Bowling alleys rarely indulge their patrons' eardrums with a musical soundtrack. Normally, a visit to the lanes is pretty quiet, save for the sound of balls crashing through pins and the subsequent cheers or jeers of a rowdy family on a night out. Occasionally, black-lit "Cosmic Bowling" theme nights feature an unfortunate mix of Top 40 and Pink Floyd. Nice enough--if you're 12 to 15 years old.
But live rawk music in the lanes? It's virtually unheard of in this town. Why? Well, Grand Central Bowl's Wednesday-night Rock and Bowl provides a laundry list of reasons. Dismal attendance. Last-minute band cancellations. Blown house amplifiers. Music fans who don't bowl. Super short sets. Cranky bands.
The past few weeks, the folks from eastside vintage clothiers Double Trouble have thrown themselves into the ring as promoters of a live-music night at Grand Central. Double Trouble owner Malati Rossington's plans are ambitious: She envisions the bowling alley as a new music venue, one where up-and-comers can get a foot in Portland's musical door. She admits the event has encountered a terrible beginning, but she has plans to work with the alley's owner to get more bodies into the lanes--specifically, slashing rental prices and sprucing up the lanes' time-worn setup.
And while the first two tries may have seemed fatal to an outsider, things weren't all that bad. She points to a secret weapon that saved the day (er, night)--twice: the band Ice Machine.
When the PA threatened to cut out during the first show, band members hopped in their van and picked up their own amplifiers. Last week, when Portland rockers the Gays opted out of their show and Lovely played a set that was, at most, a half-hour long, Ice Machine showed up at Grand Central 'round midnight and played loud and live for two hours. Pure saviors, she says.
Time will tell. Rossington's determined to promote the bowling alley as a new space but is also smart enough to admit she doesn't know what she's gotten herself into. But she does have bands, like nine-piece ensemble Diamond Talk and Dandy Warhols pet project Telephone, booked into September.
Despite the alley's own flaws--fluorescent bowling balls, while brilliant in color, have suffered from years of abuse, while each of the 28 lanes' monitors sparkle with more attention and animation--a night like Rock and Bowl could actually pump blood into Grand Central's shriveled veins.
Grand Central Bowl, 808 SE Morrison St., 232-5166. 9 pm. $3-$4. 21+ in the bar, all ages in the lanes. Rock and bowl is taking the week off. Next show is Aug. 27.