Make music merry

A fan’s gift guide

It’s the holiday season and once again time to make a music fan’s eyes and ears light up like a Christmas tree. From modest to mammoth, and across a range of ways to access their passion, here are suggestions for your special someone.

If your giftee’s passion extends to creating music, check out Teenage Engineering, a Swedish company that makes the Pocket Operator, a line of mini synthesizers that resemble a calculator and sell for under a hundred bucks. If you’re feeling extravagant, the company has introduced the EP-133 KO II, a larger device with exponentially more groove and sequencing power; it’s $299 at

For the audiophile on your list, there’s the AudioQuest DragonFly Cobalt, a device that bypasses the crummy audio delivered on cell phones and laptop computers to truly leverage the enhanced sound offered by streaming services like Qobuz and Tidal, $199 at, and for phones it’s a good idea to include an adapter in the gift box.

Or you can keep it simple while still turning it up to 11 with the Marshall Kilburn II Bluetooth Portable Speaker. Befitting its brand, the “stout-hearted hero” weighs in at five and half pounds and boasts the loudest output of anything in its class, while providing more than 20 hours of portable power with a single charge, $199.99 at

Maybe your music maven is a purist with a throwback bent who loves only vinyl. Help them keep their prized albums clean with a Boundless Audio Record Cleaner Brush, perfect as a stocking stuffer at $15. But don’t give the leash without a puppy — there are many music box sets on offer this year.

Jason Isbell marked a decade since his breakthrough solo release Southeastern with a quadruple-vinyl, triple-CD edition that has the remastered studio LP along with a live version and demos of every song, with special packaging, $79.99 at The seemingly endless flow of Beatles music and the final drop of so-called new songs from the Fab Four continues with a repackaging of their Red 1962-1966 and Blue 1967-1970 albums, with a total of 21 previously unreleased tracks, $69.99 at

Wanna feel old? Green Day’s Dookie is turning 30 and the Berkeley punk stalwarts’ first big release has the deluxe treatment, with a six-LP (brown vinyl, natch) box set that includes a bevy of tchotchkes to go with outtakes, demos and live takes, including four songs from their notoriously mud-splattered Woodstock ’94 set, $121.32 at

Dolly Parton answered her induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame by inviting a big chunk of its membership (and Kid Rock) to work on Rockstar, her first rock ’n’ roll record. She even reunited the remaining living Beatles, along with Peter Frampton and Mick Fleetwood, for a version of “Let It Be.” It’s available as a four-vinyl album box set for $59.98 at

There is no shortage of books for the music fan. For superfans of the aforementioned Ms. Parton, give Behind the Seams: My Life in Rhinestones, a fashion-focused autobiography that peeks into the singer’s closet and is packed with more than 450 color photos, $25 at

To (extravagantly) mark the 60th anniversary of Beatlemania for your favorite fan, give 1964: Eyes of the Storm, a collection of photos taken by Paul McCartney with his 35mm camera from the end of 1963 through early 1964, the years when The Beatles blew up into an international phenomenon and altered the course of music history. It’s $77.79 at

For those growing misty-eyed for the early days of Nirvana, Pearl Jam and other flannel-shirted rockers, Mudhoney guitarist Steve Turner’s Mud Ride: A Messy Trip Through the Grunge Explosion covers the evolution and growth of Seattle’s music scene, from DIY club shows to its Big Bang, which removed most hair metal bands from the earth. $28.79 at

One of the latest classic rock memoirs is My Effin’ Life, from Rush bassist, keyboard player and singer Geddy Lee. It’s filled with anecdotes of his time with the prog rock power trio, along with personal stories of growing during World War II, with a grandfather who was murdered during the Holocaust. Novelist Michael Chabon praised the “warmth, care, artfulness, hard-earned wisdom and … gently skewed humor” in his book. $24.99 at

It’s always a good idea to keep things local. Here’s a thought: The next time you attend a show at The Shaskeen, Penuche’s, the Press Room or Strange Brew, pick up a CD and pay it forward by giving it to a loved one who’s unfamiliar with the performer’s music. That’s the most effective way to put cash in an artist’s pocket.

