Portland had some classic concert venues back in the day. This was back with the Cumberland County Civic Center has 4 or 5 shows a month, and the Loft (then the Great Northeast Music Hall, then T-birds) was rocking. The Old Port Tavern and Moose Alley (under Squire Morgans) were awesome places in Portland, too.

I walked by the old Tree Cafe on Danforth Street in Portland this morning. It's the fab Zen Chinese Bistro now. But back in the day, the Tree Cafe was a fantastic spot to see up-and-coming bands. It was a pretty cool setup with a lower section where you could be really close to the band, and an upper balcony where if you dangled over the railing after having a few pints, you could probably jump right on the stage and not break a leg. Not that I thought about it from time to time.

Here's the July 1988 Schedule from the Tree Cafe. Thanks to the Portland Maine Encyclopedia of the 1960s, 70's and 80's Facebook Group for this photo!

Portland Maine encyclopedia of the 1960s, 70s, & 80s Facebook
Portland Maine Encyclopedia of the 1960s, 70s, & 80s Facebook

The place only held a couple of hundred people, but it had some real magic to it. Some pretty historic shows happened at the Tree. It was pretty much the Maine Phish Clubhouse in the late '80s. I count eight Phish shows in 1989 and 1990. it's all kind of a blur, so it could be more. There were always a ton of local bands that played there, as well as the up-and-coming national bands. A little band from Seattle called Soundgarden played there in 1989. Wow!  Widespread Panic, Camper Van Beethoven, Treat Her Right, Tommy Conwell, and Concrete Blonde all played there as well.

Here's Concrete Blonde from the Tree Cafe with their big hit "True" from 1989.

After the Tree Cafe closed, several restaurants came and went. If you ever go into the building now, have a beer at the Zen Chinese Bistro Bar, turn towards where the stage used to be, and remember one of Portland's smallest yet mightiest live music venues. Long Live the Tree Cafe!

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