3017 S.E. Milwaukie Ave.
Most music venues are closed off to me because I’m not 21. The few theaters that are open to me have a bar upstairs and leave the ground floor open to anyone not of age to drink alcohol. There I am forced to share floor space with pubescent-smelling, emo-dressed crowds.
The only place that holds no tainted concert memories is the Aladdin Theatre.
The venue has an intimate atmosphere and good sound, leading to moments, such as at the Josh Ritter concert, where an artist can go acoustic, sit at the edge of the stage with no microphones, sing and still sound good. A good concert can’t be guaranteed and I’m sure the Aladdin has had its share of average or bad performances, but sometimes the former vaudeville house, family movie emporium and porn institution can host something really special. A good musician, a good crowd, a good sound and a concert you don’t want to forget. (SR)
Ash Street Saloon
225 S.W. Ash St.
You can almost taste the testosterone here. It’s in the cigarette smoke, the cheap beer, the barflies playing video poker and the bands – definitely in the bands. Of all the shows I’ve seen here I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone talk about their feelings, and that’s all right with me. Feelings are for pussies. (CJJ)
115 N.W. Fifth Ave.
Tired of trying to relive your childhood in the ball pit at Chuck E. Cheese? You’ve been searching in the wrong place, my friend! Backspace, which describes itself as a “techno-playground,” is the one place in Portland that will make you feel like a kid again, minus the urine smell.
First stop: fuel up on caffeine and wolf down some pizza before the gaming begins. Game on! Classic arcade games, X-Box, pool tables and PCs full of network gaming fill the 4000-square-foot space. The wireless internet connection provides a perfect study hall for students. Oh, but that’s not all, kids! Remember to wander through the gallery featuring local artists on the bathroom break. (EH)
231 S.W. Ankeny St.
This is where it happens in Portland. This is where you met your girl, this is where she dumped you, this is where you caught her with that prick Brian. You saw Cat Power run off the stage crying, you saw Guided By Voices something like a million times, and you were one of five people there when MF Doom cancelled … again. Venues come and venues go, but Berbati’s Pan is consistently the best spot in town.
And there’s a hella good restaurant in the back. Oh, and the best happy hour menu in town. (CJJ)
118 N.E. 28th Ave.
When you’re not getting your ass kicked by Steve Malkmus on trivia night, Beulahland is a really pleasant place to be. It’s home to the kind of drinkers who appreciate soapbox derbies, unironic cheap beer and board games. Beulahland is what’s great about Portland. Someplace you drink like you’re in a Smog song and then go back and eat breakfast less than eight hours later. (CJJ)
3862 S.E. Hawthorne Blvd.
What isn’t there to say about Conan’s Pub? Trust fund reggae bands and hair metal tributes make up the majority of the shows here. And it’s on 39th and Hawthorne. (CJJ)
1332 W. Burnside St.
503-225-5555, Ext. 8811
During my wild high school days, and I use wild with much embellishment, I spent nearly every weekend at the Crystal Ballroom. I didn’t even miss a beat when Vanilla Ice came to town. Ice was so impressive they didn’t even have guards protecting him from the ravenous crowd. I took this opportunity, during one of thousands of times he sang “Ice, Ice, Baby” to climb on stage in just my baggy jeans and sports bra. Ice looked me up and down before walking over to me. Together, we shared an intimate dance before I jumped into the crowd and surfed our future away.
It’s nearly impossible not to have an experience like that every time you attend an event at The Crystal Ballroom. It is replete with entertainment for everyone from Lola’s Room, to Ringler’s Annex’s cellar bar (art gallery), to the three-tiered main stage. They call it “Dance on Air” because the floor literally reacts like an inflatable balloon to pressure. They have separate sections for over, and under 21 for all concerts. And the line-up featured there is always excellent.
