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Alex Preston. Courtesy photo.




A look back
2014 a return to form for local music

12/25/14
By Michael Witthaus music@hippopress.com



Live original music got a big boost this year, with Riverwalk Café in Nashua doubling in size and redoubling its commitment to regional talent. Clark’s on the Corner in Milford evolved organically; customers responded to performers like Tristan Omand, Charlie Christos and Lisa Guyer playing their own songs, so owner Liesl Clark decided to book them exclusively. 

Manchester’s Jewel Nightclub opened in December with a goal of rivaling Boston’s Paradise and Royale clubs, not to mention Tupelo Music Hall down the road. On a smaller but no less significant scale, The Local in Warner reopened after a year’s hiatus with an eclectic mix of original talent befitting its name.
Individual energy drove the scene as well. 
On the Seacoast, Amanda Morneault recruited national acts like The Cadillac Three, New York Funk Exchange and Mike Love to Thirsty Moose Taphouse in Portsmouth. Her Harbor Agency also booked quality New Hampshire bands at Kelley’s Row, including Frank Viele, Jandee Lee Porter, Conniption Fits and Truffle. Sadly, a flood closed the Dover club in September, but Morneault hopes to expand in 2015, with a new venue and a summer country music festival in her sights.
In Manchester, Jordan Paul began the year recruiting the cream of the region’s funk and jam scene to Penuche’s, with standout shows from The Hornitz, Cosmic Dust Bunnies and Capital Zen.  By year’s end, Paul’s Jigs Music was booking more Queen City rooms, including Jade Dragon (the former Black Brimmer) and Central Ale House (formerly TJ’s).
Concord had True Brew Barista and Penuche’s Ale House, which sit across from each other in Bicentennial Square. Lucas Gallo, also a musician, handled the bookings at True Brew while assisting Todd Tousley and Jon Steiner at Penuche’s for some great shows, including Boogie on Alice and breakout band The Greenlights.
2014 was a year of great local albums. Highlights included Pat & the Hats’ Fake It Till You Make a Hit and Coming ‘round Again from Dusty Gray Band, both produced by Brian Coombes at Rocking Horse Studio. Michael Bernier’s new band Freevolt dropped Take the Product, full of stick-in-the-brain songs. 
Jazz aficionados welcomed Brad Myrick’s Halogen, while roots rockers Girls Guns and Glory made the memorable Good Luck. No less satisfying was the EP Falling In from pop rockers Best Not Broken and Driven, from instrumental guitar wizard and New Hampshire resident Johnny A. The best of the lot may have been Cold Engines’ debut, Day Drinker.
For comedy fans, it didn’t get any better than Shaskeen on Wednesdays and its sister club Halligan Tavern on Thursdays. Standup acts worthy of stiff ticket prices regularly worked both places without a cover charge. Among the gifted comedians performing in New Hampshire were Dan Soder, Shane Mauss, JT Habersaat and the flat-out amazing John Tole. 
It’s no wonder both places were packed week after week — and local comics like Jay Chanoine kept pace with the national talent. Also in Manchester, Headliners Comedy Club routinely sold out its weekend shows, with name acts like Gilbert Gottfried and solid regional standups.
On the big room front, Bruno Mars filled the Verizon, Tony Bennett packed Portsmouth’s Music Hall, and a pre-implosion Bill Cosby sold out two nights at the Capitol Center. Zac Brown Band again went clean for two Meadowbrook shows. After two cancellations, Cher hopes to finally play Manchester Jan. 5.
Throughout, the local scene burgeoned, including the success of the third Granite State Music Festival, a sold-out benefit for Mama Lisa Guyer at Manchester’s Palace Theatre and Alex Preston capping his American Idol success with two hometown sellouts. 
 
As seen in the December 25, 2014 issue of the Hippo.





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