The Music Roundup 21/08/26

Local music news & events

High energy: An outdoor summer concert series continues with Cold Engines performing an early evening set for the beach chair and blanket crowd. A gathering of solid regional players, the band was founded by Dave Drouin (The Brew) and Aaron Zaroulis in 2015. They’ve made five well-received albums — the latest is Couyon, released in June —and won multiple awards, including a NEMA for Rock Band of the Year. Thursday, Aug. 26, 6 p.m., Swasey Park, Swasey Parkway, Exeter. See

Cool cat: Veteran singer-guitarist Pete Massa draws from a decades-spanning selection of covers, including classic rock, blue-eyed soul, reggae, rhythm and blues. When he’s not doing the solo acoustic thing, Massa fronts a raucous band with rockabilly inclinations that features him on a big Gretsch Electromatic guitar, with drums, an upright bass, and a pair of horn players, offering a festive throwback party vibe. Friday, Aug. 27, 5 p.m., Big Kahuna’s Smokehouse, 1158 Hooksett Road. Hooksett. See

First finale: Eight hard rock bands appear at the Last Call Till Fall Festival, an all-ages event that includes food, games and prizes, with guests 12 and younger gaining free admission. Kings Petition, a Manchester band that released a three-song EP a year ago, tops the bill, which includes Thirteen 13All, Adherence, Paul Jarvis, Drunk Off Diesel, SkunkHunt, Black Headress and Witch Trot, for a metallic afternoon. Saturday, Aug. 28, 12:30 p.m., Auburn Pitts, 167 Rockingham Road, Auburn, $20 with barbecue included.

Laugh it up: Quintessential New England comic Juston McKinney holds forth for four shows in downtown Concord. The standup’s secret sauce is an ever-changing set of always funny material, a keen observer’s eye for regional foibles and a knack for humorous self-deprecation, along with a skill for illuminating life’s absurdities with smiling kindness. Friday, Aug. 27, 8 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 28, 5:30 and 8 p.m., and Sunday, Aug. 29, 7 p.m., Capitol Center for the Arts, 44 S. Main St., Concord, tickets $29.50 at

Dead in the water: Billed as a long, strange trip on the water, Grateful Dead tribute act Not Fade Away Band set sail on the vintage Winnipesaukee Belle paddleboat for a cruise that also offers craft beer from Fore River Brewing Co., including a Strata Magnolia IPA. Named after a Buddy Holly song famously covered by the Dead, the group is considered one of the area’s best at recreating their sound. Tuesday, Aug. 31, 6:30 p.m., Wolfeboro Town Dock, 84 S. Main St., Wolfeboro, $18, pay at boarding, 21+.

Stadium rock

Cracker headlines Nashua mini-festival

Though he started two bands that found international renown and still tour decades later, David Lowery is an atypical rock star. He’s a trained mathematician who wrote code in Silicon Valley during its command line days, and he’s now a senior lecturer on business at the University of Georgia.

Lowery is also an erudite defender of artists’ rights who successfully spearheaded a class action suit against Spotify, and went before Congress to slam the federal government’s arcane Copyright Royalty Board, which sets streaming payments. In his view, the agency is captive to the industry it’s supposed to regulate.

“They’re saying, ‘we’re able to give music cheaply to consumers,’ but it’s literally starving the music ecosystem,” Lowery said in a recent phone interview. “Either the board that sets the rate needs to be completely overhauled, with new rules set for it, or the whole thing just needs to be abolished, because it’s what people would call crony capitalism at its worst.”

Musicians at his level, playing for 1,000 fans or less most nights, exemplify the gig economy, Lowery told the Radikaal podcast in June, cobbling together multiple jobs in the industry. His first foray as a performer was anything but ambitious; Lowery joked about Camper van Beethoven’s unexpected breakthrough in “Mom I’m Living the Life, 1981,” from his new album In the Shadow of the Bull.

“I had a band / it was a joke,” he sings, “then it was not / we got some real gigs / in San Francisco.”

Offbeat songs like “Take the Skinheads Bowling” and “ZZ Top Goes To Egypt” earned CVB a cult following that carried them away from their Northern California punk rock beginnings. It dissolved in 1990; he formed Cracker with Johnny Hickman, the name a nod to Lowery’s Georgia roots, and released a slew of country-leaning alt-rock hits led by “Low” and “Get Off This.”

Cracker tops a bill with the percussive Entrain and rootsy Muddy Ruckus at the upcoming Gate City Music Fest on Aug. 27 at Nashua’s Holman Stadium. The current touring band includes Hickman and a pair of players from their 2014 album Berkeley to Bakersfield. Lowery said recent set lists reflect a musical dichotomy.

“We are doing this tour with kind of the band that did the country disc, but they’re actually pretty much rock players,” he said. “So it goes from rock to sort of our pseudo soul or pseudo blues rock and then to the country stuff. It’s all over the place.”

The snarky definition of Cracker’s non-genre reflects “our unique stamp,” Lowery said. “We’re not trying to do exactly soul, or exactly blues rock, or any of these things. We’re borrowing parts, and bringing it into our format.”

Lately, they’ve twanged up a few songs from their nascent Bay Area days.

“Some of them fit really nicely into what we’re doing; adding the pedal steel to it, the songs are a little different,” Lowery said, adding that a reworked version of “Skinheads” will probably be ready for the Nashua show.

“The early straight-ahead simple Camper van Beethoven songs ended up being pretty interesting,” he said. “We try to play a good cross-section of stuff from across our catalog. We don’t leave out the hits.”

He’s keen to hit the road after the pandemic stopped the world for over a year, even more so because his wife is a promoter who books Atlanta’s 40 Watt nightclub and other venues.

“Here’s a lesson I told my kids — never marry someone in the same business you’re in,” Lowery said. “If things go wrong, everybody’s screwed. It was pretty crazy for us, because there were no concerts. She’s only really going back on salary Sept. 1, basically 18 months with no work. … We really had to get clever.”

Gate City Music Fest
Friday, Aug. 27, 3 p.m.
Where: Holman Stadium, 67 Amherst St., Nashua
Tickets: $25/reserved seat, $150/six-person pod at

Featured photo: Cracker. Courtesy photo.

At the Sofaplex 21/08/26

The Ice Road (PG-13)

Liam Neeson, Laurence Fishburne.

This movie is so exactly-as-advertised that sometimes it almost feels too simple: Mike (Neeson) is part of a group of people driving three trucks with heavy equipment across an ice road in Manitoba. At least one of the trucks needs to make it to a collapsed mine within some 30 hours to save the lives of 26 miners stuck inside. The roads have technically been closed because it is now early spring, so the first challenge the truckers face is the potential for the ice to crack and send them and their trucks very quickly into the freezing waters. As you’d expect, more challenges develop along the way.

