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 recognized ‘Four 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’s ‘New 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 played ‘Stonewall’ 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.