Four funny nights

Hampton Beach Comedy Festival returns

Through the years, some things haven’t changed at the Hampton Beach Comedy Festival. Rule No. 1 is that every comic there has to make Jimmy Dunn laugh. Rule No. 2 is that he has to like them — after all, the whole thing began as a hang in 2009, when Dunn, a year-round beach resident, invited a bunch of his friends for a barbecue that ended with a show at Ashworth by the Sea.

It grew to four nights, with many of the same faces, and a few new ones every year working the crowds, then repairing to Playland Arcade for a highly competitive hybrid of cards and skee-ball, followed by after-hours poker — basically a comedy festival that’s an excuse for a rolling party.

“I got my crew of comics, my friends, and it’s sort of how comedy works in New England,” Dunn said in a recent phone interview as he ran down this year’s lineup. “I try and mix it up, bring in some comics that I don’t generally put on shows with me … give some other people opportunities and mix it up for the fans.”

Making their debut are John Reiman, a comedy veteran who spent several years as a writer on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.

“He’s been around forever, we just never were able to get him,” Dunn said. “He’s very funny, and he grew up in North Hampton, so he’s also a hometown guy.”

Another newcomer is Peter Martin, a Boston comic whom Dunn calls “explosively funny … I did a show with him; I was watching him just destroy a room, and I went, ‘Oh, man. I don’t know if I could follow this kid tonight.’ That’s how he got my attention. Since then, I’ve seen him a bunch of times.”

Will Noonan was a newcomer in the festival’s early days who’s grown into a regional headliner. Dunn remembers Noonan as an eager-to-please youngster when he first arrived.

“He had this Elvis Costello suit on, and he went up and absolutely killed it,” he said in 2019. “I was like, ‘Who is this kid? This is awesome!’ We’ve become really good buddies.”

Among those also returning are longtime favorite Lamont Price, Kelly MacFarland, Mark Riley, Dan Boulger and Chris D, who first performed in 2019. There are seven or eight comics on each show, making for a rapid-fire night of laughs, and special guests are always a strong possibility.

As in past years, Dunn will close each night, and Dave Rattigan will host.

That the festival is happening at all is a minor miracle. A last-minute offer from Tom McGuirk, who owns the eponymous Ocean View Hotel & Restaurant, saved the long weekend.

“He said, ‘Hey, we’d love to have it down here,’ and we looked at it and said, ‘This would be really cool,’” Dunn said. “I guess he’d been to a few of the festivals in the past at the Ashworth and is a comedy fan.”

The Ashworth was “in over their heads with staffing issues and trying to get all the weddings through that they could, and they just couldn’t accommodate us,” Dunn said. “We lucked out, because I thought we were done.”

Dunn’s best friend Tony V. will perform. The two have a podcast called Two Boston Guys Whack Up A Pie.

“The premise was we’d get together and get some kind of pie, apple, blueberry, sit there and have a slice. That’s just such a Boston expression — ‘You want to whack up a large pizza pie?’ But we found out pretty quickly that people didn’t like hearing us eat at the same time we’re talking.”

The show is usually Dunn and Tony V. commiserating about current events and comedy, but recently they hosted Bobcat Goldthwait, who’s been a friend of both since their open mic days in Cambridge at the Ding Ho and other clubs.

“He eats like everybody else,” Dunn said. “He’s getting back out on the road doing stand-up and wanted to plug some dates up here in New England. We get along great with Bob, so we had him on. Technically, it was not our best episode, but he’s a really funny man.”

Hampton Beach Comedy Festival
Thursday, Aug. 19, to Sunday, Aug. 22, at 8 p.m.
Where: McGuirk’s Ocean View, 98 Ocean Blvd., Hampton
Tickets: $20/show at

Jimmy Dunn
Chris D
Dan Boulger
Mike Whitman
Dan Crohn
Liam McGurk
Graig Murphy
Dave Rattigan

Jimmy Dunn
Will Noonan
Jeff Koen
Steve Scarfo
Tony V
Janet McNamara
Dave Rattigan

Jimmy Dunn
Steve Bjork
Lamont Price
Dan Miller
Carolyn Plummer
Andrew Della Volpe
Don Zollo
Dave Rattigan

Jimmy Dunn
Kelly MacFarland
Mark Riley
Jason Merrill
Peter Martin
Jon Rineman
Dave Rattigan

Featured photo: Jimmy Dunn. Courtesy photo.

Riverwalk redux

Honeysuckle brings live music back at beloved Nashua venue

Released in early spring, the latest album from Honeysuckle is called Great Divide. It’s a title with multiple meanings: a reference to today’s fractious national mood, evidenced by cover art of a house cracking to pieces, as well as a nod to the line between normal life and the masked, distanced one people came to live in the past year and a half.

The pandemic shaped the band’s art, Holly McGarry said in a recent phone interview. A planned EP stretched to 10 songs when she and bandmate/boyfriend Chris Boniarz got stranded at his parents’ house when lockdown began and ended their tour.

“That kind of forced indoor reflective time,” she said. “Then it changed a little bit of the tone.”

The title is also a reference to personal — and personnel — changes, McGarry said. In late 2019 Ben Burns left after seven years, changing Honeysuckle from a trio to a duo.

“We’ve had divides in every part of our lives. I mean, I lost jobs, and we lost gigs. We lost a bandmate. … There’s just been a big separation from what was and what is, for better or worse.”

Honeysuckle began at Berklee College of Music, when McGarry and Burns began writing together for school projects, and she started dating Bloniarz; the two men were in a band together. One day Burns played a harmonized line in a song and Bloniarz jumped in with his instrument, and an ‘aha’ moment happened.

