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“Nothing, Nowhere.” — That just happened to be the name of the band this huge crowd pushed and shoved its way to the front to see (not).

Nothing, Nowhere: what a perfect metaphor for Bumbershoot 2019. People used to flock to my town of Seattle to attend our once-amazing Labor Day festival. Now, it’s all the producers can do, to coax locals into coming. — I only went because I got in for free. You see, I’m 70. At 65, I was excited, because I knew Bumbershoot would start letting me in for free. And…. the new company took over our festival, and someone raised the age to 70. They figured I’d be dead. But I’m alive. It’s their festival that’s looking DOA.

Let me say right now: if you did have a good time this year, I’m glad. You may not have 40+ years of Bumbershoots to compare this year to. Or you fit that specific demographic the production company targeted. I’m not asking that anything be taken away from you. I want them to add back what was taken, when AEG took over.

Dullsville. Or, “Nothing, Nowhere.” take 2. There should be all kinds of booths, all kinds of people here; not a wasteland.

I probably attended my first Bumbershoot in 1974. I paid around $3 to get in. I’ve seen what it was, x 40. Yes, I figure I’ve been to about 40 years of Bumbershoot. And, I can tell you what it’s missing: half of the music stages; half of the acts, almost all of the food booths, almost all of the arts and crafts booths; the huge art installations; the Flatstock poster artists exhibiting their excellent work…. And now, it’s missing the crowds. Bumbershoot 2018 saw attendance plunge to half that of normal. Well, I think they lost more folks this year.

But what was really missing? Diversity. At present, there is very little diversity in the music. And age-wise, there is almost no diversity. Here’s a photo of a group of average Bumbershoot 2019 attendees.

Bumbershoot’s merch booths were deserted. No one depicted here was buying anything from them. This is not the t-shirt crowd. And that’s fine.

I love young people. I don’t expect the festival to be a “boomer” festival. It hasn’t been one for years; but it’s still been fun. Now, it’s not fun. Because the entire event seems to be aimed at the under-21 crowd. At this juncture, they could get rid of the super-pricey beer gardens — who is there to patronize them? — And let me say this: these young people are also getting the short end of the stick. I heard two young women talking. One turned to the other, and said, dejectedly, “I’m bored”. And I wasn’t shocked. They are also getting a very vanilla, narrow-broadcast event.

Historically, a Bumbershoot audience was an all-ages mix. Which I loved. The all-ages mix reflected the festival’s offerings and vice versa. That’s no longer the case. And, if you program Bumbershoot to appeal to one age group, you should change the name. And, you have no claim to the goodwill the festival has built over the years; you have no right to call it Seattle’s Arts and Music festival. It’s not.

Rather than going to see any of the performers this year, I walked the grounds, talked to people, and took the photos you see here. Because with two exceptions, there was no one I wanted to see. Also, the incredible drama surrounding this year’s headlining acts just left me feeling wrung out. You know?? — So instead, I talked with attendees (young and old), long-time Seattle Center employees, festival security staffers, vendor tent employees, arts and crafts people…. And, so many people expressed a level of “bummed-out” that would have amazed me. But I was bummed out too, so…. not amazed.

What could be done to bring back a diverse, successful, fun Bumbershoot? Well, I understand AEG’s contract is expiring now. (Yay!) They’ve produced the festival for the last five years. We’re supposed to be so grateful that they “saved” the festival.They didn’t. They got the rights to the name, and then put on their own, blah, un-festival, on Seattle Center’s grounds. One Reel, the non-profit that was once synonymous with Bumbershoot, was relegated to producing the arts part of the event. — I’d like to see One Reel restored to its proper place — as the entity that produces Bumbershoot. — If they can get the funding. Or, we need to find another arts organization/producer who can do a festival that pays respect to the intention of the original event: getting everyone together, to enjoy a diverse offering of great arts and music, at an affordable price.

I’ll mainly let my captioned photography do the talking for the rest of this blog piece. Following are some things that puzzled me, some things I really didn’t like, and some that I did like.

“How does it work?” I watched with chagrin as these frustrated boys tried to figure out how to play this game. There were similar “activities” scattered around the grounds, basically being ignored.

OK, so this is fine. Pretty umbrellas beautifying the near-deserted promenade. But they do this everywhere. Have you seen the artwork Seattle’s great graphic designer, Art Chantry used to create for Bumbershoot? This is kids’ stuff in comparison.

Is this a thing? I’m old. Do you pay to charge your phone? I guess it’s so you can contact the outside world when you realize that where you are at sucks.

No tie dye for you! I visited this place on Friday and Sunday. It was blocked off and closed both times. I have no idea what was supposed to go on here. But being an old hippie, I wanted to do it.

Vendor tent. A term I learned this year at the festival. I will talk a bit….

Instead of all kinds of amazing things to do, presented by artists, arts organizations, and the festival itself, now we have “vendor tents”.  Corporations and companies set up tents and canopies where one can participate in activities centering around that particular company’s products. Now, to me, that sounds like something you wouldn’t need a ticket to do. But paying to be marketed is the thing now.

Admittedly cool. The particular tent pictured one photo up was owned by Pandora. They program music by the teen band I co-founded in the 60’s, the Velvet Illusions. So I can’t be a hater. They were doing free “body marbling”, which did seem to please a lot of folks. My thanks to the kind young man who served as my model.

And, I did love the jam I had at Uku Ukuleles’ tent, with their fine staff member. Yes, I’m on the left, in a 1960’s Aloha shirt, which seemed appropriate for the activity. We played Canned Heat’s “Going Up The Country”. (Photo by Uku, which they kindly posted on Facebook/Instagram.)

