At the Sofaplex 21/03/18

Coming 2 America (R)

Eddie Murphy, Arsenio Hall.

Murphy’s 1988 comedy gets a sequel that feels like, essentially, one of those EW movie reunion photo shoots with a few next-generation people sprinkled throughout (Leslie Jones, KiKi Lane, Tracy Morgan). Everybody looks great — I highly recommend checking out the Hollywood Reporter story about the costumes, which were created by Ruth E. Carter, the Oscar-winning designer behind the Black Panther costumes. I maybe recommend it (and a forthcoming Coming 2 America fashion lookbook? Please?) more than the movie, about which I had these thoughts: (1) I honestly don’t know if I ever saw the original all the way through or if it was one of those movies I just sort of absorbed parts of over the years. Or maybe it’s just been that long since 1988. (2) As many have noted, all the actors (including Wesley Snipes, Shari Headley, James Earl Jones, John Amos and random cameos, like Trevor Noah) seem like they’re having a great time. (3) In addition to the Coming 2 America lookbook, I’d like a whole album of new En Vogue/ Salt-N-Pepa collaborations (we get a cute reworking of “Whatta Man” here). (4) With everybody having such a great time while wearing such fun looks, does it really matter if the movie felt kinda “meh” most of the time?

The plot just barely holding everything together is that with the death of King Jaffee (Jones), Prince Akeem (Murphy) needs to return to America to find his long lost son to serve as his heir, as he and his wife, Lisa (Headley), only ever had daughters, who apparently can’t take the throne. This movie features less “2 America” and more of the American, newly-titled Prince Lavelle (Jermaine Fowler) coming to Akeem’s African country of Zamunda. Lavelle learns the ways of his new royal family, Akeem’s wife Lisa deals with her annoyance at having Akeem show up with his new son (and the son’s mom, played by Jones) and Akeem’s oldest daughter Meeka (Lane) chafes at having what she feels is her rightful role as future monarch usurped. The movie throws this all out there but, in keeping things light and jokey, never deals with its story points with much depth, which can make the story feel thin overall.

But, again, with wardrobe items like the red-and-gold wedding dress that appears at the end of the movie (Google it), does it really matter? B- primarily for fashion, En Vogue and Salt-N-Pepa and general nostalgia Available on Amazon Prime.

A new twist

Take3 on a mission to the mainstream

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For Deutsch, it was a revelation.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Featured photo: Take3. Courtesy photo.

The Music Roundup 21/03/18

Local music news & events

Character: Rhode Island based singer-songwriter Tequila Jim has a John Mellencamp vibe going on his latest original song, “And I Still Love You,” along with a long catalog of originals amassed over decades of performing. He counts influences across a diverse spectrum of music, from Herman’s Hermits to Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention. Thursday, March. 18, 5 p.m., To Share Brewing Co., 720 Union St., Manchester,

Coolness: Soulful, insightful singer and keyboard player Yamica Peterson is joined by scene veteran Nate Comp on guitar and backing vocals for a post-dinner show in downtown Manchester. The NEMA-nominated performer headlined the final pre-winter intermission show with a live audience at Concord’s Bank of NH Stage a few months back, an inspirational evening that will hopefully be repeated soon, as the sun comes out and herd immunity takes hold. Friday, March 19, 7:30 p.m., XO on Elm, 827 Elm St., Manchester,

Tuneful: Enjoy an eclectic selection of cover songs and quality food as Bob Pratte performs solo. A look at the singer and guitarist’s schedule for this year gives one encouragement that things will get better, as it grows longer with each passing month. Pratte plays a lot of classic rock and country songs, everything from Van Morrison’s “Into the Mystic” to “X’s & O’s” from Elle King. Saturday, March 20, 8 p.m., The Pasta Loft, 241 Union Square, Milford,

Vocalize: Lateafternoon music from Bobby Lane is on the menu at a pizza place doing a lot to support local music. With a set list that includes ’90s rockers like Matchbox 20, folk music, modern and classic country, Lane is a natural performer who recently marked two years of playing out. He’s the restaurant’s regular Wednesday night entertainer — this is a special event. Sunday, March 21, 5 p.m., Lynn’s 102 Tavern, 76 Derry Road, Hudson,

Have an Oscar movie night

Where to see the 2021 nominees

We finally have the Oscar nominees for 2020 films.

Announced March 15, it’s a pretty solid list for such a weird year (films from first two months of 2021 were also eligible; the Oscar ceremony is scheduled for April 25). Most of the early-2020 hopefuls (Elisabeth Moss for The Invisible Man, anything for First Cow or Never Rarely Sometimes Always or The Forty-Year-Old Version) didn’t make an appearance on the list but late-season favorites like Minari, Promising Young Woman, Judas and the Black Messiah and Nomadland have heavy award presence.

And now the fun really starts: seeing all the nominees. Many of this year’s big nominees had their “opening weekends” on streaming services so most are relatively easy to find. Here’s how to see the films in the big feature film categories:

Best picture

The Father — This movie is in theaters (as close as the AMC Methuen, according to Fandango) now and will be available via video on demand on Friday, March 26. The movie also received nominations for lead actor (Anthony Hopkins), supporting actress (Olivia Coleman), film editing and production design.

