Bumbershoot Saturday: Bed Snake, Black Breath
As I grabbed a coffee on my way to Bumbershoot yesterday, my barista Ryan asked what bands I planned to see. After practically punching the ceiling to announce, “Jane’s Addiction—with the original members!” I told him about the visual art exhibits including Elvistravaganza!, which cheekily celebrates the 1962 World’s Fair via the King, the interactive installations in Skyward! and the wide-ranging graphic and poster art in the annual Flatstock show. I said I was going to try to catch some comedy, some dance, the “spectacles” like a roving speed-dating show and marching bands; an improvised 60-minute Presidential election and a reprisal of Washington Ensemble Theatre’s bombastic play Bed Snake. This year I wanted to place emphasis on the non-music arts aspect of our beloved end-of-summer blowout.
It wasn’t hard to do. Many of the scheduled musicians have come through Seattle many times before. Like Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings, who I could see perform a million times. Even so, I used Bumbershoot’s brilliant mobile app (the most user-friendly of these I’ve ever used) to filter my schedule into “Can’t Miss” events that would be firsts for me. I set out, allowing myself the freedom to be swayed by the right combination of sunshine and good vibes—as I was by King Khan and the Shrines and City and Colour later in the day.
Due to long lines I missed the first event I planned on, ACT’s Ramayana Youth Ensemble. Twenty young performers would use live music, puppetry and dance to act out the ancient Hindu epic. It’ll play again on Monday at 2:30 p.m., and begin its full run at ACT on Oct. 12. The explosion of color and Timeless Story I was looking forward to was fulfilled in a different way as I descended into the Exhibition Hall to see local metal band Black Breath playing their first show since returning from Japan. Strobes and lasers punctuated the band’s ferocious wall of sound. And the hair… the hair. It was a sight to behold. The night before, I had seen SAM’s exhibit Ancestral Modern: Australian Aboriginal Art. In the same way that those hypnotic paintings kept me swaying into them as if by an invisible thread, Black Breath’s primitive force held me in place until sufficient time had passed.
Next, I stopped by the Seattle Center Pavilion to view Elvistravaganza!, curated by local vintage, retro and kitsch aficionados Marlow Harris and JoDavid. This huge exhibit features a screening room for It Happened at the World’s Fair; “Cindy’s Bedroom,” a pink puff pastry of a shrine to the King; a recreation of Graceland’s Jungle Room; a karaoke stage rotating with male and female impersonators and rockabilly babes, and dozens of portraits. Elvis as a Maori, Elvis as a black man, Elvis as an elf, Elvis as an alien. Troy Gua’s “The King’s Ruin” is a mixed media peanut butter, ’naner and pill sandwich. Diem Chau’s “The King’s Helm” (left) is a colorful wire cast of his famous pompadour. This show is worth a long, or longing, depending on how much you love Elvis, look.
Just next door at the Record Store, a pop-up shop where nothing is for sale and rotating musicians spin their selections for the browsers, SAM’s Sandra Jackson-Dumont and Cara Egan watched two little girls bust a move to Salt ’n’ Pepa’s “Push It.” OC Notes was playing Michael Jackson’s “PYT,” Prince’s “When Doves Cry” and Kool & the Gang. I had a spontaneous dance-off with poet and former City Arts intern Rose McAleese. It was super hard to tear away from Otis’ infectious good energy but I managed to make it the Theatre Puget Sound stage in time for Wing-It Productions’ “non-biased, non-partisan, non-dumb” Election Show. The moderator introduced us to the current president, Ian Shemp, whose platform for reelection was: “If you don’t like it, it will disappear.” After three potential candidates stated their platforms and platitudes, Shemp’s opponent—a Mr. John Excel—was chosen on an anti-gravity platform. The improv flowed smoothly and was interspersed with acted-out political commercials and fluff biographies.
I stopped at Skillet Counter in the Armory for a bacon jam and bleu cheese burger and a Mason jar of pilsner before heading to the next show. I also roamed Flatstock, picking up early Christmas presents in the form of Dr. Dre magnetic fridge poetry from Minneapolis’ Burlesque Designs. In Skyward!, I enjoyed I Want You’s interactive installation Cosmic Dust (below). The artists said that watching kids interact with it was the best—“They’re not sure what’s going on at first…then they go mental,” said Christian Peterson.
Bed Snake, please come back again after Bumbershoot. Noah Benezra and Hannah Victoria Franklin have already done one run of this in WET’s theatre on 19th Ave. Benezra plays Wolf, a whiny white boy rapper who sells his soul to she-devil Kry$tal to realize his dreams. It’s the most un-P.C., hypersexual, energetic and humorous piece of theater I’ve ever seen in Seattle. The music, dance, costumes and cultural references are completely of the moment and won’t work any time but 2012. When about 12 people left the theater during the scene where Kry$tal sucks Wolf’s soul out, a smiling Franklin waved her fingers evilly at them. Those that stayed participated in the idea, screaming like fangirls at Wolf as he propelled into stardom. People behind me exclaimed “What the?” and “No fucking way” at the lyrics and videos the duo created to augment the action (and give the amazing dancer-minions a break between acts). Google the Salem song “Trapdoor” and you’ll get the aesthetic on display here, impressively and ingeniously played to the hilt.
And Jane’s Addiction were amazing; of course they were. They ended their long set with “Summertime Rolls.”