After 49 Years, Bumbershoot Faces an Uncertain Future



Needs more EDM, fewer headliners.

And more exits so you can go from one venue to another quickly. Lines are for old people.


AEG continues to run the festival into the ground and the city is trying to renegotiate with them? Makes sense.


Seems like Bumbershoot and the people who ran Vulcan's music festival that was in the spring need to have a conversation. A festival that incorporates Pioneer Square as well as Seattle Center, in the late summer, with an emphasis on local talent, lowish ticket prices, and three decent headliners, is so crazy it just might work.

They also might want to do the unthinkable and book some country music because, you know, it's really popular and having a moment. Isn't there a relatively famous country/rock musician who lives in Maple Valley. Maybe see if her new band wants to play in Seattle. Crazy, I know.


It's not over 'til the fat lady sings .... oh wait, she canceled.


I remember paying 20 bucks, the acts being way less popular (that was a good thing imo), and being able to exit and enter as desired. Sometimes things DID used to be better in the old days.

That said, my time for these sorts of things is over. The youngsters can and will vote with their wallets (or their Venmo as the case may be).


Just let the current version of Bumbershoot die. It used to be one of the best events of the summer, but now it's too expensive, aside from a few rare exceptions the booking stinks, and the Center has nixed re-entry which is far from ideal. It seems like Bumbershoot could learn a lot from the way Sub Pop runs its anniversary events.


AEG are milking a cash cow in Seattle. They make Bumbershoot worse every year and still keep getting hired. "Fire them" should be a no-brainer. However, nobody in the capacity has any idea what to do with a festival except outsource it to ambulance chasers. Form a new committee to make it a fun event or just spare us the expense.


The first Coachella was in 1999. I think you're confusing it with Lollapalooza, Lester, which started in 1991.


I haven't lived in Seattle since 2007 and when I lived there Bumbershoot was in danger of disappearing. I'll believe it when it's dead and gone. I mean triple digit costs of single day tickets hasn't killed it,


That "smart bit of festival design" appears to be how the Memorial stage was set up every year until 2014.


Attendance is down every year since LiveNation took over... why are they even in the running?

Bumbershoot has gone from an occasional end of summer splurge to something I won't even consider going to. And, yes, I'm old, but I was making it to the Decibel festival every year. It's just a lot more fun to see avant garde noise artists at the Triple Door than just about anyone at memorial stadium I guess.


AEG, doh, but what's the difference?


As long as they keep hiring IATSE Local 15 Stagehands, I'm good. #IATSELocal15 #UnionStrong


The only way I've gone to Bumbershoot in the last 10 years is by performing there. I can't afford a ticket. I wish they highlighted more local acts. There used to be a ton.


I remember watching Modest Mouse at 1pm at Memorial Stadium with maybe 100 people in the crowd. They played for hours, it was epic. Bumbershoot was $10.
The problem is festival-itis. Everyone wants to be the next Coachella, the next Burning Man. Big headliners? Ok, sure. Maybe they will sell some tickets. But like the Mariners ridiculous $12 beer prices at some point people just stay home or do something else. How many more people would go to Bumbershoot/Mariners games if tickets were $20/beers were $5? More than enough to stop these greedy idiots from going bankrupt.
But let's get the pitchforks out and ask Seattle to put down millions of dollars to save the Showbox and the monstrosity now called Bumbershoot because, well I don't know why.


Festival founders used the term "Bumbershoot" not only to suggest our region's rainy, overcast weather, but to serve as a symbol for inclusiveness, in the spirit of an "umbrella" organization: people and artists of all ages, backgrounds, and interests were to be welcomed. That understanding of Bumbershoot no longer guides the festival, and many people no longer feel welcome there. Jazz, classical, blues, country, world music, gospel, pop and rock from the '60s to the '90s, dance, poetry, storytelling, serious theater, thoughtful literary discussion: very little of it is at Bumbershoot. Narrow artistic focus, high prices, questionable policies of all sorts, an almost obsessive appeal to (only) older teens and twenty-somethings, intense competition from other festivals and summer performance series... well, surprise, surprise, Bumbershoot has lost much of its fan/customer base. The festival makes almost no attempt to engage with most artistic communities in our region, so why should those communities patronize and support such a festival, especially given its high prices? Fine if Bumbershoot survives--but it no longer seems like it would be a terrible loss if it does not. That's sad in a way, but let's be honest: Bumbershoot has lost much of its older fan/customer base, and I don't see those folks going back. And unless Bumbershoot makes at least some effort at appealing to those people, why should they?


