Agent provocateur

Challenging comedy from Daniel Sloss

Jokes can be made about anything, Daniel Sloss believes; nothing is off-limits. Among the topics the Scottish comedian has tackled are his sister’s death from cerebral palsy, toxic masculinity and a close friend being raped by a man they both knew. What’s most remarkable is that his act comes off as a TED Talk with punchlines — pain that’s very, very funny.

Speaking via Zoom recently, Sloss said he strives for balance on stage.

“I think you can and should make jokes about anything, but just because you’re making fun of something … doesn’t mean you have to be disrespectful or disparaging,” he said. “You can be provocative and empathetic at the same time; I think there’s a responsibility on the comedian to do both.”

In 2018’s Jigsaw, he mocked relationships with brutal efficiency. “We have romanticized the idea of romance, and it is cancerous,” he snarled. “People are more in love with the idea of love than the person they are with.” Acknowledging this would lead most to break up with their partners, he said, and asked for anyone who decoupled to let him know.

Hundreds of thousands of replies arrived, among them requests to autograph divorce papers. Sloss celebrated this outcome when he taped his Socio special in 2019. Since then, however, he’s married and welcomed a son. As he prepared to launch an American tour of his latest show Can’t, he sounded almost sheepish.

Jigsaw was, he said, “a very angry show [written] after a particularly bad breakup. I didn’t know it was going to have the effect it did, but I’m very glad it did. It does mean that whenever I talk about my wife on stage, people are like, ‘Oh, you’re a hypocrite’ and I’m like, ‘I can’t believe I have to explain this again.’ But … that’s the job.”

It’s work Sloss began doing at a young age, achieving quick success early on. He was 17 when he did his first sets; two years later, in 2009, his Teenage Kicks show made him the youngest comic to have a solo run in London’s West End. So his rant on modern love may just have been a twentysomething’s passion talking, though he claims data proves him right.

In Socio he turned his knives on woker-than-thou leftism, noting that the right doesn’t mandate a check in every box on their list. “You don’t hate gay people? That’s OK, you’ll learn,” he quipped. “Welcome aboard.” In the new show, Sloss expands on that, going after cancel culture, or more to the point, disassembling the popular notion of getting canceled.

“People lose bits of work because of things that they’ve said in the past due to some people going on the internet to dig up all their old dirty history, and I acknowledge that,” he said. “I do think there’s a lot of false flags. I think a lot of comedians claim they’re being canceled when they’re not. They’re just getting online feedback to a degree we’ve never had before.”

Having just returned from a tour of India, where people are arrested for criticizing the government, it’s clear Sloss finds the many snowflakes on this side of the world a bit daft. “We met a guy in Turkey who made a joke about some ancient prophet, and it wasn’t even particularly offensive, but one person took umbrage, and he spent 10 days in jail. I’ve seen the cost and the consequences of real cancel culture.”

That said, Sloss loves coming Stateside, and looks forward to traveling by bus with his family as his tour kicks off April 11 in Laconia.

“In America, I can make fun of any president that’s ever been,” he said. “I can say really awful things about them.” But he especially enjoys the many contrarians who attend his shows.

“As much as people feel like people are more sensitive than they’ve ever been, I’m also finding that because of that, there is the other side of the spectrum where people are like, ‘You can say whatever you want, we don’t care,’” Sloss said. “They want me to know that they’re not all soft and easily offended. Those are the people I try to make laugh.”

Daniel Sloss
When: Thursday, April 11, 8 p.m.
Where: Colonial Theatre, 609 Main St., Laconia
Tickets: $39 and up at etix.com

Featured photo: Courtesy photo.

A great French baking contest

This year’s theme is plays and musicals

How much do you know about the French-speaking world other than France or Quebec and could you express that knowledge in a cake?

On May 18, 10 teams of amateur bakers will have an opportunity to do just that at the Franco-American Centre’s Third Annual Fleur Délices, a cake-decorating competition dedicated to spreading knowledge about the Francophone world. Teams will bring everything they need to build elaborately decorated cakes with a French or French-influenced theme.

“This goes hand-in-hand with our mission at the Franco-American Centre,” said Nathalie Hirte, the event’s organizer, “to introduce people to the world outside the France/Quebec box.”

For the event’s first year the Fleur Délices’ theme was French-speaking countries around the world, Hirte said.

“Last year, it was fairy tales; this year our theme is Plays and Musicals of the French-Speaking World,” she said. “What’s happened in the past is the contestants have looked at our suggestion list, then gone and picked something else completely. As long as their cakes meet our criteria, they’re good.”

Fleur Délices — the name, which indicates “delicate and delicious,” is a pun; it sounds like “Fleur de Lis,” the symbol of France — is inspired by The Great British Baking Show, a television baking competition known for its creativity and kindness. Like its inspiration, Fleur Délices will require competitors to make and present cakes, but unlike the television show, there will be no baking on site.

“None of the venues we’ve held the event at have ovens,” Hirte said. Competitors will bake their cakes at home, then bring them to the event along with frosting and any edible elements they need to put their finished cakes together. Teams can have one or two participants. Single-person teams will have an hour to decorate their cakes; pairs will have 45 minutes.

Each cake must have a minimum of two tiers, and one of them must be a sponge. (“That’s another influence from the British Baking Show,” Hirte said.) The icing must include at least one buttercream. All cakes must have a 3D element that is made from an edible material. Other than that, the organizers have not been overly specific about their requirements.

“We didn’t want to limit the bakers’ creativity,” Hirte said. “We just want them all on a level playing field.”

Two or three judges will walk around during the competition, visiting teams at their stations and asking questions. They will judge individual cakes on taste, texture, overall appearance, creativity and their representation of the theme. The overall winner of the competition will be chosen from an average of the judges’ scores and will be presented with an engraved cake platter.

A People’s Choice winner will be chosen by the spectators. Because it will not be possible for every spectator to taste each cake, the People’s Choice winner will be based almost entirely on appearance.

“We guarantee that everyone will get two to three samples,” she said. “The last two years, nobody has left hungry. We always get positive feedback on the event.” The People’s Choice winner will be presented with a charcuterie board.

Fleur Délices is open to bakers 16 and older.

“The past couple of years we’ve had some French teachers and their students compete,” Hirte says. “That’s been fun.”

Registration for competitors is $20 per team and is open until Friday, April 26, on the Franco-American Centre’s website. Tickets for spectators will go on sale within the next week or so through the same website.

Featured Photo: Teacher and student team. Courtesy photo.

Body rolls & compass turns

NSquared is home for modern dance

By Zachary Lewis
zlewis@hippopress.com

Dance, artistic movement of the human body, is one of humankind’s oldest forms of expression throughout all cultures. NSquared Dance, a contemporary dance company based in Manchester, believes in the power of dance and advocates for this ancient art form in the Granite State.

Zackery Betty, Artistic Director of NSquared Dance, spoke about how it’s “a company that’s really driven to bring awareness [of] the joy of dance but also the art of dance and be able to share it through empowerment, encouragement for community members, for other dancers and also for audience-goers.”

NSquared Dance is a nonprofit that Zackery Betty and his husband, Nick Neagle, who is the founder and creative director, brought up from New York City. Neagle is a New Hampshire native and both Betty and Neagle are “excited to make [New Hampshire] our home,” Betty said. “You don’t need to go to this giant metropolis in order to fulfill a life for dance. It is viable within the smaller communities and the cities [in New Hampshire] that still have a lot to give.”

Betty and Neagle both graduated from Marymount Manhattan College in New York City, he said, and “[NSquared Dance] was [Neagle’s] senior thesis … to create a company, and he did the business plan … based out of Boston but then he just really transposed it to fit more in the New Hampshire area…. Through trials and tribulations we’ve now come to have a brand new outlook.”

That outlook involves a myriad of dance styles.

“We actually are pretty happy to capitalize on our different types of genres,” Betty said. “We specialize in contemporary dance and modern but we do have a very strong tap background. We also can do jazz, ballet … checkmark [all] the dance genres except for no folk or ballroom dance, that’s not our specialty.”

They do have a specialty in their choreography, which springs from unique starting points.

“Sometimes it starts with a costume. Sometimes it starts with a music inspiration and other times it will start with either a story or an idea,” Betty said.

NSquared’s next performance will be on Saturday, April 13, at the Amato Center for the Performing Arts in Milford for the New England Inspirational Dance Festival run by Saving Grace Dance Ensemble.

“The New England Inspirational Dance Festival is a celebration of dance through inspiration,” Betty said. “Saving Grace Dance has presented several different platforms for dance companies and dance crews to come perform. We’re bringing one of our works that we did in February … it’s just a duet, but it’s a duet that brings light to what possibly could bedance in another realm … a higher realm.”

Betty and Neagle are selective yet open-minded about who becomes an NSquared Dancer.

“We are a very open and encompassing group…,” Betty said. “We look through a lens of joy mixed with technique. We have a very strong technical background underneath for all of the dancers. That doesn’t necessarily mean that all of our dancers have gone to college for dance, but we do have a large group of them that have…. We look for storytelling in relation to being able to use your voice within a room as a creative and as an advocate for the art of dance. We look for someone who can bring both of those aspects into the studio and the stage.”

