99% of everyone is only really into one, two or all three of those hits. The bigger problem is that Fun. knows it too. They played just about every other song on the album and saved their hits “Carry On,” “Some Nights” and “We Are Young” for the very end. I think they knew if they played them any earlier in the set they would lose some of the crowd. They also seemed to not have enough material to fill an hour and fifteen minute set. They had to throw in an eight minute cover of “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” to kill some time. The set was fun, the band mostly lived up to its name but I think the longevity of Fun. is heavily riding on the quality of the next album. I, for one, wished they scattered their hits throughout the set.
I was excited to head over to the Starbucks Stage next to catch Eric Burdon and the Animals, one of the legends of the British Invasion. Evidently everyone, I mean everyone, at Bumbershoot had the same idea. The crowd was the largest ever witnessed at the Starbucks Stage. I barely caught a glimpse of the stage and Burdon myself. For a rocker in his early seventies Burdon’s voice is still great and he could still blow most thirty-year-old vocalists out of the water. Too crowded to stay for the whole set I stayed until I heard an excellent rearranged version of “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood.”
Winding through the festival I caught a couple songs from former Hüsker Dü frontman Bob Mould. His new material from The Silver Age fits well alongside his old classics. After this I made my biggest mistake of Bumbershoot. Death Cab for Cutie was playing all of Transatlanticism, that had to be great, right?
First, I got in line really early. Fortunately the line stretched from KeyArena across the Seattle Center and wound through the Plaza Stage area where I was able to listen to The Grizzled Mighty, Seattle’s hard rock blues duo covering the ground somewhere between The White Stripes and The Black Keys.
So, Ra Ra Riot opened for Death Cab … at KeyArena. The only reason I can formulate that Ra Ra Riot got a mainstage spot was that they happened to be on Barsuk Records. This is Death Cab’s former label, the label that Transatlanticism was released on, and the label was celebrating their 15th anniversary at Bumbershoot. Ra Ra Riot is not an arena band. In KeyArena their music and vocals came across as flat and underwhelming. Maybe Barsuk’s intention was to use the stage to introduce one of their artists to a much larger audience. I think their gamble backfired. It would have been better for Ra Ra Riot and the audience if they were featured on a smaller stage, not mainstage.
I’d never seen Death Cab before so I was really excited. I love side A of Transatlanticismand was looking forward to the whole set. I left after they played the first half of the album because it quickly occurred to me, as good as Death Cab are, their music is ill-suited for an arena. Their sound just does not fill the space it needs to. Even my favorite Death Cab songs like “Title and Registration” and “The Sound of Settling” fell flat. Only “The New Year” had hints of arena readiness.
The thing that disappointed me most is I later found out I missed The Breeders playing Last Splash in its entirety and The Zombies, whose two most famous songs would beat any of Death Cab’s.