A fun, neighborhood bar in Portland's West End, much like being in your own living room! We offer daily specials, live and local entertainment w/ dj's and bands of all genres. We are located 1 block away from The State Theatre & The Cross Insurance Arena. Everyone is Welcome at Flask!
Love is about to celebrate nine years at Flask Lounge. What does this milestone mean to you?
It means that Time Flies!! It also means it’s about to embark on its tenth year, and that makes me feel proud. Proud that the thing I started is still here, growing, and as much fun as ever.
How do you describe LOVE to a stranger?
It depends on if they’re an Enthusiast (a head) or not, but in general, I say it’s a dance party focused on underground electronic music with a very eclectic crowd. All ages, sexual orientations, gender identities, races, and socioeconomic statuses.
How does the Portland dance scene compare to other cities?
Portland has a rich history in the dance club and gay bar culture since the ’70s. Punk, rock, and dance club culture were prominent in the ’80s, and then rave hit Portland in the early ’90s. That’s considerably early in American rave history. It’s real here and has a unique personality that differs even from other New England states. It’s a wicked tiny community due to the population and popularity of underground dance culture.
Do you envision retiring or passing Love’s torch?
No. Not at the moment. My original goal was to try at least and make it ten years, which is coming right up. If there’s still a crowd and I’m still able, I’ll be here doing my thing.
Flask Lounge, Portland Pride. Photo By: Jennifer Breton
Do you remember 180BPM? Aside from Karaoke, I believe this was our first resident dance night at Flask. Caitlin Flynn, best known as Corbin in the Portland DJ circuit, was one of the hosts of 180BPM. Corbin is a member of Resonant Sound, a collection of DJs, producers, and bass aficionados. Corbin and crew host Friction Friday on the 3rd Friday of every month at Flask Lounge. Would Flask have dance music if it wasn’t for Corbin? It’s something I wonder.
Tell us about Friction Friday, and what makes this night so unique?
Friction Friday is a multi-genre night hosted by Resonant Sound where you can get a taste of everything, including Drum & Bass. Our residents are me, G-Force, Undrig, Andromedv, and Moses. We are the only regularly occurring night north of Boston that features Drum & Bass, along with other super talented guest DJ’s bringing house, breaks, dub, and bass music.
It’s a rumor that EDM culture is dying. Do you think this is true? How can we keep EDM alive?
I don’t think electronic culture is dying at all; in fact, I believe it’s just coming to the forefront in the USA. All those pop songs on the radio, what’s the beat behind it? Electronic. Lots of house. We may be behind in Maine, but it’s alive and strong in the rest of the states. Keeping coming to shows, bring your friends, dance, and spread the word.
What is your favorite piece of equipment you own?
My Technics. I love my turntables.
Aside from pooping, how do you prepare for a show? 💩
Ahh, yes. My nervous ritual. After I poop 20 times or so, most of my preparation is getting some new fresh tunes and getting up to the decks to wing it. I’ve found if I prepare too much, I’m not reading the crowd. The dancers are why I DJ, and they’re the real reason why we can do what we do.
What advice would you give to an up-and-coming DJ?
Cover your screens and BPM counters and use your ears. LISTEN to the music, feel the music. Don’t let technology do it for you because once you stop looking, you’ll hear things you’ve never heard before on some of your favorite tracks.
If you were free tonight and could see any DJ perform live, who would it be?
Jenna & The G’s .. she’s a Drum & Bass vocalist and has brought a band together to play tunes. Check it out.
What is your favorite and least favorite part of being a DJ?
Favorite: Getting the dance floor hyped on Drum & Bass Least Favorite: People waving drinks above my equipment or hanging on the DJ booth shaking everything. Hands-off and drinks away people!
