On my last weekend in the US, I went to the wonderfully-named Bumbershoot Festival at the Seattle Center (or two out of three days of it anyway). A festival of arts, comedy, film and music, there was a lot on the schedule I was excited about.

In the morning of the first day, I had to move from my lovely hostel in Fremont to the worst hostel of my trip – Hostelling International at the American Hotel. The staff were rude and it was in a pretty sketchy area (Chinatown). TripAdvisor reviews warned about people smoking crack outside the front door, and not to go back alone at night. Unfortunately that was what I had to do, either that or miss loads of Bumbershoot.

There were no other hostels available that night, in case you’re questioning my sanity. Luckily I was just there for one night, no one was smoking crack directly outside the front door, and the receptionists messed up so badly that there was actually already someone sleeping in the bed they gave me. As there were no spare beds, they ended up giving me a private room at no extra cost. There was a pretty view of the Chinatown gate.

I had no one to go to Bumbershoot with as my only Seattle-based friends were on honeymoon. There are definite advantages and disadvantages of attending a festival alone. It was a beautifully sunny weekend and people were drinking beer and laughing with their friends. Okay, so I kind of wanted to drink beer and laugh with my friends too. However, I was free to go where I wanted, when I wanted and didn’t have the hassle of trying to meet up with people in a crowded area.

I ended up talking to some strangers anyway, as usual. I had to queue for a long time to get a comedy pass on the second day and an old guy complimented me on my outfit (slightly 50s-style dress with a green plastic bow in my hair, as I recall). I ended up talking to him and his Australian friend for a while, who turned out to be an actor (from The Proposition and – for some reason he didn’t disclose this fact but I checked later – Neighbours!) He was a friend of Nick Cave, which he casually mentioned when I said I lived in Brighton.

I also spoke to some people in a queue for the cinema. They were super impressed by how far I’d travelled. The films I saw were a selection of the best from the Seattle International Film Festival, some of which were very good. I also saw some great comedy from Emily Heller. At one point I ended up attending a talk on frozen yoghurt. Don’t ask me why.

Obligatory culinary comment: there was some damn good food on offer – I particularly enjoyed the gyros and burritos. A woman gave me a free ice cream lolly. I asked for the mint one but some guy also being given a free lolly insisted I have the last salted caramel one in some kind of confusing gentlemanly gesture which worked out pretty well as it was DELICIOUS.

I was very happy to catch Fantagraphics Follies with Ellen Forney and some other fantastic Seattle cartoonists, which I mentioned in my piece on the Fantagraphics storefront for For Books’ Sake. It was hosted by Larry Reid, who I’d met the previous week and interviewed.

Flatstock was an amazing exhibition of posters presented by the American Poster Institute. Many of them featured my favourite bands and even concerts I’d been to. I wanted to buy most of them but bought none due to my rapidly waning budget.

Sadly, due to queues and timing, I missed some stuff which sounded pretty interesting e.g. A talk with the writing staff of Parks and Recreation, a performance and workshop named Reel Girls: After The Riot and a talk called Competitive Erotic Fan Fiction. I did catch the scheduled zombie attack in the evening, with zombie brides etc. terrorising the crowds.

Some of the musical highlights were Tegan and Sara, Eric Burdon and the Animals, The Zombies, Sallie Ford and the Sound Outside and Gary Numan. It was also fun hearing American people giggle and say stuff like ‘He’s so British’ about Colin Blunstone of The Zombies, while being secretly and quietly British myself.

On the way out on the Sunday night, I caught a band who were pretty good and possibly called Broncho… It was a pretty end to the night. The Space Needle looked magnificent and, in contrast with the other stages, everyone at the Plaza Stage was dancing in a winding-down, non-manic way.

I headed back to my hotel. I had decided to treat myself to an actual hotel on my final night, with privacy and a TV and a desk. If only I hadn’t been too tired to take advantage of everything, including the breakfast… but still, it was nice to stay somewhere so close to the festival, and not having to scramble around in a vain attempt to get ready for bed without waking anyone up.

I still had a few hours left in Seattle before I had to fly back to New York. Sadly not enough time to go to the final day of Bumbershoot, but I did some fun stuff. Coming up in the next post…

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  1. […] noticed a sign for the EMP Museum when I was entering Bumbershoot Festival. It looked interesting but I wasn’t sure if I’d have time to go there. Luckily it […]

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