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.

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.

Folk singer

Jake McKelvie solo project plays Milford

Few New England songwriters have Jake McKelvie’s command of clever wordplay. In just two lines from “Eat Around the Pudding,” from 2020’s delightful LP Here’s What You Do, he rhymes homeowner, combover and organ donor while still delivering a jaunty tune that’s either a breakup song or musical self-therapy. It’s hard to tell which.

The fun continues on a new solo McKelvie project that’s separate from his longtime band the Countertops. A preview of the 12-song collection due later this year promises an album sparkling with charm.

On various tracks, McKelvie alludes to Rodney Dangerfield, drily notes that a fire in the belly can’t heat a room, and tells the object of his affection, “it’s a lie to imply you complete me, but you’re still a big part of the meal,” sung in a voice that walks the wire between childlike wonder and crusty bemusement. It’s all simply delightful.

A new, as yet unnamed band will back McKelvie at Union Coffee Co. in Milford on March 30. It includes bassist Mike Holland (Dutch Tulips) and Countertops drummer Matt Bacon, along with a second guitar player, a position that’s being filled by a few different people based on availability.

McKelvie’s lyrical sensibility remains, but musically, it’s something of a pivot. “Which is another one of the reasons why it’s kind of distinct from Countertops stuff,” he said in a recent phone interview. “The songs are a little bit slower. I don’t wanna say slow per se, but it leans more into the folk-like, songwriter aspect of what I do as opposed to the kind of rambunctious goofy thing that the Countertops lean into more.”

The impetus for starting a new effort came down to scheduling. Fewer Countertops gigs meant bass player Nick Vontruba and Bacon had to fill in the gaps.

“Basically, everyone’s got their hands in a few different projects,” McKelvie said. “That’s just the way things go.”

Creatively, he was feeling another pull.

“I had a batch of songs that I’ve been eager to do something with, and it just wasn’t really feasible for us to do them with the group,” McKelvie said. “We haven’t broken up or anything, we’re just kind of in a dormant phase. We’ll still probably play shows here and there and whatnot, but this is what feels right to do right now.”

The new band formed in November and has played a handful of shows, including four so far this year.
“It’s been kind of a slow build-up,” McKelvie said. “Now the record is finished; I’m figuring out release plans. I’ve got a tour mostly booked for April and I’m starting to work on some additional tours for later in the year.”

Both Bacon and Holland played on the forthcoming album. “They’re locked in,” McKelvie said, adding, “I’ve gotten lucky getting some good guitar players who are fast learners and have done a great job picking them up really quick. The shows we’ve played, I’ve felt pretty good about, and it does feel nice to be playing some new songs.”

He’s especially pleased with the new material.

“I’ve wanted to do this songwriting forward type of record for a while,” he said. “I’ve done a lot of scrappy home recorded solo things over the years, but this is like a proper studio version of that…. I just think it’s a pretty good record.”

Fans can expect to see a lot more of Jake McKelvie & Friends, or whatever name he finally comes up with.

“I’m trying to play as much as possible this year, so there’s a good chance I’ll be skipping around New England and other parts of the country as much as I can,” he said. “I’m just looking forward to playing a bunch of shows this year.”

He’s performed at Union Coffee many times in the past and looks forward to returning.

“I love playing there,” he said. “We’re playing with this band Trash Sun who I did a show with a few months ago. They’re kind of a newer New Hampshire band, I think, nice guys. Union Coffee is a great spot. They have always treated us really well, and I’m looking forward to getting back.”

Jake McKelvie
When: Saturday, March 30, 7 p.m.
Where: Union Coffee Co., 42 South St., Milford
More: facebook.com/JacobCMcKelvie

Featured photo: Jake McKelvie. Courtesy photo.

Bringing the jokes home

Comic Koutrobis films special in Nashua

One of the reasons comics decide to make a special is inertia. Unlike the case for musicians who can lean on their hits forever, once a set of jokes is committed to video, a comedian needs to write some new ones. When Mike Koutrobis greets a hometown audience at Nashua’s Center for the Arts on March 21, he’ll say goodbye to his tight 60, ready to face the blank page.

It makes sense. When Koutrobis began standup 30 years ago, he was a single guy, and the laughs came from trying to remember who was in the photos on his girlfriend’s apartment walls and being stymied by one hung with a sample picture still in it, like some kind of weird test.

These days, he’s married and a father.

“The material’s writing itself now,” Koutrobis said in a recent phone interview. “My son just turned 5 and I’m turning 53. He’s getting more active; I’m getting less active. He’s learning new ways to do things; I’m learning new ways to cope with an injury.”

Entertainment is in his blood. In high school, Koutrobis worked as a professional clown, juggling fire and riding 6-foot unicycles. Upon graduation, “I literally joined the circus,” he said. “The day out of high school, I was a performing clown at York’s Wild Kingdom in Maine.”

At 21 he started hanging out at bars, and soon was hosting karaoke.

“I couldn’t sing, so I made it funny,” he said. “I love the attention — middle child syndrome. It just kept going, and I’ve never turned back. Anything to do with entertainment or being in front of people just attracts me.”