Of course, there’s always merch. Roots of Creation, one of the busiest bands around, offers a huge selection of T-shirts, caps, pins and posters at their website. Sepsiss, the female-fronted heavy metal band that just won another NEMA, has a line of T-shirts calling attention to the insidious practice of pay to play, where clubs force acts to buy tickets to their own shows and re-sell them for payment, along with other forms of financial exploitation. Available at

A few musicians have side hustles as artists making very cool stuff. Singer-songwriter Dan Blakeslee, who played his first main stage set at the Newport Folk Festival this year, sells line drawings (also available as T-shirts) at Nick Lavallee, front man for Manchester power pop band Donaher, runs Wicked Joyful, making bespoke action figures and apparel like the Devil Church Explorer Club hoodie or a Taco Tour at Tender Town T-shirt, at

Featured photo: Behind the Seams: My Life in Rinestones by Dolly Parton

’Tis the season

Holiday pops in Nashua, Concord

This year, Symphony NH will perform its Holiday Pops concert twice, at its home venue, Keefe Center for the Arts in Nashua, and at Concord City Auditorium. The evenings will include festive selections like “You’re a Mean One, Mister Grinch,” Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s “Christmas Overture,” music from “The Nutcracker,” a Hanukkah song and a sing-along to close things out.

It’s the sort of program pops orchestras have done for years, but in a recent interview, conductor Roger Kalia, now in his fifth year, spoke of his vision for widening Symphony NH’s reach. This includes taking it to places like Bollywood, inside a game console, and to a galaxy far, far away.

“Keeping things fresh and bringing a fresh view to this art form,” he said, indicating that his eyes are set firmly on shifting the demographic. “Some young people … may call [it] a little stuffy, but there’s really so much great music out there.”

Along with Symphony NH, Kalia conducts the Evansville Philharmonic, near his home in Bloomington, Indiana, and Orchestra Santa Monica in Southern California. He co-founded the Lake George Music Festival and is its Music Director. An existence filled with frequent flier miles “comes with the territory,” he said. “You kind of sign up for it when you’re a conductor.”

Coming to the Granite State was challenging beyond that. “I got the job at a difficult time, right when Covid started; my first season, three concerts in, we had to shut down everything,” he said, adding admiration for Symphony NH’s resilience during the pandemic. “We were one of the few orchestras in the country to actually give concerts, and we did a virtual livestream concert format for the majority of the 2020-21 season.”

2023 marked the 100th anniversary of Symphony NH and offered a landmark season. The Indian American Kalia was especially pleased with Symphony Masala last October. The Bollywood-themed show was “the first collaboration of its kind in history, as far as I know,” he said, noting similar efforts were done with Indian instruments. “This was purely 100 percent Western instruments, with a singer … we made history.”

Another innovative concert offered this season was Wynton Marsalis’s A Fiddler’s Tale at the Rex, which combined jazz and symphonic elements. Upcoming in 2024 is Penelope, a song cycle from Sarah Kirkland Snider inspired by The Odyssey first presented as a livestream during the pandemic. “It involves a lot of pop music influences,” Kalia said. “Think Radiohead meets Bjork meets classical. … That’s what you’re going to get with Penelope.”

Brass to the Max will be the first show of the new year and will feature the Nashua-based Spartans Drum Corps in an all-brass percussion music concert. Kalia considers the answer to the question “What is pops?” to be “music for films,” which makes the final concert of the season in June a natural — The Music of John Williams, with selections from Star Wars, Indiana Jones and Jurassic Park on tap.

Kalia is especially looking forward to another first-of-its-kind effort called Game Over(ture), set for March 23 at the Capitol Center’s Chubb Theatre in Concord. Led by guest conductor Austin Wintory, the first video game composer to be nominated for a Grammy, the program will feature music from Wintory’s Journey, Legend of Zelda, Super Mario Brothers, Final Fantasy, Prince of Persia, Halo and others.

“It’s a great opportunity to bring in new audiences,” enthused Kalia.

While in Los Angeles, Kalia worked with famous performers, including Jack Black and Randy Newman, and organized From Classical to Rock, with Johnny Rzeznik of the Goo Goo Dolls and Heart guitarist Nancy Wilson. He hopes to do something similar in New Hampshire, like a Beatles evening that happened here before he arrived.

