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Turn! Turn! Turn! turns 10: Portland’s intimate community venue survives another year

Turn! Turn! Turn! turns 10: Portland’s intimate community venue survives another year

This weekend, February 22-25, Portland’s beloved Turn! Turn! Turn! (also known as T3) celebrates 10 years as a venue for music and community. After nearly shutting down at the end of 2023, Turn triumphantly turns a new chapter via a new lease within the historic Albina Arts Center. Local luminaries like Mae Starr, Stephen Malkmus, Sir Richard Bishop and others will perform. In the true spirit of Turn’s ethos, this weekend’s benefit is a group effort adjacent to their recently launched GoFundMe.

photo by Eric Evans

In fact, T3’s whole history revolves around music and friendship. Original co-owner (and drummer) Christen Derr remembers, “When we opened, friends rallied to help with everything from mosaicking tables to building the menu.” Since then, each steward of Turn has been connected to each other through the music scene and unified in their vision to uphold communal care, creativity, and collaboration.

Yet, even the most magical of music continuums cannot erase the realities a Portland venue faces. In Turn’s case, quintupling insurance rates ($4K to $20K per year), an anti-bureaucratic business structure, and capacity limitations. Compounding such challenges are the pandemic and the ill trappings of “late capitalism,” like inflation and unsustainable urban growth. Notwithstanding, Turn! Turn! Turn! is a shining gem of the last holdouts. A quick scroll down their website reveals emerging, experimental, or established performers who have played Turn over the decade—demonstrating the necessity of this place.


To celebrate their resiliency, ELEVEN surveyed an array of musicians as a living testament to Turn:

Moe Bowstern (It Did Happen Here): “Over the last two years, I have hosted gatherings of Fisher Poets, anti-fascists, and witches; showed my art and played music both with a group and alone; Turn’s the closet thing I have to a community center in my life at this time.”

Johnny Buffalo (Grand Style Orchestra): “Most of the time, I’m a spectator, but I also get to play music and participate in performance pieces and show my paintings on their walls. It’s a social and cultural venue for me.”

Larry Crane (Jackpot! Recording Studio): “It’s been important to have a place like Turn! Turn! Turn! which has focused on art and less on commerce, and [they] give the performers the door money. A place for creative music and outsider performances to be celebrated and incubated is mandatory for any scene to be complete and stay healthy.”

Gnarlos (Bren’t Lewiis Ensemble): “As a performer, as an audience member, and as a drinker with occasionally impaired impulse control, I can attest that Turn Turn Turn brings out the best in people.  . . No matter what hat I might be wearing, or from whom I stole it, and what kind of beverage I spilled on it.”

Matt Hall (Cynthia Nelson Band): “TTT has always felt like a place where interesting music is valued over selling Budweiser. The audience is often largely folks from other bands supporting each other. No need to pander or conform to pre-digested aesthetics. There’s a sense of community and purpose in that. Maybe kinda like a really non-dogmatic church?”

Theo Khoury (The Descending Pharaohs): “Playing there is extra special–better than anywhere I’ve ever encountered. They have a deep body of musical knowledge to get behind music that matters. So, I always trust their curation.” 

photo by Eric Evans

Dewey Mahood (Plankton Wat): “The staff and booking are great at building local communities and promoting amazing talent from our city. As a musician and music fan, I have to say TTT makes Portland a better place!”

Andrew Pritchard (Die Geister Beschworen): “A mainstay and consistent champion of one-of-a-kind music. The rare neighborhood joint that helps to nourish the soul of an entire city.” 

Mae Starr (Rllrbll): “Turn has been a magical light in a dark world for art, music, and the priceless friendships I’ve made with other musicians there. A great example of doing good things in your small community to create positive waves in the bigger picture.”

Jackie Stewart (Smegma): “All involved have been sympathetic to musicians and what they regularly deal with (such as the impersonal sound engineer, bartender, and door person). They truly care.”

Scott Simmons (Lavender Flu): “When booking shows for bands, I regularly “turn” to this spot because it has the most welcoming vibe of any venue in town and is run by all musicians/artists who have regularly placed art and fun over profit. It’s been a struggle for them to do that, and we owe them all the support we can give!” 

Anna Verlet (Pendejo): “I was there from the beginning when Scott was thinking about taking over the space that was The Record Room. I was bouncing a newborn in an Ergo behind the counter, making parsnip soup, using an extension cord to pump breast milk in the bathroom . . .Ten years later, it’s become a hub for all things creative. It’s hard to imagine this city without T3.” 


The stewards of the T3 share the sentiment. Scott Derr, the original founder (who still does the booking), affirms that “Turn! Turn! Turn! means music, art, and community. A refuge in a sea of madness.” When asked what the challenges entailed, he replied, “Not drowning in the sea of madness.”  So how does Turn rescue us despite such tumultuous waters? For Elizabeth Veneble, 2022-2024’s co-owner with partners (Geoff Soule and Clarence Jacob), building a “bridge” to fuse communities was important, as was “making a safe and accessible space for all to encourage creative expression and learning in the space [and] to create social change, joy, and progressive autonomy through these values.” For Kate Horn and Mark Davies, who call themselves the current “guardians” of the space, T3 is a lifeboat in the absence of community spaces that sails despite the increasing commodification of culture. Kate summarizes, “Turn is about friends, hearing interesting music I may not have been exposed to otherwise—it is also very much about community love.” Mark mourns post-modern society’s loss of gathering spaces: “We used to have a lot of institutions in our society where people congregated and had meaningful interactions in person. Now those all seem to have crumbled, for better or for worse, and we’re just left with sniping at each other online.” 

To put it simply, Turn! Turn! Turn! is a beacon, and we need to be its lightkeepers. At no other time has the adage “Art Saves Lives” been truer, and no other place offers such safe refuge in the expensive, sodden-weathered enclave of creative burnout that is Portland. Lucky for us, Turn promises to spend 2024 continuing to provide a haven for musical acts local and global, along with offerings like sliding-scale acupuncture, drawing get-togethers, and music classes for adults with disabilities.  

See below for the full schedule. 

Want to support Turn but can’t make it to the shows? Visit their GoFundMe.

Schedule

2/22 (Thurs) 4:30 PM Free! Happy Hour with the T34 – jazz quartet

2/22 (Thurs) 8:00 PM  Blesst Chest, Dragging an Ox Through Water, The Potatoes, DJ KM Fizzy

2/23 (Fri) 5:00 PM Free! Casual Friday open-mic comedy happy hour

2/23 (Fri) 8:00 PM  Sir Richard Bishop, Mae Starr, Gresham

2/24 (Sat) 8:00 PM  Stephen Malkmus, Roselit Bone, DJ Hisham Mayet

2/25 (Sun) 12:30 PM Free! “Draw What You See” drawing club

2/25 (Sun) 8:00 PM · Grand Style Orchestra and friends