Keeping it real

Comedian Carolyn Plummer headlines Rex show

Of all the words Carolyn Plummer might use to describe herself, “lucky” isn’t one. As a teenager Plummer won a pair of Grateful Dead passes, only to see the show canceled when Jerry Garcia died. In early 2020, she had the best spring of her comedy career lined up, and everyone knows how that turned out.

Quarantine led to a lot of soul-searching, Plummer said in a recent phone interview.

“I reassessed my whole life,” she said. “Like, why am I doing comedy? Should I have focused on a career? Should I have been a teacher?” Then, in February of this year, Denis Leary called with an invitation for Plummer to appear at the annual Comics Come Home benefit.

“That re-energized me to feel like I was on the right path,” she said. “Now I have a deeper appreciation for live shows and performing. I look at every performance now as an opportunity to meet more people and network and just enjoy it. … There’s a lot of sacrifice, but that kind of just brought everything full circle, that all the sacrifices made sense.”

Of course, the Nov. 13 Boston Garden show has been postponed for another year, but Plummer knows she’ll be on the next one. That’s a more tangible thing to hold on to than that Dead contest back when.

“They were will-call,” she said of the Boston Garden concert. “So I didn’t even have the tickets.”

A few comics mined the pandemic for new jokes, but not Plummer.

“I wasn’t very creative at the beginning. … My whole life just changed; it took a while to work through. I did a few things about contactless delivery; I don’t know why we didn’t have that in the past. I don’t need to have a relationship with the guy bringing the pizza to my house.”

A New Hampshire native — she grew up in Wolfeboro, a minister’s daughter — Plummer got into comedy after responding to an ad.

“This guy was teaching a class out of his mom’s condo in Manchester,” she said, adding with a chuckle, “That seemed safe to me at the time.”

It turned out well, and after a summer of learning, she began hitting open mic nights, eventually spending a lot of time in Portland, Maine.

“I met all the Boston guys; they would come up and do comedy,” she said. “I would watch them and go, ‘Wow, these guys are awesome’ — you know what I mean? Like Don Gavin, and all the greats: Lenny Clarke, Tony V….”

A big early break was the result of misfortune for Plummer.

“True story: On my 30th birthday, I got laid off,” she said. “Kelly MacFarland is one of my best friends, and she’s also a comic. She said, ‘I just met these guys, and they need another roommate, why don’t you go talk to them, and if it works out, move in there?’ I was like, ‘I don’t know, I don’t have a job.’ She said, ‘That’s the best time to go.’ I ended up moving back to Belmont, Mass., which I could never afford if I wasn’t in a roommate situation. … It kind of took off from there.”

While she’s performed in New York City, ventured to California for the Burbank Comedy Festival and even thought about moving west once or twice, Plummer is partial to living in and working in New England, particularly her home state.

“What I like about New Hampshire is it surprises you,” she said. “You might go to this tiny town in the middle of nowhere and have all these highly educated people that you’d think wouldn’t be living in the woods, fixing cars, being lumberjacks, and all this other stuff. You can’t make assumptions like that. … All the different towns are different.”

Carolyn Plummer & Friends

When: Friday, Nov. 5, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Rex Theatre, 23 Amherst St., Manchester
Tickets: $25 at

Featured photo: Comedian Carolyn Plummer. Courtesy photo.

The Music Roundup 21/11/04

Local music news & events

New room: A recently opened restaurant, bar and music venue hosts D-Comp, the ubiquitous duo of vocalist Demetri Papanicolau, winner of the Rockstar ManchVegas vocal competition, and Nate Comp, talented at looping his acoustic guitar into dense soundscapes. Like most of the room’s upcoming calendar, it’s a free show; a ticketed event starring Angry Hill and Taliente Pistoles will happen later in the month. Thursday, Nov. 4, 9 p.m., Angel City Music Hall, 179 Elm St., Manchester,

Capitol band: Led by a Burlington expat who relocated to Concord five years ago, Andrew North & the Rangers is a multifaceted group touching on rock, soul and jazz fusion stitched together with jammy sensibility. Phosphorescent Snack, their debut album released in September, is a gem; standouts include “Down the Pipes,” with echoes of Dixieland jazz, the can-do anthem “Dig Deep” and the Phish-adjacent “Aditi.” Friday, Nov. 5, 8 p.m., Area 23, 254 N State St., Unit H (Smokestack Center), Concord,

