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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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, or find them at

Featured photo: Leaving Eden. Courtesy photo.

The Music Roundup 21/02/25

Returning: A vital force in the region’s live music scene is back, virtually. Parsonsfield, now a duo of Antonio Alcorn and Chris Freeman, performs at the Riverwalk Cafe in an online show sponsored by Symphony NH. The two met at UConn and bonded over Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan and traditional folk music from Ireland to Appalachia. The band broke through with 2014’s Poor Old Shine. Thursday, Feb. 25, 7:30 p.m. $20 per household at More at

Laughing: Enjoy a trio of standup comics topped by Mike Hanley. The Boston funny man went viral with a five-minute video of him dancing with his daughter. The clip garnered national television exposure along with 22 million YouTube hits. Hanley’s storytelling comedy is delivered with full-on intensity; joining him are Brian Plumb and host Rob Steen. Friday, Feb. 26, and Saturday, Feb. 27, 8 p.m., Chunky’s Cinema Pub, 707 Huse Road, Manchester. Tickets are $20 at

Changing: A Lakes Region watering hole renames, but a show from Jodie Cunningham at the newly opened High Octane Saloon promises a vibe similar to the former Broken Spoke. It even bills itself as “Weirs’ newest yet oldest tavern … the owners take pride in keeping this a popular biker bar.” Cunningham has lately been playing her country rock acoustically with guitarist Tim Kierstead. Friday, Feb. 26, 6 p.m., High Octane Saloon, 1072 Watson Road, Laconia, 527-8116.

Deciding: Band To Be Named Later will suffice as the moniker of a new project involving singer-guitarist Andy Laliotis, who has spent time in Lamont Smooth, Kitchen, Diamond Joe and Dead tribute act Blue Light Rain. Expect a jammy, eclectic sound from a group that includes Eric Bilodeau on guitar and a rhythm section of drummer Logan Kessler and bassist Ryan McGowan. Saturday, Feb. 27, 9 p.m., Alibi Lounge, 137 Wilson St., Manchester,

At the Sofaplex 21/02/25

I Care A Lot (R)

Rosamund Pike, Peter Dinklage.

This recent Netflix release feels like half of a good idea: Perfectly coiffed, razor-sharply attired Marla Grayson (Pike) steals the assets of old people, legally, by getting them declared incapable of taking care of themselves and getting herself named as their guardian. She has a network of people wittingly (and maybe a few unwittingly) helping her get them locked into care facilities and incapable of reaching family or legal representation. Marla liquidates their assets “to pay for their care” — and for her own guardianship services, of course — until they slowly waste away. She is slick and insincere and basically evil and I never once rooted for her.

The possibility of comeuppance is introduced when Marla commits Jennifer Peterson (Dianne Wiest), a woman who appears to be quite wealthy but without family. Messing with Jennifer, who turns out to have shadowy “friends,” is a mistake, several people try to tell Marla, and that’s before a murderous Peter Dinklage character gets involved.

Of all the characters here, I guess I rooted for Wiest, who is sidelined for way too much of the movie, and maybe for Dinklage, who is one of those “always fun” actors for me but also didn’t feel like he was given the best material. This movie has a strong cast (including some nice work by Alicia Witt and Chris Messina). It sets itself up as a comedy, maybe, or at least a darkly comic drama about villain versus villain, but I felt like some of that went off the rails in the movie’s second half and maybe wanted us to see Marla as one of those peak TV anti-heroes that have moral layers (maybe just let the villain be a villain?). But Marla to me always felt like a flatter version of Pike’s Gone Girl character without the wit or the relatable rage. The movie feels like it wants to make a statement about Capitalism or The System or something but by the time we get to the big climax I found that I didn’t really care much at all. C+ Available on Netflix

Supernova (R)

Stanley Tucci, Colin Firth.

Tusker (Tucci), an American writer, and Sam (Firth), a British pianist, are a longtime couple who hit the road in an RV through the countryside in England, where they have lived for decades. We can tell by the way Sam gazes adoringly at Tusker that all their complaints about each other’s driving and navigation is the banter of a couple deeply in love. And, even before it is openly stated, it’s clear that there is an underlying current of grief to this trip. Tusker has a degenerative disease, one that is affecting his memory and abilities to write (and maybe read) as well as his physical abilities. He is getting worse and there is a bit of a “last hurrah” tone to the trip from the beginning, with the couple visiting a favorite camping spot and then Sam’s family home for a big get-together.

