30 of Bumbershoot Years
Seattle Times staff critic
1971 - The first Bumbershoot wasn't called Bumbershoot but rather Festival '71. The two-day event, the brainchild of Mayor Wes Uhlman, stars Sheb Wooley, best known for the novelty hit "The Purple People Eater." It also includes a logging show, indoor motorcycle races in the Coliseum (now KeyArena), horseback rides for kids and "the world's first electronic music instrument jam." Women's lib had not yet triumphed: The "Hot Pants Contest" was one of the biggest draws. Local rock bands and dance troupes were featured. The sun-drenched festival, held Aug. 13-15, was a hit, attracting the largest crowds to Seattle Center since the 1962-'63 World's Fair. Total attendance was estimated at 150,000.
1972 - Noted artist Claus Oldenburg designs the Festival '72 poster, which shows a giant faucet on Capitol Hill pouring water into Lake Union. The One Reel Vaudeville Show presents a "mellerdrama" about the Klondike Gold Rush, Seattle Opera stages excerpts from "La Boheme," Seattle Repertory Theatre offers "Excerpts from A Thurber Carnival," free, bring-your-own-skates ice skating was available at the Arena, and Ronald McDonald made an appearance. Bighorn topped the list of local rock bands. Attendance for the two days (July 21-22) grew to 180,000.
1973 - Bumbershoot, a name dreamed up by a PR firm, is attached to Festival '73, and the run is stretched to five days (Aug. 22-26). More local artists, dancers, musicians and craftspeople are involved, and a film festival is held for the first time. Jazz is emphasized, with performances by Cal Tjader, Joe Venuti and Bill Smith. Attendance tops 200,000.
1974 - Now called simply Bumbershoot, the festival grows again, this time to 10 days (Aug. 16-25). "Name" acts are featured for the first time: Stan Getz, Ry Cooder, John Hartford, Willie Dixon. Activities for children are added. The film festival includes an animated short by Oregon filmmaker Will Vinton called "Closed Mondays," which wins an Oscar the following year. Attendance jumps again, to 325,000.
1975 - Previously organized by Seattle Center officials, this year a director is named: John Chambless, former philosophy professor at the University of Washington, former progressive-rock deejay at KOL-FM, and organizer of the Sky River Rock Festivals in 1968 and '69. It's the longest Bumbershoot ever - 11 days. Roger Downey, arts editor of Argus, organizes an "Alternative Theater Festival" starring the San Francisco Mime Troupe. Oscar Peterson is the big name, and a largely unknown singer named Jimmy Buffett wins over Bumbershooters with his sun-drenched party songs. Wearable art is the kick of the festival. Program highlights are available by touchtone phone via "Chester," Bellevue Community College's computer. Bumbershoot is still free, but "donation stations" are set up.
1976 - Following criticisms that the festival had grown too big and costly, Bumbershoot is scaled down to five days over two weekends, Aug. 28-29 and Sept. 4-6 (the first time the festival is held over the Labor Day weekend). Emphasis reverts back to local artists, including a young jazz singer named Diane Schuur, soon to go on to international fame. San Francisco's Magic Theatre presents "Angel City," written and directed by a member of the company, Sam Shepard, long before his movie-acting days.
1977 - For the first time, Bumbershoot has some ticketed events. Shows in the Opera House, Playhouse and Arena are priced from $1 to $3. Aging, legendary dancer Merce Cunningham is the festival's big name, Pat Metheny tops the music lineup, and Larry McMurtry is the highlight of the literary presentations. A downpour cancels the opening ceremony. The long Labor Day weekend is established as Bumbershoot's permanent play dates.
1978 - Among the featured local artists is a young fiddler named Mark O'Connor, who wows the crowd with his prowess. Soon he will move to Nashville and become one of country music's most acclaimed musicians. The Amazing Rhythm Aces is the big name in the music lineup. The One Reel Vaudeville Show presents one of its most popular spoofs, "The Bride of Bigfoot." The rain is back and attendance is down for the second year in a row.
1979 - The Bumbernationals are held for the first time, featuring the-weirder-the-better soapbox entries. Guitarist Larry Coryell returns to his hometown to headline a jazz lineup that also includes pianist Marian McPartland. Dance continues to be emphasized, featuring the Bill Evans Dance Company. Will Vinton is back, conducting film workshops. And it rains again.
1980 - Admission is charged for the first time: $2.50 a day (Friday remains free). Norm Langill of One Reel Vaudeville takes over production from the departing John Chambless. To stimulate flagging attendance, Langill reinstitutes "name" acts: Emmylou Harris, Chuck Berry, Etta James, Eugene Fodor. A "Volcano Gallery" features art inspired by the recent eruption of Mount St. Helens. A nude performance artist stirs controversy with her Playhouse performance. Dyan Cannon, known as Diane Friesen growing up in West Seattle, brings her short, "One," to the film festival. Attendance improves.
