Outside the Capitol Theater in downtown Olympia, a crowd full of bobs and granny glasses awaits the start of Yoyo A Go Go 1999. For many Olympians and fans of Oly punk rock, it is the event of the year: 50 bands in six days—more that 40 hours of music. In other words, indie-rock heaven.
Yoyo A Go Go Festival
Olympia, July 13-18
Yoyo A Go Go is the brainchild of Pat Maley, owner of Yoyo Recordings and general Olympia music stalwart. Inspired by K Records' International Pop Underground convention in 1991, Maley decided to start his own festival; the first was held in 1994 and the next in 1997. Two years later, Yoyo is back, and for this week in mid-July, the Capitol Theater is the center of the Oly universe.
Yoyo's opening night performances bode well for the days ahead. IQU and Source of Labor deliver mind-blowing sets—the theremin-laced grooves of the former and the politically charged rhymes of the latter succeed in moving the asses of even the most soulless hipsters. 764-HERO ends the night, filling the room with the angsty melodies of singer/guitarist John Atkins. Later, we take to the streets, dodging the Lakefair crowd and heading to the Spar Caf頦or a tasty beverage (or four) to help us unwind.
Wednesday gives us awesome shows by the Sub Debs, the Microphones, and Mocket. At a nearby venue, C Average plays an entire set of Who covers, with—surprise, surprise—Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam on vocals. Of course, the kids eat it up. Later that night, Lois Maffeo, K Records rock star and gracious host, holds a soiree at her pad. The scene is there en masse. The night's highlight is K Records' head honcho/Dub Narcotic throat Calvin Johnson receiving a severe tongue-lashing after he "borrows" a joint that's forgotten in the bathroom. Tsk, tsk.
Mecca Normal is the highlight of Thursday's early set, with vocalist Jean Smith amazing the crowd as she has for the last 15 years. I skip Negativland in favor of Thursday's real reason for existence: the Kill Rock Stars house party. All the Romulan look-alikes in town are there, including Dischord Records owner and Fugazi frontman Ian MacKaye. Much eating, drinking, and schmoozing occurs, but it's Jackson, the absolutely adorable KRS family dog, that's the center of attention. Amazing performances by the Need and Dead Moon back at the theater provide a brief respite from party overload.
Friday offers another knockout bill, with the Crabs and ex-Heavenly band Marine Research warming up the crowd for headliners Sleater-Kinney. By the end of the set, the stage is swarmed, the band surrounded by a crowd of excited, dancing teenage girls. The late show proves to be just as good, with Olympians the Primadonnas pretending to be from Sussex for their entire set of bouncy new wave. Bratmobile's punk rock cheerleader/vocalist Allison Wolfe gets the crowd jumping with the band's riot grrl rave-ups, and Cadallaca follows, girl-power reigning supreme. Next it's off to Sleater-Kinney/Quasi manager Julie Butterfield's lovely abode for another party. People pogo around the upstairs to the music from Julie's swanky Wurlitzer jukebox, while downstairs scenesters make fools of themselves on the karaoke machine with dancehall versions of "New York, New York" and drunken renditions of "Bennie and the Jets."
Saturday afternoon provides a delightful change of pace with a Yoyo fashion show, featuring hundreds of outfits from local designers. That evening's show, featuring Elliott Smith and Quasi, is obviously on everyone's list and is completely sold out by 9pm. Smith makes the girls swoon and Quasi delights the house with their drum 'n' organ tunes. The audience thins to make room for the over-the-top heaviness of the Thrones, Enemymine, and the Tight Bros. From Way Back When, and fills again to capacity for Make-Up singer Ian Svenonius' James Brown-meets-Prince delivery, ending the night and the festival in a gospel fervor.
Yoyo '99 is a definite success, showcasing the immense talent of bands Northwest and otherwise, and proving yet again that independent music and DIY attitude have just as much power and a lot more heart than the corporate music machine. And it's a good thing that it only comes once every couple years, because it takes that long to recover.