Exactly how Tusker and Sam are individually coping with Tusker’s illness and how they plan to handle it as time goes on is the topic they keep returning to throughout the trip but it’s one that both of them are not quite ready to deal with directly, at least to each other. Their relationship is the center of this movie and the performances of Tucci and Firth are what make this lovely, gentle movie worth watching. Both actors fill in all the corners of these characters, we can see the layers of emotion, we can see all the things they’re saying to each other even when they’re chatting about something meaningless. It’s all such good work that it carries you through this bittersweet story. A- Available for rent or purchase.

Nomadland (R) | The Map of Tiny Perfect Things (PG-13)

Nomadland (R)

Frances McDormand gives one of the year’s great performances in Nomadland, a movie based on the non-fiction book by Jessica Brueder.

The two most common scenes in this movie are McDormand’s Fern talking to people in what feel like actual conversations people are just having with McDormand herself, and Fern by herself enjoying the beauties and working through the difficulties of life as a nomad. Fern became a nomad — specifically, a nomad who lives in a van and travels from one seasonal job (Amazon warehouse) to another (a harvest) — after, basically, losing everything. Her beloved husband died after a painful illness and her town essentially died when the factory employer closed and kicked the workers out of the company housing.

Shorn of everything — her possessions are in a storage locker, she even cut her hair we’re told — Fern packs up a few of her most precious things and heads out. First, she stays at an Amazon-paid-for RV lot while she works packing things at some massive distribution center. Later, we see her follow new friend Linda May to a job as a park host at another RV/campground near a national park. Fellow nomad Dave (David Strathairn, one of the few other people not essentially playing themselves here) is a worker at the park and helps hook Fern up with a job at Wall Drug (a tourist attraction in South Dakota). Dave takes a shine to Fern; she maybe likes him too. They’re both awkward as heck in their flirting but we also get the sense that Dave is an attachment Fern is not ready for.

According to posts on the Nomadland Twitter account, several of the people McDormand’s Fern meets along the way — including Swankie, Linda May and Bob Wells — are essentially playing themselves and had their stories told in the book. I think this approach helps to ground this movie and keep the story focused on Fern and her life, rather than letting it spin off into thinkpiece territory. Fern is working through grief and dealing with a life turning point when we first meet her and that makes her story (and all the socio-economic aspects to it) all the much more layered and meaningful.

I realize that projecting soul-deep authenticity is sort of a baseline of any McDormand performance but she really does knock it out of the park here. I cared about Fern, and the movie makes us understand why she makes the choices she does and empathize with them.

And on top of this, the movie is beautiful — beautiful to look at (so many shots of the western and midwestern country) and beautiful to listen to, with a really excellent score. Definitely add Nomadland to your awards season must-watch list. A

Rated R for some full nudity, according to the MPA on Directed by Chloe Zhao with a screenplay by Zhao (from the book Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century by Jessica Bruder), Nomadland is an hour and 48 minutes long, is distributed by Searchlight Pictures and is in some theaters and available via Hulu.

The Map of Tiny Perfect Things (PG-13)

Two teens are stuck in one of those Groundhog Day/Edge of Tomorrow-time loops in The Map of Tiny Perfect Things.

We enter in the middle of Mark’s (Kyle Allen) time-loop experience. He knows all the beats of this one day he’s been living over and over. Currently, he is using his knowledge of when and where everything happens, down to the second and the milimeter, to get the attention of a specific girl who always falls into the water at the neighborhood pool after getting hit by a beach ball. That is, she falls in if Mark isn’t there to catch her (and sometimes if he is; playing it cool takes a lot of do-overs).

But one day, instead of Mark catching the girl after the ball hits her, another girl walks by and swats the ball away. This new girl’s sudden appearance and the way she looks at and runs away from Mark makes him pretty sure that she, too, is in the loop. After a few “days” of looking, Mark finds and meets Margaret (Kathryn Newton). They are, as she says, marooned on this island together, so they hang out and become friends, even creating a project to map all of the little awesome moments (a guy getting pushed out of the way of bird poop, an eagle grabbing a fish, a girl showing up all the lesser skaters at a local skateboard hangout) that happen during their one day. But every evening Margaret mysteriously leaves him, and Mark isn’t sure how to turn these regular hangouts into something more. Or how to even have something more when he can never move forward.

