I was picking films from the SIFF (Seattle Internationa Film Festival) program and my first choice was "The Life and Times of Yva Las Vegass." My musician son played me Sweet 75 and I loved her voice, her name but she was presented as a dolled-up punk. It wasn't long after that I met her again with my friend Barb, who already knew her. She had platform shoes made from duct tape and combat boots. Yva played us some Dolly Pardon singles and we played around with an electronic trumpet and sampling keyboard. I saw her last year at a big immigration rally. & I've caught her with Children of the Revolution, at the Triple Door.
I called Barb and she was ready to go. She'd seen Yva in front of Nordstrom with a ukulele and a black eye and knew she'd recently been in Venezuela. We went to Linda's Tavern before the movie and in came Yva and we started our pre-party. The cute bartender invented a drink for me called the Dead Princess (peach vodka & lime), very tasty. When we got to the Egyptian, we watched about 10 minutes of the documentary when the bulb in the projector heated up and melted something. Yva got up and started performing in the wierdest, wildest way. We got our ten bucks worth whether we went back to the movie or not.
Most of us headed back to Linda's Tavern and a table of us were toasting Yva and singing "Age of Aquarius". I had to leave because of my stupid schedule for work (6 AM - whenever), but Barb stayed on & watched the rest of the documentary. She emailed me that she will want to see it again, which leads me to believe she doesn't remember it very well LOL, and that they had an after-party at the Red Lion with Yva.
There is a YouTube video from Venezuela which I can't get to play and it's supposed to take place at a Pizza Palace in Venezuela. Google her name and maybe you will be more lucky than I. If you want to see the Sweet 75 ones, they're good but not the "meat" of what I dig about Yva. I've seen her with "Children of the Revolution" and have their CD. That's beautiful, like "Mariposa" - but there is also a really cool 10 minute plus thing on YouTube which WILL play but I'm not enough of a techie to link to it from here. (I will if I figure it out). Watch that one, for the REAL Yva (catch the lyrics - like "there are four of the Village People, 13 of me - a Baker's Dozen" - something like that). Dumpster diving, real punk, really nicely edited, and real. She does have another album, with name changed from Yva Las Vegas to Yva Las Vegass and she's transformed from grunge rocker to folk punk, more original, more her. Even in the ten minutes of the documentary that I saw, I was alienated by the drummer guy from Sweet 75 who quit the band because he couldn't work with her. "What a dick," I thought.
I loved it that Yva was wearing a CHAVEZ shirt last night and she told me it's really cool how he is improving the distribution of wealth from when she lived there before. Some of her bio stuff says she came from a wealthy family but she did not sell out to the rock world and she has struggled as a busker, to pay the rent. I give her my respect and besides I love her (anti) fashion sense and her political leanings.
The Life and Times of Yva Las Vegass: Giving Succes the Middle Finger
(world premier last night at the Egyptian theater, Seattle)
Thirteen years ago, former Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic's wife threw him a surprise birthday party. For entertainment, she hired Yva Las Vegass, a Venezuelan-born, lesbian singer-songwriter. Novoselic was so smitten, he implored Yva to join Sweet 75, his first post-Nirvana musical outing. In another world, Sweet 75 would be like the Foo Fighters, selling out stadiums. And then what happened?
Portland filmmaker Wiley Underdown explains: "Three years ago, I was up in Seattle visiting some friends, and I was walking down the street. I heard this woman playing, and was just blown away. Based on the amount of noise that she could produce, I expected to see this larger-than-life character—and here was this small woman with a Mohawk, singing her ass off. After she got done playing, she pressured me into buying both of her CDs. We went and got drinks, and instinctually, I just knew there was a story there."
That story, making its world premiere at SIFF, is The Life and Times of Yva Las Vegass, a documentary that provides a cautionary tale for any musician on the cusp. Las Vegass once had a three-record deal with Geffen and the same manager as Nirvana. So why hasn't anyone heard of her?
"She completely blew it because of a lot of factors that become pretty apparent in the movie," says Underdown. Her off-putting behavior led drummer Bobbie Laurie to leave the band after a few shows, even though "this was his big break," as noted in the film.
Her gorgeous, soul-stirring singing on the street and with local Latin outfit Children of the Revolution is showcased throughout the doc. When she plays music, she evokes rumbling and life and mayhem. When she flies off the handle, she seems a parody of the self-indulgent artistic temperament, one of the more painful-to-watch bitches ever put to the screen, a car wreck with a guitar.
She's shown playing in the Pike Place Market and outside Nordstrom, parading outside of the Wildrose, painting her face odd colors, and generally alienating everyone in her life.
"You look at someone like van Gogh—someone who's clearly a genius, but clearly self-destructive and pretty much unable to function in everyday life. Even Kurt Cobain, he's talented, but he can't even function enough to stay alive. And you see this again and again and again. [Yva] was a pretty good representation of the inherently self-destructive type, who embodied this characteristic." (said the filmaker)