Hometown reveal

Dakota Smart holds release show for debut LP

Like many performers, Dakota Smart used the pandemic’s forced down time to woodshed new material. He wrote over 100 songs, a few of which are part of his first full-length album, Leap of Faith. He plans to perform several more at a release show for the new record on July 8 at Foster’s Tavern in Alton.

The Lakes Region hamlet is Smart’s home town, and the venue was the site of his first paying gig. His high school band Organized Chaos performed there when it was called JP China; the restaurant/bar reopened with a new name on Memorial Day and features live music on Fridays and Saturdays.

“It was my first introduction to actually doing what I love professionally,” Smart said recently by phone. Now that his first proper long-player is complete, “being able to play in my home town for people who have watched me for years is really moving … a special experience.”

Smart brought his piano and ukulele skills to make the pop/rock effort at Rocking Horse Studios in Pittsfield. Produced by Brian Coombes and Josh Kimball, members of the studio’s house band backed him — guitarist Myron Kibbee, Eric Wagley on drums and bass player Brenden Harisiades, with extra spice provided by cellist Jeremy Harman and Wesley Thurber on trumpet.

Thurber’s interplay with Smart’s ukulele elevates standout track “Lovely Lady,” first released as a single last September. “I love trumpet, and I think it works really well with ukulele songs,” Smart said.

The rousing “Believe” finds Smart on his primary instrument, piano, and showcasing his songwriting talents. The tune is a rousing “climb on a back that’s strong” number, with rising horns evoking Fleet Foxes, with impressively mature lyrics.

This sophisticated wordplay isn’t entirely surprising, given that he wrote about being a lonely college boy on “Sunrise In New York” while he was still in high school. “It was a song about me, predicting the future,” he said of the 2019 track.

Lately, he’s become more comfortable telling other people’s truths.

“I got to a point where I was writing songs about my own experience, but I felt as though I didn’t have a lot to write about,” he said. “One of the things I often say is I believe the best songwriters start off as the best listeners. There are thousands of stories out there, between friends, families and people you’re going to meet in your everyday experience. A lot of them motivate you more than your own.”

There’s still a confessional element to the new disc, which ranges across “a bunch of different moods between slow songs, fast songs, happy and sad stuff,” Smart said, adding, “I have a pretty good fluctuation between writing about myself and other people … there’s definitely a mix between the two, and I’ve definitely expanded upon that.”

Along with Leap of Faith, Smart plans to unveil some even newer material at the upcoming show.

“I’m actually going to be playing a lot of songs that have not been released yet,” he said. “I’m going to be not only showing people the brand new album, but I’m also going to be giving them a sneak peek of stuff that is going to come.”

Smart received multiple New England Music Awards nominations in 2021, and he recently made a career-building trip to the music Mecca of Nashville.

“I was invited through the Extreme tour,” he explained. “You go down and partake in the Nashville Objective.” He was one of 20 finalists who played for a panel of industry leaders, A&R types and Grammy nominees, after surviving a selection process that began with over 1,000 artists.

“It’s not a talent show, you’re not being judged,” he stressed. “It’s a group of people who are passionate about music that really want to help out upcoming artists and be a part of their upbringing. The real goal of going down there and doing what I did was to make connections and nurture these new relationships. It turned out really great; I made a lot of new friends within the industry, and it was amazing.”

Dakota Smart
When: Friday, July 8, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Foster’s Tavern, 403 Main St., Alton Bay
More: dakotasmart.com

Featured photo: Dakota Smart. Courtesy photo.

The Music Roundup 22/06/30

Local music news & events

British roots: As punk rock was rising up across England in 1977, Steel Pulse formed after hearing Bob Marley & the Wailers, releasing politically charged songs that got them banned from several U.K. clubs, but the punks welcomed them to places like London’s Hope & Anchor and Electric Circus in Manchester. Founding member David Hinds carries the torch for the group, the first non-Jamaican act to win a reggae Grammy. Thursday, June 30, 8 p.m., Bernie’s Beach Bar, 73 Ocean Blvd., Hampton Beach, $30 at ticketmaster.com.

Stress test: A six-band show with an edge has post-hardcore stalwarts Actor|Observer topping the bill. Formed near the end of the aughts in Newfields, New Hampshire, the group released a debut album in 2018, and dropped the frenetic, intense “Cargo Cult” in the pandemic’s early days, its “lost on an island in despair” theme quite fitting for those fraught times. Sleepspirit, Girih, Godseyes, Alions and Dead Fiction round out the 18+ show’s lineup. Friday, July 1, 7 p.m., Jewel Music Venue, 61 Canal St., Manchester, $12 at eventbrite.com.

