Ready to laugh

Ace Aceto brings the funny to Chunky’s

Ace Aceto thinks that right now is a great time to be a comedian —‌ even hecklers are deferential.

“At one show, someone was yelling stuff out, just excited to be there,” he said by phone recently. “I shut him down [by] making light of it. He came up to me after, saying, ‘Man, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to mess with you. I was having a good time.’ I’m like, ‘I get it; you weren’t yelling ‘Boo,’ or ‘This guy sucks,’ or anything like that.’”

Aceto’s standup career started in another golden age. In the 1980s, the Boston comedy scene, led by standups like Steven Wright, Lenny Clarke and Barry Crimmins, haloed its way through New England and to his home state of Rhode Island. Mixing a catalog of impressions with stories of his Catholic upbringing, he found his footing at Periwinkles comedy club in Providence.

In 1991 the Comedy Channel, later to merge with Ha! and become Comedy Central, held a contest at Periwinkles, with a dozen winners getting time on the network, including Aceto. Seeing himself on television made him euphoric.

“I was like, ‘Oh, my God, this is a real thing,’” he said.

He hasn’t looked back; in 2015, Aceto was inducted into the Rhode Island Comedy Hall of Fame.

The past year presented many challenges for Aceto and his brethren, and he adapted even when it seemed a bit crazy.

“If someone two or three years ago said, ‘I’ve got this great show —‌ you’re going to be up on a platform in a parking lot and people are going to be in their cars,’ you’d be like, there is no freaking way I’m doing that,” he said. “Or ‘Hey, we’re going to be outside at a vineyard with Christmas lights up all over the place.’ I’ve done a couple of vineyards with maybe 80 people in a little courtyard, and everyone is just there to have fun.”

While agreeing that the pent-up need to laugh is causing a spike in its appeal, “comedy constantly ebbs and flows,” Aceto said. “I don’t know if anything will come close to that Big Eighties boom, because there’s also a million people calling themselves comics these days, and none of the late night shows have comics on anymore.”

Back in the day, “that was your goal, to get on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson or Leno or Letterman; you used to chase that TV credit,” he said. “Now it matters how many followers you have on YouTube or TikTok or social media. Because from a club owner’s point of view, they’re trying to put [butts] in the seats.”

This mindset can backfire, Aceto said.

“There’s a guy on TikTok guy who always does Owen Wilson, Vince Vaughn and Mark Wahlberg, the same three guys, in different scenarios. ‘Here’s Mark Wahlberg and Vince Vaughn fighting over who’s going to pay the bill at the restaurant.’ He does an amazing job, but could that carry a 45-minute standup set?”

Even though the clock can’t be totally turned back, “I think we’re going to see another boom in live comedy,” Aceto said. “People have been sick of watching it on Netflix and Zoom. They want to see that live aspect to it. I’ve got a lot of friends in bands who have seen more fans come out than ever, as people are starting to appreciate what they took for granted.”

With fellow standup Scott Higgins, Aceto hosts Behind The Funny, a podcast focused on the craft now in its fifth year.

Aceto appears Aug. 7 at Chunky’s Pub and Cinema in Manchester, a show booked by comedy impresario Rob Steen.

“I’ve known Ace since we were 19 or so doing comedy,” Steen said. “He has worked hard and is super funny and mostly he is squeaky clean, which is rare in comedy. I’m excited to have him on my shows; he is a consummate professional.”

Ace Aceto
Saturday, Aug. 7, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Chunky’s Pub & Cinema, 707 Huse Road, Manchester
Tickets: $20 at

Featured photo: Ace Aceto. Courtesy photo.

