At the east end of the Hawthorne strip, just before crossing the bridge into downtown, lies The Analog Cafe & Theater. It’s a little spot with a simple facade, but inside are quirky artwork, huge plates of hot food and two floors where parties gather and new bands perform their first shows.
In the past, the building had served as a couple of small clubs, a sushi restaurant, and a kung fu studio, before members of local pop-punk band with a funny name, Smoochknob, eyed it for a restaurant and music venue.
For Smoochknob’s vocalist and drummer Donnie Rife, it was an opportunity to expand musical passions into entrepreneurial endeavors.
“I wanted to do music, but I also wanted to do other things involving music to support a family,” says Rife, a father of four. “The Analog was also my baby. DRD Records [has] been amazing. I asked them to help me open a club and they did. We wanted to spend some time and money putting in nice things for the artists that bring people in. We want to give the bands the best hospitality. They deserve it!”
Rife is part-owner and show booker for The Analog, and he also holds a stake in the local label DRD Records, which helped bring The Analog to life. It became a full entertainment enterprise, as Rife and his partners also invested into related businesses, such as Liquid Steel Talent Agency, Rock Star Printing and Supernatural Sound Recording Studio (located in Oregon City). As for its outfitting, The Analog features a $100,000 PA, a Midas Verona 480 Board and Avalon 747 and 737 processors, but is named after the analog-based recording studio.
“Our recording studio is equipped with three 24-track tape machines — two Studers and one MCI,” Rife says. “We use Pro Tools with them, but believe in the analog sound. Hence the name, The Analog.”
The club’s layout is divided into two floors with two stages. The Little Theater upstairs (the Jim Beam Stage) is an in-your-face rock venue. The downstairs lounge (the Portland Potato Vodka Stage) is a more intimate space with a taller stage. This setup allows The Analog to offer all-ages shows until 10 p.m.
There are bars on both levels, and an open kitchen downstairs. The menu offers huge helpings of mac-n-cheese dressed with a Sriracha pentagram, and the Gojira Burger is made with Painted Hills grass-fed beef. Javier Canteras, the lead guitarist of Smoochknob and a world renowned chef from Spain, sometimes stops in from his Portland restaurants (he recently opened Urdaneta) to serve as guest chef.
With his venue playing host to more than 500 shows a year, Rife says he loves the diversity of artists that he books. This includes metal, School of Rock showcases, Bridgetown Comedy sets, and burlesque (The burlesque version of The Nightmare Before Christmas has played at capacity for four years now). February brings a Bollywood Dance Party, local band Foreign Talks, and nationally rising emo-punk band You Blew It! — strategically booked for Valentine’s Day.
The Analog has also earned a reputation as a venue/marijuana dispensary, with events like Free Marijuana Mondays scheduled to return in March. Meanwhile, Smoochknob readies to release a new album and tour through Europe and Japan in support of Everclear.»
– Brandy Crowe