At first thought, doesn't it seem strange that despite the hordes of musicians and artists that have migrated to North and Northeast Portland in recent years, there are still so few venues for the up-and-coming music circuit? Beyond the big-name Wonder Ballroom, Northeast Portland has smaller stages at the Know, Dunes, the Kenton Club, and the Coop, not to mention endless house show locales. Yet it seems to me that the majority of established venues—for example, Holocene, Doug Fir, Slabtown, Valentine's, Satyricon—are located either in Southeast or Downtown.
It makes more sense when considered as a phenomenon of the larger shifts going on in Portland's neighborhoods. After all, it's only in the last 10 to 15 years that Northeast has become a destination for the young and artsy, and a walk down the street demonstrates that the area is still visibly and tangibly in transition. Which makes both the name and the presence of Local Lounge of special interest. The Local is the latest incarnation of a building at NE MLK and Fremont that has served as a test tube of sorts for the dynamics of the area over the last couple of years. Let's assume we're all well-versed on the gentrification thang; for a brush-up on the details and some really awesome photos of Northeast neighborhoods throughout the last century, check out this article.
In the last five years, the building now housing the Local has changed hands and monikers several times, going from the friendly dive Chances to a place I knew well as the Kiknbaque Lounge—the spelling and implied activity of which gives a good idea of the relaxed, urban-chic atmosphere the place was going for. The bar's management at the time expressed strong commitment to providing a multicultural locale for the various populations that converge on the area, and in my experience, there was some success: Weekly karaoke nights drew in legions of white hipsters, myself included, alongside natives of the traditionally black neighborhoods, and other minority populations.
Yet the "diverse" nature of the location could also cause strife (see the "Incident Log" they posted on their online for a taste), and for reasons not entirely known, the Kiknbaque went under late last year. The Local has emerged in its place as a seemingly generic watering hole, but with a new element that will undoubtedly contribute to the transition of the bar and the area: whereas only the occasional DJ night or random performance took place at the Kiknbaque (and predecessor Chances) the Local is actively booking live rock shows.
The Local doesn't have a website yet, but show listings have been trickling in and will likely increase once it becomes more known, establishing another destination for the young and undeniably homogeneous music crowd. Perhaps the turbulent history of the building will extend to the Local Lounge as well, leaving the new venue with no opportunity to have lasting effects on the neighborhood. But the fact that it even exists is sure a sign of the times. As in our city at large, it's all in motion, and where things are headed remains to be seen. For tonight, there's a show: Inside Voices and The Whines. I'm gonna go check it out.
Inside Voices, the Whines; Local Lounge, 3536 NE MLK, 10 pm, FREE