The Music Roundup 21/08/05

Local music news & events

Lifted spirit: Three days of Christian music and faith workshops, Soulfest kicks off Day 1 with Lecrae, Big Daddy Weave, Unspoken and others. Friday has Reid Collective topping the bill, with support from Cory Asbury, Blanca and Stephen Christian of Anberlin. Saturday features Casting Crowns, Matt Maher, Andy Mined and the Social Club Misfits. Each day has musician workshops and a songwriters circle and ends with a candlelight service. Starts Thursday, Aug. 5, at Gunstock Ski Area, Gilford,

Rhythm man: Though he relocated to Nashville a while back, Senie Hunt occasionally returns to New England, where he lived from age 5 after emigrating from war-torn Sierra Leone. He’ll be here for most of the month, including several gigs in Concord. Hunt began as a drummer before taking up guitar, adopting a percussive style that gives a one-man-band effect to his performances. Friday, Aug. 6, 9 p.m., Penuche’s Ale House, 16 Bicentennial Square, Concord,

Big return: Local promoter NH Booking celebrates with NHBFEST, a two-day festival with two stages, featuring dozens of bands. Day 1 has headliner Saving Vice, SleepSprit and Monument to a Memory. It closes out with Kaonashi, Downswing, Katahdin, Martial Law and more. Saturday, Aug. 7, and Sunday, Aug. 8, 2 p.m., Jewel Music Venue, 61 Canal St., Manchester. Single show tickets $15 in advance, $20 day of show at, with 50 $25 weekend passes available.

Marley people: Rescheduled from the Fourth of July, Duppy Conquerors perform outdoors at a Salem foodie haven. The band pays tribute to Bob Marley’s music by respecting its sound and spirit, and has been praised by many directly connected to the Jamaican legend. The name comes from a Wailers song whose title translates to “killer of bad spirits.” Sunday, Aug. 8, noon, Smuttynose Beer Garden at Tuscan Village, 9 Via Toscana, Salem, 212-9650.

Jungle Cruise

Jungle Cruise (PG-13)

Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt ride the Jungle Cruise, a perfectly enjoyable adaptation of the Disney amusement park ride.

I realize that both by watching this movie and by liking it I’m probably contributing to a world in which this becomes a vast Pirates of the Caribbean-esque universe with a jillion increasingly tiresome sequels. But, for now, for this one film, I’m on board this ride.

It’s 1916 and Lily Houghton (Emily Blunt) is a would-be explorer in a world that’s not super keen on lady explorers. When she attempts to get support from a London-based exploration society for a new expedition, she sends her brother MacGregor Houghton (Jack Whitehall) to give the big speech, which is both an attempt to play to their anti-female-scientists sentiment and a ploy to give her time to steal an artifact from the society’s labs after they’ve turned MacGregor down.

The artifact is an old arrowhead which is part of a legend about a tree called Tears of the Moon that exists somewhere in the Amazon and has petals that are said to have the power to cure all disease. Lily is determined to find the tree and help to bring this cure-all remedy to the world.

But she’s not the only one seeking it. Prince Joachim (Jesse Plemons), son of the German kaiser, also wants the tree’s petals so that he can ensure that Germany wins the Great War and so that he personally can rule for generations.

Lily manages to make off with the arrowhead and heads with her brother to Brazil to attempt to locate the tree. She eventually hires Frank (Johnson) and his boat to take her up the river to the spot where she believes she will find the tree. Frank is a jungle cruise operator, famed for having not necessarily the best but definitely the cheapest Amazon day cruise for tourists. He also likes puns and knows how to put on a “wonders of the jungle” show (hired buddies play fierce local warriors; a man-eating hippo is a geographically inaccurate bit of prop-craft). He owes some money to local boat mogul Nilo (Paul Giamatti) and is just down on his luck enough that he agrees to go with Lily and MacGregor on their quest, even though he initially doesn’t think they’ll get all that far in their quest.

Of course, just because Lily was able to get away from Prince Joachim in London doesn’t mean he gave up the search for her or the arrowhead.

Common Sense Media suggests that viewers be 11 years old to ride this ride; I think that’s about right, maybe 11 or 10, depending on the kid. There are some big snakes and some images of people who have been cursed and have become part jungle flora and fauna (sorta in the way that some of the pirates in the Pirates of the Caribbean became part sea creatures). But this is basically a wholesome adventure movie with winning personalities and a very cartoonish villain.

Johnson is a fun guy to hang out with generally and here he is in family-movie top form with an ever so slight amount of crustiness in the beginning and just a big blob of gooey loyalty and honor and benevolence underneath. Blunt is also winning at this kind of character — she’s smart and brave and all her flaws double as adorable quirks (and she’s able to sell that without it becoming syrupy). Whitehall, who starts out by being the obligatory character who is horrified by the jungle and longing for a cocktail by a pool, grows into as close as a movie like this can get to a real character with layers.