Unlike other timey-wimey movies, Mark actually has a good group of people around him that he can lean on. We see him interact with his dad (Josh Hamilton), his sister (Cleo Fraser) and his best friend (Jermaine Harris), who don’t know about the “one day over and over” thing but are still able to help him work through some things. It’s all very sweet and allows the movie to examine the regular teen clash of emotions of wanting to grow up and also not being ready to move on. Newton in particular stands out as being a solid up-and-comer; I liked her in the recent Freaky and this movie similarly shows her skill with blending drama and humor, silliness and genuine emotion. B+

Rated PG-13 for brief strong language, some teen drinking and sexual references, according to the MPA on Directed by Ian Samuels from a screenplay by Lev Grossman, The Map of Tiny Perfect Things is an hour and 38 minutes long and is distributed by Amazon, where it is available on Amazon Prime.

Featured photo: Nomadland

The Bad Muslim Discount, by Syed M. Masood

The Bad Muslim Discount, by Syed M. Masood (Doubleday, 368 pages)

The Bad Muslim Discount is the second book by Syed Masood, a Sacramento attorney who grew up in Pakistan. He brings a first-person perspective to this story of two Muslim families who come to the U.S. — one from Pakistan, and one from Iraq — and how disparate lives eventually collide.

It is a deeply moving and often tragic narrative that is liberally undercut with humor and a wonderfully relatable voice. While The Bad Muslim Discount is about people heavily influenced by other cultures, in both good and horrific ways, it’s still essentially an American story. As such, the novel provides a much needed and easily digestible perspective for the many Americans who still involuntarily shudder at the words “Allahu Akbar.”

The novel opens with the killing of a goat. Yes, many Muslims still sacrifice animals, even in America, and that is yet another cultural hurdle that stands high for animal lovers. But the shock of the sacrifice, carried out by a child, is overcome in a wise and compassionate telling, as the father comforts his distraught son, explaining that most people don’t understand the point of a ritual sacrifice.

“They think their offering is the money they spend on the animal. Or they think it is the life of the animal,” the father says. “But it isn’t. You are the sacrifice. What are you feeling now? That is your sacrifice. The lives of other creatures are not yours to take.”

The weeping boy is Anvar, the Pakistani who grows into the titular “bad Muslim” and takes turns narrating the book in first person with a young woman, Safwa, who eventually moves to the U.S. from Baghdad with her rigidly orthodox father.

Anvar demonstrates the truth that people are people, no matter where they’re from, with family dynamics that are easily recognizable to anyone who has never left the U.S. He struggles to deal with a neurotic mother and the too perfect brother who casts a long shadow over everything Anvar tries to accomplish. Even when he becomes a lawyer, he is the family’s black sheep, watching as his brother seems to get everything he wants, dealing with it by cracking cynical jokes.

Meanwhile, Safwa is growing up in a family that is constantly watered with pain. She loses first her mother, then her brother, to disease, leaving her alone with an increasingly abusive father made brittle by loss and further hardened by his imprisonment and torture at the hands of American soldiers during Desert Storm.

When he is released, the father and daughter make their way to San Francisco via Mexico, and there the lives of the two families begin to intersect. Safwa, who now goes by Azza, is the opposite of Anvar’s “Bad Muslim” (he drinks and is spotted eating a ham sandwich, in addition to other, more significant lapses of piety). She is the proverbial good girl, in no small part because of the controlling, rough hand of her father, and the man to whom she is to be given in an arranged marriage. But America offers opportunity she wouldn’t have in Baghdad.

“For the first time in forever, my world began to get bigger again. How amazing a thing a book is. How wonderful a piece of paper and pen. A lot of things about religion do not make sense to me, it is true, but I understand why, in that desert mountain cave, when the history of man was about to change, God’s first command to His last prophet was one simple word. Read.”

