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Best of Olympia 2015 Music: The Hysterics, Cryptatropa, Northern, Full Moon Radio ...

Weekly Volcano staff names the best music in Olympia for 2015

BEST NEW HOPE: Obsidian has its eye on being Olympia's best music - and late night waffles - venue. Photo credit: Pappi Swarner

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The Hysterics
Sadly Hysterics, who have managed to make my personal best of list in numerous ways over the past few years have stopped performing. But before they did they pulled off one mighty swan song of a show at Olympia's Northern this past October.  Though the band would play a second final show a day later in Seattle, the final local show for a crowd and town that helped support the group throughout their journey was nothing short of special. It is rare that you see people travel multiple states for a local show, but this show brought in people from all over the country. The audience that Hysterics brought together was, short of hyperbole, mind bogglingly diverse and special with more than 150 packing the intimate venue, and another 50 or more hovering outside the sold-out show. Although the band played numerous shows in Olympia and throughout both the US and Europe during their final year, collectively, the band had decided that it had run its course.  The band gave fans plenty of notice for their final goodbye, allowing for a large communal feel to the last set of shows. The show was augmented by powerful sets from Vexx and Bricklayer leading up to an unhinged, pulverizing set of communal revelry. In a time when most bands' final shows are a sad aside, or fail to live up to the hype - Hysterics had given their friends, fans and community (often an overlapping group a parting gift that will leave a lasting impression for years to come. {TIMOTHY GRISHAM}

When the Olympia bar Cryptatropa opened in 2010, people were suspicious. The red lights, the black booths and the funky name had everyone running around like frightened cats. But just like the Goth kid who wore black makeup in junior high, Cryptatropa has captured a following. Black is alluring, people. So are the Goth dance moves "Kick the Smurf," "Washing the Windows," "Changing the Lightbulb," "Sweeping the Floor," "Wiping the Cobwebs" and "Stuck in My Coffin" when DJs Vampiresquid and Crpusculum spin in the back room. You can dance by yourself. In fact, you kinda should. Dancing at Cryptatropa is dramatic, poetic, pose-y and almost ballet-like. It takes up a lot of space and having a partner kind of interferes with that in the small room. Secret weapon: Cobwebs in the bathroom. Nice touch, Cryptatropa! {RON SWARNER}

Obsidian sits in the space that the bars Jezebels and Bar Code once occupied, and before that a Gold's Gym. So in a lot of ways to many in Olympia anything was an improvement. But location alone is not the reason I am excited by Obsidian. The bar/café/venue is run by a small group of people loosely connected to the band Wolves in the Throneroom; although I must say that many of these connections pre-date the band by nearly two decades. The remodel alone is breathtaking with aged and burnt cedar and hard wood decor. The Weavers, along with longtime friend Chris Beug, have pulled off an amazing renovation that has the potential to lead to revitalization. Hosting both all-ages and 21 and older shows, with a door charge, Obsidian hopes to become a must-stop location on many bands' touring itineraries. The vibe of the space and the individuals surrounding it tends to make you feel that this will be more of a community space than a food service venture; and that is what makes the possibilities for Obsidian endless in 2015. {TG}

Deadbeat Records and Funk Fuzz
Record buyers had a banner year in 2014. Record (vinyl) sales hit a high not seen since the late 1980s; and in Olympia, two new record stores opened for business. Funk Fuzz took the space of the sadly gone Phantom City Records and provides a highly currated selection of punk, rock, classics, soul, jazz, blues and reggae. The owner, Johnny "Baltimore", is a collecting fiend, and his record store displays such passion. Additionally, long-time Moscow, Idaho record store Deadbeat Records packed up shop and moved along the parallel to Olympia. Deadbeat serves a vital Westside community, which has not had a music retail store since Rainy Day moved downtown several years ago. In addition to selling a fine selection of new and used records, the store also hosts all-ages concerts several nights a week. Local acts mix with national touring acts such as Fang and the Toasters on a consistent basis, making the store the most frequent all-ages space in Olympia as well. {TG}

