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posted by DL Byron on September 03, 2004

I instant messaged Pam, “cool, Public Enemy is playing Bumbershoot this year, let’s go.” “ok, cool, ” she replied. Then Marcus noted, “it’s $25.00 per day.” And we all said, “that sucks.”

It sucks because what was once an eclectic, vibrant event has been washed clean in the banners of corporate sponsorship. It’s the WalMart of Cultural Events. You pay to stand in oversold lines, wade through crowds, and wonder exactly what happended.

Just like film festivals that lead to antifilm festivals, maybe we need an antibumbershoot, have those Cirque de Flambe artists run it, and burn a bunch of corporate shit down. Or maybe that crew from Seattle that asked SXSW attendees what they could do to not suck so much could say something? Make it better?

Regardless, we’ll pass this year and hope to see that Circus of Flame sometime soon.

“If the roof’s on fire, let the mothafucker burn.”

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Sep 03  |  Stina said:

Yeah, I agree, Bumpershoot used to be cool, great bands and cold beer. Now its a granola festival of crap vendors selling the same shit, overpriced ticket prices for bands that you don’t have a chance of seeing unless you spend the entire day in line, and food that gets more expensive every year yet the portions get smaller, and don’t even get me started on the long lines for the bathroom. Why don’t they have beer stands in the bathroom line, that way as soon as you get your beer, you can get in line and by the time you get to the bathroom, you have to go!

Sep 03  |  Dan Vaslow said:

Reality bites… I get it! But none the less, it’s real. You can choose not to go or you can just ignore the “banners of corporate sponsorship” and enjoy the music and entertainment. The choice is still yours.

Sure $25 bucks is more than it used to be. But it gets you a whole day of amazing performers and you get to choose what you see. And those corporate donations mean good quality performers and more choices.

“What was once an eclectic, vibrant event has been washed clean”? Have you been to Bumbershoot lately? This is the possibly one of the most eclectic and vibrant events in Seattle. There is more to do in a day than one person can do and it covers just about every thing you can imagine. Not just big corporate music either.

Everything has a price… there would be no professional anything without it. Imagine how expensive a ticket would be without corporate sponsorship. I’m willing to endure a few banners and the like for a reasonably priced all-day experience. It’s a hell of a lot cheaper than Disneyland and much closer. And it’s cheaper than most concerts where you get one band that may or may not be worth your time.

Here’s the economics. Pay $25 for a day at Bumbershoot. If you see one or two acts/events you liked, you break even… compared to typical concert venues. If you don’t like the band you are seeing, you can get up and move to another band, movie, poetry slam, etc. Try that with a typical concert. And you still wait in hella long lines at a all big concerts. It took my wife and I over an hour to get into Dave Matthews this year! And that was not general admission.

Needless to say, I like Bumbershoot. No, I wasn’t here for the “good old days”, so I won’t comment on how it compares. Rather, I choose to go ‘cause I always have a great time. In the end, that’s all you can do with anything. The choice is still yours.

Sep 03  |  -b- said:

I canít argue with the choice is yours and I donít want to diss anyone that chooses to go. Iím sure you can still have a good time. Iíve had many good times at Bumbershoot and hope others do as well. Maybe Iím just being old school and remember when it was ran 1/2 ass by the city and lost money. Should it make money now? Well, yes and no. It should break even or be a loss leader with all the taxes it brings in. And should our tickets not be subsidized by all of the sponsors?

Sep 03  |  doug said:

I donít doubt that Bumbershoot is worth $25 a day. But it was musical bargain at $8 a day. When Bumbershoot was run like a music festival instead of a clearinghouse for big-name acts, visitors could wander and discover and just enjoy the day. The current approach values headlining pop acts that bring in piles of people who spend money on expensive food. Visitors have to work hard to see the music they enjoy. Thereís little sense of serendipity any more. On the other hand, higher ticket prices and corporate sponsorship to secure ďhigher qualityĒ acts.

Is the current approach worse? It depends on what you want Bumbershoot to be. I preferred the loosey-goosey civic festival feel to Bumbershoots past, but I wouldnít argue with anyone who enjoys the current system better.

I doubt if Iíll visit Bumbershoot again any time soon, but Iím also a grumpy old coot.

Sep 07  |  Dan Vaslow said:

The funny thing is that as much as I like Bumbershoot for what it is now, I wish I would have had the opportunity to go back in the good old days. I can think of many, many events Iíve attended over the years that seem to have lost their luster as time has gone on and they have evovled into something else.

After having attended it this year, I saw the good, the bad and the ugly. I have to admit that sometimes it seemed like a case of quanity over quality. On the other hand, I have a number of great memories of great shows, artwork, etc. And yes, the corporate sponsership at times was excessive.

