Soundtrack to your summer

7 performers talk about playing in a time when local music is center stage

In the midst of live music’s strangest season — with most national acts having canceled their tours — local talent is getting a lot of love.

“From farmer’s markets to on stage gigs, everyone has been so attentive and so appreciative,” Paul Driscoll said. “I’ve gotten some of the best and most generous feedback this year.”

MB Padfield, a Granite State native who heads home from L.A. every summer, agrees.

“People are bored of being bored and I think they’re far more receptive now that they’ve had this time to really reflect on priorities in their life,” she said. “Quarantine was a really big pause button.”

Here’s a look at seven performers currently playing around the state.

Gabby Martin

Performing since 2017, Gabby Martin is from Rochester and currently lives in Thornton.

What should people know about your music?

First of all, I see myself as a local kid — I really do love the state of New Hampshire. I love the venues and just being able to meet members of the community that I normally would not interact with. … Musically, I love performing covers. I do write music as well but there’s something really special about recreating music that people know and love in my own way.

What did you do during quarantine?

One thing that makes me unique from some of the other artists is that I’m also in grad school so that keeps me busy. During quarantine I did a live concert every Sunday and also learned some new equipment, played with some software. I am not one of those that wrote an entire album or anything like that.

When did you start playing out again?

May 22 at Schilling Beer Co. in Littleton.

How’s your summer going so far?

It’s going well. The biggest challenge would be the weather. I’ve been playing at Schilling Brewery in Littleton about once a weekend and that’s been a good addition, something that I didn’t have on the books before the beginning of the summer. It’s going well and it’s very nice to be back out with people.

What are some of your favorite venues?

Schilling Beer … the Copper Doors, Kettlehead Brewing, and I love Hart’s Turkey Farm — it’s a classic New Hampshire venue.

What’s the rest of your summer look like?

I’m finding it’s going very quickly compared to last summer.

How can people keep up with your shows and projects?

I’m pretty active on Facebook and Instagram and I also have a YouTube page.

Typical set list

“Bennie and the Jets” – Elton John

“Bobbie McGee” – Janis Joplin

“Big Yellow Taxi” – Joni Mitchell

“Valerie” – Amy Winehouse

“Angel from Montgomery” – John Prine

“Wish I Knew You” – The Revivalists

“Love Song” – Sara Bareilles

“Put Your Records On” – Corrine Bailey Rae

“Sunrise – Norah Jones

“Ironic” – Alanis Morissette

Upcoming appearances

Aug. 7 – Lone Wolf Brewing, Wolfeboro

Aug. 8 – Tumbledown Café, Sanbornville

Aug. 9 – Ore Mill, Warren

Aug. 11 – Common Man, Ashland

Aug. 13 – Sea Dog Brewing, Exeter

Aug. 27 – Revolution Taproom, Rochester

MB Padfield

Performing since she was 16, MB Padfield is originally from Manchester and is now based in North Hollywood, California. She comes back to New England to perform from the end of June to Labor Day since she moved to L.A. in 2017.

What should people know about your music?

The elevator pitch is I’m a pretty versatile live performer but my original music is grounded in pop and songwriting, so I’d like people to know that I’m a songwriter and that I write original music as well as play it in addition to live performances.

What did you do during quarantine?

I was just writing. I was songwriting and working on recording. I’m prepping, I want to do a record and I’m in the place I think mentally now where I’m really ready to do that, and I have the songs. So I spent the entire quarantine time just writing and making good music and then learning new stuff — spending time on, you know, things that I think were on the to-do list but I haven’t gotten to yet. … I wanted to learn a new computer program, I wanted to learn more about bass, and I think I was able to have that time so I could really dive in.

When did you start playing out again?

June 24 at Murphy’s Taproom in Manchester [a weekly residency for the summer].

How’s your summer going so far?

Everything has honestly been really great other than the fact that I lost more than half of my work — shows that I booked at the beginning of 2020 and canceled and then rebooked and then with the shutdown they canceled again. … But crowds want to be entertained and they are a bit more receptive. … In a world of background noise, I feel like now has been the time where we’re able to really step out from that.

What are some of your favorite venues?

I love playing at Bernie’s Beach Bar, it has a big stage, and at Wally’s; Hampton Beach feels like the Las Vegas strip.

What’s the rest of your summer look like?

I’m still taking requests for private parties and events and I’m still looking to book new venues and more venues. For the most part things have been status quo, or they have been in the past couple of weeks. Hopefully the Covid numbers will continue to decline and we’ll be able to start really moving past this.

How can people keep up with your shows and projects?