A booking agent pointed him to an open mic night at Stitches in Boston. “He says, you’re funny, do you write jokes? I go, ‘I don’t know … I’m just being myself,’” Koutrobis said. “I went down, and I was absolutely horrible; I still have it on tape, I’ll never get rid of it. I didn’t know what the hell I was doing.”

Rising to the challenge, he kept at it, studying other comics, looking for clues to their success. He recalls Boston comedy legend Patrice O’Neal complimenting him early on. “He goes … ‘I don’t know what the hell it is, but you have something.’ I thought, now I gotta figure out what the hell that is.”

Since then, Koutrobis has done a little bit of everything, appearing in movies and on television, promoting shows, teaching other comics, working as a DJ, and that’s for starters.

“I have 72 jobs,” he said. “I’m literally in a parking lot right now about to be a hospital clown at Tufts Medical Center … there’s not much I don’t do.”

When he quit his day job, Koutrobis realized that ubiquity was his key to success in entertainment.

“I need to be the guy where someone goes, ‘We need this for a party, let’s call Mike — either he does it, or he knows somebody that does.’ My business card says, and it’s my favorite quote of all time: ‘Eventually, you’ll hire me for something.’”

Koutrobis is excited to appear at the newest venue in the town he’s called home since he was a toddler. Advance sales for the show have been brisk.

“I’m already beyond what I was hoping for,” he said. “People from high school that I haven’t spoken to in years are messaging me, and they bought tickets. We’re already over 300 sold, [and] honestly, that was my number.”

A retirement party for material that long served him well had to happen, Koutrobis concluded.

“I got lazy with my writing, but when you put something out there it’s, ‘OK, that stuff’s done now.’ Look at Juston McKinney or Bob Marley, speaking of two local guys. As soon as they put out a CD, or Juston does his Christmas shows, it’s pretty rare you’re going to hear any of those jokes ever again.”

Mike Koutrobis Comedy Special
When: Saturday, March 23, 8pm
Where: Nashua Center for the Arts, 201 Main St., Nashua
Tickets: $27 at nashuacenterforthearts.com

Featured photo: Mike Koutrobis. Courtesy photo.

Green weekend

St. Patrick’s Day nightlife options

For those looking to put on their Irish, however briefly, there are a variety of ways to approach St. Patrick’s Day 2024. Start with a pub crawl; there’s one in Manchester and another originating in downtown Nashua (see pubpioneers.com). There’s a traditional Irish music concert from the Spain Brothers at Manchester’s Rex Theatre on Friday the 15th, and a few places are celebrating on Saturday night.

Of course the best way is to lock in a favorite Irish public house, the kind with a St. Patrick’s Day countdown clock on the wall running 365 days a year. There are many of those on the list below, along with casual entrants who need a reason to add corned beef to the menu or dye their Bud green. They’re usually less crowded, but whatever the choice, Sláinte!

Friday, March 15

Rex Theatre (23 Amherst St., Manchester, palacetheatre.org) An evening of Irish songs and stories from Manchester’s own The Spain Brothers.

Saturday, March 16

Cara (11 Fourth St., Dover, 343-4390) Cara/Chameleon Club St. Patrick Eve Blowout Party, $10 at eventbrite.com.

Hillsboro Moose Lodge (15 School St., Hillsborough, 464-6024) St. Paddy’s Day dinner and dance for members and bonafide guests. Dinner from 5 to 7 p.m, dance is 7 to 11 p.m. $15 dinner only, $20 dinner and dance.

Pipe Dream Brewing (40 Harvey Road, Londonderry, 404-0751) Young Folk provide the music; raise a pint and sing along to the great tunes of old Ireland, and a bit of the new as well.

Stark Brewing Co. (500 Commercial St., Manchester, 625-4444) The Bar Hoppers perform, with a bagpiper visit promised.

Sunday, March 17

Alpine Grove (19 S. Depot Road, Hollis, 882-9051) Mike’d Up Comedy show follows Irish dinner at 6 p.m., $55 at eventbrite.com.

Artisan Hotel (17 Via Toscana, Salem, tuscanbrands.com) Celtic Celebration $75: live music from The Rebel Collective, creative whiskey cocktails with a menu including pretzel bites, beer cheese, shepherd’s pie, croquettes, potato skins and a buffet with Guinness beef stew, corned beef, bangers & mash and more.

Averill House Vineyard (21 Averill Road, Brookline, 371-2296) Gather in a private igloo for a four-course St. Patrick’s Day themed Mystery Dinner with wine pairing. Seating starts at 6:30 p.m. $299 (four people, additional guests $59 each) at exploretock.com.

Barley House (132 N. Main St., Concord, 228-6363) All things Irish: music, dancing, beer, corned beef.

bluAqua Restrobar (930 Elm St., Manchester, 836-3970) Acoustic BS debuts, offering a blue/green approach to the day.

Casey Magee’s (8 Temple St., Nashua, 484-7400) Kieran Mcnally plays noon to 3 p.m., Acoustic Tandem 4 to 7 p.m., with Secondhand Band closing out at 8 p.m. Limited menu includes corned beef dinner, fish & chips, burgers, Reubens, Caesar salad, brownie sundae and select sides. Guinness and Bud Light promotions in the afternoon, $5 cover charge after 4 p.m.

