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The Know

The Know

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Owner Ryan Stowe stands at The Know’s bar | photo by Ryan Dornfeld

It really wasn’t that long ago that the “Alberta Arts District” was rougher around the edges. It was largely boarded up and only dotted with a handful of small businesses. That meant it was still an affordable neighborhood, which brought a lot of down-to-earth clientele to local bar, The Know.

No one really knows how The Know got its name, but it started out as an internet cafe, theatre space and no-frills dive bar where the artists, hippies and Portland punks could unwind. In just a few years, housing and tourist-attracting eateries sprouted up on all sides of the humble venue, but The Know remains. It did evolve to hold more music performances, particularly of the DIY, hardcore, rock, and punk scene. A lot of extra soundproofing had to be installed due to very loud, growling sets. Since the area is mostly residential right off Alberta Street, noise ordinances have the shows ending promptly at 11 p.m.

Most of the employees behind the bar or working sound have been there from the beginning, and are artists or musicians themselves. They work hard to host the bands that visit, and have been involved with anarchist/punk zine The Defector as well as local label Poison Apple Records. The Know definitely caters to a more underground scene, and the calendar fills up fast with bands touring from all over. For example, April brings classic power pop Paul Collins Beat, and local hardcore band Tragedy playing with Gaslight Terror (all the way from France). There is also a monthly stand up comedy night, called “In The Know.”

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photo by Ryan Dornfeld

There is no vanity here. Even the mirrors in the bathroom are covered in graffiti and band stickers. The small 21-and-up venue, a bar on one side and performance area on the other, reaches capacity at 100, so it can get crowded and crazy. There’s a handful of pinball machines, a vending machine that sells quirky care packages, and an intense looking creature named Otis (by visual artist Meg Adamson, who also did the snakes behind the stage) guarding the bar. The drinks are cheap, and the menu is simple and simply there to appease the OLCC.

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Unfortunately, other Portland venues that catered to the heavier, faster and louder demographic of music patrons, such as Slabtown, East End and Habesha Lounge, have closed recently and given way to more indie-centric venues. The building that houses The Know also sold last year for a very large sum of money, and now The Know faces what could be a very large rent hike. This could mean having to find a new location. Bartneder David Rose says on one hand this could be a good thing, meaning a larger bar and concert venue with a full kitchen and outdoor seating. But on the other hand, their home and 11-year history is still on Alberta Street, and they would like to stay rooted there, despite the big money chaos closing in. »

– Brandy Crowe