After the Festival, NSquared will premiere The Lavender Scare in collaboration with dancers through New Hampshire Dance Collaborative at the Rex Theatre in Manchester in June.

As it happens, at NSquared “all of our dancers were born and raised here in New Hampshire except for myself and our rehearsal director,” Betty said. “It’s really nice to have that local group of people…. It’s nice to pride ourselves that we are locally born and raised for dancers.”

NSquared Dance also holds drop-in classes for professionals and college students on Sundays at the New England School of Dance (679 Mast Road in Manchester) for $15.

“We’re excited to invest,” Betty said, “in the best stories that have helped create us and helped create our community … to put that on the stage and not have to use words for it.”

Dance Dance
New England Inspirational Dance Festival
Where: Amato Center for the Performing Arts, 56 Mount Vernon St., Milford
When: Saturday, April 13, 6 p.m.

The Lavender Scare
Where: The Rex Theatre, 23 Amherst St., Manchester
When: Thursday, June 27, 7 p.m.

More: nsquareddance.org

Featured Photo: Courtesy photo.

Art connections

Currier curates a conversation

photograph of tulips in dark vase sitting on table in corner, black and white
Robert Mapplethorpe, Tulips. Courtesy photo.

When Lorenzo Fusi joined the Currier Museum of Art in February 2023 as Chief Curator, one of his first exhibitions was “Distant Conversations.” It looked at the elective affinities between painter Ella Walker and ceramicist Betty Woodman, by displaying their works side by side.

Its success led to this year’s exhibition, which pairs painter Filippo de Pisis with photographer Robert Mappelthorpe. The latter is better known, mainly due to his often controversial photos. In a phone interview with the Hippo, Italy-born Fusi said he included de Pisis “to present and premiere the work of an Italian artist who I think is very influential and important beyond the borders of Italy.” Here’s an edited version of the interview.

Separated by years, Mappelthorpe and de Pisis never met. What do you think connects them artistically?

Mapplethorpe traveled multiple times to Italy, and I think most of these affinities originated by looking at the same work and the same monuments, the same kind of archaeological references which are basically sitting deep in Western art history. I think that most likely is the reason why there are so many uncanny similarities between the two of them.

What are some of the other elements linking them?

Each of them came from some form of prejudice. I would say de Pisis at one moment in time has been considered a bit too delicate … maybe too soft in his representation. By imposition, I think Mapplethorpe was considered too hard, too in your face, too confrontational. I think both of them have been stigmatized for this almost opposite way in which they come into art. And ironically, [via this] completely opposite or antagonist approach, they do produce work which is actually very … similar aesthetically. So I think this is not only an opportunity to discover de Pisis as an artist who has not been shown extensively in the United States, but also an opportunity to revisit Mapplethorpe’s work from a different … perspective.

They were both very purposeful in their approach.

Yes, intentional, and very deliberate in the way they wanted to represent something. If you start entering into that mindset, even the more graphic images of Mapplethorpe, and we have only one image from the more controversial portfolios … Joe Rubberman, the very famous picture of a man wearing a vinyl outfit laying down flat on a bench. It’s a very classical pose [and] although it looks very morbid and very sexual, as a matter of fact, this pose can be seen in hundreds of examples of art historical references, even though it might be very much in your face when you start looking at it…. The idea [is] to create an image that is transtemporal and it stays as an almost art historical testament. You don’t see the sexuality of it anymore. You don’t see the reference to this very murky underworld of gay life in New York in the ’70s and ’80s, you see a very iconic image of a body that could be Etruscan, could be ancient Roman or Greek. That’s where I think he stops being controversial and starts being an artist in a sense.

When did you know you were on the right track and this would be an impactful exhibition?

The Currier Museum of Art has a quite substantial collection of photography, going back to Lotte Jacobi, the first photography curator… I was surprised when I first moved to the Currier that we didn’t have any Mapplethorpe in our collection because undeniably he’s an American master of photography. I was looking at [how] we could incorporate some work by Mapplethorpe into the collection, but also … overcoming the prejudice associated with the more controversial reception of his photography. At the same time … I wanted to do something with de Pisis in the United States because he was an overlooked artist who I think should be represented. The moment of realization [came while] separately looking at the work. In my mind I had this crystallization that some of the images were very, very similar, and the more I delved into that, the more similarities I found. I think the moment for me when I became absolutely sure that it was a good exhibition or a good approach was when I showed it to a colleague of mine in Italy who immediately saw the poetry and the lyricism in this association, and he asked me to continue to do that research. Then I shared it with my team. They all saw how close the elective affinity is between these two artists, which is most surprising considering the time gap and geographical gap between the two of them. So it has not been a single moment of revelation, but multiple moments of affirmation that have happened from people who were not as yet in the project but could see immediately how powerful the association was.

Filippo de Pisis and Robert Mapplethorpe: A Distant Conversation
When: Saturday, April 13, through Sept. 2
Where: Currier Museum of Art, 150 Ash St., Manchester
More: currier.org

Featured Photo: Filippo de Pisis, Fiori di Villa di Maggio. Courtesy photo.

Exploring Pubs

A look at some of the gathering spots that offer their own unique character, entertainment and, of course, beer

What is a pub? With a name derived from “public house,” it’s mainly a community gathering place. At the best ones, as the song goes, “everybody knows your name” and there are plenty of reasons to be there. A proprietor at one of the six area pubs profiled in this story spoke of theirs as a respite from stress at work or home: “If either of those aren’t great, we’re that third place.”

Each has something that sets it apart and makes the place special — a signature dish, musical gathering or standout staff member. It all adds up to a vibe that can’t be replicated. Much of it is by design, particularly in Manchester. A venerable watering hole is careful to schedule events that don’t compete directly with other downtown spots, so everyone does well.

Another common thread is evolution, often disruptive, always necessary. A move to a new location, rising from a death blow delivered by the pandemic, switching things up with a new music night, expanding the spirits menu ahead of, not in response to, a boom, or cultivating a particular demographic that was previously neglected.

In the case of one venue getting ready open in May, disruptive evolution simply means taking a leap of faith, something each of these does every single day.

The Forum Pub: Friendly zone

When Area 23 opened mid-decade, it quickly became known as a hard place to find but definitely worth the effort. Set at the end of a winding road off State Street, decorated with offbeat bric-a-brac and offering a tastefully curated beer list along with craft ciders and a smart pub menu, it also welcomed the Concord music scene. More than a few performers got their start there, and jam sessions were a magnet for creatives of all stripes.

Last year, however, owner Kirk McNeil was forced to move, due to what he called “irreconcilable differences” with his landlord. In early October he began occupying a space that formerly was an Asian restaurant in Penacook’s Thirty Pines Plaza. With a vibe much different than the cavernous Area 23, McNeil gave it a new name, The Forum Pub.

Before deciding on the change, McNeil asked one of his regulars to identify Area 23’s “main feature,” he recalled while standing behind the bar in mid-March, during the Forum Pub’s third week of business. “He said, ‘you could have good discussions with people; it wasn’t just a lot of sports on TV, a lot of people getting frustrated about this thing or that thing. You could actually have discussions.’ I said, ‘I think you just named it.’”

That said, Forum Pub is a haven for civil discourse; a House Rules list at the end of the bar includes “No Politics.” This is aimed at anyone “who’s not listening but only talking,” McNeil said. “I’m happy to talk about policies … we can talk about whether or not you think this thing or that thing should happen. What makes it a better show? I just don’t want to talk about why this nimrod or that nincompoop should be running the show.”

The process of moving 3 1/2 miles down the street wasn’t easy.

“As we all know, New Hampshire doesn’t have a ton of available real estate right now,” McNeil noted, and regulatory hurdles were also challenging. What saved the day were his people. “The best part of this entire move has been our staff, because a bunch of cooks and bartenders and sound men and servers … became construction workers and decorators.”

Adjustments between the new and old location include live music. There’s a nicely lit stage, an expertly tweaked sound system, but less room means solo, duo and trio performances instead of raucous bands. Don Bartenstein hosts a weekly song circle in the center of the room, there’s a growing list of Wednesday night singer-songwriter nights, and Saturday open mic is back, but no one’s loading in big amps anymore.

One upside of relocating is that the kitchen is four times the size of the old one, increasing the number of menu options.

“We’re doing some pretty terrific food here; we don’t have anything on the menu that I don’t like,” McNeil said. Among the customer favorites is an item that was also popular at Area 23. “I can’t say enough good things about the gyro; we do our own lamb roast.”

McNeil’s daughter Anastasia, home from college, echoed her father’s sentiments. “My friend Raphael is Greek as the day is long,” she said. “He took one bite and ran to get the chef to tell him it was the best gyro he’s ever had stateside.”

