Discover The Hidden Gems Of Portsmouth NH Live Music Scene

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Welcome to the charming coastal town of Portsmouth, NH! This vibrant city may be small, but when it comes to live music, it has a lot to offer. In this article, we will take you on a journey through Portsmouth’s live music scene, from intimate coffee shops to legendary venues hosting world-class performers.

Whether you’re a resident or a visitor, you’ll surely agree that there’s something magical about live music. It has the power to transport you to another world, to make you forget your worries, and to connect you with like-minded people. And that’s exactly what we want to offer you in this article: a glimpse into the diverse and exciting live music options that Portsmouth has to offer.

Join us as we explore the best places to catch live music in Portsmouth, from downtown locations to hidden gems. You’ll learn about local artists to watch out for, upcoming gigs, and how to make the most of your night out. If you’ve been looking for a way to enjoy top-quality live music without leaving the city limits, this article is for you!

The History of Live Music in Portsmouth, NH

Portsmouth, NH, is a city with a rich history of live music. Known as the cultural center of the New Hampshire Seacoast, Portsmouth draws in musicians and music lovers from all over the world. The city has a long tradition of live music, and its venues and festivals have helped establish its reputation as a vibrant music destination.

Early Days of Live Music in Portsmouth

Live music first came to Portsmouth in the late 19th century. Back then, the city was home to several theater companies that drew in large crowds to see live performances. As the city grew, live music moved beyond theaters and began to be played in hotels and other venues. The Wentworth by the Sea Hotel, for example, hosted dances and live concerts in the early 20th century.

Portsmouth’s Music Scene in the 1960s and 1970s

The 1960s and 1970s saw Portsmouth’s music scene explode. The Portsmouth Music Hall opened its doors in 1878 and has hosted some of the biggest names in music history over the years, including Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, and Bruce Springsteen. The Music Hall also played a key role in the Civil Rights Movement when it opened its doors to African American performers.

During the 1970s, Portsmouth was home to several live music venues, including The Press Room, which opened in 1976. The Press Room became a go-to spot for local musicians and featured a mix of genres, including jazz, folk, and rock.

The 1980s and 1990s: A Time of Change

The 1980s and 1990s brought a new wave of musical styles to Portsmouth. Punk rock and electronic music began to gain popularity, and local venues like The Elvis Room and The Strand held regular live shows featuring these genres.

The 1990s also saw the creation of the Prescott Park Arts Festival, an annual outdoor festival that has become a staple of Portsmouth’s summer music scene. The festival offers a mix of theater, dance, and music performances, and has featured acts like Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, Joan Osborne, and Guster.

The Current State of Live Music in Portsmouth

Today, Portsmouth has a thriving and diverse music scene. Visitors can catch live music at a variety of venues, including The Music Hall, The Press Room, The Portsmouth Gas Light Company, and 3S Artspace. The city also hosts several music festivals throughout the year, including the Portsmouth Halloween Parade and the Market Square Day Festival.

One of the newest additions to Portsmouth’s music scene is the newly renovated and expanded Bank of New Hampshire Stage, which opened its doors in 2020. With a state-of-the-art sound system and a capacity of 300 seats, the venue has already hosted acts like Arlo Guthrie and the Indigo Girls.

Pros and Cons of Portsmouth’s Live Music Scene

While Portsmouth’s live music scene is vibrant and exciting, it does come with some drawbacks. Here are a few pros and cons to consider:


  • Portsmouth has a diverse range of music venues and festivals
  • The city’s music scene draws in nationally and internationally acclaimed artists
  • Local musicians have opportunities to showcase their talents


  • Some venues have limited seating and can be difficult to access for people with mobility issues
  • High demand for tickets to popular events can make them difficult to obtain
  • Noise and/or traffic congestion can be an issue in certain parts of the city during festivals and events


Portsmouth, NH, has a rich and varied history of live music, dating back to the late 19th century. Today, the city’s music scene is thriving, with a variety of venues and festivals that draw people from across the region and beyond. Fans of all genres can find something to love in Portsmouth, whether they’re looking for nationally acclaimed acts or local talent. And while there are some downsides to the city’s music scene, the cultural and economic benefits of live music cannot be overstated.

