May 28, 2009

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Thirsty for rock and roll
Rocko’s is the place for underage performers
By Katie Beth Ryan music@hippopress.com

It’s a blazing hot Tuesday afternoon  in late May, and by 5 p.m. the parking lot at Rocko’s on Wilson Street is full.

Members of an assortment of heavy metal groups, their managers and an occasional friend of the band are either moving equipment into the bar or lingering around the front steps, waiting for the first wave of fans to show up. Some are puffing on cigarettes, but there’s no alcohol in sight in the parking lot, and none at the juice-and-soda bar inside. The kegs have been turned off and the drink specials taken down for tonight’s show, organized by Dave Southward’s I’m Thirsty Entertainment and featuring a lineup of seven bands — all of which have underage members.

The absence of booze at tonight’s all-ages show doesn’t really bother Chris “Pogo” Aguiar, 20, of the group Forever the Fallen. In the year that he’s worked under Southward’s aegis, Aguiar say, his group has routinely made the commute from Lowell to Manchester on a monthly basis just to play in an I’m Thirsty show.

“I just think he puts on the best shows in New Hampshire,” he says of Southward. “The talent he’s been able to get, the lessons he’s taught me have made me appreciate him even more.”

With I’m Thirsty managing all-ages shows on Friday and Saturday nights at Rocko’s throughout the summer, Aguiar’s group will probably make several appearances in some of Southward’s shows over the next three months. After attending his fair share of shows with full bars and rowdy fans, Southward can appreciate the beauty of organizing a night of music for sober young adults.

“The difference here,” he says, “is that you don’t have a lot of older people getting drunk. Kids get more of an enjoyment listening to music than an older person as well…. They sweat and they dance and they have a good time.”

Managing artists under the age of 21 was a gradual move for Southward. After being laid off from the restaurant industry, he spent time at home raising his two daughters. Trolling through different Web sites, he listened to a great number of bands, making mental notes of what sounded good and what didn’t. 

“I would surf the Internet, like any unemployed person. I got really involved in listening to music online, and I felt [I] could contribute something to it.

“I have kids,” he continues, “and when they turn 15, 16, I want them to go to a place where they can be safe and listen to a local band.”

I’m Thirsty Entertainment — named for the young groups on the southern New Hampshire music scene thirsty for a big break — began in March 2007 with a show at the American Legion hall in Manchester. Having deemed the night “successful enough to where we didn’t lose any money,” Southward went on to manage close to 300 shows, drawing acts from beyond the immediate area and fans from as far away as New Jersey and Canada. He actively promotes the multi-band shows around town, but most groups usually have their own entourage that accompanies them to most of their gigs.

“That way, I can almost guarantee that we’ll have 140 kids out here on a Tuesday night,” he says.

The Manchester-area music scene can be difficult to penetrate for a new band, especially for groups that are underage and don’t fit into the heavy metal aura that dominates the area. Southward says it’s also been difficult to convince bar owners that an all-ages show is worth their while.

“This was basically a miracle,” he says. “I’ve built a good, lasting relationship with Rocko’s. It’s a really competitive market up here for our scene. This is basically the only place in Manchester to see an all-ages show.”

His efforts are not going unnoticed. Matt Drago, 19, of Derry’s The Wakeup Call says that while it remains difficult to make a name for his band, it’s nice to have someone like Southward in their corner.

“He puts on a great show,” Drago said.


Boston-based Bear Fight rocks out at Rocko’s in Manchester.

Are you thirsty?
Upcoming all-ages shows at Rocko’s managed by I’m Thirsty Entertainment include these:

• A Friday, May 29, lineup that includes Settle The Sky, From The Pawn, Silence In Shadows, Unforgivable, When Girls Kiss Girls and Beneath Dying Embers; tickets cost $10.

• A Saturday, May 30, show with Only Blood Will Tell, Pirates, Black Bear, Letter In Hand, Enemy, Jive, Pangea and Prize Fighter; tickets cost $10.

• a Thursday, June 11, show headlined by Bury The Dead and featuring Shatter This World, Shot Heard, Around The World, Letter In Hand, and Elyson; tickets cost $15.

Doors open at 5 p.m. for all three shows at 5 p.m. To learn more or purchase tickets, visit www.myspace.com/imthirstyentertainment.