Roots crew: A favorite in their Merrimack Valley home region, McKinley’s Mood is anchored by the songwriting team of Dave Osgood and Keith Blaney. The Jerry Garcia Band feel of their namesake song provides a good clue about where they’re coming from musically, a point driven home by the Dead covers that pop up in their set. They also have a lovely, harmonies-and-all version of The Band’s “Up On Cripple Creek.” Saturday, Nov. 6, 5 p.m., Millyard Brewery, 125 E. Otterson St., Nashua,

Galaxy grass: Sporting a name born from the room where they began, Kitchen Dwellers is a Montana-based quartet that credits a lot of influence on its sound to The Infamous Stringdusters’ Chris Pandolfi, producer of their recent Muir Maid LP. “Just by hanging out with a musician like Chris, you absorb what he says and how he approaches songs, and all of the sudden you’re a better musician for it,” said banjo player Torrin Daniels. Sunday, Nov. 7, 8 p.m., Bank of NH Stage, 44 S. Main St., Concord, $15 and $18 at

String thing: Zach Lupetin formed Dustbowl Revival after taking a writing degree to Los Angeles to chase screenplay dreams. He also brought a guitar, and soon placed a Craigslist ad for like minds that led to a multi-instrument, multi-genre collective of musicians focused on acoustic Americana. Longtime singer Liz Beebe left last year; Lashon Halley took over for her after a few tryout shows. Wednesday, Nov. 10, 8 p.m., 3S Artspace, 319 Vaughan St., Portsmouth, $28 to $30 at

Last Night in Soho (R)

Last Night in Soho (R)

A present-day young woman with a romantic view of 1960s London suddenly finds herself traveling there nightly in Last Night in Soho, a not-the-best but not-the-worst ghosty story from director Edgar Wright.

Eloise (Thomasin McKenzie) loves 1960s London fashion and the 1960s music her grandmother Peggy (Rita Tushingham) listens to. Stories of London are also tied up in Eloise’s mom (Aimee Cassettari), who died by suicide when Eloise was little but whom Eloise still appears to communicate with, such as when Eloise sees her smiling mother just before Peggy brings Eloise the letter saying she’s been accepted into a London fashion school.

Peggy doesn’t know that Eloise is still seeing her mom, but she she worries that the stress of the big city will get to Eloise. Eloise does get a little freaked out when the taxi driver’s chatter gets a little too friendly and she doesn’t quite fit in with her roommate at the school dorm, Jocasta (Synnove Karlsen), who instantly establishes herself as a queen bee.

When Eloise sees an ad for a studio apartment, she decides to move out on her own and is, at first, delighted by the space. In addition to an in-the-thick-of-things location, the apartment gives Eloise a psychic connection to a young woman who lived there decades earlier. When Eloise goes to sleep, she finds herself entering the life of Sandie (Anya Taylor-Joy), a blonde with ambitions to be a singer. She goes to swanky clubs, wearing beautiful clothes, and she meets Jack (Matt Smith), a handsome man who offers to help her get gigs. Eloise is quickly enamored with this new life, even if it is somebody else’s that she’s sort of virtual-reality-ing her way into. In the waking world, she buys herself a coat like Sandie’s at a vintage shop, starts designing a dress for a class similar to one of Sandie’s cocktail dresses and even gets Sandie’s haircut. Some of Sandie’s flirting abilities even rub off on Eloise, who is slowly making a friend in classmate John (Michael Ajao).

But then Eloise sees some darker scenes from Sandie’s life and starts to wonder if all of these “ghosts” really are in the past or if there are dangers that have carried into the present — and if a mysterious older man (Terence Stamp) who hangs out at the bar where Eloise works is one of those dangers.

Many of the elements of Last Night in Soho are extremely fun — from Eloise’s whole 1960s mod thing (which reminded me of the 1990s swing revival) to everything about the catty Jocasta character. I like the relationship Eloise has with whatever her abilities are — she just sort of accepts that she is seeing ghosts, but she doesn’t entirely know yet how to interpret what she’s seeing. This character could have seemed extremely daffy and fragile but McKenzie makes her seem more just uncertain and sheltered but also aware of her naivete.