The Forum Pub
15 Village St., Concord, 552-0137
Must-try: Lamb gyro.
Big fun: Saturday afternoon Acoustic Circle

The Local: Rebirth in Warner

Like a lot of places, The Local, a small but scrappy and vibrant restaurant/bar on Main Street in Warner, couldn’t survive the pandemic. Owner Bill Meadows packed things up in May 2021. “We got through it and back,” he said by phone in late March. “When everything opened back up, we had people, but we were just so burned out by then that it just wasn’t worth continuing.”

As its name implies, it was more than a watering hole, and the community felt its absence. Meadows took a corporate job on the Seacoast, where he was frequently reminded why The Local was special. Its staff felt more like family, not a branch in an org chart.

“It’s not like going into a generic restaurant and being waited on by somebody you’ve never seen before,” he said. “You’re seeing the same people as when you came in a month, two months ago. It’s not just the food, the beer, the music; actually, it’s the staff bringing people back.”

When an opportunity to reopen came, in the form of another Main Street restaurant coming available, Meadows jumped. He and the owner of The Foothills began talking, and on October 13, 2023, The Local’s sign, featuring an arm wreath with two hands gripping mugs in a toast, came out of retirement.

It’s a bigger place, Meadows beamed.

“It’s an actual restaurant,” he said. “We were running the old Local out of a vanilla commercial space as best we could, but there were always restrictions, mostly with refrigeration … we could barely bring in enough stuff to last until our next delivery.”

Woman at bar pouring beer from tap
Amanda at The Local. Photo by Michael Witthaus.

Now there are more food specials, like a daily eggroll and burger, along with a doubling of beer taps, which Meadows has filled with all-local offerings.

“Our favorite thing to do is work with independents, breweries I go directly to for beer,” he said. “No. 1, it’s a great story, and No. 2, it’s not stuff people are going to find other places.”

Live music resumed recently, with April Cushman, Charlie Chronopoulos, Ryan Williamson and others appearing every Thursday night, courtesy of NH Music Collective’s talent service.

“It’s been really handy because booking was … it wasn’t difficult, but it was time-consuming,” Meadows said, so NHMC’s approach was welcome. “They book us great acts, and we don’t really have to do anything, so it works out.”

Along with that, Meadows leads a weekly trivia night on Wednesdays like he’s hosting a house party, surrounded as he is by mostly familiar faces.

“Our complete customer base came back when we reopened,” he said, adding that The Foothills’ old crowd still comes in.

Nine-to-five life compelled Meadows to rethink how he’d run The Local anew.

“I learned in a couple of years working for other people [about] things I used to do as a manager, not even knowing how toxic they were and how they affected other people, until I was that other person,” he said. “I came in with a completely different mindset as far as how to run a restaurant from a management standpoint; more how not to do it and trying to get away from that.”

The Local
15 Main St., Warner, 456-3333
Must-try: Eggroll of the day
Big fun: Wednesday trivia

The Barley House: New notes

As befits New Hampshire’s Capital City, Concord’s Barley House is packed with a mixture of locals and out-of-towners during the work week. On a recent Wednesday just past six o’clock, the bar included two men who earlier in the day were at the Statehouse talking over beers and burgers. Nearby, a couple from Cleveland who were attending an academic book conference at the Grappone Center considered a bowl of the pub’s signature Guinness Beef Stew.

“Definitely all walks of life,” said Nikki Miller, a longtime bartender at the North Main Street mainstay. Every Friday night, though, is locals’ time, she said. “A group of people in the community, they just take over the bar; they love it here. There’s also a ton of bar regulars, middle-aged people, and I’d say we do have some younger folk.”

It’s a less raucous vibe than in past years, she continued, meaning before the pandemic. “We’re not open late anymore,” she said. “People typically aren’t coming late to the Barley House, or dare I say, going out late anymore in Concord at all. It’s a changed place.”

The Barley House is very much an Irish pub. An ample supply of Redbreast, Green Spot and Jameson is always on hand, and St. Patrick’s Day is the North Star of their annual calendar. This year’s came on Sunday, a day they’ve been closed in the past. That changed this year, but Miller and her team weren’t sure what to expect.

To their relief, “it was a great day,” she said. “We didn’t have any troublemakers anywhere. Everyone was having a good time, eating great food. We had Irish step dancers, and the Irish session players for three hours. Then we had a DJ in our downstairs bar; I think a good time was had by all.”

A weekly Tuesday night gathering of Irish musicians, led by Eugene Durkee, was around before the pandemic. “Right now, we have about eight men and women that come in on a rotating basis,” Miller said. “They’re playing Celtic music, and it really just brings an awesome vibe to our dining space.”

Recently, regular live music, which ended many years ago, returned to the Barley House. Acoustic performers began appearing downstairs on Fridays and Saturdays.

“We all feel now that the world has returned to its new normal, so we decided to be creative in bringing people back,” Miller said. “Making it a place where you want to go in the community again … I think bringing music back was just the way to do it.”

Food-wise, the pub’s burgers are a constant favorite.

“I always tell my customers we have a top five burger list, which is not helpful to anyone trying to make a decision,” Miller said. Another recent addition is a personal deep-dish pizza with allegedly addictive qualities. “I don’t think anyone expected it to take off the way it did … it’s this funny little thing; people are like, ‘do you have it? I need it. I’m here for the pizza.’”

Still and all, a tight-knit staff on a first-name basis with so many of its customers is what sets the venerable downtown pub apart for Miller. “We say it’s not a Barley House, but it’s a Barley Home.”

The Barley House
132 N. Main St., Concord, 228-6363
Must-try: Guinness beef stew
Big fun: Tuesday Irish Session

Strange Brew Tavern: Peaceful coexistence

How does a business endure, let alone a pub? The National Restaurant Association reports an 80 percent failure rate within five years of opening. One local beat the odds. On April 6, Strange Brew Tavern marked its 25th anniversary. For pub owner Mitch Sawaya, however, the biggest milestone was making it to the end of Year 1.

He started in 1999 in a building that had stood empty for eight years, living on the third floor while he slowly built it out. Early days were quiet, but certain moments gave him hope, like when area restaurant workers stopped by after their shifts for a bite.

“I knew if we were doing something that attracted them we had a chance of making it, because they’re kind of harsh critics,” Sawaya said in a recent phone interview.

Fast forward to 2000. Strange Brew survived and, judging by a line snaking around the block on Market Street to mark the moment, was thriving. Sawaya could exhale a bit. “I thought, ‘You know what? I think we’re going to do OK, we’ll be here for a while.’ That was a big one; it was the first time I really felt comfortable or confident.”

As for lasting two and half decades, Sawaya worked to set Strange Brew apart from other Manchester bars, beginning with a big beer list.

“I had 18 draft lines when I opened, which everybody thought was ridiculous,” he said. With the craft beer boom years off, “I couldn’t fill them, but I refused at that point to put domestics on tap; I still do.”

chalkboard sign on table, reading join us in celebrating 25 years, bottle of liquor in background
Strange Brew. Photo by Michael Witthaus.

Sawaya also vowed to make his pub the go-to place for blues and R&B fans, partly because he’s a fan. A favorite memory is booking Dennis Brennan; he’d followed the Boston guitarist since his days in The Martells. “What was even more odd is he was with some guys that I knew really well, and he told them that he remembered me,” he said. “I was blown away.”

Another reason for leaning into the genre, which includes a Howard Randall-hosted blues jam every Sunday and live acts every Friday and Saturday, is that Sawaya believes staying in his lane helps the overall downtown scene. Early on, he did a press interview that said as much. The next day the owners of the now-defunct Black Brimmer stopped by to thank him.

“They said, ‘That’s the best thing we’ve ever heard,’ which was great,” he said. “We made a point not to book the same bands or do the same things on the same night. They’d have Mama Kicks every Wednesday, so we just steered away from that sort of thing. I think it was good for everybody. There were lines to get into all those places.”

These days, Jordan Quinn, along with Scott Armstrong, hosts a music open mic on Wednesdays. “Everybody loves her; I think she’s been the most successful person with it,” Sawaya said, noting that there’s a similar Thursday comedy gathering. “It’s grown significantly; it’s really open mic, anybody can get up on stage, and occasionally a couple of the big guys from Boston will come down to test out material.”

Some of the best recollections are from the many New Hampshire primaries he’s seen. “I always tell the story about John Kerry,” he said. “I had a Tufts banner hanging in the corner because that’s where I went to college, and he saw it. His son and his daughter went to Tufts, and he asked the significance of the banner. They told him the owner had gone there, so he grabbed me and bought us a beer…. We spent 45 minutes talking about growing up in Massachusetts.”

Another time, Drew Barrymore had dinner at Strange Brew, but Sawaya couldn’t be coaxed to ask for an autograph. He did meet Chris Matthews when the MSNBC host did a bunch of shows there, along with Tom Brokaw and Boston Globe columnist turned television pundit Mike Barnacle, who gave his burgers a television shout-out. “Those are huge things,” he said. “All these people were coming out of the woodwork for the elections.”

Asked about the future, Sawaya said, “I intend to keep going for a while,” noting that recently he’s put a lot of focus on food offerings; the Jambalaya and Guinness Meatballs are customer favorites.

