Club is hosting a benefit concert on Friday, Nov. 25 from 5 to 11 p.m. to raise money for sound system and stage. — Ray Ewing

Before the Portuguese American Club was formed, before its cozy bar in suburban Oak Bluffs was built, there was just the Holy Ghost Society and a parade. In the 1920s, the burgeoning Portuguese population on-Island held their first Feast of the Holy Ghost celebration, held in a cow field. It was a humble affair.

Soon after, the first wood-shingled building at the P.A. Club went up. Now its shingles are gray and a bit weathered, but the building is sturdy as ever.

A lot can change in a century. The society is no longer exclusively Portuguese nor Catholic, and its board of directors is all women — a rarity for groups of this type. Still, the P.A. Club, with its warm yellow lighting and well-worn wooden fixtures, is an old-fashioned place.

“It really is like your neighborhood kind of bar,” said bartender and board member Emily Freeman-Miller. “At three o’clock on a Wednesday, I can tell you who’s sitting where and what they’re drinking.”

Ms. Freeman-Miller started bartending at the P.A. Club seven years ago, after one of her regulars at another bar brought her an application. During her time behind the bar, Ms. Freeman-Miller said she has witnessed the club’s growth as a music venue. This front row seat brought with it another observation: the acoustics in the old hall are a problem.

“As a bartender, I’m in the room a lot,” she said. “You can notice, it’s tinny. It’s a tough room.”

John Stanwood lines up a shot. — Ray Ewing

The issue became more obvious, she said, with the growing popularity of the Wednesday night acoustic performances from Rose Guerin and John Stanwood. The solution, it turns out, is also musical: a Black Friday benefit concert with proceeds going to install soundproofing, audio equipment and a stage. The event takes place from 5 to 11 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 25. More benefit concerts are being scheduled for later in the off-season.

On Friday, along with Ms. Guerin and Mr. Stanwood, there will be a packed lineup of Island musicians including Kate Taylor, the Jelly Roll Horns, the Dock Dance Band, The Jaywalkers, Brad Tucker and DJ Ricky Prime.

But the impact of such an upgrade will go far beyond just music. The club is uniquely poised to host a variety of events from monthly charity luncheons to the annual Feast of the Holy Ghost.

“If we have a memorial service here, we want people to actually be able to hear the person speaking,” said Ms. Freeman-Miller, explaining how even a few dozen people in the echo-prone hall can often make larger events difficult.

“This is a venue for us to be able to help the community,” added longtime board member Cheryl King.

Ms. King said the organization awarded more than $40,000 in scholarships last year and averages more than $35,000 annually.

“It’s a benevolent organization,” she said. “The Holy Spirit is something we are supposed to personify through our good deeds.”

Keeping the bar scene alive in the off-season. — Ray Ewing

Ms. King said she is excited about the long-awaited return of the Feast of the Holy Ghost next summer, which she grew up attending as a child. But aside from all the flashy events and music festivals, the soul of the P.A. Club remains with its members, a group that grew astronomically during Covid, when people took advantage of the bar’s plentiful outdoor seating. The club even has a dedicated clientele of summer members who flock to the club as a quiet sanctuary compared to other Island hotspots.

“People become regulars quick, here,” said Ms. Freeman-Miller. “There’s not many places in August where you are guaranteed a parking spot and a place at the bar.”