The Shins played a breezy set at Memorial Stadium Saturday afternoon featuring old favorites "New Slang," "Know Your Onion," and "Caring Is Creepy," the winning "Slang" retread "Phantom Limb," the heart-wrenching ballad "A Comet Appears" (which sounded sweet and stripped down), and a cover of Pink Floyd's "Learning to Fly" that elicited more woops from the elephant ear–eating crowd than any of the Shins' own songs (the staffers hosing down the crowd got some big woops, too).

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"We really couldn't be any more happy to be here," said Ben Clark at the start of the Lashes' set, and you could see that the band meant it. The big news was the return to the stage of Eric Howk, the Lashes' guitarist who was paralyzed in a fall this May. Howk rolled up in a neon-green wheelchair, parked next to his amp with his guitar in his lap, and proceeded to shred just like always. During one song, Howk delivered a particularly dexterous guitar solo while Clark and the crowd cheered him on. It was a touching, triumphant moment.


The Pharmacy were one of the day's surprises, if only because it's been too long a minute since I've seen them play. The old, scrappy punk band I remember are still there, especially in Scottie Yoder's hoarse vocals and the band's odd vestigial ska breakdowns. But the band have added new depth to their sound, featuring cello on a few songs and playing up the keys. The result is an easy mix of punk stomp, orchestral pomp, and synthy pop, with the band frequently incorporating all these modes within a single kinetic song.


Grand Archives played a stellar set to a mostly empty EMP, shrugging off the low attendance with good humor ("Here goes nothing"). They played "George Kaminski," "Sleepdriving," "Torn Blue Foam Couch," and a handful of new songs from their forthcoming Sub Pop debut (due out in February) that hinted at a poppier, more rollicking side to the mellow band. Their harmonies sounded perfect and crystalline on the EMP's sound system, and the small crowd was totally hushed, letting even the quietest moments play out undisturbed. It was the best show of a promising first day at Bumbershoot.


Sunday, and indeed the weekend, belonged to Art Brut. I didn't think I could be any more excited for the band's 7:30 p.m. show, but their afternoon miniset at KEXP's "secret location" did it. Art Brut are amazing live. The band are tight enough to pull little musical jokes and work the crowd while still backing up Eddie Argos's brilliant but not terribly tuneful lyrics and semi-improvised monologues. Argos is simply the greatest frontman this side of Les Savy Fav's Tim Harrington. Highlights included "Bad Weekend," "Bang Bang Rock 'n' Roll," "Emily Kane," "Rusted Guns of Milan," and the insane blowout of "Good Weekend/Formed a Band." At one point, Argos leaped into the crowd and wandered around for most of a song. Art Brut are the rockingest smart-asses around and the smartest rock band around. You can dig their clever, inside-joke lyrics or you can just get down with their kick-ass riffs and rock spectacle. But if you don't get it, I just don't know what to do for you.


I'd never really gotten into Viva Voce before, but after their killer set on Monday afternoon, I'm definitely going to dig into Get Yr Blood Sucked Out and their forthcoming rereleases due out in October. The husband and wife duo were more rocking and than I expected, delivering psych metal drone as easily as breathy pop, and guitarist Anita Robinson just wails on that whammy bar.


Lupe Fiasco delivered a blazing set on Monday night, peaking with the punchy "I Gotcha" and the populist "Kick, Push." In addition to his hypeman and DJ, he was aided by Gemini's R&B crooning and fast rapping for a few songs. But Lupe was perfectly capable of holding Memorial Stadium down on his own, which is no small feat.

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But the crowd was even more excited about Wu-Tang Clan—I'd been seeing kids throw up their "W" hand sign at nearly every set I saw Monday. The air was charged. The question was: Would this be an excavation of the Wu-Tang's ruins (as Charles Mudede hinted at) or a full-on triumphant return of the Clan? It was the last show of their tour, and who knows what they'll do next separately or together, but their set at Bumbershoot was definitely a triumphant return for Wu-Tang Clan. Only, you know, with no Ghostface Killah. (You can catch Ghost solo at Musicfest NW—catchy name, that—Saturday, September 8, in Portland.) recommended

egrandy@thestranger.com