The team includes Mike’s brother Gurty (Marcus Thomas), a veteran who requires Mike’s constant care due to PTSD and aphasia that jumbles his words; Goldenrod (Fishburne), the man who put together the team; Tantoo (Amber Midthunder), a young trucker who has worked with Goldenrod in the past, and Varnay (Benjamin Walker), the insurance guy connected to the mine.

Trucks drive on ice, complications arise — that’s pretty much the movie. And that’s fine! For all that not every performance or line of dialogue feels particularly Oscar-winning, it’s a movie that holds your attention and provides a solid mix of action, suspense and “huh, ice roads, cool.” This isn’t Neeson’s best “late-career action Neeson” performance but he knows this territory well and turns in a perfectly workable performance. B- Available on Netflix.

The Last Letter from Your Lover (TV-MA)

Shailene Woodley, Felicity Jones.

Also Nabhaan Rizwan and Callum Turner (who I couldn’t place until I looked him up on IMDb; you may know him as Frank Churchill from 2020’s Emma.).

Present-day newspaper writer Ellie (Jones) finds letters from the 1960s between J, whom we learn is Jennifer Stirling (Woodley), and Boot, her pet name for Anthony O’Hare (Turner), a then-newspaper reporter. They meeton the Riviera, where Jennifer and her wet-blanket husband Lawrence (Joe Alwyn) are sort of vacationing. Mostly, he runs off to deal with work things and she’s left alone, which is how Anthony finds things when he shows up at their house to interview Lawrence for a profile. J and Boot, as they start to call each other, end up spending time together, forming a friendship that, when they return to London, turns into an affair.

We see this story play out in flashback as Ellie, who thinks maybe there’s a good feature in this story, finds letters in the newspaper’s archives with the help of archivist Rory (Rizwan). Naturally, reading all these love letters together causes these modern people to start to feel some feelings.

If you generally like romances (particularly with this kind of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society events in the past/events in the present structure) and enjoy period wardrobe (I could fill up an online shopping cart with Woodley’s dresses and accessories) and need something on in the background while you fold a bunch of towels or pay bills, The Last Letter from Your Lover is fine. I feel like some very good naps could be generated by the scenes of well-dressed people drinking cocktails and listening to period music. If you need something more, like heat generated between any of the couples or really compelling characters or interesting dialogue, you probably need to look elsewhere. C+ Available on Netflix.


Reminiscence (PG-13)

There are millions of stories in the drowned city and Hugh Jackman is privy to many of them via his special memory machine in Reminiscence, a stylish and boring film noir.

Nick Bannister (Jackman) is like a PI of your mind. With the help of his coworker/longtime friend Watts (Thandiwe Newton), he hooks his clients up to a mind-visualization-thingy to help them go back to a memory — the memory of a person who is no longer around, the memory of where they last saw something they lost, the memory of happier times. (While they remember, Nick can also see the memory.) And the past seems like the place where people find more happiness than in the present (which is sometime in the nonspecific future), where rising seas have half-submerged the city of Miami and people seem to be forever sloshing through water. Some sunken buildings have become a kind of Venice-y city of water taxis; some places are behind dams but still constantly damp. There was a war, troubles at the border and now people seem to live in a kind of haunted state.

When Mae (Rebecca Ferguson), styled as sort of a live-action Jessica Rabbit, comes into Nick’s business, she isn’t looking to dwell in some dry and sunny past — she just wants to go back a day or two to figure out where her lost keys are. But something about her captivates Nick and he finds himself hanging out in her memory, watching her sing an American songbook classic “Where or When,” a song that takes him back to happier days. He quickly falls in love (or lust or plot contrivance) with Mae, only to find himself bereft when she suddenly vanishes. Where did she go? Why hasn’t she contacted him? Who was she really? These are the questions that drive Nick back through his own memories even though there is a danger in always lingering in the past.

Reminiscence is very pretty to look at with its watery city, where daytime heat is so hot that people now sleep during the day and live their lives at night. It is the perfect setting for this kind of tale — all grizzled detective-type, mysterious lady, shady and desperate people in a fallen world. Unfortunately, this particular tale just never clicked together for me. I found myself way more interested in all the peripherals — the wars, the soggy state of the world, the public transportation that is suddenly everywhere, the nighttime existence, the state of the justice system, Thandiwe Newton’s character — than I ever was in Jackman’s and Ferguson’s characters, who have very superficial “hot people in a perfume commercial” chemistry but very little person-to-person chemistry. The stylized setting, all 1930s gumshoe grit, is also fun but requires a lot of mental effort to tamp down all the “but why” and “but what about” questions it gins up — a state of things that I feel wouldn’t be so pronounced if the central plot and its core relationship was more interesting.

Reminiscence has potential but it quickly turns into a slow and tedious soggy slog. C

Rated PG-13 for strong violence, drug material throughout, sexual content and some strong language, according to the MPA on Written and directed by Lisa Joy, Reminiscence is an hour and 56 minutes long and distributed by Warner Bros. in theaters and on HBO Max.

Paw Patrol: The Movie (G)

Human boy Ryder and his team of talking pups head to the metropolis of Adventure City to put an end to Mayor Humdinger’s tomfoolery in Paw Patrol: The Movie, a more fancily animated, feature-length adventure of the Nick Jr. series’ characters.

This movie is roughly three-Paw Patrol-episodes in length — “one Paw Patrol” being a standardized unit of time measurement in my house as it likely is in many houses for whom Paw Patrol is on regular TV-watching rotation. As several special episodes of the show have, this movie introduces a new pup character in a kind of extended universe location. Most episodes of the show take place in Adventure Bay, a vaguely northern California-ish town on the ocean (where there are sometimes pirates) and that is within driving distance of a snowy mountain range and a jungle and sometimes they fly to a London-like city-state called Barkingburg that has a monarchy. Also there’s a dinosaur land, I think? I’m not always watching super closely; I am not the intended audience.

This movie is the first time, as far as I can remember, that the Paw Patrol (as the six core pups and the human, elementary-school-ish aged boy Ryder are known) has ventured to Adventure City. Ryder (voice of Will Brisbin) is the leader of this rescue-team of pups: police dog Chase (voice of Iain Armitage), fire dog Marshall (voice of Kingsley Marshall), bulldozer-driving dog Rubble (voice of Keegan Hedley), recycling/fix-it dog Rocky (voice of Callum Shoniker), water rescue dog Zuma (voice of Shayle Simons) and pilot dog Skye (voice of Lilly Bartlam), who was the only girl pup for a while. Even if you’ve never seen the show, you’ve probably still seen the pups — as the movie itself jokes, pretty much any kid item (lunch boxes, band-aids, T-shirts and, of course, so many toys) has a licensed Paw Patrol version. Each pup has their own special vehicle and their own colors — so that whatever your toddler-through-elementary-schooler’s interest/favorite color, there is a pup (and accompanying merchandise) for them.

