Valentine’s Day is not all hearts, chocolates, and roses. In fact, the heart-shaped holiday can be pretty grim for a lot of folks. Perhaps that’s in keeping with the dark history of Valentine’s Day.
Valentine’s Day gained its reputation as a festival of love in ancient Rome. Romans celebrated the rites of Lupercalia from February 13 – 15. Animals were sacrificed, and their pelts were converted into bloody flails. Then drunken revelers would take to the streets and whip the village’s maidens with these flails to ensure fertility. The women would line up for the honor.
Later, the roman emperor Claudius II executed two men, both by the name of Valentine, on February 14th.
One of the bloodiest moments of the Prohibition Era would also occur on Valentine’s Day. On February 14, 1929, seven mobsters were gunned down in cold blood in a parking garage on Chicago’s North Side. This would come to be known as the ‘Valentine’s Day Massacre.’
Somehow -amazingly-human sacrifice, drunken revelry, public nudity, and catharsis, were all encapsulated in a night of burlesque, the Valentine’s Day Massacre put on by Portland’s Dark Matter Cult at Crush Bar in SE Portland.
Dark Matter co-owners Few and Feldspar reprised their roles as extraterrestrial-hostess-with-the-mostest and
sacrificial victim respectively. Stage magician Anthony Cochytus removed Feldspar’s heart this time, because sometimes it hurts just too dang much.
Burlesque performances ranged from sinister to hilarious, while always sensual.
Zaspira was a spiral-horned goddess in the opening number.
Serpentina and her boa constrictor Anata were the picture of sinuous grace in a snake-dancing routine.
Rummy Rose brought the heavy dark witch vibes with a horned skull and ritual altar.
Velvet Booth stopped the show as The Bride, bringing a much-needed and wholly-appreciated moment of catharsis with the help of her two talented and gorgeous friends with a Kill Bill burlesque homage, capping off by literally slicing Harvey Weinstein in half, in effigy. A new definition of cutting satire.
Johnny Demonic‘s musical underpinning was on-point as ever, keeping things bumping along with nocturnal beats and chilly Black Lodge ambiance. Things finally broke down into a post-wave neo-romantic dance party.
Everyone’s style and presentation was impeccable. Few played the part of the bewildered extraterrestrial MC to the nines, wearing her own transparent outerwear and opalescent rave attire.
Full disclosure, I am friends and a member of the Dark Matter Cult. I was there on invitation to write automatic love poetry on a portable typewriter, but ended up helping out in a more stagehand capacity, due to a last minute drop-out due to illness. I got to clean dismembered hearts and fetch clawed satin gloves off the stage and lay out samurai swords. I was in my element.
Backstage, there was a chill, mellow, freaky sense of camaraderie. Moments of laughter and absurdity, coping and bonding over the stressful meltdown of society. People were petting and talking to the snake, while tassels and pasties were strewn about. My partner Pink Gorgon was in attendance, peddling her beautiful hand-drawn artwork. A familial vibe was in the air, as these performers have worked together several times now. This good-natured witchy freakishness is just a warm and welcome respite in often dark times. February can be cold, dark, and lonely at times. The world, and society, seems to be stressful, almost always. Coming together like this is a truly healing rebellion of flesh, decadence, and human spirit.
Dark Matter are a Portland-based company that believe in experiences, in the power of getting together and doing things. So far, they’ve released a seance kit and an anti-baptism kit that has yet to hit the website. With these Dark Matter Cult events, they are living up to their ethos. The packed house and rapturous reception shows its working. The Dark Matter Cult is coming into fruition.
Operating out of Portland, Or., J makes electronic music and DJs as dessicant, hosting a weekly radio show on Freeform Portland, Morningstar: The Light In The Darkness. He also plays in the band Meta Pinnacle with his partner, the visual artist/illustrator Lily H. Valentine, with whom he co-founded Bitstar Productions, a visual arts collective/production company.