“As sad as we are to not be able to play his songs, have him with us live and on records, everybody has to do what’s right for themselves, “ McGarry said of Burns’ departure. “Music is a passion and it’s a multi-layered thing, but it’s also a job. Everyone’s entitled to move on to whatever that next phase of life is that they want. So it was amicable.”

Great Divide is Honeysuckle’s fifth record, following the debut EP Arrows in 2015, an eponymous 2016 disc, Catacombs in 2017 and 2019’s Fire Starter. On the most recent LP, Boniarz and McGarry were co-writing more together, and shifting the band’s sound in the process.

“It’s been really interesting because Chris comes from a little different musical background, a little more rocking, I guess,” she said soon after it was released. “He loves Metallica. … It’s brought a slightly different flavor to things.”

Producer Benny Grotto, who worked with them on previous projects, proved invaluable on the new record, in a difficult time to work.

“If we had to involve more people than just Benny, it probably wouldn’t have been possible to do it over the pandemic,” McGarry said. “Because he was able to engineer, produce, mix and play drums and percussion, we were able to just have that little pod of the three of us.”

Now that they’re a duo, Boniarz is stretching out, McGarry said.

“It’s empowered him to … bring new parts of his multi-instrumental abilities to the group. We have a synthesizer that we’ve been using to fill in those lower frequencies. We’re having fun being a little bit more experimental with what we can do in the studio, and what we can do live,” she said.

This new direction is apparent on Great Divide’s dreamy title track, which McGarry names as one of her favorites on the new release, along with “Cycles,” a rollicking song with Boniarz on lead vocals.

“Chris is doing more looping now, and with the synthesizer we can add percussive beats to certain songs,” she said. “That’s what we’re trying to transition into … seeing if we can adapt and layer more things with the mandolin.”

They’re repurposing their studio tricks for live shows like the upcoming one at Nashua’s Riverwalk Café. Sponsored by Symphony New Hampshire, it’s the first in-person show at the venue since it stopped doing regular live music events in 2019. Honeysuckle was a frequent guest in those days.

“We’ve always really loved playing Riverwalk, and we were very sad when they stopped doing music there,” McGarry said. “So it’s going to be nostalgic and special to be back.”

Thursday, Aug. 26, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Riverwalk Café and Music Bar, 35 Railroad Square, Nashua
Tickets: $20 at

Featured photo: Honeysuckle. Photo credit: Crhis Cruz.

The Music Roundup 21/08/19

Local music news & events

• Active rock: Keeping the Bike Week spirit alive into fall, Puddle of Mudd is one of several shows coming to the largest-capacity nightclub in the Lakes Region. Led by singer Wes Scantlin, the band was a staple in the early 2000s with “She Hates Me,” “Control,” “Drift and Die” and other hits. Upcoming at the venue are P.O.D. (Sept. 11), Cold (Sept. 16), Trapt (Sept. 25), Buckcherry (Oct. 29) and Dokken (Nov. 13). Thursday, Aug. 19, 6 p.m., Granite State Music Hall, 546 Main St., Laconia, $20 to $75 at

Roots blast: Perfectly paired with a craft brewed West Coast IPA, Supernothing is possibly the most SoCal band native to New Hampshire. Named after a late ’90s song by ska punkers Catch 22, the Concord group’s percolating rock reggae is perfect for board shorts and sandals. The group’s origins trace back to its lead singer receiving the first Sublime album from his sister while attending a Christian high school. Friday, Aug. 20, 8 p.m., Pipe Dream Brewing, 49 Harvey Road, Londonderry,

Big feels: Get all up on the insides just as everyone puts their masks back on — Emo Night returns to ManchVegas, aptly sponsored by Unfortunate Clothing Co., whose T-shirts feature slogans like “Disassociating” and “Existential dread in a dystopian nightmare.” Equally spirited music is provided by two bands, The Early 2000s and Heely and the Moon Shoes — anyone understanding the latter references should definitely go. Friday, Aug. 20, 9 p.m., Shaskeen Pub, 909 Elm St., Manchester, $5 at the door, 21+.

Good cause: An all-day benefit in memory of a young skateboard enthusiast, Memo Arts & Music Festival has music from Up Chuck Creek, One Fine Mess, Kings of Noise, Macy Rae, Stone Hill Station, Dezent and Phileep Gerekos, family activities and a late afternoon skate jam. Money raised will be used to improve Milford’s local skate park, a favorite place for Brandon “Memo” Kluz. Saturday, Aug. 21, 11 a.m., Keyes Memorial Field, 127 Elm St., Milford, $10 each, $40/family;

Face blowing: Carrying on the music of J. Geils Band, Danny Klein & Full House isn’t a tribute act, as its leader is an original member who played bass with the mighty Boston crew that wrecked more than a few headliners’ nights back in the early ’70s before becoming a bill topper in their own right beginning with “Give It to Me” and continuing through the MTV years with hits like “Love Stinks” and “Centerfold.” Sunday, Aug. 22, 1:30 p.m., Alpine Grove, 19 S. Depot Road, Hollis, $30 at

Free Guy

Free Guy (PG-13)

Ryan Reynolds is a video game character who breaks free of his programming in Free Guy, a movie about the nature of existence, the value of creation for creation’s sake and the usefulness of highly recognizable intellectual properties.

There is something unintentionally meta about seeing this movie in a theater due to that last factor (this movie is from Fox, which is now owned by Disney — and that’s as spoilery as I’ll get except to say that if you are inclined to see a movie in the theater this one might be worth it if only for that element).