Top Venues for Catching Live Music in Portsmouth, NH

Portsmouth, NH is a small coastal city that is home to a lively music scene. With a variety of venues that cater to all tastes, the city is a destination for music lovers from all over New England. Whether you are looking for jazz, rock, country or something in between, Portsmouth offers something for everyone. Here are some of the top venues for catching live music in Portsmouth, NH:

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1. The Music Hall

The Music Hall is one of the premier performing arts centers in New England. Located in the heart of downtown Portsmouth, the venue offers a wide variety of shows, from music to theatre and film. The Music Hall has two spaces: the historic 900-seat Music Hall and the 120-seat Loft. The Music Hall hosts a range of live music performances from popular artists like Graham Nash, Johnny Lang, and Ry Cooder. The venue is noted for its excellent acoustics, and the sound quality is consistently superb.

  • The Music Hall is a non-profit organization that is committed to providing quality shows at reasonable prices
  • The venue has a rich history dating back to the 1800s, where it was used as an opera house and lecture hall
  • The Music Hall Loft is an intimate space that is perfect for experiencing up-and-coming artists in an intimate setting

For music lovers, subscribing to the Music Hall Membership program gives many benefits, including priority ticket access and members-only events.

2. 3S Artspace

3S Artspace is a non-profit gallery and performing arts venue that features live music, art exhibits, and other cultural events. The venue has two stages: the larger 500-capacity performance space and the 72-seat listening room. 3S is committed to showcasing a range of music genres, including indie, rock, folk, blues, and jazz.

  • 3S Artspace is a community-based cultural center that provides a platform for local artists and performers to showcase their work
  • The venue is housed in a former industrial building and has been renovated to include state-of-the-art technology and excellent acoustics
  • 3S Artspace is committed to being environmentally sustainable and encourages patrons to use public transportation or bikes to get to the venue

3S Artspace is highly rated for its community and artist-friendly environment, providing a space for people to showcase their creativity.

3. The Press Room

The Press Room is a beloved local watering hole that has been a fixture in the Portsmouth music scene for over 40 years. The venue is known for its nightly live music performances, featuring jazz, blues, and folk acts. The Press Room has a cozy, relaxed atmosphere and serves up great drinks and pub fare to an appreciative audience.

  • The Press Room is consistently voted as one of the best venues in Portsmouth by local media and patrons alike
  • The venue has hosted many legendary musicians over the years, including Muddy Waters, James Brown, and Duke Robillard
  • The Press Room has a dedicated following of music lovers who appreciate the venue’s intimate atmosphere and eclectic music offerings

The Press Room continues to be a go-to spot for locals and tourists alike, with an attractive vibe that draws people in to experience their diverse musical events.

4. The Stone Church

The Stone Church is a historic venue located in Newmarket, NH, just a short drive from Portsmouth. The venue is housed in a former church building and has been a popular destination for live music since the 1960s. The Stone Church has a casual atmosphere and hosts a variety of musical genres, from folk and bluegrass to rock and jam bands.

  • The Stone Church has a unique setting that provides a memorable concert experience
  • The venue hosts many local and regional acts, as well as national touring acts like Robert Randolph and the Family Band and Matisyahu
  • The Stone Church is an important part of the local music scene, and many musicians got their start playing there

Hiring bands for private events, their services exceed customer expectations in providing an event unique to their style.

5. Prescott Park Arts Festival

Prescott Park Arts Festival is an outdoor summer festival that takes place in beautiful Prescott Park, located on the waterfront in downtown Portsmouth. The festival hosts a variety of events, including concerts, a children’s theater series, and outdoor movies. The festival has a large performance stage, and it is one of the most popular attractions in Portsmouth during the summer months.

  • Prescott Park Arts Festival has been a fixture of the Portsmouth community for over 45 years
  • The festival is free to the public, and it relies on donations and sponsorships to continue providing quality entertainment
  • The festival features a diverse lineup of musical acts, including blues, country, rock, and indie

The Prescott Park Arts Festival provides a unique opportunity to enjoy live music in a beautiful outdoor setting, with the added benefit of being affordable for all.