Thomas Jefferson owned a Quran, Islam’s holy book, but few Americans today have read any of it, unless forced to in high school. Stories from the Quran and teachings of the Prophet Muhammad are scattered lightly throughout the book, helping the reader to understand Muslim culture and proscriptions even as they see the Gulf war and its casualties from another perspective. The book is not sympathetic to Osama bin Laden or the murderous fundamentalists who fueled anti-Muslim sentiment in the U.S. but offers a cogent explanation of why, as Masood puts it, “Islam was weaponized for the Cold War.”

The relative immediacy of the story — Donald Trump is elected at the end — andAmerica’s polarization on the subject of immigration could make The Bad Muslim Discount a polarizing book in less capable hands. It isn’t. With shades of Us Weekly, Masood shows Christian Americans “Muslims! They’re just like us!” — but for the goat sacrifices and staggering costs of old wars. Look for this one in 10 months on lists of the best novels of the year. A

I’m old enough to remember Reader’s Digest Condensed Books (which were exactly as horrible as that sounds), and also the Book of the Month club in all its variations. (You’d sign up and get a box of titles for a low, low fee, and then an exorbitantly priced one that you may or may not have wanted to read, every month going forward.)
Today, for all the dramatic changes in publishing, book-of-the-month clubs still exist. The one getting the most buzz is Literati, which recently raised $40 million in financing, not bad for an industry that’s been said to be dying for more than a decade.
Literati started sending monthly boxes of books to children in 2017; last year, the company expanded to adults, offering a printed book every month, plus access to online discussion groups run by celebrities to include NBA star Stephen Curry and businessman Richard Branson. Founder Jessica Ewing says she’s building a social network around books. It costs $25 a month, or $20 a month if you pay for a year in advance.
And by the way, there’s a more traditional Book of the Month Club online, too. You pay $14.99 a month for one title that you choose — which sounds way more complicated than just ordering from a local bookseller or Amazon. But the website says, “a subscription gets you excited to read, so you might actually do more of it,” which we tell you with no further comment.
Meanwhile, here are two books out this week that might get you excited to read, no club required:
Scratched, A Memoir of Perfectionism by Elizabeth Tallent (Harper, 240 pages) is the author’s confession of how her personal life and career has been shaped by obsessive perfectionism, how she grew up believing she was “the child whose flaws let disaster into an otherwise perfect family.” Looks heartbreaking, and riveting.
No One is Talking About This, by Patricia Lockwood (Riverhead, 224 pages) is by an author once described by The New York Times as a “modern word witch” and is billed as a provocative fictional commentary on social media in a full-immersion world where people are asking each other “Are we in hell? Are we all just going to keep doing this until we die?” Sounds like a takedown of Twitter.


Author events

PAUL KRUGMAN Author presents Arguing with Zombies. Virtual livestream hosted by The Music Hall in Portsmouth. Tues., March 2, 7 p.m. Tickets cost $5. Call 436-2400 or visit

DR. DANIEL O’NEILL Author presents Survival of the Fit. Hosted by The Toadstool Bookshops of Nashua, Peterborough and Keene. Virtual, via Zoom. Thurs., March 4, 7 p.m. Visit or call 352-8815.

NORMAN VANCOR Author presents Swift Silent Deadly. Hosted by The Toadstool Bookshops of Nashua, Peterborough and Keene. Virtual, via Zoom. Sat., March 6, 11 a.m. Visit or call 352-8815.

C. J. BOX Author presents Dark Sky. Virtual livestream hosted by The Music Hall in Portsmouth. Tues., March 9, 7 p.m. Tickets cost $5. Call 436-2400 or visit

ELLIOT ACKERMAN & ADMIRAL JAMES STAVRIDIS Authors present 2034. Virtual livestream hosted by The Music Hall in Portsmouth. Tues., March 16, 7 p.m. Tickets cost $5. Call 436-2400 or visit

THERESA CAPUTO the star of TLC’s Long Island Medium will present “Theresa Caputo: The Experience Live” at the Capitol Center for the Arts (44 S. Main St. Concord, on Wed., April 7, 7:30 p.m. Tickets start at $39.75 (with option for a VIP Photo Op for an additional $49.95).

