Yo Yo a Go Go

Olympia festival embraces ideals of indie rock

Behead the Prophet No Lord Shall Live took queer-core to an extreme, tearing through each 30-second blast of ultrafast, screaming punk rock with the energy of a crank addict. How can you not like a hard-core band that features an older-guy violinist with a mad-scientist haircut, ripping his bow across the violin in an effort to keep up with the band?

While legions of musicians twist and contort themselves to put whatever emotion they can dredge up into their songs, Elliott Smith effortlessly bleeds emotion and sincerity into his songs. His solo set captivated the audience as he weaved through his dark, lo-fi acoustic repertoire. When Smith plays live, it's like reading someone's diary, almost a voyeuristic experience (he'll be in town August 22 at an undetermined venue).

Calvin Johnson's Dub Narcotic Sound System takes its Jamaican-inflected, white-boy funk to new heights when it plays live. Johnson's freestyling over the band's (made up of NW hip-hopper Dead Presidents) groove-heavy beats and bass blows up the ass-shakin' collective to proportions you just can't capture on a recording. DNSS was the dance party of the festival.

The Need was the freshest new act to grace the stage. The girl duo sports one of the only drummers I've seen who stands up when she plays. Strictly anticonventional, poppy girl rock with crackling drums and interweaving vocals made the Need one of the most avant-garde acts at the Yo Yo.

Besides the myriad of good bands, Yo Yo featured a fanzine writer's miniconvention; booths for local causes like the women's shelter, Olympia Community Bikes (which drops pink bikes off on the streets for the public to use) and Books for Prisoners; and an afternoon of no-budget film screenings at the fanzine store.

There was a spoken-word-performance session hosted by nationally acclaimed Oly poet Nomy Lamm and a three-hour "Cha Cha Cabaret" variety show, featuring poets, performance artists, storytellers, activists and schizophrenics from across the Northwest and the world. Plus, for a dollar, you could hit up the kissing booth outside and smooch such indie-rock gods and goddesses as Katherine from Cold Cold Hearts, Nomy Lamm, Chris from Monorchid and Joshua Plague from Behead the Prophet (Josh managed to stick his tongue in the mouth of every boy, straight or gay, within a quarter-mile radius of him), and all the smooching money went to a local AIDS charity.

My main goal in going to the Yo Yo was to figure out how a community of 50,000 people could become such a legendary haven of artistic freedom and independent ideals and serve as a breeding ground to so many incredible artists. I left without a solid answer.

Maybe because Olympia's true spirit was buried beneath the madness of the Yo Yo and the crowds of the Lakefair, I was just too distracted to notice it. Or maybe it's simpler than that. As I left Olympia on Interstate 5, I passed the Olympia Brewery. That's when the message hit me in the form of four-foot-high, bronze letters facing the highway: "It's the Water."

Dub Narcotic Sound System is scheduled to perform on Wednesday, August 6, at Hollywood Alley in Mesa, with the Make-Up. Call 820-7117 for showtime.

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