Portland's all-ages music scene is in dire straits. A coalition of nonprofits and young music fans called Friends of Noise has come together to try to fix that. It wasn't always this way, though. While underage music fans have long been beleaguered in this city, Portland music history is littered with the ghosts of some amazing, often short-lived venues serving the under-21 demographic. Here are the ones we remember most fondly.
X-Ray Cafe (1990-94)
Former location: 214 W Burnside St.
Somehow jury-rigging a venue through DIY ingenuity and tireless showmanship, Ben Ellis and future doughnut impresario Tres Shannon put together a vital outlet for bands both local (Hazel, Team Dresch) and national (Green Day, Bikini Kill).
La Luna (1992-99)
Former location: 215 SE 9th Ave.
From the start of 1992, La Luna's main stage brought the cream of Alternative Nation to Puddletown (Radiohead, Pavement, Weezer) while the more intimate balcony shows of local luminaries, including Elliott Smith, truly changed lives.
17 Nautical Miles (1998-99)
Former location: 4609 SE Woodstock Blvd.
Existing for the briefest flash of time, in the tiniest of spaces, 17 Nautical Miles galvanized an indie-rock scene that would blow up nationally in the years just after its closure. And they did it in Woodstock, of all places.
Meow Meow (2000-05)
Former locations: 527 SE Pine St., 320 SE 2nd Ave.
Portland's most valiant attempt at threading the OLCC rules that separate minors from alcohol, Meow Meow—which rebranded as Loveland, then became Rotture/Branx and is now Euphoria—remains the peak of all-ages ambition through the first half of the aughts. As the inaugural host of PDX Pop Now, the club launched the festival's legacy.
Food Hole (mid-aughts)
Former location: 20 NW 3rd Ave.
Before coming of age for louche nightspots Yes & No and Black Book, this tiny sliver of Old Town served as little more than an unadorned closet through which kids piled on top of themselves for heaping gobs of steamy, sweaty, face-melting rawk.
The Artistery (2003-11)
Former location: 4315 SE Division St.
Splitting the difference between a club and house venue, the Artistery hosted the likes of Grouper and Tune-Yards in its basement and became a true second home for regulars. It is now apartments, of course.
Former location: 115 NW 5th Ave.
Founded as a sleepy little Old Town cyber-cafe in 2003, Backspace would host the odd acoustic set to soundtrack early-evening gaming before the Thermals decided to celebrate their ascendant 2007 with a free show—and thereafter birthed a vital all-ages hub.