YoYo a GoGo 1994 Oral History: 30 Years Later, Part 2

Photo by Brett Sandström

From July 12 to 16, 1994, the original YoYo a GoGo festival happened at the Capitol Theater in Olympia, Washington. It was organized by Yoyo Records’ Pat Maley, Michelle Noel, Kent Oiwa, along with Pat Castaldo, Diana Arens, Sara Lorimer, and others, and there were subsequent YoYos in 1997, 1999 and 2001. Carrying on from the great tradition of pop festivals like the International Pop Underground Convention (1991) and Lotsa Pop Losers (1991), it featured a ridiculous lineup that included superfeminist superstars Team Dresch and Mecca Normal, loud bands, quiet bands, punk bands, pop bands, see a full lineup later in the piece. This part features words and photos from organizers Pat Maley and Pat Castaldo, fan Bryce Edwards and fan/documenter Brett Sandström (special thanks to Jen Sbragia, Pat C and Brett for the images). Please note: not all of the photos below are from 1994 YYaGG.

Read Part 1 here (with Jean Smith (Mecca Normal), Jen Sbragia (The Softies), Lois Maffeo, David Nichols (Blairmailer), Nikki McClure, Tracy Wilson (Dahlia Seed), and Sara Lund (Unwound).

YoYo punks in the Lakefair Parade. Photo: Pat Castaldo

chickfactor: How did the event come about? What do you remember about putting it together?
Pat Maley: The 1991, I had been running my recording studio (Yoyo) for about nine years, and by that time I had recorded many of the local bands, including lots of bands for K Records. So when I found out that K was putting on the International Pop Underground Convention (IPUC) at the Capitol Theater, I got very excited about the idea of recording all the shows, which happened, and was great fun and an album was made.

A couple years later, I asked my friends at K Records if they were going to do another IPUC; they said no. So I asked how they would feel if I put on something like it, which they must’ve been OK with because they were such a valuable source of information and support about what to do, how to do it, and what not to do. For me, wanting to record a festival was the gateway to wanting to organize one, but the feeling of a pre-Internet summertime party vibe punk rock/punk pop/multi-genre five-day music festival was the high I was seeking.

Michelle Noel. Photo by Pat Castaldo

I can’t remember how I met Michelle Noel, but I do know that asking her to help me organize this festival was the way I got to know her. I still thank my intuition for making that choice, because Michelle was masterful at organization, she was unwaveringly principled, and was able to stay connected with a sense of joy, which is what really made the festival feel alive. And I think that feeling alive-ness is ultimately why our four Yoyo A Go Gos were so successful. I remember that sometimes I would worry at how serious Michelle could become when the work got challenging, but what’s most memorable about her is how absolutely delighted and animated she would become about watching her favorite bands perform. We worked well together, and our musical tastes were complementary in that her tastes were more garage punk, and mine were more pop punk, with plenty of overlap. We don’t see each other often these days, but whenever we do, I know that I feel a great deal of love and admiration for her, and she tells me she feels the same.

In December 1993, I got a call from Calvin Johnson inviting me to go see “a couple of bands from Japan up at Evergreen…” we went to see Copass Grinderz and the Blood Thirsty Butchers, who put on such amazing shows that Calvin and I invited them to record the next day. I called in sick at work and was able to record two songs each. Two of those recordings, one from each band, are on the Periscope studio compilation, and both bands came back to perform at Yoyo A Go Go in 1994. I believe this is in part how I got to know Kent Oiwa who was a student at the Evergreen State College.

Kent Oiwa. Photo: Pat Castaldo (not necessarily from YYaGG)

When I first met Kent Oiwa, he had been working as a live sound engineer for backstage shows at the Capitol Theater. Initially he came to work with Michelle and I as an intern, as part of his learning contract at Evergreen, but quickly, he became the third organizer. I believe that my insecurity and immaturity at the time clouded my ability to see really Kent and his role as an organizer, but in retrospect, I am happy to know how clearly his presence, creativity, talents, contributions, and hard work were absolutely essential to the success of the festival as an artistic expression. Kento-san was for many years: an organizer of subsequent Yoyo festivals; a key to the functioning of the recording studio; he co-founded one of Olympia’s most original and creative musical exports, IQU; and he is still a dear friend. In 1996 invited me to travel to Japan and stay with his family. He took such great care of me on that trip, which is why for me it was trip was so ridiculously rich and memorable. When I think about Kent as a friend, I feel an abundance of gratitude, and some grief that at the time I wasn’t fully able to feel and express that gratitude as much as I feel it now.

Pat Castaldo. Photo courtesy Pat C

I think Michelle Noel first brought Pat Castaldo to my attention when I wondered something like “who’s the skinny kid who’s always enthusiastically working the ticket booth?” He was and is a quick wit, excitable, energetic, and there was something about his East Coast-ness that made me feel at home. Through the four festivals there were hundreds of hard-working, enthusiastic, lovable/adorable volunteers who were not only the heart of, but the cardiovascular system of whatever it was that made these festivals, unique and so enjoyable; and at the risk of using really clunky mixed metaphors, Pat Castaldo was the cream of the volunteers who rose to the top to be an organizer of the festivals after 1994. Which is to say that he was effectively an organizer during those five days in July 1994. For years after, he made the Yoyo recording label possible by being the primary graphics layout artist and worked closely with Tae Won Yu who created most of the artistic imagery for the festivals and live albums. These days, messaging, or getting to visit with Pat makes me very happy because I know that I am in for playfulness, brilliance, connection and warmth.

I have always marveled at the artistic vision of Tae Won Yu, who I met in 1991 in New York City. I had just finished playing a set with Lois Maffeo and was breaking down my drums on the stage at CBGB, when Tae handed me a cassette of his band Kicking Giant. Sometime after that, he and Rachel Carns moved to Olympia, and sometime after that, his artwork became the look of the visual introduction to the festival. The posters he made for the festivals were so beautiful and inviting. The poster itself felt to me like a summertime party.

Diana Arens. Photo: Pat Castaldo (not taken at YYaGG)

There are so many people to mention, and so many names I have forgotten. I feel a low level, subconscious grief about the loss of memory of people and their generosity. Here are names of friends who were there and helped in all the ways: Lois Maffeo, Candice Pedersen, Calvin Johnson, Nikki McClure, Sara Lorimer, Diana Arens, Brooks Martin, Sharon Franklin, Shigeki Nishimura.

There’s so much more I could say, so many stories and challenges and moments of joy. It’s also hard for me to convey how meaningful and deeply personal the festivals are, particularly the first one. I still feel so grateful and fortunate that with the help of so many friends, I was able to translate something I loved and felt passionate about into something so beautiful and rewarding.

Several summers ago, I was waiting in line to enter a show on the backstage of the Capitol Theater. It was a beautiful June evening, and I was about to see Jonathan Richman perform after having chatted with him earlier that day. I was thinking about his song “That Summer Feeling” and the line about how… “That summer feeling is going to haunt you one day in your life.” And I started thinking about all the years I’d spent in the theater I was about to walk into, and it definitely haunted me, and as if on cue, from inside the theater, Jonathan start strumming the chords of the song. And it reassured me that there’s magic like that happening all of the time, I just need to notice that it’s there.

Pat Castaldo: So I just showed up and started helping — I honestly didn’t realize at the time how big of an undertaking it was; I’m not even sure Michelle and Pat and Kento really did either. Apart from bands being on time and stuff, the biggest challenge for me front of house was just a sort of pre-screening, light crowd control — overall it’s an amazing and wonderful crowd, but there’s always a handful of folks — like five maybe out of a thousand? — who want to get drunk or cause a ruckus or something.

Being the person “in the lobby” every day, I got to deal with a lot of those folks.

Crabs. Photo: Pat Castaldo

Did you attend YoYo in 1994? In what capacity were you involved?
Pat Castaldo: I did — I went to pretty much everything at the Capitol Theater during the time, mostly as a volunteer. I would have wanted to see the bands already, but to me the community aspect was always the tops — just being in the theater, being part of something bigger than yourself was amazing.

So I showed up to volunteer and quickly ended up, as it was happening, running the front of house during the first Yoyo. Doing errands, managing volunteers and working the door and ticket booth.

Lara Cohen (Runt zine): Crayon and the Softies had stayed at my house when they played a show in Philadelphia that spring, and I think they were the ones who first told me about it. They said that if I could get out to Olympia, I could stay where they were staying—at this guy Aaron’s parents’ house. (Thank you, Aaron! You were so nice and a year later, when I went off to college, sent me a copy of Paolo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed.) There must have been 15 people staying there, and I have fond memories of everyone trying out the NordicTrak.

How did it feel different from other festivals at the time?
Pat Castaldo: I had gone to the first Lollapalooza in high school, but otherwise, I don’t think I really had ever gone to a festival before — I had walked by K’s IPU Convention when it was on, but didn’t know anything about it and was like “that looks cool, maybe I’ll go next year.”

I think the big thing that felt crazy and different to me at the time is how far folks were coming for it — people traveling to Olympia as a destination felt foreign to me then (and now, to be honest).

What impact did it have on the city of Olympia?
Pat Castaldo: I think IPU was the first big explosion and then the Yoyos were powerful echos — incredible and their own thing. For me, the literal do-it-yourself nature is what held into other things. To me so much of the Olympia DIY movement was a “we have to do it ourselves or no one else will” and I don’t think if I hadn’t been volunteering at the theater I would have ever learned how important that is.

I think folks moving to Olympia to make even more of a scene definitely happened after the first Yoyo.

Indie bands beget other Indie bands and it’s kinda wonderful.

I just read Kathleen’s memoir and found it an excellent time capsule of the time — and it captured the feeling of how sick people could get of Olympia at times; mostly because the scene was so incredibly small. I never found the “I want to get out of here” feeling, but completely understand how people could. If she hadn’t moved to DC, then Riot Grrrl might not have been brought back, and then that also that means Ladyfest and other even bigger things might not have ever happened.

Photo: Jen Sbragia

What was the Olympia/larger independent pop scene like in 1994 vs. 2024?
Pat Castaldo: I know nothing about the 2024 scene, but do think, that we had a special thing from like ’91-2005 or so, and after that things started to change a bit. How exactly is hard to pin down. I ended up leaving town in 2008 to move, like so many other Olympians did, to Portland.

What performances stand out in your memory?

Lara Cohen (Runt zine): Some Velvet Sidewalk, Lois and surprise Courtney Love reunion, Blairmailer, Kicking Giant, Jad Fair, Team Dresch, Halo Benders, Excuse 17.

What was the vibe in general?

Lara Cohen (Runt zine): Maybe people who were older and wiser at the time saw a more complicated dynamic, but to me as a teenager, it was glorious. The lineup was ridiculous and people were just giddy with excitement. The Olympians were really generous to the out-of-towners—even though I kind of stumbled in, people fed me, let me sleep on their floor, took me swimming and berry-picking, etc. I babysat Stella Marrs and Al Larsen’s child even though they had never met me before. It was hard to be a starry-eyed fan and try to play it cool when suddenly you were surrounded by all these people whose music you loved so much. I definitely failed.

What other memories do you have? 

Lara Cohen (Runt zine): The organizers gave out yoyos and everyone rose to the occasion; I have all these photos of people trying to learn tricks. There was competition to win giant stuffed animals at the Lakefair carnival and gift them to other people who would then have to carry them around. Am I remembering correctly that it was very hot? I didn’t go to the parade, which I deeply regretted, and I think it was because the only clean shirt I had left was a thermal and I couldn’t take being outside in it. Later Tae Won Yu loaned me some shorts he’d worn as a child. David Nichols from the Cannanes and Blairmailer offered to walk me back to Aaron’s house after a party because “I bet there are some Australian drinking songs you don’t know.” But it was miles away, so instead Beck gave me a ride and we got lost in a housing development. It was totally surreal. I was in love with like 10 different people.

Pat Castaldo: It’s funny because it’s been so long ago, the album we made is the strongest musical memory I have left. Triple Vinyl! Tae and I did the cover together! I always regret how “red” people’s faces are on the back — it was one of my first every full-color albums, all the K stuff at the time was just two-color, and my crappy Mac monitor wasn’t up to the task.

But just reading the track listing I can smell the theater. I can picture Becca, Carrie and CJ (Excuse 17)  playing their set and just being blown away. I remember Corin Tucker (Heavens to Betsy) standing there so strong and playing Ax Men and thinking, “woah, that’s the girl who works at the camera shop in the mall!” To this day those two albums and those live shows are some of my favorite music from Olympia at the time.

I remember wondering “how is there this crazy Japanese band playing?” when Bloodthirsty Butchers came on (and later staying at one of their apartments when I went to Tokyo).

I remember Mikey being Mikey and just bringing so much energy to the Fitz of Depression set.

I remember Mary Lou Lord playing during the afternoon and being dumbstruck that it’s the same person I saw a few years before busking in a Boston subway. Just memorized how small of a world it was.

Lara Cohen (Runt zine) and Beck at Calvin’s house. Photo: Jen Sbragia

I remember giving Beck and his buddy Mario yo-yos that Pat had got and all of us trying to do tricks in the lobby (there’s a pic of this on my flickr).

I remember thinking Codeine was sublime and how had I never heard them before?

I remember loving to get to see Long Hind Legs followed by Some Velvet Sidewalk, and just basking in the glorious sonic diversity that was our tiny town.

And then, of course, Lois playing Strumpet — basically the unofficial anthem of everyone in town. We all kinda walked around like we owned it — because we did.

Hannah and Jen. Photo: Jen Sbragia

Brett Sandström (fan): Thinking about Bratmobile’s “Queenie”, I know it was a bit cliché how I found out about Yoyo-A-Gogo. I was flipping through the pages of my teenage girlfriend’s Sassy magazine. I ripped out the little advert/article and asked my parents for a check to mail off along with a passport photo a friend made me that same afternoon.