All my shows are on my website,

Typical set list

“Give Me One Reason” – Tracy Chapman

“Pretty for a Living” – MB Padfield

“Whole Lotta Love” – Led Zeppelin

“Havana” – Camila Cabello

“Into You” – MB Padfield

“The Real Slim Shady” – Eminem

“War Pigs” – Black Sabbath

“Full Throttle” – MB Padfield

“Can’t Take My Eyes off of You” – Lauryn Hill

“The Cat Song” – MB Padfield

Upcoming appearances

Aug. 8 – Bernie’s Beach Bar, Hampton Beach

Aug. 9 – Wally’s, Hampton Beach

Aug. 10 – Bernie’s Beach Bar, Hampton Beach

Aug. 12 – Murphy’s Taproom, Manchester (Wednesday residency)

Aug. 13 – Stumble Inn, Londonderry

Brad Bosse

Brad Bosse, originally from Milford, has been performing full time for eight years. He currently lives in Hooksett and has a summer place in Wells, Maine.

What should people know about your music?

I’m upbeat. I bring a good time. I do everything from Sinatra to Notorious B.I.G. to Sublime to Kenny Chesney. I kind of do it all, but I kind of make it into my own style.

What did you do during quarantine?

I was super bummed just because I’m a driven guy [and am] used to working all the time. The first couple of days, it was nice to have some time off, but I forecast my schedule six to eight months out and I’m like, ‘Oh my god, I have no income.’ … I went on unemployment [so] I was making some money. I did a couple of livestreams … I called them Pajama Jams … but sitting in front of your phone in your bedroom playing guitar just doesn’t have the same effect as playing live. Then I said, when have I had this much time to just relax and write music, to not have to perform? Just picking up my guitar … it was nice to just do it for the pure joy of music again.

When did you start playing out again?

The first Monday that New Hampshire opened up outdoor dining May 20 at Penuche’s, then I played Wednesday at Stumble Inn in Londonderry, then Thursday at Tuscan Kitchen in Salem.

How’s your summer going so far?

It’s been really good. I was worried about the weather, because you just never know, and I personally super lucked out … every [time] it’s rained it was either before or after my gig. I’ve only gotten rained out twice. In regards to people coming out it’s a sense of normalcy that’s nice. … I love my job. It’s work, but at the same time I like that with music I get to forget anything else in life for three hours and just get lost in the music. I missed that, and it’s nice to have that again.

What are some of your favorite venues?

Instabar — that’s a new and really fun place. Stumble Inn is great … and Tuscan [Market & Kitchen in Salem].

What’s the rest of your summer look like?

More of the same. … I was doing Friday, Saturday and Sunday doubles every single week last summer, and I decided to stop, but when somebody offers me a gig, I have such a hard time saying no even though I know the day is going to kick my ass. This summer … I picked up a couple, because I had gigs set up before Covid hit, then I booked all these new dates.

How can people keep up with your shows and projects?

My Brad Bosse Music Facebook page is the best place.

Typical set list

“Steal My Kisses” – Ben Harper

“You Can’t Always Get What You Want” – “Rolling Stones

“No Diggity” – Blackstreet

“Franklin’s Tower” – Grateful Dead

“Fly Me to the Moon” – Frank Sinatra

“Humble” – Kendrick Lamar

“Danny’s Song” – Kenny Loggins

“Give Me One Reason” – Tracy Chapman

“Closer to the Sun” – Slightly Stoopid

“Small Worlds” – Mac Miller

Upcoming appearances

Aug. 7 – The Oven, Epping

Aug. 8 – Community Oven, Hampton

Aug. 9 – Instabar, Hampton & Cheers, Concord

Aug. 11 – McGuirks, Hampton Beach

Aug. 14 – Stumble Inn, Londonderry & The Oven, Epping

Aug. 15 – Community Oven, Hampton

Aug. 16 – Instabar, Hampton

Aug. 18 – McGuirks, Hampton Beach

Paul Driscoll

Paul Driscoll, who was born in Stoneham, Mass., grew up in Everett, Mass., and spent most of his life in Colorado, is now based in Milford and has been performing for three and a half years.

What should people know about your music?

I always want to give people something new, whether it’s my original music or something that I know that they probably haven’t heard yet. … If it’s one of my own songs and it goes over that’s something I’ll always come back to, because it’s just the best to be able to, like, make someone bob their head or get up and dance to your own song.

What did you do during quarantine?

That first month or so I think like a lot of people I was just wishing that it was just kind of going to blow over really quick. I was stuck in a place of not really being motivated besides doing online shows. I wasn’t writing a lot and my head was a little foggy. Over the past few months I’ve really come out of that and I’ve started writing more from different points of view. I feel like I’ve become a lot more thoughtful as a songwriter and as an entertainer.

When did you start playing out again?

May, at Trombly Gardens in Milford.

How’s your summer going so far?

I’ve been playing a lot. … There are some places that I’ve never played before that reached out to me just because they need local music in some capacity.

What are some of your favorite venues?

Fresh Chicks Market in Peterborough is really awesome and the farmers always tip well with baked goods and all that stuff. So that’s really cool. And definitely Trombly Gardens in Milford.

What’s the rest of your summer look like?

The shows have picked up exponentially so now it’s pretty much back to a normal schedule, just playing outside pretty much instead of all the indoor shows. I’m also three songs into my second album as far as writing and I’ve got a little bit of a concept going. So a lot of writing and a lot of playing. Just trying to stay creative.