Judas and the Black Messiah — This Fred Hampton biopic was on HBO Max for a month when it was first released and is now in theaters. It also received two supporting actor nominations (for Daniel Kaluuya and Lakeith Stanfield) and nominations for cinematography, original song and original screenplay.

Mank — This Citizen-Kane-behind-the-scenes tale of old Hollywood is available on Netflix and also received nominations for lead actor (Gary Oldman), supporting actress (Amanda Seyfried), cinematography, costume design, directing (by David Fincher), makeup and hairstyling, original score, production design and sound.

Minari This beautiful story of a Korean American family is in theaters (in the Boston area) and available for rent via VOD. It also received nominations for lead actor (Stephen Yeun), supporting actress (Yuh-Jung Youn), directing (Lee Isaac Chung), original score and original screenplay.

Nomadland— This tale of a woman dealing with her losses while living as a nomad (she travels from job to job living in her van) is in theaters (including in Keene Cinemas) and on Hulu. It also received nominations for lead actress (Frances McDormand), cinematography, directing (Chloé Zhao), film editing and adapted screenplay.

Promising Young Woman — This searing (but at times bleakly humorous) tale of grief and vengeance is in theaters (in the Boston area) and available for rent via VOD. It also received nominations for lead actress (Carey Mulligan), directing (Emerald Fennell — and yes you read that right, two female director nods this year!), film editing and original screenplay.

Sound of Metal — This movie about a musician who loses his hearing is available via Amazon Prime and was also nominated for lead actor (Riz Ahmed), film editing, sound and original screenplay.

The Trial of the Chicago 7 — Aaron Sorkin’s very Sorkin-y movie about the 1968 Democratic Convention protests is available on Netflix and is also nominated for supporting actor (Sacha Baron Cohen), cinematography, film editing, original song and original screenplay.

Other movies with acting nominations

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom — This Netflix release based on an August Wilson play garnered nominations for lead actress (Viola Davis) and is the last chance to honor Chadwick Boseman, who was nominated for lead actor. The movie also received a nomination for costume design and production design.

One Night in Miami… — This Amazon Prime movie based on a Kemp Powers play got Leslie Odom Jr. a supporting actor nominatinon as well as an original song nomination and an adapted screenplay nomination.

The United States vs. Billie Holiday — This biopic of Holiday is a bit of a mess but Andra Day’s performance as the singer makes it worth watching; it’s available now on Hulu.

Pieces of a Woman — Vanessa Kirby is excellent in this Netflix release about grief (at least she is in the hour and 40-ish minutes of the movie I watched; I guess now I need to make myself watch the harrowing first 30 minutes of the movie).

Borat Subsequent Moviefilm — I think, years from now, this movie, available on Amazon Prime, is going to be a time capsule of weirdness, with all the Trump and Covid and political conspiracy stuff crammed into this “hidden” camera comedy. Maria Bakalova, who plays Borat’s “teenage” daughter, is nominated for supporting actress, and the movie also received a nomination for adapted screenplay.

Hillbilly Elegy — Glenn Close gets her eight Oscar nomination (no wins yet) for her role in this mess of wigs and accents and arm’s-length storytelling. I think we all agree she deserves an award for a movie. See Hillbilly Elegy if you want, I guess, like if you’re an Oscar completist, on Netflix.

Animated feature films

Onward — This movie opened right before Everything but quickly made its way to Disney+ early in the pandemic, which is probably why I had completely forgotten about this Pixar movie about suburban-y magical creatures (elves, centaurs, cyclopses, etc.) and two teens brothers on a quest to have their late father back for one day.

Over the Moon It’s another movie about a kid dealing with the loss of a parent. For reasons I can’t remember, I only made it about halfway through this movie during my one attempt to watch it (though I do remember some very pretty visuals). The movie is available on Netflix.

A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon — This might be my favorite of the category. This G-rated movie is beautiful to look at, fun for adults (sci-fi pop culture jokes) and kids (burps!) and manages to be extremely clever and sweet while also not really having any dialogue. The mischievous but kind Shaun the Sheep meets a lost alien in this Netflix release that felt pretty all-ages friendly (a rarity even among kid fare).

Soul — This late-2020 Pixar release, available on Disney+, looks and sounds absolutely beautiful and while it’s probably OK for most kids, scary-stuff-wise (there are some creatures that might freak out some of the youngest movie viewers) my middle-elementary-school-aged kid did get bored with some of the parts where the main character agonizes about his career and what constitutes a life’s purpose.

Wolfwalkers — This Apple TV+ movie is definitely not for the littlest kids — the wolves can be scary, the British officials ruling Ireland are scarier. But for middle-elementary and up this movie with picture-book-like illustrations and feisty girl central characters (one is an English girl who has come to Ireland with her wolf-hunting father; one is an Irish girl who can also turn into a wolf) is beautiful and thoroughly engrossing.

