! = recommended
* = all-ages
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It is sheer madness that there are so many great live performers appearing at Bumbershoot 2010 this year. This is my personal schedule to see a cross-section of irascible indie-ness (be it indie pop-friendly Pac NW hip-hop, indie rock, Brooklyn funk, etc.) but mostly focusing on those TIG-sparking artists who either put out a great record recently (and may or may not have gotten the deserved acclaim) or have one coming right up.
So let's begin the plan, and bear in mind if you haven't heard the music that may already be available from these performers, we would recommend checking the releases hyped below out before you attend Bumbershoot 2010. This is not because you would be in any way disappointed with what you will see and hear when you hit the full-genre full-on phenomenon that is the festival this year; just the opposite, we want you to already have some of these songs down to sing/chant/rap along when they pop during the sets. All are recommended and approved.
12:15 PM - Grynch (State Farm Stage)
A wake up call time of the day to hear some crucially honest, working class confessions from a young-but-veteran MC, and boom and blasts from his lauded night-crawling cool DJ (Nphared). There is a sincerity and and depth to Grynch which shows you within minutes of him hitting the stage why he's opened for Snoop, and has staked his place as a fierce forerunner in the next level of beats-based local music. Only problem is, it's hard not to recommend most TIG kids should be over at the Sky Church around this time for the one-two punch of up and coming indie pop bands Great Waves and The Submarines. For those of us more into hip-hop though, and eagerly waiting to see what one of the more interesting next releases of that scene might be, this would be the place to start. (Meanwhile, his sophomore album My Second Wind should not be missed in preparation for his appearance at Bumbershoot.)
3:00 PM - The Maldives (Starbucks Stage)
Listen To The Thunder is so new an album from the Maldives we haven't even had a chance to review it yet, but Jason Dodson, Kevin Barrans, Seth Warren and the other several good-humored, not-afraid-to-sing-whiskey-threnodies-at-3am master musicians of 'mericana will be an afternoon highlight the first day of the festival. If the time in the schedule seems a little odd (should we really be pounding them down so early?) just remember that these guys deliver songs truly worth listening to, while the kids can shuffle and bob their heads like they're back at the bonfire. Great way to kick off the evening with a high-quality, deeply-rooted set.
5:30 PM - The Budos Band (State Farm Stage)
This particular time in the schedule is absolutely crazy, and if TIG legions are found more at The Decemberists show, or seeing Rick Moody give a reading based on his new novel, or at the first batch of Best of SIFF 2010 award winners, we wouldn't blame them. Unfortunately, you'd be missing out on some truly hot instrumental work from a multi-piece band that plays out on Daptone Records, and this is where you're going to find the big music fans dancing who may have seen The Decemberists plenty of times live before. The eleven-track Budos Band lll IS the party platter, and no doubt they will be bringing their Brooklyn-recorded rhythm and bomp to a final summation of summer celebration at this slice of Bumbershoot.
11:45 AM - The Tripwires (Starbucks Stage)
The Tripwires is made up of some very royal rock-solid Seattle music veterans (including Mark Pickerel, the Sangster brothers, and John Ramberg of the Minus 5) and their debut on Spark & Shine, titled House To House, should have gotten a big old sloppy TIG kiss from me earlier this year (I only had time to squeeze out a show preview on the LP's release date). Chock full of incredibly crafted mature power pop like "Another Planet Now" and "(Something In A) Saturday Night" (two of my very favorite songs of last year), The Tripwires might be the best early show of the festival, and even if the time seems awkward for the most raging party band you might hear this weekend, the songs will at least truly satisfy. I wouldn't miss it.
12:30 PM - Unnatural Helpers (Starbucks)
Another group of older guys who greasily roar out an unstoppable jam, Hardly Art's Unnatural Helpers had a release last year (Cracked Love & Other Drugs) with some astonishing singles on it, but I think their next one is going to be where they want to be. You could tell that with the way they were burning things up at shows, like the Crocodile kick-off the night before the Capitol Hill Block Party. The band may have started out as a Sub Pop house party band, but their chops and brutal drum kick is starting to leave songs behind after the ringing leaves your ears.
3:30 PM - Redwood Plan (EMP Sky Church)
Lesli Wood left the riot grrrl ruckus of Ms. Led and the textural beauty of Saeta behind a few months ago to try her hand at some really gnarly pop funk and roll with The Redwood Plan. The early shows (such as at the Crocodile, opening for the Whore Moans) featured incredible rhythm section churning and an insanely riotous Ms. Wood going crazy all over the stage. But at the CHBP the band unveiled new tracks coming up on their debut LP, Racing Towards the Heartbreak, and there was a lot more depth and width than we expected, even some smoother romance among the infectious hot love. I have the feeling that album is going to astonish even fans who have been around all the groups this band is made up from, and this would be the time and place to hear samples of that game-changing new release.
