What Dave Matthews Could Bring to Bumbershoot

One of today's biggest touring acts is looking for a gig.

Thousands of Dave Matthews Band fans were heartbroken at the news that the band planned to take 2011 off, but Matthews told Seattle Weekly last week that he hopes the band does make at least one concert appearance next summer. Specifically, Matthews says he's been thinking about the Gorge, where the band has spent Labor Day weekend for the past five years. He'd also consider playing Bumbershoot, the 40-year-old Seattle festival that has struggled with attendance in recent years, and laid off the majority of its full-time festival staffers after 2010's disappointing numbers.

The DMB's annual residency at the Gorge—which has historically packed out the 22,000-person venue all three nights—conflicts with Bumbershoot. A DMB-free Labor Day weekend conceivably could be a boon for Bumbershoot, potentially freeing thousands of local festivalgoers.

"I was always thinking, 'Maybe I'll play the Gorge.' But I hadn't actually thought of [Bumbershoot]," Matthews, a Wallingford resident, told SW before his two-night stand at McCaw Hall with Tim Reynolds this past Monday and Tuesday. "So maybe you've added a new twist for me into how to view whether or not to [play] that show. Or what to do with it. Maybe do Bumbershoot instead."

Jon Stone, executive director of One Reel, the nonprofit that oversees the festival, says that Bumbershoot would "love to have Dave Matthews involved with the festival in any way, shape, or form. The Dave Matthews Band audience is the same audience as Bumbershoot. Bumbershoot has a very wide audience, but really so is the Dave Matthews audience."

After Bumbershoot's new tiered ticketing system didn't improve the festival's lagging numbers this year, Stone said One Reel had a "mandate in front of us to find something that works." And this week, after three months of deliberations, Stone is presenting "a new Bumbershoot business plan" to the One Reel board that will include a ticketing structure different from 2010's—which offered standard tickets for $40 and a new "economy" ticket good for all events except mainstage sets by acts like Bob Dylan, Hole, and Weezer.

Stone declined to elaborate on the plan's specifics, but did promise that the festival is once again slated for three days over Labor Day weekend, and that he hopes to announce details of the changes by mid-January.

A DMB set at Bumbershoot wouldn't be the first time Matthews has thrown a bone to the local music community. Earlier this year he expressed his support for KEXP's bid to move into the Seattle Center's Fun Forest site. Matthews says he's a big fan of the station, even though it doesn't play his music. "If I was listening to KEXP and my music came on, I would turn it off."

But thousands of concert fans around the Northwest do tune in, and turn out, for the DMB. "He's one of the top-grossing artists of our time," says Stone.


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