The Hippo


Feb 27, 2020








Matthew Ebel will play at Riverwalk Cafe Sept. 5. Courtesy photo.

Riverwalk Cafe
Where: 35 Railroad Square, Nashua
Tickets: $10 for most shows at
Friday, Sept. 5 – Matthew Ebel Kickstarter Launch Party
Friday, Sept. 12 – Odds Bodkin: Myths And Spirits
Saturday, Sept. 13 – Christopher Bell (noon) and Gaslight Tinkers
Friday, Sept. 19 – Peter Parcek
Saturday, Sept. 20 – Joel Cage
Friday, Sept. 26 – The Rafters & Elizabeth Lorrey
Saturday, Sept. 27 – Mamadou
Friday, Oct. 3 – The Lowest Pair
Sunday, Oct. 5 – Mandolin Orange w/ Jonah Tolchin
Saturday, Oct. 11 – Tall Heights
Saturday, Oct. 25 – Odds Bodkin: Grisly Tales of Horror
Friday, Dec. 5 – Girls, Guns & Glory

From coffee to cocktails
Riverwalk Café expands space, music menu

By Michael Witthaus

A few months ago, the owners of Riverwalk Café announced plans to add a bit of sophistication to their cozy Nashua coffeehouse. A new expansion, made possible when the 1,100-square-foot bridal shop next door became vacant, would feature a speakeasy style craft cocktail bar, remodeled kitchen and revamped food menu.
They also signaled a redoubled commitment to live music — renovations included a new performance space and trebled capacity. Riverwalk was already popular for Friday night original open mike nights and one-off shows by The Rafters, August Watters and other bands. Now, the café stood poised to assume a role missing from Nashua since music and arts haven Studio 99 closed in 2013.
Along with expanding seating from around 30 to 100, it meant improving the room’s sound; Riverwalk owners Steve and Jane Ruddock put their son Ben in charge. 
“It’s a full soundstage designed by a very talented engineer,” the younger Ruddock said by telephone recently. “We are in a unique metric because we’re doing a full treatment and acoustical focus that you only see at a concert hall.”
Ruddock plays mandolin with folk rock band Run Gazelle Run, currently on hiatus. 
“The concept that we have been playing around with for a while is by musicians, for musicians,” he said. “My sister is a folk musician and my dad was in a jazz band in college. We all have a passion … it’s a family-run joint, but we aspire to be something much bigger.”
The long-term goal is live music five nights a week, but for now “we will have a bare minimum of two acts,” said Ruddock. 
Friday and Saturdays are booked into October, and there’s an odd Thursday or Sunday show in the mix. 
“We’re booking everything from bluegrass to jazz to folk to country, reggae, world … aiming for a brand and quality of music that will provide a unique experience.”
Rock shows are a distant possibility, “but there are about 18 places around us doing rock and roll,” said Ruddock. He touted West African guitarist Mamadou, performing Sept. 27. “I am pretty sure nothing like that has come to this area in a long time.”
Open mike night will move to Wednesday, with its focus on original music remaining — a spirit dating back to Riverwalk’s first days.  
“When my family took over the cafe from the original owner, it was me and my sister and a couple of friends playing; it’s grown into this spectacular thing [with] its own momentum,” said Ruddock. “There is risk and reward in the authenticity of presenting your own material to strangers. It’s an exciting, creative atmosphere.”
Shows on the immediate horizon include a Kickstarter party with nerdy rocker Matthew Ebel (Sept. 5) and a night of storytelling paired with whiskey tasting featuring Odds Bodkins, dubbed Myths & Sprits (Sept. 12).  Also on tap are blues guitarist Peter Parcek (Sept. 19), rootsy solo songwriter Joel Cage (Sept. 20) and Americana banjo duo The Lowest Pair (Oct. 3).
On Sept. 13, a matinee concert by cellist Christopher Bell — known for adding pedal, distortion and sampling effects to his classical instrument — is followed by an evening performance of melting pot mayhem from Gaslight Tinkers, a band that manages to blend old time fiddle music with Afro pop, funk and reggae. 
It’s this kind of bold genre bending that most engages Ben Ruddock. 
“As a musician, I was always trying to do things that were not familiar to everyone and pushing for a little bit of shock and awe,” he said. “I think what I am doing here is a continuation of that … something fresh. I think people have heard enough Journey covers.” 


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