The Music Roundup 20/06/25

Al fresco: With songs like “This Ol’ Farmhouse” in their catalog, Beechwood is an ideal choice to provide acoustic music at a local farmers market. The local group features some very nimble fingerpicking guitar, instrumental interplay and tight harmonies as they mix fine originals with covers of artists like James Taylor, Anders Osborne and Steve Earle. Thursday, June 25, 4 p.m., Henniker Community Market, 57 Main St., Henniker. Bring a blanket and chair.

In and out: Now that restrictions on capacity limits are being eased, more venues are returning. Backyard Swagger plays country rock covers led by powerhouse lead singer Diane Ferullo at a downtown nightspot that reopened on June 17. The Massachusetts quintet covers everyone from Carrie Underwood and Miranda Lambert to Zac Brown Band and Luke Bryan. Friday, June 26, 7 p.m., Bonfire Country Bar, 950 Elm St., Manchester. More at

Perfect pair: Enjoy honey wine with equally smooth vocals as Anderson-Gram Duo perform meadery music. The married couple originally hailed from Hampton but have lived and performed in Northern California for many years, where they’ve appeared at prestigious events like the Kate Wolf Memorial Festival in Laytonville and the San Francisco Folk Festival. Saturday, June 27, 6 p.m., Moonlight Meadery, 23 Londonderry Road, Londonderry. More at

Hop onboard: Hosted by ManchVegas Brew Bus, Chad Verbeck kicks off the OG Sundays live music series with an acoustic set. Since local music treasure Alli Beaudry runs the beer touring company, and Verbeck is a longtime member of her band, chances are some collaboration could happen — with appropriate social distancing. Sunday, June 28, noon, Candia Road Brewing Co., 840 Candia Road, Manchester. Reservations are required —

L.A. Woman: Every summer, MB Padfield returns from her current abode in Southern California to play music for her old hometown. A midweek Manchester set is a residency — she’ll be on the deck there every Wednesday up to Labor Day. In August Padfield, who sings, and plays both a mean guitar and a bedazzled ukulele, will be the featured performer at KC’s Rib Shack’s Tuesday open mic. Wednesday, July 1, 6:30 p.m., Murphy’s Taproom, 494 Elm St., Manchester, 644-3535.

Finding a way

Adam Ezra Group returns to performing

On what turned out to be the worst Friday the 13th in musical history, Adam Ezra was scheduled to open for Southside Johnny & the Asbury Jukes in Clearwater, Florida. A pandemic had other plans, however, and the show was canceled — along with the rest of Ezra’s 2020 Get Folked solo house concert tour.

It put Ezra in a funk, and not the fun kind. Never one to stay dejected, though, he hopped onto Facebook Live to air his frustration and sing a few songs.

“It made me feel a little bit better,” he recalled by phone recently. “So I said at the end, ‘How about we do this again tomorrow?’”

Thus began The Gathering, a daily livestream that’s attracted over two million viewers, while picking up major sponsors like lifestyle company Timberland. The webcasts ran unfailingly, even when Ezra contracted Covid-19 himself, and as he and his fiancée drove a packed van from Chelsea, Mass., to their desert cabin in Joshua Tree, California.

Singing and playing on the internet was fun, but Ezra is an inveterate road dog, performing close to 200 gigs most years. So he’s stoked to be coming back to New England to play a few drive-in shows, beginning July 1 in New Bedford, Mass., and peaking on Fourth of July weekend at one of his favorite haunts, now transformed.

“I’m a big fan of Tupelo Music Hall,” Ezra said of the Derry venue, one of the first in the country to convert its parking lot into an outdoor concert facility. “It’s a really special place that obviously understands the power of community.”

Though there were a few virtual Gathering jams, this will mark the first time Ezra, fiddler Corinna Smith, drummer Alex Martin and bass player Poche Ponce have been on stage together since playing last New Year’s Eve at Tupelo, a show that was also released as a live album.

“They are my friends and my partners in crime,” Ezra said. “I missed the hell out of them, and I’m really excited to get to play music with them again. … It’s like breathing, or sharing a milkshake.”