“We’ve been looking at the possibility of either bringing [that] show back for a future season, or even doing concerts with blues artists,” he said. “There’s a great singer I know who specializes in the blues and New Orleans Dixieland jazz, that sort of thing.”

Kalia feels like he’s hitting his target.

“The past couple of seasons, I’ve been introducing newer work to our audiences, and they’ve really latched on to them; they expect it, I think,” he said. “The programming we’re doing … is truly innovative and unique compared to a lot of other cities in this country that have small regional orchestras, and I’m proud of that.”

Symphony NH Holiday Pops
When: Saturday, Dec. 9, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Keefe Center for the Arts, 117 Elm St., Nashua
Tickets: $10 to $63 at
Also Sunday, Dec. 10, 3 p.m., Concord City Auditorium, 2 Prince St., Concord

Featured photo: Holiday Pops. Photo by David Weiss.

The Music Roundup 23/12/07

Local music news & events

Old souls: A throwback blend of old-school jazz and contemporary hits, Postmodern Jukebox returns for a New England run that’s already sold out two of three venues, but good seats remain in the Lakes Region. Putting a new twist on the expression “everything old is new again,” the group recasts Radiohead’s “Creep” as a Dinah Washington turn and transforms the Spice Girls “Wannabe” into something else. Thursday, Dec. 7, 9 p.m., Colonial Theatre, 609 Main St., Laconia, $59 and up at

Channeler: The world will never replace Robin Williams, but Roger Kabler brings him to life in an anything but ordinary show. Kabler’s 2022 film Being Robin describes the chain of events that led him to create the tribute, starting with believing that he was possessed by the comic’s spirit. Friday, Dec. 8, 8 p.m., Rex Theatre, 23 Amherst St., Manchester, $25 at

In state: It’s opening night in Rochester, as Joshua Guptel’s movie The Battle for Granite Records premieres. Filmed entirely in New Hampshire, it’s the story of a father and daughter trying to save a business and of the uphill battle faced by hip-hop artists in its early days. Guptel, also known as standup comic Jay Grove, launched Olive Tree Films a few years ago. Saturday, Dec. 9, 7 pm., Rochester Performance & Arts Center, 32 N. Main St., Rochester, $10 and up at

Holiday rock: Born from a Trans-Siberian Orchestra covers show intended as a one-off, Wizards of Winter evolved into the first indie band in a genre that blends Christmas music and grandeur. Fifteen years later they’re a top concert draw. Sunday, Dec. 10, 3 p.m., Tupelo Music Hall, 10 A St., Derry, $40 and up at

Helping out: A weekly blues jam expands to benefit longtime New England performer Arthur James and his wife during a time of health and financial struggle. Hosted by Craig Thomas and Bluestopia, the event brings together the regional blues community and includes a raffle of a John Mayer-designed PRS Silver Sky guitar, donated by John Mann’s Guitar Vault, along with a 50/50 raffle. Sunday, Dec. 10, 6 p.m., Riley’s Place, 29 Mont Vernon St., Milford, $10; see

Hometown son

Drew Dunn headlines Nashua Center

While it was being built, Drew Dunn would drive by the Nashua Center for the Arts and think about performing there one day. On Dec. 2, the 2010 Nashua High School South graduate will headline, the latest milestone in a comedy career that was quick out of the gate when it started 10 years ago and continues to rise.

“Nashua is my hometown,” Dunn said by phone recently. “I’ve lived in a lot of places, but it’s cool to be able to do this.”

Dunn’s easy-going demeanor and razor-sharp instincts combine with innate humor for a comedic style loved by both fans and fellow comics. The latest example of the latter is Dane Cook, who saw Dunn open for him in West Hollywood a few months back and was impressed enough to invite him on tour.

Connecting with the Boston comic was, Dunn said, “kind of super random.” Cook streams video games on Twitch, and Dunn’s dad follows him on the popular website. When Drew posted about the show on his social media, Dad messaged Cook. “He told him we’ve been big fans for a long time, we’re both from the New England area…. That got Dane to watch a few minutes of my set.”

