Forget strip clubs and Voodoo Doughnut theme nights--the "next best thing" in Portland bar culture has arrived. And you won't find it downtown. In order to take in this phenomenon, you've got to head in the direction of (gasp!) Gresham.
That's where you'll find Gospel Hour, every Sunday night (of course), at Hopper's bar. It's not a restaging of the 73rd birthday party that Portland's first lady, Darcelle, celebrated earlier this month (wherein the Tacoma Church Ladies staged a "revival" at her Old Town club). Neither is it a hyper-serious, preachy evening church service or a Polyphonic Spree rip-off. This is the real deal, people.
At Gospel Hour, singing about Jesus and drinking PBR go hand in hand, and without irony. Those looking for a robed choir of angelic voices will be disappointed: The band, headed by local blues siren Rae Gordon and keyboardist Dave Mersereau, favors jeans.
The hourlong set of music doesn't demand the audience's undivided attention (read: playing video poker is still OK). To be honest, some of the slower songs are pretty cheesy, and an escape from them can be found in a few dollars plugged into the old machine. But when the band launches into the more rollicking numbers, hands start waving and it's hard to not feel like part of the impromptu congregation.
By all accounts, Gospel Hour is an informal event, and Gordon says she's no Bible-thumper. "I may believe in God," she says, "but church has always made me bored." She loves gospel music, though, so when she was approached by Hopper's honchos (who have a ministerial service out back--seriously), she joined in.
Though only a month old, Gospel Hour recently enjoyed a small, but devoted, crowd.
It's not for everyone. But, then again, if Darcelle's into gospel music, the rest of this town can't be far behind.
Hopper's Bar, 11121 SE Division St., 256-9521. 7 pm. 21+.