Rolling on: After being postponed for two years, the Tedeschi Trucks Band finally brings its Wheels of Soul tour back to the Granite State. Always a summer highlight, the First Couple of blues rock have barrio rockers Los Lobos and Gabe Dixon along for the sixth edition. In early June, TTB released Crescent, the first of the four-album I Am the Moon series. Others will come out in successive months. Saturday, July 2, 6:30 p.m., Bank of NH Pavilion, 72 Meadowbrook Lane, Gilford, $25 and up at livenation.com.

Foolish Fourth: Enjoy Independence Day with an outdoor performance by The Fools — next to fried clams, the most famous thing to come from Ipswich, Mass. Known for their late ’70s hit “It’s A Night For Beautiful Girls” along with irreverent rockers like “Psycho Chicken” and “She Looks Alright In The Dark,” the group is fronted by the very funny Mike Girard, who also leads the brassy Big Swinging Thing. Monday, July 4, 6:30 p.m., Tuscan Village Lake Park, 9 Via Toscana, Salem, tuscanvillagesalem.com.

Midweek music: An evening at the fringes of rock hosted by independent label Deciduous Records has Seed, a Boston-based doom band given to songs with lines like, “drown in the blood of your oppressor.” Also appearing are Rong, billed as noise rock — their latest collection wormhat leads with “Struggling At The Dearth Of Discourse” — and Oahk, an Ashland band performing gloom folk. Wednesday, July 6, 5:30 p.m., Riverhill Grange, 32 Horse Hill Road, Concord, $10 at the door, BYOB, deciduousrecords.bandcamp.com.


Elvis (PG-13)

Elvis Aaron Presley gets the biopic treatment — sorta — in Elvis, the bonkers and exhausting movie from Baz Luhrmann.

We meet Elvis (Austin Butler, an absolute ball of magnetism in the middle of this thing) when he is a young musician, having just caught a break with the popularity of his recording of “That’s All Right” and still playing radio shows and county-fair-type events. It’s here that Colonel Tom Parker (Tom Hanks) first sees Elvis. Parker, who narrates the movie from his unreliable viewpoint, describes himself as basically a carnival showman always in search of an act that will draw the crowds and make them happy to fork over their money. When he watches Elvis sing and shake his hips and he sees women and girls in the audience all but lose their minds, Parker believes he has found the greatest show on Earth. First, he has to entangle Elvis in a crushing contract, which he does, winning over both Presley and his parents, Gladys (Helen Thomson) and Vernon (Richard Roxburg). Then he pulls him onto a traveling country music show. But the squaresville country performers don’t like sharing a stage with the “wild” Elvis and his music with its elements of Black musical styles. Young people might be going nuts for Elvis but the white establishment is way more interested in keeping segregation alive and well. The more popular Elvis gets, the more girls are hanging outside his window (and later outside the gates of Graceland), the more adult society seems determined to tamp him down, with threats to jail him if he continues his wiggling.

Parker, not particularly interested in Elvis’ music as art but extremely interested in Elvis’ performance contracts and various merchandising opportunities, tries to make Elvis more “family friendly” on a TV performance, dressed in formalwear and singing to a hound dog. Elvis rebels against the “New Elvis” and goes back to his preferred method of performance. Parker decides that the way for Elvis to ride out the firestorm is to accept being drafted into the U.S. Army; the haircut and two years of military service will prove that Elvis is a clean-cut all-American boy, Parker believes.

And it sort of works, with Elvis returning to show business with a wife, Priscilla (Olivia DeJonge), and a career in Hollywood. But Elvis and Parker continue to clash over Elvis’ desire for more artistic fulfillment and Parker’s desire for commercial success — if The Beatles are where rock ’n’ roll is, how about make a Christmas album?

Throughout, we see how Elvis’ childhood (Chaydon Jay plays young Elvis), frequently living in Black neighborhoods and soaking in blues and gospel music, influenced his own talent. The movie directly shows the inspiration/appropriation aspect of Elvis’ music and how part of what made him such a draw, artistically and commercially, is that he was performing the music of Black artists such as Big Mama Thorton, Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup in a way that fit with the rock of the era and was accepted by white audiences — younger white audiences, at least — in a segregated country. The argument of the movie on this score — at least I think this is the movie’s argument — is that Elvis is both an exceptional musical talent and someone who, because of the times he lived in, was able to take advantage of the artistry of these equally talented and more talented musicians who had few opportunities for Elvis-sized success.

This aspect of Elvis is one of the more engaging elements of the movie. I don’t know that it rights any historical wrongs but it gives some kind of spotlight to the original performers (or, at least, acknowledges that Elvis wasn’t coming up with this music in a vacuum) and that’s, you know, something. These scenes are often a little bonkers but they are interesting bonkers, which is what you hope for from a Baz Luhrmann movie.

