Monday, February 25, 2008
Best of '08: Final Brainstains Show
Since I sort of inexplicably loathe year-end lists and don’t take them even the slightest bit seriously, I’ve decided to just be a cocky bastard start naming the best of 2008 as it happens. And so we have it. Ladies and Gentlemen, the best Portland house show of 2008 goes to…the final Brainstains!
Now, the title of final Brainstains show (as it was billed on the flier, etc) is somewhat misleading. It seems to imply that, like so many house show houses, Brainstains was being sold or condoed or the neighbors had complained the fun to a standstill. However, this was simply the last show for John Brainerd, the brains of Brainstains, if you will, who’s moving away and taking the name with him. I’m told the house will continue to host shows under new leadership.
So the environment was total celebration. It was a joyous sendoff with nothing to mourn. And the joy was in full effect all day. Bands started at 3 pm, a strategy that’s usually pointless because most people figure they can only handle a few bands and the last few are probably the best few so why not show up at 10 and call it good? But when I arrived at 6, the house was packed for Big Black Cloud, who was nice to see sober and upstairs.
Then my band Dagger of the Mind played upstairs too and it was OK and we were glad to be asked. But I had more fun watching just about every band after.
As soon as we cleared out our gear, a 5-piece hip hop crew called Teflon took over the living room and I mean took it the fuck over. These guys had so much presence they easily owned the space. I was well-impressed with the accuracy of their dual-vocal verses delivered perfectly in synch and accompanied by yelled back up vocals from the rest of the crew since there were only two mics. The members of the crew took turns slamming hard alcohol and smoking which just made them look so laid back and cool.
It made sense that they owned to crowd so easily because afterward I asked one of them if they play around town a lot and he said yeah, so I asked him if they played Berbati’s since that seemed like a good fit. He had never heard of it. “You know the Roseland?” he said. Guess these guys are big time. Shows what I know.
When, as per usual, JonnyX and the Groadies announced they had one song left about eight minutes in, the crowd started chanting, “One more set! One more set!” So they actually played another whole set. People crowd surfed in the living room. I’ve seen JX:ATG at least 6 times and they usually bulldoze the audience and scram, but the crowd had so much energy this time that it was almost like they were afraid to stop. Afraid people might just break something (they set up in front of the glass doors in the living room to protect them, a thoughtful bunch they are, if brutal).
So at the end of an unprecedented 25 minutes of music, they started unplugging things. Again came the chant of “One more set!” Crouched in front of his wall of wires, keyboardist/programmer Professor Romagna shouted, “We already played 3 sets!”
Then I almost left. I mean, I’d been there for 5 hours and how much better could it get? But Ian Kashani convinced me to stick around for ShitFit, a new band fronted by Dave Dischord. I pushed past people in the basement to the front row, but about a minute in to the very Nirvana-influenced set, the front row moved 6 meters forward. The band was pushed back against the wall by the crowd’s enthusiasm. The sensation that this is really, really fun but something or someone is going to get broken reminded me of the first two dozen or so times I saw Plan R.
OK, it’s really time to go now. My knees hurt. I’m losing my voice. I was fucked up and now I’m sober again. I still can’t get a read on the cute girl I just met so forget about it for now. Maybe another time. You’re too tired to charm anyway. OK I’ll stay for one song by the Taxpayers.
As I walked in I recognized the band from a conversation I heard them having earlier. “I was thinking we’d set up in a circle with the crowd around us,” a smaller one said to a bigger one. “That’s a terrible idea. It’ll never work. It’ll sound horrible.” Big guy shot him down and I sympathized with little guy because I thought that would be cool too, but I also thought, “pwned,” and thought about how meek the little guy seemed.
Not so with a mic in front of him. This guy was a downright hero. Between This Bike Is a Pipe Bomb-style folk punk songs, he made a corny speech about how “we made this house…” and I totally bought it. By now it was one in the morning and most of the kids had left, but the Taxpayers succeeded in making a mostly over-21 crowd go completely ape shit non-stop for like an hour. That ain’t easy to do.
So it was a great fucking day. But why the show of the year? Because this smashing success was pulled off by bands who, for the most part, I had never heard of and who aren’t really heavyweights in the house show scene. Just when you think the house show scene is tanking and it’s always the same bands playing, a 14-band bill comes out of nowhere and makes JX:ATG play for 25 minutes.
Photo: Teflon's Jake Loc playing Brainstains sometime before last Saturday.