Bumbershoot 2023: Seattle Artists Lead Best of Saturday

Bumbershoot 2023: Seattle Artists Lead Best of Saturday – 9/2/23
~ Lisa Hagen Glynn

Molly Sides of Thunderpussy – photo by Lisa Hagen Glynn

Bumbershoot made a triumphant 50th anniversary return. After a three-year hiatus and a change in management, Seattleites were out in force at this classic festival. 

It was a Pacific Northwest-heavy lineup that highlighted many big-name musical acts with local roots. Headliners included Sunny Day Real Estate, Sleater-Kinney, AFI, Zhu, Band of Horses, Brittany Howard, Descendents, The Revivalists, and Fatboy Slim.

The festival also featured visual art, film, fashion, and a “recess district.” With this wealth of artistic options, it was impossible to experience everything the festival had to offer. 

The weather was typical of a Seattle Labor Day weekend, with an 85-degree Saturday yielding to scattered showers on Sunday—perfect for pulling out a bumbershoot. The familiar faces in the crowd and onstage made it feel like Old Seattle again for just a moment. 

Here are my “best of” nominations for Bumbershoot, Saturday 2023:

Happiest to Be Home: Band of Horses . On Sunday, former Seattleite and Band of Horses lead singer Ben Bridwell enthusiastically waved a SuperSonics flag and announced that many of the tunes they were playing were written in Belltown. The group performed at the Paramount Theatre in 2021.

Best Rocking Out: Thunderpussy . This hard-rocking group always puts on a helluva show. Frontwoman Molly Sides somehow managed to fiercely sing feminist anthems while also doing kicks, splits, and backbends.

Thunderpussy – all photos by Lisa Hagen Glynn

Sounded Most Like Their Album: Ride. Sounding fantastic as always, the British shoegazers performed their classic 1992 album, Going Blank Again, in its entirety.

Ride – all photos by Lisa Hagen Glynn

Crowd Favorite: Matt and Kim. This electronic-music duo played a well-attended set at the Mural Amphitheatre. Kim stood atop drums, Matt played synths and sang, and they distributed some inflatable sex dolls that the audience bounced around like beach balls. (To be fair, their website warns against bringing children due to adult themes.) The crowd was all smiles.

Matt and Kim – photos by Lisa Hagen Glynn

Most Circus-Like: Puddles Pity Party. A departure from the usual festival fare, a tall, sad clown with a crown (Atlanta-based Mark Geier) first roamed the audience to take selfies. After hopping the barricade, he loudly deflated a balloon onstage, tossed Kleenex from the box, and belted out cabaret.

Puddles Pity Party – photos by Lisa Hagen Glynn

Least Circus-Like: Cat Circus. Although the tent was equipped with circus accouterments, the Cat Circus was an adoption event and not a trained-animal performance. That didn’t stop people from lining up—and at one point the queue extended to the festival exit. It was fantastic marketing, though, and I hope those adorable kitties found their forever-homes.

Adorable Cat @ Cat Circus – photo by Lisa Hagen Glynn

Best New (To Me) Find: Spirit Award. Daniel Lyon’s Seattle-based band had been on our list for a while. At the Vera Project stage, they played shoegazey post-punk with some motorik stylings. The group kicked off a European tour in September.

Most Inappropriately Early Time Slot: Warpaint. This popular act was a late addition to the lineup, which might explain the early set time. The Los Angeles-based group played catchy lo-fi psychedelic dream-pop over disco beats.

Warpaint – photos by Lisa Hagen Glynn

Greatest Regrets: (1) Bumbermania. This WWF-style wrestling event looked like a lot of fun, but took place during the musical headliners. (2) The petting zoo! We learned of this attraction after it had closed, and fear we might not have a second chance to cuddle baby wallabies. (3) True Loves. They played a reportedly terrific set on Sunday, including Jimmy James on guitar and Skerik on saxophone (in his first show back following a serious injury).

Suggestions for Next Time: (1) Bring back the jazz stage! At a festival this varied, the multi-generationally appreciated American art form was noticeably absent. (2) Allow in-and-out privileges. Twelve hours is a long day for anyone, but especially for families. (3) Create a more obvious route to the Monorail. After puzzling directions to “go around,” we gave up and took the bus.

Sweet Water – photos by Lisa Hagen Glynn