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Why It’s Best to Avoid Seattle’s Bumbershoot Music Festival

The Bumbershoot Music Festival has graced Seattle’s city center for over 50 years. This festival showcases the best from the Emerald City’s renowned music scene, as well as visual artists, performers, and local craft breweries.

But this two-day event isn’t all fun and games. Critics note that the festival has changed over the years, and not all of those changes have been good.

Today, we’re diving into this long-standing festival to see why it may or may not be right up your alley.

Let’s hit it!

Skyline of Seattle with Mt. Rainier in background. Bumbershoot has been held in Seattle since the early 1970s.
Seattle hosts many music, food, and art festivals each year

About the Bumbershoot Music Festival

The Bumbershoot Music Festival started in 1971, attracting 125,000 attendees in its first year. Since then, it’s grown into one of the biggest music festivals in the U.S. Bumbershoot routinely features internationally-known artists, but its focus is largely on musicians from Seattle and the greater Pacific Northwest.

Music isn’t the only attraction at this Seattle music festival. You can also take in an art show, see various exhibitions, and attend presentations by well-known speakers.

Best of all, the fest is super affordable compared to most music festivals. A two-day general admission pass starts at $85.

Bumbershoot is held every Labor Day weekend at the Seattle Center. This massive indoor and outdoor event space was originally constructed for the World’s Fair in 1962. It houses multiple museums, theaters, and venues. But it’s probably most famous for the iconic Space Needle.

This year’s lineup features big-name artists like Sleater-Kinney, Fatboy Slim, and Phantogram. But true to the festival’s soul, there are tons of great up-and-coming acts on the bill, too.

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Why You Should Avoid Bumbershoot

A great lineup, scenic setting, and affordable prices, all on a holiday weekend! What’s not to love about this event?

That all depends on your expectations. And if those don’t line up with reality, Bumbershoot could be a real bummer for you.

#1 You’re Expecting a Blast from the Past

Bumbershoot isn’t the same festival it used to be. At one time, it had a reputation for appealing to folks of all ages. But these days, the average attendee is about 21 years old.

This change is reflected in the festival’s lineup. While some of the bigger names on the bill hail from past decades, the overwhelming majority are new, younger artists. Recent attendees reported fewer amenities like merch booths and DIY craft tables, with an increase in Instagram-friendly art installations and phone charging stations.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with a festival geared toward younger people. But if that doesn’t sound like your crowd, you might not have a great time.

#2 You Want Smooth Sailing

Every big festival has its problems. However, Bumbershoot has a reputation for them.

History suggests that Bumbershoot’s event coordination could use some improvement. Long lines, staff-to-attendee miscommunication, and bizarre rules for alcohol purchases have plagued this event for years. Even worse, a barricade collapse at the 2019 festival injured about 25 people.

If you’re looking for a streamlined experience, Bumbershoot probably isn’t the event for you.

#3 You Hate Crowds

You already know Bumbershoot will be crowded. After all, it’s a music festival. But you can expect the rest of the city to be busy too.

Seattle’s tourism season runs from June to September. The beautiful summer weather brings visitors during this time, and the city hotspots are typically packed. With Bumbershoot falling on Labor Day weekend, you can expect those throngs to be even bigger than usual. If you hate crowds and sticker shock, avoid this music festival.

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A crowd at a music festival like Bumbershoot in Seattle
The crowd and its age range could be a reason to avoid Bumbershoot

Why You Should Go to Bumbershoot

You can always find a reason not to do something. But enough of the cons. Here are a few reasons you should absolutely go to Bumbershoot this year.

#1 You Love Current Artists

Forget reminiscing about the good old days. It’s fun to see new, exciting artists, and this year’s Bumbershoot lineup has plenty of them. The festival continues highlighting the freshest acts in hip-hop, pop, and EDM.

But it’s not all newcomers. Established stars like Carly Rae Jepsen, The Lumineers, and Tyler, the Creator, have graced the stage in recent years. Basically, if you’re interested in current music, you’ll have a great time.

#2 You Want More Than Just Music

We mentioned earlier that Bumbershoot offers tons of non-music activities. Honestly, you could spend an entire day enjoying these extra offerings. This year you can watch pro wrestling matches, practice your jump rope in an open double Dutch session, or do karaoke during a burlesque performer’s set!

There are also tons of amazing performances and visual artists on the bill this year. And if you just need a break, hit up one of the beer gardens or check out the grown-up playground. The only thing this music festival doesn’t have is boredom.

#3 You Want to Visit Seattle During Peak Season

Sure, traveling during peak season can be stressful. But there are lots of good reasons to visit Seattle at the height of summer.

While September is still a popular month for tourists, the crowds start to thin around this time. You’ll see hotel availability rise while prices drop. And as an added bonus, the dog days of summer are usually over by this time, meaning cooler-but-still-pleasant weather. It sounds to us like the conditions are perfect for a music festival.

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Is a Road Trip to Bumbershoot Worth It?

We can’t think of a better way to spend Labor Day than the Bumbershoot Music Festival. With its great location, stacked lineup, and endlessly fun activities, this two-day event will be a blast.

Of course, there’ll be crowds and a few long lines. But if you’re ready to go with the flow, you’ll have a great time. And remember, if nothing else, you’ll be in the center of one of the coolest cities in the U.S. The possibilities for exploring Seattle are endless!

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