Overall, however, I wish Elvis, which clocks in at two hours and 39 minutes, had been about 30 percent shorter and 40 percent more bonkers. When Baz Luhrmann is being weird or over the top or getting us right up next to sweaty Vegas Elvis to see him pour every bit of whatever’s left of himself into performances for, if not artistic fulfillment, a few moments of crowd adoration, Elvis is sort of fascinating. I mean, it also feels like a mess and I’m not fully sure I understand the story the movie is telling (or even if the movie knows what story it is telling) but at least in these scenes we are getting a portrait of a person, played by a person (Butler) who also feels like he’s going all in.

Then there is the whole deal with Hanks’ Tom Parker, with his extremely extreme nose (which I feel like we see A Lot of in shadow or in profile) and his whole crazy accent (which is I guess true-ish to life, it’s sort of Southern with a lot of Dutch inflection, “Parker” having been an invention of a carnival worker from the Netherlands who immigrated, without legal documents, in the late 1920s and then sometimes tried to pass himself off as being from West Virginia, Wikipedia explains). Hanks’ Parker is always leering from a shadow or slinking around, like he’s the devil who met this musician at the crossroads. But are we supposed to see him as some great villain? Or just a huckster whose goals sort-of aligned with Elvis’? There are a lot of facets to the character — his hazy background, his gambling problem that puts him in the debt of shady mob-types in Vegas, the air of neediness behind all the bluster. But I feel like the movie throws it all at us, similar to how it throws a lot of interesting music all together, without really pulling any character or theme into a coherent throughline in the movie. This movie about Elvis and told by Parker ends up being about both of them and neither of them.

So here are my takeaways from Elvis:

• Austin Butler is deeply compelling. Even when they’ve put him in some pretty silly sideburns, you can’t not watch him with all of your attention. He gives you a sense of how this random country-blues musician became Big Deal Elvis Presley and why he was still a good show even when the culture had sort of passed him by in the traditional rock sense.

• The soundtrack, both in the movie and the album, is weird but intriguing (Eminem makes a very purposeful appearance; think on that for a bit) and I’m definitely going to give it a listen. It almost pulls off that trick, like 2019’s Yesterday did with The Beatles, of letting you pull this extremely familiar music out of its place in your cultural consciousness and consider it anew.

• Baz Luhrmann is always interesting, even when it feels like parts of his movies are kind of a mess. This movie had me wanting to rewatch The Great Gatsby and Romeo + Juliet. He understands spectacle and presentation in a way that makes his movies fun to watch even if you’re not totally sure what you’re watching.

So, B?

Rated PG-13 for substance abuse, strong language, suggestive material and smoking, according to the MPA on filmratings.com. Directed by Baz Luhrmann with a screenplay by Baz Luhrmann & Sam Bromell and Craig Pearce and Jeremy Doner, Elvis is two hours and 39 minutes long and distributed in theaters by Warner Bros.

Featured photo: Elvis

James Patterson, The Stories of My Life, by James Patterson

James Patterson, The Stories of My Life, by James Patterson (Little, Brown and Co., 360 pages)

There’s a rumor out there that James Patterson doesn’t write all his books, not just the novels he co-authors with people like Bill Clinton and Dolly Parton, but also the ones that only bear his name. “Conceived, outlined, co-written and curated” is how The Washington Post described his work in 2016, likening Patterson to a factory of words.

When the author got in trouble recently for telling a journalist that white men can’t get a break these days, this was one of the insults hurled at him on Twitter by fellow writers like Roxane Gay, who wrote, “James Patterson, of all people. First, write your own books, pal.”

Patterson’s new memoir, which he dubs an “ego-biography,” is a seemingly preordained response to that slight. There’s no question he wrote this book, that the anecdotes sprang fully formed from his forehead. It’s three-quarters ego, one-quarter heart, strictly adhering to the formula that makes Patterson’s novels the most read in the world: short chapters — some only a single page — delivered in a folksy, conversational style. Example:

I’ve been poor and middle class, then poor and middle class again, and now I’m pretty well-to-do. Okay, I’m kind of rich.

On balance, I prefer rich.

But I don’t think I would be the person I am, or the writer, if I hadn’t experienced the whole spectrum — all the ups and downs and sideways.

The downs, if we’re being honest, are scarce.

