Ragged but right

Bradley Copper Kettle hits the sweet spot

Bradley Copper Kettle & Friends is four longtime high school pals and an older keyboard player from the next town over they call “Uncle.” They play roots Americana with gusto; their sets feature well-crafted originals, along with selections from the hymn book of rock. The Band, Neil Young, Grateful Dead and Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick In The Wall” are all in there — the latter done with a funky bottom that sounds like a good ragout tastes.

There’s a guitarist named Brad who plays, sings and writes many of their songs, but this isn’t his band. Rather, it’s no one and everyone’s. On any night, a member of the quintet might step up to the microphone and claim to be the man behind the moniker.

“That’s us speaking to Bradley Copper Kettle as an ideology,” drummer Justin Harradon said in a Zoom group interview recently.

Bass player Andrew Desharnais called the name, beerily coined one night at Cappy’s Copper Kettle in Lowell, “an enigma” — but Brad Swenson, who endured being called Bradley Cooper to the point of annoyance, offered a more succinct defense.

“We’re probably just as confused as our fans are with our name,” he said. “But we love it, so we stick with it.”

BCK&F began in 2014 as a trio — Desharnais, Harradon and guitar player Corey Zwart; Swenson joined soon after. The newest member, keyboard player Leeroy Brown, came on board in December 2018. As a band, they have a knack for sliding into the sublime, pulling a perfect harmony or a gumbo-like jam seemingly from nowhere.

The first awareness that they’d found a special musical connection came on a trip to Martha’s Vineyard.

“Brad was doing some work down there several years back and we just were busking by the port,” Desharnais said. “That’s really where we realized that we sound good together and we should keep doing this.”

The band made Barn, a four-song EP, in 2018. Highlights include Swenson’s reedy tenor on the mournful “Move Along,” and the harmony showcase “Holding Water.” Several other originals turn up in their sets. “Country Mile” is the best of the lot, proving that frequent comparisons to CSN&Y are justified, right down to Zwart’s Neil Young-like harmonica soloing, and lusty layered vocals.

Influences range across the spectrum, from obvious ones like Wilco, Dawes and the Dead to the singer-songwriter canon and more eclectic. There’s even a cover of Herbie Hancock’s “Chameleon” in their setlist. Swenson likes anything with a potential to meld into the band’s special mojo.

“Any song when we can get a three- or four-part harmony, or even Justin to five on there,” he said, “is heavenly at some points.”

Desharnais called what they do “music for the common man,” adding, “none of us are trained vocalists, we’re all just regular guys, but when we sing together and harmonize that’s when it’s magical.”

A show at Nashua’s Millyard Brewery on April 17 will be their first since mid-autumn. Like most performers, they were challenged by quarantine. Swenson lives in Maine, Zwart is in Nashua and the other three remain in the Chelmsford area. Harradon believes time and distance will disappear when they resume playing, however.

“It’s kind of difficult for us all to get together, so we may not even get a full band rehearsal before our show,” he said. “But we’ve all been jamming together since 2014-2015. We’re really confident that once we get back on stage, we’re just going to click and get right back to it. Like we weren’t away at all.”

Bradley Copper Kettle
: Saturday, April 17, 4 p.m.
Where: Millyard Brewery, 25 E. Otterson St., Nashua
More: millyardbrewery.com
Also at Millyard Brewery Fifth Anniversary Celebration with Charlie Chronopoulos Saturday, April 10, 4 p.m.

Featured photo: Bradley Copper Kettle & Friends. Courtesy photo.

Staying live

Playing through, and past, the pandemic

If a Concord bar is offering live music, there’s always the possibility that Andy Laliotis will get involved. He’s a member of several groups, and a regular presence at open mic nights. If a friend is playing, he’s always ready to jump on stage and jam.

The guitarist is a Capital City native and musical mainstay, dating back to his early days with Lamont Smooth, a band that marked its 25th anniversary this year. He’s part of several other acts; currently, they include Grateful Dead channeling Blue Light Rain, the roots acoustic Diamond Joe and Menthol Rain, which formed, then folded, at the end of 2020.

“Covid lasted longer than that band did,” Laliotis said in a recent phone interview. “It’s too bad, man; we were sounding good. Mostly, we were playing a lot of covers. It didn’t work out, but I’ll be playing with some of those guys again soon, so maybe we can talk about getting together again.”

A hunger to play defines Laliotis, and it’s managed to keep him busy during the pandemic. Between Penuche’s Ale House, Area 23, and the occasional Manchester show, there were gigs enough to keep him sane — but just barely.

“It’s been a core group of guys getting together,” he said. “With weather hopefully getting nice and the vaccine happening, there’s hope we can get out there and play more and more. But it’s been a lot of duo shows.”

On April 10, a power trio version of Lamont Smooth will perform at Penuche’s — Laliotis, his brother Chris and Scott Seeley, the band’s original bass player. They’re listed on the bar’s chalkboard schedule under an alias.

