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.
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 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.
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.
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.
Here is my interview with Dave Cantrell himself:
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.