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Jay Chanoine returns with pair of headlining shows

When Jay Chanoine steps on stage these days, the Manchester comic’s audiences are well-behaved, sometimes eerily so.

“For the last year and a half they’ve been watching livestreams and cat videos, and they don’t remember how to act when a person is 10 feet in front of them,” Chanoine said in a recent phone interview. “Even a crowd doesn’t quite know how to do this anymore … but everyone is just smiling at you.”

Chanoine has another theory about these newly polite audiences too.

“We were all yelling at each other before this, then we got locked in our houses and we all just kept yelling. … It’s like the world put all its misbehaved children in timeout,” he said. “We had tantrums for a year and half, and now it’s like, ‘OK, did you think about how you were behaving? Because now I’m going to let you out.’”

In October 2019, Chanoine released his first album on Standup Records, The Texas Chanoinesaw Massacre. A week after it came out, he’d already developed nearly enough new material for a follow-up. The new record was rising on iTunes, he had a gig writing for satirical website Hard Times, and “I was like, ‘2020’s going to rule … then Covid hit.”

Though it stopped his momentum, he looks at the lost year as shared misery.

“Everybody else had to step back too. It’s not like the industry kept moving without any of us,” he said.

Festivals in the Midwest, Canada and Texas — the annual Altercation Fest in Austin — all were casualties of 2020. This year, touring is still on hold, as Chanoine isn’t eager to roll the dice in a lot of cities that may or may not be ready for full-scale shows, whatever local politicians say.

That’s less concerning, as he’s enjoying doing shows with other local comics, like Comedy Out Of The Box on June 5 at Hatbox Theatre, and a local showcase at Manchester’s Yankee Lanes, whose recently launched midweek open mic was successful enough to spawn occasional booked events.

“This is my scene and my comedy community, and it’s more important to me to see it get up and running again than to hit the road as soon as possible,” he said, adding that polishing new material for an album that’s now likely delayed to 2022 is also a priority. “It’s smarter to take my time … getting it where I want it to be. They took the last year from us — I’m willing to give one more just to make sure I can put out the best product that I’m able to do.”

He’s excited for the Manchester show in particular, which includes Liz Lora, a relative newcomer to standup who made a splash at an early open mic at the bowling alley bar. Seeing young comics find their feet reminds him of how he first started doing comedy in 2009.

“I was part of the New Hampshire open mic scene, I was trying to get spots on booked shows and everything,” he said. “So it’s not only cool for me to now be the headliner, but it’s cool to see that’s still going in the new crop of comics.”

Asked if he got any good bits out of the pandemic, Chanoine replied, “If you got no material out of Covid you weren’t trying,” but added he wasn’t eager to use any of it, comparing the exercise to telling jokes about the last president.

“Nobody wanted to talk about it; that’s what you were trying to escape,” he said. “But occasionally it got so awful and ridiculous. It would be, ‘I’m sorry, everybody, we need to talk about it.’ That’s kind of how I feel about Covid. I absolutely don’t want to focus on it.”

When he touches on the subject in his act, Chanoine tries not to raise anyone’s hackles.

“I’ve been opening my sets by talking about how the supermarket became an absolute war zone [during the pandemic] because people only had two places to go, their house and the supermarket,” he said. “It’s not making you pick a side, and I think that’s the key; trying to find things everyone can agree with, rather than what made them fight on social media for the last year and a half.”

On the other hand, he questions the efficacy of not talking about it at all.

“It would seem so odd if you just got on stage and started doing a comedy show like it was 2018,” he said. “It would be so dismissive, like you’re trying to give everyone tunnel vision, and deny the existence of everything.”

Jay Chanoine
: Saturday, June 5, 7:30 p.m. (18+)
Where: Hatbox Theatre, 270 Loudon Road, Concord
Tickets: $16 to $22 at
More: Jaylene Tran, feature comic
Also: Friday, June 11, 8 p.m., Yankee Lanes, 216 Maple St., Manchester, with Dominique Pascoal, Liz Lora & Michael Millett (free)

Featured photo: Jay Chanoine. Courtesy photo.

The Music Roundup 21/06/03

Local music news & events

Backyard fun: Enjoy acoustic folk rock from The Clavis Brudon Band at an outdoor space created during last year’s al fresco imperative — one pandemic silver lining is the many similar venues that popped up and still remain. The band’s name doesn’t refer to a person; it’s an amalgamation of the first three letters of the members’ surnames — Stephen Clarke, Kevin Visnaskas, John Bruner and Otis Doncaster. Thursday, June 3, 5 p.m., Tooky Mills Pub, 9 Depot St, Hillsborough, 464-6700.

Bon temps: The outdoor Arts in the Park Series continues with Catfish Howl performing an early evening gazebo show. The band specializes in New Orleans-style blues, rock, zydeco and soul, served up as what they call “Mardi Gras mambo and beyond.” It’s a lot of fun, and the New Hampshire/Massachusetts combo has been entertaining crowds in the region for over a decade now. Friday, June 4, 6 p.m., presented by Belknap Mill in Rotary Park, 30 Beacon St., Laconia,

Guitar man: Kicking off a summer concert series, Joe Sabourin performs. The versatile guitarist has released four solo albums, most recently Leaves in late 2020, while playing in bands that range from Celtic to reggae, folk and jazz. One of the region’s best steel string players, he’s also an in-demand session musician. The Capitol Center-sponsored series runs through September. Sunday, June 6, 3 p.m., Fletcher-Murphy Park, 28 Fayette St., Concord. Tickets $12 at

Song spirit: Equal parts singer-songwriter and motivational coach, Kimayo offers uplifting music born from life experience and delivered with passion and power. Her 2019 debut album, Phoenix (The Acoustic Sessions), was named one of year’s 10 best by Folk New Hampshire. She pairs nicely with the farm-to-table restaurant she’ll perform in, which sits near New England’s geographical center. Sunday, June 6, 4 p.m., The Grazing Room, Colby Hill Inn, 33 The Oaks, Henniker,

A Quiet Place Part II (PG-13) | Cruella (PG-13) | Plan B (TV-MA)

A Quiet Place Part II (PG-13)

The soft-steps-and-muffled-screams family from the first movie must seek a new safe haven in A Quiet Place Part II, the sequel to the 2018 horror sci-fi which is screening only in theaters.