Copper Door (15 Leavy Drive, Bedford, 488-2677) Brunch at 11 a.m. with violinist Lilly Innella and a menu including potato leek soup, warm Reuben dip, corned beef hash and Guinness-braised corned beef.

Copper Door (42 S. Broadway, Salem, 458-2033) Brunch at 11 a.m. with pianist Steve Aubert and a menu including potato leek soup, warm Reuben dip, corned beef hash and Guinness braised corned beef.

CrowBar Hardware Store (38 Opera House Square, Claremont, 504-6085) Moonlighter Burlesque presents St. Patrick With Love Late(r) Show, $35.

Derryfield (625 Mammoth Road, Manchester, 623-2880) D-Comp starts the music at 4 p.m.

The Farm (1181 Elm St., Manchester, 641-3276) Traditional corned beef dinner, Guinness ice cream floats, and Irish step dancers at 1 p.m.

Flannel Tavern (345 Suncook Valley Road, Chichester, 406-1196) Food and drink specials and live music all day. “Mr. Party” Brian Booth plays 12:30 to 3:30 p.m., local favorite Joe Pero is on 4 to 7.

Foundation Kitchen + Bar (32 W. Broadway, Derry, 216-5590) Scott from Whiskey Business plays Irish sing-alongs and drinking songs starting at noon, with traditional Irish fare from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. The Pipe and Drum Corps makes an appearance in the afternoon.

Frogg Brewing (580 Sawyers Crossing Road, Swanzey, 547-7639) NH Music Collective presents Paul Driscoll, with refreshments from Voodoo Box Food Truck, Wine by Cabana Falls Winery, Sweets by Kupcakes & Kindness and Happy Girls Bakery, and a crazy hat contest.

Fury’s Publick House (1 Washington St., Dover, 617-3633) Open at noon and there are specials all day, with Erin’s Guild playing traditional Irish music at 6 p.m.

Harlow’s Pub (3 School St., Peterborough, 924-6365) Boiled Dinner and Guinness Beef Stew noon to 4 p.m.

Hen House (85 S. Main St., Newton, 382-1705) Second Take provides the shamrock ’n’ roll.

Holy Grail (64 Main St., Epping, 679-9559) Rasmyth Duo plays from noon to 3 p.m., Karen Grenier 4 to 7 p.m. and Kitchen Party 8 to 11 p.m., with Jameson drink specials, giveaways, raffles, contests and more.

Kathleen’s Irish Pub (91 Lake Street, Bristol, 744-6336) All weekend long: toga party on the 15th, and the big day opens with a toast and sing-along of “Ireland’s Call” followed by food, fun, friends and music, including a set from O’Brien Clan.

Kelley’s Row (417 Route 108, Somersworth, 692-2200) Music from Bradigan and Maggie’s Ramblers, along with Irish dancers and bagpipers, $15 cover charge. Three seatings for dining: 10 a.m., 1:30 p.m. and 5 p.m., with the usual traditional fare, along with Kelley’s Prime Rib and Guinness-braised short ribs. Reservations required.

Makris (354 Sheep Davis Road, Concord, 225-7665) Taylor Hughes plays from 2 to 5 p.m. on Sunday, and there are St. Paddy’s day specials all weekend. Saturday’s party starts at 7 p.m. with Lichen. Throughout, there will be raffles and giveaways, a visit from the Easterseals Scarf Lady, Slap Me I’m Irish shots, and a jig dance contest.

Mama McDonough’s (80 Airport Road, Keene, 338-0105) Young Folk hit the stage at 2 p.m. with craic, great Irish music and a few originals — quaff a pint or three and sing along.

Marker 21 (33 Dockside St., Wolfeboro, 569-8668) DJ Dan Hayman spins on Saturday, with live music and food specials like Irish Cuban sandwich and loaded crisps on the big day.

Merrill’s Tavern (85 Country Club Drive, Atkinson, 382-8700) Hoppy Duo offering Irish music from 1 to 5 p.m. Food includes cod cakes & beans, corned beef boiled dinner, bangers & mash and shepherd’s pie, along with special beverages like a Chase the Rainbow cocktail — crème de menthe, white chocolate liqueur and vodka.

Murphy’s Taproom (494 Elm St., Manchester, 644-3535) Dancing Madly Backwards hits the stage at 7 p.m., after all-day celebrating.

Newfound Lake Inn (1030 Mahew Turnpike, Bridgewater, 744-9111) St. Patrick’s Day dinner on March 16 featuring an Irish-themed menu and live music by WhiteSteer Duo. Open from 3 to 9 p.m. St. Patrick’s Day brunch from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. with an Irish twist. Bottomless mimosas and live music by Dan Fallon.

Northwoods Brewing (1334 First NH Turnpike, Northwood, 942-6400) A twofer, with St. Patrick’s Day trivia and karaoke hosted by Liquid Knowledge.

Old Salt (409 Lafayette Road, Hampton, 926-8322) Open at 11 a.m. with live entertainment all day, along with corned beef and cabbage and green beer.

Olde Kilkenny Pub (30 Middle St., Milford, 283-6632) At mid-day, a dollar from every Irish pint sold (Guinness, Harp, Smithwick’s, Guinness 0.0) will be donated to The Memo Fund.