Jungle Cruise is not reinventing cinema but it is a solid and charming entry into the family-friendly adventure movie genre. B

Rated PG-13 for sequences of adventure violence, according to the MPA on Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra with a screenplay by Michael Green and Glenn Ficarra & John Requea, Jungle Cruise is two hours and seven minutes long and distributed by Walt Disney Studios. It is in theaters and available on Disney+ (with a subscription and for an additional $29.99).

Stillwater (R)

Matt Damon plays an American father trying to get his daughter out of a French prison in Stillwater, a movie that feels like it was carefully crafted to earn Matt Damon awards consideration.

Maybe not actual awards, but I feel like Damon and others from this movie could fill out critics’ long lists as possible nominees for, like, best actor, best supporting actress and stuff, come award season.

Bill Baker (Damon) is filling his time while waiting to find another job with an oil company in Oklahoma by working construction, specifically working deconstruction at a town that’s recently been hit by a tornado when we meet him. It’s a perhaps too-tidy metaphor for his life, which is him picking up after a disaster: His daughter Allison (Abigail Breslin) has been in prison in Marseille, France, for five years after being found guilty of murdering her girlfriend, with whom she’d been having relationship woes. Allison insists on her innocence but it seems that past attempts to reopen or appeal her case have failed. Bill comes to France to visit her and she gives him a letter to take to her lawyer, Leparq (Anne Le Ny). Allison has what she thinks is new information that could help her case but the lawyer tells Bill that Allison needs to make peace with her situation as any attempt to reopen the case is basically hopeless. Bill disagrees.

Allison has heard through a professor where she used to go to school that a fellow student was at a party where a guy claimed that he had once stabbed a woman and gotten away with it. The guy had the same name, Akim, as the guy Allison met at a bar on the night of the murder and who she says stole her purse. Despite not speaking French, Bill charges forth to track down Akim in hopes of getting a DNA sample that can be matched to the unknown DNA found at the scene of the murder.

To help with some of the translating and finding his way around the city, Bill turns to Virginie (Camille Cottin), a woman who was temporarily staying with her daughter, Maya (Lilou Siauvaud), in a hotel room next to Bill’s. Eventually, they become friendly enough that Bill rents a room from her in her new apartment and spends afternoons watching Maya — building a family life as he continues to attempt to help Allison.

This movie features some nice performances and some nuanced details. Breslin does a lot in her relatively few scenes. She shows a believable discomfort-in-her-soul as someone wrestling with her current predicament (prison and an uncertain future but also the death of her girlfriend) and past hurts (we learn that her mother died by suicide and Allison and Bill have had a difficult relationship). In the letter that sets off Bill’s search, Allison describes her father as not being capable. Damon is able to show that Bill is hurt by this criticism but also understands why she feels this way and desperately wants to prove her wrong. Damon does a good job of demonstrating the weight of Bill’s life — his disappointments, his failures and his desire to still salvage something for both him and Allison.

Likewise, Cottin is good in her supporting role as a woman who, as her friend suggests, always likes a cause and Bill is her newest one. Bill seems to be both kind of an exotic creature to her — his Oklahoma accent and Midwestern everything — and a tangible focus for her altruistic impulses. The movie is able to give Virginie these qualities but Cottin keeps from being a total caricature. Or, to the degree that she is a little too good to be true (sure, move in! Watch my small child! I’ll help you interview random people!), she keeps the character from seeming too unrealistic.

The movie does seem to underline its points and character beats a lot — I’m not really sure why it needed to clock in at nearly two and a half hours. And the movie’s final third feels a little … much. But in the mix are nice moments of Bill and Allison sitting by the ocean or Allison and Virginie talking about Bill and Allison’s inner nature or some scene of Bill relating to Maya. It’s all good, above-average completely fine stuff that just doesn’t feel terribly sticky. The result is a movie that I’m not sorry to have watched but that I feel fairly certain I’m going to mostly forget about in a month. B-

Rated R for language, according to the MPA at Directed by Tom McCarthy and written by Tom McCarthy & Marcus Hinchey and Thomas Bidegain & Noé Debré, Stillwater is two hours and 19 minutes long and distributed by Focus Features. It is screening in theaters.