1981 - Fans line up all night to catch free showings of "Star Wars" and "The Empire Strikes Back," shown together for the first time anywhere. The "Taste of Seattle" is introduced (later it will branch out as its own event). During his Coliseum performance, Chuck Berry unplugs the bass of Steve Fossen of Heart and kicks him off the stage. Fellow Heart members Howard Leese on guitar and Michael Derosier on drums continue to back Berry. The Roches, Martin Mull, Gil Scott-Heron and Sam & Dave are featured. The film festival highlights vintage animation, with classic cartoons from Max Fleisher and Warner Bros. Attendance tops 138,000.
1982 - Admission jumps to $3 a day. Tina Turner, still on the comeback trail, wows a big crowd. Henny Youngman makes 'em laugh, and so does the Firesign Theater. Rock 'n' roll is featured, with George Thorogood & the Destroyers and Mitch Ryder drawing big, dance-mad crowds. It rains for most of the festival.
1983 - Talk about big names! The lineup goes largely national, with Ray Charles, James Brown, Bo Diddley, The Animals, Three Dog Night, Oingo Boingo, Willie Dixon, Betty Carter, Charles Lloyd and Father Guido Sarducci (doing comedy, not marriages). Ken Kesey is the star of the literary events. Featured local bands include The Allies and Uncle Bonsai.
1984 - In a lineup that will be largely repeated 16 years later at the opening of Experience Music Project, The Ventures, The Kingsmen, Merrilee Rush, Little Bill Engelhart, Ron Holden, Don & the Goodtimes, The Fleetwoods and Dave Lewis are featured in a tribute to Northwest Rock. Eurythmics and Los Lobos are among the "name" rock acts. And Spinal Tap performs for the very last time (although a reunion may now be in the works). Also on the bill are Afrika Bambaataa, Ornette Coleman, Charlie Daniels and the Neville Brothers. Attendance tops 165,000.
1985 - After a "Bumber war" between the City Council and Seattle Center's management (some council members wanted to fire Langill and hire concert-promoters Media One as festival producer), Langill and his One Reel Vaudeville are contracted for two more years. Several stages are added, bringing the total to 14, and the Exhibition Hall and Science Center are utilized for the first time. And the ticket price rises to $4 a day. Police are brought in when too many fans try to get into Stevie Ray Vaughan's performance in the Coliseum and threaten to riot. Other popular acts: Bonnie Raitt, Wilson Pickett, Bobby McFerrin, the Everly Brothers and Steven Wright. "Bumberbiennale," a retrospective of Seattle painting from 1925 to '85, is a big hit.
1986 - The ticket price rises again, to $5 a day. But it's worth it for one of the best talent lineups in Bumber history: Jerry Lee Lewis, Fats Domino, Randy Newman, Sandra Bernhard, George Thorogood, Robert Cray, Kid Creole & the Coconuts, Delbert McClinton, Los Lobos, Belinda Carlisle, Smokey Robinson, The Winans and The Grand Kabuki Theater of Japan. Gray skies didn't hamper enthusiasm or attendance, which surpassed 200,000.
1987 - Roy Orbison! Miles Davis! Bonnie Raitt! Need we say more? But there is more: k.d. lang, Dwight Yoakam, Taj Mahal, Crowded House, Albert Collins! More literary events, more kids' activities, more art shows, more food booths. So much is added that Friday is expanded into a full day, with ticket charge. And Seattle Center is more crowded than ever, with attendance topping 250,000.
1988 - Record heat (90 degrees-plus) draws record crowds. Bonnie Raitt is back, and so are Randy Newman and Los Lobos. A promising young comedian named Jerry Seinfeld plays the Opera House. Miriam Makeba and Hugh Masakela share a Mainstage bill. Also in the lineup: Richard Marx, John Hiatt, Little Feat, The Roches, Chaka Khan, The Smothers Brothers, Koko Taylor, Colin James, Charles Brown, Etta James, Sonny Rollins, Tito Puente. The Bumberdrum tradition is inaugurated. And a brash young band named Soundgarden plays Club X.
1989 - Police have to be called after a rumble breaks out between what police say are Bloods and Crips. It's carried live on TV. A man who tries to escape by jumping from a 15-foot wall breaks his leg and then is badly beaten. But all that happens Sunday night at closing time. The lineup emphasizes blues, funk and R & B, with B.B. King, Al Green, Little Richard, George Clinton, Bobby Blue Bland, Hank Ballard & the Midnighters, Otis Rush, Phoebe Snow, George Clinton, Sir Mix-a-Lot and gospel legends The Zion Harmonizers. Added to the mix were Dr. John, Johnny Winter, K.T. Oslin, Joan Jett, Stan Freberg, NRBQ and Chris Isaak. Mother Love Bone, the seminal grunge band, is among the contingent of local rock bands. Once again, attendance tops a quarter million.
