8/29/2013 - The results of the 2013 Best of Hippo readers’ poll were published back in March, but this year the Hippo is giving some extra love to certain categories that deserve a little more attention. Music is front and center for the latest re-discovery of top vote-getters, with an expanded look at the 15 favorite original bands.
A common thread throughout the music poll is the steady hand and sterling ears of Rocking Horse Studios. Several bands and solo performers recorded or finished records at the Pittsfield facility. An all-day showcase in Concord’s Bicentennial Square on Saturday, Sept. 28, will feature many
1. A SIMPLE COMPLEX
Sound: Active rock
Definitive song: “(Look What You) Left Behind” off 2011’s Fill The Void
Regular gigs: Plays regularly at Milly’s Tavern and Shaskeen Pub in Manchester, and expects to be a regular at Bernie’s (formerly Evolution) in Nashua. Always eager to help a good cause, the band frequently appears at benefit shows throughout the Granite State.
Upcoming show: Saturday, Sept. 28, at 8 p.m. at Tandy’s Top Shelf in Concord (Wounded Warrior Project Benefit with Charlie Farren).
This Manchester four-piece has long boasted of being “heavy enough for the mosh pit and rock enough for radio.” With the final volume of the four-EP Left Behind project released in summer 2013, it’s delivering on the promise. In 2010, singer Jessica Scalese joined A Simple Complex, part of a lineup reboot that transformed the sound and garnered tons of airplay in the process.
2. CRUNCHY WESTERN BOYS
Definitive song: “Bail For Beauregard” off 2011’s Rumorville
Regular gigs: Penuche’s Ale House and Spotlight Pub (Capitol Center for the Arts) in Concord, Press Room in Portsmouth, Beans and Greens in Gilford and Common Man in Ashland; also a regular part of the summer festival circuit at gatherings like Camp n’ Jam and the Granite State Music Fest.
Upcoming show: Friday, Oct. 11, at 7 p.m. at The Green House in Warren
The northern newgrass quartet began on a dare and has evolved into a beloved roots band comfortable playing to most any audience. Its acoustic music is full of tight harmonies and marvelous instrumental interplay that’s hip and happening while managing to stay traditional enough for the hip-replacement set. The band pays homage to the high lonesome sound pioneered by Bill Monroe, but you can dance to it.
3. DUSTY GRAY BAND
Sound: Country rock
Definitive song: “Train” off 2012’s I Am What You Are
Regular gigs: Once a month at Lakes Region Casino in Belmont, and regularly perform at True Brew Barista, Red Blazer and Makris Lobster & Steak House in Concord, Stone Church in Newmarket, the Flying Monkey in Plymouth and Salt Hill Pub
Upcoming show: Saturday, Sept. 21, at noon at the Mount Sunapee Country Music Festival (headlined by Randy Houser) at Mount Sunapee Resort in Newbury
Guitarist, singer and front man Gray works between his hometown of Concord and Nashville, where he’s an up-and-coming songwriter. The five-piece DGB includes some of the region’s top musicians, including guitarist Matt Jensen, fiddler extraordinaire Jordan Tirrell-Wysocki and the killer rhythm section of Chris Noyes on bass and drummer Tim Gray. The band is currently working on a new album of original songs.
4. TAN VAMPIRES
Sound: Alternative rock
Definitive song: “I Found a Body” off 2011’s For Physical Fitness
Regular gigs: Every few months at the Shaskeen Pub in Manchester, usually bringing along a cool friend or two to open, the Barley Pub in Dover, Stone Church in Newmarket and occasionally Spotlight Café in Concord. Played inaugural Granite State Music Fest in 2012.
Upcoming show: Saturday, Sept. 14, at 8 p.m. at the Press Room in Portsmouth.
A musical Rorschach test, this hirsute Seacoast quintet draws comparisons to Neil Young, Bon Iver and Death Cab For Cutie. There are traces of Tom Verlaine’s guitar pulsing through on “I Can Hear Them In The Dark” and “Fake Southern Drawl” suggests Metallica and Radiohead colliding in the middle of the road. But such praise is a mostly feeble attempt to pin down a genre-less style. There’s one label the band wears proudly: “Made in New Hampshire.”
5. PROSPECT HILL
Sound: Active rock
Definitive song: “Roller Coaster” off 2012’s Impact
Regular gigs: In Manchester, Milly’s Tavern, World’s Sports Grille (in its Jillian’s days) and the odd acoustic set (Drynk, last summer). But that’s when they’re off the road, which is not often these days for the busy North Shore rockers. With the release of its fourth album, Prospect Hill is on the way to becoming a fixture in the steel towns of Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Let’s hope they visit home soon.
