We spill a lot of ink on these pages devoted to music, but with bands coming and going through town it's sometimes easy to forget the resident nights of DJ-ed entertainment that actually get you through the week time and time again. And while it used to be a joke that "Portland doesn't dance," the scene has blossomed with booming dance parties of every genre, from the populist ('80s) to the esoteric (yacht rock). We popped down to parties representing seven major scenes (queer, hiphop, metal, goth, '80s, soul, techno) to report back on each night's flavor, but it's just the tip of the iceberg in terms of all the danceable action in town. We hope you'll check these nights out, but we also just hope you'll be inspired to explore Clubland on your own. There's a DJ out there for everyone, after all.
THE FIX W/DJS KEZ, OHMEGA WATTS, REV. SHINES, DUNDIGGY
"We don't 'Superman that ho' at the Fix"
The above quote is from an online video focusing on weekly hiphop throwdown the Fix. DJ Kez, the man responsible for the line, makes it seem all too easy. The draw of the Fix—and there is indeed a substantial draw, as I witnessed while watching the Someday Lounge swell with a mixed bag of backpackers, heads, and anyone else who is a true connoisseur of hiphop—is that the night is for those who love hiphop. Not those who just have a passing interest in hiphop. This is a night for those who would die for beats.
The murderers' row of local talent—Ohmega Watts, Rev. Shines, Dundiggy, and the aforementioned DJ Kez—has been cooking up the action every Thursday since 2006. And while the location has shifted—from the Night Light Lounge to the more dance-friendly Someday Lounge—their message of feel-good music has never wavered.
The Fix's promoter/booker ("everything but actual DJ") Connie Wohn explains their musical range: "The fellas play a lot of funk, soul, rare groove, Latin, dancehall, and any other music that is just good."
And if you need a celebrity endorsement, how about Nasir Jones? Nas rolled into the Fix last month after his Roseland show. Says Wohn, "Nas coming by was monumental, a total surprise. Nas is welcome anytime." Sorry Soulja Boy, that offer doesn't apply to you. EAC
Thursdays, Someday Lounge, 125 NW 5th, 9 pm, free
PLEASURE BOYS W/DEE JAY JACK, DANNY DAMAGE
When the Eagle disappeared from the rather formidable-looking building it used to occupy on W Burnside (a ruse—despite the rumors circulating about sinister torture-based sex acts going on in the bar's loft, actual entry revealed somewhat mellower goings on and one of the most outgoing-ly friendly staffs on the West Coast), it didn't go away, but it did go underground. It now lives in the basement of Casey's in Old Town, in a much smaller space with no less amiable personnel, and benefits from the word-of-mouth glamour that comes with lack of signage.
Pleasure Boys is a recent addition to the bevy of options offered up in the Old Town queer scene. Resident Dee Jay Jack imported it from Seattle when he pulled up stakes and headed south to make P-town his new home some months ago. Along with Danny Damage and guests (the first installment, in May, featured Pony Boy visiting from the Emerald City, and June's will have DJ Girlfriends filling in for Danny Damage along with special guest DJ Nightschool, AKA Nathan Howdeshell from the Gossip, AKA Brace Paine), the mix is classic queer night material, which is to say that it's a big soup-to-nuts mix of everything and anything that will keep people dancing. Jack specializes in esoteric Italo disco (for more of that, check out Black Gold, at Branx every third Friday), but it wouldn't be unheard of to, say, hear a RuPaul track come on.
The Eagle on a Pleasure Boys night is an ideal place to slip into when you're more interested in moving than talking, and in letting the hours slip by without communicating using anything other than the rhythms of your body and your chosen costume for the evening. MS
First Saturdays, Eagle Underground, 27 NW 6th, 9 pm, free
SHUT UP & DANCE W/DJ GREGARIOUS
God, it was hot upstairs at the Fez. It was 80 degrees outside and it was about 105 degrees on the third floor of the Moroccan-themed club. It didn't help that I was poncing about like Morrissey, dramatically throwing my hand to my forehead (I'm such a good dancer) to "There's a Light that Never Goes Out." It was Friday, after all, and DJ Gregarious was in charge of the dance floor at his ever-popular weekly dance night, Shut Up & Dance.
