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Seven Stories…Justine Murphy

Photographer: Justine Murphy
Based in: Portland

Text by Nathan Carson

Justine Murphy is a wonder. I should know–she’s a very close friend of mine, and also the fine photographer who has documented my annual Fall Into Darkness festival for the last few years. We have a date to make a blog called NVRSTSFD wherein her photography and my music writing will collide. Thanks to Cvlt Nation for providing us this opportunity (read: kick in the ass) to get the ball rolling…

The following photos were all shot at our mutually beloved Berbati’s Pan. This Greek restaurant and elegantly grungy music club is in the heart of downtown Portland, OR and has played host to every incarnation of my “Into Darkness” festival to date. The sound and vibe at this place is my favorite in town, and I know Justine agrees. In fact, this is how and where we first met, thanks to her long weekend adventures down from Victoria, BC to attend the fest. (She lives here in Portland now.) In late 2010, Berbati’s closed its club after the owner Ted passed on. Some of the room was remodeled and sold to the ever-expanding Voodoo Donut empire. But Berbati’s restaurant continues to serve up fine downtown cuisine, and has now reopened its club side with a smaller capacity, and the same great stage and sound under the new and reverential name “Ted’s.”


Witch Mountain – 2010

I had always planned for Witch Mountain to be the first band I’d review in conjunction with Justine. As a writer, I have to avoid “conflict of interest” and minimize my nepotism as much as possible. But blogs are about truth and experience, and who could be more experienced with Witch Mountain than me–one of its founding members? This picture is of our singer Uta Plotkin, who is earning great recognition this year for her contributions to our new album South of Salem and concerts like this opening night gig of Fall Into Darkness 2010. Whenever I put my own band on my own festival, I feel a extra responsibility to really deliver. Uta’s unassuming stage presence and immortal voice help assure that no one can argue our value. Here she is pictured, reaching for a higher note than anyone else reached for all weekend long.


Fauna – 2010

Fauna is an elusive group. The first time I saw them, they were so decorated that I did not recognize their singer Joshua as a man I’d seen perform in an influential hardcore band way back in 1989. This co-headlining appearance at Fall Into Darkness, was the best Fauna show I’ve seen yet. It served as the introduction of their full band lineup, and displayed a performance expertise rarely practiced in metal circles. Their ritualistic music and efforts were captivating, as members blasted and whirled and heaved throughout. By the end, everyone in the crowd held a raised candle, and real tears streamed down the faces of attendees who were particularly moved. It was unforgettable.


Worm Ouroboros – 2010

This was my first time seeing Worm Ouroboros, though I would soon tour the country with them after they were invited to support Agalloch. Guitarist Jessica Way is shown here in perfect rapture with the sublime and dynamic music she creates with bassist/vocalist Lorraine Rath and the extraordinary man with three hats, Aesop Dekker (also of Agalloch and Ludicra). Admittedly, the band had a few drinks before this performance, lending a loose swagger to otherwise very delicate and purposeful music. I’ve sat on Justine’s sailboat while we barbecued to the Worm Ouroboros debut CD. I credit her for helping get me really excited about this fantastic trio.


Ludicra – 2009

Ludicra is the best live metal band in America. If you’re not clear on this, I suggest you do some homework. Most of us didn’t get to see Metallica in 1986, but if you play your cards right, you can see Ludicra now. Don’t blow it. One of the best reasons to see this fantastic and pure, bay-area-based American black metal group is to witness the gut-wrenching, soul-writhing catharsis of vocalist Laurie Sue Shanaman. Her mournful harmonies are chilling, and her body-wracking shrieks and howls make dark spirits quake and flee.


Agalloch – 2009

John Haughm of Agalloch takes pride in the fact that he helped pioneer the use of incense and woodland props in his band’s dark metal stage show. As the Cascadian scene has slowly become a self-referential pastiche, Agalloch has continued to maintain its high standards of uncompromised art and spiritual invocation. Ask him just what sort of incense he brings to the show, and you will be scoffed at. It’s wood smoke, and of a very special kind. And he’s not going to tell you where you can buy it.


Soriah – 2009

By day, Enrique Ugalde drives a cab. By night, he is a world-renowned throat singer who has studied in Tuva, and won major awards. I’ve seen him play pipe organ in Portland’s Old Church and audition for America’s Got Talent in front of Sharon Osborne. My strongest memory of his performance on this particular night was his entrance. Soriah (Enrique’s stage name) didn’t want to wander through the crowd with his full costume regalia. So I led him through the kitchen at Berbati’s. Seeing the looks on the faces of the cooks, amidst the bustle of weekend souvlaki orders was absolutely priceless.


Atriarch – 2009

The first great Atriarch performance. This one was immortalized as the stand-out track on the Fall Into Darkness DVD that Evan Phillips shot. Vokillist Lenny Smith was in perfect form, straddling the line between doom and death rock with masterful balance. The band had his back too, as their debut show from a few months earlier had been a rocky start. Their second chance came when I invited them to open for YOB. They took it, and the hearts of dozens of young dreadlocked ladies were laid wide open. And you’ll see these same broken hearted gals in the front rows of every Atriarch show since.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Pat

    July 13, 2011 at 9:02 pm

    I like this. I was there for the Witch Mountain show stoned and with a couple beers in me and as always I really enjoyed their tunes, gotta headbang. I had decided around that time I was lucky to have such a killer band nearby and that I had to go to as many of their show as possible. I haven’t been disappointed since. I also got to check out the other bands whom I hadn’t heard yet which is always special.
    I like the picture of Ludicra’s singer and how it brings out the cracks/lines in her head. Makes me think of aliens and child making and birthing.
    Now I want to check out Soriah and Atriarch.
    Looking forward to the next Fall Into Darkness Fest. I also really enjoy hearing stories/perspectives about these shows I wouldn’t otherwise have.
    Thanks you two.

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