The age of Panic is over. The age of the Raven has begun.
Without any advance notice a week ago, the Sandy Boulevard venue known as Panic Room Caution: High Volume Bar tore off its sign this month to rebrand itself as the Raven.
The bar has had a new booker since early this year, who apparently convinced the owner that the name change was a really good idea; the Raven is also nixing a lot of the novelty acts and focusing instead on heavy and dark underground music—including a whole gripload of metal.
Here's a little background, for those who missed it:
In the spring of 2015, something terrible happened to the Tonic Lounge—an old-guard Northeast Sandy Boulevard music venue in need of some repairs and a cash infusion.
In apparent desperation, the bar invited loudmouthed bully Jon Taffer to renovate the bar on his no good, very bad cable TV show called Bar Rescue—which airs on a cable channel whose other original shows include such greats as Ink Master: Redemption and Lip Sync Battle.
And so Tonic Lounge was transformed into some weird prison-apocalypse theme bar with cheapo props, weird sponsored cocktails and the terrifying name “Panic Room: Caution High Volume Bar.”
Panic Room on Bar Rescue: "They Were Setting Us Up to Fail"
Staff quickly took to the name by answering the bar's phone as "the Penis Room." The sign was even vandalized briefly, perhaps lovingly, to read that way.
Chris Trumpower—also the booker and sound guy at Woodlawn punk and metal spot the High Water Mark—took over duties at Panic Room this January, and says he convinced its owner that a name change was a really, really good idea.
Here's a quick Q & A with Trumpower (slightly edited for clarity).
WW: So were you behind the bar's name change?
Trumpower: I felt very strongly that the name Panic Room needed to go away immediately. It's a shame that such a great venue was operating with such a horrible aesthetic. And I knew that trying to book relevant underground music there would be an uphill battle with a name like that. The Raven was the boss's idea, and at first I didn't love it, but it's grown on me, and I think we can all agree it's better than the the previous name.
Did you have bands not take you seriously because of the Panic Room name?
There are plenty of bands who loved playing there despite the name, because it is an ideal spot for a lot of shows: 300 cap, with two bars, patio, parking lot, and an amazing sound system (that was not provided through Bar Rescue).
However, yes, there were bands who were too cool for the Penis Lounge, and while I think that's a little silly, I can also understand not wanting your art and passion to be presented in a venue whose identity is a bit of a chuckle.
I'm sure not everyone will like the new name, and I've already heard some folks pick fun at it: "Put a bird on it," and whatnot. I've also had a lot of people contact us praising the new name.
You can't please everyone, but I think after the initial hubbub over the most recent name change, folks will get used to it, and hopefully be thankful that it remains one of the few venues of its size that will book local rock bands and small touring bands.
Any relation between the new "Raven" name and the long-closed Blackbird venue that used to be farther up Sandy?
No relation to any other establishment in town.
Will there be some booking crossover between High Water and Raven in terms of the bands you bring?
Yes. A majority of my booking is part of Soundcontrol PDX, my “company” that promotes dark, heavy, and underground music in Portland. I am also booking the majority of events at High Water Mark and I think it’s already obvious that a lot of bands bounce back and forth between those two venues.
Did any good come out of the Bar Rescue appearance, from your perspective now?
Um . . . not really. The sign and name were horrible, the show was absolute staged and edited bullshit, the props were cheap and silly, and all the actual stage and lighting gear was rented or borrowed and we didn’t get to keep. The show did irreparable damage to the venue’s image, and provided no benefits other than a small amount of decent furniture.
I'd like to encourage folks to come check out a show at The Raven, and see for themselves that's it's a gem of a spot that we are lucky still exists in this ever changing city.
Did the new sound system, even, come from selling off any of the Bar Rescue stuff?
Nothing was sold off. Like I said, it was mostly cheap plastic and particleboard props that we just threw in the garbage. The owner and one of his best friends invested in the new sound system, after the show had already packed up and gone.
Any upcoming shows you're particularly excited about?