Musical Map Of The USA: Washington—Beat Happening


I moved to the Northwest to go to college in 1989. I was a musical rando–I loved Go-Go and R&B, Bob Marley and REM. I had tapes with Rites of Spring and The Replacements. but I didn’t really collect records yet other than The Cure and New Order. When I arrived in the dorms at the University of Oregon, I met the zeitgeist that would change my life: Allison Wolfe.

Allison was from Olympia, Washington and was starting college after a year abroad in Thailand. Even though I went to an international school, I had never heard of an exchange with Thailand! Allison broke the mold in so many ways even then. She came armed with tapes of bands I had never heard of. The Go Team, Oklahoma Scramble, Nirvana and Beat Happening. I had truly never heard music like this. Minimal, complex, emotional, super melodic and out of tune. I LOVED IT! Eventually, we’d go on to start our own band together as Bratmobile, but Beat Happening remained one of my biggest influences.
They immediately became one of my favorites–something about Heather and Calvin’s voices, the guitar and drums (what’s Brett playing on this one?) and the clear differences when they switched instruments totally spoke to me and I couldn’t get enough. “Indian Summer” is one of their best-known songs, maybe because Galaxie 500 covered it so it reached more people outside of the K and Beat Happening world. I know all the words, all the notes, all the beats by heart. I didn’t even need to listen to it to write this because it’s in my bones. I’m pretty much an Olympia, Washington music obsessive and most of the bands that have roots there mean a lot to me.
This is one of more than 50 posts that make up our musical map of the United States, published by region—the West, Midwest, South, and Northeast—by writers who have strongly associated a song with a state.

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