Best of NH 2020 Arts & Culture

Check out a local bluegrass duo, catch a drive-in concert, and run from the monsters in your backyard — this list of winners in the cure for boredom.

Editor’s Picks

Green Heron Promo2

Photo by Amanda Kowalski

Finding Joy

by Jeff Weber
Jeffweber100x100If there was ever a recipe for treating the “pandemic blues,” it’s listening to the music of Green Heron. Multi-instrumentalists Betsy and Scott Heron of Kingston offer a comforting musical stew, featuring ingredients ranging from bluegrass to folk to vintage country. Their pairing of string instruments with beautiful vocal harmonies is uplifting and joyful. With a pair of CDs and a growing following throughout New England, Green Heron is live-streaming their way into homes across New Hampshire until they are able to once again perform to enthusiastic crowds in person.

Small Listening Room

Nathan Ekis 100x100by Jordan Tirrell-Wysocki
Blasty Bough Brewing Company
in Epsom is far more than just a nanobrewery. Yes, you can enjoy craft beer in the cozy and beautiful pub. Yes, you can order delicious homemade food and chat with locals and the friendly staff at this family-run business. Yes, it happens to be located in a historic farmhouse atop a hill with gorgeous views. But perhaps the greatest treasure of Blasty Bough lies upstairs above the pub, where they host their BlastyTrad Concert Series. In this small, acoustically excellent room, carefully chosen folk acts — from local favorites to international tours — perform unplugged shows for intimate audiences. For performers and listeners alike, it is the ideal environment for a fulfilling and memorable concert experience.

Drive-In Music

by Erica Thoits
Erica100x100Many experiences we took for granted — dining out, rites of passage like graduation, birthday parties, casually browsing in a store — are difficult to impossible to recreate in the time of the coronavirus. Still, people got creative, holding celebratory parades in cars or seemingly overnight creating bustling to-go business. And there’s the longtime Best of NH-winning Tupelo Music Hall in Derry, which took the creativity up a notch or two with drive-in concerts. Is it the exact same experience? No. But if you’re craving the sense of community and camaraderie that comes from sharing the love of music, you should give it a try. Just like a drive-in movie, you park your car facing, in this instance, the stage instead of screen. Space is allotted for sitting outside in a lawn chair on the driver’s side, and the shows are one 75-90-minute set. The concerts are also livestreamed for those at home, and all are encouraged to drop a few bucks in the virtual “tip jar.” You can find the schedule and more information about how the process works on their website.

Achieve Your Own Victory

by Emily Heidt
Emilyh100x100“Face it. Embrace it. Defy it. Conquer it.” Victoria’s Victory Foundation was founded by Victoria Arlen as a way to gather together a community of caregivers, physical therapists and mobility assistance programs that make it possible for others to live in hope of healing and recovery. Through the Victory Scholarship Program, they are able to offer assistance in the form of scholarships to provide for wheelchairs, mobility equipment, home and vehicle adaptions, personal nursing care hours, medical supplies and training and recovery sessions, and since its inception, it has distributed more than $260,000 to those in need of mobility assistance. Whether it’s injury or diagnosis, the team at VVF is there to help improve the lives of others and give them the opportunity to experience the miracle of movement and the healing power of hope.

Soundtrack for Sunday

Rick100x100by Rick Broussard
Radio station The River, based in Bedford, is broadcast across New Hampshire on 92.5, 102.3 and 105.7, and is known for its authentic approach to engaging music lovers of any age with thoughtful programming of classics and new voices. The best place to sample what they’ve got cooking is “Brunch by the River,” airing Sundays from 9 a.m. to noon. Dana Marshall curates a weekly show that mixes jazz, blues, world music, soul and more. From BB King, Ben E. King and Elle King to Johnny Cash, Frank Sinatra and Aretha Franklin, it’s the perfect soundtrack to Sunday morning for thousands enjoying their cups of coffee — or mimosas and bloody Marys.

Missing the Music

by Ernest Thompson
Ernest Thompson100x100If BC means Before Covid and AD After the Danger that remains real and present, what I look forward to most is what I’ve always loved about New Hampshire — its amazing melding of nature at its purest and most accessible and the boundless opportunities to experience my fellow Granite Staters’ extraordinary talent, being free to enjoy — and produce — beautiful music at the coolest venue I know, The Farmstand in Tamworth, to get my film “Parallel America” back in production, but never to forget the peace and solidarity we’ve known in lockdown and the inspiring courage and care of our frontline heroes.

Lovely Library

Dan Szczesny100x100by Dan Szczesny
The Little Free Library
fad — those adorable tiny boxes in front of homes chock-full of books to take — is taking off in New Hampshire, with hundreds of boxes, big and small, in every corner. But there’s only one place that I know of where you can enjoy some used book pickings while you mingle with the chickens — Forgotten Farm in Hooksett. Besides the 40 chickens, Matt and Kate Griffin’s farm offers the passersby goats, vegetables, a green house and fruit trees. But this Little Library is a doozy, red and white, shaped and painted like a barn. The little ones will need to use the stool provided onsite to get the kids’ books. And if you take one, don’t forget to leave a couple books as well.