In short vignettes, Patterson describes growing up as the only son of four children in a working-class Catholic family. They lived in modest neighborhoods but books were always strewn around. He was an altar boy and took piano lessons from a nun and had parents who demanded their boy make all A’s. (One of the chapters is named “You’re Slipping, James.” Clearly there’s some parental animosity he hasn’t yet fully worked out.) Strangely his father saw nothing wrong with regularly taking his young son to a pub on the weekend and giving him a half mug of beer. Then again, this was in the 1950s, so maybe not quite so scandalous as it seems now.

We learn about Patterson’s first kiss, his first job at a psychiatric institution in the suburbs of Boston, his matriculation at Manhattan College and then at Vanderbilt and the New York City advertising job that in retrospect seems the perfect training for James Patterson Inc.

Because he was a natural-born writer, writing with the ease in which others talked, he was promoted early and often and within a few years was handling big-name accounts, for a while flying between New York and Chicago, where he was put up in a suite with a view of Lake Michigan. At one point his salary tripled. According to Patterson, he wrote the advertising slogans “Picture a brand new world” for Kodak and “I’m a Toys R Us Kid” for Toys R Us. He also writes that he renamed what was then known as Allegheny Airlines to U.S. Air.

The disclaimer “according to Patterson” is often necessary when describing these stories because some are so incredible as to be unbelievable. They sound like something a world-famous novelist might have made up. Take Patterson’s first kiss, which is the subject of an early vignette and occurred when he was in the sixth grade. The girl was named Veronica Tabasco. In a later chapter, he writes of visiting his grandfather’s grave when he was in his 30s, turning to leave and noticing that Veronica Tabasco — the Veronica Tabasco — was buried right next to his grandfather.

“According to the stone tablet, Veronica had died in her mid-twenties. I’d had no idea until that moment. It kind of broke my heart,” he wrote.

Unusual things like that happen to Patterson all the time (according to Patterson). While his success as a novelist has made him friends with a wide range of famous people (“Damn near addictive” is the Ron Howard blurb on the cover), he’s been hobnobbing with the soon-to-be rich and famous since he was broke and unknown. For example, at the Belmont, Massachusetts, psychiatric hospital where he worked during the summer, James Taylor was a patient for a while and would sing in the hospital coffee shop. The late poet Robert Lowell was there for a while, too, and would do poetry readings in his room.

Much later in life, when Patterson was collaborating with Bill Clinton on a novel, he ran afoul of the Secret Service because someone else named James Patterson had been telling the hotel where he was staying that he was the famous author. He carries Tom Cruise’s personal number in his wallet. And he once got kicked out of the offices of the dating service called It’s Just Lunch.

These are the sorts of stories that your grandfather would tell while you’re out fishing together, if you fished with your grandfather and he was drinking and conditioned to tell stories about his past in increments of two to three pages. They are fanciful to the extreme, making it clear that the rich-to-be are different from you and me, right from the start. Then again, Patterson writes at the start of the book, “I want to tell you some stories … the way I remember them, anyway,” giving him plausible deniability. Who knows for sure if the first girl Patterson kissed is really buried next to his grandfather? Whether it’s true or not, it’s a great story, as most of the stories in this rambling, stone-skipping book of memories are.

The constant throughout Patterson’s life is books. Even while he was working seven days a week in advertising, he was working on novels early in the mornings and late at night. That is what he was most driven to do, even though a college professor had told him, “You write well enough. But stay away from fiction.”

By his mid-30s, he’d published four bestsellers featuring the detective Alex Cross (whom he’d originally written as a woman). He was also now CEO of the advertising company although he’d generally hated the work all along. (He frequently refers to it as advertising hell.) Then he had an epiphany sitting in traffic on the New Jersey Turnpike. He soon left the company to write full-time.

It’s hard to begrudge Patterson his success, however, as this memoir makes clear that he put in the work, even if he was a naturally talented writer. “Every night after work, I’d come home in a daze of jingle lyrics and cutesy catchphrases, sit in my kitchen, stare around at the tiny antiseptic space, then start writing again. He wrote his first drafts then — and still does now — with a No. 2 pencil. He still writes, he says, 350 to 360 days a year.

In this memoir, James Patterson may have finally written a book for people who don’t like James Patterson books. Stephen King may be among them. King, according to Patterson, once said that he was a terrible writer, even though he contributed a blurb for the book. It’s a highly entertaining read, but just remember that it’s the truth as Patterson remembers it. B

Book Notes

It’s hard to remember that there once was a time when the cable network AMC stood for American Movie Classics. Now it’s associated with edgy hit shows like Better Call Saul and The Walking Dead. But everything transforms, even actors to authors. Saul’s Bob Odenkirk came out with a memoir a few months ago (Comedy Comedy Comedy Drama, Random House, 304 pages), and now Walking Dead megastar Norman Reedus is hawking a novel.