After looking back at Day 1 of the invasion of the sound-sensitive giant-stick-insect-y aliens, the movie picks up right where the first one left off, with father Lee (John Krasinski, also the movie’s director) dead, and recently postpartum mother Evelyn (Emily Blunt) caring for her newborn and fleeing their burning home with her tween-maybe son Marcus (Noah Jupe) and oldest (I think) child, teen Regan (Millicent Simmonds). Regan holds the key to the discovery made at the end of the last movie, which is that her hearing aid, when put next to a microphone, creates a feedback noise that incapacitates the aliens (who hunt humans using sound, thus the constant need for quiet) and leaves them vulnerable to being shot or otherwise destroyed.

The family heads out, eventually meeting up with Emmett (Cillian Murphy), a friend from before (whom we see in the Day 1 scenes) at a factory that offers some protection in various underground soundproof-ish rooms. He is grizzled and broken and not eager for houseguests, but he takes pity on the whole new baby situation and lets them stay. To distract an injured Marcus, Regan fiddles with a radio lying around Emmett’s lodgings and happens upon a frequency playing “Beyond the Sea” in a loop. Excited about the possibility of other people somewhere in the world and a means of broadcasting the alien-defeating sound, Regan starts to form a plan about how to find the radio station. Meanwhile, Evelyn is busy tending to Marcus and trying to figure out how to keep her baby alive with the small oxygen tank and soundproof bassinet that the family constructed.

Eventually, we get two and sometimes three groupings of characters, facing various dangers on their assorted missions. Even more than in the last movie, Regan becomes the core of the movie here — she is the one thinking of the future when the adults around her are just surviving in the moment.

Part II does many of the same things the first movie did in terms of building suspense, creating terror in small moments and making the emotions of family and parenting part of the fabric of what’s happening. It is, like, 80, maybe 85 percent as successful as the first movie at doing all of this in a way that grabs you and keeps you locked in to the action. I think. I’ll admit that (based on a reread of my review of the first movie) I didn’t find this movie as thoroughly engrossing and entertaining as the last one, but then context is everything. Are the little imperfections here (there is some pretty heavy underlining of plot points; I found myself wondering more about the rules of these aliens than I did in the last movie) more apparent than in the last movie, or am I just in a place where a family surviving worldwide catastrophe is not as much of a fun time at the movies?

All that said, the performances are solid all around. Blunt is really skilled at being this kind of action hero, at blending the emotion of the story with the physicality of whatever struggle her character is dealing with. It gives heft to the role. Simmonds and Murphy do good work, having good fatherly-daughterly chemistry in the part of the story line that puts them together.

I think even if A Quiet Place Part II doesn’t sound like it’s for you right now, it’s worth catching up with at some point if you enjoyed the first movie. B

Rated PG-13 for terror, violence and bloody/disturbing images, according to the MPA on Directed by John Krasinski with a screenplay by Krasinski, A Quiet Place Part II is an hour and 37 minutes long and distributed by Paramount Pictures.

Cruella (PG-13)

Emma Thompson is having a blast, so that’s at least something, in Cruella, the more than two-hour-long Cruella de Vil origin story newly out in theaters and on Disney+.

As a child, little Estella (Tipper Seifert-Cleveland) already had that black-and-white-cookie hairstyle and a feisty nature that made her a fighter when bullies inevitably picked on her. But she had a strong sense of self, a good friend in a young girl named Anita (Florisa Kamara) and a staunchly supportive mother (Emily Beecham).

Tragedy landed Estella alone in London, where she met the young grifters Jasper (Ziggy Gardner) and Horace (Joseph MacDonald). Together with their dogs Buddy and Wink, they create a sort of found family that continues to work together, picking pockets and committing petty thefts, until Estella is Emma Stone aged. But grown-up Jasper (Joel Fry) and Horace (Paul Walter Hauser) can see that Estella still dreams of something more for her life, something of the glamour and fashion she loved so much in her youth. They finagle a spot for her at a posh department store, which helps her get a job for the respected and feared fashion designer The Baroness (Emma Thompson). The Baroness is the top of the heap of the London fashion scene and Estella is at first delighted to work for her. But the more she learns about the Baroness, the more she finds herself harboring thoughts of domination and revenge.

Enter Cruella.

Cruella is what Estella’s mother called her naughtier impulses during her childhood and, after trying so hard to keep a rein on her love of mayhem (most visible in her dying of her hair one solid color), Estella decides to let her hair return to its natural state and let Cruella take the wheel.

With the general meanness of Cruella (saying genuinely mean things to her found family, for example) and all the talk of murder, this is not a kid-friendly movie, in the elementary-school sense of kid. And that’s fine —not everything has to be for everybody. But I did find myself wondering who this movie is for. (I mean, who are any of these live-action Disney movies for other than the studio executives who hope that the combination of known intellectual property and bankable stars equals money and just keep tossing the dice on these things no matter how much they seem like “meh” ideas from the get-go.)

Even so, 90 minutes of this movie, 90 minutes that leaned into the movie’s best elements, would be fine. Thompson is snarling and hissing and just having a great time being a baddie, and that by itself can be a joy to behold. The costumes are awesome — I love the Baroness’s classy looks and Cruella’s punk-er takes. The soundtrack uses some of the best 1960s and 1970s music that money can buy the rights to. That’s all fun. Throw in some heisting and some good business from Stone (she has her moments here, even if it feels like the costumes are frequently driving her performance) and you’ve got a fun if forgettable movie.

