Scrappy success

Kelly MacFarland headlines at Chunky’s

For Kelly MacFarland, succeeding as a female comedian isn’t more or less difficult than succeeding in any other profession.

“There are unique challenges for women in general, so take all of those and just apply them to this job as well,” she said in a recent interview. “I’m scrappy, and I learned early on that I might have to work a little harder in some ways. … [But] if I can do the job well, being a woman is going to serve me.”

MacFarland’s ethic is borne out; she regularly headlines, has appeared on Comedy Central, NBC’s Last Comic Standing and the 2019 Comics Come Home benefit show in Boston and has new sets on the Hulu show Up Early Tonight and Dry Bar Comedy.

“I always just focused on being the best comedian that I could be, and I still do that,” she said. “In that way, hopefully I’m just undeniable … [and] it won’t matter what my gender is.”

Though she loved TV funny women, MacFarland’s early influences were men: Steve Martin, Bill Murray, Eddie Murphy.

“I’m not super-delicate,” she said. “To me, it was that male energy.”

This would change in hindsight.

“Looking back on it, a lot of those female comics had a male energy that I liked as I was getting older,” she said, citing Joan Rivers and Rosie O’Donnell as examples. “That aggressive kind of comedy that is … unapologetic, I guess, is the best way to say it.”

On stage, MacFarland riffs a lot on her home life. She married in 2016 and isn’t coy about the union’s many non-romantic benefits.

“When he said, ‘Do you wanna marry me?’ I was like, ‘I do, because I want to put out another album.’ The one I just released is all about him and my stepson. So, thanks. I need to put the divorce album out. I’m really excited,” she laughed. “No, we’re not gonna do that.”

When it comes to Covid-19, the opposite’s true.

“At first, I loved talking about the pandemic; now I’m done,” she said. “I write from an emotional place, which seems really silly, because I’m a comedian. But as soon as the world started to open up again, I actually found my writer’s block kind of go away. In 2021, I want to discover a whole new thing to talk about. I’m excited about that.”

After spending much of the last year doing podcasts, including the well-received I’m Fine with fellow comic Dan Crohn, MacFarland is pleased to be back performing to equally enthusiastic (albeit socially distanced) crowds.

“The audience is so grateful that you’re willing to come out, and you’re so grateful,” she said. “It’s a love fest; how would you be angry? You just risked catching the virus to come here, and paid money, so be on your best behavior.”

She’s especially fond of Granite State comedy fans.

“I love the people in New Hampshire; they want to have a good time,” she said. “One of the things I love about standup is that for any audience I want them to feel like they’re having a moment in time that they haven’t had before and that I haven’t had before. … New Hampshire really delivers on that. I don’t know if it’s that they realize what I’m doing and or if it’s just that New England way of being very engaged.”

MacFarland uses a pre-pandemic analogy to illustrate her point.

“If you sit down at a bar in New England, you’re going to talk to the person next to you; it’s just how it works here,” she said. “You’ll find out their name and where they’re from and whatever. Playing in New Hampshire is like bellying up to the bar with a new friend, and that’s so fun to me.”

As mass vaccinations offer hope for herd immunity, MacFarland is thinking of a cultural renaissance akin to the one that followed the flu epidemic of 1918; however, she goes a step further.

“They keep saying that’s how the Roaring Twenties happened,” she said. “I don’t care about the roar; I care about cash. [I want] people to want to go out. Please come to a show and support live performance.”

Kelly MacFarland
: Saturday, March 27, 8 p.m.
Where: Chunky’s Cinema & Pub, 150 Bridge St., Pelham
Tickets: $15 at

Featured photo: Kelly MacFarland. Courtesy photo.

The Music Roundup 21/03/25

Local music news & events

American stream: Talented multi-instrumentalist and singing duo Green Heron closes out a virtual concert series. The evening will be a tonic for fans who hoped to see them in person a few months back at Zinger’s. That event fell to Covid concerns. The Milford performance venue just announced its permanent closure, leaving a void in the region’s comedy music and comedy scene. Thursday, March 25, 6:30 p.m., Bell and Brick Virtual Coffeehouse, streamed on the Belknap Mill’s Facebook Page and YouTube Channel.

Good cause: A benefit event for a youngster battling brain cancer, Bash For Nash features music from Southern Breeze, covering the likes of Lynyrd Skynyrd, Molly Hatchet and the Outlaws, but the big deal is a car, truck and heavy equipment show designed to delight boys of all ages; it’s specific request of Nash Rogers, the day’s beneficiary. Other fundraising includes a 50/50 raffle and auction. Saturday, March 27, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., New England Dragway, 280 Exeter Road, Epping,

Country rock: A downtown country-themed bar welcomes Nick Drouin playing solo. The drummer turned front man has a well-tuned instinct for crafting good songs, exemplified by “Small Town,” an autobiographical paean to growing up in Candia made in Nashville with Jason Aldean’s III Kings rhythm section. “It’s a real song,” Drouin once said, “straight from the heart every time I sing it.” Friday, March 26, 8 p.m., Bonfire Restaurant & Country Bar, 950 Elm St., Manchester,

Triple laughs: One of Boston’s quintessential comics, Dave Russo headlines a strong lineup that includes Amy Tee and Jason Merrill. Russo is familiar as co-host of NESN’s Dirty Water and Denis Leary’s annual Comics Come Home benefit show. Prior to his comedy career, he attended UNH on a wrestling scholarship, winning a gold medal at the Bay State Games. Then Wayne Newton discovered him, and the rest is history. Saturday, March 27, 8 p.m., Cello’s Farm House, 143 Raymond Road, Candia, tickets $30 at

Oscar viewing at home

So many nominees, so many streaming platforms

Every Oscar season is a little bit weird.

