Ghouling pianos

Music and comedy with a Halloween twist

With all the horrors already unleashed by 2020, what’s the point of Halloween? Everyone already has a mask, and fright is a constant condition. What could be added to that?

In a word, laughs. Of all the entertainments that carefully made their way back into public spaces, comedy has provided special relief to the shell-shocked citizenry. On Friday, Oct. 30, in Nashua and on Halloween night in Manchester, Chunky’s Cinema Pub continues a tradition begun last year with a Dueling Pianos costume party. Area favorite Jim Tyrrell appears at both events, with Jeff Gaynor joining him one night and Julian Chisolm the next.

The format is right out of a Billy Joel song, with tips and requests stuffed in a jar — and with this special event, there will be plenty asking for “Monster Mash,” “Thriller” and “Purple People Eater.” Add to that a crowd that’s encouraged to dress up for the occasion.

But there’s an additional twist, said Rob Steen, whose Headliners Comedy Club is presenting the shows, in a recent phone interview. Audience participation drives the evening.

“Say you want to hear ‘Brown Eyed Girl’ — you put a dollar in and they play it,” he said. “But your wife might not want to hear that song, so she could put two or three dollars in to stop them. For the players, money is more of a device to dictate where the show goes.”

This makes the crowd a third instrument for the two keyboard warriors.

“So every show is different, you know?” Steen said. “In some venues I booked I’ve heard, ‘The pianos weren’t really funny last time, but they’re really good this time.’ I say, ‘Well, your crowd kind of sucked.’ I mean, I shouldn’t say it like that, but it’s all dictated by what the crowd does.”

Steen has booked the three New Hampshire Chunky’s (the other is in Pelham) for several years, but when the curtain lifted to permit live entertainment in late spring, his shows were especially vital for the venue.

With the pandemic, film studios froze release dates, Steen said.

“Chunky’s called me and said, ‘We can’t play any movies because there’s nothing coming out … we need live entertainment.’ So we did the comedy, the pianos, we got the tribute acts, and we also had kids’ shows, which have been selling out crazy.”

Having the cinema/restaurant available provided a critical lifeline to Steen in return, as his showcase comedy club in downtown Manchester shuttered on March 13 and has been dark since — though it will open again on Nov. 7, with headliner Will Noonan joined by local comic Paul Landwehr and Steen.

Staffing problems and uncertainty about regulations nearly delayed Headliners’ reopening to December, but as of Oct. 22 all systems were go.

“Capacity limits is the biggest concern, as we need a certain amount of seats to be viable,” Steen said. “They have increased a bit, which is good. However, distancing and safety regulations make it nearly impossible to have more capacity, and the cost to have plexiglass around every table would be very expensive. We still would lose lots of seating.”

Chunky’s doesn’t present the same problems, Steen said.

“It’s a very large room, so spacing isn’t an issue. Ceilings are very high. We are 25 feet from the crowd. So guidelines are easier to follow. … Smaller venues have a bigger challenge, mainly due to space restrictions.”

Steen, New England’s busiest comedy promoter, presses on, meeting each challenge with the same pluck that makes his crowd work as a comic look easy. Weekly shows are planned for his showcase club, along with weekend events at both the Manchester and Nashua Chunky’s. One-off shows happen often at Murphy’s Taproom in Bedford, Nashua’s Flight Center, the Pasta Loft in Milford and other places, as well as larger events at the Capitol Center and Palace Theatre.

New Year’s Eve is Steen’s biggest night of the year, and though it won’t be the same as in the past, Steen is determined to ring in 2021 at several venues throughout the state, whatever Covid-19 brings.

“My friends say I’m like a cockroach, [that] I don’t get killed, that I’m lucky,” he said. “When preparation and opportunity meet — that’s what luck is.”

Dueling Pianos Halloween Party – Two Shows
Friday, Oct. 30, 8 p.m. at Chunky’s Cinema, 151 Coliseum Ave., Nashua, and Saturday, Oct. 31, 8 p.m. at Chunky’s Cinema, 707 Huse Road, Manchester
Tickets: $20 at
Also: Headliners Comedy Club at Hilton Doubletree Manchester is expected to reopen Nov. 7 with Will Noonan headlining.

Featured photo: Courtesy photo.

