Despite the skittish weather, it was summer in Sunapee last Sunday, as Pete Merrigan made his first public appearance since returning from Florida. He’d played for invited guests at a Friday gathering in New London, and what he jokingly called a “private performance” at the Newport Moose on Saturday, but the afternoon show on Digby’s outdoor deck was the first chance most area fans had to enjoy Merrigan’s easygoing music since last fall.
With his trademark beret and microphone stand cup holder, he ambled through a set of songs that included originals from his Mad Beach Band days, and cover tunes as recent as the Plain White T’s “Hey Delilah.” Always the crowd pleaser, he did plenty of requests, usually the moment patrons called for them – “sure, I’ll do Margaritaville” – and bantered with the crowd throughout.
Pete Merrigan is the human equivalent of “Cheers” – he knows everybody’s name. He paused several times mid-song to shout out a greeting, telling one old friend, “I checked the obits and didn’t see your name, so I figured you were still around.”
The singer-guitarist has a busy calendar in the months ahead, including Newport’s Salt Hill this Friday, Sophie & Zeke’s June 13, Bistro Nouveau June 20, along with a regular Thursday gig at Shorty’s in Manchester.
He resumes an annual tradition July 4, when the Lake Sunapee All-Stars perform at the harbor fireworks show – something they’ll do again in August.
Merrigan has area shows scheduled all the way to November, which begs the question – what of “Three Season Pete,” who typically arrives in late spring, stays through summer, and leaves in early fall for St, Petersburg?
Not this year.
“We got tired of bouncing back and forth,” he said Sunday. “We always said if push came to shove we’d pick here over Florida.”
He’ll travel south for the right gig, like the recent Mad Beach Band reunion, part of a five-band outdoor concert that drew, by some estimates, ten thousand fans.
“I have such a good following in St. Pete,” he says, “I’ll still go down there and do the shows I want to do.”
But after four years in Florida (and two before that wintering in the islands), Merrigan is happy to be heading home. Though he’s added a few new cover songs to his repertoire, he hasn’t written any of his own for a while.
“That’s another reason I want to stop bouncing back and forth,” Merrigan explained. “I want to have a little more time to stay in one place and maybe set up a studio and do some songwriting.”