Was it something in the water? Olympia, Washington and the Pacific Northwest in general was a breeding ground for some of the biggest bands of the mid-90s: Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Sleater-Kinney, Riot Grrrl acts Bikini Kill and Bratmobile, and more. Those bands garnered national and international attention, and continue to be a part of our collective musical and cultural consciousness.
But it’s been 20-ish years since their heyday, which logically means it’s time for a museum show dedicated to introducing new generations to their music (or, being honest, letting aging scenesters relive their glory days). Enter the Tacoma-based Washington State History Museum’s show “A Revolution You Can Dance To! Indie Music in the Northwest,” sponsored by Krist Novoselic, Dave Grohl and Click! Cable.
Olympia’s Three Magnets Brewing collaborated with four notable members of Olympia’s indie music scene on a series of four beers to be bottled in early February; they’ll be part of a tasting and interactive art event at the museum on March 2 at 7 p.m.
One beer in the series is 7.6% Hazy Hero IPA, brewed in collaboration with John Atkins, former lead of Seattle ’90s indie bands 764-HERO, Hush Harbor and Magic Magicians, and current member of The Sun Breaks. It’s a tribute to the debut 764-HERO album Salt Sinks and Sugar Floats, which was recorded 21 years ago in Olympia.
“I’ve been a big fan of 764-HERO for years,” says Three Mangets’ Nathan Rielly. “Six months ago, I got this alert like ‘John Atkins liked [the brewery] on Instagram or Facebook or something and I was like ‘Wow he likes something that I’m doing.’”
The second beer, an 8.2% imperial English bitter, was brewed in conjunction with Art Chantry, a graphic artist renowned in the Pacific Northwest music scene who also designed the Washington State History Museum’s exhibit poster. Just one hiccup there, though: “He forgot to mention that he doesn’t drink anymore,” Reilly says. “But he has a style of beer that he really loves.” When Chantry lived in England in the 1980s, he had friends involved in Britain’s CAMRA movement, the campaign to save real ale in pubs. So Chantry provided a basic direction for the beer and designed its label as well.
Following the English theme, Three Magnets teamed up with Diana Arens, former producer of the radio show Free Things Are Cool, program director at KAOS Olympia Community Radio, audio engineer at Dub Narcotic and Yoyo Studios, show organizer and Riot Grrrl. The result is 8.3% Free Things Are Cool Stock Ale; the 100-percent English malt bill and elevated ABV make for a formidable beer, Stokes assures, and one that should age nicely.
The final beer in the quartet is YoYo a GoGo, a Belgian dubbel brewed with Meyer lemon peel, pith and juice, a partnership with Pat Maley, Olympia musician and founder of the YoYo a GoGo festivals and YoYo Records. Tae Won Yu of Kicking Giant designed the label; you may remember his artwork for the cover of Built To Spill’s album “Perfect From Now On.” “Pat Maley wanted a beer that was lighter and refreshing because YoYo a GoGo was always in the summer, but it’s still winter here so we came up with a dubbel with some Meyer lemon peel, pith and juice to brighten it up,” says Reilly.
The series as a whole is designed to direct fans of this music or these beers toward the Washington State History Museum’s exhibition, which runs through April 23. Though these bands had their heyday decades ago, this particular moment in the country’s political history seems like it could create a renewed interest in this type of music.
“I think that’s what made the ’90s music scene here: There was so much people had to say,” Reilly says. “That’s what made the movement so amazing; it wasn’t people just dancing around on stage in makeup, which is fine, but it was people that were fucking angry. Maybe it didn’t make for the happiest music but it made for some good music.”