The Music Roundup 20/10/29

Local music news & events

Rising star: A frequent opener for folk music legend Tom Rush, Matt Nakoa has the stage all to himself for a showcase of his singer-songwriter skills. Raised on a New York goat farm and self-taught on piano, Nakoa attended Berklee, where he performed briefly with Esperanza Spalding, a.k.a. St. Vincent.Thursday, Oct. 29, 7:30 p.m., Rex Theatre, 23 Amherst St., Manchester. Tickets are $29 at

Scary rhymes: A Concord craft brewery plans a pair of events, including a Halloween Hip Hop Hootenanny hosted by DJ Shamblez, with a “monster menu” promised from The Food Abides and a triple can beer release. The deck closes for the season the following night with a party featuring two DJs, food from Dos Amigos, and a costume contest. Friday, Oct. 30, 4 p.m., Lithermans Limited Brewery, 126B Hall St., Concord, more at

Dressed up: Two separate socially distanced drag shows — the first includes dinner — will be perfect for those who prefer to leave costume wearing to the performers. Saturday, Oct. 31, 6 p.m. ($60) and 9:30 p.m. ($25), Murphy’s Taproom, 393 Route 101, Bedford, tickets at

Spooky rock: An outdoor twilight Halloween party stars Boston-based cover band Joppa Flatts, along with an autumn bonfire, family-friendly games inside and out, and a costume contest with prizes. Led by female and male co-vocalists, the six-member group mines multiple decades for its rock-centric set list. Saturday, Oct. 31, 4 p.m., Auburn Pitts, 167 Rockingham Road, Auburn, see

Monster mashup: The Monster Ball Halloween Party features old-school DJ sounds from 4eign, Turtle and Famous. Party like it’s 2019 with eight-top VIP table reservations, bottle service and similar amenities, all with safety protocols in place. Sunday, Nov. 1, 8 p.m., Whisky’s 20, 20 Old Granite St., Manchester, tickets $15 and up at

At the Sofaplex 20/10/29

She Dies Tomorrow (R)

Kate Lyn Sheil, Jane Adams.

Also Chris Messina and around the edges Josh Lucas and Michelle Rodriguez. This, what, horror movie?, comedy-horror, I think I saw it called in the trailer?, is, as writer Joe Reid said in a tweet a few months back, either the best or worst possible movie for right now. A woman is convinced, for no apparent reason, that she is going to die tomorrow. She believes it, completely, to the befuddlement of the friend she tells until that friend also believes, wholly, that she is going to die tomorrow. Is it some kind of fast-acting neurological illness? A sudden realization of the destruction coming from some outside force? A highly contagious kind of mass hysteria (with all the weight that comes with the word “hysteria”)? Does it matter? The movie works however you see the thing that has everybody feeling doom. I’m sure even if 2020 hadn’t gone the way it’s currently going this movie would still feel relevant — the idea of sudden, life-ending disaster applies even when you aren’t in the middle of a pandemic. (At one point, three characters introduce themselves saying their names followed by “I’m dying,” which is true even if it isn’t true.) As different people get hit with “I’m going to die tomorrow,” the movie perfectly captures the “oh heck, why not have the whole box of cookies; gah, obesity is a comorbidity! No more cookies!” of this particular moment in the real world. It is at times funny, at times poignant, at times just weird — not unlike 2020. B Available for rent.

Relic (R)

Emily Mortimer, Bella Heathcote.

Kay (Mortimer) and her daughter Sam (Heathcote) arrive at Kay’s mother’s Edna (Robin Nevin) rural-ish house in Australia after neighbors report the woman missing. Post-It note reminders to do basic things and general disarray (plus a recent history of forgetting things) have Kay believing her mother is slipping into dementia. But Kay and Sam can’t completely deny that Edna’s house is also quite creepy. So when Edna suddenly reappears, with a strange dark bruise and no memory of what’s happened, Kay in particular seems to think it’s time her mother live somewhere else. But they, and we, also catch glimpses of strange shadows and sudden blooms of mold that suggest something more malignant is at work in the house.