Venue Capacity Location Key Feature(s)
The Music Hall 900 (Main Hall) / 120 (Loft) Downtown Portsmouth Excellent Acoustics, Wide Variety of Shows & Performers
3S Artspace 500 (Main Stage) / 72 (Listening Room) Downtown Portsmouth Community-Based, Environmentally Sustainable
The Press Room N/A Downtown Portsmouth Beloved Local Watering Hole, Intimate Atmosphere
The Stone Church N/A Newmarket, NH Historic Venue, Unique Setting
Prescott Park Arts Festival N/A Downtown Portsmouth Free, Outdoor Summer Festival

In conclusion, Portsmouth, NH is a hub for music lovers of all genres. The city offers an array of venues that are reflective of the community and artist-friendly atmosphere. The Music Hall, 3S Artspace, The Press Room, The Stone Church, and the Prescott Park Arts Festival, are just some of the many options available to residents and visitors alike. Each venue comes with its own unique features that make them stand out from the other, serving as a testament to the diversity of music in the city. With venues catering to different needs, it’s easy to enjoy excellent live music in Portsmouth, NH.

Exploring the Local Music Scene in Portsmouth, NH

Portsmouth, NH boasts a vibrant music scene with a variety of genres and venues to choose from. From intimate coffee shops and small bars to larger theaters and outdoor festivals, there is something for everyone. With this in mind, let’s take a closer look at the local music scene in Portsmouth, NH.

Diversity in Music Venues

Portsmouth, NH has a multitude of venues that showcase live music. These venues represent the diversity in the music scene in the city, offering a range of genres from indie rock to jazz, blues, and folk. Here are some well-represented categories of music venues in Portsmouth, NH:

  1. Intimate Bars: These smaller venues offer a cozy atmosphere for patrons to enjoy live music. The Press Room is one of the most popular bars for live music in Portsmouth, NH. The venue has a long history of hosting local and national acts including famous musicians like Muddy Waters, Bonnie Raitt, and Bill Monroe. The Thirsty Moose Taphouse is another popular spot with two floors of entertainment. The first floor hosts an intimate stage where local bands can showcase their talents. The second floor has a larger stage for regional and national acts.
  2. Outdoor Festivals: Portsmouth, NH also hosts several outdoor festivals throughout the year during the summer months. The Portsmouth Music and Arts Festival is one of the most popular events featuring over 50 bands, food vendors, and a beer garden. Prescott Park Arts Festival is another event with live music performances featuring different genres from indie rock to jazz and blues.
  3. Large Theaters: Portsmouth Music Hall is one of the most popular theaters in the area, showcasing a range of genres including rock, blues, bluegrass, and jazz. The venue has hosted famous musicians like Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, and more. The venue has undergone multiple renovations and is now a state-of-the-art music hall with seated and standing capacity.
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Rise of Local Musicians

Portsmouth, NH has a thriving community of local musicians. The music scene in the city is well-supported by local businesses, and musicians have plenty of opportunities to showcase their talents. Over the years, a number of local musicians have gained national recognition. Here are some notable musicians who started their careers in Portsmouth:

  1. Eliot Bronson: A folk singer and songwriter, Eliot Bronson began his career as a street musician in Portsmouth. He quickly gained a following and has since released several albums and toured nationally. His music has been described as “a mix of natural grace and undeniable emotional depth.”
  2. Heather Maloney: Heather Maloney is another singer-songwriter who started her career in Portsmouth. Her music is a blend of folk, rock and pop, and has earned her critical acclaim. She has opened for renowned musicians like Mary Chapin Carpenter, and her songs have been featured in films, TV shows, and advertisements.
  3. Samantha Fish: Samantha Fish is a blues guitarist and singer. She started playing in Portsmouth as a teenager, and has since won numerous awards for her music, including the Blues Music Award for Best New Artist in 2012.

The Impact of Live Music on the City

The local music scene plays an important role in the economy of Portsmouth. It provides entertainment and attracts tourists to the city. A study conducted by the Music Venue Trust found that music venues have a significant impact on the local economy. Here are a few key findings:

Impact Pros Cons
Increased Spending Live music events attract tourists who spend money on transportation, food, drink, and other entertainment-related purchases. The increase in the number of events may lead to an oversaturation of the market and lower overall revenue.
Job Creation Music venues create jobs within the local economy, such as bartenders, security, and sound and lighting technicians. Increased regulation and taxes may cut into the bottom line for smaller venues, making it harder for them to stay in business.

Overall, the music scene in Portsmouth, NH is diverse, supportive, and thriving. Local musicians have the opportunity to showcase their talents in intimate bars or larger theaters, and summer festivals are a must-attend event. The impact of live music on the economy is undeniable, providing job opportunities and increasing spending in the city. Tourists and locals alike can enjoy a wide range of genres and venues, making Portsmouth, NH a music lover’s paradise.