Is that vague and a little confusing? So are elements of Guy’s (Reynolds) life. Guy wakes up each day, puts on the same blue shirt and khaki pants, orders the same coffee and heads to his job at the bank (where he stamps the day’s date on deposit slips as simply “today”) where he constantly finds himself diving for the floor during one of a countless number of bank robberies every day. The robberies — and the many stick-ups of his friend who works at the corner store and the constant car chase/gun battles and the streets filled with pro-wrestler-ishly attired criminals — are all just a part of life in Free City, which for Guy is the only world he’s ever known but for all the people wandering around causing mayhem is an elaborate multiplayer video game where players earn points for committing crimes and stashing guns and the like. Guy doesn’t know this until he meets Millie (Jodie Comer), a player who doesn’t realize that the suddenly independent-acting Guy is really an NPC — a non-player character.

Millie isn’t just any player, she’s the designer of a game — built to grow and learn but without all the violence and crime of Free City — that she thinks was used without credit (or compensation) to build Free City. She is seeking proof that Free City’s creator, Antoine (Taika Waititi), stole her code and is fairly certain she’ll find it inside the game. When she meets Guy — who has just taken some sunglasses from a player and can suddenly see the various power-ups and game money floating everywhere — she tells him to go level up and then find her if he wants to help her on her quest. To Millie’s surprise, Guy does just that, essentially becoming an in-game superhero by stopping the players from committing quite so much violence on the other NPCs. To Antoine’s surprise, Guy becomes a kind of folk hero to the people playing the game who wonder just what he is and what his actions say about the way they treat the heretofore disposable-seeming NPCs.

As Guy joins Millie on her quest, they both get a little help from Keys (Joe Keery), Millie’s former partner on the possibly stolen video game. He works for Antoine now but he seems ambivalent about the virtual world of Antoine’s that he has helped to create.

I was looking forward to this movie because I thought it looked like goofy Ryan Reynolds fun, kind of a clueless Deadpool with video game-y action. And, sure, there’s some of this; that tone is definitely the way the movie presents itself. But underneath that is something, shockingly, deeper with thoughts about what makes something “living” and what that means — is Guy alive because of the way he acts (unpredictably, with signs of choice and learning and growing) and is Guy human, with all that implies about the worth of his existence (and the wrongness of someone intentionally causing his death), because he seems to be alive? What makes something real — is, as Guy’s NPC friend Buddy (Lil Rel Howery) seems to argue, their existence, video-game-situated though it may be, real because the emotions behind it are real? What does that mean about the players (and what does that mean about their careless violence toward the NPCs in the game)?

This and other questions about the very nature of the story we’re watching are presented with a relatively light touch in the sense that I don’t think the movie necessarily gives us answers. It’s more like it offers up these surprisingly interesting ideas but then plays out this very commercial movie around it, allowing us to both laugh at some Reynolds silliness and leave the theater with some “huh, what is the nature of existence?” type thoughts, without one getting in the way of the other.

Reynolds is able to keep this balance up perfectly; he can offer the sincere-jokey-sincere sandwich required here without it seeming too slick or contrived. And he’s surrounded by a cast — including Comer — who is equally adept at bringing just the right slightly askew energy. Free Guy isn’t exactly what I expected but it was somehow exactly the kind of “fun but with more” movie I needed. B

Rated PG-13 for strong fantasy violence throughout, language and crude/suggestive references, according to the MPA on Directed by Shawn Levy with a screenplay by Matt Lieberman and Zak Penn, Free Guy is an hour and 55 minutes long and is distributed by 20th Century Studios.



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

Red River Theatres
11 S. Main St., Concord

Rex Theatre
23 Amherst St., Manchester


The Lorax (PG, 2012) a “Little Lunch Date” screening at Chunky’s in Manchester, Nashua & Pelham on Wednesday, Aug. 18, at 11:30 a.m. Reserve tickets in advance with $5 food vouchers. The screening is kid-friendly, with lights dimmed slightly, according to the website.

Frozen (PG, 2013) at the Rex Theatre, on Wednesday, Aug. 18, 7 p.m. with a portion of the proceeds going to Ballet Misha. Tickets cost $12.

Walk the Line(PG-13, 2005) a senior showing on Thursday, Aug 19, at 11:30 a.m. at Chunky’s in Manchester, Nashua and Pelham. Admission is free but reserve tickets in advance with $5 food vouchers.

The Sundance Film Festival Short Film Tour (NR, 2021) at Red River on Friday, Aug. 20, through Sunday, Aug. 22, at 12:30 and 6 p.m.

Swan Song (NR, 2021) Red River Friday, Aug. 20, through Sunday, Aug. 22, at 1 p.m. and 6:45 p.m.

CatVideoFest 2021 (NR, 2021) at Red River Friday, Aug. 20, through Sunday, Aug. 22, at 3:15 p.m.

Pig (R, 2021) at Red River Theatres on Friday, Aug. 20, through Sunday, Aug. 22, at 4 p.m.

American Graffiti (PG, 1973) screening outdoors in front of the Red River Theatres marquee in downtown Concord as part of Market Days on Friday, Aug. 20, at dusk.

Theater Candy Bingo on Sunday, Aug. 22, at 6:30 p.m. at Chunky’s in Manchester and Nashua. Admission costs $4.99 plus a box of candy.

Paw Patrol: The Movie (G, 2021) a sensory-friendly screening, with sound lowered and lights up, on Saturday, Aug. 21, 10 a.m. at O’neil.

