Several courses from Sunday at Bumbershooot
A report from the Bumbershoot trenches on Sunday
Seattle Times arts critic
More on Bumbershoot
From the Bumbershoot trenches, on Sunday:
Booth Chatter: "It's the funniest thing you've ever seen," said the 16 year-old Seattle kid emerging from the Trojan condoms tent with two giggling girlfriends. She was speaking of the audiovisual show playing in the tent, which these kids (who were holding the free condoms that were handed out) said they found both funny and educational.
"We just think it's good to be informed," said one of the girls.
A moment later, a young man nearby pulled up his T-shirt to show us the free (and we assume impermanent) tattoo on his back with the Trojan logo of an ancient soldier wearing, ahem, a helmet. That drew another round of giggles.
Vendor Buzz: According to an unscientific survey of Bumbershoot craft and food vendors, and one psychic, Sunday was a much better day than Saturday for sales — largely thanks to a bigger turnout, despite the rain.
We did notice (again, unscientifically) some vendor trends.
One was that there were fewer high-priced goods for sale. A booth selling T-shirts for $5 and sweats for $10 was doing a brisk business. So was Hookn-Beads — jewelry maker Brandi Lipsie's delicately attractive necklaces and bracelets woven with copper wire, and glass beads — where most pieces were $27 or less.
Vitrofusion Art, a purveyor of beautiful fused-glass jewelry (made with a special technique used in Chile and Argentina), was not doing as well, though the custom-made pieces in sea green, burnt orange, ocean blue and other rich colors were also very reasonably priced — even if they looked expensive. Maybe that was the problem ...
A bite from a performance-art "bento box." New York arts center P.S. 122 has brought a multicourse performance-art roundup to Bumbershoot this year.
The act we caught in the Bagley Wright Theatre was a delightfully satirical and agile New York dance-theater outfit called Witness Protection. Their piece "The Panic Room" is framed as a kind of experiment in social anxiety and panic.
Guys in white suits and women in flouncy dresses (all with bare feet) are put through a lot of very odd tests that induce paranoia and hysteria. There are also bouts of athletic dance, and very goofy PowerPoint displays.
This is cutting-edge stuff. But it's blessedly user-friendly.
Flexion. In this show repeated outdoors several times daily, a cluster of mutants (women, we think) hike out onto a grassy area wearing metal stilts. They look like citizens from the planet Cirque du Soleil, given their trippy face make-up and costumes. To the sounds of space-cadet music (accented by sleigh bells) they run through a lot of acrobatic moves on those stilts — some involving bungee cords.
They stay poker-faced throughout. And the little kids watching them, saucer-eyed, are transfixed by their limber otherness.
Thank you, Jamaica. Where would some of the top musical acts in Sunday's Bumbershoot lineup be without Bob Marley and his kind? They've borrowed that irresistible rhythmic underpinning of reggae — that 4/4 time scheme, with the accent on the second and fourth beat (instead of the more conventional first and third), and that reliance on one or two simple, repetitive chords.
First there was Michael Franti and his band Spearhead, who brought their distinctive blend of politicized reggae, hip-hop and funk to the Memorial Stadium. Franti is an American, not a Jamaican. But he can get a crowd worked up with call-and-response chatting on such Bob Marley-esque odes to brotherhood as "Say Hey (I Love You)" — off his recent hit record "All Rebel Rockers."
Earlier this summer, Franti suffered a ruptured appendix — a very scary medical emergency. But you wouldn't know it from the way he bounced, danced and spurred on the crowd to do the same at Bumbershoot, like a shamanic aerobics instructor.
Brett Dennen, a pop-folkie who plays Seattle often, worked his own charming, chiming spin on the reggae beat in such big-souled original songs as "She's Mine" and "Darlin' Do Not Fear," which he performed on the Starbucks Stage near the Center House.
And Jason Mraz? This pleasant popster (whose songs have some of the peace-love-and-understanding vibe but not the depth or variety of his pal Dennen's) also works the reggae groove — particularly his megahit single "I'm Yours," which holds the record for time spent on the Billboard charts.
"Here's a happy little hippie single," Mraz told the Memorial Stadium crowd when he got around to it at the end of his set. He invited everyone to sing along, and they did so lustily. One listener told a companion that the tune reminded him of the just-as-catchy Bobby McFerrin smash, "Don't Worry Be Happy" — which also has a reggaelike ripple.
On behalf of American musicians everywhere, thank you Bob Marley, the Wailers, Jimmy Cliff, et al.
Soul Revival, and then Some. There's usually one performance at Bumbershoot on a given day that stands out above the rest. Some of us left the Seattle Center on Sunday night with no doubt about who gave it: Raphael Saadiq.
Yes, his set was derivative of the great R&B/Motown masters of the past — the songs had little echoes of The Temptations, the O'Jays, Jackie Wilson. His sexy love-man rap brought to mind such great soul seducers as Al Green and Otis Redding. (Though neither of those stripped off his shirt, and tossed it into to the crowd, as Saadiq did.)
But if you got it, baby, flaunt it. And Saadiq has it: the crooning tenor, the swiveling hips, the fever-inducing charisma and a sizzling band with great backup singers — including one gal who looked like a young Diana Ross, but sounded way, way funkier.
Saadiq's prolific career as a producer, songwriter, and one of the forces behind the late, great soul band Tony! Toni! Toné! has blossomed into one heck of a showman. His set on the lawn across from the International Fountain was a spellbinder, before a multigenerational crowd that didn't want it to end. Time for a soul revue at Memorial Stadium? We think so. And please put Mr. Saadiq on the bill.
Misha Berson: email@example.com
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