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Sep 2, 2014







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See their shows
Looking for some of these mini-moguls’ shows? Here’s what they’ve got going on

Upcoming at the Jam Factory

(www.thejamfactorynh.com)
Oct.6: The Jam Factory Comedy Machine
Oct. 7: Indie and Punk Rock Concert w/ Dixen Cider, The Moodies and Rude Mood
Oct. 8: Rock and Funk Concert w/ Riffniks Band, American Bred and Single Action Army
Oct. 9:  Open Mic 5-6 p.m. followed by Midisty and Secretly Sixty
Oct. 14: Crimes in Graceland w/ The Save
Oct.16: Captain
Oct. 21 Hard
Oct 22: They Themselves, The Yellow Team, It’s An Attack! and Mr. Farenheit
Oct. 28 Liberation Day, The Furiousity, Union Guns of 62 and Death Waltz ‘76

Upcoming I’m Thirsty Entertainment shows  (www.imthirstyentertainment.com)

At Rocko’s
Oct. 6: Cruel Hand, A Loss For Words, The Greenery, Maker, others
Oct. 7: Sovereign Strength, Life In Mind, Delusions, Anchorlines, In Depth and Tides, 4 more
Oct. 8: The Bunny The Bear w/ Us From Outside
Oct. 11: Underoath, Comeback Kid, The Chariot, This Is Hell
Oct. 14: Moufy, Ron Jon, Daniel Coffey, Good Hue
Oct. 15: Stay Positive Battle of the Bands
Oct. 19: Close Your Eyes, The Color Morale, Like Moths to Flames, Afffiance, Couterparts, 2 more
Oct. 22: Conforza CD release show with The Atlas Collapse, Ballast, The Summoned, 8 more
Oct. 29: D12 (Bizarre, Kon Artis, Kuniva, Swifty Mc Vay and Fuz Scotta) w/ Fury, Quiet Akillez, 5 more
Nov. 5: Our Last Night, Spies Like Us, Rumors of Betrayl, Anchorlines, Imagine the Escape
Nov. 11: Blood on the Dance Floor, Angelspit, New Year’s Day, 2 more
Nov. 12: Jedi Mind Tricks, Outerspace
Nov. 25: My Bitter
At Artemis Events Center in Franklin
Dec. 2: We Came As Romans, Sleeping With Sirens, Attila, Lions Lions and For All I Am

Upcoming Jay Grove productions  (www.jaygrove.com)

All shows 9 p.m.
 Punchlines @ Penuches: every Monday at Penuches Ale House in Concord
Oct. 21: Comedy Night at The Stumble Inn (monthly Fridays at The Stumble Inn in Londonderry
Oct. 27: Warmth from the Millyard in Manchester
Nov. 19: Comedy Night at Mulligan’s Irish Pub (monthly Saturdays at Mulligan’s Irish Pub in Barre, VT)
Dec. 3: Comedy Night at The Brickhouse (Monthly Saturdays, at The Brickhouse in Dover)
 
Upcoming New England Concerts Shows  (www.neconcerts.com)

Oct. 15: Misfits at the Palace Ballroom in Danvers, Mass.
Oct. 28: Jonathan Tyler & The Northern Lights at The Grand in Manchester
Oct. 30: (hed)p.e. with Slaine at The Armory Ballroom in Manchester
Nov. 12: Hawthorne Heights at Wally’s Pub in Hampton Beach
Nov. 19: Chimaira, Unearth at Wally’s Pub in Hampton Beach
 





A peek backstage on your night out
How a few music and comedy mavens are lighting up southern NH’s nightlife

10/06/11
By Michael Witthaus music@hippopress.com



With a capacity hovering near 100, Boynton’s Taproom isn’t a large venue by most standards. But when the Mill District bar opened its doors two years ago, it created a new home for original live entertainment in Manchester.