“Maybe there’s a little too much confidence in what we can do, but it is limited capacity,” Laliotis said. In later months, “we look forward to getting back at it with the full band again — we’re a six-piece.”

In February the band contributed a 15-minute video to Bank of NH Stage’s Local Band Mixer, part of the venue’s Mud Season Sampler. Concord performers Dusty Gray Band, The Special Guests with Lucas Gallo, Mallory Weiss, Andrew North & the Rangers, Supernothing, Will Hatch & Co, Bosey Joe, Trade, and Ethyric & B.Snair all appeared.

“We had to be in and out in an hour,” Laliotis said, “but it’s actually good to be in there again playing.”

A fresh outbreak of Covid cases in the state caused the cancellation of a scheduled Blue Light Rain show at Bank of NH Stage in early December.

Lamont Smooth will also do an outdoor show at Area 23 on May 8. He’s a big fan of the out-of-the-way Concord tap room and restaurant, which hosts local performers several times each week. Venue owner Kirk McNeil “helped us a lot last summer, booking us a bunch of times with different acts,” he said. “You get so used to playing a lot of shows and when it’s gone, that creative outlet all the other stresses in life kind of build up on you, you know?”

Consistent with his ubiquity, Laliotis will join Jared Steer and Friends a week after the Lamont Smooth show at Penuche’s on Saturday, April 17.

“We’ll be doing Dead and Jerry Garcia Band, as well as other stuff,” he said.

His Dead tribute is in its 13th year.

“I get to make a set list of my favorite tunes, and it’s good to be playing with my friend Rob [Farquhar], who’s the original bass player,” Laliotis said. “When we started, it was supposed to be a one-off gig, but it just stuck.”

Blue Light Rain also provides Laliotis with a chance to play with another musical brother, George — Lamont Smooth’s original drummer and a big reason he found music as a teenager.

“He picked up the guitar and I was around,” he said, “then I started getting more and more into going to shows.”

Lamont Smooth released one album, in 2003, and Laliotis has hopes of returning to the studio for a follow-up.

“There are so many songs we haven’t even touched,” he said.

The band’s eponymous record is on TouchTunes, a digital jukebox that’s in every Waffle House in the country, among other places. It’s surprisingly popular, even now, Laliotis said.

“I get random texts from people all over the country saying that they played it in North Carolina or somewhere else, because it’s in boxes all across the country,” he said. “It’s pretty wild.”

Andy & Chris Laliotis and Scott Seeley
When: Saturday, April 10, 8 p.m.
Where: Penuche’s Ale House, 16 Bicentennial Square, Concord
More: $15 at headlinerscomedyclub.com
Andy Laliotis appears with Jared Steer & Friends at Penuche’s on Saturday, April 17

Featured photo: Andy Laliotis. Photo by Cory MacEachern Ghelli.

Scrappy success

Kelly MacFarland headlines at Chunky’s

For Kelly MacFarland, succeeding as a female comedian isn’t more or less difficult than succeeding in any other profession.

“There are unique challenges for women in general, so take all of those and just apply them to this job as well,” she said in a recent interview. “I’m scrappy, and I learned early on that I might have to work a little harder in some ways. … [But] if I can do the job well, being a woman is going to serve me.”

MacFarland’s ethic is borne out; she regularly headlines, has appeared on Comedy Central, NBC’s Last Comic Standing and the 2019 Comics Come Home benefit show in Boston and has new sets on the Hulu show Up Early Tonight and Dry Bar Comedy.

“I always just focused on being the best comedian that I could be, and I still do that,” she said. “In that way, hopefully I’m just undeniable … [and] it won’t matter what my gender is.”

Though she loved TV funny women, MacFarland’s early influences were men: Steve Martin, Bill Murray, Eddie Murphy.

“I’m not super-delicate,” she said. “To me, it was that male energy.”

This would change in hindsight.

“Looking back on it, a lot of those female comics had a male energy that I liked as I was getting older,” she said, citing Joan Rivers and Rosie O’Donnell as examples. “That aggressive kind of comedy that is … unapologetic, I guess, is the best way to say it.”

On stage, MacFarland riffs a lot on her home life. She married in 2016 and isn’t coy about the union’s many non-romantic benefits.

“When he said, ‘Do you wanna marry me?’ I was like, ‘I do, because I want to put out another album.’ The one I just released is all about him and my stepson. So, thanks. I need to put the divorce album out. I’m really excited,” she laughed. “No, we’re not gonna do that.”

When it comes to Covid-19, the opposite’s true.

“At first, I loved talking about the pandemic; now I’m done,” she said. “I write from an emotional place, which seems really silly, because I’m a comedian. But as soon as the world started to open up again, I actually found my writer’s block kind of go away. In 2021, I want to discover a whole new thing to talk about. I’m excited about that.”

