Live music and Ms. Pacman

This summer, Backspace moved into the West Burnside area, bringing a much-needed injection of floor space to the declining number of underage clubs in Portland. Although hosting live music isn’t its primary purpose, it is well equipped to do so, with a large area next to the main room that rivals the Meow Meow’s.

Couches, tables, a coffee bar and several tables of high-speed, networked gaming computers occupy the main room. The back wall is host to a row of old-school arcade games including, but not limited to, Joust, Tron and the ubiquitous Ms. Pac Man, not to mention a fine art gallery with contributions from Portland artists. Backspace has also been known to host book signings from time to time.

The comfortable facilities were almost enough to offset the half-hour delays between each band at last Friday’s Halloween party. As the musicians finally arrived in turn to address their audience of10 or more, the highlight came at 2 a.m. in the costumed form of Perfume.

The local rockers elicited frenetic responses from the tenacious late-nighters who had stayed to see them, and responded in turn with a stage performance that hearkened back to the glory days of Nirvana and Mudhoney.

Guitarist Michael Peimani convulsed on the floor, played on his back and left the stage to more effectively bring rock music to the audience with his Kurt-Cobain-model Jagstang guitar, which was modified to the late Kurt’s original specifications.

Their music even sounds a little bit like that famed Olympic trio, but with a heavier dose of pop fuzzout and Beatles harmonies alternating with hook-laden riffs 퀌� la Scentless Apprentice. Liberal distortion and occasional feedback tempt comparison, as well, but Perfume maintains originality despite similarity.

The climax of their performance was a cover of the Elliott Smith track “Christian Brothers.” It was electrified and overdriven, highlighting new sides of the song, as any good cover should. Unfortunately, vocals seemed a little laconic and off-key, but solid songwriting and playing more than made up for the minor inconsistencies.

Sharing the stage over the course of the evening were several other bands, including solo pop act The Wanteds, which had saccharine lyrics and whiny vocals that reminded me of that wanker Art Alexakis, which is invariably bad. Also playing were hip-hop duo Brokaw, whose silky-smooth delivery of lines while simultaneously changing costumes was impressive. An 퀌_ber-short Gothic fashion show filled the empty spaces.

Despite the mostly talented performers, the event seemed to drag into the wee hours of the night without really beginning, but Backspace provided enough to do on the side to keep things interesting. If only the arcade games cost 5 cents and not 25 … All my laundry change was eaten at lightning speed by Ms. Pac Man, which I have sucked at since the ’80s and continue to suck at to this day. If you’re serious about seeing a band, then you should probably go somewhere else, but if you just want to dick around on fast computers and have a good cup of coffee late at night – Portland can always use another late night hangout – then Backspace is the place to go.


115 N.W. 5th