Located in a former florist shop on Temple Street in the Old Port, the Portland House of Music is a flexible music space that hosts all kinds of artists. Some of the rock and hip-hop shows are basically big parties with an open floor in front of the stage for dancing and thrashing about.
For some of those shows, people pay one ticket price and can stand or dance where ever they’d like. There are always a few seats, including some church pews, for people who need to rest. The total capacity of the place is 292.
But at a Shemekia Copeland show in September, most of the floor was taken up by about 100 plastic folding chairs, so most of the audience was seated. A few people stood, or sat on the pews in the back of the club. It was easy for people to move the chairs a couple inches in any direction to provide more elbow or leg room. Nobody had to be cramped.
The last row of chairs was only about 60 or 70 feet from the stage, with a clear view of the stage and everyone on it. And the stage is high enough that even tall folks sitting in the front row didn’t block the view. At the end of Copeland’s show, most people were on their feet, dancing in place. But even then, people who wanted to remain seated had a pretty good view.
The main viewing area is sunken below street level, with a 10-foot-wide raised concourse in the very back of the club and to one side of the stage. Some chairs were set up on the side concourse, so people there were on the save level as Copeland. The stage and the concourse are connected, so a couple times during the show, Copeland was able to easily walk right into the audience.
Because of the sunken floor, the ceiling is fairly high. The place did not seem stuffy or hot at all, and the sound circulated clearly. Copeland’s powerful voice and her four-piece band were loud without sounding distorted. The bass made the floor vibrate just enough to get everyone pumped up and not enough to give anyone a headache. The ticket price for a seat bought online was $35, plus $7 in processing fees. For a $45 ticket, people were allowed to sit in one of the first three rows. A standing room ticket was $25.
To one side of the main floor is a bar area with a dozen or more beer selections, plus wine. The bar is visible from most of the club, so it’s easy to go up when you see there’s no one in line. Beer specials started at $5.
The lighting for the show was soft and cool, with shades of blue and purple filtering across the stage. There was enough soft lighting elsewhere so that people could walk to the bar and bathrooms (down a hallway) without tripping over anything or anyone. The place has a giant crystal chandelier over the middle of the main viewing and dancing area, but it was not lit.
The venue’s website had advertised the show time as “doors at 7 p.m., music starts at 8 p.m.” And, by 8:01 p.m., Copeland and her band were roaring into their first song.
PORTLAND HOUSE OF MUSIC
LOCATION: 25 Temple St., Portland
TICKETS & INFO: portlandhouseofmusic.com; 805-0134
SEATING STYLE: Flexible depending on show. One show featured seating for about 100 people and some standing room, while other tickets to other shows guarantee only standing room. But even for those shows there is a limited amount of seating, though not reserved.
REFRESHMENTS: Beer and wine at the bar
PARKING: On street or in garage next door, but garage closes at midnight
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: Yes
OTHER: Most shows are restricted to ages 21 and over, but younger people can attend with an accompanying adult. Some shows are 18-plus.