Old school

After country detour, Lit returns rocking

“My Own Worst Enemy” could be the post-grunge era’s “Free Bird.” Released by Lit in 1999, the raucously rocking tale of misadventure is a fitting touchstone for that cultural moment. With its staccato opening guitar riff and a wailing chorus of “please tell me why” that’s both desperate and arrogant, it provided just the right coda for a musically chaotic decade.

The song also changed the lives of the band that made it. Lit began in a Southern California living room with a bunch of teenage pals chasing rock ’n’ roll dreams. The core group — brothers Jeremy and A. Jay Popoff, Kevin Baldes and Allen Shellenberger — formed in 1989 with a now long-gone member as Razzle, toiled in L.A. clubs and looked for a record deal.

Ten years later, the hordes at Woodstock 99 were singing along to their song.

They’ve haven’t lost sight of how special that is. “The song has legs of its own, it’s its own animal,” Kevin Baldes said by phone recently. “But we’re still rock fans, we still buy albums. We still love listening to new music and old music, and we can’t believe that we’re a part of the … Americana fabric. ‘My Own Worst. Enemy’ is in there. It feels good; we don’t take it for granted at all.”

It’s an iconic track, but far from their only one. The band’s punkier-than-thou tour manager said it wasn’t even their best. Lit’s major label debut, A Place In the Sun, recently reissued on white vinyl, had great songs like “Miserable,” “No Big Thing” and “Zip Lock.” Their upcoming album Tastes Like Gold furthers the case that Lit might be selling out stadiums today if Napster and file sharing hadn’t crippled the music business right after the world first noticed them.

Due for release June 17, the first three singles from the new disc show the band in full stride. “Mouth Shut,” the latest, takes their most famous song and reworks it for the internet age. “I don’t regret what I said, I just regret hitting send,” sings A. Jay. “I shoulda stayed in my head.”

Baldes is eager for fans to hear more. “If you like A Place in the Sun, Tastes Like Gold is like right there for you, man,” he said. “It’s awesome. There’s some great stuff. I can’t wait for it to come out and people to hear all the songs … friends that have heard the new album have come to me with their favorites, and it’s all over the place.”

It’s their first studio effort since These Are the Days. That album was a detour into modern country that confused many, The Popoff brothers currently reside in Nashville, and the 2017 record reflected that.

For Baldes, it feels good to be back to old-school Lit. “I got ‘Johnny Cash’ tattooed on my arm [so] I got a couple of drops of country blood in me,” he said, adding “Someday Maybe” was a particular favorite. “Jeremy and A. Jay … accumulated quite a few songs and [said] let’s try this out as Lit, these are kind of fun. Something different … that’s how it all evolved.”

He concedes they may have enjoyed it more than some fans. “That particular album kind of went sideways a little bit — I think in a good way. A lot of people loved it, but some were scratching their heads,” he said. “We felt it, and we were like, alright, this next record has to be in the hard rock arena.”

It’s perfectly consistent for a band that went from sounding like Motley Crue in their days as Razzle to punk metal on their indie debut Tripping the Light Fantastic while on their way to the version that struck “My Own Worst Enemy” gold.

“People know Lit as being what it’s always been, a rock band,” Baldes said. “But if you’re a huge fan, you know that we duck and weave quite a bit — there is no road map for us. We just kind of blindly get in the driver’s seat and go wherever it takes us.”

Lit w/ Chad Perrone
When: Friday, June 3, 8 p.m.
Where: Tupelo Music Hall, 10 A St., Derry
Tickets: $38 and up at tupelohall.com

Featured photo: Lit. Courtesy photo.

The Music Roundup 22/06/02

Local music news & events

In memoriam: A long-running Goth and Industrial Night remembers Depeche Mode founder and keyboard player Andrew Fletcher, who died on May 26 at age 60. DJs Pet, OmegaTelik and Boss Salvage provide the music to celebrate the English electronic band, which was deservedly inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2020. The event happens every other week at the downtown venue. Thursday, June 2, 9 p.m., Jewel Music Venue, 61 Canal St., Manchester, admission $5 before 10 p.m., $7 after (18+).

Helping out: A pair of local standups are featured at a comedy fundraiser. Drew Dunn and Paul Landwehr entertain in support of Game Plan Sports, an organization that helps young athletes with strength and conditioning programs. Dunn is a past winner of comedy competitions in Boston, Seattle and Burbank. Landwehr has appeared on NPR and Tupelo Night of Comedy. Friday, June 3, 7 p.m., Stark Mill Brewing Co., 500 N. Commercial St., Manchester, tickets are $25 at GamePlanSportsNH.org.

New music: Alternative rock band No More Blue Tomorrows play a hometown show in Nashua. The group — guitarists Connor Coburn and Zak Lombard, plus drummer Peter Owen Davis — has stayed busy recording during the past year. Among their best songs is “For Forever,” with both steel guitar and a classic rock solo at the end that sounds like it came from a Thin Lizzy album. A new video, “Chaperone,” dropped in May. Saturday, June 4, 9 p.m., Peddler’s Daughter, 48 Main St., Nashua. See facebook.com/nomorebluetomorrows.

