Birthday boys

Drew Dunn and Saku Yanagawa At Rex

From his early days doing open mic nights in his hometown of Manchester, Drew Dunn has exhibited a tenacious work ethic. On any given night he’d do multiple sets, starting in the Granite State and ending in downtown Boston. Dunn began doing stand-up in 2014 and by 2018 had triumphed in comedy contests on both coasts, in Boston and Seattle.

A year later, in July 2019, he checked off a personal bucket list item with an appearance at Montreal’s venerable Just For Laughs comedy festival, where he killed it, and caught the attention of a top management team, who signed him on.

To borrow a metaphor from Dunn’s days as a rising high school baseball star before an injury cut short the dream, he was destined for the big leagues. Last year, the comic made the move to New York City, where a hard-working comic can do five or six sets on an off night like Monday or Tuesday.

“Just to be able to get the same quality stage time I was getting in New England, but in New York, and to be able to get a higher rate with so many comedy clubs on any night of the week … is a big benefit,” Dunn said by phone recently. “There are shows like that in New England, but they’re few and far between.”

Dunn was poised for the move, which quickly found him doing semi-regular gigs at The Stand, a club that’s booked big name comics like Pete Davidson, Nikki Glaser, Jim Norton and Janeane Garofolo. Preparation was key, along with a need to test himself on a bigger stage. Dunn had established ties to the city, making friends and doing gigs there over the years.

“I didn’t want to restart my career and have to be doing open mics and kind of introduce myself again; I wanted to at least maintain some of the momentum I had in New England at the time,” Dunn said. Facing big-league pitching was catnip to him. “If I can surround myself with and follow these killers, these guys that are doing the things I need to do … that’s the next step in my career.”

A current component of Dunn’s success strategy is frequent visits home for shows like one May 20 at Manchester’s Rex Theatre, where he’ll co-headline with West Coast comic Saku Yanagawa. The show will be filmed for a documentary to be titled Breaking America that will include stops at popular area landmarks like Laconia’s Funspot mega-arcade.

The show falls on both Dunn and Yanagawa’s 30th birthday, another cool element, and one of many things the two have in common. “We’re both born May 20, 1992, we both played baseball our whole lives and started doing stand-up comedy around the same time … just on opposite sides of the planet,” Dunn said. “We met in Seattle in 2018 and always thought it’d be fun to do something like this.”

It’s Dunn’s third time headlining the Palace Theatre-owned venue; he’ll be back in August for another show. Dunn noted he’s been working a lot with Palace comedy booker Jim Roach. “He’s been helping me foster and grow that New England audience … I did Buzz Ball for Greg and The Morning Buzz over the winter,” he said. “The Rex has been good to me [and] I think their goal is to try and get a bit of a younger clientele.”

The birthday bash will be hosted by Boston comic Chris Tabb and include a pair of feature comics, followed by Dunn and Yanagawa each doing, fittingly enough, a 30-minute set. Appearing in front of family and friends just a stone’s throw from where it began is special for Dunn.

“It’s definitely a treat to see the evolution from open mics at Murphy’s Taproom and the Shaskeen Pub, then going down to Boston and eventually kind of having to leave,” he said. “To even be able to do this has been a fun journey, so I’m excited to see what it can turn into.”

Drew Dunn & Saku Yanagawa
When: Friday, May 20, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Rex Theatre, 28 Amherst St., Manchester
Tickets: $25 at palacetheatre.org

Featured photo: Drew Dunn. Courtesy photo.

The Music Roundup 22/05/19

Local music news & events

Timely humor: Experience as a source of humor propels Funny Women of a Certain Age, a comedy lineup including Vanessa Hollingshead, Leighann Lord, Julia Scotti and Carole Montgomery, who pitched the idea to Showtime in 2019. “I created this show to give opportunities for women over 50,” she said at the time. “For far too long, being of a ‘certain age’ has been considered the end of a career. I’m helping to change that.” Thursday, May 19, 8 p.m., Tupelo Music Hall, 10 A St., Derry, $35 at tupelohall.com.

Mixed up: An evening of house and techno music has Low Groove of Deep Tech Recordings, who recently teamed up with Koop for “Sand The Floor.” The label called the new mix “a clever jam with production chops and enough nostalgia to bring us back to our childhood.” Previously, the Maine-based DJ released the full-length Phantom Power in 2018. He’ll do a four-hour set at the downtown nightspot Friday, May 20, 9 p.m., SoHo Bistro & Lounge, 20 Granite St, Manchester, facebook.com/sohobistroloungenh.