Patrick’s (18 Weirs Road, Gilford, 293-0841) Music from the Quincy Brothers at noon, Bagpipers at 3 p.m. and DJ Eric Grant from 4 to 8 p.m., with traditional dishes, seven Irish whiskies to choose from, and a lot more.

Peddler’s Daughter (48 Main St., Nashua, 821-7535) This real deal Irish pub opens at 8 in the morning with a kegs & eggs Irish Breakfast, corned beef and other Irish favorites, with music from the Rambin’ Rogues Band starting at 10 a.m. The Jim Coyle & Joe Kessler Band follows, from 3 to 7 p.m.

Press Room (77 Daniel St., Portsmouth, 431-5186) Bangers and Mash-Ups with DJ Chad Banks at 8 p.m.

Saddle Up Saloon (92 Route 125, Kingston, 369-6962) Live music performed by Half Price Whiskey starts at 1 p.m. Corned beef & cabbage special plus green beer.

Salt hill Pub Lebanon (2 W. Park St., Lebanon, 448-4532) This true Irish “local” begins with a ceremonial first pint at 9 a.m. and offers a full Irish breakfast, traditional menu, music from Rebel Collective (9 a.m.), Atlantic Crossing (1 p.m.), High Drive (5 p.m.) and O’Hanleigh (8:30 p.m.), Irish dancing, photo booth, the drive-by-bagpiper, Guinness Girls, cash and other prizes at each ShP, with an Ireland trip-for-two grand prize awarded pub-wide.

Salt hill Pub Newport (58 Main St., Newport, 863-7774) Same deal as the flagship Lebanon location, with the following musical schedule: O’hAnleigh at 9 a.m., Rebel Collective at 2 p.m.

Salt hill Pub Sunapee (1407 Route 103, Newbury, 763-2667) At the “Shanty” — named after the Sunapee pub formerly in the same location owned by ShP founders Josh and Joe Tuohy’s parents — it’s the same deal as the flagship Lebanon location, with the following musical schedule: Jordan Tirrell-Wysocki Trio at 9:30 a.m.; O’hAnleigh at 2 p.m.; Atlantic Crossing at 8 p.m.

Shaskeen (909 Elm St., Manchester, 625-0246) Kicking off at 5:30 a.m. with breakfast served through 11 a.m. and first pints at 6 a.m. Live music starts with Rockspring at 1 p.m. with The Rebel Collective playing from 8 p.m. to close.

Stoned Wall Bar & Grill (37 Manchester St., Manchester, 698-2049) St. Patrick’s Day Drag Show starts at 4.

Strange Brew (88 Market St., Manchester, 666-4292) At 9 a.m. it’s Andy Happel, at 1 p.m. it’s Jake Pardee, at 3 p.m. Thanks to Gravity performs, and at 7:30 p.m. NHPA Pipes & Drums stops by, then Jake Pardee & Friends take it to the finish line starting at 8:30 p.m.

Throwback Brewery (7 Hobbs Road, North Hampton, 379-2317) St. Patrick’s Day brunch and fiddler’s jam as Melissa Caron & Ellen Carlson join forces from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Listen and jam with them while enjoying farm-to-table food and drinks, including menu and cocktail specials aligned with the occasion.

Toll Booth Tavern (740 Second NH Tpke N., Francestown, 588-1800) Sheepdip playing classic shamrock ’n’ roll favorites sprinkled with some traditional Irish favorites starting at 3 p.m.

Tupelo Music Hall (10 A St., Derry, 437-5100) St. Patrick’s Day with the Glengarry Bhoys; show starts at 8 p.m. Tickets $39 at tupelohall.com.

Village Trestle (25 Main St., Goffstown, 497-8230) Corned beef cabbage dinner and Reubens all day with live music from D-Comp at 11 a.m. and Bob & Amberly at 3 p.m. Giveaways and Irish drink menu, special desserts with Amberly’s Guinness Stew too.

Wild Rover (21 Kosciuszko St., Manchester, 669-7722) Recently completed renovations should boost the already venerable pub’s St. Paddy’s Day celebration.

New addition

The Rebel Collective welcomes fiddler

Soon after they formed a few years ago, The Rebel Collective became an in-demand band on St. Patrick’s Day. Their mix of traditional Irish music and Celtic rock rivals the Pogues or Dropkick Murphys; they’re a great fit for the annual revelry. In fact, an ex-member is currently the Dropkicks’ full-time piper.

Thus, they have multiple gigs on the big day, and a pair of lead-in dates to boot. Most were booked a year in advance.

Beyond that, the group recently welcomed a new member, fiddler Audrey Budington. A Berklee graduate with a resume that includes solo recordings and multiple collaborations, she’s injected them with new energy. This extends to sessions for a new album in the works, their guitar and mandolin player reported in a recent phone interview.

“Truthfully, she’s way too good for our band,” Ross Ketchum said, “but she wants to be a part of a group that’s playing constantly. She takes our sound to a whole new level … [and] she’s so intuitive on where to chop, where to pull out and where to really hit a good lead. It’s been unreal working with her.”

Ketchum got a tip about her from Andrew Richardson, who runs the New Hampshire Highland Games.