The comic’s career has seen a steady checklist of successes. Playing the Johnny Carson Great American Comedy Festival in Carson’s hometown of Norfolk, Nebraska, was an early triumph, “the first time I got on a plane and did standup.” Dunn won the Boston Comedy Festival in 2017; later he went to the Pacific Northwest, where he lived in grade school, and took top honors at the month-long Seattle International Comedy Competition.

The biggest highlight since then has been hitting the road with Cook, which will continue next year. It included a stop at the Wilbur Theatre, which Dunn called “one of the last major venues in Boston on my checklist.” Overall, the tour is “the first taste of the next level of this business that I’ve had, and it’s inspiring. It makes it feel a little bit more attainable.”

Such glamorous highs are the result of an arduous journey.

“I’ve done everything from campground shows talking to people sitting in their golf carts in the middle of the day, to random breweries and stuff like that,” he said. Throughout, “I’ve learned comedy is a marathon…. Hard work adds up over time to be able to create moments like [the Nashua show], which makes it worthwhile. Building something and then sharing it, continuing to go from there, it’s a never-ending road, this whole standup game. I’m just happy to be on it.”

Dunn acknowledged other comics who helped him along the way, including early mentor Corey Rodrigues. “He always seemed a step or two ahead of me, so any time I’d be running into something new, he’d be a guy I’d hit up.”

Manchester comic Paul Landwehr, who’ll open in Nashua, is another. Dunn recalled working the door with him at Dick Doherty’s Comedy Den in Boston when both were starting out.

Amiability is key to Dunn’s success. “My business model when it comes to this whole thing is to just be funny and nice to everybody, because it’s more fun that way. So many comics get in this competitive mindset of trying to one-up each other — ‘Why is he getting an opportunity and not me?’ or ‘Why is she winning and not me?’ For me it’s always been us comics versus the crowd. If more people are seeing standup comedy, that’s a win for all of us.”

Dunn sees a rising tide in the regional scene.

“I think comedy in general, and particularly in Boston, is probably in a better state than it’s ever been,” he said. “I wasn’t alive in the ’80s and that boom, but comedy in general now, there’s more people watching and listening and going to live shows as far as standup goes than ever before in the history of time. To be a part of that … is just infinitely exciting.”

Drew Dunn w/ Paul Landwehr and Will Mars
When: Saturday, Dec. 2, 8 p.m.
Where: Nashua Center for the Arts, 201 Main St., Nashua
Tickets: $29 at

Featured photo: Drew Dunn. Courtesy photo.

The Music Roundup 23/11/23

Local music news & events

Christmas nuts: The Heather Pierson Trio is again playing Vince Guaraldi’s music from A Charlie Brown Christmas throughout the region, including an intimate show at a Lakes Region winery preceded by a complimentary tasting. Pierson’s performance includes other Guaraldi selections and holiday favorites. Thursday, Nov. 30, 7 p.m., The Loft at Hermit Woods, 72 Main St., Meredith, $25 and up at, more dates at

Roots night: Fronted by a self-proclaimed reformed punk, Matt Charette & the Truer Sound rock across a range of genres. A good example is “Swinging,” a can-do love song that Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers fans should love, one of many gems from their latest long-player, Lo-Fi High Hopes. Also appearing are June Star, a Baltimore duo that features pedal steel guitar on many of their songs, and the twangy Girls on Grass. Friday, Dec. 1, 9 p.m., Shaskeen Pub, 909 Elm St.,

Rhythm & whoops: Standup comedy is paired with soulful music as Steve Bjork and Sean Sullivan co-headline with support from Ken Murphy and Sean Tracey. The laughs are preceded by a set from Finesse, a Detroit-based singer whose blend of R&B and gospel has been called “uplifting and inspiring.” Saturday, Dec. 2, 6:30 pm., Rockingham Ballroom, 22 Ash Swamp Road, Newmarket, $25 at

Home-grown: The latest NH Music Collective Sunday Sessions show has Ryan Williamson along with the hArt of Sound, two area musicians performing original compositions. Williamson is a wizard at looping his way to a full band sound. Colin Hart cites influences from Radiohead to Muse to Nine Inch Nails, calling has project a “surreal alternative electronic rock brainchild.” Sunday, Dec. 3, 6 p.m., Bank of NH Stage (Cantin Room), 16 S Main St., Concord, $15 at

