Back in front

Erin Harpe & the Delta Swingers return to NH

After months of livestreams, it felt good for Erin Harpe to finally see some real people from the stage of the Midway Café, a music club located a few blocks away from her Boston apartment. True, Harpe and her bass player/husband Jim Countryman stood behind sheets of plastic glass hung at face level — he called it “chicken wire for Covid-19” — but there was an actual crowd.

The late August set also played on her Facebook page.

“Even though the audience was small, it was really fun to play for them,” Harpe said recently by phone. “Even the people watching it streaming told me they enjoyed seeing them just hearing it.”

On Friday, Sept. 11, a four-piece version of her band Erin Harpe & the Delta Swingers will perform an electric set at Zinger’s, as the Milford venue returns to live music and comedy. Joining Harpe and Countryman are drummer Shawn Meehan and harmonica player Jason Novak.

Inspired by artists like Memphis Minnie and Sippie Wallace, along with modern contemporaries Bonnie Raitt and Rory Block, Harpe and her mates serve up some of the region’s most authentic blues, singing and playing guitar. 2020 marks their tenth anniversary as a band. They began playing sit-down acoustic blues before ultimately plugging in.

They won a New England Music Award in 2019 for Blues Artist of the Year and are multiple Boston Music Award nominees, taking the blues trophy in 2012, and five-time Boston Blues Challenge champs.

Harpe just completed a new album, Meet Me In The Middle, her first all-acoustic effort in a dozen years. The LP was born out of a duo tour she and Countryman did in the U.K. last year. She explained that the material on it reflects a challenging period for the couple.

“It covers everything from loneliness to love, to getting along better,” Harpe said. “The last couple of years actually have been kind of tough for me and Jim. We’ve lost some family members and some fur baby family members, gone through different band members.”

There are a couple of gospel songs, including one she sang at a family funeral, along with “fun, upbeat stuff” like the rollicking “Women Be Wise,” with Harpe accompanying herself on kazoo. The record is slated for release in October.

Harpe grew up steeped in blues music; her father is also a performer, and the two have recorded together. But it wasn’t a given that child would follow parent. Harpe only began performing in earnest after college, when she moved to Boston at a friend’s behest and found a burgeoning open mic scene.

Meeting Countryman led to the formation of Lovewhip, a world music band quite different from what she grew up with. Harpe allows it was a rebellious act, though her dad “really doesn’t want to say that word out loud.” Harpe became a fan of African music while studying in Kenya.

“Lovewhip is just a rock dance band,” she said. “We’ve done everything from reggae and dancehall and Afropop to disco and funk and EDM.”

The group gained a quick following, including two famous fans who helped spotlight world music in the United States near the end of the 1970s: Chris Franz and Tina Weymouth, of Talking Heads and Tom Tom Club.

“I grew up in the ’80s, I love the music and I love those guys,” Harpe said. “We actually wanted to meet them … and we ended up, well, not stalking them, but kind of trying to manifest a meeting. We ended up opening for them in Portland, Maine, and have become great friends.”

The Delta Swingers came about almost accidentally, when Lovewhip went to Austin to play a SXSW showcase in 2008. Harpe was approached by someone who’d heard her first album of solo acoustic blues recorded on a Minidisc player in 2000, and asked her to play an event called Not South By Southwest.

“It turned out that the blues was more popular than Lovewhip in Austin, Texas,” Harpe said. “We got up with this whole scene down there … country and bluegrass and rockabilly. They really embraced us. We got all this European radio play out of the couple performances we did there. After a couple of years of that, we said, ‘Let’s do a band around this.’”

Harpe looks forward to playing New Hampshire again, their first appearance in the state since Manchester’s Strange Brew a few weeks before the pandemic hit. Last fall they did one of the final shows at Riverwalk Café in nearby Nashua.

“We love Milford,” she said. “I think we have quite a few fans in the area, so hopefully we’ll see a lot of friends we haven’t seen in a while.”

Erin Harpe & The Delta Swingers
When: Friday, Sept. 11, 8 p.m.
Where: Zinger’s, 29 Mont Vernon St., Milford
Tickets: $22 at

The Music Roundup 20/10/09

Local hero: Guests are welcome at a private club show by Chad LaMarsh, whose annual booze cruise was among the sadder casualties of this Covid-wracked season. In addition to being an endearing entertainer, with a set list including everything from Matchbox 20 to Nine Inch Nails, LaMarsh is a charitable guy, with his annual Bundle of Books Christmas CD. Friday, Sept. 11, 7 p.m., American Social Club, 166 Daniel Webster Hwy., Nashua; call for reservations, 255-8272.

