It’s hard being Bumbershoot. Almost every Seattle lifer has decades-old memories of seeing fantastic bands, all-time greats like James Brown or Tears for Fears, for free or next to nothing. This year’s festival cost $150 per day and was headlined by Lorde, Odesza, Solange, Gucci Mane—young pop artists that many people over 40 have little personal attachment to. And while those lifers were there this year, congregating in beer gardens, reminiscing about previous festivals over vape sessions, finding the local and/or KEXP-endorsed bands playing across Seattle Center, this weekend’s more common Bumbershoot fan averaged maybe 22 years old. Many were much younger, possibly attending Bumbershoot for the very first time—and as underdressed as they were, they were all in for the hip-hop and EDM on display. Overall attendance—by anecdotal observation, as One Reel isn’t giving out official numbers yet—seemed good but not great. The event is shackled by the legacy it depends on for credibility, trying to be all things to all people in a saturated music-fest marketplace amid a drastically tenuous music industry, charging more for ticket than anyone could have possibly imagined in 1971 when the festival first started. Oof.
All that said, there was some truly fantastic music to be experienced at Bumbershoot, with Solange easily winning the entire festival. She didn’t allow photos though, so you won’t see her among the images of artists local and national shot by Jake Hanson in our collection below. Still, the elegance of Lorde, the soul of Chicano Batman, the energy of Tacocat and Acapulco Lips and Smokey Brights and Dude York—all of it was there, and all of it comes through these photos. And here’s hoping Bumbershoot holds out a few more years to reach festival number 50 in 2021.