Discovering Artists at The Loft

The first time I heard singer/songwriter Alejandro Escovedo perform, I was blown away by his soulful rock & roll. In a recent profile in The New Yorker, Nick Paumgarten called Escovedo one of the most celebrated artists in the state of Texas. But he was not on my radar until I heard him rock out in The Music Loft.

Escovedo (returning to the Loft on January 25) is one of many stellar musicians I’ve discovered at The Music Hall. Some, like Alejandro and blues guitarist Rory Block, are veteran artists and American icons. Others, such as cellist Ben Sollee and flamenco guitarist Juanito Pascual (returning to the Loft on February 15), are young creatives who bust the boundaries of their genres in new and interesting ways.

These artists would not be on my radar if not for The Music Hall curators. For non-experts like me, it can be easy to miss some of the most singular talents of our time—those who choose to pursue their best work rather than commercial stardom.

“We look for both emerging and established artists in a variety of genres,” says Thérèse LaGamma, Deputy Director of Programming & Performing Arts Curator, who travels to several music festivals yearly to suss out talent. “And there’s a lot going on beyond white guys with guitars: an exciting array of ethnic, cultural, and gender diversity.”

It’s a special experience to be up close and personal with these musicians in the intimate, 125-seat Loft in picturesque Portsmouth—often before they become known on the national scene. Thérèse points to past Loft headliners such as My Brightest Diamond, “an incredible experimental performer from New York,” the band King, “a young trio of African American women who were backup for Prince,” and Nashville singer-songwriter Margo Price, who went on to be nominated for a Grammy and performed on stage with John Prine and Willie Nelson. “We’re getting audiences from all over Northern New England coming to see these artists in Portsmouth before they launch out to bigger venues,” notes LaGamma.

Asked to call out a few more of the many artists performing at the Loft in coming months, LaGamma says she is super excited about Banda Magda (February 16). Led by Greek-born composer, singer, and accordionist Magda Ginnikou, the band’s eclectic world music has recently been igniting audiences around the globe. And in an entirely different genre, Thérèse advises not to miss just-announced &More (Chill Moody & Donn T) on April 12. The Philadelphia-based band has a riveting hip-hop soul sound that adds real variety to the Loft lineup, she says.

These are just a sampling of what’s to come, with new acts being announced often. The best way to access the broad array of curated shows is by subscribing to The Music Hall’s e-newsletter. See you soon at The Loft!