The movie also has a delightful-to-see supporting character, which I won’t spoil except to say I was both happy to get to spend time with this person and then sad when I realized it might be the last new role I see that person in.

Other elements of Last Night in Soho feel underbaked. Sandie’s story builds to high drama, but then it resolves sort of too fast. Am I saying I wished the movie had been longer? No? But maybe added to and then edited down again, with some of the choppier bits of the story smoothed out. B-

Rated R for bloody violence, sexual content, language, brief drug material and brief graphic nudity, according to the MPA on Directed by Edgar Wright with a screenplay by Edgar Wright & Krysty Wilson-Cairns, Last Night in Soho is an hour and 56 minutes long and distributed by Focus Features.

Army of Thieves (TV-MA)

A group of quirky criminals attempts to crack three of the toughest safes ever created in Army of Thieves, a prequel to Army of the Dead focused on Matthias Schweighöfer’s Dieter.

In this movie, the zombie apocalypse has only just begun in Las Vegas, so while Dieter is worried about zombies and even having nightmares about them, he’s still working his boring job in an idyllic-seeming German town and eating his sad work sandwich under a tiny awning in an alleyway. Then he meets Gwendoline (Nathalie Emmanuel), who has watched his YouTube videos about safe-cracking and believes he just might have the ability to tackle the safes built decades earlier by a man named Hans Wagner. Like the Gotterdammerung, the safe Dieter faces in Army of the Dead, Wagner built three other safes named after parts of Richard Wagner’s Ring Cycle. These safes are supposed to be impossible to crack and if someone tries and fails, the safe is supposed to lock forever.

Gwendoline wants to hit all three safes, which are set to be decommissioned soon. Tens of millions of dollars await all the members of the team if they succeed; those members include hacker Korina (Ruby O. Fee), getaway driver Rolph (Guz Khan) and muscle/crazy guy/Gwendoline’s boyfriend Brad Cage (Stuart Martin). But for Gwendoline and for Dieter, the real prize is in being about to meet the challenge of Wagner’s creations.

For Interpol agent Delacroix (Jonathan Cohen), his grand challenge is finding and catching Gwendoline. He quickly realizes that her plan is to go after all the safes and he is determined to catch her in the act — even though, as his fellow agents point out, there’s this whole zombie apocalypse thing, which might arguably be a bigger deal.

Maybe having absolutely no expectations for this thing after the “good ideas but long and sort of scattered” Army of the Dead helped because I kind of enjoyed this. Not loved it, not “wheeeee!” the whole time, just had some fun, some of the time. As this movie itself points out, the machinations of a heist in a heist movie, with its sleight of hand and misdirection and wigs, is always fun and we get a couple of examples of those in this movie. I also enjoyed the group dynamic. Everybody on this team is some kind of oddball and portrayed as such but with a light touch. Dieter is an excellent “talented dork” character, having gained his criminally useful safe-cracking skills from a love of puzzles and a childhood spent as an outsider.

The performances here also bring a good energy to this endeavor, which is peppy despite an over two-hour runtime. Emmanuel is the movie’s big star; I know her mostly from supporting roles on Game of Thrones and in the Fast and Furious movies but here she shows her ability to really carry off the blend of action, humor and general bad-assery that is needed for an action movie lead. Surely there’s some spy thing, some Marvel movie that can capitalize on this.

Army of Thieves feels like a perfect “let’s just watch something fun” movie that doesn’t require too much attention or brain power and delivers a reasonably good time. B-

Rated TV-MA. Directed by Matthias Schweighöfer with a screenplay by Shay Hatten, Army of Thieves is two hours and nine minutes long and is available on Netflix.

Paranormal Activity: Next of Kin (R)

A young woman makes a documentary about her search for her biological mother in Paranormal Activity: Next of Kin, a universe expansion sidequel/reboot thing.