Sandy picking: Enjoy bluegrass music on a beachfront deck as Keller & The Keels perform. The trio — guitarist Keller Williams, and the married couple of award-winning flat picker Larry Keel and his superb bass-playing wife, Jenny — have played together off and on since 2004. Williams, who recently released his 27th album, Grit, made with a full band, calls their infrequent get-togethers “acoustic picking parties.” Sunday, June 5, 8 p.m., Bernie’s Beach Bar, 73 Ocean Blvd., Hampton Beach, $25 at ticketmaster.com.

Song man: Along with performing with several units, Alex Roy plays out as a solo acoustic singer/guitarist, covering everything from AC/DC to Zac Brown Band. The most prominent of his affiliations is Spark the Rescue, a national touring act that has appeared with All Time Low, Red Jumpsuit Apparatus and Mayday Parade, among others. Lately he’s part of Holly Heist, a rocked-up cover quartet appearing throughout the region. Wednesday, June 8, 5 p.m., Stumble Inn, 20 Rockingham Road, Londonderry. See alexroyband.com.

Top Gun: Maverick (PG-13)

Top Gun: Maverick (PG-13)

Enjoy some long, lingering shots of military aircraft — old airplanes, new airplanes, airplanes going fast, airplanes doing crazy maneuvers — in the lookbook of sexy planes that is Top Gun: Maverick, a movie that also has some people, but mostly they’re incidental to all the cool airplanes.

Look, I like a flying machine as much as the next Josephine and, sure, the jets featured here are particularly cool, with all their aerobatic maneuvers. But this movie is way hotter for the airplanes than it is for any of the humans.

Good ole Pete Mitchell, a.k.a. Maverick (Tom Cruise), is still in the Navy, still smirking and ignoring orders and still flying faster than anyone on Earth, as one crew member says when he flies a hypersonic jet to Mach 10 despite being told to abort the experimental flight. (Because Maverick, who has got to be around Tom Cruise’s age of 59, is still a hot-shot pilot and not a crazy medical liability? Don’t think about it too hard, I guess.)

While that particular bit of insubordination should get him in some kind of trouble, instead he is sent to teach the young hot shot pilots the Top Gun fighter pilot training school. The Navy has only a few weeks to prepare for a mission to blow up some kind of secret nuclear facility in (unnamed) enemy territory. The mission involves flying through mountainous, anti-aircraft missile-studded terrain (it’s remarkably similar to the mission to blow up the Death Star) and Maverick is picked by his longtime friend, Admiral Tom Kazansky, Iceman (Val Kilmer), to be the one to teach the elite pilots who will go on the mission. The aggressively cocky pilots include Rooster (Miles Teller), as Lt. Bradley Bradshaw is known. The movie goes hard with some mustache styling and piano playing to convince us that Rooster is the son left behind by Goose, Maverick’s old friend and wingman who died in the first movie.

Maverick is nervous about training Rooster, whom he feels protective toward (and who also super hates Maverick), but takes the gig because Admiral Simpson (Jon Hamm) tells him this is his last chance to fly or something — those “Maverick and his superior officers” scenes don’t have much staying power. “Bark! bark! bark!” is how all of Hamm’s dialogue sounded to me.

Meanwhile, Maverick has a lady friend named Penny (Jennifer Connelly). She owns the bar everybody hangs out in, she has a daughter (not Maverick’s), they have a past and she’s basically happy to see Maverick again. She is not a person with an interior life and a personality beyond “bar owner who awkwardly kisses Maverick.”

We are still light on big movie star event films and this is definitely that, Tom Cruise being The Last Great Movie Star, as so many movie-critic-types have observed lately. While this isn’t his most personable or captivating role ever, it isn’t off-putting. And I have a soft spot in my heart for nostalgia — I loved the “let’s do original Star Wars again!” vibe of Star Wars: The Force Awakens and I am very excited for the forthcoming fifth season of Cobra Kai, which isn’t so different from Top Gun: Maverick in that it takes some iconic 1980s characters and catches up with them in the present. But from the initial cowbell-gong noises (you know the one) and “Danger Zone,” this movie started to wear me out.

While Cobra Kai has let those Karate Kid characters grow and let the world around them change and just generally has some perspective on itself, Maverickand Maverick are still solidly stuck in the mid 1980s. Sure, the Karate Kid movies were underdog stories and Top Gun comes from a more muscley overdog-type place, but they both existed in the very particular 1980s-y culture at roughly the same time. Top Gun: Maverick, though set in the now, feels like it is still there, still doing 1986, without even any “kids these days” differences between the pilots then and the pilots now. There is little sign that Maverick has in any way grown or lived a life for the last 35 years. The only acknowledgment that time has passed for him and that we’re in the present is when various people say the word “drones.”

If you go to this movie in the theater and have fun, that’s fine. The shots of two planes spiraling around each other or whipping through canyons are cool and are a pretty good argument for seeing things on a big screen. And the movie has a very kind Val Kilmer cameo.

