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February 20th, 2008 NILINA MASON-CAMPBELL | Music Stories
 

Commune Sense

Nomad/entreprenuer John “Brains” Brainerd skips town for the big easy.

     
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Where Is The Love?: It’s at John Brainerd’s house, a.k.a. Brainstains.
IMAGE: NILINA MASON-CAMPBELL

Ever the roaming idealist, John Brainerd, 29, came to Portland two years ago after traversing the U.S. in a “bowl-cut” formation from Worcester, Mass. He intended to set up shop—a multimedia community center and coffee shop, to be precise. In the year that semi-eponymous Brainstains has operated at 3535 N Lombard St., the house has veered from that inception, hosting everything from garden parties and musical game shows to becoming a full-on house venue. Brainerd’s tenure as head-of-the-household comes to a close with an all-day concert/garage sale/barbecue this Saturday, after which he’ll pack up his car and set out for the Big Easy with his dog, Akira.

WW: How did Brainstains become a venue?
Brainerd: I had to get my feet wet in some way. This [house] determined what I was going to do. Originally, I was looking at it [like] an old social house, with debates and coffee like the Dill Pickle Club in Chicago in the ’20s. It’s probably going to be taken over by Damien [Vander Wilt, from pc-pdx.com], who is going to make it legit and hopefully keep it going.

Why are you leaving?
It was a combination of things. One of the biggest things is that I never found someone that matched up with me that wanted to do this kind of thing.

Do you find that a lot in Portland, a community atmosphere that’s still lacking a connection?
Yeah, I was constantly trying to get people together. It’s cool to do your own thing, but there are people doing great things that need help.

What’s Brainstains’ role in the all-ages scene?
I feel like I got pigeonholed a little bit [with house shows]. It’s sort of hard to change that once it’s been established. If I was going to do it all over again, I’d be legit to begin with. Then you have more sway over things. We had super young kids here, we still do. Sometimes I had to deal with parents calling me and asking me about the show and if I’d be selling beer.

What have been the benefits and drawbacks?
When I first started this, I was kind of thinking, “Hey, I’ll do my thing and you guys are going to live here.” [That’s] not the way to do it. It’s not a home, it’s more than that. I was always hoping to have normal business hours. It’s zoned commercial residential; it just needs to go through the city.... I love how excited people get, people that haven’t been here before. It’s a great feeling when people come together on things. I just wish it had been more of a creative outlet.

What were some of your favorite shows?
...a sleepover with cartoons and pancakes in the morning. We’ve had cook-outs. I had a garden party, that was really fun. People came, they played acoustic...and we just had food and dug up roots.

What’s special about the final show?
There’s going to be a Nerf war; people are encouraged to bring their own Nerf guns. There’s going to be around 13 bands...a little noise...folk stuff, there’s some really heavy stuff in there and dancey stuff. There will be a bubble-wrap dance party at the end. I’m going to cover this whole room in bubble wrap....

Do you have any advice for people who want to do a community center or house venue?
I’d say start legit, limit your roommates, make sure they’re totally on board. It’s not always hectic, but you deal with a lot of drama. You sorta have to be a—

—Dr. Phil?
Yeah.

You don’t seem overly sentimental...

There’s a lot out there. I think you box yourself in when you stay in one place. I love the idea of community. I try to set one up wherever I go.


SEE IT: DJ Freaky Outty, Taxpayers, Shitfit, Jonny X and the Groadies, David Evan & band, The Hand That Bleeds, Palo Verde, Dagger of the Mind, Advisory, Here Comes a Big Black Cloud, Autry, Betacrack, Mr. Stay Away From Me and Julie Rose, play Saturday, Feb. 23. 3 pm. $5. All ages.
 
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