#10 Waterfront Blues Festival

Towards the end of the glorious 80’s, a genius came up with this amazing idea: to bring the blues to Portland.  Although it initially didn’t create much of a spark throughout the state, it continued to grow throughout the 90’s and into the massive awesomeness that it is today.  National Blues musicians come through Portland, known for its music scene, to celebrate the 4th of July festival on the Waterfront.  There is no other festival in Portland that unites all music fans.

For those of you who have never been, let me describe it to you the best I can.  The Waterfront Blues Festival takes place around the weekend of July 4th.  Thousands of people gather on Tom McCall Waterfront park’s lawn to listen to the best blues artists in the nation.  There are three main stages along the Waterfront with workshop stages and a freakin Blues Cruise.  For those that enjoy fairesque food, you can never go wrong with the BBQ here.  The beer/wine stands are almost everywhere if you want to stay properly dehydrated.

Now, don’t think that people go to get hammered to celebrate Blooze Fest.  Never in my life have I seen someone get kicked out for fighting, puking or other general public drunkenness.  The alcohol monitors have made it there mission to open the Blues Fest for all ages.  This has always been a family friendly event, but I might advise against staying past 8 pm any given night.

Over the years I’ve met alot of people from almost every state visiting our Blues Fest.  As Portlanders, we provide a unique festival that we can share with other communities.  By inviting outsiders into our living room, we have the opportunity to promote our city and show everyone that we are a bunch of laid-back, music-lovin hippies.


First Thursday @ Lizard Lounge

lizardloungeI’ve been to so many First Thursdays and consider it one of the greatest ongoing events in Portland.  Of all the galleries, there is only one place that hosts the ultimate First Thursday experience.

Lizard Lounge has been holding these events since they first opened.  Each event showcases art and music from the Northwest.  Somehow, they also find a way to provide a massive amount of beer, wine and Red Bull to the thirsty visitors every First Thursday.  It is the ultimate party in the Pearl.  Here is a taste of what will be coming to Lizard Lounge this Thursday:

ART:  Derek Olsen is a painter, silk screener and tattoo artist currently working at Black Hole Tattoo & Body Piercing in Portland. He often paints as an attempt to better understand the things that inspire him…be it a flock of birds, Japanese wood block prints, old tattoo flash or a brass band marching down the street. Derek has a desire to comprehend what it is, how it makes him feel, and why it moves him. This show is a series of work ranging from small to large, with a set of free-standing privacy screens as a utilitarian way to make large scale artwork more accessible. Please enjoy his attempts at understanding. myspace.com/d2r23
Artist Reception Party May 7th 7-10pm

Live Music: Celilo
Celilo fuses the dark and dreamy indie city skylines with a drawling rural charm into moody Americana rock. The lead singer, Sloan, has beaten down vocals that travel on world-worn wisdom through barrooms, bedrooms, and back roads. Celilo summons up the driving pop of early Wilco and conjures the bleak beauty of Townes Van Zandt. celiloband.com

Benefit: Mercy Corps- 15% of all event proceeds go to Mercy Corps
Beer: Widmer Brothers Brewery
Bonus: 20% off all regular price merchandise from 7-10pm. (not to be combined with other offers)

For updates on their First Thursday events signup for their mailing list.

See you there!

#8 Powell’s Books

powellsbooksAh, Powell’s. Wonderful Powell’s. For the Portland book lover, there is no better place. For many Portland visitors it is a must-see during their stay. Looking to impress your hippie friends with your mad mulching skills? Powell’s has it. Searching for the book that you told your date the night before that you just adored (but haven’t actually read)? Powells’ has it. Need to find “New Survey of the West-Indies: Being a Journal of Three Thousand and Three Hundred Miles Within the Main Land of America” by Thomas Gage? Powell’s has it!

Open 365 days a year, the original store was founded by Walter Powell in 1971. Inspired by his son Michael’s successful book store in Chicago, he founded the Burnside location which over the years grew, blob-style, into the surrounding buildings, eventually encompassing an entire block. Later, the Pearl district would grow, blob-style, around Powell’s.

You can wander the aisles forever, either just looking at titles, or asking the advice of the well-read employees. But is Powell’s just a giant book warehouse? No, no, no! They also have great book clubs, book signings, and other fun events. And if you are stuck out in a suburb, they have several other locations for your perusal. Also, in this economic recession, you can make a little bread (or store credit!) by selling your used books.

Powell’s is just tops, and it is truly one of the things that makes Portland such a fun place to live.

#7 BarFlyMag.com

barflybannerWhen I first became of age in Portland, OR, Citysearch was the place for information about where to go Friday night.  I hated Citysearch.  It felt fake.  It made me believe that the only genuine reviews they had to offer were the over-the-top negative comments.  My knowledge of bars in my area and where I worked was limited.  Then I found Barflymag.com and my social life was changed forever.

As a naturally sarcastic person, who enjoys a stiff drink, I found that Barfly was tailored to me and the Portland community.  You see, Portlanders are not overly optimistic people.  We tend to think that if something is perfect then in reality we are actually blind to see its imperfections, thus making us depressed.  I think weather or KPTV Fox12 news has something to do with this depression as well.

When you first heard of a “$1 Pabst happy hour”, you immediately thought, “Oh, but it’s probably between 3:30-5:30 pm and you have to order food too and you have too…”.  Our pessimistic nature protects us from looking like an out-of-towner*.  Barfly was created to provide us inside knowledge about all the bars in Portland including details about happy hour prices. When considering an after work drink, Barfly is a great resource for what really is a good deal in my area.

