BUMBERSHOOT Wreckspedition

I had a fun mission down to Seattle this weekend for Bumbershoot, the giant Seattle music fest, where I saw Wreckless Eric and Amy Rigby, and handed them a prototype of the new DVD of “Wreckless Eric’s Tourette!”

I must say, when you see one of your favourite acts perform with a partner you’ve never heard, there is a deep fear that they will ruin everything you love about them.

But Man Oh Man, that DID NOT happen.

Amy actually blew Eric away into the dust once in a while, from whence he would re-emerge to blow her away in turn. When they did “Raising the Bar,” with Amy singing, I actually started feeling high just off the rock’n-out. The two of them leaning back to back, he grinning like a schoolboy in the girls’ locker room, her eyes closed, head at a bizarre angle – it was fucking cool. It looked, from the expressions on their faces, like this was the music they’d been waiting all their lives to play. New. Favourite. Song.

Album out on Stiff Records (yes, Stiff is back!) any moment now.

Eric and Amy were well worth the trip down, all by themselves. I crashed on a cot with the Smoking Lily crew at a euro-style hotel in downtown Seattle, and amazed myself with the awesome indie culture there (i.e Fancy, Schmancy and Nancy). I went to Capitol Hill and as the scene absorbed me, I admitted to myself that much of what I like about Vancouver (the landscape, the styles, the progressive attitudes, the music, and the, um, local flora) is actually a wider Pacific Northwest phenomenon, spreading from San Francisco all the way to BC.

Either that or it’s wider Canadian things, like the social programs, arts funding and human rights. Vancouver has a unique blend of this stuff, and the in-your-face Chinese and East Indian culture adds a definite Cultural Mosaic element to it. There’s TWO CHINESE DAILY PAPERS in Vancouver, for Pete’s sake. What would I do without All India Sweets or cheap-arse Hindi DVD’s?

As for Seattle, I don’t like the armed guards in the drugstores, but I do like the dozens of live music venues. Terrifying poverty, with no way out, always looks worse in American cities.

Also, Americans say their secret thoughts out loud. If you see two people having loud conversation in the street, usually shouting at half a block’s distance from one another, they turn away afterwards and exclaim to no one, “Dude needs to get his shit in gear!” or whatever. Just so we know their last word on the subject.

As for the rest of Bumbershoot, it was great even when it was bad like T.I. at the stadium stage – BOOOOOring: “Hey Ladies, if your man can’t give you what you want, come on over to T.I.” At the end of T.I.’s show, he wandered over to the fence near his trailer, where girls were threatening riot by climbing the unsteady fence to get at him. The main crowd shoved through a narrow stairway to get out of the venue as T.I. kept re-appearing, raising the energy and causing waves of girl-scream. Skinny legs kicked backwards near pimpled faces and finally T.I. came right to the fence, ordered the guards to yank one section open. He then hand-picked a bunch of girls to come through this breach.

“Pick me! Pick me!” they screamed. He led them into a trailer with a bunch of other dudes in his entourage, then, anticlimactically, he wandered off alone less than five minutes later.

The Tripwires played (with a Wreckless Eric cameo) at the EMP stage, which was part of some bizarre music museum connected to the Science Fiction Hall of Fame (?!). Vertical strips of giant TV screen as a backdrop. The venue was otherwise comparable to Richards on Richards if you’re a Vancouverite.

I really dug the Saturday Knights, a wicked hip-hop group that had a whole band onstage in addition to their DJ: guitar, drums, horn section. Any tough guys who can sing “Nobody can fuck with us” in total falsetto are OK by me. They were kind of silly and tuneful like Beastie Boys, maybe. “I party like a dog star, so sirius.”

I saw the Weakerthans who were pretty fun, they were actually the kind of music I was most likely to see in Vancouver so it didn’t blow my mind.

What I liked better was wandering around hitting the shows I new nothing about. To my surprise, I saw a country-western guy named Dale Watson, who was polite and charming, well-dressed and skilled. His music was fun, he thanked all the Canadians for coming down to the show and he played some Johnny Cash. It inspired me to listen to the Tennessee Twin album that’s pining away in a folder on my phone like a melancholy cowgirl in a dark corner booth. That made the bus ride home pass a lot faster.

I also caught Orgone as background music to the amazing Flatstock show. It was like a zine fair of concert poster prints. All the artists had booths with their silk-screened posters for gigs, incredible stuff with all kinds of different styles even for the same bands. One thing I learned was that the labels commission different artists in each town to make these posters, so there’s a whole different poster in each city. The DJ was terrible, however, and I got increasingly angry as I neared his booth that I couldn’t hear Orgone. The fucking guy played “Ghostbusters,” for jesus christ’s sake! All the worst of the 80’s. I think he was just trying to taunt Stainboy in the booth next door. Stainboy seemed to be taking the bait, repeatedly giving the DJ the finger. My Canadian manners prevented me from joining in.

There was a disturbing photo exhibit in the visual arts section called Purple Hearts, about wounded american soldiers. The one I stared at the most was called Marine Wedding (my drawing from memory is at left).

I loved Bumbershoot, it was a super blast. There was a giant fountain in the center of the grounds, so big that dozens of people were wandering around in it. If it had been actually hot, instead of just mediocre Northwest b.s. weather, I would have jumped in myself.

The only tragic note came from the hippy-emo kids who were wandering around with earnestly home-painted signs for “free hugs.” All weekend, they grew increasingly despondent as the crowds drifted by, flatly refusing the proferred warm fuzzy embraces. As I handed off my mainstage pass (I was heading out of town and couldn’t use it), one guy turned to me with hang-dog face, arms spread in desperation.

“Dude, how can you not want a hug?”

Getting in the spirit of Seattle, I walked away, and said out as loud as I could, to no one in particular: “I’d feel like a pervert getting a hug from a teenager!”

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