By Kelsey Dzintars

A young woman with her skin painted bright orange freestyle dances with a giant balloon against a clear, baby blue sky.

Baby boomers with flowing skirts and long white beards are following suit in their own interpretative bare-footed dance circle. Excited toddlers at their first live concert are jumping around on blankets, and happy families lay out on the grass. On stage, electro pop dance band, YACHT, is performing among a swarm of enthusiastic fans they spontaneously invited on the stage.

This is a typical scene from Bumbershoot, Seattle’s 41-year-old music and arts festival. Held annually over Labor Day weekend, the festival takes place in the heart of the city at the 74-acre Seattle Center, which has fountains, gardens, outdoor art, open space and the 16,000-capacity Key Arena, all at the base of Seattle’s monumental icon, the Space Needle.

Headlined this year by longstanding ‘80s pop duo, Hall and Oates, and Seattle’s own the Presidents of the United States of America, Bumbershoot featured an eclectic blend of crowd-drawing international headliners, up-and-coming bands, and local groups, allowing festival-goers to rock with their favorites and discover some newbies.

A major showstopper from Portland, Ore. was MarchFourth Marching band. A big band with a driving drum corps and battery-powered electric bass, the ensemble also featured stilt-walkers, dancers, flag twirlers, clown antics, and acrobatics. The band kicked off the first day of festival, embodying their namesake by marching in their own parade around the festival grounds, and later played a full set to a packed crowd on the lawn.

One of my favorite performances was from the garage-rock duo the Kills, who captivated a crowd under the stars, late on the second night. Set against a color-changing leopard-patterned backdrop, singer Allison Mockhart and guitarist Jamie Hince transformed basic riff, beat and vocal from something dark and electrifying in their major hits, to sweet and sexy with Mockhart’s stunning rendition of Marilyn Monroe’s “One Silver Dollar.”

Between sets, the festival is host to films, comedy, spoken word, dance, theatre, and visual arts performances. One of the most popular attractions is the Flatstock rock poster show, which features 70-plus different poster artists and their unique designs from around the world.

Perhaps the only drawback I experienced was exhaustion and sore feet from three days of dancing and running around the Seattle Center. However, I came away with at least 10 new favorite bands and a priceless inspiration that will keep me going back year after year.
Photos by Kelsey Dzintars and Christopher Nelson