The Ravaged (Blackstone Publishing, 294 pages) has a co-author, Frank Bill, so it’s unclear how much Reedus (the Dead’s Daryl Dixon) actually wrote. He told People magazine that the book started as a pandemic project and while not autobiographical it weaves in some stories of his past. It’s about three people “either running from something or running to something, and they’re finding a sense of family along the way,” he says.

Speaking of AMC, the network will launch a new series this fall based on the ever popular Interview with the Vampire by the late Anne Rice, who died last year from complications of a stroke. The book, published in 1976, has already been made into a movie, but clearly AMC thinks there’s more money to be made here. Interview (Knopf, 352 pages) was the first of 13 in a series. Producer Mark Johnson has said he’s hoping “those viewers who have never read an Anne Rice novel will go running to the bookstore eager to understand what all the fuss is about.”

Rice’s last book, co-authored with her son Christopher Rice, is Ramses the Damned, The Reign of Osiris (Anchor, 368 pages) and came out in February. It’s the third in the fantasy series that puts the historical Ramses the Great in a cursed state of immortality. Not unlike a vampire, you might note.

For something a bit less fantastical and more in keeping with the upcoming holiday, check out Mark Clague’s O Say Can You Hear? A Cultural Biography of the Star-Spangled Banner (W.W. Norton, 352 pages).

A musicology professor at the University of Michigan, Clague examines how the song took off after Frances Scott Key composed “Defence of Fort McHenry” and became both a beloved war anthem and a landmine in the culture war. A fun fact from the book: Clague considers the best popular rendition of the song to be Whitney Houston’s performance at the 1991 Super Bowl. (Available on YouTube for your holiday viewing.)

Book Events

Author events

PAUL BROGAN presents A Sprinkling of Stardust Over the Outhouse at Gibson’s Bookstore (45 S. Main St., Concord, 224-0562, gibsonsbookstore.com) on Thursday, June 30, at 6:30 p.m. See the June 23 issue of the Hippo on page 10 for a discussion with the author. Hippopress.com; find e-editions near the bottom of the home page.

SARAH MCCRAW CROW presents The Wrong Kind of Woman at Gibson’s Bookstore (45 S. Main St., Concord, 224-0562, gibsonsbookstore.com) on Tuesday, July 19, at 6:30 p.m.

CASEY SHERMAN presents Helltown at the Bookery (844 Elm St., Manchester, bookerymht.com, 836-6600) on Sunday, Aug. 14, at 1:30 p.m.


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.



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 22/06/30

Ghostkeeper, Multidimensional Culture (Victory Pool Records)

One usually doesn’t think of indigenous people as dancing jigs and playing fiddles, but the Métis people — Canadians with a mixed heritage of indigenous and European ancestry — are big on that. The husband-wife team of Ghostkeeper aims to put this culture on the map by infusing Métis music with ’70s freak-folk, proto-punk and various forms of psychedelica (this isn’t a case of cultural appropriation, if that’s any concern; they originally met in the Paddle Prairie Métis Settlement in Alberta). So, then, the album title is accurate in its way, but the music backs up the gauntlet that’s implicitly thrown. You can all but see the groovy 1960s liquid-light effects morphing into non-shapes behind opener “Doo Wop” as singer Shane rants Nick Cave-ish through a bullhorn, and it’s there that you quickly realize that these kids aren’t sheltered know-nothings; Trent Reznor would be proud of them, put it that way. As the record goes on, it’s impossible not to think of both Jerry Lee Lewis (“Finn”), screwy Aughts-indie (“Grassy Plains”) and even shoegaze (“Summer Child”). Well worth investigating. A

Darren McClure, Slow Up Speed Down (Audiobulb Records)

A soundscaper from Northern Ireland who now lives in Matsumoto, Japan, McClure uses found sounds (as in yeah, he’ll literally go outside and record stuff, or capture oddball digital bleeps and such from wherever, all toward an effort to fill out his compositions). His main intent, so I’m informed, is to “create music to zone out to and zone into, a balance of widescreen drones and more minimal, abstract ambience.” Out of that little word salad I’d say there’s some truth to it, but one really has to travel far through this record to find anything I’d call music. And that’s OK; no harm, no foul; McClure’s an experimentalist after all, and that’s what these tracks are. The title track, for instance, is 12 minutes of what I’d call Neptunian swamp vibe; there are War Of The Worlds-style alien hisses and such peeking out of a gently droning synth (I think) sample. This time out, he aims for slowness and immersion, incidental patterns that bespeak eternity without much noisy fuss. It’s hypnotic enough, sure. B