In a nutshell, it was what it was. If anything, it will probably continue to be molded into a money-making machine, losing a bit more of itís ďsoulĒ, which is a shame. For me, it feels like diamond mining. There was a lot of things I could give a ratís ass about. But here and there I found truly amazing, fun and/or exciting things. I had to dig and sometimes I was at a loss to find something worthwhile.

The one thing Iíve found IS getting better every year, is the One Reel Film Festival. Okay, itís not exactly music, but man, they have some great films in every genre you could imagine. Like Bumbershoot, some were great, some were less so (I wonít say crapÖ I just didnít like them all). The coolest part was they werenít polished, boring, Hollywood cookie-cutter movies. I was really impressed what people could do with a video camera and in one case $26 bucks. I wish I could have bought a ticket to this alone!

Sep 07  |  robroy said:

-b- it is not just bummershoot that this has happened to. any funky arts festival or neighborhood will be taken over by sponsorship.

in about a month i will take part in the dumbo arts festival in brooklyn. it has only taken four years for that to go from a festival that real collectors, gallery owners, and patrons of the arts came to. now it is crowds of hipsters flooding through the buildings and streets looking for free booze and food.

don’t get me wrong all arts festivals have wannabes but when they become the only people coming then it is time to hang it up. if my experience this year is anything like it was last year then i will think long and hard about opening my doors again.


Sep 07  |  -b- said:

Dan, thanks for the follow-up report and thanks to Rob for the report from NYC. We ended up going to see a burlesque show at the Pink Door and it was really good. More women than men actually.

Sep 09  |  Keith said:

Give me a break. It’s not that much different than it was before. I’ve been going for years (like the last 8 or so) and little has changed. It’s more expensive, but the corp soponsers were there before, they were just different.

As far as the crowds, they’re pretty much the same too. I went all four days this year and the only really long lines were Monday for the Pixies.

I seem to remember really long lines years ago as well…

What HAS changed (aside from the price) is the quality of line up. It’s gone down a bit IMO. They had some great bands this year, but it seems like it gets a little worse year to year.

I find it funny how people are resistant to even the slightest change. It’s too bad you’ve written it off, because if you could get past you’re old memories you’d realize it’s pretty much the same and start making new memories.

I had a great time this year, ‘cept I missed the Pixies. Then again Critters Buggin was playin at the same time and they’re pretty damn good….Public Enemy was great, BTW.

Sep 09  |  -b- said:

Fair enough Keith. I think the quality of the bands on tour issue is industry wide. And I’m quite possibly getting to be an old coot like Manis.

Onto Public Enemy, was it all the members? Flava Flav?

Sep 22  |  Jeremy Gruman said:

This year at BShoot there seemed to be a lot of booing anytime corporate sponsors were mentioned. I am no fan of big brand advertising, but I have always found Bumbershoot to have a relatively small amount of it relative to the size of the event and the kinds of bands brought in.
If you buy your tickets early (a week or so before the event) you pay $15 for them, and less for multiday passes. I think kids under 12 are $5 and under 5 are free. What that means is a family of 4 can go for $40.

Here in Vancouver, Canada, there is nothing like Bumbershoot, but the Folk Fest is a similar multiday festival with performances all day into the night. It is not corporate sponsored, but it is hugely expensive. $60 a day for adults, $30 for youth, and kids are $7 (these prices are all Canadian, $1CDN=$1.3US).

Take that same family paying $40 for Bumbershoot and consider the $135+ they are spending to go to the Folk Fest. Comparing the two, I am quite happy to have some corporate sponsorship thrown in.

Also, Bumbershoot offers an amazing variety of performances. I find every year that some of the best shows are ones I end up in by accident or just as a last minute “sure, let’s try that”.
Yeah, the lines suck, and are getting bigger each year, and it is disgusting to see people scalping their wristbands for the night’s big show (some people were asking $40 for Pixies wristands!), but I think all in all Bumbershoot is a very special thing. You just need to learn how to get the most out of it.

One more comment. As a general belief, I hate the fact that we live in a world in which corporate sponsorship even exists. I think we would be much better off if a portion of our taxes went into arts funding (a larger portion than what we currently pay, that is), so that corporate money wasn’t needed. Better yet, I’d prefer it if the corporations that get tax write offs for sponsoring the arts just paid those taxes and that money was then given to the arts world, thus preventing the corporate sponsor from being able to threaten to pull their funding if they don’t get what they want. That said, I recognize that that isn’t the world we live in. Governments seem intent on making it easier and easier for the corporate world to set how things should run. I think that’s wrong, and I do what I think might help to change that situation. In the meantime, however, it would be silly to punish myself and the arts events by not participating.

One last comment: The Pixies were pretty boring, I thought. Worth $15? Sure. But they rated pretty low on the list of stuff I saw this year at Bumbershoot.

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