Book Clubs

BOOKERY Online. Monthly. Third Thursday, 6 p.m. Bookstore based in Manchester. Visit or call 836-6600.

GIBSON’S BOOKSTORE Online, via Zoom. Monthly. First Monday, 5:30 p.m. Bookstore based in Concord. Visit or call 224-0562.

TO SHARE BREWING CO. 720 Union St., Manchester. Monthly. Second Thursday, 6 p.m. RSVP required. Visit or call 836-6947.

GOFFSTOWN PUBLIC LIBRARY 2 High St., Goffstown. Monthly. Third Wednesday, 1:30 p.m. Call 497-2102, email or visit

BELKNAP MILL Online. Monthly. Last Wednesday, 6 p.m. Based in Laconia. Email

NASHUA PUBLIC LIBRARY Online. Monthly. Second Friday, 3 p.m. Call 589-4611, email or visit



Offered remotely by the Franco-American Centre. Six-week session with classes held Thursdays from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. $225. Visit or call 623-1093.

Special events

EXETER LITFEST Literary festival will feature local authors, keynote speaker Victoria Arlen, book launches, a Saturday morning story hour for kids, and programs on various topics including publishing tips, mystery writing and homeschooling. Hosted virtually via Zoom by Exeter TV. Thurs., April 1, through Sat., April 3. Free and open to the public. Visit

Featured photo: Doomed Romance

Album Reviews 21/02/25

Sana Nagano, Smashing Humans (577 Records)

Hey man, if I have to get introduced to an avant punk-jazz record by the most sterilized, LinkedIn-style jumble of words I’ve ever read, you do too: You see, on this album, the “compositions are naturally motivic with grid-like melody lines underpinned by relentless rhythmic intensity.” What does this mean? It means that the music of this NYC-based band (i.e. Smashing Humans), as led by Nagano, is probably the most interesting even agreeable cacophony to which I’ve ever been exposed, not that I ever honestly seek out avant jazz (it’s more like that stuff finds me). I d_)on’t believe this is actually improvisational; “Humans In Grey,” unhinged and spazzy as it is, goes on a long tear that bespeaks progressive head-drug jazz from the ’80s, and like the designated genre would indicate, the sax, guitar, drums, bass combine with Sana’s battered violin to render pure, raucous expressionism that you could actually groove to. Like the impulsive eight-bit cover art hints at, it’s perfect for clearing your head of any stupid but manageable frustration du jour. A+

Yoko Miwa Trio, Songs of Joy (Ubuntu Music)

At this writing, Jazz Times hasn’t weighed in on this (by my count) fifth LP from the long-time Berklee college instructor’s trio, a pianist who’s been touted by the legendary Ahmad Jamal and has been a regular fixture at festivals and Boston jazz clubs (if you’re a regular visitor to that scene, Les Zygomates Wine Bar & Bistro in Boston closed as a casualty of Covid last year). With regard to her last album, 2019’s Keep Talkin’, the Jazz Times guy noted that Miwa’s work possesses a certain prettiness that jazz snobs tend to snub (“even some of Oscar Peterson’s work was dismissed for being too beautiful”). She won’t get that sort of nonsense from me; not that I’d ever pretend to be a Mingus-head, but I find stuff like this album’s intricately woven rub of Richie Havens’ “Freedom” really just cool. Like Havens’ original Woodstock-hippie outcry, it rushes to say a lot, but in this case Miwa’s expansive wanderings are slowly counterpointed by Will Slater’s upright bass in a boss move. This ain’t lounge stuff, no, it’s way too bold, but it wouldn’t be out of place at one. A

Retro Playlist

Let us go back, friends, back to the year 2013. Do you even remember what it was like before Covid and the Q-Shaman guy who’s part yak and part human, back when everything wasn’t so messed up that you had to hold Zoom meetings with your friends in order to get some semblance of communal togetherness? Oh, wait, for young people, that was how most interpersonal relationships were maintained anyway, so what’s all the fuss about, again?