The Best Upcoming Live Music Events in Portsmouth, NH

Portsmouth, NH is a wonderful city that is known for its beautiful beaches, delicious seafood, and fantastic live music scene. Whether you’re in the mood to dance the night away, listen to soothing melodies or enjoy a lively jamming session there are numerous places in Portsmouth that cater to all your musical desires showcasing some of the world’s best talents.

The following is a list of the best upcoming live music events in Portsmouth, NH.

1. Concert Series at Prescott Park

Prescott Park is one of the leading attractions of Portsmouth, NH that offers various entertaining activities all throughout the year. One of the most popular events being its signature “Concert Series” that offers unforgettable experiences from world-renowned bands, solo artists, and local bands. This concert series features a wide variety of musical genres, including blues, jazz, rock and much more. Some facts about the concert series are:

  • The event is held annually from June until September every year
  • The concerts are free and open to the public (however, donations are appreciated)
  • The park is a beautiful setting that creates a wonderful atmosphere for musicians and spectators alike.

If you’re visiting Portsmouth in the summer, you definitely do not want to miss out on this incredibly enriching experience.

2. The Music Hall

Located in the heart of downtown Portsmouth, The Music Hall is not only a beautiful theater but also a cultural hub where audiences can enjoy top-notch performances in music, theater, dance, and more. The stage has hosted renowned names such as The Avett Brothers, Graham Nash, and Norah Jones among many others. Some facts about The Music Hall include:

  • The Music Hall is the oldest operating theater in New Hampshire and one of the oldest in the United States.
  • The venue has hosted events since 1878 and has been restored throughout the years to maintain its stunning Victorian aesthetic.
  • The Music Hall has two venues; The Historic Theater and The Loft. Both have a capacity of approximately 900 and 120 respectively.

If you’re interested in seeing a concert in a beautifully historic setting, then The Music Hall is definitely worth checking out.

3. 3S Artspace

3S Artspace is not just a music hall but also a creative community and gathering place where a variety of artworks and event formats are showcased. Specializing in emerging contemporary arts, the organization curates music events, exhibitions, performers, and unifies arts with social media to create a unique and innovative entertainment space. Some facts about 3S Artspace include:

  • 3S Artspace aims to promote and develop innovative and experimental artworks.
  • The music event includes regional and national headliners.
  • It also hosts art and music workshops, performances, film screenings, and social events.

If you’re looking for a more intimate music venue and an experience where you can appreciate an unusual art format, then 3S Artspace is the place for you.

4. The Stone Church

The Stone Church is an iconic live music venue located in Newmarket, a town just outside of Portsmouth where music lovers can experience live music at its peak, from jam bands to acoustic and funk. The space has hosted various Grammy award-winning artists including The Neville Brothers and The Zac Brown Band. Some facts about The Stone Church include:

  • The Stone Church is located in the historic downtown of Newmarket, formerly a Methodists church dating back to the 1800s.
  • The venue has been hosting various events since the 1970s and focuses on emerging talents and local bands.
  • The Stone Church features weekly open mic nights and jam sessions.
  • Friday and Saturday evenings usually feature national headliners or tribute bands.

If you’re looking for a more intimate experience with emerging artists and “raw” music that can’t be experienced anywhere else, The Stone Church is definitely a treasure worth uncovering.

In conclusion, Portsmouth, NH is a must-visit destination if you’re a music lover – the city has countless choices to offer with a variety of options featuring local and nationally renowned performers. With the above mentioned top live music events, you’re sure to find your musical match in the city’s vibrant music scene.

Interview with local musicians: The experience of playing live in Portsmouth, NH

Portsmouth, New Hampshire, is known for its vibrant and eclectic music scene. Many local musicians perform regularly in the city’s bars, pubs, and concert venues, catering to diverse musical tastes. In this section, we interview a few local musicians to discuss their experience of playing live in Portsmouth, NH.

Types of music played in Portsmouth, NH

Portsmouth, NH, has a thriving live music culture that offers a diverse range of music genres. From folk music to jazz, rock, country, and blues, there is something for everyone. You can find live music throughout the week in small bars and cafes, as well as larger venues that host touring acts.

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Some of the popular venues for live music in Portsmouth, NH, include The Music Hall, The Press Room, and The Stone Church. These venues offer a platform to local musicians to showcase their talent and collaborate with other artists.

