The Modern Age

One of my favorite things to be angry about is the way in which the Oregon Liquor Control Commission and its de facto war on all-ages venues forcibly cuts off kids in Portland from the local music community. When I really want to get worked up, all I have to do is picture the teary face of my friend's five-year-old daughter when she learned that she could not see her favorite band, Battles (I kid you not), play at the Doug Fir last week because she is under 21. However, it is important to remember that the all-ages crowd being shut out of most shows in town includes not just toddlers and teens, but also the demographic that largely drives the trends, tastes, and listening habits of the music world: college students.

Thankfully, in the grand punk tradition, a cohort of local music devotees involved with Portland State University's radio station KPSU, took matters into their own hands—townies and students alike—striking a blow for all-ages music in Portland using the resources of PSU itself. Inspired by a recent series of on-campus shows, this coalition of DJs, community activists, and station staff put together a plan for an on-campus, all-ages, volunteer-run music venue modeled on Seattle's Vera Project. Their efforts bear public fruit at 7:30 pm on Friday, July 13, when the incredible Evolutionary Jass Band breaks in the stage at Portland's newest venue, dubbed the Modern Age.

The Modern Age is unique in that it enjoys the financial benefits of university affiliation, while still aspiring to reach beyond campus borders to the Portland community at large. By virtue of its connection with KPSU, a student organization, the Modern Age receives school funding and a rent-free space to call its own, deep in the belly of PSU's Smith Center, thereby dodging the usually fatal bullet fired at all-ages venues obliged to make ends meet without alcohol sales. The venue is consequently able to spend its money on a quality sound system and citywide flyering, to hopefully draw crowds from all quadrants of Portland. As part of the university, the Modern Age has a pedagogical mission as well, providing its volunteer staff experience in event planning, booking, and promotions in a risk-free environment.

Whether the Modern Age will ultimately attract an audience broader than the obvious collegiate constituency remains to be seen, but simply creating a space to host live music two Fridays a month at PSU, our town's most centrally located and civically integrated institution of higher learning, is itself an achievement, one likely to significantly increase student engagement with Portland music, much of which, after all, once upon a time in the days before "indie," would have been called "college rock."