Anyway, warping back to late February 2013, one of the new releases that week was What About Now, by Bon Jovi. As I noted that week, the title track “starts out with an ’80s-new-wave shoegaze sort of guitar line” and then it devolves into the usual epic throwback radio-rawk fail to which his fans have long been accustomed. That’s nice and all, but one of that week’s column’s main focus points was Flowers, a solo record from Seabear leader Sindri Már Sigfússon, under the stage name Sin Fang. Naturally, since it’s by an Icelandic dude, someone from Sígur Rós had to be involved, in this case their producer, Alex Somers. The album, thankfully, wasn’t the expected Slushie mix of Animal Collective and Raveonettes; some OK Go-style rocking out was present, and so I didn’t just whip out my handy bag of insults when I talked about it.

That week there was also the album The Fire Plays from Ari Hest, whose approach is, in general, stripped-to-the-hooks radio-folk a la Paul Simon. I don’t think I’ve so much as mentioned the guy in the eight years that have passed since my review of TFP, so you probably know more than I do, but regardless, on this album Hest did a decent Seal impersonation on “Set In Stone,” but otherwise it comprised things like hayloft indie (“All Because”) and halcyon-cowboy haze (“Couldn’t Have Her”), which automatically got my approval because Hest mostly sounded like Warren Zevon. Man, does the world need another Zevon, seriously.


A seriously abridged compendium of recent and future CD releases

• The first thing I see in this list of new CD releases for Feb. 26 is Willie Nelson’s That’s Life, and of course I can’t resist putting in my two cents, because it’s always fun to make fun of 87-year-old dudes who drive Cheech and Chong vans powered by nothing but pot smoke! What’s interesting is that he is 5’6” tall, which, as his Wikipedia entry specifically notes, is the same height as Patsy Cline. I hope that if I ever get an actual Wiki entry instead of the stupid “Wikipeople” thing or whatever it is, they will make note that I am the same height as George W. Bush. I think it’s important to know that about me, so that you won’t ever mistake me for Danny DeVito. Anyway, with all the important stuff out of the way, we can proceed to the contents of this new album, one that consists solely of covers of Frank Sinatra songs. I sort of don’t blame Willie for doing a victory lap for having lived so long, like, he totally dunked on James Dean and the dude from Nirvana and all those guys, so really, he does have every right to imprison a few musicians in a studio while he warbles old Rat Pack songs in his hoarse grandfatherly tenor. This is actually the second time Willie’s done an album of Sinatra tunes, but unlike the last one, this new album features a cover of “Luck Be a Lady” as well as a duet with none other than famous jazz singing lady Diana Krall (“I Won’t Dance”). OK, I know this has been a lot to unpack and wrap your head around, so let’s move to the next thingie after you gulp down some Pepto Bismol in order to settle your stomach, which got violently upset over my use of the buzzspeak word “unpack.”

• Ha ha, speaking of albums from old and crazy rock stars, look there fam, it’s famous Halloween decoration Alice Cooper, with Detroit Stories, just when we needed it, or at least I did! OK, I know Alice grew up in Detroit, so these tunes are probably about the times he used to play pranks with Jack White? No, Jack White’s young enough to be Alice’s great-grandson, so maybe it’s about the old days with another Detroit guy, Iggy Pop? Nope, Iggy is way cooler than Alice, so they probably never hung around either. In that case, I’ll just ditch this exercise, bite the bullet and go listen to the new Alice single, “Rock & Roll!” Nope, it’s not the Led Zeppelin song, it’s the old Velvet Underground song, so apparently the album title refers to Alice’s favorite songs that have the word “Detroit” in the lyrics. Say, guess who plays guitar on this? That’s right, it’s Joe Bonamassa! This rocks so hard, like, if you had just arrived from another planet and this was the first rock ’n’ roll song you’d ever heard, you’d be like, “Ha ha, wow, dig this crazy music!”

• Blub blub blub, I’m drowning in awful music that never should have — wait, belay that order, leftenant, it’s a new Melvins album, called Working With God, we’re saved! One of the songs, “Brian the Horse-Faced Goon,” is part joke song and part early Ministry, I love it so much I’d marry it if I were single.

• To close the week out, it’s one-man U.K.-based electronic-drone-whatnot project Blanck Mass, with In Ferneaux, his fifth album! The single, “Starstuff,” is just fine I suppose, if you like krautrock and ’80s sci-fi soundtrack music mixed together. I don’t, but then again, I have become biased against music that sucks, so don’t mind me.

