2845 SE Stark Portland, OR
Over the years, the Good Foot has been one of the best venues for live music fans in the Rose City of Portland, Oregon. Long known as a place where people really believe in quality of life over other things like work and money, Portland is a vibrant city that is growing and has a focus on outdoor living, the environment, and a generally bohemian lifestyle. For years, the Good Foot has been a place for these types of people to come and see live music. Not interested in cover bands or DJs or other fad oriented music, the customers come to see bands that play music that way it should be played.
Over the years, the Good Foot has been a stop on tours for diverse bands including Moses Guest, Garaj Mahal, Chicago Afrobeat Project, Jujuba, Aphrodesia, Woodbox Gang, Izabella, Flowmotion, and countless others. Neil Leeborg is the coordinator of music there, and we were able to catch him and pick his brain about the club, the music that they like to feature, and his general attitudes about music.
LMN&R: What is your mission when it comes to programming the calendar.
I try to look at it like I’m curating a vibe in the room, as opposed to just booking shows. Some venues are concerned far more with the specific numbers through the door every night and thus will book a heavy metal band one night, a bluegrass band the next, a more indie rock type of show the next if they feel those bands will bring the requisite x number of people. I like to book around a consistent vibe (though the music genres within that vibe do vary) so that people can come here without necessarily knowing what show is going on and know they’ll be dancing and drinking with good, conscious people.
LMN&R: How is goodfoot different than the other venues around Portland?
You know, I don’t really go to other venues in Portland so I can’t say, for sure. I get out to some bigger shows at the Crystal Ballroom a few times a year and like to go to outdoor music/camping fests in the summer but I don’t pay much attention to other venues and what they do. I just have too much on my plate. I guess the main difference to me then would be that I never pay for a beer at the goodfoot, I can step into the office when I need to, and I have a key to the joint.
LMN&R :What was your history with music prior to this club, and how has that prepared you booking at the Good Foot?
My only history with music before the goodfoot was loving to listen and a fairly long history of going to shows, but nothing professional. Prior to the goodfoot I had spent time running rivers, tending bar and even substitute teaching (ouch!) for work, but never booking and promoting bands.
LMN&R: What is like living in Portland and how will the town effect the mood and how you program there?
Portland is a very mellow city for it’s size and there are so many outdoor pursuits close by, with awesome rivers, mountains, forests and the ocean. You have to compete with some things that other towns don’t have. In the summertime it can be more challenging to get a crowd out because the weather is outrageous and there are millions of acres of fairly pristine wilderness to play and camp in. We have to reel it in a little in the summer and book knowing that no matter how good a band is, there are going to be a lot people sleeping under the stars or falling down dead dog tired at 9 o’clock b/c they’d been running a river or hiking all day. Of course, it rains like a mother here in the winter so we can ramp it back up a bit and take more chances in the booking.
LMN&R: Do you have specific tie-in promotions that will be targeting the university students?
We don’t. Portland has several colleges but we don’t specifically target or rely on students, and we’re not located near any schools. So, the college folk who find us have to do a little work to get here….that actually really helps our vibe in the end, I think.
LMN&R: What about your life and upbringing brought you to this project?
I suppose I’ve always been a guy who couldn’t wait to have his friends hear some music that had moved me, and I enjoyed being around people having a good party. Those translate well to owning a music venue. Beyond that, I kind of stumbled into the whole thing via my friend, GT (the other owner) who found a great space in SE portland and was willing to give a go at making something happen there. I’ve had some success b/c my momma raised me right and I try to keep focused on things like integrity, honesty and being as fair as possible. It sounds kind of hokey and all, but those things can really sustain you in this business and keep you around for awhile.
LMN&R: What can we expect out of a night at the Good Foot?
You can expect to run into a good, loose community of Portlanders who love beer, music and generally are just very happy to live in a place as beautiful as Oregon. You can be assured that there will be interesting art on the walls, lots of local, organic beer to choose from and more often than not a bassist dropping serious bottom to keep the dancefloor moving.
LMN&R: Is the club’’s name a reference to the James Brown song of the same name? How is your history with Brown and the culture of that particular band and crowd playing into the vibe at the Good Foot?
It’s not exactly specific to the James Brown song (the goodfoot reference has been used by several bands that have influenced me, such as P-Funk) but it is associated with that idea of people from all walks of life getting together somewhere and just partying and forgetting their superficial differences. The name came to me b/c it embodies everything I think is good about music. And, of course, the goodfoot is now pretty well known as a terribly fun place to dance and lose yourself in the process.
LMN&R: What are some of your favorite memories of shows in the room?
Ahhh, well, so many memories. One that has always been special to me was having Michael Henderson (bass) and a bunch of the other guys who were in Miles Davis’ electric bands play the room back in ’02. we were still relatively new and I’m just standing there watching Michael shoot sonic booms from his bass as they kill Black Satin—- and my eyes are welling up thinking of these guys who’ve meant so much to me actually playing the room and turning the crowd inside out…..I mean, all those nights in high school with the head phones on listening to those albums and realizing that the universe is infinite and here they are bringing it to the people….it was emotional and inspiring. Beyond that, I guess the most special ones are, retrospectively, when we’ve introduced a relatively unknown band to Portland that has gone on to bigger stages and wider audiences. It’s gratifying to be a part of supporting the artists and the music lovers who are getting their first glimpse of a future favorite.
LMN&R: What were some of the most challenging experiences you have had to deal with in terms of running this club?
Well, they can’t all be home runs, so sometimes you take your lumps on a deal…that can be hard knowing you had the best intentions, gave it your all and still had to eat it and break into the safe at the end of the night. the occasional neighbor who doesn’t like so many happy people walking around the neighborhood can be tough. Oh, yeah, it can sometimes be a challenge to pull yourself out of bed to play with the kids after a long night at show, but who can complain about kinds and shows, eh— I’m blessed to have them both.
LMN&R: Anything else we should know?
We also have an upstairs level, separate from the music venue, with monthly rotating art shows and a restaurant. Our art director, Jason Brown, is the hardest working person I know (he wears a lot of hats) and he pulls together some astonishing shows. You can go to thegoodfoot.com and search through past and future shows to see for yourself. I always recommend checking out the art shows upstairs to folk coming for the music—– makes for an even better evening, methinks.