Musically, he’s tried a few new things, like recently bringing in the youthful River Sang Wild for a night.

“I’ll always have entertainment, multiple nights a week,” Sawaya said. “I’m going to keep playing around to see what works. I have a son who will be 18 in July, and he’s not interested in being part of the business. I’ve got to figure that out. I’d like to be around for quite a few more years.”

Strange Brew Tavern
88 Market St., Manchester, 666-4292
Must-try: Jimmy “The Greek” burger.
Big fun: One Big Soul Sunday blues jam

Wild Rover: Hometown handoff

Manchester’s bar and restaurant community is very collegial. A good example of this is the way Jesse Twarjan purchased the Wild Rover, the landmark Irish pub on Kosciuszko Street. A musician and entrepreneur who manages a few downtown residential properties, among other things, the “Manch-ghanistan born and raised” Twarjan has a long history here.

In a recent phone interview he talked about bumping into Bonfire owner Patrick Mills outside his Elm Street restaurant. “I made a passing comment like, ‘Oh, maybe I’ll call Bob for a shift or two at the Rover,’” he recalled, referring to pub owner Robert Scribner. “I believe Patrick’s words were, ‘He might sell it to you.’ That’s how the whole thing started.”

The deal was friendly and might not have happened otherwise.

“It wasn’t necessarily something that Bob was looking to advertise for sale,” Twarjan said. “It’s a place that requires the right kind of person, an owner-operator type of situation where people want to come in and see familiar faces, that type of thing.”

Twarjan took over the pub, which has been in business since 1990, on St. Patrick’s Day. With an outdoor liquor license in flux, everything happened inside, but crowds still showed up for what’s always their biggest day of the year. “We were at capacity all day,” he said. “It was a great vibe.”

With that essential celebration out of the way, an official grand opening is in the works, though the new owner is quiet on the details. He hopes it will happen before the end of April. To prepare for it, there will be new coats of paint, as he works on a stepped-up liquor offering and a reshuffling of the beer list.

Notso Costley Productions will manage live music, though Twarjan is ready to jump in when needed.

outside of pub entrance, large windows,  painted facade with brick on above stories, brick sidewalk, rainy evening, with hanging sign reading The Wild Rover
The Wild Rover. Photo by Michael Witthaus.

“We have them as a focal point every weekend, and they always have a rotating cast of extremely talented players,” he said. “My musician past leads me to have a fairly wide network of what I would consider to be extraordinarily talented people. They know if you’re going to come in here you’d better play as well as me or I’ll do it myself.”

Former chef Jeff Volker has been recruited to help with revamping the menu. Twarjan, who’s an alum of culinary-centric Johnson & Wales University, has big plans.

“We’re really going to lean hard into some of that Irish flair and fare,” he said, adding that Volker will strive to make the Wild Rover “the best place in town for fish and chips or shepherd’s pie…. We’ll be consolidating and doing it correctly. That comes down to quality over quantity, specifically with the kitchen.”

That said, the Rover won’t be going head-to-head with the downtown’s fine dining places. Twarjan’s thoughts go back to the way he acquired the bar.

“We need to be more collaborative instead of competitive in terms of making sure that there’s enough of a demographic out there for all of us to enjoy,” he said. “We’re definitely trying to fill some gaps in the food and make sure that we’re doing quality pub fare to a very high degree.”

Wild Rover
21 Kosciuszko St., Manchester, 669-7722
Must-try: Reuben sandwich
Big fun: open mic night

Pembroke City Limits: Born in a barn

Even though he can’t play a note, Rob Azevedo has an absolute passion for music. Seemingly his every waking hour is focused on it, whether he’s hosting his Granite State of Mind radio show every Friday night, blogging about a new local act he’s excited about, or gathering a bunch of his friends to do a Tom Petty or Stones tribute concert at the Shaskeen or Rex Theatre in Manchester.

Lately Azevedo has been hosting shows in his barn, adjacent to the house in Pembroke where he moved a few years back. They’re intimate affairs, with typically fewer than 100 people in attendance. Most are people he already knows, but a few new faces always show up, which got him thinking.

Which led to a new venture, his wildest and most ambitious yet.

Pembroke City Limits will present live events, everything from concerts to book signings and poetry readings, five days a week. Azevedo is putting the finishing touches on a space on Pembroke Village’s Main Street, originally an 1800s general store that most recently sold antiques. He’s been eyeing the spot for over a year.

man standing in large room that's being renovated, pointing to building plans taped to the wall
Rob Azevedo at Pembroke City Limits. Photo by Michael Witthaus.

“It was either going to be this place or it wasn’t going to happen,” he said in late March. Granite State of Mind will broadcast live every Friday, and initially acoustic acts will provide the music.

“We have four residents upstairs and we want to see how the sound is going to work,” Azevedo said, adding that all the pieces are coming together. “Rough plumbing is done, that’s huge; fire and electrical are updated; the next thing is drywall, and then get the kitchen and bar together. We’re hoping to be open by mid-May.”

During a walk-through, Azevedo pointed out the charming space’s many features, like hardwood floors, exposed brick and lots of ambient light, while discussing what it will look like when finished. A stage and seating area will be on the right. A bar serving a selection of area craft beer and wine will sit to the left.

Rather than operate a kitchen, he asked Kelly Sue LeBlanc’s Sleazy Vegan for help.

“I don’t know anything about food or cooking, but I love food trucks,” he said, “so I found one of the best food trucks around.”

Also on the team are Paulie Stone, a musician who’ll assist with that side of things, and Azevedo’s business partner, Eric Klesper. The new proprietor has big dreams for his little village, hoping it mirrors the growth he saw in Newmarket when the mills there were renovated. He’s grateful for an understanding wife.

“She knows I lost my mind sometime in the early ’90s, but I don’t feel overwhelmed,” he said. “I’ve been ready for a number of years to do this … I feel no anxiety about it. I ask my wife, why am I not crapping my pants? She says, ‘Because you’re ready.’”

Pembroke City Limits
134 Main St., Pembroke, 264-1757
Must-try: Sleazy Vegan Grilled Sleaze
Big fun: Americana Wednesdays

More Pubs

Here are a few more places where you feel like everybody knows your name. Know of a pub not mentioned here? Let us know at adiaz@hippopress.com.

Flying Goose
40 Andover Road, New London 526-6899
Known for: Thursday night music series with best of New England’s folk scene
Must-try: Space Pony IPA

Holy Grail
64 Main St., Epping , 679-9559
Known for: Repurposed church with a heavenly beer list
Must-try: Bangers & Colcannon

Kathleen’s Irish Pub
91 Lake St., Bristol, 744-6336
Known for: It’s right there in the name — order a Jameson
Must-try: All-Day Irish Breakfast with real black pudding

McGarvey’s
1097 Elm St., Manchester 627-2721
Known for: Being Elm Street’s longest running bar
Must-try: Hot dog loaded with mac & cheese, bacon crumbles and pulled pork

Patrick’s
18 Weirs Road, Gilford, 293-0841
Known for: Wednesdays with singer-guitarist Don “Sev” Severance
Must-try: Seafood chowder

Peddler’s Daughter
48 Main St., Nashua, 821-7535
Known for: Lots of local bands on the weekends
Must-try: Cottage Pie is the real deal

Penuche’s Ale House
6 Pleasant St., Concord, 228-9833
Known for: The Concord music scene meets here most weekends
Must-try: Any local craft beer

Penuche’s Ale House
4 Canal St., Nashua 595-9831
Known for: Rustic, friendly atmosphere
Must-try: A cold beverage on their outside deck

The Pint Publik House
1111 Elm St., Manchester 206-5463
Known for: Serving Jamaican food with a friendly vibe
Must-try: Jerk pork or chicken

Pipe Dream Brewing
40 Harvey Road, Londonderry, 404-0751
Known for: Monthly Flights and Flow yoga beer night
Must-try: A beer flight of your favorite style, IPA, stout, take your pick

Press Room
77 Daniel St., Portsmouth, 431-5186
Known for: Buzzworthy live music
Must-try: Maple-forward Damn You Robert Frost cocktail

Shaskeen Pub
909 Elm St., Manchester, 625-0246
Known for: Backroom offering music most nights, comedy on Wednesday
Must-try: Proper Scotch Egg, made fresh once a week

Shopper’s Pub & Eatery
18 Lake Ave., Manchester, 232-5252
32-5252
Known for: Sports forward vibe, great game day stop
Must-try: Beehive Burger

Stark Brewing Co.
500 Commercial St., Manchester, 625-4444
Known for: Craft brew veteran with a big space to unwind in
Must-try: Drunken Tips, marinated in Tasha’s Red Ale

Stone Church
5 Granite St., Newmarket, 659-7700
Known for: Seacoast music hub with nonstop live entertainment
Must-try: La Bamba Rice Bowl

Wally’s Pub
144 Ashworth Ave., Hampton, 926-6954
Known for: Beach bar with frequent big-name concerts
Must-try: Famous Beach Pizza, a culinary choose your adventure

News & Notes 24/04/11

Higher education task force reports

A press release from Tuesday, April 2, stated the Public Higher Education Task Force released a report of its findings on the strategic alignment of public higher education in New Hampshire, including short-term and long-term initiatives intended to reduce financial barriers, increase accessibility, drive the state’s economy and ensure the foundation for an active and engaged citizenry in accordance with Executive Order 2023-06 issued by Gov. Chris Sununu. The task force, which was composed of leadership from the Community College System of New Hampshire (CCSNH) and University System of New Hampshire (USNH), state officials and industry leaders who solicited statewide input from various stakeholders, recommended long- and short-term initiatives, according to the press release.