He knows the band will need a little time to find its old form, but Ezra isn’t worried. In fact, it’s one of the things he’s looking forward to most.

“One of the things I love about our following, our fans, is that it doesn’t matter. We’re all going to be figuring it out together,” he said. “I think the mess-ups are going to be better than the parts we nail that night.”

Work on a new studio album was ended by the lockdown, but Adam Ezra Group did release “Find a Way.” The a capella song is just right for the present zeitgeist, with an exhortation to “hold onto each other” and weather crisis. The song isn’t new — Ezra released it on a solo album a while back — but the way it was redone is unprecedented.

“I thought, how can what we’re doing musically help impact the message of the song as powerfully as possible, and four voices depending on each other to create chords and make the music happen felt like the perfect metaphor,” he said, noting that AEG had never worked that way before. “We do not feel comfortable when we don’t have our instruments in front of us, right? That’s just who we are.”

After living in near isolation since early May, Ezra is happy to be returning to music. He’s also amazed at what transpired, including a bout with the virus that wasn’t life-threatening but was very uncomfortable, and time allowed for reflection that he never expected given his lifestyle.

“Can you think of anything that would force us all to analyze life more deeply than having to shut down the engine and stay put for three months no matter where you are? This is part of my life forever … just like touring. The marriage of the two is going to be the sweet spot for me.”

Signs of Life 20/06/25

All quotes are from Mrs. Pollifax Pursued, by Dorothy Gilman, born June 25, 1923.

Gemini (May 21 – June 20) Once ensconced in the kitchen Mrs. Pollifax pursued her inquiries as tactfully as possible. Breaking eggs into a bowl and whipping them she asked, ‘Were you followed out of New York City on Monday, or did this happen after you reached Connecticut?’ Tactful inquiries are the best inquiries.

Cancer (June 21 – July 22) If his situation intrigued Mrs. Pollifax, his importance did not, since planting basil in her greenhouse was the more vital to her this morning. Planting basil is always more important.

Leo (July 23 – Aug. 22) The salami, however, was not in the refrigerator. This seemed odd, since she had made a sandwich of it scarcely an hour ago; nevertheless the salami was not where it should have been in the refrigerator, nor was it on the counter or the kitchen table. When someone moves your salami, make lemonade.

Virgo (Aug. 23 – Sept. 22) Carefully she took stock of her resources: a flashlight for dark closets, the poker from the fireplace, and her training in karate. Take stock and replenish your resources.

Libra (Sept. 23 – Oct. 22) The inquiry did not take days, however; by early evening Bishop was in his office beaming triumphantly. ‘Got it! Thank God for computers, Paris has found the needle in the haystack for you.’ A big haystack needs a big computer.

Scorpio (Oct. 23 – Nov. 21) ‘Sardines!’ cried Mrs. Pollifax suddenly as they headed north on I-95, still followed by the green sedan. But no anchovies.

Sagittarius (Nov. 22 – Dec. 21) It was only Carstairs, thought Mrs. Pollifax, who had been intuitive enough to weave together dissimilar and fragile threads to make a whole out of a crazy, outrageous pattern, and she marveled at him again. An intuitive friend can be marvelous.

Capricorn (Dec. 22 – Jan. 19) At the Department people did not ask unnecessary questions. Bishop merely said, ‘Where are you at this precise moment, Mrs. P.?’ Don’t ask unnecessary questions.

Aquarius (Jan. 20 – Feb. 18) Frowning, he leaned back in his chair and attempted an emptying of his mind, hoping the answer might spring from his subconscious as so frequently happened; in fact he sometimes found his subconscious more reliable than Bishop’s memos as he juggled three and four projects at a time. Take a moment to forget the memos.

Pisces (Feb. 19 – March 20) After all, it had proven a rather dull winter, and a girl in trouble appealed far more to her sense of adventure than a Garden Club meeting. Hey, even a garden club meeting can be an adventure.

Aries (March 21 – April 19) Carstairs … placed the package to one side with his other paperwork, at which point Bishop said tactfully, ‘They want it today.’ Carstairs groaned. ‘Then preserve my sanity by bringing me a fresh cup of coffee, will you?’ And water. Don’t dehydrate.