I never got a chance to dance with my husband on our wedding day, but whenever I feel sorry for myself I just remember the dance I shared with Vanilla Ice – and shudder. (CO)
1 S.W. Third Ave.
Dante’s is a place where I thought I was getting poetry readings but got strippers instead. Oh, excuse me, I mean exotic dancers. But all the red was very encouraging and I would go back, even if I didn’t get poetry. Everyone looked beautiful all lined up at the bar and I met famous performers. Maybe you can, too. (EL)
830 E. Burnside St.
Portland’s newest and most beautiful venue is a mix aesthetically of a log cabin and an Eames house. The staff is beautiful, new and exciting, just like the venue. Too bad the crowd is the same tired yuppie hipsters. Oh, well. I predict they’ll be stealing shows from Berbati’s any day now, but seriously, $8 for a hamburger? At a bar? Forget it. (CJJ)
1905 N.E. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
Portland, OR 97212
Initially, Dunes was keeping it down low. Dark, pretty and exclusive, they featured bands as after parties, invite only. Sort of. Whatever, it’s Portland. It’s hard to be exclusive when all those kids with glasses and hoodies look the same. Nice venue, bad neighborhood. (CJJ)
316 S.W. 11th Ave.
503-221-7262, Ext. 41
The Fez Ballroom is a pseudo-Moroccan oasis in the madness of downtown dance clubs. Here you can lounge in the comfort of overstuffed pillows or move on the ample dance floor to the beats of local and nationally renowned DJ’s and rhythm-centered bands. An excellent place to lose yourself in bass and booze. (PC)
2845 S.E. Stark St.
Admittedly I haven’t been here for years. I liked it then though, pool tables, funk and soul DJs, and a great dance floor. Check the listings, though; live acts often sound dangerously jam band-y. (CJJ)
2280 N.W. Thurman St.
The Green Room is the local bar with music from obscure origins. I saw a band play there who never plays, they’re that obscure. But totally arty and intellectual. So if you want a relaxed, beer-drinking kind of place with loads of heavy concepts, this is your place. (EL)
1001 S.E. Morrison St.|
If Portland were trying to revert back to some nostalgic form of New York City in the 1970s, then the Holocene would have to be the epicenter of this diversion.
Draped internally in white and quickly picking up better and better names in music to play there, the Holocene takes a bit getting used to when you first step in. The smoking room is a cramped little box you could barely fit a car into, it’s disorienting aesthetic leaves you asking, ‘What in the hell am I doing here?’ and ‘Where in the hell is this, anyhow?’ The drinks are a bit priced above average but always a good cocktail. The space is massive. It’s right across from Sassy’s, and just over the bridge. For a change (unless you already make it your haunt) go there when there is some music you can enjoy to fill up all the empty space. (EM)
401 S.W. Harrison St.
Set in the university district, this decorative den is one of the last remaining Tiki bars in the city. For years now it has been an open source of personal bookings for local bands. The bar generally has no reservation about holding things such as film screenings, setting up a massive row of chimes and vibes, having full on, earplug-worthy bands getting stinky and rocking ’til closing.
The events here are more like showing up at an acquaintance’s comfortable basement, only with skilled bartenders, good Asian food, irregular regulars, and chairs you can almost disappear in. A restaurant by day, the Jasmine Tree’s lounge is a place worth sipping the night away in, even without live performances. (EM)
2026 N.E. Alberta St.
There are places where people with little capital and much imagination thrive. The Know is exactly such a place. The folks at The Know have created a space for everything. The old garage may not look like much, but it offers film, improv, music, theatre, gallery space, internet access and community. (PC)
320 S.E. Second Ave.
Not just an all-ages venue, but also one of the best venues in town. Nestled well into its new digs, formerly the B Complex, Meow Meow, I mean Loveland, has been creating a vibrant music community in Portland for years now, and is sophisticated and pleasant inside. Big name indie acts often share the stage with local upstarts and the vibe is unpretentious and fun. Now if they could only get that bar up and running… (CJJ)
(SABALAS) Mount Tabor Pub
4811 S.E. Hawthorne Blvd.
The old theatre neighboring up to Bar of the Gods used to be the dumping ground for hippie jam bands and didgeridoo soloists. Thank God for SABALAS, now, in the wake of Satryicon’s closing we once have a venue custom made for metal. It’s like trading patchouli for BO. They both stink, but only one rocks. (CJJ)
Music Millennium N.W.