National Theatre Live Skylight a broadcast of a play from London’s National Theatre, at the Bank of NH Stage Sunday, Aug. 22, at 12:30 p.m. Tickets cost $15 ($12 for students).

Mantrap (1926) silent film directed by Victor Fleming with live musical accompaniment by Jeff Rapsis, on Sunday, Aug. 22, 2 p.m. at Wilton Town Hall Theatre. A $10 donation per person is suggested.

Featured photo: Free Guy. Courtesy photo.

Tender is the Bite by Spencer Quinn

Tender is the Bite, by Spencer Quinn (Forge, 263 pages)

I would say that I am late to the Chet & Bernie series, only I am late in the way you are late to a dentist’s appointment or a barely tolerated neighbor’s cocktail party. That is to say, I’m late primarily because I didn’t want to go.

Sure, the titles are great — Dog on It, The Sound and the Furry, Scents and Sensibility, Heart of Barkness, to name a few — and Stephen King couldn’t be more ebullient, calling Chet & Bernie “the most original mystery series currently available” and saying that author Spencer Quinn “speaks two languages — dog and suspense — fluently.”

That said, the narrator is a dog. And I have an irrational hatred of pen names. (Mr. Quinn, if your books are really that good, wouldn’t you want the world to know that it was Peter Abrahams who wrote them?) And have I mentioned the narrator is a dog?

That said, people lap this stuff up. Since the first book in the series was published in 2008, the author has turned out 10 more and they’re all highly rated on Amazon. So, maybe I was … wrong? You can’t like something if you’ve never tried it.

On to Tender is the Bite, the 11th book in the series that is about the adventures of Bernie Little, a divorced dad who runs a not-especially-profitable detective agency (but still drives a Porsche) and is accompanied everywhere by the lovable Chet, who narrates the story.

Chet admits that he’s not the smartest human in the room, “in fact, not human. I bring other things to the table.” Those would include his senses of smell and hearing, which are much sharper than those of his human, which he is constantly pointing out. For example, when Chet and Bernie are waiting outside someone’s door, Bernie starts to knock for the second time even though his dog has already discerned that a small and possibly barefoot woman was already on the way to open it. “I glanced at Bernie’s ears: not tiny for a human, not at all — and very nice looking in my opinion — but was that all they were for? Just stuck on his head for beauty?”

And with that, they’re off, Bernie trying to solve a case, a modern-day Sherlock with a furry John Watson taking notes, making wry observations, showing his teeth when required, not getting human jokes. Yes, Chet/Quinn/Abrahams is genuinely funny, and yes, it is, as King observed, a fresh way of delivering an old genre. Or was, 13 years ago. Now, however, it seems sort of formulaic, the sort of book that the author can write while he’s cutting the grass and talking on the phone. Open document; insert plot; rewrite the jokes.

In this particular document, Bernie is determined to track down a young woman who had been following his Porsche until he turned the tables and followed her. He learns only that her name is Mavis, before she suddenly turns fearful and bolts, but not before Bernie writes down her license plate number, allowing him to use his network of confidantes (probably illegally) to obtain information to track her down.

From there Chet and Bernie are sucked into a vortex of intrigue that involves two frightened women, a ferret named Griffie, potentially evil Ukrainians and American politicians battling it out for an election that is still a year away. (Quinn shows a deft touch by setting up the political battle with Bernie’s neighbors each putting up opposing yard signs and then offering him one. The nastiness seems vaguely familiar.)

When the humor is good, it is very good indeed, and Chet sometimes seems like a canine David Sedaris, as when he’s musing about a heaven “of the dogs, by the dogs, for the dogs” or making a smart reference to Schrödinger’s cat. But as the mystery unravels it feels more like a Nancy Drew or Hardy Boys book with expletives than Sherlock Holmes, and Chet’s fawning about how beautiful and smart and wonderful Bernie is — while completely in line with what probably goes on in a dog’s brain — grows wearisome, as does his frequent use of the word “perp.”

The appeal of the series is not a mystery. As the saying goes, if you like this sort of thing, this is the sort of thing you’re going to like. There’s zero chance you will like this series if you’re not as obsessed with dogs as Chet is with Bernie. But the fact that you like dogs, or mysteries, or dogs and mysteries, doesn’t mean you will like Bernie and Chet.

For those who do, however, it’s a glorious year. There’s another book coming in October, one for the holidays. It’s a Wonderful Woof, of course. C

Book Notes

It’s something of a shock to come across books that are purportedly bestsellers a week or two before they’ve been released, but that’s because of advance sales, which aren’t hard to rack up if you’re Barack Obama or Sean Hannity.

So how are Rodney Habib and Karen Shaw Becker on Amazon’s bestseller list two months before The Forever Dog(Harper Wave, 464 pages) is released? It’s not just because of a compelling cover, which features a dog wearing a Superman-like cape, or even the subject matter, which is how to get the longest possible lifespan for your dog.

Habib is a telegenic “pet influencer” which is to say he has a vast social media following on the subject of pet health, with 3 million followers alone on Facebook, where this week he warns of the dangers of rawhide while recommending dogs have strawberries for snacks. His website gives no academic credentials, but his co-author is a veterinarian. Both are heavily pushing presales on their respective websites; hence, a bestseller is born from two people most people have never heard of, two months in advance.

Only vaguely related to dogs is a new memoir in paperback that’s getting buzz: I Named My Dog Pushkin (And Other Immigrant Tales) by Margarita Gokun Silver (Thread, 266 pages). It’s a comic memoir, “notes from a Soviet girl on becoming an American woman,” and you gotta love any author who dedicates her book to her thesaurus, as Silver did.