Taurus (April 20 – May 20) ‘My friend,’ said Bernard, ‘I do not like to be overly suspicious but I would take a close look at whatever company your American businessman represents, which is—?’ ‘A holding company,’ said Carstairs. ‘Ah, yes, my friend, but does one know what it “holds”?’ Fancy jargon will not throw you off.

Film Reviews by Amy 20/6/25

The Vast of Night (PG-13)

Two kids in 1950s New Mexico chase after a strange sound and a mysterious something spotted in the sky in The Vast of Night, a delightful bit of sci-fi campfire tale.

Introduced as an episode of some Twilight-Zone-ish mid-20th-century TV show called Paradox Theater, the movie takes place over one night in Cayuga, New Mexico, a town of 402 residents, many of whom are settling in for a night of basketball at the local high school. Teenager Fay (Sierra McCormick) and maybe slightly older teenager Everett (Jake Horowitz) are on the outskirts of the happenings: Everett works as a DJ at the local radio station and is the kid they call in to check out the wiring when the electricity starts to flicker in the gymnasium where the game is about to begin. Fay is his, I guess, fellow audio/visual nerd buddy; she seems to be hanging around to show off her new tape recorder to Everett. The two chat and play around with the tape recorder while Everett checks on the recording equipment for the game — the radio plays it back the next day and and people listen because, even though they know the outcome, they like to hear their kid’s name on the radio, he tells her. Then they walk together to their respective jobs — Everett to his night shift at the radio station, Fay to the switchboard where she serves as the telephone operator.

It’s there, with the radio tuned to Everett’s radio show, that she first hears the sound. The sound, a sort of mechanical-y, whir-y sound, comes through the radio, briefly interrupting the broadcast.

That, followed by some strange calls in to the switchboard, lead her to contact Everett and the two begin to investigate the sound, becoming more anxious as a couple comes racing into town saying they followed strange lights in the sky in from the highway and as people call in with strange stories.

Like a cocktail that mixes the ingredients just right, The Vast of Night is a cool, crisp delight. The mysterious unknown of a rural New Mexico night and the “modernity” of a post-World War II but pre-internet world are great materials to craft the “something spooky is out there” tone that drives this movie. The way the kids marvel over the possibilities of the future — self-driving electric cars, tiny TV-like phones you can keep in your pocket — while displaying their mastery of the audio recorders, radio signals and telephone boards that are their in-the-moment high tech has that “world of tomorrow” retro-future bittersweetness. McCormick and Horowitz make a great “let’s solve a mystery” duo, with Horowitz’s Everett looking for great tape that will jump-start his career out of Cayuga and McCormick’s Fay earnestly looking for answers (and maybe shyly looking for more reasons to hang out with Everett).

This week, I went searching for movies that were as close to pure fun as I could find and The Vast of Night is definitely the best scrappy example of this. B+

Rated PG-13 “for brief strong language,” according to the MPA. Directed by Andrew Patterson and written by Andrew Patterson and Craig W. Sanger, The Vast of Night is an hour and 30 minutes long and is distributed by Amazon Studios. It is available via Amazon Prime.

Book Review 20/6/25

What is the Grass: Walt Whitman in My Life, by Mark Doty (W.W. Norton, 288 pages)

Most everyone with a high school diploma has read Walt Whitman; if not the entirety of “Song of Myself,” then at least “I Hear America Singing” or “1861,” which seems even more prescient in the current arm’d year.

But for many Americans, Whitman fast receded after American Lit, and his iconic Leaves of Grass is best remembered for an infamous toilet scene in the AMC show Breaking Bad.

It seems a sorry fate to be forever associated with idle bathroom reading.

To the rescue rides Mark Doty, a poet and Rutgers University professor whose latest book is a searing and worshipful ode to Whitman, who he considers the first “truly American poet.” A gay man once married to a woman, Doty accepts as canon the widespread belief that Whitman was gay, saying that there is a “deeper level of scandal” that exists in Leaves of Grass, most visible to those familiar with same-sex longings.

