This month, Patrick Kenneally, the founder of legendary Portland club the Blackbird, passed away at the age of 43. Though the Blackbird was short lived, even local musicians who didn't know Kenneally well were beneficiaries of his generous vision.
In between Satyricon's pro bono New Band Night and today's pay-to-play arrangements that require emerging bands to sell tickets in order to get paid, the Blackbird was a brief golden era in which even small local bands were paid and fed.
Kenneally was a musician and soundman from Chicago. He had interned with Steve Albini at Electrical Audio, and played in a melodic noise rock band called My Lai.
After My Lai folded, he moved to Portland to open a recording studio in 1999. In 2001, he founded the Blackbird—a music venue and restaurant that later housed Tony Starlight's, and the ill-fated new Know.
The Blackbird was a clubhouse for an eclectic early aughts scene of creative weirdos. Groups like 31 Knots, Nice Nice, The Planet The and The Get Hustle were practically house bands. Chantelle Hylton took the reins of booking local and national talent, so Kenneally could focus on good sound and infrastructure (including vegetarian and vegan menu options).
Members of the Prids and Red Fang—long before there was a Red Fang—frequently worked the door. "Pat was a giant know it all with a giant heart, says David Frederickson of the Prids. "I helped him physically build the Blackbird, and I was there to help him tear it down. He always said Blackbird was his biggest accomplishment and his biggest failure."
"He was a super sweet person, who obviously cared deeply about the music scene," recalls Charlie Salas Humara of Panther and Sun Angle. "He seemed to be genuinely excited about the bands that came through Blackbird and had a relationship with everyone that came through."
Unfortunately, the Blackbird closed in 2003, just two years after it opened. After it all came crumbling down, Kenneally eventually headed back to Chicago where he continued to do sound gigs and maintain his reputation as a fixer of problems and a passionate contributor to the music scene.
Over a decade after he move away, Kenneally's legacy can still be felt in Portland. "He had changed the way Portland venues treated bands," says Frederickson. "I think Blackbird's influence is still evident today."
A memorial fund for Kenneally's 5-year-old daughter can be found here.