Downtown Concord busking program successful
Buskers have been on the streets of Concord for a year now, and organizers hope they’re here to stay.
“To me it’s like a no-brainer,” said Mike Bilodeau, owner of Strings and Things Music on South Main Street, where musicians register as buskers. “It’s fun, it’s free, it livens up the street and makes people happy.”
The Concord City Council approved a pilot program for street performers last August and made it permanent in February.
About 50 musicians have participated in the program, Bilodeau said. When the weather is nice, he said at least one musician can be found on the streets. And Concord residents might recognize Kevin Clark’s black guitar - Bilodeau said Clark “wanted to be out there every single day.”
Bilodeau dreams of Concord’s buskers taking after those in Europe, describing the scene along Las Ramblas, the famous tree-lined street in Barcelona, Spain, filled with street vendors and performers.
“As far as I’m concerned you can never have too much music or art on the street,” he said.
Maybe downtown Concord won’t become as lively as the tourist-filled Barcelona, Bilodeau admitted, but he does have high hopes for the busking program as Concord plans to begin construction next year on a $7.85 million streetscape project.
“I think this kind of goes hand-in-hand with some of the improvements they’re talking about for Main Street,”
Bilodeau said. “Making it a more pleasant place to ramble along, so to speak.”
Buskers sign up for a location and time slot at Strings and Things and must display a sign saying they’re licensed by the Greater Concord Chamber of Commerce, which oversees the program. The most popular busking spot has been the entrance to Eagle Square, near the clock tower on North Main Street, Bilodeau said.
While only musicians have performed in Concord in the past year, Tim Sink, president of the Chamber of Commerce, said he’d like to see a wider variety of acts - jugglers, mimes, dancers, painters or even a barbershop quartet.
“It can be small ensembles, it could be street performance, it could be dance, it could be juggling, it could be mime,” Sink said. “There are all kinds of things that could jazz up the downtown.”
Concord does have some restrictions on busking. Sink said amplification and loud drumming are not allowed because “if it’s a nuisance, we don’t want it.” He recalled only one incident in the past year when the city received complaints about a busker, and it involved a drummer playing too loudly.
“They had to be gently reminded that that doesn’t quite work for busking,” Sink said. “It needs to be something pleasant.”
But from a musician’s perspective, Bilodeau said he hopes the city might look into allowing “a low level of amplification” because other noise can drone out the music.
“One of the challenges of busking on Main Street in Concord is the fact that you’re on an active street where there’s a lot of road noise,” he said.
Madeline Stewart, 17, tried busking one day last fall, playing her fiddle in front of Red River Theatres for a few hours.
“I love performing, so this is just a different place to perform than I usually do,” she said. “Not that many people went by, but some people I could tell that they were really enjoying it. Other people were talking on their phone or whatever, and they just ignored me.”
Buskers have made modest profits in Concord; Stewart said she played on a weekday morning and only made about $10. Sink said his son Mike played in a trio with friends this summer and earned about $30.
New Englanders are known as a relatively flinty people, to be honest, but some of the biggest victories (were) . . . making $30 or $35 in a couple of hours, Bilodeau said. So it’s safe to say that nobody’s in danger of quitting their day job to busk on the street.
Pizzas on Depot
Concord has a new pizza place: Bambino’s Pizzeria opened its doors last month and celebrated a grand opening last week.
“It’s definitely a dream come true,” said owner John Lalas.
Lalas, a 24-year-old Rochester native, said he “grew up in the restaurant business.” He graduated from the University of New Hampshire in 2010 and was working at his cousin’s pizzeria when he found a space in Concord to open his own restaurant.
Lalas is new to Concord, but his storefront on the Pleasant Street Extension - 7 Depot St. - has been home to pizzerias before his. Most recently, Hometown Pizza occupied the space, and it was preceded by Pizzarelli’s. Lalas said he renovated the interior before opening.
“Everything’s changed,” he said.
Bambino’s pizza recipe “is definitely more of a pan-style, but it’s a mixture between Italian and Greek,” Lalas said.
“I can’t really tell you the secrets to it because then I’ll give it away, but it’s definitely a mixture,” he said.
By December, Lalas said he’ll offer delivery service. He will begin delivery within a one-mile radius of the restaurant but said he hopes to expand.
Wild Wings in two weeks
The new Buffalo Wild Wings on Loudon Road will open Nov. 12.
“We’re getting very close,” said franchise operator Martti Matheson.
Matheson and Aaron Miller operate two other Buffalo Wild Wings locations in Vermont and New Hampshire. Their Concord location, at 8 Loudon Road across from the Everett Arena, has been under construction since this past summer. This week, the restaurant will train its staff and have inspections to get the necessary city permits, Matheson said.
When it opens, the sports bar’s interior will feature local Concord sports memorabilia, Matheson said.
It will also become the second New Hampshire location of Buffalo Wild Wings, a national chain of sports bars headquartered in Minneapolis.
Just Be and Butters Fine Food and Wine will have a joint open house Saturday to celebrate their new locations on Sheep Davis Road.
Both stores moved from North Main Street to a shopping plaza at 249 Sheep Davis Road this year. There, they joined Barb’s Beer Emporium, another former North Main Street store.
Butters announced its move in July, which owner Kristy Stephens Amman said was for economic reasons.
Amman said in a press release about the open house that she is “very pleased with the move to Sheep Davis Road.”
Just Be moved in September, after owner Michelle Leinhart said her landlord did not renew her lease. Leinhart said she was sad to leave downtown Concord, but likes the new location - especially its free parking lot.
“I really like being in this new space,” Leinhart said last week. “I feel like I’m at home now.”
The stores’ open house, from 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Saturday at 249 Sheep Davis Road, will include free hot cider, wine tasting and sales.
Tapas at the Co-op
The Concord Co-op will host a holiday tapas bar next week.
The Nov. 8 event will include 12 types of homemade tapas and free wine and beer tasting, according to the Co-op’s website.
The event is free for members, and nonmember tickets are available for $10. Proceeds will go to the Friends Program.
Reservations are recommended due to limited space and can be made by calling the Co-op at 225-6840.
(Laura McCrystal can be reached at 369-3312 or email@example.com or on Twitter @lmccrystal.)