Short-term initiatives include transfer credit and curricular alignment between CCSNH and USNH while expanding credit opportunities for experiential work, implementation of New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE) accreditation for CCSNH as a single statewide college with locations throughout the state, the streamlining of admissions process to proactively accept CCSNH students with a predetermined GPA to USNH schools, notification of automatic acceptance to CCSNH for high school students, utilizing consistent admissions and financial aid processes for students of both systems, an increase in the use of online delivery to provide access to workforce opportunities, the recruitment of employers to assist graduates with loan repayments when they begin working, and co-locating the CCSNH and USNH system offices in a shared workspace to foster the streamlining and coordination of common administrative functions, according to the release.

Long-term initiatives include the implementation of a study on having the two systems under one governing board and one chancellor, developing a rolling six-year plan, updated every two years, the elimination of institutional competition through program duplication where duplicate programs are not needed, the expansion of online offerings and potential consolidation to a single platform across both systems, the examination of offering CCSNH courses and programs on USNH campuses and vice versa, improving transfer ability from CCSNH to USNH, and the analysis of physical assets and program utilization across both systems for space utilization and the potential for shared facilities, according to the same release. Visit governor.nh.gov for the entire report.

Medicare scams

In an April 5 press release, Attorney General John M. Formella issued a consumer alert for New Hampshire residents, especially New Hampshire Medicare recipients, warning of receiving multiple reports of scammers posing as Medicare representatives to obtain personal identifying information, The scammers ask whether the recipient has received a new Medicare card, and if the recipient states they have not the scammer then asks for the recipient’s personal identifying information, including the recipient’s Medicare and Social Security number, according to the same release.

Scammers can use the personal information obtained to perpetrate additional scams, engage in identity theft or commit additional crimes, including fraudulently accessing financial resources of the victim, according to the release.

Medicare is not issuing new cards to recipients in 2024, and Medicare does not make unsolicited calls to recipients asking for personal or private information. If you receive a call from anyone claiming to be calling on behalf of Medicare asking if you received a new Medicare card or seeking personal identifying information, it is a scam, and consumers who receive calls should hang up immediately, according to the release.

Call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227) for all Medicare-related inquiries. Complaints can be made to your local police department and by calling the Consumer Hotline at 271-3641 or by visiting doj.nh.gov/consumer/complaints/index.htm.

Renovations at New Hampshire Hospital

The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) announced in a March 26 press release the completion of construction in the “E” Unit at New Hampshire Hospital (NHH), a unit that was designed for children, has been renovated to accommodate the adult population, and reopened on Monday, April 1, bringing 12 more psychiatric beds online and increasing NHH capacity to 164 beds. Further renovations will bring six more beds online by May for a total capacity of 170 beds to serve adults. In a similar fashion the “F” unit continues with renovations, with the intention of NHH being at full capacity of 185 beds later in the year, according to the same release.

Increasing inpatient bed capacity is a component of “Mission Zero,” the Department’s plan to eliminate an occurrence known as “ED boarding,” where people in acute behavioral health crisis seek care in medical emergency departments while they wait for care in another setting. This was a top focus outlined in New Hampshire’s 10-Year Mental Health Plan.

Lori Weaver, DHHS Commissioner, said in a statement that “as we make steady advancements in our work toward eliminating ED boarding in New Hampshire, the increase in bed capacity at New Hampshire Hospital will help reduce wait times for people who need inpatient psychiatric care. However, inpatient capacity-building is just one part of a multi-pronged effort to eliminate the wait list. The mental health system continues to make strides in many of our Mission Zero strategies that will help reduce the need for, and length of, inpatient psychiatric admissions.” Visit dhhs.nh.gov for more information.

Visit the Spring Craft Fair in Tilton on Saturday, April 13, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Winnisquam Regional High School (435 W. Main St.), where there will be a myriad of crafters and vendors.

On Wednesday, April 17, from 4:30 to 6 p.m. at Gibson’s Bookstore in Concord (45 S. Main St., gibsonsbookstore.com) the Poetry Society of New Hampshire will host an afternoon of verse with this month’s headliner, Miriam Levine, and an open mic follows her reading.

Stratham Historical Society holds its annual spring appraisal day Sunday, April 14, from 1 to 3 p.m. at the Stratham Firehouse (4 Winnicutt Road). Experts will appraise antiques and collectibles for a small fee; a limit of five items is recommended. See strathamnh.gov/historical-society (click Meetings and Programs) or call 778-0434 for details.

Making lemonade

Jade Trio EP release show

By Michael Witthaus
mwitthaus@hippopress.com

Andrew North & the Rangers are a busy band. Along with frequent gigs, they lead the First Wednesday open jam session at Concord’s Bank of NH Stage. They began hosting it at the lush downtown venue after their regular Ranger Zone open mic night ended when Area 23 moved a few miles down State Street to become The Forum Pub.

The lottery-based open session is unique in offering local musicians the chance to play with a full group. Also, the venue has top-notch lights, sound and multimedia, which makes it a great place to shoot promotional photos. The opportunity extends to performers who typically can’t take advantage of an open mic, like a young drummer who stopped by recently.

“He can’t go to an open mic and be like, here’s my snare drum, I’m going to play three songs for you. It doesn’t really work,” North said in a recent phone interview. “So we got to jam with him and come up with some funk jams and things like that. It’s cool to get musicians who aren’t able to provide the full expression of what they do in a traditional open mic setting.”

North also encouraged non-musicians to come for the entertainment.

“The talent level is shockingly high most months,” he said.

In addition to their musical endeavors, however, the band — original members North, Rob O’Brien, Chip Spangler and Dale Grant, along with recent additions Jillian Rork and Randy Hunneyman — all have busy day-to-day lives, and getting all six together is difficult at times. “We’re made up of people who are parents and professionals, with a whole lot going on in their lives,” North said. “From a scheduling perspective, there’s often times when somebody can’t make a gig.”

A year ago, only three people came to a scheduled practice session — North, Grant and Rork. Rather than bail for a month, they began jamming. They called the result Jade Trio, a stripped down, intimate effort. Songs like “Ben Folds’ Mind” and a new take on the instrumental “Epiphone” originally on the Phosphorescent Snack album have an easy, neo-jazz quality.

They enjoyed playing together enough to document the sessions in Concord Community Music School’s rehearsal hall. A four-song self-titled EP will be released on April 5. On the same day, in the same practice space, the three will play a one-off show, followed by a full Rangers acoustic set.

A benefit concert for the school, the event exemplifies the tightly knit Concord music community. Back when Area 23 was preparing to relocate, North and his bandmates did a final show there. Fiddler Audrey Budington, who has played with North in the Senie Hunt Project and is currently a member of Rebel Collective, joined in for a few songs.

“She works at Concord Community Music School and was like, ‘We need to do something with you guys this spring,’ so that’s where this show came from,” North recalled. “It’s really fortuitous the way everything came together.”

Making it an all-acoustic evening was an easy call for North.

“They have a Steinway piano on the stage, and we’re going to take advantage of that,” he said. “We’re really excited to see what this ends up sounding like, because we haven’t played a show quite like this before. Also, because it’s out of our regular wheelhouse [of] music venues and nightlife type places that have a bar and things like that, we’re not sure what to expect as to who’s going to come.”

He’s eager for what may be Jade Trio’s only public performance. However, it can be a challenge to come up with a rhythm section while working in a piano, drums and baritone saxophone configuration.

“Between the three of us, we’re all kind of juggling who’s holding down that low end of things, so when Jillian is going to take a solo on the saxophone I’ll drop my left hand lower to make sure we’re covering that frequency range,” North said, adding, “I really enjoy that process of three people making music together in the moment and sort of intuitively passing off that kind of stuff. It’s really a pleasure to get to play with people on that level.”

Andrew North & the Rangers w/ Jade Trio
When: Friday, April 5, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Concord Community Music School, 23 Wall St., Concord
Tickets: $10 suggested donation

Featured photo: Jade Trio. Courtesy photo.

Playing Robert Frost

‘A voice worth having,’ says Emmy-winning actor

By Zachary Lewis

zlewis@hippopress.com

Gordon Clapp, a New Hampshire native, is no stranger to the stage. He will be performing the role of Robert Frost in A.M. Dolan’s Robert Frost: This Verse Business at Stockbridge Theatre at Pinkerton Academy (44 N. Main St. in Derry) and will be in residence starting on Tuesday, April 2, at Pinkerton Academy with a public performance on Thursday, April 4, at 7 p.m.

