For those of us who don’t much follow the comings and goings of local bands, deciding to just go out and see a show can seem overwhelming. We scan the music calendar, wondering if we can really trust Chris Stamm’s endorsement of Gestapo Khazi; ponder whether it’s worth the ride if it turns out we don’t like the show; and end up getting drunk on the couch while watching Andrew Zimmern chug grubs on
Bizarre Foods
, just like every other night of the week. Fortunately, plenty of bars consistently host good bands, have low covers and are still fun places to hang even if the show disappoints. Here are a few of our favorites.
Alberta Street Public House
1036 NE Alberta St., 284-7665,
Mikey Beglan’s 10-year-old pub hosts the best Irish jam session in town every Friday, but the rest of the week is more eclectic. All sorts of folk, blues and alt-country acts take the tiny stage every Thursday through Saturday, usually without a cover.
Candlelight Room
2032 SW 5th Ave., 222-3378,
This wonderfully dumpy bar is set to be demolished in 2012 to make way for a MAX stop, so head over while you can. Some of Portland’s best blues and R&B acts (Andy Stokes on Sundays, Elite on Wednesdays, LaRhonda Steele on Thursdays) play seven nights a week, and there’s never a cover.
Duff’s Garage
1635 SE 7th Ave., 234-2337,
Portland’s home for rockabilly, swing, surf rock and honky-tonk can be a surprisingly familiar place—my barber plays there—and it rocks like mad starting at 6 pm every Monday through Saturday. Cover’s about $3.
Jimmy Mak’s
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Portland used to be one of the biggest jazz towns in the West, before we bulldozed all the clubs in the name of urban renewal. These days we just have Jimmy Mak’s, which has been hosting national headliners since 1996. Hey, we’ll take it—the bar has great sound and good food and weeknight covers rarely top $6. Mel Brown plays three nights a week.
The Knife Shop at Kelly’s Olympian
426 SW Washington St., 228-3669,
The storied downtown bar, now in its 109th year of continuous operation, still hosts kickass punk of all stripes most nights. The cover runs about $5, and if you’re hungry you can have a steak for $10.75.
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The leaders of the city’s bluegrass, folk, old-time, gypsy jazz and Americana scenes, plus various combinations thereof, can be found every night at this entirely kickass bar. Cover charges are rare, and when they do occur, they run $5 to $6. I’ve never seen a bad show here.
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Most people are DJs, and these days it seems most bars have added DJ nights to accommodate them. The best DJs, though, are always at Tiga. And on the off chance you don’t like the night’s DJ, you can always walk next door to Pok Pok Noi for wings (once they open).
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Should you be the sort of person who is ill-inclined to kill 10 minutes reading the concert calendar but nonetheless demands a cutting-edge musical experience, squeeze your way into this tiny room to catch a band or DJ or laptop symphony with a name that looks like a random handful of Scrabble tiles. It’s usually free.