Body double: The finale of Palace Theatre’s Socially Distant Concert Series stars Almost Queen. The name is an acknowledgement that “nobody could ever be Queen,” says Joseph Russo, who plays Freddy Mercury, though the New Jersey band does a convincing job of duplicating their visual elements, right down to Mercury’s mustache. Saturday, Sept. 12, 7 p.m., Northeast Delta Dental Stadium, 1 Line Dr., Manchester, $23 (four-ticket minimum) at

Funny man: Indoor entertainment is back at the Capitol Center as Juston McKinney performs for safely spaced out fans, part of his Comedy at a Distance tour. McKinney kept the laughter alive during quarantine but hit the stage soon after it was lifted. “Comedy is an art form that should be done in a controlled environment — sound, lights, crowd,” he said. Saturday, Sept. 12, 8 p.m., Bank of New Hampshire Stage, 16 S. Main St., Concord. Tickets $29 at

Band stand: Enjoy an open rehearsal from Tall Granite Big Band, playing vintage music from the likes of Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Glenn Miller, Woody Herman, Tommy Dorsey and Les Brown. There’s also ice cream treats and family attractions — a petting zoo, giant Tonka Toy sandbox, corn maze and pumpkins, a taste of autumn to come. Monday, Sept. 14, 5 p.m., Beech Hill Farm and Ice Cream Barn, 107 Beech Hill Road, Hopkinton, see

Ice cream and beer

Like a root beer float but with actual beer

I know, you can basically taste the pumpkin in the air right now. It is as if someone fired off a giant cannon filled with pumpkin spice the second September rolled around and now pumpkin flavor has permeated every nook and cranny of existence in New England.

Doesn’t matter where you turn: pumpkin.

I went to take the kids out for ice cream last week at a local spot and I know it’s hard to believe, but there was pumpkin ice cream on the menu. (And it’s quite good, OK?)

Full stop, though: This isn’t a story about pumpkin beer.

This is a story about the magic that occurs when you pair ice cream with beer. I’m not talking about beer-flavored ice cream. We’ll get to that at some point, too, I’m sure, but I’m talking about an ice cream float with beer.

This is a thing you can do. In fact, this is a thing you should do.

Am I saying you should take your $22 four-pack of some highly coveted double IPA and make ice cream floats with the beers? No. I’m not saying that and I feel like it’s more your fault that I had to say that.

This is where a malty beer is going to shine. Something like a Guinness would, of course, be spectacular, but you shouldn’t feel limited to that. I do want you to think about porters and stouts if you decide to go down this path — or a roasty, toasty brown ale, such as Kelsen Brewing Company’s Paradigm Brown or the Flapjack Maple Double Brown Ale by Henniker Brewing Company.

You can get creative. Have some fun with it. I love coffee stouts and porters and so I will take The Roast by Henniker Brewing Co. or or the Narragansett Coffee Milk Stout and pair them with coffee ice cream. Hello. That just makes sense to me and my taste buds appreciate it.

Same goes for chocolate lovers. Grab a Chocolate Milk Stout by Great North Aleworks or the Black Cat Stout by Portsmouth Brewery and pair them with vanilla or chocolate ice cream, or coffee ice cream, for that matter.

Milk stouts, which are a little sweeter and smoother, are another great choice for beer floats. Take a Left Hand Milk Stout and pair it with some quality vanilla ice cream. That same approach would work with drier stouts, like the RVP by Great North Aleworks or the Granite Stout by 603 Brewery.

I haven’t tried it but I see absolutely no reason why a bourbon or rum barrel-aged stout wouldn’t work here, like the RIS Bourbon Barrel by Stoneface Brewing Co. or the Zwart Bos by Throwback Brewery.

Really, it’s up to you. Think about the flavors you like in a beer (and in ice cream) and make some of your own magic. You’ll never go wrong using vanilla ice cream as your base, but coffee and chocolate ice creams can add a different dimension, especially when paired with a similarly chocolate- or coffee-flavored brew.

For that matter, take some of that pumpkin ice cream I mentioned and pair it with a pumpkin porter and, well, now we’re talking.

Procedurally, the process is simple. Take a frosty mug and fill it with the ice cream of your choosing. I mean, not the whole way but pretty close. Then, simply pour the beer — very slowly — over the ice cream. Grab a straw or a spoon or both and enjoy.