• Happy Upcoming Fourth Of July, everyone. Here I am to give you some Christmas gift-giving ideas, because brand new albums will “hit the streets” on July 1! I’m sure all the 8-year-olds will be glad to hear that one of the new releases is from Imagine Dragons, the false metal band that would be Kiss if they weren’t awful. This glorified joke band will have a two-pronged assault of music on Friday, because Mercury: Act 2, which continues the aimlessness the band tabled in Mercury: Act 1, will street on the July 1, along with an 18-track double album comprising both Mercury “Acts,” so I hope you’ve been saving your allowance or your paper route money if you want to buy these new rock ’n’ roll records from this stupid band, because it’s going to be expensive. The first sampler tune I ran into in my halfhearted search for something to review was “Darkness,” which sounds more like a Conor Oberst campfire-indie sing-along than the sort of lightweight hard-rock piffle that put these guys on the map, but what makes this tune particularly bad is the high-pitched vocal that rounds out the hook part. It’s a joke, basically, one that I don’t find very amusing. Aside, has anyone over the age of 10 ever bought one of these guys’ albums?

Burna Boy is Damini Ebunoluwa Ogulu, a Nigerian-born Afrobeat/dancehall guy, whose sixth album, Love Damani, is on the way! Here’s your fun trivia factoid regarding this super cool dude: In 2020, his album Twice as Tall was nominated for Best World Music Album at the 63rd Annual Grammy Awards, making him the first Nigerian with back-to-back nominations at the Grammys. His trip has been based in legitimacy from birth, being that his grandfather once managed Afrobeat superstar Fela Kuti, not that that should matter all that much, but it kind of does, sorry. Whatever, if you’ve ever liked Elephant Man or anything even close to that, you really need to check out the first single from this album, “Last Last,” because it’s pretty amazing, just take my word for it.

• Oh no, I’m writing this on a Tuesday, which means a new Guided by Voices album is coming out! This month’s eyeroll-inducing self-indulgence from pathologically prolific songwriter Robert Pollard is yet another full-length album, Tremblers And Goggles By Rank. My having to discuss a new GBV album really has become sort of a meme found only in this paper, and the only reason I’m going to bother listening to “Unproductive Funk,” the single from this new album, is that I adhere to the tenets of due diligence and chronicing the growth of rock ’n’ roll artists who’ve given so much to society, all of which actually means “I’m sure that this song will be as limp and uneventful as the last 500 Guided By Voices songs, but that wouldn’t be nice for me to say, so let’s get this over with already.” I assume that with a title like “Unproductive Funk,” there will be some funk in the recipe, but it’ll be super-lame. OK, nope, I’m listening to it now, and it’s basically like a cross between Gang Of Four (the “funk” part, I’m assuming) and Starz (the ’70s-throwback “unproductive” part). There was no good reason Pollard made this record, but when did that ever stop him?

• In closing, let’s talk about Electrified Brain, the new album from Virginia-based crossover-thrash band Municipal Waste! I’ll listen to the title track so you don’t have to, because I care. Huh, it’s pretty much like early Slayer, some of you might actually like it, who knows. The end.

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).

Fourth of July beer

All-American craft beer

There was always something about cracking a Budweiser on the Fourth of July. Don’t deny it, it felt good to grab “the King of Beers” as you celebrated our country’s independence. You could basically hear the chorus, “I’m proud to be an American,” in the background the second you took a sip.

I made that last part up, of course, but obviously Budweiser was effective for years in marketing its beer as the most American beer you could drink. I’m not really sure the beer changed but the whole thing where it’s owned by a company based in Belgium now does take away some of that ’Merica feeling when you drink one.

Budweiser is crisp and refreshing — it tastes like a beer — and especially when you’re enjoying a Fourth of July cookout, I think we all just want a beer that tastes like a beer.

There are countless craft breweries cranking out all-American lighter brews to whet your whistle on the Fourth of July and really all summer long.

Might I also add that while the price of IPAs and other craft brews has continued to climb to unprecedented highs, lighter styles, like Pilsners and kolsch, have remained closer to what I would call reasonable, when it comes to price.

Lighter brews in the mold of Budweiser, if I’m allowed to say that, are also lower in calories and in alcohol, making them more sessionable than a double IPA. Plus, on a screaming hot summer day at the beach, beside the pool or in the backyard, light and refreshing is the name of the game.

Here are three New Hampshire craft brews you can proudly crack on the Fourth of July as you watch the fireworks or listen to “I’m Proud to be American.”

Dad Reflex American Lager by Portsmouth Brewery (Portsmouth)

This “is a macro-style American Lager brewed in honor of the superhero dads out there who deserve a cold one after a long day of saving lives without trying, or mowing the lawn,” according to the brewery website, and while I haven’t actually had this, that description spoke to me as a dad. I keep reminding my wife I’m basically a superhero but I do think the third-party validation here might have more of an impact. Cold and refreshing, that’s what beer is about on the Fourth of July.

