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The generations of musical talent bursting at the seams of Portland have an unsung superhero: The venue. We all have a fond recollection of the time that band played that unforgettable concert at that place (which may or may not still exist) and what a spectacular experience that was!
Now let’s spend some time getting to know the spaces that provide a home for music on those magical nights. From our current staples (of which there are so many), to our retired favorites like La-Luna, X-Ray Cafe, Satyricon and Berbati’s (just to name a few), where do the rooms fit in the Portland music scene, and what do their stories tell us?
Over the next several issues, Know Your Venue will delve into rich histories and vaunt of the venues past and present. As this is a new section with a bright future, it seems appropriate that our first selection is also a preview of a venue impending. In this exemplary examination, we get to see the past spin into the future.
Officially opening in Portland on April 18, 2015 is Revolution Hall, the auditorium of the restored Washington High School building. The multi-use venue features a capacity of 840, mostly seated, with state-of-the-art sound equipment (coordinated by audio maestro Jim Brunberg), but also an art-of-the-state history. To get the entire vibe of the venue, we must first study the robust structure that surrounds it.
In 1906, only fifty-five years after the city of Portland, Oregon was incorporated, the beautiful, centrally-located East Side High School is built. Three years later, it is renamed Washington High School. Tragically, the building is destroyed by a fire in 1922. It is then redesigned, rebuilt, and reopened in September of 1924. For nearly a century, the structure remains largely the same. In that time, Washington H.S. is integral in the formative years of thousands of Portland students, including renowned culinarian James Beard and one of the most influential chemists ever, two-time Nobel Prize winner Linus Pauling. In May of 1981, the last graduates walk out of the school, signifying a vast chapter of the building’s story coming to an end.
Where one chapter closes, another begins. After thirty-four years of mixed-use (and more recently, no use at all), the Washington H.S. building approaches its rebirth as a fully-functional creative/flex/office space, thanks in no-small-part to the vision of preservationist Art DeMuro and Venerable Group, Inc. The massive four-story layout will host offices for New Seasons and other local businesses, but the gem of the project is literally in the center: Revolution Hall.
Soon, alumni of W.H.S. won’t be the only ones with fond memories of sitting upon the auditorium’s full wraparound balcony or chortling in the locker-filled hallways. With a partnership from Kevin Cradock and Jim Brunberg of Mississippi Studios and Mark Adler of the Aladdin Theatre and True West, Revolution Hall is immediately going to host some of the predominant bookings in town. The capacity is a bit larger than the Aladdin and smaller than the Crystal Ballroom, and “this fills a unique space in terms of what can come to Portland,” says Ned Failing, who is handling publicity and marketing for “Rev Hall” concerts.
The room itself is certainly special as well. Audiophiles may rejoice knowing that the room brandishes not only floor-to-ceiling sound paneling on both floors, but also a top-of-the-line Meyer point array sound system and Midas PRO6 mixing board. Attendees will also be able to enjoy concessions at the adjacent Assembly Lounge and the ground-floor Martha’s Cafe. A spectacular 360° view can be observed on the rooftop deck. Additional venue details as well as beer and menu selections will be ongoing. With all of these splendid elements in play, we will eagerly await the “Rev Hall” preview weekend, followed by years upon years of new stories and memories. »
– Richard Lime