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Though I had never visited Portland before moving from SoCal, I was drawn to the ‘City of Roses’ for various personal and obscure reasons. The weather attracted me, but there were also the things I had heard and read about, like how Portland is full of naked weirdos that hate gentrification and how the people of Portland pushed back against not only the police and undercover federal agents as well as violent fascists. They risked their lives to stand up for Black Lives in the summer of 2020. With the taste of revolution on the tongues of many progressives’ lives, PDX is filled with visual art on every street corner. There is expression everywhere, from food pods, coffee shops, and even the homes on the outskirts of the high rises. 

I also came to Portland hoping to live out my little version of a scene in 10 Things I Hate About You.’ Yes, I know the movie was set in Seattle and not Portland. But, this is my story. It’s the scene in which Patrick Verona finds himself the only male in a club where an all-female band has the femmes in the crowd going wild. While it wasn’t the type of music the band was playing that made me want my rendition of that moment, it was the unique energy I’ve captured every time I’ve watched that movie since 1999. It’s a feminine charged ardor that I had yet to grasp anywhere else. 

Back in the Fall of 2021, I saw Fading Signals on Instagram when checking out what The Coffin Club had to offer post-pandemic. The club was hosting a grand-opening or re-opening as they expanded to accommodate bands in addition to its legendary horror-themed dance rooms. Fading Signals was the opener for the night. Weeks before the show, I could only locate one song from them, ‘Four Alarm.’ And that was all it took to get me curious and more curious about the band. 

So, I reached out. As fate would have it, I was greeted and welcomed by Yvette Velasquez, the unofficial but “official” manager, booking agent, photographer, and social media handler for the band. And since meeting Yvette, I have been welcomed with open arms by all those who know her, including the members of Fading Signals.

The same night that Fading Signals was opening the party at the Coffin Club was the same night I was set to see Twin Tribes across the Burnside Bridge at the Star Theater. Yvette encouraged me to catch Fading Signals, run to the Star for Twin Tribes,and then back to the Coffin Club to dance.I was in line outside the Coffin Club when Fading Signals took the stage. I recognizedFour Alarm’ from my spot on the sidewalk, and my LA show anxiety kicked in. I wanted to earn the right to experience Fading Signals on stage. You’ll read why in a few moments. So, I took my loss and headed to the Star Theater in defeat but manically excited for Twin Tribes.

If I had known about the band just a few months before, I would have seen them at Dante’s, where they performed their renditions of ‘Stigmata’ and ‘Bela Lugosi.’  But, what I didn’t expect when I did get in front of Fading Signals a week or so later was their rendition of Joy Division’sNew Dawn Fades.’ My. Favorite. Fucking. Joy Division song.

Jax Mendro’s emotional and barefoot performance blew me out of my Docs! Jax is small but delivered the mentally harrowing jam, stronger than Peter Hook’s version. Jax punched me in the heart with her voice, and I was frozen in place with tears chasing each other down my left cheek. I remember shaking in the way I do when I am affected by profound energy as Fading Signals continued their set. What was happening?

After the show and thanks to Yvette, I met the band and discovered more about them. Including the now public knowledge that they went a bit incognito after that October show to record and have their debut EP mixed and mastered by none other than ACTORS frontman, and friend, Jason Corbett. Remember when I said to keep my reasoning for wanting to earn the right to see the group? Fading Signals is quite analog in that they only took to the stage until they felt they earned the right to. And though they have been around for years, they have only begun to unleash upon Portland. And, I have been here for it! 

I couldn’t wait to hear Fading Signals’ original songs once again. The band released their debut EP on June 17, 2022. It wasn’t released as a foreshadowing of the overturning of Roe vs. Wade as much as it was an ode to the looming revolution. I playedStonewall’ while my husband and I drove through downtown Portland, exploring places we were told to stay away from.

Man God’ reverberated in my mind throughout my workday as I seethed at memories of my misogynist past. How controlled I had been by men and didn’t even realize it. 

Four Alarm’ is the song that made Portland finally feel like home for me. 

I was just as excited for the Fading Signals EP Release show as I was to see ACTORS, Depeche Mode, and Peter Hook & The Light. July 8th, 2022, was a night fully charged with that unique Portland energy I feel when watching ‘10 Things I Hate About You‘. It’s made of street lights and softly trafficked streets downtown. At least near the Coffin Club, where Scott, Jax, Andrew, and Kenneth mingled and swayed with the crowd while Al1ce and Temple opened. Portland legend, and the badass, which makes me fucking smile like all is right in the world, DJ Barbie Saint, was watching in between getting ready for her DJ set. I cherished the moment when I captured the members of Die Robot chatting with the regulars. The ghouls who welcomed me like I had been around all along came out in goth attire that spoke, “this bitch is torturing you in her mind, and smiling like she kind of cares,” as well as…LOLITA!

The crowd gathered during the band’s soundcheck, which turned out to be a show opener. I was transfixed. Then Jax took a seat and took off her shoes. Then her socks. Swoon!

