Zombies, Robots, Stoners and Streakers: A Bumbershoot Recap

This year marked my 20th Bumbershoot ... in a row! And having attended the festival for two decades I am sure of one thing: It is a terrible place to be a streaker. As I was making my way toward the exit on Monday evening, I noticed a commotion in the crowd at one of those junctions where two giant pathways intersect and festivalgoers try to artfully weave between each other like an Esther Williams routine, but the timing is never right so everybody ends up jostling backpacks and falafel. I zeroed in on a naked young man. He wasn't painted or decorated in any way; he wasn't part of a nude brigade of revelers or protesters. He was just nekkid and (here was his mistake) trying to move briskly through the crowd.

I can only assume streaking loses much of its joie de vivre when one is forced to stop and start, taking tiny steps on tiptoe while tacking left and right, trying to find clear passage. The poor guy actually said, "Excuse me." Another killjoy: when your pace is reduced to a festival crawl, onlookers tend to focus more on your physique than your moxie. My husband said, "He's quite fit, you don't see that often with nudists," and I offered, "Kind of a swimmer's butt," whereas had he been able to run freely we would've been more likely to just shout an encouraging, "Woohoo!"

Maybe his clothes had been taken by the zombies? In another first for me at Bumbershoot, I encountered several well-bloodied but thankfully not terribly hungry zombies roaming the grounds. As a Walking Dead fan I really liked this new take on "spectacle"—random loner zombies (one wearing a vet's dog cone) shambling through the crowds and standing in line for strawberry shortcake. They seemed entirely fitting—who among us didn't feel a bit zombiefied after shuttling from stage to stage?

Speaking of the apocalypse, if you believe it's only a matter of time before robots develop willpower and enslave humans, you might have been sincerely disturbed by this year's visual arts display. In the Fisher Pavilion, as music fans frolicked blithely unaware just outside, several machines were steadily, somberly working on solo art projects. Called "Enigma Machine," the group show featured robots and machines quietly clicking and whirring in pursuit of human-programmed directives... or at least so they wanted the humans to believe.

But of course my paranoia may have been heightened by a contact high from the many, many citizens taking advantage of the new pot law, in full view. It kind of made me long for the olden days of Bumbershoot, when the pot was smoked furtively, the drum circles droned on endlessly and the much ballyhooed "secret shows" on the schedule created such anticipation and possibility that not even zombies (or streakers) could've torn our attention away from the stage.