EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

April 17, 2014

Big names, locals perform at music venue

By Mike LaBella

---- — HAVERHILL — The Chit Chat Lounge on downtown Washington Street has served as a venue for a variety of musical performers.

From big-name acts to local musical artists looking to create a following, it has become home to those who are new to the music scene, those whose careers are well established, and everyone in between.

Owners Steve and Debra Doherty bought the club in 2009, and since then it has served as a launching pad for many musical careers.

Before she became an “American Idol’’ contestant, Haverhill native Liz Bills performed at open-mic shows at the Chit Chat. Bills and her band, Analog Heart, continue to perform there. The local hardcore rock band Age of End recently held its kickoff party at the Chit Chat for its first headlining east coast tour, while Merrimack Delta Dub Set, a reggae/hip-hop group from Haverhill, got its start at an open-mic night at the Chit Chat.

“A lot of kids start off at open-mic night, and pretty soon they start getting bookings,” said Steve Doherty.

He keeps a folder of the many acts who have performed at the Chit Chat over the years. Doherty’s list is like a whose-who in music. There’s Dave Mattacks, who has toured and recorded with a variety of bands including Fairport Convention, Jethro Tull and Steeleye Span, as well as guitarist Dave Brown, who has toured the world with singer/songwriter Billy Joel.

Bassist John Troy, an original member of the Pousette-Dart Band, has also performed at the Chit Chat.

Back in the 1970s, folk artists such as Bill Morrisey were scraping to find places to perform and where they’d get paid. The Chit Chat, which at the time was a rough-and-tumble venue, was one of his stops, Doherty said.

The list goes on and on and includes local guitarist Marty Walsh, who has worked in studios with big-name artists like Neil Diamond, LeAnn Rimes and Supertramp.

“Marty is our local favorite,” Doherty said.

“International rock stars have dropped in from time to time,” Doherty said. “Some come to listen to the music, while some come to perform. You never know who will walk through the door or when.’’