Mayor Humdinger (voice of Ron Pardo, who also does the Cap’n Turbot voice) is the series’ most frequent baddie — though like all the “villains” of Paw Patrol he is not so much bad as inept, inconsiderate and vain. Here, he and his band of self-absorbed cats have apparently relocated from Foggy Bottom (the town he’s usually referred to as the mayor of) to Adventure City, where he has become the mayor sort of by accident. Now, this dog-disliking buffoon is poised to cause all sorts of mayhem in the city, from locking up every dog his henchmen (voiced by Randall Park and Dax Shepard) can find to trying to make the subway more adventurous by adding a shoddily constructed roller coaster loop-the-loop. This is why Liberty (voice of Marsai Martin), a friendly neighborhood helper-pup who lives in Adventure City, calls on the Paw Patrol to come and save the day.

Some of the TV show’s episodes will have a particular pup as the focus; here, that’s Chase, who is given a backstory of being found and adopted by Ryder when he was a young, scared pup wandering Adventure City. Returning to the city brings up all sorts of anxieties and the movie has a subplot about Chase learning to face his fear. This isn’t Sesame Street-level “learning to deal with emotions” stuff. When my kids first started venturing beyond PBS Kids’ programming to watch Paw Patrol I found the show loud and shallow when it came to messaging. But it’s fine, the pups are nice and nice to each other, and consideration for friends and the greater public is a much-lauded quality in the show. And it’s 30 minutes of entertainment/distraction, which is always appreciated.

This movie hits all those similar points to me, which is to say, this movie didn’t wow me (which, I suspect, who cares if it wows anybody over the age of 8 or 9) but is totally fine. The “dealing with fear” stuff is unobjectionable, if very thinly drawn. Humdinger is goofy rather than evil. Liberty is a solid additional Paw Patrol member/licensable character. She is a spunky, can-do pup (they’re all spunky, can-do pups), and she gets a spiffy motorcycle (and, yes, both a toy and a Halloween costume for her character are already available for purchase). My kids watched the movie with interest throughout. While I (a person seeing this movie for work) stayed awake through the whole movie, you (a parent who just needs a break) could definitely sleep while your kids watched it (either in one of those big reclining theater chairs or in the comfort of your own couch, as it has been released simultaneously in theaters and on Paramount+). Or read a magazine, or catch up on dishes — just as you probably do while your kids watch the Paw Patrol TV show.

Paw Patrol: The Movie “basically the show, but three times as long” is probably the best review, heck the only review, it needs. B

Rated G. Directed by Andrew Hickson and Cal Brunker with a screenplay by Billy Frolick and Cal Brunker & Bob Barlen, Paw Patrol: The Movie is an hour and 28 minutes long and is distributed by Paramount Pictures in theaters and on Paramount+.



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

The Flying Monkey
39 Main St., Plymouth,

O’neil Cinemas
24 Calef Highway, Epping,

Red River Theatres
11 S. Main St., Concord

Rex Theatre
23 Amherst St., Manchester

Wilton Town Hall Theatre
40 Main St., Wilton, 654-3456


Gremlins (PG, 1984) at Rex Theatre on Wednesday, Aug. 25, 7 p.m.with a portion of the proceeds going to Motley Mutts Rescue. Tickets $12.

Back to the Future (PG, 1985) screening at Chunky’s in Manchester, Nashua and Pelham on Wednesday, Aug. 25, at 7 p.m. Tickets cost $4.99.

21+ Screening of Back to the Future (PG, 1985) at Chunky’s in Manchester, Nashua and Pelham on Thursday, Aug. 26, at 7 p.m. Tickets cost $4.99 and a Back to the Future themed cocktail will be for sale.

Together (R, 2021) screening at Red River Theatres in Concord Friday, Aug. 27, through Sunday, Aug. 29, at 1, 4:15 & 7:30 p.m.

Stillwater (R, 2021) screening at Red River Theatres in Concord Friday, Aug. 27, through Sunday, Aug. 29, at 12:30, 3:45 & 7 p.m.

Womanhandled(1925) andGo West (1925) silent film Westerns with live musical accompaniment by Jeff Rapsis, on Sunday, Aug. 29, 2 p.m. at Wilton Town Hall Theatres. Screenings are free but a $10 donation per person is suggested.

Theater Candy Bingo on Sunday, Aug. 29, at 6:30 p.m. at Chunky’s in Pelham. Admission costs $4.99 plus a box of candy.

The Shakedown (1929), a silent film with live musical accompaniment by Jeff Rapsis, on Thursday, Sept. 9, at 6:30 p.m. at the Flying Monkey in Plymouth. Tickets start at $10.

Clifford the Big Red Dog (PG, 2021) sensory-friendly screening, with sound lowered and lights up, on Saturday, Sept. 18, 10 a.m. at O’neil Cinema in Epping.

Hedwig and the Angry Inch (R, 2001) at Rex Theatre on Tuesday, Sept. 21, at 7 p.m. with a portion of the proceeds going to Motley Mutts Rescue. Tickets cost $12.

National Theatre Live Follies,a broadcast of a play from London’s National Theatre, screening at the Bank of NH Stage in Concord on Sunday, Oct. 3, at 12:30 p.m. Tickets cost $15 ($12 for students).

National Theatre Live Cyrano de Bergerac, a broadcast of a play from London’s National Theatre, screening at the Bank of NH Stage in Concord on Sunday, Oct. 17, at 12:30 p.m. Tickets cost $15 ($12 for students).

Frankenweenie (PG, 2012) at the Rex Theatre on Sunday, Oct. 17, 7 p.m. with a portion of the proceeds going to Motley Mutts Rescue. Tickets cost $12.

The Nightmare Before Christmas (PG, 1993) at the Rex Theatre on Monday, Oct. 18, 7 p.m. with a portion of the proceeds going to Motley Mutts Rescue. Tickets cost $12.

Featured photo: Reminiscence. Courtesy photo.

We Want What We Want, by Alix Ohlin

We Want What We Want, by Alix Ohlin (Knopf, 256 pages)

The short-story collection We Want What We Want by Alix Ohlin is billed as women’s fiction, so it’s strange to see it named one of the best books of the summer by Esquire, a magazine aimed at men.

That’s a testament to the Vancouver writer and college professor who has been published in The New Yorker and anthologized in Best American Short Stories. Or maybe it was just wrong to call this women’s lit in the first place.

Regardless, it’s a taut and memorable collection that brings to mind the quote “I would have written a shorter letter if I’d had more time.” (That’s often attributed to Mark Twain, although the sentiment was also expressed by Henry David Thoreau, Martin Luther and Cicero.) Ohlin’s stories are polished; her characters, succinct; and her narration, both comfortable and provocative. You will know the people who populate this book even if they do things that surprise and sometimes shock you.