People responded, with mostly sold-out shows during Boynton’s early months. Standup comedy, original singer/songwriters, the raucous Dueling Pianos and big name acts like John Waite – all filled the room on a regular basis. Owner Josh Boynton talked of plans to fine-tune the room and find the right performers. “I think you and Manchester will be pleasantly surprised,” he said in December 2009.

At that moment in time, original entertainment seemed to be disappearing from the local scene. Karaoke, cover bands, trivia nights and a rotation of Red Sox games and UFC matches on giant flat screens seemed to dominate. But sometimes a vacuum is an opportunity to invent things anew.

For promoters looking to bring something different to the scene, it wasn’t the first time a person surveyed a subpar slate of talent, a poorly equipped facility or an absence of resources and thought – “This should be better, this could be better.”  But how does an idea go from germination to fruition?


How to re-shape live entertainment in the Granite State

When Josh Boynton first walked into the space that eventually became his bar, it was musty and dappled with cobwebs. It hadn’t ever been open to the public, let alone hosted an evening of entertainment. To complicate matters, it was tucked into office space on the building’s third floor, hardly a prime nightclub location. That didn’t deter Boynton.

Bernie Goulet, the young CEO of New England Concerts, grew frustrated at the number of bands skipping the Granite State, remembering his days presenting big names like Powerman 5000 in a room now fused to a Bedford gentleman’s club. What the area needed, he reasoned, was a venue like Boston’s House of Blues capable of holding thousands instead of hundreds of fans. One look at the Manchester Armory Ballroom gave Goulet a glimpse into that future. But there was just one problem: the site hadn’t hosted a rock show in nearly two decades.

Jay Grove is a native son returned home, a successful comic with a will to create the same fertile scene he’d left in New York. When he unpacked and began to look around, Grove discovered that apart from the occasional national act at the Capitol Center, Concord didn’t have a single comedy room. No one — no one — had an interest in changing that. It took two tries to convince management at Penuche’s Ale House to let him use Mondays for an open-mike night. “If doesn’t work it’s back to sports on the big screen,” they told him. Today, Punchlines at Penuche’s attracts talent from across New England, and Grove operates comedy nights at a growing list of clubs.

Dave Southworth and Sadi Khan each thought they could do a better job choosing talent. Southworth is a hard-rock fan with friends in scores of bands. In his opinion, none of them were well-represented at area venues.  So Southworth started a company, I’m Thirsty Entertainment, and began promoting the shows himself.

Khan belongs to a community of frustrated artists with no desire to re-create classic rock songs for weekend revelers or sit in a corner covering John Mayer on six-string guitar while diners drown him out with chatter. So he decided to find a room with neither of those distractions. Khan convinced the owners of Raxx to let him open the Jam Factory in a room adjacent to the downtown Manchester pool hall. Now it’s a nascent but growing effort presenting original talent, everything from rockers to poets to indie filmmakers.
It’s not as lofty as Robert Kennedy’s famous quote, “There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why... I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?” But among the scores of people who’ve imagined a better original entertainment scene in the Granite State, some of them have made it happen.

You can find live music and comedy shows — big and small — at locations around southern New Hampshire. For Goulet, Grove, Southworth and Khan, their goals included bringing a specific brand of music to the area or extending the reach of comedy. Just like the musicians and comedians who appear in their shows, every promoter has a story about how they broke in to the business. Here are four tales of hard-won success.

Comedy is king

Jay Grove is irritated. A professional comic scheduled to do 20 minutes of standup at the Monday night Penuche’s open microphone hasn’t arrived, but a text from him has. “Was I supposed to come tonight?” he asks/reads. Grove punches in a response, snaps his phone shut and tosses it on the table.
“Look, man, I can’t want it more than you do,” he says, and turns to assess a group of comics sitting around a table, all scribbling into notebooks.