After spending much of the last year doing podcasts, including the well-received I’m Fine with fellow comic Dan Crohn, MacFarland is pleased to be back performing to equally enthusiastic (albeit socially distanced) crowds.

“The audience is so grateful that you’re willing to come out, and you’re so grateful,” she said. “It’s a love fest; how would you be angry? You just risked catching the virus to come here, and paid money, so be on your best behavior.”

She’s especially fond of Granite State comedy fans.

“I love the people in New Hampshire; they want to have a good time,” she said. “One of the things I love about standup is that for any audience I want them to feel like they’re having a moment in time that they haven’t had before and that I haven’t had before. … New Hampshire really delivers on that. I don’t know if it’s that they realize what I’m doing and or if it’s just that New England way of being very engaged.”

MacFarland uses a pre-pandemic analogy to illustrate her point.

“If you sit down at a bar in New England, you’re going to talk to the person next to you; it’s just how it works here,” she said. “You’ll find out their name and where they’re from and whatever. Playing in New Hampshire is like bellying up to the bar with a new friend, and that’s so fun to me.”

As mass vaccinations offer hope for herd immunity, MacFarland is thinking of a cultural renaissance akin to the one that followed the flu epidemic of 1918; however, she goes a step further.

“They keep saying that’s how the Roaring Twenties happened,” she said. “I don’t care about the roar; I care about cash. [I want] people to want to go out. Please come to a show and support live performance.”

Kelly MacFarland
: Saturday, March 27, 8 p.m.
Where: Chunky’s Cinema & Pub, 150 Bridge St., Pelham
Tickets: $15 at headlinerscomedyclub.com

Featured photo: Kelly MacFarland. Courtesy photo.

A new twist

Take3 on a mission to the mainstream

Classical music is rigorous and demanding, its top purveyors virtuosic — but it’s box office anathema. Charity, not ticket sales, provides the majority of revenue for most American orchestras.

Enter Lindsay Deutsch. She launched her group Take3 to change the genre’s perception. The violin, piano and cello trio performs modern songs like “Despacito” and “Yellow” with the same musical discipline Deutsch learned when she was classically trained at The Colburn School in Los Angeles.

It’s an approach familiar to fans of Netflix’s Bridgerton, which offered string quartet renditions of Ariana Grande and Maroon 5 hits, among others, but Deutsch arguably got there first. Beyond that, her kinetic stage presence is singularly unique. She’s to the violin what Ian Anderson is on the flute with Jethro Tull, stalking the boards like a dervish.

The idea for reimagining pop songs as classical pieces came from frustration with the medium’s strict rules.

“The thing about Bach, Brahms and Beethoven is you have to play in a box, so to speak,” Deutsch said in a recent phone interview. “As an artist, I felt like … I have this huge voice, and people keep asking me not to use my voice, but to try and figure out what this dead, old white guy wants.”

Deutsch’s light bulb moment came when she traveled to Saudi Arabia for a last-minute spot playing with Yanni. The New Age superstar had found her on YouTube; she’d never heard of him until he called to say his regular violinist was leaving to have a baby. She had three weeks to learn the material; it would be her first time performing with amplification and in-ear monitors.

During her initial solo, Deutsch couldn’t hear anything and feared the worst was happening.

“I’m just fingering the violin, I can’t hear one note, I don’t know what’s going on,” she said. “My thought is, OK, this is my first and last performance with Yanni, because I’m gonna for sure be fired.”

When she glanced at the bandleader, however, he was smiling broadly at her.

“I look up further and see a sea of people on their feet, cheering. That’s when I realized my in-ear monitors are fine; it’s the sound of the crowd that is so loud.”

For Deutsch, it was a revelation.

“In classical music, we don’t have audiences that make that kind of noise,” she said. “It was something that I realized I was really missing. … I became kind of addicted to that passion and to that fire the audience was giving me in response to this crossover style. After that moment, I just never looked back.”

Though the group’s material is accessible, it remains musically challenging.

“Take3 never felt that just playing the tune was good enough, because we had the chops to play big concerti with an orchestra,” Deutsch said. “We were not going to be happy with just playing single notes and easy renditions. So we made this stuff super hard, and we added double stops all over the place and cool techniques. … We wanted to really show off what we learned.”

After a few lineup changes, Take3 is currently Deutsch, Juilliard-trained pianist Jason Stoll and fellow L.A.-based cellist Mikala Schmitz, who studied at Cleveland Institute of Music.

“It’s very rare to find serious classical musicians that have the chops needed who can also let their hair down and have fun. … It’s been beaten into us since we were 5 years old to read the music, play exactly you see,” Deutsch said. “I’m saying the music is a guide, and if you want to diverge from that, have a little fun and do something different, by all means go for it. We’re on stage to have a good time.”

Though she’s playing a violin that’s over two centuries old, Deutsch knows she’s competing with 21st-century distractions like movies and video games.

