Raccoon Raccoon from Minneapolis, Minn.
Last night was a show at Coyle Street, Portland’s punk house institution since before I can remember. If you’ve never been to Coyle Street, picture it this way: A three-story house in Oakdale full of bike parts, dirty dishes, art, music, skateboards, zines and a certain kind of tough-as-nails love that just can’t be faked. It smells vaguely of vegan caserole, chain lubricant and b.o.
The guestbook is a hand-bound cardboard tome filled with adoring praise for Coyle Street and the kids who have lived there from every busker, vagrant, crustpunk, anarchist, traveler, circus performer, or band worth their salt that’s come through Portland and stayed on the floors and couches of this bohemian treasure by the Back Cove. Shows like the ones at Coyle Street are enough to make me love Portland again when I start to think I might hate it.
The venue is the basement. It can comfortably accommodate about 20 people, but Coyle Street isn’t really about being comfortable. It’s about cramming in as many people in the tight space as possible. It’s about standing shoulder-to-shoulder and nodding your head emphatically while a band that could fill the stage at Genos, or SPACE or anywhere else stuffs themselves into a roughly 10-feet by 6-feet space at the head of the crowd.
Like all the best things, it’s about being close. It’s about sweat.
Three bands played but the hands-down standout were Raccoon Raccoon, pictured above, all the way from Minneapolis. When they took the “stage,” most of the kids in attendance sat down, a quick departure from the atmosphere created by the previous band, Hey Pauly Shore, who played that early-aughts brand of hardcore that when played honestly appealed to scenester-teens and die-hard punks alike.
Raccoon Raccoon were different: a cello and guitar/uke duo who played a kind of haunting, beautiful fugues that left at least this reviewer in a trance, staring as the bow slid over the cello’s strings and fingers plucked. The pair had that kind of musical and lyrical sincerity that differentiates the best bands in the world from the worst even if they play the same songs. They played maybe eight songs, one of which I recorded and you can listen to here.
From what I can tell, Raccoon Raccoon — like most underground bands — online existence is limited to their myspace page. Buy their stuff. I did. You won’t regret it.