Featured photo: Minari

Yes Day (PG) | Cherry (R)

Yes Day (PG)

Jennifer Garner stars in Yes Day, a delightful family comedy about wacky hijinks on a day when kids pick the fun.

Or put another way, Jennifer Garner plays a mom in a waking nightmare of a horror story about a lady going through some stuff personally and professionally who is bullied by her family into participating in some internet nonsense to prove she can still loosen up and have fun — you know what would be fun how about someone else do the laundry for a change, dishes don’t wash themselves, don’t want to see Mom erupt in a rage volcano when she steps on a Lego how about you PICK UP THE LEGOS.

It is possible this movie touched a nerve.

When the Torres children — young teen Katie (Jenna Ortega), tween Nando (Julian Lerner) and young Ellie (Everly Carganilla) — complain that their mom, Allison (Garner), always says “no” to everything they want to do, she makes a deal with them. If they approach their kid duties (chores, homework) with more gusto, they will earn a Yes Day, a 24-hour period where the parents won’t say no to any of their plans or desires, within legal, geographical and financial limits. (Their “mom says no” complaints are documented both in a haiku Katie writes for school and a movie Nando makes calling his mom a dictator for, among other things, losing her cool when she steps on Legos.) And even though that sounds exhausting, Allison approaches the day with excitement because it means spending non-nagging time with her family, most significantly with independence-seeking Katie and with work-absorbed husband Carlos (Edgar Ramírez). Allison, a former sky-dive and backpack-the-world type, is also under some stress outside the home as her attempts to reenter the workforce have not been successful.

A lot of cute giant ice cream sundae-eating and paintball-ish game-playing ensues. The actors here have good family chemistry, with Ortega believably walking that teen line between having fun with siblings and parents while still wanting to do mature things with her friends, and the other kids turning in cute but not cloying performances. Ramírez turns in a completely fine “likeable dad” performance, even if his character gets the least to do of the bunch. Perhaps because of movies like Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day and her Capital One ads, I’ve come to think of Garner more as a mom character than as her Alias action hero but here she reminds you can she can pull off physical comedy and action-y moments as well as more sitcom-y moments of humor.

Even with a side plot involving Katie and her plans to go to a music festival with some friend’s cousin and some older-dude friends, the movie is basically focused on wholesome goofiness. Wholesome goofiness and carpet-destroying foam — but I don’t think everybody who watches this is going to spend quite as much time thinking “how are they going to get that out of the car upholstery” and “does homeowners insurance cover that” as I did. But then maybe that’s a sign that I need a Yes Day. (No.) B

Rated PG for some rude and suggestive material, and brief language, according to the MPA on Directed by Miguel Arteta with a screenplay by Justin Malen (based on the book by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld), Yes Day is an hour and 26 minutes long and is available on Netflix.

Cherry (R)

Tom Holland plays a young man who falls into addiction in Cherry, a movie directed by Russo brothers Anthony and Joe of Marvel movies fame.

Specifically, they directed the Captain Americas Winter Soldier and Civil War and two Avengers — Infinity War and Endgame.I mention this because it’s hard not to watch this movie as “Anthony and Joe Russo show they can do something not Marvel” or maybe as “Anthony Russo and Joe Russo bring popcorn movie flash to a downbeat story.”

We first see Holland, whose character isn’t called by name in the movie, as he prepares to rob a bank, explaining his actions to us in narration that is weaved through the movie. The bank robbery serves as bookends to his short (in years) life story, starting when he is aimlessly attending college and meets Emily (Ciara Bravo), the girlfriend who quickly becomes his wife, through a stint in the Army and into his post-Army years of PTSD, heroin addiction and crime.

The bare bones of Cherry are a thoroughly depressing story that the movie manages to add humor (dark humor) to and that is warmed up by Holland, who I think does an above average job as a kid who seems a little bit like he’s blown by the wind through his life.

Bravo, whose Emily feels more like Holland’s character’s projection of her than she does like a fully formed person, feels sort of sleepy throughout. Their relationship is one of the cores of this movie but her wispiness prevents us from ever really understanding why she stays with Holland or why the relationship is so important to him.

I wasn’t bothered by the movie’s general storytelling showiness, all strange comic/tragic asides, stylized shots and fourth-wall-breaking narration. Perhaps at a runtime shorter (significantly shorter) than two hours and 22 minutes the style of the movie and the general solid-ness of Holland’s performance would be enough to keep things moving and to make the movie’s points (assuming the elements about the military, the war, careless opioid prescription and the socioeconomics of a gray-looking Cleveland are points the movie’s trying to make and not just, like, story-telling accessories). But you feel this movie’s lengthy runtime and it doesn’t always provide you with a good reason why you are lingering in this or that moment. As a result, a lot of the more stylish elements end up feeling like padding.