4:00 PM - David Bazan (Broad Street Stage)
Simply put, Curse Your Branches was one of the very best albums of last year. I've been in love with Pedro The Lion since It's Hard To Find A Friend, but had recently missed a lot of David's live shows with that group (basically him, with some amazing musicians, or not) and on his own more recently, just because records I'd heard didn't seem as good. Curse Your Branches is faultless lyrically, full of wisdom and pain and longing and self-accusation, but its use of prog and new wave keyboards and an assertive rhythmic sensibility made those words come alive powerfully. The humor never bit harder, and the grace was never more tender. Recent performances of this and earlier material seemed renewed too. This may be the one show at Bumbershoot 2010 I'm looking forward to most, which is kind of strange, as I've seen the dude like a hundred times.
5:00 PM - Slender Means (EMP Sky Church)
Slender Means' last album Adrift In The Cosmos was too good: a valley-spanning spectrum of sound and moody emotion with razor-wire lyrics lacerating your think-stalk while plunging you into a guitar-orchestra pit of aquarium sound. Yeah, I know that sentence got away from me, but the fact that the LP didn't get the same slobbering devotion their live shows (such as at the new Hard Rock Cafe) did seems a crime. I would recommend picking it up as soon as possible, and if you've already seen them live I'm not amping you on something you're not already, um, amped on (is that legal to say?).
8:15 PM - The Physics (EMP Sky Church)
They got some great new stuff coming up, with a new guitar player, and I have always loved them live. I don't want to give away any surprises, but The Physics are going to be using their past few years getting their rhymes right with the bottom end tight for an explosion of creativity in 2011. Check out a sample here first before it drops.
12:30 - People Eating People (EMP Sky Church)
The Control Group just signed People Eating People, further showing their brilliant sense of dedication to getting great new, quasi-rock music out to a tastefully refined audience. Nouela Johnston (formerly of Mon Frere) is no demure waif on a weighted keyboard though, she's a beautiful monster of alternately elegant and mesmerizing punk-blues, rocking her piano with blood from open wounds and kissing the audience with gracious appreciation. I remember getting this excited first seeing PJ Harvey perform back in the mid-90s. Church.
1:00 PM - Brian Vogan and His Good Buddies (NW Court Stage)
A starry-eyed sleeper of a record, the self-released Sing A Little Song is the first "children's album" I enjoy as much as "adult" fare by Jonathan Richman, early Sufjan Stevens, or other blessed singer-songwriters. He's just really great at coming up with killer harmonies (helped by Rachel Flotard on opener "How To Fly"), and developing senses-expanding instructions on traffic ("Tow Truck," "Cross The Street") into sweetly existential meditations on being. I'm hoping Benjamin Baier will be playing bass here live as well as on the album, as his endearing presence is a cheer to the soul.
4:45 PM - THEESatisfaction (EMP Sky Church)
I am a recent convert to the double-MC THEESatisfaction, who are able to bring girl group passion to soul-rock groove and sonic weirdness to keep it all wild and unpredictable. Whatever recording they come up with (and they have an EP and a mix tape out right now you should not miss) next year will be one of the things I'll happily fork out money for (even though I'm kind of low life). They stormed it at an afternoon show at CHBP, so don't miss this chance to catch them if you haven't yet (and I know you will again if you have).
9:15 PM - The Thermals (Broad Street Stage)
The Thermals are usually known for a raging, rumbling roar of bass-heavy protest rock, ripping apart religion and spanking hypocrites in every quarter of higher society. Well, Personal Life is their new album and it's a tight, compressed, compelling view of romance, starting with four or five perfect power pop numbers (starting with "I'm Gonna Change Your Life," new single "I Don't Believe You"), and ending on a hypnotic troika of tunes ("Your Love Is So Strong," "A Reflection," "You Changed My Life") which seem like the best non-god gospel rock anthems you'll ever here. In other words, it's raw and clever all about the tango of relationships, and if the older crusties don't flip out and accept its indie pop goodness for the real joy it gives, 2011 could be an alarmingly good year for the Thermals. This show will be a whole new thing for this Portland power trio maybe; but whatever it is, it will be most appreciated by even more than their rabid Seattle fans.
Oh yeah, and don't forget to see Neko Case and Bob Dylan! Considering my record collection spills over with those two, you'll probably see me there shouting out the lyrics as well. Don't be afraid to stomp on my foot to shut me up.