Park party: Among the many offerings at the Exeter Arts & Music Fest is a singer-songwriter tent hosting an array of local talent, including Dyer Holiday, bluesman Alan Roux, Artty Francouer, David Carson, Tod Hearon, Liz & Pete, and Darien Castro. The main stage has morning yoga with Qwill, Red Tail Hawk, The Bulkheads featuring Adrienne Mack-Davis, a SG603 Groove Lounge, and Cold Engines closing. Saturday, May 21, 11 a.m., Swasey Park, 316 Water St., Exeter, facebook.com/exeterartsandmusicfest.

Urban vibe: A pair of local hip-hop artists are featured in YKLR Showcase, an extension of Manchester-based Xplicit Studios. Nashua-by-way-of-Georgia rapper GMT Marc B, who was featured on fellow Gate City artist BME Bravo’s release Rock Star, co-headlines with Danny Cruz. Rochester-based Young Kings Living Right presents the event. The company is currently recruiting talent for a Miami, Florida, jaunt later in the year. Sunday, May 22, 8 p.m., 603 Bar & Grill, 1087 Elm St, Manchester, $10 at the door, 21+.

Funny lady: After spending five years in Boston doing standup, Jenny Zigrino headed west and found success in films like Bad Santa 2 and 50 Shades of Black, along with guesting on Comedy Central’s @Midnight. A Conan appearance was a turning point. She’s been rising since, doing regular gigs at big-name clubs in California and beyond. Wednesday, May 25, 9 p.m., Shaskeen Pub, 909 Elm St., Manchester, $10 at eventbrite.com.

Praise music

Faith-based acts play SNHU Arena

With soaring harmonies and epic instrumental breaks, it’s easy to mistake We The Kingdom for a Nashville pop act like Little Big Town or Lady A. Composed of brothers Ed and Scott Cash, Ed’s children Franni Rae and Martin, and Andrew Bergthold, a close family friend, the multi-generational group hits all the modern country cues.

Here’s the twist: We The Kingdom isn’t trying to be Fleetwood Mac with a pickup truck and cutoff jeans. They’re rocking for God, with lyrics pulled from a prayer book and delivered in ministerial fervor to born-again crowds. It’s a successful act; the group was named Contemporary Christian Artist of the Year at the 2021 Dove Awards, the genre’s Grammys.

They’re currently on the road with headliner Casting Crowns, part of an 18-city run stopping in Manchester on May 14.

When it was announced, WTK was third on a bill that included Hillsong Worship. They’re now providing lead-in, as the latter group, part of an Australian megachurch, withdrew from the tour last month. This came amidst allegations of sexual impropriety at the megachurch that led to the resignations of its founder and several leaders, and the closure of several church campuses.

In a phone interview from Moline, Illinois, Andrew Bergthold alluded to their own reckoning with church leadership. In 2015, an exposé in the evangelical magazine Christianity Today detailed accusations of sexual and spiritual abuse at the Gathering, a church in Franklin, Tennessee. Ed Cash, co-writer of the top worship song “How Great Is Our God,” was a Gathering member and had been sharing profits with its founder, Wayne “Pops” Jolley.

Ed and Scott Cash left the church soon after; Jolley died in September 2016. We The Kingdom formed two years later at a Young Life camp in Georgia. The first song they wrote together, “Dancing On The Waves,” was for a service there, and addressed what they were experiencing — in different ways — at the time.

“The band started in the midst of a time where we were all very shaken in our idea of faith and what church looked like,” Bergthold said. “You hear man speak about God and you build an idea of God — because you have to — around what man says about God. You learn from other people and you grow.”

Bergthold was heartened by the many fans who said “Dancing On The Waves ” had aided in dealing with their own crises of faith. “All the time people come up and say, ‘I was hurt by the church and this song helped me reconcile with the Lord.’ They know they’re loved by Him; it’s unbelievable.”

As to their music’s positive effect on others extending to Dove trophies, gold records and arena tours, Bergthold modestly demurs. “I think it’s really beautiful that the Lord would use our story,” he replied, waving off fame as fascinating but not much else. Above all, Bergthold and his bandmates want to elevate fans and help them find hope in their spiritual quest.

After standing at the crossroads of belief in mortals and faith in the spirit, Bergthold came out healed.

“The leadership of the church got very messed up, and we were left wondering what is actually the truth of God and what is a bit of the lies and manipulation of man; or even the good intentions, but misleading of man,” he said. “We started literally in the middle of us having to reconstruct a bit of our faith system in our love of the church and man. God’s really redeemed our story.”

A follow-up to their debut studio album Holy Water will arrive later this year, after being delayed by the pandemic. They expect to play a few selections from it at their SNHU Arena show, including “Miracle Power,” which Bergthold thinks may be the new record’s first single.