The crowd was well-appointed, if a bit bridge 'n' tunnel, full of a varied mix of Depeche Mode girls, gay boys, and douchebags and their hordes of 'bagettes. It took a considerable amount of time before DJ Gregarious and his crew took to the booth, and by this time the clipboard of requests was already two pages deep, full of friendly requests for Prince, Madonna, and Erasure. But, I suppose, after four-and-half years of manning Shut Up & Dance, DJ Gregarious (AKA Gregarious Tawdry Cline) can take as long as he damn well pleases.
The music was a great '80s mix of the requisite (Soft Cell's "Tainted Love") and some of my personal favorite floor burners (Deee-Lite's "Groove Is in the Heart"). Confusingly, Justin Timberlake would make an anachronistic appearance over the sound system, but that didn't stop anyone from getting their sexy on, as the crowd surged on and off the dance floor—intermittently getting drinks and getting down. Meanwhile, my date and I would skip the line and drink in relative seclusion downstairs at the lounge, where there's a monthly rotating cast of DJs and no line at the bar. CF
Fridays, Fez Ballroom, 316 SW 11th, 9 pm, $5
PLUS: Portland Fridays kick ass for '80s dancing with Lola's Room a mere block away from the Fez, where VJ Kittyrox rocks new wave videos and kickass '80s tracks at the weekly Video Dance Attack!
Fridays, Lola's Room, 1332 W Burnside, 9 pm, $5
HOLE IN MY SOUL W/DJ BEYONDA
DJ Beyonda's Hole in My Soul is one dance night that sure doesn't need any press from us. The night has been gathering momentum for over a year now, regularly selling out Rotture. On the night I attended the dance floor was packed solid by 10:30 pm, and two hours later when this 25-year-old dragged her geriatric ass out the door, there was a line down Rotture's stairs and into the street. It was a young, fashionable crowd—loads of kids who seemed deeply invested in how their neck scarves were tied—but any vestiges of hipster posturing were abandoned once boat shoes hit the dance floor.
Beyonda spins original R&B and soul pressings from the '50s through '70s—as a casual soul fan, I recognized maybe two songs all night, but this isn't the type of music you have to know in order to want to dance along. Maybe this is why this dance night is so much fun—the music is so damn good that there's just not a lot of room for posturing. Like, you'd have to be a real fucking asshole to not have fun at this, and having fun means dancing kinda goofy and not giving a shit. No one in this town actually knows how to dance, and it's impossible to maintain any level of coolness while trying to fake your way through the mashed potato. All told it was a friendly scene, not too pervy or meat markety, and the packed dance floor is only gonna get hotter as summer goes on. AH
Second Thursdays, Rotture, 315 SE 3rd, 9 pm, $3
R9 W/DJ BRYAN ZENTZ
"It's the closest thing to a club in Tokyo or New York," says Bryan Zentz of Pi-Rem. "Everything is built on the vertical, and you literally have to go underground to get to the music." Zentz hosts R9, a monthly dance party held on the fourth Saturday of the month at the basement club in Old Town. Pi-Rem is not just underground in the literal sense—only open on weekend evenings, the club has an obscure entry on NW Glisan, and has largely relied on word-of-mouth advertising. Worth the effort to find, the space successfully combines an elegant lounge/art gallery with a warehouse vibe, complete with cement floors and a booming sound system.
The theme of R9, named after the 1984 record by Detroit legend Cybotron, is predominantly techno, electro, and acid house. Zentz says, "We're always watching the new stuff and bringing that to the audience while using the archives as a reference point to pay homage to Detroit and Chicago, where all these sounds came from."