There are, I think, a few different ways to read this movie, which to me plays out as kind of a nightmare of fears and anxieties more than as a straightforward spooky tale. I felt like, as the movie goes on, it’s making a physical reality of the way disorientation and fear feel and that the movie is more metaphoric by the end than it is introducing us to the next, like, Annabelle or some specific demonic thing. And that, the terror that awaits in your own mind (coupled with some deeply sad stuff about caring for an aging loved one), is way scarier, to me anyway. But I think this movie also allows you to figure out what flavor of horror movie it is for yourself. Either way, it does a solid job of presenting actually scary situations and settings and of ramping up a feeling of dread with all three of the movie’s actresses doing good work. BAvailable for rent.

Good Boy (TV-MA)

Judy Greer, McKinley Freeman.

Greer is Maggie, a down on her luck newspaper reporter who adopts a murderously loyal dog in this movie that is actually maybe an episode of a TV show called Into the Dark. It’s a Hulu thing and it’s an hour and 29 and I’m counting it as a movie, a comedy horror to be exact. This movie is entertaining largely because of Greer, who is fun to watch even if she’s cleaning up entrails after her dog, Reuben, has, say, murdered the landlady, who keeps trying to raise the rent. Reuben is supposed to be an emotional support animal, adopted just as Maggie’s reporter job went from full-time and in print to contract and online (which was not only a professional setback but a financial one and it meant she didn’t have the money to cover the fertility treatments she was hoping would give her just a little more time to find Mr. Right). The movie isn’t particularly deep but it’s off-kilter and just entertaining enough to brighten up your laundry-folding, bill-paying 90 minutes.B-

Rebecca (PG-13 ) The Witches (PG)

Rebecca (PG-13 )

The beautiful Armie Hammer and beautiful Lily James wear some beautiful clothes in the gothic romance/psychological thriller Rebecca.

Lily James’ character, introduced before she gets married but only ever called Mrs. de Winter, is a lady’s companion in what I’m pretty sure is late 1930s-ish rich people Europe, working for the unpleasant (but fabulous) Mrs. Van Hopper (Ann Dowd, who seems like she is having the super bestest of best times and it’s great). She meets Maxim de Winter (Hammer), a recently widowed rich dude with an excellent house who is The Talk of the rich people hotel in rich people Europe. Luckily for the future Mrs. dW, Mrs. VH comes down with some kind of stomach illness and she gets a few days to herself to flit around with Max, who is Armie Hammer-ishly charming and handsome but occasionally gets all silent and grim when anybody mentions his dead wife, Rebecca, whose name is always said with extra dramatic emphasis and sort of the same energy as the way you make “boo-ooo-ooo” ghost noises when reading a spooky tale or seeing a Halloween-themed cereal. Booobecca’s death is still quite a sore subject for Max so he doesn’t like to talk about it or discuss pertinent information about the whole situation that might be necessary for Lily James when she agrees to become his new wife and return with him to Manderley, his family’s large spooky estate.

When they arrive, the new Mrs. de Winter meets the “early series Downton Abbey”-sizedstaff, which is led by Mrs. Danvers (Kristin Scott Thomas), the housekeeper and shade-master who was also the lifelong servant for and companion of the late Rebecca. Mrs. Danvers haaaaates the new Mrs. de Winter with the stoniest, Britishest of hatreds and I also feel like Thomas was having fun with some of her scenes, at least I really hope so. Near the end of the movie she gets a nice moment that felt like it was made for the purpose of having “for your awards consideration” flashing in a scroll underneath it and this is an odd year so, even though Rebecca is a very meh movie, maybe she’s got a shot?

As James’ character sort of bumbles around the new house, always bumping into some thing that reminds people of Rebecca, she tries to figure out just what the heck was up about the first Mrs. de Winter and ascertain whether she’ll ever live up to her reputation, especially to the still sulky Max. Because our own insecurities are our worst demons (especially when they get a little extra shine thanks to some gaslighting), the dead Rebecca slowly drives the living Mrs. de Winter mad.

I feel like I’ve made that all sound a lot more exciting than it is.