“It’s actually one of my favorite songs we’ve ever written,” he said, “so I think people will be pretty excited about it.”

Casting Crowns featuring We The Kingdom
When: Saturday, May 14, 7 p.m.
Where: SNHU Arena, 555 Elm St., Manchester
Tickets: $27.75 to $124.75 at snhuarena.com

Featured photo: We The Kingdom. Courtesy photo.

The Music Roundup 22/05/12

Local music news & events

Songbird: Since her early folk singing days, Judy Collins endures as one of music’s finest interpreters, in many ways due to her impeccable taste. She was the first to cover songs by Leonard Cohen and Randy Newman, and her version of Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now” was a breakthrough moment for that songwriter. So it’s significant that at 82 years old Collins has just released her first album of all-original songs, Spellbound. Thursday, May 12, 8 p.m., Colonial Theatre, 609 Main St., Laconia, tickets $29 to $79 at etix.com.

Shredder: If contemporary praise is an indication, John5, performing with his band The Creatures, is a rock great. Slash called him “one of the most mind-blowing guitarists around” and Rob Zombie’s praise for him as a member of his touring band isn’t safe to print but is equally effusive. He’s written for everyone from Motley Crüe to Ricky Martin, and played with an equally diverse array of artists, from Rod Stewart to Lynyrd Skynyrd. Friday, May 13, 8 p.m., Tupelo Music Hall, 10 A St., Derry, $40 at tupelohall.com.

Singular: Formerly known as Ozzmosis, tribute act Blizzard of Ozz is led by convincing front man Mark Lavoie. Their upcoming show will include the first two albums of Ozzy Osbourne’s Randy Rhoads era, the singer’s most popular, played in their entirety, along with solo hits and some Black Sabbath favorites. The band is rounded out by drummer Mark George, Damiano Christian on guitar and bassist Paul Sylvia. Saturday, May 14, 8 p.m., Angel City Music Hall, 179 Elm St., Manchester, $10 at the door (21+).

Freaky: Named after a pre-WWII Broadway musical, Hellzapoppin is a rock ’n’ roll circus sideshow aimed at mature audiences. The performance includes magic and illusion, acrobatic stunts, hand balancing, foot archery, sword swallowing, juggling, unicycling and bizarre, death-defying curiosities like a performer cut in half at the waist who walks bare-handed on broken glass while on fire. Sunday, May 15, 8 p.m., Wally’s Pub, 144 Ashworth Ave., Hampton Beach, $20 in advance at ticketmaster.com (21+).

Countrified: Performing at a newly opened night spot, Nicole Knox Murphy is a local singer-songwriter who wears hometown pride on her (record) sleeve. The ubiquitous performer plays regularly throughout the Granite State, and her song “My 603” lists the reasons she loves it, from Hampton Beach to Mount Washington Observatory. In 2020, NKM released an ode to her Vermont roots, “The 802.”Wednesday, May 18, 8 p.m., Hare of the Dawg, 3 East Broadway, Derry, facebook.com/hareofthedawg.

Cape crusaders

Falmouth’s Crooked Coast hits Manchester

On its latest EP, Glass House, Crooked Coast turns in a heavier direction. Songs like “Hell in a Handbasket” and the title cut are as edgy and gray-limned as 2017’s reggae romp “Go Slow” was buoyant and bright. Some of the shift came with urging from producer Courtney Ballard (Good Charlotte, All Time Low), but much of it reflected the challenge of making music in a pandemic.

“There was so much uncertainty; it was just a crazy time to be in the studio writing with everything going on,” guitarist, singer and lyricist Luke Vose said by phone from his home in Falmouth, Mass. “It wasn’t a conscious decision. We just kind of followed the sound that was exciting us.”

Vose, along with co-guitar player and vocalist John McNamara, bassist Ben Elder and drummer Shaqed Druyan, worked hard to maintain the momentum of a band that had sold out their first hometown CoastFest in 2019 and had big plans for the following year before it was cut short. They played a series of shows in fans’ yards on a flatbed truck, and on the water for a Fourth of July concert, which was filmed for a documentary.

“Your limits were your imagination, because nothing traditional was happening,” Vose said. “So it was like, what can we do that’s totally out of left field? That was something we came up with, and it was super fun. We didn’t announce it or anything, we just popped up there for anyone who was in the area, in kayaks or on the shore.”

As with many independent bands, the music is only the beginning with Crooked Coast; branding and building buzz are vital, and their job. Uniquely, they also run their own retail store, an effort born of necessity when Vose needed to convert a second bedroom he used as a merch warehouse into a nursery. Fortuitously, a rental car agency had vacated the floor below their rehearsal space, and the price was right.