If anybody is qualified to reference original techno, it is Bryan Zentz, an international techno veteran who relocated to Portland a couple of years ago. Originally attracted to the DIY/punk element of the early dance music scene, Zentz was given his start in the early 1990s by none other than Richie Hawtin. He has toured around the world, playing at renowned venues like Womb and Fabric with Carl Cox, Kevin Saunderson, and Terry Mullan, to name a few, and released stacks of original productions and remixes, most recently as Stare5 on the CMYK record label.
Zentz came up in techno at a time when the whole scene was still underground. The beauty of R9 is that it carries on that same spirit, but also remains accessible, with no cover and diverse local guest DJs. The almost-secret basement location of Pi-Rem could not be more fitting. AVA
Fourth Saturdays, Pi-Rem, 440 NW Glisan, 9 pm, free
THE SABBATH W/DJ NATE C
Former Mercury contributor Nathan Carson's weekly event at Rotture is neither a religious event nor a strictly metal-based one. It's the Sabbath, a weekly sanctuary of adventurous music—stylistically diverse, but frequently hard-edged—that guarantees you won't be keeping still on the lord's day of rest.
It started as Black Sunday at Ground Kontrol, but in March it moved over to Rotture; there's always live music, with Carson (DJ Nate C) spinning slabs of vinyl in between sets. "Because Rotture is in Southeast and doesn't attract a lot of foot traffic, I'm only spinning when there are bands," he explains. "A lot of people love what I spin, but they usually won't travel to see me unless there's another attraction."
Many of the Sabbaths thus far have been metal-based, but metal itself encompasses so many sub-genres that the nights don't always resemble each other. The brontosaurus stomp-punk metal of Black Elk actually sounds very different from the iceberg chill of black metallists Wolves in the Throne Room, which both sound unlike the motorik pulse of Nudity.The old records that he spins are always hard-nosed, but frequently sound warmer, more inviting, and more expansive than you might expect. In fact, what all the music has in common is that it often rubs shoulders with psychedelic and progressive rock, not just the strict frenzied pummeling one might expect from a night of metal. "I will venture far from metal whenever appropriate," says Carson. "I want to entertain folks and always mix in plenty of hits. It's gratifying to see dancing and head-banging." NLSundays (usually—check rotture.com before you go), Rotture, 315 SE 3rd, 9 pm, cover varies
HIVE W/BLACKOUT, DARKHYND, OWEN
Claiming to be the longest-running goth night (to generalize; officially it's a night of "gothic-industrial-darkwave" music) in Portland, Hive has migrated into Plan B, the contraceptively renamed Acme. The addition is symptomatic of the bar's overhaul in general, going from a bike-heavy hipster scene to a bit of a punkier one, as witnessed by Emily the Strange-ish knickknacks adorning the bar's upper shelves.
I have never identified as a goth, but there are many "goth" things that I enjoy (vampires, period costuming), including much of its music. Nonetheless, I went to Hive after having spent the earlier part of the day seeing Barack Obama give a speech, eating farmers market produce, and playing with puppies. I was so not feeling goth. (I had a sunburn, for crying out loud.) I clearly wasn't the only one; attendance was sparse, with most people taking advantage of the fleeting heat by sitting on the patio, talking. The entire time I was there, the population on the dance floor never exceeded four.
Nonetheless, the music was pretty good: a mix of the obscure and familiar (I was made happy when My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult came on, less so during spans of "unce-y" house music). And, truth be told, the extra space on the dance floor came in handy for those who chose to utilize it. The style that was being performed rather impressively was what can only be described as expansive, with lots of intricate, often balletic arm gestures, spinning.
Additionally those seeking the harder, darker and more techno-industrial end of the goth spectrum will be pleased to note that the back patio will feature a second DJ station catering to these desires, with the front end retaining its diversity. MS
Sundays, Plan B, 1305 SE 8th, 10 pm, $3