Some years, it feels like every nominee came out in the final month of the year. Some years, it feels like the winners have been known for so long there’s no real contest. Some years — my least favorite kind of years — a significant number of nominations aren’t available at all for the movie-going public until months after the award ceremony, when you’ve completely forgotten about the movies.

This year, most of the movies are fairly accessible, and not just in the “if you’re willing to drive to Boston” sense but accessible even if you aren’t completely comfortable leaving your house just to fill out your Oscar ballot (nominees were announced March 15 and the awards will be handed out April 25). In last week’s issue of the Hippo, I laid out how to find the feature films in many of the major categories. As of this Friday, March 26, when The Father will hit VOD, the only nominee in the best picture, animated feature or acting categories that you can only see in theaters is Judas and the Black Messiah (which was on HBO Max for a month). Find my full listing of those films on page 33 of last week’s paper. One update: Minari, nominee for best picture and in five other categories, is also available via Red River Theatres’ virtual cinema; see for information.

Here are some of the “odds and ends” releases — some more of the feature films outside the best picture and acting categories that managed to snag a nomination or two.

News of the World This Tom Hanks downbeat Western is, you know, fine. Hanks plays a Hanks character carrying a bunch of grief through post-Civil War Texas as he tries to bring an orphaned girl to her family. The movie received nominations for cinematography, original score, production design and sound and is available to purchase. It’s not the best movie night you’ll ever have but it’s also not the worst.

GreyhoundI feel like this is a good place to mention the other Tom Hanks 2020 release that is both respectable and sorta forgettable. Hanks plays a World Ward II Navy captain who is leading a convoy of ships through the Nazi-sub-filled Atlantic Ocean. This movie, which is nominated for sound, is basically a chase movie and the only character who really matters is “Captain Tom Hanks.” It is absolutely fine while you watch it — which you can on Apple TV+— and will vanish from your mind almost as soon as it’s done.

EmmaAnya Taylor-Joy is the titular Jane Austen heroine in this very fun adaptation that was one of my favorite pre-pandemic 2020 releases. It has a specific look to costumes and set design and it’s no surprise that it received nominations for costume design and makeup and hairstyling. It is currently available on HBO and it is available for purchase.

Mulan Disney’s live-action Mulan is probably going to be remembered more for how the movie was released (on Disney+ for an extra fee, the first of Disney’s films to be released that way) than the movie itself, which wowed me with its visuals and underwhelmed me with its story. I totally support its nominations for costume design (the costumes are “press pause and gaze” beautiful) and visual effects.

Pinocchio Roberto Benigni stars as Geppetto in this live-action Pinocchio adaptation (which I haven’t yet seen) that scored two nominations: one for costume design and one for makeup and hairstyling. It is available for rent or purchase and appears to have both an original Italian audio/English subtitles track and an English-dubbed audio track.

Da 5 Bloods One of the disappointments of this year’s nominations was that this Spike Lee movie didn’t earn any acting nods (in particular for Delroy Lindo). It did get one nomination, original score for Terence Blanchard. The movie is worth seeing, even if it probably needs a big screen to capture all of what Lee was doing; it’s available on Netflix.

Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga This (and Emma) might be my favorite of the one- or two-off nominations; this sweetly goofy Will Ferrell movie has grown on me since I first saw it, especially the mid-movie song-mash-up featuring assorted Eurovision stars. The song “Husavik,” the big climactic number sung by Elizabeth Banks’ character, Sigrit, is nominated for original song, which hopefully means someone will perform it at the Oscar ceremony. The movie is available on Netflix.

The Life Ahead Sophia Loren stars in this Italian movie that is still on my “Oscar nominees to watch” list. It’s available on Netflix and has a song, “Lo Sí (Seen),” nominated in the original song category.

Tenet Christopher Nolan’s timey wimey movie did have some impressive elements, most notably the fight scenes. It makes sense that this movie would garner a visual effects nomination and, sure, production design, why not, for all those sleek locales. It is currently available for rent or purchase and will be on HBO Max May 1.

The White Tiger This year’s screenplay nods were basically all of the best picture nominees (minus Mank) plus One Night in Miami (which should have been a best picture nominee), Borat Subsequent Moviefilm (I mean, what can you say; 2020 was a year) and this movie, based on the 2008 novel by Aravind Adiga that won the Man Booker Prize. Available on Netflix, The White Tiger features a strong performance by Adarsh Gourav as a man in India attempting to break free of crushing poverty and the demands of his village. It’s an occasionally tough but definitely worthwhile watch with moments of humor.

Featured photo: Emma

Zack Snyder’s Justice League (R) | Sound of Metal (R)

Zack Snyder’s Justice League (R)

Warner Brothers asks for a do-over of their 2017 DC supergroup movie and thus presents Zack Snyder’s Justice League, a movie that will make you say, “Oh, now I get it.”

You probably know the widely reported story here: Director Joss Whedon finished the 2017 Justice League after original director Zack Snyder stepped away due to the death of his daughter Autumn (to whom this movie is dedicated). Reshoots led to (1) a terrible moosh-face on Henry Cavill because they had to get rid of his Mission Impossible mustache digitally, (2) what seemed like (still seems like? who knows) the end of the whole Batfleck phase of Batman, and (3) a bunch of Wonder Woman fans (including me) being annoyed at how that movie subjected the mighty warrior to some real shady male-gaze shots.