Cherry isn’t a bad movie but the result of all this moviemaking style put on a relatively thin story is that you feel like you’re getting about four inches of elaborate frosting on one inch of cake. C+

Rated R for graphic drug abuse, disturbing and violent images, pervasive language and sexual content, according to the MPA on Directed by Anthony Russo and Joe Russo with a screenplay by Angela Russo-Otstot and Jessica Goldberg (from the novel Cherry by Nico Walker), Cherry is two hours and 22 minutes long and is available on Apple TV+.

Featured photo: Yes Day

No One Is Talking About This, by Patricia Lockwood

No One Is Talking About This, by Patricia Lockwood (208 pages, Riverhead)

Two-thirds through her first novel, Patricia Lockwood slyly skewers the Granite State, saying that the author of a certain book “made New Hampshire sound like a place you wanted to go.”

Worse, the book in question was a sex diary.

Don’t hold it against her. Lockwood skewers everybody and everything in No One Is Talking About This, which is a scathing indictment of online life — or as she calls it, life in “the portal” — combined with a tender story of love and loss.

Lockwood has published two books of poetry as well as a widely acclaimed memoir, 2017’s Priestdaddy. She has a poet’s voice and a hawk’s eye, able to pinpoint contemporary absurdities from fish pedicures to paleo diets, from fatbergs to men who expose themselves online to (yes, this is a thing) snail face cream.

“Modern womanhood was more about rubbing snail mucus on your face than she had thought it would be,” Lockwood writes of her protagonist, a social-media star who inexplicably vaulted to stardom by posting a random question, “Can a dog be twins?”

“This,” Lockwood writes, “had raised her to a certain airy prominence.” Like so many vapid celebrities, the woman becomes famous for being famous and is invited to speak at events with people known more by their user names than their actual names, people whose lives revolve around interacting with strangers and commenting on everything that happens in the world. (Because then they have some say in what happens. “She had to have some say in what happened, even if it was only WHAT? Even if it was only HEY!”)

Written in a third-person stream of consciousness, with characters who are not identified by name, the style is a bit jarring at first but grows on you, and is fitting for the attention-challenged citizens of the portal, which would be us. While there are traditional chapter breaks, many of the paragraphs act as chapters, as Lockwood blazes from one topic to another: baby Hitlers on the internet, gods of foreigners, jetlag, a dictator who might as well have been identified as Donald Trump.

Her commentary is rich in politics, as when Lockwood writes, “White people, who had the political education of potatoes — lumpy, unseasoned and biased toward the Irish — were suddenly feeling compelled to speak out about injustice. This happened once every forty years on average, usually after a period when folk music became popular again.”

Even if the reader would normally be inclined to rage at whatever opinion Lockwood expresses, her shocking arrangements of words knocks all the fight out of you. The New York Times has called her a “word witch” with good reason.

I would have been happy to read 300 pages of Lockwood’s poke-the-world zingers, but she inserts a baby into the story, the protagonist’s niece, diagnosed in utero with a terrible disease. The woman leaves her life in the portal to be with family, becoming the sort of person that she had previously avoided on the internet, “the ones in mad grief, whose mouths were open like caves with ancient paintings inside.”

Ultimately, some of the questions the protagonist screams are the existential problems of life, the same ones that would have been posed by Plato and Aquinas, had they had computers.

“What did we have a right to expect from this life? What were the terms of the contract? What had the politician promised us? The Realtor, walking us through being’s beautiful house? Could we sue? We would sue! Could we blow it all open? We would blow it all open! Could we … could we post about it?”

For all its quirkiness, No One Is Talking About This is a deeply moving novel, one that seems to accomplish something the protagonist says isn’t being done: writing about what’s happening out there, what’s happening in there, what’s happening to us. We gather the things in the portal, Lockwood writes, “as God’s own flowers,” not questioning whether they are poisonous.

Not that real life isn’t enough to slay us. But novels like this alleviate the sting, make dull the poison. AJennifer Graham

This may be inspiring or soul-slaying for aspiring writers, but Steven Pressfield wrote for 17 years before he got paid for his craft.

His first hit, however, was out of the park.

It was a novel, The Legend of Bagger Vance (Avon, 272 pages), which eventually became a movie. Since then, Pressfield has worked steadily as an author and screenwriter, along the way becoming a respected coach for other artists in his inspirational books The War of Art (Black Irish Entertainment, 190 pages) and Do the Work (Black Irish Entertainment, 112 pages), among others.

Though not as well-known as these titles, other Pressfield books explore the ancient world, usually its military. Gates of Fire (Bantam, 400 pages), for example, is about Spartan soldiers and the battle of Thermopylae in 480 BC, and it’s required reading for all officers in the U.S. Marine Corps, Pressfield says.

His new novel is A Man at Arms (W.W. Norton, 336 pages), and it’s set in the Roman Empire in the aftermath of the crucifixion of Jesus. The protagonist is a character from previous books, Telamon of Arcadia, who has been hired by the Romans to apprehend a courier delivering a letter to insurrectionists in Corinth. It is, according to the publisher, “a gripping saga of conquest and rebellion, bloodshed and faith.” It also sounds like it might be good reading around Easter.