If you wait and see this movie at home some Saturday evening, that is also fine — stunts aside, it is maybe, with the opportunity to rewind and to have “hey, remember in the first movie when” conversations, even the more fun way to view this movie. The movie itself feels C+ in its non-airborne moments, but I’d go to a B- if you really like planes and miss being at air shows.

Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense action and some strong language, according to the MPA on filmratings.com. Directed by Joseph Kosinski with a screenplay by Ehren Kruger and Eric Warren Singer and Christopher McQuarrie, Top Gun: Maverick is two hours and 11 minutes long and distributed in theaters by Paramount Pictures.

Featured photo: Top Gun: Maverick.

The Immortal King Rao, by Vauhini Vara

The Immortal King Rao, by Vauhini Vara (W.W. Norton & Co., 384 pages)

Commercially successful fiction usually doesn’t make the reader work too hard. The story typically flows in a fast-running river, propelled by familiarity and forum. No brows need furrowing, no paragraphs or sentences re-read.

Vauhini Vara could have gone that route with her debut novel, The Immortal King Rao, for at its simplest, the plot has all the markers of prime Hollywood fare: A brilliant and eccentric tech titan creates technology to essentially offload one’s consciousness into another person, as a climate-ravaged planet transforms society into a socialist dystopia.

Instead, Vara added layers of complexity, making her titular character an immigrant who was born into the lowest caste in India and then moved to the United States to get a graduate degree. Naming a child born of rape “King” is an act of defiance and hope performed by the aunt who raises the child after his mother died in childbirth. Yet King Rao himself is dead as the novel begins. His effect on the world is largely told by his daughter, who is in jail, accused of killing her father.

As a father, King was “uncommonly old” and raised his daughter largely on his own, after he had been forced out, not only from Coconut, the massively influential tech company that he founded, but also from society in general. At the peak of his power, King was something like a combination of Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk, with a sprinkling of Karl Marx. He just happened to be all this, and also a Dalit, an “untouchable” in India’s caste society.

In America, however, he rose to the potential of his name.

King Rao had, Vara writes, “rescued the planet from nation-state rule, which was bringing society to ruin, and engineered a calm and peaceful transition to Shareholder Government, under which the world’s citizens collectively owned its corporations.”

Worldwide, societies were run not by human leaders but by the “Master Algorithm” that Coconut developed. Rather than money, people traded in Social Capital, “based on the Algo’s prediction of the actual value they had produced.” The Master Algorithm also decided what schoolchildren would be taught (the curriculum was the same worldwide) and what punishment would be given to criminals.

This large-scale transformation had been enabled, in part, by the myriad breakdowns occurring on “Hothouse Earth.” But not surprisingly, not everyone signed on to this system, resulting in deadly rioting. Instead of punishing the objectors, the Master Algorithm ruled that they could live on islands that came to be known as “the Blanklands.” These people came to be known as “exes” and leaving society was called “exing.”

And King Rao and his daughter became exes, too, as a requirement of the algorithm’s judgment.

Living in almost total isolation on an island in Puget Sound, Athena has a largely blissful life as a child with her doting father. But when she turns 7, she starts to experience something akin to visions. When, for example, her father calls her “Puffin,” one of her nicknames, she suddenly can see images of the birds, “their potbellied stomachs thrust forward as if they were businessmen at a conference.”

She also suddenly has knowledge of puffins that she has not been taught — such as the fact that prior to their extinction, people in Iceland used to trap puffins for food in a net on a pole, and this was called “sky fishing.”

Athena’s brain, in effect, had absorbed the internet through a product her father’s company had invented called “The Harmonica.” It was to be King’s crowning achievement, yet the technology had failed — not because it was a moral problem, but because of an engineering fail that resulted in the deaths of test subjects.

But King had managed to have the genetic code implanted in a frozen embryo that would eventually be Athena. “His decision to leave the mainland, to take up residence on Blake Island instead of one of the established islands — all of it was meant to keep the world from discovering the project of my existence,” Athena says.

King experimented on himself, too, and Athena can experience his memories. So she is able to explore his early years, his relationship with her mother and how she came to be, in the comfort and safety of her own mind, even as her physical safety becomes increasingly uncertain.

Like King, the author — who has been a reporter and editor for The Wall Street Journal and The New Yorker — hails from a Dalit family. She has said it took 12 years to write the novel, and it shows. It is a finely layered story with a beginning that is difficult to get through, not only because of the subject matter (the sexual assault of a child and a marital rape occur in the first chapter), but also because it’s challenging to keep up with various Rao family backstories that seem not to matter. The novel quickly picks up speed, but even so, readers may find little to emotionally connect them with the characters. The ending is jarring, but elicits little more than a pained “oh.”

The Immortal King Rao is clearly a cautionary tale about something; it’s just not entirely clear what. Still, it manages to be inventive and often lyrical in the telling and was 12 years well spent. B

Book Notes

Little, Brown & Co. is billing James Patterson’s latest book as “the most anticipated memoir of 2022,” and the publisher is probably not wrong, given that its competition right now includes memoirs by political strategist Kellyanne Conway (Here’s the Deal, Threshold, 512 pages) and actress Melissa Gilbert (Back to the Prairie, Gallery, 282 pages).

