OLYMPIA, Wash. The third Yoyo a Go Go festival might have had a late start Tuesday, the doors not opening until roughly 45 minutes past the scheduled time, but eager Yoyo-ers seemed not to mind, waiting patiently in a line that went around the block.
Once inside the Capitol Theater, the six-day festival's headquarters, fans soaked up the musical reward for their patience. The 500-plus attendees cheered and danced to sets by such acts as the KG, whose hiccuping beat was tailor-made for dancing, and the offbeat spoken-word raps of Pleaseeasaur, a one-man act who sported three costume changes a satin jumpsuit, a long yellow overcoat and a white fur abominable-snowman suit while rapping about the joys of beef and his dislike of dog manure.
Later in the week, the venerable Northwest indie-rock event will feature performances by Elliott Smith, Sleater-Kinney, Bratmobile and Dead Moon.
Though Olympia is the Washington state capital, it retains a small-town feel. Typical of the atmosphere was a sign posted on a cafe door: "We are just as sad as you that we will be closing Thursday, July 1st, and reopening Monday, July 19th." Because the population is only 35,000, the influx of Yoyo attendees was quite noticeable their bleached-blond hair, piercings and tattoos providing a sharp contrast to the conventionally dressed locals shepherding their children to the annual Lakefair carnival, four blocks from the Capitol Theater.
Yet a family-friendly feel exists at Yoyo as well. As a father purchased tickets for punk trio Sleater-Kinney's Friday show, he asked, "Is there a children's discount?"
"This isn't booked by a talent agency," singer/songwriter Lois Maffeo explained. "This is booked by fans, for fans."
Yoyo's egalitarian ethic could be seen everywhere. The festival's program notes announce "no press passes," and even those working at local labels, many of which had bands playing at Yoyo, had to buy their passes. Yoyo founder Pat Maley could be seen staffing the box office. Publicist Julie Butterfield, whose clients include Sleater-Kinney and Quasi, said she plans on chalking up several hours at the merchandise stand.
Even the merch area was low-key. Most items, including Yoyo T-shirts, were priced at $10 or less. During the bands' sets, attendees prowled through boxes of 7-inches, LPs and CDs, with offerings from local labels such as K, Kill Rock Stars and Yoyo, whose latest compilation, Projector, was released just in time for the festival.
Projector provides a good overview of the acts playing Yoyo. The CD's last track is by singer/songwriter Rebecca Pearcy, who opened Yoyo with a set of carefully crafted songs about relationships, accompanying herself on acoustic guitar. "That gave me chills, baby!" one man shouted after "Bonfire," a song about heartbreak. "Yeah," Pearcy answered, "but did you cry?"
IQU (pronounced "ee-coo") was the first act to get the audience rocking, with instrumental numbers conjured from an unusual array of instruments: guitar, turntables, keyboards, drum machine, upright bass and theremin, an early electronic instrument best known for its use in the Beach Boys' "Good Vibrations." Its eerie sounds are created by moving one's hands between two electrically charged rods. IQU's guitarist upped the weirdness quotient by waving his guitar neck between the rods. The resulting onslaught of sound had the audience jumping.
Hanging out is as much a part of Yoyo as seeing bands. The zine stand did brisk business, as attendees snapped up the latest offerings (including Jigsaw, by Bikini Kill drummer Tobi Vail) and hunkered down for informal reading and discussion sessions. As Source of Labor and 764-HERO took the stage well past midnight, Yoyo-ers were still hanging out in the lobby, breaking into spontaneous rapping in the streets, drinking coffee or buying veggie burritos before heading off to bed for some well-deserved rest to prepare for the first 3 p.m. matinee show Wednesday.