In addition, Barfly provides extremely accurate reviews.  I wasn’t really sure what to expect upon my first trip to the Dixie Tavern until I read Barfly’s review:

“Half-assed Coyote Ugly wannabe swarms with meatheads on the make, while can-tanned girls-gone-mild clamber up on the bar to drop it like it’s lukewarm. When their mechanical bull is out, means of making an ass of oneself are upped exponentially.”


“A so-called “Irish pub” for the frat boy set, McFadden’s strives to be the large and vaguely antiseptic college bar Portland never really had. Weekends are a meat market with no cover before 10 PM and cheap drink specials practically guaranteed to lure underage women with fake IDs into improprieties. The crowd’s made up of suburbanites who’ve clearly dressed themselves carefully for the occasion, but the vibe can be fun nonetheless as DJs spin undeniably-danceable booty music into the wee hours.”

Love it.  Hell, one more, Gypsy:

“Ages ago, when Portland’s scenesters could be counted on two hands and space-age retro-futuristic interiors seemed thrillingly new/old, The Gypsy was the nervy pinnacle of a burgeoning northwest cool. And, to some sort of credit, we’re sure – they didn’t bother to change with the times. A separate dining room must, you’d imagine, be occasionally entered while the bar itself attracts the sort of folks aiming to avoid those upon the avenue that may judge stained sweat-shirts or particularly down-market bachelorette parties puking AMF fishbowls upon vintage booths.”

There isn’t a better site in this area to provide you with a true representation of what your experience will be.  If you completely hate Barfly, then read the community comments below.  They tend to include more colorful language, but generally the positives and negatives are right.  So next time, do yourself a favor and check out BarFlymag.com before you end up at The Agency.

*I’ve found that born and raised Portlanders (not Beavertrons, Greshamites, etc.) would rather kill themselves than be thought of as an “out of towner”

#6 Urban Iditarod

Iditarod – an important dogsled race run annually on the Iditarod Trail
Urban Iditarod – a human-led shopping kart race run annually through SE, NW and SW Portland bars.

1201388587_l“There are no winner, there are no losers, there are just a bunch of belligerent people.” KATU NEWS

The insanity of Portland’s urban iditarod can be best described by that KATU quote. In my experience, it’s much more. The winners are those who feature the best theme and costumes. You could also state that people who are blasted-out-of-their-minds are also winners. The losers are the ones who missed out and didn’t participate in one of the most awesome events in Portland.

On an early Spring morning (this year it is Saturday, March 14th), hundreds of teams gather under the Hawthorne bridge to consume mass quantities of alcohol. You will see drag queens, 80’s rock bands, frat dudes, tennis pros/hoes, cavemen, tv/movie characters teams huddled together by their appropriately themed shopping kart. As the starting line is drawn and the competitors finish their beers, you are privy to one of the biggest shit shows I can only imagine exists in a Real World/Road Rules Challenge times 100. Once that gun sounds, teams race towards the first pit stop, the Grand Cafe. With each stop, humans are encouraged to pound beverages and guide their sled to the next stop.

As the race continues, teams become noticeable more sloppy and progressively entertaining. This is where the fun begins. Entire streets seemingly shut down for the race, due to the hundreds of people stumbling around downtown. Drinks are shared and carts begin to intermingle. The “Nickelodeon Double Dare” team invites other racers to compete in physical challenges. The tennis pros/hoes befriend the neon wig wearing team. Harmony.

For those of you who have not taken part in the urban iditarod, you truly are missing out on one of the most entertaining things Portland has to offer.

#5 Stephanie Kralevich, KPTV Fox12

Watching the FOX12 weather report on Sunday, I could not help but be captivated by the most attractive lady in Portland news.  There are a bunch of stand-outs throughout our local news (including the MUST see KOIN’s Kacey Montoya), but Stephanie has the professionalism and poise of someone much older than her.

Born and raised in Gresham, OR, Stephanie has spent most of her broadcasting career in the Northwest until she received her degree in Broadcast Meterology from Mississippi State University.  Ultimately, StephKra’s knowledge for weather stuff, charisma and great smile brought her back to Portland, OR news.

Out of the hundred news personalities in Portland, what makes StephKra rule?

  1. Mark Nelson isn’t talking
  2. The lisp machine is at home
  3. Her smile melts snow

StephKra comes across as a sweet and honest newscaster, as opposed to the whores at other stations.  What do you think?

Anna Song, KATU
Katherine Cook, KGW
Kacey Montoya, KOIN
Tracy Barry, KGW
Wayne Garcia, KPTV
Stephanie Kralevich, KPTV

#4 Backspace

backspaceLet’s face it Portlanders, we aren’t hip. Sure, we try very hard to be “with the times” and even have some ink in a places we are able to cover up in the work place. If I’m describing you, then you’re in luck. Backspace Lounge is the one place in Portland you can go to be hip for a couple of minutes. Backspace is a mecca for the hip crowd and unless you’ve been there… you aren’t hip.

Located in the heart* of Old Town/Chinatown, Backspace draws a crowd of people from all over Portland. It’s cozy, with comfy couches, cool art (each month they feature a local artist) and Stumptown Coffee – in my opinion, the best roaster in this city. At night, it becomes the premiere music scene showcasing an array of talent. Essentially, Backspace IS the art hub of Portland.

Backspace rules, because even though I’m not hip, i feel like i am when i go in there. The baristas are so frickin hip that they could screw up my order and I wouldn’t care. If you are looking for one place that will tailor to your coffee, art, music, beer (at night) and WiFi needs, you will never go wrong with Backspace.

Backspace Music Calendar

*Yes, I know. Portland has a lot of places located in the heart of things.