Clapp is known for his Emmy-Award-winning performance as Detective Greg Medavoy on NYPD Blue, and was also nominated for a Tony award for Best Performance by a Featured Actor in the revival of David Mamet’s Pulitzer’s Prize-winning play Glengarry Glen Ross as Coach Mad Maxx in 2007, among a myriad of other film, television and stage credits.

Performing Robert Frost has been on Clapp’s mind for some time.

“This was something I had thought about doing since right after college. I read the biographies, and Frost was a voice that had been in my head since high school, since the inauguration of Kennedy,” he said.

“Also,” Clapp said, “I wanted to bring an older Frost to the stage, so I wanted to wait till I was old enough to be believable as the older Frost.”

As luck would have it, Clapp’s patience paid off.

“I stumbled across a script just at the time when I was thinking about writing, putting together a script.” So Clapp and Dolan “worked on it together. He’s actually more familiar with some of the talks and he knows where all the treasures are in the talks. He started working on this probably 20 years ago. We’ve been doing it for 15 years, on and off,” Clapp said.

While the Frost estate is protective of the late poet’s image, Clapp and Dolan “managed to get an endorsement from Peter Gilbert, who is the executor of the estate,” Clapp said.

During the presidential election week of 2016, Clapp and Dolan “went to Edinboro, Pennsylvania, where there was a meeting of the Frost Society. One of Frost’s granddaughters [Leslie Lee Francis] was there and she gave us a thumbs up … hoping we could make him a little younger and more energetic. It’s a very energetic performance in terms of presenting an 88-year-old,” Clapp said. “She just had a very strong memory of that. She spent a lot of time with her grandfather.”

Clapp is excited to bring the show to Derry.

“Derry was the most fertile ground for him for writing. He spent 10 years there. … He raised a family there. Many of the best poems he ever wrote were written in Derry or about his time in Derry or inspired by his time in Derry,” Clapp said.

Shannon Myers, Director of the Stockbridge Theatre, “came to see the show in Portsmouth in January of 2023,” Clapp said, “and she loved it and spread the word. We decided to do a three-day program.”

Frost taught at Pinkerton Academy. The performance for the students is “more about his thoughts on education. It’s the first time we’ve done something like that.”

Diving into the little and lesser-known details of Frost’s portfolio is what makes Clapp’s performance memorable.

“The first Frost poem that really captivated me outside of ‘[The] Road Not Taken’ and ‘Stopping by Woods [on a Snowy Evening]’ was a poem called ‘Out, Out—,’ which is not one of the ones that I say in the show,” Clapp said. It is not a poem that Frost ever recited either.

“He never read the poem in public and it’s a very short poem about the sudden accidental death of a teenage boy working on a farm sawing wood with a buzz saw and having his hand cut off and the response of everyone around him, so the family and friends. That poem really resonated with me…. There was a coldness to it but at the same time there was this kind of stoicism, ‘the show must go on’ feeling….”

That poem, which gained its name from the “Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow” soliloquy delivered by Macbeth in the Scottish play,was based on a real event in Franconia. According to Dierdre Fagan’s Critical Companion to Robert Frost, Frost was friends with the victim of the accident, a 16-year-old named Raymond Tracy Fitzgerald.

These tragedies rhymed with Frost’s own life. “There were all these dark, dark things and he kept overcoming them in his writing,” Clapp said. “All that’s subjective, but objectively … there’s a depth to Frost that I don’t think people appreciate because people think of him as a Hallmark card poet. But some of his work I think is profound…. We try to keep his voice alive because it’s a voice worth having at this point.”

This Verse Business
When:
Thursday, April 4, at 7 p.m.
Where: Stockbridge Theatre in Derry
Tickets: $25 to $30; see pinkertonacademy.org/stockbridge-theatre
More info: Visit thisversebusiness.com for future show dates including
April 23-28 at Calderwood Pavilion in Boston

Featured Photo: Gordon Clapp. Courtesy Photo.

Brutal encounter

‘Unfixed Concrete Ideal’ exhibit at 3S Artspace

By Michael Witthaus
mwitthaus@hippopress.com

In an April 2020 episode of her 99% Invisible podcast, design critic Avery Trufelman said that concrete is exceeded only by water as the most consumed product in the world. In architecture, it’s also one of the most divisive. Trufelman noted that James Bond creator Ian Fleming named his Goldfinger supervillain after a real architect just because he disliked his buildings so intensely.

On the other hand, at least one of Ernő Goldfinger’s concrete creations has received landmark status.

“Unfixed Concrete Ideal,” opening April 5 at 3S Artspace in Portsmouth, explores the role of concrete in civic architecture, and the many conflicting passions it can inspire. The exhibition includes mixed media works, photography, sculpture and even a couple of etchings done on drywall by co-curator Ben Sloat.

In a recent phone interview, Sloat noted the egalitarian nature of concrete. He’s an Asian-American who grew up in New York City; his mother is from Taiwan. Under-resourced as it grew in the 1960s, the country relied heavily on concrete. “It could modernize without deforesting,” Sloat said. “That felt like a really amazing thing that concrete can do.”

Sloat also likes that “concrete has a really significant impression in our cultural language; like, ‘my plans aren’t concrete yet.’ At the same time, concrete poetry looks like a shape. Other definitions are about amalgams or accumulations or abstraction; concrete photography is actually a form of non-representational photography. So I like that concrete has a very almost elastic presence in our cultural context.”

Running through June 2, the exhibition began as a response to the planned demolition of the Government Services Center (GSC) in Boston’s West End. Many of the works on display in the show are images of the building, which was built in 1971 and designed by Paul Rudolph, a well-known Brutalist architect.

Brutalism isn’t derived from the word “brutal.” “It’s actually related to ‘béton brut,’ which means raw concrete,” Sloat said. He called the style “quite the mixed bag; some people hate it. It’s one of those things — really good Brutalist buildings are amazing and knock-offs are terrible.”

This duality is at the center of “Unfixed Concrete Ideal,” which was shown first in Boston last July, and later in Fall River, Mass. An exhibition statement reads, “In some spaces, concrete can be seen as a modern and democratic material, while in others it can be quite hostile and oppressive. In many ways, concrete itself represents the ideals of the modern era, but also how incomplete those ideals often became.”

Joining the version in Portsmouth is “Heap,” a sculpture by Boston artist Tory Fair that consists of piled up cast objects that, curator Susan L. Stoops writes, “bear the memories of absent originals” — mugs, boots, cameras and other pieces. The two etchings from Sloat share Fair’s nostalgia. One shows an amphitheater that was originally part of the GSC; the other is a detail of Rudolph’s creation as it is today.

A series of sculptures by Finnish artist Anssi Taulu depict concrete’s stages of decomposition. “There’s a parallel between concrete being unfinished and being alive with the kind of natural cycles that we witness in the organic world,” Sloat said. “Certainly, Anssi is thinking about that … he uses a very lightweight concrete, and he adds more water and other binders, so it’s not super heavy.”

Other pieces reflect the social nature of concrete architecture, including excerpts from (Un)finished, a book of photographs that documents pending structures in modern Athens, from Greek artist and researcher Maria Lalou and Danish architect Skafte Aymo-Boot. Lalou’s work constantly questions “the relations between perception, space, material-object and an observing subject, with a central focus to the politics of the viewer,” according to her catalog bio.

Rudolph spoke of his work in similar terms while discussing a bench in the GSC plaza that was at one time a focal point of the structure.

“Civic architecture means assigning a proper role to each building so it works in concert with its neighbors,” he said. “The benches are curved for sociability; they are my social statement.”

Unfixed Concrete Ideal opening reception
When: Friday, April 5, 5 p.m.
Where: 3S Artspace, 319 Vaughan St., Portsmouth
More: 3Sarts.org

Featured Photo: “Heap” by Tory Fair. Courtesy Photo.

Play Ball

The NH Fisher Cats celebrate a new season and 20 years of baseball

By Zachary Lewis
zlewis@hippopress.com

On Tuesday, April 9, at 6:35 p.m. the New Hampshire Fisher Cats will celebrate their 20th opening day in Manchester. Twenty years of baseball in the Queen City means 20 years of home runs, hot dogs and memories.

“We hope that the 20th-anniversary season really shows how much we are committed to our fans and our community,” said Stephanie O’Quinn, Executive Director of Corporate Sponsorships and Ticket Sales. “We’ll continue to be that community gathering place … [to] provide family-friendly entertainment at an affordable price — that’s something that we take a lot of pride in as an organization and we will never let that go by the wayside.”

Andrew Marais, Senior Manager of Marketing and Promotion, agreed.

“The biggest thank-you we can give is to our community. That’s an honor to be here for 20 years. Blue Jays too,” Marais said. The Fisher Cats are the Double-A affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays.

Chris Jared, the Manager of Media Relations and Broadcasting and the new voice of the Fisher Cats, expanded on that theme.

