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Best of Olympia 2014 Music: Pig Bar, Elbow Coulee, DJ Drastic, Vital Records, Captain Algebra and others ...

Weekly Volcano staff names the best music in Olympia for 2014

ANDY GEERTSEN: Readers voted him Best Booker, and the Volcano staff has nothing but praise for the Pig Bar he fills with talent. Photo credit: winter Teems

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Best biggest little venue


The little wood-wall bar tucked off the side of Dickerson's BBQ has picked up some musical steam this year thanks to booker/bartender and this year's best music booker winner Andy Geertsen. When we asked what his favorite shows of 2013 were, he had a hard time narrowing it down. "My favorite shows at the pig and the busiest nights were usually bluegrass with the Pine Hearts," he mulled. "... Or Oly Mountain Boys ... and the nights we do DBST are always a fun party ... then we also did a Yogoman Burning Band over Halloween and that was nice to pull in a band that normally wouldn't fit in the small place ... and our weekly jazz jam has been great with lots of older talent mixed with our young local superstars. ... And. ..." 619 Legion Way SE, Olympia - Nikki McCoy

Most amiable stage presence


The first time I saw Elbow Coulee live, it was at a venue where there were unfortunate sound issues. Being the opening band, Elbow Coulee caught the brunt of the technical difficulties, which were ultimately settled later in the bill. In spite of all this adversity - being a electro-pop band supported almost exclusively by synthesizers, sound problems hit them pretty hard - Elbow Coulee managed to not only come off cool as cucumbers, but they rolled with the punches in such a way that not even long breaks fiddling with the mixer between songs allowed for discomfort to build up in the audience. The synth duo of Andrew Tuller and Joshua Morgan relied on their charm in the face of a sticky situation, and were able to win over the room. It helped that their jumpy, hook-laden pop could shine through even under the circumstances. They've just released a new EP on cassette, which you should for sure pick up, but my money's on catching them live. - Rev. Adam McKinney

Best documentarian


Every decade it seems, someone comes along with the ability to capture the music of Olympia. From Calvin Johnson, to Tim Green, Pat Maley, there have been a number of people who have simultaneously hit play and record buttons at the same time. The latest of this lineage is Captain Tripps, who has produced everything from Milk Music, WET, Morgan and the Organ Donors and beyond. The recent list of records is staggering compared to anyone else in Olympia. In a matter of years Captain Tripps has become an, almost, defacto documentarian of Olympia music culture. - Timothy Grisham

Best DJ to get your Thump on


He's been a staple in the South Puget Sound for some years now, but DJ Drastic has begun to peak, finally as a top-tier DJ.  Since his departure on a yearlong tour in Australia in 2012, Olympia's (by way of Thomaston and Atlanta, GA) DJ Drastic has packed the floor and rocked the crowds at his Friday night residency, "Thump Fridays" at 1230 Room in downtown Oly. Originally recognized as a popular and energetic hip-hop DJ, Drastic has expanded his repertoire to suit the wildly diverse - and as swanky as an Olympia club could be - crowd of "clubheads."  Now fusing hip-hop with EDM, trap and other ambient sounds, Drastic commands party people to dance, move and have a good time - all the time while smiling, grinning and getting his boogie on in the DJ booth. He is the epitome of a fun DJ. There are many ways to judge or determine what makes a good DJ, and with DJ Drastic's programming (song-choice), attitude and skill he is definitely at the top of the pile in terms of what makes a DJ great and what makes you remember where you were when you heard him spin. - Jose Gutierrez

Best double entendre record label


They came through at the end of last summer with a mission to scout out what they consider the best musical talent in Oly. "There's this Bermuda triangle of hyper-talented musicians here," co-founder Jim Porter said in a prior interview with the Weekly Volcano. "There's something magical about Oly that attracts all this world-class talent." Hellbelly, The Hard Way, Shelby Williams, Sister Moon, Suko and Elbow Coulee are all under the umbrella of Vital. Goals for Vital Records are to create a worldwide artist network, to shoot videos of each band for YouTube circulation, and to have an artist-run, artist-owned label. A fully accessible recording studio in downtown Olympia is also part of the vision. We're excited to see what 2014 brings. - NM

Most ubiquitous band


There's something to be said for being a bunch of sloppy young punks in Olympia. With places like the delightfully scuzzy Le Voyeur and a preponderance of house venues, there's rarely a night that goes by without some form of too-loud music banging against concrete walls somewhere in Olympia. In seeking out these shows for the Weekly Volcano, one name that seems to come up with alarming frequency is Captain Algebra - a sludge-ish punk trio that makes the kind of music that seems to only exist in packed, sweaty basements. Their music is the aural equivalent of the smell of stale cigarette smoke and sickly sweet spilled Rainier beer. While Captain Algebra certainly can't be said to have reinvented the wheel, their tenacity and seeming ubiquitous is admirable. They're the kind of band whose shows I would have happily vomited outside of, back in the day. Keep it up, Captain Algebra! - Rev AM

Best place to see national acts in an intimate setting


This year Surfer Blood, the band with a major radio hit under the belts, hit Northern at the height of their popularity. And, although they may not be as popular in the Olympia crowd, it signals to a point of interest. Northern is one of the few places of its size on the West Coast to regularly host such acts in a small setting. Another fine example for this hypothesis is Screaming Females. Fresh off opening for Garbage at the KeyArena the band played with a pair of local acts at Northern. Seriously the list could go on and on. It is hard to over estimate how vital a place like Northern truly is for Olympia arts and music. - TG