Kind woman: while I was enjoying a delicious falafel sandwich at Kebab in the Armory, a kind, young New Zealand woman came up and started visiting with me. I told her all about our previous Bumbershoots. — I hope I didn’t make her sad. We took a selfie, which I’ll share here to illustrate a point: interacting with people is still the best thing about the festival.

There used to be, I would say, around 100 food booths at Bumbershoot. They were everywhere. Now, you go to this tent for your food sold by a handful of vendors. It reminded me of a county fair, but not in a good way. I’m not criticizing their food at all. I didn’t try it; I had that falafil in the Armory.

This was the best, IMO, of the scant handful of arts & crafts/import booths, where you could buy beautiful things to decorate yourself, or your abode. There used to be so many. And in later years, they had a special indie crafts section which was fab.

Where Flatstock goes…. For years, Seattle Center Armory has been home to a Bumbershoot feature, “Flatstock”. You could meet incredible NW poster artists, and enjoy/purchase their iconic works. It was gone this year, with no explanation. It was just gone.

Now, this hurt. An artist invited attendees to the Armory to make 1,000 origami cranes, which she would turn into a giant heart. With no Flatstock to draw people to the Armory, she only had 200 takers. This is the result — the outline of a heart. And yes, I participated.

This, I liked. I’ll expound on it, next….

OK, a little more talking. I viewed virtually all of Bumbershoot 2019’s art in one hour. I walked the grounds, where I saw, and photographed an array of random art pieces. I remember when whole rooms would be turned into one giant art piece. Now, we have scattered, small, humble art pieces, that I can’t even say qualify as eye candy. Except…. A/NT Gallery, Seattle Center’s great artists’ coop, presented a show in their International Fountain Pavilion entitled, “The Collectives”, featuring works by members of several Seattle art collectives, including Soil, shift, Gallery 110, Fogue, and (of course) A/NT. I liked this exhibit, due to its focus on “the people’s art”. Also, I have an ongoing love affair with A/NT Gallery. In December, I’ll play my 47th monthly exhibit opening gala for A/NT. It’s always a joy to share my music, while A/NT’s wonderful artists share their work, with an all-ages crowd.

More activities stolen from a school carnival. The experience one would have at this vendor tent would depend upon how into beanbag they were, I guess.

Not sure what this was for, or who it was for. — Children? I saw a few babies in strollers, but not many children. At one time, it was a tradition to bring your kids to the festival. When they grew up, they would do the same.

I mentioned my teen band, the Velvet Illusions. Well, I did find something fun to do. This giant rendering of a cassette tape was there, for folks to write a song title on — to represent a huge mix tape. I listed “Acid Head”, by my band. Hey, Google it!

Geez, Louise. I can see better graffiti in my Queen Anne ALLEY! (For real; photos upon request.) This is not destination festival material. Is it?

Once again, if we had Art Chantry’s amazing art, we would not need this.

Dead end/sensory deprivation zone. These were everywhere. Now, I realize there’s construction happening. But Bumbershoot used to take up the entire Seattle Center campus. Now, it’s squeezed into a much smaller area.

So, they reminded us of what the real Bumbershoot was like, by mounting an overlooked display of historic posters, from when acts like the Replacements, Garbage, Roky Erickson, Joan Baez, Tony Bennett, Parliament Funkadelic, B.B. King, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Buck Owens (don’t laugh — he was great!), Mudhoney, El Vez, the surviving members of the Jimi Hendrix Experience and Band Of Gypsies, the Decemberists, and thousnds more, played for us.

Beating the dead horse: one last photo of the sparse (and bored) crowd. The band they were waiting to hear was late. It looked to me like they were having equipment issues.The ill-placed beer garden (white fence) took up way more of the grass than it needed.

And…. my tribe finally showed up! Just as I was leaving, I ran into this couple, who saved the day for me. How could I leave them out of my story? Thanks, you two!

Disclaimer: I attended day one, and day three. I had a pass for Saturday, but fate, and a squirrel, intervened. I got up, and was just about to start getting my fine self ready to go, when our building’s power went out. So you can either say I was cursed, or saved, by a power outage — caused by a poor squirrel who made the fatal error of deciding to chomp down on our power line. So, I have a good excuse. And, instead of saying, “Well, you only went two days”, say, “Oh, the poor squirrel!”. — But that’s nothing! When I was getting ready to go today, a sharp-shinned hawk suddenly swooped into my back yard, with a squirrel in its talons! While it was a bad weekend for me, I thanked my lucky stars that I was not born a squirrel. (Not making this up.)

Bye-bye, Bumbershoot. Say, I remember when they shot lasers through the fountain at night, accompanied by stunningly loud music. Or they burned something to the ground. This year, people lined up to revisit the 1970’s at the Bumbershoot Laser Dome. Honestly, they still do that.

Notes. For those who just can’t get enough:

BTW, my blog pieces do get read. I’m approaching 55,000 views. Hopefully this review will help make things better. We need a new driver at the festival’s wheel. My review of the 2015 festival got scads of views. But I don’t think it helped any. I tried….

Ironically, while I (along with my late wife, Sally Jo Davis) am in the Paul Dorpat movie from 2001, “BumberChronicles”, due to my ardent love of Bumbershoot, AEG has blocked me from commenting on their FB page. They don’t take well to criticism. Especially from people who know the Emperor is ungarbed.