“You want to dig into the bag of what you’ve done to the community and what’s worked in the past and then you also want to look at things like what can we do to keep this engaging and keep people on a fresh page,” Jared said.

Michael Neis, General Manager, said, “Every year we try to look for one of those unique ways that we can really give back to the fans … and know that when you come out to the ballpark, certainly you know you’re going to have a good time, but there’s also some new things that you can try and take in, in a little bit different way, so we’re excited about this.”

“We have new ownership this year,” Neis said. Diamond Baseball Holdings purchased the team in December 2023, according to a press release, which also stated that all staff will remain “in place under the existing leadership of CEO Rick Brenner, and General Manager Michael Neis.” Former owner Tom Silvia has stayed on in an advisory role.

“They [DBH] have been extremely supportive of our mission here in Manchester and New Hampshire as a whole,” Neis said.

Lights, Camera, Baseball!

So what are some of the new things around the ballpark that you will be able to try and take in?

“Two weeks ago we finished our brand new field lighting project, which is really exciting,” Neis said. “We can now do light shows, cue to music, have different colors on each pole. So there’s a lot that we can do, whether it’s pregame intros, home runs, when we win — because we’re going to win every game, right. We can do a lot of really fun things … to give it that big-league experience. That’s something that fans walking in immediately will have a chance to get to see.”

Changes implemented toward the end of last season include new areas to sit and watch the game above the bullpens. Some changes have been geared toward the players as well.

“In addition to everything that we do for the fans and the community, our job is also to provide that environment for these players too,” Neis said. Updates have included “completely renovating both the home and visiting clubhouse,” Neis said. “We did open up our brand new stand-alone batting tunnel and weight room area. Not only are we meeting MLB compliance in those areas; we have what we feel is a best-in-class facility that really rivals anything we can see at this level or above, quite frankly.”

The fan connection

When the Fisher Cats are on the road, or if you cannot make it to the ballpark, there will be a way to stay connected to the team.

“We’re not partnered with WGIR anymore. We now have an audio stream that we can set up from home and road games and then fans can still watch on the Bally Live App or on Milb.tv,” Jared said. Fans can also listen to the game live on nhfishercats.com under the ‘listen live’ tab.

“It’s a much more intimate environment in minor-league baseball,” O’Quinn remarked. “I think that’s a very key element in the experience that we get to provide.”

“We hear all the time about kids who came to their first Fisher Cats game at 6 years old and now they’re die-hard Toronto Blue Jays fans … never stepped a foot out of New Hampshire but they live, eat, sleep, breathe the Toronto Blue Jays because one player decided to sign an autograph on the ball and now they’re a fan for life and not only a fan of the Blue Jays but a fan of baseball for life,” O’Quinn said.

“From a fan engagement perspective our team last year was phenomenal with meeting people,” Marais said. “Staying after the game to sign autographs or before the game … the team that is coming in I am confident will bring that same energy.”

Cesar Martin, who is returning as the team’s manager for the fourth straight season, said “the support that we get from the fans, I think that’s something that makes myself really happy and feels like I’m home…” The players feel the same way. “They’re excited, we’re excited…” Martin said.

“Whether you’re a bigger kid or the littlest of tykes, there’s something for you,” Marais said. “For example, when kids read five books they get two tickets to a Fisher Cats game, courtesy of our sponsors. [There is the] Oral Health Challenge with Delta Dental, when you brush and floss for seven days a week, you get two tickets courtesy of Delta Dental.”

Fireworks, giveaways and promotions will be back with exciting new additions too. General Manager Neis also revealed that “the New England Honda Dealers Bat Dog … Casey will be joining us for the first time this year. We’re really excited about her. Just really another very cool addition to the experience.”

O’Quinn added, “Paw-parazzi [is] welcome. That’s ‘P’ ‘A’ ‘W.’”

A Field Guide to Fisher Cats Mascots

Fungo

Official Fisher Cats Mascot

Description: According to the Mascot Hall of Fame, Fungo was born in the woodlands of New Hampshire but spent much of his youth attending Phish concerts. As the founder of the Fisher Cats’ Kids Club he hopes to promote wildlife education, sportsmanship, good manners and the card game Go Fish.

Enthusiasms: Fishing on Lake Winnipesaukee, Swedish Fish, the movies The Fisher King and A Fish Called Wanda.

Slider

Backup Mascot

Description: Originally from Dunedin, Florida, according to the Mascot Hall of Fame, Slider is Fungo’s favorite cousin. He is young, athletic and frantically enthusiastic about the Fisher Cats. His goal is to add excitement and energy to each Fisher Cats home game.

Enthusiasms: His trademark moves are flexing his muscles, giving high-fives and showing off his athleticism.

Rowdy Red and Bubba Blue

Sumo Guys

Professional History: They come from nowhere between innings, fight furiously on the infield, then vanish as mysteriously as they appeared.

Enthusiasms: Waving to fans, inflicting carnage on each other.

Casey

New England Honda Dealers Bat Dog

Professional History: When Benny, the Fisher Cats’ previous bat dog, retired to work as a therapy dog for veterans and first responders, Casey completed her training in New Jersey, then moved up to the minors. This is her first full season with the Fisher Cats.

Enthusiasms: Meeting small fans, bats, balls and belly rubs.

On the field

Jared expressed his thanks to the crew that sets up the game for the fans and the players.

“There have been game-day workers that have worked with us … I’ve talked to guys that have been here 15, 17 [years], some that have been here for as long as the Fisher Cats have…. Those people make things entirely possible from a game-day perspective of what to expect.”

More than 150 Fisher Cats have gone into the major league, according to the December press release.

“We always welcome the new crop of players,” Neis said. We need to work really well with them, [so] that when players come to New Hampshire they have everything they need. … There’s nothing more exciting than an eventual superstar that you got to see here in New Hampshire, and we’ve certainly had more than our fair share over the years.”

Where do these players come from? From all over, but the Toronto Blue Jays have their high-A team, the Vancouver Canadians, in Vancouver, British Columbia, and the triple-A team with the Bisons in Buffalo, New York. Their single-A team is the Dunedin Blue Jays and they are in Florida. Last year the Vancouver Canadians bested the Everett, Washington, AquaSoxs, a Seattle Mariners affiliate, to win their league championship.

“The talent jump from the single-A level to come to double-A is the largest jump. Triple A is essentially an extension of the major-league team,” Jared said. When players do move up from single-A, or high-A, they tend not to move alone. “Statistically they’ll keep coaches sometimes with guys. It is great to see when you have a team that, they’re in the lower ranks than you and they win a championship, sometimes those guys move in bunches and the chemistry is already there for them when they slide right in here in New Hampshire, they’re on the same page with each other.”

On the current roster, Manager Cesar Martin said that “a couple of new pitchers are coming from Vancouver.” The entire field will be well staffed too. “The most exciting part is we are going to have a really good defensive team and we have a lot of players that can put the ball in play…”

Fisher Cats fans will also have opportunities to catch major leaguers on the field.

“Last year we had the Blue Jays’ No. 1 prospect in Ricky Tiedemann … [major-leaguers sometimes on] the visiting teams that come in, like the New York Yankees having Spencer Jones,” Marais said. “The product on the field is very good baseball and very competitive, to the point where a player could be playing here tomorrow and [then] be playing in Toronto, or Fenway.”

Tuesday, April 9, is only a line drive away and the Fisher Cats hope all the hard work pays off.

“It is really exciting and rewarding for us as a staff and organization,” O’Quinn said. “We just want to be able to share that with our fans and our community and hope that they perceive it the way we present it.”

Players to watch

layer, they do all they can to get them on the team. Here are a few of the Fisher Cats to keep an eye on this season.

Josh Kasevich: The Blue Jays selected shortstop Josh Kasevich, a native of Palo Alto, California, out of Oregon with the 60th overall pick in the 2022 MLB draft. He spent 2023 in high-A Vancouver, where he helped the Canadiens win the Northwest League title and finished with the third-best batting average on the team at .284, according to the Fisher Cats. MLB.com lists Kasevich as Tornto’s 11th-best prospect for 2024. Kasevich worked on improving his bat speed and path in the off-season, along with getting stronger and faster, and hopes to continue his sharp eye of the zone, according to the Fisher Cats.

Adam Macko: Originally from Slovakia, with a brief stint in Ireland before moving to Alberta, Canada, this southpaw (left-handed pitcher) ranks 16th amongst fellow Toronto prospects according to Baseball America, while MLB.com slots Macko ninth, according to the Fisher Cats.

Alan Roden: Toronto called the outfielder’s name as the 98th overall pick in the 2022 MLB draft from Creighton University, according to the Fisher Cats. Originally from Middleton, Wisconsin, Roden spent his off-season in Florida to focus on improving his swing by building strength and increasing explosiveness, according to the Fisher Cats. After spending the first three and a half months of last season with high-A Vancouver, Roden received his double-A promotion to the Fisher Cats in Manchester and reached base safely in his first nine games, According to the Fisher Cats. Baseball America ranks Roden as Toronto’s ninth-most-promising prospect and MLB.com slots him in spot No. 7.