This movie is very pretty — pretty people, pretty setting and pretty pretty clothes that I would definitely be interested in purchasing, if, say, Modcloth wanted to start a movie tie-in line. But I feel like this adaptation doesn’t do much with all of its pretty and prettily-gothic elements. It is watchable but I suspect that if I weren’t watching this in the midmorning while actually drinking coffee, it would also be pretty fall-asleep-to-able as well. I don’t need a wacky new take on the story but I do need some energy, some passion between Hammer and James, or some more insight into James’ character’s motivations, something to explain why James’ character doesn’t just put her suitcase in a wheelbarrow and hoof it to the nearest train station. B-

Rated PG-13 for some sexual content, partial nudity, thematic elements and smoking, according to the MPA on Directed by Ben Wheatley with a screenplay by Jane Goldman and Joe Shrapnel & Anna Waterhouse (from the novel by Daphne Du Maurier), Rebecca is two hours and one minute long and distributed by Netflix.

The Witches (PG)

Anne Hathaway hams it up as a wide-mouthed, claw-handed witch in The Witches, a new adaptation of the Roald Dahl novel.

Charlie (Jahzir Bruno with an adult narration by Chris Rock) goes to live with his grandma (Octavia Spencer) when he is 8 years old and his parents are killed in a car crash. Though initially quite traumatized, he soon starts to perk up thanks to his grandma’s general kindness, good cooking and a pet mouse she buys him.

One day at the store, he meets a hissing woman with a snake up her sleeve, a raspy voice and a mouth that seems bigger than normal. That, his grandma tells him later when he describes the scene, is a witch. She knows all about witches, having seen one turn her best friend into a chicken when she was a little girl. Now the grandma knows how to use herbs and remedies to ward off the hexes of witches. Not that she wants to tangle with one. When she realizes that Charlie’s tale means witches are in town, she and Charlie run to hide in a fancy hotel where her cousin works.

But the hotel turns out to be a bad place to hide. A coven of witches is having a convention there, led by the Grand High Witch (Anne Hathaway), whose witch feet are extra creepy (one toe with a very long nail), claw-like hands are extra twisted (and can even extend) and whose bald head is covered in pustules from the dreaded witch affliction wig rash. Charlie happens upon their meeting and hides (though he can’t hide his smell; all children have a dog-poop-like odor to witches, his grandma says) and happens to see them turn Bruno (Codie-Lei Eastick), an English boy Charlie had befriended, into a mouse. The witches plan to turn all children into mice, they say, and soon it’s up to Charlie, Bruno, Charlie’s pet mouse Daisy (voice of Kristin Chenoweth) and grandma to stop them.

Guillermo del Toro has a writing credit here (along with director Robert Zemeckis and Black-ish/Grown-ish/Mixed-ish creator Kenya Barris), which perhaps explains some of the super creepy creature elements of the witches and the people-to-mice transformations that take place. This movie feels sort of borderline for younger elementary kids, depending on their tolerance for creepy stuff. Common Sense Media rates it 9+; I would say at least 9, as much for the more real-world elements of life and death (Charlie is in the car when his parents die, which feels very heavy for this magic-y tale) as for the supernatural elements.

A strong strain of sweetness also runs through the movie: grandma’s unconditional love for Charlie, a plucky quest by kids to save other kids. I hope the only-48-year-old Octavia Spencer isn’t pegged as “grandma” forever now but she’s a perfect fairy tale grandma here, the right mix of witch-fighting abilities and belief in her grandson. Spencer also seems like she’s enjoying herself and feels like she’s offering genuine emotion, even in scenes where she’s probably acting versus a tennis ball that will later become a CGI mouse character.

Stanley Tucci feels like an oddly big name for his relatively small role as Mr. Stringer, the hotel manager. He does seem to be having fun with his physical-comedy-heavy character whose mostly just reacts to craziness involving the children-mice or the Grand High Witch’s diva demands.

Nobody, of course, is having more fun than Hathaway, who might be having even more fun than she seemed to be having in Ocean’s 8. Here, she is full Cruella de Vil, doing all sorts of crazy things to her “R”s in an accent that is German? Transylvanian? Who knows? She wears delightfully crazy clothes, even crazier wigs, some great makeup and shoes that would probably literally kill you if you had to wear them for more than five minutes (they’re like if a stiletto had a clown shoe ancestor). This is so much her show and she stands in the spotlight and projects to the back row.

