October 31, 2015 in On..., Op-Eds by

On: Halloween, Holocene and PDX Nightlife

This grumpy rant might read like a personal attack on Holocene, because it is.

Halloween is one of the few holidays I have become increasingly jaded about over the years. If I wanted to go get drunk at a bar while sporting falsies and baring a lot of skin, I could easily achieve all that on any weekend without the excuse—and costs—of Halloween. The costume, the cover fees–it’s all too much of an expense at this point, especially since it never lives up to my expectations. That’s why I no longer choose to celebrate the holiday in any traditional sense. Whether it’s staying in by myself, scheduling a date, or catching a movie, I have continued to make other plans on October 31st.

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I haven’t really dressed in costume for about 4 years now. In my humble opinion, the best way to celebrate Halloween is to go to the pumpkin patch and get yourself some squash, a caramel apple, and other edible items. Oh, and sometimes I like to just watch classic Halloween movies and eat candy that I would be giving to trick-or-treaters if they could come inside my apartment building. It’s a nice way to celebrate the fact that Halloween is ending, and Thanksgiving is on the way. I could blame my dis-enjoyment of “adult Halloween” on the time I got alcohol poisoning my sophomore year of college, or I could blame it on the time I got arrested* for a noise complaint during my house party senior year. But mostly, my recurring decision to stay in on Halloween is a boycott to Portland’s nightlife, which is just the worst.

My costume this year: a girl who would much rather stay in and watch Hocus Pocus with a bowl full of candy and a few bowls of bud than to stay out late getting crossfaded and #tooturnt.

As you can probably imagine, I relate to and am obsessed with the song “Here” by Alessia Cara as of late. Even though the singer is only 19, she knows what’s up.


It’s an anti-party anthem about a girl who just wants to smoke weed, listen to good music, be with “her people” in a situation that is conducive to her life and goals. She’s sees all the party chaos as a waste of her time, and is not feeling the scene. At the end of the song she ends up going to the car to wait until her friends are ready to leave. 

The best part is that I’m finally comfortable enough with my 27-year-old self to opt out of Halloween altogether if I should ever feel like it. This year I’m going to spend Halloween watching the Blazers take on the Suns at the Rose Quarter. THEN, I’ll go in on the candy and Halloween movies. Sounds like a GREAT use of my time rather than just drinking heavily. It’s sad that this is what Halloween becomes when you reach adulthood. I can see why people would want to have children; it would be fun to re-live your trick-or-treating days vicariously through your offspring. A childless woman in my mid-late twenties, it’s on me to find the best party in town and have the best costume out there. No thank you! I can no longer make myself vulnerable by thinking that I can actually enjoy a wild night out in Portland.

Usually when I do get the rare urge to go out dancing I end up unimpressed with the music or activities, and I’m too often the only black person in the room (other than the bar-back, of course). With all the closures of black clubs, the options of places to congregate with a diverse crowd have become very limited. That is, unless there happens to be a very specific, small hip-hop event happening at a decent venue. And when a venue like Holocene does decide to host a large event like, say the ‘Bey Day’ bash in September, or a sold-out show featuring former trailblazer Martell Webster…they never fail to fuck up the line management.

The ‘Drake and Cake’ ordeal last Saturday was twice as bad as when I tried to get into one of Holocene’s ‘Booty Basement’ nights (no longer in rotation) a while back.

DrakeAndCakeSince none of my friends nor I bought tickets in advance, we took an Uber to the east side to get in line at 9:20—forty minutes before the doors were said to open. Sounds like a safe bet, right?

WRONG.

It only took two hours for the security to come draw a line right where I was standing and told us that’s “approximately” where they would reach capacity. After that, it would be one in, one out. Too bad the line was wrapped around the fucking block. We were only twenty people or so away from the front at this point, and we had already waited in line for so long, so we decided to stay a bit longer. It wasn’t until 15 minutes later–around midnight– that a handful of Trail Blazers showed up and we realized not many people inside that club were going to be leaving anytime soon. We finally called time of death on the evening, and requested an Uber back to the west side. I guess I stayed out of pride…and then I left out of pride.