It also took me a minute to remember that the intentional documentary as setup for a horror film was the premise of 1999’s The Blair Witch Project, not 2007’s original Paranormal Activity, which was largely home video camera footage. Here, Margot (Emily Bader) and her friend Chris (Roland Buck III) are making a documentary about an Amish family that she believes is related to her. Margot was adopted and all she initially knows about her birth mother comes from some hospital security footage showing her leaving baby Margot in a doorway. Now, 25-ish Margot has found Samuel (Henry Ayres-Brown), a 20-something Amish man that 23andMe says is related to her. Samuel, living apart from his family during his rumspringa, agrees to meet up with Margot and travel with Margot and Chris to the Baylor family farm, where Margot can learn more about her mother. The film team is joined by Dale (Dan Lippert), a big doofy sound guy, and a van loaded with equipment.

At first the family, represented by Jacob (Tom Nowicki), who we eventually learn is Margot’s biological grandfather, doesn’t want these outsiders hanging around. But he decides to let them stay and Margot and Chris try to uncover more about Margot’s mother from the fairly tight-lipped community. But along with the usual cultural differences between these filmmaker kids and the Amish farmers, Margot and Chris start to notice oddities — a middle-of-the-night meeting of torch-carrying farmers, odd noises from the supposedly uninhabited attic — that hint at something spookier.

At one point late in the film, Dale and Chris debate whether the Baylor family really is Amish at all, or just using it as a cover. But to what end, Chris asks. And that was kind of my feeling about the whole movie: to what end does the movie make any of the choices it does — from elements as large as the use of the documentary to set the plot in motion to smaller details, like specific creaks and “there was something else in the room” that don’t make much sense once you find out the nature of the Scary Thing.

Especially earlier on, the Paranormal Activity movies did a good job of letting its characters use video technology to freak themselves out; I remember watching (in the second one maybe?) footage of a pool cleaner for a while. Scary pool cleaner footage. Next of Kin feels like it has a lot more “things” happening, not just one small element of spookiness per scene, but the result is that the movie often gets in its own way and doesn’t offer a clear idea of why it’s showing us what it’s showing us. C

Rated R for violence and bloody images and language throughout, according to the MPA on (actually, the rating seems largely swear-word based, with some goriness shoved in at the end). Directed by William Eubank with a screenplay by Christopher Landon, Paranormal Activity: Next of Kin is an hour and 38 minutes long and is distributed by Paramount Pictures on Paramount+.



Bank of NH Stage
16 S. Main St., Concord

The Music Hall
28 Chestnut St., Portsmouth

O’neil Cinemas
24 Calef Hwy., Epping

Red River Theatres
11 S. Main St., Concord


A Nightmare on Elm Street (R, 1984) part of the Film Frenzy $5 Classics series at O’neil Cinemas with multiple daily screenings through Thursday, Nov. 4.

French Dispatch (R, 2021) on Thursday, Nov. 4, at 7 p.m. and Friday, Nov. 5, through Sunday, Nov. 7, at 1:30, 4:30 and 7:30 p.m. at Red River Theatres.

Spencer (R, 2021) on Thursday, Nov. 4, at 6:30 p.m. and Friday, Nov. 5, through Sunday, Nov. 7, at 1, 4 and 7 p.m. at Red River Theatres in Concord.

The Bolshoi Ballet — Spartacus, a broadcast presentation captured live, Sunday, Nov. 7, at 12:55 p.m. at the Bank of NH Stage in Concord. Tickets $15.

The Big Parade (1925), a silent film with live musical accompaniment by Jeff Rapsis, on Thursday, Nov. 10, at 6:30 p.m. at the Flying Monkey. Tickets start at $10.

Hot Water (1924) starring Harold Lloyd, a silent film with live musical accompaniment by Jeff Rapsis, on Sunday, Nov. 14, at 2 p.m. at Wilton Town Hall Theatre. Admission is free; $10 donation suggested.

Warren Miller’s Winter Starts Nowat The Music Hall in Portsmouth, Thursday, Nov. 18, at 7:30 p.m.; Friday, Nov. 19, at 6 and 9 p.m.; Saturday, Nov. 20, at 4 & 7 p.m. Tickets start at $28.

National Theatre Live No Man’s Land,a broadcast of a play from London’s National Theatre, screening at the Bank of NH Stage in Concord on Sunday, Nov. 21, at 12:30 p.m. Tickets cost $15 ($12 for students).