“He called me up on a random Thursday night saying, ‘You’ve got to get to Penuche’s in Concord, there’s a fiddle player here who is unbelievable.’ I tossed out a bunch of names and sent some pictures. He said, ‘No, it’s a completely different person.’ I was like, ‘OK, I’ll take your word.’ I live right down the street, so I walked over. Immediately, I was like, ‘Holy crap, this girl is unbelievable.’”

Budington recently performed with Senie Hunt’s band at Bank of NH Stage in Concord. One of the reasons she was keen to join Rebel Collective is she’s aiming to become a musical ambassador.

“She’s trying to get her international musician’s visa, which allows her to work in any country that accepts it,” Ketchum said. “She needs to show a panel of people who she’s playing with, her past repertoire recordings, all that stuff. This will definitely help her out.”

The band had been looking for a new fiddler since last August. At last year’s Highland Games, “we ended up flying in our cousin Brian who used to be in the band on accordion to kind of fill in the sound,” Ketchum said. “We kind of had given up hope to find someone.”

With the busy St. Patricks’ Day schedule approaching, the new arrival was timely. This year kicks off in an unlikely place, the Artisan Hotel, in Salem’s not-quite-Irish Tuscan Village. The venue’s new events coordinator had hired them for a couple of release parties when she worked at Flag Hill Winery, Ketchum explained.

They’ll perform for a dinner crowd at the event, dubbed A Celtic Celebration, which includes an Irish whiskey tasting.

“A predominantly Italian place throwing an Irish event … it’s a pretty big deal,” he said. “They’re giving the whole ballroom in the new hotel to the band to throw the dinner.”

It happens Friday, March 15. The next night they’re in more familiar confines, at Salt hill Pub’s Sunapee location, The Shanty. On the big day it’s Salt hill’s Lebanon location in the morning, then on to their Newport pub for a midday set. After that, they’ll pack up and head to Manchester, where they’ll close out the night at Shaskeen Pub.

When all that is complete, they return to work on their next album, with Budington helping to reshape their sound.

“She’s already started writing her own parts for some of the songs that we previously released,” Ketchum said, “and she’s written a bunch of new stuff. After our St. Patrick’s Day run, we’re going to get her back down into the studio and get her ripping on some of this stuff so we can get some tracks coming out.”

The Rebel Collective
When: Friday, March 15, 8 p.m.
Where: The ArtisanHotel, 17 Via Toscana, Salem
Tickets: $75 at tuscanvillage.com
Also playing Saturday, March 16, at 8 p.m. at Salt hill Shanty in Newbury, and Sunday, March 17, at Salt hill Lebanon (9 a.m.), Salt hill Newport (2 p.m.) and Shaskeen Pub in Manchester (9 p.m.).

Featured photo: The Rebel Collective. Courtesy photo.

Takeoff time

Birds, In Theory celebrate debut album

Legend has it that Michael Clarke joined The Byrds because he looked like Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones, not due to his drumming skills. The similarly named Birds, In Theory, a local band celebrating their debut album at The Shaskeen on March 9, has a close but slightly different story.

Its drummer, Nick Matsis, admits that he had more enthusiasm than talent when he joined high school pals Tim Dacey and Shawn Murray to form the pop punk band Eagle Jesus. The name changed, to a riff on the conspiratorial belief that birds are fake creatures created by NASA, when Dave Maloof came on as drummer post-pandemic and Matsis moved to bass.

The band’s sound coalesced with a seasoned new member behind the kit, offering a sonic fury favorable to fans of Green Day, Blink-182 and Bowling for Soup. It was a change that delighted Matsis.

“I can’t drum to save my life and that guy is a machine,” Matsis said self-deprecatingly by phone recently. “I taught myself drums playing Rock Band on the Xbox.”

A song from the forthcoming record Aviary jokes about this, along with the dichotomy between the band’s more and less polished musicians. “Guys, Where Are We?” includes a few moves that Maloof and lead guitarist Dacey handle with ease; rhythm guitar player Murray and bassist Matsis, not so much.

“That’s the only song we really changed time signatures in,” Matsis said. “We would get lost playing it at first because me and Shawn aren’t great at changing time signatures, and Tim and Dave are classically trained. So they’re like, ‘Guys, what are we doing? Where are we?’”

Other standout tracks include the slow-burning breakup song “Cover Story” and “Tourniquet,” which builds into a rager and showcases Dacey’s shredding blended with Matsis’ chugging rhythm guitar, and Maloof and Murray locked in on rhythm. This new freedom enhanced the making of Aviary.

As a trio, “we just couldn’t get as fancy as we wanted in the writing process,” Matsis said. “Dave, he’s a big Travis Barker fan; he can get in there and play anything as fast or complicated as he wants. Having that in the recording room was amazing, because he was getting that stuff done in one or two takes…. It made it so much easier.”

Birds, In Theory cites a variety of influences. Matsis is a big fan of Balance and Composure, particularly the Pennsylvania band’s 2011 LP Separation. “Shawn’s more into pop punk and indie, Tim used to be in a death metal band,” he said. “Dave’s into anything from Blink-182 to instrumental prog metal. It’s definitely a range.”

