Over half of Durham’s population is between the ages of 18 and 25, which is a key demographic among concertgoers. Yet, there isn’t a single specialized music venue in town.
Sure, there are sporadic shows in the Memorial Union Building (MUB), a regular open-mic at the Freedom Café and the occasional guitarist squeezed into the corner of one of the downtown bars, but as the Seacoast music scene grows, Durham’s musicians and audiences in search of a show are largely finding themselves in a basement or on a bus out of town.
“Unfortunately the music scene is lacking on campus, so we promote our album by sending it to venues and telling friends,” said Mark DelGrosso, a UNH junior and member of the Durham-based band Barefoot Young.
“The only gigs in Durham would probably be university functions or Solarfest-type things,” Durham-based drummer Jake Smith said.
Local musicians and audiences can find a diverse and well-represented music scene in Dover, Portsmouth and Newmarket.
“I’d say for me personally, there are three venues that stand out in the Seacoast as favorites to both play and view music. The Press Room in Portsmouth, the Stone Church in Newmarket and Fury’s Publick House in Dover,” Harsh Armadillo member Max Harris said.
According to Harris, each venue is unique in the variety of different crowds and bands it caters to.
“Playing at any of these venues, we feel like part of the family for the night,” Harris said. “They welcome us into their respective establishments and treat us with kindness and respect, and just generally make sure we are taken care of.”
Smith and Stefán Trogisch, who plays with the local band The Trichomes, both noted the retrofitted Stone Church, and the Press Room as their favorite spots to play in the region.
“Each room and town seems to have a distinct and attentive audience that is interested in hearing – and this is important – original music,” Harris said.
“There is a market in each place for a band to go and perform their own compositions, not just to go regurgitate the same old covers for the same crowd every night,” Harris continued. “Without an interested populace, so much of the diversity in music we take for granted would die in the basements and bedrooms of the creative musical minds we are fortunate to be surrounded by.”
Despite this relatively wide array of music venues in the region, most remain largely inaccessible to those under the age of 21 –a significant percentage of UNH’s student population.
Trogisch, who’s been active in the Seacoast music scene for six years, sees potential opportunities for bands farther off the beaten path.
“Durham just has so many people that if you get one percent of the school population anywhere, it’s a sold-out show,” Trogisch said. “The fact that there are not many shows makes people go and get more excited.”
Though he once had plans to start a venue in Durham, Trogisch decided to get a house instead. “I can get almost any band to play a house show, it’s basically a guarantee that people will rock out to your band,” he said.
Up-and-coming bands like Barefoot Young have relied heavily on crowded basements and college parties for gaining initial exposure.
“Venues are cool and it’s nice getting paid, but I’ve had nights at a house show where the energy just takes you somewhere that venues don’t always take you,” Delgrosso said. “Some of my best times while playing were at a house on Faculty Road.”