Another new paperback worth a look, especially in light of the new United Nations climate report, is Warmth, Coming of Age at the End of Our World (Penguin, 272 pages) by Daniel Sherrell.

Sherrell, recipient of a Fulbright grant in creative nonfiction, gives thoughtful voice to a generation convinced that their future is that of climate refugees because of what he simply calls “the Problem.” Whether you consider Sherrell a kindred soul or an overwrought Cassandra, Warmth appears to be an elegant meditation on living with climate-fueled sense of doom.


Author events

• JEFF SHARLET Author and journalist will present his books, as part of the Tory Hill Author Series, including his newest, This Brilliant Darkness: A Book of Strangers. Sat., Aug. 21, 7 p.m., to be held virtually via Zoom. Tickets are $5. Visit

AMY MAKECHNIE Author presents her second middle-grade novel Ten Thousand Tries. Sat., Aug. 21, 2 p.m. MainStreet BookEnds of Warner, 16 E. Main St., Warner. Visit

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.

SHARON RASK HUNTINGTON Author presents Mirabelle’s Metamorphosis. Joint event with MainStreet BookEnds of Warner and the Pillsbury Free Library. Thurs., Aug. 26, 10:30 a.m. Jim Mitchell Community Park, East Main Street, Warner. Visit

L.R. BERGER New Hampshire poet to hold release party of latest book Indebted to Wind. Sat., Aug. 28, 4 p.m. MainStreet BookEnds of Warner, 16 E. Main St., Warner. Visit

KERRI ARSENAULT Author and journalist presents her investigative memoir Mill Town: Reckoning with What Remains. Thurs., Sept. 9, 6 p.m. The Music Hall, 28 Chestnut St., Portsmouth. Tickets start at $60 for a small table with two copies of the book included Visit


• POETRY IN THE MEADOW Featuring readings with poets Chad deNiord, Kylie Gellatly and Samantha DeFlitch. Sun., Aug. 22, 4:30 p.m. The Word Barn Meadow, 66 Newfields Road, Exeter. $5 suggested donation. Visit

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: Tender is the Bite.

Album Reviews 21/08/19

Anika, Change (Sacred Bones Records)
Collection of self-indulgent, googly-eyed runway-model-pop confections from a pan-European girl who apparently believes there’s a huge audience for the random superficial thinkies of a privileged former political journalist who — get this, you’ll never believe it — thinks the world is a little messed up at the moment. Behold what the Warhol/Bowie aesthetic has led us to in the ringtone era: a retro take on the overhead-speaker ambiance heard at overpriced clothing stores at the mall, which, I suppose, really did need a break from the usual soft-pedaled, blippy house-techno; I mean, if you want someone to pay $250 for a blouse that cost 30 cents to produce, your average customer would probably be more hypnotized if one of the songs from this absolutely unnecessary album were playing in the background. Take “Finger Pies,” for instance, in which Random Mononym croons her flatline-brained Nico imitation over a Velvet Underground loop that’s trying so hard to sound ’60s-artpop-authentic you almost feel obligated to dance to it for a second so it’ll shut up. Right, just what we need in a time of insane debt, plague and climate catastrophe: vacuous, tuneless retro garbage delivered by a fashion-victimized chick in gold lamé thigh-high boots. Utterly detestable. F

Cinema Cinema, CCXMDII (Nefarious Industries)
I know for a fact I’ve covered these guys before, but my crack team of unpaid pizza-gobbling interns can’t seem to find it, and I keep getting too distracted by internet nonsense to ever find it myself, so we’ll start from scratch with this sixth album from the experimental art-punk act, comprised of two cousin bros (one on guitar/voice, the other on drums) from Brooklyn. I know I liked what I heard from them before; these guys are hard-edgy and, of course, weird, as we hear on opening track “A Life Of Its Own,” an 18-minute thingie that’s totally Throbbing Lobster-esque, like Swans but with a New-Age slant — there’s a flute (or sample thereof) throughout, you see, not played very well but nevertheless redolent of a tranquil (if claustrophobia-triggering) forest. Elsewhere we have things like “Cloud 2,” a discombobulated noise jaunt that might make you think of an all-analog Battles; and “Crack Of Dawn,” which is pure crackpot-improv. It’s all very “meh” really. C+


• Friday the 20th is barreling down on us, tumbling head over heels, clutching fresh new rock ’n’ roll albums in its hands while it tries not to smash into a telephone pole and laughs at us for being bummed about the summer ending in like 20 seconds. Yep, before you know it, there’ll be plenty of things to hate: spiced pumpkin decorations at Hobby Lobby, co-workers lying about how much they love autumn, and everyone’s favorite: 4-foot Santas at Target, standing in piles of fake snow even while most people are still in their flip-flops and Rick & Morty T-shirts. There is nothing I can do about any of that, other than hold your hand and gently remind you that you’d promised yourself for the last 10 years that you’d move to Tallahassee, so it’s all your fault, but, along the way, cheer up and eat your watermelon-flavored Airheads while I tell you about the awesome new albums you can buy or pirate or whatever! I know you could use a laugh right now, what with lockdown talk making the rounds even as you prepare to make that dreaded trip to your closet to dig out your North Face jacket and snowshoes, so let’s discuss hipster-black-metal idiots Deafheaven and their new album, Infinite Granite! Wow, the new single “Great Mass Of Color” is a mixture of cut-rate Killers and government-issue shoegaze — hahahaha, I knew they’d drop the black-metal pretense sooner or later! The YouTube comments on this song are priceless: “Deafheaven but make it whirr but make it Morrissey”; “When your friend goes to college for a year and comes back home with a Flock Of Seagulls haircut and a tattoo of the infinity symbol,” stuff like that. So the results are in, folks: Ho ho ho, merrrry pumpkin spice, the people hate you, Deafheaven! They really, really hate you!