Grove knows what he’s talking about. Desire fuels him, even tonight, when he’s feeling under the weather and battling a cold. Though it’s a slower night than the past few weeks, when attendance spiked with a best comic contest, he coaches the evening’s host, Tyler Benton, on the finer points of holding the crowd.
“Make sure you set the comics up, don’t be so funny yourself that they have a hard time following you,” he says. A younger, less experienced standup has arrived, and Grove whispers a few words of encouragement to her.

A New Hampshire native who goes by the nickname “Granite Gun” when performing, Grove didn’t set out to be a comedy entrepreneur. But since moving back to Concord in 2010, he’s been running regular events at a growing number of venues.

It all began in early 2010, with Grove’s awareness that his hometown lacked a serious comedy venue.
“When I moved to Concord, I needed a practice room,” he says. Making the rounds of several bars in the Capitol City, he finally convinced Penuche’s after repeated visits. The basement bar gave him three weeks, then six more, and eventually the weekly Punchlines at Penuche’s built a respectable following.
“It has evolved into I think the best comedy room in the area,” says Grove, who proudly calls it a place “where the pros come to practice.”

Attendance ranges from 50 to as many as 125 people — quite impressive for a Monday night.
“I’ve had to turn people away,” Grove says. “It’s been great for us.”

With the success at Penuche’s, Grove expanded, doing shows at Stumble Inn in Londonderry, The Dover Brick House, and a run of summer events at the Naswa Resort in Weirs Beach featuring headliners like Bob Seibel. He also hosts a regular monthly event at Mulligan’s in Barre, Vt., in addition to regular standup performing and promoting a few area one-off shows.

“I’m really trying to build a New Hampshire presence, not only for me but for New Hampshire comedy,” he says. “We push one idea at these shows: we’re going to bring good guys to you; you don’t have to go to Boston to see good comics, because they want to go to the people and towns that enjoy them.”

By keeping the level professional, Grove is succeeding. Of course, it’s not like a scene didn’t exist before his. Comedian Rob Steen books the Headliners chain, which has a Manchester location, and promotes shows all over New England, an area he’s worked for over 20 years. “He is a huge part of New Hampshire comedy,” says Grove, “but I like to think that I am that other part of it. I was born and raised here and I choose to live here even if it means driving a little … because I believe in what we have here. So I feel like there’s enough to go around and I try to put guys on that might not have a chance to get on around here through Rob.”

The two get along; Steen was among the comics Grove booked for his summer Lakes Region shows. “I would like to think our relationship is good. He has his ideas about certain comics and I have mine — including myself,” Grove says. “I feature in major clubs around the country, but I open at Headliners in Manchester. To some degree there is that big brother, little brother type of thing where you have to prove yourself twice as much to make headway. But it makes you a better comic.”

The springboard, of course, is Grove’s practice room in Concord. As it’s grown, so have his opportunities. “Because people believe I know how to run a room, I can secure better comics for my other rooms,” he says. “That business trust is there with the other clubs now because of Penuche’s. They trust my booking and judgment. Success breeds success.”

That’s true with both fans — “we’ve created a group of comedy snobs at Penuche’s” — and the pros who come to practice there. 

“It has helped us more from a comedian than a fan point of view,” Grove says. “Comics are spoiled compared to when they go to other open mikes. Penuche’s is a beast.”

Hometown rocker

Dave Southworth booked his first show because no one else would.

Sitting at a table in the back of the basement bar of Rocko’s in Manchester, where his company I’m Thirsty Entertainment presents most of its shows, Southworth explains that he began as a fan.

“Shout at the World is a band that I love. I can’t understand why more people don’t get into this band, it’s amazing,” he says. “But I found that the music scene was really cliché — unless you knew someone, you couldn’t really get booked. So I decided to see if I could put on my own show.”

In early 2007, he booked Shout at the World and six other bands into the Manchester VFW.

“I broke even, didn’t lose any money and the bands got to play,” Southworth says. A friend at the then-open Uptown Tavern approached him to book more shows, and by mid-year he was doing four or five a month. By that summer, he’d established himself enough to go after some national acts. “It was great helping struggling bands coming through, it wasn’t like one big clique anymore.”