Flavor impact

What you eat or drink affects your brew

In sort of a famous family incident several years ago during a get-together at a restaurant, my dad complained about the Wachusett Country Ale he was drinking. He didn’t like it. The flavor wasn’t quite right.

As the brew is one of my staples and frankly, unarguably, one of the least offensive brews on the planet, this concerned me. Was it skunked? Did the bartender accidentally give him the wrong beer? Was something wrong with my father?

After a little investigation, he admitted he had popped an Altoid just as he was drinking the beer. Look, I’m not going to question the big guy. He must have needed a breath mint. But I feel sure the brewers at Wachusett Brewing Co. didn’t brew any of their beers to be enjoyed with an Altoid.

The point is, juxtaposition matters when it comes to beer.

This is not an article about pairing food with beer. This is some commentary on at least considering how one thing might impact another. It’s also about encouraging people to give beers another shot — in a different context, you might find different results.

If you’ve had a couple rich, smooth stouts, and then you make the jump to an amped up double IPA, well, it might work but the bitterness might be a lot to take on the first sip.

Recently I was enjoying a delicious Velvet Moon Milk Stout by Mighty Squirrel Brewing of Waltham, Mass., just savoring the rich coffee flavor and decadence of the brew. Then I followed it up with a much drier stout. It was not a good experience and left me disliking the second brew. I even bad-mouthed it to a friend.

I gave the brew another shot several days later and it was a completely different, completely pleasurable experience. I’m glad I came back to it.

Juxtaposition matters, of course, when you’re making a dramatic shift from one style to another, but it also matters when you’re sticking with the same style. If you’re enjoying a bunch of IPAs, sometimes the combination of hops from the next brew can hit you right or wrong.

Food has an impact as well, potentially bringing out the right or wrong flavors from the beer you’re drinking.

Just keep it in mind. If you try a beer and you don’t like it, you might just not like it, but consider the possibility that other factors have impacted how you feel about it. Try it again in a different context.

Here are three random beers that can probably be enjoyed in succession but I don’t really know.

ArrrVP Oak-Aged Robust Vanilla Porter by Great North Aleworks (Manchester)

Great North Aleworks takes its terrific Robust Vanilla Porter (RVP) and ages it in rum oak cubes, which accentuates the vanilla in the brew and gives it a little “bite,” while the beer maintains a dry finish. At its core this is still RVP, just a little different. The ABV is pretty low at 6.6 percent, making it approachable too.

Blueberry Ale by Wachusett Brewing Co. (Westminster, Mass.)

Just a coincidence that I referenced Wachusett earlier in the piece, but when you have had more IPAs than you should, this is a perfect choice. The subtle sweetness from the blueberries and the light body provide the perfect counterpoint to all that hop bitterness.

Unraveled IPA by Founders Brewing Co. (Grand Rapids, Michigan)

This is good stuff: very juicy but also smooth, if an IPA can be that. It’s also a crystal clear pour, making it very unique for this style. It also has big citrus aromas.

What’s in My Fridge
60 Minute IPA by Dogfish Head Craft Brewed Ales (Milton, Delaware)
I hadn’t had this in forever and I’ll tell you what, this brew, now nearly 20 years old, absolutely stands up to today’s super-hoppy IPAs. Cheers.

Featured photo: ArrrVP by Great North Aleworks

Erofili Roesel

What is your must-have kitchen item?

Definitely a knife.

What would you have for your last meal?

A spaghetti and feta pizza. … It’s something we have on the menu that my mom created back in the day.

What is your favorite local restaurant?

We’ve been going to The Red Blazer [Restaurant and Pub in Concord] for the longest time. I get the chicken Parm there.

What celebrity would you like to see ordering from your restaurant?

Adam Sandler.

What is your favorite thing on your menu?

The cheese pizza is something we have all the time. I like simple stuff.

What’s the biggest food trend in New Hampshire right now?

The steak and cheese sub, just because it has so many variations, and the gyro also seems to be upcoming as well. We have a beef strip or a grilled chicken option for our gyros.

What is your favorite thing to cook at home?

I like a simple piece of grilled chicken with Greek olive oil, oregano and some lemon, and then some mashed potatoes.

