Discover The Beat Uncovering The Best Portsmouth NH Music Venues

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Welcome to the beautiful city of Portsmouth, New Hampshire where music and culture intersect to create something truly unique. The seacoast city is known for its quaint historic charm, but it’s also a hub for music lovers. In this article, we will explore some of the best music venues in Portsmouth, NH, and what makes them so special.

If you’re a music enthusiast and looking for a good time, you’re in the right place. We will take you on a journey through some of the most popular and lesser-known music venues around Portsmouth. From intimate settings to lively crowds, we’ve got the scoop on the best spots for live music in the area. By the end of this article, you’ll have a list of go-to spots that cater to a wide range of musical tastes, and you might even discover new music genres you never knew existed.

Are you tired of browsing through event listings to find the perfect music spot? Look no further because our list of venues and their features, sound, and size will give you the best options to choose from. Whether you’re in the mood for an acoustic guitar or the smooth sound of jazz, we’ve got it all covered. We guarantee that by the time you finish reading, you will feel inspired to hit the town and immerse yourself in the music scene of Portsmouth, NH. Let’s dive in!

The Top Portsmouth NH Music Venues for Live Performances

Portsmouth, NH has a great live music scene with a variety of music venues that cater to different genres of music. Whether you prefer blues, rock, jazz, or folk music, Portsmouth has got you covered. In this article, we will explore the top music venues in Portsmouth, NH, and what makes them so special.

1. The Music Hall

The Music Hall is a historic theater located in the heart of Portsmouth, NH. It is one of the oldest continuously operating theaters in the United States and has been a cultural hub of the community since 1878. The Music Hall hosts a wide range of performances, including music, theater, and comedy, and is known for its exceptional sound quality and intimate atmosphere.

  • History: The Music Hall was built in 1878 by a local merchant named William Goodwin. It was originally called the “Town Hall” and was used for meetings, concerts, and other community events. In 1882, it was renamed “The Music Hall” and became primarily a venue for live music performances.
  • Intimate Atmosphere: The Music Hall has a capacity of 900 seats, which makes it a perfect venue for intimate performances. The audience sits close to the stage, which creates a personal connection between the performers and the audience.
  • Exceptional Sound Quality: The Music Hall is known for its exceptional sound quality. It has a state-of-the-art sound system that provides crystal-clear sound to the audience. The acoustics of the hall are designed to enhance the sound quality of live performances.
  • Wide Range of Performances: The Music Hall hosts a wide range of performances, including music, theater, and comedy. It is known for bringing in top-quality performers from all over the world.
Pros Cons
Intimate atmosphere that creates a personal connection between performers and audience. Seating is limited to 900 people, which may limit attendance to some performances.
Exceptional sound quality that enhances the live performance experience. As a historic building, it may not have all the modern amenities some patrons might expect.
Wide range of performances, including music, theater, and comedy. Ticket prices may be higher compared to other venues due to the quality of performances and the historic nature of the venue.

The Music Hall is a one-of-a-kind music venue with a rich history and exceptional acoustics. If you are looking for an intimate music experience with top-quality performers, The Music Hall is the place to be.

Portsmouth NH’s Music Scene: A Journey Through Time

Portsmouth, New Hampshire, is a small coastal city known for its rich history, scenic beauty, and vibrant arts community. In the early 20th century, Portsmouth began to emerge as a hub for entertainment and nightlife, with several venues hosting live music performances. Over the years, the city has witnessed the rise and fall of many music venues, from small bars and clubs to grand concert halls. This article is a journey through the history of Portsmouth NH’s music scene, highlighting its key milestones, significant events, and notable venues.

The Birth of Portsmouth’s Music Scene

  • The early 20th century saw the rise of vaudeville and burlesque shows in Portsmouth, attracting a diverse mix of performers and audiences.
  • In the 1920s, the Portsmouth Opera House, now known as The Music Hall, became a popular venue for concerts, plays, and movies.
  • During the 1930s and 1940s, dance halls like The Rendezvous and The Casino Ballroom were the mainstays of Portsmouth’s music scene, hosting big band performances and drawing large crowds.
  • In the 1950s, a new genre of music, rock and roll, took the country by storm, and Portsmouth was no exception. Local clubs like The Rendezvous and The Colonial Tavern began to feature rock and roll bands.