The Witches feels like the sort of thing an adult might misjudge, show to a kid who is too young and cause a few nightmare-filled nights, but for the right age (tween?) this ultimately goodhearted movie might be the right blend of kid-adventure and spooky fantasy. B

Rated PG for scary images/moments, language and thematic elements, according to the MPA on Directed by Robert Zemeckis with a screenplay by Robert Zemeckis & Kenya Bar and Guillermo del Toro (which is a little bit of an unexpected combination but also awesome and here’s hoping they do something else together) based on a book of the same name by Roald Dahl, The Witches is an hour and 46 minutes long and distributed by Warner Bros. It is available on HBO Max.

Featured photo: Rebecca. The Witches

The Upswing

The Upswing, by Robert D. Putnam with Shaylyn Romney Garrett (Simon & Schuster, 350 pages)

Robert Putnam, a political scientist at Harvard, promised his wife in 2015 that he was done writing books. (He had 12, including the highly regarded Bowling Alone, which examined the collapse of community within the U.S.)

Then, “tinkering with several obscure datasets — [his] favorite pastime,” Putnam happened upon information that made him change his mind. The information was the startling resemblance of the United States late in the 19th century to what the nation is grappling with today.

It was all there: “Inequality, political polarization, social dislocation, and cultural narcissism prevailed — all accompanied, as they are now, by unprecedented technological advances, prosperity, and material well-being.”

So Putnam dug into the economics, politics, society and culture of what Mark Twain dubbed “the Gilded Age” and tracked how Americans climbed out of their societal morass. It took six decades, but from a low point at the turn of the century, the nation lugged itself to a high point of greater economic equality and a stronger social fabric between the 1960s and 1970s.

America did this, write Putnam and his co-author Shaylyn Romney Garrett, while transforming from an “I” society to a “We” society, becoming the sort of people who would cheer when JFK said we shouldn’t ask what our country could do for us.

But then, having reached this lofty peak, we promptly trudged back down down to the “I” pit. If you put this on a graph, you find an inverted U, something akin to Mount Crumpit, sans the Grinch. The good news, according to Putnam and Garrett, is that our forebears left us a map of how to get out of the problems that now dog us, if we only pay attention to their upswing and how it came about.

To take a measure of a society’s emphasis on individual over community, the authors explore a range of research to include the obvious (use of pronouns in publications) to the strange (how popular baby names reflect individualistic behavior). They then explore potential causes — from prosperity to globalization — and potential villains in the narratives. (Kids, you’re off the hook. “Neither Millennials nor Twitter and Facebook can possibly be blamed for the I-we-I curve,” Putnam and Garrett write.)

For people not eager to don the political label “progressive,” the relentless communitarianism that Putnam and Garrett promote may give pause, as well as their soft swipes at Randian (both Ayn and Paul) individualism. But conservative hearts will gladden at their prescription for a moral awakening, although the authors don’t think that such an awakening necessarily needs God, but revival of civil responsibility. Engineering a 21st-century upswing will involve “immense collaboration” of resources to re-educate the population in what we owe to each other, and a “groundswell of agitation” to force Progressive-era-like change.

They sound a note of caution: This is not an overnight revolution, and the upswing must leave no one out, but instead “appeal to the full range of American values.”

“Progressive reformers quickly learned that in order to succeed they would have to compromise — to find a way to put private property, personal liberty, and economic growth on more equal footing with communitarian ideals and the protections of the weak and vulnerable, and to work within existing systems to bring about change.”

Putnam has said he wrote The Upswing not to make money but to effect change that he can see in his lifetime. He is 79, so he must be convinced that the strategies he and Garrett put forth here work. The pair make a compelling case that America in 1890 was much like it is in 2020 (sans a pandemic); less so that Americans are willing to accept their prescription. It is a scholarly book that will most appeal to policymakers, but accessible to anyone puzzling until their puzzler is sore over how to descend Mount Crumpit.