1990 - Glass doors and a window at the Coliseum are broken as crowds try to crash a capacity concert starring Ziggy Marley. Two people are arrested but no injuries are reported. Bumbershoot takes on a world-music edge, with Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Ruben Blades, Flaco Jimenez and Ofra Haza. Emmylou Harris and Gladys Knight sing, and Nick Lowe and Fats Domino rock. Tom Robbins writes a "script treatment for a feature film" for Ergo!, the Bumbershoot literary magazine. Alice in Chains rocks Club X. The most unusual booking: a reunion of Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca, from the '50s TV series "Your Shows of Shows."
1991 - Ticket prices rise to $7. Twangy guitarist Duane Eddy makes a rare appearance, and so do singer-songwriters Laura Nyro and Tracy Nelson. B.B. King, Chris Isaak, Etta James and Crowded House return. Tony Bennett adds a touch of class. And the Indigo Girls harmonize. The Bookfair features banned books, the works of American cartoonists and a reading by Allen Ginsberg. The Visual Arts Pavilion has a fascinating exhibit on the history of Seattle photography. Intiman offers Tennessee Williams' steamy "A Streetcar Named Desire." Attendance lessens a bit, mostly due to gray skies.
1992 - Tickets jump to $9 a day, and it costs another $1 to get into the Taste of Seattle area. To avoid lines, you can buy a Quick Access Pass, which grants immediate access to any performance, but it costs $25 a day and there are few takers. Queen Latifah appears, and so does veteran belter Lavern Baker. Also on hand: George Benson, Nanci Griffith, Joe Ely, Joan Armatrading, Bobcat Goldthwait, Michelle Shocked, Third World, John Lee Hooker, John Mayall and They Might Be Giants.
1993 - Cab Calloway trucks on in, singing "Hi-de-hi-de-hi-de-ho." It's the living legend's last appearance in Seattle (he dies a year later at 87). Naughty by Nature sings "Hip-Hop Hooray" and Ray Charles takes us to "Georgia." Chet Atkins plays guitar while Mark O'Connor fiddles. And Mudhoney represents the already-fading grunge sound. One of the most popular events is Robert Fulghum explaining "All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten." Among new Bumber discoveries are folk / country singer Lucinda Williams and comical Canadian rockers Barenaked Ladies.
1994 - Jackson Browne sings his greatest hits, Guido Sarducci performs marriage ceremonies, and Bonnie Raitt visits yet again. Joan Baez warbles and protests, as always. Meshell Ndegeocello is an exciting find. World music is again featured, with artists from Zimbabwe, Russia, Jamaica, Cameroon, China, South Africa, Jordan and Belgium.
1995 - It's Bumbershoot's 25th anniversary, and they do it up big with a Jimi Hendrix exhibit, guitar festival and tribute concert, with Jimi's Experience band mate Noel Redding, George Clinton and others. New York rockers The Ramones and Patti Smith both draw big crowds. The Presidents of the United States of America play music that makes you laugh. And the whole Warped Tour touches down at Bumbershoot, featuring No Doubt, L7 and Sublime. In contrast, there's the classy jazz of the legendary Mel Torme and the bittersweet country / folk of the returning Lucinda Williams.
1996 - The Sex Pistols reunion tour plays Bumbershoot, ample proof that punk has become mainstream. Isaac Hayes appears, singing "Freedom." The film festival features "Hype!," Doug Pray's Seattle grunge documentary. Officially, the lineup is supposed to be less "name"-oriented, but nevertheless we get The Indigo Girls, Ani DiFranco, Average White Band, Nanci Griffith, Milt Jackson, David Grisman, John Lee Hooker and, in the literary realm, Eric Bogosian and August Wilson.
1997 - Beck shows he can be just as entertaining live as he is on record. David Byrne, Blues Traveler and Sugar Ray attract turnaway crowds to the Mainstage. Dave Grohl, formerly of Nirvana, performs with his new band, Foo Fighters. Shawn Colvin sings and Medeski, Martin & Wood get jazzy and funky. Smash Mouth is a sleeper. Margaret Cho, fresh from her canceled "All-American Girl" sitcom, headlines a comedy show. And the film festival premieres a winner: "L.A. Confidential." A pall falls over the festival, however, when news breaks out of Princess Diana's fatal car crash.
1998 - Bonnie Raitt and Joan Baez close out the festival with a bit of pop history: their first time together onstage. Other Bumber firsts, both annoying: wristbands required for some shows, and steel-fence enclosures to herd crowds into the Mainstage area. Third Eye Blind represents new rock, and Jethro Tull old rock. Country legend Buck Owens sings for a large, appreciative crowd.