Best roller-coaster club ride


It's one of the last buildings standing when you look at the merry-go-round of nightclub/venue grand openings and not-so-grand closures. Although it started out as a true "lounge" with used couches and a makeshift DJ booth, which only made it that much more endearing - The Royal Lounge upgraded to become a full-scale club and concert venue having hosted the likes of Tech N9ne, Macklemore, KRS-ONE and many others. Aside from the name-dropping, what has kept The Royal relevant, in addition to constant upgrades and refurbishes, is truly the diverse uses of the venue. With regularly scheduled comedy, jazz, hip-hop and local showcase nights as part of its calling card, The Royal simply does what no other venue in Olympia does at this point; caters to a little bit of everybody. With award-winning DJs and a popular security staff, The Royal continues to be consistent in the midst of a competitive industry and every once in a while makes a splash with undeniably popular shows - such as T-Pain's visit scheduled for March 8.  So, just when you thought they were down and out, The Royal pulls you back in. - JG

Best workhorse band


GAG is a workhorse of a band. Quite simply, they are Olympia's biggest road warriors of late. The group, which shares members with White Wards, Love Interest, Tranfix, Negative Press among many others has the band/gang vibe down; this is a distinct compliment - think Ramones, think Germs, only hardcore. GAG plays a nihilistic style of hardcore that is engaging and terrifies people in a way that only bands such as Negative Approach can. Through constant plying GAG has consistently improved without the feeling of stagnation or feeling like they are phoning it in. Churning, fierce and adjusted, GAG brings it every time. - TG

Best band to soundtrack your hippy-flipping


Not that I've ever done this, but there's this thing called hippy-flipping, children. What this entails is ingesting something called a "magic mushroom" (whatever that is!) along with a substance called "MDMA" (I think that's how it's spelled?). Well, supposedly, what happens then is that you feel all lovey-dovey and colors and patterns become way cooler than you ever suspected. I'm certainly not suggesting that anyone try such a thing, but ... let's say you did. Just for fun's sake! If one were to hippy-flip, my suspicion is that you'd be hard-pressed to find a band more fitting for the experience than Fruit Juice. Though a relatively new band, Fruit Juice are marvelously adept at creating jubilant psych-pop. Listening to them is already quite similar to being bear-hugged by a super stoked high dude. A silly mélange of Of Montreal-esque psych-rock and pop songcraft reminiscent of the Kinks is just the right thing for your totally not Weekly Volcano-endorsed hippy-flipping journey. Drink lots of water! - Rev. AM

Best way for a cool label to be cooler


The record industry has taken a deep dip downward in the 21st century. Labels have become the Bubblicious of the business world: With a few pennies, anybody can get one. And just like an appealing Pop-Tarts, they disappear in the morning. It's one of the reasons Calvin Johnson graces this Best of Olympia cover. Johnson and his K Records deserve a legacy award for years of pushing independent, high-quality and vanguard-esque art and material. Even more relevant is K's forthcoming foray into Olympia's hip-hop heritage. The pending project has Olympia hip-hop personalities Ephryhme and Smoke digging into the K Records vaults sampling and composing new music from the old, while enlisting some of Olympia's finest to bless the mic. Just another reason why K Records continues to thrive in a dying industry and why it is the Best Label in Olympia. - JG

Best album by a band that left Olympia for "The Big City"


I was sad to see Charlie Zillian leave Olympia. He always had great energy. It's a REAL loss when someone like that moves on to Seattle. His band, Chung Antique - a long mainstay in Olympia house parties and in the DIY scene - released their first proper LP, Sweater Weather, this year. The album weaves complex instrumental landscapes that feel more at home with mid-'90s groups such as Don Cabellero or Couch saddled with the baggage of post-rock. Circular and cyclical, the album is warm. And despite a lack of vocals, the album's not without its lyrical wit. A song such as, "Stop Making Synths" holds the obvious cornerstones of the genre, but buried in the mix the ambient strings help give the song a more robust push that it wouldn't have otherwise. Chung Antique feel more sincere and original than a glut of other groups active today. The band is more to a generation of fans who are still looking for bands like Unwound to retake the cultural conversation. - TG

Best band to have in your corner


Olympia is known and respected for its heritage of groundbreaking bands, whether they arose from the Olympia water or arrived via a ratty van. One such band, which seems to be "uncategorizable" and continues to garner the affection of fans - young and old and far and near - is none other than Olympia's AKA and The Heart Hurt Goods. What is most impressive about AKA and The HHG, to me at least, is the band's heart. On the cusp of New Year's 2013, AKA made a public proclamation that he would make some changes in his life to pursue what he saw as his "passions and decisions that would make a difference in the lives of people and our communities." And AKA has held to his word, performing at the 12th Annual Hip-Hop 4 The Homeless Benefit Weekend, where he volunteers as well. There are many talented bands and artists in Olympia, but what sets AKA and The Heart Hurt Goods apart is not only their art, but their service and drive that propel them into the realm of being more than a band - more like a movement. - JG

LINK: Best of Olympia 2014

LINK: Best of Olympia 2013

LINK: Best of Olympia 2012

LINK: Best of Olympia 2011

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