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There’s no ‘p’ in ‘Bumbershoot’

Marta and I met up with her friend Christie, who works at the Steamers in the Seattle Center, by the entrance to the festival. The plan was simple: give us the names of two of her co-workers and sneak us in the employee’s entrance, which as it turned out was under the lazy scrutiny of two of Seattle’s finest. The girl manning the employee database asked for our ID’s, and of course only Christie could produce any; Marta’s and my own were “in our lockers.” To further complicate matters, her computer records informed her that I had already checked in, and Marta’s alias didn’t appear in the database at all. We argued for entrance for ten minutes while the cops paid occasional interest, and finally got her to let us past, provided that we pick up our paychecks, our reason for attendance, and come straight back to her with no stops. We vowed to return as soon as we picked them up, a promise we technically kept.

In reality, we were at Bumbershoot for Modest Mouse and, to a lesser extent, The Shins. Their concert that night required a wristband for entry, which had to be acquired at a kiosk the day of the show; I was worried enough about claiming one for my very own that I left work three hours early, but as far as I could tell there was no shortage. Bracelet firmly fastened around my wrist and fears of being locked out of the stadium allayed, we wandered around the festival until the show started. Street performers of varying talent lined the parts of the walkways not occupied by booths vending hippy clothing or foreign food. We saw: three separate “living statue” acts, one of which moved far too frequently to be very convincing; an aging magician performing on an over-turned trash can (I’m pretty sure he was homeless); a contortionist in a skin-tight teal unitard twisting his body on a steel ring ten feet above the crowd; at least two members of Hanson playing guitar. We also snagged a bunch of free stuff from various corporations: a tin of mints from Volkswagen; chap stick from Captain Morgan’s (after they’d asked if we were 21, of course, since you must be that age to purchase chap stick bearing an alcohol logo in this country. I’m rolling my eyes right now); fat-free blackberry yogurt from an organic food store whose name eludes me. The sun beamed down on the crowd majestically, and we enjoyed ourselves wandering and doing nothing in particular.

Inside the stadium, we learned that we had missed the opening act, Quasi, which everyone present informed me was a damned shame, and settled down to wait for The Shins to come onstage. The crowd showed a marked lack of enthusiasm for such a fantastic band – everyone stood up, but not too many danced and many carried on conversations. The lead singer didn’t banter with the crowd at all, delegating that most sacred of responsibilities to the keyboard player, and it confused me. We’d listen to him punt earnest but misguided efforts at humor into the crowd for a minute or so between every song, and then he wouldn’t open his mouth again until the next break. When they left the stage I still hadn’t figured out who the front man was. Initially I was concerned that since they have only the one album, 2001’s Oh, Inverted World, they would be strapped for enough material to fill an hour, but The Shins have been hard at work on a new offering for October and played a half dozen songs from it. I liked the new songs, but I have the same problem with them that I had with the first album: everything sounds alike. Unless I’m seriously jaded or mistaken, they’ve succeeded in making a record which sounds disturbingly similar to their first, to the point where I’d mistake a new song for an old one until the lyrics started. I’ll still buy the album; I’m just saying.

I’d describe Modest Mouse’s set, but for once my vocabulary fails me; mere words can’t do justice to the power and impact of their performance, to Isaac Brock’s throaty lisp, which he raised to a scream at all the right moments. I told Marta between bands that my most fervent wish was that they perform “Trailer Trash,” and Modest Mouse obliged me for once, and humored me with some other favorites as well. I stood near the rear of the crowd, moving forward through diffusion if at all – a group of three would push their way out and I’d rush forward to fill the vacancy – and hoped for a dearth of tall people standing in front of me. Marta, however, is mobile to say the least. After the third song she handed me the backpack, kissed me goodbye, and rushed into the throng, ducking her shoulders and squeezing between concert-goers with the grace and expertise of a ballerina. She wanted to mosh. About fifteen minutes later, silhouetted against the stage lights I saw a petite female form hoisted above the crowd on someone’s shoulders. I recognized it as her instantly, and a moment later knew what must follow. She dropped back into the pit, and I turned to Laurel, laughing: “My girlfriend just flashed Modest Mouse!” Another fifteen minutes and she came barreling into me out of the audience like a cork out of a champagne bottle, almost knocking me backwards into some hippies. She was laughing hysterically, and when we congratulated her on a band well-flashed, she shrieked and said “You guys weren’t supposed to see that!”

About the title: it’s fine, since there’s nowhere to go anyway, not even a row of disgusting port-a-potties. Zing! There’s your pun for the day.

Posted in Musings.


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