Reading through the comments on the Facebook event did help calm my nerves and made me feel like I wasn’t crazy for being so outraged:

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So I’ve decided that Holocene is the Screendoor of night clubs; they LOVE to make swarms of people wait in line (outside!) for hours on end for a promising experience (inside!) that brunch/club -goers  can only assume is awesome based on hearsay. (Although I did check, and the fried chicken at Screendoor IS disturbingly dope. Tip: Go get the chicken at dinnertime instead. Better make reservations!) And while Holocene has often been an enjoyable visit for more intimate hip-hop shows, the club turns into a dysfunctional mess when the big crowds show out. We know you can fit more people in there, and you’re just being a pansy!

Naturally, I took to Twitter to yell my frustrations to my followers…

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And when I really think about it, the messiness always feels intentional, or at least avoidable by the staff. Maybe Holocene and Screendoor share a fetish for mindfuckery and it’s all about misrepresenting how poppin’ this chicken-and-waffles party really is. Perhaps they need to hire more bar and security staff. Or perhaps the fire marshall really is just a huge dick. Regardless, I can no longer recommend this dance venue in good conscience…unless you had the good square sense to pre-purchase your tickets online. And while I’m on the topic, why is Holocene treating dance parties like they’re a damn show? Unless Drizzy himself is going to show up, there’s no reason for you to be selling tickets in advance. You better check yourself, Holocene. You ain’t that hot.

The sad part is that Portland is so starved for a hip-hop dance night that it’s actually willing to lineup for several hours just to shake their asses to a Drake marathon.

Outside of Holocene, us hip-hoppers and their friends have a few new-ish and newly renovated options to frequent downtown: Blackbook, Tube, Jack Knife, and Fortune to name a few. And does anyone know anything about the place taking over Couture’s old spot? There’s a lit-up sign out front that says “S H A K E,” which is intriguing. Truth be told, I have had a decent time at all of these bars even though they’re small—nothing too crazy. But really, the Old Town/China Town area is only getting worse; how much longer can we really go down there? And while there is certainly a tremendous slew of great bars for consuming superior cocktails, there are simply not enough clubs that consistently provide hip-hop and R&B, let alone in a dance-friendly setting.


Holocene was one of the few places (I thought) that has the capacity and willingness to put on hip-hop shows and play “black people music” for a large crowd. But it’s truthfully no longer worth the extra effort. I would rather go to Crush, or even Sassy’s than feel like a peasant waiting in line for 2.5 hours just to pay a $10 cover and listen to Drake’s music. I already pay $10 a month for Apple Music, and can dance to his albums in the comfort of my own reasonably-priced downtown apartment! And lord knows that’s just as hard to come by as an “urban” dance event in Portland, Oregon.

Hopefully with this city’s rapid expansion—and supposed intentions by Mayor Hales—it’s just a matter of time before business owners and community leaders will realize that there IS a hip-hop community here, and we are painfully desperate to mingle with a more diverse crowd…and to the sweet sounds of Drizzy Drake. Don’t they want to profit off that?

The repetitious failure of outings like this have instilled in me that attending local arts and culture events, concerts, and meeting new people in those spaces is far more rewarding than simply getting inebriated and grinded upon by a stranger (assuming, of course, that I could actually get inside the damn place). It’s also a much more real way to interact. Maybe it was blessed fate that I wasn’t let into Holocene that night, and I was instead meant to get one Moscow mule and a plate of dessert from Shift Drinks bar on the way home. I’m all for staying in, but it would be nice to have some options for those rare occasions that I do want to go pop that thang. That’s all.

I hope you all have a safe and fun Halloween. Make good choices.

~ Jenni Moore

 

*I was only “arrested” technically speaking. We invited over 200 hundred people to our Halloween party, and it got really out of hand. My roommate’s boyfriend ended up bringing an unlicensed keg, which didn’t help our case. The cops showed up before midnight to break up our party. They told me and my six other roommates that we were under arrest, although they weren’t going to cuff us. It simply meant that we were not allowed to leave the premises. But why would I? I lived there. Anyway, each of us had to court and got our fines reduced to $275. 

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