Consider the story “Risk Management,” crafted around two women who work in a dental office. At first, it seems to be about a character named Little, who comes across as someone kind of like Angela on the TV show The Office, a woman who works with “blistering efficiency” despite her perfectly sculpted gel nails. “The filing, the phones, the calming of patients made hostile by tooth pain; there was nothing she couldn’t handle.”

When the narrator, Valerie, almost by accident, gets invited to Little’s apartment for dinner, however, she sees a different side of her coworker, and the evening conjures secrets and an unexpected intimacy. The story is not flashy or explosive but in Ohlin’s hands utterly engrossing.

Likewise, the story “Casino” suggests at the beginning that it’s about a fractured relationship between two sisters, one of whom is oblivious to the other’s resentment of her sister’s perfectly coiffed life, with a Lincoln Navigator and a five-bedroom McMansion. “Even her complaints are part boast,” Sherri thinks about her sister, Tricia. “She has to mention her busy husband and the two hundred thousand he rakes in a year. Her children’s after-school activities for the gifted are just so freaking expensive and time-consuming.” Tricia only deigns to visit Sherri in January “after she’s suffered through another Christmas that failed to live up to her Martha Stewart-generated expectations.”

But there is a deeper conflict in the story, which Ohlin slowly reveals as the sisters go out for a night at a recently opened casino, and by the end, the story is not so much about this fractious relationship but another one that Sherri has, and Tricia turns out to be her ally.

“The Point of No Return” has the feel of a short novella, spanning decades of friendship between two women, Bridget and Angela, who met in their 20s at the restaurant where they were waitresses. “Angela was from Vancouver, and some dewy freshness that Bridget associated with the West Coast seemed to cling to her always, even when she was sleep deprived or drunk.” Bridget was dismayed when Angela announced she was getting married. “She was used to a constant exchange of friends and lovers, and the idea that one of these relationships should be considered permanent struck her as considerate. It went against the way they all were trying to live: skipping lightly on this earth, skirting the folly of human certainty.”

Early in their relationship, Angela is the rescuer of the somewhat immature Bridget, but these roles reverse later in their lives, and Bridget eventually finds herself standing alone, outside the strange circle that Angela’s life has become, and even her own family.

Ohlin’s gift is to present these strange characters in a way that seems cozily familiar to the reader and then to summarize their existential dilemmas in a jewel of a paragraph like this: “Sometimes she saw her life as a tender thing that was separate from herself, a tiny animal she had happened upon by chance one day and decided to raise. It was terrifying to think how small it was, how wild, how easily she could fit it in the palm of her hand.”

There are 13 stories in this collection, which ultimately is more poignant than funny, although Ohlin displays a sharp wit, even in a story knit around a funeral, “FMK,” in which two characters try to lure a rebellious child inside for the service, and one suggests that there would be snacks afterward, possibly brownies, and the other unleashes on her with fury. “‘Jake has food sensitivities,’ she hissed, as if I was supposed to know.”

On a primal level, Ohlin’s stories appeal because she knows what her readers want: characters who need kicking get kicked, characters who need killin’ get killed, characters who need loving get loved. But she also has a Hollywood screenwriter’s knack for crafting sentences that drag you into the next, such as “When I was twelve years old, my father hired a private detective to follow my mother around” and “We’d been to this funeral home twice before — at least, I think we had?” — sentences that dare you to stop reading.

And although Ohlin is an alumna of The New Yorker, this collection doesn’t have the haughty feel of some of the magazine’s short fiction, which sometimes seems calibrated to mock the reader. It is accessible while deeply thoughtful, a nice bridge from the frothy reads of summer to whatever sober titles arrive in the back-to-everything rust of fall. A

Book Notes

We interrupt this summer to bring you foreign policy, as served up in Afghanistan, which is the sort of place that most people pay little attention to unless it’s front and center in the news. As such, much of the commentary on social media regarding America’s withdrawal is informed by Wikipedia, if even that.

So here are some titles that you might want to check out if you would like a more nuanced education on what’s happening in Kabul:

Sarah Chayes examined corruption in multiple nations in Thieves of State (W.W. Norton paperback, 272 pages) but focuses on Afghanistan in a book praised by Sebastian Junger, among others. Chayes, who has worked as a journalist and military adviser, argues that government corruption is responsible for the rise of the Taliban and other insurgent forces.

The Underground Girls of Kabul by Jenny Nordberg (Crown paperback, 384 pages) helps to explain why the Taliban’s takeover is so troubling for women’s advocates and why many parents there choose to disguise their daughters as sons until puberty makes that impossible.

Anand Gopal’s No Good Men Among the Living (Picador paperback, 320 pages) is about “America, the Taliban and the war through Afghan eyes” and was a finalist for both the Pulitzer and the National Book Prize. The New York Times review when it was published in 2014 called it “essential reading for anyone concerned about how America got Afghanistan so wrong.” Probably time for a sequel, but some people are still saying it’s the best book about Afghanistan in the past two decades.

Blood Washing Blood(Dundurn, 408 pages) is a new book by a former officer in Canada’s Army that is getting good reviews for its history of conflict in Afghanistan over the past century.

And finally, if you’ve never read anything by Khaled Hosseini, the Afghan-American novelist best known for The Kite Runner (Riverhead paperback, 400 pages) and A Thousand Splendid Suns (Riverhead paperback, 432 pages), get thee to an independent bookseller website and order one of his haunting novels. His most recent book, Sea Prayer (Riverhead, 48 pages), isn’t a novel, but a poetic letter from father to son that was inspired by the 3-year-old Syrian boy whose body washed up on a beach in 2015. There are no first-world problems in this author’s body of work.


Author events

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.

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

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.

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


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 begin at 7 p.m., open mic at 8 p.m. The series also features several poetry slams every month. Events open to all ages. Cover charge of $3 to $5 at the door, which can be paid with cash or by Venmo. See Facebook 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

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

Featured photo: We Want What We Want.

