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) 
[dozens] 

Roisín Murphy: “Murphy’s Law” (2020) 
[dozens] 

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

Toumani Diabaté: The Mandé Variations (2008) 
[dozens]

Chris and Cosey: Trance (1982) 
[many] 

Slowdive: Souvlaki (1993) 
[at least twenty] 

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

Sun Ra: Strange Strings (1967) 
[several]

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

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.

Kathleen
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:

KENDRA SMITH (OPAL, RAINY DAY, DREAM SYNDICATE, ETC)
THE SOFTIES
ALVVAYS
LINDY MORRISON & AMANDA BROWN (THE GO-BETWEENS, CLEOPATRA WONG)
GIRL RAY
FRANCES MCKEE (THE VASELINES)
GERARD LOVE (TEENAGE FANCLUB, LIGHTSHIPS)
GOVERNESS
MARISA ANDERSON
TANITA TIKARAM
+ A JUKEBOX JURY WITH JOANNA BOLME (JICKS), REBECCA COLE (MINDERS) & KATHY FOSTER (THERMALS)
+ OUR USUAL POLLS
+ MANY BOOK, FILM, LIVE & RECORD REVIEWS
+ LOTS OF ORIGINAL PHOTOGRAPHY & ILLUSTRATION

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

chickfactor 25: a series of fortunate events

The Softies


The Pastels

chickfactor & the hangover lounge are thrilled to present a celebration of 25 years of pop, friendship & community at the Lexington in London

Saturday, November 11 // Doors 7:30, Show 8

Sunday, November 12 //  Doors 7:30, Show 8

THE SOFTIES
STEVIE JACKSON (from Belle & Sebastian)
THE WOULD-BE-GOODS
THE CATENARY WIRES

Both nights will feature MC Gaylord Fields (WFMU)
& chickfactor / Hangover Lounge DJs downstairs

 

Lois


Kicking Giant

Kites at Night

Stevie Jackson

The Would-Be-Goods

The Catenary Wires

 & & &
ABOUT THE BANDS:
 
• THE PASTELS — The pop geniuses Stephen McRobbie, Katrina Mitchell & Co. came down from Glasgow to play at CF20 in London. We are thrilled to have them back.
• LOIS — Lois Maffeo is indie royalty from Olympia, Washington, where she has made many great albums for K Records.
• KICKING GIANT — Tae Won Yu & Rachel Carns formed this powerful union in New York via Olympia, WA, in 1989. This is their first-ever show in the UK. A double LP reissue of their early work, This Being the Ballad of Kicking Giant, Halo: NYC/Olympia 1989–1993, will come out on Drawing Room Records later this year.
• KITES AT NIGHT are Rose Melberg & Jon Manning (with Jen Sbragia on bass for this show), whose previous band was called Imaginary Pants. This is their first show in London.
• THE SOFTIES — Indiepop queens Rose Melberg & Jen Sbragia (from Vancouver BC & Portland OR, respectively) reunited for the chickfactor 20 shows in 2012 in NYC, Portland and SF. This is their first-ever show in London.
• STEVIE JACKSON is the amazing guitarist, singer and songwriter in Belle & Sebastian! He also happened to write a song named after our zine “chickfactor.”
• THE WOULD-BE-GOODS — Jessica Griffin, Peter Momtchiloff, Debbie Greensmith & Andy Warren are indie legends based in London & St Leonards.
• THE CATENARY WIRES — This super-duo formed in 2014 when Amelia Fletcher and Rob Pursey (ex-Talulah Gosh, Heavenly, Marine Research, Tender Trap) moved out of London.
• Gaylord Fields is an excellent WFMU DJ, a music writer and a longtime MC for chickfactor events.
• The Hangover Lounge is a much-beloved event that happened for years at the Lexington, a label and a community that’s often collaborated with chickfactor before.
• chickfactor is a fanzine started by Pam Berry and Gail O’Hara in 1992. Currently based in Portland, Oregon, it will publish a new print zine in late 2017.