In the Doug Fir’s basement, there are no windows to the outside world—and you never quite know what time it is. But within the log-lined walls of this cabin inspired concert lounge, you can pretty much find live music at any time. A quick glance at its calendar reveals a schedule of solid musical acts ranging from a Friday night rock show to a Sunday morning gospel performance. No wonder Rolling Stone magazine ranked Doug Fir as one of the best small venues in America.
“We are very proud of that,” said Doug Fir’s marketing directing Frank Rinaldi. “Doug Fir recently celebrated its ninth anniversary and getting a nod from Rolling Stone was just a great way of placing us on a trajectory towards a strong second decade.” Rinaldi has been employed by Doug Fir for about two years, but his association with its vision predates the venue’s actual existence. He watched as its incarnation went from a concept model on a desk, to a meeting of partners, to a hole in the ground, then eventually to the logs coming in.
“I first heard about the concept of Doug Fir in 1999 from Jeff Kovel—who [along with John Plummer and Mike Quinn] is one of the co-owners,” Rinaldi explained. “Jeff is an architect, and he wanted to develop a unique music venue. His style and vision is very in line with what Doug Fir ultimately became.” Fellow founder Mike Quinn also happens to be co-owner of Monqui Presents. His established connections within the concert industry aided the venue in reaching its goal of booking some amazing bands. While the room has a capacity of 300 people, a number of big acts have stopped by for what Rinaldi refers to as “underplays.”
“The Shins have played here even though they should be playing a much larger room,” Rinaldi said. “They’ve played here when they wanted to test out new material. I remember seeing MGMT play here, and thinking that this is a band we’ll probably never have here again because they’re obviously destined for bigger things.” Doug Fir has proven to be quite an attractive venue to play at for traveling musicians. Not only is there an on site restaurant with great food, but it’s also closely associated with the Jupiter Hotel—which is conveniently located right next door.
“It’s a very nice room to play in, and has good equipment, and the hotel is really great to stay at,” said Darren Weiss of a Los Angeles based act called PAPA. The band of seasoned road-warriors has played the venue twice—first as an opening act and then returning as a headliner. “We’re usually staying at really crappy hotels,” Weiss revealed, “but it was really nice to be able to stay and be more relaxed and enjoy the evening—knowing that we didn’t have to get the hell out of their right away.” Despite having featured many national acts, Doug Fur stays connected to Portland’s burgeoning music scene by spotlighting some up-and-coming local bands as well.
“We’re not averse to giving a young, hungry act, that we think is just amazing, an opportunity to play here,” Rinaldi explained. “We dedicate a lot of nights to helping incubate entry level artists to move up from the bars and start playing a higher club show.”
Red Bull recently teamed up with Doug Fir to assist with this mission with a series called Sound Select. The concept involves curating shows that feature big name headliners, and having them share the bill with new local bands to help build a buzz. They also provide aid to these emerging musicians in hopes of helping them develop a successful career. “We kind of created a whole new segment of the music scene in this city because of our location and the design of the building—plus of course the vibe that came with it,” Rinaldi said. “All these great artists keep coming through, and it’s really exciting to be a part of it.”