The Hippo


Oct 16, 2019








Suitcase Junket. Courtesy photo.

Old Sol Summer Serve-a-thon w/ The Suitcase Junket

When: Wednesday, June 7, 7:30 p.m., with volunteer food packaging starting at 5 p.m.
Where: Delta Dental Stadium, Manchester
Tickets: $10 at (volunteers attend free)

New Old Sol
After setbacks, volunteer group presses on with Manchester event

By Michael Witthaus

 For over a year starting in late 2015, the organizers of Old Sol Music Hall focused on turning the Rex Theatre, a defunct Amherst Street movie house, into a 350-seat live music venue. In February, negotiations with Manchester’s Development Corporation broke down. The unveiling of similar venues in Concord and Nashua signaled an end of the effort, forcing a need to regroup.

Old Sol Executive Director Matt Wilhelm said in a recent interview that although his organization’s catalyst had ended, the spirit guiding it was still very much alive and reflected in events like the upcoming Summer Serve-a-thon at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium. The June 7 event brings together volunteers to package 22,000 ready-to-cook meals for families on behalf of End Hunger NE, and ends with a performance by indie music act The Suitcase Junket.
“The mission and vision in a lot of ways remains the same; we’re really working to leverage the arts to create positive community impact,” Wilhelm said.
He said another venue is not out of the question, but the focus on “pop-up events” like the Serve-a-thon stood front and center. 
“We’re just excited to be doing another event, and taking some time to figure out what’s next,” he said.
Losing out in their attempts to create a multipurpose performance space was hugely deflating, Wilhelm said. 
“We worked really hard to share our vision with people [and] initially, we felt like we let some people down,” he said. “It took me a little while to accept; initially, we thought maybe we should fold.”
After a period of “Sol searching,” they pledged to press on. 
Wilhelm said that while the effort to define how an idea like  Old Sol can fit in the state’s social firmament is ongoing, “The goal remains the same — it’s about community, helping to provide entertainment so that young people, and millennials, in particular, are really motivated to work and live and enjoy their time in New Hampshire. We think there is a void, that the scene is not fully developed.” 
There are a few small ironies in the upcoming show. A huge collective effort led by over 100 volunteers grouped into multiple teams will be capped by the ultimate one-man band playing in the city’s newest performance space. Built during the off season in the entrance area of the Fisher Cats ball park, the Plaza Stage has full sound, video and lighting — a worthy upgrade to Victory Park, which hosted the first Serve-a-thon in 2016. 
“We knew we wanted to have our service project and concert in the same place or a short distance apart [and] the Fisher Cats came on board as a partner … it was just a one-stop shop for us,” Wilhelm said. “We’re excited about a new location and as this evolves over the years, we’ll pick some unique and different places to put on the event.”
Wilhelm, a veteran of touring with bands like Dispatch and Guster, has never met this year’s headliner face to face but said there’s “one degree of separation” between them. 
“One of Dispatch’s guitar techs does some pedal work for him, and I’m excited to see his show first hand,” he said. “He reminds me a bit of Dick Van Dyke’s character in Mary Poppins.”
Going forward, the 30-something Wilhelm is steadfastly optimistic about staying committed to his hometown. 
“I think it is easy to be disappointed, to say, ‘Old Sol didn’t work out and that means Manchester isn’t serious about retaining young people,’ but I don’t think that’s actually the case,” he said. “It was circumstantial; this particular deal didn’t work out.”
The energy that launched Old Sol remains.
“We’re excited to see what’s next; we think we are on to something,” Wilhelm said. “Based on the feedback from the community — grassroots supporters, business leaders and other cultural leaders in this part of New Hampshire — there is a future for Old Sol. We’re just not sure what shape that is going to take yet.” 

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