I once again beat the 20-Minute Rule (saying that you can get from any important part of Portland to any other important part in 20 minutes), needing only 10 minutes to get from home to NE MLK north of Broadway. Circling to find parking commenced; I stopped around the corner from The Dunes bar. On the same block is a boxing/wrestling club, with local wrestlers practicing their wrestling. Actually, wrassling, complete with attacks outside of the ring and stomping one’s foot to make the hit the opponent is taking sound harder than it is. (I actually can enjoy this stuff. Yes, I’ve outed myself as a wrestling fan!) A couple of young women looked in on a practice match. The match quickly got more heated. “They’re performing for you!” one woman said to the other.
I waited briefly in the light drizzle, alongside four or five men and women. I explored a little this way and that, seeing a dumpster with a Star Wars prequel-related sticker (“Don’t Blame Me, I Voted For Chancellor Valorum”) and other touches of flair. Then the door opened, and we got in; it took me about a minute to realize that the guys at the door hadn’t checked my ID or gotten the $3 cover from me, as if they assumed I was with the people who had entered. I actually checked with one of the Dunes guys, telling him “I don’t want to feel I’m sneaking past ya,” but he said things were fine. So, to the proprietors of Dunes: really, I would’ve paid the cover, no problem. Sorry you didn’t make money off of me that night – I have no experience ordering drinks by myself at a bar, I rarely drink anyway, and I was driving later that night, so it was not the night for stretching my boundaries that way. There. Conscience: clear-ish. Onward.
The bar: a narrow, vault-like place with a good vibe. Come to think of it, there were no drunken assholes that night, and as I’ve actually had the dealing-with-a-drunken-asshole-in-a-bar experience, I’m glad I didn’t have that again. The place filled up, the drinking kept up, and the performers milled in the front area. I had recognized Dame Darcy, a delicate blonde in white and with hints of what almost looked like a wee little hunchback – she probably doesn’t have that, but she’s somehow a little less symmetrical than many people are. She was quiet and contained, an interesting visual contrast to her busy, busy artwork, which almost vibrates when you look at it. (Her fashion sense is exactly recreated in Meatcake, though.) And when I heard Dame Darcy speak, her voice was lower than I had imagined when reading her comic. Don’t know why I thought I could imagine a person’s voice from artwork…
I soon also recognized the other headliner, Lisa “Suckdog” Carver, someone Willamette Week characterized as…let’s see, as “a noise-opera performer and post-punk writer” who’s lived through a hell of a lot, and writes and sings about it.
I still don’t know the show’s full line-up, so I can’t name names, but first a guy manipulated electronic noise to make it sound, I dunno, like electricity going “Ow!!!” After one mess of noise completed, he shouted into the silence “Flipper getting electrocuted!” Oh, so that’s what that was. Maybe. I guess.
Dame Darcy – and really, that name should be said in its entirety, not shortened or made nickname-y, because it’s just so dramatic and elegant – then sang 18th-century songs while playing the harp, probably the first use of a harp in that bar’s (or building’s) history. Carver next whipped out a – wait, did she have a guitar? I was in the back, and couldn’t see what she was wielding, but it sounded like a guitar. “I sing songs about rainbows and vaginas,” Carver said. “This is a nice one. This is a rainbow one.” She then sang about, um, the other subject.
Soon after the performers took a break, a few people started passing me, each with bags of clothes and props, and entering the restroom I was near. They then paraded out in costumes, to star in sketches recreating moments from Lisa Carver’s stories, both autobiographical and fictional tales of post-punk New York City. (Oh, by the way: her book? Drugs Are Nice: A Post-Punk Memoir.)
That’s when things got messy, with theatrical spilling of drinks and fake-drunken falling about – falling over each other, falling out of clothes – to recreate dramatic, funny, and/or embarrassing moments from Carver’s 20s. One performer lady got especially enthusiastic, and lunged, partly clothed, into the crowd, kissing me and other people on the cheek. (I’m not in a relationship at the moment, and that’d be my preferred way of getting a kiss, but for now, getting one that way was definitely better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick.) For a breather, Carver invited people forward to read punk music lyrics and challenged the crowd to identify the songs. Rewards were things like kisses between the reader and the identifier, or getting to fake bodily acts in front of the audience. Then things got messier, as in ketchup-as-a-stage-prop messy. (A mop was needed later. Many mops were probably needed after Carver’s 1980s shows…) Dame Darcy joined the insanity for one fictional tale, covering herself in a green sheet with ghost-like eye holes in it and wielding that aforementioned bottle of ketchup, yelling, “I’m hungry!”
None of the resulting mess reached me, though I wouldn’t have stressed too much had it happened. It was worth it for the experience. (Especially at that price!) Ours was a happy crowd, finding things to enjoy in all this chaos. One of the performer guys by this point was naked, and for me…well, to paraphrase Stuttering John Melendez, it was like looking at a building. Others liked it, of course…
When the show ended, I reached a table where Dame Darcy was selling comics, handmade dolls, and other swag. I bought two copies of Meatcake, and as she signed them I thanked her for having worked with Caitlin R. Kiernan, the reason I knew about her in the first place. I added that I'd been able to find one of her comic compilations in the library, and she happily said that lots of people have been able to say that; once again, Multnomah County Library shows itself to be pretty hip. I handled the signed comics carefully, so the signatures wouldn’t smudge, and made my way out, grinning big-ly.
My last stop on the way home was the Sandy Blvd. Everyday Music – hey, another Caitlin connection’s there: her girlfriend Spooky worked at that store in the late ’90s – and treated myself additionally. I can afford more CDs now. Score! And finally, after a long, long Saturday, I reached home, and rested, and got on with the week that you know a little bit about because I’ve already written about it.
There. I’m (mostly) caught up.