This “Snyder cut,” as the internet’s been calling it for years, is a re-editing of the film that uses Snyder’s original footage (plus some new scenes shot in 2020, according to various media reports) and sends the Whedon-y stuff (including that distracting “no mustache” face) to the Phantom Zone with Joss himself (who has bigger problems now). The new movie is four hours long (which is twice as long as the original) and has a different Big Bad and a different group dynamic among all the superheroes it brings together. It is also, surprisingly, better and has a more interesting story.

The bones are sort of the same as the 2017 version: Batman (Ben Affleck), Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), The Flash (Ezra Miller), Aquaman (Jason Momoa) and Cyborg (Ray Fisher) — and eventually Superman (Cavill) —come together to fight a scary guy. That guy, Steppenwolf (voice of Ciaran Hinds), comes to Earth searching for three “Mother boxes” that, when put together, create the Unity, which is a glowy thing that looks like some kind of expensive STEM toy and that when activated will burn Earth to a cinder.

The Snyder Cut adds the wrinkle that Steppenwolf’s plans aren’t just scorching for his own gain. He’s attempting to deliver a hellishly terraformed Earth to Darkseid (voice of Ray Porter), an even bigger badder galactic conqueror who is particularly interested in Earth, the one place he was defeated millennia ago. Humans, gods (of the Zeus variety), Amazonians, Atlanteans and at least one Green Lantern worked together to defeat Darkseid and keep him from obtaining a thing hidden on Earth (a magic formula that’s sort of crop-circled into the rock layer of the planet) that would allow him to control everyone and everything in the universe.

Here, we also learn a lot more about each of our heroes. The Flash and Cyborg get mini-origin movies folded in to this tale and we get to know more about Aquaman. Wonder Woman is the character we’d recognize from her standalone films. We learn more about everybody’s individual environments, which means more Themyscira, more Atlantis, more Barry Allen (The Flash) being the peppy fun ray of sunshine that this movie needs. We also see more about their motivations for joining Bruce Wayne’s frantic quest to create a band of Earth protectors, and the “death” of Superman in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice becomes more meaningful both emotionally and for this movie’s plot. And while the movie jettisons the quippiness that was so at odds with the bleakness in the 2017 movie, it manages some surprising lightness and even moments of optimism.

I’m not sure how this was all ever going to fit in one movie. (Maybe by regular-speed-ing the slow motion? There is a lot of slow-mo here.) I can see exactly how it would fit into two movies, like Justice League and Justice League: Darkseid or something, one a little over two hours and one a little under two hours. The movie is also divided into parts — six parts and an epilogue, so if four hours feels like too much you could watch it a few “episodes” at a time. While I (surprisingly) enjoyed watching the movie in one sitting, I don’t think it’s necessary to consume it that way. There are a lot of little moments, a lot of Easter eggs that set up interesting possibilities even if you don’t know every bit of comic book lore.

There are several articles out there on the internet (including a pretty fascinating one on that explain how this movie was meant to be the middle of this particular series of DC movies and how this story set up two films that were to have come after. The most miraculous accomplishment of Zack Snyder’s Justice League is that it left me more than a little interested in seeing those two movies. B

Rated R (though I can’t figure out by whom it is rated or specifically why, I suspect for language; though ultimately rather hopeful for a Snyder movie, Zack Snyder’s Justice League is at least as dark as The Dark Knight). Directed by Zack Snyder with a screenplay by Chris Terrio, Zack Snyder’s Justice League is four hours and two minutes long and is available on HBO Max.

Sound of Metal (R)

A drummer suddenly loses his hearing in Sound of Metal, a superbly well-crafted movie that has been nominated for six Oscars.

Ruben (Riz Ahmed) is a drummer in a duo with his girlfriend Lou (Olivia Cooke) who goes from experiencing some fleeting auditory weirdness to sudden loss of almost all his hearing. It’s during a gig that he’s forced to finally tell Lou that he’s lost about 75 percent of his hearing and likely to lose more. Ruben and Lou’s life seems built around their music — they live and tour in an Airstream and the concerts appear to be their main (and only, probably) form of income.

Thus faced with the loss of what Ruben feels is his whole life, Ruben is understandably panicked and Lou is afraid that this will affect his sobriety (we learn he is four years in recovery from heroin use). Ruben’s sponsor helps get him into a recovery program for people who are deaf. Though he initially resists, Ruben decides to stay — meaning that Lou must leave him — and spends weeks learning, as the program’s leader Joe (Paul Raci) puts it, how to be deaf. We see him learn sign language and teach kids drumming. But his urge to get back to his life — music, touring, Lou — never subsides.

Ahmed, who along with Raci received one of this movie’s two acting nominations, is absolutely excellent here. (This is a particularly strong leading actor year; Ahmed, Chadwick Boseman and Stephen Yeun are three standout Oscar nominees.) He does an excellent job conveying the panic and fear that come with discovering something has suddenly changed, dramatically, with your body and its ability to do something you took for granted. He also makes us feel Ruben’s mix of emotions as he learns how to navigate his life with greatly reduced hearing but also still yearns to get back to his life as he knew it.

Also nominated for film editing, original screenplay and best picture, Sound of Metal feels like a sure-thing win in the sound category (this year, sound mixing and sound editing have been combined into one category). The movie masterfully weaves the world as Ruben hears it into the story, putting us in his head and letting us experience his frustrations and his moments of joy. A

Rated R for language throughout and brief nude images, according to the MPA on Directed by Darius Marder with a screenplay by Darius Marder & Abraham Marder, Sound of Metal is two hours long and distributed by Amazon (where it is available via Prime Video).

Featured photo: Zack Snyder’s Justice League

Life’s Edge: the Search for What It Means to Be Alive, by Carl Zimmer

Life’s Edge: the Search for What It Means to Be Alive, by Carl Zimmer (Dutton, 336 pages)

In his 14th book, New York Times science columnist Carl Zimmer had me at abortion.

It was something he had to address, of course, in a book called Life’s Edge, which explores the surprisingly difficult question of whether things are alive, dead or something else. In fact, for many people, the only time they will think about the question is when they are considering the legality of abortion, or are asked by a Senate panel “When does life begin?”

Abortion so rules this debate in America that it’s easy to think that it began with Roe v. Wade. But, as Zimmer explains in the elegantly titled chapter “The Way the Spirit Comes to the Bones” — a variation of a line from Ecclesiastes — people of faith have been grappling with the ethics of abortion for millenia, and some deeply religious people have had views you might not expect.

Thomas Aquinas, for example, said that human beings acquired souls in a process that he called “ensoulment,” and that in the first phase the embryo was basically vegetative, “with the same faculties for growth as plants.” In one culture in South Africa, people believed that babies weren’t fully human until their umbilical cord stump detached, which can take up to three weeks after a baby is born. Some early Jewish scholars taught that embryos were “mere water” before the 40th day after conception. And in England in 1765, a judge ruled life does not begin until what is known as “quickening” — the first fetal kick. And so forth. There has never been consensus that life begins at conception, as today’s abortion opponents fervently believe.

Zimmer doesn’t wade into this subject to alienate his readers, but to engage them through the most contemporary (and understandable) example of the ethical morass that increasingly confronts scientists as they work with gene-editing tools and three-dimensional clumps of cells that weren’t in their laboratories two decades ago.

Science has answered many complex questions with certainty, but what distinguishes life, and how it arose from nothing, remains a mystery. There have been times when we appeared to be on the brink of a breakthrough. Zimmer tells the story of the Englishman John Butler Burke, who, for a time in the early 20th century, was hailed as a hero for apparently growing life from a fluid made of beef both, salt, gelatin and radium salt. The microscopic spheres that emerged seemed to divide and to flower, like cells.

Burke announced that his “radiobes” should be classified as living things, and for a while his work was celebrated, his accomplishment comparable to Darwin’s. Other scientists, however, could not replicate Burke’s work, and eventually he fell into disrepute.

Zimmer was intrigued when he came across the little-known story, because, as he puts it, we tend to remember the heroes of science, the Darwins and the Pasteurs, not the also-rans. But the failures, to include the British scientists who once believed the ocean floor was alive, are fascinating in their own right and help to explain the head-banging frustration over why something that seems so simple is so difficult to define. Even chimpanzees know when another of their species is dead; why are human beings, who can now grow brain tissue in dishes, unable to find the precise recipe for life?

About that tissue — Zimmer does a superb job of explaining organoids, the three-dimensional clumps grown from stem cells, that are the new frontier in research on disease. (And in ethics, especially when it comes to brain organoids, and at what point does potential consciousness become a concern.) Just this month researchers reported in a medical journal that they had induced organoids made of tear-gland cells to “cry,” a finding that they hope may result in better treatments for dry eyes. On a cringe scale, weeping cells in petri dishes are just below conscious brains in buckets, so organoids are something we all should better understand.

So what is life? NASA has an 11-word definition, which is “life is a self-sustaining chemical system capable of Darwinian evolution.” Not something you would want to put on a “congratulations on your new baby” card. But another definition, “self-reproduction with variations,” could also describe a computer virus.

So not only can we not create life in a lab, but we can’t even elegantly define it. Zimmer comes as close to poetry as the science-minded get, however, and Life’s Edge is an accessible, engrossing examination of questions that have stumped the smartest people on the planet for thousands of years. A

Fans of the novelist Ann Patchett will be interested in her recent essay in Harper’s magazine. Called “These Precious Days,” the essay is about “Tom Hanks, tornadoes, running bookstores, taking mushrooms, making art in quarantine, stories without endings and an unlikely friendship,” according to the magazine cover.

It’s slated to become a book, set for release the week of Thanksgiving. The 320-page book, also called These Precious Days, will be published by Harper, proving that despite all the talk about how slow the publishing process is, even the legacy publishers can move fast when they sense opportunity.

This was also demonstrated in the speed with which books on the pandemic arrived last year. Writer’s Digest says it can take from nine months to two years for a book to go from contract to shelves, but books about the novel coronavirus were showing up on Amazon within months of the first lockdowns.

With the first anniversary of the pandemic observed this month, here’s a look at what’s out there to consider:

Apollo’s Arrow by Nicholas Christakis (Little, Brown, 384 pages) examines “the profound and enduring impact of the coronavirus on the way we live.” It’s hardcover and Kindle only for now, but will be out in paperback in October.

COVID-19: The Pandemic that Never Should Have Happened and How to Stop the Next Oneis by science journalist Debora MacKenzie (Hachette, 304 pages). Interestingly, it’s been rebranded for the paperback release in September and will be released then as Stopping the Next Pandemic: How COVID-19 Can Help Us Save Humanity.

Richard Horton, the British editor of the renowned medical journal The Lancet, weighed in with The COVID-19 Catastrophe (Polity, 140 pages), which is already out in paperback with no title change.

Out this month is Dr. Peter Hotez’s Preventing the Next Pandemic: Vaccine Diplomacy in a Time of Anti-Science (Johns Hopkins University Press, 208 pages).

And for a totally different vibe, check out Kitty O’Meara’s children’s book And the People Stayed Home (Tra Publishing, 32 pages), a beautifully illustrated rendition of O’Meara’s prose poem that went viral on social media last year


Author events

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

SCOTT WEIDENSAUL Author presents A World on the Wing. Tues., April 20, 7 p.m. The Music Hall, Historic Theater, 28 Chestnut St., Portsmouth. Tickets cost $46. Visit or call 436-2400.

ERIN BOWMAN Author presents Dustborn. Hosted by Gibson’s Bookstore in Concord. Virtual, via Zoom. Tues., April 20, 7 p.m. Registration required. Visit or call 224-0562.

SUZANNE KOVEN Author presents Letter to a Young Female Physician, in conversation with author Andrew Solomon. Tues., May 18, 7 p.m. Virtual. Tickets cost $5. Visit or call 436-2400.

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

Featured photo: Life’s Edge: the Search for What It Means to Be Alive

Album Reviews 21/03/25

Jahmed, Armani (Human Re-Sources Records)

I’m pretty much at the point where I rarely read other reviews of rap albums in order to formulate a proper review. It’s a waste of time. Usually, rap reviewers just toss out a random jumble of underground buzzwords that won’t age well, either that or sound ridiculously enthusiastic about something that, upon actual examination, isn’t really groundbreaking. In the case of this 24-year-old Pomona, California, dude, MTV blogged that he “spits like nitrous oxide courses through his veins,” by which I think the writer meant “helium,” being that he has a high voice (he isn’t a mumbling MF Doomer, either, far from it). No, this is really slick stuff, easy on the trap, heavy on the bass, and whatever wrongs he’s trying to address here, you root for him to get through it all. Feats are from Freddie Gibbs and Suga Free, if that means anything to you, but whatevs, if you like older underground vibe with a good amount of depth, I’m sure you’ll like this. A

Motörhead, Louder Than Noise: Live In Berlin (Silver Lining Music)

Motörhead has never been any notably present part of my listening diet, so much so that I almost didn’t bother futzing with Microsoft Word in order to find an “o umlaut“ and thus correctly spell the band’s name for this story. That said, all bets are off now, in this time of young people actually listening to bands that use xylophones and five-dollar Casio keyboards without any irony whatsoever, and so Lemmy, the band’s Hells Angels-looking leader, is missed in more ways than one. So either you like these guys or not, and we can just go over the basics. It’s a live show from December 2012, held at the Berlin Velodrom, and everything is in order: “Ace of Spades,” “Overkill,” “Over the Top,” and the crowd of drunken Germans sounds enthusiastic. Anything I’ve missed, please sign in to my Patreon, pay the (very reasonable) fee, and hurl vitriol to your heart’s content. A-

Retro Playlist

Let’s go back to almost exactly or somewhat near eight years ago — no, you have no say in the matter, and besides, it’s all just in the context of this column’s back issue files, not necessarily stuff that was “hot” and “dope” at the time. I wouldn’t force anyone to relive that. Ploonk-and-babble-indie weirdos Vampire Weekend were about to release Modern Vampires of the City, their third album, and at the time, somewhere around March 21, 2013, the only advance music was a live version of “Unbelievers,” which they performed on Jimmy Kimmel’s hilariously unfunny show. That “hookless song came off like Everly Brothers trying Tully-style twee-punk on for size, i.e. it’s a step backward.” Ah well, all things do return to the dust from whence they blah blah blah, don’t they?

Anyway, I was still something of a gothie dude back then, and was hence excited to hear the advance of Kunst, the 2013 album from industrial-monster-stompers KMFDM, because those guys kind of rule. But, ah, no. Like all the albums they’d released after 2005’s Hau Ruck, this was yet another “variation on that LP’s blueprint, a weird (and hole-filled) duality comprising a few songs’ worth of furious White Zombie ass-kickage that gets nulled out when second-banana singer Lucia wraps herself around those snaking fire-dance darkwave-vs.-hardfloor joints that always make them sound like a bunch of newbies trying to be Skinny Puppy.” Omnia est consummare, like the Latin nerds say.

Subject change. Back then, house music was getting irritating, as buzz-lords Justice were still king. The other album I talked about eight years ago was, however, a welcome break from the wub-wub stuff, the second full-length from Italian DJ Alex Gaudino, Doctor Love. “The whole album blinks its eyes at the velvet-rope beach-dance scene,” I said, and embraced neo-disco on the Jordin Sparks-guested ‘Is This Love,’ “a swirling-fog vehicle that’s pretty much all hook.” Cool record, but there was a little wub on there for balance (“Miami Penthouse”).


A seriously abridged compendium of recent and future CD releases

• And on the fifth day, the Lord said, “Today will be a day of new music albums, in order to test the patience and gastronomic endurance levels of those who trade in Snark.” And so it comes to pass that this Friday, March 26, will be a fancy hobo stew of new phonograph records and CDs, from singers and bands and unemployed William Shatners and whatever. So let’s strap ourselves in, and see which of us will barf first, you or me (I have $20 riding on me), as we begin with Swedish hipster-folkie girl duo First Aid Kit, whose new album, Who By Fire, is in the delivery trucks, set to be dropped off at the boarded up Strawberries store. This new album is composed of covers of Leonard Cohen songs (you know how much I love Leonard Cohen, of course, nudge-wink-barf), so I’ll wager that the advance teaser sounds like something I would never buy. Yep, it’s basically like Billie Eilish doing a cover of some irritating, maudlin pop song thing that had me wishing I were a skeleton, so pay up, yo, I demand my Pulitzer this instant.

• Whoa, I’d never heard of The Antlers, so my brain automatically assumed they were either room-temperature hipsters like Deerhoof or shoegaze also-rans like Deerhunter, you know, because I associate antlers with animals who scatter when they hear annoying noises. But behold, this is a German black metal band, a fact that I predict you will forget in exactly five seconds, as I certainly will. But as long as we’re here, the new Antlers album is titled I Green To Gold, and the single is called “Solstice.” But wait, droppin’ the needle on this slab shows that the band has totally given up on black metal, as this is totally a shoegaze ballad, like Raveonettes, big guitars with huge reverb and all that stuff. Of course, maybe that’s the new thing with black metal bands, like, do a ballad that’s slow shoegaze, and then go back to yelling about goat monsters or whatever their deal is these days. Should I investigate further, or do we just assume these guys have gone shoegaze? You don’t care, you say? Wait, hold it, this thing here says these guys aren’t the German black-metal Antlers, it’s the Brooklyn indie band that sounds like Deerhunter. OK, my bad, my perfect record of encyclopedic omniscience about all things music has finally been broken, maybe, but I still want my Pulitzer (scowls, looks at invisible wrist watch).

• Uh oh, here’s something I can’t sling any hate at, it’s tech-mud-rockers Tomahawk, with Tonic Immobility, their new album! These guys have real problems, and so I like them, remember to follow my Twitter for more fast and simple recipes! The roll-out single, “Tonic Immobility,” is already here, if you want to swipe it with one of those YouTube-to-MP3 programs that you should totally not use, especially if it hurts billionaire greed-monsters like Paul McCartney. FYI, “tonic immobility” is basically the smart-person way to say “playing possum,” but this tune sure isn’t. It’s a little like Battles, with a heavy Jane’s Addiction-style groove, and then it’s sort of like Rage Against The Machine. If I could go back in time, I would join this band, no question.

• Lastly, it’s sexy opera-metal stalwarts Evanescence, with The Bitter Truth, an album whose single, “Yeah Right,” kicks butt, but politely and opera-y. This band should have soundtracked that last awful Wonder Woman movie, which, come to think of it, is, unintentionally, faint praise, so never mind.

Let’s talk IPAs

So annoyingly popular

IPAs are so popular right now I almost try to avoid writing about them, not because I don’t enjoy them, but, look, they’re almost too trendy. And I don’t want to inundate people with IPAs all the time.

I think I may have overcompensated a bit, though. Let’s be serious; IPAs are far and away the most popular craft beer style in the country. You walk into a brewery, any brewery, and you know you’re going to have several IPAs to choose from and probably one or maybe two each of any other style they offer. That’s just the reality of the craft beer scene.

They are so popular because they taste so good. The bright hops feature big notes of tropical fruit, citrus and pine, and just an abundance of freshness. It’s incredible how flavorful they are.

With New England-style IPAs, you’re drinking a beer that looks like a glass of orange juice, and honestly, often doesn’t taste that far off from that.

It seems brewers have an almost endless supply of hop combinations to play with, and play with they do. The winners are the beer drinkers of this country.

It’s just that sometimes IPA culture is a bit much — this is the style of beer that causes people to do irrational things, like wait in really long lines just for beer. But that doesn’t change the way they taste.

Here are three IPAs I’ve had recently that reminded me how terrific this style is.

Hi, Jack New England IPA by Hobbs Brewing (Ossipee)

A friend handed one of these to me before we hit the slopes for some very late winter skiing and snowboarding, and I just couldn’t be more grateful. Yes, we can definitely talk about whether or not it was a great idea to have a beer before I tried to clumsily manipulate onto and then off of a chair lift, but I have no regrets.

I think a lot of the amped-up IPAs of today can be a bit much on the gut — I don’t know that I’d call them heavy but some of the big ones can bog you down, between the alcohol, the hops and, I think, the yeast.

This IPA is an explosion of fruity hop flavor but in a less robust package. It’s delicious and extremely easy to drink. What I’m saying is, you could have several of these, and I’m not saying you should, but I’m saying you probably will want to.

Donkey-Hoté Double IPA by Throwback Brewery (North Hampton)

Speaking of amped-up IPAs, here’s one. This is aggressive — aggressively hoppy and bitter — and yet surprisingly easy to drink, so be careful, as this comes in at 8.2-percent ABV. The pour is hazy and the flavor profile features big notes of citrus and apricot. I think a beer like this is your “reward” beer. Sit down, relax, put your feet up and enjoy this hop-bomb after you’ve accomplished something, such as an afternoon of yard work.

603 IPA by 603 Brewery (Londonderry)

I’m a little embarrassed to say that I don’t think I had ever had this beer before. Not sure what I was waiting for. This is excellent. In addition to tropical citrus notes, the brewery says the brew features notes of lime, orange and melon, and, yeah, that’s pretty much right on. I think you will pick up the lime, which just makes this brew especially interesting. This is a terrific “anytime” IPA.

What’s in My Fridge
Green Head IPA by Newburyport Brewing Co. (Newburyport, Mass.)

One of my all-time favorite IPAs, there’s just something about this beer. Maybe it’s just personal nostalgia or maybe it’s because I like the tag line, “The beer that bites you back,” but this West Coast-style IPA has just always been a winner for me — deliciously hoppy and bitter. Cheers!

Featured photo: Hi, Jack New England IPA by Hobbs Brewing. Courtesy photo.

Dan and Sean Gagnon

Dan Gagnon of Manchester, his son Sean, wife Debra and daughter Kimberly McEnerney of Bedford are the family team behind NH Dan’s Seasoning (, find them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter), a company offering a line of three seasoning blends for cooking anything from steak, chicken and fish to all kinds of vegetables. A master carpenter by trade, Dan Gagnon originally created his seasoning almost 20 years ago for himself that he later shared with family and friends — a spicy blend now known as the Live Free or Dry Rub, made with sea salt, ground pepper, paprika, chili powder, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, dehydrated onion flakes, ground cumin, dried oregano and dried thyme. Two more similar but milder blends would follow: the Granite State Seasoning, which adds dried basil and rosemary leaves to offset the heat, and the Mild ‘n’ Wild Seasoning, which has less of a kick due to a reduction of its hot ingredients. All three are mixed and bottled locally and are sold in more than a dozen stores, including the Manchester Craft Market at the Mall of New Hampshire and Hand Made-In at the Pheasant Lane Mall in Nashua, as well as online through Etsy. The Hippo recently spoke with Dan and Sean Gagnon.

What is your must-have kitchen item?

Dan: One of my top things to use is probably the grill.

Sean: I’m big on the Instant Pot, not going to lie. It’s a godsend. You can do everything in that thing.

What would you have for your last meal?

Sean: Mine would be lobster. A full lobster with butter, and some fries on the side.

Dan: I’d have to say a lobster as well.

What is your favorite local restaurant?

Sean: T-Bones [Great American Eatery]. The Bedford one is probably the one we go to the most because it’s the closest to my house. We’re both carpenters and they’re our biggest client. … I’ll usually look at the specials, or I’d probably go with the salmon.

Dan: CJ’s [Great West Grill in Manchester]. I like their salmon too.

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

Sean: Because I’d want an actual honest review, I’ll go with Gordon Ramsay. If he tried my dad’s cooking, I don’t think he’d complain!

Dan: Tom Hanks. He’s a very good actor and I’d definitely love to make something for him.

What is your personal favorite seasoning that you offer?

Sean: I like the Live Free or Dry Rub, because I’m a fan of heat. A little goes a long way too, so you don’t have to add much to your food. … I love putting it on chicken.

Dan: For me, probably the Live Free or Dry Rub, on steak. My grandson would say eggs. He won’t eat eggs unless he has the rub on them.

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

Sean: I’m seeing a lot more different varieties in cultures of food. I love to try different foods from all around the world.

What is your favorite thing to cook at home?

Dan: I like making shepherd’s pie, of course with beef, onions, corn, peas, carrots and mashed potatoes.

Sean: Pizza, just because I love the experience of creating it with my family. I’ll usually do a light sauce, with extra cheese, pepperoni and sausage.

Filet mignon, roasted red smashed potatoes and cooked asparagus
From the kitchen of Dan Gagnon

Filet mignon: Season the filet with NH Dan’s Live Free or Dry Rub, wrap in bacon and use two toothpicks to hold in place (remember to remove them when ready to serve). Place in the refrigerator for two to three hours to let the seasoning be absorbed into the meat. Remove and leave at room temperature for 30 minutes. Grill on high for three to four minutes to sear. Lower grill to medium/low and cook until preferred temperature. Remove and let sit for around 10 minutes before serving.

Roasted red smashed potatoes: Boil desired quantity of small red potatoes until soft, then remove and place in the refrigerator for one hour to cool down. Use parchment paper to place the potatoes on and flatten them to around a ¼-inch thickness. Place parchment paper on top of a cookie sheet, put olive oil on the paper and season both sides of the potatoes with NH Dan’s Granite State Seasoning. Place potatoes on parchment paper, preheat the oven to 425 degrees and put potatoes in for 30 to 45 minutes. Turn over halfway through and cook until the outside is crispy.

Asparagus: Put olive oil in a frying pan, remove the lower part of the asparagus and place in the pan. Add some NH Dan’s Mild ‘n’ Wild Seasoning. Cook on medium/low heat and cover pan. Cook until asparagus is soft but still has a crunch.

Featured photo: Left to right: Debra Gagnon, Sean Gagnon, Kimberly McEnerney, and Dan Gagnon.

African and Caribbean flavors

ToKoss Take-Out opens in Manchester

When The Stuffed Sub closed last year, owner Chris Munzimi of Afro Paris, the beauty supply store next door, immediately took notice. He and other family members had been looking for a space to open a restaurant, and the newly vacant spot on Elm Street in Manchester was perfect.

ToKoss, a takeout-only eatery offering hard-to-find African and Caribbean dishes like oxtail stew, turkey tail, jerk chicken and cassava bread, in addition to house subs, burgers and wings, opened March 9. Munzimi, his younger brother Romeo Masuku, cousins Christian Mumpini and Junior Munzimi and family friend Jonathan Manono are all investors.

Masuku, whose family came to New Hampshire from the Democratic Republic of the Congo in the early 2000s, said the restaurant’s name is derivative of the Lingala word “kitoko,” which means “something good” or “beautiful.” Its logo features an African safari tree.

“We wanted to bring some culture to the city of Manchester,” Masuku said. “We’re trying to incorporate dishes from the continent of Africa itself, and also dishes from the Caribbean islands and other Latin American countries. … Some of the recipes come from my mom directly.”

ToKoss features several options that are available all day, like chicken tender or house-marinated steak subs, cheeseburgers with a variety of add-on options, and salads. Traditional African or Caribbean meals become available starting at 3 p.m. — those include oxtail stew, curry chicken, jerk chicken, and pondu, or cassava leaves. Each comes with rice and one or two additional sides, like sweet plantains, fries, corn on the cob, and samoussas, or meat-filled pastries.

“The oxtail stew is something that everybody loves. That’s been the biggest seller,” Masuku said. “Oxtail is something made in Africa and the Caribbean islands as well. … The differences are in the spices used. We’ve identified house spices that we use here to try to incorporate everybody.”

You’ll also find a rotating menu of specialty items served on most weekends, like goat meat stew, catfish stew or smoked turkey tail, which can be ordered with any side. Other a la carte items have included wings, baby back ribs, fried shrimp, chicken or house-marinated steak kabobs, and beignets, also known in the Democratic Republic of the Congo as mikate.

“[Beignets] look like small doughnuts, but just fried. They’re very popular in Europe as well,” Masuku said. “You can eat them virtually with anything.”

Soft drinks like Coca-Cola, Sprite and Fanta are sold in glass bottles out of a refrigerated case.

“In Kinshasa, which is the capital city of where I was born, when you go out to restaurants you’ll usually see Coke products come in glass bottles,” Masuku said, “so we brought that in here just to have that little bit of nuance. … We’re going to try to add ginger beer also.”

In addition to takeout orders via phone, Masuku said ToKoss will soon be offering online ordering and delivery through a third-party service.

ToKoss Take-Out
: 1293 Elm St., Manchester
Hours: Tuesday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday, 3 to 9 p.m. (may be subject to change)
More info: Find them on Facebook and Instagram @tokosstakeout, email or call 232-4399 to place a takeout order

Feautred photo: Oxtail stew over Caribbean rice with curry chicken and a beef samoussa. Photo by Matt Ingersoll.

Ready, set, cook

Milford’s Chris Viaud to appear on Top Chef

Milford chef Chris Viaud will appear as a contestant on Season 18 of Bravo’s cooking competition series Top Chef, which will premiere Thursday, April 1. He’ll compete in several challenges with 14 other executive chefs and restaurateurs from across the country, preparing dishes for celebrity judges Tom Colicchio and Gail Simmons, as well as previous Top Chef finalists. Filming for the show took place in Portland, Oregon, late last year. As they say on the show, the winner receives $250,000, a feature in Food & Wine magazine, an appearance in the annual Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, Colorado, and the title of “Top Chef.”

Viaud is the executive chef and owner of both the farm-to-table restaurant Greenleaf (54 Nashua St., Milford, 213-5447, and the sandwich and pastry shop Culture (75 Mont Vernon St., Milford, 249-5011, He grew up in Massachusetts and attended Johnson & Wales University in Providence, R.I., where he studied food service management. Prior to opening Greenleaf and Culture, Viaud spent three years as a chef at Deuxave, a fine-dining French restaurant in Boston, where he honed many of the creative techniques and skills he still practices today.

How were you approached for the show and what was the casting process like?

One of the prior chefs at Deuxave, Adrienne Wright, was actually a contestant on Season 16 of Top Chef. She was the one who kind of inspired me and motivated me to toss my hat into the ring. She sent in my name and then somebody from casting reached out to me to begin the interviewing and auditioning process. There were many steps involved, and I had to think a lot about how to best express my talent to get to the point of being chosen for the show.

Had you been a previous Top Chef viewer? Were you familiar with the show’s format?

I’ve been watching the show since around Season 10 or 11. It’s definitely one of my favorite cooking shows to watch, because I often feel a deep connection to the chefs. This is all raw talent and their real struggles and self-battles that come through on the show.

Do you remember the moment you learned you had been selected to be a Top Chef contestant and what was going through your mind at that time?

Yes, actually. So just before Culture had opened [in August 2020], I was sitting in the empty building doing paperwork, and I got a call from an unknown number. Typically I don’t pick up unknown numbers, but I just had a feeling. … I was told that I had been selected to compete in the new season. I ran around the building and drove from Culture to Greenleaf. My wife Emilee was working the line at Greenleaf, and I took her aside and told her the news, and then I was just speechless after that.

You learned soon after that you’d be traveling to Portland, Oregon, for filming. Did you have to familiarize yourself with the food scene over there as part of your overall preparation?

I had not been there before, so it was also a bit of a surprise for me to learn that I would be going to Portland. I wasn’t too familiar with it, so I did have to do some research on the food community out there and what grows around that area. In New England, for example, we focus a lot on the four distinct seasons when we think about produce, but over there, there is a lot of produce that is grown year-round. So those kinds of things definitely took me outside of my comfort zone.

Did the experience make you realize anything you hadn’t noticed before as a viewer?

I’ve done cooking competitions before, but nothing quite like this at all. You get that realization that this is all really happening once the clock starts ticking. That 30 minutes you get is a real 30 minutes, and it flies. … All of us on the show became very well-connected, and being able to share our expertise with one another was one of the most rewarding things about the experience.

What was filming like in the midst of Covid?

There were multiple Covid tests before leaving but also throughout the course of filming. The production company took several extra measures to make sure the judges and the contestants were staying safe. We had to wear masks whenever we weren’t filming and we had to keep our distance from one another.

Top Chef: Season 18 premiere
The episode will air on Bravo and will feature Milford chef Chris Viaud
When: Thursday, April 1, 8 p.m.
How to tune in: Check your television service provider’s listings for the channel number, or stream the premiere online at

Feautred photo: Chris Viaud. Photo by Stephanie Diani/Bravo.

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