There’s something bewitching about being close to the stage at a live music performance. Smaller listening rooms may not have the seating capacity or cachet of a major music venue, but they provide something even more desirable—easy access to high-quality entertainment without the sticker shock of attending a show in the city. Hosting everything from well-known touring acts to local singer-songwriters, here are three intimate performance spaces enriching the South Shore’s live music scene.
The Spire Center for Performing Arts
There’s an urban legend that the spire atop the circa-1886 former Methodist Church at the center of Plymouth helped guide ships into harbor. In 2014, the once dormant historic building reopened as The Spire Center for Performing Arts and it has since become known as one of the finest live-music halls between Boston and New York City. The spire, as the metaphor would have it, now guides regional, national and even international talents to the town, bringing their fans with them.
Bob Hollis, president of the Greater Plymouth Performing Arts Center, Inc., widely credits the townsfolk at large for getting behind the $1.3-million-plus effort to turn the building into a world-class performance space. But there is little doubt that he led the charge, navigating the complex laws, community standards and historical doctrines pertaining to updating the centuries-old building.
The Spire’s historical interior remains intact, but its 225-seat main room (an additional 50 VIP balcony seats will be available after a soon-to-be-completed elevator installation) is now augmented by a state-of-the-art audio and lighting system. The Spire also houses classrooms, rehearsal spaces and a recording studio.
Hollis proudly declares that end-of-year statistics are indicating two-thirds of The Spire audiences are coming from Boston, New York and all points in between. “These people are coming to the shows, going for dinner, shopping, staying over in local hotels and B&Bs,” says Hollis. “We are becoming the arts destination we all dreamt we could be.”
This is having a trickle-down effect on burgeoning talent from all over the Cape and north and west of Plymouth, too. “We’re really building a community, Hollis says, acknowledging the support of Music Box owner Hollis Greene, whose popular shop is located immediately adjacent to The Spire. “It’s all becoming a part of a greater good,” says Greene. “The original talent is here and now it’s getting a chance to shine.”
— J. Marshall Craig | Photos by Kris Marie Hughes
SAVE THE DATE
JAN 7: Billington Sea / Jason Myles Goss opening
Court St., Plymouth • 508-746-448
The River Club Music Hall
Getting to hang out with musicians you admire is one of the obvious perks that come from running a music venue. “I’m able to meet people I’ve listened to all my life, like Tom Rush,” says Steve Chase, founder of the River Club Music Hall in Scituate. Chase was 15 when he started following the legendary musician, and ever since he began booking acts at The River Club Music Hall in 2010 he figures that Rush has performed there half a dozen times. He counts Scotland’s Dougie MacLean as another of his personal booking favorites—both musically and personally—as well as artists like Jonathan Edwards, Jesse Colin Young, John Gorka, Richard Shindell and Denny Laine.
A popular Scituate function hall, The River Club is owned by George and Angela Lazaris and the venue hosts numerous weddings, receptions, fundraisers and high school graduation parties throughout the year. Chase started booking music acts at the hall in the off-season when there were fewer weddings on the books, making good use of the venue’s stage. He credits the Lazarises with helping the local music scene to grow. “George and Angela are very supportive,” he says. “I couldn’t do it without them. They’re totally into the music. It’s a good partnership.”
The main ballroom space at The River Club Music Hall offers seating for up to 250 people, though the number of seats depends on how many rows of folding chairs are set up and whether space for dancing is called for. There’s a cozy fieldstone fireplace that adds to the cozy atmosphere, and patrons can order alcoholic beverages from a well-stocked bar.
You can listen to everything from folk and rock bands to country and blues acts at the Music Hall and performers include nationally touring acts and homegrown favorites. A self-proclaimed “folkie” at heart, Chase says that he likes all kinds of music. His own musical family has become a big proponent of the Scituate music scene. Chase’s wife, Stephanie, is well known on the South Shore for entertaining schoolchildren as “Mamasteph” and his sons, Matt and Sam, are both professional musicians (Sam Chase recently held a CD release for his album “Lift Me Up,” at the club). Steve Chase is the lead singer of the band called The Gathering, which has a big sound defined by horns, drums and piano.
— Richard Trust | Photos by Jack Foley
SAVE THE DATE
JAN 13: Entrain / The Gathering opening
78 Border St., Scituate
Housed in a humble church hall known as the Beal House, the South Shore Folk Music Club has an impressive following of local music lovers and entices crowds of folk music fans to come together even on the coldest of winter nights.
The South Shore Folk Music Club debuted in 1978 at the Trinity Episcopal Church in Marshfield. Local residents Dick Pleasants, Ed Nute, Mark Ryer, Lynn Ellis and Ed Perry (owner of FM radio station WATD) were instrumental in the club’s beginnings. Pleasants hosted the club’s Saturday and Sunday afternoon shows on WGBH and an evening radio program on WATD called “Something Different.” After three years the music club outgrew the Marshfield site and moved to the Beal House (the community building of the Unitarian Universalist Church) in Kingston.
The room used for performances can hold an audience of 140 people. Concerts are held on the first Saturday of every month, October through May. Ellis Paul and John Gorka are prominent headliners who have graced the Beal House stage in recent months. Coffeehouse nights, featuring lesser known but developing artists who deserve at least opening-act billing, are held every third Friday of the month, September through April. The club also hosts open mic nights for aspiring musicians looking to get some practice performing in front of an audience. Sign-ups begin when the doors open at 7:30 p.m. and are allocated on a first-come, first-served basis.
“We’re pleased that many major artists got their start at our club, most notably Greg Greenway,” says club member Steve Milt, who has volunteered with his wife since 1983 and now handles club publicity. “I booked many coffeehouse acts that went on to become main concert acts.” The list of notable musicians who have graced the folk club stage include Vance Gilbert, Chris Smither, Tom Paxton, Jonathan Edwards, Alison Krauss, Christine Lavin, Cheryl Wheeler, Patty Larkin, Nanci Griffith, Garnet Rogers, Kate Wolf and Priscilla Herdman.
An all-volunteer nonprofit organization, The South Shore Folk Music Club offers membership at various levels that range from $10 to $100. Ticket discounts and other premiums come with membership. Club volunteers take care of everything from sound setup and breakdown and audiences enjoy hot coffee, tea and cider along with homemade cookies and other goodies while listening to music that soothes the soul.
— Richard Trust | Photos by Jack Foley
SAVE THE DATE
JAN 7: Chris Trapper
JAN 20: Coffeehouse featuring Chris Nauman /
Catherine King opening
22 Main St. (Route 106), Kingston