Portland's Live Music Scene Offers Something for Everyone
By Meagan Shamy
Portland Local Expert
Portland, Oregon, often recognized as one of the top music scenes in the nation is home to thousands of musicians and you can find them playing around the city in different venues every night of the week. Portland concerts are entertaining for all different tastes in music from indie to mainstream and pop to blues. Portland hosts multiple music festivals each year that bring in hundreds of musical groups, including the Waterfront Blues Festival, Portland Jazz Festival, River City Music Festival, PDX Pop Now, and the massive Musical Fest NW. With so many places in the city offering live music it was hard to narrow them down, but we have, and we think you will enjoy them all. We’ve included bars that offer live music with no charge like Landmark Saloon, Kells and White Eagle Saloon, all three of which happen to also be local favorites.
We've included places that have live jazz like Vie de Boheme and Jimmy Mak's over in the Pearl District. Doug Fir made the list, because it is considered one of the Top 40 music venues in America and their acoustics are amazing. We’ve also included a few larger venues that consistently bring in good groups like the Crystal Ballroom and the Aladdin Theatre.
10 White Eagle Saloon
White Eagle Saloon is one of the oldest bars in Portland and McMenamins has done a great job preserving the best features, including the original oak back-bar and ceramic-tiled floors. White Eagle Saloon has live music nightly with a dance floor. The music acts vary, so check the website to see who is performing. There's a lovely outdoor beer garden with a firepit. They serve Northwest pub far based on what's on season and available from local and regional growers. They have McMenamin beers on tap and offer McMenamin wines and spirits. It's a casual place with a relaxed vibe. ((503) 282-6810)
9 Muddy Rudder
The Muddy Rudder is known as the friendliest pub in Sellwood and offers live music several five nights week, Thursday through Monday. Their live Irish music is a locals favorite. They feature an extensive menu for a bar including all organic choices like bruschetta, salmon salads, and their popular pizzas. Muddy Rudder has a good selection of beers on tap and a wide selection of cocktails. Muddy Rudder is in an older refurbished home and has a back yard they have turned into a patio with picnic tables. Happy Hour with $3 pints is offered every day from 4 to 6 ((503) 233-4410)
8 Kells Irish Restaurant and Pub
A favorite downtown spot for people of all ages, Kells offer Irish food and drink with a Northwest influence. Live nightly shows make this pub the best place in Portland to hear traditional Irish music. The music can be quite loud. A separate cigar lounge (with separate ventilation, of course) offers a wide selection of smokes. Though Kells offers Guiness Stout and a selection of beers and wines, it really stands out with its menu of single-malt scotch and Irish whiskey. The menu offers some traditional Irish favorites along with some more typical American fare. Kells is also open for and breakfast on the weekends. (503-227-4057)
7 The Goodfoot
Comfortable and accommodating, this two-level club is gaining favor with a variety of Portland's residents. The lower-level venue has an allure all its own, thanks to relaxed seating, subtle colors and great music. Depending on the night you're around, you'll find live musicians, a rocking jukebox or DJs playing all sorts of danceable tunes. Jazz, soul, rock, reggae and hip-hop tempt patrons to get out of their booths and show the crowds their best moves. Upstairs you can play pool for free and play darts or just nurse a cold brew. A great gathering place, with both local microbrews and national/international beers on tap, plus a wide assortment of bottled beers, wines and lambics. (503-239-9292)
6 Vie de Boheme
Vie de Boheme is an enchanting winery and wine bar that creates an old world experience; located in revitalized Southeast Portland Warehouse District on Distillery Row. They have live music, usually some version of jazz, every night of the week, except Mondays when they are closed. They have a dance floor and host a Salsa night every Tuesday. Vie de Boheme has hundreds of wines available from their wine library and a large selection of wines by the glass. They also have a full bar including beer. They serve seasonal soups, snacks, small plates, sandwiches, and daily main course specials. They have happy hour Tuesday -- Friday from 4 -- 7 PM. ((503) 360-1233)
5 Landmark Saloon
If you love country music, Bluegrass or Texas rock you are going to love the LandMark Saloon. Here they have everything a country bar should: a massive bar, quality libations like cold beer and signature cocktails served in mason jars, live honky tonk music, a small dance floor for two stepping and a killer outdoor area. Out back you can sit around a fire or play a round of corn hole. Their spacious patio includes a covered seating are and another bar. They even have decent bar food, if you like hotdogs. Unlike many bars in the area Landmark Saloon is open everyday of the week and many nights there is no cover charge! ((503) 894-8132)
4 Mississippi Studios
Of all the live music venues in Portland, Mississippi Studios holds a special place in the hearts of many concert goers. Considered by many to be the best place in town to see a live show, the small, intimate space has amazing, clear sound. When it's not too crowded, the main floor is great for dancing, while the balcony has seating for those who prefer it. Audiences are so close to the performers that a concert can become an interactive, shared experience. Food and drinks are available for both lunch and dinner, and patios offer outdoor seating as well as a second performance stage. Occupying a quaint, historic building in the hip North Mississippi neighborhood, this is a great place to see concerts by big names and small indy bands alike. (503-288-3895)
3 McMenamin's Crystal Ballroom
The Crystal Ballroom occupies the upper floor of an entertainment complex that also houses Lola's Room (a smaller live music and dancing venue) and Ringler's Pub (food, drinks, and pool). The structure premiered in 1914 and has hosted the likes of the Grateful Dead, B.B. King, Jefferson Airplane, and Buffalo Springfield. These days, you'll find a host of popular regional and national bands (Liz Phair, Dar Williams, Alien Crime Syndicate), along with dancing on the expansive 7500-square-foot dance floor (which is said to float, thanks to installation on rockers and ball bearings). Food is available, along with McMenamins hand-crafted ales and wines, plus cocktails. The Crystal Ballroom features all genres of live music. (503-225-0047)
2 Jimmy Mak's
Located in the trendy Pearl District, this jazz haven features live music Monday through Saturday nights. During the day it serves as an authentic Greek restaurant that offers outstanding homemade eats, but when evening arrives it morphs into one of the hottest jazz and blues spots in all of Stumptown. There is a cover charge some evenings and the price varies based on who is performing. The menu includes tasty signature dishes like Pasticio, a Greek lasagna, and Souvlaki Kasa, a skewer of chicken, beef, lamb or prawns grilled and served atop a bed of rice vermicelli. A beer, wine and cocktail menu is also available. (503-295-6542)
1 Doug Fir Lounge
Located below the Doug Fir Restaurant, the Doug Fir Lounge is a hip live music spot that's got a dedicated following who show up to listen to the mix of regional and national musicians booked to play every night of the week. An outstanding food and cocktail menu is available, compliments of the Doug Fir Restaurant and Bar. They offer breakfast, lunch, dinner, and late night food. Although shows have different time, generally doors open at 8pm, with shows beginning at 9pm; call or check their website for specific dates, times and shows. Doug Fir was listed as one of the Top 40 music venues in American by Paste Magazine. Doug Fir Lounge offers free wifi. (503-231-9663)
About Meagan Shamy
Meagan Shamy is an Oregon resident by choice and thinks Portland is a tremendous city that everyone should visit. Originally a Texas girl. She has lived all around the United States, compliments of the US Air Force. After living in Texas, Mississippi, Oregon, Idaho, Florida, and Nevada, she chose to return to Portland, OR and make it home. Meagan graduated with a History and English degree from the University of Texas. Being a military wife has led her on adventures around the world, including two of her favorite places Honduras and Scotland. Her work can be found on several websites including 10Best.com and TravelingMom.com.
Read more about Meagan Shamy here.