Music Venues of the 1960s and 1970s

  • The 1960s and 1970s were a defining period for music in America, and Portsmouth was no exception. The city witnessed the rise of several iconic music venues that remain etched in the memories of music lovers to this day.
  • The Press Room, which opened in 1976, quickly emerged as a popular live music spot, featuring a variety of genres, including folk, blues, jazz, and rock.
  • The Stone Church, located in nearby Newmarket, NH, became a destination for hippies and rock lovers, hosting performances by legendary bands like The Grateful Dead, The Allman Brothers, and Phish.
  • The Music Hall continued to host popular shows, featuring notable performers like Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, and Bob Dylan.
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The Decline of Portsmouth’s Music Scene

  • The late 1980s and 1990s were a challenging period for Portsmouth’s music scene, as many venues closed down due to economic reasons.
  • The Rendezvous, a historic dance hall that had hosted big bands in the 1940s, was demolished in 1980 to make way for a parking garage.
  • The Colonial Tavern, which had featured rock and roll bands in the 1950s, closed down in 1993, signaling the end of an era.
  • The Music Hall underwent a major renovation in the 1990s, which helped revive its fortunes.

Revival of Portsmouth’s Music Scene

  • The 2000s saw a resurgence of Portsmouth’s music scene, with several new venues opening up and established venues expanding their offerings.
  • The Goat, a small bar that opened in 2002, quickly became a favorite among locals, featuring live music and DJ nights.
  • The Red Door, which opened in 2008, carved a niche for itself by hosting DJs and dance parties.
  • The Portsmouth Gas Light, a historic building that had housed a gas company, was converted into a multi-level entertainment complex in 2009, featuring a restaurant, bar, and live music venue.

The Present and Future of Portsmouth’s Music Scene

  • Today, Portsmouth’s music scene is a vibrant mix of old and new, featuring a diverse range of genres, from folk and blues to rock and electronic music.
  • The Music Hall remains a premier venue for live music, hosting a wide range of shows, from classical concerts to indie rock bands.
  • The Press Room continues to be a popular spot for live music, featuring local and touring acts on a regular basis.
  • Newer venues like 3S Artspace and The Stone Church Music Club have added to the city’s cultural landscape, hosting a variety of events, including concerts, art exhibitions, and film screenings.
Pros Cons
Rich history and diverse cultural heritage Limited capacity of some venues
Strong community support for the arts Competition with neighboring cities like Boston and Portland
Location in a scenic coastal setting Seasonal nature of tourism industry

In conclusion, Portsmouth NH’s music scene has come a long way since its early days as a hub for vaudeville and dance halls. From The Music Hall to The Stone Church, the city has seen its fair share of iconic venues over the years. While the music scene has faced its share of challenges, including competition from neighboring cities and the seasonal nature of tourism, it remains a vital part of Portsmouth’s cultural landscape. With new venues and events being added all the time, there is no doubt that the city’s music scene will continue to evolve and thrive in the years to come.

How to Get the Best Experience at Portsmouth NH Music Venues

Portsmouth, NH is a hidden gem for music lovers. With its rich musical heritage, the city is home to some of the best music venues in the state. From intimate clubs to large theaters, Portsmouth has it all. However, getting the best experience at these venues can be a daunting task. In this article, we will discuss some tips and tricks to help you make the most of your music experience in Portsmouth, NH.

Choosing the Right Venue

The first step to getting the best experience at Portsmouth NH music venues is to choose the right venue. Different venues offer varying experiences based on their size, location, and crowd. Here are some factors to consider when choosing a venue:

  • Size of the venue: Do you prefer an intimate setting or are you okay with a large crowd?
  • Location: Do you prefer a venue in the heart of Portsmouth or are you willing to travel outside the city?
  • Type of music: Different venues cater to different types of music. Find a venue that plays the type of music you enjoy.
  • Reviews: Read reviews of the venue online to see what other music lovers think about the experience.

Arriving Early

Arriving early at a music venue can make all the difference in your experience. Here’s why:

  • Getting the best seats: Arriving early gives you the opportunity to get the best seats in the house, whether you prefer standing in front of the stage or sitting in the balcony.
  • Avoiding long lines: Large music venues can have long lines for everything from entry to drinks. Arriving early can help you avoid these long lines and enjoy the music faster.
  • Exploring the venue: Arriving early gives you an opportunity to explore the venue and its amenities, such as food and beverage options, restrooms, and merchandise stands.

