Bumbershoot 2007: Your Guide to Surviving the Chaos

The Needle @ Bumbershoot 2006Photo by Merelymel13

Yes, this is pretty much what we posted last year and the year before, but it’s revised with brand-new content. Kinda how there’s a new greatest hits album that includes a different throwaway track from the last greatest hits album. But not a lot changes about Bumbershoot from year to year. Same chances to take in musical acts and genres you wouldn’t normally listen to. Same weird mix of sun and rain. Same hippie girls who think flailing your arms and wapping you in the face is “dancing.” Same overly aggressive security and ushers ignoring petty theft because THAT GUY HAS A CAMERA AND HE IS TAKING A PICTURE AND HE MUST GO DOWN.

Still, here’s the newly revised and updated guide for 2007. Bumbershoot virgins, read up on how to practice safe Bumbering. Old-timers, well, read it again and complain yet again how Bumbershoot used to be free and you got it on with some girl at the King Sunny Ade show in 1983. Only, well, we’ve heard that story 100,000 times before already. And also? Your 24-year-old daughter Sunny called and asked us to tell you to STOP TELLING THE DAMN STORY ALREADY because it’s damaging her cred in the King County Republican Party.

Anyway. On with your helpful guide after the cut.

Your Agenda, Should You Choose to Accept It

There are at least two schools of thought on having an agenda for your time at Bumbershoot:

  • plan ahead: Look at the schedule before you go (more help on this section coming soon). Are there acts that you definitely want to see? If missing them will leave you heartbroken or just down in the dumps, expect lines at most venues and plan to show up early. When you get there, find your inner line Zen and don’t get freaked out by the size of the group waiting to see your beloved performer. Except in rare circumstances, you will probably get inside the venue. The volunteers and crowd coordinators will tell you otherwise, but they’re usually wrong. The good part about these warnings is that they chase away all but the true believers, improving your chances.
  • don’t plan ahead: With that in mind, a highly enjoyable part about Bumbershoot is discovering wonderful new things almost by accident. For the most part you can just show up and wander around until you find something enjoyable. Bumbershoot is a smorgasbord and it’s most fun when you try a little bit of everything — even something you might think you don’t like.

The News This Year

  • The three-day schedule stays: Last year One Reel axed the Friday shows, citing “volunteer exhaustion” as the reason. (The real reason: Without the Summer Nights series, they had to make budget cuts. Thanks, Whiningford, for killing the Summer Nights series at Gasworks. Jerkoffs.) The jury remains out on whether cutting a day has improved the quality.
  • The Center QFC is gone: QFC is now at 5th and Mercer, where the old Tower Records was (not 5th and Roy, where Tower Records finally crawled to when it died). That means the formerly ultra-convenient grocery store inside Seattle Center is gone, so you’ll have to walk into Uptown (because it’s UPTOWN, Jenna, and don’t you forget it). But there’s plenty of food and drink to be had off-site, so it’s worth slumming in the ‘hood between shows.
  • The venue names have been changed to confuse the innocent: One Reel sold the venue names to the highest bidder. Memorial Stadium? Nope, Samsung Stage. The stage in Fisher Green is now the esurance Stage (capital E and pink-haired faux-manga spokescartoon not included). Confused? If you’re not, you’re lying. Luckily, the map lists old and new. (Again, thanks Whiningford! Why don’t you complain to the mayor about Bumbershoot? I mean, there are people having FUN instead of being DOUR like YOU. And that CANNOT STAND.)

Here are some more things to consider:

  • your printer: unless you have a photographic memory, bring a schedule for your back pocket. It will make your wandering, planning, or hybrid-wandering/planning much more productive. When you reach the point where watching people dancing gaily in the spray of the International Fountain grows tiresome and you need something to do. As we mentioned above, there are several choices: the Stranger, the Seattle Weekly, the Seattle Times, and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer all have their version of a schedule and program. The Bumbershoot website has downloadable mobile phone and iPod schedules, as well as PDF versions to print out[Sat|Sun|Mon], or you can buy cute laminated schedules on site, too.
  • a related note about wristbands: You need a free *something* to get into the evening mainstage shows — a token, a wristband, whatever. If you’re absolutely sure that you aren’t going, don’t bother hunting one down and leave the whatever object for someone who actually wants it. If you arrive on the festival grounds too late to score one, don’t panic. There are hundreds of people who pick up a token out of sheer herd mentality. Hang out by the exits and ask (beg?) early departers for their certain-to-be-unused token.
  • Gold/Platinum passes: Did you get one? You should have, especially if you hate the crowds. If you did, you have the express lines, free food, and all sorts of ways to make your festival life easier. If you didn’t, well, you’re with the rabble. If you’re really into the shows, next year buy the Gold/Platinum passes.

