Portland’s collection of A-list musicians — indie-rock heroes the Decemberists, neo-tango-band sophisticates Pink Martini, punk combo the Thermals, local jazz legend Mel Brown and rock quartet Wild Flag, just to name a few — is nothing if not varied. Likewise, the Rose City boasts a wide array of music halls.
On the east side, the rocket-ship-meets-log-cabin décor of the Doug Fir Lounge exudes chic charm. Expect a regular lineup of nationally and internationally known indie bands, often buoyed by trend-setting local openers. The vibe is also fiercely independent at Mississippi Studios in North Portland. Shows at this recording studio/performance space have included mellow record-release parties and a unique mash-up between the Oregon Ballet Theatre and a local folk band. At the nearby Wonder Ballroom, wooden floors and cozy quarters offer an intimate setting for a variety of artists. Tucked in the heart of the Alberta Arts District, the Alberta Rose Theater takes advantage of the venue’s former-movie-house design, providing concert goers with a intimate setting, incredible acoustics and excellent line-of-sight seating. The newest addition to the Portland music venue scene, Revolution Hall is housed in a former high school auditorium; the surrounding Washington High building features creative office space, bars and plenty of old-school high school charm.
Touring rock acts frequently grace the stage at McMenamins Crystal Ballroom, a historic venue in downtown’s West End, which features an unusual floating dance floor. The Moda Center, home to the NBA’s Trail Blazers, is also Portland’s largest live music venue, and attracts big-name performers and productions. Rounding out the Rose City’s trio of big stages, downtown’s grand Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall is not only home to the Oregon Symphony, but also welcomes major acts, from Wynton Marsalis to the Black Crowes.
When the sun is shining, Edgefield reigns supreme. Located on the site of a historic poorhouse and farm, the venue is part of the McMenamins empire of interesting sites masterfully restored as hotel resorts. Just 20 minutes east of Portland by car, Edgefield has a popular summer Concerts on the Lawn series that’s hosted everyone from the Doobie Brothers to Vampire Weekend.
Portland is also the proud home of many niche music venues, like the Blue Diamond on N.E. Sandy where blues music reigns supreme, drawing local, award-winning musicians like Curtis Salgado, Kevin Selfe and LaRhonda Steele. And for prohibition-era jams, The Secret Society hosts a bevy of local swing and jazz bands, frequently with free dance lessons before the shows.