The Dooryard, a semi-underground art and music venue on High Street in Portland, has stopped publicizing events there and has apparently stopped hosting them, as well, at least temporarily. The move comes in the wake of a spate of complaints from neighbors over loud music and several police calls.
The venue is run by a shadowy collective of young people who declined several interview requests. In an e-mailed statement sent by a member identified as Ahna, the group said The Dooryard is “currently focusing on new projects.”
“[W]e are expanding our studio space and taking on more artists and crafters,” the statement read, “as well as hosting benefit events for our space by collaborating with local venues.” Ahna said the collective apologizes for not being able to provide additional comment, “but as we are a collective we prefer to speak as a group.” She added that The Dooryard will be booking events “around town” in the future.
The space The Dooryard occupies was previously an arts venue known as The Soundpost, which operated between January and September of 2007. The Soundpost was itself preceded by The Stillhouse, which held similar arts events for a year or two before that. Neither venue had notable problems with neighbors.
The difference this time appears to be The Dooryard’s penchant for hosting shows by loud punk and indie-rock bands such as The RattleSnakes and Huak, in addition to quieter fare by various alt-folk and electronic acts. The previous venues stuck mostly to acoustic music, film screenings and avant-garde theater.
Complaints from the owner of Katahdin Restaurant, located next door to The Dooryard, apparently compelled the collective to limit musical events to Sunday and Monday nights, when the restaurant is closed.
Documents on file at the city clerk’s office indicate that two residents who live in the building on the other side of The Dooryard have had similar complaints. The Portland Police Department responded to five calls for loud noise at The Dooryard last year and three this year, a tally that includes follow-up visits. Lt. Anthony Ward said the department is “looking at the list of complaints and evaluating the situation.”
The Dooryard’s landlord, a company called RGT Associates, could not be reached for comment.
The collective does not have an entertainment license, which is required to host events of the type it’s been hosting, but business licensing administrator Alex Murphy said the clerk’s office is working with the city’s legal department to determine whether The Dooryard can apply for one. The City Council would ultimately have to approve such a license request.
The Dooryard started hosting events in the spring of 2008. For musical performances, attendees were usually asked to make a small donation, often $5 to $10. The venue did not serve alcohol, but attendees could bring their own. The Dooryard held several art events during First Friday Art Walks.
The collective publicized its events via its MySpace page, myspace.com/dooryard108 and, on occasion, the First Friday Art Walk Web site. Its events were also listed in the Portland Phoenix. Phoenix listings coordinator Christopher Gray said the group asked him to stop publishing Dooryard events in late January.
Several musicians who’ve played the venue declined to comment on the record, given the possibility the collective will support their shows in the future. But sources described The Dooryard as a grungy, trash-strewn space that occupies several floors of the building. At one point, graffiti, or “graffiti art” of some sort, covered several walls, but the walls have since been painted and the trash was picked up, a source noticed during a recent visit.
In an e-mail on file at the clerk’s office dated January 6, 2009, a neighbor wrote that she had called police twice in the past two weeks due to excessive noise, and the cops had “cleared them out” both times. However, when the resident called again on Jan. 5, officers informed her the police department was limited in its ability to further address the ongoing problem because The Dooryard “had a permit for the performance.”
The neighbor wrote that the collective is “obviously annoyed with us as the sign they had out last night read something like ‘The Dooryard can’t be stopped.’”
CANNOT BE STOPPED is actually the name of an electronic music act from Washington D.C. that played The Dooryard that night.
— Tyler Jackson