Best of NH 2013 People, Culture, Arts and Music

New Hampshire is home to some very creative people! Visit a gallery, catch a show or find your new favorite local artist.
Huichol Mask from the Mariposa Museum in Peterborough.

Reader's Picks  
*Editor's Pick

Art Gallery
Gallery at New Hampshire Institute of Art

*Comedian: The Granite State may have more famous comedians than you can shake a stick at (Seth Meyers, Sarah Silverman and Adam Sandler to name a few) but no one really “gets” New Hampshire humor like Juston McKinney. He’s been using the state as his comic muse since he was humoring perps as a deputy sheriff on the NH/ME border in the 1990s. Now he’s got TV deals galore and appearances on “The Tonight Show” and Comedy Central. 

*Community Band: The Traveling Wolfeburys were born in a cellar — the Folk Cellar music store in Wolfeboro, to be specific. What started out as an extended jam session turned into a go-to group for local fundraisers, parties and events. The band is tight, but the ensemble is loosely composed of some top-flight local artists featuring a 40-year difference between the youngest and oldest member. Founder Franz Hasse says he wants to unite the world with music, and at very least he’s succeeded in uniting one town. Their annual rolling performance as a float in the town’s Fourth of July parade is a much-anticipated event.

*Cross-Cultural Experiences: “To bring the world to New England’s doorstep” is the mission of the Mariposa Museum in Peterborough. In that, they succeed mightily. Persian poetry, Iranian music, Sufi expressive turning, African folk art — just a few of the museum’s recent offerings.

*Cultural Catalyst: For 25 years, the NH Writers’ Project has worked to encourage an audience for literature and to support aspiring writers — NH’s secret weapon in the battle for cultural relevancy in the world. Writers’ Day, the state’s largest writing conference, and other events throughout the year provide the creative blood flow to this group. 

*Eclectic Music Store: The Vintage Fret Shop in Ashland is legendary, and for good reason. Founded in 1970 in an old blacksmith shop on the river, the store has stood the test of time by providing a fantastic array of stringed instruments (and harmonicas) and repairs and tune-ups for old equipment. Hammered dulcimers? Sitars? Steel top ukuleles? Check, check and check.

Comedian Juston McKinney.

*Funky Dance Band: Manchuka has become a weekly fixture for their righteous R&B, brassy jazz and full-frontal funk. This tight 10-piece band (with a variety of vocalizers on board) are true masters of the ancient art of getting feet out on the dance floor. Currently appearing every Tuesday at Milly’s in Manchester, Manchuka is an irresistible force for fun. 

*Historic Opera House: With the largest stage north of the Boston, the Newport Opera House has long (since 1882) been the center of entertainment and culture for the community and well beyond. No minstrel shows or suffragette rallies these days, but plenty of plays, swing dancing, magic shows and more.

*Historical Theatre: Pontine Movement Theatre is a small miracle. This theatre (named for the bridge of sleep over which dreams travel) has used puppets, mime and stagecraft to convey visions of the past to modern audiences for more than 35 years. Based in Portsmouth’s West End Studio Theatre, artistic directors M. Marguerite Mathews and Greg Gathers conspire to fascinate the contemporary mind with original works based upon stories and literature of New England. There’s really nothing else like it anywhere.

*House Concerts: Changes in the music industry have created a whole new circuit for musicians to reach out to future fans by sitting in a hospitable living room and hearing the music up close and personal. A pioneer in this type of venue — and remarkable for the scope and quality of the offerings provided — is Deb’s House Concerts in the tiny town of Chesham (between Keene and Peterborough). Singer-songwriter Seth Glier (pictured) will appear in October.

*Improv Comedy: Think “Mystery Science Theater” but where the mockers are also making up the story as they go. “Dorks in Dungeons” is a cross between an improv comedy show and a live role playing of a game of Dungeons and Dragons. Of course, there’s a hearty dollop more theatricality and self-awareness (and costumes) than is on tap in the average nerd cave, which is good since it takes place before a paying audience (starting at Portsmouth's Seacoast Rep in September). If this doesn’t sound like fun, then it’s probably not for you, but you’ll never know for sure unless you enter the dungeon.

Indepdendent Bookstore
Water Street Bookstore

The Palace Theatre in Manchester is a consistent reader favorite venue.