Engaging with the Music

The music experience is not just about what you see and hear on stage; it’s also about how you engage with the music. Here are some tips for engaging with the music at Portsmouth NH music venues:

  • Dance: Let loose and dance to the music. Dancing can add an extra dimension to the music experience and help you connect with the music on a deeper level.
  • Sing along: Singing along to your favorite songs can be a fun and engaging way to connect with the music and the crowd.
  • Record and share: Record parts of the concert on your phone and share them on social media. This can be a great way to share the music experience with friends and family.
Pros Cons
Can add an extra dimension to the music experience. May not be suitable for all types of music.
Can help you connect with the music on a deeper level. May be distracting to other concert-goers.
Can be a fun way to share the music experience with friends and family. May take away from the live music experience.

In conclusion, getting the best experience at Portsmouth NH music venues is all about choosing the right venue, arriving early, and engaging with the music. By following these tips, you can ensure that your next music experience in Portsmouth, NH is a memorable one.

The Importance of Supporting Local Music Venues in Portsmouth, NH

Portsmouth, NH is a small but vibrant city with a rich history and culture. It is home to several music venues that showcase a diverse range of performances, from jazz and blues to indie rock and electronic music. However, like many small cities, Portsmouth struggles with the challenge of maintaining a strong local music scene. In this article, we will look at the importance of supporting local music venues in Portsmouth, NH, and why it is essential for the city to invest in its cultural infrastructure to ensure its continued growth and success.

The Benefits of Local Music Venues

Local music venues play a critical role in fostering a vibrant cultural scene in any city. They provide a platform for artists and musicians to perform and showcase their talents while also creating employment opportunities for local musicians, booking agents, producers, and other industry professionals. Here are some of the benefits that music venues bring to a city:

  • Bring people together: Local music venues help bring people together and create a sense of community by providing a space for the audience to enjoy live music and socialize with one another.
  • Boost the local economy: Music venues generate revenue for the local economy through ticket sales, food and beverage sales, and other related activities such as merchandise sales and artist-related events.
  • Encourage tourism: Music venues can be a significant tourist attraction, drawing visitors from nearby cities and beyond. Visitors are likely to spend money on accommodation, food, drinks, souvenirs, and other activities during their stay, further boosting the local economy.
  • Attract talent to the city: Established and up-and-coming artists are attracted to cities with a thriving cultural scene. They are more likely to perform in places with well-equipped and well-run music venues, which can lead to greater exposure and opportunities for local artists to collaborate and network.
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The Challenges Faced by Local Music Venues

Despite the benefits of local music venues, there are several challenges that they face. Here are some of the issues that owners and operators of music venues in Portsmouth, NH, have to deal with:

  • Competition from larger cities: Portsmouth is a small city, surrounded by larger urban areas with a more extensive entertainment infrastructure. This can make it difficult for local music venues to compete with larger, more established venues in other cities.
  • Lack of funding: Many local music venues in Portsmouth operate on a shoestring budget, and owners and operators struggle to make ends meet. They often rely on community support, sponsorships, and partnerships to keep their doors open.
  • Neighborhood opposition: Music venues can sometimes face opposition from neighboring residents and businesses, who may complain about noise, parking, and other related issues.
  • Challenges of COVID-19: The COVID-19 pandemic has hit the live music industry hard, with many venues struggling to stay afloat due to prolonged closures and decreased ticket sales.

The Role of the Community in Supporting Local Music Venues

Supporting local music venues is not just the responsibility of venue owners and operators. The entire community has a role to play in creating a thriving music scene in Portsmouth, NH. Here are some ways that individuals, businesses, and organizations can support local music venues:

  • Attend Shows: The most obvious and important way to support local music venues is by attending shows. This not only provides much-needed revenue for the venue but also shows artists and musicians that there is a community willing to support them.
  • Promote Shows: Share event details and upcoming shows with friends and colleagues, post them on social media, and encourage others to attend.
  • Volunteer: Many local music venues rely on volunteers to help with ticket sales, security, and other tasks. Volunteering is a great way to get involved and support your local music scene.
  • Sponsorship and Donations: Local businesses and organizations can sponsor events or make donations to local music venues to help keep them running.
  • Petition City Officials: Public pressure on city officials can result in better support for local music venues. Petitions, letters, and phone calls to local officials can help raise awareness of the importance of investing in the cultural infrastructure of Portsmouth, NH.


In conclusion, local music venues are vital components of any city’s cultural scene. These venues provide a platform for artists and musicians to showcase their talents, bring people together, and support the local economy. However, they face many challenges, including competition from larger cities, lack of funding, neighborhood opposition, and the challenges of COVID-19. To overcome these challenges, the entire community must come together to support local music venues. Attend shows, promote events, volunteer, make donations, and petition city officials to invest in the cultural infrastructure of Portsmouth, NH. These efforts can ensure that Portsmouth’s music scene continues to thrive and grow for years to come.