Northern/Midnight Sun
Sadly, Northern lost its long-time home on Legion Way in Olympia. This has lead the Olympia All-ages Project to think creatively, and out of necessity, a collaboration with the Midnight Sun was born. The Midnight Sun, no stranger to financial troubles over the last year, is one of the oldest all-ages venues in Olympia; second only to the backstage. I would be remised if I didn't disclose that from 1997-2001 I was employed by the original owners as one of the managers for the venue. But my past history is long, long ago, and in 2015, the meeting of the two venues seems like the best plan forward for all involved. The Olympia All-ages Project has struggled with a permanent home intermittently over the last several years. With spots occupied at the Cherry Lofts, the first Northern venue on Fourth Avenue, and the move to Legion. It is not hyperbole to say that permanency has been a paramount struggle. But with struggle comes great reward, and a return to an all-ages culture at the Midnight Sun is certainly a good thing. This, with added shows at Deadbeat Records and Obsidian, it feels that Olympia may be returning to the all-ages Mecca that it once was. {TG}

Ten reasons why Northern had a great year (before it closed in December):
1. It's OK!'s bursts of power pop give way to tender folk ditties before eventually circling back to the sort of angsty, blistering punk that made a name of Robert Hecker to begin with.
2. From dusty rockers to seafaring folk expeditions, Casey Neill and the Norway Rats comes across like the sort of people who gleefully dig through crates of forgotten troubadours from the ‘60s and ‘70s.
3. Formerly of the Israeli garage rock powerhouses, Monotonix, Yonatan Gat incorporates a dizzying variety of cultural influences - tropicalia, Middle Eastern music, psych rock, blistering punk, African pop - Gat has emerged as a chameleonic interpreter of rock ‘n' roll in its many shifting forms.
4. While Kevin Seconds still maintained a career as the hardcore frontman for 7 Seconds, the freedom of being one man and one guitar proved to be too tantalizing to pass up.
5. The duo of Francisco y Madero combines vintage samples and beats with live vocals. Francisco y Madero, though, introduce a hazy lounge-act vibe into the proceedings, coming up with a sound that they've dubbed "sampledelia."
6. Combining chamber pop with modern affectations and unbridled energy, is the calling card of Emby Alexander.
7.  Midday Veil takes cues from krautrock without explicitly copying it. There's experimental improvisation and rigid beats, but the ‘70s were a long time ago. What remains with Midday Veil is an exploratory way of approaching an inscrutable subgenre dipping into different cultural influences to provide a mélange of textures and atmosphere.
8. Made up of looped samples of ‘60s soul and bubblegum songs, the music of the Los Angeles-based TV Girl then incorporates hip-hop beats and blissed-out indie pop vocals, creating what amounts to a kind of factory-tested ideal for summer soundtracks.
9. There's a slinkiness to the Harvey Girls that's damn near undeniable. The Portland trio combines a music history lesson's worth of influences into something that resembles a soul-singing diva fronting an art-pop group from the UK or New Zealand.
10. Olympia's Doctor Sleep is a glam-pop swirl of synths and chip-tune blips. There's a relaxed charm to the music of Doctor Sleep, even as electronic arpeggios whirl about. The vocals of Max Gorbman recall the cheesy excellence of Spandau Ballet, in the best possible way. Listening to Doctor Sleep can sometime inspire images of a tuxedoed crooner adrift in the dayglo-nightmare of Tron.  {REV. ADAM MCKINNEY}

Full Moon Radio
Full Moon Radio, the 2014 and 2013 best band in Olympia winner, is a band working full steam ahead. Having been named the best band in Olympia for two of their three years in existence is no small feat. The group, having released their second album, Best Mother, in the last half of 2014, has played across western Washington with a startling consistency. From shows in towns not normally on the tour route, such as Aberdeen, to the more familiar destinations, Full Moon Radio have played to audiences of nearly every music-loving-social-strata. Though tethered to the region from bigger touring with life hassles - like you know motherhood and real jobs - the trio has reaped the benefit of constant performance whether it be bars, all-ages shows or theaters. Despite this they even found time to pull off a highlight of the 2014 Night of the Living Tribute Bands with a set as Hole. {TG}

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