Summer now, and I was nervous about trying to find a way there. Luckily, I convinced a friend to drive the hour south in his 1969 emerald green Cadillac hearse. He dropped me off at Sylvester Park with my skateboard, a backpack with some clothes, and $100 cash. I was alone, and like a kid in a candy store, I immediately spent too much money on records at Positively 4th Street. Full from the excitement, I stowed everything away in a Greyhound locker.

It was noon on July 11 when I learned that the main events didn’t start until the next day. I keep myself busy skateboarding, loitering in the park, meeting new people, I even took in an action flick at the State Theatre, where I’m certain that Kathi Wilcox gave me a free pop! I also saw the documentary film The Band That Would Be King. I learned of a show later that night in the Back Stage called the Midnight-a-Gogo; it turned out to be Dub Narcotic Sound System. I danced and I met a woman there who invited me to stay in her hotel room.

Lakefair parade. Photo: Pat Castaldo

I was wearing contacts then and I woke up with some sort of allergic reaction where the light was blindingly bright. Even though I couldn’t really see, I managed to stumble my way past the Ribeye into downtown where I sat in front of the Capitol Theater to wait for the festivities to start. I stayed hours with my back against the beige walls of the theater, knees bent and my eyes buried in my lap. A woman named Brooke asked me if I was OK, and after telling her my woes, she invited me to hang out with her gang.

6PM – July 12– the shows started. I was truly excited to see all these bands I only knew from records, but I was thrilled that Tattle Tale was playing the first night. I had seen this amazing duo play dozens of times in the Seattle area, but this was on a big stage and I was excited for them. The Brentwoods were a hoot and Unwound’s bassy rumble to finish their set is something that still reverberates in my soul today.

Photo: Pat Castaldo

The rest of the week went by in a flash and so did the memories. I switched hands a couple more times. I was starstruck every few moments. Jean Smith walking through the crowd with everyone singing along, I walk alone! Seeing Tim Armstrong busk outside with Mary Lou Lord. Meeting my earliest teenage idol, Ian MacKaye. CALVIN! Seeing Beck play a whole different set than my suburban friends saw the next evening in Seattle. Lync, Slant 6, Kicking Giant… It was all too much!

In 1994, Yoyo-A-Gogo, for me, was an adventure – meeting so many new friends and seeing so many wonderful bands, it was a punk summer camp. And, what was it, like $50 bucks?! What a time!!!

Bryce Edwards (fan): Such a blur since it was 30 years ago but one thing I remember is sitting in The Apples in Stereo / Neutral Milk Hotel van with the bands (who I knew from Colorado) and the Apples were super psyched because someone cancelled and they ended up getting to play last minute. Robert and Hilarie from the Apples played as the NMH band along with Lisa from Secret Square on bass. I made zines at the time and handed out about 100 of them over the weekend. A few weeks before the festival, I met a skater lesbian on the street in NYC and she ended up road tripping with me back to Colorado and then to Olympia for the festival. I’m not even sure if she had a pass or not but we spent 2 months together on the road. Ahh youth.

Parade – Photo: Pat Castaldo
Via Lois Maffeo

YoYo a GoGo 1994 Oral History: 30 Years Later, Part 1

Glorious design work by the wonderful artist Tae Won Yu

From July 12 to 16, 1994, the original YoYo a GoGo festival happened at the Capitol Theater in Olympia, Washington. It was organized by Yoyo Records’ Pat Maley, Michelle Noel, Kent Oiwa, along with Pat Castaldo, Diana Arens, Sara Lorimer, and others, and there were subsequent YoYos in 1997, 1999 and 2001. Carrying on from the great tradition of pop festivals like the International Pop Underground Convention (1991) and Lotsa Pop Losers (1991), it featured a ridiculous lineup that included superfeminist superstars Team Dresch and Mecca Normal, loud bands, quiet bands, punk bands, pop bands, see a full lineup later in the piece. We asked some folks who played, attended and organized it to share memories including Jean Smith (Mecca Normal), Jen Sbragia (The Softies), Lois Maffeo, David Nichols (Blairmailer), Nikki McClure, Tracy Wilson (Dahlia Seed), and Sara Lund (Unwound).

Tae Won Yu design / Courtesy Lois Maffeo

Chickfactor: Did you attend YoYo in 1994? What made you want to go?

Jen Sbragia (The Softies): Yes! I’d never been to a festival like that and was very excited to be included and see a lot of bands.

Nikki McClure: Yes. It was across the street from where I lived.

Tracy Wilson (Dahlia Seed): Yes, I attended and played that year. The lineup was a dream come true and I can’t imagine any self-described indie rocker wouldn’t do whatever it took to be at this special event.

Gail CF: I sure did. I think I built my summer vacation around it, in the days when people had such a thing as paid vacation at their jobs.

Rose and Al – Photo: Jen Sbragia

In what capacity were you involved with YoYo a GoGo 1994?

Sara Lund (Unwound):  I played at YoYo a Go-go in 1994 with Unwound. I had been in the band for about 2 years and we had released our 2nd record (with me) New Plastic Ideas that spring. We did a lot of touring that year – I think we went on our longest ever tour. 10 weeks all over the US. I’m pretty sure the YoYo show we played front stage at the Capitol Theater was the biggest crowd we had played to at that point.

I had attended the 1991 International Pop Underground festival my first week in Olympia, before I knew anyone. This festival felt very different to me as I was now a 3-year resident of Olympia as well as being in one of the relatively better known bands in town.

Sara Lund / Photo: Pat Castaldo

It most definitely felt like the town was suddenly overrun with looky-loos, coming to see what all the buzz was about. It was so weird that Beck came and played! He had had a huge hit with “Loser” and it was like cognitive dissonance to have a pop star wandering around this very anti mainstream, major label pro DIY scene.

I also feel like this festival made a TON of people move to Olympia. People got the impression from the festival that Olympia was this super fun, hip playground all the time. What most people discovered when they moved there was that Olympia was just a small town with not a lot going on and locals that weren’t particularly welcoming to a rush of young hipsters, polluting the scene. That was not true for everyone, but I know a lot of people moved there and did not last long once they realized daily life was nothing like YoYo a GoGo.

Rose and Beck in Calvin’s backyard. Photo: Jen Sbragia

Jen: The Softies and Go Sailor were invited to play.

Nikki: I think I named it? I remember suggesting the name to Pat Maley. I also maybe led a Nature Punk Walk? Where we caught the #81 bus to some park? Maybe what is now Squaxin Park? I hope someone out there remembers this! My memory was more focused on the making of burritos and selling them outside the theater. I was down to my last $100 and spent it on burrito making supplies supplemented with greens and nasturtium flowers from my garden patch. I’d make the burritos and then run across the street to sell them then run back to make more. I wore a kids cowboy hat and strapped a small suitcase to me, open and full off “Burritos a Go Go”. Thankfully I keep a briefly noted calendar. I made $68 the first day, $24 the next due to the nature walk. $72 the next day. And somehow figured that I came out ahead? Fed myself and some others at $2 a burrito! I took Ian MacKaye to my garden to pick more greens for the Friday burritos. I also was the Punk Rock Janitor for the theater and would clean up the stage area and bathrooms…the things one does for free movies! It was a time of scraping by and making fun out of it!

Tracy: My band Dahlia Seed was scheduled to play, but a month before, the rest of the members told me they couldn’t afford to fly out, leaving me to scramble to find a way to play without them. Michelle Noel convinced me I needed to still play so I promised her I would. I am infamously terrible at playing guitar and singing at the same time, so my co-worker Michael from C/Z records AKA Snackboy stepped in at the last minute to help me out. I taught him how to play all the Dahlia Seed songs I had written on guitar, and we played together as a duo with me singing beside him on electric guitar.

Gail CF: I went as a fan, a zine editor, photographer, documenter.

Jean Smith (Mecca Normal): Mecca Normal performed. We were around for most of the festival and went to lots of shows.

Nikki McClure / photo: Pat Castaldo

How did it feel different from other festivals at the time?

Nikki: Scrappily ambitious. Yet also low-key and not ambitious at all. Now looking back and thinking of the paths everyone has gone on since then, it was a nurturing garden in full flower and then the seedpods all popped open and scattered far, really far. I also remember the mix of bands being selected on some mysterious connections that weren’t based on musical likeness. It was really a mix of everything from quiet whispers to loudest possible electric noise. Polished and raw all a jumble.

Jen: I’d never been to one! I was still in transition from hair metal to normal music to indie pop when the IPU happened.

Tracy: I was 22 and had not been to too many festivals before – other than giant things like Amnesty International events. In some ways it set me up for a lot of future disappointment. This event was so friendly, so easy to attend and play, that it would be a shock to learn how most other music would struggle to have that kind of talent pool, that kind of welcoming atmosphere, and such wonderful support from the folks running it. I remember walking around, a very new person to the northwest (I has just moved to Seattle) and feeling overwhelmed by how friendly attendees and other band people were. Everyone was sharing addresses and phone numbers to stay in touch like the last day of summer camp or high school. I was so nervous to play without my regular band members and so many people went out of their way to make sure I felt good/proud of the performance. And wow, the food and drinks were affordable, like starving artist affordable, something I can’t say about many other fests.

Gail CF: Most festivals at that time were kinda gross and mainstream, like Lollapalooza, corporate, dorky. Not as outrageously priced as today but more expensive than something like YoYo, which was very accessible. I am guessing these bands didn’t get flown in for this, but probably appreciated the exposure at the time. Looking back, festivals like IPU and YoYo were influential on the small fests CF has set up, but again, it is ever harder to make a profit in 2024 since tech platforms are siphoning off everything they can and extracting pennies they did nothing to earn.

Mecca Normal. Photo: Pat Blashill

Jean: Mecca Normal toured at least once in Europe that year, playing the Fast Forward Festival in Nijmegen, Holland with Smog, Dump, Sebadoh and other specifically lo-fi bands. Even though that was a small festival, it felt very formal in terms of being accommodated at a hotel somewhere else in the city and arriving at the venue in advance of our set. I don’t think we went to shows other than the one we played. Other festivals we’ve played on tour we basically just do a one-day stop with shows on either side of it in other towns. Sometimes, as a band, you wouldn’t necessarily notice you’re playing a festival. You arrive, do the show and leave.

Festivals in Olympia were special because so many of the performers were there for more than their show day, seeing a lot of bands over the duration of the event, which also meant that various bands were meeting each other, and fans were bumping into band members at other shows and in the street. There were so many opportunities to engage and form new connections. Having said that, it was sort of nerve wracking to be so noticeable and approachable any time we were out and about.

There were so many participants, both band and audience members, downtown that we’d see people we knew all over the place. I’d say that proximity and a very small downtown core were key factors that helped to extend Olympia festivals beyond the venues to restaurants and accommodation.

YoYo Festival was, by location and association, related to the IPU 3 years prior, so expectations and comparisons were palpable. For me, there was no way it came close to the wow factor of the IPU, but it definitely had its own excellent vibe. For those who missed the IPU, they likely experienced the same thrill factor of the IPU when the town was once again filled with idiosyncratic fans and bands who, in essence, expanded even the broadest description of punk.

Being a small city, distances between everything are short. For a touring band, Olympia is a very easy town to deal with in terms of navigating, getting parking, having everything you basically need close by. It wouldn’t be the first or best place you’d think of putting on a music festival though. The IPU provided a blueprint for YoYo. That Candice Pedersen, co-founder of K Records, was able to put the IPU together and pull it off, was an astounding feat. For Pat Maley, following a similar path would likely have been somewhat daunting, but he had a lot of things working for him, including the fact that his recording studio was in the Capitol Theater.

People in front of the Capitol Theater / Photo: Pat Castaldo

What impact did YoYo have on the city of Olympia?

Nikki: I always welcomed the focus on the Capitol Theater as the epicenter of life, instead of my town being overrun by the carnival festival of Lakefair. It was a cultural exchange: Japan! New York! DC! LA! Anacortes! The impact was of connections between all the people and places that continues today. Olympia finally has a city-owned arts center that is developing places for performances. The city also is able to fund events now with a sale tax levy. People seem creative and ambitious again. Punk Theater! Community Print! And there are plenty of show flyers in the window of Rainy Day Records. AND the Capitol Theater is turning 100 years old this year.

What did it feel like to play YoYo?

Jen: I was always terribly nervous.

Tracy: Dahlia Seed was still a relatively new band, on top of being my first serious band, so I had never played something so big before. I WAS TERRIFIED. To soften the blow of what Snackboy and I were certain would be a disastrous performance, we went to the Oly brewery and got these little beer cookies to throw out into the crowd. We spent an alarmingly long time throwing out cookies before we played, but it seemed like people were wildly excited about them. It was a nice way to ease into our less than perfect set as a brand new two piece trying to play the songs of what was typically a well practiced 5-piece band. We played the day that bands like Built To Spill, Lois, Neutral Milk Hotel, Lync, Halo Benders, and Versus played, so needless to say, as a kid who was buried up to their ears in an obsession with DIY/underground music, this was one of the best days of my young life. I will never forget the sound of a theater filled with people clapping after we played the first song. I had dreaded that moment for so many months because I was so new to performing. The anxiety leading up to our performance was all consuming. After we completed that first song, even with all its flaws, the audience gifted us the support to feel not just really heard, but appreciated.

It was great to be on a giant stage in front of a big audience of people who were probably going to like us well enough. Because our friends were putting on the event, we felt supported in all ways. So having to assert ourselves as we likely would in regular clubs wasn’t an issue. Battling with typical soundmen in clubs tended to be tiresome after a long day of driving.

It was an honour to be included and, considering Olympia was like a second home to us, it was somewhat emotional to play a big show there. We’d already been around for 10 years at that point, so we wanted to represent our reason for becoming a band in terms of songs that meant something to people as well as playing new material.

I often think we give slightly better performances where there’s a sense of opposition, whereas, in a setting like YoYo, it may have seemed just slightly too friendly. Also, because I tend to look directly at people in the audience, I’m sure I would have been a bit distracted by seeing people I knew who I didn’t know would be there. While singing about various social injustices, seeing someone I like in the audience might set off a series of reactions in me that might not essentially fortify the performance. Wanting to jump off stage and hug someone was contrary to an angry song about a woman’s right to walk alone.