801 N.W. 23rd Ave.
Some of the best gigs I have witnessed were in broad daylight and free. That is what Music Millennium is all about. A Portland institution. Everyone passes through here sometime. So should you. (EL)
31 N.W. 1st Ave.
This has got to be Portland’s longest running electronic venue. The house lights are dim, the people are beautiful and the DJs are the highest caliber. Ohm has been known to host the occasional hip-hop show, but is primarily a dance venue. Check out “Crush” nights for the best drum ‘n’ bass in Portland. (CJJ)
6 S.W. Third Ave.
The Paris Theater is the only all-ages venue downtown. For years it was the sleazy round-the-corner neighbor to the X-Ray Caf� and then Thee O. Both places hosted teen punk shows but while the X-Ray/O had a weird and wacky nerd vibe, the Paris seems more like the entry gate to a decadent goth-metal hell. Like many punk venues, the Paris used to be a porn theater. The inside is entirely black and the bathrooms are painted a gaudy bright red. The floor slanted down towards the stage and at one time there were murals of demons and vampires done by a transvestite friend of mine.
The demons are gone, but the goths, metalheads, crust punks, fashion punks and Rocky Horror fans still flock here. They might seem weird and pretentious, and the indie rock kids across the river at Meow Meow think they’re cooler, but from a band’s perspective, this is a good audience to play for. The Paris kids are cute and enthusiastic, especially the girls in the tartan miniskirts, and the PA is good. You won’t make any money, but since the demise of Thee O, it’s as punk as you can get in this town. (BM)
Red and Black Café
2138 S.E. Division St.
Worker owned and operated, Red and Black hosts everything from open mic poetry to hardcore. A solid progressive hangout in the division neighborhood for years, the caf� also features beer/wine and a menu of fabulous and affordable vegetarian and vegan entrees. The staff is great and it’s the perfect place to find out what’s happening politically in Portland.
8 N.W. Sixth Ave.
The Roseland Theater offers the same performance fare as the Crystal Ballroom – big name alternative artists almost every night of the year – but a slightly different atmosphere. Three levels, with two bars and a balcony. Make sure you watch out for those stairs after a few drinks. (PC)
214 S.W. Broadway
Saucebox used to be a place to see and be seen and get hit on. Maybe it still is. The food will keep you coming back. Bruce Carey seems unable to do wrong. And then there are the guest DJs: people who would never call themselves that, they are that cool and unfazed. I never can hang around that long though. (EL)
Stumptown – Downtown
128 S.W. Third Ave.
Stumptown is for the caffeine consumer who is also art driven. Or at least this is what you want to believe. The art shows are too good to think otherwise. With walls graced so well, it could be a gallery. Don’t even know if they do music. Unfortunately the help is way too unimpressed with everything to impress me. (EL)
3100 N.E. Sandy Blvd.
Nestled in the heart of the 31 block of beautiful Sandy Boulevard, the Tonic offers beer and smokiness. My opinion is biased, though. The last time I was there, the featured DJ was Gregarious, the man who hasn’t bought a record since 1992. Blondie again. Woo.
18 N.W. Third Ave.
Imagine drinking on the set of “Logan’s Run” with a bunch of pretentious punk-artist types while listening to the band of the minute mixed poorly with Joy Division. I love this fucking bar. Love it! Oh, bands play here, but rarely. (CJJ)
836 N. Russell St.
White Eagle: the place, emblazoned in my mind where my mate got the shit beat out of him. And I’ll bet he was not the only one. Hey you can dress this place up every which way you want; there is still something very tragic and empty about it. I hear you can get a room upstairs. This doesn’t make it “romantic” to me. Some will feel very validated by it, though. (EL)
PAC – Patrick Alan Coleman
EL – Eva Lake
EM – Eric Macey
CO – Catherine Olsen
CJJ – Choncy Joncy Jones
SR – Stephanie Ryan