's Jay Horton caught wind of some bad news for Portland's all ages music scene a couple of weeks ago—news we just confirmed yesterday: Satyricon, the legendary Portland rock club opened in 1984, will close its doors come Halloween.
From tomorrow's WW
Satyricon, once the longest-running indie rock nightclub on the West Coast and one of Portland's few all ages venues, will close its doors for good this October. The building housing the venerable venue has been purchased by local outreach/housing program the MacDonald Center and is slated to be demolished to make way for a new shelter. The club, which shut down once before in 2003 after an initial two-decade run (when the club opened in 1984, WW's Zach Dundas noted at it's '03 closure, there was "no Pearl District, no River District, no Chinese Garden, no MAX"), is planning a string of high-profile farewell shows in October, with the final blast happening on Halloween. Satyricon has been open in its current all ages format since 2006. Stay tuned to wweek.com for details as they emerge.
The truth is that this isn't just sad news for the kids who line up outside the club most nights waiting for showtime—it's sad for Portland's sense of its own history. This is the arguably the most important venue (or shithole, if you prefer) Portland has ever had—Portland's CBGB, if you wanna take it there—and it's certainly the most fascinating. Nearly every Northwest band that was worth a damn in the '80s and '90s—Nirvana famously opened for the Dharma Bums there in 1989, but a list of names like Dead Moon, Poison Idea, Hitting Birth, Crackerbash and the Dandy Warhols goes on forever—called this place home.
For people new to this city (and, as an Oregon native that's only been in the city six years, I consider myself one of them), Satyricon is as a last look at the dirty old Portland that preceded its latest rise—it came before Chinatown's douchebag nightclubs and the Pearl's McCondos, and there's some magic in the fact that it's still there, often with obnoxious punk kids spitting on the sidewalk and asking for bus fare out front. Satyricon's storied old-school clientele—generally described as being loud, stinky, self-educated, creative, part punk and part backwoods—are an increasingly rare breed around here. They've been outpriced or outsourced: Lost to parenthood and office jobs; overdoses and suicides—maybe even to the dirtier corners of San Francisco and New York.
But I'm just another Portland import, eulogizing a dilapidated old rock club and a sleepy old city that I never got to know in its heyday. That
Portland, the one that birthed so many of my favorite bands, was a town its tenants still insist had a concrete feeling that all the food carts and thrift shops in the world can't recreate. Legendary Portland songwriter and guitarist Pete Krebs described it to me
as "the old, dark Portland," and to hear him talk about it has colored the way I've listened to and written about Northwest music ever since. The fact that he name-drops Satyricon here, as he struggles for words to describe his feelings for the city and the way it worked itself into his songs (both for Hazel and the Gossamer Wings), is a testament to just how important this club was in Portland rock music's formative years:
"I think [Elliott Smith and I] were both influenced by Portland—the old, dark Portland thing crept into our music...I always sort of liken it to just wet old bricks. You know, old rusty metal things. Dark skies.... I've always had this maddeningly undefinable feeling about certain bands or musicians in Portland. It was a real big influence to me, but I've never been able to put my finger on exactly what it was. But I hear it in the music of the Wipers, or in the music of Crackerbash. Just like, seeing them live, there's a vibe there that's tied into the region and the climate and the Satyricon, and, you know, junkies and rain eight months out of the year....It's kind of an old thing. I haven't felt it directly in a long time, but it's a very tangible feeling to me.... A very strong sense of place that I feel, it's like a very personal relationship between myself and the place where I live."
Old, dark Portland should get a little brighter once the wrecking ball hits Satyricon. I plan on getting good and drunk in honor of the club and all those ghosts with nowhere left to go. Feel free to post your condolences in the comments section, or at one of the places linked below.
P.S. Sorry to rant. But we're just waiting on extended comments from the busy folks who currently run Satyricon, and I thought there was a lot to be said. We'll write a lot more on this topic, I guarantee it, in the months to come.
WW coverage of Satyricon in the last decade:
- Zach Dundas-penned article from Satyricon's 2003 closure.
" - 2004 article in which the 1990 "Satyricon Riot" is remembered.
- A remembrance of Satyricon, pre-2003 closing, from ex-WW music editor Mark Baumgarten.
*2006 Jason Simms interview with Satyricon booker Jeff Urquhart
on the reopening of the club.
*Michael Mannheimer's 2008 show review
of a Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks show at Satyricon.
SP Clarke's (invaluable) Portland Rock History
, detailing the opening of Satyricon in 1984. (The club comes up time and time again later in the series, and it's a fascinating read.)
A Facebook page called "I hung out at Satyricon back in the day."
Satyricon (current ownership) on MySpace
A MySpace fan-site for the old Satyricon
, replete with photos of Nirvana, Mudhoney and the Red Aunts.
Photo courtesy of the Satyricon tribute site.