But Cruella feels like it goes on forever, without adding much to whatever this movie is trying to do with the character (Maleficent her, I’d imagine, so they can wring a Part II out of this story). She’s not the Disney Harley Quinn (which is how it sometimes feels like she’s being positioned), spunky even in her villainy. She’s not really misunderstood —she’s a jerk, on purpose, because she likes it for a lot of the movie, which doesn’t make her the wronged anti-hero I feel like the movie sometimes wants to paint her as. She’s just, well, a cartoon villain, who, like many a Disney villain, is most interesting in her wardrobe and one-liners, but that doesn’t feel like enough to sustain two hours and 14 minutes. C+

Rated PG-13 for some violence and thematic elements, according to the MPA on Directed by Craig Gillespie with a screenplay by Dana Fox and Tony McNamara, Cruella is two hours and 14 minutes long and is distributed by Walt Disney via Disney+ (for $29.99) and in theaters.

Plan B (TV-MA)

High school best friends hit the road in search of the morning-after pill in Plan B, a movie directed by Natalie Morales.

Diligent student Sunny (Kuhoo Verma) is supposed to spend the weekend studying, but when her mom Rosie (Jolly Abraham) goes out of town, Sunny’s best friend, Lupe (Victoria Moroles), convinces her to throw a party. The party is your standard high school movie, spur-of-the-moment scheme to allow Sunny to hang out with Hunter (Michael Provost), her longtime crush.

The party does not go as planned — Hunter leaves with another girl, Lupe’s crush Logan never shows and Sunny, sad and tipsy from a horrible punch bowl concoction of wines, pickle juice and cough syrup, ends up having quick, awkward sex with Kyle (Mason Cook), a boy she isn’t really interested in. The next morning she realizes that there was a problem with the condom and is panicked that she’ll get pregnant and prove correct her mother’s assessment that one mistake can destroy your whole life. Don’t worry, Lupe reassures her, you can get the Plan B pill.

As is apparently true in real life South Dakota, where this movie takes place, Sunny can’t get the Plan B pill because the pharmacist at the drugstore declines to give it to her under the “conscience clause.” To the Planned Parenthood!, Sunny decides, except it is three hours away in Rapid City and she technically doesn’t have a car. Thus begins a chain of events — taking her mother’s car, getting lost, a pit stop so Lupe can see Logan — that leads to Sunny deciding whether to take a random pill sold by a random dude who says it’s probably Plan B, maybe speed but almost certainly not PCP.

Not unlike Unpregnant from last year, Plan B mixes comic riffs on road movie and teen movie cliches with sobering moments that make the movie’s point without turning it into an op-ed. And, also as with Unpregnant, the girls’ relationship — its strengths, its weaknesses, what they mean to each other — is the heart of the story. I like the way it shows Sunny and Lupe as close and able to be more than their parents’ expectations or their school selves with each other and yet they still wrestle with things they can’t tell each other. The movie — and the charming performances by Verma and Moroles — makes these two girls full multilayered people, with more to them than just a teen-movie type. B+

Rated TV-MA, according to Hulu. Directed by Natalie Morales with a screenplay by Joshua Levy and Prathiksha Srinivasan, Plan B is an hour and 47 minutes long and is available on Hulu.

Featured photo: A Quiet Place Part II (PG-13)

Love Like That, by Emma Duffy-Comparone

Love Like That, by Emma Duffy-Comparone (Henry Holt and Co., 211 pages)

Novels can be bruising in their own way, but a good short story hits you like a closed-fist punch to the face. Steel yourself, then, before picking up Love Like That, Emma Duffy-Comparone’s utterly abusive collection, which you will not want to give anyone for Father’s Day.

The men in these nine stories are spectacularly broken or absent, either by virtue of divorce, separation or dying on the living room floor for their young daughter to find them. They make questionable choices, such as leaving their wife and kid for a student 25 years younger or using an old chainsaw to try to take out a stump. The men’s assorted miseries spill over to the women they love, protagonists described by the publisher as “misfits and misanthropes, bickering sisters, responsible daughters and unhappy wives.”

As the chainsaw-bearing man is prone to say, “Good times, huh?” Surprisingly, however, the answer is yes. With one significant and painful exception, for the most part, we get the sense that everything will eventually turn out OK for these memorable characters; that despite the everyman struggles and despair, there is something still valuable to be recovered in the ruins. Which is the best gift that art can give.

Duffy-Comparone teaches creative writing at Merrimack College in Boston and all these stories are set in New England, two on the Granite State coast. (She has said, drolly, that there is something about New England “that can make a person a bit sensitive, a bit brittle. You can feel — or at least I can — sort of jerked around by the seasons.”)

The first story, and one of the strongest, is “The Zen Thing,” which slyly begins, “Every year, the family unpacks itself for a weekend on a beach and pretends to have a good time.”

From there, Duffy-Comparone introduces the family and friends of Anita, gathered on a Rhode Island beach: her 13-year-old sister with Down syndrome; Anita’s much older live-in boyfriend whose daughter still thinks he’s away on a business trip; her grandmother and the new husband she met at a casino; and other assorted relatives, who are nothing like anyone you know, but exactly like everyone you know, in that sleight-of-hand trick performed by exceptional writers.

Not much happens in this story, beyond the usual fraught conversations between family members and a small accident involving a colostomy bag, but to borrow from Walt Whitman, it contains multitudes, much like a David Sedaris family story, and is an ultimately moving snapshot of the complexities of family life.

Similarly, “The Package Deal” is an extraordinary glimpse into the difficulties faced by a single, childless person who becomes involved with a person with a child.

“You tell yourself, ‘Kid, schmid.’ You tell your friends, who ask why you’re doing what you’re doing, ‘It’s not a big deal.’ You tell your mother, who grips your biceps and whispers with soupy eyes that entering a child’s life is a very, very big deal, ‘I know, Mom, Jesus!’

