Suddenly, it hits me: we are four 30- to 40-somethings, drinking booze in a bar, discussing what’s best for Portland’s underage music fans.
“The all-ages clubs from even five years ago have closed, and that has created a huge vacuum,” says Aaron Hall, a board member for the recently formed nonprofit Friends of Noise. “If you want the city to continue to be a hub for creativity and dynamic culture, we have to nurture it from a young age.”
This is not a new problem. A series of club closures in the early aughts forced the under-21 music scene underground—literally—to a thriving basement-show scene in North and Northeast Portland. But few of those house venues survived the real estate boom. Even after some promising 2007 rules changes, OLCC regulations make it difficult for small clubs that serve alcohol to open their doors to underage music fans. And unlike Seattle and Eugene—which have the Vera Project and WOW Hall, respectively—Portland still has no true community hub for all-ages music.
Friends of Noise hopes to close that gap. And it really looks like they might. The group, which has a five-member board and an impressive community of supporters from the local music scene, hopes to open an all-ages space by the end of 2017, after throwing a series of shows in nontraditional venues around the city as proof-of-concept. (The first is at Los Prados Event Hall in St. Johns on Sunday, May 22.) The eventual brick-and-mortar club (location TBD) would also serve as a hub for showcases and workshops from other local music-based nonprofits.
“We’re having monthly youth meetings at local libraries, and 20 to 30 kids show up every time,” says André Middleton, Friends of Noise board member. “It’s really a collaboration with youth,” adds fellow board member Becky Miller. “That’s the most exciting part of this.”
As we trade stories about our own first shows, Middleton notes that all of them are intergenerational—involving cool parents or family friends. This feels like good news. Maybe a handful of 30- and 40-somethings really can make things better for Portland’s underage music fans, one all-ages show at a time.
For more, read Casey Jarman's full Q&A with Friends of Noise.