Their lyrical mood is informed by bands like The Wonder Years and Car Seat Headrest. “‘Tourniquet’ is about watching someone you thought you knew kind of change over time, and ‘Reflections’ deals with not wanting to take your emotions out on the people around you and just trying to communicate that it’s not them,” he explained. “A lot of our songs are more down, emotionally charged. Maybe not in the most positive way, but we like to make them fun.”

With a new record to celebrate, they’ll top the bill at The Shaskeen, but they’re also part of many multi-band events in the area.

“We’re lucky that we’ve been close-knit with a lot of people over the last few years and we played so many shows,” Matsis said, “That’s fun for us because we like playing with our friends and seeing our friends play.”

Beyond that, “My only hope is more new bands come around,” he continued. “This is actually our first time playing with Promise Game, so that’s exciting … I just hope the kids keep coming out and making music because there’s only so many 31-year-olds like us that can still get out there.”

Birds, In Theory w/ Promise Game, Cozy Throne and Oziem
When: Saturday, March 9, 8 p.m.
Where: Shaskeen Pub, 909 Elm St., Manchester
Tickets: $10 at the door, 21+

Featured photo: Courtesy photo.

Making the pieces fit

Slim Volume on the rise

Blending elements of alt country and harmony-rich classic rock, Slim Volume is a breath of fresh air on the local music scene. At the core of the four-piece band is the songwriting team of Trent Larrabee and Jake DeSchuiteneer, who met as coworkers at SNHU’s Manchester campus, bonded over a shared love of ’60s bands, and found their mojo at Strange Brew Tavern’s open mic night.

With the addition of Mike Morgan on guitar and, soon after, drummer Jonny Lawrence, they picked a name and began playing whatever bar, basement or party would have them, polishing their sound while writing a growing list of original songs. Their sound isn’t easily pinned down — the Jake-written “It’s Been Sweet” echoes “Take It to the Limit” from the Eagles, while Trent’s composition “Talk it Over” is a lovely slice of dream pop wrapped in Tom Petty jangle.

Ever present, however, is the pair’s lush harmonizing. This comes through in the covers they choose. A mid-February listening room show at The Livery in Sunapee included no fewer than four Beatles tunes — “The first song we learned together was ‘This Boy,’” Trent said from the stage — and “Dream” from the Everly Brothers.

Other influences include Wilco and Pavement, along with contemporaries.

“A lot of local bands inspired me the most,” Trent said in a recent phone interview. He specifically cited Evan Benoit and his band Badfellows, now called Happy Just to See You, and Great White Tourist. “Just the whole Manchester music scene from 2015 to 2017 was super influential on me because I was still living in a Beatles/Bob Dylan paradigm that I had not really broken out of yet.”

The duo’s vocal connection began with Trent teaching himself Ricky Skaggs’ “You’ve Got a Lover” and Jake deciding to come in on top of the vocal. “I remember we noticed that it worked, and Trent being like, ‘You should do more of that type of thing,’” Jake recalled. “My voice does things Jake can’t and he does things mine doesn’t really do,” Trent agreed. “They definitely complement each other in that way.”

Trent had played in a few other bands before meeting Jake, who was just starting to explore taking his interest in music to another level. Working together on Trent’s 2021 solo album Billions of Musics helped Jake’s songwriting to grow. It’s led to a collaborative process that usually starts with one or the other writing a nearly complete song and then taking it to the band for fine tuning.

“I was inspired by the fact that Trent seemed to be finishing songs [that] had something to say and were interesting from start to finish,” Jake said. “That kind of helped me to see my way toward doing more, because a lot of what I’d done at the time was just writing stuff on my own, with really no intention of any audience hearing it.”

They’ve released one EP, Staring at the Sun, and a handful of singles. They have two more finished EPs, set to drop later this year. Each represents a different side of the group, Trent said. “One is more indie rock, and the other is our indie soul folk kind of sound. So that’s going to be a great display of, I don’t want to say the polarities of our music, but the range and spectrum of what we do.”

They’re also at work on their first full-length album with, noted Trent, an embarrassment of riches facing them.

“We have so much material, it’s really become a problem,” he said. “We can keep doing singles and EPs forever, but putting 10 or 12 songs together is really more important. It’s helped us focus [and] filter songs through the lens of what’s going to be good on an album, what’s going to fit together sonically, and what’s going to be the most accessible to an audience.”

Jake agreed. “I think we’re really starting to circle the target on what our sound, Slim Volume original music sounds like,” he said. “It’s a little bit indie rock, a little bit folk rock, sometimes it’s a little pop, sometimes it’s soulful. I think the album is gonna really show in a cohesive way what that range is.”

Slim Volume
When: Saturday, March 2, 5 p.m.
Where: Twin Barns Brewing, 194 Daniel Webster Hwy., Meredith
More: slimvolumeband.com

Featured photo: Courtesy photo.

Back in the field

MILF Life Crisis explores life after divorce

Life keeps handing Anne Marie Scheffler one-woman shows. In her early 30s she did Not Getting It, a sendup of the dating scene. With marriage and kids came Suddenly Mommy! Scheffler’s recent divorce produced MILF Life Crisis, which arrives at Bank of NH Stage in Concord on Feb. 24.