Jeff Cashvan and Richard Baluyut (Versus): Photo by Gail O‘Hara

What YoYo performances stand out in your memory?

Jen: I really remember seeing Unwound the most. I was right in the front with Linton from Go Sailor. I also loved KARP.

Lois: Versus sang “Frog.” My favorite band. My favorite song.

Nikki: Slant 6, Bloodthirsty Butchers, Had Fair, Gravel, Versus, Copass Grinderz, Mecca Normal

Tracy: I recall watching Built to Spill and being in absolute awe of how someone could ROCK but also be so vulnerable and tender at the same time. I was a massive Treepeople fan and Dug was so important to me. I seriously moved to Seattle to work at C/Z because I was such a big Treepeople fan. I didn’t think Dug’s new band would ever possibly be as good, and their Yoyo performance proved otherwise. I wonder if this is how Minor Threat fans felt when they saw Rites of Spring for the first time?

Gail CF: Team Dresch, Lois, The Softies, Heavens to Betsy, Spinanes, Mary Lou Lord, Excuse 17, Slant 6, Neutral Milk Hotel, Halo Benders…

New artists discovered?

Tracy: It wasn’t so much about discovering any artist for me. It was about seeing a lot of artists play live for the first time and out of those bands, Karp absolutely blew my mind. They were so tight and had the humor and energy I always wanted from The Melvins, but never quite got from their live shows during that time period.

Nikki: Copass Grinderz

Big Girl wall zine by Lois Maffeo and Margaret Doherty. Photos: Gail O’Hara

What was the vibe like at YoYo in general?

Jen: I felt like I was included in a beautiful weird secret.

Jean Smith: There can be a weird sort of alienation playing regular rock clubs in towns where you don’t know anyone, when you don’t actually know the other bands on the bill. In those cases, there may be an intensity of performance due to that anonymity. YoYo was the opposite of that.

Some Velvet Sidewalk / Photo: Pat Castaldo

Did Yo-Yo a Go-Go get national attention?
Tracy: I think because there were bands from so many other states performing, the DIY world who was connected through radio, zines, penpal packages, and record stores all seemed in the know. Does that count as national attention?

Jean Smith: This appeared in Rolling Stone. It seems like it’s a snippet from a longer piece: “Such innocence and enthusiasm are the guiding principles of the Olympia genre called love rock. At Yo Yo, bands throw candy to the audience, and the festival organizers hand out yo-yos. Homemade and vintage instruments proliferate, as do two-and three-piece groups, a minimalism exemplified by the Saturday night performances of Mecca Normal and Spinanes.” – Evelyn McDonnell, Rolling Stone

Love Evelyn, of course, but, in the mid-90s, I’m actually not sure if it would have been published in Rolling Stone if she’d reported that a number of bands performed songs about women’s rights etc.

When national media mentioned various scenes and festivals we participated in, I usually had the impression that the individual journalists may have been compelled to report differently, but maybe their editors dictated a requirement for content that wasn’t confrontational, possibly even especially about women in music.

Mainstream mentions were usually a bit cringe. We were amazed when anything from our ilk made it to a national level. It seemed a bit suspicious. One of the few times Rolling Stone wrote about us, they said we were Vancouver Washington (as opposed to Canada). I took everything they said about anyone with a few grains of salt.

Gail CF: I was an editor at a big rock mag then but all the bands I interviewed ended up in our zine.

Jason Traeger, Calvin Johnson and Beck. Photo: Jen Sbragia

What was the Olympia/larger independent pop scene like in 1994 vs. 2024?
I’ve been thinking about this a lot because I’ve been helping put together another Olympia-centric summer festival called Northern Sky happening in early September. I think there is still a spirit in Olympia to find a fun spot and a great reason to bring people together and just try to pull it off. There is absolutely no danger of any Olympia festival becoming like Coachella or Primavera. Go through the list! IPUC, Yoyo A Go Go, Homo A Go Go, Ladyfest, Helsing Junction Sleepover: all just homemade events. No sponsors, just DIY labor and love.

Gail CF: The 1990s were the last decade where we could live in the moment. No one had smartphones and no one held things up in front of other people or looked at phones while watching shows. You were just there for the show. Sure, people could be rude and talk over the bands but probably not here. The absence of constant device fondling made people more social I think? Also people bought albums/paid for music; not every independent label was paying out properly but there was more potential for bands to earn a living from touring and selling albums.

Tracy: It is so hard to answer this question as a middle-aged person. I would love to believe versions of this event are happening all over the place today, but I also know that in today’s climate, booking a festival is more complicated and expensive than ever. Renting spaces is no easy task (insurance, rental fees, and so on), booking talent is a nightmare since so many artists (especially those with booking agents) charge 10x their normal fee when the word festival is attached to it. I think social media also inherently puts pressure on events to be so much more than just great music and so many events get lost in the weeds trying to be all the things. In turn I think the fans have changed. I grew up having zero expectations from a fest other than music, and fans now are expecting a mini Coachella from every multi-day music event with all the bells and whistles. The closest thing I can think to Yoyo isn’t so much an indie pop thing, but Goner is an example of an event that I go to almost annually that reminds me of the same genuine spirit. For me the perfect fest is 40% about the music (thoughtfully curated) and 40% about the people (fans/musicians) I will be able to spend time with in person, and 20% a city I like (and can afford to spend a few days in).

What other memories do you have about YoYo?

Lois: Yoyo coincided with Lakefair, the Olympia town carnival that had (still has!) all the clichéd accoutrements of such things: pageant queens, outdoor concerts with 70s cover bands and a parade with marching bands and floats from other small towns in Washington featuring their pageant queens, waving. Yoyo staff put in the paperwork to have an entry in the parade and so many festival-goers showed up to march through downtown behind a spray painted Yoyo A Go Go banner! The crowds that lined the streets didn’t know what to make of it and hardly anyone cheered for this ragtag bunch. But one old guy sitting in a lawn chair along the parade route yelled out, “There go the future welfare rats of America!” (A photo of Nikki, Tae and Calvin in the parade adorns the back cover of the “yoyo a go go” LP.)

I ran up to Christina Billotte after Slant 6 tore through a furious set and said to her, “Great set! It was epic!” To which she replied, “It wasn’t great at all.  We played terrible. That’s the trouble with you Olympia people. You’ll clap for anything.” In my mind, that has become the best description of the Olympia music scene and the spirit that drives it. We’ll clap for anything! Thanks, Christina. (And btw, the set truly was great. What a band!)

Jen: If I knew his name, I can’t remember now what it was. Even though it was warm summer weather, he wore a ladies’ navy blue cardigan sweater, buttoned up to the top, with tight pants, low tops and a wide white belt. He had that short hair with the bangs cut straight across. I remember his nails painted with white out or white nail polish. Very emo. Before EMO existed. He didn’t say much and I liked that. I saw him every day at the festival. Eventually we spoke enough that I asked him to go for a walk around the block with me, and we briefly held hands. He wasn’t into me. I never saw him again.

Jean: We stayed at Calvin’s house. I think Dave slept in the basement in the recording studio and I slept in the backyard where I recall chit-chatting with Beck while I set up my tent.

I forget which festival it was when we bumped into each other, Gail. I also forget who you were walking with and what we all talked about briefly, but I think the conversation was in the actual street as opposed to on the sidewalk you’d just stepped off and we were aiming for. That is to say; it’s a very quiet town!

Tracy: Street busking! I think I saw Mary Lou Lord and the dude from Rancid perform like 3 other times, ha! I know I should be focusing on the bands that played, but my strongest memory is talking to so many different people from all over the country and making friends with people that I still know to this day.

David Nichols (Blairmailer): Pat Maley and Sara Lorimer came to Australia on holiday in I guess 1993. I was finishing my Arts degree at the University of Sydney but very occasionally making records with Michael under the name Blairmailer. Pat and Sara came to see Blairmailer play at the Richmond Club hotel in Melbourne. It was a well-attended show. I can’t remember who was in the band aside from Michael and me at that time, maybe it was just the two of us. Pat either got in touch later to say he was doing YoYo A Go Go or he was thinking and talking about it even while he was in Australia. Michael was very keen, I’m fairly sure that we recruited Bart and Andrew purely for the sake of the US tour, I mean aside from the fact that they were our friends and we liked them. We played a show in Melbourne with Stinky Fire Engine, The Cats Miaow were also on the bill.

Bart and Andrew were with the band for the rest of its existence, it didn’t last much longer. They were our two bass players, we had them play half a show each, which was probably about 5 songs apiece. They sat in the audience together and I think they saw almost everything and kept notes. At some time, before or after the actual Yo Yo show, we recorded an EP with Pat.

Blairmailer had two albums out by that stage, one was a cassette the other was an LP released on IMP records of Portland, a terrific label. Our show went pretty smoothly. We played a couple of other shows at the same time, one with Mocket, one with New Bad Things, both incredible.

YoYo Records’ Pat Maley / Photo: Pat Castaldo

The best shows I remember seeing were Versus, who I’d already seen elsewhere and who are one of my favourite bands, Copass Grinderz, Halo Benders, but I know there heaps more, of course. It’s a long time ago. Some Velvet Sidewalk were going through a really classic period, the Whirlpool album period. Don from SVS asked Bart, Michael and Andrew, kind of tentatively, ‘do you guys like… drinking beer?’ They did.

Meeting Beck and Ian MacKaye was a real privilege and we all walked together somewhere, sometime, after Blairmailer played.

The Stinkypuffs show was something everyone felt was a historic moment, I mean apart from being very touching. I recall being told at the time that Fred Astaire had performed at the Capitol theatre but I imagine everybody has.

I remember sitting in the audience with Rebecca Gates and Gilmore Tamny and Rebecca making some kind of joke, or observation, that included telling a young man ‘I knew your mom in high school’. None of us could have even been thirty by that stage.

I think this was the time I was in Olympia and there was some kind of parade in town? Am I wrong? Is that what’s on the back cover of the LP? If so, then this was the time when I saw a group of Olympia music people in the parade, and a woman asked a policeman who they were, and he said sardonically ‘the future welfare recipients of America’.

Pat Maley used to have a slight chip on his shoulder that he was shunned by the punks of Olympia somewhat, as a hippy, and it wasn’t until Calvin embraced him that he became really ‘acceptable’ to the more pretentious or fickle Olympia types. So I imagine that there was something a little bittersweet for him in running Yo Yo a Go Go but I am certainly glad he, Diana, Aaron and Sara put it on. He has tapes of everything, I remember him saying that one day a long time into the future he’d find a way to release it all, I guess the time is not yet ripe. 

Gail CF: We started our zine out of love for the East Coast (and UK) pop scene in the early ’90s. Yo-Yo was like a grand introduction to West Coast culture for me. I loved the supportive and slightly earnest West Coast people, meeting people like Stella Marrs and Nikki McClure and seeing the DIY ecosystem and “let’s create our own fun” style of putting together an event. It was world-shifting in a good way. One more memory was that Vicky Wheeler was supposed to pick me up and give me a ride to SeaTac but overslept so I missed my flight, spent the night in the Holiday Inn SeaTac but then got upgraded to first class flying home; Dave Grohl and Elliott Smith were on my flight.


Nikki’s calendar, July 1994

The Softies Then and Now: Jen Sbragia on 30 Years Together

Happy 30th anniversary, Rose and Jen! Photo: Alicia J. Rose

Earlier this year, The Softies (two California girls / singer-songwriter-guitarists Rose Melberg + Jen Sbragia) celebrated 30 years as a band and as BFFs. They are not a band that just reformed after not doing anything since the 1990s! They have been playing shows here and there over the years (including chickfactor 20 and 25 shows in New York, London, SF and Portland), even as they lived in different PacNW towns, had kids, jobs, played music with others and so on. Still, as they just announced their brand-new album, The Bed I Made (on Father/Daughter Records and Lost Sound Tapes), upcoming tour and new single, we wanted to check in about how things were then versus how they are now! Read our post from yesterday about the new album, the vinyl reissues of their previous work and more, and then read on to hear from Jen about how things have changed. Interview by Gail

Jen in Portland, 2023. Photo: Gail O’Hara

CF: What are you up to today?
Jen Sbragia: Working on some freelance design stuff, making dinner, hopefully practicing guitar later
What would you have been up to on a day like this in 1994?
Very similar except I didn’t have Adobe Creative Suite!
Tell us about how your songwriting process worked in 1994 vs. 2024.
In the past, I would write and present a whole song of mine to Rose, she would then write a lead guitar part and a vocal harmony. For the new album, I had song ideas but also a few half-baked ideas and riffs, which we worked on together to make whole songs. It was pretty fun to do that, because Rose has studied the art of songwriting so much more than me. She inspires me to do better, all the time.
Both of you have been undergoing major life shifts in recent years; how did grief, loss, change play into the songs? How is that different from your trials and tribulations of 30 years ago?
I always used to write songs about unrequited love back in the day. This is still true for me! At this point in my life I have experienced more loss, so that is tied in too. But crushes not working out is my favorite songwriting topic, apparently.

Cover of The Bed I Made by Fumi Yanagimoto

What was a typical day in the studio like making The Bed I Made? And how does that differ from the 1990s sessions?
Analog is lovely and all, but recording digitally is fantastic. Rose and I used Garage Band to make demos for each other we could email back and forth. When it came time to record in the studio, we felt so lucky to work with Nich (Nicholas Wilbur). He has an amazing ear, is endlessly chill and patient, makes the perfect cappuccino, and belongs to the funniest and best dog, Cathy. I heard my first ever ghostly footsteps in the (haunted) studio! Rose and I slept there at night – it was a little spooky, which I loved.