• What other unspeakable tortures lie in wait for me today — oh no, this is too funny, it’s Gestureland, another new album from former X-Files actor David Duchovny! My sides are splitting, guys, I’m telling you. What, did people actually buy his last few albums? Ahem, shall we investigate the new single, “Layin’ on the Tracks”? Hey, I don’t want to either, but duty calls. Ack, ack, the music is trite, absolutely dreadful, kind of like Neil Young but without the stupid screechy guitars. His voice is what you’d expect from him and his adenoids. Even if you’ve never played guitar before, I could teach you to play this song in 10 minutes and you’d break into a boss-level guitar solo out of sheer boredom. Why is this man doing this to himself, seriously?

• I don’t even wanna look, gang, what could possibly be next? No way, it’s semi-retired child star Debbie Gibson, with a new slab o’ vinyl, The Body Remembers! Ha ha, remember when she got into a slap-fight with other-former-child-star Tiffany in the Sy-Fy classic cinematic treasure Mega Python vs. Gatoroid? The only possible direction from there, of course, was down, so she’s been doing Hallmark movies, like 2018’s Wedding Of Dreams, which was about, oh, who cares, just bask in all the rich and delicious schadenfreude while I inflict the new single “One Step Closer” on my poor head-bone. Whoa, wait, she’s pretty hot in this video, and the song is sort of afterparty-techno, like Miss Kitty meets Janet Jackson. It’s OK!

• We’ll end this week’s musical water-boarding with Love Will Be Reborn, from Canada-pop lady Martha Wainwright! The title track isn’t bad, sort of Christine McVie/Fleetwood Mac-ish, if I’m being honest, not that I’m feeling so inclined.

Retro Playlist

Way back we go, once again to 2007, a year whose biggest events included Microsoft releasing Windows Vista and Office 2007. I’ll bet half of you readers are still using Office 2007, given that it didn’t require a subscription you had to buy and download from “the cloud” (I’m really, really sick of hearing about “the cloud,” aren’t you?). But let’s not wander too far; there were a few albums up for dissection that week, exactly 14 years ago, in these pages. The most notable one, an album I actually kept in my car’s cubby for a long time, was Bluefinger, from Black Francis of the Pixies, a band I dubbed “the ultimate anti-Fleetwood Mac, a jumbled train wreck of notes, pretty/unpretty voices and bar-band guitars that sucked in every unwary soul who got too close.” The best part of this rather good LP, I said, is “when he gives himself a do-over of the boys-choir chorus that Surfer Rosa’s ‘Where Is My Mind’ mismanaged, this on the new album’s ‘Angels Come to Comfort,’ whose out-of-nowhere fadeout is one of the most stirring things you’ll hear all year.” It really is a terrific song.

Elsewhere, there was Benelux-based DJ Sander Kleinenberg, with a two-CD set called This is Sander Kleinenberg. Ah, the good old days, when the house-techno record labels all had me on their lists, and I was up to my ears in sexy-cool beach music intended for velvet-rope clubs where all the fashion-model/scientist kids would drink until they danced and grope each other like lobsters in a supermarket tank. This wasn’t my favorite house album of all time: “By and large,” I said in an Exorcist voice, “fans are into his earlier releases for their funk, of which there’s plenty at the outset of the ‘Left’ half of this collection, but the tracks are all over the joint, sometimes getting bogged down in arrhythmic ambient bloviations that stay a little past their welcome.” I gave it a C+, which is my way of hinting that I probably Frisbeed the album out my car window at some point.

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).

Local flavors

Wines that help you dig in to the Mediterranean

The domestication of grapes and the production of wine have their roots in the Eastern Mediterranean and Asia Minor as early as 6000 B.C. Through trade, the agriculture and imbibing of the fruit of these labors spread throughout the Mediterranean to the coasts of modern-day Turkey, Lebanon and ancient Greece. The Greeks, in turn, took their favorite beverage to southern Italy, Sicily, Sardinia and the southern coast of France and Spain as early as the eighth century B.C. with their establishment of trading ports. In this column we will explore a lesser-known white wine from Sardinia and a robust red wine from the Languedoc region of southwest France.

Our first wine, a 2019 La Cala Vermentino di Sardegna, by Sella & Mosca (originally $13.99, reduced to $11.99 at the New Hampshire Liquor & Wine Outlets), is a wine most associated with Sardinia. Known as rolle in southern France, and grown in several different regions in Italy, it has been cultivated almost exclusively in Sardinia’s Gallura region, on the northern tip of the island. The label of this wine includes the statement, “Denominazione di Origine Controllato, the most strictly regulated denomination in Italy – Vermentino di Gallura.” These grapes thrive in Gallura’s vineyards, buffeted by the strong cold mistral winds that originate in the Atlantic and North Sea, travel across France, then leave the mainland entering the Gulf of Lion in the northern Mediterranean. The name “mistral” comes from the Languedoc dialect of Occitan and means “masterly.”