Patterson has written or co-written more than 200 books, and The Washington Post has said of him, “In book publishing, there is James Patterson — and basically everyone else.”

Still, there’s something that smacks of hubris in the title of the book, which is James Patterson, The Stories of My Life. Which means the listings of the book say James Patterson by James Patterson. You can get away with that when you’re James Patterson. The memoir is 400 pages and comes out on Monday.

While we’re on the subject of writers writing about writers, we may as well move on to books about books and readers, which is suddenly a thing.

The Woman in the Library (Poisoned Pen Press, 288 pages), also out next week, is by Sulari Gentill and is billed as an “unexpectedly twisty literary adventure” set in the reading room of the Boston Public Library.

Emily Henry’s Book Lovers (Berkley, 384 pages) is a romance novel about a literary agent and a book editor who keep encountering each other while vacationing in North Carolina. (Definitely a beach read from an author whose previous titles include 2020’s Beach Read.)

And in August comes Bookish People (Harper Muse, 336 pages), a comedic novel by Susan Coll that is set in the world of an independent bookstore in Washington, D.C., and will appeal to anyone who might name a cat Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

Book Events

Author events

JAMIE RASKIN Author and congressman presents Unthinkable: Trauma, Truth and the Trials of American Democracy. Gibson’s Bookstore, 45 S. Main St., Concord. Fri., June 3, 11 a.m. Visit gibsonsbookstore.com or call 224-0562.

AMOS J LANDON Author presents debut novel The Girl, The Pig, and the Accidental Demon. Sat., June 4, 2 p.m. Toadstool Bookstore, Somerset Plaza, 375 Amherst St., Nashua. Visit toadbooks.com.

ANDREA PAQUETTE Author presents Loveable: How Women Can Heal Their Sensitive Hearts and Live and Love as Their True Selves. Sat., June 18, 6 p.m. Toadstool Bookstore, Somerset Plaza, 375 Amherst St., Nashua. Visit toadbooks.com.

PAUL DOIRON Author presents Hatchet Island. Gibson’s Bookstore, 45 S. Main St., Concord. Wed., June 29, 6:30 p.m. Visit gibsonsbookstore.com or call 224-0562.

PAUL BROGAN Author presents A Sprinkling of Stardust Over the Outhouse. Gibson’s Bookstore, 45 S. Main St., Concord. Thurs., June 30, 6:30 p.m. Visit gibsonsbookstore.com or call 224-0562.


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

Writers groups

MERRIMACK VALLEY WRITERS’ GROUP All published and unpublished local writers who are interested in sharing their work with other writers and giving and receiving constructive feedback are invited to join. The group meets regularly Email pembrokenhtownlibrary@gmail.com.

Book Clubs

BOOKERY Monthly. Third Thursday, 6 p.m. 844 Elm St., Manchester. Visit bookerymht.com/online-book-club or call 836-6600.

GIBSON’S BOOKSTORE Online, via Zoom. Monthly. First Monday, 5:30 p.m. Bookstore based in Concord. Visit gibsonsbookstore.com/gibsons-book-club-2020-2021 or call 224-0562.

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

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

BELKNAP MILL Online. Monthly. Last Wednesday, 6 p.m. Based in Laconia. Email bookclub@belknapmill.org.

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


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 facnh.com/education or call 623-1093.

Album Reviews 22/06/02

Nicki Bluhm, Avondale Drive (Compass Records)

Today I learned that even Idris Elba had to get his start somewhere, because I’m like 100 percent sure he’s the bartender in the video for Tracy Chapman’s 1995 hit “Give Me One Reason.” I was looking for RIYL-type comparisons for the subject at hand, the latest LP from a blues-soul lady who’s from Nashville by way of San Francisco of all places, and Chapman definitely is a similar artist, so, voila. So is Linda Ronstadt, while I’m at it, not that anyone will ever have Ronstadt’s unmatchable voice, but Bluhn does try in her way. Avondale Drive is Bluhm’s second album, a milestone that usually comes with a pocketful of bad luck, but in this case it’s steady-as-she-goes, especially for listeners who are looking for a more interesting singer than Sheryl Crow (email me for the full 100-page list). Her breezy, mildly boozy and catchy little tunes address such subjects as middle-aged dating (“Love to Spare”) and failed marriage (the waltz-timed “Juniper Woodsmoke”). Bonnie Raitt fans would probably be into this also. A

Kisskadee, Black Hole Era (Anxiety Blanket Records)

