Rantz: It’s time to pull the plug on Bumbershoot Seattle after latest disaster lineup

May 21, 2024, 5:56 PM

Image: The crowd cheers at the 2013 Bumbershoot Arts & Music Festival in Seattle....

The crowd cheers at the 2013 Bumbershoot Arts & Music Festival in Seattle. (Photo: Jason Rantz, AM 770 KTTH)

(Photo: Jason Rantz, AM 770 KTTH)

If all good things must come to an end, then mediocre ones are bound to die too. Enter the 2024 edition of the Bumbershoot Arts & Music Festival, a perfect example of a festival clinging to life when it should’ve bowed out gracefully. So, we’re left with no choice but to pull the plug after this year’s horrible lineup.

The recently revealed lineup is an embarrassment of deficiency; a mirror image of a struggling Seattle.

The struggling summer festival revealed its 2024 lineup and it’s hard to understand what they’re trying to do. Festival organizers managed to find one of the least impressive and most forgettable rock bands of the mid-’90s, Pavement, to be the main headliner. The rest of the lineup is, obviously, no better.

Rounding out the supposedly top tier talent? Cypress Hill (amusing rap group you forgot existed), James Blake (the guy who performed that one song that you can’t remember but you kind of remember his name), Marc Rebillet (who?), and Courtney Barnett (also, who?).

What happened to Bumbershoot Seattle lineup?

Once the pride of Seattle, Bumbershoot has struggled with mismanagement, exorbitant costs, and a devastating pandemic hiatus. Attempts at revival—like slashing ticket prices and reducing event days—have failed miserably.

AEG took over from One Reel, providing big names but was ultimately too costly for average fans to attend. Coupled with mismanagement and sky-high high production costs, it could not survive the COVID-19 pandemic, even if it was a mostly outdoor festival.

Ultimately, Bumbershoot took a three year hiatus only to return in 2023 with cheaper ticket prices, one fewer day, and little fan interest in headliners Sleater-Kinney, Fatboy Slim, and the Dandy Warhols. The hiatus should have been permanent.

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It’s time to let this music festival come to an end

There’s nothing redeeming about the 2024 lineup. The $70 single day pass, which is even lower than 2023’s discount, still seems too high based on the lineup.

I understand that insufferable elitist music critics may enjoy the lineup. Michael Rietmulder from The Seattle Times even called it a “knockout.” People like this revel in claiming to appreciate things most people don’t, thinking it makes them seem evolved and cultured. It doesn’t. They’re just blowhards.

The glory days of Bumbershoot was when you’d pay whatever the price happened to be for a single day because you’d spend that much on one or two of the headliners alone (Bob Dylan, Mary J. Blige, Weezer, Hole, Ellie Goulding).

Bumbershoot was worth it even if you were forced to suffer through crummy, subpar acoustics of the then-Key Arena because you got to see M83 or Heart.

And rather than focus exclusively on local bands with no shot of ever growing but were cheap enough to book so you can say you have local flair, there was more booking discernment (Secret Weapons, Watsky, Børns, Saint Claire, and Noah Gunderson).

It’s okay to let traditions go. Some need to die. Bumbershoot 2024 is a disservice to its legacy. It’s time to let this once-great festival rest in peace. At this point, it’s cruel to watch it painfully become so irrelevant.

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