Softies’ studio still-life, courtesy of Rose

What are some of your most important studio accoutrements? Snacks, tea, special instruments or accessories?
Lots of Juanita’s tortilla chips, peanut butter, strong coffee, maybe a touch of psilocybin. Anacortes Unknown has a vibraphone… it may make an appearance.
How long have you been working on this one?
I took a trip to Vancouver in January of 2023 and we ended up with the beginnings of 8 songs, and just excitedly continued from there, meeting every month or so. Sometimes we would meet in Seattle, sometimes I would make the full trek to Vancouver. I love long drives so it really didn’t seem too difficult.
How has the touring and show playing ecosystem changed from then to now?
Well, it is much better now that we don’t have to have an Atlas and a Thomas Guide! One time on tour we caravanned with walkie talkies.
We prefer that more days off need to be built in. We need ease and calm. The less stress, the better. There is a low key goal of being able to stay somewhere with a hot tub. Can we always have a hot tub? A girl can dream.

Jen in Portland. Photo: Gail O’Hara

What can fans to do help musicians have better lives?
Vote. Buy merch. Come to live shows.
Do you have a sense of how big your audience is now vs 1994? Do you hear from fans?
We used to get fan letters back in the day. I have a box of them. These days, it’s much quicker and easier with social media. But also it can feel overwhelming because everything is so immediate.
What about the vinyl reissues on K: are those all out now or coming soon?
Out now: Holiday in Rhode Island [KLP119]
Out July 26: Winter Pageant [KLP061]
Out Sept. 6: It’s Love [KLP043]

Where all will you be touring?
Glas Goes Pop festival on Friday, July 26.
Two record release shows at the end of August in Vancouver and Portland, followed by two more shows in early September in Anacortes and Seattle

East coast shows in late Sept/early October

California shows in late October

What else are you up to apart from the Softies?
Always trying to balance freelance design work, hoping for more hours but grateful when I have free time for music. I have some new song ideas for All Girl Summer Fun Band but we haven’t had time to work on them yet. I would like to get back into drawing comics and/or making prints of some kind.

What are you eating, cooking, watching, reading lately?
FOOD: I’m on a mission to sample every single non-dairy cream cheese on the market. I could eat the Moderno Bowl at Tacovore every day. Peanut butter filled chocolate covered pretzels from Trader Joe’s are my favorite food group.

COOKING: Lately I have been avoiding cooking as much as possible! I’m giving in to convenience whenever possible, although throwing a sweet potato in the oven is very easy and I love the edible sugar goo that comes out of them.

WATCHING: I’m re-watching Killing Eve because Jodie Comer is a goddess. Also watching the new season of Bridgerton. I will re-watch Broad City for the rest of my life. Listening to Rebel Girl by Kathleen Hanna. Reading Come As You Are by Emily Nagoski. Books do tend to stack up and collect dust. I’m trying!

The cassette tape is on Lost Sound Tapes

Records Jen Cannot Live Without:

Tiger Trap – S/T & Sour Grass
Lightheaded – Good Good Great
Henry’s Dress – Bust ‘em Green
Girl Ray – Prestige
Pretenders – S/T
Fastbacks – Very, Very Powerful Motor
Young Guv – I, II, III, IIII (basically anything he does)
Dolly Mixture – Demonstration Tapes
Kids on a Crime Spree – Fall in Love Not in Line
Of Montreal – Cherry Peel
Best of 1994: Boyracer – More Songs About Frustration & Self Hate
Best of 2024: Lightheaded – Combustible Gems

Preorder the Softies’ The Bed I Made, out August 23 on vinyl/etc.

Preorder the Softies’ The Bed I Made, out August 23 on cassette tape.

Order/preorder all the vinyl reissues on K Records here

Check out All Girl Summer Fun Band here

Listen to other Rose Melberg music here

Listen to Knife Pleats here

The Softies. Photo: C. Doughty
Set list from the Softies’ June 2023 show at Polaris Hall.
Vinyl reissue out now on K Records
Vinyl reissue out July 26 on K Records
Vinyl reissue out Sept. 6 on K Records
Grab a ticket ASAP, Glasgow!


The Softies Announce New Album, Tour, Reissues

The Softies (Rose Melberg and Jen Sbragia) have a new album, The Bed I Made, coming out on August 23!  Preorder the new album here on vinyl. Get the cassette tape here!

Watch the video here “I Said What I Said”

Read our 2023 interview with the Softies

Read our 2023 interview with All Girl Summer Fun Band

Get a copy of chickfactor 18, 2018, with a massive interview filled with memories and great photos

Read our 1993 interview with Tiger Trap here

Order the reissues of their first three albums on K Records here

The Softies by Alicia Rose

Tour dates: BUY TICKETS

July 27: Glas Goes Pop (Glasgow)
August 23: Record Release Show at Fox Cabaret, Vancouver BC (with Lake, Adrian Teacher)
August 24: Record Release Show at Polaris Hall, Portland OR (with Phone Voice + New Issue)
September 6: Record Release Show at Fremont Abbey, Seattle (with Seapony + Lisa Prank)
September 7: Record Release Show at Unknown, Anacortes (with New Issue)
Sept. 29: AS220, Providence, RI (with Zowy + Courtney & Brad + In Glove With Bach)
Sept 30: Crystal Ballroom, Boston, MA (with Jeanines + Zowy)
Oct. 2: Public Records, Brooklyn (with Rebecca Schiffman)
Oct. 3: PhilaMOCA, Philly (with Lightheaded + 22″ Halo)
Oct. 4: Songbyrd, Washington, D.C. (with Linda Smith + Emotional World)
Oct. 24: The Starlet Room, Sacramento, CA (with Anna Hillburg)
Oct. 25: Bottom of the Hill, San Francisco, CA (with Anna Hillburg + Stephen Steinbrink)
Oct. 28: Vine, Long Beach, CA (with Barbara Manning)
Oct. 29: Scribble, Los Angeles, CA (with Badlands + Rebecca Schiffman)
Oct. 30: SubRosa, Santa Cruz, CA (with Eve’s Peach)

Freshly reissued on vinyl by K Records, out Sept. 6
Freshly reissued on vinyl by K Records, out July 26
Freshly reissued on vinyl by K Records, available now

Chatting with the Softies About Their New Tony Molina Collaboration

The Softies with poutine / Photo: Heather Johnston

When we put The Softies on the cover of chickfactor 18 back in 2018, we had no idea they would be coming back together to MAKE A NEW ALBUM and TOUR! Just a few weeks before Rose Melberg and Jen Sbragia set out to play a short Pacific Northwest tour with Tony Molina and All Girl Summer Fun Band and Mo Troper, we asked them a few questions about how this all came to happen. The split cassette tape in the images below features the Softies covering Tony’s entire album Dissed and Dismissed and Tony covering three Softies tunes, will be available at the upcoming shows and is being co-released by Slumberland Records and Alicia Vanden Heuvel’s (Poundsign, the Aislers Set) label Speakeasy Studios. Interview by Gail

Chickfactor: Why Tony Molina?
Jen Sbragia
: I first heard Dissed and Dismissed when Rose played it for me in her kitchen, in 2017. At the time I wasn’t listening to any new music really and was just focused on other stuff. I was blown away because of the genre-blending and was a little jealous I hadn’t thought of it first! I just thought it was a genius blend of my two favorite kinds of music—crunchy, squealy, distorted guitars and perfect pop. Not to be too dramatic, but that record changed my life.
Rose Melberg: As Northern California natives, Jen and I both feel a deep connection to the California-ness of Tony’s music. It’s difficult to put a finger on what that means, it’s just a special kind of magic for us.

How did you guys and Tony M. know each other?
Rose: We had been in touch as mutual fans of each other’s work but only met in person the first time when Tony played in Vancouver in 2019. He and his band stayed at my house and he and I stayed up talking until 5am on my porch talking about life, music, songs, etc. There’s nothing like watching the sun rise together to solidify a friendship forever 
Jen: We met in person at the Oakland Weekender, but had been texting each other about music and guitar stuff. I got his number from Mike Schulman, because Tony isn’t on any social media and I just wanted to introduce myself as a label mate, make that connection, and to gush about how much I loved his music. It was funny and weird that we were all big fans of each other. There were loose plans for me to sing with him at the Weekender during his secret/surprise set, but it didn’t work out. I joked that we should collaborate and release a split 7″ on Slumberland so we could “play this thing next year”. And weirdly, something very similar is happening.

The Softies in the olden days / Photo: Hannah Sternshein

How did this mini tour / new tape come about?
Jen: He just texted me and asked if we wanted to play some PNW shows, simple as that. I wasn’t sure which band would work but then it became both Softies and AGSFB. The cassette was Mike and Alicia’s idea. 

Please explain what the record is, what format, how people can get it, etc.
Jen: It will be a cassette-only release, available at the merch table. Co-released by Slumberland and Speakeasy Studios. 

If you are willing to say anything, what is going on with the Softies?
: We’re writing new songs and will be putting out a new album in 2024.

New recording? Record deal? Shows? Etc.
+ Jen: All of the above!

The Softies with Alicia Vanden Heuvel and Gary Olson at CF20, Bell House, Brooklyn, 2012. Photo: Tae Won Yu

How has your songwriting (style, content, tools, etc.) changed from the olden days?
: Attending the Oakland Weekender after so long in quarantine was huge for me. Not only just traveling again and seeing old friends and live bands, but the prep I put in beforehand of researching all the bands and listening to new music again so that I would know the songs and be extra excited to see them played live. After I came home, I felt such renewed excitement about playing music again for the first time in years and my creativity sort of exploded. I started playing guitar every day, writing little riffs and bits of lyrics and songs, and shared the more Softies-esque ones with Rose. She is the true mastermind IMHO. She took those ideas and we made whole songs. She’s writing too, of course. So these new songs are more collaborative than ever before. 

We have had several songwriting trips over the past year where we traveled here and there to work on music. Often we would meet in Seattle because it’s a pretty good halfway point between Vancouver and Portland. We have been recording our new songs in demo format so we can each work remotely using Garageband, but we have time booked at Anacortes Unknown over the summer to record our new record.

Poster by Jen Sbragia (The Softies will not be playing in Eugene)

Can we expect to hear new stuff at the shows?
Jen: There are definitely some new ones on the set list.

What else is happening?
: Mostly practice! I agreed to do double duty, (which I have done before, Softies and AGSFB toured California 24-ish years ago) It never occurred to me that it might be too much for me presently—I was too excited. So now, that equals a LOT of practice. Practice is my middle name right now. But I couldn’t be happier. CF

chickfactor 18 with the Softies on the cover is still available in our shop as well as various other outlets including Quimby’s, K Recs, Jigsaw, My Vinyl Underground, Record Grouch, Main St. Beat, Grimey’s, Atomic Books, among others.

Follow the Softies on Instagram and Bandcamp here.

Poster by LD Beghtol

All Girl Summer Fun Band is back! 

Since Portland’s All Girl Summer Fun Band originally formed just to be a band during the summer of 1998, it’s pretty incredible that they are playing live in the summer of 2023. Now playing together as a trio (bassist Ari Douangpanya left in 2005 to focus on raising her son), AGSFB is now OGs Jen Sbragia, Kathy Foster and Kim Baxter. During the pandemic, Jen and Kim started playing together for fun, while Kathy leads a band called Roseblood and plays with Hurry Up and Slang as well. Since they kind of formed thanks to a Softies show way back when, it’s so great that the two bands will be playing together in early June (see flier below) in the Pacific Northwest! We are so excited to present a brand-new interview with AGSFB, who were featured in chickfactor 15 (2002) and played at our 10th anniversary soiree at Fez the same year. Interview by Gail O’Hara / Photos courtesy of All Girl Summer Fun Band

Chickfactor: what years were All Girl Summer Fun Band in action back then? 
Jen Sbragia
 (she/her): Summer of 1998 until our most recent show – May of 2010 at the SF Popfest (thanks, SongKick… I had no idea)
Kim Baxter (she/her): It’s so crazy that it’s been 13 years since we last played! When Kathy, Jen and I recently got together to practice for these upcoming shows, it felt like no time had passed at all. It was a pretty magical feeling, I didn’t realize just how much I had missed playing with them.

What is the current AGSFB lineup? 
Jen: Myself, Kathy, and Kim
Kim: People have been asking us why Ari isn’t playing these shows. She actually left the band in 2005 to raise her son, so AGSFB has been a 3-piece band ever since then. We are all still very good friends with her!

What was the impetus for starting up again? 
Jen: Kim and I have been playing together over the pandemic, outside in her covered breezeway between her house and her practice space. We were just doing it for fun, to flex those old music muscles again and chat and just interact with each other in person while taking care not to give each other any possible germs. Then Tony Molina asked us to play in June. We were excited to ask Kathy to join us, she said yes and we all got back together to practice, in the actual practice space.

How long have you been secretly playing together in recent years? 
Jen: Not secretly! Just spending time together in person and playing some old tunes and writing some new stuff. Seeing what happens.

How did you guys originally meet? 
Jen: I met Kim when her band Cherry Ice Cream Smile played with the Softies at Thee O Cafe in Portland, June 1997. She gave me her band’s cassette. Rose and I listened to it a ton as we drove across the US and back. I was like, I gotta hang out with this person and start a band. 
Kim: I was a huge fan of the Softies so getting to play a show with them and being able to give them a tape of my band was a big deal. But then they actually called me from the road and left me a message on my answering machine saying that they loved the tape and that I should hang out with Jen when she gets back from tour. I was over the moon! I actually still have the microcassette with that message from my answering machine. Jen & I instantly became good friends. A year later, Kathy moved to Portland from California, and we hit it off right away. The two of us recorded a couple of songs on my four track which eventually became two of the first AGSFB songs, “Broken Crown” and “Will I See You.” Ari and I both grew up in Albuquerque, NM, but didn’t become friends until she moved to Portland. I asked the 3 of them if they wanted to be in a band for the summer of 1998 and described it as an all-girl-summer-fun-band. No pressure, just a goofy & fun band. I was leaving to go to school in Russia that fall and figured it would be a project just for the summer. But we all decided to continue playing when I got home, and here we are, 85 years later, still a band! Ha!
Kathy Foster (she/her): Yes Kim brought us all together. She was one of the very first people I met (and stayed with) when I moved to Portland in May of 1998. I knew her then-boyfriend/now-husband from the Bay Area. We clicked right away and became friends. Soon after, we started AGSFB. As I remember it, Kim told me I was in a new band with her, Jen and Ari. Haha. And I said OK! I, too was a huge Softies fan and was stoked to play with Jen. Even though I had just met the three of them, we all had so much fun together right from the start!

