I never imagined I would be standing ten feet away from one of the “founders” of the feminist punk movement known as riot grrrl, much less in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. To my pleasant surprise, I found myself at a killer, affordable ($18!) show with fifty odd people of all ages. The Julie Ruin, singer Kathleen Hanna’s recently-revived musical project, did not disappoint. This incredible show did not just fall out of the sky; hip bands have been flocking to the Seacoast thanks to 3S Artspace’s bold programming and well-developed connections with the outside music world. Not to mention their fostering of local talent.
3S is one of those places people are referring to when they say, “I wish there was a hip, versatile performance venue/space for the arts around here.” That’s exactly why young people in the Seacoast need to stand up and support one of the few spaces that institutionalizes the spirit of “Keep Portsmouth Loud.” There are plenty of voices that, with language straight out of the film Footloose, try to keep Portsmouth quiet, normal and boring. If 3S keeps doing what it does best, the voices won’t win!
3S Artspace was founded in 2009 as a nonprofit, non-commercial art gallery/mid-sized performance space to spice up the already-bustling Portsmouth arts scene. The building is a great example of adaptive reuse and was designed by McHenry Architecture, a Portsmouth-based firm. The design respects the original building’s industrial heritage while upgrading it for contemporary use. 3S occupies that edgy, not-too-big performance space that had been vacant for far too long. Everyone might think of Portsmouth when they think about the arts in New Hampshire but many people mistakenly assume they need to go to Boston to see the kind of talent 3S draws. The Julie Ruin are not the exception to the rule but an example of the high caliber of talent 3S attracts.
Even if you’re not there for a show, 3S does not disappoint with their constantly-changing art exhibits and sister restaurant, Block Six. Block Six has some of the best cocktails around and great small plates such as polenta tots. The menu is slightly expensive but reasonable if you’re looking to have a cocktail and some snacks. It’s a great place to pre-game before you hit a local classic like The Rusty Hammer, The Thirsty Moose or The Press Room (my personal favorite).
The biggest problem with 3S is that not enough people know to go there! Until last Friday, I was one of those people. I would see the posters around town and think to myself, “That show looks really cool,” but I would never commit to walking the extra two blocks past downtown. Now I’ve seen the light. If you’re thinking about attending a show at 3S Artspace, do it!