Chunky’s Cinema Pub
707 Huse Road, Manchester;
151 Coliseum Ave., Nashua;
150 Bridge St., Pelham,

The Flying Monkey
39 Main St., Plymouth

Red River Theatres
11 S. Main St., Concord

Rex Theatre
23 Amherst St., Manchester


Rock of Ages(PG-13, 2012) screening at the Rex Theatre in Manchester on Wednesday, Aug. 4, at 7 p.m. with a portion of the proceeds going to the Manchester Police Athletic League. Tickets cost $12.

Jaws(1975, PG-13) screenings at Chunky’s in Manchester, Nashua and Pelham Wednesday, Aug 4, through Saturday, Aug. 7, at 7 p.m. plus screenings at 9 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Tickets cost $4.99.

Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ(1925) a silent film with live musical accompaniment by Jeff Rapsis on Thursday, Aug. 5, at 6:30 p.m. at the Flying Monkey in Plymouth. Tickets start at $10.

Ailey (PG-13, 2021) screening at Red River Theatres Friday, Aug. 6, through Sunday, Aug. 8, at 12:45 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.

Pig (R, 2021) screening at Red River Theatres Friday, Aug. 6, through Sunday, Aug. 8, at 4:45 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.

Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain (R, 2021) screening at Red River Theatres Friday, Aug. 6, through Sunday, Aug. 8, at 3:30 p.m.

In the Heights (PG-13, 2021) screening at Red River Theatres Friday, Aug. 6, through Sunday, Aug. 8, at 1:15 p.m.

Matilda (PG, 1996) at the Rex Theatre on Tuesday, Aug. 10, at 7 p.m. with a portion of the proceeds going to SEE Science Center. Tickets cost $12.

Featured photo: Jungle Cruise. Courtesy photo.

Wayward by Dana Spiotta

Wayward, by Dana Spiotta (Knopf, 270 pages)

In 2013, New Hampshire author Howard Mansfield published a gorgeous ode to the physical structure that, if we are lucky, we come to see as a home, not a house. Dwelling in Possibility examined what Mansfield called “the soul of shelter,” the nourishment that we get from a pile of lumber, concrete, steel and stone.

Dana Spiotta does this, too, in her new novel Wayward, which is about a woman who, traumatized by the 2016 election, impulsively buys a run-down house and walks out of her marriage.

There were, of course, other catalysts for the decision that are revealed over time. But in setting up a wholly unexpected type of unfaithfulness — a woman falling in love with an illicit house — Spiotta taps into a rarely explored subject: the emotional connection that many people have to their homes, even when, to the world, it may seem irrational. “The house was falling apart. The house was beautiful,” Sam thinks to herself as she falls for a century-old cottage after being the only person to show up for the open house. (Apparently, bored women go to open houses as a form of recreation — who knew?)

She was seduced by its tile-lined fireplace, custom-built storage benches and old wood, which made her own house, with its gas fireplace and perpetually distracted husband, look hopelessly bourgeois.

Sam makes an offer on the house and decides to leave her husband without thinking much about the consequences, only vaguely aware that “saying yes to this version of her life would mean saying no to another version of her life.”

When she tells Matt, he is standing at the blender, making a post-workout smoothie, and doesn’t stop what he is doing, suggesting that Sam is making a bold and empowering decision that will radically improve her life. In fact, life is never that simple.

The decision fractures an already tense relationship with Sam’s 16-year-old daughter, who has just begun a secretive relationship with a much older man. And the complexities of leaving the suburbs and navigating a new life in the city, with a couple of amusingly woke friends, complicates Sam’s life as she attempts to ignore the worsening condition of her own mother, Lily, who has pancreatic cancer.

Meanwhile, her husband seems determined to love her back into the family home, writing Sam checks to cover her expenses, including the full cost of the house (“It’s your money, too,” he tells her) and sending her flowers on the first day she sleeps there. “Dusty peach-colored peonies, her favorite. Her leaving had made him attend her, but he didn’t understand that wasn’t her intention at all. Sam just wanted to be alone in her house.”