Beer Hall Lager by 603 Brewery (Londonderry)

Get out the frosted glass; this features your classic straw-yellow pour. The brew is light, crisp and flavorful with some lightly sweet fruity notes, balanced by subtle breadiness. Picture yourself with a hot dog in one hand and this brew in the other — it’s a good picture, aside from the mustard on your cheek. This one goes down very, very easily.

Lady of the Lake New England Lager by Able Ebenezer Brewing Co. (Merrimack)

Celebrating “the 150th anniversary of the M/S Mount Washington, and the history of New Hampshire’s Lakes Region,” according to the brewery, this brew stands out for its simplicity. You just don’t have to think about it. It has a touch of citrus and fruit but it’s really all about being crisp, bright, refreshing and, well, pleasing. I think it would be best enjoyed lakeside, of course, and it would be a perfect accompaniment to a fireworks show.

What’s in My Fridge
Santilli American IPA by Night Shift Brewing Co.
(Everett, Mass.)
The brewery’s flagship American IPA, Santilli combines bright citrus, including grapefruit, and pronounced notes of pine. Every time I have one I wonder why I don’t keep this in my fridge at all times. I still don’t have an answer to that question. It’s just a terrific all-around IPA that you can drink anytime. Particularly with the prevalence of hazy, juicy New England IPAs, this is a refreshing change of pace when you want the hops but would like to hold the orange juice. Cheers.

Featured photo. Lady of the Lake New England Lager by Able Ebenezer Brewing Company. Courtesy photo.

In the kitchen with Tony Elias

Tony Elias is the owner of The Spot To-Go (thespottogofoodtruck@gmail.com, and on Facebook and Instagram), a food truck specializing in scratch-made Puerto Rican street foods that launched in 2020. He’s known for items like beef and chicken empanadas, as well as combo plates with pork, rice and beans, and jibaritos, or Puerto Rican fried plantain sliders with pork, cheese, lettuce, tomato and mayo ketchup. Elias’s Puerto Rican tacos and canoas (roasted yellow sweet plantains sliced down the middle — like a canoe — and stuffed with beef, melted cheese, cilantro and an aioli) are also huge hits. A native of Philadelphia and a former professional wrestler, Elias got his start in the food truck world when he launched Made With Love 603, a food trailer offering a similar menu of Puerto Rican eats, in Manchester in 2014. Now known as Superstar Tacos, the trailer recently became an official vendor for the New Hampshire Fisher Cats and can exclusively be found at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium (1 Line Drive, Manchester) during home games. When Elias is not slinging tacos at the ballpark, you can find him at other locations on The Spot To-Go truck — as of right now, he’s most often in the parking lot of Paul’s Car Care (84 Elm St., Manchester), but will regularly post his whereabouts on social media.

An empanada press, because I sell a ridiculous amount of empanadas. … When I make them, I do like 500 at a time.

What would you have for your last meal?

My last meal has to be a real Philly cheesesteak, with rib-eye steak, Cheez Whiz, grilled onions and ketchup. … There’s a difference between a real Philly cheesesteak and the steak and cheese subs you get up here, for sure.

What is your favorite local restaurant?

I have two. Rice and Beans 603 in Salem, and Prime Time Grilled Cheese [in Manchester]. … Rice and Beans has a delicious roast pork and their fried chicken is also really good. Then for grilled cheese, I mean, you can pretty much give me any flavor that they have at Prime Time and I’ll take it.

What celebrity would you like to see ordering from your food truck?

The Rock. When I was a kid, he and Stone Cold Steve Austin were my guys. I’ve just been a very big fan of his forever now.

What is your favorite thing on your menu?

The canoa and the empanadas. … I love watching people bite into the empanadas because it’s always the same reaction. They’ll bite into it and their eyes open up wide and they go, ‘Whoa!’ … With the canoa, I like catching people off guard that have never had one.

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

Birria tacos. That’s the style of taco that comes with a consomme dip on the side. It’s slow-cooked beef, cheese, onion and cilantro, and then I throw in my touch of Puerto Rican [spices] in there. Once you’ve got that nice and grilled up, you take that very same consomme and you splash it all over the taco that is on the grill. … I’ve seen people now make pizzas and quesadillas out of them.

What is your favorite thing to cook at home?

Wings. I love them in every style, [but] if I had to pick my favorite flavored wings, I’m going with Buffalo and blue cheese.

