Combatting expensive weekend activities: a how-to guide on getting involved in Portland’s local music scene

By Ethan Sanders | April 12, 2024 6:00pm
As It Was preforms at Bridge City Sessions on Feb. 16, 2024.
Media Credit: Natalie Gordon / The Beacon

After one too many weekend bank account depletions, I realized I needed an answer to my free-time woes. After scouring through Instagram hashtags, I found a flier for a free punk rock show “behind Speed’s Auto Body.” A 15-minute drive down the I-5 landed me under a freeway overpass.

Noiz performs at Bridge City Sessions on Feb. 16, 2024.
by Natalie Gordon / The Beacon

Nervously, I slowly joined a roughly 50-person crowd tightly packed no more than three feet away from the band. The band played with a backdrop showcasing years of graffiti accumulation. The crowd was composed of young music lovers, band members both before and after their sets and even parents of band members cheering on their kids. My nerves quickly faded away as I realized my weekend problems were over.

The Portland music scene offers UP students, as well as people of all ages and demographics, the opportunity to enjoy live music on a budget. When first entering the scene, I had a few questions that I wish someone could have answered for me: How do you find shows? How much will tickets cost, and where do you buy them? What genres are available? Is there concert etiquette? 

Now a Portland music scene regular, here is a guide to getting involved and filling up your free time with some local music.

Finding shows

Finding the right show can be very challenging if you don’t know where to look. After countless hours of sifting through Instagram hashtags and Google search recommendations, I came across a website that actively schedules and compartmentalizes shows by genre and age. PC-PDX: Portland Show Guide is an efficient way to find the right show for you. 

Ticket prices and where to buy them

Tickets can range anywhere from free to $20, far lower than the average concert ticket price of $120 in 2023. Most shows provide the option of in-person ticket sales, but many also have online purchases available at a lower price than at the door. 

The best way to go about buying tickets is to first look up the venue. Certain venues, like Speed’s Auto Body, are home to free shows with the option for donation. Other venues, like Mano Oculta or Bridge City Sessions, have websites that you can buy your tickets from. A good rule of thumb is this: If the venue is an established business (i.e., a restaurant or bar) there is a good chance online tickets will be available. 

Genres available

There are dozens of genres to see across the city. Using the PC-PDX: Portland Show Guide, you can find shows that span over 100 genres. UP alum and lead guitarist/vocalist Cam Creitz, who plays for the band Dependent, believes there is a lot of variety in the scene. 

“The music scene is really vibrant in Portland. There's DIY, there's hip hop, there's pop, there's metal, there's punk … There's a little bit of everything for everybody,” Creitz said. “There's dozens, if not hundreds, of venues to go to and when it comes to the DIY community … you could go under the bridge at Speed’s Auto Body or to a No Fun show. There’s just so many.”

Etiquette and culture

The etiquette at a show in Portland is simple: Be accepting, be involved in the crowd, wear whatever you feel confident and mobile in, pick people up if they fall and consider tipping the band at a free show. If you have no interest in moshing or dancing in the crowd, don’t worry, a large portion of the audience stands and enjoys the music without being as involved in the crowd. 

Showgoers fill the Bridge City Sessions hallway decorated with red lightbulbs and mirrors.
by Natalie Gordon / The Beacon

My favorite part of a show is when a band walks off the stage directly into the crowd to join in the moshing and talking. This provides audience members with a unique opportunity to meet artists they love, an experience typically requiring an inflated meet-and-greet ticket for any popular artist. 

“Come find your new favorite artist,” local musician Jake Habedank of As It Was said. “Then mosh with them right after.” 

Building community

While standing outside to get some air after Backseat Plastic’s (a band I had also seen a week before) set at Mano Oculta, I was startled when the band’s frontman tapped me on the shoulder. Without hesitation, he gave me a hug and thanked me for coming out and supporting the band at their last two shows, saying he appreciated the energy my friends and I brought to the show. 

“If you like any sort of type of music, if you like a certain big artist, you can find a smaller niche that's doing the same thing, if not better, somewhere,” Creitz said. “You should support those people because not enough people get the recognition for the art that they make.” 

Ethan Sanders is a reporter for the Beacon. He can be reached at