The Driving Range

In the far southwestern section of the Monadnock region is a popular – and unlikely – music venue that brings local bands and good times to Mason. Martin and Linda Ruggiero opened The Driving Range -also known as Marty’s - over 20 years ago. It is a full service golf driving range, batting area and a snack bar (featuring 40 flavors of ice cream, lobster rolls and barbeque) with indoor and outdoor seating. Overlooking the rolling, lush grounds that forms a natural amphitheater is a Tiki Bar and music stage.

I stopped by one Thursday evening early in the season. In spite of the cool temperature and a 3-day rain stretch that just ended hours earlier, a sizeable crowd formed to take in some rock covers performed by Eastwood Peak. There was a party mood with lots of mingling by patrons who ranged in age from 20-something to 60-ish, a few couples dancing on the lawn, and friendly wait staff. Think rural Cheers meets outdoor Trader Vic's and you will find an evening getaway right in southwestern New Hampshire.

Three years ago Nicole Ruggiero took the reins. "My parents built Marty’s from the ground up. It put me through school and taught me work ethic at a very young age; I grew up in the business. When I was 16, I decided to get a job outside of the family business," Nicole laughed as she recalled those early days. "My mother passed away fairly suddenly in September of 2010. I was finishing my B.A. degree in Vermont at the time.  My father gave me the option to move home and take over, or he would have to sell it. Marty’s was basically my mother’s livelihood – she ate, breathed, slept The Driving Range so I didn’t want to let it go.”

For Nicole, that first season held the challenge of learning how to operate the business while grieving the untimely loss of her mother. “I literally walked into the business blindly when I opened up in the spring. There was no one there to guide me. I just had to pick things up as I went along. It went well but I needed something to keep my interest.” It was at the end of Nicole’s first year - in the fall of 2011 that she decided to build the Tiki Bar and book her first music event - a concert featuring Roots of Creation. “At the time I felt like it was ‘go big or go home’. That show was a turning point. I saw that we really had something positive to offer the area”, Nicole remembers. Since then the band continues to open and close Marty’s Summer Music Series with their RoC the Range concerts.

The following year Nicole added a weekly Thursday Cruise Night. From 6-8:00 a DJ plays classics and oldies, and then a live cover band plays until 11:00. In addition to music and the car show, there is a 50-50 raffle and trophies awarded each week for cars and motorcycles.

Last year, Nicole added an annual July 4th ThrowDown. “It’s my favorite holiday, so I like to go all out. We had Rob Benton - an America's Got Talent finalist from the Manchester area. The crowd was so impressed with his performance that I ended up booking him multiple times throughout the summer,” said Nicole. “This year we have Tom Dixon with a full band, two opening acts and Atlas fireworks.” Tom is originally from New Hampshire and moved to Nashville to pursue his country music career.

This season’s addition is a stage built so that larger acts will be able to perform on Saturday nights. “We have all genres of bands playing - reggae, bluegrass, jam, funk, blues, rock… Right now we have Monadnock area bands performing and I am looking forward to hosting more regional bands from around New England and New York.  We have the capacity for thousands of guests on our 10-acre property.” The stage will be broken in by Roots of Creation’s seventh performance at Marty’s Driving Range on June 28.

The music line-up for July’s Cruise Nights is Eastwood Peak on July 3, Bruce Marshall Group on July 10, Sheepdip on July 17, Small Town Stranded on July 24, and Mike Ordway on July 31.  Aside from Roots of Creation, the Summer Music Series on Saturday evenings will be hosting Ghost Dinner Band, The Youngest Sun, Sophistafunk, and Adam Ezra Group, to name a few. To view scheduled shows and learn more about Marty’s Driving Range, visit http://www.martysofmason.com/ or go to their Facebook page. Better yet, check them out in person at 96 Old Turnpike Road (Route 124) in Mason.

 

Lynn Merlone is the founder of Monadnotes, a website featuring musical offerings and opportunities in the Monadnock region.Here you find pages with descriptions of local musicians by genre; music venues and events; music instruction; open mics, jams and karaoke; and musical groups for you to join.The Event Calendar boasts the most complete listings of musical events in southwestern New Hampshire.
VisitMonadnotes: Your Music Source for the Monadnock region

The Thing In The Spring

     As the earth turns green and the sun brings warmer temperatures, outdoor events of all kinds come to the Monadnock region.  Kicking off the season of music and art is The Thing in The Spring in downtown Peterborough.