Matt’s graciousness thrusts Sam into a place of “phony poverty, fake independence” as her part-time job as a tour guide at the Clara Loomis House couldn’t have paid even her small bills.

The family tensions ramp up to a satisfying crescendo, but the real pleasure in Wayward is Spiotta’s grasp of the mundane, as in her treatment of Sam’s of chronic insomnia (which will be utterly relatable to anyone who has ever bolted awake at 3 a.m. and not been able to get back to sleep) and necessary but painful tensions that both physically and emotionally tear apart older teens and their parents. She also has a shrewd wit that leavens the novel’s serious themes.

“You do seem deranged,” Matt says to Sam as they discuss the election of someone they loathed (a person never mentioned by name, but the novel starts in 2017). She is deranged, but in the way that we all are these days: overwhelmed, underfunded, desperately trying to do right by other people while doing right by ourselves, to stay asleep the whole night, take care of our children, take care of our parents, take care of the planet. This is a thoroughly contemporary novel, with its Facebook groups of outraged women (WWW: Women Won’t Wilt, and Central New York Crones) and soliloquies on higher education and other contemporary frustrations. (Sam sees the college admissions process as a sort of Hunger Games.)

It is also a solidly regional novel; you will learn more than you want to about Syracuse, New York, to include its architecture and history. And apparently Clara Loomis, the namesake of the historical house at which Sam works, is an invention of the author, which is a bit confusing given that she is linked to real people, such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton. At the end, the novel shape-shifts with letters and journal entries from Loomis, which complicates the work in ways that are not all positive. There is also no obvious resolution to many of the family’s struggles; people who like an ending neatly tied with a ribbon may grumble at the conclusion.

Wayward is not chick lit; it’s too smart a book for that. But it’s definitely a novel for women, and women of a certain age. For that demographic, it’s a slam dunk, especially if the women lean Democrat. A-

Book Notes

The announcement of book award nominees in the summer is the equivalent of pumpkin-spice products emerging in August. It’s way too early. We still haven’t finished our beach reads.

But the long list for the Booker Prize came out this week, and if nothing else, it’s confirmation of the Hippo’s good taste. Three books on the list were reviewed here and given A’s: Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro (Knopf, 321 pages), No One is Talking About Thisby Patricia Lockwood (Riverhead, 224 pages) and Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead (Knopf, 608 pages).

The award, given each November, is for the best novel written in English and published in Britain or Ireland. The inclusion of American authors is a perennial source of friction in the U.K., although interestingly the British novelist Ishiguro has been supportive of the change, made in 2014. (In addition to his current nomination, Ishiguro won the Booker Prize in 1989 for The Remains of the Day.)

Besides Lockwood and Shipstead, two other Americans are on the long list this year: Nathan Harris and Richard Powers; Harris for The Sweetness of Water (Little, Brown and Co., 368 pages) and Powers for Bewilderment(W.W. Norton, 288 pages), which hasn’t even been released yet. Its release date is Sept. 21.

Meanwhile, props to the U.K. publication The Guardian, which each year runs a “Not the Booker Prize” contest, because, in its words, “the judges of Britain’s most prestigious literary award pick the wrong book too often.” The readers of The Guardian’s book blog vote on their favorites. Last year’s winner was Hello Friend We Missed You, by Richard Owain Roberts, which was published in the U.S. in paperback this year (Parthian, 200 pages) and is described on Amazon as “bleakly comic.”

Alas, the author only won a Guardian coffee mug. The Booker Prize winner this year, to be announced Nov. 3, will collect $69,000.


Author events

JOYCE MAYNARD Author presents her new novel Count the Ways. Phenix Hall, 38 N. Main St., Concord. Thurs., Aug. 5, 7 p.m. Visit or call 224-0562.

SADIE & CORBIN RAYMOND Authors present 121 Days: The Corbin Raymond Story of Fighting for Life and Surviving a Traumatic Brain Injury. Gibson’s Bookstore, 45 S. Main St., Concord. Tues., Aug. 10, 6 p.m. Visit or call 224-0562.

KATE SHAFFER & DEREK BISSONNETTE Authors present The Maine Farm Table Cookbook. Outside the Music Hall Historic Theater, 28 Chestnut St., Portsmouth. Thurs., Aug. 12, 6 p.m. Tickets cost $60 for a small table (two people), $120 for a medium table (four people), $180 for a large table (six people). Visit or call 436-2400.