“These amazing things that people are used to seeing … if I just walk out on stage and plop myself down in a chair, it doesn’t matter how good it sounds, I’m never going to compete with modern-day entertainment.”

A livestreamed show sponsored by the Palace Theatre in Manchester on March 26 will feature Take3 performing a wide selection of material.

“It’s just all our favorite tunes that we’ve been playing over the last three years,” Deutsch said. “Anything from Justin Bieber to The Beatles to Coldplay, Pirates of the Caribbean and Game of Thrones. All good stuff.”

Take3 Virtual Stream
: Friday, March 26, 8 p.m.
Where: Hosted by The Palace Theatre, 80 Hanover St., Manchester
Tickets: $15 at palacetheatre.org

Featured photo: Take3. Courtesy photo.


Ryan Montbleau unveils first of four new EPs

On the first track of his latest record, Ryan Montbleau celebrates imperfection. “If things don’t have to be perfect, it’s a lot easier for them to be right,” Montbleau sings, quoting his therapist.

There’s a lot of self-care on the new EP Wood, the first in a series to be followed by Fire, Water and Air. Montbleau tends to look on the bright side of things, like his upcoming gig at Portsmouth’s Music Hall on March 19. True, social distancing rules will reduce crowd size, but performing in the storied Historic Theatre instead of the smaller Loft space is a big plus.

“I’ve always wanted to play there; all it took was them limiting capacity to 20 percent,” Montbleau said with a laugh in a recent phone interview.

Similarly, the Massachusetts-born singer-songwriter managed to turn his pandemic year into a growth experience.

“It kind of sped up the process of life,’ he said. “It’s weird, but in some ways I’ve almost never been happier.”

Montbleau purchased his first house, in Burlington, Vermont. He took piano lessons, did weekly Facebook Live sets and the odd solo gig, and appeared on a local music talk show.

“I’ve been very lucky through all this; it’s kind of allowed me to stay in one place for once and start to build a home life,” he said.

Spotify and other streaming services provided a cushion as well.

“I’ve been building this thing for 20 years, and I don’t have to tour my face off like I used to,” he said.

One bit of good fortune: He completed the basic tracks for the new music in summer 2019, playing with a rotating cast that included jazz jam legend Martin Medeski. Montbleau worked with producer Adam Landry (Deer Tick, Rayland Baxter) at Guilford Studio in southern Vermont.

“I had just amazing people coming in and out,” he said. “Turning it into a record [is] what’s taken the last year and a half … a lot of tweaking, taking things out and putting them in.”

He divided the collection’s 15 tracks into four themes. Wood is rustic and down to earth, while Fire rocks hard. Water is calm, reflective, with songs inspired by time Montbleau spent doing medicine work in Peru.

“I would sit in the jungle in a tent for 10 days and work with different plants,” he said, calling the experience “pretty life-altering. … It points you in a different direction. … I feel like some of those songs were gifts; that’s why they ended up on Water.”

The final chapter, Air, offers a sense of closure and peace. It ends with “The Dust” and Montbleau singing, “just know that you are not alone, and that’s all you get to know now.”

Wood, Fire, Water and Air’s songs reflect a long and sometimes difficult period for Montbleau.

“My old band split up around 2013 and I lost my management at the time; I had a long relationship end and I’d been on the road for 10 years,” he said. “I had a lot of growing to do. Since then, I’ve been searching for who I am, how to heal and how to be better.”

Wood was scheduled to be released on March 12; the others are expected to arrive over the next three to four months.

The just-released EP includes the charming “Ankles,” an autobiographical song that touches upon his first tour, where he suffered a burst appendix and a busted van. Montbleau soldiered on in spite of that nightmare, becoming a festival staple along the way.

“If I could survive this, I could survive anything,” he decided.

“On the road I found my muses, off the road I lost my mind,” he sings, concluding with, “off the road I lost my uses, on the road I found my shine.” For most touring musicians, Montbleau explained, standing still is where the trouble begins.

It’s also where his growth had to start.

“You get so used to being on stage and having people appreciate what you do… when you get home finally and you’re just sitting alone in a room, it’s really daunting,” he said. “What is my purpose? What are my uses? Back on the road, I would find my shine under the lights, and find my purpose again. So I think the years leading up to now have been me digging deep and figuring out who I am, and who I was before I started doing this.”

An Evening With Ryan Montbleau
: Friday, March 19, 8 p.m.
Where: The Music Hall, 28 Chestnut St., Portsmouth
Tickets: $38 at themusichall.org

Featured photo: Ryan Montbleau. Photo by Shervin Lainez.

Green Again

Enjoy St. Patrick’s Day music virtually

A year ago Jordan Tirrell-Wysocki was heading into his busy season and primed to play traditional Irish music across the region. Following a St. Patrick’s Day weekend kickoff show, the Jordan TW Trio, including Matt Jensen on guitar and bass player Chris Noyes, would play its biggest gig of the year, to a sold out Saturday night crowd at Bank of NH Stage.

