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Seminal, Pivotal Live Music Venues in Oregon Coast History

Published 10/08/20 at 3:54 AM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Seminal, Pivotal Live Music Venues in Oregon Coast History

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(Oregon Coast) – Sometimes they changed things or were the first in some way, sometimes they simply made an indelible impression on the Oregon coast in one way or another. Live music venues haven’t been exactly on the cutting edges along the coastline, not like some inland places such as Satyricon in Portland or John Henry’s in Eugene. Yet a few have made their marks - and what stellar (or at least amusing) examples they were. (Above: the Pypo Club in Seaside changed music history)

Wacky dive bars have been the staple of boozy fun for ages, especially for more culturally aware crowds that enjoy the irony and the inadvertent humor of it all. There’s never been a shortage of that on the Oregon coast, and the Pip Tide in Newport was an icon for this.

While it started out respectable enough in the ‘70s or so, bringing on live music in the realm of cover bands since about its inception, that whole idea began to lose cultural relevance in the late ‘80s and the cover music scene became increasingly relegated to a more, well ….. rough crowd. The Pip Tide was almost always a packed, crazy scene – and a truly kooky place. By the ‘90s, as former Newport resident Rob Thornton put it (and former owner of Newport club Cape Fear), “you had your local rednecks and the tourist crowd that had nowhere else to go.”

Earlier, in the ‘80s, Thornton described it as a big deal when certain larger events came through the venue. That began to change by the ‘90s.

Not for the faint of heart, by that time it was a bizarre pickup scene and ground zero for occasional fights. Meanwhile, increasingly dated (and hilariously so) cover bands wearing spandex and big hair populated the stage, either making grand fools of themselves or “rockin’ the crowd,” depending on your point of view.

The Pip Tide was rough, wild, insane, hilarious and a rollicking time all in one. If you genuinely liked that sort of lingering retro scene, then it was perfect for you. If you were a bit more sophisticated, enjoyed the irony and the strong drinks, it was perfect as well.

In any case, the Pip Tide wound up a seminal live music scene for the central Oregon coast, even if it was an ironic one after a time.

Also in Newport, the first real wine bar on the entire Oregon coast sprang up in the Nye Beach area in the early 2000s, called Blu Cork Wine Bar. Created by the Trusty family (one of whom now runs Coast & Vine in Newport), it soon became a little live music hotspot on its own. Decidedly down tempo and chill compared to the rock ‘n’ roll raucous of other bars, Blu Cork hosted intimate, almost salon-like live gigs of jazz, soft rock and some blues, all primarily acoustic.

Blu Cork literally discovered Eugene jazz singer Hallie Loren and rocketed her to popularity on the Oregon coast, and powerhouse Portland chanteuse Beth Willis had her career boosted by the tiny place.

Newport for whatever reason had a larger influential scene than just about coastal town, and one of those historic periods was from mid 1995 to October 1996. An all-age club called Cape Fear is now lost to history, but at the time it was a landmark creation that gave hordes of Newport kids and young adults from all over the state something new to do at the beach.

Robert Thornton owned the club, which ran as a vintage music gear store during the day. He told Oregon Coast Beach Connection he estimates some 100 bands entertained everyone over that year or so, climaxing with national band Foreskin 500 playing the final night – which also happened to be Thornton’s 30th birthday celebration.

Many northwest favorites came through Cape Fear, at a time when this region’s indie rock bands were in the national spotlight because other acts like Pearl Jam and Cherry Poppin’ Daddies had hit it so big. Bands like Henry’s Child, Floater, Jolly Mon, Todd Hunt (formerly of Primus), The Stanleys and numerous others that entertained from Eugene to Seattle came through the hotspot. It was the first – and almost last club – on the coast to join the ranks of the contemporary music world that demanded something more than just tired old retreads of The Beatles or Foghat.

In the early 2000s, a veritable live music icon had popped up in the tiny central Oregon coast burgh of Yachats: the Landmark Restaurant & Lounge. It hosted dozens of smaller national acts and provided a steady stream of interesting culture to the region that simply didn’t exist elsewhere.

Yet that wasn’t the first incarnation of a vital music scene in the place. The ‘70s and ‘80s saw it as the On the Rocks Lounge (before that it had been the famed restaurant called Beulah’s). On the Rocks began hosting what were then reunion bands of such greats as The Coasters, the Ink Spots and the Drifters, along with drag shows on occasion.

In the late ‘80s it switched hands and became a place known for a rough crowd as well as cheesy cover bands, which had become woefully unhip in larger towns around the northwest. By now it was renamed the Landmark, then by the late ‘90s was scooped up by a New York couple who transformed it into the music hotspot that became legendary.

That incarnation of the Landmark, which lasted until 2011, hosted semi-national acts such as trippy Gypsy rockers Gogol Bordello or Todd Wolfe, who had been in Sheryl Crow’s band. Also rolling through this part of the Oregon coast on occasion was Terry Evans, who had played with Ry Cooder and John Fogarty. The club featured a wide range of blues, rock, funk, reggae and other mixes. Some fairly big names from Portland and its thriving music at the time were regulars.

A great story emerged from one occasion when Evans was there, when he was struck by a sudden deja vu. Talking to owner Bruce Olson, he realized he’d played this very bar back in the ‘70s. It was quite a return engagement. Yachats' Beulah's Sea View Inn and Landmark Restaurant: Intriguing Oregon Coast History

You can’t talk about major Oregon live music venues without bringing up the Pypo Club in Seaside. Though absolutely unknown to most under 60 years old, the all-age rager had quite the influence on rock music in general in its brief existence in the early ‘60s. Paul Revere and the Raiders and other big rock rigs frequented the club.

This was the place where a very young version of Portland’s The Kingsmen were hanging out, simply wasting time, and someone kept playing the original version of Louie, Louie (by Richard Berry) on the jukebox. After hearing it numerous times, they began discussing it and felt they could do better.

They did, and the rest is serious music history. Louie, Louie went on to freak out parents with its indiscernible lyrics, even causing the FBI to investigate. It stayed a rock ‘n’ roll icon for decades, including being the main theme to the movie “Animal House.” (See Seaside, Oregon Coast Revelations: Ten Fun Facts You Did Not Know)

The Pypo Club was supposed to host a band called The Wailers in 1962, but a major riot in Seaside canceled the gig. However, the city asked the band to play outdoors the following Monday. The band had a new instrumental they wanted to try out, and then and there decided to call it “Doin’ the Seaside.” That tune became a hit for the Tacoma-based outfit that year. Oregon Coast Hotels in this area - Where to eat - Maps - Virtual Tours

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