How can people keep up with your shows and projects?

My Facebook page, Paul Driscoll Music.

Typical set list

“Hold On” – Tom Waits

“Thirteen Silver Dollars” – Colter Wall

“Lenny’s Song” (original)

“Old Paint” (traditional)

“Dancing in the Dark” – Bruce Springsteen

“Whitehouse Road” – Tyler Childers

“Million Pound Man” (original)

“These Days” – Black Keys

“Poor Man’s Son” – Noah Gunderson

“Ain’t Nobody’s Problem” – Sawmill Joe

Upcoming appearances

Aug. 8 – Moonlight Meadery, Londonderry

Aug. 10 – Fresh Chicks Local Outdoor Market, Peterborough

Aug. 22 – Concord Arts Market

Sept. 6 – Trombly Gardens, Milford

April Cushman

Originally from Brookline and now living in Swanzey, April Cushman has been playing guitar since she was 5. As an adult, she’s been performing for five or six years and is now a full-time musician.

What should people know about your music?

As a songwriter I feel like I’m really trying to stay on my own path and … to know that my music is telling stories that are true to me, telling stories that other people can relate to…. I grew up with a lot of country, folk and rock, and I’m trying to stay on the Southern rock side of things versus the country pop scene that’s really popular right now.

What did you do during quarantine?

I lost almost four months’ worth of shows, so I tried to try to keep as much contact with my fans as I possibly could. Thank goodness for social media. I was able to do a bunch of online shows, going live across the country. … My husband, my daughter and I do a lot of fishing and four-wheeling, so we tried to stay outside and enjoy life as much as we could and just kind of hang tight until things started to open again. It was a difficult time.

When did you start playing out again?

My first was an acoustic show at a venue I never played before in Hampton called WHYM Brewery. It was nice to sit there and play for three hours and be like, ‘Oh my gosh, people are real!’

How’s your summer going so far?

Great. I had recorded and released my first single about a month ago … got that all out of the way and came back home. I started gigging again, and it has been rolling.

What are some of your favorite venues?

I’ve been hitting up the craft brewery scene really hard, because all these places have really great patios and little stages away from everyone [like] Backyard Brewery in Manchester [and] Smuttynose in Hampton.

What’s the rest of your summer look like?

I’m really looking forward to playing Fletcher Murphy Park in Concord on Aug. 8 with my band. It will be the first time we’ve been on stage together since the beginning of February.

How can people keep up with your shows and projects?

The best way is through my website — A lot of people follow me on Instagram and Facebook.

Typical set list

“Walking In Memphis” – Mark Cohn

“In A Small Town” – Original

“Soundtrack to My City” – Original

“Dust On The Bottle” – David Lee Murphy

“Fire And Rain” – James Taylor

“Once Upon A Time” – Original

“Come To My Window” – Melissa Etheridge

“Ain’t No Stopping You” – Original

“Skin And Bones” – Liz Longley

“Humble and Kind” – Lori McKenna

Upcoming appearances

Aug. 6 – Village Trestle, Goffstown

Aug. 7 – Murphy’s Taproom, Bedford

Aug. 8 – Fletcher-Murphy Park, Concord

Sept. 4 – Murphy’s Taproom

Ryan Williamson

Ryan Williamson, who grew up in Concord and still lives there, has been performing for almost three years.

What should people know about your music?

I tell everyone from the beginning that all the sounds I’m going to play are going to be played live. I use a lot of looping stuff but I don’t use any pre-recorded sounds; I make all of it myself. I play all kinds of genres … anything from Lee Brice country to Taylor Swift and Usher. Stuff that you wouldn’t expect to hear out of a solo guitarist.

What did you do during quarantine?

For the first couple weeks I just enjoyed not playing gigs all the time and kind of decompressed — I actually really liked that for a while. I started messing around with GarageBand, recording my original stuff, working on a range of different things trying to stay creative. I did a couple of online shows, which was really weird, because I’ve played at places where there are no people in the crowd, but this time there were definitely no people … but I got some good feedback on it. It was fun to try new stuff. That went on until the gigs came back.

When did you start playing out again?

End of May, at Backyard Brewery in Manchester.

How’s your summer going so far?

The last couple of weeks I have been really busy, and the next couple of months are really busy too, so I don’t feel like I’ve lost a whole lot. A lot of places have done a really good job creating outdoor seating areas for their patrons, and on the off chance that it’s raining, some places are still doing inside seating if people are comfortable with that.

What are some of your favorite venues?

I love Backyard Brewery and little places like Firefly in Manchester. Fratello’s in Nashua — the city has done a really good job opening up the Main Street area to have outdoor seating. You’re like hybrid busking out there. I’m on the street corner playing to patrons of a restaurant and to anyone who’s walking down the streets. That’s a new experience for me.

What’s the rest of your summer look like?

