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Oregon Coast Nightclub Swimming Against the Tide, Calls for Bands


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Oregon Coast Nightclub Swimming Against the Tide, Calls for Bands

Portland band Dahlia performs at The Watering Hole in July

(Nehalem, Oregon) – It’s certainly ambitious, and it may just be an insane idea, but former Portlander Marcus Hansen has a more than slightly sophisticated vision of nightlife on the Oregon coast.

But there are growing pains.

Hansen is the most recent person to fill the shoes of manager at The Watering Hole in Nehalem – a sleepy little hamlet just a mile from the beach that hides a sleeping monster that may just be ready to wake up. Hansen is trying hard to bring a little bit of Portland nightlife to this tiny town, but with a coastal twist. His vision includes a variety of acts to fill the nights with song at this burgeoning bar, including DJ’s in the electronica vein, open mic nights, poetry slams, and live music from Portland’s sizzling music scene as well as a hefty helping of local bands from the north Oregon coast.

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It’s not without its sizable challenges, however. Hansen has been putting out a call for some time for bands, DJ’s and participants for his various nights of entertainment.

Danceable fun at the bar

“I’d love to see a poetry night here, and the open mic take off,” Hansen said. “I’m on a search to get all these nights filled with acts.”

Snagging local bands has also been an uphill battle, in spite of a need for these performers to get out and strut their stuff.

“I’ve tried to incorporate all the locals as much as possible,” Hansen said. “But they’ve been real shy about committing dates, and they’re worried about having to play lengthy sets that fill up the whole night. But I’m not asking for that. I’m not looking for bands to go from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. We can figure it out after their set. I’m trying as much as possible to get the local acts here. But I’m going to have to go to Astoria and Portland to support this vision.”

Hansen then outlines that daring vision in its most basic terms.

DJ Ali Cat also works behind the bar

“The vision is we want something more exciting, interesting and visually stimulating – something better than just sitting around smoking cigarettes, listening to a jukebox and playing pool.”

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A lot of his upcoming lineup includes DJ’s playing many different styles, including electronica – so far unheard around the Oregon coast. Nights with live bands won’t go straight from 9 to 2 with live music, but probably 9 to midnight, with DJ’s performing the rest of the evening. This is often the format in Portland live music venues – a town that is nationally recognized for its live band scene.

Many Portlanders who are now getting into their 30’s and 40’s have been accustomed to being around that nightlife scene since the 90’s, maybe even the 80’s. That demographic is now purchasing second homes on the coast, or certainly heading to the beach to get away from it all. They’re looking for something to do at night sometimes – and that doesn’t mean the blues music and cover bands of the baby boom generation that has become de rigueur at coastal bars.

Hansen understands that feeling. He lived in California for years, and would head to the coast there on many weekends to relax, then enjoying the nightlife in some of those hip beach towns. “I’m one of those people,” he said. “It was a treat to go and hear a rock band that night, or maybe an 80’s cover band, which was kind of alternative at the time.”

Bartenders providing the cheer at The Watering Hole

He says he sees a younger and younger clientele on the coast, and a trend that backs up his vision. “There’s enough people who are out here, taking a breather from the city, and they’re looking for something at night. I think we can provide that culture to them.”

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There’s been noticeable improvement at The Watering Hole, and a few experiments that had mixed results.

One was a seriously cutting edge and ambitious idea for the coast that never quite took off: a family-oriented DJ festival that lasted two days, that was supposed to be in an outdoor park next to The Watering Hole, and then moved inside at night. It was to climax with a big show by Portland electronica band Dahlia.

Due to not understanding the area very well, and issues with parking and ODOT, Hansen said the big festival part – well, it fell apart. But Dahlia still played a killer show at the club that night, marking a first for the coast and the extremely popular Portland band.

“I didn’t know much about the area,” he laughed. “But there were still enough Portlanders here to provide some pretty good sales that night.”

Intriguing drinks populate the bar's menu

The only other times Portland bands of the stature of Dahlia played the coast was Duffy Bishop’s several gigs in Newport in the 90’s, a Cherry Poppin’ Daddies show there in 1993, and a couple of large-scale performances by Pink Martini at the Newport Performing Arts Center. Nothing big from Portland had ever really done anything anywhere on the north coast in the last decade and a half (although there have been numerous semi-national acts playing from Astoria down to Florence almost every year).

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“I’d always poke around, but I’d find everything shut down about the time we’d wake up,” he said. “I found all these cool little towns grouped together up here on the coast, and always felt I’d end up here. I started to see there were all these cute towns, with little opportunities that were pretty affordable.”

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One of his good friends began working at The Watering Hole as a bartender and as an electronica DJ, and she called Hansen and told him about the manager position, and how this place was in need of a firm administrative hand and direction.

He moved to the north coast, and now he’s starting to live a dream, he says. He even takes a very hands on approach, stepping up to the turntables himself as DJ Professor Stone at least once a week.

“I’m living here, with the laidback vibe, and hopefully soon at night I’ll get to go see a reggae band, maybe a rock band, some comedy,” he said. “It’s great just to have a place with culture here, and you don’t have to drive to Portland all the time.”

Hansen is still seeking bands, comedians, poets and other performers from the Oregon coast or from the Portland area. You can reach him at 503-368-4990. See www.djprofessorstone.com for more info. The Watering Hole is on Highway 101 in Nehalem.

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