So I just looked at my site for the first time in a few months and realized that I haven’t updated it for about a year, and at this point the flyer for 2012 May shows might confuse/excite/ultimately disappoint a few folks. I do like writing. I guess it’s just that for the past two years I have done so many interviews, reviews, photo shoots, live sessions and other assorted content that I didn’t feel the need or want to add to it. Also, I needed to detach my brain and take a little internet hiatus. But all of that’s pretty much dissipated and digested and I’m feeling ready to share again. A recent trip to Olympia seemed like a good place to start.
For those of you who aren’t familiar, Olympia, Washington is a little rainy city of about 50k people in between Portland and Seattle. It’s also the home of the experimental Evergreen College and the birthplace of 2 extremely important and seminal independent record labels: K Records and Kill Rock Stars. The DIY ethos here inspired Bikini Kill, Beat Happening, Sleater Kinney, Karp, and the list goes on. So while Seattle is credited as ground zero for grunge, history will tell you that Kurt Cobain found his first punk community in Oly. (Don’t believe me? Let Kathleen Hanna tell you.)
EMA played our first ever show in Olympia on January 28th, 2011, in a combination used clothing/record store. The stage and audience area was smaller than my living room. The opening band was called Caspian Moon and they started the evening with a man standing in front of the crowd attempting to jerk off in his pants while the audience alternated between booing him and cheering him on. I think his ultimate goal was to see if he could finish the job (and for those of you curious: he didn’t.) They then launched into a crazy noise set with his tiny blonde bandmate screaming into a microphone before bringing out a HUGE axe which she swung wildly at a splintering hunk of wood. The space was small. People were terrified. The danger felt REAL.
That set was obviously, unforgettable. We’ve played probably 200 or more shows since then and no other act sticks out in my mind quite in the same way as that one.
So we got into town and took a drink from the legendary well, which is basically just a pipe in a parking lot spewing out some of the best tasting water you will ever drink. (OLYMPIA: IT’S THE WATER!) They only tell you later about the legend that says if you drink directly from the well — not filling up a vessel– that you are destined to die in Olympia. (This town has a lot of legends, but more on that later.)
We then met up with Arrington De Dionyso from Malaikat Dan Singa who was kind enough to give us a quick tour of Dub Narcotic Studios. Damn. I had been wanting to check this place out for a long time. I still can’t find a complete list of the records done here, but it’s a fair portion of the K Records catalog (Mirah, The Microphones, The Blow) and even Beck’s “One Foot In The Grave” which is one of my favorite records ever.
And while we were there the man himself showed up, Calvin Johnson, and told us some of the backstories of their crazy old equipment. What a sweetheart! The great things this man has done in his lifetime are too numerous to list: he has been a producer, instigator, community builder and musical innovator for over 30 years and counting. For anyone interested in finding out more about this truly inspiring music scene and history, I recommend reading Love Rock Revolution: K Records and the Rise of Independent Music. Just finished it a while back and it put recording at Dub Narcotic on my list of things I hope to do before I die.
So let’s get back to the show. As you may have guessed from my previous Olympia story, I was pretty excited to see the opening band, Mother Ruckus, and whatever insanity they might provide. They did not disappoint. Paint, poetry, nudity, nymph wrestling, and a shirtless stag bassist. Wow. This video does it justice better than words. YOU SHOULD WATCH THIS.
We played next, and the set was everything good and bad one can expect from playing in a small all-ages art space. The crowd was fucking amazing! But the sound was a little problematic. So I don’t really have any video of our set that seems good to post. We played a lot of new stuff, and I’d rather have people’s first encounter with the new material be an experience where I feel good about the mix.
BUT how about this lil gem? My old band GOWNS playing at a house show in Oly in 2006. I’m still playing the same guitar. My Tshirt reads “MY OVARIES ARE A BREEDING GROUND FOR TERRORISM”. Gowns Classic: featuring Ezra Buchla on vocals and Corey Fogel on drums.
Headlining the night was Arrington De Dionyso’s new band “Malaikat Dan Singa“. And it fucking ruled. I’ve been a fan of his music since Old Time Relijun and this new stuff feels just as good if not better. How is that possible? How can one person keep writing things this freaky and weird and groovy and freeing and still keep it feeling fresh?
Also, even though I couldn’t get a good shot of the band, I just had to videotape some of the crowd. You see these people? They are DANCING. They are moving and jumping and laughing and flailing! And perhaps most remarkably, because the Northern is an all ages venue, all these people are presumably sober.
And this is part of the reason I love coming here. I love seeing the true freaks and the new bands and the whole crowds “dance like nobody’s watching.” I feel blessed because it’s actually really hard for a booking agent to get you a show like this in Olympia. This place is built on community and word of mouth. Kids don’t go to the club shows, they come to the parties. The night felt wild and rejuvenating.
(If you’d like a little taste of this wildness, Arrington is bringing the ecstacy on a 2 month cross country tour. You can find dates here. Also, I first thought this spontaneous dance party could not be repeated outside of hometown Olympia until I just saw Malaikat Dan Singa play in a fukkin ORGANIC PRODUCE MARKET in PDX and the crowd was still goin nuts. GO SEE THIS MAN PLAY.)
And although it seemed like the day couldn’t get any better, after that we headed over to the black magic bar owned by the goth dentist. Yes another Olympia legend! Word is there is a Satanist dentist in town that buys rental houses for cheap and paints them all black. Some say if you looked at all of them on a map that they form a pentagram. Others say that he just does it to drive the property values down 😉 But besides his spookout rental empire he also owns a really fukkin badass bar called CRYPTATROPA where they serve absynthe, have a free jukebox that plays all forms of “dark” music, and you can drink with friends around a huge bronze statue of a cloven-hooved winged devil god. Maybe this sounds a tad cheesy but I can assure you that it’s actually done with surprisingly good taste.
Yes I do luv me a good absynthe drunk. Feels so lucid. I conversed for a moment with some younger ladies striving to bring their art and writing to a new professional level which is all good and fine but for a second I wanted to shake them and say “Don’t you see what you have here? You have more freedom here and now than you ever will with the world’s eyes upon you!” And the Pan God laughed and we ended up at a diner at 2am deciding the key to happiness was a true fascination with something, anything. And I agreed it to be so, yes, and recalled that the Yogis call it “engagement”.
PS — Shoutout to Ben Kamen who let us crash at his house with his lovely wife and naughty cat. Ben teaches Electronic Music at Evergreen and has a sweet iPad app called Chordion.
UPCOMING: I’m headed to LA in hopes of continuing the magic. We’ll be playing another small gallery show at the amazing Human Resources on April 11th with the performance artist Dawn Kasper (DK), Bouquet and Roses. And maybe a comedian? April 11th, 7-10 PM, 5$.
Then on 4.20 I will be on a panel as part of EMP-LA. Like Ted Talks for music and pop culture? It’s at RedCat and it’s called “Destroy More Monsters.” Moderated by Nikki Darling and we’ll be looking at the intersection of art and music and and and lots of stuff. 11am so I will make my best attempt at what others call “morning”. This whole event looks really killer. Check in on the FB event and this one to keep updated and come listen to me talk about what makes me feel alive with some other rad ladies.
That’s April 20th, 11am at RedCat. You may have to register so check into that…
See you there?
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Beam me up, Erika !
Hope to see you soon in Belgium! preferably at Trix or Botanique ….