Uncharted waters: Great Waves takes break, for now, after Bumbershoot set

September 7, 2010

By Staff

Ashley Bullock, lead singer for Great Waves, performs Sept. 4 at the Experience Music Project to open the Bumbershoot music festival. By Tim Pfarr

Shooting for Bumbershoot: Part 3 of 3 — Part 1 and Part 2

Before the doors opened at the Experience Music Project, the Bumbershoot opening act could not be found backstage.

Instead, Great Waves members sat in the corner on the concrete floor near the entrance, using the polished surface as a drum set. Singer Ashley Bullock led the group in a last-minute rehearsal as hip-hop played incongruously in the background

Months after the Sammamish band prevailed in a battle of the bands to earn the opening slot at the largest music fest in the Northwest, members patiently waited through the last moments before a career-defining performance.

“Ready — kind of, sort of,” Bullock said.

Bassist Paul Beeman, in typical fashion, lowered expectations as members headed into the morning sound check.

The band usually plays at night, often in places cursed by bad acoustics — but the Sky Church is blessed. The band praised the professional sound engineers for accommodating some extra musicians, including a couple of spare drummers, a violinist and a trumpeter.

Finally, at about noon, the doors opened for the 12:30 p.m. set. The crowd started to filter inside as the band members finished up the impromptu rehearsal, just feet from the door.

“I couldn’t not get psyched up for this,” drummer Ryan Sprute said.

Backstage — not so much a distinct place as a cordoned-off corner — the band greeted the stage manager, a large, lank-haired man constantly grazing on the food set out for artists.

“We’re not going to be as rehearsed as we could be,” Sprute said.

If all else fails, play really loud, Beeman said. Only he used a qualifier unprintable in a family newspaper.

The band, polite and punctual as always, climbed the stairs to the stage at 12:30 sharp.

Bullock, dressed in black, appeared tiny and birdlike inside the cavernous venue. Guitarist Will Holmes remained focused on his guitar. The band instead utilized violinist David Bahr as a spokesman.

Backed by lush instrumentals, Bullock, her eyes cast downward, launched into “Konza Plains” — a song the band performed at the competition to earn the Bumbershoot slot.

“There’s so many friggin’ people here. It’s nuts.” Beeman said midway through the 10-song set.

The final song rolled from the stage in — to borrow a phrase — great waves of sound.

Members exchanged triumphant hugs and back slaps after the set. Then, Beeman had to start loading gear into his parents’ van.

“I can remember when these guys played in our garage,” Will Holmes’ father, Steve, said. “They’ve come a long way from the garage.”

Members took a yearlong hiatus from college to focus on the band, but Bumbershoot marked the end of the basement shows and studio sessions.

Holmes heads back to L.A. to Occidental College, Bullock to the University of Washington and Beeman to Western Washington University. Sprute has plans to attend the Berklee College of Music in Boston.

“I don’t think it’s going to be the end in the long run,” Bullock said. “We always say it will be, but we always come back together.”

Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or wkagarise@isspress.com. Tim Pfarr: 392-6434, ext. 239, or newcas@isspress.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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One Response to “Uncharted waters: Great Waves takes break, for now, after Bumbershoot set”

  1. Ed Bullock on September 8th, 2010 12:41 pm

    Once again, thanks so much to the Issaquah press, the writers and photographers whom have shown such tremendous support to Great Waves!

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