What were some highlights and memories from the old days?
Jen: Spending half of practice just standing around with instruments plugged in and ready to go but then we’re just catching up, chatting, laughing. Getting to tour Europe! 
Kim: I love chatting at practice! We talk about anything and everything and sometimes we play a little music too. I loved all of our past shows, tours, and I absolutely love spending time in the studio with AGSFB.
Kathy: Same! I always thought it was so cool and special that we could talk, laugh and be ourselves so comfortably at practice. (It’s the same now, too!) There was no pressure, no agenda, no one dominating the conversation or creative process, no egos. Just a fun, creative, supportive atmosphere, which carried through everything we did together – playing shows, recording, touring. Recording and touring were always fun adventures.   

I love looking at the old photos from the first AGSFB era—lots of red, pale blue, gingham, pigtails/bunches. Did you guys have rules about stagewear? 
Jen: We tried to come up with color themes. We did all have gingham tops or outfits, so that happened at our first show. One time I found some deadstock Women’s uniforms in sort of an orangey color at thrift store somewhere and we wore those, I think? Also, we played a Halloween show where we all wore vintage prom dresses with zombie makeup. It was fun but then we stopped doing it after a while. It was nice to just wear whatever.
Kim: Kathy is so good at doing zombie makeovers! I want to play another Halloween show just so she can do zombie makeup for us!
Kathy: I love doing zombie makeup! Yeah, at first we tried to come up with a dress theme for every show. We also did a monochrome theme where we each wore a different color. Jen just posted some old show footage where we’re all wearing baseball tees. Mostly, though, we all kinda had a similar style that looked good together. 

Any good stories from tour in the early days?
Kim: We would often go on spring break tours down to California which I always loved because we had a lot of friends living in the Bay Area. It was also fun touring in Europe and of course we loved playing the Chickfactor show in NY in 2002. So many great memories.

Tour nightmares? 
Kim: Well, one night Jen, Kathy and I were driving home after playing a show in Tacoma, WA and we ran out of gas. These creepy guys pulled over and were shining lights in our van to see what we had. Luckily they didn’t try to steal anything and they finally just drove away but it was so flippin’ scary! 
Kathy: That was so scary! I still think about that when I drive past that area of I-5, and feel so relieved that nothing bad happened. There was also the tour down to California in my VW Vanagon where we had van trouble, and found out the van had a small gas leak. We got a fire extinguisher for the van and crossed our fingers that we’d make it back to Portland in one piece. I believe it was that same tour that Ari and I got tattoos at the parlor next door to the venue in San Pedro, CA. 

What bands are you in these days? 
Jen: As always, The Softies and AGSFB, but also—over the quarantine times I started recording little weird outbursts or jingle-type “songs” on my phone. It was just stupid stuff like me singing Go Brush Your Teeth to my kids and stuff like that. Rose and her husband Jon heard them when we were together during a Softies songwriting sesh and they encouraged me to release them as a weird solo project. So I have a Bandcamp for it called Yreka Bakery. It’s just a handful of weirdness mostly about my cat.
Kim: AGSFB & I’m also recording songs for another solo album (Kim Baxter Band) plus writing new songs with Jen but we’re not sure what they will be yet. Maybe a new project, maybe a new AGSFB album, maybe both!
Kathy: AGSFB (I wanna write new stuff!), Slang, Hurry Up. I’m working on releasing a solo album under the name Roseblood

How did the pandemic change you? How did it change Portland? 
Jen: Like many people, I was scared at first, then scared and bored, then scared and sick of living with my family all on top of each other. Online school was abysmal for my kids. Part of me kind of liked being a hermit. I grew a little garden, we painted rocks, I made overalls. I still wear masks a lot, but I’m dipping a toe back in here and there. Portland definitely seems different now, so many businesses that have closed. So many camps. It seems like this everywhere though. Not good.

Kim: It forced me to prioritize the things that mean the most to me, like playing music. I didn’t have a lot of energy to put toward music for a couple of years though because I was so stressed and worried most of the time. But we are lucky because we have a studio in our garage, so when I did have energy to get out there and play music, it helped me feel more grounded, nostalgic, and positive about something. ¶ Portland has been growing at a very fast pace which was already causing some issues, especially around housing. But then the pandemic hit, and it really exacerbated those problems. I’m hopeful that some positive solutions are found soon. I still love it here, but we have had our car stolen 4 times now and that just gets old after a while. 

Kathy: Like Kim, I didn’t have much energy to put toward music or writing, which was disappointing. I saw a post on Instagram that stuck with me that said: the pandemic is not a residency. Even though I wasn’t working, and I was fortunately getting unemployment, it wasn’t a relaxing or productive time. It was stressful not knowing what was happening or how long it would go on. I put energy toward working on a vegetable garden which I hadn’t done much of in the past, and just dealing. I also learned a few bike maintenance skills and fixed up a few things on my bike. I’m pretty introverted, which may sound weird since I’ve played tons of shows. The pandemic made me a bit more socially anxious but I’m starting to come out of that. Portland’s problems got really magnified during the pandemic—homelessness, drugs, mental health problems all got way worse and we’re still dealing with it today and trying to figure out solutions. 

What does Portland’s music scene feel like these days? Top acts? 
Kathy: I guess I’m the one who’s gone to shows the most in the last several years, but I still feel like I’m out of it. I don’t go to as many shows as I used to, that’s for sure, so I wouldn’t say I have my finger on the pulse. It still feels pretty much as vibrant as ever. We definitely need more all ages venues. Portland seems to have always struggled with that. There seem to be more country influenced bands these days, and not in any cheesy way. Bands I like are The Barbaras, Roselit Bone, Silver Triplets of the Rio Hondo, Fronjentress, Jenny Don’t and the Spurs, and the legend Toody Cole still plays. There are still tons of great pop and folk bands like Sunbathe, Arch Cape, Black Belt Eagle Scout, Terre Haunt; and great punk bands like The Ghost Ease, HELP, Dials, Divers, Dommengang, Love in Hell, Yuvees. A few of my top fave punk bands that are now broken up were Lithics, Mr. Wrong, and Ex-Kids. There are synth, noise, jazz and hip hop scenes too! Too many great acts to list. 

What else are you guys up to in 2023? Kids, pets, jobs, etc? 
Jen: My other job is freelance graphic design. My kids are tweens and doing good. We have the same ancient cat (long may she reign!) and a newly adopted bearded dragon we call Tobias Jordan. 
Kim: My husband and I own a small film production company. We have a teenage son who is so awesome, and I love spending time with him! I’ve been trying to spend more time sewing and making art. I also play a lot of futsal and I’ve been getting into bouldering. 
Kathy: I’m a part-time bookkeeper. I’m the only AGSFB member without human children, but I have a dog daughter named Ronette (Ronnie) who I adore. She’s two. I’m currently in the mastering phase of my solo album (Roseblood). Slang will probably be playing more later this year. Janet Weiss, who is in Slang, has been touring a lot the last few months with Quasi but they’ll be home soon. I’m starting to DJ a little more (DJ KM Fizzy). I DJed regularly and had a radio show (Strange Babes on XRAY FM) before the pandemic but have only DJed a couple times since. I also like to sew, make beaded jewelry, and I’ve been reading more this year. 

If you do have kids, what kind of music are they into? Do they know about your music past/present? What do they think? 
Jen: My kids’ music preferences are a mystery; they listen to and view stuff on YouTube mostly. They know how vinyl records work and how to hold ’em by the edges, so my work is done. (ha) My daughter wants me to pay for Spotify, but I just can’t bring myself to pull the trigger on that. They got to see me play a secret Softies set in Seattle (with the Umbrellas, who they loved) a few months back and they were so sweet. After each song I glanced over and they were waving and cheering, so sweet.
Kim: My son loves EDM and records his own music. He’s supportive of my music but I know it’s not his favorite style. When he was 3, we brought him with us on a European tour for my solo album. Since my husband and I both play music, it’s always just been a part of his life.
Kathy: Ronnie gets really relaxed when I sing to her or play music. 🙂

Got any crushes? 
Jen: I fall in love with people who make music I love. Always have. Matthew Rhys as Perry Mason could get it.
Kim: I have crushes on everyone finding time to make music and art after being so mentally exhausted by the pandemic and the craziness of the world. I see you and I’m cheering for you all! Oh, and I also totally have a crush on Diego Luna.
Kathy: Pedro Pascal like everyone else. 

What are you watching? 
Jen: Just finished reading Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell to my kids and now we are watching the 2015 miniseries. Also burning through Succession and Perry Mason.
Kim: I’m re-watching My So Called Life and Freaks and Geeks.
Kathy: The last show I was excited about was The Last of Us (hence the crush)I’m excited for the second season. 

What are you reading? 
Jen: Just started the His Dark Materials series with the kids.
Kim: I’ve been on a big Steinbeck kick lately. I read 8 Steinbeck novels back to back. I recently switched gears though and now I’m reading the Mötley Crüe book, The Dirt.
Kathy: I recently read two books by Kristin Hannah – The Four Winds and The Great Alone. Both were incredible. She was recommended to me by a friend. She has a long bibliography so I’m excited to read more by her. I’m currently reading Good Neighbors by Sarah Lanagan. I like it so far. 

What are you eating? Fave food carts? 
Jen: Just started going out for food again, so EVERYTHING is exciting. Our fave sushi is Kashiwagi PDX. I didn’t get the appeal of La Croix for the longest time but now I’m fully in the cult. Also I love diet coke.
Kim: There’s a food cart by my house that makes delicious food from Guam. It’s so good but they’re rarely open. 
Kathy: I get overwhelmed by the amount of food carts in Portland. There are so many that it’s hard to choose so I just freeze. Plus, I don’t eat out a ton. There’s a good Mexican & Yucatecan cart near me called Loncheria Los Mayas. I also go to the taqueria down the street from there called Santo Domingo. I’ve been on a protein smoothie kick lately. I make one most mornings. Other than, it’s kind of all over the place. I love all kinds of food. 

What are you most excited about doing on the upcoming tour? 
Jen: I hope I smile so much my face hurts. I miss playing shows so much!
Kim: Spending time with Jen & Kathy, seeing old friends, making new friends, putting smiles on other people’s faces. 
Kathy: Yeah, same. Just playing again, hanging out together, having fun, seeing friends, lots of smiles all around, and seeing The Softies! Omg.

Any special gear you are using these days to record? Learning new tricks? 
Jen: I got an EVO 4 interface so that I can record straight into an iPad using Garage Band. It’s been really helpful writing music remotely. I also got a BOSS loop pedal for experimenting with, and a Blues Driver pedal that seems perfect for beefing up those old clean-guitar songs a bit. 
Kim: I recently got the Data Corruptor pedal from Earthquaker for bass. I’m still learning to use it, it’s a beast. I currently just step on it at random moments during practice to make Jen & Kathy laugh. I also have been recording songs using a Poly D Analog Synth which I love!
Kathy: I been recording with Logic for the past few years. I recorded the Roseblood demos and album in Logic. When I made the demos, I was new to Logic and I found it to be a cool tool for songwriting. It helped me write songs in new ways by being able to mess around with all the different sounds it comes with – amps, instruments, effects and beats. 

What can we expect at the upcoming shows?
Jen: Maybe matching WILDFANG coveralls? And some new pedals. A mix of old songs. Not sure we have the time to get anything new together in time. 
Kim: Giggles, nerves & pure happiness!
Kathy: What Kim said! 

Please tell us about what music you are recording / making / practicing / selling for this tour.
Jen: Kim and I were writing some new songs when it was just the two of us. Now that Kathy is practicing with us, those songs might become new AGSFB songs. Mostly we are just trying to practice a set list of established songs, but who knows? Mike Schulman from Slumberland and Alicia Vanden Heuvel from Speakeasy Studios were talking about co-releasing a cassette of Tony and the Softies covering a few of each other’s songs just for this tour. A fun little limited edition gem. Well, Rose loves doing covers (if you haven’t heard her September cassette it’s incredible). So she learned ALL the songs on Tony’s Dissed and Dismissed. She laid down the guitar tracks and her vocals on her own, we recorded my vocals together during one of our many practice sessions, and then I did my guitar parts in my little office with my iPad. Tony did three Softies songs. We put so much of our hearts into covering his songs because we love him so much. I can’t wait for everyone to hear it.
Kim: I think we are close to finalizing our set for the upcoming shows. The bulk of it consists of songs from our album, 2. Plus some from the s/t album, some from “Looking Into It”, and maybe one from our first 7-inch.
Kathy: Not music, but we’ll have new t-shirts and buttons!

What’s on the turntable, er, bandcamp right now?
The Lost Days – In The Store
Chime School  – s/t
Lisa Prank – Perfect Love Song
Black Belt Eagle Scout – The Land, The Water, The Sky
OVENS – s/t
Weedrat – The Rat Cometh
Julia Jacklin – Crushing

The Muffs – “Lucky Guy”
Heavenly – “Space Manatee”
Pulp – “Mile End”
Tony Molina – “All I’ve Known”
Breeders  – “All Nerve”

Ribbon Stage – Hit With The Most
Various artists – Strange World (compilation of “cosmic and earthly Doo Wop and R and B from America and Jamaica released by Mississippi Records)
Quasi – Breaking The Balls Of History
Dateline podcast
Tig & Cheryl: True Story podcast

Photos: Michael Lavine
Photo: Todd Baxter

IPUC at 30! The International Pop Underground Convention Remembered by Those Who Were There on its 30th Anniversary

We asked a few folks to look back and try to remember what it felt like attending, organizing, and performing at the very influential International Pop Underground Convention, which took place August 20–25, 1991 in Olympia, Washington, was organized by Calvin and Candice from K Records, and featured a crazy good lineup including Beat Happening, Bratmobile, the Pastels, Jad Fair, Kicking Giant, Some Velvet Sidewalk, Bikini Kill, Nation of Ulysses, Sleepyhead, Scrawl, Nikki McClure, Rose Melberg and loads more. This type of festival became a blueprint and surely influenced our foray into party throwing a few years later. Some folks remember it as a magical utopian moment in time, others were stressed and disillusioned. Whatever those who attended felt, it was a pivotal moment for independent labels, great pop and punk music, and a spirit and community still with us today.

