PORTSMOUTH — One of the goals for the venerable Common Fence Music series has been to build a younger audience, and new artistic director Erin Young said it may have found the solution.
The series’ 25th anniversary fall season begins Sept. 15 and will feature some new acts as well as a new, secondary location.
“I’m really excited,” said Ms. Young, who started her new job as Tom Perrotti’s successor back in January. (Mr. Perrotti is still with Common Fence Music, as its education director.)
“We still have our shows at the Common Fence Point (Community) Hall and we’ll never leave there, but we’ve started a second series in Warren this year at Hope & Main, which I’m personally looking forward to,” she said.
Hope & Main is a renovated school building that provides incubator kitchens to small food business entrepreneurs. It has seating for about 100, roughly half of the Portsmouth hall’s capacity.
“It’s going to be more intimate, for sure,” said Ms. Young.
The goal of the Warren series is to draw a younger crowd, and it will start off “with a bang” on Sept. 15 with a CD release party by the Huntress and the Holder of the Hands. The group is led by MorganEve Swain, who performed with her husband and bandmate David Lamb in the popular folk duo Brown Bird before he died of leukemia in 2014.
“There’s just such a young artistic community in Warren and we wanted to tap into what’s already there,” said Ms. Young. “Once that gets going, we can draw that audience into Portsmouth. We want to build a younger crowd and keep the music moving along for another 25 years if we can.”
The first show should be memorable, she said. “MorganEve Swain lives in Warren, and their new album ‘Avalon’ comes out that same day. It’s her first full-length album since Brown Bird,” Ms. Young said.
One of the other musicians to appear in Warren will be Matt Lorenz, better known as The Suitcase Junket (Dec. 15). He’s a regular one-band band, playing originals, mountain blues and more on broken-down instruments, saw blades and whatever else he lugs along in his luggage.
“He’s just a phenomenon and I’m really looking forward to him,” said Ms. Young.
Laura Cortese & The Dance Cards (Oct. 20) will also be appearing in Warren. “She’s an excellent fiddle player and has a wonderful singing voice. They’re all females who all play strings, but in an uncommon way,” she said.
In Portsmouth, expect to hear some unique sounds with the Andy Statman Trio (Dec. 3) playing hasidic music and avant-garde jazz on mandolins and clarinets; and Rahim AlHaj (Nov. 18), an Iraq-born master of the oud, an Arabic lute with 11 or 13 strings.
“That will be the most experimental shows we’ll do this season. I’m hoping people will take a chance on it,” Ms. Young said of the latter performer. “It’s part of our mission to present world music concerts and we haven’t done much of it. We’ve heard audience members say they’d like to see more of that.”
No ‘Fishermen’ this year
Something music-lovers won’t see at Common Fence Music this season is the Gathering of Fiddlers and Fishermen, the open-mic tribute to the sea that featured many local artists.
“We’re not doing Fiddlers and Fishermen anymore, which many people are going to be upset about. That was Tom Perrotti’s baby,” Ms. Young acknowledged.
In it’s place, however, will be the first CFM Full Moon Fest (Nov. 4), which Ms. Young said “is a nod” to Fiddlers and Fishermen.
“We’ll give more time to each artist — about 30 minutes each. It’s us dipping our toes in the water when it comes to a festival,” she said.
Concert-goers will see a spanking new stage and other improvements to the Portsmouth hall, thanks to the efforts of the Common Fence Point Improvement Association, which is transforming the space into a center for the arts.
“We’ve heard only positive things from the audience and the artists. John Gorka performed in the spring and said, ‘Oh my God, it looks so nice,” said Ms. Young. “There’s going to be so much more possible in that space and it’s more attractive. More people are going to want to go there.”