The next thing I knew, Jax belted into the microphone, but the sound wasn’t right. And for the next, who knows how many minutes, the band’s demeanor began to change. They were frustrated, disappointed, and apologetic. Yvette zipped to the sound box, or whatever it’s called, to the stage and back again, apologizing and expressing how hard Fading Signals worked to get to this night. To me, and I’m pretty sure to the rest of the crowd, it didn’t matter. We got more time to engage with  Zavier, Scott, Jax, Andrew, and Kenneth. 

The energy was galvanizing when the lights changed, and Fading Signals finally began the set we all had been waiting for. The show was beyond anything my imagination could have conjured. It felt so powerful. So good. And the way Yvette looked and swooned over Scott while he jammed was poetry and perhaps a line in a future song.

Fading Signals is the sound of Portland. They are the sound of the paradigm shift. Their sound is nostalgic, and their songs carry hymns from the oppressed of our past, and the muted screams of the presently dismissed. 

They are encouraging the current generation of goths and punks to explore further the foundations of post-punk Since bands like Fading Signals are getting it so, so right.


7 Responses

  1. My husband and I were there that night to experience first hand as our son Andrew and our grandson Zavier performed. What a fantastic night. One that I will cherish forever.

  2. Fucking amazing article, Michelle. Thank you so much for giving Fading Signals the attention and respect that they deserve. I wish you could have seen the Dante’s show too—you would have just died right there on the very hot, very sweaty dance floor. It’s also been incredible to watch them work to a place where they can fill a set with their own music, which I agree is full of energy and emotion and justifiable rage at our disappointing, fucked-up little world.

    I fell in love with Jax the moment we met, and I fall in love all over again every time I watch her perform. She is a passionate, intelligent powerhouse of a woman. Being a woman and a proud lesbian—this is where her power dwells. I feel lucky to get to see this every day as her partner, and I love that other people get to see and feel this when she takes the stage.

    As a more femme lesbian, my pronouns are almost never assumed to be anything other than she/her. But it happens to Jax and my other more androgynous or butch lesbian friends all the time. Like. All. The. Time. I absolutely understand that none of us want to hurt people by misgendering them. It’s just that making assumptions about pronouns (and ultimately identity) only when someone isn’t cis is ultimately reinforcing the gender norms we’re trying so hard to challenge. Androgynous and butch women can and often do proudly identify as female—it’s important to them. It’s important to all of us, really: we need to see that people who identify as women can present in all kinds of cool and amazing ways because the concept of “woman” has been too narrow for far too long. (This applies to all people, obviously, but I’m just focusing on women and lesbians here, especially since lesbians tend to get a lot less attention when it comes to LGBTQ issues). So yeah, let’s continue to challenge the gender binary and heterosexism. And let’s continue to honor people’s pronouns and identities. Let’s just make sure we’re doing this to all people, regardless of how they present.

    I hope to get to meet you at the Sept 30th show at Coffin Club, Michelle, so we can share a 10 Things I Hate About You moment together (I fucking love that movie, too). I’ll be the one up front swooning over the powerful woman with the bare feet. 😉

  3. Oh my Goth! Thank you for the sentiments! I wanted to but also wanted to mention how I, too, have fallen in love with Jax each time she passes by and especially when she performs. I also wholeheartedly agree and will continue to honor the signals to challenge gender binary and heterosexism and will continue to do so. I cannot wait to see you September 30!

  4. You are some rad parents and grandparents to have! No wonder Andrew and Zavier (who blows me away with his natural talent) are so incredible to behold on and off stage! Hope to meet you legends at the next show!

  5. Oh hey, I’m in this picture, lol.

    I second Kendra’s opinion on the Dante’s show. It was absolutely my favorite Fading Signals show besides the 20 person Covid set at Coffin Club in October 2020. Watching these artists honing their craft and perfecting their sound and stagecraft has been a privilege.
    How lucky am I to live amongst such talented, bad ass, activist humans?
    Michelle, you’re a gift to our scene and we’re so glad you’re here.

    I hate the way I don’t hate you at all! 😉

  6. Thank you Michelle for this incredible article! And for all of your support! We are so lucky to have you here in Portland and part of our incredible community.
    I was a HUGE FS fan, long before I was the GF of the hot guitarist. Their live performances are deeply moving and energy fueled. It’s impossible not to dance, and impossible to not get lyrics stuck in my head.
    I love the friendship that the band has with each other, and how they all offer strong and unique contributions to come together and create magic! They created a loyal fan base in a unique way, playing amazing live shows, and later recording. All of the band members have families, jobs, school…. and very busy lives. I know how much time Scott and the other members gave to mixing and recording and re- recording, and making a video, practicing, and gathering together because I asked for more photo content lol ….
    They have poured their hearts into this music and their performances, and it shows. I fell in love with Scott watching him on stage, and fell in love with the band as well.
    I love all of you beautiful Fading Signals people. Im honored to help get the word out so more people can experience seeing you play live, dancing next to your stage and singing your songs in their cars like I do! xoxo

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