The One Reel Productions people who put together Seattle’s annual Labor Day Weekend Bumbershoot music festival have once again included (possibly due to my repeated suggestions) some music suitable for people not enamored with the current inferior crop of Crosby Stills and Nash wanna-be bearded folk-rock bands and laptop-generated “electronic” music pushed on an unsuspecting public down Dexter Ave. a spell by the highly paid musical visionaries at the UW-owned station down the street. Two ‘Shoots ago, I watched one of those “bands”, Head Like A Kite. The guitar-playing frontman at least had the good sense to hire a real drummer to play along with the “beats” emanating from the MacBook Pro set up next to him on a small table, but when he invited a female guest to sing along on a song, she began dancing around and accidentally knocked over the table with the computer: End of show! While they had two actual musical instruments on stage, they were unable to do anything with them until the laptop was righted.
Some of us, and no doubt it’s because we’re “old“, still enjoy music performed by actual musicians playing actual musical instruments, and this year there’s a pretty good representation coming from the likes of:
Seattle’s own Heart (Saturday, 9:45 PM, Key Arena). While it was the original band’s lineup of Ann and Nancy Wilson, Roger Fisher, Steve Fossen, Howard Leese, and Michael Derosier from the 70’s that was inducted into the rock and Roll Hall of Fame this Spring, Ann and Nancy will be playing with their current backing band of Ben Smith, Craig Bartok, Debbie Shair, and Dan Rothchild. Ann still has one of the best voices in rock, the voice that brought tears to Robert Plant’s eyes as she nailed Stairway to Heaven at the Kennedy Center Honors thing late last year, when they were joined on drums by the son of Led Zeppelin’s John Bonham. Heart were heavily influenced by Zeppelin (Barracuda and Mistral Wind are perhaps the best Led Zeppelin songs that were never Led Zeppelin songs), and do not be surprised if there is some co-mingling at least on a repeat performance of Stairway, because immediately preceding Heart is…
Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Experience (Saturday, 8:30 PM, Key Arena). Jason is the 47 year old son of John Bonham, who got him started playing the trap kit at age 4. While he’s perhaps not as groundbreakingly original as dad, he’s plenty good enough to have been tapped to fill the drum throne at most Led Zeppelin reunions since John’s death (Phil Collins played the first one), and since Robert Plant has no interest in doing the reunion tour everyone’s been clamoring for since the 2007 Ahmet Ertegun Tribute Concert, this is as close to a Zeppelin show as you’re likely to get. Besides, they’ll probably be joined for a few numbers by Ann Wilson, who can sing Robert Plant better than Robert Plant these days.
Eric Burdon and The Animals (Sunday, 4:45 PM, Mural Amphitheater). Eric is 72 years old, and still going strong. The same cannot be said for the rest of The Animals, as Eric is the only original member, but he’s assembled a great group of players, as anyone who’s seen one of his nearly-yearly shows in our area casinos can tell you. Might be your last chance.
The Zombies (Sunday, 8:15 PM, Mural Amphitheater). The band was at the vanguard of the “British Invasion” in the early 60’s, but not being the prolific hitwriters that Lennon/McCartney or Jagger/Richards were, ran out of money and broke up amicably in 1968. Keyboard player Rod Argent went on to have a hit with Hold Your Head Up with his 70’s band Argent, but it was several years ago that Zombies lead singer Colin Blunstone showed up at an Argent gig, and the two decided to put the band back together. They skipped Seattle proper when they toured through our region two summers ago, playing a show up in Bellingham that has been described to me by several KZOK listeners as “F***ing Awesome”.
Redd Kross (Monday, 3:30 PM, The Fountain Lawn Stage, north of the International Fountain ). Brothers Jeff and Steve McDonald have been playing off and on together since middle-school in Los Angeles in 1978, and they have been fixtures in Hollywood ever since, counting many celebrities among their fans who are often the subject of their songs. Jeff is married to Go Go’s guitarist Charlotte Caffey. In 1987 they put out an album called Neurotica of songs inspired by not only celebrities, but Saturday morning cartoons and breakfast cereal, that was reasonably successful. Their show not too long after at Pioneer Square’s Central Tavern is the stuff of Seattle legend, attended by a who’s who of “Grunge” era bands. Mudhoney did a fine cover of their Notes and Chords Mean Nothing To Me, and they once did a cover of The Beatles I’ve Just Seen a Face with lead vocals handled by their good friend Danny Bonaduce under the psuedonym The Tater Totz.
Bob Mould (Sunday, 6:15 PM, The Fisher Green Stage, at the south end of the International Fountain). While the American rock radio industry that had weaned us on Beatles, Stones, Who, and Led Zeppelin was trying to calm us down with sappy chick rock like Journey and REO Speedwagon, Bob was putting American punk rock on the world’s musical map with his band Hüsker Du. In the 80’s he had another reasonably successful and oh-so-catchy band called Sugar, and he’ll be playing songs from both. He’s a very good guitarist, songwriter, and incredibly nice man, who once observed when I was interviewing him that “Every time I do an interview at a rock station, it’s done by a frustrated rock fan who wants to play me but has to play Poison or Winger, and every time I do an interview at an “Alternative” station it’s done by a frustrated dance music fan who has to play me when they’d rather be playing Depeche Mode or Alanis Morrisette”.
The Breeders ( Sunday, 8 PM, The Fisher Green Stage). Bass playing leader Kim Deal started this band in 1990 when her previous band The Pixies went on an extended hiatus. The Pixies are one of those American bands (from Boston) who have continued to gain in popularity over the years despite being ignored by radio in their prime, and Kim and sister Kelly’s band got a bit more attention in the 90’s, were one of America’s best female-fronted groups ever, and this highly anticipated reunion should be lousy with Seattle rock royalty.
Gary Numan (Saturday, 8 PM, The Fisher Green Stage). Gary had one hit in America, with his 1979 song Cars getting play on MTV. It’s a fun little song, and people tell me Gary has more. He’s a very talented man who can play almost any instrument, even though he’s considered one of the pioneers of synthesizer use next to the German band Kraftwerk.
Mark Pickerel and his Praying Hands (Monday, 6 PM, The Plaza Stage near the EMP). I first met Mark back in the 80’s in Ellensburg, when one of my bands opened for the one he played drums in, The Screaming Trees. He’s a super-nice guy, and excellent drummer who can twirl sticks, bounce them off drumheads into the air, and do other drumstick tricks better than anyone in the world as far as I’m concerned, but he’s also a pretty good singer (his voice sounds a bit like Willie Nelson’s) and guitar player, who’s swamp-cooler-country-rock songs are backed up by a great bunch of musicians.
There are plenty of other great rock and roll acts this year, the One Reel people generally have pretty good taste, but avoid anyone who has the initials “DJ” in front of their name. There’s also tons of great Visual Art (Flatstock, a showcase of music poster-art that runs the whole weekend in the Fisher Plaza, and did you know one of the greatest comic book publishers in America, Fantagraphics, is based in Seattle’s Georgetown neighborhood? They have a special showcase Saturday at 6 PM at the Leo K. Theater), Comedy (I’d recommend Patton Oswalt at the Bagley Wright Theater at 6;30 PM Saturday, Sunday, and Monday), Theater (I haven’t seen any of them) and Film (them neither, but I always stumble on to something cool)…and then there’s my own personal favorite Bumbershoot activities: Beer Swilling and People Watching!
More from the festival webpage here.