Portland is celebrated for its vibrant music scene. Although this city does not always get the headliners that stop by our west coast neighbors like San Francisco and Seattle, Portlanders go all out for bands that do stop by our intimate venues. If you are new to the city, you soon may realize that you can quickly fill your social calendar with concerts on the daily, considering the plethora of music venues. However, concert ticket prices add up quickly, so you may feel like you cannot see as much live music as you would like. Do not fret because we’ve compiled a list of 5 cheap alternative ways to see live bands play around town without hurting your wallet! Sure you may not be able to go to the Crystal Ballroom multiple times a week, but that does not mean you cannot see some awesome live music in Portland! And who knows, maybe the band playing a $5 show will become “the next” Decemberists.
1. Mississippi Studios
Mississippi Studios is in a building that used to be a Baptist Church. The floor covered with Persian rugs and the balcony above the bar help create an intimate and comfortable space to watch local and national bands play shows. Concerts rarely cost over $10, and the crowds are typically energetic Portlanders that range from the early 20s to mid-30s (note that shows are usually 21+). The proximity to BarBar (excellent cocktails and Cajun fries) makes this an ideal place to grab a bite to eat before a show. You may not always recognize the names of all the bands stopping at this venue, but it’s rare that you will not have a great time catching a show at Mississippi Studios.
2. The Know
Everyone should have “go to a punk bar” on their bucket lists. Even if punk is not necessarily your “thing”, a night at The Know will push you out of your comfort zone in just the right way. They have live music every night that is either free or $5. It’s typically very head-bangy, so if you have an inkling for punk or metal, you will be in heaven. If you are not super into punk or metal, you can still have an entertaining night at this bar. They sell $1 white castle burgers and have a quarter pin ball machine, so if the music doesn’t end up being your thing you have that to fall back on!
3. LaurelThirst Public House
The Yelp! reviews call Laurelthirst “everything a neighborhood bar should be”, and it is true. The warm setting and good beer are enough to make this place a worthwhile visit, but the live music takes it to the next level. Typically they host bluegrass bands, and the shows are usually free or at the most cost $7-$10. This is a great place to go if you are looking to enjoy a relaxing evening while listening to talented local musicians!
4. Kells Irish Pub
If you are an American that romanticizes Irish-everything, Kells is the place for you! Whether you studied abroad in Ireland, have Irish ancestors, or simply love Guinness beer you will be happy at this bar. They usually have live Celtic music every night starting around 9 pm. If you go on a weekday the cover charge should be non-existent or at least pretty reasonable, but on busy nights they can ask you to pay upwards of $20 at the door. Your best bet to stay on the cheaper side of things is to hit up Kells for live shows Monday through Thursday or get there early on a weekend night!
Although Holocene frequently features electronic artists, which some may argue as not being “live music,” they have incredibly fun dance parties that feature local Portland pop and electronic groups. The vibe at this venue is always energetic and upbeat. Most shows will cost you $15 at the most, and they do not disappoint. Drinks are not the cheapest here, so if you are looking to get drunk without spending a fortune, you may want to pregame the show or plan on sticking to PBR for the night, which they sell for $3 a tallboy.
Enjoying a night of live music does not need to be something you cut from your activities when you are trying to save money. You may not be able to see Beyoncé in the first row, but luckily Portland has so many venues and bars that feature live music, you can get your concert fix on a budget. Try going to a band you have never heard of for a spontaneous date night, or catch an up and coming group at Mississippi Studios that will probably be charging $30 plus for tickets in a year.
In Portland, the live music possibilities are endless.