Tour Manager’s Guide: Portland

Portland TM Guide
Hi. My name is Danny. I’ve been touring with bands for some time and want to tell you about some of the places we’ve been. I know, I’m missing some important things from these cities but this is just what I’ve had time to see. If you have suggestions regarding where to go in your beloved hometown the next time I’m hurtling through in a van filled with drunk people, please let me know.

In Austin there is a campaign to curb corporate encroachment on local business called, “Keep Austin Weird.” But we all know Austin isn’t actually that weird; it’s weird compared to like Dallas and Oklahoma City. Austin is “weird”, in that people ride bikes and there are bookstores. Portland like Austin has a “Keep Portland Weird” but it’s because Portland is actually weird. Portland weird isn’t like, “Oh wow people are on bikes, so funky” weird. Portland weird is like, “Hey that homeless guy outside is now our waiter and I think he made this food” weird. Portland gets at the essence of weird. It’s a place filled with things that don’t make sense or are out of place. For example, Portland is renown for its strip clubs. I never knew that before visiting and it’s weird to me because:

A. When I think of intellectual capitals of the Pacific Northwest I think, coffee or cool restaurants, not strip clubs.

B. I’m not the guy that tells you about how awesome the strip clubs are in a city. I’m the guy that demands we go to some douchey coffee place because they make a mean cortado, yet I can get off an airplane in Portland and guide any cab directly to a strip club, and probably to another one after that. That’s how many strip clubs are in this city.

Portland is like Seattle’s younger moodier brother. Seattle is up there on the rowing team while Portland is in their parent’s basement painting its nails and listening to The Cure. I like this city. If I go and stick to my favorite spots I can handle the weirdness for a period in time.

I’ve never flown to Portland. Most times we drive 3 hours south from Seattle or up from LA. One time I had the pleasure of driving from Boise. The drive to Portland takes you through the Columbia River Gorge and it’s quite something. I’m assuming you don’t have time to fly into Boise and drive to Portland but if you did, you’d like it. However you get to Portland stay at the Jupiter hotel. The Jupiter is similar to San Francisco’s Phoenix hotel except it’s in a nice area, and subsequently the odds of stepping in human shit are slightly lower. It’s an old motel that’s been converted into hipster paradise. There’s an art gallery at check in, a great music venue called Doug Fir below (literally beneath the hotel), and a restaurant / bar above that of the same name. You can rent bikes and ride around East Burnside. (always the east side. What’s the conspiracy? Ok? What’s with the hipsters on the east side?) If you are in town to see your favorite band play they will be at the Jupiter. I know this because it’s cool and has bus parking. Renting a car is ok for this trip but not necessary. Uber works and if it’s not here anymore there are cabs. If my morning is free I enjoy taking a jog around East Burnside. If you choose to take part in this part of my guide please note that you will encounter and hurdle numerous crazy people. I’ve actually stopped to check someone’s pulse while jogging over the East Burnside Bridge because they were passed out on the sidewalk. After my jog I either have breakfast at The Hotel’s Doug Fir or go to Voodoo donuts. Everything on the menu at Doug Fir is good except the bagel. Leave strip clubs to Portland and bagels to the lower east side. If I don’t feel like a large breakfast I ride a bike over the bridge to downtown for Voodoo Donuts. BLAH BLAH BLAH. Everyone’s done something on Voodoo donuts BUT I DON’T GIVE A FUCK. Voodoo donuts make WHACKY donuts. And no they are not the best donuts in the world but there’s one with captain crunch on top so whatever I like it. If I need a haircut I ride back over the bridge and go to Bart’s. If I don’t I’ll probably ride to Powell’s bookstore or the Buffalo Exchange. For lunch Killer burger is the shit. My main activity when I have time off in PDX is getting things done I can’t other places (like haircuts) because it’s condensed and I can do it on a bike. It’s a great bike city. For dinner your answer is simple, Pok Pok. I don’t know why the Thai food is so good in Portland but it is and unlike Thai Food anywhere else in America except like, New York… because there is a Pok Pok. Pok Pok, like Voodoo donuts, has been featured on all the cooking shows because it’s the BOMB. This guy named Andy Ricker traveled around Thailand for like 2 decades and realized that the Thai food we get in America is predominately from central Thailand and he wanted to introduce our pallet to everything else the country has to offer. If you’ve only had your neighborhood spots Pad Thai, Pok Pok will be like an entirely different cuisine. I particularly enjoy getting there early and drinking as many cocktails as possible at their neighboring bar, the Whiskey Soda Lounge, then going hard to the Pok Pok. Get a dish with catfish. Pok Pok is world renown so it’s hard to get in. If you can’t there are many other fantastic Thai restaurants in town; my favorite is IM Jai Thai.

For a small well-curated show I’d return to your hotel and see something at Doug Fir. If you want to get out and see another part of the city go to the Hawthorne Theater. Advice: I don’t think they have air conditioning and it’s hot as fuck in the summer. For bigger shows in town The Roseland Ballroom is your go to. It’s pretty good. It’s not as nice as I think the marquee venue in town should be but it’s nice. After our shows at Roseland Ballroom we like to go play video games and drink at #groundkontrol. At some point a strip club gets involved. I’ve never voluntarily gone to a strip club in Portland but I always end up at one for a long time. Strip clubs in Portland are like the island in Lost. Sure, it’s entertaining at first but eventually you start to wonder if you’re trapped in purgatory and the ending sucks. I don’t even need to name a strip club just exit groundkontrol and walk left, I’m sure you’ll run into one. If you are reading this from Portland you are probably in a strip club right now. If you avoid da club take a cab back towards your hotel and bar hop. Eventually end up at Sizzle Pie. I’ve heard there is better NYC style pizza in this city and Seattle but I’ve yet to see or have it. Sizzle pie is the shit and offers regular / vegan pizza that is actually worth eating.

At this time I generally pass out. If you want to soldier on it’s nice to get a nightcap at the Doug Fir and hang out by the fire pit. For breakfast the next morning order the Frolov Benedict on Polenta at Doug Fir.

There’s much much more to Portland but this is what I do when I’m in town. If you hate these suggestions and want to send me anthrax, please don’t.

If you loved this let me know. If you hated this let me know. If you want to send me anthrax, don’t.


Danny writes about music and other things. You can find him Here. Right here.

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