Country kid: Lee Biddle is a singer-songwriter with hardscrabble songs like “Lonesome Whistle Blues.” He inhabits the spirit of a Depression era ex-soldier on “Risky Whisky” but pays respect to his roots with “New England,” calling the region “my home, where I belong.” Wednesday, Dec. 6, 6 p.m., Saddle Up Saloon, 92 Route 125, Kingston, see

Serving up laughs

Post-Thanksgiving comedy show at Rex

Since all the crack-of-dawn flat-screen TV sales moved online, the day after Thanksgiving has become a time to recover and shake off the tryptophan, along with any memories of oversharing relatives. The way comedian Emily Ruskowski sees it, there are a lot of people among that crowd who could use an escape to some laughs.

“Black Friday is a lull, when people are home and looking for something to sort of decompress from travel or holiday stress,” the Massachusetts native, who started in standup while going to graduate school in Washington, D.C., and has worked in her home region since 2013, said by phone recently. “Comedy is a great thing to do during those times, if only to get away from your family for a few hours.”

To that end, she and three of the region’s top comics will gather at the Rex Theatre in Manchester on Nov. 24. Ruskowski, a finalist in the 2018 Boston Comedy Festival, is a natural storyteller with sharp timing. Her bits include one about “aggressive meat hipsters” working in Portland, Maine, restaurants where the farm is a little too close to the table — who needs to hear every step in the preparation of goat stew?

“They’re not wrong, their food is incredible,” she said. “They’re just very, very passionate about it.”

Sharing the stage are Dan Boulger, who won the BCF in 2006 and is a regular at places like Headliners and Laugh Boston, and Amy Tee, who likes to appear in a suit and tie and poke fun at her androgynous appearance. “You’re probably wondering what bathroom I’m going to use,” she’ll quip. “It’ll be the one with the shortest line, I guarantee you that.” Rounding out the bill is Boston’s Tim Champa.

“I could not be more excited about this lineup, it’s just A+ all-around top tier,” Ruskowski said. “It’s going to be just such an incredible show, I can’t wait.”

Ruskowski got into comedy by acclamation — enough friends told her she was funny that she decided to give it a try.

“I didn’t know what the entry point was,” she said. “Then my friend was like, ‘Oh, you go to open mics, and there’s one near my house; I’ll go with you.’ I was just hooked from that.”

The same people urging her to try standup helped Ruskowski mine the jokes in her story-based act. “My friends would say, ‘There’s a lot of punches in there’… they would help me work it out,” she said. “I’m so grateful to them for encouraging me, because doing comedy is one of the greatest joys of my life. I’m so lucky to get to do it.”

When she moved back to New England, Ruskowski broke into the regional scene in an atypical way. “My biggest comedy contacts were people who had gone to high school and college with my sister,” she said. “People were like, ‘She’s Audrey’s sister, she’s cool because Audrey is very cool.’”

Since then she’s managed to land in a number of comedy circles, appearing at the alt-leaning Shaskeen in Manchester, doing mid-level rooms like The Rex and Portsmouth’s Music Hall Lounge — she’ll be at the latter in mid-December, and opening for Gary Gulman at Boston’s Wilbur Theatre last September.

During the day, Ruskowski works as a mental health professional, helping young people. “Don’t applaud, I’m doing God’s work,” she’ll tell crowds, adding with a smirk, “at least that’s what they say, so they don’t have to pay us.”

She has one hilarious bit about taking a job satisfaction survey during the pandemic, asking for more money and receiving a fleece jacket instead. “That’s what you everyone wants to wear, right, hospital-branded attire? Like you showed up in an ER naked, and that’s what they sent you home in.”

That said, the counseling job does help the comic hone her act.

“Teenagers are a very tough audience,” she said, recalling one young girl complaining that Ruskowski didn’t really care about her — she was only there because it was her job. “I said, ‘You’re right, I am here because I’m paid, and wouldn’t it be weird if I wasn’t? If I was just a random adult who came to your school to ask personal questions, you probably shouldn’t talk to me.’”