PETER FRIEDRICHS Author presents And the Stars Kept Watch. Virtual event, hosted by Toadstool Bookstores, located in Nashua, Peterborough and Keene. Tues., Aug. 17, 6 p.m. Visit or call 673-1734.

R.W.W. GREENE Sci-fi author presents new novel Twenty-Five to Life. Gibson’s Bookstore, 45 S. Main St., Concord. Thurs., Aug. 26, 6:30 p.m. Visit or call 224-0562.

MONA AWAD Author presents All’s Well. The Music Hall Historic Theater, 28 Chestnut St., Portsmouth. Thurs., Sept. 2, 7 p.m. Tickets cost $13.75. Visit or call 436-2400.


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

SLAM FREE OR DIE Series of open mic nights for poets and spoken-word artists. Stark Tavern, 500 N. Commercial St., Manchester. Weekly. Thursday, doors open and sign-ups beginning at 7 p.m., open mic at 8 p.m. The series also features several poetry slams every month. Events are open to all ages. Cover charge of $3 to $5 at the door, which can be paid with cash or by Venmo. Visit, e-mail or call 858-3286.

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

Featured photo: Wayward.

Album Reviews 21/08/05

Occurrence, I Have So Much Love To Give (Archie & Fox Records)

I usually don’t go for tunes that sound like Postal Service, with those cheesy 808-ish beats that are no more technologically fascinating than the first Donkey Kong video game. But in this case there’s a lot of layering at times, and it’s not always a Nintendo-fest either —‌ wait, let me start over, because the Figurine-ish title track that opens the album, with its Donkey Kong beat, a thing that to me always comes off as insincere anti-flamboyance, is the least appealing to me, and it does get a lot better. It’s the third album from an odd little crew of college grads with families and professional day-gigs that suck up 99.9 percent of their time, so the goal here isn’t to dump everything and open for Killers or whatnot. But that really wouldn’t be out of the question, being that they sound like a modern-day Blondie of sorts (singer Cat Hollyer is a dead ringer for Debbie Harry), and they do have a slight penchant for buzzy noise-rock (“The Preferred One,” which actually gets really pretty as it marches along). This one’s a grower, well worth your time. A —‌ Eric W. Saeger

Lauren Jenkins, Miles On Me Part 1 (self-released)

Texas-born and Carolina-raised, Jenkins has toured since she was 15, so I’m told. She’s still a small fry at the moment, having played a role in an Eric Roberts movie and clocked in on one or two other actress-things. There’s been a Today show appearance, and a lot of big magazines and newspapers, I’m told, have touted her as an artist to watch and such. The sound on this self-made album is top-drawer, like, I can tell by the drums, which sound big and splashy, totally radio quality. I know what you’re wondering, but I’ve tried to avoid that: Her music is basically Sheryl Crow-ish, and her voice sounds just like Sheryl Crow. There’s of course nothing wrong with that, on paper, but I’d venture to say that I’d prefer a Sheryl Crow soundalike to try something other than country-tinged Sheryl Crow radio-pop, savvy? I mean, the songs are fine, and other than Sheryl Crow’s music, I’ve never heard anything like this in my life. We cool? B-


• Oh noes, we’re into August already, somebody make it stop, or those precocious 13-year-olds who run the fish-and-chips takeout stand at York Beach are literally going to close up and go shopping for edgy backpacks for school! No, I say! I absolutely despise August, the month that’s just basically one giant Sunday, because you know that there’s not a lot of fun and laziness and whole-clam baskets remaining on the clock before dreariness and drudgery and snow set in and turn us all back into our true people-hating Gollum selves. But enough babbling, I must drop my growing desperation and get to business, because I am a buzzing chatbot in the entertainment matrix, and my assigned task is to tell you what albums to buy when they come out on Aug. 6. (The truth is that you shouldn’t buy any of them, really; if you really cared about yourself you’d only listen to old John Coltrane albums and four-hour classical streams through YouTube or whatever, but it’s your ears’ funeral). So let’s get busy, my corporate-enslaved darlings, let’s start with The Apple Drop, a new album from Brooklyn-based experimental-post-punk loons Liars! This trio is signed to Mute Records, which automatically spells awesomeness, of course, but in the case of the single “Sekwar,” your idea of awesomeness would need to be predicated on an ideal of Tom Waits leading 10 or so guys in a crazy but not unlistenable chant about cave gods or something. Some of you would actually like it a lot, is the scary thing, but that’s OK.