Convention pass courtesy of Rose Melberg

Did you attend the convention? What made you want to go? 
Nikki McClure: Yes. It felt like it would be the center of the world that week. I had a job in the mountains during the week (field ornithology) and threatened to quit when my boss wouldn’t let me take the week off as promised. He let me go and keep my job. I was willing to risk complete poverty for the Convention. My boyfriend at the time went to Europe with Nirvana to the Reading Festival. That moment felt like a cultural divide. Everything shifted in August 1991.
Erin Smith (Bratmobile): YES!  I was a major K kid from ’87 on, so it was a no-brainer I was going. That was the entire center of my universe—virtually EVERY band I loved at the time was playing IPU.  I was OBSESSED with Beat Happening! Bratmobile were asked by Calvin Johnson to play as well—a total dream come true!  Bratmobile were actually the only band to play 2 shows at IPU—both on Girl Night—8/20, and an early morning show with Kicking Giant and Jad Fair on 8/23.
Michael Galinsky: Sleepyhead got invited to play, largely due to Tae’s suggestion. I don’t think we even had a single out yet, maybe we did… it’s murky, but we had just done our first 10-day, 5-show tour that July. So, we were a little more prepared to play. I might have gone even if we weren’t playing, but I was also pretty broke so it would have been a big reach for me. Thankfully the awesome folks in Treehouse offered us a place to stay, which made it more possible. Allison from Bratmobile lent us her car to go pick up Rachael, our drummer, about two hours before we had to play. All went smoothly until we left the airport and realized we needed gas. She had given us the key to the car but not the gas key, which we discovered when we pulled over to get gas. Thankfully we made it into town and had to jump on stage shortly after we got there.

Memories from Lois Maffeo

Tobi Vail: Yes. I honestly don’t remember if I wanted to go or not. I mostly grew up in Olympia and I was a part of the K scene as a teenager but after I was assaulted by a stranger at 18 (in my first apartment in Eugene) what I perceived to be traditional gender roles and cute 1950s aesthetic of K no longer spoke to me (if it ever really did). I was in a band with Calvin (’85–89) as a teen and I looked up to him but that experience ended on a bad note. The year before IPU I was part of a feminist awakening of young women in the NW music scene, which eventually led to us starting riot grrrl. We were angry and pushing back against male domination and patriarchy and at that point I feel like most men in the Olympia music scene were threatened by us—exceptions were the teenagers in Unwound and the guys in Nirvana, who were super supportive. We had a little trouble communicating with K when they were distributing our self-released demo tape and ended up pulling it from their mail order to distribute on our own and I don’t think they understood why we wanted to control everything but that was really important to us at the time. So it was nice that the festival was organized by a woman (Candice) who became a co-owner of K. In retrospect I do appreciate that K sold our tape through their mail order and I appreciate their support but I wish that we had been able to communicate with them a little better about sales.
Ira Robbins: I was there and wrote about it in Rolling Stone, which earned me a death threat from Ian Svenonius.

Bratmobile photographed by Michael Galinsky

Had there been other festivals like this you’d been to before? What felt different about it? 
Nikki M: It really felt like a Convention and not just some shows. A Convention needed banners! So I made some from dyed sheets with sticks found on the old growth forests I was working in. I made them on the floor of the ranger cabin that I lived at during the week, rolled them up and headed to Oly then unfurled them from the windows of The Martin apartments. There was more happening than music. It was a collection of people forming an international underground community and network. It was important work.
Candice Pedersen (IPUC organizer/formerly K Records): I’d never been to a music festival or conference before. The IPU was designed so that the bands and the audience would come to us! But seriously, the IPU convention was a chance to be at a conference that was designed by the kids for the kids. 
Erin Bratmobile: Festivals for “our” brand of indie were not so commonplace at this point.  Of all things, I’d won tickets to the first Lollapalooza, so attended that in DC the SAME week as IPU, turned 19 that day, then flew to Olympia.
Tobi Bikini Kill: No.
Michael Sleepyhead: We went to a couple of others after this. Lotsa Pop Losers (which wasn’t as big but had a similar inclusive vibe) and Lollipops and Booze, which was more of a schedule of shows with a pass over the course of a week than a festival like this. So, no, this was a truly unique and powerful event.

Scrawl photographed by Rose Melberg

Organizers, what do you remember about putting it together? 
Candice Pedersen: Everything and nothing. I remember being adamant that the design should include blackberries as they are Olympia in August in a nutshell. I remember hand making the badges. I remember when it was proposed (not by us!) that there should be a “girl night” and worrying that if it was the first night no one would be there. Which was exactly what didn’t happen. It was the most electric night of the entire festival. I remember the Sub Pop BBQ—it was great to have them as part of the convention even if there wasn’t any food. 
Nikki M: I made banners. I helped Candice make invites. Calvin had issued a call to action which is still vital and raw. She wanted formal invites mailed to people. I made a blackberry vine image, which now seems fitting for those hot, sweet, thorn-scratched days.

Convention pass courtesy of Stephen Pastel

Performers, what did it feel like to be there? What were the fans like? 
Stephen Pastel: From our perspective just being invited was really exciting. It was the first time we’d played in the US and it was the first time we’d played a community type event on that scale. Everything about it seemed thought through, joined up—the groups, the audiences, the spaces, the city. We were so impressed by all the work that Calvin, Candice and their friends had put into it—it was so ahead of its time. I remember the Beat Happening show being incredible, seeing them at their best in a beautiful theatre space with an absolutely packed out audience just going wild for them.  It felt like we were at the epicentre of something new and the world had suddenly changed for the better.   
Rose Melberg: I remember going to my first punk show at 13. all guys of course. it was like Social Distortion and Battalion of Saints and I was standing in the back of the venue in Sacramento. I was tiny. I was up in the top and my first thought was: the safe place is on stage. I was terrified of what was happening in the pit but I wanted to be a part of that and I saw it in my mind. I was having all these ideas of what it would look like and feel like to sing in a punk band, just scream and be above everyone. it was my first punk show and that was the feeling I got. I wanted to be on the stage. partly out of fear and partly out of power but mostly because I wanted to be part of it so bad. I was 19 when got up onstage at IPU. I was terrified. I had a physical reaction to it. my hands shook violently. I wanted to get on that stage so bad but my body wouldn’t even let me. I had to kind of detach because I knew I wanted it so bad—even though my body was telling me “don’t do this”—I couldn’t even hold my guitar pick. I was so desperate to be included. I didn’t want to feel left out. I didn’t want to be in the audience. I wanted to be liked and acknowledged and heard (from chickfactor 18, interview with the Softies).
Nikki M: This was also my first time performing. I sang a few songs at Girl Night, the songs I sang in the woods to ward away bears. It was powerful to hear those songs fill the theater. Those 5 minutes were life altering.The theater was packed. It was the first night and every one was so eager and open to possibility. We were creating our own world.
Michael Sleepyhead: It was wonderful to be there, but no one had even heard of us so it was kind of like going to a film festival with your first film, where you don’t know a lot of folks. Although, this was a little different as we knew a couple of the bands from their visits to NY and we had Tae to make some introductions. It was fun to play for sure, but also kind of hard to do an outdoor show when we had never done anything remotely like that. We were young and excited and it just meant a ton to us to be invited into the community. 

Bikini Kill photographed by Rose Melberg

Tobi Bikini Kill: Bikini Kill got to play the festival but we were added late and had to play an afternoon show on a small stage. I feel like someone from DC got us on the bill at the last minute but I really can’t be sure. I remember feeling kind of bummed that we didn’t get to play with Nation of Ulysses who we had been on tour with and spent the summer with in DC but I was happy that we got to play. Unfortunately, we didn’t have a chance to practice that summer as Kathi, our bass player, had gone to Europe by herself. It was a hard show for us. We weren’t ready and had a lot of equipment trouble but I think some of it was pretty good.
Erin Bratmobile: Girl Night especially was completely intense.  The stuff of legend now!  The launching point for so much.  Heavens 2 Betsy played their first ever show at IPU—Rose Melberg as Tiger Trap, too.  So I got to witness both Corin Tucker and Rose Melberg’s first times on stage.  I remember Corin coming up to me after the show and complimenting me on the Bratmobile set.  It was all so new to me, too—I had no idea how to respond!  

Beat Happening photographed by Rose Melberg

Fans, what do you remember loving about it? 
Nikki M: Probably many Performers were Fans 90% of the time. I remember dancing and responding to the immediacy of sound and to the intimacy of hanging out with those who just made you dance so crazy afterwards. It was a Convention, We were all attendees, not so much fan or performer.
Michael Sleepyhead: As a fan I was blown away by seeing a lot of bands I had only heard about, like Bikini Kill, Jad with the Pastels was amazing. Seeing Beat Happening play to a packed house that was all in was astounding. Nation of Ulysses was on fire. the Bratmobile Kicking Giant show was inspiring. It was also nice that the whole thing felt very community focused.
Erin Bratmobile: Olympia is magic.  Being able to just WALK and see every band I loved over the course of a week was wild. All of my heroes were playing!  When Stephen Pastel asked to borrow my Sears Silvertone amp—well, he was a hero of mine to say the least.  Just a couple years before I was buying my first Pastels album, and now, not only was I playing the same festival of them, Stephen liked my amp?! There was not a whole lot of divide between the bands and the fans. The bands were fans, too!
Tobi Bikini Kill: I lived across the street. It was overwhelming. People kept coming over to my teeny tiny apartment. It was nice to have friends in town but there was no escape. I don’t remember the fans, it seemed like everyone here was in a band and it was just like people in the audience getting up on stage and vice versa. That was pretty cool.
Rich Siegmeister: I was friends with Sleepyhead but they made their own arrangements and I traveled there by myself. I needed a hotel. K records was offering to help and it sounds crazy now but they randomly placed people together. I ended up in a room with a nice guy. We didn’t hang out much together but when it came time to sleep, he came out in silvery silk pajamas. We were each in our single beds but crazy. Also I was hanging outside talking to some nice people from New Zealand. I was telling them how I loved the Clean and the Chills and this all girl group Look Blue Go Purple. They got a look on their faces and then one of them yelled out “Lizzie you got a fan.” A member of the band was there and couldn’t believed I was listening to them.

Sleepyhead photographed by Michael Galinsky

It was a very exciting new fresh time for music and culture: What did the community feel like then and is some of it still intact for you? 
Candice P: The community felt intimate and yet also disparate. Everyone was together but still had their own thing going, which I appreciate. I wouldn’t say the community from then is still intact for me. But, many of the friendships I had then and made then are still the most important friendships I have today. And many faded as they do.
Erin Bratmobile: It’s hard to understand in retrospect, and it might not even be fully understood unless you were there, but IPU was like the big bang and really everything came from that in a lot of ways. It’s all still totally intact. Friendships formed over that week for so many have been life long. It was life changing, and that’s not hyperbole.
Michael Sleepyhead: That community is still foundational for me. Tae drew the cover for our first single and he designed my photo book two years ago. I went on to make films but my foundational community is still the music one. It is wildly more open and supportive than the film world. 
Nikki M: The community was always present then and possibilities were always blooming. Now that spirit is there, but things aren’t nearly as spontaneous or untamed. It feels like it might just be me, but I think we all are thinking that…maybe? We all have embers we carry from that time and still use in our lives.
Tobi Bikini Kill: For me it was a little bit of a sad time. Nirvana wanted to play and they were not allowed because they had signed to a major label. The ’80s were ending and the ’90s were starting. L7 were great. I was confused that they got to play but Nirvana didn’t. I remember wishing that they didn’t sign but understanding why they did. I didn’t think we needed corporations to buy and sell our music and I think that was kind of the main idea of IPU.

Photograph by Michael Galinsky

What performances do you remember? New artists discovered? 
Candice P: I love all my children equally. 
Erin Bratmobile: I STILL hear IPU stage banter replaying in my head.  Thee Headcoats: “Oh, fuck your mother.” L7: “Keep your elbows off the knockers!!” The Bikini Kill set was absolutely revolutionary. The Mummies were incredible! I remember heading straight to the pit—all of Bikini Kill and all of Bratmobile together—to watch the Nation of Ulysses.  After their blistering performance, I remember James Canty coming back out onstage to humbly announce the release of their first record.  I was SO PROUD!  
Tobi Bikini Kill: Bratmobile played two sets I think and they were very good. Heavens To Betsy at girl night were incredible. Mecca Normal were great, as always. I remember being excited The Pastels were going to play but I would have been more excited to have seen them a few years earlier when they were still one of my favorite groups. Nation of Ulysses was my favorite group at the time but I remember Thee Headcoats as being the best group at IPU by far. They had played Olympia the year before and both shows were nuts. I think the band I discovered at the fest is The Mummies—they were so good and fun and funny. Fugazi was great too.
Nikki M: Fugazi. Heavens to Betsy. Rose. Jad Fair. Beat Happening. I Scream Truck. Nation of Ulysses. The Pastels. Cake walk. A picnic with no food.

