Save the Sun: Benefit for The Midnight Sun


midnight sun - outside of buildingBy Alec Clayton

The Midnight Sun, one of Olympia’s most venerable alternative performance spaces, is feeling the pinch of the economic downturn and is facing the threat of possible closure. But they’re fighting back in the only way a performance venue can: by putting on a series of benefit performances, starting with the “Save the Sun!” show Sunday Feb. 26 at 8 p.m. at The Brotherhood Lounge, 119 N. Capital Way, Olympia, featuring Local bands:  Hey Girl, Morgan and the Organ Donors, Hungry Heart, November Witch, Happy Noose, Mongo, plus a special guest to be announced.

The man who organized this benefit concert is James Maeda. The manager of The Midnight Sun is storyteller Elizabeth Lord, founder and impresario of “Lord Franzannian’s Royal Olympian Spectacular Vaudeville Show!” Maeda recruited all the volunteer players for the benefit show and he is also in two of the bands performing: Morgan and the Organ Donors and November Witch.  Lord and Maeda work together Sunday nights at the Brotherhood Lounge where he is a DJ and she is a bartender — typical of artists, most of whom work “day jobs,” or in this case night jobs.

Hey Girl is Christina Collins’ band. It’s one of Olympia’s newest bands and, according to Collins, “We’re, as far as we know, Olympia’s only all-gay band.” Although she says, “We don’t write songs explicitly about that.  Our main interest — and it may sound trite, but for a band I think it’s the most important part — is having fun, and playing good songs that get audiences excited.  Some of our lyrics are kind of funny, but we’re not a comedy or novelty band, we would just rather have fun than be sad.”

Hey Girl BandHey Girl is a three-piece band with Collins on bass and vocals, Brian Hancock on lead vocals, guitar, and keyboard, and Sarah Lynn on drums.  Collins says, “Sarah has been in other notable bands, like Vertebrae by Vertebrae (recently reformed as VxV) and Mind Your Pig, Latoya.  We started playing together last September, and had our first show at the Voyeur in November, then a show at the Brotherhood on Jan. 29 with Pierced Arrows, and a show on Feb 11 at the Voyeur with And And And from Portland.  We play mostly pop music with sort of a fun, dirty punk sensibility, very DIY and influenced a lot by the history of Pacific Northwest indie music, especially riot grrrl and Olympia punk.”

Collins is well known for her work in local theater and as a mainstay of Josh Anderson’s popular “Saul Tannenbaum” shows where she appears as Mona Von Horne. She also has a history with The Midnight Sun. “The first thing I ever did at the Sun was props for a production of ‘True West’ that Elizabeth Lord was in, and I’ve done several things there since — straight plays, the vaudeville show, etc.  My adaptation of ‘Lysistrata’ for Theater Artists Olympia was produced there.  I’m pretty sure Sarah has played shows there with one or more of her bands, and Brian was in the play ‘The Boy who Ate the Moon,’ which Judy Oliver directed. We are so excited to be playing the Midnight Sun’s benefit show. It’s a venue that we’ve all used for different things, like theater or rock shows, and it’s an honor that James asked us to play it, since the Sun is important to us as performers and people who are invested in the Olympia arts scene.”

Morgan and the Organ Donors is a garage punk band consisting of Fajr Wilson, Maeda, Leah Cipolla, and Sara Peté. They were described in Everett True’s Bust Magazine column as “underground psych groove.”

Indie-rock trio Happy Noose bills itself as having, “a unique approach to indie-infused punk rock music born out of a collective idea of musical resistance to dominant culture,” according to the Weekly Volcano’s Matt Driscoll who wrote, “Happy Noose is a band that will feel familiar to even those who’ve never encountered them before.” Dead End Social Club Records recently released the band’s eponymous debut album.

The Midnight Sun opened in the early 1990s and has been host to numerous performances over the years including rock shows, theater productions, student plays, artwork, readings, vaudeville shows, storytelling concerts, dances and performance art. Lord says the space was created by a group of artists who saw a need for a smaller, affordable performance venue.  Some of the people involved at the beginning were Barbara Zelano, Sky Myers, and Reuben Yancey.

Zelano talks about the beginnings of The Midnight Sun: “Artist and filmmaker Stella Mars ran into me on the street in downtown Olympia one day. She was all keyed up and excited. Downtown Oly was kind of ghosty, in a good way, and constantly shifting with new theater, art, and infinite layers of music. She knew us ‘weird theater people’ were looking for a place of our own. We were inspired by a few epic but small spaces before us, like the Tropicana, and others that were ‘gorilla’ organized. Stella also knew a good deal space when she saw it, and this eventually became the Midnight Sun. Sky and I wound up snagging the industrial-wasteland- storefront for a song and dance. We had it for three months, rent free.  Once the space was ours, we somehow hypnotized our friends and family (while plying them with food and beer) to help us clean, scrape, paint, and install a floor. We told them it would be fun, and they believed us. They were very gullible in those days. I think it was the beer. Sometimes people would stop in for an evening and lend a hand, or just stop in to drink our beer. Midnight Sun was such a beautiful community creation. Musician and producer Calvin Johnson offered some great advice when we were nearly done. He said, ‘You should definitely have punk rock shows here. People don’t have anywhere to play.’ After that, my/our music scope shifted forever. It got much larger. Punk rock paid the rent!  At this point, I could name drop forever about who we watched load in, rehearse, play, and perform in that dinky space.  It was a sweet and phenomenal time. Thank you forever to everyone who supported, house-managed, and kicked art ass in the Midnight Sun.”

Myers, an actor and playwright, said, “My intention was to create a venue where I could workshop my plays, produce new plays by local writers, and attract traveling spoken word shows. I was fresh out of graduate school and had had it with trying to find rehearsal space and sending my scripts out unsolicited to theaters. The music shows were an afterthought, but certainly helped us pay the bills.  Arrington de Dionyso started the Experimental Music Festival at the Sun, and the Olympia Film Society used the Sun for shorts and video screenings during the annual film festival. We also used the Sun as a meeting space for various groups, and as an additional performance space for TESC students.”

Around 2000, 2001, Zelano sold the business to a new theater company called Artesian Theatre Sightings.  In 2002, ATS dissolved and Prodigal Sun Productions was created. Lord and Tom Sanders have been operating the Midnight Sun since 2003 with many other board members over the years.  In May of 2011, Sanders resigned from Prodigal Sun. “Without a knowledgeable technical director who is willing to work for no pay, the current board decided we could not afford to produce plays this season until we find a replacement,” Lord says.  “We have yet to find that person. It has been a strange theater season — with no theater. And come to find out, without theater we do not take in enough revenue to pay all our bills.”

Since the fall of 2011 the Midnight Sun has been host to primarily music events, and one wedding reception. The Northern All-Ages Music Project, homeless after losing its space on 4th Avenue, is currently using the Sun for its events, as well as other independent groups. “We are now in need of funding, but more than that, we need more board members, more skilled volunteers, and idea people who can help the remaining board members re-invent, re-create, re-make our current style of business.”

midnight sun
Photo By Aaron Bredlau

The Midnight Sun located at 113 N. Columbia St. is an important venue for the Olympia Community. Tickets for the Feb. 26 fundraiser are on a sliding-scale suggested donation of $5 to $500.  Contact Elizabeth Lord at or by telephone at 360-250-2721 for more information.


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