It was Friday the 13th, however. In 2020, that cursed day delivered misery like never before.

“As we stepped off stage, I took out my phone,” the fiddler said in a recent phone interview, “and found out that we’d been canceled from that point on.”

Though Tirrell-Wysocki would resume a fairly busy schedule later that spring Zoom lessons with cabin-fevered students were a silver lining during the pandemic on March 17 the jigs and reels were streamed from his home on Facebook Live.

This year he’ll finally take the stage in downtown Concord. Alas, apart from a camera operator and sound engineer, his trio will play to an empty room.

He calls the situation “weirdly ironic” but is pleased nonetheless. “I’m grateful that the Capitol Center has figured out how to present quality livestream content. … I think it’s going to be a lot of fun.”

The March 12 show is one of four Irish-themed virtual events offered by the venue. On March 13 a late afternoon show offers We Banjo 3: Live From Ireland. An indie band with Celtic roots, they most recently performed a virtual Christmas show.

That’s followed later in the evening by the concert/travelogue Virtual Ireland with Michael Londra. A prerecorded live concert experience featuring world-renowned step dancers and musicians, Rhythm of the Dance debuted in February and will run two more times in March.

An “intermission” from live events imposed late last year has been challenging, Capitol Center Executive Director Nicki Clarke said recently. Federal CARES Act money and donations have sustained them financially.

“We’ve been taking it literally month by month, saying, ‘We’re just going to pause and look again, and pause again,’” she said.

Socially distanced standup comedy from Juston McKinney was set to resume in-person shows on March 27, but “the board decided to stay in our ‘pause’ state,” Clarke wrote in a Feb. 25 email, so the event is postponed, with no new date confirmed. A May 14 Adam Ezra Band show is still listed on the venue’s website; everything before that is off or virtual, and the Ezra show is not certain either, Clarke said.

“Our board weighs in on the pause question the second Thursday of each month for the following month,” she said. “This means the call to go or re-schedule again will be made on or around April 8.”

Some silver linings emerged from the dearth of live events. Necessary stage repairs could be made, for example.

“In some ways being closed was a good thing, because we can get that done right,” Clarke said.

Still, livestreamed shows are no substitute for the real thing money-wise.

“We might be making like $2 for every ticket that we sell; it’s really for the benefit of giving people something to watch,” she said. “This mud season is going to be tough. We’ve got to get through March and April, then hopefully we’ll be outside and able to join up with each other.”

Tirrell-Wysocki is also willing to wait.

“As much as I’m looking forward to being able to work in a normal capacity again, I don’t want to rush it,” he said. “I have been offered indoor shows, and I honestly feel weird. I don’t blame anyone who’s willing to perform inside with distance guidelines and all of that, but a huge part of my job as an independent musician is filling a room, and I just can’t really in good conscience do that. … I want to be sure we’ve waited long enough to do it safely and feel good about it. If that means livestreaming for now, then that’s what we’re going to do.”

Jordan Tirrell-Wysocki Trio Livestream
: Friday, March 12, 8 p.m.
Where: online
Tickets: $20 at ccanh.com

Featured photo: Jordan TW Trio. Courtesy photo.

Thinking and drinking

Bars across New Hampshire offer trivia fun

By Sadie Burgess

If you’re full of seemingly useless information, you can put it to good use at one of several weekly trivia nights hosted by local bars.

Area 23 in Concord has been hosting trivia nights every Tuesday for more than five years.

“We get people who are very intense on trivia,” bar owner and trivia writer Kirk McNeil said.

Five different categories are offered each week, rather than one overarching theme. These can range from Broadway musicals to UFOs to European food to classic movies, and they’re often suggested by the bar’s patrons.

Area 23 doesn’t take trivia lightly. The bar was awarded toughest trivia in New Hampshire in 2015, 2016 and 2017.

“I don’t know if they gave it out after that,” McNeil said with a laugh.

Part of this honor is because of die-hard fans, like the six-person team that’s attended the events every week since it started.

But, McNeil said, “This doesn’t mean you can’t do well as a newbie.”

Area 23 sometimes awards prizes, which range from free appetizers to T-shirts or koozys from local breweries.

Liquid Therapy in Nashua is a bit newer to the trivia scene, devoting Thursday nights to trivia for just under two years. Attendees typically sign up a week ahead of time, sometimes two, to secure a seat.

“People even sit outside right now, when it’s cold,” the bar’s owner, Stanley Tremblay, said.

Tremblay feels that the open, airy space that Liquid Therapy offers makes patrons feel more at ease amid stressful times.

“I think there’s a lot of comradery, even between teams,” said Tremblay. “And it adds some normalcy to what’s going on in the world right now.”