Album Reviews 21/08/26

Sophie Du Palais, Endurance Of Pain Is The Power Of Being (Abstrakce Records)

There’s always room at this desk for techno, especially if it’s coming from someone who’s involved in a rising European niche. In this case it’s a German woman who’s part of the “contemporary Dutch electronic underground,” who also goes by the name Vrouwe Fataal, which means “femme fatale” if I’m getting this right. She’s billed as a Miss Kittin type, which makes sense upon first listen to “Glazed Disco Ball”; she sounds as drugged-up as Kittin did on any of her old stuff, although the epithets Du Palais babbles are of course in Dutch, and there’s more solidity to this blooping beat. But that’s skipping over a tune, specifically the album’s first tune, which is more on a Mario Brothers tip, cheesy but OK overall. It isn’t until “Boys Tears” that we hear her really get sleazy and industrial, though not to the extent you may have heard from Die Form, who are completely crazy (in a very good way). A

Briars of North America, Supermoon (Brassland)

This world/hipster trio, comprised of two long-lost cousins and one of their friends, was formed when the cousins, who never saw each other aside from two family gatherings for funerals, were forced to hang out together at the behest of one of their dads, simply because they both lived in Brooklyn. Odd as it looks, I think my “world/hipster” lumping makes sense; there’s Bon Iver-style moonbat ambience going on, but it’s pleasingly different, because one of the guys is a student of traditional and ancient forms of singing from places such as the Caucasus, the Mediterranean and the rural U.S., so the lyrics are often unintelligible but captivating. Their biography stressed my ADD to the max, but my takeaway was that they’ve done some world traveling to provide a sort of New Age service, soaking TED talks and other gatherings in their peaceful, well-heeled tuneage. Some really nice Americana on “Chirping Birds,” and witch-haunted chanting on “Ambient Condor.” Very creative stuff. A


• Tomorrow (or whenever, depending on which day you picked up this newspaper) is the 27th, a Friday, when the latest albums come out in a disorganized spill, all of them praying that some smarty pants snark-volcano like me won’t notice them trying to sneak into the record stores without getting a thorough, richly deserved paddle on the bottom for being horrible. We’ll kick off this week’s nightmare journey with New Jersey-bred Auto-Tune bling princess and RuPaul’s Drag Race judge Halsey’s If I Can’t Have Love I Want Power, her fourth. She is of course a product of Instagram, YouTube and all that gunk, and if you’re unfortunate enough to have a preteen living in your house, chances are you’ve been subjected to such dross as “Without Me,” her first sexytime-pop hit, or maybe her mindless “Closer” collaboration with monstrously overrated boyband Chainsmokers. Either way, you have my sincere condolences, and hey, chin up, maybe this stuff will be palatable, even though she left my beloved Astralwerks record label to go to Capitol Records, meaning she’s nowadays just another tool of Lucifer. The first single I ran into was “Can’t Have Love,” a typical hip-hop-tinged madrigal that —‌ wait, no, that’s a G-Eazy song that came out in June, never mind. So the title track is —‌ wait, it’s apparently a music-film double-whammy, and there are only snippets. If there’s anything that brings out the monster in me, it’s when there’s nothing but snippets. But wait, it’s not empty-brained pop, she’s taken this ridiculousness to a whole new level, a dramatic, epic movie thingamajig that’s like a cross between Game Of Thrones and the even more awful Outlander, like Halsey’s a very pregnant queen of someplace or other, and the film bit is headed up by Trent Reznor. Some people will find this all really great, and I will simply deal with that in my own way, like always.

Turnstile is a pretty cool arena-punk band from Baltimore, and no, they’re not some sort of annoying Dashboard Confessional emo trip. “Alien Love Call,” the single from their forthcoming new album Glo On, finds them indulging in less punk and more arena-rock. Gone are the vocal tracks that sounded like they were recorded in someone’s bathroom; there’s almost a Jane’s Addiction thing going on in this mildly fascinating slow-tempo tune. I don’t like the guitar sound, but again, it’s OK overall. And it’s not emo at all, which is all I ask in life.

• There’s also a fourth album from Scottish synthpop band Chvrches, Screen Violence. I’m absolutely sure I liked what I heard from them before, whatever it was, but either way, the words “Scottish synthpop” should make any ears over the age of 40 prick up a little, let’s admit it. Whoa, these guys are playing to win this time, because guess who’s the feat in the new single “How Not To Drown?” Yes, you’ll die: It’s Cure singer and verified crazy person Robert Smith! This is all goth-y and epic, with a big chorus bit, and in the video Robert looks like he hasn’t combed his hair in two months. You’ll love it. I sure do.

• Finally, we have indie-folk/folktronica due Big Red Machine, with How Long Do You Think It’s Gonna Last. Guests include Taylor Swift, Fleet Foxes and Anaïs Mitchell, whose turn on the sleepy, rather draggy single “Latter Days” is Norah Jones-ish. Nothing folktronica on this tune, but who knows, you might totally love it.

Retro Playlist

Today we’ll go back exactly 13 years ago, to 2008, apparently the year my little column first came into being. I’m not wildly proud of those early days, par for my course. But it was a beginning, and there were plenty of targets. Metallica, a band that was, at the time, busily engaged in making people forget they were pretty cool, was releasing Death Magnetic, and it was necessary for me to find out how much I could insult the single “The Day That Never Comes” (it “sounds like that dumb Bob Seger wedding-reception tune they barfed out a few years ago”) without incurring the wrath of our editors. But I’m still here, and you can plainly see how much worse I’ve gotten since then. Salud.

Anway, there were two focus albums in play, like always. One of them, Tito Puente and His Orchestra’sLive at the 1977 Monterey Jazz Festival, was, of course, essential listening for jazz nerds who think jazz festivals are a fun time (I can’t imagine anything more boring than a jazz festival, except for maybe a librarians-only mud-wrestling match). And I said so: “It’s amazing, finding the King of Latin Music going nuclear at the Super Bowl of jazz, his hands and sticks moving up through the gears of his timbales in the run-up to an animated rendition of ‘Para Los Rumberos’ (Punte’s universally familiar salsa tune, the one that invokes Vegas-bound jetliners the way bread bespeaks butter).”

The other one wasn’t nearly as good, a two-CD mix from then-constant Pacha Ibiza house-DJ fixture Behrouz, titled Nervous Nitelife: Pure Behrouz NYC. The first CD “[starts] off with King Street Crew’s old-school ‘Things U Do 2 Me,’ a tiresome warmup that’s only missing a voiceover describing a Florida timeshare and sleepy videotape of golfing.” The big spazz-drop is OK, Roberto Rodriguez’ “Camera Obscura,” with “its finger-snap rhythm slowly turning feral under a funky but agile soft-shoe stutter-step layer.” Really the only reason I wrote about that rather trite record was because I had ignored Oscar G’s amazing Nervous Nitelife: Miami past the point of its still being “hot and new,” an error I still regret to this day.

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).

Everyday IPAs

Some IPAs now are borderline crushable

IPAs are king. But they’re also super confusing.

You’ve got American IPAs, New England IPAs, West Coast IPAs, session IPAs, double IPAs, Imperial IPAs, triple IPAs, oat IPAs, East Coast IPAs, Belgian IPAs, British IPAs and so on and so forth. And I didn’t even say anything about double, single or triple dry-hopping. And I definitely didn’t say anything about different hop strains.

It’s just a lot. My head is spinning.

Now, of course, there’s quite a bit of overlap within those categories and styles and every brewer is putting his or her own twist on all of their brews, not just IPAs, so every West Coast IPA is going to be a little different — maybe even a lot different. So I’m not sure it’s really worth trying to break it all down. And I’m not sure I even could.

Across the board, IPAs are incredibly flavorful and frankly exciting brews. They are bursting with hoppy flavor.

