Best Places for Live Music on the Seacoast
As New Hampshire Magazine’s youngest staff member by a decade, I’m the authority around here on young people things, like music venues and bars and weekend activities you can do without kids. I’m also a pretty big advocate for live music and heartily enjoy watching local bands perform their tunes. My favorite spot might just be the Button Factory Stage at WSCA in Portsmouth. Couched in an unassuming brick building at the back of a parking lot on Islington Street, right next to Loaded Question Brewing Company, the nonprofit community radio station brings in an impressive smorgasbord of musical talent. Austin Kinnie, assistant music director at WSCA, is the heart and soul of the operation, inviting idiosyncratic indie bands from Portsmouth, Portland and even New York City to grace the warmly illuminated stage. Shows often last three hours, with three different bands playing hour-long sets and local artists peddling their wares from pop-up tables lining the room. I’ve discovered some wonderful bands at WSCA shows and never fail to have an intimate, charming time. If you love music, art and community, stop by the Button Factory Stage. Sometimes, the best things are hiding in plain sight.
Other great Seacoast spots include the legendary Stone Church Music Club in Newmarket (what hasn’t already been said about this haven on the hill? Grab a 16-ounce PBR for me while you’re there), the underrated Cara Irish Pub & Restaurant in Dover (fun atmosphere, blue-collar locals, live music ‘til midnight, what’s not to love?), Wrong Brain in Dover (wacky, welcoming nonprofit arts collective and community activists who showcase bands of every ilk on their bustling basement stage) and Drift Art House in Portsmouth (vibrant, trendy gallery space featuring young artists from across the Eastern Seaboard with a hidden backyard concert space; last summer they hosted bi-weekly Friday shows with three-band billings and free cocktails courtesy of Dwyer’s Pub). The Seacoast may be in the unfortunate throes of a deep gentrification, but like mycelium sprouting after a forest fire, a new, young, thriving arts and music scene has risen from the ashes. Go support local creatives and cut up a rug, why don’t you.