Bumbershoot Artistic Director Michele Scoleri is a sucker for English troubadors, looks forward to meat on a stick, and knows how to unwind after a hectic festival and holiday season. To wit, she responded to our inquiries from a sandy Hawaiian beach.
Job title, duties:
Bumbershoot Artistic Director. I oversee the programming team, which is responsible for the entire content of the festival from music to the arts.
How did you get your start in the maniacal world of putting on a music and arts festival?
I went to college for radio and was a DJ in Boston. When I realized I had no desire to be a DJ moving forward, I got a job selling talent at a booking agency in Manhattan. I got to know One Reel through selling them talent like Sinead O'Connor, Jethro Tull, and The Ramones, which is quite the combination. I ended up jumping the fence and became a talent buyer when I came to One Reel.
How long have you been with the festival and what drew you to such an enormous monster?
Seven years in January. I didn't really know what I was getting into. I came out to book Summer Nights, and gradually moved into Bumbershoot more and more each year. Which is probably a really good thing considering how overwhelming putting on that event can be for everyone involved.
What was the first show you went to?
Oh my God, Shaun Cassidy in Baltimore in the late '70s. He was wearing all white satin.
Top three Bumbershoot performances and why?
1. Pixies—because the first time I ever saw them live was at an in-studio when I was a college DJ in the late '80s. To see them on the main stage at Bumbershoot all these years later, with so many generations of people in audience, was a pretty amazing experience.
2. Iggy and the Stooges—because I have seen him so many times since I was a teenager, yet somehow he was better and had more energy at Bumbershoot than back in the mid-'80s.
3. Nick Lowe—'cause I am sucker for an English troubadour. Now I've made myself sound really, really old by all of my choices.
Favorite nonmusical element of the fest:
I adore the comedy program, but I always feel warm inside when I see a full house for a dance performance.
Part of your job that keeps you coming back year after year:
I love the people I work with at One Reel, and I love the fact that we get so involved in the local music and arts community.
Any festival moment that made you want to throw in the towel:
The rainstorm in 2005 was challenging. I remember there was a moment when I was sitting in a golf cart backstage at the main stage right before Elvis Costello came on, as it just poured down on us. That was a miserable moment, but somehow made all of us more determined to pull the whole thing off.
Craziest experience at a show:
Actually, it was 2006. Some royalty from an undisclosed country wanted to come see Kanye [West]. I spent the entire day dealing with some beefy security guards who wanted the entire royal family and their entourage to come to the festival. In the end, they didn't even show up.
What can we look forward to for the '07 festival?
Meat on a stick, for sure, but also a ton of amazing music and art.
Top Five artists to listen to while . . .
Since I am doing this interview in Hawaii, I am going to say Top Five artists to listen to on Kailua beach:
Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young
Everything but the Girl
The Style Council
That's a weird list, isn't it? That's actually what I listened to this week while sitting on the beach.
A weekly peek behind the curtain of the Emerald City music world, Behind the Scene sheds light on folks you won't see onstage, but who make it all happen.