What’s in My Fridge
Subhunter Imperial IPA by Flight Deck Brewing (Brunswick, Maine)
This is an aggressive beer at 9.1 ABV, but it doesn’t drink like that. It even says that it’s “dangerously drinkable” on the can and that is 100-percent accurate. This is a really nice imperial IPA that is a little more malty than you might expect. This is one to seek out. Cheers!

In the kitchen with Beau Gamache

Beau Gamache of Manchester is the owner and founder of Ray Street Pizza (, and on Facebook and Instagram @raystreetpizza), which offers a variety of fresh cooked pizzas available for private events. As Gamache explains, pizza-making started as a hobby back in 2011, when his now-wife Maddie returned home from studying abroad in Italy and raved about the traditional margherita pizza there. After several years of trial and error mastering the basics of making a good-quality pizza dough and sauce, Gamache started an Instagram account in 2017 that was then known as “ThePizzaGram” before renaming it Ray Street Pizza. He’s dabbled in all kinds of pizzas, including plain cheese but also sweet pepperoni with a honey drizzle, a white pizza with balsamic reduction and arugula, and a sausage ricotta pizza, and has dairy-free, gluten-free and vegan options. He’s also made his own spin on a dessert pizza, featuring a cannoli filling base, Bananas Foster, a Nutella drizzle and a sprinkle of powdered sugar. Eventually, Gamache said, he’d like to open his own brick-and-mortar gourmet pizza restaurant.

What is your must-have kitchen item?

It would probably have to be a pizza peel. In my opinion, the best pizza is cooked directly on stone, or on the surface of whatever oven you’re using.

Would what you have for your last meal?

Either my own cheese pizza or some Indian food. I really like paneer masala.

What is your favorite local restaurant?

Republic [Cafe] and Campo [Enoteca in Manchester], a hundred percent. They’re called The Republic of Campo now, because they’re in the same building. The spicy whipped feta is really good. I also recently had the butternut squash ravioli there and it was one of the best dishes I’ve ever had.

What celebrity would you like to see trying one of your pizzas?

Anthony Bourdain, if he was still alive, or [Food Network host] Alton Brown.

What is your favorite pizza topping that you’ve made?

A nice crispy thick-cut pepperoni. … I like the crust super thin, but not too crunchy.

What is the biggest food trend in New Hampshire right now?

I feel like there has been a lot of fusion going on, which is awesome.

What is your favorite thing to make at home?

I love to make guacamole, with a little bit of lime juice, fresh minced garlic, salt and pepper

Basil and kale pesto
Courtesy of Beau Gamache of Ray Street Pizza (can be used for white pizzas, fresh bread, pasta or any antipasti dish)
2 cups chopped kale
3 cups fresh basis
½ cup raw cashews, walnuts or pine nuts
½ cup olive oil
3 cloves minced garlic
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
½ teaspoon sea salt
A few pinches of pepper
Pinch of crushed red pepper (optional)
Combine kale, basil, cashews, olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, salt and vinegar in a food processor or immersion blender until smooth. Season with pepper and crushed red pepper to taste.

Mystery brews

Brewers Association to host drive-thru and virtual hybrid event

Back in May, the New Hampshire Brewers Association reimagined a traditional brewfest as an online event with livestreamed chats, trivia and more with local brewers. The event was so well-received that the association has created a new event to build on its success: a drive-thru and virtual tasting hybrid event where participants can purchase a “mystery mixed pack” of New Hampshire craft beers online, featuring selections from more than a dozen breweries.

From noon and 4 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 12, Backyard Brewery & Kitchen in Manchester will host curbside pickups. You won’t know what style of beer you get or which brewery it’s from until you come pick it up, although separate mixed packs of IPAs only are also available for the same price, Brewers Association Executive Director CJ Haines said. Participating breweries come from all over the state, including Manchester, Nashua and Concord, but also along the Seacoast and up in the Lakes Region and the White Mountains.

“Since you preorder them, you still get that element of surprise because you don’t know what you’re going to get,” Haines said. “None of the packs are going to be the same sets of beers.”

The drive-thru entrance will be set up in the back parking area of Backyard Brewery, where staff will direct you to the curbside pickup tents. Each mystery pack you purchase includes special tasting classes (two with each six-pack and four with each 12-pack) and access to the virtual portion of the event. Festival T-shirts and sticker packs can also be preordered.

