Just short of a year since its inception, Brainstains—the quasi-official community center and music venue located in an unprepossessing yellow house at 3535 N Lombard—will host its final show on Saturday, February 23. The 12-hour all-ages event commences at 2 pm and features performances by over a dozen Portland bands that have formed the core of the Brainstains aesthetic, including the Hand That Bleeds, the Taxpayers, Here Comes a Big Black Cloud, and JonnyX & the Groadies. The show also serves as a farewell gala for the space's 29-year-old namesake and director, John Brainerd, whose upcoming move to New Orleans occasions Brainstains' end. Brainerd and I corresponded late last week about his experience running a non-commercial community space.
MERCURY: Brainstains often gets mentioned in the same breath as other Portland houses that hold shows, but it's described on your website as "a creative community center." What does that mean exactly? What makes Brainstains different from other show houses?
Unfortunately, I got mildly stuck under the guise of a house show, which was actually my biggest fear going into it. Don't get me wrong, I love house shows, but there are lots of them. I was always more into the social interaction and the idea of creating. I always wanted to offer an outlet for folks that didn't really fit into the established genres of entertainment or just someone that had a good idea and wanted to see an audience bring it to fruition.
What kinds of events have you had at Brainstains? Any stick out as particularly memorable?
Still my favorite show was probably the first "creative" show, which consisted of a game show (What Price Love) based on The Price Is Right, followed by the band the Whips and the Whales. And then we all made a horror movie directed by local filmmaker Bob Moricz. But I regularly had my music expansion classes, which consisted of people bringing their favorite rare recordings and sharing what they know about them, and then we listen and I record it all.
Have you felt limited or liberated by the fact that Brainstains isn't an official venue or arts space?
It limits the amount of folks I can reach, and I'm trying to reach everyday average Joes for the most part. It would have been nice to advertise just for North Portland and in that area.
Anything special we can expect from the final night?
We will be having a garage sale probably starting at 10 am, a Nerf gun war will be going on throughout the day, and the night will end with DJ Freaky Outty puttin' down the jams for the bubble wrap dance party which will consist of wall-to-wall bubble wrap. Mystery guests... I won't give it away, but it'll be worth it.