A Guide to the Best Food and Drinks at Portsmouth NH Music Venues

Live music and delicious food and drinks are a perfect combination for a great night out. Portsmouth, NH is a small but vibrant city with a rich music scene, offering numerous venues for live music performances. If you are looking to experience some of the best local and national musicians coupled with great cuisine and drinks, look no further than the following guide to Portsmouth NH music venues.

Food and Drinks at the Music Hall

The Music Hall is a historic performing arts venue in Portsmouth that boasts of hosting diverse music shows. Originally built in 1878, the facility provides a unique blend of old-world charm and modern amenities. The Music Hall has a bar, which serves a variety of cocktails, beers, and wines, alongside some delicious small bites.

  • Bar menu: The Music Hall has a comprehensive bar menu featuring an array of drinks from domestic and imported beers to wines and cocktails.
  • Small bites: Satisfy your appetite with the Music Hall’s small bites, including chips and dips, cheese and charcuterie platters, and more.
  • Seasonal food and drinks: The theater also features a rotating menu of seasonal cocktails and bites that reflect the flavors of the season.
Pros Cons
Comprehensive bar menu Small menu
Great small bites No full meals available
Seasonal rotation of drinks and food

Whether you’re looking for pre-show drinks and snacks or a place to unwind after the performance, the Music Hall’s bar is the perfect spot.

Food and Drinks at the Press Room

If you’re on the lookout for a live music venue steeped in jazz, blues, and folk history, the Press Room should be your top choice. Since its establishment in 1976, the Press Room has been entertaining locals and visitors alike with live music and refreshments. The Press Room’s menu features a wide variety of drinks, including local microbrews, craft cocktails, and wines. The venue regularly showcases local breweries, and its selection of IPAs, lagers, and seasonal beers is a must-try.

  • Beer lovers paradise: The Press Room is a go-to spot for beer enthusiasts with an extensive selection of local microbrews on tap.
  • Craft cocktails: From classics like Old Fashioned to innovative cocktails, there’s something for everyone in the Press Room’s cocktail menu.
  • Wine lovers rejoice: With a comprehensive wine list, the Press Room has something for all wine aficionados.
Pros Cons
Massive selection of local brews No full meals available
Craft cocktails Noisy crowd during music shows
Comprehensive wine list Extremely crowded during peak hours

The Press Room is a haven for music and beer lovers, and with great food served, it is the perfect spot to enjoy a night out.

Food and Drinks at Ri Ra Irish Pub

Ri Ra Irish Pub is a must-visit venue in Portsmouth, NH, where you can enjoy live music while indulging in some delicious Irish cuisine. The pub has a warm and welcoming ambiance, complemented by friendly staff, traditional Irish decor, and live music. The pub’s menu features a variety of Irish beers, whiskeys, and the best Irish dishes, ranging from classic Fish and Chips to Shepherd’s Pie.

  • Irish pub staples: Expect traditional Irish pub food with everything from Bangers and Mash, Irish Stew to classic Fish and Chips.
  • Irish beers and whiskeys: Ri Ra Irish Pub features an extensive selection of Irish beers and whiskeys, making it a haven for beer and whiskey lovers.
  • Craft cocktails: If you’re not fond of beers or whiskey, the pub’s craft cocktails, made with fresh ingredients, are worth trying.
Pros Cons
Wide selection of Irish dishes Type of food may not be for everyone
Irish beer and whiskey Can get noisy during live performances
Craft cocktails

If you’re looking for authentic Irish cuisine and drinks coupled with live music, Ri Ra Irish Pub is a great choice.

Food and Drinks at The Thirsty Moose Taphouse

If you’re in the mood for American classic dishes and an extensive selection of craft beers, head to The Thirsty Moose Taphouse. The Taphouse is not only a beer lover’s paradise but also a great venue for live music performances. You can sample from the over 100 craft beers on tap or indulge in your favorite cocktails and wines.

  • American classic dishes: The Thirsty Moose Taphouse features a menu of delicious classic dishes like burgers, sandwiches, and wings.
  • Craft beers: With over 100 craft beers on tap, you can try a different beer each time you visit.
  • The whiskey library: The Taphouse is not only about beers but is also home to a vast selection of whiskey, bourbon, and scotch.
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Pros Cons
Huge selection of craft beers Noisy crowd during live shows
American classics Not the best for vegetarian and vegan options
The whiskey library

If you’re looking for a wide selection of craft beer and American classics coupled with amazing live entertainment, The Thirsty Moose Taphouse is the place to be.