Vermentino lacks the strong acidity of most Italian wines, and Sardinia’s vermentino runs the spectrum from round and tropical to linear and mineral. The differences depend on where it is grown and the winemaker’s style. Some use steel, although some also age in wood. “Vermentinos from Gallura are structured but elegant, with pronounced mineral, almond and balsamic notes. They also have a hint of saltiness, thanks to the vicinity of the sea,” says Emanuele Ragnedda, of Capichera, a producer in the region. This vermentino has a pale straw color. To the nose it has a very slight tropical pineapple note along with pear and a touch of lemon blossom. To the tongue it is fresh with citrus, with some minerality, ending on a crisp note. This is great aperitif wine or it can be paired with seafood.

Our second wine hails from the Languedoc-Roussillon region in the south of France. This spans the coastal region of France from the border with Spain to Provence. There are around 700,000 acres under vines, making it the single biggest wine-producing region in the world, being responsible for more than a third of France’s total wine production. Languedoc was first planted by the Greeks in the fifth century B.C., and along with Provence is the oldest wine-producing region in France. The region excelled in wine production from the 4th century through the early 19th century. The phylloxera epidemic in the late 19th century severely affected the Languedoc wine industry and the region faced economic difficulties well into the ’70s until outside investment and re-focusing production led to many good new single varietal and classically blended wines.

The 2016 Domaine La Rougeante Corbières (originally $35.99, reduced to $17.99 at the New Hampshire Liquor & Wine Outlets) is that classic blend of mouvèdre, grenache and syrah. The color is a dense, opaque maroon; the nose is of blackberry and plum with some dried herbal notes. These carry through to the tongue in a full mouth feel with medium leathery tannins, which call for air after opening. A long finish with these rich fruit notes ends in some minerality. This is a wine to be enjoyed now or cellared for three more years and paired with grilled red meat, a rich stew, or a hearty pasta. The local fare of the Corbières region that runs from the Mediterranean coast to the Pyrenees with its Catalan culture includes tomato, garlic, eggplant and artichoke. These are dishes rich in flavor, so the wine needs to be robust and hearty to stand up to the food, and this wine does just that.

These two wines differ markedly from the routine whites and reds consumed on a regular basis. They are worth exploring not only for their uniqueness but to honor their storied past. Take a virtual trip to the ancient Mediterranean with these two wines. Invite them to your next dinner on the patio.

Featured photo: Courtesy photo.

A drink for your imaginary yacht

I understand that you’ve got a lot going on right now — a pandemic, work headaches, psychotic squirrels terrorizing your birdfeeder, etc. So it’s understandable if you’ve lost track of things and forgotten that it is Yachting Season. We’ve only got so much emotional bandwidth, and some things drop through the cracks.

Fortunately, Esquire has your back. Or at least they did in 1969.

The Esquire Drink Book from that year strikes a very particular tone. Hidden amongst the recipes for Brandy Daiseys, Black Roses and racially-insensitively-named drinks that were probably pretty good but have been ruined for us now are the cryptic instructions for an innocuous-sounding cocktail called the Connecticut Bullfrog:

“This cocktail must never be served on shore but always on a boat, provided that the boat is not over 45 feet long, and the owner is the skipper (no hired hand). The ingredients are awful but the result does have something. Here they are and you must have them on board:

4 parts gin

1 part New England rum

1 part lemon juice

1 part maple syrup

Shake these ingredients together until your arms ache. Then have someone else do the same thing with about 10 times the usual amount of ice.”

Esquire Drink Book, Frederic A. Birmingham, 1969, E.P. Dutton & Co., p. 216.

Having all these ingredients on hand, and being emotionally and intellectually at sea, I felt the need to field test the Bullfrog. I am the sole owner of my entirely imaginary yacht — which, being imaginary, is infinitely less than 45 feet long.

Not surprisingly, the Bullfrog was problematic from the get-go. I filled the large half of my cocktail shaker with ice — about 11 ounces — and added the seven ounces of liquid ingredients, at which point the smaller half of the shaker would no longer contain all the components.

(This cocktail deserves a poster: “The Connecticut Bullfrog cannot be contained.”)

So, I switched — as you will have to, if you decide to dance with the Bullfrog — to a large, one-quart jar.

I told my digital assistant to start a stopwatch, and started shaking.

The jar got uncomfortably cold very quickly — cold, as in frosty enough to bond my hands to the glass. Once I was able to pry them loose, this was solved by wrapping the jar in a tea towel.

The next problem was an unexpected one. I was pretty sure that my arms would start aching fairly quickly. I am not terribly fit in a general sense, but a regular regimen of martial arts and cocktail shaking have apparently toned me in unexpected ways. I lasted nine minutes. I know this because I asked my digital assistant how long I’d been shaking this jar.

“Over an extended period, possibly;” she told me, “then again, maybe not.” This sounds philosophically important, but was not as useful in a practical sense as I was looking for in the moment.

It took another full minute of shaking to stumble on an acceptably worded command to find out how long this exercise had been going on.

As instructed, I handed the jar off to my teenager in the next room, who lasted two minutes, five seconds before losing interest and handing it back to me.

At this point, a reasonable shaker (in a cocktail sense; I’m reasonably sure a Shaker, as in the 19th-century furniture-making religious community, would not have found themselves in this situation) could be forgiven for thinking that this project’s glitches were more or less over. Unfortunately, physics had other plans.

Air — particularly moist air — expands when it is heated and shrinks when it cools. Home canners use this fact to hermetically seal jars of compote and … stuff. Apparently, the same effect occurs when you shake an icy alcohol solution in a wide-mouthed jar for 11 minutes. It took a rubber jar-gripper and a lot of swearing to open the Bullfrog jar.

Pouring the contents into a tall glass was easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy in contrast.