For each trivia night, there’s a three-question themed round, with the theme chosen by the team that came in second the week before (first place gets a $25 gift card). The themes tend to be very specific and have ranged from fantasy novels like The Wheel of Time to Fleetwood Mac to Philadelphia sports teams.

Smuttynose Brewery offers trivia on Tuesday nights at its Hampton location, as well as Thursday night trivia at Smuttlabs in downtown Dover. DJ Koko-P hosts the events throughout the year at both locations.

This brewery is new on the trivia scene; it introduced trivia this past summer at the Hampton location, and only about a month ago in Dover. Their trivia is completely contactless and played through each participants’ cell phone. DJ Koko gives you a URL to go to, according to Colleen Lynch, the marketing manager at Smuttynose, and all questions are answered through the URL.

The night is divided into three rounds. The first is a warm-up round, where the winner receives a free appetizer. During the second and third rounds, gift cards and larger, specialty prizes can be won. In the event’s short past, prizes have ranged from lawn chairs to T-shirts to grills. Themed trivia nights are offered once a month. On Feb. 28, Star Wars themed trivia will take place at Smuttynose in Hampton.

Trivia nights bring more than just an assortment of fun facts to the bar experience.

“It gives people the option to come by in a comfortable setting, and do something other than just sitting around and talking,” Lynch said. “It really gets people engaged. And it’s nice to give everyone a little bit of a sense of normalcy back.”

Weekly trivia

Here are some local places with regular trivia nights. Find more every week in the Music This Week listing. Know of a trivia night not mentioned here? Let us know at music@hippopress.com.

Area 23 Trivia
When: Tuesdays, 7 p.m.
Where: Area 23, 254 N. State St., Unit H, Concord
Visit: thearea23.com

Cheers Trivia
When: Fridays, 9 p.m.
Where: Cheers Grill, 17 Depot St., No. 1, Concord
Visit: cheersnh.com

Chunky’s Cinema Pub Trivia
When: Thursdays, 8 p.m.
Where: Chunky’s Cinema Pub, 707 Huse Road, Manchester
Visit: chunkys.com

Community Oven Trivia
When: Wednesdays, 7 p.m.
Where: The Community Oven, 24 Brickyard Sq., Epping
Visit: thecommunityoven.com

Liquid Therapy Trivia
When: Thursdays, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Liquid Therapy, 14 Court St., Nashua
Visit: Find them on Facebook

Smuttynose Trivia
When: Tuesdays, 6 p.m.
Where: Smuttynose Brewing, 105 Towle Farm Road, Hampton
Visit: smuttynose.com

Smuttlabs Trivia
When: Thursdays, 6 p.m.
Where: Smuttlabs, 47 Washington St., Dover
Visit: smuttynose.com

Still rocking

Fable finds Leaving Eden in fine form

Since forming in 2011, Leaving Eden has remained among the most dedicated bands in New England. Their latest album, Fable, shows them maturing but still delivering high-energy rock ’n’ roll. “Broken” is a floor-mopper that stands with anything on their eight previous records, but there’s also a strummy cover of “The Rose” — yes, from the ’80s movie. “Detached” has a Beatlesque jangle evoking “Nowhere Man,” and the piano-driven title track is a tuneful departure for the band.

Keyboards are a recent addition to Leaving Eden’s sound, provided by Alyssa White, their newest member. White also collaborated on songwriting with guitar player and principal lyricist Eric Gynan on the song. She also co-wrote the title track of Dream With Me, released last year, and used it for an evocative Covid-19 themed video.

That wasn’t the plan, Gynan said in a recent phone interview. Dream With Me was due to support a tour covering most of 2020.

“We didn’t have one open date, and I had to turn places away,” but the pandemic had other plans, he said. “Of course, everything got canceled.”

So the band filmed a video full of masks and dancing molecules, then set about finding ways to work — successfully.

“We were able to play different places we’d never played before, like Hampton Beach Seashell Stage; right on the sand was just so cool,” Gynan said with a vial-half-full positivity. “As one door closed, another door opened, and we went straight through November, when it got too cold because everything we were doing was outdoors.”

They used the chilly months to complete the new record, released in mid-January, and practice for a livestreamed Lockdown Series show that debuted Feb. 13. The YouTube concert will eventually become a live album.

The band’s original lineup included two women: lead singer Eve and bassist Carissa Johnson, who’s now a solo artist. So adding White is a return of sorts. They were introduced in late 2018 at a gig — sort of.

“Alyssa was too shy, so she had her cousin come up to us to say she plays keyboards, sings and wants to be in the band,” Gynan said.

He responded by giving White Eve’s cell number.

“If she calls, that’s cool, then let’s see if she shows up,” he said. “She showed up. So [then it was], let’s see if she can learn the material. … She just did it all, a check mark off of each thing.”