But, as I’ve written many times, they can be a bit much. Sometimes you want to have a few beers, and double IPAs that come in with an ABV of more than 8 percent are not conducive to drinking multiple beers. And beyond the alcohol, IPAs can just carry a little extra heft that can bog you down a little bit.

I’ve been pleased to see and taste a “new wave” of IPAs that are what I like to call “tweeners.” They’re not quite session IPAs, which I think can sometimes drink more like hoppy light beers than actual IPAs, but they’re not quite your standard IPA, at least in terms of drinkability. These are IPAs coming in at about 5.5 percent to 6 percent ABV but still offering plenty of hoppy, citrusy, piney goodness, but with a little less heft.

I’m not sure if it’s actually a new wave or just coincidence — or if it’s all in my head — but I’ve had several lately and if it is an actual trend I think it’s a good one.

Here are three IPAs to whet your whistle that fall right into my tweener category.

Glory American IPA by Wachusett Brewing Co. (Westminster, Mass.)

I realize it’s obvious that this brewery has a special place in my heart but I really think it’s with good reason. Glory is incredibly easy to drink but doesn’t sacrifice flavor. You’ll definitely pick up plenty of tropical fruit notes, coupled with bright, pleasing bitterness. Plus, the can design, featuring some red, white and blue action, is a winner.

Angelica Hazy IPA by Lord Hobo Brewing Co. (Woburn, Mass.)

The brewery website says this brew was “designed to be a one-of-a-kind showcase for the magnificent Mosaic hop, bringing forth strong citrus flavors.” It also notes the “color, haze and taste are as if you’re drinking a freshly squeezed glass of orange juice with full mouthfeel.” I’m not sure I’d go that far and I don’t mean that as criticism. This drinks much lighter than that to me, and pleasingly so. There’s definitely plenty of fresh citrus flavor and the color is definitely reminiscent of a glass of OJ — and at 5.5 percent, you can have more than one. ​

Matchplay IPA by Smuttynose Brewing Co. (Hampton)

Formerly named the “Backswing IPA.” I haven’t tried this one but this fits the bill to a tee. I’m not sure if you caught what I just did there. The brewery says this is “soft and refreshing, yet packed with bright and bold hops.” Seems well worth a try to me. Smuttynose also brews a Backcheck IPA that is a little higher in ABV.

What’s in my fridge?

Little Choppy Hoppy Session Ale by Mast Landing Brewing Co. (Westbrook, Maine)
Speaking of sessionable brews, Little Choppy is about as crushable as it gets at 4.3 percent ABV. This has a pleasing and somewhat surprising bitterness, coupled with a nice combination of citrus and pine I think. I liked it more and more as I worked my way through the can. Cheers!

Featured photo: Courtesy photo.

Snickerdoodle muffins

Isn’t it every child’s dream to be able to eat cookies for breakfast? Actually, don’t a lot of adults have that dream? While I can’t fully endorse cookies for breakfast, I absolutely can support making and eating muffins that taste just like a cookie!

Snickerdoodles have been a regularly made cookie in my home, both as a child and a mom. The combination of sugar and cinnamon plus an interesting hint of tartness makes them a “hard to eat just one” cookie. Turn them into a muffin, and they’re a delicious way to start the day.

Most of the ingredients in these muffins are pretty straightforward and probably are items that can be found in your refrigerator and pantry. The one ingredient you may not have but absolutely need is cream of tartar. You’ll find it in the spice section in the grocery store. Although you need only a small amount, it gives these muffins that special something. As for the milk in the recipe, use whatever you have: plant-based, whole milk, skim. It really doesn’t matter.

Now, for serving them, I highly recommend eating them warm, sliced in half and topped with a little bit of butter. They are so delicious they might be called “hard to eat just one” muffins.

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.

Snickerdoodle muffins
Makes 12

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted

Muffin topping
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Spray a muffin pan with nonstick spray.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, cream of tartar, salt and sugar.
In a large measuring cup whisk the milk, vanilla and egg together.
Add the milk mixture and 1/3 cup melted butter to the flour mixture.
Stir just until flour mixture is fully moistened. It may be lumpy.
Fill each muffin cup 3/4 full.
Bake for 14 to 16 minutes.
Cool muffins in the pan for 5 minutes.

In a small bowl, combine the sugar and cinnamon.
Remove the muffins from the pan.
Brush the tops of the muffins with the melted butter.
Generously sprinkle the tops with the cinnamon-sugar mixture.

Photo: Snickerdoodle muffins. Courtesy photo.

In the kitchen with Gabe Alpuerto

Inspired by made-to-order tableside guacamole at his favorite Mexican restaurants, Gabriel “Gabe” Alpuerto of Londonderry started creating his own at home and would bring it to parties. After realizing that the avocados would go brown during longer trips, Alpuerto decided to instead pre-make and bottle his tomato mix and, when he arrived at his destination, make the guacamole on site. That turned out to be a game-changer. Gabe and his wife Melissa started Solo Agrega Guacamole (, and on Facebook @soloagregaguacamole), now producing their guacamole mix at Creative Chef Kitchens in Derry and selling it at several local stores, including Mr. Steer Meats (27 Buttrick Road, Londonderry), the farm stand at Sunnycrest Farm (59 High Range Road, Londonderry) and The Flying Butcher (124 Route 101A, Amherst). The company’s name translates to “add one,” or as Alpuerto likes to say, “just add avocados.” But the mix, he said, is also great as an ingredient for spreads, quesos or simple salads. In addition to being sold in stores, Solo Agrega is a regular vendor at the Pelham Farmers Market on Saturdays, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., outside the First Congregational Church of Pelham (3 Main St.).

What is your must-have kitchen item?

My knife is my best friend. That’s the one thing that I can’t live without.

What would you have for your last meal?

I’m a big fan of spaghetti. A big bowl of my mom’s spaghetti is a meal I could probably eat all day long, every day for the rest of my life.

What is your favorite local restaurant?

La Carreta, because we love Mexican.

What celebrity would you like to see trying your product?

I would go with Oprah [Winfrey] on that one. I feel like whatever Oprah says kind of becomes the trend.

What is your favorite thing to use your product on?

I’m a simple guy and just like it with a nice tortilla chip, or even kettle chips are great too.

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

I don’t think it’s any dish per se, but I think everyone is gravitating more toward eating local and supporting local businesses.

What is your favorite thing to cook at home?

A nice big breakfast. … I feel like breakfast makes anyone happy, no matter what time of the day.

Chickpea salad
From the kitchen of Gabe Alpuerto of Solo Agrega Guacamole

1 can chickpeas
3 ounces Greco Greek feta cheese
½ cup Solo Agrega guacamole mix

Drain chickpeas. Mash ⅓ cup in a bowl and leave the rest whole. Toss with Solo Agrega mix and feta. Serve and enjoy.