I’m going to be just playing gigs; I can’t go anywhere. Normally my family and I would go to our house in Canada, but we’re not allowed to go there, so I’m just going to be here playing gigs at various places around New Hampshire.

How can people keep up with your shows and projects?

I’m pretty bad at Facebook, but I try to keep my website up to date —

Typical set list

“Moondance” – Van Morrison

“Hard to Love” – Lee Brice mashup with “Learning to Fly” – Tom Petty

“I Don’t Care” – Ed Sheeran

“Rhiannon” – Fleetwood Mac

“Slow Burn” – Kacey Musgraves

“Dancing in the Dark” – Bruce Springsteen

“Delicate” – Taylor Swift

“Faithfully” – Journey

“Die a Happy Man” – Thomas Rhett mashup with “Slow Dancing in a Burning Room” by John Mayer

“Watermelon Sugar” – Harry Styles

Upcoming appearances

Aug. 7 – Cactus Jack’s, Manchester

Aug. 8 – Backyard Brewery, Manchester

Aug. 11 – Murphy’s Taproom, Bedford

Aug. 14 – WHYM Brewery, Hampton

Aug. 15 – Cactus Jack’s, Manchester

Aug. 16 – KC’s Rib Shack, Manchester

Aug. 17 – Homestead, Merrimack

Aug. 18 – Fratello’s, Nashua

Aug. 20 – Firefly, Manchester

Maddi Ryan

Maddi Ryan of Methuen, Mass., who has been performing since she was 16, just finished her senior year of college at Boston University and moved back to her home town.

What should people know about your music?

I always want to be genuine and honest with listeners and I want to do something people resonate with, like, yeah, I’ve gone through that. I want to connect with people and be that friend through my music. I usually lean toward more of the pop country realm, because I love the attitude behind it. Singers like Maren Morris, Miranda Lambert, Carrie Underwood — I feel the emotions.

What did you do during quarantine?

I was finishing up my senior year of college, which was interesting, but I was also writing, writing, writing all the time. I annoyed my parents with the loud sounds coming out of my room. Me and the drummer I play with, Charles Greenwood, we were playing some livestreams and writing, reflecting and thinking of the next steps of where I want to be when this is all over.

When did you start playing out again?

June 27 was my first gig, at Liberty & Union Ale House in Taunton.

How’s your summer going so far?

It’s going pretty well. Most of these gigs are outside so it’s very dependent on the weather, which luckily has been holding up.

What are some of your favorite places to play?

Bonfire in Manchester is always such a fun time. All the places I play are awesome; it’s hard to pick a favorite.

What’s the rest of your summer look like?

Playing shows of course, and it looks like a lot of recording — I’ve put all my energy into [working in] my basement, trying to get some writing done and make demos. Looking forward to putting out some music in the near future.

How can people keep up with your shows and projects?

My Maddi Ryan Music Facebook page and my website too.

Typical set list

“Free Fallin’” – Tom Petty

“Stuck Like Glue” – Sugarland

“Folsom Prison Blues” – Johnny Cash

“Lonely” – Maddi Ryan

“Come Together” – The Beatles

“Hotel California” – Eagles

“Chicken Fried” – Zac Brown Band

“Tennessee Whiskey” – Chris Stapleton

“Zombie” – The Cranberries

“My Church” – Maren Morris

Upcoming appearances

Aug. 7 – Bonfire, Manchester

Aug. 28 – Old School Bar & Grill, Windham

Featured Image: MB Padfield. Courtesy photo.

It’s a ’gram jam

Hampton haven for tacos, tunes and selfies

Walking into Instabar, one is greeted by a riot of color, light and kitsch: wild graphics, a wall of speakers offered for art, not sound, a hollowed out Winnebago remade as a conversation pit, and positive vibes like “Make today Magic” drawn in funky fonts on the floor. Every night, live music flows from a corner stage.

The festival of senses is about more than a fun night out, though Tex-Mex tacos, local craft beer and margaritas do provide that. Instabar is a place that exists in equal measure for pleasure and posting, dedicated to the Instagram generation. Each tableau — there are more than 20, and they change regularly — is a potential scene for selfies, a nod to the notion that an experience is more awesome when shared online.

It’s the brainchild of Scott Millette, a former competitive snowboarder and fight promoter turned filmmaker. His work in branding and marketing led Millette to Austin, Texas, last year, where he discovered Rainey Street, an old neighborhood turned nightlife hub brimming with food trailers, bars made of freight containers and other oddities. He found the scene ideal for iPhone snapping and uploading.

Dawn Kingston, a photographer who works extensively with influencers and artists like Shawn Mendes, Machine Gun Kelly and Cameron Dallas, told him about an emerging business model focused on the selfie crowd.

“Pop-up museums like Happy Place and Ice Cream Museum, the one made famous on the Kardashians,” Millette said by phone recently. “They all had individual rooms that were basically built just to take Instagram photos of yourself. I was like, ‘Wow, this is a whole other market.’ These places had tickets that were selling out in minutes.”

Millette hatched a plan to combine it with a focus on his favorite food and bring it home to New Hampshire.