Doty explores those longings — not only Whitman’s, but his own — in What is the Grass, which swells beyond the confines of conventional memoir to explore the importance of Whitman’s work and its surprising relevance to events of today. The book is a gorgeous contemplation of mystery and transcendence, and of the confluence of two men separated by a century and a half, but not by fact that one of them is long dead.

“The dead persist audibly in language,” Doty writes, displaying an admirable ability to take a truth that is plain and make its expression exquisite, like the difference between generic flour and King Arthur’s.

Whitman was a writer who, for much of his life, walked a pauper trail; at midlife, he was living in a small apartment in New York with his mother and five of his siblings. He essentially self-published Leaves of Grass in 1855; having worked in printing since the age of 13, he set some of the type for the initial 200 copies himself.

It was, Doty writes, a strange book of verse “at odds in format and content with essentially everything in print in its day.” Whitman’s name was not on the cover. There was no indication in the lackluster reception that one of those volumes would one day sell at auction for $305,000, as it did in 2014, or that future generations would say “its best pages breathe an air perennially new,” as Doty describes them.

Whitman was a splendid mass of contradictions; a man believed to have once spent an afternoon in the embrace of Oscar Wilde, he once denied being attracted to men when asked directly. He possessed, Doty writes, “a radiant sense of connection to the bodies of others,” yet was a “perpetual outsider.” Today, his sexuality is discussed in some circles with reluctance; it is an ethical conundrum whether to out the dead.

Doty, however, frankly discusses his own relationships, from the “painful comedy” of a marriage to a woman twice his age, to his explorations in sex clubs and more fulfilling long-term relationships. The stories, while frank, are not titillating or gratuitous; they are earnest disclosures of a seeker who wants to know why Whitman has so profoundly affected his life, and that of American literature.

While there is structural analysis of Whitman’s poems here, it is not the dry stuff of lectures, but the invitation of someone who deeply cares about a subject and wants the rest of the world to share his enthusiasm. In this he succeeds; a chapter in, and I’d gone looking for my own dusty copy of Leaves of Grass, a gift stiff from disuse.

While on one level a meditation on sexuality, What is the Grass is evidence of Whitman’s unifying theory, that “every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.” In other words, Doty’s experience is not my own, nor was Whitman’s, but there exist other, more important, commonalities, such as reverence for beauty and nature and passion and books, the latter of which, Doty believes, collide at the intersection of soul and time.

“The dead are not lost, but in circulation,” Doty writes. Like the poet who haunts him, he celebrates the “self without boundaries” while paying homage to the pocked and needful bodies tethered to earth. Whitman, wherever his atoms, must be proud. It’s a masterful work worthy of its subject. A


A few years ago, Time magazine reported that human beings now have the attention span of a goldfish, which can focus on something for about nine seconds without losing interest. That was quickly debunked by researchers who say that 10 to 15 minutes is more realistic.

And that is why the maximum length of a TED talk is 18 minutes, and why the ideal summer book should be not a novel or a 592-page White House memoir but a collection of essays or short stories.

When the heat sucks your energy like a bug zapper, there is pleasure in short bursts of reading equivalent to the time it takes to sip a frosty adult beverage. Consider these, which will not drain your energy or consume time better spent on the water or in the woods:

The Inner Coast: Essays, by Donovan Hohn: philosophical reflections on nature. Opening line: “I was, at age nine, a god of snails.” (W.W. Norton, 256 pages)

26 Marathons: What I Learned About Faith, Identity, Running and Life from My Marathon Career, by Meb Keflezigihi: inspiration from the long distance runner, Olympic athelete and Boston Marathon winner. Opening lines: “The first thing I see is the finish line behind me. For a moment I’m confused. Why am I lying on the ground with my head cradled in my hands?” (Rodale, 256 pages)

Nothing is Wrong and Here is Why, by Alexandra Petri: acerbic, partisan humor from a Washington Post columnist. Opening line: “You may feel that you understand what has been happening for the past four years, but I assure you, you do not.” (W.W. Norton, 240 pages)

The Best American Science and Nature Writing of 2019, edited by Sy Montgomery. Honestly, anything in the “Best American Series” works, depending on your interests; there is also Best American Short Stories, Science Fiction and Fantasy, Mystery Stories, Sports Writing, Food Writing, Comics, Essays, and most intriguingly, “American Nonrequired Reading.”

