Superorganism's United Nations of Fun(k)
Something strange happened on the way to the Fisher Green Stage to catch Superorganism's set: I didn't have to fight through thick waves of humanity to get there—even at 4:30 pm on a sunny, 72º Saturday. This was a new deviation from my previous 12 or so previous Bumbershoots. While I'm fine with the dearth of clusterfucks, the festival's operators must be sweating the seemingly lower attendance. Day passes selling for $130 may have had something to do with this. Anyway, those who did attend seemed to be younger than ever, on average (or is it that I'm just older than ever?) and the amount of glitter applied to XX-chromosomed teens' sternums and clavicles has increased a trillionfold.
But enough with the sociological observations. How were Superorganism, the sprawling, multinational amalgam of youthful misfits? Well, you know you're in for something special when a performance starts with three dancers playing triangles. Soon the tantalizing tinkling gave way to ultra-vivid, bass-heavy dance-pop that aimed for highest uncommon denominator status.
Superorganism's songs from their 2018 self-titled debut are vehicles for nutritious sugar rushes; they would slot nicely into DJ sets full of Gorillaz, Go! Team, Cibo Matto, Cornelius, and Whale cuts. Pint-sized 18-year-old vocalist Orono Noguchi has a deadpan delivery that sometimes lapses into adorable worldweariness, somewhere between Kim Gordon and Bettie Serveert's Carol van Dijk. The guitar often seems as if it's being sucked into a vortex, a gimmick of which I never tire. The funk is bouncy and splay-footed and makes you feel half your age. "I fucking love you!" Noguchi said between songs, pointing at a fan. "Your moves are sick!" Orono's such a gem.
Harmonic Bath Was Bumbershoot's Low-key Highlight
After Superorganism, I had to hustle to KEXP's Gathering Space for Knife Knights, but a scene outside of Vera Project stopped me in my tracks. Three musicians were generating soothing marimba tones with mallets while a patron lay prone, his head below the array of instruments. He was receiving a Harmonic Bath, a calming, chakra-aligning experience that was the antithesis of your usual festival bustle and bombast. One of the sound-healers, Stephen Fandrich, is a long-time member of Gamelan Pacifica. He gave me a one-minute demonstration, and it set me adrift on a fragrant cloud of metallic bliss. Bumbershoot highlight!
Knife Knights Was Like a Reunion of Stranger Geniuses
Over at KEXP, a shamefully paltry crowd had their lids flipped by Knife Knights, whose lineup includes two Stranger Geniuses (Ishmael Butler and Erik Blood of Shabazz Palaces, on beats and bass, respectively; both sang) and one Genius nominee (OCnotes, guitar). Aided by vocalist Marquetta Miller and keyboardist Darrius Willrich, Knife Knights appear heaven-bent on not doing anything by the book.
The new Sub Pop recording artists began with "Give You Game," an elusive piece of spectral R&B/rap futurism that bore some surreptitious Gary Wright/ "Dream Weaver" vibes (a great thing, make no mistake). They proceeded to saunter through tracks on their new debut full-length, 1 Time Mirage, which is in the next fascinating universe over from where Shabazz Palaces dwell. Knife Knights' rhythms are unerringly askew, their timbres luscious yet warped, their melodies unusually seductive, their funk laid-back and atmospheric. They might be the house band for the most otherworldly party your imagination can conceive.
The Revolution Will Be Eroticized
On a totally different tip, a nostalgia-hungry crowd swarmed (but in the crazy numbers of years past) the Mural Amphitheatre for the Revolution. Imagine every night trying to compensate for the void of a superstar of Prince's magnitude, how draining it must be to muster the charisma and flamboyancy the leader prodigiously flexed during his '70s and '80s peak. But the Revolution reanimated the Purple One's deathless songs with the passion and virtuosity they deserve.
The setlist—"America," "Computer Blue," "Mountains," "Erotic City," "Let's Work," "Let's Go Crazy," "When Doves Cry," "Raspberry Beret," "1999," "Purple Rain," "I Would Die 4 U," "Baby I'm a Star"—encompassed a lot of people's favorites, if the widespread amount of singing every lyric and ass-shaking I witnessed were any indication (even Bumbershoot staff members were dancing by the side of the stage). To my left, a young white guy set off a bubble machine every few seconds. It was that kind of show.
I've never used the expression "It's all love" in a review before, but nothing else will do here. The Revolution's resurrection of a tiny yet vibrant fraction of Prince's catalog united races, genders, and age groups with a universal bonding agent that few musical geniuses can manifest. Still, I'm bummed they didn't do "Head."