“I thought those two things coming together would be a really cool experience,” he said.

His old friend Shane Pine liked the idea of using the back of his Hampton restaurant, Shane’s Texas Pit, and he liked the food focus, which Millette hoped would draw the surfer crowd and be true to the Lone Star State.

“One thing you can get that’s amazing all the time in Texas is a taco, whether you go to a big restaurant or get it out of a truck at 3 in the morning,” Millette said.

Losing 87 pounds on an all-Mexican food diet a couple of years ago gave Millette the experience to build a menu. He then recruited artists to create the space.

“Carmen Fernandez, a friend of mine from Portsmouth, Christian Hardy, a filmmaker, musician and an artist I’ve worked on other projects, Kendall Vocca and Alyssa Pine,” he said. “We all worked together; I just essentially would curate it, but sometimes I would just guide them in a certain area.”

Kingston helmed the crucial Instagram rollout. To her surprise, Millette insisted the location would be a mystery right up to opening night.

“Social media is all about engagement,” he said. “The first question is, where is it? We tell them it’s a secret and they can’t know without an invite. That made our Instagram quite explode, to like 700 views per story.”

Live entertainment is integral to Instabar’s mission.

“What is art without music?” Millette asked. “Nothing without a good soundtrack. It’s so important to me … and this restaurant is based on being authentically Austin, which claims to be the live music capital of the world.”

April Renzella, David Corson, Rob Pagnano, Brad Bosse, Sam Robbins and Amanda McCarthy have all appeared there since Instabar opened in late May. Comedy happens June 24 at 6:30 p.m., when Manchester standup Mike Koutrobis performs ($10/ticket).

Millette has other ideas brewing as well, like help sessions with professional photographers for people looking to take more flattering shots.

“We have this whole environment of great backdrops,” he said. “We could do an Eight Steps to Up Your Bumble Game type of night that includes live music after, where people come out and take awesome selfies, and get to meet other singles.”

Instabar @ Shane’s Authentically Austin
: 61 High St., Hampton
Thursday, June 18 – TBA
Friday, June 19 – Dave Corson
Saturday, June 20 – Rob Pagnano
Sunday, June 21 – Alex Potenza
Monday, June 22 – TBA
Tuesday, June 23 – Dave Corson
Wednesday, June 24 – Amanda McCarthy
Thursday, June 25 – Dave Corson
Friday, June 26 – King Kyote
Saturday, June 27 – Dave Corson
Sunday, June 28 – Brad Bosse

The Music Roundup 20/06/18

Get some ’cue: Enjoy outdoor dining with music from Austin McCarthy in an oasis whose opening marks the semi-official start of summer. As Jimmy Buffet sings, “Thank God the Tiki bar is open, thank God the Tiki torch still shines.” McCarthy is an easygoing singer songwriter with a list of covers ranging from Grateful Dead to City & Color, along with some tasty originals. Thursday, June 18, 4 p.m., KC’s Rib Shack, 837 Second St., Manchester. For reservations, go to

Funny man: Veteran standup Robbie Printz was inspired by attending an Eddie Murphy show to break into comedy, deciding to parlay a childhood spent making up his own SNL skits into a career telling jokes. He’s appeared on Comedy Central and A&E’s venerable Evening at The Improv, and won the Boston Comedy Fest. Printz headlines an 18+ show with Carolyn Plummer and Pat Collins. Friday, June 19, 8 p.m., Amherst Country Club, 72 Ponemah Road, Amherst. Tickets $20 at

Party down: Offering another sign of revival, The Trichomes play the first show since lockdown at a venue with “live music” right there in its name. Dubbed a Dirty Thirty Birthday Bash for someone named Cheeze, the event requires mask-wearing and Jewel will cap capacity at 30 percent. The Newmarket-based headliners are an eclectic bunch, moving between funk, rock and jazz with ease. Friday, June 19, 7 p.m., Jewel Music Venue, 61 Canal St., Manchester. Tickets $10 at the door.

Good times: Born in Florida, raised on blues and gospel, Pete Peterson is a fixture on the regional scene, both solo and with Rhythm Method and Family Affair, bands that include his daughter Yamica. The seasoned musician’s set list includes a mixture of soul, classic rock and rhythm & blues. He appears at the Salem location of a restaurant chain that’s lately gone all in on live music. Saturday, June 20, 6 p.m., T-Bones Great American Eatery, 311 South Broadway, Salem. Call 893-3444.

Country sound: Recently celebrating her first album, April Cushman performs acoustic songs on a Concord bar and restaurant’s patio. The self-described “hillbilly songwriter” released In a Small Town on June 12; it was engineered by Nashville producer Colt Capperrune. The title song pays tribute to Swanzey, where Cushman grew up, and local spots like Jeanne’s Family Diner. Thursday, June 25, 5 p.m., Cheers NH, 17 Depot St., Concord. More at

Back on stage

Country singer Nicole Knox Murphy playing out again

After 10 weeks of playing weekly sets from her home in Candia for Facebook fans, on May 29 Nicole Murphy was elated to finally be back at Auburn Pitts Bar & Grill, the place where she returned to being a country singer after raising a family for 15 years. Guitar in hand and a backing track machine at her side, strumming and singing beneath an outdoor tent, Murphy gave her first performance in front of a live audience since Covid-19 shut down the local music scene in mid-March.

