My knowledge of Olympia, Washington as a place where people live and work and drink and screw is limited to scraps of stale gossip tossed to and fro at Portland parties populated by people who graduated from the ever-accepting Evergreen State College at the turn of this century. So I'm pretty sure I know who Phil Elverum farted on that one time at a Mirah show, and I'm almost positive one of the Tight Bros is my real dad.
But that's about it. I've been to Olympia twice: Once for a wedding, once for a slice of pizza.
Both of my encounters reminded me of the gray and drizzly college town where I studied film and pretended to like Tortoise, and so I developed a migraine of the belly and a deep interest in very long falls from very tall buildings on both brief visits. I have no plans to return. I will wave to the capitol building from I-5 and thank the lord I do not live in its shadow, but such paltry acknowledgements shall forever mark the limits of my dealings with the city as it exists in physical space.
I did not come here to bag on Olympia. Okay, I did. But I also came here today to sing the praises of certain sounds currently escaping that sleepy hamlet's porous borders. A hellish reminder of my misspent college youth Olympia may be, and a cesspool where everyone I've ever met once licked everyone else I've ever met it most certainly is, but it has long been an incubator for great tunes as well. Which you know, of course. I need not list every gorgeous gust of Elverum flatulence, for you surely own the records.
However, there are a handful of Olympia bands currently blowing up my brain that aren't nearly as well known as they should be. I didn't know about most of them until very recently, which leads me to believe that I could be of some use here. Pray they find some measure of happiness in that soggy bog they call home.
Rvivr's upcoming show at Rotture is my excuse for writing about a town 100 miles north of Portland, and a fucking great excuse it is. The vowel aversion rankles, but it's a minor infraction next to the sound of Rvivr's wonderful pop-punk-emo earnestness. I have a friend named James who is a vegan bicycle enthusiast. He drinks a lot of beer and loves Jawbreaker and Alkaline Trio and Avail. He looks you in the eye when he's talking to you. He's a sweetheart, not afraid to say "I love you" if he's feeling like he loves you. Rvivr sounds like the band that lives in James' heart. LISTEN HERE.
My favorite Oly band of the moment, Sharkpact brings soul to the synthpunk thing with big, beautiful choruses that sing of frustration and liberation and that brand of youthful hope that Olympia's incessant gray somehow cannot kill. This duo is scary good. LISTEN HERE.
Seattle's Inimical Records, which released sweet slabs by Arctic Flowers and Raw Nerves last year, will soon be unveiling an EP by Criminal Code, and what little I've heard from the record has me pretty jazzed for the final product. I'm having a tough time wrangling the sound with words, however. Mid-tempo hardcore with a midwestern vibe, I might write. Post-punk darkwave, I could say. I don't know, the guitars are flanged as a motherfucker, and I think they're throwing me off my game. That's a good thing. I feel unsettled. A feeling all too rare. LISTEN HERE.
White Wards' Waste My Time 7-inch was one of last year's best hardcore records, a fierce and fuzzy and fast blast of angry punk that seemed bent on beating speakers up. White Wards doesn't get quite as speedy or weird as the crew of Youth Attack worshippers dotting the landscape of American hardcore, but this band doesn't have to—its power lies in an ability to ride chaos and create collisions. I can't wait to hear more by this gang of ruffians. LISTEN HERE.
Mike Crow, owner of the aforementioned Inimical Records, turned me onto the crusty death metal of Bone Sickness when he listed them in his Best of 2011 list in this very space late last year. Here is what he said: âThey remind me of the Olympia I grew up in: speed drinking fortified wine, filthy punk houses overlooking cemeteries, general debauchery rather than the indie rock posturing the city is more known for. I would take one Bone Sickness over a dozen Gun Outfits.â I am inclined to agree with him (although I do like Gun Outfit). This stuff is nasty. Like Olympia, basically, only it wonât actually kill you. LISTEN HERE.
SEE IT: Revivr plays at Rotture on Sunday, Feb. 19 with Fucking Dyke Bitches and Divers. 9pm. $6. 21+.