At the very least it’s an argument for not naming your kid something weird, so future sociologists won’t blame you when the country looks like a Dumpster fire. B

It sounds like the most self-indulgent genre ever, but books on writing — that is, books written for writers by other writers — can be fascinating, even for people who write nothing more than posts on social media. The point is that if you’ve reached the professional point at which a publisher deems you worthy of musing on the craft of writing, you are probably astonishingly good at it.
Case in point: Claire Messud’s new “autobiography in essays,” which is intriguingly titled Kant’s Little Prussian Head & Other Reasons I Write (W.W. Norton, 336 pages). An acclaimed novelist who now lives in Massachusetts, Messud writes gorgeously of her childhood in the sort of rich prose you’d like to bathe in. A sample from her opening chapter, on being asked to explain to a Toronto Sunday school class what it was like to live in Australia:
“I remember the scarlet fury of my cheeks, the twitching misery of that hour, to which I responded with sullenness and a furrowing of the brow, while my sister gamely chatted and revealed snippets of our private, our secret, other life as if it were less real, or of the same reality, as the dingy brick and gray linoleum and folding chairs around us, of the same reality as the brittle, bosomy instructor or the indistinguishable Christian children who were her charges.”
Definitely worth a look.
Other authors who have brilliantly wed life stories with advice and inspiration on the craft of writing include Deborah Levy, whose eloquent The Cost of Living came out in paperback last year (Bloomsbury Publishing, 144 pages) and the Anne Lamott classic Bird by Bird, published in paperback in 1995 (Anchor, 256 pages) but still an Amazon bestseller.
Also check out C.S. Lewis and the Art of Writing, thoughts on writing culled from Lewis’s letters, by Corey Latta (Wipf and Stock, 250 pages).
But for just a fun, motivational read about how to collect your thoughts into an essay, screenplay or book, there’s nothing better than Vermont writing coach Joni B. Cole’s Good Naked (University Press of New England, 208 pages). Mercifully, for a month in which we learned way too much about Jeffrey Toobin and Rudy Guliani, there’s a subtitle: Write More, Write Better and Be Happier.

Album Reviews 20/10/22

Laura Jane Grace, Stay Alive (Polyvinyl Records)

Laura Jane Grace has a lot her plate dealing with being the most wellknown punk-rocker in the LGBTQIA community. Thankfully, this time out, she didn’t even bother trying to bring in her band, Against Me!, through some sort of awkward Zoom collaboration in order to express her feelings about and reactions to the ongoing social crises that have overflowed from the pandemic. But these songs aren’t psychically exclusive to people who are trans and whatnot; I can’t think of anyone who wouldn’t be able to relate to the final line of opener “The Swimming Pool Song,” where Grace, wailing on her acoustic guitar, hollers, “It feels like the death of everything” in her sturdy Weezer baritone. Yes, Grace and her unplugged guitar’s only accompaniment throughout the record is provided by a drum track, but it’s no surprise to hear such powerful (and sometimes very pretty) stuff exuding from a study of prison-like isolation as experienced by one who’s already well used to it. A

Ryan and Pony, Moshi Moshi (Pravda Records)

This coed duo (Ryan Smith the guy; Pony, a.k.a. Kathie Hixon-Smith, the girl) were in separate Minnesota-scene indie bands forever until this joining-of-forces debut album, which has made quite the splash with the Twin Cities press corps. They were both raised on hard stuff — Marilyn Manson, Husker Du, Metallica and such — which naturally resulted in their team-up sounding like a well-above-average Arts & Crafts Records release, in other words Canadian hipster-pop with a much lower-than-usual level of worthless ’90s-college-rock gunk. Like Broken Social Scene, the duo usually sings the same lines, note for note, in a dueling-octave style that usually makes me barf, but they do have something of a hard edge within those confines, i.e., where BSS might place some stupid piano-vs.-xylophone part, these two jack the guitar energy, a la Len or [place name of one-hit Canadian ’90s-radio band here]. They’re OK; they should just move to Montreal and get it over with, if you ask me. B-

Retro Playlist

If there’s anything we’ve learned from this semi-lockdown, it’s that man, do we need some fun around here, you know?

In that spirit (if quite a bit late), I’ve decided to end our collective suffering and simultaneously pay tribute to the recently departed Eddie Van Halen by starting a Van Halen tribute band, called “Old Morons Playing Van Halen.” The band will play nothing but David Lee Roth-era songs, no “Van Hagar” stuff, the garbage they put out when Sammy Hagar sang for them.