Homemade grilled chicken and mashed potatoes
From the at-home kitchen of Erofili Roesel of Brookside House of Pizza in Loudon

3 pieces chicken breast, butterflied
5 russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
¼ cup milk
½ stick butter
Dash of fresh oregano
Pinch of salt
Pinch of pepper
1 fresh squeezed lemon
Greek olive oil

Cook chicken breasts on the stove top in a cast iron pan, with enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Add oregano, salt, pepper and lemon. Boil the peeled and cubed potatoes until soft. Blend potatoes with milk, butter, salt and pepper. (Optional: Add another squirt of lemon when chicken is done).

Food & Drink

Farmers markets

Cole Gardens Winter Farmers Market is Saturdays, from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., at Cole Gardens (430 Loudon Road, Concord), now through April 17. Visit

Downtown Concord Winter Farmers Market is Saturdays, 9 a.m. to noon, in the Families in Transition building (20 S. Main St.). Find them on Facebook.

Rolling Green Winter Farmers Market’s final dateis Saturday, Feb. 27, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., at Rolling Green Nursery (64 Breakfast Hill Road, Greenland). Visit

Salem Farmers Market is Sundays, from 10 a.m. to noon, inside the former Rockler Woodworking building (369 S. Broadway, Salem). Visit

Featured photo: Erofili Roesel

Coffee is brewing

Game of Thrones-inspired cafe now open in Amherst

A new cafe in Amherst is inviting you to transport to the lands of Westeros while enjoying locally roasted coffees, teas, breakfast burritos, baked goods and more. The 7Kingdoms Cafe, which arrived last month in the town’s Salzburg Square shopping center, is inspired by Game of Thrones, a favorite show of co-owners and sisters Kareya and Karina Flores. The casual spot features medieval cloth shields, gargoyle light fixtures, chess boards, books and other themed decor and some drinks with names that call to mind the popular HBO series.

Kareya Flores, whose family also owns El Arroyo Mexican Restaurant just a few doors down in the same plaza, said she and her sister became inclined to take over the space following the closure of its preceding business, Hodlbyte Coffee.

“We’ve been [at El Arroyo] since 2018 … and we always liked to walk over to that cafe to grab a coffee and relax. Our restaurant staff would also head over there on their breaks,” Flores said. “So once we saw that the landlord there was renting that area out, we wanted to see if we could get it up and running again.”

According to Flores, it was a conversation among family members about what the new cafe would be named that sparked the idea of a Game of Thrones theme.

“We were trying to think of what would be different,” she said. “My husband suggested that it would be neat to have that as a theme … and everything kind of evolved around that.”

The cafe features espresso drinks, in addition to hot or iced drip and nitro coffees, using beans roasted from A&E Coffee & Tea. Many of the options are named after Game of Thrones characters or places, like the “latte of Winterfell” made with Irish cream-flavored syrup, the “Cersei chai latte,” and the “mocha Stark,” with either white chocolate or regular cocoa. If you prefer your own unique coffee creation, there are several other flavors of syrups available, from vanilla, caramel and hazelnut, to tiramisu, amaretto, strawberry and raspberry. Other featured drinks are hot or iced teas, hot chocolate, freshly squeezed orange juice, and mixed refreshments with fruits like strawberries, passion fruit and mango.

Food options include several varieties of breakfast burritos premade the same day they are available, like those with Mexican chorizo sausage, jalapenos, scrambled eggs, cheese and house salsa. There are also paninis, like an Italian option with ham and salami, and a vegetarian option with mushrooms, tomatoes and romaine lettuce.

At the cafe’s counter is a display case of fresh baked goods, several of which are either prepared at El Arroyo or sourced from the Manchester-based Dulces Bakery. There you’ll find items like conchas (Mexican sweet bread), cuernitos (Mexican sweet croissants) and assorted cookies.

Flores said the 7Kingdoms Cafe is already fast becoming a regular stomping ground for local Game of Thrones fans.

“Some people have said that as soon as they heard the name they knew it was related to Game of Thrones and were very excited,” she said. “They love discussing the show.”

7Kingdoms Cafe
: 292 Route 101, Amherst
Hours: Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
More info: Visit, find them on Facebook @7kingdomscafe or call 213-5390

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