The first time I tried to visit the newish all-ages club, which squats across from the Mt. Scott Funeral Home on Southeast Foster Road, I was too late.
At 10:30 pm, the Locker's bill of five hardcore bands had already exhausted itself. All that was left were a few skinny kids hauling sound equipment out of the pirate-flag-draped front door. Inside the club's ratty foyer, a half-eaten box of Little Debbie Oatmeal Creme Pies sat next to an old Dr. Mario video game, a reminder of halcyon hours passed.
The second time I tried to visit the venue, which was opened in mid-April by Meow Meow and Solid State employees Josh Robertson and Jed Lee, I was stopped short. Three out of the four bands had broken up that day. The 6 pm show had been canceled.
But last week, at 8:15 pm, I prevailed. A guttural howl ricocheted off the tiny space's pockmarked walls as Orange County's Odd Project kicked off their set--a muddy sludge that reminded one of Pantera tongue-kissing an emo-core groupie. The small crowd of newly minted Gresham-area high-school graduates stood tall in the stifling heat and nodded, more out of politesse, it seemed, than approval.
Locker co-owner Robertson wasn't there. He was outside on the sidewalk, lounging on an ancient couch surrounded by a flock of empty lawn chairs, watching the cars race by. He didn't like Odd Project, either (they, too, were a last-minute fill-in). What he does like is the Locker itself, which, despite its iffy roster, is slowly becoming a gathering spot for young musicians. "It's kind of a little punk-rock hole," he says. "I'm surprised it has turned out as cool as it has."
And it is cool. Crappy, but cool. In Portland, most clubs start out with a business plan, a design concept and financial backing. The Locker has a wooden plane propeller, a PBR-ME license plate, and the wad of cash in 21-year-old Robertson's pocket. The early shows aren't a marketing strategy. The neighbors will call the cops if a show gets too loud or goes too late. The Locker is sustaining itself on a cliché: The kids love to rock. Such honesty, along with a decorating scheme that includes hot-pink spray paint and Marilyn Monroe posters, is charming.
There are still streaks of orange light in the sky as the show ends, and the crowd trickles outside and home to the suburbs. Robertson waves each of them off as they sail away into the shadows. "Davey Jones Locker means drowning in pirate talk," he says. "Between the funeral home, the casket shop next to it, and us, I figure we're the Bermuda Triangle."
There are worse places to get lost for the night.
Davey Jones Locker, 5925 SE Foster Road, 788-5161.