by Andrew Matson & r & & r & & lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & T & lt;/span & he trip from Spokane to Seattle is a dusty bore. It hurts your back, and gas prices are ridiculous, but never has the payoff been higher for those four-and-a-half hours than with Bumbershoot 2006 -- easily the best summer festival ever in the history of the world. There is no genre untouched, no generation left out, and for once the literary and comic additions pale not at all to the music. You don't need us to tell you that hosting Kanye West, Blondie and the Steve Miller Band is a big deal, but you might need us to inform you of the following:
& lt;ul & & lt;li & A Tribe Called Quest has reunited for the occasion. The hopeful significance of Q-Tip, Phife and Ali Shaheed Muhammad performing together again eclipses even the Wu-Tang Clan's recent arrest-less shows. Don't call it a comeback, but do call it the best thing to happen to hip-hop all year. & lt;/li & & lt;li & Berlin-based and UK-bred electronic wizard-cum-soul heartthrob Jamie Lidell is used to stealing entire festivals in Europe, but when the Queer Eye look-alike swoops through Seattle with his bedroom eyes, Motown vocals, and digital wink, the only thing he'll steal is your girlfriend. Show up, dance and watch half the crowd leave pregnant. & lt;/li & & lt;li & Another artist from the UK, Vashti Bunyan, is responsible for the 1970 LP Just Another Diamond Day -- pretty much the only reason Devendra Banhart exists and certainly the only reason why NPR's Bob Boilen has any reason to talk about "freak-folk." She's a living legend, the wood-nymph flipside to Nick Drake's influential depth plumbings. & lt;/li & & lt;li & Seattle darlings Thee Emergency put garage rock right where it belongs: in your face. Frontwoman Dita Vox is a lava lamp plugged into a nuclear reactor, and her stage-strut will make you believe in rock 'n' roll. Her leave-it-all-on-the-stage vibe is matched by guitarist Sonic Smith's virtuosic guitar solos, concrete riffs and look-at-my-crotch American flag pants. If Thee Emergency played your house party, you'd wake up with no house. & lt;/li & & lt;/ul &
Also doing the Northwest proud are Spokane's own Velella Velella, a four-person celebration of Madlib, Curtis Mayfield and Beck. Their jubilant chants, aqua-textured mood-setting, and play-it-like-a-sample multi-instrumentalism will carry you aboard the spaceship, whereupon they'll drive a hot bloody fist into your cold cubicle heart. PDX's the Thermals would also like to brighten your life by reminding you, by way of furious, fuzzed-out pop-punk and poetic agitprop, that you can still get your ass out of this American hell if you start running now. Though they're on opposite sides of the musical spectrum, these two bands are the best of the Pacific Northwest's brightest.
Literary events hosted by the likes of Chuck Palahniuk and Dave Eggers nail the cool quota for the nerd network (i.e., people who read), but the dark horses for non-musical must-see are the Upright Citizens Brigade and Zach Galifinakis. Together they represent all that is right about comedy and improv entertainment, and they may be the only performers adequately acid-tongued to clown the festival's cooler-than-cool attitude. A better palate cleanser couldn't be asked for -- but then what did you expect from the best summer festival in the history of the world ever?
Bumbershoot at Seattle Center (in, like, Seattle) on Saturday-Monday, Sept. 2-4. Tickets: $30-$80. Visit www.bumbershoot.org/tickets or call (206) 281-7788.