• Famous famous-person and unfunny comedienne Barbra Streisand is now a spritely 79 years old, so, like the giant grackle-monster Rodan, she must emerge from her cavern of Smaug gold and lay an album-egg, for the benefit of people who buy albums solely for the purpose of annoying themselves. This new album is called Release Me 2, but don’t get excited, ’90s-girl-group fans, I’ll bet that the “2” in the title refers to a sequel to some dumb album called Release Me. Yup, there it is, thanks Wikipedia, these are previously unreleased songs that would probably sound acoustically marvelous if the strains were bouncing off the walls of your great-uncle’s Marlboro-smelling wood-paneling. The first Release Me featured tracks recorded between her 1967 Simply Streisand and 2011 What Matters Most albums, but this one cast an even wider net (1962-2020), for instance a Babs version of Carole King’s “You Light Up My Life” that’s nasal-screamy and basically bad for you.

• Next we have country music human Chris Young’s Famous Friends, whose title track is based on an “ironic” trope, that his friends in Skunk County or wherever he’s from aren’t really famous, even though the song is ironically co-sung by famous person Kane Brown. It’s standard fare, like take any Toby Keith song, put it in the microwave for 20 minutes and serve. Nevertheless he played it at the ACM Awards, whatever that means.

• Our last thing to look at this week is Lingua Ignota, classically trained in the vein of Zola Jesus I assume, given that this thing here says she’s into industrial and noise rock. Sinner Get Ready is her newest upcoming album, and I’m sure I’ll love it, so off I go to the YouTubes to listen to the single “Pennsylvania Furnace.” Yikes, OK, look at this video, she’s in a sheer white angel dress, jump-cutting around in a field. Slow mournful craziness. Talk about gloomy, crazy and nutty, I shall pass on this, thanks.

Retro Playlist

I spun the dial on the Way-Back Machine as hard as I could, and look, it landed exactly 14 years ago this week, in 2007! I cared about a lot of different genres back then, including, well, every genre, even unbearable vintage wingnut-jazz. Like the newbie I was, while reviewing the Charles Mingus Sextet’s Cornell 1964 (a live album that had just been discovered at the time), I played it safe: “Jazz has unsubtle similarities to booze,” I babbled; “Miles Davis is brandy on ice in relation to the watered-down umbrella drinks of ’80s-era Ramsey Lewis and the egghead-banter martinis of Dave Brubeck.” Well no duh, I say to my 14-years-ago self. I was obviously trying to avoid the subject at hand, namely trying to review a too-hardcore post-bop record, but I did man up and hint to readers that this particular version of “Sophisticated Lady” was “disjointed.” In the end, though, hoping to keep Mingus fans happy (by the way, I don’t care about pleasing them or anyone else anymore), I added “[T]imid newcomers have sufficient opportunities to get acclimated, such as the readily accessible blues of ‘So Long Eric’ (referring to sax/flute/clarinet legend Eric Dolphy, who plays throughout this album).” If you’re still timid about records like this, my advice is to stay that way.

Also that crazily long-ago week, Euro-goth/industrial blockheads KMFDM had just released Tohuvabohu, which I found uninspired (“‘Super Power’ is the sort of jump-the-shark moment that makes longtime fans hustle for the exits”). As well, Aughts-indie bands were at their peak of being horrible (You Say Party We Say Die’s Lose All Time was Romeo Void for dummies), but I did actually like New Young Pony Club’s Fantastic Playroom, as their tunes were “party-girl singalongs over New Order guitars welded in place by matching synth lines,” so I said “most of this record is instantly likeable, putting between-craze Billboard pinups like Franz Ferdinand to shame” (like that’s a challenge).