Hope Sandoval on fen-phen pretty much captures what this stuff is, a dreamy, quirky but fairly artistic LP from the Los Angeles multi-instrumentalist. This album is said to be redolent of a “maximalist” approach, which makes literally no sense to me; when she’s lilting in her helium-wombat voice whilst playing bare-bones acoustic guitar underneath, it’s more like some sort of lost soundtrack to a made-on-the-cheap independent film or a particularly disjointed scene from Euphoria, not that there’s anything inherently wrong with that, but come on, that’s minimalist, I don’t care how long such shibboleths are supposed to live these days. So it’s a coming-of-age record, then, obviously aimed at Zoomers who are beginning to realize they won’t be able to play Elden Ring as their full-time job, but that terrible news is delivered by this lady as gently as possible, despite its fetish for bizarre time signatures. It’s OK. A


• Can you believe it, we’re basically into summer, folks, as the next general-release date for all the hot new rock ’n’ roll record albums is Friday, June 3. Bring on the beach, baby, I am 110 percent ready, and let’s just get right into it with Auto-Tuned cultural appropriator Post Malone, whose latest full-length, Twelve Carat Toothache, is shipping right now! OK, back up a few syllables, it’s not cool to accuse “Post” of cultural appropriation, just because he sounds like some sort of trap-hop also-ran or because rapper Lil B said he expects ole Posty to go full-on country music in a few years (which is probably going to happen for sure, if, as one Redditor put it, he doesn’t have to quit the rap game because he can barely even sing anymore), I mean let’s just be nice. But whatever, at least the guy is an expert on U.S. political history, like hey, man, he has a tattoo of U.S. president John F. Kennedy on his arm, which he got because Kennedy was “the only President to speak out against the crazy corruption stuff that’s going on in our government nowadays,” a non sequitur that totally ignores Dwight Eisenhower’s warning about the military industrial complex (that really happened, homies, look it up!). But OK, fine, he’s a rock star, not some pundit who’s going to go on Meet The Press pushing a book about Millard Fillmore, so let’s pretend he isn’t some sort of disposable bubblegum-rap charlatan and discuss his new single “Red Line.” It’s basically “Rockstar” wearing a glued-on beard and flirting with reggaeton (hey, that stuff still sells, I’m telling you!), all in all another step toward his launching a Vegas act in 2035 or whenever he gets tired of tatting himself silly.

• Since 1996, Athens, Georgia, country-rock band Drive-By Truckers has been wild about touring to any venue that’ll have them, including shows right here in New Hampshire at Meadowbrook in Gilford, New Hampshire (2018) and Club Casino in Hampton (2014). The band peaked in 2014 with their English Oceans album, which is generally considered a southern rock record that was marred only by some boring songwriting that was Patterson Hood’s fault. But we’re all friends here, right, so let’s have a look at their upcoming 14th LP, Welcome 2 Club XIII, and see if the new single will do well enough to allow these guys to just sit and chill and count their royalty checks instead of having to visit every mid-sized rock club from here to Copenhagen once again. Yeah, about that, the title track is kind of a joke song, like Barenaked Ladies meets Neil Young, the sort of bar-band oatmeal that’s been irrelevant since 1984 or whatnot. Have fun at the Ace of Spades bar in Sacramento again, guys!

• First there was KISS, the band that dressed up like sort-of-monsters, and then came Richmond, Virginia’s GWAR, a.k.a. “KISS For Idiots,” who dress up like actual monsters to detract from their mediocre metal nonsense! Their 15th album, The New Dark Ages, is only their second since the death of their singer “Oderus Urungus,” and it includes a tune called — well, never mind, I can’t repeat the title here, but it has the word “Liar” in it. It sounds like Rob Zombie around the time he had completely run out of ideas (I know, I know). Hey, did you know this band has its own brand of barbecue sauce? It’s true, and I’ll bet it’s totally awesome!

• We’ll end this week’s rundown with Outta Sight, the new LP from Canadian southern/blues rock band The Sheepdogs! Their trip aims to “land in the sweet spot in between Led Zeppelin and Crosby Stills & Nash,” but the single, “Find The Truth,” is more like a B-Side from 38 Special. Ah, you have no idea who that is, that’s OK, never mind.

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).

Fishing and beer

They go together like peanut butter and jelly

Years ago, I would team up with my brother and two close friends for an annual fishing trip, a true “guys” weekend, bringing together a day of fishing and, you guessed it, beer.

We’d camp the night before, cook dinner (hot dogs) over a fire, share stories and drink some beer. We’d awaken in the still-dark hours the next morning and board a boat, coolers in hand, and we’d spend the bulk of the day trying to catch fish — and drinking beer.

How early is too early to crack a beer? Does time even exist on the water?

We’d troll for stripers and bluefish for hours, taking turns reeling in fish and passing beers and more stories. Aside from just enjoying fishing and beer, there was something therapeutic about being on the water with good friends and some good craft beer.

In what can only be described as a stunning development, particularly with all that beer involved, we no longer go on these fishing trips due to fairly consistent seasickness.

Whether you’re on land or on a boat or wading in a river, and whether you’re by yourself or sharing stories with friends, there is just something about fishing and beer. I’m quite certain beer doesn’t help you do a better job of catching fish, but I’m just as certain beer does, in fact, help make for a better overall experience, in moderation of course.

For me, enjoying a beer while fishing does help me ease up a bit on the rod, as I can sort of lose myself and grip it just a bit too tight otherwise — so that’s something.