There is, of course, plenty to choose from when it comes to historical novels about the Roman Empire. It’s a subgenre in itself, fueled by readers that Reddit has dubbed “Legionerds.” (A legion was the largest unit in the Roman army.) My favorite of the genre is, appropriately enough, called Legion, by William Altimari (Imperium, 296 pages).

For a deeper dive, check out the three-part series by British author Robert Harris, who specializes in historical fiction. Harris’s most recent book, V2 (Knopf, 320 pages), is set in World War II, but his three-part series on Cicero and Rome was well-regarded. They are Imperium, Lustrum and Dictator, and while published separately in hardcover, they are available in a paperback set from Arrow.

Or, you can skip the fiction and go straight to the history in Mike Duncan’s The Storm Before The Storm, The Beginning of the End of the Roman Republic (PublicAffairs, 352 pages). — Jennifer Graham


Author events

AMY MACDONALD Monadnock Writers’ Group welcomes children’s book author. Virtual, via Zoom. Sat., March 20, 9:45 a.m. Email

PAULA MUNIER Author presents The Hiding Place. Hosted by Gibson’s Bookstore in Concord. Virtual, via Zoom. Tues., March 30, 7 p.m. Registration required. Visit or call 224-0562.

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).

MICHAEL TOUGIAS Author of The Waters Between Us presents. Virtual, via Zoom. Part of Concord’s Walker Lecture Series. Wed., April 7, 7:30 p.m. Free. Call 333-0035 or visit

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

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


TEEN POETS LAUREATE OF NEW HAMPSHIRE READING Teen Poets Laureate will be reading, screen sharing and discussing their work. An open mic will be open to any teens who are interested in applying for next year’s Teen Poet Laureate New Hampshire program. Part of the Poetry Society of New Hampshire’s Reading Series. Virtual, via Zoom. Tues., March 30, 7 p.m. Visit

Featured photo: No One Is Talking About This,

Album Reviews 21/03/18

Kristian Montgomery and the Winterkill Band, Prince of Poverty (self-released)

Catching up with a couple of local-ish releases, things that have sat in my Facebook messages for a while, mostly because there’s always a hassle dealing with local guys. Take note, bands, just send direct links, OK, because I hate Dropbox, and now that that’s out of the way, let’s look at this (very good) album from Montgomery, a Danish alt-country-hippie who’s now based in Boston, working as a fisherman in Brewster, Mass. Although the biographical materials claim the album’s a genre-goulash, I didn’t find that to be true, more like something between ’70s country-pop and Hank Williams III, i.e. there’s a discernible punk influence afoot. Lots of throwback southern rock going on here, too: The LP starts out with “American Fire,” which will immediately have you thinking of The Outlaws, a sound, when done well, that’s always welcome at this desk. And so on and so forth, some things that evoke Amos Lee, Rascal Flatts in afterparty mode, stuff like that, all of it memorable and never annoying. A+

Amber Dust, Nothing Is Lost (self-released)

Another local release, this time a sort-of-compilation album (actually an audiophile’s take on the movie Boyhood, in many ways) from Sandown-based Jesse Nickerson, whom we’ve talked about before. Nickerson’s obviously a gentle soul, and his nicely lived life is documented here in the form of a sequence of alt-Americana tunes that were written for friends and family and such. For the most part, the record Krazy-Glues your basic Sufjan Stevens patter to Steve Winwood-level notions of songwriting, which means you’ll hear billowy melodies spiced with Wilco-ish experiments that are guaranteed not to get on your nerves. The music itself was salvaged from a personal collection of cassettes, spanning from 1985 to 2000; it all had to be digitally rescued, and thus it’s hilariously casual overall, with songs often introduced by background chatter from various bystanders and cohorts. I particularly liked “Tethered,” wherein a ’70s stun-guitar line matches up nicely with a trashcan-bashing drum line during one segue. A

Retro Playlist

In this space 10 years ago today, I wrote about America’s favorite Honey Boo Boo singing lady Britney Spears and her then-new album, Femme Fatale. Back then, it was de rigueur for pop divas to use trance techno in their beats. Remember those days? It was like the three hacks who write all the lousy, interchangeable pop songs for America’s smarmy, Nerds-gobbling tweens were listening to nothing but Tiesto, and life wasn’t all that bad. I’m sure you’ve forgotten by now, but “Till the World Ends” was the single, and it was pretty decent, except for this one stupid “hiccuping” Auto-Tune effect that was added to her voice, an unsurprising move by the corporate Borgs who’ve ruined everything else in music to date.

Ho ho ho, know what else was released that week? The soundtrack to the famous TV show NCIS, delivered in the form of a CD titled NCIS: The Official TV Score. My Stupid-O-Meter had to be put in the shop for a week after that one, but before the poor device fritzed out I was able to get off a quick “it’s such cheesy horrible music that I automatically went to the kitchen to make a horrible cheese sandwich when I heard it just now.”