Ultimate Music Education

by Rick Broussard
Rick100x100Sully Erna’s group, Godsmack, is usually labeled a Boston hard rock band, but Erna lives in southern New Hampshire. As if to firm up his local bona fides, in February Erna staged the filming of a music video for his song “Unforgettable” that enlisted hundreds of area middle school music students to bring drums, instruments and their vocal cords to the SNHU Arena in Manchester. Once the kids set up, filling practically the entire floor of the arena, they joined the band to virtually blow the roof off the place. “Unforgettable” is a single from Godsmack’s new album “When Legends Rise,” and if you have any doubts that the next generation of Granite Staters will know how to rock ‘n’ roll, just take a look at this majestic testimony to the power of music. Check out “Mix – Godsmack Unforgettable 2020” on YouTube to witness the event and hear from some of the students involved.

Punching Up

by Lynne Snierson
Calvin Kattar
is a real knockout. Not only is he competing at the top level in the pro sport of mixed martial arts, he’s the fastest rising star in the UFC’s talent-rich featherweight division. His second-round KO of Jeremy Stephens in May in front of an international audience on ESPN vaulted him to the No. 7 ranking in the world. Now Kattar (21-4) is on track for a title shot. “I feel like I’m just scratching the surface and that list to the top is getting shorter,” he says. Kattar, 32, is all business outside the cage too. He’s the CEO and president of Combat Zone MMA, which is headquartered in Salem and promotes events in Downtown Manchester.

MonsterhouseMonster My House

by Erica Thoits
Erica100x100As far as I’m concerned, the year 2020 has killed the “hold my beer” meme. We kept saying things couldn’t get worse, and yet, somehow they did. And it’s only July. While it’s all too easy to slide into a dark mood, there are, somehow, still people out there doing their best to make a difference — even if that’s just returning a little bit of whimsy and joy to a world that sorely needs both. James Mojonnier of Greenland is one of those people. In exchange for a donation to a food bank of your choice, Mojonnier will send monsters to destroy your house. At least, a fictional version of it. His imaginative visions of domestic destruction range from zombies to floating eyeballs, with the latter let loose on our colleague Jenna Pelech’s house (pictured). On Instagram, tag a photo of your house with @InkInTheMargins, include #monstermyhouse, and let him know where you’re sending your donation. He’ll then give your home the monsterization treatment and send you the signed artwork. Why, exactly, this is so appealing seems related to our love of disaster movies. There’s a thrill — and even a contradictory sense of comfort — in watching aliens blow up landmarks. Perhaps now that we’re stuck in our homes, working, teaching and washing endless dishes, seeing our abodes torn apart by fire-breathing creatures is therapeutic.

A Little Bit of Chaos and Kindness

by Emily Heidt
Emilyh100x100If you want to get cultured, head to Chaos & Kindness in Laconia. Established in 2016 by the founder of rock band Recycled Percussion, Justin Spencer created this brand, TV show, podcast and movement to inspire people to be kind and to live life to its fullest in this often chaotic world. In 2019, the first Chaos & Kindness store and experience was opened. Half of the store is dedicated to “kindness,” where there are ways for people to help uplift others, like bringing food pantry donations, and the other half is dedicated to “chaos,” where you can participate in activities like painting a message on a pane of glass, then smashing it with a bat while being recorded in high-definition video. While there is also a variety of merchandise available for sale, the store gives you the opportunity to experience the fun and creativity that happens when a little bit of kindness and a little bit of chaos come together.

Wentworth From Noonan

Photo by Peter Noonan

Cultural Crossover

by Peter Noonan
Peter100x100New Hampshire has long enjoyed a surfeit of history, geography and beauty, and its coastline is no exception. The Wentworth-Coolidge Mansion, the historic Governors Mansion gracing the Piscataquog River and Little Harbor shoreline intersection of Portsmouth, New Castle and Rye, is one of the prime jewels of New Hampshire horticultural, architectural and political history. Glowing in the coastal sun, this mustard-yellow-painted architectural pastiche from 1750 is recognized as the last surviving home of a royal governor in America (New Hampshire Colonial governor Benning Wentworth), and the reputed site of the oldest living English-born lilacs in North America. Serving as a wedding venue, inspiration for artists or relaxing picnic lawn and foreshore to view the kayakers glide by on the river, the mansion is a landmark gem for all Granite Staters.

Mill Musings

by Evelyn Cormier
Evelyn Cormier100x100Whenever I’m home in New Hampshire, I love to walk along the Sugar River via the walking bridge in my hometown of Claremont. I’ll look at the remainder of the Monadnock Mills and take it all in. There is something about early American history that really sparks the creativity inside me when it comes to songwriting. And, luckily for me, New Hampshire is very rich with history. Not only is my home state an inspiration for my songwriting, but about two years ago, that very walk by the river inspired me to write my first novel, which will be a historical fiction loosely based on New Hampshire mill-town life in the 1800s. Keep an eye out for it early next year. Another Claremont place that I love to go and can’t wait to see reopen is REMIX Coffee Bar. When I’m around, you can find me there on any given Friday night ordering my usual chai latte with whipped cream. REMIX really adds something special to downtown Claremont — not only do they provide a great atmosphere, they care about the community.

Readers’ Poll Winners

AM Radio Station
WGIR 610

Art Gallery

Independent Movie Theater
Red River Theatres

Large Music Venue
Bank of NH Pavilion

NH Radio Morning Show
Greg and the Morning Buzz, WHEB

NH Radio Talk Show
“The Exchange With Laura Knoy,” NHPR

Small Music Venue
Tupelo Music Hall

TV News Anchor
Erin Fehlau, WMUR

TV News Reporter
Ray Brewer, WMUR

TV Sports Anchor
Jamie Staton, WMUR

Hayley LaPoint, WMUR

FM Radio Station
WZID 95.7

Theater/Performing Arts Venue
The Palace Theatre

Currier Museum of Art

Categories: Best of NH Winners