Singin’ in the Rain

See Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds, Cyd Charisse and Rita Moreno in 1952’s musical film Singin’ in the Rain on Wednesday, Nov. 10, at 10 a.m. at the Rex Theatre (23 Amherst St. in Manchester;, 668-5588), a Senior Movie Mornings screening. Tickets cost $10.

Featured photo: Last Night in Soho. Courtesy photo.

Bewilderment, by Richard Powers

Bewilderment, by Richard Powers (W.W. Norton, 278 pages)

For some people, the title of Richard Powers’ new novel, Bewilderment, might seem a nod to his last.

Although The Overstory won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, the 612-page book, published in 2018, had decidedly mixed reviews from the general public. Many readers found it confusing, overwrought, pretentious, unwieldy and preachy.

There are no such problems with Bewilderment, which is a taut and engrossing read from its opening pages to its unsettling ending. It is Powers’ 13th novel and should delight his longtime fans and recruit new ones. There is a raft of intelligent design bobbing in this fast-moving river of a book that centers on two characters: a widowed astrobiologist and his neurologically atypical son who has been diagnosed with Asperger’s, ADHD and obsessive-compulsive behavior. In all of modern literature, you will not find a more sympathetic account of what it’s like to be a single parent raising a child who cannot regulate his behavior. Nor will you find a more thoughtful, yet accessible, musing on the mysteries of the universe.

The novel begins with a father-son camping trip that Theo Byrne arranges as an extended time-out for his son, Robin, who is on the verge of being expelled from third grade because of his out-of-control behavior. Robin, who goes by Robbie, is 9 and has the usual challenges of children that age; other children bully him, for example, because of his name, which was given to him because it was his mother’s favorite bird.

Alyssa Byrne has been dead for two years, but her spirit is very much with her son and husband, who recite her favorite prayer every night: May every sentient being be free from unnecessary suffering. Alyssa was what is commonly known as an animal-rights activist, but without the red spray paint. She was a sharply intelligent, untiring force of nature who used natural winsomeness to alleviate the suffering of animals and to draw attention to mass extinctions under way. In the words of her husband, “She ionized any room, even a roomful of politicians.”

Alyssa’s sudden death (the details of which are slowly revealed) was catastrophic for the family, beyond usual ways. It left Theo an island with no support in his insistence that Robbie not be subjected to psychoactive drugs while the child’s mind was still developing. And it left Robbie, already prone to fits of rage and other antisocial behavior, obsessed with his mother and her causes. At one point, he decides to paint a picture of every endangered animal and sell the paintings to give to one of Alyssa’s favorite charities.

All this alone is fodder for a very good novel, especially given the sensitivity and insight that Powers brings to the challenges of parenting children with autism-spectrum disorders, especially for those doing so alone.

But Powers brings another layer to the story through Theo’s choice of career. A researcher who uses data and imagination to envision forms of life that could populate planets that have yet to be found, Theo shares these potential worlds with his son, who possesses extraordinary wisdom and empathy. Their conversations about the Fermi paradox (the fact that there is no evidence of extraterrestrial life despite the overwhelming odds that it exists) and other scientific concepts lend an intelligence to this novel that inferior literature lacks, and Theo’s descriptions of theoretical planets at times mirror what’s going on in the book. It’s a lovely dance, expertly choreographed by a master.

Robbie’s escalating problems lead Theo to seek out an experimental therapy called Decoded Neurofeedback, which Theo and Alyssa had participated in years ago. Using artificial intelligence, a subject’s brain is mapped, and then taught to steer toward another subject’s emotions. Because Alyssa’s data was available, it is eventually incorporated into Robbie’s treatment, and unforeseen consequences ensue.

This puts Theo, a science-fiction fan since childhood, deeper into an already mind-boggling dilemma — whether to continue with therapy that is apparently helping his son, even when unfolding events threaten to publicly expose Robbie’s participation in a controversial treatment.

As in The Overstory, Powers has points to make, about nature, humans’ oversized footprint on the planet, and politics. His occasional asides into the actions of a fictional president (clearly Donald Trump, or an imitator, though never directly identified as such) — such as a directive that all Americans carry proof of citizenship at all times — seems unnecessary, although there is an endearing fictional Greta Thunberg with whom Robbie falls in love and who is a perfect fit with this story. And when the reason for the title is finally revealed in the waning pages of the novel, it’s a political observation, but pitch-perfect no matter what ideology the reader embraces.