The shop has become a community hub.

“When we’re in town on the weekends, we open it up, we do special events, art shows; we did a book signing,” Vose said. It’s also a tourist attraction. “We have people come from out of town to visit the Cape, and now it’s like a part of their trip.”

On his own, Vose boosts the regional scene by writing about it in a column for the Falmouth Enterprise called “Listening Local.” When he took it over in the mid-2010s, Vose wasn’t a journalist.

“It definitely was a learning curve, but I wound up really enjoying it,” he said. “I really liked hearing other musicians’ stories, and every time I talked to someone I got a new perspective on something in life.”

Crooked Coast is expanding Glass House into a long-player they hope to release later this year. A single will drop in May.

“We’re doing what we can to line up business-wise and get the best splash the album can make,” Vose said, noting that the harder mood continues on it, “but there’s some more poppy stuff, and our bass player actually sings lead on a song that he wrote, which is awesome.”

If plans play out, the new record will coincide with Crooked Coast’s Memorial Day set at Boston Calling, where they’ll share the stage with Metallica, Weezer, Glass Animals and several other acts. In August they’ll appear at the three-day Beach Road Weekend festival on Martha’s Vineyard. The event includes national headliners like Wilco, Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit, The Avett Brothers, Guster, Dawes — and one that Vose is particularly excited about.

“I grew up a big fan of Beck, so that’s a little surreal … me as a young kid would have been very impressed to hear some day you’re going to play on the same stage as him,” he said. “We’ve been working on the Vineyard for quite some years now, building a following. To see our name on that poster is pretty awesome.”

Crooked Coast
When: Friday, May 6, at 9 p.m.
Where: Shaskeen Pub, 909 Elm St., Manchester
Tickets: $10 at the door;crookedcoast.com

Featured photo: Crooked Coast. Courtesy photo.

The Music Roundup 22/05/05

Local music news & events

Double play: Regional prowess is on display as Cold Engines and Trade share the stage at a show that was scheduled for Spring 2020 and postponed because, well, you know why. Fronted by guitarist Dave Drouin, the prolific powerhouse band has released 10 albums since forming mid-decade, most recently Flower Covered Hills, which dropped late last year. Concord-based Trade elegantly blends soul, jazz and funk elements. Thursday, May 5, 8 p.m., Bank of New Hampshire Stage, 16 S Main St, Concord, $15 at ccanh.com.

Femme funny: Kick off Mother’s Day Weekend with Funny Friday, a trio of female comics dubbed Moms In Hats. It’s headlined by Vermont’s Maya Manion, who, her bio says, “travels as far as she can go in a night to perform, because no one will watch her kids for longer than that.” She’s joined by Worcester’s Cindy Gray and actress turned comedian Sara Poulin, a rising star on the Maine comedy scene; Randy Williams hosts. Friday, May 6, 7:30 p.m., Lions Club, 256 Mammoth Road, Londonderry, $10 at eventbrite.com.

Ivory tickler: Returning favorite The Eric Mintel Quartet play jazz standards. An only child, Mintel spent a lot of after-school time at the family piano, teaching himself to play by transcribing theme songs from his favorite cartoons. One day, while rummaging through his parents’ record collection, he found an old Dave Brubeck 45 with “Take Five” backed by “Blue Rondo a la Turk” and was transfixed by jazz. Saturday, May 7, 7 p.m., Spotlight Room at the Palace, 96 Hanover St., Manchester, $29 at palacetheatre.org.

Brunch music: A fixture for red letter days at this Henniker country inn, Brad Myrick & Eric Lindberg play smooth instrumentals for the Mother’s Day brunch crowd, reprising their Easter event from a few weeks back. Myrick is a gifted guitarist and scene booster who books venues throughout the state with the NH Music Collective agency and helps local acts document their artistry at Lakes Region recording studio The Greenhouse. Sunday, May 8, 11:30 a.m., Colby Hill Inn, 33 The Oaks, Henniker. See bradmyrick.com.

Song master: Celebrating his 80th birthday, Gordon Lightfoot is a Canadian troubadour with a staggering catalog of songs amassed during his storied career. “Early Morning Rain,” “If You Could Read My Mind,” “Carefree Highway,” “Sundown,” “The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald,” “Canadian Railroad Trilogy,” and “Rainy Day People” are some of his hits over 50 years as a performer. Wednesday, May 11, 8 p.m., The Music Hall, 28 Chestnut St., Portsmouth, $48.75 at themusichall.org.

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