MarvellUS you nailed it. The current promoters don't give an authentic $h1t about the vibe, quality or the collective openness of the Bumbershoot 'umbrella' where all types of music and people are welcome. Seattle Center should let KEXP figure it out. They being an organization that authentically believes and enables the vision of "It's the Music that Matters!". They are the music experts and they actually know great up and coming and already famous bands. AEG is a for profit shop that is driven by a bottom line, limited creativity, and their work gives us a vacuous overpriced boring festival that clearly isn't generating any winning news headlines.


@16 I think you nailed it in your third sentence.

The music is focused on a narrow segment of the listening pubic - very young and Top 40ish oriented. Wonder why the crowd is mostly affluent high schoolers? Duh? Just look at the ticket prices and the acts.

The real question is does the wider, much more demographically diverse, eclectic music audience in Seattle even still want an urban music festival that focuses only on popular music? If attendance keeps declining, you can deduce the answer to that question for yourself.


I live right next to Seattle Center and nobody even tried to steal my parking space, that’s how scarce this year’s Bumbershoot crowd was.


Funny, so many point the finger at AIG yet it was the hippy leftover One reel that mismanged in the first place.


The 1997 Bumbershoot lineup included:

Foo Fighters
David Byrne
Sheryl Crow
Blind Boys of Alabama
The Neville Brothers
Sonic Youth
Built to Spill
Tenacious D
Soul Coughing
Blues Traveler
Sugar Ray
Joan Osborne
Margaret Cho
Los Lobos
Smash Mouth
David Cross
Patton Oswalt
Robyn Hitchcock
Kristin Hersh
Ben Lee
Michael Penn
Mary Lou Lord
Sky Cries Mary
Dick Dale
Pacific Northwest Ballet

$10 per day.
(And ins-and-outs.)


As a Milwaukee native, come and experience our summerfest and learn how it's done (seriously). I understand there are many technical differences between the two, but they're both still "music festivals"


I think it's sweet of Our Dear inquiastador to defend AIG. Not enough people defend large corporations who gouge consumers.

But I'll just quietly murmur that it's not a binary choice between AIG and "Hippy Leftover One Reel". Maybe another company could come in and run it. We might have to change the name or something, but it could be done.


Bumbershoot such a quintessential Seattle event. I attended a few. But over time, as some have suggested previously, it got overblown. Too many headliners and not enough emerging talent. Headliners requiring to be paid more and thus driving prices higher.
Then trying to get to Seattle Center. Traffic nightmare.
It is a shame but perhaps it needs to be revamped to get its spirit back


Why the hell not do an all LOCAL ARTISTS Bumbeshoot for the 50th. You got the headliners here. You got enough local bands, film-makers, comedians and artists to to fill all the stages, halls and walls in Seattle Center. The savings on paying for airfare and lodging for out-of-town talent could go to lower ticket prices. Get one of our big corporations to underwrite it and have One Reel curate/book it. Have a true celebration of (and for) Seattle.


I agree with Peter! The last time I performed at Bumbershoot was in 2012. I had no idea that there was no longer a TPS Stage or Stand-up Comics.


@21, that was an amazing Bumbershoot!! I was there and bet the farm that A LOT of folks would go every year if the lineup was equivalent in quality and in diversity as 1997. Bring the best of the good ole 90's back!


@26 There are four stages of comedy, arts, and conversations on their 2019 schedule. Some of which I'd love to see... just not on a $109 daily ticket.


@19 "I live right next to Seattle Center and nobody even tried to steal my parking space, that’s how scarce this year’s Bumbershoot crowd was." Touche


I went last year and #16, 17 and others nailed it. As a Seattle native who started going to Bumbershoot as a teen (and now I’m in my mid-forties), I can honestly say that the utter the lack of any communal feeling last year was shocking. The food served there was overpriced shit, the artists gave good performances but the place was a ghost town.

A few years ago, I saw Fleet Foxes perform there at Memorial Stadium and it was standing room only. Last year—for their final performance before retiring—there was NO ONE there. I could walk right up to the band without any problem. It was great if you didn’t like crowds, but I legitimately felt bad for the band. It was depressing. They put on a great show and no one watched.

The other issue with Bumbershoot recently is that they only have scheduled a few bands that anyone gives a shit about and they either have them all play at the same time or they have them play days apart. I have love in my heart for the old days of Bumbershoot, but if they can’t come up with a better strategy for 2020, they should just let it die. It hurts to say it, but it would be a mercy killing.