Being a live music fan in Eugene can be frustrating. Most major touring bands prefer to stop in Portland and hop on down to San Francisco, while the local scene is almost completely defined by bars and thus inaccessible for many underage fans. Now that the Social Host Ordinance or “party ban” has made house shows increasingly difficult to find, there are hardly any outlets for people under 21 interested in what the Eugene music scene has to offer.
Hopefully, the Boreal will change this. The product of a Kickstarter campaign started by four friends that easily reached its $3,500 goal, the Boreal is an all-ages, drug-and-alcohol-free venue that aims to provide an alternative to the bar scene for Eugene bands and their fans. The project was partly born when co-founders Sean Prive, Eric Devin and Kathryn Alexander went on a hike together last summer.
“I was on a hike with Sean and Eric at the end of this last summer and we were talking about how there wasn’t really a good venue that we wanted to go to see bands in Eugene,” Alexander said. “So, we just said, ‘Why don’t we see how much it is to rent a place.’ So we just started looking at how much different places would cost, and we found a place and did a lot of back and forth with the city so we wouldn’t immediately get shut down.”
The venue’s location, though remote in relation to campus (450 W. Third Ave.), is ideal for its goals. There are few houses around, the Quilt Patch next door closes at 5, and there’s a much noisier railroad track running behind the venue. It’s also close to both the 40 and 52 buses, so it’s not too daunting a trek to the Boreal from campus.
Periodic updates on the Boreal’s Facebook page track the progress of setting up the new space, which at the time of writing is being fitted with stage lights and speakers. The first show at the Boreal will take place this Friday, featuring six Eugene bands who run the stylistic gamut from instrumental post-rock (This Patch of Sky) to hardcore (SKEEVE) to emo (Southtowne Lanes).
The venue is primarily geared towards hardcore punk and metal, though the venue owners are not averse to booking other bands — they’ve got a spoken word show coming up on Jan. 18.
“I’m happy to book anything as long as it’s not negative,” Devin said. “I’m not trying to book artists that are homophobic or racist or ultraviolent. The only thing we’re gonna do in terms of limiting what’s gonna happen is if a band approaches us that’s already playing frequently we might turn them down because we’re trying to give more people more opportunities.”
Still, bands active elsewhere the Eugene scene have already been approached to play shows at the Boreal. The venue recently reached out to bar-scene fixtures Blind The Thief to open for touring Seattle band Marion Walker, though a date has not yet been finalized. Frontman Schuyler Durham is psyched about the new venue.
“I think all-ages venues are really important to creating a real scene,” Durham said. “At the bars the band is more of a faceless band for people to get drunk to. But kids actually get stoked on things and get excited about music.”
Though Durham is 21, he sympathizes with the plight of Eugene’s music-loving minors. “I feel really bad for Eugene kids because you see them hanging out at the bus station downtown and they obviously have nothing to do,” he said. “I think (the Boreal) will give them somewhere to go and something to do in a safe environment.”