Upcoming show: Sunday, Sept. 29, at 8 p.m. at Good Time Charlie’s in Tupelo (Mississippi).
In one form or another, the members of Prospect Hill have made music together since grade school. Their original songs are hook-rich hard rockers, and their live shows are relentless, edgy and powerful. The just released “Manchester” is a good example of what works for the Methuen quintet — a tender love song wrapped in anthemic rock majesty.
6. JOSH LOGAN BAND
Sound: Soulful rock
Definitive song: “Painful Breath” off 2012’s Gone Tomorrow, Here Today
Regular gigs: Tuesdays at the Wild Rover in Manchester with Paul Costley and Nate Comp, monthly at J’s Tavern in Milford, frequently at Derryfield Country Club, Social 24 and Murphy’s Taproom in Manchester, Fody’s and Wicked Twisted in Nashua, and British Beer Company in Portsmouth.
Upcoming show: Friday, Sept. 27, at 8 p.m. at Clark’s Tavern in Milford.
A fixture on the local scene from a young age — he started playing as a teenager — Logan blends a Stevie Wonder/John Mayer singing style with rock sensibilities. The Manchester native is in demand as a solo and ensemble performer. In 2006, Logan traveled to Hollywood to compete in the reality series Rockstar:Supernova; one of the show’s judges, Tommy Lee of Motley Crüe, guests on Logan’s 2012 album.
7. GHOST DINNER BAND
Sound: Psychedelic rock
Definitive song: “Video Store Cowboy” off 2012’s Fourteen Shades of Three
Regular gigs: Appear frequently at Village Trestle in Goffstown, Shaskeen Pub in Manchester, Fody’s Tavern in Nashua, Harlow’s Pub in Peterborough, Dover Brickhouse in Dover and Stone Church in Newmarket.
Upcoming show: Friday, Sept. 27, at 9 p.m. at Shaskeen Pub in Manchester (w/ Superfrog).
This versatile Antrim four-piece likes to brag that it distills an entire century of music into its live shows, and that’s not far off the mark. Fuzz toned blues-rock melds with Quicksilver Messenger Service psychedelic forays, and a song like “Analog” sounds like a bonus track from an early Led Zeppelin album kidnapped by Jefferson Airplane, sold to the Black Keys and produced by Jack White. Whatever you call it, GDB rocks.
8. ALDOUS COLLINS BAND
Sound: Roots rock
Definitive song: “Love” off 2013’s EP Love
Regular gigs: First Tuesday residency at Shaskeen Pub in Manchester, and the band is a frequent guest on the Evolvement Radio webcast, always a great resource for local music fans.
Upcoming show: Tuesday, Oct. 1, at 9 p.m. at Shaskeen Pub in Manchester.
With a catchy rock sound that recalls Dave Matthews Band, Amos Lee and G. Love/Special Sauce, this upbeat Hull, Mass., quartet found a home at the Shaskeen a few years back. First Tuesdays are locked down, of course, and once every few months the band plays a weekend show at what’s really its only New Hampshire venue (though Rocking Horse Studios invited them to the Verizon Wireless Arena for the annual Best of NH show).
9. AJAR PROJECT
Sound: Eclectic rock
Definitive song: “Ally Cupid” off 2013’s Rebirth
Regular gigs: J’s Tavern in Milford, Milly’s Tavern in Manchester, Molly’s in New Boston, benefit shows and festivals like the Keyes Art Festival last June in Milford.
Upcoming show: Sunday, Oct. 6, at noon at Milly’s Tavern in Manchester (Rock to End the Big “C” Benefit).
This Wilton-based four-piece is a moving target, with straight up rockers, moody jazz rock and synth groove all likely to crop up in their shows. The fuzz toned dirty boogie of “Turbulence” from the band’s debut album is a good example of Ajar Project putting all the pieces together — soaring and sneering yet melodic and danceable. The occasional unplugged tune is a treat as well.
10. CAPTAIN CHET LAWSON’S SNAKE OIL REVIEW
Sound: Electrified retro
Definitive song: “I Wanna Be Like You” (Louis Armstrong cover from The Jungle Book)
Regular gigs: Summer festivals like Camp N Jam Go-Local are the sweet spot for this throwback band, who also perform at Penuche’s and True Brew Barista in Concord and Shaskeen Pub in Manchester,
Upcoming show: Nothing planned in the coming months due to other projects
Take a bunch of songs made for Gramophone and mash them up with the Ramones — that’s the essence of this Concord based band, fronted by ukulele player Matt Rosenberg. This occasional band is reminiscent of Squirrel Nut Zippers or Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, playing 1930s blues and Americana with punk rock abandon. Though its tongue is firmly in cheek for most shows, it’s clear the band has a reverence for this offbeat music.
