September 14, 2011

The Best of Bumbershoot: Pickwick x 3

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Pickwick on EMP Level 3 ::: Photo by Josh Lovseth

The classic vision of Bumbershoot is as a lumbering giant of a festival with something for everyone, a hodgepodge hippie amalgam that highlights performers of all kinds while still managing to attract the biggest touring headliners of the day from all genre’s. 2011′s vision of Bumbershoot was paired down in terms of dishing out for some of the larger headliners of the moment, but the quality of booking didn’t let down as this years staff drew more heavily from the Northwest’s own pool of musical talent. Though this year’s roomier pathways reflected the lack of the guaranteed draw that the emphasis on the biggest of bands have brought in previous years, in taking chances on booking younger notable local bands as they’ve done this year they’re stepping into a role they can really make a difference in: cultivating that community with opportunity. Bumbershoot is the ultimate opportunity to be exposed to a new and varied audience for any band, and especially for local bands for who this would likely be their biggest show of the year. They would be the ones to work hardest for that time in the limelight to convert who they can.

After a particularly busy August, Pickwick might’ve claimed the titled “Hardest working band at Bumbershoot.” The three appearances spread out over two days were a microcosm of their past year (or really, 7 months). From the a capella performances they did earlier in the year for BARE at the Fremont Abbey and for compadre Kory Kruckenburg Appreciation Night at the Conor Byrne, to bigger performances as the spring and summer went on resulting in a Seattle Center Mural set for No Depression’s showcase and a Mainstage Doe Bay Fest appearance, to now the full recognition and embrace of KEXP, the band is riding a fan driven momentum Bumbershoot seemed to be timed just right to expand on.

Remember now, just a year ago this band didn’t sound like they do currently. Revamped and upbeat, they’ve just a few 7-inch’s under their belt and yet to actually headline the Tractor, Neumos or any other major venue in town with the new configuration. So I was genuinely surprised to see them make this years’ lineup. Though this band was obviously onto something, lead singer Galen Disston has been spending the year growing into the vocal demands of his new persona. You don’t become a soul singer overnight you know? On the other hand, even in spring when all these booking decisions were being made, being in the same room you could sense the excitement around what these six guys were doing. Throughout August and leading into Bumbershoot we saw Disston’s voice hasn’t taken long to develop into the lead vocal Sam Cooke inspires.

The Vera Project/Free Yr Radio stage performance early on featured the band doing acoustic/a capella versions of three songs, alternate versions that will have full recorded treatment as a part of Sound on the Sound’s Doe Bay Sessions. These versions put focus on the harmony backbone that so many of their songs feature, and with guitarist Michael’s slide guitar (a nod to the Pickwick of old) bringing a different flavor, they come out sounding a deep-south doo-wop group, as much influenced by dark alleys as sidewalk sunshine. A bouncy spin on some downtrodden stuff is just one of the conundrums this band poses. That it’s so upbeat that you don’t even care what the lyrics say is another. That my favorite song is a dance number about a violent prostitute has set me to thinking once or twice. Slowed down and bare bones, it’s impossible not to focus on these lyrics.

EMP’s upper Level 3 stage served as this year’s smaller, locally focused stage and Pickwick’s rep preceding them, they handily packed the multi-level room leaving hundreds of disappointed souls in line outside. Those who did make it early and into the AC-blessed upper-reaches of the EMP belly found a band dealing equally in Star Wars references and foot-pushers. The open invitation to bring shakers was most gloriously met by a 3-footer in the front row dressed up in a pink fairy outfit and double-fisting for all she was worth. KEXP’s live radio performance Sunday afternoon was just as full and felt the strongest appearance of the weekend for the band. The seated crowd didn’t remain motionless for long, and if it was a broadcast, the band was still just as much playing for the clapping and dancing folks in that room as for those over-the-air. So, no surprise, per usual, but by no fault of her own this time, Quilty 3000′s radio show wins the weekend. And Pickwick was finally starting to believe they really knew how to make Seattle get down.

Whether by fate or luck or sheer determination Pickwick landed at Bumbershoot at just the right time to make the most of it. Much like for Macklemore at Key Arena, Bumbershoot set a big stage for Pickwick, and in doing so gave the fans what they wanted too. In providing this place for local bands to succeed in big ways, the festival can become something that means that much more to the arts community it’s attempting to foster. It can be the de facto annual laymans barometer if you will, where all in one place can get a measure of the musical identity of our neck of the woods. And set side by side with international touring acts of all kinds even, it would be an more accurate barometer than you might find at any other pop music festival or purely local festival. Because people still do think of Seattle that way. We think of where we live as having an international musical cultural identity. That’s why bands still move here. For Seattle to have the scene it imagines itself to boast, one that others should be interested in, shouldn’t it be genuinely interested in itself too and supportive of what its own scene is doing. I can’t think of a better place to make sure the Northwest knows about itself than Bumbershoot. I have to think Macklemore and Pickwick would agree.

 

Pickwick

Pickwick in the Free Yr Radio Tent ::: Photo by Josh Lovseth

Pickwick on EMP Level 3 – “These are the Records you are looking for” ::: Photo by Josh Lovseth

Pickwick on EMP Level 3 ::: Photo by Josh Lovseth

Pickwick on EMP Level 3 ::: Photo by Josh Lovseth

Quilty 3000 introduces Pickwick in the KEXP Music Lounge ::: Photo by Josh Lovseth

Pickwick in the KEXP Music Lounge ::: Photo by Josh Lovseth

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