Slim Kill Rock Stars, Rose Melberg and Al Some Velvet Sidewalk (photo courtesy of Rose)

What was the vibe in general? 
Candice P: For me the vibe was hectic. The Pastels were staying in my apartment, I had to co-host the event, and I was trying to spend time with friends. The time flew by. I was supposed join the Pastels on their west coast tour after the convention but I was too exhausted/sick to go. Chris Jordan so kindly took my place at the last minute. 
Nikki M: Festive. Spontaneous. After this past year, it seems fantastical that we once so freely mingled and danced and ate cake. It was powerful. All dreams became possible.
Tobi Bikini Kill: A little stressful. Like too much going on at once. It was also very odd to have people not from here acting like it was quaint or cute or utopian or something and not really understanding where they were. By 1991, Olympia was no longer a milltown but the brewery was still here. It was still pretty working class, the center of southwest Washington, which was populated by loggers and timber workers. It was a kind of rough place to live if you were nonconformist. The Evergreen State College is a public school and very progressive but it’s very small. Olympia never really was a liberal college town because the population of students has always been just a few thousand and my impression is that most people who end up going there are kids from the NW who couldn’t afford or get into a more expensive school. Local kids who went to punk shows and hippies from Evergreen got targeted and bullied and physically assaulted by guys in pickup trucks downtown. The IPU people didn’t really seem to notice any of that. Also it rains more than 150 days a year in Olympia and it was very sunny that week. It all seemed like a dream.

Tae Kicking Giant photographed by Michael Galinsky

Why do you think there was this link between D.C. and Olympia? Was it down to individuals or was it just a shared ethos? 
Nikki M: Both! Individuals sharing an ethos but with differences between the East and West. Both explored and created cultural freedom. For the Cake Walk, Cynthia Connolly (DC and Dischord) made a vegan chocolate cake topped with freshly picked blackberries, if I remember correctly. That cake seemed the perfect pairing of the 2 sides of the country.
Candice: It’s a shared ethos. 
Erin Bratmobile: I think it began as certain individuals and grew to be a shared ethos.  Calvin Johnson lived in Bethesda, MD, in the late ’70s/early ’80s, so was involved in the DC punk scene before going back to Olympia and Evergreen. Then the cross-pollination of the scenes continued. DC had great record stores like Yesterday & Today that stocked K titles, and Calvin visited family in the DC area all through the ’80s into the early ’90s, always bringing along records and making more connections. I connected with being a K and indie kid before I then grew to intensely love Dischord and the DC underground. Nation of Ulysses and Fugazi were my gateway drug in that regard, if that makes sense!
Tobi Bikini Kill: Olympia is the capital of Washington so there are a lot of natural connections—one of them being that Calvin went to high school in both places.
Michael Sleepyhead: I think it was both the shared ideals and the musical influences created a strong cross current that made sense—I felt like going on tour was like being in the pony express. Bands carried information and ideas from one town to the next and in some ways DC and Oly were kind of the terminuses at the end of the routes.

Rose Melberg, the very first time she ever got onstage or sang into a microphone. (Photo courtesy Rose)

Was it covered by mainstream media then and if so, did they get it? 
Nikki M: Who cared? We were mostly happy to outnumber the logging trucks.
Tobi Bikini Kill: Yes and no.
Candice: I think there was national media outside of indie fanzines. I remember Ira Robbins wrote something. But, if people “got it” or not didn’t concern me. “It” was something for different for everyone. And, I didn’t care if media got what it was to me.  

The Pastels photographed by Rose Melberg

Is there anything else you remember? 
Candice: I don’t remember meeting Scotty but he remembers meeting me (I asked him how old he was!). But, I’m glad we were both there because one year later we started dating and 29 years later we’re still together. 
Nikki M: Driving with Calvin to the Sup Pop picnic but there was no food left. People signing the back of the Kill Rock Stars albums like they were yearbooks with the silkscreen ink still a bit tacky. Melvins at the park. Blueprint posters taped to my door fading over time. Was this the festival that the theater cat peed on the shirts?
Erin Bratmobile: The first Kill Rock stars comp came out on vinyl the week of IPU, all hand silkscreened covers, with no time even to put the art on the back yet. So all of the copies given to the bands that were on the comp had hand done covers and blank backs. Several of us, myself included, got autographs of the other bands on the blank backs, high school yearbook style. 
Tobi Bikini Kill: The first Kill Rock Stars compilation came out at IPU. The front was silkscreened and the back was blank so everyone used the back like a yearbook and signed each other’s records. That was pretty cool. 
Michael Sleepyhead: I don’t have a good tactile memory. Thankfully I have pictures, though not nearly enough from that event. What I do recall was that the whole summer felt the beginning of something for me. It takes a lot of hope to start a band and then commit to it in the way that we felt we needed to. The summer before we had moved to Providence to live together. It wasn’t an easy transition but we muddled through and became more of a band. We started to play out in NY a lot which connected us with NY bands like flying saucer, ruby falls, antietam, and many others. II spent months booking that first tour which we went on a few weeks before IPU. On that trip we met some incredibly creative people and that just changed my life. Then we went out to Olympia and that sense of being part of a community became some much more profound.

See more photos of IPUC by Michael Galinsky here.

Rachel Kicking Giant (photographed by Rose Melberg)
The Pastels with Jad Fair (photographed by Rose Melberg)
Bratmobile with Michelle Noel (photographed by Rose Melberg)
Some Velvet Sidewalk (photographed by Rose Melberg)

Sleepyhead (photographed by Rose Melberg)
Kicking Giant (Photographed by Michael Galinsky)

rewind 2020: top whatever lists from artists, writers and musicians (round one)

Erin Moran (a.k.a. A Girl Called Eddy)

Best things about 2020: 

The Dodo on Instagram. Heartwarming stories about our animal buddies. Kept me sane(ish). 

* Flaming Lips, American Head

* New sink/faucet/counter action in my apartment. Cheap and cheerful but what a difference in my “quality of life”

* Wine

* Finally getting my new record out. Yay. 

* Being alive. All the rest is gravy. 

John Jervis (WIAIWYA)

Ten obsessions during lockdown

Broken Greek by Pete Paphides – lovely, just lovely, but you all know this, right?… you no doubt all have it already, and have been similarly enjoying it (both physically, and as an audiobook) throughout lockdown, listening to the accompanying playlist, thinking about your own childhood, remembering your own teen music obsessions… also, not bragging, but the last gig I went to was the book launch (Chrissie Hynde! David Arnold! Mike Batt! – basically, a better lineup than Live Aid) and the last non-partner hug I had was from Pete!

Jackie Mittoo – working from home has meant listening to more music during the day, and after a few weeks of trying different playlists to see what was easiest to work with (I went through a lot of Dungeon Synth, ’60s soundtracks, and ambient tracks), I settled on instrumental reggae, ska, rocksteady and dub, which in turn has led to a minor obsession with Jackie Mittoo records… solid gold…

Spun Out of Control – a cassette label that went vinyl during 2020 – broadly they release creepy electronic not-soundtracks to nonexistent horror films that have become the actual soundtrack to a LOT of walks through empty West London streets this year… treat yourself to the Sleepers by Hattie Cooke:

Double Deckers – “The chocolate bar is structured in two layers; a lightly whipped nougat layer, with a lower layer of cereal “crispies,” these are then coated in milk chocolate”… need I say more?

Disaster films – this year I’ve been watching a LOT of worlds ending, buildings collapsing, planes crashing, volcanoes erupting, diseases spreading, boats sinking and SHARKS… the Poseidon Adventure is the best one

Singing Streets app – I tend to walk the same streets for my daily exercise, it’s just easier not having to think… the Singing Streets app was launched at the start of September, and I found out, among other things, that Bryan Ferry’s Studio (where Prince recorded!), the house where Freddie wrote BoRap and the caff off the front of Common People were all on my daily route… I branched out to walks from where Dan Treacy went to school to where Syd Barrett lived (via the Troubadour, David Gilmour’s old flat, the Nashville Rooms and the Beggars Banquet shop) and from the studio where Buzzcocks recorded “What Do I Get?” and “Orgasm Addict” on 9 Sept 1977 to the place Bolan died one week later.

Discogs – Finally catching up with adding all my records to Discogs, realising how much utter rubbish I have, having a clear out, and using the money from any sales to treat myself to deluxe versions of Saint Etienne albums, and…

Paul Collins  I Don’t Fit In, the Paul Collins autobiography was announced over the summer, copies came with a 7-inch but postage from the states was crippling… a discogs sale for exactly the value of the book, record and postage, came in and I bought the book, all in a couple of minutes… I listened to a LOT of the Nerves this year too…

Joy Division – I’ve always dismissed them as a not-as-good OMD, with a good song I’m a bit bored of (you know the one) and a great song that keeps getting better (Atmosphere), but a combination of the Stephen Morris book (excellent, really funny, tragic) and the Transmissions podcast narrated by Maxine Peake has led to a reappraisal, and finally listening to a pair of 40-year-old albums… turns out they’re pretty good (not as good as OMD though)… 

Very early pre-orders – ordering records, forgetting about them, and getting them in the post months later is great… in 2020 new ones from Taylor Swift and Kelly Lee Owens arrived as a surprise, as well as the reissue of Sisters by the Bluebells, and Forever by the Spice Girls… I’ve just checked, and there is still a Pye Corner Audio box set, the new Insides LP and another from Taylor Swift in the pipeline… roll on 2021

Photograph of Nikki by Gail O’Hara

Nikki McClure (artist)

10 people I want to hug as tight as I can and I’m not much of a hugger

1. Lois Maffeo and I will eat tamales with her

2. My sisters who are quite far away

3. Oscar Soule, my college botany teacher who just dropped off raspberry jam

4. Amber Bell because she would then pass it on for me to everyone in Portland

5. My Mailman Craig who I repeated his name all day to remember it.

6. Marena at the Farmers Market who sells me bread every week and I put it in my basket that her Father made

7. Tina Herschelman and hopefully she is wearing cashmere

8. Aaron Tuller at Buyolympia because he’s not a hugger either

9. My Mother because she’s my Mother

10. Doctors and Nurses and Teachers and Grocers and Delivery Drivers. I think I heard another van pull up at my neighbor’s. I will hug my neighbor too and we will dance in the street.

Selfie by SM; Shirt: Boredwalk. Hat: Bailey of Hollywood. Specs: Schnuchel

Stephin Merritt

Ten records I’ve been listening to obsessively this year, in descending order of repeats: 

Huerco S.: For Those of You Who Have Never (And Also Those Who Have) (2016) [hundreds] 

Gas: Rausch (2018) 

Roisín Murphy: “Murphy’s Law” (2020) 

Radio Dept: Passive Aggressive: Singles 2002–2010 (2011) 

Toumani Diabaté: The Mandé Variations (2008) 

Chris and Cosey: Trance (1982) 

Slowdive: Souvlaki (1993) 
[at least twenty] 

The Durutti Column: Another Setting (1983) 
[at least ten] 

Sun Ra: Strange Strings (1967) 

Various Artists: Congotronics 2: Buzz ‘n’ Rumble from the Urb’n Jungle (2006) 

Photo of Lois by Gail O’Hara

Lois Maffeo

6 Women I’d Like to Personally Thank (I Was Trying for 10, but I Am Nearing Deadline)

Marcy Mays
I’d like to thank you for your cowboy boots and for always being full-on ready to rock. Scrawl Forever!

Heather Lewis
Thank you for coming up with my favorite drumbeat. Interested listeners may refer to “Midnight A Go Go” by Beat Happening to hear it.

Sara Lund
The best drummers in the world have an idiosyncratic system of timing. Is it in their head, their hands or their feet? Wherever it stems from, Sara Lund’s drumming in Unwound not only withstood the art-damaged time signatures of Justin Trosper and Vern Rumsey—she elevated it. 100% fucking genius musician.

Stella Marrs
Since we’re on the subject of drummers, has any performance more radically changed my views on and understanding of performance than Stella playing a snare drum with hands holding stiletto pumps? Her voluminous influence on visual and graphic art is well known, but she also resides in my life as a continual handmaiden to my blown mind.

In 1984, I lived in Portland, Oregon, and walked across downtown to Satyricon once a week for a poetry night organized by Walt Curtis (who was inspiration for the older protagonist of Gus Van Sant’s Mala Noche.) It was more or less an open mic in which self-serious poets from Reed College would recite their verse and aging gay men would yell at them. (“You are an abortion!” was a favorite taunt I heard there.) One consistent feature of this weekly event was the pre-intermission arrival to the stage of a late-middle-aged woman named Kathleen, who would sing (a capella) the 1961 hit “Norman” and then return to her seat next to her ever-changing (yet gentlemanly) elderly date. Each of the 7 or 8 times I heard her sing it, it was so pure. And never once was it not entirely cheered on and welcomed by the otherwise vicious crowd. She is unforgettable to me and I wish I’d had the good fortune to get to know her.

Gilmore Tamny
A friend had a copy of Wiglet in his apartment and I picked it up to scan the contents, thinking it was a music zine. In it, there was a cartoon about having a job where you had to drive around all over the place and knock on people’s doors. But the panels ended before the actual job was named. So I wrote a letter to the zine address in Columbus, Ohio, and asked if the job had been delivering flowers or pizzas. I received a note in return that said, “I was a process server.” That brief letter of reply (in 1985?) brought Gilmore Tamny into my life and from then on she has been a total heroine to me. Who else can make a shitty job into a thrilling zine cliff-hanger? Who else can convince me to go on a 1-show tour, in order to drive to Columbus, OH and play at an All Girl All Star Hoedown? (With Scrawl! See above!) And who has combined metal chops and chutzpah in bands the Yips, Weather Weapon and in her side gig as a spokesmodel for the Mystery? And who follows their idle thoughts of, “Hmmm…maybe it would be interesting to become an expert in art theft and forgery?” into REALITY??? Musician, artist, novelist, poet, promoter and Bostonian Gilmore Tamny, that’s who. All hail.

Thank you, brilliant women. 

Photograph by Meredith Heuer

Daniel Handler (a.k.a. Lemony Snicket)

Books of Poetry I found especially useful this year:

Gwendolyn Brooks – Blacks

Anslem Hollo – Sojourner Microcosms

Robert Fernandez – Scarecrow

Samuel Amadon – Listener

Louis MacNeice – Autumn Journal

Caroline Bird – The Hat Stand Union

Ada Limon – The Carrying

Atsuro Riley – Romey’s Order

Elizabeth Bishop – Questions of Travel

whoever wrote Gilgamesh – Gilgamesh

Rachel Blumberg and Jeffrey Underhill (artists, musicians)

Top ten favorite foods we made in 2020 that gave us some slivers of happiness.

