While last year saw the tragic end to two of the city's most beloved all-ages punk spaces—Laughing Horse Books and Slabtown—2015 seems like it could mark the end of idle eulogizing and the beginning of real progress for the long-struggling scene. Blackwater Records have successfully opened a new location at 835 NE Broadway. With plans for a vegan eatery and brewery on deck, the space is also poised to host all-ages shows. (Although January 10's inaugural show, featuring performances by Rvivr, Nasalrod, Bagheera, and Divers, is mysteriously 21 and over.) Skate shop the SMART Collective (6923 SE Foster) has picked up where Laughing Horse left off, wisely enacting a similar no-booze/safe-space policy and hosting some of the best DIY shows of the past several months (although all shows at the venue have to start at 5 pm and be over by 8 pm). The newly expanded Mother Foucault's Bookshop (523 SE Morrison) has been hosting shows semi-regularly since early last fall. Punk-space veterans Red and Black Cafe (400 SE 12th) are thankfully still kicking and remain a great place to see live music (unless you're a cop). And Parkway North, in the Smith building on the Portland State University campus, is one of the nicest all-ages stages in town, although its future is somewhat nebulous due to curfew semantics and the university faculty's understandable misgivings with maintaining a dedicated music venue.
The Jayhawks w/Trapper Schoepp; Aladdin Theater, 3017 SE Milwaukie
The Jayhawks were never the coolest first-generation alt-country band, but they might have been the most earnest. In every department except for production—which is definitely showing its age—the Hawks' 1989 major-label debut, Blue Earth, suggested that principal songwriter Mark Olson was very possibly the best and brightest country tunesmith since Gram Parsons. The band was never able to make another record as consistently stellar as Blue Earth, although 1995's "Blue"—from their fourth record Tomorrow the Green Grass—grazes "perfect song" territory. Olson, easily their biggest asset, bowed out soon after that album's release, reducing the Jayhawks to a songwriting vehicle for second fiddle Gary Louris. The group's most recent, 2011's Mockingbird Time, marked the long-awaited return of Olson and was, unsurprisingly, the band's best offering in over a decade. Olson has since parted ways again; tonight's show will feature the Louris-fronted edition of the band running through highlights from their 1997-2003 trio of albums. Also see Up & Coming.