See The Stranger's complete guide to Bumbershoot.
If Quentin Tarantino were to put any band playing at this year's Bumbershoot on one of his soundtracks, it would be Chastity Belt. Something about the way the formerly-of-Walla-Walla four-piece's reverby rock music clashes with singer/guitarist Julia Shapiro's wordy and, frankly, bummer lyrics recalls the best parts of Pulp Fiction. Listening to a Chastity Belt album feels like being the smartest person at a very unpleasant party and making the best of it with witty gags and, if all else fails, a little violence.
Father John Misty is the most high-profile artist featured on this list. Also, he's no longer a Seattle resident. So why mention him? First, because he made his mark as the drummer in locals Fleet Foxes after spending many years in town releasing solo albums as J. Tillman. Second, and more important, he's just so damn good. He plays a lovesick lothario with a strange sense of humor and a huge heart. His music occupies a blissful territory between folk, rock, and pop previously occupied by Eagles and Fleetwood Mac. And he's one of the best live performers at this or any other festival.
Fly Moon Royalty's new album, Delicious Trouble, tastes sweet and sticky. Not that you can ingest the sound waves—no synesthesia here—but the music stimulates all the senses. Songs like "Imagination" melt in your mouth like milk candy. Electronic textures coat the outer layer of their sexy R&B like sugar, leaving ample space for Adra Boo's expressive singing.
Iska Dhaaf's first album is called Even the Sun Will Burn. Sounds pretty apocalyptic. And sure, the duo's poetic lyrics cover war and worldwide despondency, but that doesn't mean the tunes sound like dirges. Far from it, in fact. The bright and encompassing sound of Nathan Quiroga's guitar seems to embody the panoptic love of Rumi, one of his many subjects. Underneath the poetry, drummer and keyboardist Benjamin Verdoes employs subtle polyrhythm and deceptive musical sleight of hand. Though they recently decamped for New York, they'll always have one foot in Seattle.
Levi Manis looks like he dresses himself in items out of a thrift store discard bin. The aesthetic fits his comedy, too. Somewhere between a metalhead Mitch Hedberg and a glamorous misanthrope, Manis fires dark, punchy jokes in rapid succession while maintaining a smooth, stoned demeanor. Though you may not want to look directly at his act, you can't tear yourself away from it.
Bumbershoot attendees regularly underestimate the quality of comedy that the festival puts on stage, and that goes double for local acts and triple for women, who remain stupendously outnumbered by male comedians. If you see one comic this weekend, make it Rachel Walls, whose relatively calm deadpan exterior belies a filthy sense of humor tempered with feminist sentiment and an excellent gift for one-liners.
Imagine a bunch of young local brewmasters trying their best to synthesize a microbrew clone of Miller Lite. Now imagine they're actually a pop-rock outfit trying to write music that sounds like Miller Lite. That is to say, Middle-American (and middle-class) rock music with a little pop accessibility. If that sounds less than sophisticated, it's not. But what Dude York lack in pomp and circumstance, they make up with sheer uncomplicated likability. It's the kind of music you'd want to listen to while constructing a deck, but also while relaxing and reminiscing with friends on said deck.
Though she's still at the beginning of her career, currently working on her debut album, Shaprece is an essential presence in Seattle, her name constantly on the tips of tongues. Maybe that's because her music, with its chilly instrumentals and emotional rawness, seems like a dead-on representation of life in the city: technologically driven but aching for human connection and drawing from multiple traditions. See her now, because next time she will be on a bigger stage.
Bellingham native Grant L'Kayl Eadie has his finger on the pulse. The pulse of what? Ebullient and dreamy dance music. His forthcoming self-titled album as Manatee Commune features guest verses from rising stars Flint Eastwood and Moorea Masa. If you're not familiar, that means restrained, meditative joy, the perfect fit for his ornate electronic palaces, and for a Saturday at Bumbershoot.
Two-time Stranger Genius Award nominee Erik Blood used to be one of many shoegaze revivalists haunting Bandcamp. Then, in 2011, he made a soundtrack for the film Center of Gravity, and it seems the experience changed him. His more recent work, in particular, his latest album, Lost in Slow Motion, is full of complex sounds—fat bass synth tones and soul-inflected backing vocals. Blood has dialed in a lush and textured take on dream pop. His celebrated work as a producer for bands as diverse as Tacocat and Shabazz Palaces is a crucial part of this evolution.
Take a listen to "Hold Your Head Up," the recent digital single by Maiah Manser, and you might mistake her for Florence Welch. It's not just the prominent harp that gives that impression—both artists draw from the Kate Bush school of vocal triumph. Manser, though, avoids disco-pop excesses in favor of a darker mood and more interesting instrumentation: Check out the glitchy freak-out at the end of "One." Under the pop, there's an experimental songwriter with a golden voice.
Sadiqua Iman: SWINGSun, 2:15 pm, Center Theater
Director, therapist, and performer Sadiqua Iman wears many hats. She will take many of them on and off during this one-woman show of her own creation, which she performs as the character Namii. The taking-off part is pertinent: Swing is in part a burlesque performance that will feature some nudity, so some parental discretion is in order. Bodies and feelings won't be the only things laid bare. The show's minimalist approach features onstage costume changes, light cues, and musical accompaniment to tell the story of a queer black woman's coming of age.