Day 1 of Bumbershoot 2023 is in the books, and it’s a toss-up who the most anticipated act of the day was. (For me, it was Alabama Shakes front Brittany Howard. For some old Seattle rockers, it was Sweet Water. For anyone else, you’ll get a dozen different answers if you ask a half-dozen people.)
Howard, one of the headliners winding down the night as the sun set, turned out an enormous crowd at the Fisher Stage, where she gave a smooth and soulful performance. But she was often eclipsed by her band and backup singers, volume-wise. She also eschewed the more familiar Southern-fried alt-rock to which she lends her most distinctive notes. Her stage persona, shining as her sequined duster, earned the crowd’s enthusiasm. But I missed the distinctive gravelly wailing so prominent, and unique, in her Shakes performances.
But so many aspects of this retooled return to Bumbershoot did not disappoint. Among them: the variety (hats off to the music programmers); the visual art in the Out of Sight exhibit in Fisher Pavilion (seriously, what a ride — deserving of a return trip); the crowd (generally respectful, and very old-school Seattle concert-feeling); the beer selection (welcome, Yonder Cider! although the lines in the beer gardens were atrocious); the Bumbershoot events staff (A-one service).
The highlight of the day? That would be Sleater-Kinney, who proved they still rock hard from their Riot Grrrl days, plucking favorites from their expansive three-decade catalog — “Entertain,” “Price Tag,” “Modern Girl,” “Dig Me Out,” and loads more — before closing the night on a somber note with a tribute to Sinead O’Connor, who died this summer, with a cover of O’Connor’s “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” Corin Tucker’s vocals sounded rich and robust, as Carrie Brownstein looked as at home on the big stage as ever. The founding duo gave a show to remember. Their enormous crowd seemed to agree.
Photos by Chase D. Anderson.
Bumbershoot runs through 9/3 at the Seattle Center. Tickets and festival lineup here.
Chase D. Anderson is Editor & Producer of NWTheatre.org.