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Olympia music scene

Find any kind of music on any given night in Olympia

A crowd gathered for great music at Rhythm and Rye in Olympia. Photo credit: Nikki McCoy

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While I live in Tacoma, I love my time that I get to spend in Olympia, which doesn't happen frequently enough for my taste. Whereas Tacoma is relatively spread out, Olympia has most of its main attractions conveniently located in a dense cluster of downtown awesomeness. Olympia has been known for its music for a few decades, doing their part to usher in an era of DIY artistry and indie rock, and they continue their adherence to music by giving it to you in as easy a way as possible: every venue you'd want to visit is within the same four-block radius (give or take). Here's a quick guide to where to find music on any given night in the weirdest town in Washington.

Le Voyeur Cafe and Lounge

This space has a lot of great sandwiches during the day, but its back area is the main attraction. The little concrete box in the back has a show going almost every night, with bands of all genres coming though, and a weekly open mic comedy night. Le Voyeur frequently has free shows, so it's a great place to pop in and catch something unexpected. 404 4th Ave. E., Olympia, 360.943.5710

Cryptatropa Bar

For anyone that's into goth trappings, Cryptatropa is there for you. This is a bar that can bring in dark DJs and moody atmosphere, and the occasional night of nightmarish bands. 421 4th Ave. E., Olympia, 360.754.3867


It's a helluva sign-off for someone like Janeane Garofalo to perform at your coffee shop, but that's just what she did, recently, at Obsidian. This coffee shop/bar has been quickly making a name for itself as one of the premiere venues in Olympia, with its eclectic booking of bands and its willingness to bring in a wide variety of styles. This is a venue worth looking at every week to see what amazing shows they're going to be bringing. 414 4th Ave. E., Olympia, 360.890.4425

The Brotherhood Lounge

You can't have gone to Olympia without having visited the Brotherhood Lounge. The Brotherhood is to Olympia as Cheers is to Norm - they are inextricable. The Brotherhood, beyond pouring delightfully stiff drinks, and having a jukebox full of handmade mix-tapes, is a gathering ground for garage rock rave-ups and boozy meet-ups. They also have weekly viewings of movies that you owe yourself to watch, like Point Break. You'll do yourself a disservice to miss the Brotherhood. 119 Capitol Way N., Olympia, 360.352.4153

Jake's on 4th

Jake's on 4th is an absurdly hopping gay bar that is precisely your solution to any weekend doldrum. The last time I was in Olympia, I lost track of my friends, but I quickly found out I didn't need them, as I was swallowed up by the dancing throng of Jake's. When my friends finally made their way through the sea of dancers at Jake's, I was already a part of something bigger and more fabulous than my friends could understand. 311 4th Ave. E., Olympia, 360.956.3247

Rhythm and Rye

For anyone wanting to get away from the weird, frenetic music that Olympia can sometimes provide, Rhythm and Rye may be your spot. A sort of analog to Tacoma's Swiss venue, Rhythm and Rye is a place to go to see blues, rock, and touring acts with a spot-on sound-system. 311 Capitol Way N., Olympia, 360.705.0760

Traditions Fair Trade

Like its sister store, the Antique Sandwich Company, in Tacoma, Traditions is a hippie spot to get nutritional eats and to see some acoustic bands. Expect homespun music, as opposed to the touring bands that come through the other venues in town. 300 5th Ave. SW, Olympia, 360.705.2819

4th Ave. Tavern

The 4th Ave. Tavern is far from the only bar on 4th avenue in Olympia. Olympia's downtown is a hotspot of interesting places to go, and many of them exist on 4th Ave. What the 4th Ave. Tav possesses, though, is an unassuming bar that frequently transforms into a place to see all variety of bands. Come for pool or darts, but stay for the surprising bills. 210 4th Ave. E., Olympia, 360.786.1444

Westside Lanes & O'Malley's Restaurant and Lounge

If you've never seen a wild rock show at a bowling alley, you've got some living to do - and I'm not counting the New Frontier Lounge in Tacoma, because that place just has an old bowling alley sign in the corner. You need the percussive din of balls hitting pins to underscore your experience. Westside Lanes brings in a fairly eclectic mix of punk, metal, psychedelia, and mainstream rock. 2200 Garfield Ave. NW, Olympia, 360.943.2400

McCoy's Tavern

Olympia's quintessential dive bar, McCoy's Tavern is a destination for those desperate to hunker down in a dark spot for a good afternoon drinking session. At night, though, McCoy's brings in some of the best bills in town. It's a no-frills place, with cheap beer and good bands being a top-notch dopamine delivery service. 418 4th Ave. E., Olympia, 360.352.0696

The Midnight Sun

For a time, the Midnight Sun functioned as the interim home for the Northern, an all-ages oasis that had found itself in between locations. Unfortunately, word on the Northern and its status has gone silent in the past year, which is a huge loss for Olympia. Still, the Midnight Sun remains as an event space that accommodates a wide variety of shows, ranging from your standard collection of punk bands to gallery showings to brief runs of theatre. It's not the most lavishly appointed venue in town, but it gets the job done, and it's invaluable to have a spot in town that can pick up the slack if another place goes under. 113 Columbia N. Columbia Ave., Olympia, 360.259.2743

Big Whisky Saloon

Every town needs a packed, sweaty night club, and Olympia answers that call with Big Whisky Saloon. Big Whisky has locations in other cities, but the vibe is always the same: country music window-dressing that lends it a little more character than your average meat market. This location is open on Fridays and Saturdays, and may not be your best bet if you want to have a quiet drink, but if you're hitting the town to meet people and blow off some steam, you could do worse than Big Whisky. 425 Franklin St. SE, Olympia, 360.561.8003

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