A Hollywood happy ending would betray the complexity of this deeply serious and heart-rending novel, so don’t look for that. But this should be a contender among the best novels of 2021.


Book Notes

If your life has been a little colder, a little drearier these days, maybe it’s because it’s November. Or maybe it’s because it’s been almost five years since the last BBC episode of Sherlock aired, and Benedict Cumberbatch is still being cagey about whether he will make another season.

No matter. There’s usually something new in the Holmes universe, and this month comes Miss Moriarty, I Presume? (Berkley, 368 pages) by Sherry Thomas, writer of something called “The Lady Sherlock Series.” The major characters are Charlotte Holmes and Mrs. Watson, and previous titles in the series include A Study in Scarlet Women and A Conspiracy in Belgravia. It’s anybody’s guess what Sir Arthur Conan Doyle would think of this, but the books have made the New York Times bestseller list.

Doyle died in 1930, but his inspired character lives in the genre of pastiche, literature written in the style, and with many of the same characters, as a famous work. Call it a more formal and tasteful style of fan fiction, one that satisfies the appetite for more and more stories of a beloved character.

British writer James Lovegrove has done this successfully with the Sherlock Holmes franchise, and he released a new novel in October: Sherlock Holmes and the Three Winter Terrors (Titan Books, 416 pages). That’s seasonal enough, but he also published Sherlock Holmes and the Christmas Demon two years ago (Titan, 384 pages). It seems that Halloween and Christmas are morphing into one big festival, probably starting with The Nightmare Before Christmas.

There are nine other Lovegrove/Sherlock books, and he’s also written a handful of short stories, published in anthologies, all listed on his website. That should be enough to keep you entertained until a fifth season of Sherlock comes out.

If not, there’s a Benedict Cumberbatch adult coloring book available on Amazon.

Book Events

Author events

MITCH ALBOM Author presents The Stranger in the Lifeboat. Virtual event hosted by Gibson’s Bookstore in Concord. Fri., Nov. 5, 7:30 p.m. Via Zoom. Registration required. Visit or call 224-0562.

KEN FOLLETT Author presents Never. Virtual event with author discussion and audience Q&A, hosted by The Music Hall in Portsmouth. Sun., Nov. 14, 1 p.m. Tickets cost $36 and include a book for in-person pickup at The Music Hall. Visit or call 436-2400.

TANJA HESTER Author presents Wallet Activism: How to Use Every Dollar You Spend, Earn, and Save as a Force for Change. Virtual event hosted by Gibson’s Bookstore in Concord. Mon., Nov. 22, 7 p.m. Via Zoom. Registration required. Visit or call 224-0562.

HILARY CROWLEY Author presents The Power of Energy Medicine. Virtual event hosted by Gibson’s Bookstore in Concord. Thurs., Nov. 18, 7 p.m. Via Zoom. Registration required. Visit or call 224-0562.

BRENE BROWN Author presents Atlas of the Heart. Virtual event hosted by Gibson’s Bookstore in Concord. Thurs., Dec. 2, 8 p.m. Via Zoom. Tickets cost $30. Ticket sales end Dec. 2, at noon. Visit or call 224-0562.


COVID SPRING II BOOK LAUNCHVirtual book launch celebrating COVID Spring II: More Granite State Pandemic Poems, an anthology of poetry by 51 New Hampshire residents about the pandemic experience in New Hampshire, now available through independent Concord-based publisher Hobblebush Books. Includes an introduction by Mary Russell, Director of the New Hampshire Center for the Book at the New Hampshire State Library. Sun., Nov. 7, 7 p.m. Virtual, via Zoom. Registration required. Visit or call 715-9615.