If you’re in a local band, now’s a great time to let me know about your EP, your single, whatever’s on your mind. Let me know how you’re holding yourself together without being able to play shows or jam with your homies. Send a recipe for keema matar. Message me on Twitter (@esaeger) or Facebook (eric.saeger.9).

From the land of sunflowers

A look at some wines from Provence

It’s summer and the beginning of sunflower season in New Hampshire! Sunflowers evoke thoughts of Vincent Van Gogh and his painting of the bright, robust flower. Van Gogh painted sunflowers 11 times, with seven of those paintings executed while he was in Arles, in Provence. Van Gogh found the area to his liking, with its sunshine and bright colors. He created some of his greatest work in the short 14 months he was in Arles.

Marseille provided Julia Child with experiences that ran counter to those of her residency in Paris. Julia and Paul Child’s Parisian friends thought Marseille “a rough, crude, southern” place. “But it struck me as a rich broth of vigorous, emotional, uninhibited Life — a veritable ‘bouillabaisse of a city,’” Paul said, according to Julia Child’s My Life in France.

The cuisine of Provence is decidedly different from Parisian cuisine; it’s founded on olive oil and garlic and an abundance of fish and fresh vegetables. It borrows from its Italian neighbors but remains decidedly different from them.

Provence is rich, if not as sophisticated as Paris. It covers a wide swath of territory from the Alps and Italy to its north and east to the Pyrenees and Spain on its west. It was the first region conquered by the Romans beyond the Alps. For a time, it was home to Popes at Avignon. Its coastline with its blue water is called the Cote d’Azur, and its film festival at Cannes is world-famous. With its warm climate and the fragrance of lavender and citrus, it is no wonder the perpetual season of summer of 300 days of sunshine along the coast lures many to visit, and some to stay.

With these notable differences in climate and cuisine from the rest of France, it is expected that the wines of this region would also differ greatly from those of parts north. Provence is known for the production of rosé wine. Rosés are produced throughout France, but the rosés of Provence are unique in their character and structure.

Our first wine, a 2019 Château D’Esclans Whispering Angel Côte De Provence Rosé (available at the New Hampshire Liquor & Wine Outlets at $22.99), is a blend of grenache, cinsault and rolle (vermentino), an Italian white grape identified by its French moniker, rolle. The grenache and cinsault impart their spice-fruit to the wine, while the rolle adds floral and citric notes to the blend. The color is an almost clear very pale peachy pink. To the nose, there are slight floral, lily-like notes, along with some citric. To the tongue the same is carried through with a very slight orange peel coming across the tongue. This is a light wine of 13.5 percent alcohol, created by Sacha Lichine. His 2006 acquisition of Château D’Esclans, located northeast of San Tropez, has resulted in building a world-class brand and providing a strong contribution to the popular growth of rosé wine. Sacha is the son of the renowned Alexis Lichine, who was instrumental in the rebuilding of the wine industry destroyed by World War II, as well as the author of The Wines of France, published in 1952. This wine has a pedigree all but surpassed by the expertise of the generations who created it. It can be sipped on a warm, sunny afternoon, or paired with a light supper of a green salad, dressed with cheese and fruit. Doesn’t that sound like what Provence should be?

Our second wine is a classic, a 2017 Château Beauchêne Châteauneuf-du-Pape Grand Réserve (available at the New Hampshire Liquor & Wine Outlets at $37.99). It is a blend of 80 percent grenache, 10 percent syrah and 10 percent mourvèdre. The color is deep ruby red, the nose is of raspberries and spice, tampered with the sweetness of vanilla. To the tongue it is rich in flavor while remaining dry and slightly leathery from the tannins. There is a good dose of red fruit: cherries and plum, with a slight earthiness that makes this an ideal accompaniment to grilled meat, especially lamb. Château Beauchêne is owned by Michel Bernard, whose family has lived in Orange, just North of Avignon, since the 17th century. Today Chateau Beauchêne has become the hub for the vinification and maturation of all the cuvees from the different vineyards owned by the family. Three appellations are represented over their 175 acres: Châteauneuf du Pape, Côtes du Rhône Villages, and Côtes du Rhône.

These are two exceptional wines worth considering for your pretend visit to Provence. Enjoy them on the patio with your favorite Provence fare!

Featured photo: Courtesy photo.

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