It was a tough week, that week. I had to pretend to give a fair examination to The King Of Limbs, the album Radiohead had just put out. I have no problem admitting that I absolutely detest Radiohead, probably just as much as does fellow music snarkician Dr. David Thorpe, former editor of the “Your Band Sucks” page on the Something Awful site. Thorpe once commented that, oh-so-fittingly, Radiohead’s singer, Thom Yorke, has two superfluous letters in his name. And so on, hate hate hate. My take on the album was that along with a couple of Aphex Twin-style moves, most of the sounds “came from the same old pit of eye-rollingly mournful slowbie-slug nonsense in which they traditionally wallow.”

The other album on the slab that week was GrailsDeep Politics, a band that’s essentially a work in progress, given that they have no singer. Nonetheless, I submitted, “If you’re into penny stocks, there’s actual potential here.” (I may have been lying, though, just to keep the PR person from getting too bummed out.)


A seriously abridged compendium of recent and future CD releases

• Blessed be, y’all, blessed be, because guess what, new albums are coming out this Friday, March 19! I love seeing what’s in the weekly list, guys. It’s a surprise every week, like going into a haunted house at the circus, except the ghosts and goblins and mummies who used to play bass for REO Speedwagon and assorted talentless hipster phonies are real, and they’ll totally get me if I don’t have my trusty snark-hammer at the ready, and I am fully prepared to smite them! Now take my hand, random person who’s reading my genius at the diner, yes, take my hand, strap yourself in for safety, and let’s see what’s goin’ on, in the crazy haunted house world of rock ’n’ roll and whatever! Yikes, looky there, folks, the first creature to pop out from behind the spooky gnarled trees is ancient cowboy-hat sorceress Loretta Lynn, whose new album, Still Woman Enough, is on the way! This is her 50th album, and no, I’m not kidding, she’s made 50 albums, not even including her duet albums with Conway Twitty. How does she do it? I don’t know! But I’ll bet she’s got to be playing thrash metal by now, so let’s see what the dilly is with the new single — wait, stop the ride, there’s no single! There’s just a “trailer” that’s 20 seconds long. If there’s anything on earth I detest to the core, it’s album trailers! But there’s banjo being plucked slowly, and she rap-sings about being a coal miner’s daughter, so it’s safe to say she still sounds like Reba McEntire. OK, that’s it, the first stop is always a fail in these cheap haunted houses, so keep your arms and legs safely inside as we press onward!

• Hope you took your heart medication, guys, because look, the next stop in our ride through the poorly maintained ghost house is a Canadian act, some indie-rock imbecile named Chad VanGaalen! Look out, it’s a moose with a knife, ha ha, so scary! The new album is World’s Most Stressed Out Gardener, and maybe you’ve already heard the single, “Samurai Sword.” If so, I’ll bet you wish you hadn’t; I mean, I sure didn’t need to hear this numbskull sing really bad harmony with some edge-lady girl he probably met on TikTok through some “Really Bad Music” search. They literally sound like they’re drunk, or just really stupid, and the beat is a rickety messy joke, like something the Rolling Stones recorded just to troll their manager into thinking they’d lost their minds. OK, next stop, gang, choo choo!

• Here we are at the spooky graveyard part of the ride, guys, with an album from Bell Orchestre, called House Music! The horror angle here is that this is a six-piece “avant-garde” band from Montreal, and there are fiddles and other trappings used by hayloft bands that have never been inside an actual hayloft. These guys opened for Arcade Fire early on, and the first single here is called “V: Movement.” It is, of course, awful, sort of Eno-style ambient, with some disparate layers, like belled trumpet, cheap synth, and bad singing. Moving on.

• Last stop, kids, with the big showstopping gorilla monster, Sting, and his new album, Duets, which, I’ll bet you anything, doesn’t include a duet with anyone who doesn’t own a few Ferraris. Italian singer dude Zucchero adds his voice to a clunker song called “September.” It’s almost OK, but then it turns into a song you swear you’ve heard before on every lousy Sting album. OK, out, everybody out, single file, let’s go.

Meet Martin Reyes

The winemaker for Peter Paul Wines

Meet Martin Reyes, a Master of Wine and the first American of Mexican descent to achieve that honor. Reyes is a wine maker and chief wine officer for Peter Paul Wines in Napa Valley, California, and an importer for the Pennsylvania market. The recipient of many wine accolades, Reyes said in a recent phone interview that he stumbled into the wine industry. A graduate of Stanford in 2000, he set out to become a recruiter for high-tech companies, up until the bottom fell out of the tech economy immediately thereafter. Without a job, he tended bar and became interested in the business of wine, winemaking and viticulture. He stocked shelves and then landed a job with Fred Beringer at the St. Helena Wine Center (re-named The Bottle Shop last year). In this well-established tasting room, Martin learned how to appreciate extraordinary wines, his favorite of which is Champagne. He credits his accomplishments to the support of the Beringers.