The multiple New Hampshire Country Music Awards winner called the experience “awesome” in a recent phone interview.

“All my regulars came out that weren’t too nervous,” Murphy said, noting that fans gleaned from her Friday night livestreams added a few new faces to the crowd. “It was just a fantastic night; the weather was perfect, and everybody did what they were supposed to do.”

With that return done, Murphy’s calendar is filling up again, even at a few places that are trying live music for the first time. She’s booked a Thursday residency for the rest of June at an events center in Windham that isn’t booking weddings and private parties.

“They’ve decided because of the coronavirus to do a bar and restaurant,” she said. “They have everything set out on their back patio.”

She’s also set to play at a country club in her hometown.

The pandemic hit Murphy’s bottom line hard — to the tune of $6,500 in lost gigs — but the virtual tip jar she set up for online shows helped more than a bit.

“That’s my grocery money,” she said.

When WMUR interviewed her and fellow performer Chad Lamarsh for a story on the state of live music, there was an immediate bump in Facebook Live love.

“The night after, I got like double and triple the money for my tips,” she said. “That was really nice.”

Murphy has at least one more online show on her calendar. Taste of New Hampshire is an annual event that will be virtual for this, its 15th year. A fundraiser for Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Concord and Central New Hampshire, it features a silent auction and live music over five days.

“I’ll record myself for 30 minutes [and] send it to them,” she said. “Then they’ll play it between June 15 and June 19.”

Everything else will be happening at places where she was busy before Covid-19, including Granite Tapas in Hooksett, Main Street Grill in Pittsfield and The Bar in Hudson. Both excitement and trepidation mark her return to live performing.

“I’m looking to be cautious,” she said, concerned that the virus will resurge. “I’m nervous; I’m thinking I’ll book up my calendar again, and then all of a sudden they’ll say, ‘Oh no, we’re back in lockdown and nobody can go out.’”

She spent a lot of her time in quarantine working on new songs, and polishing up a couple. “I’m So Done” was released at the end of May. “The 802,” an ode to her Vermont roots (she was a working musician and a beauty show contestant in her teenage years), will hopefully hit streaming sites in a few weeks.

Developing new material was more relaxing for Murphy than in the past.

“The last couple of projects. … I haven’t had the quietness that I needed to focus on music writing,” she said. “This whole lockdown shut my weekends down, so I just started going up to my music room with a pad of paper and working.”

The extra time at home with her husband was both encouraging and productive.

“Just me and him, doing things that we’ve been wanting to do that we’ve put off because we’ve all been so busy,” she said. “Now that I had all these weekends free, we could work on projects.”

She’s happy it was temporary, however.

“It’s been good that way, but … I really miss singing.”

Nicole Knox Murphy. Photo by Tyke Frost.

Nicole Knox Murphy
Castleton Banquet & Conference Center, 58 Enterprise Dr., Windham
When: Thursday, June 11, June 18 and June 25, 5:30 p.m.
Saturday, June 13, 7 p.m., The Bar, 2B Burnham Road, Hudson
Sunday, June 14, 4 p.m., Cheers, 17 Depot St., Concord
Saturday, June 20, 5:30 p.m., Candia Woods Golf Links, 313 South Road, Candia

Album Reviews 6/11/2020

Bird Friend, I Am the Hand (self-produced)

Desolate but hopeful hipster-chill direct from Manchester, New Hampshire, here, mainly an unplugged-guitar solo project for chef-cook-bottle-washer Geoff Himsel with some help from his girlfriend, Carson Kennedy. The entry point here would be Sufjan Stevens, but it’s of course more raw and quirky than that; throw a little Eels in the crockpot and that oughta do it. Himsel is a fan of fingerpick-style guitarists like Neil Young and John Fahey, which explains the rather full sound of this mildly quirky bareness; this sort of thing is a snapshot of an artist getting things off his chest, redolent of movie opening-credit scenes depicting world-weariness, animations drawn in crayon. You get it, I’m sure, but don’t be scared of this just because the guy’s a local; there’s some nice creativity here, as heard in such things as a segue consisting of recorded rain and train station sounds; some not-cheap-sounding handclaps (“Ohio”); a reed line played on a clarinet or somesuch (“Cuando Era Caballero”) and so on. All told then, Pitchfork wouldn’t necessarily throw this out of bed unless the writer broke his vape pen. There’s a psychedelic angle to this that needs to be mentioned, like a twee version of Wooden Shjips or whatnot. He knows what he’s doing, is what I’m saying. A

The Brazilian Gentleman, L & L (Internet & Weed Records)

