The goth/darkwave community in Portland has quite a friend in the Coffin Club. The spacious venue on Southeast Grand bathes its multiple dance floors in a constant haze of dry ice smoke while decorating the walls in tastefully spooky art and bric-a-brac. Even more impressive is that the owners squeezed a sizable stage below ground level where they host performances by a stream of local and touring acts.
This past Friday, the fine PA system that accompanies said stage was pushed to the brink by Darkswoon, the strongest of Portland’s many darkwave artists. Though just a trio of guitar, electronics and bass, the group was unmercifully loud and enveloping with the band’s frontperson, Jana Cushman, filling what empty space was available with their shattering vocals, which sounded like the unsealing of a long hidden store of painful and pleasurable memories.
Between songs, bassist Norah Lynn helped plug up the gaps while Rachel Ellis twisted knobs and reset her gear for the next song. Lynn’s distorted chords and feedback served like a blast of sage smoke to the senses, clearing the mind and body out for what came next.
Something that’s often lost in the discussion of darkwave music is how absolutely cathartic it can be. For all of the bleeding and psychic wounds that Cushman sings about, the act of playing these songs at full volume to a captive audience seemed to lift something off of their slender shoulders. Their interactions with the crowd got more playful as the set went on and the three musicians shared some impish looks along the way. That sensation fed into the audience, which grew more animated and, in the case of one couple closest to the stage, a lot more amorous with each passing minute.