The granddaddy of Seattle music and art festivals got under way on a cool, overcast Saturday at Seattle Center, drawing tens of thousands of fans lured by a range of acts including the Decemberists, led by 35-year-old Colin Meloy, and Bob Dylan, who turns 70 in May.
“I think it’s a lot more fun to play roulette with bands instead of just going with what you already know,” said Jared Bechtel, 21, of Pullman, who lingered by the Fisher Green stage Saturday afternoon.
Among the most-talked-about changes at this year’s festival was tiered ticket pricing that allowed fans to pay an extra – $50 at the gate on Saturday – to catch Dylan, former Tacoma resident Neko Case and Portland progressive-rock band the Decemberists at Memorial Stadium.
Thousands of music fans snatched up those premium tickets, making the main stage a sellout on day one. Or fans had the option of saving 20 bucks for tickets that allowed them to see everything but the big shots on the main stage.
“I sprung for the main stage,” said Jessica Gehle, 28, of Olympia, who wanted to get the most out of her first Bumbershoot.
“I like that everything is so convenient,” she said. “You get to see a lot of people at the same time. I think the ticket prices are well worth it. I have very low expectations, so I’m sure I’ll be pleasantly surprised.”
Kitsap County resident Joseph Malone also was motivated to pay extra , thinking it might be his last chance to catch one of the most legendary names in rock.
“I come every year,” said Malone, 24. “I’m definitely here for Bob Dylan. I’m with my dad, and he wanted to see Dylan too. He’s kind of getting old, unfortunately. I was thinking to myself this may be the last chance I’ll get to see Dylan.” Dylan is 69.
Aside from that, Malone said, “I just love the atmosphere. You’ve got all these different stages, those wonderful bands. It’s a lot of fun. There’s a lot of great people around.”
Cliff Johnson, 25, of Seattle was more excited about the Decemberists.
“Most of the bands that I want to see are at the main stage,” said the 25-year-old Seattleite, who thought the premium tickets were an improvement on previous years, when fans would have to get their hands on limited wristbands to get into Memorial Stadium.
“Last year I got discouraged,” he said. “I was going to buy a ticket and maybe not even make it in. It’s a lot better to just know.”
Signe Hagerman came from much farther away to see the Decemberists. She experienced her first Bumbershoot while on vacation from Stockholm.
“The Decemberists are the main act for me, and there are also some smaller Seattle bands that I saw here last year,” said Hagerman, who also spent part of last summer in the Northwest. “I’m in love with the city, and I wanted to come back here. I just thought this would be a good time.”