Meanwhile on the dwarf planet Pluto, we have this New Yawk City collective of underground scene veterans with weird record collections, banded together to make what amounts to a Throbbing Gristle-ized version of Battles. To translate that depthlessly annoying music-wonk-ese, there’s a lot of gently rendered industrial noise here woven into the very listenable melodies, and that will surely lead a good number of critics to tag it as an EDM project and bag it just to get away from it. I wouldn’t be wildly surprised to hear something like this from The Orb, but it does get disconcerting, evoking the feeling of having boarded the wrong galactic battle cruiser (“Star Stuck in It”). But it’s not supposed to be an easy ride, as becomes plain in the hooted and dentist-drilled “Metals,” which is a pure let’s-ride-the-subway-and-disorient-the-straights earbud trip. “All Natural” is chill drone pocked with world-music-ish loops; “You’re Boring” explores some Frank Ocean-ish fever-dream bliss. A-

Retro Playlist

On the quarantine goes, and for that, the only remedy is focusing on good stuff, like criminally underrated British art-rock bands.

After so many years, I’m convinced I’m the only “bloke” in New Hampshire who’s a huge fan of Wire, a four-piece that’s been around since the 1970s. They were more noise-punk back in the day, but then college rock happened in the late ’80s and their comparatively mellow album A Bell is a Cup Until It is Struck was suddenly rising in something resembling an actual Top 20 chart. I babbled about their 2013 album Change Becomes Us in this space, and I still absolutely love it, from the skronky, nonsensical “Eels Sang” to the soul-healing “Reinvent Your Second Wheel,” both sung by their permanently weird bassist Graham Lewis. I’ve met and hung out with rock stars before, but he’s the only one who’d reduce me to a puddle of uncool if I ever got a chance to meet him.

Another band I always try to sell to anyone who can’t escape my presence is Elbow, from the town of Bury in Manchester, U.K. In 2011, I told you guys about their then-new Build a Rocket Boys! LP, which, as usual for the band, was shortlisted for a Mercury Prize, this time on the strength of tunes like “Lippy Kids,” a hauntingly gorgeous rock ballad that made you rethink all those scary kids in hoodies, who are, I assure you, just as scared as you. Try it, you’ll like it.

If you’re in a local band, now’s a great time to let me know about your EP, your single, whatever’s on your mind. Let me know how you’re holding yourself together without being able to play shows or jam with your homies. Send a recipe for keema matar. Email for fastest response.

A seriously abridged compendium of recent and future CD releases
• The next general-release date for CDs is Friday, June 12, when you can buy To Love is to Live, the debut album from Jehnny Beth, the lead singer from Savages! No, not the DJ, you know, Savages! No, come on, not Screaming Lord Sutch’s old backup band; we’re talking about the way-cool Savages, the one made up of girls, and they’re pretty cool, like this Jehnny Beth lady sounds a lot like Siouxsie Sioux, and their music is all post-punk, noisy, deconstructionist and awesome. That leaves only one question: Is there any earthly reason for Jehnny Beth to make a solo album when she’s in such an awesome band? Well, by cracky, I’m going to toddle off to YouTube to see if this is worth anything. Ah, here we are, a single called “Heroine.” It’s got an understated jazzy 1970s drum track with grooving bass, some spooky sampling, and Jehnny Beth’s Siouxsie karaoke going full force. It’s not something I’d picture Siouxsie singing, but come on already, this isn’t a Siouxsie song, just an OK tune that Siouxsie probably wouldn’t sing, because it’s largely uneventful until the literal last five seconds. I don’t know, am I being too picky here? Be honest.
• Wait, this should be a good one, the new album from Norah Jones, Pick Me Up Off the Floor! This will be her eighth full-length, and she is officially a folk-jazz goddess, because she is awesome, and at least she’s not trying to become a media conglomerate like everybody else who lucks into a hit record, like, the only real acting she’s done was on the 2010 indie film Wah Do Dem, which only got made because the director won cruise ship tickets (back then, the Village Voice called it nothing more than “a glorified vacation video”). Sounds good to me, because hopefully now we won’t have to worry about Norah Jones doing anything more than playing herself on Sesame Street and 30 Rock and spending most of her time singing, which she does on the title track of this new album, a torchy, feathery, very slow, Maria Muldaur-like piano-crooner.
• Paul Weller was the frontman for the mod-punk band The Jam during the 1970s and early 1980s, but only people in England cared, but then they had an annoying ska-punk hit in the U.S. called “Start,” which was created simply by recycling the Beatles’ “Tax Man,” and then it was basically over, everyone recite the Funeral Prayer, and then the Beastie Boys sampled the tune for the song “Alive.” But wait, here is Paul Weller again, with a solo album, called “Sunset,” which means you’re probably wondering if there’s a song on there that sounds like that Beastie Boys song or whatever. I sure am, so I shall endeavor to stomach the new single, “Village.” Wow, it’s wicked ’70s-chill-funk, and he sounds like Peabo Bryson somewhat. There’s wicked mellow electric piano in there, like your grandparents could probably “get reacquainted” with this song playing in the background, nudge-wink. Talk about sassy!
• To end this week with our sanity hopefully intact, let’s go investigate the new Built to Spill album, titled Built to Spill Plays the Songs of Daniel Johnston! I can’t imagine what this will sound like, probably fluffy, despicable, hipster versions of equally aggravating Daniel Johnston songs. Yes, here’s one, “Bloody Rainbow.” Sounds like a twee version of a Roy Orbison B-side. I do not like this, Sam I Am.