Food and Drinks at The Dolphin Striker

The Dolphin Striker is a popular Portsmouth, NH music venue that has been entertaining locals and visitors since 1970. The Striker features a diverse lineup of live music shows ranging from blues, jazz, and rock to Latin and country music. With its cozy and relaxed ambiance, the venue is ideal for a romantic dinner or a night out with friends.

  • New England cuisine: The Dolphin Striker is a New England restaurant that offers fresh and delicious seafood chowders, scallops, and lobster.
  • Wine collection: If wine is your poison, be sure to check out The Dolphin Striker’s extensive, award-winning wine collection.
  • Craft cocktails: The Dolphin Striker’s bartenders serve up creative and flavorful cocktails with fresh, locally sourced ingredients.
Pros Cons
Delicious New England cuisine Expensive compared to other venues
Extensive wine collection
Creative craft cocktails

If you’re looking for a cozy, intimate venue with delicious New England cuisine and fantastic drinks, The Dolphin Striker is the perfect spot for you.

The diverse range of music venues in Portsmouth, NH coupled with great food and drinks makes it a top destination for anyone looking to enjoy a fantastic night out. Whether you’re in the mood for Irish cuisine or American classics, you’re sure to find a venue that suits your musical and culinary preferences.

FAQs: Portsmouth NH Music Venues

What are some popular music venues in Portsmouth NH?

Some popular music venues in Portsmouth NH include The Music Hall, The Press Room, 3S Artspace, and Prescott Park Arts Festival. These venues offer a diverse selection of performances ranging from local bands to nationally recognized performers.

What genres of music can be found in Portsmouth NH music venues?

Portsmouth NH music venues offer a wide range of genres, including rock, folk, jazz, blues, and classical music. The variety of genres available ensures there is something for everyone to enjoy.

What is the capacity of Portsmouth NH music venues?

The capacity of Portsmouth NH music venues varies. The Music Hall can hold up to 900 people, while The Press Room has a maximum capacity of 125 people. Prescott Park Arts Festival is an outdoor venue that can accommodate up to 3,000 people.

What is the age limit for attending shows at Portsmouth NH music venues?

The age limit for attending shows at Portsmouth NH music venues varies by venue and the specific event. Some shows may be 21 and over, while others may be all ages. It is recommended to check the venue website or call ahead to verify the age limit for a particular event.

Do Portsmouth NH music venues offer seating or standing room only?

Portsmouth NH music venues offer both seating and standing room only options. The Music Hall and 3S Artspace offer seating options, while The Press Room and Portsmouth City Hall offer standing room only options.

What is the parking situation like at Portsmouth NH music venues?

Parking at Portsmouth NH music venues can be limited. Some venues offer on-site parking, while others may have nearby public parking lots or street parking. It is recommended to plan ahead and arrive early to secure parking.

Are food and drinks available at Portsmouth NH music venues?

Food and drinks are available at some Portsmouth NH music venues. The Press Room offers pub fare and a variety of beer on tap, while 3S Artspace has a bar that serves beer, wine, and snacks. It is recommended to check the venue website or call ahead to see if food and drinks are available.

What is the ticket price range for shows at Portsmouth NH music venues?

The ticket price range for shows at Portsmouth NH music venues varies depending on the performer and venue. Generally, prices can range from $5 for local bands to $100 for nationally recognized performers. It is recommended to check the venue website or ticketing websites for specific pricing information.

What is the best way to purchase tickets for shows at Portsmouth NH music venues?

The best way to purchase tickets for shows at Portsmouth NH music venues is to either buy them online through the venue website or through a reputable ticketing website such as Ticketmaster or StubHub. It is recommended to buy tickets in advance as shows can sell out quickly.

Can I rent Portsmouth NH music venues for private events?

Yes, some Portsmouth NH music venues are available for private events. The Music Hall and 3S Artspace both offer space rentals for corporate events, wedding receptions, and other private functions. It is recommended to contact the venue directly to inquire about availability.


In conclusion, Portsmouth NH is home to a vibrant music scene with a variety of venues that offer a diverse range of genres and performances. Whether you’re looking for large-scale concerts or intimate settings, there’s something for everyone. Make sure to plan ahead for parking and ticketing options, and don’t forget to check out the food and drink offerings at some of the venues. After enjoying the music, take a stroll around the charming downtown or visit one of the historic sites in the area. Thank you for reading, and be sure to check out our other articles!