“I’ve lived in T-Town my whole life, I’ve been playing punk rock for 7 years, my hair is turning gray and I’m only 19 years old,” writes Sam Olsen in his Facebook profile. We believe him, and not just because we believe everything we read on the Internet. Olsen is a presence in Tacoma, a 2009 graduate of the School of the Arts who began playing in garage bands years before he got a driver’s license. At the ripe age of 15, he began recording bands and publishing a ‘zine under the Trash Town Records and Magazine label. Last month, he made his big-screen debut with a role in the locally made feature-length film, Quiet Shoes. Not only that, but his music (he heads a psychedelic punk band, Red Hex) made it onto the movie’s soundtrack, beside groups including Girl Trouble.
What’s next? Sam Olsen wants your ear. He is the recipient of a Spaceworks Tacoma Creative Enterprise award which will enable him to explore the possibilities of hosting an all-ages music venue, or individual concerts – as soon as the right space becomes available (he is on a waiting list). Olsen evangelizes, quite convincingly, about the need for an underage music club because “there are a great number of talented kids in Tacoma who have no place to show, and I want to change that.” Ideally, the venue would provide not only a showcase for upcoming musical talent, but sell local records, tapes, underground publications and art. It would be “a place for kids to get together, hear good music and get excited about where they live and what’s going on,” he says.
A student of local music history, Olsen hopes to link to the tradition of showcases such as the legendary Community World Theatre, an underage club where Nirvana and a stream of soon-to-be-famous bands played in the ’80s. “Tacoma has a long history with garage rock,” he says, citing early innovators the Sonics and the Wailers. “In fact, many people in that community, all over the world, consider Tacoma, Washington, to be the birthplace of garage punk….My concept is aimed at keeping the traditional music of Tacoma alive in Tacoma.”
Olsen notes that an all-ages club would “bring in people from out of town. Confirm a music scene for young people. Give kids something to do downtown. Bring in acts from out of town that people actually want to see, in a space that kids – the real music fans – could actually attend.” Legally. He easily envisions “spending the time to be the promoter-booker-soundman myself, and make [the club] the best I can. Really, it’s all about knowing what line-ups would draw a crowd and having the connections to book said groups. I can deliver that.“ We believe him. Trash Town Records & Magazine, www.myspace.com/trashtownempire