DJ Cougar has been DJing 35+ years and has been a Karaoke DJ for 18 of those years. He’s played 1,822 shows (not including private events), and yes, he keeps track! Will we ever know the truth behind his DJ name and staple bandana fashion? Wayne Smith, aka DJ Cougar, shares tales of what it takes to be a Karaoke DJ, the most popular and dreaded song requests, and how Karaoke can boost your confidence.
There’s Just One DJ Cougar
At last! Tell us where, when, and how Wayne Smith became DJ Cougar? And when did your infamous fashion staple, the bandana, become a tradition?
The name DJ Cougar was bestowed upon me while I was in the Army stationed in Washington, DC. There are many stories behind the origin of the name. My favorite is that I won the lawsuit against John Cougar Mellencamp and got my name back.
The bandana originated in high school and returned in the early/mid-’90s while working in a kitchen in Raleigh, NC. I ended up with what was known as the Budweiser collection, which I referred to as my corporate sponsorship. After moving to Boston in ’96, Harley Davidson replaced Budweiser. The bandanas with my logo finally came in 2008.
There are many people afraid of karaoke. Do you think karaoke helps self-confidence? Do you have any stories of a shy person evolving into a confident, karaoke superstar?
Once you start with karaoke, you’ll either love it or hate it. Most people get hooked after doing a couple of songs with friends and then go solo. It’s an adrenaline rush when the crowd cheers for you. I would say that yes, karaoke does help with self-confidence. I’ve watched a few people through the years go from timid and shy on the mic to belting out songs you wouldn’t imagine them trying. Nobody has risen to “Karaoke Superstar” status, but some have become extremely good. The “Superstars” usually have a musical background (high school, theater, etc.) by the time I meet them. Regardless of singing capabilities, my shows are for everyone to have fun.
What are the top 3 most requested songs? What are the top 3 most dreaded songs requested?
The most requested songs change over time. Currently, it’s Mr. Brightside – The Killers, What’s Up – 4 Non-Blondes, and Don’t Stop Me Now – Queen. The dreaded 3 for me are anything by a boy band, Piano Man – Billy Joel, and Love Shack – B-52’s.
Do you think people assume being a Karaoke DJ is easy? Take us through a busy night and share just how much skill, work, and patience it takes to be successful in this particular genre of entertainment.
Most people think it’s easy, and they don’t realize how much is involved with running a show. We are averaging 54 songs during a 4-hour show at Flask, which is high speed. Most hosts would lose their minds trying to handle the large rotations. I’ve been doing this for so long that it has become second nature to me, although I do admit to having meltdowns.
Once the show starts, it’s not unusual for people to turn in requests all at once. I try to keep them in order while adding songs to the queue and bringing singers to and from the stage. Add in trying to keep audio levels balanced between music and microphone and lining up bumper music (songs between singers). And of course, having conversations with people to make sure everyone’s happy.
It’s not unusual for us to have 18-30 singers in rotation (90 – 150-minute wait to sing). Figuring out the rotation and explaining how long the wait is can be overwhelming. If you want to sing early, I always suggest arriving early to shows. I do keep a list of courtesies in front of my songbook (containing 45,000 songs to choose from) to explain how the show runs and how people can help keep it moving, but nobody reads it.
Has karaoke changed over the years? If so, how?
The popularity of karaoke usually runs in 2-3 year cycles. We’ll have groups of regulars that come out for that period of time and then fade away, but typically a new group is already coming in when that happens. The most significant change in the past decade has been the move from CDs to digital (laptop). I remain old school with the use of paper slips. It saves me from trying to hear names and requests in a lively environment.
Do you envision retiring from karaoke or DJing in general?
I semi-retired in the early ’90s but ended up DJing again regularly by the end of the decade. It would be nice to retire from karaoke (I enjoy DJing too much to leave it behind), but it’s been paying my bills for more than a decade, and I don’t envision retiring anytime soon.
What’s something few people know about you, including friends and family?
The real story behind my DJ name. There are a couple of people who have figured it out, but if I told you, it would no longer be a secret. 🙄