I can sing exactly like Dave, and I don’t care what people think of it, which, taken together, is my only artistic talent, really. I was hired to be the Dave in the local Van Halen tribute band Diver Down back during the George W. Bush era, but the guitarist didn’t think I was bad enough. Literally. See, Dave absolutely sucks when he plays live, and this guitarist wanted authenticity. He was all set in that regard; he had every pre-amp and guitar pedal that Eddie used in his actual stage setup, like, he studied Eddie, and for some stupid reason he wanted his singer to be able to sing like the “live version” of Dave, not the “just like the album” version. I wasn’t going to fight the guy right then and there, so I wished them luck and left.

So why not? What could it hurt? What, would all the bands I’ve insulted or ignored over the years finally get back at me by telling their friends, “Don’t bother going to Saeger’s Van Halen show, he just sounds like Dave.” Um, ouch? I mean, no one’s going to go to shows for a while longer unless a really awesome band is playing, so let’s do this, local musicians! My favorite Van Halen album is Women And Children First, so we could just perform that record in its entirety, and whatever, “Runnin’ With The Devil” and “Atomic Punk,” you know, the good stuff from their first album.

Come on, guys, whattaya say? For the time being, for social distancing protocol’s sake, maybe the Mall Of New Hampshire would let us play in front of Macy’s (are they still in business?) and the crowd could adore us from in front of Mobile Envy. The little kids could dance, the people could spazz and fire Nerf guns at us, and it would just rule.

I’m serious, folks. PM me!


A seriously abridged compendium of recent and future CD releases

• OMG, it’s totally the dump of new albums streeting on Oct. 30, coming straight for us, led by It’s Christmas All Over, the new holiday album from ’90s indie-pop gods the Goo Goo Dolls! I usually hate people who are upbeat during plagues, but during a Quibi interview the band’s irrepressibly happy (and why shouldn’t he be) frontman John Rzeznik convinced me that he is legitimately pumped about releasing an album of dumb old Christmas songs, because “2020 has been horrible for everybody, so let’s just drop the pretense of being hip, and make a classic Christmas album the way Bing Crosby used to do it, and stuff,” something to that effect. He’s so bloody enthusiastic that I’m almost believing in Covid Santa myself, and I hope everyone buys this awesome album. I mean, I assume it’s awesome, but Warner Bros. is too cheap to release any advance tracks, but I do know that the songs will include “Let It Snow,” “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” and “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.” What does that all mean? Who cares! Everyone’s laid off, it’s never gonna end, and it’s the most wonderful time of the year! Merry Whatnot, guys!

• As I’ve gone over before, one of my Constant Readers has a crush on Faith No More’s Mike Patton, so it is my duty to mention the forthcoming new Mr. Bungle album, The Raging Wrath Of The Easter Bunny Demo! It will be full of “avant-garde-metal,” because that is the totally fake genre that certain critics made up for them, and it will be rad and awesome, because it is made of re-recordings of the songs that were on their first-ever demo from literally one million years ago, in 1986! Musical guests include former Slayer drummer Dave Lombardo (yay!) and Anthrax guitarist Scott Ian (boo! Or vice versa!). To be honest, I am not a Mr. Bungle expert, but I know that Patton’s other band, Tomahawk, is awesome, so I expected that the new single “Eracist” would be at least semi-awesome, and it is, if you like throwback thrash-metal. Kind of Venom-ish really. It doesn’t sound like a boombox recording, the way the 1986 demo did, so it’s hard for me to tell on which 1986 song “Eracist” is supposed to be based. Do you like old Slayer demos? Then you might like this. Probably. Or not.

• Oh great, there’s literally nothing I like more than having to drop everything I’m doing in order to try and figure out what Mark Oliver Everett, the dude from The Eels, is babbling about. Yes, it’s a new Eels album, called Earth To Dora. As with all new albums released these days, the plan was to promote the album through touring, but come on already, but it will be here regardless, spearheaded by the single “Are We Alright Again,” an infectious but ultimately empty roller-rink-hipster-pop confection that gets its strength from Everett’s world-weary baritone. As always, this is what Flaming Lips will sound like when they’re in their 80s, basically.

• Our parting shot this week is a quick listen to 1980s geek-punker Elvis Costello’s new LP, Hey Clockface, specifically its single, “Hey Clockface / How Can You Face Me?” It is a 1920s-flapper-flavored tap-jazz track, which is fine by me. Elvis sounds like Randy Newman now. Who would have ever guessed he’d turn into Randy Newman when he got super old? Besides me, I mean?

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