But we’ll go with this one, edited by Montgomery, since she’s a Granite Stater. Her opening: “Several years ago I was invited to speak to kids and teens at the Boston March for Science. On a cold, rainy day in early April, I looked out at a sea of young faces framed by dripping umbrellas and the hoods of ponchos, and spoke to them about tree kangaroos.” (Mariner/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 384 pages.)

Album Reviews 20/6/25

High Spirits, Hard To Stop (High Roller Records)

This is one of the many projects of metal guitar god Chris “The Professor” Black, who is from Chicago. He’s an alpha type for sure, insisting on diving into projects that call for him to play different instruments, including drums, and, well, he’s just, you know, one of these spazzy workaholics who’s got to be busy over his head all the time. In fact, last year, if I’m even reading this thing correctly, he recorded three solo albums under three different band names, and so on and so forth. He’s pretty stretched, is the takeaway, which shows in this tightly recorded set of NWOBHM/power-metal tunes, the first of which showed me exactly how thinly stretched he is; to wit, album opener “Since You’ve Been Gone” actually does borrow the chorus of the 1979 pop-metal song of the same name by Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow. I mean, the song’s much faster, like Savatage speed, but man, it’s hard to get past that. The other songs, despite having some great solos, are pretty rote examples of Mayyyden and Prieeeest worship, which wouldn’t have turned me off completely, but come on dude, slow down and think a little. B-

Bananagun, The True Story of Bananagun (High Roller Records)

If Flaming Lips were as Afrobeat-driven as Vampire Weekend, this is what it would … no, that’s not really it, because this is really old-sounding but in a good, super-cool way. It’s the first record by Melbourne, Australia-based multi-instrumentalist/singer Nick Van Bakel in a band setting, I understand, not that he’s ever been on my radar before, but it’s quite the revelation. This is all heavily groove-driven, heavy on the ’70s blaxploitation cinematics but instead of adamantly African Fela Kuti-style singalongs, the multi-vocal tracks evoke The Byrds, but not in that crummy Aughts-indie way, like the singing is all in key and whatnot. If you’ve heard really old Santana albums, this is similar product, rudimentary and analog in the overall sound, but with a slightly more polished feel. Ever watch the scenes in old Starsky & Hutch episodes where they’re chasing guys around with guns? It sounds like that, except with pro-enough Byrds vocals. Quentin Tarantino would love this, put it that way. A+

Retro Playlist

Eric W. Saeger recommends a couple of albums worth a second look.

Over these last interminable weeks we’ve looked at a lot of musical genres, but one of the things I’ve pretty much successfully avoided looking back at is old music, specifically antique arena rock. Granted, we did talk about Yes a while back in a different section, and I got roundly trolled for it by a reader, but we also covered the need for moronic silliness in this space, and I’d like to go back to that for just a second, skimming the most notable output of one of the great arena bands, New York City’s Blue Oyster Cult, which does tend to get name-checked in the course of my ravings.

The first thing you younglings should know about BOC is that they were hardly the missing link between punk and arena-rock that historians make them out to be. Their biggest album, 1976’s Agents of Fortune, was, put simply, the greatest vampire-centric classic-rock album of all time and had nothing punk on it at all. Assuming you haven’t spent your entire 20-whatever years off the grid, there’s no way you’ve avoided that album’s classic hit “Don’t Fear The Reaper,” the song Saturday Night Live made fun of during the Will Ferrell era (“more cowbell!”) and which was most recently used as an episode-closing tune on Orange is the New Black. My favorite from that record was “ETI,” which still kicks so much ass that you’ll need to sit on an orthopedic pillow for a week after listening to it.