This might be a touch of bologna, but when I’m fishing, I feel like I’m more in touch with my surroundings. I’m paying attention to the conditions, the flow of the water, the breeze, the scenery and so on. I’m trying to spot fish or bait or any activity that might point me toward fish. The slightest ripple or splash could be the indicator.

A quality craft brew isn’t going to enhance my senses, of course, but I think in that frame of mind, I’m able to enjoy and savor the beer perhaps more than usual. Maybe it’s just because I’m doing something I love.

There’s no right or wrong beer when it comes to fishing, but here are three New Hampshire brews I would certainly enjoy while fishing.

8 Weight Double IPA by Northwoods Brewing Co. (Northwood)

It just feels right to kick this off with a beer from a brewery whose logo is a fishing fly and with a beer named after a fishing rod. As the brewery points out, eight weight fly rods are generally used in saltwater to handle big fish. This brew is bold, but as the brewery notes, it “balances bitterness, sweetness and booziness.” Still piney, this beer is big on citrus flavors and booze as it comes in at 8.6 percent ABV. This would be a great one to enjoy as you wrap up a day of fishing.

Hoppy Saison with Mosaic & Ella by Stoneface Brewing Co. (Newington)

Saisons are just interesting. They feature such a range of flavors. They can be fruity, spicy, earthy — and they can be all of those things at once. This one features some pronounced fruit notes up front, but finishes crisp and dry. Fairly light-bodied and sessionable at 5.5 percent ABV, this is packed with flavor and complexity. This would be perfect to enjoy during an early summer afternoon streamside.

Four Rivers Red by Concord Craft Brewing (Concord)

I just love the deep color of this brew. While this is extremely drinkable, it has a richness to it that sets it apart. It’s malty, just a tiny bit sweet and very smooth. It gives you a touch of complexity to ponder as you fish New Hampshire’s many lakes and ponds.

What’s in My Fridge
She Sells Seashells by Throwback Brewing (North Hampton)
This salted blond all is crisp, flavorful and refreshing and perfect on a screaming hot summer day. Cheers.

Featured photo. Courtesy photo.

Asparagus, feta and lemon salad

With June comes fresh produce from local fields, including asparagus. This recipe does a fine job of highlighting this vegetable while also adding some textures and flavors.

Let’s talk about the star ingredient. Asparagus almost always is sold in bundles that are about a pound in total. However, what varies immensely is the size of each spear. Sometimes the bundle is composed of 40 skinny stalks, and other times you get a bundle of a dozen spears. Thus, when making this recipe, you need to base the roasting time on the size of your asparagus.

The other ingredients are pretty straightforward: lemon, feta, almonds. For almonds, I prefer using sliced over slivered, as they are thinner and offer a more delicate crunch. If you can’t find sliced, slivered will work well enough.

This salad is best when eaten chilled. Although you may be tempted to serve or eat it once it is made, I highly recommend waiting the extra 30 minutes. On a hot summer day, you will be glad that you did so.

Asparagus, feta and lemon salad
Makes 2 side salads

1 pound asparagus
1 Tablespoon olive oil
salt & pepper
1 lemon
2 to 3 Tablespoons feta
1 to 2 Tablespoons sliced almonds

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Trim ends from asparagus. (This should be where the stalk changes from white to green.)
Place asparagus on a rimmed baking pan; drizzle with olive oil, toss.
Season with salt and pepper.
Depending on the thickness of your asparagus, roast for 5 to 12 minutes.*
Transfer asparagus to a cutting board and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Cut asparagus into bite-sized pieces.
Divide asparagus between two salad plates.
Cut lemon in half, reserving one half for a different use.
Zest the remaining half, and sprinkle over asparagus.
Then juice the same half and drizzle over asparagus.
Top with feta crumbles and almonds.
Chill individual salads for an additional 30 minutes.

  • Check for doneness starting at 5 minutes. You want the asparagus to be easily pierced by a fork but not to be mushy.

Featured Photo: Asparagus, feta and lemon salad. Photo by Michele Pesula Kuegler.

Bacon my way downtown

Annual bacon and beer festival returns

By Jack Walsh


Crispy, savory bacon dishes and unique flavors of beer are the two main focuses of the highly anticipated NH Bacon & Beer Festival, set to return rain or shine to Anheuser-Busch Brewery in Merrimack on Saturday, June 4.

The sixth annual event, a fundraiser for the High Hopes Foundation of New Hampshire, is expected to be the largest to date. There will be around 50 craft brewers — twice as many as there were last year — and 25 bacon samples from area restaurants and competitive barbecuing teams, totalling up to three times the amount from last year. Additionally, there will be a new Pulled Pork People’s Choice Contest, consisting of more than 25 pulled pork samples from competition teams across the Northeast.

Just before the festival, hundreds of pounds of bacon provided by North Country Smokehouse are distributed among the food vendors, each of whom has the creative freedom to incorporate it how they would like into their dishes. Bacon-inspired eats such as bacon cheese fries, bacon pizza, bacon-wrapped Italian sausage, maple bacon scallops, spring green salad with bacon bits, and maple bacon ice cream will all be on the menu throughout the day.

