recycling : your 2008 bumbershoot survival tips and tricks guide of advice

the merce cunningham duo, last year.

We’ve already told you what to see [sat :: sun ::mon ]; so now it’s time to haul out the advice that we post every year . We like to think of it as a classic, just revised with slightly-new content and under the assumption that surely we must have picked up a few new readers and Bumbershoot must have enticed a few first-time visitors since last time. But not a lot changes about Bumbershoot from year to year; so why not re-recycle? It’s good for the environment and for preserving our fingers for typing fresh stuff later. So, in the spirit of eco-friendliness and with thanks to everyone who ever contributed, here’s the revised and updated guide for 2008.

After the jump, our hints. Any of your own to add?

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 (or just follow our sometimes-conflicting advice [sat :: sun ::mon ]). 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 indoor venues, show up early, and be pleasantly surprised if you don’t find a giant crowd ahead of you. 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. Unless it’s a comedy show.
  • 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. Sticking to the many outdoor venues that aren’t limited by capacity will make your voyage of discovery even less stressful.

The News

  • Say goodbye to the shuttles: new Federal Transit Administration regulations mean that Metro won’t be providing additional shuttle service to Bumbershoot. Looks like it’s back to their regular (weekend/holiday) schedules; so take a look at TripPlanner and anticipate getting to know your neighbors up close and personal on the way to Seattle Center. [metrokc].
  • There’s a new Metropolitan Market in town: 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 or to Metropolitan Market which took over Larry’s spot. But there’s plenty of food and drink to be had off-site, so it’s worth slumming in the ‘hood between shows. You can only eat so much corn on a stick before you need something with actual nutritional value.
  • Skatepark: While the roller derby hasn’t returned to Bumbershoot (too many people became disoriented trying to figure out the rules), this year the kids in the fountain will have competition in the attention-grabbing department from the ROCKSTAR Vert Ramp on the fountain lawn. Skateboarders INSIDE Seattle Center? Someday, this dream may come true for the regular skaters of Seattle and not just the pros.
  • The venue names have been changed to confuse the innocent: One Reel sells the venue names to the highest bidder. Memorial Stadium remains Samsung Stage. The beloved Broad Street lawn is temporarily transformed to the Rockstar Stage, which refers to the energy drink even though it could be applied to the lineup. Some venues get descriptive names because there isn’t big money in Literary Arts sponsorship and others keep their real names. Confused? If you’re not, you’re lying. Luckily, the map lists old and new.

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 PDF versions to print out [Sat|Sun|Mon] or save to your iPhone, 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.
  • In and Out: Bumbershoot is one of the few big festivals that doesn’t require you to stay within the grounds all day. Just make sure to closely follow the protocol if you leave and want to come back later. Last year, I think you needed to have both your hand and ticket stamped on the way out.
  • Gold/Platinum passes: Did you get one? You should have, especially if you hate the crowds and like feeling fancy. 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.
  • advance tickets: You can buy tickets in advance at Starbucks. And remember that one day tickets are specific to a given day. You won’t save any money by this point, but you will save time and if time really does = money, well… Who wants to spend their valuable festival time standing in line behind ten people only to discover that number nine didn’t notice he’s in the “cash only” line and decides to pick a fight with the ticket seller instead of moving to another line?

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 and the Monorail, when it’s working. 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. There are enough real bathrooms scattered around Seattle Center that you really have no excuse for standing in line at a Honey Bucket.
  • 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-$40 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: blonde 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.
  • smokers: Whether it’s tobacco or that other stuff, if you feel the need to light up, please get out of the way. Don’t walk through a tight crowd holding whatever it is you’re smoking, that’s just not cool. Find yourself a spot to stand that doesn’t block the flow of traffic and where the fewest people possible will be exposed to your smoke.
  • 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. It is also one of the few big festivals that allows you to come and go through the day. Take a break, get some air, and return later. 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.
  • be nice to the staff: Some of the people working at Bumbershoot are being paid; a large number of them are volunteering because they love the festival. Both groups are there to do their best to make sure you have a fun and safe day. The festival absolutely could not happen without all of their hard work. Be nice to them. Listen to what they tell you. Follow their instructions. And, really, be nice.

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