Fact is, though, that album was pretty much their last chance to avoid becoming known as a joke band, which I didn’t even realize until I got into it with a Facebook friend a couple of weeks back. Really the only thing punk about the band was that the band’s second-banana guitarist, Allen Lanier, once dated punk goddess Patti Smith, probably because, my bro insists, she was otherwise homeless at the time. Listening to AOF’s preceding LP, 1974’s awesome-stupid-awesome-structured Secret Treaties, the other day, it really dawned on me that they were indeed just a bad album-closing song (which “Astronomy” is definitely not) away from registering as a joke band before AOF: part Grateful Dead, part Traffic and part Black Sabbath. Anyhow, younglings, now you know the rest of the story. Just put “ETI” and “Astronomy” in your Spotify and you can call yourself a BOC expert. You’re quite welcome.

If you’re in a local band, now’s a great time to let me know about your EP, your single, whatever’s on your mind. Let me know how you’re holding yourself together without being able to play shows or jam with your homies. Send a recipe for keema matar. Email for fastest response.

A seriously abridged compendium of recent and future CD releases

• Barring further apocalypse, including my own demise from end-stage quarantine boredom, June 26 will occur, and that date is a Friday, a day full of awesome and awful new music albums for young and old! The most high-profile release scheduled for that date is the new one from Los Angeles sisters HAIM, called Women in Music Pt. III! Naturally, there wasn’t a Women in Music Pt. I or II, it’s their quirky L.A. way of saying this is their third album, which will cause some confusion, but who cares, as nothing makes sense anyway nowadays, other than my desire for greasy fish and chips at the closest beach, not that we’ll probably ever be at the point again when I can just walk into one of those joints without having to cover myself in Purell and Lysol mixed with cheap suntan lotion. Whatever, I’ll go check out the song “The Steps,” which came out the same day as the album preorder. Everyone’s talking about this tune, not that I know why. I mean, if you’ve always wanted to hear a twentysomething version of Sheryl Crow whine about having a rotten boyfriend (aren’t we all at some point?) while a subtle, countrified ripoff of the guitar line from “My Girl” plays underneath, you’ve hit the jackpot. In the meantime I’ll just be sitting here patiently, waiting for corporate pop-rock to evolve, which I’m sure will happen as soon as I can get some fried fish, the latter of which is the only thing I really care about, to be honest.

Corb Lund is a Canadian cowboy singer, but wait, before you go do the Sudoku, there are actual cowboys in Canada, mostly in and around Edmonton, which is in Alberta, and guess what, this dude is from the town of Taber, in Alberta, whose corn crop is so awesome that they have a “Cornfest” every August. Now, I don’t know why they need cowboys to wrangle corn, but whatever, I’ll just go with it and say that Lund is a Canadian corn cowboy, who makes country music. Ha ha, this is funny, his touring band is called the Hurtin’ Albertans. I like him already! His new corn-wranglin’ cowboy-hat album is Agricultural Tragic, and the single “Raining Horses” isn’t bad, with its nice shimmery Americana guitar line. Only problem is I wish it wasn’t him singing, because he’s kinda boring, but — hold it, some dobro just appeared in the song, so its stock went up a little bit. It’s pretty, but he’s boring, let’s move on.

• No way, it’s fossilized arena-rock legends Kansas, with a new album! I haven’t checked to see yet which original band members are here; I’ll bet you anything there was a huge court fight, and there’s another band out there called “Kansas Featuring Blah Blah Blah” because legalities. Indeed, which members are putting out this new album, The Absence of Presence? Yup, told ya, it’s just the lead guitarist and the drummer, because all the other original members hate those guys. Original singer Steve Walsh isn’t here. Do I really have to do this? OK, one new song is called “Throwing Mountains,” and it’s an awesome prog-rock song. I would go to their show if they had fried fish at the concession stand.

• To wrap up this week, let’s listen to “Strong Enough,” from the album Monovision by Ray LaMontagne, who is from Nashua! Wow, this is kind of like a cross between Creedence Clearwater Revival and that old Stealers Wheel song, “Stuck in the Middle With You.” It’s cool, be nice to this singing man from Nashua.

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