Despite ongoing staffing and supply challenges due to the pandemic, event organizer Jeremy Garrett said last year’s Bacon & Beer Festival raised the most money since its launch — around $165,000. Proceeds directly benefit the High Hopes Foundation, a Nashua-based nonprofit that provides life-enhancing experiences to chronically and terminally ill children.

“We have a number of restaurants and food trucks,” Garrett said. “It’s a unique event to support a great cause. … It’s going to be the biggest one we’ve ever had.”

There will be a few small up and coming breweries in attendance, as well as new food trucks and restaurants looking to make a name for themselves statewide. Local brewery favorites such as 603 Brewery of Londonderry, Concord Craft Brewing and Granite Roots Brewing of Troy will all be in attendance, and people should expect a diverse showing of more than 100 different craft brews to sample.

Upon entry through the gate, you’ll be given a sampling glass and be granted continuous three-and-a-half-ounce craft beer pours for the duration of the festival. Garrett said VIP ticket holders will also have the option to purchase individual beers inside the Biergarten VIP lounge with their golden tickets.

The festival is restricted only to attendees ages 21 and up, and no outside alcohol is permitted.

Live music by the Nashua-based band The Slakas will be featured.

6th annual NH Bacon & Beer Festival
When: Saturday, June 4, 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. (VIP admittance begins at 12:30 p.m.)
Where: Anheuser-Busch Brewery, 221 Daniel Webster Hwy., Merrimack
Cost: General admission is $60 per person (includes access to all available beer tastings and food samples while they last); designated driver admission is $35 per person (food samples only)
Visit: nhbaconbeer.com
Event is 21+ only. No children, pets or outside alcohol allowed.

Participating bacon samplers
• The Alamo Texas BBQ & Tequila Bar (alamobarbecue.com)
• All Real Meal (allrealmeal.com)
• Bone Daddy’s Competition BBQ Team (find them on Facebook)
• Celebrations Catering (celebrationsmenu.com)
• Dandido Sauce (dandidosauce.com)
• Dave’s Gourmet Kettle Corn (find them on Facebook)
• Granite State Whoopie Pies (granitestatewhoopiepies.com)
• Heavnly Dogs and Catering (find them on Facebook)
• Hill’s Home Market (hillshomemarket.com)
• Jeannette’s Fried Dough & Fried Treats (find them on Facebook)
• The Melted Cheesiere (find them on Facebook)
• Morgan’s Diner (morgansdiner.com)
• North Country Smokehouse (ncsmokehouse.com)
• Papá Grande Comfort Bites (papagrandecomfort.com)
• Phily’s Good Eats (find them on Facebook)
• Saucehound (saucehoundbbq.com)
• Stark Brewing Co. (starkbrewingcompany.com)
• Stumble Inn Bar & Grill (stumbleinnnh.com)
• The Traveling Foodie (jrmcateringllc.com)
• Uno Pizzeria & Grill (unos.com)
• Welbilt (welbilt.com)

Featured photo: Courtesy photo.

Flavors of the Gate City

Taste of Downtown Nashua returns

By Jack Walsh


Restaurants new and established will be offering the public an opportunity to discover their most popular options on Main Street in the Gate City during the Taste of Downtown Nashua, which returns on Wednesday, June 8, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., for the first time in three years. The 26th annual event will feature 19 participating locations for attendees to experience, as well as 16 retail shops for ticket holders to browse through.

In its 26th year, this celebration highlights locally owned businesses including restaurants, breweries showcasing their beer, and other food and beverage vendors sharing their specialties for all in the longest-running downtown tasting tour of its kind. Great American Downtown Executive Director Carolyn Walley looks forward to this event making Nashua look alive again. “The [event] is all about bringing people downtown inside the retail businesses while simultaneously trying the food that is offered,” Walley said. “I see the Taste as a kickoff to the summer and a kickoff to getting people back to enjoying local shops. There’s going to be three different bands and it should be a lively night.”

Main Street features a handful of new restaurants and retail businesses since the pandemic struck, and the June 8 event will help in creating more of an opportunity for these establishments to showcase themselves to locals effectively.

Caribbean Breeze, for example, just recently celebrated its grand opening on May 19. It’s the only restaurant around that offers different types of authentic food from five Caribbean islands, including Haiti, Jamaica, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Cuba. Owner and founder Gerald Oriol said he hopes to share options such as chicharrones de pollo, curry chicken and more with the community on June 8.

“[For] anyone who comes into the restaurant … when they eat the food, they feel like they’re at home,” Oriol said.

Another restaurant scheduled to take part in this event is Raga Contemporary Kitchen, an eatery most notably known for its modern Indian food and complementing cocktails. General manager Saurav Goel said that the kitchen serves some of the world’s most famous versions of curries, and that those who choose to stop by can expect to try a variety of dishes from their appetizer menu including Punjabi samosa (potato- and pea-filled pastries), Delhi aloo tikki chaat (a crispy potato dish with sweet and spicy chutneys) and bhuna murgh (boneless chicken dry curry).