In the new show, Scheffler and several of her alter egos explore re-entering a social fray made even more baffling by dating apps and age. Ultimately, though, it’s a celebration of the new freedom her new life offers. Flipping the acronym to (M)others are (I)ncredible, (L)ovely and (F)antastic, a derogatory fetish term is recast as a way to see female 40-something singlehood through a hopeful lens.

“We’re gonna make it fun and sexy, we’re gonna put on our leopard print,” Scheffler said in a recent phone interview. “You guys, just don’t worry about yourself, because we’ve got it covered.” It’s a powerful response to the idea that ending a marriage at a certain age is a death sentence.

“It could be the end of the world, but what if we decide it’s not?” Scheffler continued. “What if we decide we’re like George Clooney, and we only get better with age? This is the best time to be single because your kids are out … when you’re dating and you don’t have some part of your brain that’s like, ‘must procreate, must procreate’ — that’s really freeing.”

She’s egged on by fictional friend Kendra, whose airy attitude toward relationships aligns with Sam Malone from the ’80s sitcom Cheers; “let’s just go to bed, we don’t need a relationship” is her credo. Other characters in her journey from marriage to divorce to dating are friends offering sympathy and encouragement. Even her ex-husband appears, with his identity shrouded — apparently, he knew what marrying a comedian might portend.

“In our divorce agreement,” Scheffler said, “it’s literally in the legal document that I’m not allowed to use his real name.”

While MILF Life Crisis isn’t a show that Scheffler wanted or expected to make, she has a natural talent for mining laughs from her adversity.

“We can either be oppressed and sad, or laugh at it, shine the light in the dark corners and point out the silliness,” she said. “One of my strengths is I don’t put other people down; my comedy is very self-reflective, making fun of myself. What am I doing in my life that’s ridiculous? There’s a strength to making fun of what you’re supposed to take seriously.”

Scheffler always knew she would be a performer, but originally had her sights on being a serious actress. However, fate intervened.

“I went to theater school thinking I was going to be the next Meryl Streep, thinking, ‘I cry all the time, I’m sure I’ll be dramatic,’” she said. “I ended up being told, or it was very clear to the world, that I was good at comedy.”

She trained and toured with Second City and studied at the now-defunct Theater Resource Center. She also learned the mask-based style of clown technique created by Richard Pochinko, and studied with Phillippe Gaulier, who also taught Sacha Baron Cohen; Gaulier told her she was bound for great things.

“I thought that was probably a good sign,” Scheffler said. “With Second City, improv, the ability to write my own material and the Pochinko clowning, life is the best when I’m laughing.”

It’s led to a steady stream of success, despite the curveballs.

“I thought Suddenly Mommy! was going to be the thing that got me my TV series and put me on the map, but sadly, I got divorced; then my manager was like, everybody wants to know what your next show is,” she said, adding that she has a follow-up in the works called MILF & Cookies. “Who knew that I was going to be the poster child for divorce? I didn’t want that particularly… you wake up in your early 40s and you’re like, ‘I’m supposed to be married forever; now I have to start dating again?’”

MILF Life Crisis
When: Saturday, Feb. 24, 8 p.m.
Where: Bank of NH Stage, 16 S. Main St., Concord
Tickets: $43.75 at ccanh.com

Featured photo: Anne Marie Scheffler. Courtesy photo.

Still standing (up)

Kathy Griffin’s ‘My Life on the PTSD List’ hits Portsmouth

Every comic has their story about a joke that didn’t land, and the heckler or projectile that resulted. For Kathy Griffin, an ill-considered attempt to riff on Donald Trump’s “blood coming out of her whatever” comment about debate moderator Megyn Kelly was more consequential. She lost jobs, lost friends and, worse, unleashed a federal investigation — all because of a photo of her holding a ketchup-soaked mask.

It turned out that was just one of many setbacks for Griffin. Along with repeatedly being detained by Interpol during a world tour documented in the film Hell of a Story, she lost her sister to cancer, her mother and longtime foil died at the start of the Covid pandemic, and Griffin herself battled both a pill addiction and lung cancer.

Beyond all that turmoil, she found a way to laugh, even at being the target of a weaponized government.

“I make fun of all of it,” Griffin said by phone from her home in Malibu. “After this long and storied career, to think that I was under investigation by the DOJ and then diagnosed with PTSD, like I’m a combat veteran or something? You have to laugh at it. There’s too much comedy there.”

For example, her cancer, which resulted in the removal of half a lung. “I’m cancer-free, and I’m a proud member of the one-and-a-half lungs community, which needs a face for the brand,” Griffin said. “I’m doing it for free, gratis and happily, and I don’t appreciate you flaunting your two lungs in my face.”

There is, however, one topic she’s trying to steer clear of. “I will say — shocker — as of this moment, I don’t mention Trump at this new show. It’s not like I’m afraid of him or anything because he can’t really do anything worse than he already has.” She polls the audience at most shows to gauge whether they’re interested in the political or personal and goes from there.

On Feb. 2, she opened in Des Moines, Iowa, to a decent-sized crowd, but not every market is as welcoming. With conservative celebrities like Laura Loomer working to re-ignite the outrage that derailed Griffin’s career in 2017, ticket sales are lagging for shows in red states like Texas, Kentucky and Indiana. However, less than 100 or so seats remain for her “My Life on the PTSD List” tour stop in New Hampshire.

