Arts & CultureMusic

Though not without snags, The Boreal’s inaugural show was incredibly promising

DIY, or do-it-yourself venues are not known for being particularly beautiful, clean, or well-maintained.  Long associated with punk, they’re often cold, spartan and slathered in graffiti.  Yet with its calming blue walls painted with tree silhouettes, Eugene’s new Boreal–located at 3rd and Washington–looks like an art gallery. Whether or not it will stay this gorgeous is just one of the many questions the new venue faces after its first show Friday night, as there was a sense that the venue needs to iron out a few kinks.

Much of the audience likely came just because it was the first show at what is likely to become an important hub of the Eugene music scene, rather than to see any of the actual bands. The Boreal is geared towards punk and metal, genres with rather insular fan-bases and the audience seemed more indie than anything else.

The show opened with pop-punk band Arrows & Stones.  The venue was already packed by the time they went on and the band was greeted with an easy round of head-nodding. When the second group, hardcore band SKEEVE, attempted to start mosh pits, they were only intermittently successful. It was only when singer Traydon Brown gave the command for everyone to “run around in a circle” that an effective circle pit was formed.

The next two bands were less punk-oriented. Best Friends, a Eugene-based garage-rock outfit, played so sloppily it was difficult to tell when they were playing songs and when they were testing their instruments. The muddy acoustics did not help much. Martian Manhunter fared better. An incredibly tight power-pop outfit led by KWVA music director Thor Slaughter, Martian Manhunter started the first audience-initiated mosh, which took place in the back between about a dozen mild-mannered hipsters.

Yet everything came together perfectly during the penultimate set by Southtowne Lanes, an excellent emo band featuring venue co-founder Tyler Giard. Undoubtedly the most well-known band there, Southtowne Lanes incited frantic, cathartic fist-pumping and a large mosh which received rave reviews from participants.

“That fucking mosh pit, man,” said attendee Julien Royer, who had previously seen Southtowne Lanes perform at the Campbell Club. “It was great. People were down, they were all stoked.”

As a substantial portion of the audience likely came to specifically see this band, the energy truly gelled during this set. If this were to be the typical Boreal show, the venue’s success would be guaranteed.

Nothing much notable happened during This Patch Of Sky’s set. The impressively bearded band played ambient instrumental rock that for the most part served as an accompaniment to the slow dissipation of the crowd.

For all the inevitable snags, the Boreal’s first show was undoubtedly promising. When the energy gelled and the audience seemed interested in the music, it was a great concert experience. And while the audience was diverse in terms of both age and subculture affiliation, there was an undoubted sense of community. Between each set, the street in front of the venue turned into a miniature festival by itself, with people playing Frisbee in the street and band members freely conversing and sharing cigarettes with audience members.

Yet one cannot expect the debut of a venue started entirely without professional help to go seamlessly and there is certainly room for improvement.

“It was kind of hard (for us) to hear ourselves, it was a little muddy,” said SKEEVE’s Traydon Brown.  “It was cool though, it was really fun.”

“It’s the first show, so there were a lot of snags,” said Martian Manhunter’s Thor Slaughter. “It took us a while to find a power strip, and they haven’t quite figured out the acoustics yet. We all knew it would be a little bit bumpy, but the feeling is good because there’s such a good turnout and everyone here is in really high spirits.”

Slaughter is excited about the Boreal, but he believes there are still some fundamental issues that could effect its ability to foster a community.

“I think right now the venue’s biggest struggle is going to be trying to diversify,” he says. “There’s a lot of people that support the venue, but tonight a lot of the bands are from a similar scene. “I’m excited to see how they can make the space more diverse and more multifaceted.”

After watching the inauguration of this venue, I share Slaughter’s sentiment.  The venue could certainly benefit from better sound and a more diverse roster of performers. A stage would help too as it was difficult to see most of the bands even from relatively close. But none of these things are hard to fix. With the right touching-up, the Boreal could easily deliver on its promise as a quality alternative to Eugene’s bar scene.

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