Emily Ruskowski’s Thanksgiving Leftover Laughs w/ Dan Boulger, Amy Tee and Tim Champa
Friday, Nov. 24, 8 p.m.
Where: Rex Theatre, 23 Amherst St., Manchester
Tickets: $25 at

Featured photo: Emily Ruskowski. Courtesy photo.

The Music Roundup 23/11/23

Local music news & events

Blues rocker: Discovered at 16 by Dave Stewart of the Eurythmics, Joanne Shaw Taylor has an impressive list of adherents including Stevie Wonder and Jimmy Cliff. With a string of blues chart-topping albums, she’s often boxed into the genre, but Taylor said recently, “I’m a soul singer and a pop-rock writer and it all just kind of jumbles together, because I’m hugely influenced by blues.” Friday, Nov. 24, 8 p.m., Capitol Center for the Arts, 44 S. Main St., Concord, $34.75 and up at

Dead revival: Spending an evening with Zach Nugent’s Dead Set delivers more than a tribute act. Prior to launching the effort, which grew out of a weekly residency in Burlington, Vermont, Nugent was in ex-JGB member Melvin Seals’ band. Beyond that, the guitarist is a lifetime fan of the jam band standard setters. When he was 8 he received a Dead-themed elementary school graduation card. Saturday, Nov. 25, 8 p.m., Nashua Center for the Arts, 201 Main St., Nashua, $33 general admission at

Super group: Rock, funk and soul all-star group A Band of Killers was created by Johnny Trama, a Boston guitarist who’s played in Dub Apocalypse, Toussaint & The China Band and many other area acts. It features Tim Gearan on lead vocals and guitar, keys player Darby Wolf, Sonya Rae Taylor on vocals, Mark Hickox and Thomas Arey on bass and drums and guitarists Ryan Taylor and Kevin Barry. Saturday, Nov. 25, 6 pm., The Stone Church, 5 Granite St., Newmarket, $15 at

Song painter: With a voice that one writer enthused “goes down like red wine over good conversation,” Anna Paquin has five albums to her credit, with a new EP due next year. Sunday, Nov. 26, 1 p.m., Contoocook Cider Co., 656 Gould Hill Road, Contoocook; see

Still standing: In the early days of MTV, The Fixx reeled off a string of hits, including “Red Skies,” “Stand or Fall” “Saved by Zero” and the smash “One Thing Leads to Another.” Lead singer Cy Curnin and guitarist Jamie West-Oram also contributed to Tina Turner’s Private Dancer album, appearing in her “Better Be Good to Me” video. Their classic lineup is still intact, apart from a few changes at bass. Tuesday, Nov. 28, 7 p.m., Tupelo Music Hall, 10 A St., Derry, $40 and up at

First Wave

Cars tribute act hits Tupelo

The best thing about playing in a Cars tribute act is it never gets boring. The Boston band broke out in the late 1970s with a string of hits that ran the gamut from edgy jangle pop to swirling, ethereal rock, and no song exactly resembled another.

“The Cars had such a diverse palette of musical tastes, you listen to some of their music and sometimes wonder if it’s the same band,” Ken Marchione said recently. Panorama, the band he co-founded, will bring its pristine Cars reproduction to Tupelo Music Hall on Nov. 18, a co-bill with B-52s sound-alike Bikini Whale. “Their music will live on, and even after all these years they still sound fresh.”

That said, anyone looking to tackle The Cars’ catalog, from their eponymous debut to 1984’s Heartbeat City (the last-gasp Door to Door three years later doesn’t really count), should be more than a fan. The variety and complexity of songs like “My Best Friend’s Girl” and “Hello Again” can challenge the most talented musician.

The five members of Panorama are up to the task. In fact, their stage act often improves on, or at least cleans up, the original group, as it employs prerecorded multitracking and layered vocals to emulate The Cars’ album sound.

“We want to make it note for note as perfect as we can,” Marchione said. “Because in a lot of ways they really were a studio band.”