      What began as a concept between three friends is now a four day event bringing music of all genres to this region since 2008. Ryan Wilson and Eric Gagne worked together at the Toadstool Bookshop and started designing posters in the styles of Art Deco and the Fillmore concerts.  “We liked the Fillmore shows where they would put different genres of music together and we thought, ‘Why not create a show where there was diverse music and a DIY effort?’  Our emphasis was not about making money, but the pure experience and joy of making your life the way you want it to be.” At the same time Ryan and Mary Goldthwaite-Gagne were talking about holding an affordable arts show. *broke was created – an art show featuring a variety of media where all pieces are sold for under $50, held during the Thing in the Spring as well as late fall.

     The goal of The Thing in the Spring is to bring fresh music to the region that festival goers have probably not heard before except on free form or college radio stations.  “We want to challenge people’s notion of music,” said Eric.  “The music is not your top forty covers or easy listening. We want to bring new sounds without going too extreme in any one direction.  While we like it when people come out scratching their heads, we want people to feel like they can ask questions, that they can engage with us.” A great majority of the musicians are coming to the Monadnock region for the first time, while some, like Bunny’s a Swine, Mail the Horse, and Dredd Foole (Dan Ireton) have been part of The Thing numerous times.

     Over the course of the festival there are five featured shows, free performances around town (mostly before or after the main shows), late night music at Harlow’s Pub, and DJ’s at Waterhouse Restaurant. In addition to music and the art show, the schedule includes readings and showings of classic films. 

     Admission to the performances is very reasonable; if you buy your tickets in advance, the priciest show is $15!  You can also buy a pass to all five shows for $50. For more details about the schedule and the performers, go to http://www.thethinginthespring.com/.

 

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Lynn Merlone is the founder of Monadnotes, a website featuring musical offerings and opportunities in the Monadnock region.Here you find pages with descriptions of local musicians by genre; music venues and events; music instruction; open mics, jams and karaoke; and musical groups for you to join.The Event Calendar boasts the most complete listings of musical events in southwestern New Hampshire.
VisitMonadnotes: Your Music Source for the Monadnock region

Fitzwilliam Inn

The newest venue in the Monadnock region could very well be the oldest.  The Fitzwilliam Inn, built in 1796, has been a gathering place for travelers and local residents through the centuries and has enjoyed a long history of providing music. This fall, music lovers Chelley and Dave Tighe bought the Inn and are keen on keeping these traditions.

 

Several weekends a month live music is offered from a wide range of genres, including rock bands (original and covers), folk, jazz, and blues artists and ensembles.  Every Wednesday evening there is an Open Mic that showcases different music as well. The mixing is intentional.  “We want to spread it around to not be to genre-specific,” says Chelley.  Most of the bands are local musicians who are recommended by the clientele, or who contact the Inn.  Some began playing for Open Mic and were invited to return as a featured performer.

 

Chelley described many of the aspects of the Inn as “eclectic”.  In addition to the range of music offered, the menu and the demographic of the clientele vary.  Young people come for the exceptional wood–fired pizza and beer, while others make an evening of enjoying a multicourse meal.  “We have older couples celebrating an anniversary or other special occasion who come for dinner and spend the night at the inn. Not only are people coming from southern New Hampshire, but also from northern Massachusetts - Athol and Orange and Gardner.  Last week we had people from Brattleboro.”

 

As spring approaches, the Inn will undergo some more changes.  A patio, complete with a fire pit and waterfall, is under construction with Sunday afternoon entertainment in mind.  Rick Gottlieb, who began performing at the Open Mic, will be the first musician to perform outdoors on May 25.  Also on hand for May is singer-songwriter Nate Smith on May 3 and blues artist Lydia Warren on May 23.  The Open Mics happen every Wednesday from 7 – 9.