Rounding out the group are drummer Jake Gynan and bass player Rick Chouinard. The latter played with Gynan and Eve (Gynan’s wife) in a pre-Leaving Eden band. Their latest public appearance was at The Chop Shop in Seabrook on Feb. 20. But the livestreamed show felt like a return, Gynan said — even if the stage was a bit cramped due to camera restrictions.

“I wanted to jump around but I couldn’t because if I moved even a little bit to the right or left I’d be covering Alyssa, and if Eve moved she’d block Jake and Rick would be out of the frame,” Gynan said. “We literally had just those spots, but it still had the energy.”

A show scheduled for Feb. 27 at VFW Post 88 in Kingston has been postponed to May 22, but a March trip to Florida for a few gigs is still on. As warm weather returns, they expect their home turf to become more welcoming.

A few Leaving Eden songs have appeared in movies, including Mayday, Lockdown, Painkiller, Bloodthirst and The Penthouse, all from Italian director Max Cerchi. Seemingly inspired, Gynan wrote his own screenplay for a film called The Nitwit. Rooted in reality — “things that really happened to me or somebody very close” — it was filmed in Iowa and is nearly complete.

“We would be done if this pandemic didn’t happen,” he said. “We’ve only got to go there for a long weekend and we can finish up.”

Ten years down the road, Leaving Eden soldiers on. Is the original vision intact?

“That’s a great question,” Gynan said. “You can’t be a frustrated musician forever. I guess you can be, but it’s not fun. It’s good to set your expectations high [but] I’ve learned to be totally happy doing exactly what I’m doing right now. Every gig is just as important as the next … a big concert or a little dive, it’s still important to me. It’s all just a matter of perspective.”

Leaving Eden
Watch Leaving Eden, The Lockdown Sessions on youtu.be/N31j1cfmkQM, or find them at facebook.com/bandleavingeden

Featured photo: Leaving Eden. Courtesy photo.

Write through it

Tyler Allgood shines on soul-baring Through The Empty

Surgery and its aftermath are often challenging; for a recovering addict, the experience can be harrowing. As Tyler Allgood faced a spine operation in early 2019, he worried about whether essential pain medication would lead to relapse. For six to eight months prior to entering the hospital, this fear had him “staring at the ceiling … going crazy wondering if my life was ever going to change,” Allgood said in a recent phone interview.

“Knowing I’d have to take drugs again to go through this,” he said, “I kind of had to revisit my past and revise it.”

The answer came through his music, on songs like “Downtime” and “Who Am I Now.” The latter is a dreamy meditation about being “always off, lost in the fixtures,” while keeping vigilant. Both appear on Allgood’s soon to be released album Through The Empty, a 13-track cycle that’s both starkly honest and expertly composed.

“The writing saved me,” Allgood said. “I had to keep writing; it’s really saving my life.”

Though this is his second LP, Allgood feels the new effort is a lot like a debut.

“It’s kind of a wrap-up of all those years,” he said, noting that 2019’s The Weight of Thunder “was whipped together kind of quickly [when] a friend of mine had had an opportunity and he was an engineer. It’s still very meaningful, but on [this] record I finally bring my composing all together … and really produce the sound that I’m going for.”

Allgood, who also deals with alcoholism, “depression, PTSD and plenty of other mental issues,” said his songwriting is “ninety percent personal experience and stories.” Some can be heartbreaking — “Love In Vermont” deals with a love affair that ends in suicide.

There’s also hope. One of the record’s highlights, “No Visions of Fear,” contains the memorable line, “I’m too miserable to die.” Allgood is quoting a friend who succumbed to breast cancer.

“I don’t think he knew how powerful it was coming from him as he was dying,” he said, adding the statement was a reflection of his friend’s giving nature. “He hadn’t done all of his work helping people … that was the reason he was miserable. That he would have to leave other people behind.”

Along with strong songwriting, what distinguishes the new album most is its music: densely layered guitars, delicate keyboards, deft time changes and Allgood’s haunting vocals. He played and sang nearly every note.

Through The Empty was recorded at Loud Sun Studios with producer Ben Rogers, who also plays drums on the record. Dan Labrie, from Allgood’s old group BandBand, played slide guitar on a couple of tracks, and Eliot Pelletier contributed guitar as well.

Allgood got into music as a teenager.

“A friend of mine, Kyle Weber, was this really talented guitar player right from the get-go,” he said. “He played the talent show at our middle school, and that was where I realized that I really wanted to do that as well.”

He agrees that most listeners will detect a clear influence running through the new album.

“Jerry Garcia was hugely important finding my way through whatever it is I’m doing with music,” Allgood said. “The Grateful Dead, George Harrison’s solo stuff, all helped open my eyes to what was possible on my own, to create, to not have limits.”

When a release event happens — never a certainty these pandemic-limited times — Allgood plans to assemble a band to back him. For now, though, he plays solo and eschews looping sounds.

“I might incorporate that soon, but I tend to keep it as original as I can, I suppose,” he said.

His shows also include judiciously chosen covers of artists like The Beatles and Johnny Cash.