After you order your mystery beer packs, Haines said, a Facebook group link giving you access to the virtual tasting will be emailed to you up to 48 hours in advance. From 4 to 6 p.m. later that same day, staff members of the breweries represented in the mystery packs will be logging on to a livestream, while festival goers can share their own comments and photos to the group.

“The brewers will talk about their beers and might tell some stories behind them,” Haines said, adding that the content will still be available after 6 p.m. for those unable to tune in. Tickets for $5 each are also available for people who want to skip buying the mystery beers. All proceeds benefit the New Hampshire Brewers Association.

New Hampshire Brewers Drive-Thru/Virtual Tasting event
When: Saturday, Sept. 12; curbside beer pickups are from noon to 4 p.m., and virtual tasting is from 4 to 6 p.m.
Where: Curbside beer pickups are at Backyard Brewery & Kitchen (1211 S. Mammoth Road, Manchester)
Cost: “Mystery Mixed” packs are $35 per six-pack or $65 per 12-pack (IPA-only packs also available); ticket includes specialty tasting glasses (two per six-pack and four per 12-pack) and access to the virtual portion of the event (participants will receive a link sent to them upon their ticket purchase). Tickets to the virtual portion only are also available for $5.

Spirits of the Seasons

Seasons on Elm opens in Manchester

Season Brouillet never thought she’d open her own downtown cocktail bar. But when her cousins took over ownership of the Element Lounge in Manchester and later expressed interest in selling it, the central Massachusetts native, who had experience waitressing and running a cafe in Rhode Island, saw an opportunity to bring new life to the space.

That was back in January, she said. After several months of renovations, Seasons on Elm arrived in the Queen City on Aug. 19, featuring craft cocktails and food options like paninis, fried appetizers and salads.

“It’s definitely more of a bar setting, with light, easy comfort food,” Brouillet said of the new business. “I wanted it to be much more comfortable and welcoming.”

To create the cocktail menu, Brouillet recruited bar manager Sara Stapleford, who had experience at Fody’s Tavern in Nashua and Derry and at the Cork N Keg Grill in Raymond, while Jason Swiston, who most recently worked at Noodz, was brought in to oversee the kitchen.

Appetizers on the food menu include wings and tenders (served with your choice of barbecue sauce, Buffalo sauce, blue cheese dressing, ranch dressing or honey mustard), plus rosemary Parmesan fries, mozzarella sticks with marinara, fried pickles, bruschetta or tater tots. Salads are made fresh in house and include southwestern, caesar, chef and kale.

Among the most popular food options, Brouillet said, have been the paninis, which you can order on sourdough or wheat bread and choose french fries, coleslaw, tater tots or a salad for a side. The barbecue chicken panini has fried chicken, barbecue sauce, cheddar cheese, onions and coleslaw, while a vegetarian option features zucchini, bell peppers, vegan mozzarella, onions and pesto. Other choices include turkey, apple, bacon and cheddar, a BLT panini, a three-cheese panini with American, cheddar and provolone cheeses, and an Italian panini with ham, salami, pepperoni, mozzarella, pepperoncinis and Italian dressing.

Just about every cocktail on the drink menu has been a hit during Seasons on Elm’s first few weeks, according to Brouillet, especially the Spiked Campfire iced coffee (with Kahlua liqueur, Godiva milk and white chocolate and Stoli vanilla vodka); the Dirty & Hot martini (with house jalapeno and pepperoncini-infused vodka, Tabasco sauce and olive juice); and the Cucumber Rose (with house cucumber-infused gin, elderflower liqueur, lime juice, simple syrup and soda water). Last week, the bar introduced several fall-inspired cocktail specials, like a pumpkin pie martini made with pumpkin puree and maple syrup; a maple apple cider smash; and a cider sangria with cinnamon, caramel and Smirnoff apple vodka.

So far, Seasons on Elm has been a hotspot with the late-night crowd, Brouillet said, but she’d like to expand the food menu soon and introduce more specials for earlier in the evening. A brunch menu on Sundays of breakfast-inspired paninis and cocktails like specialty bloody marys is also in the works down the line.

“Eventually I want to have a game area in the back room, and I also want to do live music out in front of the window,” Brouillet said. “I feel like there are a lot of possibilities for this space.”

Seasons on Elm
Where: 1055 Elm St., Manchester
Current hours: Wednesday through Sunday, 4 p.m. to 1 a.m. (may be subject to change)
More info: Visit, find them on Facebook and Instagram @seasonsonelm or call 606-1351

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