In 1983, a magical shithole opened on Northwest 6th Avenue in Old Town. In the 27 years that followed, Satyricon grew into Portland’s CBGB, an epicenter for freaks and art-damaged weirdos of all musical stripes, not just within the city but also for the entire West Coast.
Three years after it was finally shuttered and demolished comes a new documentary, Satyricon: Madness and Glory. WW spoke to its director, Mike Lastra of the band Smegma, a Satyricon regular, about the club’s legacy.
WW: Did Portland’s music and arts scene have a place like Satyricon before the club opened?
Mike Lastra: There was the Blue Gallery and a smattering of other clubs that opened and closed, but it was certainly when [owner] George [Touhouliotis] opened that place, and the fact it was open for 27 years or something, that really made it the hub. It wasn’t long ago that this was a one-horse town. It’s hard to believe, the way it is now, but it was pretty bleak, so this became the watering hole, the central meeting place for cross-pollination.
The documentary focuses on the bands that played there through the mid-’90s, but Satyricon was open until 2010. Did its capital decline as Portland got bigger?
It actually closed [temporarily] in 2003. Part of that was twofold. One, people were getting bored of playing there. There were new venues. And plus, Satyricon wasn’t home to one genre-specific style of music and activities. Later, when there were other clubs, it was like, there’s this metal club over here, and unplugged over here. In the last few years, I’m not sure if it overtly changed, but it became known as a metal club. It seemed like it was never going to be the same after that first closing.
The end of Satyricon was seen as the death knell of old Portland culture in general.
People don’t realize how screwed up it was before 1979. The only way you got into clubs to play as a band is if you were doing covers. And after the doors were open and shown it could work, Satyricon showed it could have lasting power. It grew like a tree, and the tree gave fruit to all these people to go, “Let’s do our club.” It served its need in its time, and now things are different. When I play downtown, it blows my mind. Like, my God, you can walk along the street and hear music pouring out of this door and that door. Back in the day, they’d roll up the street at 7 pm.
What did you learn about Satyricon from doing this documentary?
I didn’t realize how important it was to some people. I went there, but I never smoked cigarettes or enjoyed drinking booze at all. I wasn’t a clubber, per se. But as I talked to people, the way they described it was their home away from home, the clubhouse. I didn’t realize it was that important to so many people, and not just a handful.
SEE IT: Satyricon: Madness and Glory premieres at Cinema 21, 616 NW 21st Ave., on Wednesday, Oct. 16. 7 and 9 pm. $8.