Rocko’s entered the picture after a few tense shows at the Manchester American Legion hall forced him to move to a new location. “They were getting kind of rowdy, and the people there wanted me to start looking for a different place … then they kicked us out after the cops came with a paddy wagon one night. So we were looking for a new home at the same time my friend was talking about Rocko’s, and I’ve been here ever since.”

The first show happened in October 2007, a hardcore lineup with “DIY sound, nothing spectacular, but we had amazing bands,” Southworth says. Two years later, he partnered with a Massachusetts company, which built a stage and provided a sound system. Though the alliance didn’t last, the equipment remained.

“Everything just kind of stayed here and it’s been that way ever since,” he says. “The stage and the big sound system takes us to the next step of where we want to be. If we want to bring in a big national tour, we can, if we want to do a rave, rappers — we can do it all.”

As he talks, the night’s show is setting up — four dub step performers, including the popular DJ Midas. Southworth is mixing things up lately, with more hip-hop and pop, less metal and rock.

“Raves are really easy to put on, you can book a DJ and have a show for six hours,” he says. “You have to book six bands to fill that slot, and people want something new. Music is an evolving thing and always recycles.”

The trend dovetails with his personal tastes: Southworth is a big hip-hop fan.

“We’ve built this place up as a metal venue, but the music industry is changing and going more towards dub step dance and hip-hop,” he says. “I love hardcore but think the scene is dying out a lot. It’s moving, and in order for a business to stay alive, you have to follow.”

When Southworth started, he gave his company a name synonymous with its attitude:“If you’re thirsty to play, thirsty for entertainment, if you’ve got the heart,” he said. “I’m going to put you on the stage.”

Extending that desire to the realm of promotion is a big part of his efforts. He pushes performers to spread the word about shows through social media and word of mouth, and ultimately get fans in the doors.

“There are a lot of bands and we do ask them to sell tickets, but it’s not a pay-to-play situation,” he says, referring to the practice of requiring bands to cover the cost of tickets whether they’re sold or not. “We don’t ask anybody to pay. We want them to sell 15 tickets to friends and family, but if they sell 10, fine — at least they try.”

A street team of fans and musicians represents the shows.

“A lot of the kids in the street team are also in bands, because they love the music scene and want to help us succeed and stay open. Without them I don’t think we would have the manpower to go out and promote the show,” Southworth says. “But we stay on top of the bands — any band that is not doing their part, we send them a message: we really want to help you be successful, but you need to promote, post some status updates, pass some flyers around town, whatever. We’re there for them.”

Southworth quit his day job as a restaurant manager to work as a concert promoter.

“I didn’t like it anymore, the 10-hour days. This is an easy thing to do at home on the computer. I can watch my kids. It’s an awesome career.”

He tries not to think about the roiling economy and other pitfalls that he might face. He’s produced shows at other venues, including an all-day summer show at Manchester’s JFK Coliseum that lost money, but he presses on.

“You can’t be nervous as a promoter, you have to go out full force, believe in your product and sell it,” he says. “I believe in it and I think we will be successful.”

Making a commitment


When Bernie Goulet attended a rock show at age 15, he saw his life’s path almost immediately.

“Jane’s Addiction was my first concert, and the minute I saw them live, I knew I wanted to be part of the music business,” he says. One need only look around his office to know he succeeded. Concert posters line the walls, many signed by performers, most decorated with photos of Goulet smiling with different musicians. 

Born in Lawrence, Mass., Goulet produced his first show at age 19; now 29, he’s become one of the most successful independent promoters in the area. His company, New England Concerts, recently began staging shows at the Manchester Armory, the Amber Room in Nashua, and Hampton Beach Casino. Last month, Blue Ocean Music Hall in Salisbury hired him as a talent consultant. 

The first show Goulet promoted was a double bill with Cherry S/T and a local band, RA.

“I have no musical talent, so I knew my role was in marketing and promoting,” he says. “I love the business and I love music.”