Independent Bookstore (Local Chain)
Toadstool Bookshops
Milford, Peterborough and Keene

Independent Movie Theater
Red River Theatres

*Inside the Box Theatre: It helps to be based in one of the most cutting-edge performance spaces in the state — Derry’s Stockbridge Theater — and to have an ensemble of some of the state’s most talented and dedicated thespians, but Theatre KAPOW is making a big noise in New Hampshire. By bringing new vision and contemporary production standards (including acrobatic silks) to the great works of dramatic literature, Theatre KAPOW is engaged in a theatrical revival. Since its first production — Strindberg’s “Miss Julie” in 2008 — Theatre KAPOW has proven you don’t have to be “edgy” to be cutting edge. You just have to have the passion and the talent to tap into the genius that’s already on the page.

People Fest takes place in Manchester in August.

*International Festival: People Fest is an opportunity for the residents in and around our state’s urban hub to see just how culturally rich and diverse New Hampshire has become. But as the name suggests, it’s more than just a multi-cultural event. It’s a celebration of everyone no matter how common or rare your ethnicity happens to be. It’s also a great excuse to get out on a beautiful day in August and party in the park in downtown Manchester.  

*Jazz Hub: Even something as free-form as jazz needs a little structure and the online project is laying down the beat for a vibrant scene in the state. That movement is now about to find a new home with the opening of “The Jazz Bar” at the Tower Hill club in Weirs Beach. Jonathan Lorentz, who is the man with the plan for both efforts, says it’ll be a fully licensed jazz club with bar, food service, no cover charge and a great schedule of top-shelf jazz artists. Opening in July after two years of sweat and investment, the Jazz Bar will host up to 350 guests in style with areas to dance and jive or more intimate areas to discuss the influence of Coltrane and Parker.

Large Music Venue
Meadowbrook US Cellular Pavilion

Gallery at New Hampshire Institute of Art in Manchester was this year's best gallery winner.

*Music School for Everyone: Fostering a sense of community through music is the mission of the Concord Community Music School. It accomplishes that by making music accessible to people of all musical abilities, backgrounds and ages (it’s served people from ages 6 months to 97) with lessons, recitals, workshops and special programs like music therapy, the Bach Lunch
Series, an all-day Performathon and the Mandolin Festival. 

Music Store
Exeter Music LLC

*New Museum: Brand new in February, the Museum of the White Mountains at Plymouth State University is ready to show off the history, culture and environmental legacy of an area of the state that always seems to get less attention than it deserves. One of its first exhibitions, appropriately, “Passing Through: The Allure of the White Mountains.”

NH AM Radio Station  
WGIR 610

NH FM Radio Station  

NH Good Morning Radio Show
Greg and The Morning Buzz, WHEB 100.3/WGIR 101.1

NH Radio Talk Show
“The Exchange” NHPR

Recorded Music Store 
Pitchfork Music
(603) 224-6700

Recorded Music Store (Regional Chain) 
Newbury Comics
Multiple Locations

Chef Jayson McCarter of the New Hampshire Food Bank also sings in the On Air quartet.

*Revamped Theater: Celebrating its first year of renovated use, the newly restored Jean’s Playhouse, formerly the Papermill Theatre, in Lincoln brings the North Country entertainment and a sense of community by presenting shows and offering summer camps. The North Country Center for the Arts (NCCA) will put on multiple shows — “The Sound of Music” and “The Complete History of America (Abridged)” — at Jean’s Playhouse.

*Singing Chef: When Chef/instructor Jayson McCarter of the New Hampshire Food Bank is not whirring a whisk he is a melodious part of a barbershop quartet called On Air. In 2012 his quartet won the Northeast District and in July the foursome is competing in an international quartet competition in Canada.

Small Music Venue
Tupelo Music Hall

*Theatre on the Rise: Winnipesaukee Playhouse, not satisfied with being one of the most highly awarded theatrical groups in the state at the New Hampshire Theatre Awards, has just opened a brand new campus on the site of the former Annalee Doll Factory in Meredith featuring 11 acres for camps and events and a newly-built, state-of-the-art theater.

Theater/Performing Arts Venue
The Palace Theatre

*Used Vinyl: If you are put off by the self-aware hipster vibe of your average vinyl record section and what you really want is just to sift through a few generations worth of recorded music in its purest and most enduring format, look no further than Bobby Dee’s Records and Audio Repair in Pembroke’s Suncook Village. And if it feels like you are poking around in the basement of a lifelong DJ and lover of music, you’re right. Bobby Dee, aka King of the Golden Oldies, has been involved in the music and broadcasting industry since the 1950s as a DJ, radio personality, collector and audio equipment specialist.

Categories: Best of NH Winners