A while back I went on a rant rampage about bars lacking in atmosphere. To summarize, the problem with a new joint is its very newness, or lack of a "vibe." There’s no history, much less the feeling that the owner even cared about such immaterial matters. It’s a room with booze in it. Isn’t that enough?
No. Like I always say, if I want to drink in an unremarkable room, I’ve got my house. Or I could just pick up a bottle of something cheap and party with my friends under a bridge. I’ve got my precious dives, my little pockets of Old Portland, but they’re getting harder and harder to find in the face of growing homogenization. In other words, expect lots more industrial spaces with loading-dock doors and exposed ducts. Gawd, I’m bored. Enter The Lovecraft.
It’s on SE Grand Avenue next to a consignment furniture store and the only indication of its existence is a little chalkboard sandwich sign embellished with a pentagram. The interior—draped in reds and blacks—looks like it’s made entirely of reclaimed timber and repurposed objects (the bar itself is decorated with brass locks and trunk hardware). The walls are chockablock with old magazine covers featuring early 20th century weird-fiction writer H.P. Lovecraft, photographs, and assorted horror movie memorabilia. There is a live scorpion in a tank on the bar. It sleeps most of the time. There is a mural of tentacles emerging from the clouds. "Ah," you say to yourself. It’s a Goth bar." Yes and no.
Bartender Dani tells me there is indeed a Goth night at The Lovecraft. "But isn’t every night Goth night?" I ask. Apparently not. There is also metal night, psychobilly night, and karaoke night. One of my early misconceptions about Goth culture is that it’s members are all sheet-pale Cure fans who occasionally assemble in order to have someone to mope with. Wrong! The community itself is quite inviting and open to anyone that digs horror films and literature, neo-paganism (tribal tats and piercings) vintage clothing, and shoe-gaze music—or to those who simply find beauty in things that most of us folks in the mundane world consider dark and disturbing. In fact, they revel in it. Of course, the place would be a stone drag if everyone here took themselves painfully seriously, but the people I encountered were affable and accommodating.
By day, The Lovecraft is a low-key tea shop (never fear, you can still get drinks) and minors are allowed until 5 p.m. (I’m told the tea selection is respectable.) At this point, there is no Happy Hour (Dreaded Hour?) and the food is limited to tamales and Japanese hand rolls. But a session at The Lovecraft is like a visit to Ye Olde Curiosity Shoppe. There’s an abundance of visual stimuli, and the presence of outre pieces that fall somewhere between art and collectible kitsch ensure there’s always an engaging nook for your eyes to land upon. After spending far too much time in nondescript bars, The Lovecraft is like Disneyland. Go on! Drop in! Or are you a chicken? Bwaaak, buk-buk, bwaaak!