After working with a few different promoters he struck out on his own, promoting weekend shows at Mark’s Rock Palace in Bedford until it became the Gold Club a few years ago. “It changed ownership and they wanted something else,” Goulet says. “I thought it was a good combination between a gentlemen’s and a rock club. We did a special — one cover for two clubs — that worked out well for years.”

Late last year, Goulet found a way back to Manchester when he booked Hinder and Saving Abel into the Manchester Armory next to the Radisson Hotel, which hadn’t had live music since the mid-1990s.

“The location is great, and Manchester doesn’t have a thriving rock club right now,” he says. “There’s a demand for it, but nothing is set up properly to handle 1,000 to 1,500 people. The closest venue would be the Casino Ballroom. Finding non-traditional venues is something I have had to do to maintain some of these bands coming to the area. A lot of them just skip over New Hampshire and just play House of Blues in Boston.”

As Goulet has done more New Hampshire shows, along with regular events in Worcester, Fitchburg and Maine, he’s been looking to take his commitment to another level. That happened with the purchase and renovation of the former Gate City Pub in Nashua. The newly opened Backstage Bar and Grill will operate as a pub and live music showcase.

His office is next door to the bar.

“I was in Middleton previously, and a lot of my time is spent driving. Forty-five minutes here or there adds up,” he says. “Now if I have to be at my own bar, I can be next door, and I’m only 10 or 15 minutes away from Manchester. I’m still 20 minutes from Lowell. It’s central to the venues I support.”

That list includes Wally’s Pub in Hampton Beach and the Tsongas Arena in Lowell. He scored a major coup earlier in the year when he booked Buckcherry and Hellyeah into the Verizon Wireless Center — most shows there are booked by big-time promoter Live Nation — but it had to be canceled due to scheduling conflicts. “They had no time to get the gear in and do a sound check, so they wanted me to do the show without local bands.”

Goulet chose to bow out rather than omit groups like Leaving Eden and Mindset X, whom he considers a big part of his company’s success formula: “They work very hard for this and as I have grown, they’ve grown too. It was a big disappointment for all of us and hopefully we can do it right next time around.”

Goulet has found a nice synergy with local radio stations, talking to program directors to learn about newly added songs and collaborating in other ways. Manchester’s Rock 101 has been a particularly good partner, and Goulet will be doing the station’s Halloween show at the recently opened Grand with roots rockers Jonathan Tyler and the Northern Lights — “They sound like the Black Crowes, a very young band out of Nashville with that Southern rock feel, so that’s something that should work well.”

Rock 101 host Scorch’s weekly TV show is, Goulet says, “a match made in heaven. Obviously he’s helping me promote bands, and he’s able to come in and tape and interact with bands, something that usually requires a lot of paperwork to do with the labels.”

Keeping up with trade publications like Billboard and Pollstar is critical to his success in a challenging economy. “The club business has been really tough for national acts; there are less people going to shows and supporting them, so a lot of clubs have closed over the last couple of years,” Goulet says. “When I started in this business there was always a local rock club and that has been on the downslide. So as a promoter I always have to look for new venues and new places to put these events.”

He did his first shows at Nashua’s Amber Room late last year. “It was and still is a very successful nightclub, but it’s only open on Fridays and Saturdays and I thought it would be great to appeal to the built-in crowd as well as do some events on other nights,” he says. “It’s worked out very well. We’ve done Taproot, Days of the New, Fuel and others.”

On the other end of the spectrum are big shows like Oxxfest, an all-day event in Oxford, Maine. The first Oxxfest, in 2009, marked a turning point, Goulet says: “That was the transition of this company going from clubs and theaters to arenas and festival-style shows. I’d worked on things like Rock the Ink [a tattoo-themed festival in Providence, R.I.], but never my own show of this size. Shortly after that we did Shinedown, then Korn and 50 Cent. Shinedown sold out two weeks in advance, and that was a good feeling.” He hopes to bring a similar event to Manchester next spring or summer.