practical details regarding the physical environment

  • the elements: Remember that you’re probably going to be outside in Seattle for most of the day, except when you drop into the occasional air conditioned venue (Hint: Bagley Wright Theatre and the Sky Church have A/C; Memorial Stadium does not). This means that you get to put your local layering expertise to good use. Pack a raincoat and sunscreen, but not an umbrella (the irony of forbidden umbrellas at a festival called Bumbershoot has not been lost on us). But, pack lightly — you’re stuck carrying your gear throughout the day in crowded quarters. This is where your microweight layers from R.E.I. come in handy. In the event of hot sunny days, the Seattle Weekly has a tradition of passing out goofy straw hats. Get them while they’re available and modify to suit your own personal style.
  • crowd control: Some people are kept away from Bumbershoot by all the talk of how crowded it gets. This is all a matter of perspective — with the right attitude, even the crowd-phobic will find the mobs quite manageable. Considering how uncomfortable your average club or concert venue is, Bumbershoot is a picnic. Try to familiarize yourself with the layout of Seattle Center and don’t let the hordes of people traveling the main thoroughfares freak you out. Cutting across lawns is much more fun, anyway. As long as you’re able to steer clear of menacing drum circlers (most mercifully quarantined to an out of the way corner) or impromptu hacky sack competitions.
  • escapes: When the sun, heat, and people get to be too much, find a cool (dry) place to hang out. A consistent favorite is the EMP Sky Church, where you’re likely to find some really interesting smaller acts. Be aware that the “let’s take a quick look inside the $20 EMP” crowd may increase the line sizes, but once you’re inside, it’s climate-controlled and there’s a beer garden to soothe away the crowd anxieties.
  • hungry? Don’t eat inside Bumbershoot (every day). This isn’t a popular choice, because people do seem to love those greasy elephant ears and giant strawberry shortcake booths. But the prices are horribly jacked up, and the food just isn’t that good. Get some fried food or corn on a stick if you must, but get your hand stamped and duck out to QFC or Met Market for real food. Or to any of the lovely restaurants on lower Queen Anne. There’s always a chocolate milkshake at Dick’s.
  • go early: If you truly want to take advantage of Bumbershoot, you’re not going to do it while being bumped by everyone’s elbow. About 3 pm, the crowds will converge. Or earlier. Rain makes the crowds go away. Run out to Bumbershoot while it’s raining. And pick up a bracelet/token if you think you want to go to a mainstage show.
  • parking: You shouldn’t drive. Seattle Center is served by umpteen buses from downtown, Queen Anne, and Capitol Hill. Metro is also running shuttle buses from the Northgate park-and-ride. If you do drive, carpool. The parking garages north of the Center fill up fast, so arrive in the late morning to ensure a parking slot. If you don’t want to pay, expect to walk. (Psst… here’s a secret: Park on top of Queen Anne and walk down the hill. Then take the 3 or 4 back up in the hill in the evening — you’re only out $1.50).
  • getting inside: Entry lines are typically shorter on the North side of the Center.
  • the call of nature: Upon arrival at Seattle Center, first time Bumbershoot goers should first and foremost scope out the bathroom locations. As silly as that sounds, many of the bathrooms at the Center aren’t very obvious and in the big crowds the festival tends to attract, there can be some long, long lines unless you’ve been smart enough to seek out the less obvious facilities.
  • cash money: There are few ATMs (and they often run out of bills); so take money with you. Take cash — lots of vendors don’t take credit cards and it’s a hassle, anyway.

