COWFISH: Genuine Eugene
After only spending a short time here, it seems that Eugene struggles with an “identification” crisis. Let me correct that. Those who experience Eugene feel compelled to label it somehow, and inevitably end up getting confused, and generally alienated. “What the hell is this place? What’s it doing? Where’s it going?” Perhaps people are projecting their own identity crisis on the city. I admit to having similar thoughts till one guy told me, “Don’t try to fit into Eugene, let it fit into you. Eugene is down. It’s an unassuming platform for whoever comes along with something worthwhile.”
“Why are you here?” I asked, and the response was similar to the response I got from most people I asked: “I showed up a decade ago, and just haven’t had a reason to leave.” While many of the citizens here are vocal about what they believe, do, etc., there’s not a lot of overt effort to bring you onboard. This may be what makes it so hard to leave; we don’t feel compelled to prove ourselves or appear a certain way. Perhaps this is a key to why the Cow Fish is Eugene’s fledgling scene spot. Started just over a year ago, the Cow Fish feels… welcoming; it feels a lot like Eugene.
Named after the strange breed of fish found in the tank behind the bar, The Cowfish reflects the endearing oddity of its mascot. Local Bands, DJ dance, local art displayed, and such and so on, Cowfish is a functional expression of a multi-faceted community-centric realm. The Cowfish manages to feel like some sort of spaceship airport, or what a space airport will look like in the future, when they’ve made space travel (and airports) marvelous, enjoyable, and relaxing. When you walk in, it feels like you just left town and you’re not sure when you’ll be back. Hosting 3 or 4 local bands a month and 4 to 7 local musicians and artists every Sunday for their weekly Keep Your Clothes On Variety Show. The Cowfish is a regular advocate for local performers.
While up till now Variety Night has been by invitation only, they are now open to act proposals and encourage the submission of demo CDs for consideration. Having been open for just over a year, they’ve still managed to present between forty and fifty bands, not counting the variety night performances.
“It’s mainly a dance club.” says Shawn, the co-owner, who is excited to have a full set of resident DJs playing 7 nights a week, 8 to 10 performing each week. “You have to give them what they expect, and you have to be consistent.” Shawn DJs every Friday night, and was hard pressed to define his genre. “I pick out records according to what I like, which isn’t always consistent with a genre.” Shawn’s diversity and enthusiasm became apparent to me on one such Friday night when I watched him DJ for a bit, get the song set up, and then he came down onto the dance floor with a saxophone, and jammed along on the edge of the floor. Shawn does what he wants, while he gives the community what they want.
“Dance Music is central to the way we set up our room and business plan. Live music isn’t central to Cowfish, but it’s supported to the extent that we can based on the set-up we have… All music comes from live music, and i am a big supporter and participant in live music as a musician and promoter, but the dj dance culture is mandatory to keep the traffic flowing at Cowfish.” And keep the traffic flowing, he does.
Friday nights you get in for free if you wear a wig, vulcan eyebrows, or a costume. Sunday night is Variety night, Monday night is game night featuring Scrabble, Ping Pong, Pool, and whatever board game you’d like to bring, and every night is a DJ Dance Party. This capacity to execute a variety of elements seems to be a constant vein in the existence and expressions of Eugene. Or more likely, it’s what I have chosen to seek out. Either way, the Cow Fish stands as possibly the most approachable bar downtown.
62 W Broadway
Eugene, OR 97401
— Mike Hulter, EDN.