The crush of Lollapalooza’s 166,000 sweaty rock fans, coupled with the smell of teen spirit, could well be your thing; otherwise, consider Bumbershoot for a far wider range of audience and artistry
NEED TO KNOW
LOCATION Bumbershoot takes place in the Seattle Center in Seattle, Washington, USA
WHEN During the Labor Day weekend, which is in late August or early September
VISITORS PER YEAR
More than 150,000
61°F (19°C) during the festival
Seattle lives on the edge, and not only because of its Pacific Rim location in northwestern Washington State. The city’s youthful population continually shakes things up, whether it’s technology and coffee drinks or arts and entertainment. The latter reaches its apex every year at Bumbershoot, an enormous three-day festival with a colorful history dating back nearly 40 years, and with performances that leave Lollapalooza in the dust.
The festivities are held during the Labor Day holiday, as summer’s heat abates and the region’s autumn weather begins to descend on Puget Sound.
The Bumbershoot experience is unparalleled, partly due to the memorable setting of the Seattle Center (the once-futuristic grounds built for the 1962 World’s Fair). This impeccably landscaped site, located close to downtown, is anchored by the Space Needle, the city’s most recognized landmark.
More than 20 deluxe indoor and outdoor concert venues, originally built for everything from children’s theater to the Seattle Opera, host performances of music, dance, film, and spoken word. It’s a remarkable spectrum of creative expression.
Audiences of all ages and backgrounds come to the events to bask in the kaleidoscopic range of performers. First-name acts in every denomination of rock, jazz, and folk join a carousel of local bands just back from their first tours. Even outfits with more promise than experience can have their time under the lights if they pass the application process.
Of course the festival gets crowded, but unlike Lollapalooza, where nearly the entire concert population heads for the main stage, Bumbershoot has many venues scattered over a 74-acre (30-ha) site that was designed with crowd-control in mind.
You can always find areas where foot traffic subsides.
The Seattle Center also tempts the concert- weary to explore other pursuits without leaving the grounds. You can visit the Experience Music Project (EMP), the high-tech rock music museum designed by Frank Gehry; ride the monorail that runs through the EMP between downtown and the Space Needle; or ride up the Space Needle’s external elevators to see the to-die-for view of city, mountains, and sea.
THE BUILD-UP Perry Farrell, lead singer of the rock band Jane’s Addiction, launched Lollapalooza in 1991 to celebrate his band’s last tour and to carry the flag of alternative rock music.
The festival hailed a new rebellion against mainstream music and galvanized the burgeoning under-30 subculture. It toured the USA until 1997, had a revival in 2003 and, since 2005, has taken place every year in Chicago’s Grant Park.
THE LETDOWN Now that Lollapalooza no longer tours, fans have only one shot to attend, which means denser, more desperate crowds – the mosh pit will turn heads. Be prepared for the often-scorching summer heat – temperatures during the festival have been known to soar to 104°F (40°C).
Remember that Chicago is an expensive city, so finding affordable accommodations will be tough.
GOING ANYWAY? Get an early start and consult the festival map of Grant Park assiduously – not only for stage information, but also for details on public transportation and suitable areas for down time and refreshments. Chicago is one of America’s gastronomic hotspots, so leave enough time to explore the city and its diverse food culture.
Getting There and Around
Travel from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport requires a taxi ride into town, which takes around 25 minutes. The only means of public transportation in the city are buses and the monorail that runs conveniently between downtown’s main shopping district and the Space Needle, which is ground zero for Bumbershoot.
Where to Eat
You can find Seattle’s fresh seafood and Pan-Asian cuisine virtually anywhere. Or try Cyclops, a local bohemian favorite, or the food vendors sprinkled liberally throughout the festival space.
Where to Stay
Many travelers consider an expensive room downtown in a major hotel with views of the water and mountains. Conserve resources and go boutique with the Ace Hotel (www.acehotel. com/seattle) in Belltown, halfway between Pike Place Market and the Seattle Center.
Budget per Day for Two
US$290 including transport, accommodations, and food.
Festival tickets cost US$60 per person for a three-day pass purchased in advance, or US$25 per person for daily admission.