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Portland's New Rock Block

Eastside Triumvirate Fuels the Portland Party Flames

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Portland's nightlife is about to get new digs. With the exception of notable Eastside venues like Holocene and Sabala's Mt. Tabor, this little big town has long sequestered its major music scene in the SW end of the Burnside area. But all that is about to change. On October 9th, the Doug Fir Lounge will open its doors, completing a "rock block" triumvirate between itself, Bossanova, and the Jupiter Hotel. Still a mere handful of minutes' walk from your old favorite haunts in downtown, this Eastside complex will fuel the expansion of downtown culture that has already germinated. Neighboring a row of trendy vintage stores, chic eatery the Farm, Ozone record store, and a population of sketchy characters that rivals any found on the other side of the bridge, the rock block solidifies the continuity of downtown's spillage into close-in SE. Which means that our playpen just got a whole lot more elbowroom.

THE DOUG FIR

(830 E Burnside, Shows start Oct 9)

It may look small from the outside, but the Doug Fir Restaurant and Lounge is bound to have a seismic impact on your Friday nights to be. The upstairs, above ground portion, resembling a woodsy retreat lodge, will make its debut this week as a bar and late-night restaurant. Open seven days a week, from 7 am to 4 am, this is the new place in town to soak up the booze, both pre- and post-consumption.

Featuring affordable comfort food like burgers, steak and eggs, and biscuits and gravy (served all day), the Fir will also cater to vegetarians/vegans. In addition to its breakfast, lunch, dinner, and late-night menus, the Fir will offer a happy hour menu from 3 pm-6 pm daily, as well as takeout anytime during operating hours. Amid a décor that co-owner Mike Quinn describes as a "kind of Northwest swanky-truck-stop-Timberline-lodge-Palm-Springs kind of vibe," diners and club goers can pig out inside or on the restaurant's patio. Half of the 150-capacity space will be a bar, making a valuable addition to Portland's coterie of one-stop quality food and alcohol joints where you're still allowed to smoke, too. Not to scare the children, the restaurant bar will be all-ages until 10:30 pm.

Invisible from the outside, a staircase leads down to an underground subtly lit venue decked out in woodsy, retro-chic design ("There's going to be lots of wood," warns Quinn.) With a 299-person capacity, the 21+ Doug Fir Lounge will be another major spot for shows, featuring yet another full bar, as, god forbid, any Portlander should be more than 20 feet from the town's favorite poison. The lounge will debut on October 9 with a show by Quasi, The Joggers, and DJ Gregarious. Other upcoming acts for the month of October include Diamond Tuck & the Privates (Oct 12), Fiery Furnaces (Oct 13), Mark Lanegan (Oct 15 & 16), Rachael Yamagata (Oct 17), Helmet (Oct 22), and Metric (Oct 26).

Additionally, the lounge has lined up a slew of regular DJ events, such as "Raw Power," a rock night hosted by DJ Gregarious every Tuesday (starting Oct 12), a disco night on Saturdays ("Knotty Disco"), and rotating DJs every Friday. Other recurring parties include a monthly showcase of local live music curated by In Music We Trust. And, if you don't have Halloween plans yet, check out "Bad Teen Halloween," with drag kings DK PDX, plus DJs. The night serves as the kickoff for "Snatch," a party geared toward queer girls every other Sunday.

Like I said, you're going to wind up here a lot.

THE JUPITER HOTEL

(800 E Burnside)

Two separate businesses, the Jupiter Hotel and the Doug Fir will enjoy a cozy, adjacent symbiosis. After operating amid the renovation of the Doug Fir, the hotel's new mirrored lobby will be connected to the restaurant, and the rooms on the SE wing of the hotel look out onto the restaurant's patio. The Jupiter has already marketed itself as ideal lodging for bands coming through town (recent guests include Funkstörung and Oceansize), and its proximity to two of the town's major showrooms will only bolster that reputation.

Unlike other local hotels, the Jupiter's streamlined, '60s mod décor is charming and fun, with funky rugs and other details in bright primary colors that vary from room to room. Some of the rooms feature bright murals along their back walls--a lush tree-lined path, a shot of New York City's Times Square--but the overall feel is sleek simplicity and comfort.

Other features of the hotel include wireless internet both in the rooms and in the expansive central patio, which also has cement risers ideal for event DJs and sunbathing guests alike. The rooms have 71 channels of cable (YES!), and will eventually come equipped with CD and DVD players, and possibly a compilation CD that includes local artists. There are also plans to add a conference room to the hotel grounds, and once it's opened, the Doug Fir kitchen will supply the hotel's room service.

The staff's knowledge of Portland is one of the hotel's main selling points. Generally young, often tattooed and expressive, the Jupiter crew emphasizes getting to know its guests and guiding them to events and hotspots that might interest them. Ben Fitzhugh, the head concierge, explains, "We're a hip hotel, but we're not too hip to help you." And helping their eclectic clientele means that the staff is well versed in both "executive Portland and dive bar Portland."