good citizenship

  • share the love: Take some small bills for the buskers. Especially the ones who don’t clog major arterial routes. If you’re willing to pay $30 a day to be herded like cattle, you should be able to part with a buck for any street performer you stop to watch. And some of the street performers are both charming and amazing. Some are simply annoying. Don’t give them a dime.
  • that guy/girl: This is a piece of advice to a small audience: please don’t do that hippie chick dance to every kind of music. Or at all. You know what I mean: blond girls in dreadlocks with Indian skirts, too much patchouli, and that glazed look in their eyes. I swear, once I saw a hapless hippie girl doing that damned dance to a bagpiper. Please, desist.
  • the teens and tweens: Bumbershoot’s need for money has led to more poppy hip-hop and radio-friendly emo on the schedule, all to try and attract the kids who still listen to KUBE and The End. And you know how teenagers are — loud, hyperactive, and all over the place. Just remember you were one once, and you were just like that at that New Kids concert in 1991. Give ’em a break.
  • queuing manners: If you want to use the buddy system to deal with long lines, that’s cool when it’s one person leaving and the other(s) staying and switching off with them but if there are five of you and four of you want to leave the line for more than a couple seconds, it’s really going to piss people off for the four of you to rejoin the one in line just minutes before the doors open.
  • just be cool: At times, you will feel cramped, hot, thirsty, and totally not into Bumbershoot. That’s OK. As Will Rogers would say, if you don’t like the scene at Bumbershoot, wait a minute, it will change. Remember that kindness, the benefit of the doubt, and letting things slide a bit will make the cute boys and girls love you and not want beat the crap out of you.

8 Comments so far

  1. Steph (unregistered) on August 31st, 2007 @ 11:25 am

    Dammit. Don’t tell people to park on top of Queen Anne! This is one of my major peeves about festivals at the Seattle Center. People who park in the parking spots of residents (because most of us have to park on the street) because they either (a) don’t want to pay for parking or (b) are too lazy to ride the bus in (or just plain don’t think about it).

    Save yourselves the parking related headaches and be courteous to the residents whose neighborhood you’re taking over for the weekend. Take the bus! Remember, you only come out here for the festivals, but we live here.

  2. josh (unregistered) on August 31st, 2007 @ 11:41 am

    As a related note Steph’s comment: Bumbershoot will bribe you not to drive in the name of greening the festival — cyclists get free clif bars and water bottles and there will be special shuttles for the weeknd.


  3. Jeanna (unregistered) on August 31st, 2007 @ 11:47 am

    ARGH! i agree! i lived on lower queen anne and every damn festival or sonics game, i was dredging eight bags of groceries down six blocks cause all the cheapskates took spots closer to my house!

  4. Elaine (unregistered) on August 31st, 2007 @ 12:17 pm

    Ah, thank you for making me happy to be painting my house this weekend. ;)

  5. John Eddy (unregistered) on August 31st, 2007 @ 2:20 pm

    While I might agree with you about parking, I have to ask..

    Is it *illegal* for them to park there? Or is it just inconvenient for you?

    In other words, I know there are areas where you need a resident permit to park. Is upper queen anne one of them? If not, they aren’t taking a residents parking space, they are taking *a* parking space. I’m sorry if it is inconvenient to you, but, honestly? It’s like the complaining about the Blue Angels.

  6. Erin (unregistered) on September 1st, 2007 @ 8:45 am

    Umbrellas are allowed actually. Per the Bumbershoot website:

    “May I bring an umbrella to the Festival?

    Small (non-cane-style) umbrellas are allowed on the Festival grounds, but absolutely no umbrellas are allowed inside Memorial Stadium.”


  7. diane (unregistered) on September 3rd, 2007 @ 10:47 am

    I took my tween kids, along with a friend on Saturday. It sucked big time. And we got there when it opened, and by 3:00pm couldn’t walk around comfortably. We saw one act in that time period. Yes, I remember when it was free. Not THAT long ago. I don’t mind paying the price, but Reel One should have a cutoff of tickets, cause too many people, and man help them if there is an emergency. And what is with people bringing their dogs to this? I saw a rat dog, and that surely wasn’t going to last all day. Hate to say, this will be our last one. I would rather pay to go to the Paramount for one act, then deal with that bs.

  8. David (unregistered) on September 9th, 2007 @ 2:59 pm

    Diane, I don’t know what you were doing wrong but you must have just planned really poorly or have very little experience with festivals. How can you see only one act in 4 hours? No planning, that’s how. I had a great time. I’ve been going to Bumbershoot since 1988 and it hasn’t been free since then (it was $6 then) so I’m not sure what you’re talking about it being free “Not THAT long ago”). You’re probably thinking about Folklife (which is still free). I went on Friday, got parking for $5 free all day parking 3 blocks from the venue, had a great salmon burger, saw The Cops, Gorgo Bordello at the KEXP music lounge performance, The Avett Brothers, Rodrigo y Gabreilla, hung out in the Starbucks lounge with free coffees, Devotchka, Flatstock Poster convention (bought 2 posters) and Common Market. Planning and knowing what you’re getting into is what it’s all about. We even had time to hit a bar in Queen Anne for dinner and to watch the Tennessee/Cal game before heading back in for the evening performances.

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