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

Book Clubs

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

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

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

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

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


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

Album Reviews 21/11/04

Alice Longyu Gao, High Dragon And Universe (self-released)

The current electronic music scene, this Chinese-born DJ is reported to have said, is “designed by heterosexual white men to guarantee their success.” I have no doubt that’s true; Gao wasn’t able to release this debut EP until she’d been at it for five years, even though she started out with a bang (her second DJ gig was the launch party for A$AP Mob’s VLONE streetwear line). Based in New York and L.A. these days, she’s a cross between a fashion plate and a fake-12-year-old Twitter goofball; she wastes no time mindlessly getting up in your grill with opening bling brag “100 Boyfriends,” evoking a combination of Da Brat and Missy Elliot as processed through a grime-o-meter set to “bust your eardrums” on the bass-throb end. Past that utter mindlessness, she does have some pop sensibilities (I mean come on, that’s where this would be going anyway), but for now she’s focused on club stuff, heavy on the hearing-test panoplies. Good luck to her, I suppose. B

Toth, Death EP (Northern Spy Records)

Really, another Brooklyn hipster who sounds like Bon Iver? I am really about out of words to describe this kind of stuff, and I’m not seeing any reviews that nail it in a sonic sense (Aquarium Drunkard’s reviewer went with “a Beach Boys session produced by Brian Eno,” which was close enough I suppose. I mean, I have no idea how anyone can even take this stuff seriously anymore, really truly). I dunno, to me, this is Grizzly Bear with a heavy infusion of Vampire Weekend getaway-indie, not that there’s anything interesting going on as far as syncopation or percussion. But the more I listen to it, the more I have to admit it’s next-gen, in a way, at least toward the end of evoking images of sipping umbrella drinks in a sleepy cabana; the overall vibe is José González but with a little personality. The theme is alcoholism, a disease with which singer Alex Toth has had his bouts and which claimed a relative, an event that inspired this five-songer, not that anyone would have the foggiest idea that that’s what this fluff is about. B


• On to the winter months and the yearly misery time, it’s November, and there will be new music albums coming out, on the 5th! Soon enough we’ll get the worst of it, like when you’re already running late and you go outside to start the car but it’s completely frozen in a block of ice, like a woolly mammoth with all-weather tires, and you’re scraping like the dickens with an empty CD case or whatever, but it’s basically Krazy Glue. Hey, man, I told you months ago to move to Georgia, yet here you are, so let’s just get to the business at hand, making ultra-jillionaire Diana Ross a few more dollars by helping to sell her new album, Thank You, which is coming to the stores as we speak. Pretty sure she put out an album last year, so the only reason she would want to put out another one so soon is that she must be starting her own NASA, like her fellow gazillionaires, and she needs people to buy this album in order to buy a few candy machines for her Diana-NASA cafeteria. Wait, no, this is the same dumb album that was supposed to come out in August, the one where I said the title track was a “shapeless, formless blob of Foxwoods glitz-pop.” Whatever, this time for sure, I assume!

Aimee Mann was once a Gen-X It Girl, the Boston-based singing lady from ’Til Tuesday, and then she turned herself into a meme by becoming Jules Shear’s groupie, and it was super funny, but these days, she’s out on her own, making albums. I know one Hippo reader who like totally loves Aimee Mann; I won’t try to explain that, but I respect it. Her Christmas album was pretty good, the one from 2006 or whenever it was. Let’s see, what else, she won Best Songwriter or whatever in a few contests that were basically run by big-ass record companies that had to somehow promote artistes like Aimee Mann, I do know that, and, like anyone else who’s old, I remember making out with someone at a club while her big song “Voices Carry” was playing. And that’s all my brain has on this subject, so let’s ’ave a look at her fast-approaching new album, Queens Of The Summer Hotel, and its single, “Suicide Is Murder.” It’s a kooky piano ballad, with disturbing lyrics I won’t get into here. Hm, she looks like a librarian in the video. I think the guy in the video is a semi-famous actor, like someone who lasted like three episodes on The Walking Dead, but I could be wrong, which I’m allowed, as I haven’t misreported anything for at least a week I think.

• Oh, boy, what a week, what could possibly be next. Ah, it’s indie-rock singer Penelope Isles, with an album called Which Way To Happy. I asked Google who she is, and Google was all like, “I don’t know, would you rather talk about Thanksgiving decorating ideas instead?” But after some digging — which I really wasn’t interested in doing — come to find out “Penelope Isles” is just the stage name of goofy Twitter girl Lily Wolter, from England. Wait what, she only has 88 followers. Why am I doing this, again? Whatever, my “Important Notes For Professional Music Critics” feed, a.k.a., thinks she’s important, so I’ll traipse over and listen to “Sailing Still,” her new single. It’s basically a pre-shoegaze thing, with giant Chris Isaak guitars, and she’s singing like Carole King on Rohypnol. All set with this, let’s finish this week up.

