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Nelson’s Candies’ Local Cafe in Wilton has got the blues

  • Courtesy Photo

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 9/20/2018 4:49:58 PM

While most head into Nelson’s Candies in Wilton to satisfy their sweet tooth, the popular chocolate destination has also earned quite the reputation as a local hot spot for intimate blues shows.

Over the last eight years, the Local’s Cafe has brought nationally and internationally touring blues artists to downtown Wilton, starting on a monthly rotation and growing into more of a twice a month approach – to give fans of the music genre a space to hear a good show in a small setting.

The venue, located just off the main chocolate shop, has a stage area and seating for 60. Nelson’s manager and booking agent Rachel Barnard said the crowd that frequents the shows are there, first and foremost, for the music. There’s no bar or TV’s hanging on the wall, so the folks that buy tickets want to be there for the acts.

“It’s really a listening room for good music,” Barnard said. “The diversity in the blues community and the people that follow our venue is just terrific.”

While Nelson’s doesn’t sell alcohol, you can bring your own. They provide some munchies and iced tea, while pizza is available and the store will be open during the intermissions.

Next up on the schedule is Luther Guitar Jr Johnson & The Magic Rockers on Sept. 28. Johnson is really what set this whole venue/blues schedule in motion almost a decade ago. Nelson’s was doing an open mic night back then, but on a whim decided to bring in Johnson for a show.

“It changed the whole game for us,” Barnard said. “That’s when we moved into the blues community.”

Word spread about the venue and as more acts got booked, more people showed up for shows. Barnard said Bobby Radcliff, who was a staple at the Rynborn in Antrim, played a show early on and it hit a chord with those who used to frequent the well-known blues spot.

“It clicked with people that there was a new place to go hear blues,” Barnard said.

Most of the performers are well known, especially among blues enthusiasts, so while tickets are sometimes available at the door the night of the show, Barnard recommends getting them ahead of time. The shows don’t bring in a lot of revenue for Nelson’s, but that’s completely fine.

“It’s not about making money,” Barnard said. “It’s about supporting the blues community.”

Shows are year round and currently Barnard has gigs set up through December. The doors open at 7 p.m. and shows typically include two sets – and an encore.

A lot of the recent acts came from a trip Barnard took to Vegas for the Big Blues Bender.

“I went out there with the goal of meeting musicians and finding musicians to play here,” Barnard said. “I came home with a list of musicians I wanted and I booked every single one of them. These are professional touring musicians.”

Tickets for the Johnson concert are $30 and can be purchased at Nelson's Candies website, at the store or by calling 654-5030 to reserve with a credit card.

“He plays here every time he comes home,” Barnard said. “He’s a legend, a dear friend and we love having him.”

For more information, the upcoming schedule and to purchase tickets, visit or


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