See The Stranger's complete guide to Bumbershoot.
Once the only major arts and culture festival in the city, Bumbershoot is now one of many mass gatherings in our neck of the woods. Though it has musical rivals in Sasquatch! and the Capitol Hill Block Party, and there are strong contenders in both the food (Bite of Seattle) and multidisciplinary art exhibit (Folklife, Seattle Art Fair, and Out of Sight) games, this (sometimes) sunny three-day music and arts fair distinguishes itself from the festival pack by bringing all these forms together under one needle.
The 46th annual Bumbershoot lineup is full of acts worthy of filling your schedule, at and below the headliner level. You already know to go see Anderson .Paak, Fetty Wap, Tame Impala—and locally, Erik Blood, DoNormaal, and Chastity Belt. Here's a short list of artists with whom you may not be so familiar but who are worth your time.
Sun, 8 pm, Starbucks Stage
Cue up Kendrick Lamar's crushing To Pimp a Butterfly interlude "For Free?" and you can feel the power of the man behind the saxophone that sets the track off. With his best-known role playing on the biggest rap album of last year, Kamasi Washington piqued the interest of a legion of non-jazz fans and set the stage for the release of his ambitious triple-disc album The Epic just two months later. The Epic is an era-spanning jazz masterpiece, combining agreeable classic jazz standard melody with well-spaced vocal accompaniment and free jazz freak-outs. Washington's musical vision truly holds something for everyone.
Fri, 4:30 pm, Main Stage
This New York City duo combines acoustic and studio production techniques to pull their songs together, with moments of pounding anthem-building sliced by high-passion verses and field recordings. They are left of center enough to stand out, but they have a kind of clean crossover quality that will probably land them on bigger stages in the not-so-distant future.
Sun, 3 pm, Fisher Green
A song name like "Pay Attention to Me," from this year's Sub Pop release Neo, couldn't be more fitting for this group of Seattle noisemakers. Loud, grinding sections smash into each other between the beginning and end of each track, often tripping into thickets of feedback before they conclude. For all the chaos, though, So Pitted's songs are deeply pleasing, both for their primal smash-your-neighbor energy and their challenging thinking punk's discord.
Fri, 4:30 pm, Fisher Green
The vocal house duo that records under the name of a famous 20th-century New York urban planner makes music for the now. Augmenting their cruise-control dance-floor rhythms with hybrid electronic and acoustic arrangements, they create spacious nocturnal environments to dance and dream to. Fans of laid-back house, but also minimalist pop in the vein of the XX, should land here.
Sat, 4:10 pm, KEXP; Sun, 4:30 pm, KeyArena
You are going to be inundated with big, bulky, beat-heavy electronic music at this year's Bumbershoot, so you might as well pick and choose your electronic acts wisely. Bellingham producer/multi-instrumentalist Manatee Commune makes thought-provoking studio laboratory music in the vein of acts like Beat Connection, but he pulls all kinds of percussion and non-computer elements into the fold: chimes, guitar, violin, etc.
Sat, 8:20 pm, Starbucks Stage
Austin's White Denim are all over the place in the best way. From messy, lo-fi garage punk to lanky psych jams, the band has excelled in most areas it has dabbled in. What all their experimenting has in common is a fervent energy. They take each song as an opportunity to run a thread to its logical conclusion and tumble down rabbit holes and around corners at full bore. Songs twist and mutilate before hitting their wall, but they never lose the listener along the way. It's simple pleasure meets spacey ambition.
Sun, 7:30 pm, Center Theater
To say Robert Lashley, a 2016 Stranger Genius Award nominee, reads his works is an understatement—he performs them, hurling each line of poetry into the air before letting it rain down on the audience. His 2014 collection, The Homeboy Songs, delves into his upbringing in rough early-1990s Tacoma. Lashley's work, and perspective, is not to be ignored.
Sat, 7 pm, Bagley Wright Theater; Sun 5 pm, Bagley Wright Theater
Though Ron Funches has become reasonably well-known after his appearances on NBC's Undateable, Comedy Central, and network late-night shows, comedy still plays the undercard at most festivals, so he merits a mention here. Funches plays the part of curious, huggable friend who miiiight also be a murderous psychopath. It's a fantastic combination that makes his sets fucking hilarious.
Sat, 4 pm, Vera Project
Brett Hamil is a local comedian and freelance writer who's made a budding career of addressing local government and race and gender politics. And hey, what's funnier than our local attempts at "politics" and our refusal to address race and gender inequality?! Tell me about it. Have a laugh, have a thought or two, even, as we all experience a special edition of his monthly local-politics-focused but comedy-minded live show.
Food and drink is a logical accompaniment to good music, and this is your chance to more than sample a wide variety of hot Seattle eateries under one tent. You know, between Shishkaberry's binges. Each day boasts a different combination of food in a sit-down dinner format from new and well-known places like Matt's in the Market, Radiator Whiskey, Gracia, Bok a Bok Korean Fried Chicken, Little Uncle, and Pike Place Fish.