• We’ll close the week with Voyage, the new album from Swedish ’70s-pop band ABBA! Ha ha, these ridiculously famous circus clowns came to hate each other so much they haven’t done an album in 40 years. The new single, “I Still Have Faith In You,” is a giant yelly power ballad for blue-haired grandmothers, you might love it, I don’t know.

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).

Trillium and some random hoppy beers

You’ve got to respect the hops

Because she’s a hero, my wife made a reservation at Trillium Brewing Co.’s Canton, Mass., location. And because she’s a hero and made the reservation, we didn’t have to wait in line.

For those who have never been, like myself up until a couple weeks ago: It’s an impressive spot with an expansive indoor/outdoor facility right off the highway about 20 minutes or so outside of Boston. With an incredible variety of fresh, delicious and unique brews, it’s no wonder currently has Trillium tabbed as the fourth-best brewery in the world.

If you can time it right or if your partner is also a hero and makes a reservation (you need to have a party of at least six), then it’s absolutely worth the drive. Not only is the beer incredible; the food is terrific as well — we ate way too much scrumptious pizza.

I’d had a couple Trillium brews over the years but I couldn’t remember which ones. I started with a Summer Street IPA, which is wonderful, featuring big citrus and pine flavors in a pretty dry and crisp overall package.

My wife went with the Barrel-Aged Affrogato, which is hands-down the most decadent beer I’ve ever sipped, with huge notes of bourbon, vanilla, coffee and sweet brown sugar.

Sticking with hoppy beers, I tried the Double Dry Hopped Stillings Street, which is another super aromatic IPA characterized by an array of melony aromas and flavors, a soft mouthfeel and borderline nonexistent bitterness.

I rounded it out with the Mosaic Free Rise, a dry-hopped saison, which is a bit of a departure for me, but this was delightful. Crisp, fruity, dry and a little spicy, Free Rise is one of the brewery’s signature saisons.

I felt like I sufficiently experienced the brewery’s hoppy beers, but on another trip, I’d want to better explore Trillium’s array of imperial stouts, like the Coffee Cake Imperial Stout and the Barrel-Aged German Chocolate Cake Doughnut Imperial Stout, most of which land north of 13 percent ABV, just so you know.

Trillium also features a big list of wild ales that deserve your attention as well.

As we left, the line had grown considerably. If you can’t make a reservation, my advice is to get there early — they open at noon on Saturday. You don’t want to be in that line.

Trillium was terrific and I have to be honest, I’ve been all about the hops lately. Here are three hoppy beers I’ve enjoyed over the past few weeks.

Lush Double IPA by Frost Beer Works (Hinesburg, Vermont)

This is rich and juicy and that’s not a typo. I’m not used to referring to an IPA as rich but this one is. It’s velvety smooth and boasts a big-time citrus flavor. You might have to track this down in Vermont or in a beer store just over the border in Massachusetts — and you should track this down.

Full Clip NEIPA by Stoneface Brewing Co. (Newington)

I hadn’t had this New England IPA in a long time and the first sip reminded me why I like it so much: juicy, vibrant and drinkable. It’s an explosion of tropical and citrus flavor but in an overall package that is quite approachable.

Victory Nor Defeat by Able Ebenezer Brewing Co. (Merrimack)

This double IPA is a wonderful rendition of a West Coast IPA that hits you with big flavor, including plenty of piney hop character and a delightful bitterness.

What’s in my fridge

Giant Pumpkin Imperial Pumpkin Ale by Greater Good Imperial Brewing Co. (Worcester, Mass.) If you don’t like pumpkin, move along. This is an absolute bomb of pumpkin flavor. It’s a little sweet, it’s a little spicy and it’s exceptionally smooth. Despite its relatively high ABV at 8 percent, it drinks very easily — it’s a little dangerous, honestly. I’m hit or miss on pumpkin beers but this was a decided hit. Cheers!

Featured photo: Lush Double IPA by Frost Beer Works. Photo courtesy of Jeff Mucciarone

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