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Cvlt Nation Catches SFUtF Showcase #3 ft. The Exorcists, White Rooms, and Spirit Host!

Spirit Host at Black Water Bar, photo by Nicole Cook

Portland is home to a growing amount of post punk gems, the likes of which the Internet is only so aware. It’s nothing out of the ordinary here to attend an affordable show with new bands only just hitting your radar who end up completely blowing you away. The best example of this in recent memory is Dave Cantrell’s Songs From Under the Floorboard showcases. Songs From Under the Floorboard is my personal favorite radio show (it’s local to Portland, but anyone can listen!) where Dave plays an astounding variation of new post punk and related genres from around the world each week, with some older bands mixed in.

Many of you probably remember Oliver Sheppard’s interview with Dave about his legendary Out From The Shadows II Festival, a yearly multi-day fest of current darkwave/postpunk/etc artists both local and from across the country (sometimes even across the globe). The SFUtF showcases are essentially this on a much smaller level and occurring roughly every other month. Unfortunately, I missed the very first showcase, but that lineup boasted Shadowhouse, Force Publique, and Fleshh (who also played with Deathcharge and Murderbait recently). The second showcase a few months prior to this featured Sex Park, The Secret Light (whose debut album I recently reviewed), and Shadowlands (which features members of Murderbait). So far, all three have been hosted at Blackwater Bar, an all-ages vegan venue and a place I find myself at fairly often. On this night, there was once again no problem getting a good crowd drawn in on a weeknight. The crowd itself was also entirely different from that of the last showcase, which is a true testament to how “all over the place” Dave is with what he covers.

The Exorcists at Black Water Bar, photo by Dave Cantrell.

 

I’m going to spoil this right away for you guys – The Exorcists, an all-female deathrock band who opened the show, completely blew me away. They’re legitimately my new favorite band. I listened to their demos beforehand and really enjoyed them, but my god, they were so much better live! All three of them were so well put together and natural up there. They smiled and made eye contact with the audience at various points, genuinely having fun. They played their instruments perfectly with a fast and positive, radiant energy.  Father Hymen (vocals/guitar) has an incredible voice and uses it to her advantage; she ends almost all of her songs in a some kind of melodic wail (or even death rattle!).

 

Father Johnson (vocals/bass) informed the audience of the titles and topics of some of the songs before playing them; notably “Mecchaphile – it’s about, you know, dating a robot!” “Happens all the time!” Father Hymen chimed in, getting laughs from the audience. I loved them so much – spooky, fun, and charming. While Portland is very rich in darkwave and post punk, there doesn’t seem to be many horror-themed deathrock bands to speak of. I’ll be thrilled to see them perform at future goth/deathrock shows. With their talent and stage presence, they could easily open for a big-time goth band, and I’ll be in the front row when it happens.

 

White Rooms at Black Water Bar, photos by Nicole Cook

 

White Rooms were quite obviously a highlight for most of the audience, as several people shouted to the band both as they set up and between songs. They moved the mood to more atmospheric, danceable dream poppy postpunk. This was also my first time seeing lead vocalist/guitarist Nico Torre since he played in Shadowhouse several years back. They opened with “Her Name Is Nothing” and continued to play several more songs off The Redacted EP which was released on Halloween last year.

 

White Rooms at Black Water Bar, photo by Dave Cantrell

 

Although I’d given the EP a listen beforehand, I was surprised with how danceable they ended up being live – not in a synthpop/New Order way, but it was impossible not to sway along to the music because of the fantastic synth work. At times they reminded me of a modern day My Bloody Valentine or even The Chameleons. Fans of 2010’s deathrock revival (Arctic Flowers, Bellicose Minds, Shadowhouse, Spectres, etc) as I know most of you are would really dig these guys if they aren’t already on your radar.

 

Spirit Host at Black Water Bar, photo by Nicole Cook

 

The showcase ended with one of my favorites, Spirit Host, who some of you remember from the Clan of Xymox show here last August. I’ve been following these guys since Dave Cantrell’s birthday show a little over a year ago (although their live show debut was filling in at Out From The Shadows I in 2015), and in such a small span of time, they’ve truly evolved to perfection. They sound better and better every single time they play. Case in point, on this night, they managed to sound even better than they did when they opened for Clan of Xymox despite Blackwater being a much smaller venue than Star Theater.