Marchione and keyboard player Darren Muise, who are also in the J. Geils Band tribute act Whammer Jammer, came up with the idea for Panorama in 2019. The two were already Cars fans. Muise went to Berklee College of Music, where he latched onto Cars keys man Greg Hawkes, particularly liking his synthesizer work. Marchione picked up the guitar at age 6 and was smitten since “Just What I Needed” hit on WBCN and WRKO.

He marvels at guitarist Elliot Easton. “His solos … are songs within songs that can be hummed; the average listener gravitates to that,” he said. “That’s why I think he’s been so successful as a soloist and a writer because he makes these intricate arrangements for the guitar that everybody can latch on to.”

The first piece in putting the band together was singer-guitarist Darin Ames, who answered Marchione and Muise’s Craigslist ad. Drummer Gary Agresti came next, bringing additional skills as a sound man — he runs the mix at BankNH Pavilion in Gilford during the shed season. Bass player Jeff Ares came in last, replacing one who’d only played one gig.

Ares was a find. “It was fate — he knew about 25 songs when he walked through the door,” Marchione recalled, adding they did a full rehearsal with him the same day. “He just stepped in, he knows every song, he’s a great bass player, he looks the part and he loves The Cars. It was just an absolute perfect fit, and that completed the band.”

The doppelganger band opens its show with a brief Cars history video and uses career-spanning visual imagery throughout the set. They perform a couple of times a month and recently completed a well-received jaunt to Wisconsin. They’ve even received acknowledgement from the objects of their tribute. At a recent benefit concert, Ares and Ames sat in with Eliot Easton for a pair of songs.

At the show, Marchione had a chance to speak with his musical hero Easton.

“I got to ask him a bunch of questions about a lot of the solos that I’ve been playing for years now,” Marchione recalled. “He was fantastic, and a super nice guy. He knew that we had a tribute to The Cars, and he wasn’t in any way upset; he was flattered. That was a bucket list item for me.”

Panorama (The Cars tribute) w/ Bikini Whale (B-52s tribute)
Saturday, Nov. 18, 8 p.m.
Where: Tupelo Music Hall, 10 A St., Derry
Tickets: $30 at

Featured photo: Panorama. Courtesy photo.

The Music Roundup 23/11/16

Local music news & events

Purple like: Get funky with LoVeSeXy, New England’s top Prince tribute act. The six-piece band also covers Prince-adjacent acts Morris Day & the Time and Sheila E. Backing vocalist Jodee Frawlee does a great job with the latter, as well as with Prince’s duet partner Sheena Easton, on “You Got the Look” and “Love Bizarre.” Thursday, Nov. 16, 8 p.m., LaBelle Winery, 14 Route 111, Derry, $40 at

Storyteller: A common thread running through 1970s rock, Jeff “Skunk” Baxter plays a solo concert that will include reminiscing about being a founding member of Steely Dan; he played on their first three albums before leaving to join the Doobie Brothers in 1974. Baxter got his start in Boston with psychedelic rockers Ultimate Spinach, and his session work includes Joni Mitchell and Rod Stewart. Friday, Nov. 17, 7:30 p.m., Rex Theatre, 23 Amherst St., Manchester, $39 and up at

Tail-wagger: Whether covering old-school soul or doing an original like “Without You,” Fox & the Flamingos can get a party started. Fronted by fluffy-tailed singer Maizy Rae (she often sports one, along with furry ears), the group charms with vintage favorites like “Tell Me Something Good” and “I Wanna Dance with Somebody.” Their reinvention of The Beatles’ “Ticket to Ride” is a revved-up delight. Saturday, Nov. 18, 9:30 pm., Peddler’s Daughter, 48 Main St., Nashua (21+); see

Soft rock: Graham Russell and Russell Hitchcock formed Air Supply after touring together in a production of Jesus Christ Superstar in 1975. They topped the Australian charts soon after the musical closed; big hits include “Lost in Love” and “All Out of Love.” Sunday, Nov. 19, 7 p.m., Capitol Center for the Arts, 44 S. Main St., Concord, $68.25 and up at

Indie songs: Judging by the musicians she’s collaborated with, singer-songwriter Leslie Mendelson is truly special. Her most recent studio album was produced by Peter Asher, who guided Linda Ronstadt into superstardom, with a band including Jim Keltner and The Section’s Leland Sklar and Waddy Wachtel. Sunday, Nov. 19, 7 p.m., The Press Room, 77 Daniel St., Portsmouth, $15 to $20 at (21+).

