The best place to see live music in Portland these days doesn’t really have a name. Posters for upcoming shows that bookers post to their Instagram accounts only list an address: 10140 SE Division St. It’s an unassuming location right next to a burrito shop and a paint store, and a stone’s throw from a typically busy stretch of Interstate 205.
During the height of the pandemic, this unusual venue has been a crucial hub for an underground music scene—and its fans—that, during normal times, are generally ignored by the city’s tastemakers. Shows here tend to be genre agnostic, combining electronic noise artists with emo bands and rappers, and are always inclusive when it comes to LGBTQIA+ and BIPOC talent. One upcoming show has six young drag performers on the bill alongside knotted-up punk group Swiss Army Wife and nasty-sounding metal band Father’s Milk.
The shows are also cheap, never costing more than $10 for entry, and they are all ages. Like the many house concerts taking place throughout Portland, the club is filling a clear need for young music fans looking to blow off steam and hang with friends in a safe space.
It’s a responsibility that organizers in charge of the venue take seriously. They’re strict about checking vaccination cards and making sure patrons are masked. They use their IG Stories to call out creeps and drug dealers. And they maintain a separate Insta account for lost-and-found items, which currently include a denim jacket, three pairs of sunglasses, and a black bra.
As a result, shows tend to be packed, raucous and a hell of a lot of fun. For an older music head like me, it harks back to the halcyon days of venues like X-Ray Cafe and 17 Nautical Miles. For all the teens bouncing off the walls and each other at these gigs, it’s heaven on earth.
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