1999 - Emmylou Harris is back again, but this time she's dueting with Linda Ronstadt, and the crowd goes wild. Earthy, jazzy singer Macy Gray is this year's discovery. Son Volt brings alt.country to Bumbershoot, Pharoah Sanders blows hot and cool with his quartet, Junior Brown picks and grins, Everlast blends punk and hip hop, and Oliver Mtukudzi has everybody dancing to Afropop. Bumbershoot has gotten so big, it now takes 25 stages to hold it all.
Back when it all began
At the first Bumbershoot in 1971, our band, the Lotus Hawk Blues Band, was thrilled to be included. We had a wonderful time playing at Seattle Center (outside on a sunny day). We lived and rehearsed in the U District and our neighbor "discovered" us and arranged our big gig. I am still playing with the Portage Bay Big Band and with the Starliters. I attend Bumbershoot every year and like it a lot.
Tommy Chapman Seattle
The Velvet Hug
One of my very favorite Bumbermemories involves the booking of Mel Torme on the Mainstage. He was very nervous about playing the event and in the weeks before the show I received numerous phone calls from his agent and management asking for reassurance of all types that this gig was indeed going to be a successful one for Mel. One of the great concerns was playing in such a large venue in front of Mudhoney . . . something Mel had never done before.
It was the days of Tony Bennett and Johnny Cash teaming up with young artists and I assured them all that this idea was indeed going to work.
I had the great privilege to introduce Mel to 10,000 fans on the day of his show . . . he seemed very excited to take the stage. He played a fabulous set and thrilled the vastly diverse crowd . . . from grandmas to Gen X'ers and more . . . and at the conclusion of his show he came beaming off the stage and gave me a big hug and said that it was the most exciting show he had ever played in his life. As the programming director for the event . . . what more could I ask for? We both had tears in our eyes and this remains a very special memory and moment for me.
Reenie Duff One Reel
I feel for Jerry
1987??? The first year I advanced the production logistics for the national-act headliners (and one of the first years it was all run off a computer database!) everything went very smooth except for one little snafu . . . One evening the limousine handling transportation for the artists was tied up, which meant Chaka Kahn (who was partying like a rock star!) and her not-very-amused bodyguard had to share a ride to the airport with a rising-star stand-up comic. I'm sure it was not the ride of a lifetime for Jerry Seinfeld!
Jodi Molever Seattle
A friend from East L.A.
After having told my son many times that I know the guys in Los Lobos (elementary, junior high and Garfield High School in East L.A.), and living in Oregon for the last 25 years, I took my 10-year-old son to get a treat at one of the many food stands. Walking among the many merry people, a voice from the crowd called "orale, Mike!" It was Louie Perez in sunglasses and a big abrazo (hug). My son still tells his friends how he and his dad ran into Louie Perez, the drummer for Los Lobos at Bumbershoot. That was a wonderful and memorable moment.
Michael Flores Portland
Buy your own smokes, Steve
The coolest thing. I was standing there watching Sonic Youth, and who was standing right beside me? Steve Malkmus from Pavement. We kinda chatted throughout the show, but we were both there to see Sonic Youth. Then this girl comes up who lives a few hours from me, and wants to take his picture. Then she gets a picture with me in it. I show that pic to everyone. Steve Malkmus is kinda scowling a little. He bummed a cigarette off of me, then complained about it!!!!!
Jeff Gourley Kelowna, B.C.
Mom got us in
My greatest memory of Bumbershoot is from 1996. My brother and I both loved the band Sweetwater. We couldn't wait to see them. Then we found out that they were in the Rock Arena right after the Presidents (of the U.S.A.). We started to worry that it would be hard to get in. My brother's friend's dad said he would make sure we got in. When the Presidents were done, we pushed up to the front as much as possible, but we couldn't get inside.
"Follow me," Tim said (Tim is my neighbor and my brother's friend's dad), "I'll figure it out." He took us up a staircase on the side of the arena. There was a security guard at the top next to an open door marked "EXIT ONLY."
"OK, kids, look for Mom," Tim said. None of us were sure what he was talking about at first. "Come on, guys, do you see her?" We started catching on. "Maybe she's still inside," Tim said to us. He grabbed us and pulled us inside.
"Yes! We're in!" we all yelled. We ran in to the concert just as it was about to start. Sweetwater came out and we went crazy. The concert was one of the best I've ever seen, but the way we got in made it even better.
Joe Spinrad Portland
Girls can surf, too
We were sitting there watching Everlast tear up the stage. Some guys next to my friend Rebecca and I asked us if we wanted to crowd surf, so she said sure, but only for the next song. She was the first girl to crowd surf during the concert, she made it to the front, and along the way, two of our friends in the press boxes saw her, too. There she was at the front, along with around 100 6-foot-3 guys next to a 5-foot-3 girl. She asked for their help to get back and they all moved aside. Now that's some great crowd hospitality.
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