Bumbershoot: Tips and Tricks 2009

pic by seattle daily photo [flickr] via our group pool [#].

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 2009.

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] or subscribe to any blog in the city for detailed or cursory picks, whatever style suits you best). After perusing the lineup ask yourself: 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, for that, you’ll need a golden ticket.
  • 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

  • Ride the Green Line to Bumbershoot: Yes, you can ride the monorail straight to Bumbershoot from West Seattle and Ballard thanks to the completion of the Green Line… oh, right. Never mind.
  • Still no shuttles: Federal Transit Administration regulations mean that Metro can’t provide additional shuttle service to Bumbershoot, leaving the buses running on their weekend and 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. Bumbershoot also has suggestions for monorailing, carpooling, or riding your bike (last year, they had large parking lots for cycles). [#]
  • Skatepark: While the roller derby hasn’t returned to Bumbershoot (too many people became disoriented trying to figure out the rules), the longtime dream of a real live skatepark ON THE SEATTLE CENTER GROUNDS has become a reality. Let’s see if the regular skaters of Seattle will give the ROCKSTAR Vert Ramp in the fountain lawn a run for their money, attentionwise.
  • The venue names have been changed to confuse the innocent: One Reel sells the venue names to the highest bidder. Memorial Stadium remains Samsung Mobile Mainstage. Sometimes the sponsors from previous years return but with a new venue. The thing to know here is that no one bought the Broad Street Lawn Stage, despite the regular awesomeness of its lineup, and Rockstar Energy Drink now owns the gymnasiumlike cavern of Exhibition Hall. 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. The Bumbershoot website has a customized lineup tool. If you really like it, you can pay $2 for the privilege of keeping it on your iPhone [itunes]. Despite our incredulity about for-pay festival app and wishes that they’d they’d followed SIFF’s excellent precedent of making beautiful, functional, festival-enhancing app free of charge, the benefits of having an electronic schedule might make it worth the small charge. In any case, having the schedule handy 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 or save to your iPhone [pdf].
  • 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 really should have bought tickets ahead of time because they’re now selling for the much ballyhooed and near impulse-purchase prohibitive rate of $50/day or $120/weekend. At this point your option is a Ticketmaster outlet or at the gate. For the additional fees, the only minor advantage of buying at a Ticketmaster outlet is that it might save you 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? Then again, even avoiding that situation might not be worth it.
  • Cameras: Official Bumbershoot policy states that cameras with detatchable lenses (i.e. SLRs and dSLRs) are not allowed, and whatever camera you bring can’t be pointed anywhere near an artist. The reality, though, is… all over the place. One year I was able to take pics of an act without the security saying anything, and then the same day had a rent-a-cop threatening to take away my camera under a Washington law they made up for taking a picture of… a flagpole. I’ve seen rent-a-cops hassling people with cellphone cameras. Seriously, though — leave your nice camera at home. It’s just another thing you have to carry and one more theft target.

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 (they are legal, contrary to our advice of previous years, but when you have 40,000 people all carrying umbrellas in a confined space, things happen. Usually to your eyes,) 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.
  • 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 cold, rain, 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.
  • thirsty? Save money AND the environment by bringing your very own reusable non-disposable non-glass water bottle to Bumbershoot where you will have ample opportunities to fill it up for free and fountains and under canopies within Memorial Stadium, beneath the Monorail (facing the SE corner of the Fun Forest Pavillion), and across from the NW corner of the International Garden Lawn, facing the beer garden.
  • 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 $2.)
  • 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-$50 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 (or for you younger folks, that Backstreet Boys concert in 2000). 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, wet, 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.

2 Comments so far

  1. Bumbershoot: Tips and Tricks 2009 | Seattle Metblogs | Seattle News on Twitter (pingback) on September 4th, 2009 @ 6:46 pm

    […] See the article here: Bumbershoot: Tips and Tricks 2009 | Seattle Metblogs […]

  2. Bumbershoot: Tips and Tricks 2009 | TechScience (pingback) on September 4th, 2009 @ 11:41 pm

    […] more here: Bumbershoot: Tips and Tricks 2009 This entry was posted in Cellphone, Gadget and tagged a-our-group, a-really-good, already-told, […]

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