This story is vaguely autobiographical; Duffy-Comparone has written about dating a divorced man with an 8-year-old son, who, on the first time he saw his dad kiss her, left the room and started sobbing. She brings all that pain — for the man, woman and child — into this story, which lays bare how a child experiences an innocent party as a malign interloper, as well as the shock of encountering children, up close and in person, for the first time:

“… The hooflike footfalls, the vinegary socks, the alley smell of aim-anywhere urine, the plump slugs of toothpaste stuck to the side of the sink, the wet towels seeping into beds or stripping the varnish from dining room chairs, the shirts used as napkins, the shirts used as Kleenex, the whining, the moping, the deafening absence of please or thank you, not to mention the sensory violation that is mealtime.”

As for the punches, the first comes in “The Offering,” a disturbing story that does not reveal the reason for the title until its smart but terrible conclusion. It’s about a fourth-grader whose wretched home life is only occasionally lightened by a strange student teacher. As they say, no good deed goes unpunished.

Before you can recover from that, Duffy-Comparone cuts us off at the knees with “Exuma,” which is set in Portsmouth and begins benignly enough: “Gina wasn’t big on kids, but on an individual basis, like dogs, they could be all right.”

Gina has a checkered work history, so she takes a job as the nanny of a toddler who “shrieked all day like a bad oboe.” She loses that job, too, and goes on to take another as a projectionist at a century-old theater, where one night she has a panic attack related to a shocking thing that happened before. I will say only that I read this three days ago, and I’m not sure that I have fully recovered from this, or the tragic event in the titular “Love Like That.”

But that speaks to the power of Duffy-Comparone’s skills as a storyteller, that she can punch us and we keep coming back for the next story, bruises and all. A


One of the most interesting pre-publication publicity blitzes in recent times is playing out on Twitter, where a 1980s pop star has shown up with a mouth like a machete.

Richard Marx, best known for hits like “Endless Summer Nights” and “Should Have Known Better,” has been slashing and burning his way through the MAGA crowd like a frontman for the Democratic Party. Sen. Rand Paul accused him of inspiring someone to send a suspicious package to Paul’s house, and he is insulting countless people on Twitter, including some who profess to be fans.

Why? Maybe he’s a really angry guy. But it’s more likely that he’s seeking attention for an upcoming book promoted in a pinned tweet with a pre-order link. The memoir is calledStories to Tell(Simon & Schuster, 320 pages) and isn’t coming out until July 6, but pre-publication sales make a difference in how a book performs overall. It’ll be interesting to see how this strategy plays out. As of this writing, Marx has amassed more than 309,000 followers on Twitter, but the abject nastiness of some of his tweets may backfire.

That said, Marx’s book may be more interesting than the new children’s book by Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex (illustrated by Christian Sullivan). It’s calledThe Bench (Random House Books for Young Readers, 48 pages) and is promoted as a story “that captures the special relationship between father and son, as seen through a mother’s eyes.”

An excerpt: This is your bench, Where you’ll witness great joy. From here you will rest, See the growth of our boy.

Devoted Meghan and Harry fans may well love it, but the duchess isn’t likely to fill the shoes of the beloved Eric Carle, who died last month at his home in western Massachusetts.

Carle’s Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? (Henry Holt and Co., 28 pages), published in 1996, remains the No. 1 best seller on Amazon among “children’s bears books,” which is a surprisingly competitive category, what with Corduroy, Blueberries for Sal and, of course, the Berenstain Bears

Book fairs

NORTHERN NEW ENGLAND BOOK FAIR Featuring 45 rare, used, and collectible book and ephemera dealers from around New England and beyond. Everett Arena, 15 Loudon Road, Concord. Sat., June 6, and Sun., June 6. Visit

Author events

ANNETTE GORDON-REED Author presents On Juneteenth. Hosted by The Music Hall in Portsmouth. Thurs., June 3, 7 p.m. Virtual. Tickets cost $5. Visit or call 436-2400.

CAROL DANA Penobscot Language Keeper and poet presents. Part of the Center for the Arts Lake Sunapee Region Literary Arts Series. Virtual, via Zoom. Tues., June 15, 5 p.m. Visit

LIN-MANUEL MIRANDA, QUIARA ALEGRIA HUDES AND JEREMY MCCARTER Authors present the launch of their new book, In the Heights: Finding Home. Hosted by Gibson’s Bookstore in Concord. Virtual, via Zoom. Tues., June 15, 8 p.m. Registration and tickets required. Tickets cost $40 to $44. Visit or call 224-0562.

PAUL DOIRON Author presents Dead by Dawn. The Music Hall, 28 Chestnut St., Portsmouth. Thurs., July 1, 6 p.m. Tickets cost $60 to $180 per table. Visit or call 436-2400.

Call for submissions

NH LITERARY AWARDS The New Hampshire Writers’ Project seeks submissions for its Biennial New Hampshire Literary Awards, which recognize published works written about New Hampshire and works written by New Hampshire natives or residents. Books must have been published between Jan. 1, 2019 and Dec. 31, 2020 and may be nominated in fiction, nonfiction, poetry, children’s picture books, middle grade/young adult books. All entries will be read and evaluated by a panel of judges assembled by the NHWP. Submission deadline is Mon., June 21, 5 p.m. Visit

Book Clubs

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

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

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

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

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

Featured photo: Love Like That

Album Reviews 21/06/03

Jonny Kosmo, Pastry (Feeding Tube Records)