11. BOOGIE ON ALICE
Sound: Jam band
Definitive song: “T-Rex” (unreleased, a Bill “Calvin & Hobbes” Watterson poem set to music)
Regular gigs: Regulars at every local summer jam festival, Go-Local Camp-N-Jam, Granite State Music Festival, as well as Boondocks Tavern in Weare and Penuche’s in Concord, Penuche’s in Manchester and Stone Church in Newmarket.
Upcoming show: Saturday, Sept. 28, at noon in Bicentennial Square in Concord (Rocking Horse showcase)
A top live attraction for over four years, this four-piece mines territory familiar to fans of Phish, Umphrey’s McGee and Widespread Panic. Soaring solos, gritty vocals and an uncanny ability to hit a rocking sweet spot are the Concord band’s calling card. Fans long clamoring for a studio release are about to be rewarded — a new album, done at Rocking Horse Studios, is due in September — the first ever for this talented group.
12. DRIFTING SON
Sound: Classic rock
Definitive song: “Tattoo” off 2012’s One Down
Regular gigs: Appears at Mad Bob’s Saloon and Milly’s Tavern in Manchester, and frequently makes the open mic scene at places like The Jam Factory.
Upcoming show: Saturday, Sept. 7, at 8 p.m. at the Mad Bob’s Saloon in Manchester (w/ Dr. X).
In the late 1990s, inspired by Jeff Beck, Jimi Hendrix and other guitar heroes, Leddie Jackson made a big splash in the regional music scene. Neck, back and arm pain sidelined him for years, but a 2012 return was a triumph, and his band’s gigs are celebrations of rock and roll’s spirit. With Carlo Carluccio (Without Paris) on drums and and Ted Sirois on bass, Drifting Son an old-school power trio, and a joy to see.
Sound: Jamtastic groove rock
Definitive song: “That’s Right” off 2007’s That’s Right
Regular gigs: Stella Blu in Nashua, Barley Pub in Dover, Dolphin Striker, Portsmouth Gaslight Company and Hilton Garden Inn in Portsmouth and Holy Grail in Epping.
Upcoming show: Saturday, Sept. 28, at 9 p.m. at Red Parka Pub in Glen.
Commonly known as Savoy Truffle, the electric unit is one of several iterations of the band started over 25 years ago by Dave Gerard. There’s also an acoustic version, and Gerard plays many solo gigs. Musically, he’s in the spirit of Grateful Dead, Allman Brothers Band and Phish. Last year, Little Feat keyboard player took a fancy to Gerard, which led to an intimate show at Fury’s Publick House in Dover (archive.org/details/truffle2012-10-04).
14. BROOKS YOUNG BAND
Definitive song: “Breaking Glass” off 2013’s Time To Fly
Regular gigs: The Purple Pitt Jazz Club and Spotlight Café in Concord, Shaskeen Pub and British Beer Company in Manchester, Franklin Opera House and frequently seen opening for big names like B.B. King, REO Speedwagon, the Wallflowers and Royal Southern Brotherhood at major venues like Meadowbrook, Casino Ballroom and Flying Monkey.
Upcoming show: Saturday, Sept. 28 at noon in Bicentennial Square in Concord (Rocking Horse showcase).
If a musician is judged by the company he keeps, Brooks Young is a star. Boyd Tinsley of Dave Matthews Band, Joe Perry of Aerosmith and B.B. King have joined the rugged voiced guitar slinger on stage — the latter while Brooks was still in his teens. The band’s new album signals a move from pure blues to pop-based rock on “Dance Alone” and “Hero of the Day” — though “Talk It Up” is a Stones-y runaway train boogie of a song.
15. VISIONS VISIONS
Sound: Ethereal rock with an edge
Definitive song: “The Switch” off 2012 self-titled EP
Regular gigs: Play regularly at Shaskeen Pub, Mad Bob’s Saloon and Milly’s Tavern in Manchester, with the occasional one-off gig (like a recent stop at Club Manch Vegas, now the Mansion).
Upcoming show: Thursday, Sept. 5, at 9 p.m. at Shaskeen Pub in Manchester.
This Manchester trio is a cooler Coldplay with a frenetic sound appealing to fans of Radiohead. Fueled by reedy-voiced front man Anthony Dryer, they reach outer space on the swirling synth/guitar joyride “Shadows” and come back to earth on the reflective “La Pacte,” which rips a page from Neil Young’s Trans days. A “new to us” band of old friends who fell out of touch then reconnected around music, VV formed in 2012.