Ten years ago today, a swanky lounge-cum-rock club posing as a retro-futurist ski lodge opened on East Burnside.
A decade later, the Doug Fir Lounge is a Portland institution. It is arguably the best-sounding venue in town. Rolling Stone declared it one of the best clubs in America. It has played host to innumerable artists, some who've gone on to become household names, others who've since had to move back into their parents' house. If you're a band on the rise trying to get over in one of the country's top live music cities, your coming-out party is often going to be at the place once described as "Paul Bunyan's home in outer space."
Back in 2004, though, it was unclear how long the place would even be around.
From Willamette Week 's Oct. 13, 2004, edition, covering the Fir's grand opening:
Nightclubs are like crushes, you see. Everybody's head over heels about a bar for a few glittering nights (Level, anybody?). Two weeks later, the same joint barely merits a nod....Last weekend, pint-sized mini-skirted girls and design majors gushed over the glitzy riot of gold-veined mirrored tiles in the Vegas-style bathrooms. Well-coifed men with tattoos demolished "Fir burgers" while perched on the dining room's stiff Naugahyde banquettes (they never noticed the half-finished benches were still sluttily flashing their foam innards at East Burnside's bums).Meanwhile, downstairs, the bulk of Portland's music community was camped out in the concert venue, an echoey mash-up of glowing yellow floors and concrete parking-garage pillars hugging a low-slung stage.Worlds collided. A few women dressed in rhinestone-encrusted evening dresses shimmied along with the Joggers' angelically damaged four-part harmonies and [Quasi's] jarring blues-rock. And if the drinks keep flowing, the Doug Fir may someday host an epic upstairs-downstairs rumble: The sweaty kids in the basement vs. the fur-palace hipsterati above ground.
It's safe to say Portland ended up committing to the Doug Fir. The club is celebrating its 10th anniversary throughout October, and you can find more features about the club in print and online in the coming weeks.
Read the full article by Kelly Clarke here. Below, you'll see how it originally appeared in the paper (with a photo of Sam Coomes "axing" the club into existence), along with an ad for its inaugural week of shows—which, based on the bands, could've been published yesterday.