So, is the Connecticut Bullfrog worth all the effort? Is it actually any good?

Almost disappointingly: yeah, it is. I really wanted to sneer at a cocktail designed to be drunk by investment analysts named Scooter and Bunny, but this is one of the most refreshing drinks I’ve had in a long time. The combination of gin and dark rum — I went with Myers’s — gives an almost whiskey-like background flavor, which plays well with the acid of the lemon juice. There isn’t enough maple syrup to make this too sweet, but enough that there is some body and depth.

I do feel that more experimentation is called for — specifically, subbing out juice and syrup for other, less 1 percent-y ingredients –— and, as a friend observed to me, given the sheer amount of shaking required by this recipe, the drink really ought to be called the Kinetic Bullfrog.

Featured photo: Connecticut Bullfrog. Photo by John Fladd.

Lots of lemon whoopie pies

Although so much of my summer cooking and baking revolves around local produce, this lemon recipe is a summertime favorite of mine. There is something about the bright flavor of lemons that makes me think of hot summer afternoons.

These whoopie pies are all about lemon flavor. Both the cake and the filling are lemon-centric with the addition of lemon extract, lemon zest and lemon juice. What is key to this recipe is to use freshly squeezed lemon juice. Although I keep a bottle of lemon juice in my refrigerator, you really need freshly squeezed for this recipe. It makes the flavor so much brighter.

If you’re hungry, make these full-sized whoopie pies. If you have a smaller appetite, make the scoop about half as big, and you’ll have 20 delightful mini whoopie pies to enjoy.

Michele Pesula Kuegler has been thinking about food her entire life. Since 2007, the New Hampshire native has been sharing these food thoughts and recipes at her blog, Think Tasty. Visit to find more of her recipes.

Lots of lemon whoopie pies
Makes 10

For the cakes:
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon lemon extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups all-purpose flour
Zest of 1 lemon
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 Tablespoons milk
Yellow food coloring, if desired

For the filling:
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 1/4 cups powdered sugar
2 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon extract

To make the cakes:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
Place butter and sugar in stand mixer, and beat with paddle attachment on speed 2 for 2 minutes.
Add eggs, one at a time, mixing until each is fully incorporated on speed 2.
Add extracts, baking powder, baking soda and salt, mixing well on speed 2.
Use a spatula to scrape down the sides, and add lemon zest and 1 cup of flour.
Mix on low; scrape sides with spatula, add lemon juice, and mix until fully blended.
Add remaining cup of flour, mix.
Add milk and food coloring, and mix until fully combined.
Scoop approximately 1 1/2 Tablespoons batter, spaced evenly, onto baking sheets.
Bake for about 15 to 20 minutes, or until cakes spring back when touched.
Allow to cool for 2 minutes on the baking sheets.
Transfer to a baking rack to cool completely.

To make the filling:
In a stand mixer combine butter, powdered sugar, lemon juice, and lemon extract; mix on low speed until combined.
Spread the flat side of 10 cakes with the frosting.
Top each with another cake.
Serve or store in a sealed container.

Photo: Lemon whoopie pies. Courtesy photo.

JoJo Paquin

Chef JoJo Paquin of New London oversees all kitchen operations at Peter Christian’s Tavern (195 Main St., New London, 526-2964,, an eatery on the first floor of The Edgewood Inn in New London that has been around for more than four decades. The tavern is open to the public and serves everything from appetizers, burgers and sandwiches to artisan pizzas and plated steak and seafood dishes. Prior to joining Peter Christian’s late last year, Paquin held multiple kitchen jobs, including at The Flying Goose Brew Pub & Grille in New London for more than a decade, as well as at The Copper Fox and the Social House, both in Vermont.

What is your must-have kitchen item?
A marker, because we have to label and date everything. … I always like to have a thermometer on hand too.

What would you have for your last meal?
Probably a burger. It would be medium-rare and would have some Sriracha, cheddar cheese, bacon and peanut butter on it. I used to make my own cashew butter for burgers.

What is your favorite local restaurant?
The Flying Goose [Brew Pub & Grille in New London]. It’s actually my wife’s family’s restaurant.

What celebrity would you like to see eating at your restaurant?
Tech N9ne [rapper and record producer Aaron Yates]. … I’ve already fed Steven Tyler a few times. I’ve cooked for Sully [Erna] from Godsmack too. He’s a super nice guy.

What is your favorite thing on your menu?
I like the steak tips. They are bourbon-marinated with onions and peppers.

What is the biggest food trend in New Hampshire right now?
I would say specialty pizzas, and also chicken sandwiches. We switched the menu over last summer … [and] our chicken sandwich is probably our best-selling item.

What is your favorite thing to cook at home?
I fire up the grill outside. Pork tenderloin with a romesco sauce is probably one of my favorite things that we have at the house.

Peter’s Favorite Fantasy pizza
From the kitchen of JoJo Paquin of Peter Christian’s Tavern

Store bought thin pizza crust of choice
Shredded mozzarella, provolone and cheddar cheese blend
Banana peppers
Diced tomatoes
Pulled beef
Arugula, tossed in 1 Tablespoon of lemon and 1 Tablespoon of olive oil
Balsamic glaze
Grated Parmesan

Homemade Boursin cheese sauce:
1 clove garlic
1 package cream cheese
½ cup butter

Layer pizza with cheese, Boursin, beef, banana peppers, tomatoes and balsamic glaze (amounts dependent on preference). Cook at 450 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and finish with a handful of arugula tossed in lemon oil.

Featured photo: JoJo Paquin. Courtesy photo.

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