New England Concerts expects local groups to actively market the shows.

“There are bands that in general don’t want to sell tickets at all, and those are our critics,” Goulet says. “But we don’t make any bands do the shows. They know up front what is expected and sometimes I think a band will sign on thinking it will be easier than it is.”

Acts selling the most tickets are rewarded with main stage slots close to the headliners.

“We have a lot of bands that have played with us for many years, like Leaving Eden, Till We Die, Craving Lucy, that I’ve either managed personally or worked with and they continue to do my events. They know how this works. They know when they do sign on to do a New England Concerts show, there’s going to be the right stage, lights, props, and they have come to expect that they will get to play on good stages … with other promoters it can be a crapshoot. My thing has been to give them better sound, better lights, and really make them feel like a Metallica or an Aerosmith.”

As he talks about the challenges of his business, it begs the question: why open his own nightclub?
“I love the shows, the artists and the acts,” he says. “It’s definitely work, though. Communicating with the record labels with their agendas, band managers, publicists — it’s not an easy task to get everybody coordinated and organized. Getting people into the venue is the hardest task of it all — out of the living room and into the rock clubs.”

He feels the formula is working.

“It was easier when I started out in this business, because it seemed like the music scene was more alive,” he says. “I think it’s still very much alive it’s just harder to reach. That’s where we are at right now.”

A dream grows, slowly but surely

Sadi Khan came at show promotion as a frustrated musician who couldn’t get booked. The Jam Factory, the effort begun in response to the challenges faced by his band Threadweaver, isn’t going to make anyone rich. But he’s slowly turning it into an avenue for artists to be heard.

Technically, the Jam Factory is a small space tucked inside Raxx Billiards in Manchester.

“But we’re not really a venue, we’re an actual music organization, we have a venue but the core of what we do goes far beyond that,” Khan says as he stands behind the club waiting for the night’s music to load in. “We’re here to develop bands, to show them how to succeed and make their music succeed. In a way, we’re almost an educational institution. I’m also trying to get opportunities for bands, and that takes time — I’m looking to book them all over the area.”

There are as many as five shows a week at the location, and performers at the venue have been invited to play at events like last summer’s Cider Fest.

“I didn’t book that, but all of the bands were brought from the Jam Factory roster. That was a 150-person festival, which is really good for New Hampshire. Next year I’m hoping to have the connections to do more, but it’s a lot of work.”

From the outset, Jam Factory was a lean operation, with sound and lighting equipment added piecemeal as it could be acquired.

“It still is. We’re not funded yet, though I hope now that we’re a nonprofit, it will improve,” Khan says. “We’ve been operating without a budget, but I have been making sure that we have what we need to get things done. We do hold good concerts, we’ve had a lot compliments about our sound engineering, acoustics in the room, and we bring in good bands.”

Though the name might indicate otherwise, the Jam Factory isn’t strictly focused on music. It holds a monthly independent film night, and poetry readings — not slams —  were scheduled to debut Oct. 5.

“Our comedy night is more like a comedy workshop, which fits what we do very well,” he says. “The stuff that’s done during the week that’s not music I don’t have an active hand in. I let them run it autonomously because I don’t have the time, but we’re trying to support as many kinds of art as possible. In time I would like to host an acting/drama night and a dance recital — modern dance, that sort of thing.”

The final Friday of every month, Rick Dumont runs an independent movie night, which has gone very well, and proceeds from the last Friday of each month are donated to a local charity.

“It was the Soup Kitchen last month, it will be the New Hampshire Food Bank this month,” Khan says. “They don’t know about it yet; I’m just going to give them a donation.”

Though prolific and tireless, Khan isn’t looking to be an impresario.