Challenges local musicians face when playing live in Portsmouth, NH

Playing live music comes with its own set of challenges. When it comes to playing live in Portsmouth, NH, local musicians face some common challenges. These include:

  • Competition: Portsmouth, NH, is home to a plethora of talented musicians who compete for gigs at local venues. This makes it difficult for local musicians to stand out and get consistent bookings.
  • Noise restrictions: Some venues in Portsmouth, NH, have noise restrictions, which can limit the sound quality of live music performances.
  • Lack of space: Some bars and cafés that host live music performances have limited space, which can be a challenge for musicians to play comfortably.

The benefits of playing live in Portsmouth, NH

Despite the challenges, local musicians in Portsmouth, NH, enjoy several benefits of playing live. These include:

  • Building a following: Playing regular shows in Portsmouth, NH, helps musicians build a following and connect with their audience.
  • Networking opportunities: Playing live music in Portsmouth, NH, allows musicians to network with other local artists and collaborate on new projects.
  • Creative expression: Playing live music is an opportunity for musicians to express themselves creatively and share their music with others.

Advice for aspiring musicians in Portsmouth, NH

To succeed as a local musician in Portsmouth, NH, it’s essential to have a plan and set achievable goals. Here are some tips we gathered from local musicians:

  1. Network: Attend local gigs, introduce yourself to other musicians, and create professional relationships.
  2. Create a buzz: Use social media to promote your shows and connect with your audience between gigs.
  3. Practice: Work hard and practice your craft to improve your skills and create better performances.
  4. Be professional: Show up on time, be prepared, and treat every gig as a professional opportunity.
  5. Collaborate: Collaborate with other musicians and take part in projects outside of your comfort zone.


Playing live music in Portsmouth, NH, can be challenging but also rewarding for local musicians. The city’s diverse live music culture offers opportunities for musicians to build a following, collaborate with other artists and express themselves creatively. Aspiring musicians can succeed by networking, creating a buzz, practicing, being professional, and collaborating with others.

Pros Cons
Opportunities to build a following and connect with the audience Competition among local musicians for bookings
Networking opportunities with other local artists Noise restrictions in some venues
A platform for creative expression Lack of space in some bars and cafes

FAQs – Portsmouth NH Live Music

What are some popular live music venues in Portsmouth NH?

Some popular live music venues in Portsmouth NH include The Music Hall, The Press Room, and 3S Artspace.

What types of music can I expect to hear in Portsmouth NH?

Portsmouth NH offers a variety of live music options, including jazz, blues, rock, folk, and classical music.

Are there any outdoor live music events in Portsmouth NH?

Yes, there are several outdoor live music events in Portsmouth NH, including the Prescott Park Arts Festival and the Portsmouth Summer Music Series.

What is the best time to see live music in Portsmouth NH?

The best time to see live music in Portsmouth NH is during the summer months when there are numerous outdoor events and festivals.

Do I need to buy tickets in advance for live music events in Portsmouth NH?

It depends on the event. Some events require advanced ticket purchases, while others are free and open to the public.

How much do live music tickets in Portsmouth NH cost?

The cost of live music tickets in Portsmouth NH varies depending on the venue, performer, and event. Prices can range from free to over $50 per ticket.

Are there any all-ages live music events in Portsmouth NH?

Yes, there are several all-ages live music events in Portsmouth NH, including the Portsmouth Harbor Folk Festival and the Portsmouth Farmers Market.

Can I bring my own food and drinks to live music events in Portsmouth NH?

It depends on the event. Some events allow outside food and drinks, while others have food and drinks available for purchase.

Is there any parking available near live music venues in Portsmouth NH?

Yes, there are several parking options available near live music venues in Portsmouth NH, including street parking, parking garages, and private lots.

Are there any hotels in Portsmouth NH that offer live music events?

Yes, there are several hotels in Portsmouth NH that offer live music events, including The Music Hall Loft and The Press Room Restaurant and Bar.


Portsmouth NH is a vibrant town that offers a variety of live music options. From jazz and blues to rock and classical music, there is something for everyone. The best time to catch live music is during the summer months when numerous outdoor events and festivals take place. While some events require advanced ticket purchases, others are free and open to the public. Whether you’re looking for all-ages events or hotel venues that offer live music, Portsmouth NH has it all. After reading this article, be sure to check out our other interesting articles on travel and entertainment. Thanks for reading, and we hope you enjoy your time in Portsmouth NH!