In addition to the foods, attendees ages 21 and older will have the opportunity to sample beer offered at The Flight Center and The Peddler’s Daughter, courtesy of Bellavance Beverage Co. Live music performances throughout the night will include Hunter, The Human’s Being, and the Nick Goumas Jazz Quartet.

According to Great American Downtown, each ticket purchased has a treasure map holding various “taste discoveries,” and those who purchase their tickets prior to the event will have the option to plan out their route based on which establishments they feel may suit them the best.

Taste of Downtown Nashua
When: Wednesday, June 8, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.
Where: Main Street and several connecting side streets in downtown Nashua
Cost: $45; tickets can be purchased online through Eventbrite
Visit: downtownnashua.org

Participating food and beverage purveyors
Bellavance Beverage Co. (bellavancebev.com)
Caribbean Breeze (find them on Facebook @caribbeanbreezerestaurant)
Casa Vieja Mexican Grill (find them on Facebook)
Celebrations Catering (celebrationsmenu.com)
Edible Arrangements (ediblearrangements.com)
Empanellie’s (empanellies.com)
The Flight Center Beer Cafe (flightcenterbc.com)
Giant of Siam (giantofsiam.com)
jajabelles (jajabelles.com)
Joanne’s Kitchen & Coffee Shop (find them on Facebook @joanneskitchenllc)
MT’s Local Kitchen & Wine Bar (mtslocal.com)
The Peddler’s Daughter (thepeddlersdaughter.com)
Raga Contemporary Kitchen (find them on Facebook @raganashua)
Riverwalk Cafe & Music Bar (riverwalknashua.com)
Riviera Nayarit (rivieranh.com)
San Francisco Kitchen (sfkitchen.com)
Stella Blu (stellablu-nh.com)
Subzero Nitrogen Ice Cream (subzeroicecream.com)
Surf Restaurant (surfseafood.com)
Tostao’s Tapas – Bar (tostaostapasbar.com)

Featured photo: Scenes from the Taste of Downtown Nashua in 2018. Photos by Allegra Boverman.

The Weekly Dish 22/06/02

News from the local food scene

Gyros to go: Join St. George Greek Orthodox Church (650 Hanover St., Manchester) for A Taste of Glendi gyro drive-thru event on Saturday, June 4, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. No pre-ordering is necessary — attendees can drive up to the church and order a meal for $10, which will include a ground lamb and beef gyro with herbs and spices, along with a bag of chips and a soda or water. Orders are cash only. St. George’s annual Glendi, meanwhile, is due to return for its 43rd year from Friday, Sept. 16, through Sunday, Sept. 18. Visit stgeorgeglendi.com.

All about herbs: Herb & Garden Day is due to return to the Mt. Kearsarge Indian Museum (18 Highlawn Road, Warner) on Saturday, June 4, from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Presented by the New Hampshire Herbal Network, a local chapter of the American Herbalists Guild, the annual event features a full day of workshops dedicated to all kinds of topics related to herb growing and gardening, along with local food vendors, an herbal market and plant sale, raffles, children’s activities and more. This year’s theme is “Grow Your Roots,” building on last year’s “Roots” theme, which focused on herbalist diversity and ancestors. General admission is $35 and grants attendees access to all of the workshops. A $5 rate is also available for those who just want to attend the herbal market, which will feature a variety of local herbalists, farmers, gardeners and environmental and agricultural organizations. Visit nhherbalnetwork.wordpress.com/herbday.

Tea time: Join The Cozy Tea Cart of Brookline for some garden afternoon tea on Sunday, June 5, from 1 to 3 p.m. at the Gatherings at The Colonel Shepard House (29 Mont Vernon St., Milford). In addition to a selection of fine-quality teas, there will be various foods available, like tea breads, sandwiches, pastries and more. The cost is $39.95 per person and reservations are required. Visit thecozyteacart.com or call 249-9111.

Season of strawberries: The Friends of the Library of Windham will present their annual strawberry festival and book fair, scheduled for Saturday, June 4, from noon to 6 p.m., at Windham High School (64 London Bridge Road, Windham). The event will feature freshly prepared strawberry shortcake available for purchase, along with eats from several local food trucks, restaurants and other vendors. Additional activities will include face painting, bounce houses, a dunk tank and live music. A collection of “berry sweet raffles,” featuring more than a dozen themed baskets of prizes, will also be up for grabs. Visit flowwindham.org.

Tropical vibes: Last week, Boston Billiard Club & Casino (55 Northeastern Blvd., Nashua) debuted The Container Bar, a new full-service outdoor bar built entirely from a retired 40-foot shipping container. According to a press release, the neon pink-colored bar is situated in the casino’s existing beer garden and is outfitted with both sun and shade seating, as well as multiple TVs, eight rotating draft lines and lunch and dinner menus also available. It’s open Tuesday through Thursday from 4 to 10 p.m., and Friday, Saturday and Sunday from noon to 10 p.m. Visit bostonbilliardclub.com.

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