For its first four years, Backspace was just a tiny Old Town coffee shop frequented primarily by Internet gamers. Then, in November 2007, the Thermals asked to play a free show there. We asked owner Eric Robison how the concert that turned the small cafe into a pillar of Portland’s all-ages music community came together.
“We had built Someday Lounge and wanted it to be all-ages, but the OLCC would never approve it. My brother and one of my former general managers, this guy Drew Woods, made the suggestion of, ‘Well, Backspace is big enough. Why don’t we put a little, tiny stage and do the occasional acoustic show, something little?’ So we did that and did a couple acoustic shows, nothing significant. And then [Thermals singer-guitarist] Hutch [Harris] called and was like, ‘Hey, how would you like to do a free show here?’ We rented a decent sound system for them, had this tiny, little mixing board, and we somehow made it work. All the pieces came together last minute. Then all these people came in. My thighs were sore for about a week afterward from standing on the front of the stage, holding the crowd back. Right after that show, our email blew up. We had to hire someone to be a booker, because a bunch of people in bands saw the Thermals and wanted to do shows here. We were going to just do weekends, and it just built. Now we do five nights per week. Next time I saw Hutch, I told him, ‘Y’know, this is all your fault. Now I’m here every night doing this. Half of me wants to thank you, the other half—especially my wife—wants to beat you up.’” —Eric Robison, Backspace owner.
SEE IT: Backspace’s 10th anniversary show, featuring Tiananmen Bear, Woodwinds, Fair Weather Watchers and more, is at Backspace, 115 NW 5th Ave., on Wednesday, July 3. 8 pm. $5. All ages.