Featured photo: Gabe Alpuerto. Courtesy photo.

What’re we drinking?

Bartenders talk about serving cocktails in 2021, plus what trends are in the mix

Dan Haggerty and Jeremy Hart weren’t sure what to expect as they prepared to open their new craft cocktail bar and eatery in early February. Although vaccine rollouts were well underway, New Hampshire remained under a state of emergency, with the statewide mask mandate still in effect and spacing restrictions at bars and restaurants in nearly every county.

Three nights into the bartending duo’s first week open at Industry East Bar in downtown Manchester, a friend came in to visit — and later ended up jumping behind the bar herself.

“She was just in the bar checking it out and she goes, ‘It’s really busy. If you guys need any help…’ and so then I was like, ‘Can you come in tomorrow?’” Haggerty said. “So she became kind of our barback and food runner for a little bit, just by being there.”

Jeremy Hart, bartender and co-owner of Industry East Bar in Manchester. Photo by Live Free or Die Design Photography @livefreeordiedesignphoto.

When the last of the restrictions were lifted early in the spring, “it was like the floodgates opened,” according to Haggerty, with a constant turnaround of thirsty customers that dwarfed even what he, Hart and executive chef Jeff Martin saw during their first few weeks. He can count on one hand the number of times that Industry East has closed early, at or before midnight.

“I didn’t think that people would consume as much product as they are consuming,” Haggerty said. “I don’t know if it was just because all they had been spending money on was Amazon and takeout, and so they were like, ‘Oh my God, I’m at a bar, and someone’s actually making me a drink,’ [but] people are consuming food and drink at an insane pace right now.”

In spite of their immediate success, the small team has also encountered challenges along the way, from finding adequate staffing to acquiring quality products for drinks.

Bar managers and bartenders of both new and established restaurants have faced all kinds of similar obstacles over the year and a half that continue to linger today. We spoke with several of them to get a sense of what life has been like behind the bar.

Setting the bar

Kellie Connolly, bar manager at the Copper Door Restaurant in Bedford, was out of work for about three weeks during the initial pandemic shutdown. She returned to a bar that was rendered completely unrecognizable, transformed instead into a “conveyor belt” for takeout orders.

“All of the alcohol was off the bar. Everything had been boxed up and stored away,” Connolly said of the early months of the pandemic. “The beer coolers and wine fridges were full because [we] were now able to utilize those in a takeout fashion. … But besides that, it was an empty hub, no longer anything of what you would have seen at a bar. It was very bizarre.”

Connolly was part of a small team of staff that were brought back originally and included both bartenders and servers. But with no bar in the traditional sense, there was no cocktail mixing.

“No longer were you a bartender. You were just a man on the team and it was everyone in and everyone out. That was kind of the mentality of it,” she said. “We all had positions, whether it was answering phones, running takeout orders, or doing the cleaning. It was all hands on deck.”

The bar would eventually see its alcohol replenished with the return of indoor and outdoor dining. Social distancing restrictions, however, required the Copper Door to use only half of its bar seats, with dividers placed between pairs. But even then, only parties of guests who came to the bar together were able to be in adjacent seats — unless the dividers moved, a single person sitting in one chair would make the chair beside it unusable.

“You could slide a seat down and make a three-person section, [but] you couldn’t move the chairs from one side to the other,” Connolly said. “It was like a game of Tetris, just constant moving. … Reintroducing people to the new landscape and just explaining everything to them how we were doing things was also a big part of the job.”

Bar seats were similarly spaced out at Shopper’s Pub + Eatery in Manchester, which originally closed for about a month and a half, according to general manager Nick Carnes.

“When we initially reopened indoors, we started with about five of our 16 bar and waitstaff,” he said, “and then it was just a solid six-month stretch where it was just myself and one other person every day, all day open to close, just trying to grind everything out by ourselves.”

Spacing is already an inherent challenge at Industry East with only 20 indoor seats. Carnes noted that, with the Residence Inn by Marriott hotel directly next door, Shopper’s tends to see an influx of customers who are traveling for work during the week. Especially in the early days of the pandemic, this meant out-of-staters who were essential travelers.

“Every now and then, you’d have one guy that doesn’t know anybody that just flew into town, he’d sit down and take up three seats [at the bar], and then nobody could sit in those other two seats,” he said. “So it was a mixture of making sure you could come out and have a good night … while keeping everyone else safe and making sure nobody else got sick.”

But overall, Haggerty said the consensus among patrons has been one of both positivity and gratitude.

“I think 99 percent [have been] happy, fun-loving people, being almost extra nice,” he said. “Generally, pretty much everyone is like, ‘Hey, I’m so glad that your profession is still a thing and you guys are open. Thanks so much.’ … But I mean, only a certain percentage of the population is still even coming out. We get people in here every single day that say this is the first place they’ve gone since last March.”

The “Vax.” pictured with Madears co-owner, chef and mixologist Robb Curry, has carrot juice, orange juice, ginger, lemon juice and a simple syrup, and includes a side of either tequila or brandy to “inject” into it. Courtesy photo.

Similarly, the new location of Madear’s Southern Eatery & Bakery in downtown Pembroke that opened last October has introduced many more people in the area to the eatery’s scratch-made Southern concept. Co-owner, chef and mixologist Robb Curry said he and partner Kyle Davis now have a much larger kitchen and bar, as well as nearly twice the dining room capacity as their predecessor on Hanover Street in Manchester.

“For the most part, our guests have been very respectful and understanding,” Curry said of the overall response so far. “I do also see that people at the bar tend to be a lot more understanding because they see more of what’s going on between the kitchen and the front of the house.”

Regulars were also happy to return to the bar at Stella Blu in Nashua when it reopened last year.

“We … had to put time limits in place, but we weren’t having to really use them or say it to people,” front-of-the-house manager and bartender Elissa Drift said. “They were definitely respectful enough to kind of just go with the flow.”

While the Copper Door has steadily maintained a loyal clientele, Connolly said she has noticed a shift in bargoers’ overall habits within the last year to year and a half.

“Happy Hour starts a lot earlier now,” she said. “Normally that was around 4:30, 5 o’clock, but now it’s at 2:30 or 3. … What was the quieter time is now full of people that are just done with working at their house and are coming out for that afternoon cocktail. At least in this area, I feel like the whole flow has altered a little bit.”

Thirsty trends

Since Industry East opened its doors earlier this year, Haggerty has noticed distinct trends in the types of cocktails being ordered.

“The espresso martini is back in full force. I think I’ve made more espresso martinis in the last six months than I’ve made in the last three years,” he said. “A ton of people are ordering cosmos too. … All of those older drinks that kind of went away after the early to mid-2000s, when the craft cocktail movement had a boom, are now back.”

