Portland’s small music venues

There is something to be said for the smaller venue when it comes to seeing a live band. And that something is that it is simply a better experience compared to that of the large venue.

There is something to be said for the smaller venue when it comes to seeing a live band. And that something is that it is simply a better experience compared to that of the large venue.

Now, of course, a good concert at one of Portland’s plethora of ballrooms or a nice arena show can do the trick, but in general, nothing can compare to the up close and personal experience of seeing that one special band, artist or flavor of the month. In the interest of such encounters, the Vanguard has tracked down the best venues in Portland for those interested in getting up close and personal with today’s best musicians.

The Artistery

4315 S.E. Division St.
The Artistery is a committed beacon of DIY ethos and its staff nets a steady lineup of local indie bands and artists to keep this Southeast venue as a firm focal point for up-and-coming local rockers.

115 N.W. Fifth Ave.
If there’s a place in the known universe that provides more fun per square inch than Backspace, then it has yet to be discovered. This internet café/vegan eatery/art gallery/computer repair shop/generally kick-ass venue, rarely (if ever) books a dud and its inclusive all-ages attitude makes for a damned near perfect hangout for local music devotees.

Berbati’s Pan
231 S.W. Ankeny St.
Berbati’s scales tend to tip towards the touring band’s side, though they do have some local groups grace their stage from time to time. Either way, the crowd is always manageable and the food goes far beyond bar food. With a new booker recently added to the bar’s crew, this venue might be in the beginning steps of a full resurgence.

1 S.W. Third Ave.
Right in the middle of downtown, Dante’s has never disappointed. Another great place that offers excellent touring bands and local talent. Two bars are available to tend to the usual masses cramming in the venue. The bathrooms may leave a bit to be desired and they usually have quite a line, but the shows are never to be missed.

Doug Fir
830 E. Burnside
Underneath the belly of the Doug Fir’s den of douchebags and hipsters lays perhaps the best stage in Portland. It’s a real yin-yang kind of thing; annoying hipsters upstairs, kick-ass shows downstairs. They always have a nice mix of local and traveling acts—and good ones at that. There is always someplace to sit or stand, a convenient bar in the back and room enough for bands to set out all their goodies.

Hawthorne Theater
1507 S.E. 39th Ave.
One of a few all-ages venues in town, but don’t be turned away, Hawthorne Theatre still has a bar for the 21-and-over crowd. The bar is in the back, but it still isn’t far enough away to make too much of a difference. If you can find a seat, the balcony is a great place to get a good view, a cheap beer and just chill.

Kelly’s Olympian

426 S.W. Washington St.
Aside from the most excellent array of classic motorcycles, guitars and signage on display, Kelly’s offers a great setting to catch a show. Kelly’s has always been a great place for local rock, but ever since they acquired the space next door and converted it into their own stage, it has been even better. Plenty of room to move around, yet not spreading it thin. Plus, if the band ends up sucking, you have one of Portland’s best bars the next room over.

Mt. Tabor Legacy
4811 S.E. Hawthorne Blvd.
The main selling point here is the venue itself, as this place seems to change names every few years. Two rooms offer two staging areas. It lies beyond the end of Hawthorne’s happening stretch, somewhat separating it from anything else going on.

The Red Room
2530 N.E. 82nd Ave.
The Red Room has all the glamour and elegant style of 82nd Avenue. A self-proclaimed dive bar, it does offer a decent stage, and is probably the only rock and sports mixed club around. Whether it excels at either varies by the night, but a friendly staff makes for an excellent experience regardless.

The Roseland Theater
8 N.W. Sixth Ave.
Now the Roseland sure isn’t small, but then again it isn’t quite a massive venue either. I feel all right mentioning it, as it does offer a more intimate atmosphere than its large venue counterparts. The Roseland is another stage accessible to the under-21 crowd. The main floor allows the audience to get down and boogie, while the balcony allows for folks to sit back and just take it in.