I don’t know if you know a lot of people who’ve studied psychology, but the theory I’ve subscribed to since I was a 20-year-old bundle of idiotic angst was that you can always tell how fragile and/or damaged a person is by how long they’ve studied psychology. I was a teenage psych major myself but abandoned ship on that stuff after one semester, so I think I’m pretty stable pertinent to this subject. I mean, just look at this Los Angeles rocker, who did finish school but gave up a career as a therapist in order to dress like a drunken Batman villain and put out weird pop/funk/techno albums that focus on things like the “metanarrative of personal and communal change.” He’s a kook, savvy? But that’s OK, because this metanarrative and blah blah blah stuff is, it seems, proffered as a form of therapy, and that’s patently obvious, what with songs like “Sugar On Top,” a breezy, what-me-worry ’70s shlock-pop trifle that could have been a 10CC or Maria Muldaur B-side, take your pick. Eh, it’s all fun: “Firefly” is soul-laden funk-pop for joke-Twitter chatbots; “How High” is acidic asphalt-steez that could have fought as disposable bar music in an episode of Starsky & Hutch. None of it’s painful, which to me is always the important thing. A

Hannes Grossman, To Where the Light Retreats (self-released)

Boy, did I step in it this time. I was drawn to this LP owing to its professed “tech-death” classification, but even more so because the project is led by a drummer, so I figured, you know, there’d be some cool drums here and there. Instead it basically reads like Tool with some monster-devil Cookie Monster dude on vocals, and, well, that’s about the whole scoop on this. I mean, there are moments of math-metal that almost evoke Dillinger Escape Plan and such, but in the main it just flops and flounces around like a toddler shark whose baby teeth all fell out recently, you know? Right, there are literally quadrillions of metal albums that could be written off that way, but the production is good, and it might appease math geeks, especially guitarist dudes who favor chromatic style over melodic substance, but, oh, it’s really just tacky, which of course — wait, the guitarist actually just used an actual phase-shifter from 1978 in an actual song — just means that your mileage may vary. B


• Heaven help us all, it’s actually June, and there will be new albums for you to listen to on June 4, because capitalism! Before we continue, I keep forgetting to let everyone know that I do vet these albums, to make sure there are no messages from Lucifer, before mentioning them here. You are safe, my friends, to listen to the albums I mention here, and even if I disagree with your decision to listen to them, it’s OK, because let’s face it, music is basically free anyway. Anyone under the age of 35 knows that bands only make money from tours (oh wait) and T-shirts, because there are little Pirate Bay 4Chans all over the place, but if you’re scared of getting hacked at one of those places, you can always just rip the songs off YouTube (that’s basically every song ever made, ever) and just enjoy ’em. But let’s proceed, because you know that I’m an Officially Licensed Snark Dispenser, who is here to help you, and I will warn you about albums you should either “buy” or avoid, so that you can save a few precious seconds and just move on to tweeting Instagrams of your little brother getting multiple bone-bruises from his stupid skateboard. So let’s start with a new album even your parents might like, Hardware, from Billy Gibbons! Ha ha, you know who this person is, he was the guitarist with the 3-foot beard in the moronic blues-rock band ZZ Top, which used to play in arenas, back when people actually liked music. Don’t get me started on ZZ Top, but OK, if you insist, they were basically Led Zeppelin for your parents’ dumbest high school friends, like, they were contractually obligated to play only three different chords in their songs, but nevertheless, they had fans who went to their shows at the Worcester Centrum, and afterward they’d wear their “Eliminator Tour” T-shirts to English class, which got them automatic F’s from their English teachers. Got all that, Zoomers? No? Don’t worry, here, here are the lyrics from “West Coast Junkie,” Gibbons’s new single: “Rollin’ my Camino down Route 66, thinkin’ ‘bout my girl.” No, seriously, but it’s the music you should be avoidin’, like it’s basically the sort of 1950s blues-rock you hear when Svengoolie has that 90-year-old rock ’n’ roll dude as a guest, in other words it’s like Bo Diddley, except this stuff has raunchy-sounding guitars. There, now you know; consider the above snark to be like the warning on a pack of Marlboros, but in a musical sense. Anyone still reading?

• Turning to news for 40-year-old wombat-girls, look, everyone, it’s hyper-privileged Connecticut phony Liz Phair, with a new album, called Soberish! She is working on an autobiographical memoir right now, called Horror Stories (anticipated excerpt: “I’m telling you, the Perrier came with no diced strawberries!”). Whatever, the single, “Spanish Doors,” is like any polite ’90s grrrl-pop tune you’ve ever heard.

• Next up is Australian/whatever jangle-indie poppers Crowded House, with their new LP Dreamers Are Waiting. Is the single “To The Island” anywhere near as good as their mega-hit “Don’t Dream It’s Over?” Nope, it’s a silly almost-joke song, but thanks for guessing!

• We’ll close the week with Atreyu’s new album, Baptize, because maybe its single “Underrated” is good! OK, it is, if you like your World Wrestling entrance themes to be structured in the vein of Panic! At The Disco bit into extreme metal yowling into Papa Roach junk. You don’t? Well bless your heart.

Retro Playlist

Let’s hop into our wacky time machine and go back exactly 10 years, where we find Between the Devil & The Deep Blue Sea, the then-latest album from Black Stone Cherry, a band I couldn’t take seriously at all, viz: “southern rock’s answer to Nickelback, in other words one of the worst bands you could possibly imagine.” Pretty rotten of me, I know, but pound-for-pound, I’d say I was pretty nice to Death Cab For Cutie’s Codes and Keys. That warrants a brief explanation: I forget where it was published, but a few years ago I saw a super-snarky article from (I think) some British music blog, aiming to shoot down wimpy twee-hipster music like Death Cab forever. The rub was that, as much as hipster bands seem inclusive and proper and such, no one ever — until this article pointed it out — called out the whole scene for being composed almost exclusively of all-white musicians (who, kicker, were also mostly men). Whatever, since I was still unaware of that stuff at the time, I was nice to “You Are A Tourist,” Codes‘s lead single, saying it was OK, at least musically: “tons of layers,” “pop rock in the manner of bands like Smiths, Suede and whatnot.”

