This nondescript cellar door on the square in Bristol, New Hampshire ("Gateway to Newfound Lake") was once entrance to the tavern at Abel's restaurant. It's now long gone, but back in the 90s, Abel's thriving, eclectic weekly open mike first brought the Buskers together (where's the historic plaque?). It was always crowded with musicians and good music until 11 pm, when second shift ended at the Freudenberg factory up the street and the bar grew too boisterous for acoustic jamming.
I was back in Bristol with my jazz trio the other night, playing across the street at the Purple Pit Jazz Cub (and coffee shop/café), which opened in 2014. Other than old Abel's still sadly empty storefront, things are clearly looking up around town. I had to park blocks away from the newly beautified square; the new Mexican restaurant in town was packed; and we found out later there was an auction in town that night, too.
This Saturday the Buskers return to Bristol to play the Back Room at the Mill Fudge Factory (below), which overlooks the Newfound River–and is directly next to the former Abel's. It only seats about 40, with a stage so small I am considering bringing just accordion and bass this year, leaving the keyboard at home. It is an ideal venue for listening, and we have had some of our best audiences there.
Now 25 years older, a little wiser maybe, certainly more experienced and accomplished, if only a little better known than when we started out (!), we still come back to play in the little village where we first met. Roots.
The Mill Fudge Factory, Bristol, New Hampshire, where The Buskers are playing this Saturday, Aug. 4, at 7:30 pm. $12. Advance reservations recommended, as seating is limited. BYOB. Menu orders can be made in advance.
Link to tickets: thebackroomatthemill