The Institute of Masters of Wine is the home of exceptional expertise in the wine world. Started more than 65 years ago as an exam for the U.K. wine trade, it is now a globally recognized title held by just over 400 individuals worldwide and 50 in the United States. The exam tests the breadth and depth of a candidate’s theoretical knowledge and tasting skills in the art, science, and business of wine. One must prepare a theory paper and in-depth research project. Martin’s MW dissertation, “Crowdsourced Ratings for Wine: Exploring the Rise of the Consumer Critic and Its Impact on Purchasing Behavior in a U.S.A. Environment,” was recently published (read it at

Peter Paul Wines is owned by Peter T. Paul, CEO of Headlands Asset Management, and an alumnus and benefactor of the University of New Hampshire. Shortly after forming the winery, Peter Paul brought on Martin to develop a portfolio of wines. Martin set out to source grapes from some of the best vineyards in Napa and Sonoma and is now producing extraordinary wines, the “Live Free or Die” wines being exclusive to the state of New Hampshire. A portion of the sale of these wines also goes back toward supporting local New Hampshire organizations.

Peter Paul “LIVE FREE OR DIE” 2017 Sonoma Coast Chardonnay (originally $24.99 at the New Hampshire Liquor & Wine Outlet and reduced to $21.99) has a beautiful straw color and floral aromas of apple and peach along with some yeast. It is full to the mouth with melon and minerality, along with a touch of citrus. Vanilla is also present in the long finish on the palate, a perfect pairing to shellfish. The grapes of this wine come from the Bacigalupi Vineyard, in the Russian River Valley. The Bacigalupi Vineyard is famous for having produced the fruit that went into the Napa Valley Chardonnay from Château Montelena, which triumphed over acclaimed French wines in the 1973 Paris tasting.

Peter Paul “LIVE FREE OR DIE” 2018 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir (also originally $24.99 at the New Hampshire Liquor & Wine Outlet, and reduced to $21.99) is a pedigree from another outstanding vineyard in Sonoma, Terra de Promissio vineyard in the Petaluma Gap. Terra de Promissio (Land of Promise) grapes go into some of the finest wineries’ blends, including Castello di Amerosa, Hanzell Vineyards, Kosta Browne and Williams-Selyem. Planted in 2002 by Charles and Diana Karren, a converted 53-acre ranch with rolling hills and a southwestern exposure, it is one of the most sought-after producers of pinot noir grapes. This wine has a beautiful red garnet color. It has a light bouquet of cherry, along with some earthiness, a departure from many pinot noirs and more akin to Burgundian pinot noirs. The nose carries through to the palate with a bright and lush texture and acidity to a long finish.

Peter Paul 2016 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon (available at the New Hampshire Liquor & Wine Outlet at $39.99) is a blend of cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, petit verdot, merlot and malbec grapes, sourced throughout Napa Valley from Rutherford, to Mount Veeder, to St. Helena. This is a low production line of only 400 to 500 cases. The nose is of cassis, plum and vanilla. On the tongue, the wine is full of black cherry fruit and light, velvety tannins. The finish is long, which makes this a perfect pairing for a fine, rare rib-eye steak. This wine was awarded “One of the U.S.’s Best Napa Cabernets” by Wine & Spirits magazine.

Working alongside Trevor Smith, a former cellar master at Screaming Eagle who offers his technical expertise, Martin has created wines that are not only great tasting but appealing because of their price points, one of the hallmarks of Martin’s goals to popularize wine.

Featured photo: Peter Paul wines. Courtesy photo. Martin Reyes. Courtesy photo.

Mister Handsome

I pulled into the parking lot to get my first Covid vaccine.

It was a bit science-fictiony/disaster-movie-y. Everything was being administered by the National Guard, all of whom were masked and wearing a disconcerting amount of mysterious equipment. As I pulled up to the second place in line, a guardsman had me roll down my window and told me, “OK, move up and talk to the Sergeant.” He emphasized the word sergeant, just the slightest bit, to let me know that this was somebody important, and that I’d better be on my best behavior. I was grateful for the warning.

I pulled up one slot, to where the Sergeant was waiting for me with a computer tablet.

He asked to see my identification, then pulled up my file.

Then he paused.

And gave me a Look. A very serious look. He was masked, of course, so I could only see his eyes, but even so, I knew I was under serious appraisal.

The issue, as it turned out, was my paperwork. Clearly, I had been in a goofy mood the previous night when I had filled out my medical forms. Under the category of Ongoing Conditions, I had written, “Chronic Handsomeness.”

After another moment, the Sergeant said, “I share your condition. I know the burden it can put on a man. Let’s get you out of here…,” and waved me into Parking Spot No. 1. It was a tiny moment of bonding.

I got my shot, and the sun came out, and birds and woodland creatures did a little musical number, etc.

But this got me thinking about the quality of handsomeness.

As it turns out, there is a drink dedicated to handsomeness — the Captain Handsome. I would not call it a classic cocktail, but it is not weirdly niche, and obscure, either. It is a fairly complex drink, with a surprising number of ingredients, but pretty simple to actually make.

So I made one. And it was good — one of those drinks that you aren’t really sure about with the first sip, but becoming more and more agreeable with each subsequent taste. It is made with crème de violette, which gives it a really lovely lavender color. It is crisp and floral, and washing the glass with absinthe gives it a strangely alluring hint of — something.