One of that week’s column’s main thrusts was an album from Brooklyn bluegrass band Sweetback Sisters, titled Looking For A Fight. Much as a phrase like “Brooklyn bluegrass band” would automatically send readers scampering off to the safety of Amy’s movie reviews, some of you did learn that it wasn’t a bad record at all, according to me: “A no-brainer” that featured a cover of Laurie Lewis’s “Texas Bluebonnets” came off like a cross between “Dixie Chicks and a mariachi band possessed by Gogol Bordello.”

Speah-Ahh, Eastern Conference Champions’ next-to-last album, was also present. Overall it was “classy, like an Americana-tinged Coldplay, most prominently on album opener ‘Attica,’” but like I alluded, the band only lasted one more album, as the relative fame they’d achieved after having their tune “Million Miles an Hour” included in the Twilight: Eclipse movie soundtrack vanished in a puff of emo-vampire smoke.

Lighten up and cool down

All of a sudden it’s summer

Well, that happened fast. One day it was 41 degrees and straight up cold and the next it was 93 degrees and everyone had to make the big decision on whether to install those air conditioners now or try to wait it out for a few more weeks. New England, am I right?

In terms of beer, all it takes is that first hot day to send me on a completely different trajectory. Frankly, I’m not sure what to do with all the stouts and porters in my fridge. Kidding. I’ll still drink them.

But my taste buds immediately steer away from rich malts and toward clean, bright, light brews the second I break a sweat.

You want something refreshing and sometimes — especially when it’s hot, for some reason — you want something you don’t have to think about. Sometimes you just want a beer that tastes like a beer, and the beer that does that best is the Pilsner.

Now, a “light” beer or a Pilsner isn’t going to have the deep complexity of a big stout or the waves upon waves of flavor of a super-hoppy IPA or the overall funkiness of a sour, but lighter brews like Pilsners aren’t lacking for flavor; it’s just that the presentation of the flavor is a bit different, a bit less in your face.

Pilsners can vary considerably. The hops can give way to a wide range of notes. Some have an almost bread-like flavor, while others feature more fruity notes and citrus, or a combination. A good Pilsner goes down easy and comes in low in alcohol.

Let’s also be honest for a second: Lighter beers have fewer calories. That’s not a thing I worry about much when it comes to beer, but the reality is that low-calorie is having a moment. Low-calorie hard seltzers are exploding and low-calorie wines are on the rise.

Pilsners are the original low-calorie beer. A 12-oz Coors Light comes in at 102 calories. I know. I know.

OK, enough about calories. The Pilsner is the beer of summer and beyond, and craft brewers near and far have turned back to this style, providing beer enthusiasts with quality Pilsners to be enjoyed fresh and preferably right at the brewery. Here are four to look out for.

Revuelta Mexican Style Lager by Able Ebenezer Brewing Co. (Merrimack)

The craft beer version of a Corona: light, crisp, uniquely flavored and featuring a hint of lime. You’ll probably be having more than one of these.

Longfin Lager by Ballast Point Brewing Co. (San Diego)

Is liking the can design a reason to try a beer? I just decided it was. There’s a tuna on the can and that drew me in. This is the epitome of easy drinking: crisp, refreshing and still flavorful with a touch of a peppery bite.

Aosta by Schilling Beer Co. (Littleton)

Everything Schilling does, it does well, as far as I can tell, and one of the things they have absolutely nailed is the Pilsner. And not just one Pilsner. At my last count, they had seven Pilsners or Pilsner-like beers on tap, if I’m allowed to refer to them as Pilsner-like. This is an Italian Pilsner that the brewery says features floral, citrus and cracker malt notes on the aroma and the flavors of biscuit, cracker and melon.

North Beach Mexican Lager by Great Rhythm Brewing (Portsmouth)

I haven’t tried this one but Mexican lagers are just all about summer. This one is brewed with Pilsner malt, vienna malt, flaked corn and hallertau mittelfruh hops, which, according to, is a German hop strain that is floral, earthy and a little spicy, and I like the sound of that.

Featured photo: Cool down with a Revuelta Mexican Style Lager by Able Ebenezer Brewing Company. Courtesy photo.

Steve and the boozy ice cream

My blender died last summer.

I’m not sure what I asked it to do — scramble a couple of eggs, maybe? — but it made a sound like a dying frog, and slowly ground to a halt.

Oddly, I took this as a good omen. I had been dropping 25-pound hints to my wife about how great it would be to have an upscale, professional-grade blender. I’m not 100 percent sure if these thoughtless, insulting references to ambitious blending are what broke my old blender’s will to live, but I feel guilty about it anyway.

But not too guilty — I had that particularly dangerous gleam in my eyes that only 16-year-old boys and middle-aged men get. I really, really wanted a new blender, which my wife was fine with.

Until she found out how much it would cost.

At which point she gave me an ice-cold, steel-spined glare that the above-mentioned 16-year-old boys and middle-aged men are extremely familiar with.

A little more research on my part revealed that there is such a thing as reconditioned, high-end, professional blenders, that are slightly cheaper.

This revelation relaxed my wife’s glare by about 12 percent.

I suggested that I could put a little bit of cash aside each week and save up for one of these almost-new über-blenders, and got cautious, provisional permission to move ahead with this plan. Frankly, I’m pretty sure she thought that I didn’t have the attention span to follow through with it and would forget about it eventually.

Except that I found a loophole.

I had been throwing all my spare change in a large jar on my bedroom dresser for the past year or two — by definition saving up money, bit by bit. I made an appointment, then went to our bank to get the change counted.

When I got back, my wife asked, “How’d it go?”

I responded that unfortunately we’d need to go to the post office and get a change-of-address form.

Another confused but cautious look. “And why is that?” she asked.

