May 27, 2010

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Music in Milford
Beyond the oval, Elisha’s is ready to rock (or play the blues)
By Michael Witthaus music@hippopress.com

“I know nothing about music,” said Alex LoVerme the other day as he prepared to open his Milford restaurant for lunch. Alex and his wife Kelly bought Elisha’s Fine Food and Spirits in 2004; the previous owners opened it in the mid-1970s.

The restaurant is located a half mile from the town oval, in the former family homestead of Elisha Towne, who built it in 1770 when Milford was still known as Monson. Elisha’s specializes in American fare — steak, seafood, pasta and burgers — and also operates a tavern with a full bar and pub food.

Earlier this year, the restaurant added music to the menu.

Though he can’t play or carry a tune, Alex LoVerme knew one thing — there weren’t enough live music options in Milford, and he wanted that to change. With the exception of one other venue, he says, “there’s not a place to listen to a full band in town. If they can’t find it here, they go to Nashua or Manchester.”

Particularly lacking was blues, so in February Elisha’s began booking bands like Roxanne and the Voodoo Rockers, Arthur James and the Hayes Brothers to play Saturday nights.

In early May, rock entered the mix, with popular Dover band Monkey Bar playing covers ranging from Blind Melon to Stevie Nicks. LoVerme hopes to eventually expand live music to two nights, adding rock on Fridays. “When I’m packing my Saturday nights and people are saying we need another night, that’s when we’ll do it,” he said.

It’s not the first time music has come to Elisha’s: “We did it a couple of years ago just for the summer,” LoVerme said. “I couldn’t do it last year because I was tied to the kitchen. I want to walk the floor when the music’s on.”

LoVerme has since hired a new person to run the kitchen, giving him free rein to roam the restaurant and enjoy the music.

Bands perform at 9:30 p.m. in Elisha’s Tavern. When the weather warms up, the music moves to the outdoor deck and begins earlier, at 8 p.m., and ends at 11 p.m. Even when the bands are indoors, there’s plenty of room to move around, with a stage that holds five or more players and an ample (and frequently full) dance floor.

The 240-year-old house retains a homey character, a big part of its appeal.

“We’re a casual-scene family restaurant,” LoVerme said. “You sit in the dining room or the lounge and you feel like you’re sitting in your own living room.”

LoVerme says Elisha’s is proud of its willingness to cater to special tastes.

“Just because it’s not on the menu doesn’t mean we can’t make it,” he said. To that end, he’s scouting around for country bands to play (“something with a rock edge,” he said), because many patrons are fans of that music.

At the moment, Saturdays are evenly split between rock and blues, with Category 4 due to play classic rock on May 29, followed by Arthur James on June 5 and local favorites the Hayes Brothers on June 12. Monkey Bar is building a following and will be back on June 12 as well as later in the summer.

Milford is a town on the move. But LoVerme worries that there’s too much focus on the town center.

“If you’re not right on the oval, they don’t care about you,” he said. “I’m a half a mile out of town, and they don’t consider me downtown. They forget about us.”

He hopes the decision to add live music will remind folks that there’s life beyond the oval.


Elisha’s Restaurant
437 Nashua St., Milford
249-9353 or www.elishasrestaurant.net
Music every Saturday, 8-11 p.m. outdoors if the weather’s good, 9:30 p.m.-12:30 a.m. in the tavern otherwise.

May 29: Category 4 (classic rock)
June 5: Arthur James (blues rock)
June 12: Hayes Brothers (blues)
June 19: Monkey Bar (classic & modern rock)