Laughing again

Stand-up comedy comes out of quarantine

As live entertainment gradually returns, the challenges for comedians are twofold. First, there’s the practical aspect of how to present a show. This is, after all, a discipline that relies on an audience. While on lockdown, Juston McKinney played to his wife, two sons and dog on the couch of his Newmarket home, with his mother-in-law and dad watching on iPads, and posted it to his Facebook page. That’s the kind of performance withdrawal he experienced.

McKinney is accustomed to packed opera house shows, but said in a recent phone interview that he’ll be glad to hit open mic nights when they return. Such events have smaller audiences that are easier to socially distance. They’re also key to working up new material.

“I’m kind of jonesing because I was doing an open mic every week … a new seven to eight minutes,” he said. “I’ll tell you this: I never thought I would look forward to having four people in an audience so much in my life. I would kill for four people right now.”

As for the prospect of doing his still-scheduled fall shows at Blue Ocean Music Hall in Salisbury and Manchester’s Palace Theatre under the current safety rules, McKinney is concerned. He expects, though, that even working with a spaced out crowd will improve over webcasts in quarantine.

“Comedy is an art form that should be done in a controlled environment — sound, lights, crowd — and we’ve lost all control of that now,” he said. “My biggest fear is someone’s never seen me ever before and the only time they see me is on one of these Zoom things and they’re like, ‘I don’t know.’ You’ve gotta see me live, not in my home office.”

Fortunately, the clouds are slowly parting for stage-hungry standups like McKinney.

Live efforts have launched, beginning May 22 with a parking lot show at Tupelo Music Hall Drive-In in Derry. Tupelo owner Scott Hayward hopes to do them every Thursday in June and beyond. Kathleen’s Irish Pub in Bristol will hold Cottage Comedy Al Fresco with JJ Jones and four other comics on June 6 in its patio area. Curlie’s Comedy Club in Rochester offers a hybrid, with pay-per-view livestreams and tickets to watch through the window from their outside deck.

The second part is equally tricky: what’s funny in a post-pandemic world?

At Tupelo, host Mike Smith joked about home schooling and masks (“everyone looks like they’re going to rob a 7-Eleven”). He then handed off to opener Paul Landwehr, who complained about having to watch decades-old Celtics games on ESPN, then closed by proposing marriage to his longtime girlfriend from the stage (she said yes). That was a novel way to avoid the elephant in the parking lot.

Mike Koutrobis followed with a set not much different from what he’d been doing in February. “I’m a little rusty,” he texted just prior to the show. Boston comic Graig Murphy offered a mixture of pre- and post-pandemic humor, quipping about drive-by birthday parties and trying his best to do crowd work, while telling jokes that would be funny crisis or not.

The latter is a path urged by Nick Lavallee, who along with Dave Carter has booked weekly comedy at Shaskeen Pub in Manchester since 2013.

“The last thing people want to hear right now is untested content about the thing that they’re bombarded with day in and day out,” he said in a recent phone interview. “If a comic who hasn’t worked in three months goes up in front of a paying audience and tries riffing on material that hasn’t been done yet … they’re going to struggle.”

On the other hand, Lavallee continued, the hunger for live standup means comics could get some leeway as they return to form.

“You’re going to have to just throw some spaghetti on the wall, see what sticks, and it’s a good time to do it because you can also do things you might be embarrassed about, like, ‘I tried something during the pandemic and it didn’t work.’ You can own it. You can blame your bombs on this. We all have thick skin, we’ve been doing this for so freaking long.”

More than a few are poised to make comedy hay from the coronavirus. Curlie’s owner Joshua Guptel, who does comedy as Jay Grove, talked about it on stage recently: “This is not funny,” he said. “But there’s a lot of funny in it.”

Upcoming comedy shows
: Kathleen’s Irish Pub, 99 Lake St., Bristol
When: Saturday, June 6, 6 p.m.
Reservations: call 744-6336
Performing: JJ Jones, Al Christakis, Paul Landwehr, Randy Williams and Mona Forgione

Where: Curlie’s Comedy Club, 12 Union St., Rochester
When: Saturday, June 6, and Saturday, June 13
Tickets: $20 per table at
Performing: Steve Scarfo (June 6) and Amy Tee (June 13)

Where: Tupelo Music Hall, 10 A St., Derry
When: Thursdays, 6 p.m. (tentative)
Tickets: $75 per car at; $20 per person for restaurant seating (starts June 12)

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