There has also been a significant boom in tequila-based cocktails, and not just because it’s summer. The most popular specialty drink currently on Industry East’s menu is known as the C.R.E.A.M. (as Haggerty explains, an acronym standing for “Cucumber Rules Everything Around Me”). That drink features a cucumber shrub and tequila base with lemon juice, a little bit of jalapeno to offset its sweetness and a cucumber ribbon garnish with salt and pepper.

“Even in February when we opened … everybody has been way into tequila. I can’t explain it,” Haggerty said. “I think maybe a lot of people are just getting into it that maybe hadn’t been, or they were just like, ‘You know what, I’m really tired of drinking vodka.’ … People will drink tequila on the rocks. I’ve also seen people get tequila old-fashioneds.”

Drift agreed that tequila is a leading trend in the cocktail world right now, followed by bourbon and also Aperol spritzers. Options at Stella Blu include a blood orange paloma with fresh pressed juice and a house-made mango habanero salt; a strawberry jalapeno margarita with pureed fruit and a zesty lime salt rim; and a tequila and mezcal-based drink called the Mezcalita, featuring pineapple juice, Cointreau orange liqueur and a smoky-flavored house vanilla bean syrup.

The espresso martini at the Copper Door — called the Rocket — has been among the eatery’s top-selling cocktails, according to Connolly, as well as the restaurant’s blood orange cosmo, which uses Solerno blood orange liqueur, cranberry juice and a freshly squeezed lime; and the “Pepperoncini-Tini,” featuring olive juice, pepperoncini juice and blue cheese-stuffed olives.

Connolly added that a menu of mocktail options was rolled out last year to rave reviews.

“I’ve really seen, especially since Covid, a spike in people coming out and choosing a craft mocktail instead of a cocktail,” he said. “We also have a few unique non-alcoholic beers that have been flying off the shelves.”

Madear’s has had fun with all kinds of creative drinks, including a few that are meant to be satirical of the times, like the “Covid rum punch.” Another one, known simply as the “Vax,” is a mimosa-style cocktail featuring orange, carrot and mango juices, ginger bitters and your choice of an “injected” ounce and a half of tequila or an ounce and a half of brandy.

“All of those are super juices, so the idea was it was something to build the immune system,” Curry said. “It was something that was immensely popular when the vaccinations came out.”

Ready-to-drink canned cocktails are also a major trend. Carnes said they became a game-changer at Shopper’s with the onset of the pandemic when it comes to customer volume.

“The main concern right now is if you don’t have the staff to really maintain with cocktails … the simplicity is where you need to try to make up for it,” he said, “and [the canned cocktails] are all good. It’s not like you’re downgrading by getting one.”

Staffing and production

Consumers may have returned to the bar in droves, but managers say the pandemic has resulted in unprecedented struggles in obtaining product. This goes for everything from specific liquor brands to some of the most arbitrary of cocktail ingredients — and, in some cases, even beer.

“Big names like Budweiser and Coors … have stopped production of bottled beers due to a glass shortage,” Drift said. “So what you see is what you get right now. Whatever is in stock is being blown through, and after that it will just be cans and aluminum bottles, or on draft.”

Early on, Haggerty said even getting basic supplies like silverware and rocks glasses was a challenge, due to the high volume of inventory ordering that took place as restaurants and bars reopened. Finding and maintaining a quality staff has itself also been an issue at times.

“It’s a little better now, but at the start it was like pulling teeth trying to find anyone,” he said.

Staffing in general has been tough at Madear’s, especially behind the bar and at the front of the house, Curry said. Moving out of the Queen City to Pembroke, a much smaller town, Curry said he had the idea that the space would get more of a basic drink crowd. But the opposite has been true, as over the last year he has sold more signature craft cocktails.

“It’s easier for me to get a server than it is a bartender. … Bartending tends to have a lot more responsibility behind it than on the service side, especially in our establishment,” he said. “You’re not only bartending, you’re also a liaison between the back of the house and the front of the house, so you’re at the first step of things coming out.”

Left to right: The Blood Orange Cosmo, the Copper Door “Cosmo” with pomegranate juice, and the Pepperoncini-Tini with olive juice, all from the Copper Door. Courtesy photo.

Stella Blu transitioned to a tip pooling system for its staff, meaning that tips were divided amongst everyone based on the number of hours they work. Drift said that this has been an effective approach thus far at boosting the overall employee morale.

“We found, coming back from all of this, that the tip pool really does drive a better, more cohesive team,” she said. “There’s no ‘That’s my table.’ … I think guests get better service and better attention, and people are more willing to help each other because it’s for the greater good.”

Haggerty noted that a positive aspect to come out of the pandemic has been the renewed sense of solidarity among different places of business, especially for bar staff and waitstaff. He and Hart both picked up bartending shifts at Shopper’s while Industry East was still being built, for instance.

“Now that everyone’s been through the wringer … there’s been almost this revamped, new kind of inter-bar camaraderie,” Haggerty said. “It’s really cool now to be able to see that happening.”

Crafty Cocktails

We asked local bartenders and bar managers which types of cocktails have been trending lately. Here’s a snapshot of some of those drinks and where you can get them.

C.R.E.A.M. (“Cucumber Rules Everything Around Me”)
From behind the bar at Industry East Bar, 28 Hanover St., Manchester, 232-6940,

Mi Campo tequila
lemon juice
cucumber shrub
Dolin Blanc vermouth
ancho verde liqueur
jalapeno tincture

The “Rocket” espresso martini
From behind the bar at The Copper Door Restaurant, 15 Leavy Dr., Bedford, 488-2677; 41 S. Broadway, Salem, 458-2033;

vanilla vodka
Baileys Irish Cream liqueur
dark crème de cacao
freshly brewed espresso

Chocolate coconut macaroon
From behind the bar at Stella Blu, 70 E. Pearl St., Nashua, 578-5557,

Chocolate coconut cream
coconut rum
amaretto liqueur
toasted coconut rim

Blood orange paloma
From behind the bar at Stella Blu, 70 E. Pearl St., Nashua, 578-5557,

fresh-pressed blood orange juice
squeezed lime
soda float
mango habanero salt

The “Vax”
From behind the bar at Madear’s Southern Eatery & Bakery, 141 Main St., Pembroke, 210-5557,

carrot juice
mango juice
orange juice
lime juice
ginger bitters
(optional) tequila or brandy on the side

Industry East Bar’s espresso martini
From behind the bar of Industry East Bar, 28 Hanover St., Manchester, 232-6940,

Caffe Borghetti espresso liqueur
Orange bitters
Chocolate bitters
Cinnamon tincture

Strawberry jalapeno margarita
From behind the bar of Stella Blu, 70 E. Pearl St., Nashua, 578-5557,

Fresh pureed strawberries
Jalapeno-infused simple syrup
Squeezed lime
Zesty lime salt rim

Featured photo: Sandy Rozek, bar and beverage director for the Copper Door. Courtesy photo.

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