Let’s be honest: being under age in Portland sucks. Almost all of the shows that go on in this town are at bars, leaving the people in the under-21 demographic (myself included) shit out of luck. There are, however, a few places that do cater to the kids, and they vary in quality. Some venues have consistently impressive shows booked, while many others showcase mostly garbage. This may be more a symptom of the musical taste of the underage crowd than an indictment of booking agents. Here is an overview of a few of the smaller venues – those more likely to book a show with local bands. Bigger venues like the Roseland and Crystal Ballroom also do all-ages shows for larger touring bands, so if you are underage and looking for something to do, check out those places as well.
The Food Hole is by far my favorite all-ages venue in Portland. Located between Tube and the Dixie Tavern on Northwest Third Avenue, the Food Hole is a very tiny space, and with a capacity that probably hovers under 100 people, it’s really a glorified dive. What makes it the best all-ages venue in Portland, however, is the quality of the shows that are booked combined with the extremely “punk rock” atmosphere. The sound quality is also much better than you might expect from such a small venue, creating an overall great experience. If you’ve never been to the Food Hole, an excellent show is coming up on May 1 featuring Torche, Black Cobra, Akimbo and local heavies Rabbits – check it out.
The Loveland is an all-ages venue located in the industrial section of town, right on the other side of the river in Southeast. This place has gone through many name changes over the years, most recently named the Meow Meow. Fittingly for the section of town it is located in, the Loveland is a converted warehouse space. The venue works surprisingly well as a place to see music, the sound system is solid and there is a cool upstairs area for hanging out in between bands. Besides having good sound, the space itself is fairly large and has a bar to get food and beverages at in the back. Recently, the Loveland has switched to exclusively outside promoters booking the space, so the shows vary accordingly in quality. This venue mostly has national touring bands play, though, during the week especially, local shows occasionally go on.
Back to Back Cafe
Just as the name implies, Back to Back Cafe is just that – a cafe – one that serves up fair-trade organic vegetarian and vegan food (aka hippie chow). The Back to Back also moonlights as an all-ages venue, hosting small shows along with showing art. Most of the bands I’ve seen that play shows at the Back to Back have been of the hardcore/punk variety. However, it appears that the cafe is trying to expand the type of shows they book so be on the lookout. (By the way, that hippie thing was a joke.)
Exuding Portland’s trademark DIYism, the Artistry isn’t as much an official venue as it is an extended party (one that many of your favorite local bands play). It is in a non-descript building that has ratty couches strewn about and art on the walls. The show area is located in the basement and the crowd could be described as hipster-lite with a little bit of crust-punk attitude. A cool place for sure.
Rock ‘n’ Roll Pizza
People tell me this place is not very impressive. I like the idea though – pizza and music, together! So conceptually at least, Rock ‘n’ Roll Pizza has a head start. They fail, however, in the place that it is most important for a concert venue to succeed – the music. I’ve never been to Rock ‘n’ Roll Pizza because there has never been a show I wanted to see; most of their calendar is utter crap. There are a few great shows for you metal heads though, and plenty for the “mosh contingent,” so not all is lost. I may see a show there someday, if a decent one is ever booked.