Here’s the issue, though. The Captain Handsome has five or six ingredients (depending on whether you count seltzer as an ingredient) and at least one of them — the crème de violette — requires a trip out of state to get. Absinthe is a bit pricey, and I’m reluctant to ask someone to lay out 30 bucks for the 1/8 of an ounce or so that it would take to rinse a martini glass with it.

So, here’s my thinking: Do any of us need the superhero level of handsomeness implied by the name Captain Handsome? I, for one, would be happy with a Mister Handsome level of alcohol-induced handsomeness.

Mister Handsome

A tiny amount of bourbon – Given the tiny amount you’ll be using, and the number of competing flavors in this cocktail, probably not your best bourbon.

2 ounces gin – I’ve been enjoying Death’s Door, lately.

½ ounce blue curacao – This will not give you the same handsome color as in the original drink, but rest assured it will be handsome.

½ ounce Campari – this will turn the color of the drink from a whimsical, tropical blue to a steely violet. It will also add a slight bitterness to balance out the sweetness from the curacao.

½ ounce fresh squeezed lime juice

5 drops of rose water – Rose water can be tricky stuff. You’re always risking adding one drop too many and making a drink taste grandmothery. In this case, though, be of stout heart. You will need the floweriness to replicate the floral note of the missing crème de violette.

1 to 2 ounces plain seltzer – I like Topo Chico for its intense bubbliness.

(1) Rinse a chilled cocktail glass with bourbon. Swirl it around to coat the inside of the glass, then pour off the excess.

(2) Add the gin, blue curacao, Campari, lime juice and rose water to a shaker, half-filled with ice. Shake thoroughly. If you shatter some of the ice, so much the better. Tiny ice shards really add to the drinkability of this cocktail.

(3) Strain into the prepared cocktail glass, then top with seltzer. (Don’t skip this step. The bubbles add a bracing mouth-feel to this drink, which raises it from a Mister Attractive-Enough-I-Suppose to a full-on Mister Handsome.)

The original Captain Handsome is garnished with a brandied cherry. This version doesn’t need it. Its steely grey color would contrast too much with the whimsy of the cherry.

This reimagined cocktail retains a lot of the mystery and allure of the original. It still has that “do-I-like-it?” quality at the first sip, then a growing amount of pleasure and affection as you work your way down the glass. (Or it works its way down you. Either/or.) The gin gives it an astringent air of authority. There is the barest hint of bourbon in the background, making you feel more like a grown-up as you drink it. There is the slightest kiss of sweetness from the blue curacao, but not enough to even hint that this is some sort of hipster, gimmick drink.

This drink lends itself well to small gatherings — even intimate ones. A sip or two will give you the confidence to make direct eye contact with a guest as you serve them one of their own. “Yes,” your gaze will say, “I know. But I am strong enough to be responsible with this amount of handsomeness. You are in good hands.”

Featured photo: Mister Handsome cocktail. Photo by John Fladd.

Jeff LeDuc

Jeff LeDuc of Epping is the owner and founder of the Dawg Shed (find them on Facebook @dawgshed), a food stand he runs with family friend Shannon Knox that offers hot dogs, cold subs, salads, soups and other items made fresh daily, including chili dogs as specials on Fridays and Saturdays. LeDuc, who also owns a shed building and delivery company called JD’s Sheds and More, had been running a hot dog cart on the side at local venues for about three years. He started the Dawg Shed last December — you can find it next to Floral Expressions Boutique (252 Calef Hwy., Epping) every Tuesday through Saturday, beginning at 11 a.m. and usually until the mid- to late afternoon, depending on the day.

What is your must-have kitchen item?

Definitely a knife. That’s the most important.

What would you have for your last meal?

Something Italian, probably chicken Parm.

What is your favorite local restaurant?

I have three that I visit very frequently that are all right here in town. Telly’s across the street, the Holy Grail Pub and then also DeBernardo’s.

What celebrity would you like to see visiting your food stand?

I’d love to see anyone from the [Boston] Bruins team from the ‘70s or ‘80s, [like] Bobby Orr, Terry O’Reilly or Brad Park. All of them are very supportive of the local hockey teams and are just great professional athletes.

What is your favorite thing on your menu?

A sauerkraut dog with spiced mustard.

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

I think the trend is what we’re offering, which is fresh foods like homemade soups and sandwiches made right in front of you. … I think more people now feel the need to support local businesses in their community.

What is your favorite thing to cook at home?

I love doing omelets in the morning, usually bacon and cheese. In the evening, there’s nothing better than a nice T-bone steak cooked on the grill.

Cranberry walnut chicken salad
From the kitchen of Jeff LeDuc and Shannon Knox of the Dawg Shed in Epping (combine the following ingredients)
Oven roasted chicken breast (quantity depending on preference)
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup chopped walnuts
2 to 3 cups mayonnaise
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon onion powder
2 teaspoons mixed Italian herbs

Featured photo: Jeff LeDuc of the Dawg Shed in Epping

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