1. enchilada lasagna

2. cullen skink

3. bacalao gommes

4. vegetable shepherds pie

5. kedgeree

6. grilled scallops

7. pan con tomate with garden tomatoes

8. sourdough discard biscuits with fig jam

9. eggplant parmesan

10. gingerbread pancakes

Gilmore (left); Weather Weapon photo by Sasha Pedro

Gilmore Tamny (Weather Weapon)

10 Things That Happened, I Noticed, Were Important to Me, or Were Merely Novel

This list does not include my shock, horror, and despair of the wider world. Take that as writ. 

1. passed a dear friend on the street without recognizing her due to masks and fogged-up glasses 

2. drew chinchilla plotting to destroy a Chihuly 

3. thought New England spring 2020 tulip game absolutely outstanding

4. discovered the way I express love to my petfriend is to continually fret about their wellbeing and contentment, and the way I experience work anxiety is a tiny tasered sensation everytime I hear that arriving email bingbong 

6. started a taut psychological thriller

7. took a class on Sea Monsters

8. thought about hypocrisy all the time—mine, yours, the world

9. FOOD: a) tried to bring iceberg lettuce back into my life b) bought a croissant crust frozen pizza, made a big deal about it, thought about doing a Zoom roundtable where we try/discuss en masse, but it still lays in my freezer withering c) discovered there is no room at the adjective inn for Snickerdoodle-flavored popcorn 

10. had a fling with nonfiction: The Great Beanie Baby Bubble: The Amazing Story of How America Lost Its Mind Over a Plush Toy—and the Eccentric Genius Behind ItMy Friend Anna, and Children of Ash and Elm. All highly recommend (not necessarily pub this year BTW).

Oed Ronne (The Ocean Blue)

Top Ten Episodes of The Rockford Files

1.      The Farnsworth Stratagem

2.      Quickie Nirvana

3.      In Pursuit of Carol Thorne

4.      The Girl in the Bay City Boys Club

5.      The Mayor’s Committee from Deer Lick Falls

6.      The Oracle Wore a Cashmere Suit

7.      The Becker Connection

8.      Requiem for a Funny Box

9.      Dwarf in a Helium Hat

10.    If the French Heel is Back, Can the Nehru Jacket Be Far Behind?

Portland photo by Gail O

Chickfactor editor in chief Gail O’Hara

Top Ten Things I Miss About Portland

1. Eating! Especially at Back to Eden Café (RIP), Harlow, Kati Thai, Luc Lac, Maruti, the Sudra, Supernova, Cedo’s, Eb & Bean, Tarai Thai, Modern Times, including delicious big bowls at Bye & Bye and Sweet Hereafter, the best falafel and hummus and pickled veggies in the entire world at Cedo’s, the vegan pizza at Red Sauce, Pizza Jerk and Virtuous Pie, the hummus at Aviv, the breakfast, reubens and burgers from Off the Griddle, oh so many things! I’ve probably already lost a stone by being gone (not really). I wish I could order takeout of everything and have it delivered. Vegan heaven. Comfort food capital of the world.

2. Playing indoor futbol with my team The Crusty Punks. They are the best! After 9 months of not playing, I feel sad and less powerful.

3. Chanting my head off at Portland Thorns games (also so sad that I won’t be seeing Crystal Dunn play a bunch of home games; also sad that Tobin Heath is technically no longer a Thorn; I will miss seeing Christine Sinclair and Lindsey Horan play a ton) I am starting a covert Rose City Riveters supporters group in my current home town if anyone wants to join. #BAONPDX

4. Screaming like a banshee and jumping up and down and swinging my scarf at Portland Timbers games; I never truly understood the meaning of sports until I became a fan of this team in 2011. My love for them; their love for the fans; the love affair between the Timbers Army and the players, so pure, so magical. The Magic Is Real. #RCTID

5. Karaoke!! Especially at Voicebox with like 8 of my friends. My standards: “99 Red Balloons,” “Buffalo Stance,”  and I miss the group scream-along to any B-52s tune.

6. Beulahland: my footie-watching local, where I wasn’t crazy about the food but I dug the atmosphere, the people, the vending machine and the left-wing history. (sings) “Where everybody knows your name…” 

7. Toffee Club! It was such a fun place to watch women’s futbol, like the Thorns and the USWNT, plus the cider selection and the people were so great. We all used to DJ there a few years ago. I guess I miss living in SCUSA (Soccer City USA): ya think?

8. Walking in parks with friends! Especially in Laurelhurst and Mt Tabor, the general overwhelming blossoming fertile bucolic pastoral beauty of the Pacific NW, the elephants and seals at the zoo, and the Japanese Garden and International Rose Test Garden. So much beauty.

9. Venues! There were three venues that I treasured the most: Doug Fir, which is ideal in terms of size, sightlines, coziness, sound, and everything. It’s underground and looks like a softly furnished log cabin. Mississippi Studios, which is just a wonderful space in every way, though I never was able to set up shows at either sadly. And of course Bunk Bar, which is the greatest in terms of working with them on events, they feed the bands fancy tater tots and big sandwiches, they pay artists properly and are easy to work with. The shows we did set up there were epic. 

10. Record stores! Bookshops! Powell’s. Old movie theaters! Dive bars. Bridges and rivers.

11. My friends! Their dogs! Their yards. Their support and company and conversation. Still can’t quite accept that I’m not going back. (I know I’ll fall in love with my new home but I feel like life is in limbo so…)

Photograph of Jen by Gail O’Hara

Jen Sbragia (The Softies, All Girl Summer Fun Band, chickfactor designer)

1. Feeding and viewing hummingbirds on my porch
2. Walking through deep puddles in old rainboots that I have mended with goo I bought from the internet
3. Listening to podcasts about crimes and/or terrifying stories and then podcasts about self-help and mindfulness whilst cooking.
4. Coffee
5. Avoiding sugar long enough that a consuming a small chunk of dark chocolate feels like snorting a line of something
6. Fashion Plates and colored pencils
7. Potatoes in all forms
8. Snuggling with calm children
9. Not putting on jeans for almost a year and also witnessing the death of the skinny jeans trend and being like, “cool… bye”
10. Porch dates

Photograph of Sukhdev by Gail O’Hara

Sukhdev Sandhu

What I did in 2020

Switched off the news.

Followed Peter Terzian on Instagram as he shared and contemplated photographs of himself. One a year up until the present. (He’s a very handsome 52.)

Wiggled around in the kitchen while listening to Jarvis Cocker’s Saturday-night Domestic Disco DJ sets in the spring.

Caught up with The World At War. All 26 episodes and 47 years after it was made.

Cheered on Sander Bos and Esther Perbandt in the first series of Making The Cut. Mittel-European fashion designers really do trump American ones.

Went to Germany, embraced lido culture, and took up cycling.

Missed drinking through the night with strangers at Milano’s on New York’s East Houston Street.

Bought lots of records from Monorail in Glasgow and Discreet (a.k.a. ‘New Sounds of Swedish Underground’) in Gothenburg.

Listened to Mikey Kirkpatrick’s daily live flute improvisations on Wild Lakes Radio.

Wandered through forests looking for deer and pondering the past and the future.

Watched lots of ski jumping and took up sledding.

Sent Christmas cards for the first time in three decades.

Dawn Sutter Madell (Agoraphone)

I found it hard to concentrate on much besides music, but here is a top 10 list of things that distracted me from 2020

1. ancestry deep dives
2. schitt’s creek (which I had never watched)
3. true crime (podcasts, doc-series)
4. gardening for myself
5. gardening for others
6. freaks and geeks re-watch
7. running
8. Cassi Namoda art 
9. His Dark Materials (the show)
10. cbd

Photograph of Jeffrey by Gail O’Hara

Jeffrey HoneyBunch

13 Highlights in a Low-Life Year 

1 Gonsalves Portuguese Seasoning (an indispensable part of our pantry)
2 Open E Tuning (courtesy of Johnny Marr’s “Headmaster Ritual” guitar tutorial on YouTube. Now I use it on everything, just like the Portuguese seasoning)
3 Arch Cape, Oregon
4 Kamala Harris
John was Trying to Contact Aliens doc. on Netflix
6 Anarchist Jurisdictions (There were no delays getting our Holiday packages either to or from Portland—go figure.)
7 Michael Galinsky’s photo archives
8 KMUN Coast Community Radio, Astoria, Oregon (especially the rockin’ Backbeat program, and the ship report)
Strum & Thrum: The American Jangle Underground 1983–1987 compilation (Captured Tracks)
10 City of Dreams: a tasty unfiltered/citrusy pale ale from Ft. George Brewery in Astoria, OR.
11 Takeout Cocktails: an idea whose time has come, and hopefully outlasts the pandemic.
12 O & H Bakery’s Almond Kringle: Maybe the sweetest thing to ever come out of Racine, WI
13 Cawston Press’s Rhubarb soda (hard to pick a favorite flavor—their Elderflower Lemonade is also right up there.)

Evelyn (left). Photograph courtesy of Cotton Candy

Evelyn Hurley (Cotton Candy)

Top 10 walks & bike rides I made in 2020

#10- The walk from my house to Central Square, Cambridge. A utilitarian walk usually made to complete chores.

#9- The walk from my house to Whole Foods on Beacon St., Somerville. The sidewalks are usually really crowded, and there seems to be a lot of pedestrians who don’t know how to socially distance and also share the sidewalk, and the intersection at Inman Square is kind of annoying. But other than that, it gets me where I need to go pretty quickly. 

#8- The bike ride from my house to my office. Thankfully there wasn’t as much traffic as usual, and it’s not a relaxing or easy bike ride, but it was nice to be back in the office even if it was only for one day a week.

#7- The walk from my office to the library stacks. I used to think it was ordinary, now I find it exhilarating! 

#6- The walk from my office to Trader Joe’s and the Trillium beer garden. I always come back to work with delicious goodies in my bags!

#5- The walk along the beach in South Boston with my friend Viktoria and her adorable dog.

#4- The walk up Buffalo or Seneca Street in Ithaca, NY. It’s a brutal hike up this street, but you get your entire workout ring closed and it’s a thrill to successfully achieve the hike!

#3- The walk from my house to the Cambridge Brewing Company, two blocks away.

#2- The bike ride from the Provincetown Ferry to Race Point Beach, Cape Cod. I only did it once this summer, but it was hard and totally rewarding.

#1- The daily walk I took from my house over the Longfellow Bridge and back. I’d head out after WFH was done, or I’d finished making dinner, this jaunt was my daily dose of sanity. I’d listen to books on tape, podcasts like “Rock and Roll Film Club,” new music, Folklore” from TS was in heavy rotation, or I’d talk to friends on the phone.  I have far too many pictures of the sunsets, which were often technicolor and always gave me hope.

Hope 2021 is good for everyone and we are all healthy and safe.

chickfactor 18 is out now

we are excited to announce chickfactor 18, a new limited-edition print issue of the fanzine featuring big, fun interviews with:


chickfactor 18 was edited by gail o’hara, who cofounded cf with pam berry in 1992 (yes, belle & sebastian wrote a song about it). graphic design was beautifully done by jen sbragia (from the softies & all girl summer fun band). we couldn’t decide on two cover stars so we have made two covers—one in royal navy & one in espresso!

our amazing writers and contributors for CF18 are: photographers gail o’hara, laura levine, bret lunsford, curt doughty & a host of others; illustrators rachel blumberg and jen sbragia; interviewers include o’hara, lois maffeo, pete paphides, and blumberg; writers include kevin alvir, joe brooker, mark butler, wayne davidson, bryce edwards, gaylord fields, daniel handler (a.k.a. lemony snicket), alice hubley, kendall jane meade, peter momtchiloff, thomas mosher, piotr orlov, chris phillips, sukhdev sandhu, dan searing, lydia vanderloo, doug wallen & michael white.


chickfactor parties in new york, london and portland, oregon

We are thrilled to celebrate our 25th anniversary with friends, bands, and our awesome community this year in three cities. Please join us! Ticket links for all the shows are below.
+ a paper issue of chickfactor (#18) will be out in december so please make sure we have your news, records, ads, etc! 

Thursday, Nov 2: CF25 New York
Kicking Giant, The Pacific Ocean, Bridget St John, HoneyBunch at Union Pool + MC Sukhdev Sandhu
Get tickets

Saturday, Nov 4: CF25 New York (daytime show 2-6)
Laura Cantrell, Joe Pernice, Cotton Candy & Special Guests at Union Pool + MC Gaylord Fields
Get tickets.

Saturday, Nov 11 All-Ages Matinee: CF25 London
A benefit for Shelter featuring Wait What + The Numberz + more at the Lexington
Get tickets (100% of the proceeds to Shelter)

Saturday, Nov 11 Evening Show: CF25 London
The Pastels, Kicking Giant, Lois, Kites at Night (featuring Rose Melberg) at the Lexington + MC Gaylord Fields
Sold out.

Sunday, Nov 12: CF25 London, Night Two
The Softies, Stevie Jackson (from Belle & Sebastian!), the Would-Be-Goods, the Catenary Wires (featuring Rob & Amelia ex-Heavenly, Marine Research, Talulah Gosh) at the Lexington + MC Gaylord Fields
Get tickets

Saturday, December 9: CF25 Portland
Rocketship (first full band show in Portland since 1996)
Kites at Night (featuring Rose Melberg)
Lida Husik
+ DJ Calvin Johnson
Get tickets.

Sunday, December 10: CF25 Portland (free, daytime 11am–2pm)
Indiepop Brunch chickfactor special featuring DJs gail chickfactor, Jen “Softies” Sbragia, and chickfactor webmaster Janice Headley
at the Toffee Club (no tickets required)

Rocketship photo by Gail O’Hara, 2017