There’s a definitive moment in Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas when Hunter S. Thompson sums up the end of the ’60s era profoundly, making note of a “high-water mark” that can be seen from where the wave of hippie platitudes rolled back into the gutter. If you set your gaze north, you may be able to make out The High Water Mark (6800 NE Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., 286-6513), a signal post of one of Portland’s newest frontiers of gentrification. Brought to you by a former owner of Alleyway, this is a fledgling dive bar at its core—a dimly lit cavern that remains a few broken couches and Olympia signs short of being that place you outright ignore until a friend recommends a pit stop as an almost-joke. A recent visit found a tap list with kegs delivered to Portland bars by default: Rainier, Full Sail, Double Mountain and Good Life on tap. The back room is outfitted with a stage similar to those at punk-rock clubs like Slabtown and the Know, but a chalkboard listing weekend events simply read “drink, drank, drunk” for each night. A DJ spinning Godflesh and Black Sabbath provided a sludgy backdrop for the handful of local punk kids who weren’t outside chain-smoking. The High Water Mark may one day be the nucleus of punk-rock critical mass Woodlawn needs to assert itself as “the next thing” in NoPo, but it may require the decidedly un-punk initiative of trying hard to get them in the door.
Correction: The print version of this article incorrectly stated that the High Water Mark and Alleyway were owned by the same people. High Water Mark Owner Eric Manfre is no longer affiliated with Alleyway.