The Tonic Lounge is coming back. The NE Sandy bar and venue has been taken over by Eric Manfre (of High Water Mark Lounge) and Chris Trumpower (of Soundcontrol PDX, Slabtown, and Plan B) to be rightfully restored to its proper status as a Portland rock den. Right now Trumpower and Manfre are working overtime to get it ready for its grand opening—scheduled for Thursday, March 23, although there may be a soft opening a couple days prior to that—but Trumpower took a moment to go over some of the broad strokes with the Mercury.
That opening show, on Thursday, March 23, will be a blowout, with DC stoner band Dead Meadow headlining along with Atlanta's Matt Hollywood and the Bad Feelings (Hollywood, a former Portlander, played in the Out Crowd and Brian Jonestown Massacre). Then, on Friday, March 24, Fred and Toody (of Dead Moon, Pierced Arrows) will play, supported by Tallwomen and Aubrey Debauchery. The following weekend will see Bay Area sludge band Noothgrush perform on Friday, March 31, followed by a special benefit show for Jonny Harbin AKA Jonnycat on Saturday, April 1, featuring the Observers, the Spits, Clorox Girls, and the final show from local band Bi-Marks.
That last show was super-sold-out when it was originally slated for the High Water Mark, which will function as a sister venue to the new, improved Tonic—Trumpower says they'll continue to hold more intimate shows at the High Water Mark while reserving the Tonic showroom for bigger events. In fact, they're not going to jam-pack the Tonic's live show calendar with nightly shows simply for the sake of having shows. Rather, they're focusing on quality over quantity. That might mean the Tonic only hosts two or three shows a week (or maybe fewer, or maybe more), while the bar and patio will be open seven days a week (starting in April).
That patio, by the way, will soon be covered, and fully heated by the time winter comes around again. The parking lot isn't going anywhere, either—suck it, condos!—but the sign will be brand new. They're working on a logo right now. That iconic Tonic sign, seen above in a photo from many years ago, has had some transformations in recent years (including some names we'll not mentioned here). Trumpower and Manfre are hoping serious rock lovers can forget about any recent ignominy the building may have suffered and focus on this bar becoming its best self: a welcome hangout with a great showroom and choice booking. Most of the menu from High Water Mark will be served at the Tonic, including vegan food and organic smoked meats, along with some new items too; the cocktail program is in the works, as are new beer taps.
We'll have more on the new Tonic Lounge as it develops—the other tidbit right now is that the weekend of April 6, 7, and 8 will host the Out from the Shadows festival, highlighting post-punk and darkwave bands—so for now, let's focus on the serendipity of the Tonic's renewed purpose coming on the heels of the opening of the new Know just up the street. (The Know officially opens tomorrow night, Friday, March 3.) That stretch of NE Sandy has just become the new home for Portland rock, with shows spotlighting punk, metal, more shows taking place at each spot, separated by fewer than four blocks. With Manfre and Trumpower at the helm, the evergreen, phoenix-like Tonic Lounge is about to enter its newest, and possibly best, incarnation ever.