Bumbershoot 2015, Day 2: The Cave Singers, Social Distortion, Faith No More, and Neko Case

Bumbershoot, Live Reviews
09/08/2015
Jacob Webb
photos by Matthew B. Thompson (view set)

If the city of Seattle created a position for a house band, The Cave Singers would immediately top the shortlist. Across their eight-year run, Peter Quirk, Derek Fudesco, and Marty Lund (along with sometimes-member Morgan Henderson) have steadily become one of the city's more reliable bands across their four LPs and countless Seattle shows in venues of all sizes. Quirk is both a great singer and a great frontman, an amiable performer who can turn the charm on (or off) seemingly effortlessly, and his presence helped turn the quiet acoustics of the side stage on the Fisher Green pavilion at Bumbershoot into an advantage rather than a hindrance. There's only a handful of festivals that feature a small, quiet stage, but on that grey Sunday evening, the Cave Singers briefly turned Bumbershoot into one of those festivals as the band ran through a career-spanning set that added another line to the group's tally of great hometown shows.

Lots of bands have done the album anniversary tour, some better than others, mostly because sometimes the record is a genuinely influential LP that carries enough weight that people would want to pay to see an associated show and other times because the LP in question was the band's commercial high-peak and it's the LP in their catalog that is the most acclaimed, but not necessarily all that acclaimed by anyone outside of their hardcore audience. Social Distortion's current tour, which celebrates the 25th anniversary of their 1990 self-titled record, does not fall into the latter category. Social Distortion wasn't the first or only record to blend punk rock with outlaw country sounds and aesthetics, but it was maybe the best one of its era that used that combination, and its influence on the next two decades of punk is widely observable. So while it was an inherently nostalgic show, it was a highly enjoyable one too, not only for its bulletproof setlist but also for the band's performance. Mike Ness performes like a guy who really hasn't taken a day of his post-prison life for granted, summoning his whiskey-soaked growl (which has only gotten better with age) to lead the band through "Story of My Life", "Sick Boys", "Ball and Chain" and other Social D classics with gusto. Playing with the energy of a band half their age, Social D ran through the album, a few non-Social Distortion tracks, and a one-two punch of Johnny Cash classics to close out the show. Holding down a legacy slot at a festival that leaned heavily towards modern pop music isn't an easy job, but Social Distortion's performance on Sunday was, like The Replacements' set last year, another unexpectedly great legacy set that Bumbershoot seems to value more and more each year.

photo by Dave Lichterman

"'Sup. We're going back to the classics," said Faith No More frontman Mike Patton before launching into "Midlife Crisis". "Like 50 years back." The joke was that Faith No More is old, but even though they were the lone legacy headliner at Bumbershoot this year, they didn't show any sign of being complacent - 3/4ths of the way through "Midlife Crisis", the band abruptly paused the song, frontman Mike Patton entered a bowing pose, and after a brief pause, they resumed the song, now in a disco arrangement. Between that and Patton and Roddy Bottum's asides ("We haven't been here in 40 years" - they played the Paramount in April – "so talk amongst yourselves and find me a hippie boyfriend."), Faith No More were in a chipper mood on Saturday night, but they were hardly a joke. An hour and a half's worth of FNM classics, songs from their reunion album Sol Invictus, and choice covers ("Easy" by the Commodores and "I Started a Joke" by the Bee Gees) took over Memorial Stadium as Patton and his bandmates continued their 2015 campaign. Faith No More were certainly an unexpected surprise at the Bumbershoot announcement earlier this year – the other two headliners are two of the biggest pop stars in the world – and AEG deserve kudos for booking a band that wasn't only in a stylistic lane of their own at Bumbershoot, but also a band that's had no real successor or acolyte since their original breakup.

photo by Dave Lichterman

photo by Dave Lichterman

photo by Dave Lichterman

A few days before her Bumbershoot appearance, Neko Case announced her first retrospective, a collection that captures nearly twenty years of music from the Tacoma songwriter by including all of it. At first, it seems a little much – a 70-minute Neko Case mixtape is definitely doable – but as Case ran through her catalog in a stripped-down fashion, it put Truckdriver, Gladiator, Mule, the aforementioned compilation, into context: Case has one of the most interesting musical catalogs of the last two decades. As she moved around the country/rock/folk spectrum she would eventually master, Case's songwriting shows an impressive musical journey from alternative country chanteuse to wisened storyteller whose literal voice is only outdone by her musical scope. And during that career-spanning set, Case categorically confirmed her status and her legacy. Even though she continues to put out excellent albums (although the typical gap between records is now far longer than it used to be), Case doesn't seem to be interested in resting on her catalog. On Sunday night, she did, however, seem amenable to take the audience through her musical story, one song at a time underneath the Space Needle on a chilly September evening, and Bumbershoot was all the better for it.

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