Jeff Urquhart on reopening Satyricon
Legendary Portland rock club Satyricon to reopen; Loveland to fade away.
[ROCK] Right now, there's a little of bit dust on the glittery bar stools that sit in the shuttered space once known as Satyricon, the most storied club in the history of Portland. In the middle of the black room where Nirvana played its first out-of-state show, there sits a broken refrigerator. But not for long. By early September, the club that was open for 20 years before closing in 2003 will open under the same old name but with a new potential clientele, as a split all-ages venue with a bar. This might sound familiar, since there have been a couple of ill-fated attempts to reopen the club in the past three years. WW caught up with Jeff "Banana" Urquhart, the man behind independent promotion company King Banana, to discuss what he and partner Mike Wolfson, who owns Loveland and Food Hole, will do to rebuild the seat of Portland music and hold it steady.
WW: Looks like there's still a lot of work and money that's going to have go into this place before it's ready.
Jeff Urquhart: There's no investors, no loans, nothing like that, we're just doing it straight out of pocket, so it's DIY for sure. I've been saving money from my other job and shows in the past, and I have a little bit of money but not to last for a while, just enough to get us through September when the shows start happening. And I've got enough shows set up to where we're going to be fine.
Wouldn't it be more financially stable to keep the club a bar? Why make an all-ages venue in a town that tends to lose them so quickly?
A lot of older people don't want to go to shows, especially if there's no alcohol at all. Plus, [the underagers] are the people who are going to be in the bands in five years, and if we don't embrace them, they might just drop out of the scene.
Do you think people who used to love Satyricon will mind a bunch of kids in the room where they used to drink?
For the people that used to come here a lot, it's not gonna be the same. But we want it to be a lot like [the original Satyricon]. We want it to have the heart that Satyricon did, and we want it to be a staple of Portland music. It's a great spot, [former Satyricon owner George Touhouliotis] did an amazing job for 20 years, but that doesn't mean we can't contribute to that and offer it to more people. There are already enough bars in this town. I could sit here and ramble off 10 different bars to go watch music that are good venues. And yes, Portland is a drinking town, but it's almost like it's oversaturated.
But with Loveland, Food Hole and the Hawthorne Theatre there are a few all-ages places, too.
We're putting everything that would be at Loveland here. Loveland is going to turn into a restaurant/bar, and there're going to be a few shows upstairs. Nothing too crazy, just something you might find in a bar. [Mike Wolfson] loves the space, and he wants to have a restaurant. I don't know exactly what's going to happen to the downstairs. There was talk of practice spaces, but I'm not sure.
So the booking at Satyricon is going to look a lot like Loveland and the King Banana roster?
This isn't King Banana's den or anything like that. Say, for instance, I got a show that was either too big for this place, or that we already had something booked and confirmed here, I would have the option of doing it elsewhere. We're going to book some things that some of the old Satyricon crowd might not be totally into, but that's how music is, it changes. But we want to keep the same feeling Satyricon had here, and it was a rock club, so that's basically what we're going to do here. [As we leave, Banana looks around and adds:] Seems like a lot changed in Portland after this place closed. New places opened up, and the feeling was different. I go to a lot of shows now, and I feel like I'm at a business. If the show starts late, I don't want to go early and just hang out. This is going to be a business, but we don't want it to feel like a business. We want it to feel like home.
Banana will reopen Satyricon in early September with a show featuring Portugal. The Man. Keep track of future developments at localcut.com.
STRENGTH Thursday, Aug. 10
Portland's contribution to the dance party can't beat the real thing.
[HIPSTER DISCO] I thought for sure that !!! got bands like Strength out of the collective hipster bloodstream. Apparently not, because Strength's debut, Going Strong (Community Disco)—a soulless '80s "soul" dance throwback album—is going to find its way into every basement party mix on the east side, in between cuts from Thriller and the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack. Yeah, it's ironic. Strength knows damn well they're creating cheesy disco/soul throwbacks, and they know damn well that hip kids are going to eat it up like they do the Snuggle Ups or Dat'r.
Despite this painful derivation, Strength is not without talent. They know how to cut a groove. If their smooth-as-fuck synth-bass lines or smooth-as-fuck keys don't get some asses bouncing, little will. (Unless the listener has an aversion to Billy Corgan, whom vocalist Bailey Winters echoes a bit too closely...OK, way too closely.) The liner notes even list the beats-per-minute of every track. Who cares? DJ's do...really, really bad ones who can't track a beat with their own ears. Or maybe deaf ones whom Strength wants to let in on the joke, although it seems like a lot of fruitless work to add more novelty to the production of this album. You really can't blame them, though: With liner note lyrics like "Wo, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh (oh, ah)," it seems like the band suffers from the inability to separate cleverness from obnoxiousness.
That's all fine and good. In the end, there's really nothing wrong with shameless dance bumps and ironic gimmicks. Well, that is, until the next morning, when your hung-over self presses Play and realizes you spent the prime hours of the evening bumping Strength when you could have been listening to the real deal.
Strength plays at the Fez Ballroom. 9 pm. $6. 21+.
Elvis Costello Appreciation Night Thursday, Aug. 10
The Portland players playing Costello's pop let us know why.
[POP] On Aug. 10, a bushel of Portland musicians will meet at the Doug Fir Lounge to pay respects to (very much alive) pop icon Elvis Costello. There doesn't seem to be any concrete reason behind the show, besides the obsessive fandom of the artists involved, so WW caught up with a few participants and asked them how they got hooked on Costello's audio-crack.
"The first Elvis Costello song I ever heard was 'Veronica.' The melody is so easy and understandable that it feels like a song that's always existed. Later on I learned that the song was about a woman with Alzheimer's, a woman who couldn't even remember her own name. Ah, a pop song about a terrible disease. How exciting! Taking the girl-song formula of the Beatles and turning it into something darker and more complicated certainly expanded the boundaries of the art form for me. Maybe I could write songs not just about girls, but about girls with terrible diseases."
Ian Lyles (of John Weinland)
"As a musician, I find it funny that I came to Costello's music so late in my life. My college thesis advisor brought to class an iPod's worth of random songs to use as discussion pieces concerning composition and the presentation of ideas and feelings in the form of a 'thing'—something to consume. I was floored when he threw on an acoustic version of 'Motel Matches.' The lesson became crystal-clear. Costello's ability to translate obscure moments and feelings into an actual 'thing' is mystifying. The man has a thing or two to teach us all about being an artist."
Patrick Kearns (Blue Skies for Black Hearts)
Patrick didn't want to single out a specific song (it could make the others jealous), so he told the story of how he met Matt Slessler, the EC tribute night's organizer. "Matt and I ran into each other at a show and bonded by trading our favorite Elvis Costello lyrics back and forth over PBRs all night. Things like, 'She said that she was working for the ABC news/ It was as much of the alphabet as she knew how to use.' As the night wore on, the quotes started to become more and more personal to us. I, unfortunately, hit the Costello-quote home run at last call when a guy showed up and left the bar with the girl I had been hanging out with. I turned to Matt and said, 'Oh, I said, I'm so happy I could die/ She said drop dead and left with another guy.' I turned and walked straight out the door without saying another word. Matt and I have been tight ever since."
Doug Fir. 9 pm. Free. 21+.