“Because we’re moving to BLENDER TOWN, BABY!,” I responded, fluttering a handful of cash in her face.

Which is how I got Steve.

Steve is not a patient appliance. Every time I blend something, he urges me to use his highest setting — “C’mon, boss! Let me loose!” I quickly learned that while I could probably use Steve to grind a broomstick into sawdust, that much power isn’t all that useful for many of the things I actually want to blend. He is so powerful that on the highest settings, cavitation from the blades will lead to an air pocket that keeps the food from getting as blended as you’d think.

All of which is more or less beside the point, except to say that your blender — OK, my blender — is your (my) new best friend when you make this week’s recipe: boozy ice cream.

Rum Cheesecake Ice Cream

Put the canister of your blender on a kitchen scale and zero it out.

Add the following ingredients to the blender jar, taring the weight each time:

• 1 block / 8 ounces / 230 grams cream cheese

• Zest of 1 lemon

• 1 cup / 8 fl. ounces / 240 grams sour cream

• ½ cup / 125 ml sugar

• Pinch of salt

• 3 Tablespoons / 1½ ounces dark rum – I like Myers’

Blend. (At this point Steve chuckled evilly, and I indulged him. I turned the dial up to 8. Steve had a Very Good Afternoon.)

Put the blender jar in the refrigerator and chill thoroughly.

Blend again, briefly, then pour into your ice cream maker and turn it into ice cream.

Harden in your freezer.

So, here’s the thing about using alcohol in ice cream:

Sugar and alcohol have very important roles in ice cream, apart from tasting good. They affect the freezing/melting point and texture of the finished product in extremely weird ways. You are extremely limited in how much you can or cannot use. Do not try adding more rum to this recipe. Don’t try to find a loophole (yes, I’m aware of the irony here) and use a higher-proof rum – the amount of alcohol will seriously mess up your texture, and possibly your ability to make ice cream at all. Even the fairly modest amount of rum in this recipe dramatically altered my ice cream maker’s ability to freeze it. Normally it takes me about 20 minutes to freeze a batch of ice cream. This took close to an hour. (Steve did not help the situation by shouting disrespectful comments to the ice cream maker, across the kitchen, implying that if it was better at its job, it would have a name.)

This cheesecake ice cream is really delicious — it tastes spot-on like actual cheesecake — but the rum is definitely a subtle, background flavor.

That’s where the topping comes in.

A Possibly Misguidedly Boozy Blueberry Topping


• 2 cups frozen wild blueberries

• 1/2 cup water

• 1/2 cup sugar

• 2 Tablespoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice

• 2 Tablespoons cornstarch, mixed with 2 Tablespoons cold water

• 8 Tablespoons / 4 ounces Golden Rum

• Zest of 1 lemon (about 1 tablespoon), optional

In a small saucepan, over medium heat, stir the blueberries, water, sugar and lemon juice, until it comes to a gentle boil. Let it boil for another 10-15 seconds, to make sure the sugar is completely dissolved.

Stir in the cornstarch/water slurry, and keep stirring, until the mixture thickens noticeably – about three minutes.

Remove from heat, then add the rum and lemon zest. Let the mixture cool slightly before topping your ice cream.

Blueberries and lemon go together extremely well. This is a fantastic topping. Yes, you can make it without the rum for the kids – sub in a tablespoon of vanilla for the alcohol – but this is a really, really good Thursday night, bracing-yourself-for-one more-day, grownup sundae. The rum is deceptive. You’ll taste a spoonful by itself – this is inevitable – and say, “Yup, that’s a good sauce,” then go to put the spoon in the sink, only to be stopped in your tracks by a hands-on-hips, steely glared reaction from the sauce.

“Good? That’s what you have to say? Good?”

The ice cream maker might not have a name, but I call this sauce Frida.

Featured photo: Boozy ice cream. Photo by John Fladd.

Marie Sacco

Marie Sacco of Salem is the owner of The Sandwich Monstahh (, and on Facebook and Instagram), a food trailer she launched in April that specializes in homemade gourmet sandwiches, soups, sides, appetizers and desserts incorporating a variety of Italian and New England-themed flavors. Sacco, who grew up in Swampscott, Mass., just outside of Boston, said much of The Sandwich Monstahh’s menu is inspired by what she grew up eating and what her mother and grandmother would often cook. Popular items include eggplant or meatball Parmesan subs, as well as steak bombs, chicken cutlets, homemade egg rolls and more. The trailer is bright green, in tribute to the Green Monster at Boston’s Fenway Park. You can find The Sandwich Monstahh at the Derry-Salem Elks Lodge (39 Shadow Lake Road, Salem) on Thursdays from 5 to 8 p.m., as well as occasionally at a few local breweries, including Rockingham Brewing Co. and From the Barrel Brewing Co., both of 1 Corporate Park Drive in Derry.

What is your must-have kitchen item?

It sounds crazy, but if I don’t have a pair of tongs I’m lost.

What would you have for your last meal?

For me, I would say a really good New York strip steak, with a baked potato and Brussels sprouts, and also a red wine.

What is your favorite local restaurant?

Trattoria Amalfi, which is a little restaurant right here in Salem. They are amazing. We’re there once a month at least.

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

Gordon Ramsay, a hundred percent. His food is unbelievable, and all of his ideas about food are straight on. I actually try to model a lot of what I do around his cooking techniques and ideas.

What is your favorite thing on your menu?

The eggplant Parm sandwich, because it’s such a part of my childhood.

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

I feel like egg rolls are really popular right now. You can throw literally anything into an egg roll as long as you serve it with a good sauce accompaniment that makes sense.

What is your favorite thing to cook at home?

Breakfast is so fun to cook. I like to do eggs and some sort of protein, either bacon and sausage … and then some cut-up fruit or maybe homemade muffins.

