Updated: Apr 5, 2019
by Alex LaRoza
Late night rock shows might be one of the last events you would expect a church to regularly host, unless it happens to be the Stone Church in Newmarket, New Hampshire. What was built as a Unitarian Church is now one of the best live music venues in the state; and yet the message hasn’t changed much over the years: Unity.
“We do feel that the Stone Church is a community asset, and we want to build upon that,” current owner Mike Hoffman said. “We’re a meeting house for people of all walks, and we’re proud of that heritage.”
The Stone Church is also a meeting house for all types of music. The venue is open all week long, with a different musical focus every evening. Sunday is an open mic night, and Monday rotates between country music, blues music, and rock depending on the week. Tuesday evening brings an open-mic bluegrass jam, Thursday is an Irish music night, and Friday/Saturday nights are for loud rock bands. Wednesday evening, with it’s trivia night, is the only night of the week in which music is not a focus.
The church is notable for it’s stained glass styled murals of legendary musicians, including Jimi Hendrix, Johnny Cash, Frank Zappa, and several others. It was constructed in 1832, and eventually got converted to a Catholic Church and school. From there, the church went on to become a heel-factory until it was nearly destroyed by a fire in 1968.
“The building sat idle for about a year and a half, and then two UNH students and their friend rented it out as a coffee house,” Hoffman said. “That was 1970, and since then the Stone Church has gone through a number of different owners. It’s never been a real money-maker, it’s more been a passion for people.”
Previously both a restaurant owner and a firefighter of 27 years, Mike Hoffman bought the Stone Church in late 2017. He is currently working on a non-profit called “Friends of the Stone Church”, that will work to help support local musicians and emerging artists. His advice for these new artists is simple but effective.
“The best way to start out is to start being recognized by coming to the open mic nights,” Hoffman said. “Come to a couple of those. The people who work Sunday night will often report to our booking manager. The real question is: can you fill the room and build a big following?”
Alex LaRoza is a graduate of the UNH class of 2017, with a major in Communication Arts and a minor in English.