Live Review: Hive Dwellers, The Cavities and Sleep in Sundays at the NorthernPosted by Timothy Grisham
Olympia All Ages Project has reopened their flagship venue/gallery, Northern.
With a “soft opening” last night during Olympia’s twice annual Arts Walk event, all hands were gearing up for the Northern’s first show in it’s new location. The show was originally billed as: Watch It Sparkle, The Cavities and Hive Dwellers. Watch It Sparkle, however, could not make the festivities, as I heard from the Northern’s booker that they had broken up the night before; taking their place at the last minute was Sleep in Sundays.
The new Northern is housed at 414 1/2 Legion, in a former machine shop-turned motorcycle garage attached to Olympia’s popular Fishtale Brew Pub. Not much has changed from its time as a garage, still in its very recent past. The walls have been dry-walled, and painted sheer white for the gallery aspect of the venue. A few perks such as a second storage room, restrooms, fire alarms and lighting have been added; but the venue still retains its garage doors, rust stained concrete floor and general draftiness that defines most old auto garages.
While, the Northern was certainly in the spotlight during its inaugural concert, tonight’s bill featured three bands that loosely fit within the context of raw, naive garage rock influenced punk that Olympia’s K Records have been major exporters of for the last 30 years.
Opening the evening, and having the honor of being the first performer of the new Northern, was Sleep in Sundays. Sleep in Sundays is the project of current Olympia resident Eric Williger. The one-man performance consisted of Eric performing sans-microphone with a soft, warm guitar. Mid-tempoed, his guitar work flowed with ease using a mix of finger picking and bar chords. At times, Sleep in Sundays sounded like a mid 90s slowcore group, think Low, and at other times he split the difference between Elliott Smith and early Death Cab for Cutie territory.
At first Mr. Williger found it difficult to connect with the mostly “underage” audience, owing a lot to his soft spoken demeanor, and not to his whimsical music; but as the set pushed on he began to find a comfortable space that felt inclusive. Most of the audience remained seated during this portion of his set, which speaks volumes considering that the space was an auto garage just weeks ago. With only the slightest of deviation from playing his set without commentary, he asked, “How are the levels?”; Sleep in Sundays played a set with little rest; keeping the audience’s adolescent attention for the entirety of his short set of songs.
By and large the majority of the audience was at the venue to see The Cavities, a rather young and parochial, high school band from Lacey, WA, who made their live debut in February of this year.
Beyond the abundant amount of post-hardcore influences, the band, at times, offers a fuzzed out version of boots-and-pants rhythms… boots-and-pants-boots-and-pants-boots-and-pants, you get the point. They are very dance oriented, though not entirely original; with youthful exuberance, the band played a hap-hazard mix of original material and covers by Muse and Mars Volta, among others. With most eager, early high school bands of the ilk, the audience, by and large, was full of friends and family members supporting the early musical aspirations of the suburban quintet.
Headlining the event was Olympia’s Hive Dwellers; the latest vehicle from K Records impresario, Beat Happening member and Dub Narcotic Sound System leader, Calvin Johnson.
The band was undoubtedly more intimate than the night’s other acts; choosing to perform without the aid of a PA, meaning no microphones, just the drums, electric guitar and raw straight vocals that gave the band a sense of urgency that is lacking in most performers these days. Mr. Johnson is, without equal, a local legend in Olympia; a town whose music scene could be largely attributed to him and his peer’s groundwork; but there are also very few performers who can engage an audience as directly and as captivating as the main Hive Dweller.
The group’s set began with “Love Will Come Back Again”, which Johnson has played enumerable times over the past decade plus. The track, off his solo debut, 2001′s, What Was Me, finds Johnson and co. swinging through a folk-ish version of the song that is just as comfortable sitting with his early output, as his more dance oriented mid-90s party band output. Gabriel Will and Evan Hashi, Johnson’s current co-conspirators, supply a smooth and jazzy back-beat to Mr. Johnson’s often off the cuff manner.
Northern is, of course, an all ages venue. Olympia has a rich history of all ages inclusiveness; exhibited tonight, not only by a high school band performing with a local hero, but by the comfortable environment where parents can feel that their children are in a safe space. During the Hive Dwellers set, the band at times had to vie for the attention of the audience enamored not only with music of Mr. Johnson and co., but with the dance moves of a particularly groovy, pre-k attendant. By the time they found themselves in full swing, their set had more than the tiny-thumbsuckers shaking their hips and nodding their heads. Hive Dwellers were typically engaging, intimate and heart-warmingly fun.
Check out this video of them performing “Somebody’s Phone is Ringing” to see for yourselves: