Do Over

Married Iguana finally debuts in Manchester

After a heady process of assembling a band, then working up and recording three original songs for a debut EP, Married Iguana was prepared for a big reveal at Jewel Music Venue in Manchester. Sadly for the nascent power trio, their debut gig was scheduled on March 14, 2020, the day after Covid-19 landed like an asteroid on the local music scene.

The group quarantined and waited for another chance to show their stuff to an audience. The Rehearsal Dinner did come out as planned, and it’s a treat. “EAYM” is a Primus meets Mothers of Invention romp, and “Farewell My Friend” echoes Rush as it rocks out with abandon.

Leading off the record, “Go With the Flow” chugs like a steady rolling party bus, but to Married Iguana guitarist, singer and principal songwriter Brett Higgins it’s also an ironic anthem for his band, which went from planning to play out to hunkering down.

A year later, the personnel has changed — the current lineup has Higgins, Ian Smith (Trichomes) on bass and drummer Tyrel Gagnon — along with the music. Punchy radio rockers are now stretched out more.

“We don’t want to call ourselves a jam band,” Higgins said in a recent phone interview, “though Ian has a lot of that influence playing with his other group … it’s a little more progressive rock.”

That said, the way Higgins described his songwriting process is jammy enough.

“Me doodling around at home is basically how every one of our tunes starts,” he said. “I have my strainer of songs. I’ll be working on something and I have to think if it’s special enough to sell those guys. It’s almost like I’m auditioning for my own group.”

Higgins formed Married Iguana to counteract playing in cover bands like Darrah and Channel 3.

“I’ve always written my own songs on the sidelines, and finally got to the point where it was time to start applying myself,” he said, and began recruiting on Facebook.

Smith responded immediately with an offer to hang out and jam.

“There was no real idea,” Higgins said. “I had a couple of songs floating around right at the get-go, and I started showing them. We just noodled around a lot and Ian really latched onto a couple of the riffs. We’ve been getting together ever since, and that was it.”

Early on, the band was a four-piece, with a second guitarist. A few different drummers also came and went before Gagnon joined. He and Higgins have played in different bands together for over a dozen years.

“He’s been my go-to guy for a long time,” Higgins said. “He’ll get sick of me and he’ll skip out and then he’ll find a way to come back, or I’ll beg him enough and he ends up coming back in.”

On May 4, the band will finally make its hometown debut at Jewel.

“It’s a makeup gig,” Higgins said with a laugh, adding they’re fired up to finally play a set with over an hour of original music for a hometown crowd — though there are more than a few nerves at play.

“I just hope that people will have fun and will really accept us; we’re still kind of unsure what to expect,” he said. “We’re not the run-of-the-mill band from around the area. We’ve got a unique sense about us, a lot of energy in the music. It changes and twists and turns a lot, and I just hope that people will enjoy it, have fun and come see us.”

Married Iguana w/ The Humans Being and What Has Science Done?
: Tuesday, May 4, 9 p.m.
Where: Jewel Music Venue, 61 Canal St., Manchester
Tickets: $10 at the door, masks required for entry

Featured photo: Married Iguana. Courtesy photos.

The Music Roundup 21/04/29

Local music news & events

Crafted tunes: Enjoy an early evening set from Nate Cozzolino, a Providence-based singer-songwriter with ace guitar skills and an ethereal vocal delivery. Writer Vic Garbarini likened him to “early Van Morrison,” calling Cozzolino “one of the most promising artists working today.” In addition to his musical skills, he makes beautiful etched glasses, which are perfect for beverages on offer at this show. Thursday, April 29, 6:30 p.m., To Share Brewing Co., 720 Union St., Manchester, 836-6947.

Music machine: A one-man band with rootsy sensibilities, ODB Project is the latest effort from Michael Dion, ex-Hot Day at the Zoo and currently in Daemon Chili. Dion loops together a wall of sound around an array of diverse material, from Frank Sinatra to the Dead and Cake, along with his originals. The tech doesn’t end there; the new RequestNow app lets audiences help him build a setlist in real time. Friday, April 30, 8 p.m., Penuche’s Ale House, 16 Bicentennial Square, Concord. See

Rock al fresco: Weather permitting, hard-rocking quartet Crave will take to the outdoor stage for a sunset show of covers from the heavy side of the songbook, from Volbeat’s “Hangman’s Body Count” to Breaking Benjamin, Seether, Stone Sour and Devour the Day, dressed in biker regalia with a banner of skulls behind them. Saturday, May 1, 6 p.m., The Bar Food & Spirits, 2B Burnham Road, Hudson, 943-5250.

Blues day: A transplant from Nashville to New England, Ms. Vee is a blues, jazz, soul and occasional rock singer who has a lot of fun with the culture shock she’s experienced since moving here; her show offers both music and comedy. For her first post-pandemic appearance, the vocalist — real name Valyria Lewis — is joined by Lady Ro, part of a weekly series at the homey eatery. Reservations are recommended. Tuesday, May 4, 7:30 p.m., Madear’s Southern Eatery & Bakery, 141 Main St., Pembroke. See

Lakeside sound: The first weekend in May provides a good excuse to hear No Limitz draw from the classic catalog of the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s while playing on a stage perched on the edge of Lake Winnipesaukee, hosted by a restaurant that offers free tie-ups to all who arrive by boat and an unrivaled ice cream selection; there’s also a nice tiki bar for outdoor imbibing, proving that channeling Jimmy Buffett can be done even while inland. Sunday, May 2, 5 p.m., Town Docks, 289 Daniel Webster Hwy., Meredith, 279-3445.

At the Sofaplex 21/04/29

Stowaway (TV-MA)

Anna Kendrick, Daniel Dae Kim.

The four-person cast is rounded out by Toni Collette and Shamier Anderson in this movie about three astronauts headed to Mars. Zoe (Kendrick) is a doctor, David (Kim) is a scientist studying plant life and Marina (Collette) is the mission’s commander. Twelve hours into the flight, they find the unconscious Michael (Anderson), an engineer whose last-minute check on equipment led him to be accidentally stuck on the spacecraft before liftoff. There is no turning back on this two-year mission, which means that Michael is now part of the crew.

I found myself waiting for this movie to reveal what it is really about — space vampires! space caper! — but it ultimately is about exactly what it appears to be about, in which case it presents some plot problems that make the whole endeavor feel a little shaky. Which is too bad because the basic idea of this movie (a small number of people stuck in space, some science-y stuff that allows you to keep the low-gravity-related special effects to a minimum) is a nice way to do low-budget space stories. There are decent performances all around but nobody really gets the chance to build a fully realized character. C+ Available on Netflix

The World To Come (R)

Vanessa Kirby, Katherine Waterston.

Two women in 1850s rural New York, stuck in complicated marriages, find friendship and romance in each other in this bleakly pretty love story.

Abigail (Waterston) and her husband Dyer (Casey Affleck) joylessly churn through their days, still deep in grief from the death of their young daughter. Abigail keeps a record of the farm, which in her narration becomes a kind of poetry about their inner turmoil and increasingly distant relationship. Then she meets Tallie (Kirby), who moves to a nearby farm with her husband, Finney (Christopher Abbott), who seems disturbed and occasionally sadistic. The women seem instantly drawn to each other and fall beautifully in love even though they have little means by which to arrange their lives around this relationship that clearly makes both of them so happy.

Excellent performances and beautiful cinematography help make this story, which you know going in isn’t going to end with, like, a run through the airport and a wedding proposal, lovely and swoony despite the constant air of impending doom. B+ Available for rent

The winner is ‘Husavik’

The excellent, Oscar-nominated song from Will Ferrell’s goofy but fun Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga didn’t actually win the original song Oscar (that went to “Fight for You” from Judas and the Black Messiah) but the performance of the song in Husavik, Iceland, with Molly Sandén and sweater-wearing children singing in Icelandic was probably the standout element of last weekend’s Oscar ceremonies for me and definitely the clip I’m going to rewatch the most.

That performance was aired during the official Oscar pre-show, which was optimistic and energetic and full of people who seemed delighted to be out in the world wearing nice clothes and talking to other humans. This vibe did not seem to carry through most of the ceremony itself, which often felt oddly lifeless despite having that much-hyped in-person gathering of people. While the ceremony featured some talk of movies past (Steven Yeun’s story about watching Terminator 2 was genuinely sweet), I was surprised by how little energy went into being excited about movies now, either for the nominated films (clips mixed in with discussion of craft would have been welcome) or upcoming films (I was happy to see trailers for West Side Story, Summer of Soul and, of course, In the Heights, which I have been hyped for since mid-2019). I had expected more in the vein of Frances McDormand’s passionate plea to someday see these Oscar nominees in a theater.

A little more than half my predictions turned out to be correct this year (did anybody anywhere predict Anthony Hopkins for The Father?). Among the winners I hadn’t expected, I was happy to see Emerald Fennell’s Oscar for original screenplay (Promising Young Woman, available on VOD) and New Hampshire-connected Sound of Metal’s Oscars for film editing in addition to sound (see it on Amazon Prime Video).

The full list of nominees makes for a good line-up the next time you’re looking for something to watch. I’d recommend starting with Minari (available to rent), best picture winner Nomadland (on Hulu and available to purchase) and Sound of Metal — and, of course, either the movie (on Netflix) or the Oscar clip of “Husavik.” — Amy Diaz

Featured photo: eurovision

Mortal Kombat (R)

Mortal Kombat (R)

A rag-tag group of would-be champions must come together to protect Earth in Mortal Kombat, a movie based on the video game franchise.

My Mortal Kombat experience is limited to occasional exposure to whatever version was floating around for home consoles and in arcades in the early to mid 1990s, but I think I was still able to roughly get the gist: There’s our world (Earthrealm) and a more magic-y place (Outworld), and Outworld is poised to conquer Earthrealm if it wins the next Mortal Kombat tournament. Earthrealm is protected by superpowers-having wise-elder-type Raiden (Tadanobu Asano); Outworld is ruled by Shang Tsung (Chin Han). Shang Tsung has a bunch of experienced fighters who are well-schooled in all the Mortal Kombat lore; Earth’s champions are all at varying degrees of knowing-about/believing-in this stuff and have an identifying dragon mark.

Which is where regular-seeming human Cole Young (Lewis Tan) comes in. He has the dragon mark but just thinks of it as a birthmark. Luckily, while he may not start out as an Earth-protecting champion with superpowers, he is an MMA fighter, so he isn’t completely defenseless when bad-guy warrior Sub Zero (Joe Taslim) appears to “finish him” as part of Shang Tsung’s plan to kill all of Earth’s champions before the tournament.

Eventually we get the Earth-gang together: Cole, Jax (Mehcad Brooks), Sonya Blade (Jessica McNamee), Liu Kang (Ludi Lin), Kung Lao (Max Huang) and, because this kind of movie always needs quips and lugheaded aggression, Kano (Josh Lawson). There’s fighting, there’s superpower-acquiring, there are some rules to the whole realm balance-of-power situation that I never really understood, and there is a centuries-old hatred between Sub Zero, who used to be called Bi-Han, and Hanzo Hasashi (Hiroyuki Sanada), who is an ancestor of Cole’s.

Hanzo Hasashi’s story is one of many details (like the whole Mortal Kombat tournament itself) that feel like half-baked bits of lore included here to do some of the world-building that you need if your movie is the first in a franchise, which is what it feels like this movie is supposed to be. I feel like slicing the movie down to its core elements — Earth warriors learning to fight Outworld warriors — would have made for a more enjoyable lightweight fantasy-tinged martial arts-based action movie. (Lightweight but gory; this movie is very 1990s-video-game in its gore.)

I am not the audience for Mortal Kombat but I did basically want to like it, the way I want to like any movie that looks like it could offer fun action silliness. While it had its moments, it just doesn’t live up to even that standard of Godzilla vs. Kong-esque popcorn entertainment. C

Rated R for strong bloody violence and language throughout, and some crude references, according to the MPA on Directed by Simon McQuoid with a screenplay by Greg Russo and Dave Callaham, Mortal Kombat is an hour and 50 minutes long and distributed by New Line Cinema. It is available on HBO Max through May 23 and in theaters.

Featured photo: Mortal Kombat

Effortless by Greg Mckeown

Effortless, by Greg McKeown (Currency, 256 pages)

In some ways, Boxer the horse is a symbol for the American worker. One of the most memorable characters in George Orwell’s Animal Farm, Boxer was the loyal draft horse whose response to any setback was “I will work harder.” In a country steeped in the Puritan work ethic, where the typical two weeks of vacation pales in comparison with Europe’s generous holidays, it’s hard to not admire Boxer’s attitude, even knowing how it turns out for him.

Hard work is good, right? It demonstrates commitment, perseverance, toughness.

Wrong, says Greg McKeown in Effortless, the followup to his Essentialism, published in 2014. Emulating Boxer gets you sent to the slaughterhouse, essentially. The better way to work is to find a way to do it more easily, not in the Tim Ferriss pie-in-the-sky model of working four hours a week (as if) but changing the long-running soundtrack that informs the belief that the harder we work, the luckier we get.

McKeown believes that this mindset creates a fog that obscures a truth: that in those moments that we actually feel inspired, when the work seems to flow, as if poured from heaven, what we are doing is not hard, but feels effortless. This is the essence of what Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi wrote about in Flow in 1991 — and who hasn’t heard the platitude “work smarter, not harder”? But McKeown’s take on the subject feels fresh and relevant. And interestingly, he begins by admitting to a failure of his previous book.

In Essentialism, McKeown argues that we suffer from the misuse of the word “priority,” which used to mean the singular thing that matters but has been pulled and stretched into “priorities,” which shouldn’t exist. Running around tending to priorities, as if they were errant chickens, means that the essential stuff of life doesn’t get done. To be effective, he said, we must ruthlessly cull “the trivial many from the vital few” and, intentionally and guiltlessly, build a life around them.

But as McKeown built a career as the leader of Essentialism, he realized, from what other people told him and what he saw in his own family life, that some people can peel away all the unessentials and still have too much to do. In short, for most of us, there are multiple priorities, multiple essentials. Struggling with that, he realized that people in this situation can either let priorities slide or find a way to make everything easier and take less time. He recommends the latter. And in keeping with the Effortless theme, they’re not hard to do.

McKeown believes that the transition from Boxer to Secretariat (the analogy is mine — Secretariat made everything look easy) begins with understanding the tired old template of platitudes like “It won’t be easy but it’s worth it” and replacing it with a new mantra: How can I make this task easy and sometimes even fun?

Sometimes, answers appear when we just take the time to think about the question. But McKeown has devised a series of exercises to help people make progress on their essential goals with relative ease. For example, he says that one thing that slows people down is that they don’t take time to think about what it looks like when a project, goal or idea is actually done; instead, they spend all their time thinking about the beginning and only vaguely seeing a nebulous end. Define what “done” means at the start and the steps leading there will be easier, he says. Another idea is to set goals that are malleable — low-end daily targets that represent the minimum amount of action you can take and still feel that there is momentum, high-end targets that are more ambitious but limited enough to protect you from burnout. Part of the “effortless” mindset, McKeown writes, is protective. Hard workers can sabotage themselves into paralysis by overthinking or working to exhaustion, thus needing extra time to recover and losing momentum. The effortless way is not so we can lie in hammocks in Thailand with Tim Ferriss, but so we can do our best work.

If this all sounds a bit like “work smarter, not harder,” well, it is. But McKeown is an engaging writer who peppers his own experience with research and anecdotes of achievement, from how Elon Musk got into rocket science to why Reed Hastings started Netflix. He gets extra points for never using anonymous people with only first names, like so many authors of business and self-help books do when telling anecdotes, leaving the reader to wonder if the people really exist at all. If there’s anything to criticize, it’s that the writing of this book seems a bit too effortless; at 217 pages of new material, it feels short, and including an excerpt from Essentialism at the end feels like padding. Was that really essential? B

A few months ago, The New York Times reported that an editor at Hachette Book Group, one of the “big five” in publishing, had been fired. The editor, Kate Hartson, headed up Center Street, the conservative imprint within Hachette, and she said she’d been fired over politics. Apparently, she was open to books from Trump supporters and associates, and according to the Times, the big five are resistant to MAGA authors and themes.

This could explain why conservative media companies, sensing a profit to be made, have quietly started publishing books. Both Fox News and Newsmax have started publishing arms, respectively Fox News Books and Humanix.

You’ve probably never heard of Humanix, and most of its titles look pretty obscure and/or peculiar, but Fox, which launched its imprint in November, has already a splash. Its first book, Modern Warriors: Real Stories from Real Heroes by Pete Hegseth, made the bestseller lists at the end of last year.

The second book, The Women of the Bible Speak, by Shannon Bream, has been No. 1 on the Times bestseller list under “advice, how-to and miscellaneous” for three weeks.

But the real surprise in conservative publishing has to be how well former Speaker of the House John Boehner’s book is performing. In On the House, A Washington Memoir (St. Martin’s, 288 pages) Boehner promises a story of how a “regular guy” went from working in a bar to “holding a pretty big job,” and says that Congress didn’t change him: “I walked out of the Capitol the same jackass I was when I walked in 25 years earlier.” In early reviews, it looks like a slash-and-burn, which may be why it’s doing so well.

Released April 13, Boehner’s memoir was No. 1 in nonfiction last week but now has competition.

Susan Page’s Madam Speaker: Nancy Pelosi and the Lessons of Power (Twelve, 448 pages) seems like a conflict of interest for the author, given that she is the Washington bureau chief for USA Today, but it’s getting good reviews.

Interestingly, the Washington Post review notes that Pelosi felt slighted because Time magazine never put her on the cover during her first term as speaker but put Boehner on the cover shortly after the 2010 midterms. Booting him off the bestseller list would probably help resolve some of that sting.


Author events

SUZANNE KOVEN Author presents Letter to a Young Female Physician, in conversation with author Andrew Solomon. Hosted by The Music Hall in Portsmouth. 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

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

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



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


JENNIFER MILITELLO Poet presents her newest volume of verse, The Pact. Hosted by Gibson’s Bookstore in Concord. Virtual, via Zoom. Thurs., April 29, 7 p.m. Registration required. Visit or call 224-0562.

DOWN CELLAR POETRY SALON Poetry event series presented by the Poetry Society of New Hampshire. Monthly. First Sunday. Visit

Featured photo: Effortless

Album Reviews 21/04/29

Subterranean Masquerade, Mountain Fever (Sensory Records)

As you’d guess by a band name like Subterranean Masquerade, we have an oddball foreign act on tap here. It’s the fourth full-length from an Israel-based seven-piece billed as a progressive metal band with world overtones, all of which is true, a straightforward power-metal thingamajig with Middle Eastern plug-ins. The Spinal Tap-ish shtick I expected didn’t run too late, but that’s not necessarily to infer that your average metal-head wouldn’t be into this, particularly anyone who thinks of bands like Bury Your Dead as high art, or digs, on the swirling sandstorm front, Dracovallis. It’s not opera-metal for sure, either, although I can tell these guys would love it to be; no, it’s more po-faced, think ’80s Michael Schenker Group with (take a wild guess) Serj Tankian as its sensei. Like any metal album, I’m sure that if you cranked this to physically dangerous levels, it, you know, probably cranks, and I didn’t detect anything stolen from Scorpions or any of those other old bands, so who knows, you might like it. B

Poppy, “Eat” (as yet unreleased)

Doing something different here, adding a little hype to a pile that’s fast building around this Boston-based singer, whose performance of this up-till-now-unreleased single was about the only thing indicative of a pulse at the last Grammys. The 24-year-old YouTuber is further (unnecessary) proof that we’ve entered a new, post-Gaga era of rock stardom, one that revolves around not just making cool songs and videos but also engaging directly with audiences on a daily basis by being, well, absolutely demented. Fans at home can play too, because as you know, nowadays, the concept of DIY isn’t just for bands with a few dollars with which to rent a studio but for basically anybody to become whatever they want. This song isn’t as remarkable as a few of her earlier tunes (go watch the video for “I Disagree” if you want to hear a cross between older Nine Inch Nails, Meshuggah and riot-grrrl-on-crazy-juice), but it does stick with her genre-squishing mission statement. It’s an undeniably accessible but hellaciously heavy noise-whirlwind, like KMFDM jamming with (spoiler) Meshuggah (she obviously looooves those guys). The only thing surprising is that it took so long for something like this to bust out of the gate. A+


A seriously abridged compendium of recent and future CD releases

• Well would you look at that, guys, the new-release list for April 30 actually has interesting stuff on it, not just a bunch of refried hacky nonsense that makes me want to become a hardened day-drinker. I know that very few people reading this know a lot about indie bands, but Atlanta-based Manchester Orchestra is one you might want to look into, unless you are a typical hipster who only indulges in really bad, smelly junk like Pavement or Versus or whatever. The caveat, though, is that I haven’t listened to a new Manchester Orchestra song in something like five years, so for all I know The Million Masks Of God is going to be one of the worst listening experiences a human could have, and so we’ll get this out of the way first, so that if it makes me barf I’ll have time to recover. So I’m checking out “Bedhead,” the new single, and nope, thou shalt not barf, because it is like what you’d hear if Trent Reznor teamed up with someone like Front Line Assembly to do a soundtrack piece for Stranger Things. It has a buzzy noise-rock side but also a veneer of classic ’80s-technopop, with goofy synths that sound kind of neat. The singer still has that Conor Oberst throat-lozenge sound, which has always been cool. I don’t know if they meant to go goth-pop, but that’s what this is really. It’s OK!

• Oh, no, it’s Guided by Voices again, with another freakin’ album, just because it’s a month that doesn’t end with a “J” or whatever rule bandleader Robert Pollard goes by. I mean, we’ve talked about him before, how he puts out albums all the time, and here I am again, getting suckered into giving him some press love only because I forgot that he doesn’t deserve any. But it’s those things you forget, you know? Like, every time I swipe through the Netflix releases I actually stop to read the description for I Am Not Okay With This and then quickly remember it’s stupid and I’ll never watch it (Netflix really needs to add an option to remove stupid movies from lists to save people some time) (OK, if they’ve already done that and I just don’t know it yet, I applaud your genius-level technical acumen and urge you to apply to NASA to help them build better space shuttles). Oh, where were we. Yes, Earth Man Blues, album number eleventy trillion from this stupid band. One of Pollard’s million new songs is “Trust Them Now.” Spoiler, it’s boring, like Ramones but with a singer who was in some ’60s psychedelic band, and (double spoiler) it doesn’t have a hook. Would y’all groovy trippy cats like to shag now, or shag later, my God I hate this band.

• Yow, my little Zippys, looky there, it’s Boston-sports-affiliated Irish-oi band Dropkick Murphys, with their new “slab,” called Turn Up That Dial! You bet your shamrocks there’s a new single, to lure you in, and it’s called… wait, I can’t repeat the title in a family newspaper, so how about the other song, “Middle Finger!” Will there be penny-whistles and Titanic-lower-deck accordions and mentions of Bobby Orr? Yup, same old thing, sea-shanty kazoo or whatever at the beginning, then some thrash-punk. At least they’re consistent (burp).

• OK, let’s end this miserable exercise with Scottish sludge-emo band Teenage Fanclub, whose new album Endless Arcade will have “Used — Like New” prices on Amazon in like a week. The single, “Home,” is wimpy strummy twee-pop, not grunge-indie or whatever. My faith is deeply shaken, folks.

Retro Playlist

It was 10 years ago this week in this very space when I felt it necessary to explain why I wasn’t going to write a proper review of the then-new Gorillaz album, The Fall. I forget what my problem was, but either way, that virtual band has never done it for me, nor have any of their skinny-jeans cohorts, you know, MGMT, Modest Mouse and whatever. For some idiotic reason, most of the guys in The Clash guested on that record, but nevertheless, a lot of critics didn’t like it. I saved us all some time: “I’ve heard the samples, and my instincts tell me that downloading the other 45 minutes of it ‘to get the full effect’ will yield disappointment.” Disclaimer that I don’t — and you should be well aware of this by now — hate everything that came out in the Aught-10s, but oddly enough, that was when I became an adamant, immovable 1930s/1940s big-band fan. Yes, rock ’n’ roll had become that messed up and worthless. For the most part.

But there was some joy in Mudville that so-long-ago week. Undeveloped, a darkwave/techno-goth album from Skinny Puppy frontman Ohgr, was on the docket, so I ranted spastically about how awesome it was (“’Nitwitz is my favoritest song ever, for today”), not that that meant it was perfect. Even with longtime Skinny Puppy engineer Mark Walk helping out, there was some weirdness that was too much, specifically in “Crash,” a denouncement of U.S. health care (the actual 911 call that came in when Michael Jackson died).

Magnetic Man, the dubstep all-star team of Benga, Skream and Artwork, were also in the process of releasing their self-titled debut that week. It was way cool and deserved better than the C+ grade I slapped on it, but as a techno work, yeah, there were some bothersome things. Overall, it came across as “a term paper for Ableton Hipness 101,” boasting only one legitimate club-slammer (“I Need Air”). Consisting of “Salem-style haunted house, drum-n-bass, Justice hard-glitch and euro-club orchestrations in a manner less consistent with melodic appropriateness than with decorum,” it apparently bothered me then a lot more than it does now. Oopsy daisy.

Bottle of red, bottle of white

Other wines to try at that Italian restaurant

“A bottle of red, a bottle of white; It all depends on your appetite; I’ll meet you anytime you want; In our Italian restaurant.” — Billy Joel, “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant”

Beginning as a melancholy tune, this song quickly accelerates into an exchange between friends or classmates on the short relationship of Brenda and Eddie. It then decelerates to a quiet end, with one of the two remarking, “I’ll meet you anytime you want / In our Italian restaurant.” It is a long song reflecting a comfortable conversation between those friends.

Italian culture is not only rich in history, food and wine; it is a culture of familiarity. We all look fondly back to our individual introductions to Italian culture with robust, red-sauced pasta. Italian food has become an American comfort food, enjoyed with friends and families over long conversations, perhaps about Brenda and Eddie. Therefore, isn’t it odd that when we think of Italian cuisine, only a few wines immediately come to mind: Chianti, pinot grigio, prosecco? There is a lot more to savor! In this column we will explore wines of two regions: Abruzzo and Molise. Lying east of Rome, beyond the Apennines, and along the coast of the Adriatic Sea, these two regions offer up wines of a special nature.

Our first wine, Umani Ronchi Vellodoro Terre di Chieti Pecorino IGT (available at the New Hampshire Liquor & Wine Outlets at $11.99), is a white wine from Abruzzo. This wine is made from 100 percent pecorino grapes, also known as “grape of the sheep,” deriving from its strong connection to sheep farming of the area. In the past, because of its high aroma concentration, good alcoholic content and acidic quality, it was used in blending to improve the quality of wines made from other varieties. This wine is a product of a project originating in 2005 and represents the winery’s work to discover and exploit Adriatic native varieties. The grapes are hand-picked and, after a light pressing, cooled in stainless steel tanks for two weeks. The wine does not undergo malolactic fermentation but rests in the stainless steel tanks for about four months in contact with its own yeasts before bottling.

The wine has a bright straw color with a floral nose of fresh lime blossoms, along with a bit of minerality. The nose persists to the tongue with an intense and pleasant freshness. This is a wine to be enjoyed with fish dishes, fresh cheeses, pasta, and legume soups of lentils, peas, bacon and onion. Served chilled it is a great counterpoint to the broad spectrum of these dishes, both delicate and robust.

Our second wine, Di Majo Norante Sangiovese San Giorgio (originally pricedat $14.99, reduced to $12.99 at the New Hampshire Liquor & Wine Outlets), is, as its name implies, a 100 percent sangiovese from Molise. Until 1963 this region was joined to Abruzzo under the name of Abruzzi e Molise. Like Abruzzo, most of the country is mountainous, with its province of Campobasso running along its southern tier traversing from mountains to hills and on to the Adriatic Sea. The winery, Di Majo Norante, located in the coastal commune of Campomarino, has been making wine from grapes since 1800. The vineyard, of over 200 acres, produces wine from several varietals, including aglianico montepulciano, sangiovese, tintilia, falanghina, greco and moscato.

This sangiovese is harvested in October, aged in stainless steel and large oak barrels for six months, then spends three months in bottles to achieve a smoothness and softness while preserving the fruit-forward characteristic of sangiovese. The wine has a bright red color and a nose of cherry, Mediterranean herbs and leather. To the palate it is dry and mellow with smooth tannins. This is a wine to pair with antipasti, Bolognese sauces, game and ripe cheeses.

These wines are to be enjoyed with family and friends, over long conversations of reminiscences of shared experiences.

Mother’s Day Cocktails

In my experience, it is unwise to make broad generalizations about any group of women, but that said, it’s probably a good bet that this year, perhaps more than any other year, the moms of America could use a drink.

Let’s look at two hypothetical mothers, Jasmine and Kimberly:

Jasmine is a divorced mom of two young children, ages 5 and 3. She works full-time but has been “lucky” enough to be able to work from home for the past year or so. She gets up at 5 each morning to try to get some work done before Bruno, the 5-year-old, wakes up and wants breakfast prepared to very exact specifications. Failure to meet these specifications will result in angry denunciations, which will wake Pearl, the 3-year-old.

Jasmine needs a drink.

She needs something refreshing that will give her a brief moment of calm and grace.

A brief moment of calm


1½ ounces very cold vodka

1 ounce rhubarb syrup (see below)

1 ounce fresh squeezed lime juice

5 drops rose water

4 ounces aggressively bubbly seltzer, like Topo Chico Mineral Water

Shake all ingredients except the seltzer over ice until very cold.

Strain into a delicate 8-ounce glass.

Top with seltzer.

Admire, maybe take a picture, stir, then drink.

This is a light, not-too-boozy cocktail that tastes pretty much how it looks — pink. The rhubarb syrup gives the drink a decisively pink color that blends with the seltzer to give it an ombre coloring. The rhubarb is delicately sour. The lime juice is citrusy but not too sweet. The rose water remains in the background, hinting at exotic secrets.

Rhubarb syrup


Equal amounts (by weight) of frozen, chopped rhubarb and sugar

Pinch of salt

(Note on the rhubarb: When you make syrup from any fruit — or rhubarb, in this case — frozen fruit works better than fresh. The freezing process creates ice crystals, which pierce the cell walls, making the fruit more apt to weep. That would be a drawback in an application where you wanted pristine, lovely fruit, but it is an asset in situations like this one.)

Combine rhubarb, sugar, and salt in a medium saucepan and cook over medium heat, until the rhubarb starts to give up its juice.

Mash the mixture with a potato masher.

Bring the mixture to a boil. Let it boil for 10 to 15 seconds, to ensure that the sugar has dissolved completely.

Remove from heat, cool, strain, bottle and label. Store in your refrigerator indefinitely.

Now, let’s consider Kimberly:

Kimberly is married and the mother of a sulky teenager. All things considered, she and her husband Albert get along pretty well, but after a year of being locked in a house with him seven days a week, she is getting ready to smother him in his sleep. Elizabeth, 14, insists on being called Wynter Storm. She has recently graduated from telling Kimberly how stupid she is in general to making very specific observations of her shortcomings. She is also, apparently, a recent convert to veganism, although she still eats bacon and ice cream.

Kimberly needs a drink.

A classic boilermaker


1 bottle of beer

1½ to 2 ounces bourbon

Fill a glass — pretty much any glass — 3/4 of the way with beer. You might want to tilt the glass to minimize the head of foam on top, but maybe making a long, sudsy pour will feel a little like poking your finger in the eye of — well, somebody. You do you.

Fill a shot glass with bourbon.

Give the two glasses a steely-eyed stare.

Drop the shot glass full of bourbon into the beer

At this point I’d normally describe the subtle flavor notes of this cocktail to you, but if you’re drinking a boilermaker you probably know what you’re letting yourself in for. If you don’t, consider this a well-deserved adventure.

Featured photo: A brief moment of calm. Photo by John Fladd.

Jamie Mandra

Jamie Mandra and her husband Randy are the owners of JRM Catering (509-9080,, and on Facebook @jrmcateringllc), also known as The Traveling Foodie, a mobile food cart based in Nashua. Their menu changes all the time but will often include comfort or Southern-inspired options — the Love in a Cup, for instance, is a layered barbecue meal featuring pulled pork, macaroni and cheese, baked beans, collard greens and cornbread all in one cup. Other featured items have been gourmet hot dogs and burgers, pulled pork sliders, macaroni and cheese and miniature doughnuts. The Traveling Foodie has several local public events booked for the month of May, including at the Hampstead Eats food truck festival on Saturday, May 1, from noon to 5 p.m., as well as Springlook Farm (112 Island Pond Road, Derry) on Saturday, May 15, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The cart is also available to hire for private functions.

What is your must-have kitchen item?

A really good quality chef’s knife. I could go without a lot of other things, but I have to have a good chef’s knife.

What would you have for your last meal?

A spicy tuna roll from Fuji Asian Bistro in Naples, Florida. We used to live down there. The sushi is so fresh and authentic. It’s out of this world!

What is your favorite local restaurant?

Bistro 603 [in Nashua]. The duck hash Benny with truffle fries is the way to go.

What celebrity would you like to see ordering something that you’ve made?

Julia Child. She is by far my biggest influence in the kitchen. I remember sitting in front of the TV as a child and it was like she was talking to me.

What is your favorite thing on your menu?

The Love in a Cup. It’s by far the most popular … [and] it’s definitely a topic of conversation with people.

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

It’s hard with Covid, but I think people are looking for fun, over-the-top, picture-worthy food. People look for that experience of being wowed when they’re going out.

What is your favorite thing to cook at home?

Any type of soup. I love creating new flavors [and] using fresh local ingredients.

Tomato bisque with cheese tortellini
From the kitchen of Jamie Mandra

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup diced onions
Pinch of salt
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 32-ounce container chicken broth
1 28-ounce can crushed San Marzano tomatoes
½ teaspoon paprika
Pinch of freshly ground black pepper to taste
Parmesan cheese to taste|
Pinch of cayenne pepper to taste
Cheese tortellini
½ cup heavy whipping cream
2 Tablespoons thinly sliced fresh basil leaves, divided
2 Tablespoons heavy whipping cream, divided

Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Cook and stir onion with a pinch of salt until translucent (about 5 to 8 minutes). Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant (about 1 minute). Pour chicken broth and tomatoes into onion mixture. Bring to a simmer and season with paprika, black pepper and cayenne pepper. Blend soup with an immersion blender in the pot until smooth. Whisk ½ cup of cream into soup and adjust levels of salt, cayenne pepper, black pepper and sugar. If the soup is too thick, add more broth; if it’s too thin, cook, stirring often, until reduced and slightly thickened (about 10 minutes). Add pre-cooked cheese tortellini. Ladle into warmed bowls, garnishing each bowl with a drizzle of cream and topping with about 1 teaspoon of chopped basil.

Featured photo: Jamie Mandra

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