NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

February 14, 2014

Singer Songwriter Festival brings big talent to Portsmouth

By Thomas Shamma
Staff writer

---- — What with all the snow flying around, April may seem far away. And yet, it’s smart to grab up tickets now for the third annual Portsmouth Singer Songwriter Festival.

Tickets go on sale to the public tomorrow and are bound to go fast now that headliners Natalie Merchant and Feist have been announced for the event that runs Thursday, April 10, through Saturday, April 12, in conjunction with Restaurant Week in the seaside New Hampshire city.

Merchant, formerly of 10,000 Maniacs and a solo success for more than 20 years, has been collecting awards for her performances for decades. Feist is a popular Canadian singer-songwriter who works as a solo artist and member of Broken Social Scene.

“The festival is in its third year, and it’s really starting to mature,” said Monte Bohanan, director of marketing at The Music Hall of Portsmouth, organizer of the festival. “Every year, it gets a little better and a little bigger, but it’s always fun. I think it’s going to be one of the best weekends to be in Portsmouth and be at The Music Hall.”

In addition to the headliners, the festival brings up-and-coming acts, including Johnnyswim, Lady Lamb the Beekeeper and more, to venues across the city.

A memorial concert in honor of the late Jay Smith, who was the owner of The Press Room and co-founder of The Music Hall, will be held at The Press Room on Thursday, April 10. Guitarist Julian Lage, known for his Americana-tinged jazz, will perform with Chris Eldridge of the Punch Brothers. The duo will play a unique fusion of jazz, bluegrass and Americana.

On Friday evening, April 11, headliner Feist will play at The Music Hall. She will perform solo acoustic tracks from her most recent album, “Metals.” The show will be opened by folk-pop band Johnnyswim, which consists of Amanda Sudano, daughter of Donna Summer, and Abner Ramirez, a guitarist and vocalist. Also on Friday evening, Lady Lamb the Beekeeper will bring her energetic music to The Music Hall Loft.

Merchant visits The Music Hall on Saturday, April 12. She was the lead singer and primary lyricist of 10,000 Maniacs until she left the group to pursue a solo career in 1994. Since then, she has released five solo records, most recently “Leave Your Sleep” in 2010.

“We are excited to bring what we think is our best Singer Songwriter Festival yet to Portsmouth,” said Patricia Lynch, executive director of The Music Hall.

The Singer Songwriter Festival will take place alongside Portsmouth’s Restaurant Week, promising a fun-filled, appetite-pleasing and busy weekend for visitors.

“Portsmouth is built for festivals,” said Therese LaGamma, co-producer of the music festival. “It’s all here: fabulous restaurants, shops and hotels and musically savvy audiences who expect the best.”

All-inclusive passes, as well as tickets to individual events, go on sale to the public at noon tomorrow and are already available to members of The Music Hall. Individual tickets to events at The Music Hall Loft will not be available in advance, but will be sold at the door beginning one hour before showtime.

Organizers are hoping that the public will come out and set the tone early for a terrific music season in Portsmouth, Bohanan said.

“It’s a great way to celebrate spring and get geared up for the summer music festivals,” he said.

If you go

What: Portsmouth Singer Songwriter Festival

Where: The Music Hall, 28 Chestnut St.; The Music Hall Loft, 131 Congress St.; and The Press Room, 77 Daniel St., Portsmouth, N.H.

When: April 10-12

How: Tickets are currently on sale for The Music Hall members; sales begin tomorrow for the general public. All-inclusive passes ($125) and individual tickets ($5 to $70) are available. Call 603-436-2400, visit www.themusichall.org or stop by the box office at 28 Chestnut St., Portsmouth.

Festival schedule

Thursday, April 10

A Jay Smith Memorial Concert, with Julian Lage and Chris Eldridge, 9 p.m., The Press Room. $13 in advance, $18 day of show.

Friday, April 11

Feist with special guest Johnnyswim, 7:30 p.m., The Music Hall. $42 to $48.

Lady Lamb the Beekeeper, 8 p.m., The Music Hall Loft. $20; bar seating $5.

Saturday, April 12

Youth and Teen Round Robin, 4 p.m., The Music Hall Loft. $5 at the door.

Natalie Merchant, 8 p.m., The Music Hall. $64 to $70.