 

The Tighes have a vision of Fitzwillliam Inn being a hub where people gather regularly on the weekend.  “Ultimately it would be fantastic to have music every week - you know -- Saturday night at the Inn. This is a perfect space.  It’s big enough to accommodate a big crowd but not so large that it doesn't feel intimate. We invite anyone to come and talk to us.  Let us know if you want to hear a particular band or if you know of someone who wants to play.”  For more information about the Inn and its entertainment schedule, go to fitzwilliaminn.com.

 

 

 

Lynn Merlone is the founder of Monadnotes, a website featuring musical offerings and opportunities in the Monadnock region.Here you find pages with descriptions of local musicians by genre; music venues and events; music instruction; open mics, jams and karaoke; and musical groups for you to join.The Event Calendar boasts the most complete listings of musical events in southwestern New Hampshire.
VisitMonadnotes: Your Music Source for the Monadnock region

 

Mole Hill Theater

 It’s hard not to get too effusive about Mole Hill Theatre.  It offers a great line-up of local, regional, and occasionally national acts with a very reasonable cover charge making for a funky – and family friendly – venue. There is plenty of room for dancing in this large space, and good acoustics.
    Mole Hill is actually a converted tool and die shop in East Alstead.  Giant, colorfully-painted (and occasionally working) machines are part of the décor, as well as artwork and a variety of seating options. The lighting, wood stoves, and wood paneling all make the space warm and welcoming.  Even more welcoming is the hosting provided by Dennis Molesky and Jackie Kensen.  
    The evolution from factory to music venue / theater began in the spring of 2003.  Dennis and Jackie were hosting a karaoke party at the shop, but the mood got tense as the party devolved into a singing debate about the merits of the Iraq war.    “A fight was averted, the karaoke started back up and the party was back on,” said Dennis.  “My friend Peter Hendrick commented, ’This is great theatre’.  And in that moment we decided to build one.  Intuitively we knew that with a focus on the arts we could create an establishment where neighbors of differing political persuasions could come together and celebrate the best of what this region has to offer.”
    The first steps Dennis, Jackie and Peter embarked on were building a stage, clearing out obsolete equipment, and painting the space to host live theater productions. And while Mole Hill is primarily a music venue, theater productions continue to this day.  The resident company is the self-titled Mole Hill Players, and there are visiting companies such as the Rude Mechanical Theatre Company.   Next month the Theatre hosts Marx in Soho, by Howard Zinn, a one-act play wherein political economist Karl Marx comes to life and addresses the audience about misperceptions and misrepresentations of his theories.  The Theatre also hosts benefits for individuals and organizations such as the Fall Mountain Food Shelf and the Monadnock Conservancy as part of its mission to helping the community and others.
    Live music came to the theatre about five years ago and now the Theatre hosts musicians most weekends from a wide variety of musical genres.  Many of the concerts begin with a potluck dinner before the show.    There aren’t a lot of options for dining out here,” explained Dennis. “So we think about the band and the crowd they attract.  Older people like to make an evening of it and tend to prefer to start early.  The younger crowd likes to start late so we don’t have a dinner when we have a band that appeals to them.  Sometimes the band will request the potluck so they have dinner taken care of.”
    April’s line-up includes original rock/funk/electronica music from the Van Burens, old time and folk from Bradford Bog People and Decatur Creek, classic rock covers by Turn It Loose and Steel Rail, and blues by Ross Robinson and Dave Johnston. All drinks are BYO, and so children are welcome to join in the fun.  “We are not a bar,” says Dennis. “Live music is important and we want it to be affordable.”  To that end, the cover charge is typically around $10 with children admitted at half-price.  Music for the people, indeed!
    Mole Hill Theatre is located at 789 Gilsum Mine Road, East Alstead; phone (603) 352-2585.  You can find their schedule of shows and events on their Facebook page.

 

Lynn Merlone is the founder of Monadnotes, a website featuring musical offerings and opportunities in the Monadnock region.Here you find pages with descriptions of local musicians by genre; music venues and events; music instruction; open mics, jams and karaoke; and musical groups for you to join.The Event Calendar boasts the most complete listings of musical events in southwestern New Hampshire.
VisitMonadnotes: Your Music Source for the Monadnock region