Frequently compared to other well-known rock hotels such as the Ace in Seattle and the San José in Austin, the Jupiter might serve you best as a fun place to crash after catching a show, instead of driving or taking a cab. In fact, if you're at the Doug Fir and check in after midnight, the rates are $49 plus tax, as opposed to rates starting at $79. They plan on offering package deals as well, such as a special rate that includes tickets to a show at Doug Fir, a room, and a continental breakfast for two.

Rooms closer to the Doug Fir patio will understandably be designated as the "party rooms," with the northern wing remaining quieter. But will the hotel grow to legendary status as ground zero for rock n' roll hotel debauchery? Will it become Portland's answer to the Hyatt on Sunset Blvd, where Led Zeppelin rode motorcycles down the halls and Axl Rose flung burning steaks from his balcony, earning it the nickname "Riot House"? They hope not. Fitzhugh says he likes to tell his guests to "have fun, just don't pull a Keith Moon. But we allow them to party." So just don't go hurling TVs around. It's not an original idea anyway.

BOSSANOVA

(722 E Burnside)

Just a quick hop west of the Doug Fir/Jupiter hub is the Bossanova, a much larger, gorgeously appointed ballroom that serves as another huge milestone in Portland's rock scene evolution. Owned by Phil Ragaway, who's also the man behind local favorites like the Shanghai Tunnel, Genie's, Tiny's, and Bar of the Gods (BOG), the former Viscount Ballroom is massively equipped with two floors of club space, and a 648-person capacity. In between the size of a place like the Ash St. Saloon, which Ragaway estimates is around 149 capacity and the Crystal Ballroom, which is more like 1500, the Bossanova fills a void in the selection of Portland's clubs.

"A lot of bands are looking for a medium sized room, so they don't feel like crickets in a field," says Ragaway, referring to the problem faced by having to choose a congested venue or a huge one that makes your turnout look skinny. And so far the response has been positive, with acts like Ben Kweller remarking on his Bossanova debut as one of his favorite shows to date.

Designed to accommodate all-ages events when necessary, the venue has a huge, non-smoking main floor, with a full, long bar, seating, a wide open floor in front of the stage, and a smoking room in back for the bad kids. Upstairs is a 21-and-over space, essentially a wide balcony wrapping around and overlooking the stage, with another large, full bar. Unlike other venues that sequestered those of legal drinking age, the space is laid out comfortably, and with a clean view of the action. (Remember how sucky the view was from the banished bar of La Luna?) Upstairs also boasts five red-felted pool tables, with old-fashioned gunslinger pool stick holders that spin, lighted by tasseled chandeliers and complimented with hanging tapestries and turn of the century-style furnishings. Another cute feature is a vintage bowling game called Ten Strike Classic, similar to pinball.

Off to a running start, some of Bossanova's many and varied events on the horizon are: Indie Vox (Sept 30, see My, What a Busy Week, pg. 19), Cana Son (Oct 2), Buck 65 (Oct 9), Tango Fest (a regional event that runs for five days beginning Oct 13), the Misfits (Oct 16), a vaudeville dinner theater troupe called the Cherry Tarts (Oct 24), and a Halloween show featuring the Hot Snakes.

In keeping with many of the dance-oriented events that were held in the old Viscount space, Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays are dance nights at the Bossanova, with tango, swing, and salsa rotating respectively. All nights begin with a class, then an open dance that's as fun to participate in as it is to preside voyeuristically over from the elegant balcony bar. Plus, Thursdays feature DJ Modified, and they're planning to experiment by having smaller live acts play upstairs.

Currently open from 7 pm to 2:30 am, the upstairs bar will feature a happy hour menu, and is likely to expand its hours to open earlier in the near future. The menu is a mix of seafood and pasta dishes, with some substantial chicken and steak entrées as well as salads and appetizers. As is the fashion of our day, most items on the menu can be made vegetarian/vegan, and the most expensive dish tops out at a relatively modest $12.50.

Another advantage that Bossanova brings to the club space table is their sound quality.

"When it comes to sound in Portland, we raised the bar about four notches," Ragaway says of the $150,000 system.

The luxe décor and flexible layout are also taken advantage of for private events, such as corporate meetings for clients who would rather rent a space that's characteristic of Portland and local, rather than the conference hall of a franchise hotel. And, in case you're in the market, the Bossanova also just hosted its first wedding, including both the ceremony and reception.

EASTSIDE, WESTSIDE, ROLLIN' IN THE ROSE CITY

Like a relationship you just can't walk away from, Portland always seems to pull a compelling stunt to keep you excited. If you love the place, but sometimes wish it was a little bigger or had just a few more things going on within the scene, your wish has just been granted. And with both sides of Burnside turning into one long, virtually uninterrupted bar hop, it feels like the Berlin Wall has finally fallen, doubling downtown in the eyes of the average club-going, rocker bar fly--AKA people like you and me.

I'll see you on the block.

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