THERE WAS A TIME not long ago when Boom! couldn't get onstage at a proper venue. "I don't know if we had a bad rep, or that we break shit," says drummer Christopher Scott, "but no one would let us play in their venue."
House shows were another story. The kids were drinking it up, shoulder tapping and pogoing into low ceilings. Boom! quickly became one of the most sought-after party bands around, their high-energy, shredded punk popping off like short-fused cherry bombs. It's in-your-face, beer in a bag, grab your neighbor and sweat together, good-time shit that does more than just jack the energy in a room—Boom!'s hooks stick around long after the party has faded.
The trio arrived in here in the summer of 2008 from Riverside, California. On advice from friends in touring bands, Boom! reached out to the Artistery, which promptly took them in. It became the epicenter of their personal and musical lives. "Aaron (Shepherd), who runs the Artistery, is like our dad," Scott says.
The first band Boom! caught while holed up in the venue's basement was White Fang. Immediately a bond was formed, as the two groups operate under similar principals: inclusiveness and fun above all. But before the bands became almost a package deal, tearing up basements together, Boom! needed time to adjust to some of Portland's uglier aspects.
From the Artistery the band relocated to SE 72nd and Woodstock, a barn-like house full of musical equipment and little else. It didn't work. "When I moved up here, I was almost culture-shocked," explains guitarist Izak Arida. "There's no brown people. It was weird, walking around Felony Flats and not seeing any brown people—but being that one. I'm not trying to say it's a racist town, but folks would yell at me when I'd be walking down the street. Eyes were glaring."
"That kind of messed our minds up and we weren't being creative at that point," Scott adds. "We were more worried about fitting in." The jolt came partly because Riverside is a veritable melting pot. Scott attended the University of Riverside, and vocalist Osama Ehigiator calls the college one of the most diverse in the nation.
By learning what to expect, moving again, and surrounding themselves with creative people, Boom! found their stride. They wrote some 60 songs, released eight EPs online, a Gnar Tape, and were soon playing two parties a week.
Occasionally, standing out can have its advantages. "People will see that we look different, and they like that," Scott muses. "I think." Boom! were invited to play the Punkstart My Heart festival for gay, lesbian, and minority bands at a feminist bookstore in NE Portland. "They loved us," Scott says. "Feminists love Boom!"
Local label Hovercraft Records also fell for the band. After catching a Halloween show, they commissioned a seven-inch with Justin Higgins at Old Standard Sound. From label to engineer to band, the relationships blossomed, and a full-length followed a month later. Boom! did it old-school punk style, recording and mixing the entire 14-song LP in just three days.
The resulting self-titled record is a heavy hitter, full of thud and infectious hooks, maximized by Higgins' exquisite technique. It should be Boom!'s key to the city—something only the best party bands get—recognition that the kids were right after all.