These guys weren’t as vocal as The Exorcists or White Rooms between songs, in fact they were mostly silent, which really works for them – they’ve always given off a relatable “shy wallflower” vibe, as though they would much rather speak through their music. It was also fitting for the end of the night on a work night. Sadly, time was running short and they didn’t get to play as long of a set as the other bands, but they still managed to leave me impressed and euphoric.

 

Spirit Host at Black Water Bar, photo by Dave Cantrell.

 

Here is my interview with Dave Cantrell himself:

Songs From Under the Floorboard on Xray is easily one of the best postpunk radio shows out there. How did you first get started with it? I understand it predates XRAY.
It does. Ran into a guy at Mississippi Studios in 2011 (we were the only two there waiting for EMA to begin her set), and after we’d rattled off at each other about music for a solid 20 minutes he said ‘You should have a show on KZME.’ As I’d long kind of daydreamed of having my own show I followed up on that suggestion, and even though the person that ran that station had no real idea of what post-punk was – she’d always forget exactly what the phrase was and say ‘post-modern punk’ instead – they were at the time desperate for live DJs so, amazingly, after some training, I had my show, starting in July 2012. I had originally planned for SFUTF to simply be a platform to share my enthusiasm for, and experience with, post-punk’s founding years (when I was in my 20’s) but since KZME was premised on local music – “Music Where You Live” was its slogan – I decided to look up current post-punk bands, which led me to you CVLT Nation colleague Oliver Sheppard’s Dec. 2011 article for Souciant that listed 16 new bands and four of them were from Portland, forming the core of a scene that was far enough underground that I’d not even known it existed. That day I called Black Water Records here in Portland and talked with Keith from the Estranged, who were the first band on Oliver’s list and from that day the show’s emphasis has slowly evolved from the 1978-1982 period to an almost exclusive focus on the renaissance. The organization behind KZME decided to shut the station down in 2012 and a decision was made to transfer its assets to XRAY, and I was lucky enough to be among the few DJs that were asked to come on board the, y’know, new mothership.
How has Songs From Under the Floorboard changed since joining XRAY, if at all?
Only that the evolution from the ‘then’ to more of a ‘now’ has gone from what was a 25%/75% split to something of a 10%/90%. It’s not unusual for weeks to go by where there isn’t a single track from post-punk’s heyday. There’s just too much current stuff out there that I’m excited to share and an hour goes by in a hurry so the older guard tends to get crowded out. I do however occasionally program a ‘post-punk comfort food’ show and I still do an All Fall Extravaganza every fall (of course).
I tune into your show each week and I’m always blown away by the variety of new postpunk and related genres cropping up all over the world at any given time. How on earth do you manage to keep up with it?
I don’t. There’s really not a week goes by without finding out about a band that’s been going for some years now, has a couple albums out etc, or find out about a really great band who’s first LP came out six months ago or something. But, to the extent I’m able to at least give the impression that I’m staying current, I have a couple of very lively Facebook groups I belong to where one can only post current-generation post punk/darkwave etc. Plus a good friend of mine, an obsessive collector of the genre, whom listeners know as ‘the mysterious Mr Hopman,’ sends me a box of CD-r’s a few times a year, which helps tremendously. Mostly, though, like any of us, it’s the standard case of having a kind of jones to hear something new, and there’s never been a better time to be exposed to so many new bands you can’t possibly hear them all, which is the ideal, after all.
You already put together a fantastic postpunk festival in Portland each year, Out From The Shadows, which consistently boasts impressive lineups. How are these smaller, more frequent SFUTF showcases put together?

There’s only been three of them thus far but the idea is to have three bands for five bucks, held on a slightly off night of the week – currently it’s the last Wednesday of every other month – where the lineup opens with something close to a brand new band, followed by a more established band that’s still not quite to the album stage, say, then headlined by a well-established band. That’s the template, anyway, and it’s worked out pretty well so far.
Do you have anything else you’re working on you’d like to promote?
There is a pretty exciting project in the works that I can’t quite talk about but beyond that just the OFTS III festival in April here in Portland, and thanks for asking!
Written By

Sär is a writer and music enthusiast born and raised in the Portland, OR area. They have been an avid listener of goth, postpunk and deathrock since 2003 and their ultimate goal is to introduce as many people to as many of these amazing bands as possible.

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