Immigrant song

Reunited and revitalized, deSoL hits Concord

Fans of Latin-infused rock and soul music are in for a treat when deSoL performs at Concord’s Bank of NH Stage on Nov. 11, their first area show in over a decade. Though the band officially split in 2010, they stayed friendly, doing a Concerts for the Cause benefit in Manchester in 2013 — but nothing since.

Socially distanced meetups at front man Albie Monterrosa’s New Jersey home in the waning days of pandemic lockdown, however, led to deSoL’s first new songs since their final album, Chango. Monterrosa promised in a recent interview that more are in the works, perhaps a sign that the band’s upcoming live shows won’t be the last.

“It’s more of a commitment, I guess,” he said. deSoL is now a four-piece band; Monterrosa, keyboard player Andy Letke, James Guerrero on percussion and bass player Chris Apple.

“We never lost the love for each other and for what we do and for our audience,” Monterrosa continued, adding that the rigors of touring caused the breakup. “We hit it for a decade strong and we missed birthday parties, funerals, weddings…. We had to reassess where our personal lives were at that moment. It was interesting to really take inventory.”

Once reunited, the Asbury Park rhythm machine began to get its groove back, while mending fences. “Being with a band for so long, things happen, things are said. When you’re older you have distance from it and there’s healing. I remember sitting around the island in my kitchen with a bottle of tequila in the middle and us just talking… really being honest with one another. It was a couple of those conversations that really started to make way for new music.”

“El Paso” is one gem in a batch of new songs. Monterrosa wrote it for his mother, while he reflected on her challenges immigrating from El Salvador in the 1970s.

“I realized I had it pretty good,” he said. “Her selflessness was a gift. [Her] struggles I really didn’t see until now…. A big part of what ‘El Paso’ is about is giving my mom honor there.”

Though it’s true when Monterrosa sings, “everybody’s got their own story to tell, mine began in El Paso,” he insists the song isn’t autobiographical.

“It’s pretty much the Latin American story, underdogs coming here try to make it,” he said. “Making it for my parents was literally what they did; they purchased a home, got us through school and out of the house. They created people that were productive in society.”

Handing the song to his bandmates provided a reminder of the rhythmic chemistry that drives deSoL. It was an acoustic song when Monterrosa wrote it, “very singer-songwriter,” he recalled. Guerrero was the first band member to feel it. “He has this ear that I really trust…. If he gets excited, I know it’s hitting a chord somewhere. Then Andy got behind the drums and started playing that groove, and it turned into something that we all were liking. When that happens, you go with it.”

Fittingly, the completed track has a groove that recalls “City of Immigrants,” Steve Earle’s ode to NYC. Another finished song, “Sally,” has a Lieber & Stoller, doo-wop feel. “We’ve got a couple more that we’re gonna release in the new year,” Monterrosa said. “It’s interesting to make music a decade or more later than the last time, and in a new way.”

That said, they’re most excited to be returning to the stage.

“That’s where we love to be, in the live realm; we love when people are together,” Monterrosa said. He likened the band at the start of each show to a jet plane sitting on the runway. “When the plane takes off, everybody’s vibing together and everybody is unified. People are dancing, people are singing back, people are with you on the ride.”

Whether they feel a little or a lot of that love isn’t critical. “Even if it’s one person, as long as somebody’s on the ride with us, I feel like we’re doing our job. We’ve been really fortunate to have that one person spark up and then the person next to him, then it becomes a chain reaction. Next thing, the whole place is really a party.”

There’s a reason their only two upcoming shows are in New Hampshire and in Massachusetts, a Nov. 10 co-headlining concert with fellow percussive pals Entrain.

“You guys really know and love your music, and you sniff out something that’s not working,” Monterrosa said. “You respond well when it’s authentic and real. I love that about New England.”

Saturday, Nov. 11, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Bank of NH Stage, 16 S. Main St., Concord
Tickets: $30.75 and $43.75 at

Featured photo: deSoL. Courtesy photo.

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