“My goal is to become a community arts center, to help artists and others get started and then they can kind of go from there,” he says. “I’m hoping they’ll come back here now and then, but I want them to move on to bigger things. We’re here to make this area a cultural center, and I think we can do that. But we need to bring in as many different kinds of things as possible. I have an art director now and she’s very effective; she’s an artist herself. Her name is Jessica Gilmanton. We try to have one or two artists represented at each show and we’re planning a night dedicated to artists one Sunday in the future.”

Khan says his motivation for starting the Jam Factory is simple: “I’m a musician myself and I thought, why is there no way for a new band to get started? I mean, this is an important part of everybody’s life and there doesn’t seem to be any way for it to happen. So I said, I’m going to make it happen. So I talked to Raxx and they let me use the room and they support what I do. It kind of went from there. I got some music and that was great.”

That night, The Glorious Noise, led by singer/guitarist Mike Lachlan, works to a small crowd. Two other indie rock bands, The Moodies and the Smashed, also perform. Khan works the soundboard and occasionally moves to the front of the room with a small camcorder to film songs, which are posted to the Jam Factory’s Facebook page.

It’s a pass-the-hat operation; initially there was a door charge of five bucks.

“I’d like to bring someone in to actively ask for donations at the door,” Khan says, noting that the effort hasn’t raised much cash. “But people are going to do what they’re going to do, I can’t make them donate. At least we have an arts community; at least we have a place. I realized early on that I would have to take money out of the equation or it would never happen. If we get any donations, the bands get half.”

Now that the Jam Factory has completed paperwork as a nonprofit, it can seek grant funding.

“I’m going to try and get grants from anywhere and everywhere I can,” Khan says. “I’m a very active networker, I’m working for whatever sources I can and I will continue to do that.”

That’s his specialty, using social tools like Facebook and Twitter, Reverb Nation and in most cases pure tenacity and desire to drum up support for his nascent vision.

“You have to make your own luck, create and build an audience,” he says. “A lot of the bands we bring in don’t understand that. They don’t know that you’ve got to do more than just perform. You’ve got to network, you’ve got to promote. I’m trying to give them the space to do that, and hopefully lead by example.”

It’s an uphill battle. “I’m here to prove to the community and beyond that our original music is really, really good,” he says. “It’s tough to get people to come in and listen and get them used to the idea of listening. But they are totally free concerts. There’s no barrier — it’s not like we’re telling the world it isn’t valuable. I understand the concept of charging a little to get people in, but I just want them to understand that what we’re doing, we’re doing for the community. It’s good for the musicians, it’s good for the public, and it’s not that I don’t care about money, but we don’t have to involve that to make it worthwhile. I just want the most people to come in as possible.”

Boynton looks back

Two years after he took the plunge, Josh Boynton has mixed emotions but still feels positive about his decision to offer live original entertainment in his third-floor Mill District speakeasy.

“At times, I feel that Manchester can be pretty lethargic when it comes to supporting live music,” he says. “Everyone wants it, but people don’t always put their money where their mouth is. That being said, once you can get someone through the door, the first impression always counts.”

The elegant bar, with comfortable seating, good food and superior sight lines, has helped reshaped public perceptions.

“I think live music venues sometimes get a bad rap,” observes Boynton. “Is the bar too loud? Crowded? Is there a college party? Can I really sit and enjoy the show, listen to the music? The key is comfort. People don’t like stepping outside of their comfort zone unless you make it safe. That is why small music venues work so well. People feel at home and safe.”

Despite the occasional challenges, and a few dark weekends with no shows, Boynton remains upbeat.
“I can honestly tell you that every time we produce a live music show, whether it is acoustic, full band or a combination, people truly are moved, and leave the show in a much deeper, happier place then when they arrived,” he says. “Once they realize what you have, they will come back again and again. So I guess you can teach an old dog named ‘Music Scene in Manchester’ a new trick.”

Was it worth it?

“It is hard work for sure, and some days I wonder,” Boynton says. “But just when I begin to question what in the world was I thinking, the music starts, the people smile, the magic happens and I realize I would not have it any other way. I love it.”






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