Four Popular Portland Concert Venues, Ranked

Thomas Gravely (he/him), Staff Writer

Concerts are a great way to unwind, let off steam and enjoy your favorite musical artists. Portland in particular is known for its diverse music scene and historic venues. Here are some of the most popular venues in and around Portland, ranked.


  1. Roseland Theater

Jordan Inglee/ Visual : Suplex

The Roseland Theater is a small venue on Burnside Street known for its good acoustics. Originally known as the Apostolic Faith Church, it was constructed in 1922. It was later converted into a music venue in 1982 by Larry Hurwitz and renamed the Starry Night. It held reasonable success until a publicity agent named Timothy Moreau was strangled to death in the theater in 1990. Allegedly, this murder was to prevent him from notifying the authorities of a counterfeit ticket scam at the club. Hurwitz, the owner, was convicted of the murder ten years later.


In 1991, Double Tee acquired control of the building, and after renovations reopened it as the Roseland Theater in 1997. Accommodating 1,400 people, the theater holds about 150-180 events per year, according to Double Tee. The venue’s small size allows for more personal shows and provides a good view of the performer. Additionally, it offers good acoustics, as the church it was originally built as was designed with music in mind. However, the small size is also a detriment; it can be difficult to accommodate more popular artists and tickets are expensive. What’s more, sets and effects are somewhat limited. One journalist referred to the venue as having “all the ambiance of a dank cave.” While a stellar venue, the Roseland is held back by its limited resources.


  1. McMenamins Edgefield

JD Breneiser

McMenamins Edgefield is an outdoor venue in Troutdale. The extensive property was a poor farm for 70 years, a self-sufficient agricultural site where financially insecure people from the surrounding area came to boost their livelihood. It was self-sufficient and productive, helping millions of Oregonians throughout much of the 20th century. Population peaked during the Great Depression when other jobs were hard to come by. After World War II, it was converted into a nursing home and rehabilitation center but was closed in 1982 due to the rising prominence of social security and private nursing homes. In the following years, it fell victim to time as weather broke the building’s windows and people covered it in graffiti. Years later, the McMenamins brothers restored the venue and opened it to the public, with the winery appearing first in 1990. 


Now, Edgefield is a winery, pub, restaurant, brewery, movie theater, and hotel. It also offers concerts on the lawn in an outdoor venue that hosts events during the summer. The venue provides lots of grass space for people to sit and enjoy their favorite artists live. On good days, Edgefield concerts are the best in the area, with beautiful summer evening weather and amenities from food stalls to the neighboring McMenamins brewery. But, its outdoor setting also limits the venue—it is only open during the summer, and it relies on good weather. It’s also in Troutdale, so the journey from Portland can be tiresome, particularly during rush hour. Edgefield offers some of the best experiences, but only on certain occasions.


  1. The Moda Center

Rose Quarter

The Moda Center is the largest and most famous arena in Portland. Its primary purpose is to host the Portland Trail Blazers, but it also has some of the resources to host the largest concerts in the city, with the most impressive sets and acoustics. It opened in 1995, originally called the Rose Garden. At first, the building had a capacity for 21,401 spectators, although it has since decreased to 19,393 due to added features and renovations. In 2013, the Trail Blazers made a deal with Moda Health and it was renamed the Moda Center.


The Moda Center features an “acoustic cloud,” 160 rotating panels near the ceiling that absorb noise from the upper levels and reflect it down to the floor. These panels can also be lowered to accommodate more intimate events. It is one of the only venues in the country with this feature, and it offers some of the best acoustics around. The building can also be converted into the “Theater of the Clouds,” a smaller theater seating 6,500 people. Floor-to-ceiling curtains are lowered, blocking the majority of the venue and creating a more personal setting.


With its size and money, the Moda Center boasts the most impressive sets and practical effects of any other venue in the city. The extensiveness of its sets is continually impressive and provides some of the best concert experiences. Energy is always high at Moda, and it continually features fantastic crowds. However, its size is its biggest problem; it’s hard to feel as connected with the performer as you can in other venues. It’s very difficult to find good seats for an affordable price, and without them, it can be hard to even see the performer’s face (although the massive screens are helpful). What’s more, the sheer number of seats makes it difficult to move around unless you have floor tickets, which are, again, extremely expensive. Overall, The Moda Center concerts are lots of fun, but pricey and a little too big at times.


  1. McMenamins Crystal Ballroom


The Crystal Ballroom is a small, historic venue in the heart of downtown. It was constructed in 1914 as a ballroom, named Catillon Hall. It was owned by a man named Montrose Ringler and hosted numerous live jazz events, but was struck down by the City of Portland in the early 1920s, deeming jazz “indecent,” and Ringler lost the ballroom. It was subsequently bought by Dad Watson, who hosted mostly old-fashioned events such as square dancing until the 1960s when the venue was forced to bring in R&B performers and psychedelic bands due to financial concerns. History repeated itself in 1968 when these performances were cut short because of concerns about how such music was affecting the youth.


The building remained largely unused until it was purchased by the McMenamins brothers in 1997 and restored. The three-story building features a McMenamins brewery on the first floor, Lola’s room (a smaller secondary venue) on the second floor, and the main ballroom on the top floor. The interior is beautiful, featuring artwork and a unique aesthetic unavailable at any other venue in the city. But the ballroom’s most notable feature is its sprung floor, a special type of flooring that absorbs shocks, giving dancers some of their energy back when they step. If enough people are jumping, you can physically feel the floor “bounce,” a unique sensation found almost nowhere else in the country. 


Concerts at the McMenamins Crystal Ballroom are personal events, offering a more intimate show of talent. You won’t find Moda-scale lights and practical effects at a Crystal show, but the beautiful ballroom offers an experience like no other. The sprung floor is a highlight, providing a feeling you can find almost nowhere else. You can also enjoy a meal in the McMenamins restaurant just downstairs. The Crystal Ballroom might not be the most flashy venue, but its character and history bring it to the top of the list.