Many likened the backlash she received to The Dixie Chicks in the aughts — even that band’s singer Natalie Maines reached out to Griffin to offer support. “That was so cool,” she said. “We were going to get together, then something happened, and we couldn’t. But I want to find her number again and say, remember me? Let’s do it.”

Still, the band now called The Chicks was able to go on tour and make an album with Rick Rubin. Griffin lost much more, for a longer time. Comparisons to Lenny Bruce’s obscenity battles in the 1960s also miss the point, she continued. “He had cops arrest him, not the feds. I even called Kelly Carlin, George’s daughter, and she said the same thing … ‘My dad never had the feds.’ This was a full investigation, testifying under oath, and the no-fly list.”

The comedian famous for never meeting a line she wouldn’t cross eventually learned to lean into the firestorm she’d created.

“I don’t care if you’re a stay-at-home mom or you have an office job, but to then not be doing that which you do for six long years, and to have it come at the behest of the f-ing president, that was the awful part,” she said. “The phone not ringing, the people turning on me, the networks telling me, ‘We love you; we think you’re funny, but you’re too toxic for Middle America’ is of course something I took as a challenge.”

Ironically, Griffin’s number is on a special kind of speed dial list.

“I’m the patron saint of celebrities who’ve gotten canceled for screwed up reasons, and so I will get called,” she said. “Bette Midler called me one time during the Trump’s administration … he was mad at her about a tweet, and she got a call from the Secret Service. She wanted to know what to do and I’m like, do this, this and this, and you say this, and don’t say this.”

On the other hand, “Don’t talk to me about the people who deserve to get canceled,” she continued. “The ones who pissed off the previous administration, I know how to handle those calls. Like, Rudy Giuliani’s daughter … she contacted me and she’s like, ‘I’m so embarrassed about my dad, what do I do?’ I said, ‘You’re stuck with him, honey, just smile and stay gay.’ She’s like, ‘I love you!’ So, I never know about what kind of calls I’m going to get.”

Did any positives come out of her ordeal? “Honestly, I don’t have a lot of good news to report except that it gave me clarity,” she said. “Most of the people that turned on me are still turned against me … it’s particularly people in my industry. I’m just going to call it out, and of course I’ll get in trouble for this as usual, but it was old white guys who identify with Trump far more than they identify with me.”

Griffin is excited to be back in front of audiences. Much of her new cadre of material sticks to the celebrity-dragging and barbs that helped feed her success.

“I’ve always been a magnet for crazy, that’s a gift that I’ve accepted and no longer fight, so, I go into certain situations sometimes, and I just know they’re going to be comedy gold,” she said. “I have a whole new half hour about going to Paris Hilton’s Christmas party that I cannot wait to talk about in Portsmouth. Because it was like a time capsule. First of all, she looks exactly the same, she still wears the pink sparkly dresses and such. It was like going back to 2003. Nothing has changed. I went with Rosie O’Donnell, so it was like the Rosie O’Donnell show was still on daytime, My Life on the D List was still on TV, it was hilarious…. I also like that Paris didn’t let us in the house, which is my favorite thing about when rich people have parties, they have police caution tape, like don’t even think about it. I don’t blame her; she’s been through hell herself.”

She’ll also riff on a certain pop singer but may go a bit gentler on her.

“We can’t not talk about Britney!” she said. “I feel very maternal toward her, I certainly went in hard on her in the ’90s and 2000s, because at that time I was making fun of a young lady that was a multi-multi-multi-millionaire as a teenager and was behaving in ways that sometimes were unique, but no, I’m not making fun of her mental illness. But am I gonna talk about her Instagram? Yes, I am. Can I look away from it? No, I can’t.”

The gloves are off for her former Hamptons neighbor Kanye West, now remarried and causing international incidents with his new wife. “Getting kicked out of Italy, I’ve never heard of that,” Griffin wondered. “I can see getting kicked out of an Italian restaurant but getting kicked out of the entire country because you’re walking around with a pillow and plastic heels? I’ve got to get to the bottom of it.”

Griffin also thinks Kanye is missing his former wife, Kim Kardashian. “A couple of days ago, his pants fell down, and you could see his butt crack. Doesn’t he have a team of people to tell him, pull your pants up, get it together? That’s what I feel Kim did. She would do a little bit of Cher in Moonstruck — ‘snap out of it!’ Because he was a little bit functional then; now he’s just off the rails. I know he has a mental illness, but I don’t care. I’m going right for the misogyny.”

Whatever awaits her as she embarks on her first big domestic tour since her world came crashing down, Kathy Griffin remains defiant. “I have cemented my place in history,” she said. “Actually, as I’m getting older, I’m getting a little proud of it. The fact that I’m still out there, going to work within the same 10-day period of E. Jean Carroll getting her $83 million judgment, I’m starting to have a bit of optimism about this little divided country of ours.”

An Evening with Kathy Griffin
When: Saturday, Feb. 17, 8 p.m.
Where: The Music Hall, 28 Chestnut St., Portsmouth
Tickets: $57.50 and up at themusichall.org

Featured photo: Kathy Griffin. Courtesy photo.

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