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We’re talking about…

Sophie & Zeke’s

Last week Reid Hannula, owner/chef of the restaurant that launched Claremont’s downtown dining renaissance five years ago, announced that the business was taking a two-week hiatus due to bad economic conditions.  Immediately, rumors began circulating about the closure, many speculating that the vacation was permanent.  Reid Hannula told a television news reporter that Sophie & Zeke’s would reopen September 8.  On Sunday, he told the Compass that the business’s future hinges on talks with nervous creditors, and locating investors with enough money to keep it going.  Far from being on vacation, he’s doing everything he can to, in his words, “keep the dream alive.”   This means meeting with anyone who has venture capital and an interest in a fine dining establishment that does turn-away business in good times.  According to Reid Hannula, if Sophie & Zeke’s closes, it won’t be without a fight.

Worth driving out of town

Keene Music Festival Main Event
Keene, New Hampshire
Distance: 60 minutes south

Why: 80+ bands playing 12 downtown locations
When: Saturday, September 5

SXSW comes to Keene, and there’s something for every taste at this all day event, including Americana (Clayton Sabine), funk (Chaotic Soul). hip-hop (Adeem & DJ MF Shalem), blues (Ottomatic Slim), ambient pop rock (The Dejas), hardcore (Hammerhands) and crunchy roots rock (Dusty & the Know).

There are also a few impossible to classify bands, like the ethereal Red Velvet Slide, or Tokyo Tramps, a gumbo-flavored rockabilly trio hailing from Japan, named after the “tramps like us” line in Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run.”

That’s just scratching the surface.  You’ll need a scorecard to keep track of all the music emanating from bars, businesses and open air venues (fingers crossed for warm Labor Day weekend weather!).

It all ends Saturday night with chamber music at the Colonial Theatre.  This is a one-stop shopping mall for club owners looking to book talent.  Be sure to check out the full band list on the festival’s web site: – most of their music can be found on MySpace.

Places to go


Salt hill Pub
64 Main St
Open: 7 days
Music: Thursday – Saturday

The anchor of Newport’s live music scene features an open mike night on Thursdays (most recently hosted by the Moore family), and performers like Pete Merrigan, Arthur James and Johnny Bishop on the weekend.  Occasionally, a band also booked into the Lebanon Salt hill stops by, like Sirsy or (recently disbanded) Oneside.

Foresters Club
38 Maple St
Open: 7 days
Music: Every other Saturday (karaoke alternating Fridays)

This is a members only club, but three visits are allowed before patrons must pay dues.  Mainly rock and country cover bands, with the occasional benefit or big local metal show.

Newport Opera House
20 Main Street

The few music shows held here these days tend to be memorable ones, like the recent Mad Beach Band reunion show, or the upcoming Last Kid Picked Halloween party, which usually sells out.  With cabaret seating and a full bar, the Newport Opera House is a fun place for socializing while enjoying music.

The Old Courthouse
30 Main St
Open: Wednesday-Saturday (lunch, dinner), Sunday brunch

There’s a lot of great food on the regular menu.  But the Courthouse brunch is especially good, featuring waffles with whipped cream, specialty desserts like crème brulee, and fantastic quiches.  A nice bonus is the piano serenade that accompanies the meal.

Local Talent Spotlight

Who: Roadhouse
What: Working class Claremont party band
Sounds like: Pat Benetar fronting Quiet Riot, or if Axl Rose was a girl

About:  Of all the bands in the area, none enjoys what they do as much as Roadhouse.  The band’s motto is, “we love our day jobs but the music escape is a necessity,” a credo they’ve lived by since Ron Miller started the band back in 1990.  Lead singer Lisa Kainu joined in 1992 – she’s Lisa Miller now, a marriage made in rock and roll heaven.  Watching her sing, you know she believes in her soul that rock and roll was invented, and perfected by bands like AC/DC, Foghat and Led Zeppelin, just to make her feel good.  Rounding out Roadhouse are two guys, Shane Davis and Rob Lower, who have collectively been in 12 other bands, and Shane’s still splits his time with Soul Octane Burner.  Live to rock, rock to live.

Upcoming gigs:

September 4, Imperial Lounge, Claremont
October 3 Anchorage, Sunapee
October 10 The Front Row, St. Johnsbury
October 16 Imperial, Claremont

Mark your calendar

What: Sunapee Community Coffeehouse 2009 Season
Where: Sunapee Methodist Church, 17 Lower Main St., Sunapee
When:  Fridays at 7 p.m., beginning Sept 11

Though plenty of places host live performers, there’s a shortage of actual “listening rooms” in the area.  Too often, a songwriter can’t be  heard through the din of drinks and supper.  This makes the Sunapee Community Coffeehouse’s mission – “fostering an attentive respectful audience in a family atmosphere which in turn guarantees the musicians will want to return” – all the more vital.

This year’s lineup opens with one of the region’s most intriguing singer-songwriters.

Sept. 11 – Brooke Brown Saracino
Sept. 18 – Sferes and White
Sept. 25 – Open Mike
Oct. 2 – David Maguire
Oct. 9 – Mari Rosa
Oct. 30 – Open Mike
Nov. 6 – Heather Maloney
Nov. 13 – Regina Delaney