Phil Clarke: A catcher from Franklin, Tennessee, Clarke received his draft selection in the ninth round of the 2019 MLB draft out of Vanderbilt after his sophomore year concluded with a national championship in Omaha, according to the Fisher Cats. Clarke spent two seasons with the Fisher Cats and his third is set for 2024, and he received honors from MiLB.com at the conclusion of last season, making the site’s Organizational All-Star list, according to the Fisher Cats, and was also named best defensive catcher amongst Toronto prospects by Baseball America, who cited his fundamentals and natural skill as the reasoning behind the decision.

Save the date

Here are some of the special events planned at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium.

Waggin’ Wednesdays: On Wednesdays when the Fisher Cats are not playing a home game, four-legged fans are invited (on-leash) to Northeast Delta Dental Stadium in downtown Manchester. A waiver must be filled out prior to bringing your dog into the ballpark.

Foodie Fridays: Experience specialty food items at the ballpark every Friday. The first Foodie Friday, on April 12, will celebrate all things chili, with chili dogs, chili burgers and chili fries.

Copa de la Diversión: For the games on Thursday, April 25, and Thursday, June 20, the team will rebrand as Gatos Feroces de New Hampshire, with specialty uniforms (get a peek at all the specialty jerseys at milb.com/new-hampshire/tickets/specialty-jerseys). Gatos Feroces merch is available for purchase on the team’s website.

Princesses at the Park: The first of four specialty brunches at the park will be on Sunday, April 28, with a Princess Brunch to be held before the 1:35 p.m. game. Tickets to the brunch cost $30.85 and include a ticket to the game.

Manchester Chicken Tenders: On Saturday, May 11, the Fisher Cats will celebrate one of the defining moments in American history: the 1974 invention of the chicken tender at Manchester’s Puritan Restaurant. The team will temporarily rebrand as the Manchester Chicken Tenders. Chicken Tenders merch is available for purchase on the team’s website.

Cats-Con: On Saturday, May 25, The Fisher Cats’ annual Cats-Con game will celebrate their favorite movies, comic books, heroes, villains, and much more, featuring characters from Double Midnight Comics.

Blue Heeler Appreciation Brunch: The second specialty brunch of the season will take place on Sunday, May 26, before the 1:35 p.m. game. Tickets to the brunch cost $30.85 and include a ticket to the game.

Father’s Day Celebration: To honor Fisher Cats dad fans, the first 1,000 fans through the gates will receive a limited-edition Fisher Cats bucket hat on June 16.

Super Bros. Brunch: The third specialty brunch of the season will take place on Sunday, June 23, before the 1:35 p.m. game. Tickets to the brunch cost $30.85 and include a ticket to the game.

Game Show Night: On Friday, July 11, the whole game will be dedicated to famous game shows.

Star Wars Night with Atlas Fireworks: Star Wars Night strikes back on Saturday, July 12. By popular demand, the iconic theme night will return with Star Wars characters, music, specialty on-field jerseys and more.

A Pure Night of Imagination: The Fisher Cats promise a scrumdiddlyumptious night dedicated to everybody’s favorite fictional candy maker on Friday, July 26.

Sitcom Night: On Thursday, Aug. 8, the Fisher Cats will dedicate their game to classic sitcoms.

• ’90s Night with Atlas Fireworks: Put your hair in a scrunchie and practice your macarena. On Saturday, August 10, the Fisher Cats will celebrate all things ’90s. The first 1,000 fans through the gates will receive a clear fanny pack. Beanie Babies get in free.

Hockey Night in New Hampshire with Atlas Fireworks: The Fisher Cats will celebrate New Hampshire hockey on Saturday, Aug. 24, with new jerseys, new hats, a new giveaway and a celebrity appearance from Max the Monarch. The first 1,000 fans through the gates will receive a Monarchs-vs.-Fisher Cats bobblehead.

Piggy Tea Party: The final specialty brunch of the season will be held at the park on Sunday, Aug. 25, with a Piggy Tea Party Brunch to be held before the 1:35 p.m. game. Tickets to the brunch cost $30.85 and include a ticket to the game.

Nashua Silver Knights

Want more baseball? Nashua is home to the Silver Knights, a summer collegiate team of New England players at Division I, II and III levels, who split their time between Holman Stadium in Nashua (67 Amherst St. in Nashua) and Centennial Field in Burlington, Vermont. They play in the Futures Collegiate Baseball League.

General Manager Cam Cook says most of his players are working their way up the baseball ladder.

“A lot of people have heard of the Cape Cod League,” Cook said. “A lot of our guys are freshmen and sophomores who play with us for a year or two, then go to the Cape Cod League.”

Cook says that this is shaping up into a good season.

“It’s looking good,” he says. “We’re as busy as we’ve ever been. We’ve got great sponsors, and we’re planning some great theme nights.” Some of these theme nights include a Princess in the Park night, when fans, especially young ones, are encouraged to dress as their favorite princesses; a celebration of National Hot Dog Day; a visit from the Boogie Bros traveling mascot show, and a baseball card give-away.

The biggest game of the season will be the Knights’ July 25 exhibition game against the War Dogs, a team made up of active-duty and reserve military players.

“From a pure baseball point of view, it’s really interesting to see a freshman pitcher from Vanderbilt go up against an active-duty Marine,” Cook said. “It’s like an AI simulation, and we get to see it in real time.” The Knights have invited local veterans’ groups and VFWs to the game, to pump up interest in the game.

“We’ve already sold out our suites,” Cook said. It will be an unusual home game, he thinks, because most of the fans will be rooting for the visitors. “I’ve already started preparing the team,” he says, “warning them, ‘You’re probably going to get booed.”

This yearly exhibition game always honors the military in general, but this year it will have a special focus on the Air Force. “We’re trying to arrange a military fly-over, and a helicopter to deliver the First Pitch Ball,” Cook said. He noted that a point of particular interest is Silver Knight Player No. 7, pitcher Frankie Melendez, who is an ROTC cadet at Stonehill College. “He’ll be playing against soldiers he might run into in the service in a few years.”

The Nashua Silver Knights’ season begins on May 24 with a home game against the Vermont Lake Monsters. For more information, tickets and the team’s season schedule, visit their website at nashuasilverknights.com. —John Fladd

Fan food

An essential part of attending a baseball game is the food. It’s even in the song: “Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack….” Stephanuie Vangjel is the Operations Manager for Professional Sports Catering, the company that provides snacks to Fisher Cats fans. It’s her job to make sure everyone in the stadium has access to baseball food during home games. That includes classics like hot dogs, fried dough and chicken fingers for the audience in the bleachers, but also lobster rolls and steak tips for the fans in the luxury suites.

“I’m making myself hungry,” Vangjel says, describing the food.

Feeding Delta Dental Stadium means more than handing out hot dogs. Vangjel’s staff is in charge of running concessions during home games but also providing service to the suites and running the Brewhouse Restaurant — the Fisher Cats’ onsite restaurant — as well as handling outside catering jobs.

Vangjel says her team is especially proud of their promotional food specials.

“We put together special packages like our Ballpark Buffet, a barbecue package, and a comfort food package [which includes burgers, chicken sandwiches, macaroni and cheese, and baked beans]. We set up nacho bars and fajita bars. On Video Game Night, we’re planning an ‘Italian Plumbers’-themed menu.” “Italian Plumbers,” she explains, to avoid any trademark infringement with Nintendo.

The enthusiasm for this season’s ballpark food extends to the Fisher Cats’ front office.

“A highlight this year is we are introducing what we call ‘Foodie Fridays,’” says General Manager Michael Neiss. “That’s really taking that day of the week, taking that game, whether there’s a theme or not, and providing unique food [and] beverage options that you wouldn’t be able to get on a normal night.” Foodie Fridays will kick off the season on April 5 with an all-chili theme — chili dogs, chili burgers and chili fries — according to Stephanie Vangjel.

Andrew Marais, Senior Manager of Marketing and Promotions for the Fisher Cats, says management is excited about the Manchester Chicken Tenders returning to the field, referring to a Fisher Cats tribute to Manchester’s iconic food, when the team will dress in specially themed uniforms.

“The first [Chicken Tenders] game will be on May 11 — that will be your original Chicken Tender on-field uniform jersey — and then on July 27 we turn up the heat with Buffalo Tenders. So, brand new Buffalo Tender jerseys, very very cool. I believe they’re on our website too and you can purchase them in the team store.”

Hungry fans will also be able to eat brunch at the ballpark. The Fisher Cats will host four themed brunches this season, to correspond with special theme days. There will be a “Princess” brunch on April 28, a “Blue Heeler Appreciation” brunch in May, a “Super Bros” brunch in June and a “Piggy Tea Party” brunch in August. Each brunch ticket includes admission to the brunch and a ticket to the game following it. Brunch tickets are available through the Fisher Cats’ website (milb.com/new-hampshire). —John Fladd

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