Ishmael "Butterfly" Butler of Shabazz Palaces at Bumbershoot, Seattle (Image by Michael Verity)

Ishmael "Butterfly" Butler of Shabazz Palaces at Bumbershoot, Seattle (Image by Michael Verity)

Those who think Seattle’s music began and ended with Kurt Cobain are dead wrong. The city’s scene is alive and burgeoning and it’s not just neo-grunge: Seattle bands are turning out spindly guitar-drenched pop, heavy duty hip-hop and retro-R&B as good as any city in the country.

Day 1 at Seattle’s annual Bumbershoot festival was proof positive — and included some excellent sets from San Francisco, Tijuana and Swedish artists, as well.

A Seattle band started off a beautiful, sunny 70-degree day as fans trickled into the Seattle Center for Bumbershoot, Day One.

Being one of the first bands to play at a festival is never easy but it didn’t deter local quintet Campfire OK from laying down a bold, brassy set of Americana. Include in their hour long performance were cuts from the new album, Strange Like We Are.

Another local indie, Craft Spells followed Campfire OK on the Fountain Lawn Stage, perfectly situated for Moms and Dads who wanted to hear some music while their kids splashed in the city’s landmark fountain. Paying homage to [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]New Order[/lastfm] and looking every bit like Mr. Rogers meets the [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Cars[/lastfm], singer Justin Paul Vallesteros and company demonstrated why they were a recent New Band of the Day pick from the UK’s Guardian.

Some of the best music to happen at the festival on Day One happened indoors at the Experience Music Project. Long lines formed for two large-scale bands that are keeping local players in business.

Early in the afternoon, it was the delightful Barqoue pop poet Kris Orlowski who, with his band and the Passenger (String) Quartet, numbered a dozen players on stage. Gorgeously jaw-dropping arrangements and thoughtful lyrics made Orlowski’s set one of the day’s best.

Toward evening, the EMP hosted another amazing set from another crew of players called Pickwick. Though they mention Spoon and the Walkmen among their influences, the sound of this dozen piece operation is pure Stax meets pure Motown. For a group of self-proclaimed “nerdy white boys,” Pickwick have soul (and singer Galen Disston just flat out brings it).

Electronica got the nod at the EMP’s Decibel Stage at Sky Church, as drummer Mark Shirazzi and guitarist/electro-wizard Jason Buehler, performing as Nice Nice brought to the crashing percussion, flailing vocals and careening guitars, all to the sight of an amazing light show.

Across the compound from the Fountain Stage, hip-hop drew the crowds to the Fisher Green Stage with former [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Diggable Planets[/lastfm] rapper “Buttefly” Butler fronting Shabazz Palaces and locals dropping rhymes to a crowd stocked with their fans.

Just for the record, the rest of the world was representing, as well. From Sweden was a trio of acoustic players called Vasen (featuring the native Swede instrument, the nyckelharpa), Australia offered the dirty garage rock of Wagons and Tijuana brought the Nortec Collective quartet Bostich and Fussible, an accordionist, tuba player and two guys running the beats with their iPads.

Last but not least: a gorgeous sunset collection from Andy Cabic and [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Vetiver[/lastfm] eased the crowd into later jams from indies [mp3com-artist]STRFKR[/mp3com-artist], [mp3com-artist]Minus the Bear[/mp3com-artist] and the great [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Mavis Staples[/lastfm].

Check out our photo gallery and drop by again tomorrow for a report on Day Two.

Get free MP3s from Bumbershoot artists at


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