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The Barley Pub: New Hampshire's Jazz Epicenter

Chris Rich By

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The rock club era was some strange evolutionary fail done in by its bombast and bloat.

Jazz still suffers from the fern bar model, a hangover from disco days and proto yuppies with combo's pumping standards to fuel brunch and drinks gluttony or provide that perfect ambiance for conspicuous consumption evenings on the town.

Beyond such pretensions, a restoration rises, the brew pub tavern with sturdy yeoman food elevated just a touch to make an experience of it.

The prevailing model is welcoming, low key and usually involves an eclectic assortment of low maintenance music options. Jazz is invariably in the mix. I've come to see it as a reversion to the classics of tavern music life augmented by the various potentials and trends of our time.

There is some thoughtful food scheme involved and a likely array of in house craft brew or beverage options obtains. My newly adopted home of Dover, New Hampshire, has a notably exemplary one, The Barley Pub.

The Barley Pub is a nice musical epicenter epitome of these prevailing venue models. It's located in downtown Dover at 83 Washington Street. There are more than 30 craft beers and PBR with menu array's for a Sunday Brunch, lunch, dinner and late night.

I first noticed it in correspondence with bassist Tim Webb.

"As I'm sure you know, there is really a great music scene up here at the moment. People were saying this 10 and 20 years ago too, but I think it has gotten even better.

There are some seriously great local bands right now—Tan Vampires, Gnarlemagne, Fiveighthirteen... and on the improv side there is a ton going on too. Matt Langley has always been kicking it but now we also have Mike Effenberger, Chris and Eric Klaxton, Nick Mainella, Rob Gerry... and the Barley Pub in particular is a place that all of these guys play and audiences seem to dig it. Equal Time can play there and bring the house down... we actually feel like rock stars there."

According to proprietor, H. Scott Mason, "Music has long played a major role in what we do at the Barley Pub. It all started with one gig a week—Bluegrass on Sunday nights in the year 2000.

It has evolved to six gigs in five nights! We have always focused on original music with the jazz "standard" being the most common exception. Music at the Barley Pub has really become a huge part of what we do. Without it we would not be the Barley Pub at all.

Not only has it brought in new customers and created loyal regulars, but it has allowed us to be a part of a community of musicians and music fans that has come to largely define our persona. I think we have played a role in elevating that community and we are very proud to be a part of it."

Forbes Graham offers his sharp musicians eye view of the set up and experience.

"Our last gig there was great.

I'd describe the Barley Pub as a comfortable cavern. They moved recently (across the street) and when you walk into the new place, it feels like you are walking into a bank with marble interior and all, minus all the bank bullshit. The stage faces a row of bench seats and is set right up against a large window street view. From the stage, off to the right is a duskier area perfect for a more intimate and private hang out.

There's a new menu as well and the bar is well stocked too (from what I can tell, that's not an area where I'm an expert).

It's a friendly place in the southern New Hampshire style."

Dover is a city, by the demure standards of the New England North Country, and it is a robust work a day city with a considerable college student presence owing to the proximity of UNH in adjoining Durham.

It is connected to a broader world by Amtrak for those who would be free of cars and is laced by several coastal rivers with the Great Bay along its southern edge.

The area has a number of these genial civilization bastions and they are increasingly where jazz hangs its hat.


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