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A conversation on Olympia’s music history, with Ryan DiCrescenzo, founder of Le Voyeur:

We Sit Down with Ryan DiCrescenzo and Learn More About Olympia's Music History

A conversation on Olympia’s music history, with Ryan DiCrescenzo, founder of Le Voyeur:

From the outside, and even upon entering the space, Le Voyeur is unassuming. There are no neon signs or posters advertising a popular band, no flashing lights or long lines of people on the street waiting to enter. But original owner Ryan DiCrescenzo wanted it that way. “Le Voyeur was modeled after bars and venues in Europe. The façade is casual and simple, but entering can bring you face-to-face with some of the best bands and music in the business,” says DiCrescenzo, who spent time both living in London and traveling across Central Europe.

DiCrescenzo, who hails from Florida originally, knew the corporate world wasn’t for him. “I knew I didn’t want to wear a suit everyday and I knew getting involved with something creative would be a better fit for me.” After finishing college and traveling, he found himself in Olympia with the vision to put together a unique setting that would fit well with the tone of the music scene at the time.

“A group of us got together and rented a space at K Records (now Fish Tale Brewpub); we started gathering things we thought would work well in the space we wanted to create and an artist in the space starting making Papier-mâché lamps for Le Voyeur. There was a lot of community support from local artists and musicians,” says DiCrescenzo.

Calvin Johnson founded K Records, an independent record label, in Olympia in 1982. The record label has been called "key to the development of independent music" since the 1980s, and pitched early releases by artists like Beck, Modest Mouse and Built to Spill. Born in Olympia and an Evergreen graduate, Johnson is a notable part of Olympia’s rich music history and organizer of the International Pop Underground Convention, a punk and alternative rock music festival held in Olympia at the Capitol Theater in 1991.  

By the time Le Voyeur opened in the late 1990s, the days of Kurt Cobain playing in Olympia, and the now infamous grunge-music era, were paving the way for a new and different sound.  “By the time we opened, the industry was changing over to bands with a more independent sound, like Olympia’s own Sleater-Kinney,” says DiCrescenzo.

Olympia resident and American folk singer-songwriter Kimya Dawson earned critical acclaim with her 2001 single “Anyone Else But You,” which was included in the soundtrack to the 2007 film Juno. The soundtrack, which includes several works by Dawson and her associated musical acts, went on to win a Grammy for Best Compilation Soundtrack.  

“I think sometimes people forget how exciting and lively the music scene here was, paving the way for some amazing bands and musicians,” says DiCrescenzo. “Yoyo A Go Go was an awesome independent music festival that started here in 1994. There were successor festivals in 1997, 1999 and 2001. Capital Theater hosted the festival and it attracted not only musicians from the local Olympia music scene, but national and international acts as well.”

Beth Ditto, singer-songwriter most known for her time with the indie band, the Gossip, spent time living in Olympia in the late 1990s and launching her career. She’s gone on to be a writer, entrepreneur, and actress. Most recently, she launched a plus-sized women’s clothing collection, a makeup line in collaboration with MAC cosmetics and appeared in a Gus Van Sant movie and a Showtime series with Kirsten Dunst.

Although the music industry has changed, especially with continued advancements in technology, DiCrescenzo loves to remind people that there are a lot of venues in Olympia being run well with a great selection of bands. “Things really started to change in the years 2008-2010 with the industry and the way people listen to music, but there are so many venues in Olympia that have a great reputation and you can find high quality live music about four to five nights in Olympia, which is really remarkable,” says DiCrescenzo. “Venues like Rhythm & Rye, Capitol Theater, Le Voyeur, McCoys and Cryptatropa are all part of the undercurrent of a music scene that’s very much still alive and well in Olympia.”

Pop in any night to a downtown venue and you may come face to face with a Grammy-award winning musician, a well-known band with a huge following and a quality of music that’s of the same caliber you’d get in a larger venue or city.

In addition, Le Voyeur started its open mic comedy night, Vomity six years ago, and it’s still going strong. “I’m pleased to see how tight some of these comic circles are and Vomity has gathered a great following and is well attended every week,” says DiCrescenzo. Vomity takes place at Le Voyeur every Wednesday night at 9:00 p.m.

As stated in The Stranger: “Le Voyeur offers vegan-friendly food, drunk-friendly drinks, and punk-friendly entertainment. It’s also a good spot for some Olympian people-watching, as college kids and townies mix with K Records royalty…”

“Olympia is still on the map as a city with a great music reputation,” says DiCrescenzo. “We’re known even in other parts of the world as a place with a diverse and eclectic music scene; and we’re lucky enough to have some well-established bands and musicians continue to pop in and experiment with new sounds and things they haven’t tried before.” 

So pop into Le Voyeur. It’s accessible and low-key, but you might just rub elbows with a music legend.

For more information and music schedule, visit: http://www.voyeurolympia.com/ 

*Photo courtesy Pat Castaldo 

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