Homemade cannoli dip
From the kitchen of Marie Sacco of The Sandwich Monstahh food trailer

16 ounces dessert ricotta
4 ounces cream cheese
½ cup sugar
1 squeeze fresh lemon juice
1 squeeze fresh orange juice
1 teaspoon anise extract
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon orange zest

In a mixer, blend cream cheese at room temperature with juices, anise extract, zests and sugar. Mix on high speed until smooth. Add ricotta and mix until combined. Refrigerate for one hour. Sprinkle chopped pistachios, shaved chocolate or mini chocolate chips on top. Serve with pizzelles dusted with powdered sugar, cannoli chips or crushed up cannoli shells.

Featured photo: Marie Sacco

All about herbs

NH Herbal Network’s Herb & Garden Day returns

Bringing its signature event to a new venue this year, the New Hampshire Herbal Network will host its 11th annual Herb & Garden Day outdoors on the grounds of the Mt. Kearsarge Indian Museum in Warner on Saturday, June 5.

This year’s Herb & Garden Day will feature a free luncheon, an herbal market and plant sale, local food vendors and children’s activities, plus a variety of workshops centered around herbs, mushrooms, medicinal plants, home gardening and other topics.

“You definitely don’t have to be an herbalist or even have a green thumb to attend,” event organizer Jessica Livingston of JLiv Inspirations said. “It’s open to the public, and there are workshops for all skill levels and interests.”

The evening before Herb & Garden Day begins, the New Hampshire Herbal Network will host a virtual presentation from 6 to 7:30 p.m., featuring clinical herbalist Maria Noel Groves of Wintergreen Botanicals in Allenstown. Groves will speak about the widespread increased interest in herbalism during the pandemic over the past year. Registrations can be made online now.

During the main event on Saturday, Livingston said, there will be four tracks of two workshops each for attendees to choose from, all led by local herbalists. Topics run the gamut, from herbal support and prevention during the pandemic to the impacts of healthy soil on your food.

Between workshops, local vendors from herbalists and farmers to crafters, artists and food purveyors will be on site. Attendees who want to skip the workshops and go right to the vendor fair can do so at a discounted price of $5, according to Livingston.

Food offerings throughout the day will include pastries, coffees and other items from Cafe One East in Warner, as well as several ethnic options provided by the Kearsarge Justice Alliance.

“We’re actually going to have a lot of local vendors who have been at the [Concord] Multicultural Festival as well,” Livingston said. “We’re going to have momos and samosas, empanadas, Somali meat pies, El Salvadorian tacos … and a variety of herbal teas.”

Other features of Herb & Garden Day are a plant sale, with the option to pre-order plants online, and various children’s activities like face-painting, sand art and thumbprint art.

11th annual Herb & Garden Day
: Saturday, June 5, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (A virtual keynote presentation featuring clinical herbalist Maria Noel Groves of Wintergreen Botanicals in Allenstown will take place on Friday, June 4, from 6 to 7:30 p.m.)
Where: Mt. Kearsarge Indian Museum, 18 Highlawn Road, Warner
Cost: $20 for access to the virtual keynote event on Friday and $25 general admission on Saturday, or $40 for access to both. Access to the vendor fair only (no workshops) is $5. Admission is free for children ages 12 and under.
Event is rain or shine. All workshops and vendors will be outdoors. Social distancing and masks are required.

Feautred photo: Vendor Jess LaBrie, owner of Blackbird’s Daughter Botanicals in Barrington. Courtesy photo

Shop (and eat) local

Fresh Start Farms to open centralized “food hub” and market

A new store set to open in the heart of Manchester this weekend will be a one-stop shopping spot for locally sourced produce, meats, dairy products and various non-perishables — and it’s also going to serve as a centralized “food hub” and production area for Fresh Start Farms, a collective of more than 20 immigrant and refugee farmers in New Hampshire.

Fresh Start Market, a year-round retail space due to hold its grand opening on Saturday, June 5, was born out of a partnership between NeighborWorks Southern New Hampshire and the Organization for Refugee & Immigrant Success. According to Fresh Start Farms program director Jameson Small, the market has been more than a year in the making.

“NeighborWorks had bought the building at an auction, and they started finding out from people what they wanted in the community. The idea of a grocery store kept popping up,” Small said. “So they had approached us, and at the time, we were just farming in Dunbarton and Concord. We had no storefront, we had no refrigeration and no real wash stations.”

According to Small, the pandemic caused Fresh Start Farms to pivot its CSA model to mostly home deliveries. The kitchen side of the market was finished first to meet that demand.

The grand opening of Fresh Start Market’s retail space coincides with NeighborWorks Southern New Hampshire’s Wellness Weekend. But in the weeks to follow, Small said, it will be open only on Wednesday and Thursday afternoons to start, with the goal to expand later this year.

The market features a wide range of items from Fresh Start Farms farmers and around 85 other food producers across mostly New Hampshire and Vermont, from fruits and vegetables to milk, eggs, cheeses, maple syrups, cooking oils, grain products and more. A grab-and-go model is expected too, including a small offering of fresh fruit smoothies.

Small also noted that Fresh Start Market is the first and only Double Up Food Bucks location in the city of Manchester for low-income shoppers.

“Part of our total mission is food access,” he said, “so if you have a SNAP or EBT card, you can get any fresh fruit and vegetable here for half the price. … So we’re even able to compete with some of the larger entities on specific items.”

Fresh Start Farms, meanwhile, will continue to sell its produce at several farmers markets throughout New Hampshire, while a mobile market will also make weekly stops this summer.

Fresh Start Market
Grand opening is Saturday, June 5, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Where: 150 Spruce St., Manchester
Hours: After June 5, hours will be Wednesday and Thursday from 2 to 6 p.m., and will likely expand into the summer and fall months
More info: Visit, follow them on Facebook and Instagram @freshstartfarmsnh or call 606-2663

Feautred photo: Fresh Start Market. Courtesy photo.

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