“I try to cater to everything, and then also mix in my original work,” he said.

Allgood expects to release the album in early March — “It’s coming as soon as possible,” he said.

He’ll play a lot of it during a livestream show hosted by Nova Arts on March 19 (novaarts.org).

Tyler Allgood
: Thursday, Feb 25, 6 p.m.
Where: Village Trestle, 25 Main St., Goffstown
More: instagram.com/tgood_extrabetty
Allgood also appears Saturday, March 6, 6 p.m. at Village Trestle in Goffstown

Graig Murphy, Francis Birch & Mike Smith
When: Saturday, Feb. 13, 8 p.m.
Where: Strikers East, 4 Essex Dr., Raymond
Tickets: $20 at laughriotproductions.com or call 895-9501

Featured photo: Tyler Allgood. Courtesy photo.

Family man

Comedy showcase features Francis Birch

In standup comedy, a weekend booking represents validation. Francis Birch’s first was at Veronica Laffs in Strikers East, a Raymond bowling alley. The pop-up club closed mid-decade, when comic and entrepreneur Jay Grove opened a dedicated venue, Curlie’s Comedy Club in Rochester.

The laughs are returning to Strikers East — as is Birch, who’ll share the stage with headliner Graig Murphy on Feb. 13.

The upcoming show is presented by Laugh Riot Productions and will be hosted by its CEO, Michael Smith.

“It’s kind of cool to go back,” Birch said recently by phone. “To work there as a more polished comic who has a little bit of a reputation now.”

Birch began doing comedy in 2011, egged on by friends who said he was funny. However, his first attempt at an open mic night wasn’t a triumph.

“I did not know what I was getting myself into,” he said, ruefully noting that a friend taped his 11-minute, laugh-free set and posted it on YouTube. “Sometimes when I need to humble myself, I’ll watch that.”

Unbowed, Birch persisted, finding a home at a Monday night gathering called Punchlines, hosted by Grove at Penuche’s Ale House in Concord. While there, he worked the same five minutes repeatedly, “to just see if I could nail my timing” in front of a tough, sometimes unforgiving crowd.

One night, the antipathy in the room broke his rhythm — and led to a breakthrough.

“Some drunk guy was yelling at me,” Birch said. “I just had a conversation with him, and it really went well. Jay said to me, ‘Any time you can engage and shut down a heckler, and he comes up to shake your hand afterward, is a good thing.’”

Birch is married with three boys of his own, and he’s a stepfather to one more. The big family is a major source of material, but it was also parenthood that caused him to step away from comedy, from 2015 to 2018. The decision came after he’d received one too many videos of his son, now 8, “doing awesome stuff, and I wasn’t there,” he said. “I missed my other boys I was raising because I was in my 20s and being an idiot. Now I was missing this one growing up because I was doing comedy.”

Along with his children, Birch’s mother was a big part of his act. It was her death in 2018 that helped spur him back into the game.

“I had the itch,” he said. “I wanted to go out and tell some jokes, make fun of her a little bit. Because she helped me write those jokes.”

He did a midweek open mic, then a Saturday night guest slot at Curlie’s.

“Maybe if I got 10 minutes on a weekend that’ll be scratchy enough to satisfy,” he reasoned, but “that did nothing. It made it more itchy. Since then, I’ve been working full steam ahead, just growing my act and incorporating some of the things that happened since.”

Birch said he came back more confident, and more honest — “I started to speak to my stories, being them instead of reciting it.”

He also quit smoking and gave up drinking in the months after returning to standup; again, he was guided by his mom.

“She got pneumonia and her body wasn’t strong enough to fight it, because she had COPD,” Birch said. “[I realized that] if I don’t make changes in my life, that’s gonna be me. My kids are gonna have to watch me die.”

A fitness regimen “to make my body as strong as it can be to fight off any infection” soon began, an effort that grew into a coaching business.

“I help people create habits and become better versions of themselves,” Birch said. He believes telling jokes is not dissimilar. “When I do comedy, I feel like I’m helping people escape their reality and laugh a little bit.”

Asked if the health focus had an effect on his act, Birch replied with a laugh, “I got a lot of fat jokes I can’t use anymore! That’s something Jay taught me when we first started … don’t write jokes about your beard or being fat because you might not always have that beard, you might not always be fat.”

One subject remains, though: Birch’s beloved mother.

“I make fun of her like never before,” he said. “I’ve actually written more material about her, and I like to deliver it with a smile. Because I know that’s what she’s doing — she’s smiling. She’s my rock, my heart and soul, and she’s with me every performance.”

Graig Murphy, Francis Birch & Mike Smith
When: Saturday, Feb. 13, 8 p.m.
Where: Strikers East, 4 Essex Dr., Raymond
Tickets: $20 at laughriotproductions.com or call 895-9501

Featured photo: Francis Birch. Courtesy photo.

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