Beef empanadas
From the kitchen of Tony Elias of The Spot To-Go food truck and the Superstar Tacos food trailer

Pre-made empanada shell (Goya brand, 10-pack)
1 pound ground beef
1 can tomato sauce
¼ cup diced onions
¼ cup diced peppers
1 Tablespoon onion powder
1 Tablespoon garlic powder
½ Tablespoon adobo seasoning
1 Tablespoon minced garlic
2 packets sazón

Brown the ground beef and drain the fat. Put the beef pack in the pan and add tomato sauce, onions, peppers, onion powder, garlic powder, adobo, minced garlic and sazón. Simmer all together for 10 minutes, then cool off before filling the empanada shell, adding a slice of American cheese. Once filled, close the empanada and press around it with a fork. Fry until golden brown.

Featured photo: Tony Elias. Courtesy photo.

Watermelon blueberry feta salad

Summer is here! With it come hot weather, outdoor gatherings and many barbecues. Whether you are heading to a cookout over the Fourth of July weekend or at some other point this summer, this is a great (and simple) recipe to have on hand.

What makes this recipe one of my summer favorites is that it offers so much in so little time. It’s basically a good-for-you fruit salad with a little indulgence. Delightfully chilled, it’s a bit of relief on a hot afternoon. Plus, it has a wonderful blend of sweet and salty, crunchy and creamy. Never mind that it is about as patriotic a salad as you can imagine.

This recipe’s ingredients are not fancy at all. You want ripe watermelon, so seek one that is a nice, deep red (not pink) and firm. For blueberries, locally picked would be amazing, but that is probably not possible just yet. For the feta, almost any will do. However, if you are buying more than you will need for this recipe, try to find some that is sold in its brine.

If you are thinking this recipe is too simple, I assure you it is not. Put it in fancier bowls, serve it with a beautiful spoon. This recipe is a star on its own.

Watermelon blueberry feta salad
Serves 4

4 cups cubed watermelon
1 cup blueberries
¼ to ½ cup crumbled feta
Divide watermelon among 4 small salad bowls.
Divide blueberries among the bowls.
Toss fruit.
Sprinkle each with feta.
Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Featured Photo: Watermelon blueberry feta salad. Photo by Michele Pesula Kuegler.

Cheers to beer

Craft brews and good times at annual Keep NH Brewing Festival

After a two-year hiatus, the state’s largest collection of craft breweries for one event is back in person — attendees will be able to sample more than 130 locally produced beers at the Keep NH Brewing Festival, which returns to Kiwanis Waterfront Park in Concord on Saturday, July 9.

beer festival participants in tent
Photos courtesy of the New Hampshire Brewers Association.

It’s the main fundraiser for the New Hampshire Brewers Association, a nonprofit promoting the craft beer industry in the Granite State. As in previous years, executive director CJ Haines said, the participating brewers encompass a variety of geographical locations across New Hampshire.

“I would say there are probably about 10 or 12 breweries that have never been to the festival that will be there this year,” Haines said. “Each of them [is] bringing at least two different styles of beer as part of the event and some bring up to three or four. … The styles range all over the place, so there are Pilsners, sours, lagers and of course IPAs and some dark beers.”

Some will likely even pour certain beers that you may not be able to get outside of the brewery’s onsite tasting room, or they might serve special collaborative options among brewers.

“That’s one of the big things that we try to do,” Haines said, “so that way it’s kind of a unique experience for people to try something new, or something that you have to get at the brewery.”

Upon entry into the festival, attendees are given a program with a record of all the participating brewers and the selections they are pouring that afternoon. Admission grants you access to 4-ounce pours of each beer, as well as a souvenir tasting glass. There’s also a VIP rate that welcomes ticket-holders an hour earlier to enjoy some exclusive selections.

New names in the local craft beer scene include Feathered Friend Brewing Co., which opened its doors just a few miles down the road from the park in Concord’s South End earlier this year. TaleSpinner Brewery of Nashua, the sister establishment of Rambling House Food & Gathering on Factory Street, just opened in February and is also on the list of festival participants. Both breweries are known for their New England-style and double dry-hopped IPAs, but have already dabbled in other styles from stouts and lagers to some sours and blond ales.

Several local food trucks and mobile food vendors will be there, featuring various options like pizzas, Bavarian-style soft pretzels, loaded baked potatoes and even some Asian fusion items. Haines said the Brewers Association is partnering with New Hampshire Music Collective to present two live sets throughout the afternoon, while a few other non-brewery vendors will also be participating.

“One of the local hop growers, Champlain Valley Hops, will be there, so you can actually nose some different hops,” she said. “So there’s also that educational component of learning what goes on behind the beer and how hops are selected. … We’re also focusing on outdoor recreation in New Hampshire, so Granite Outdoor Alliance will be there and they’ll have a mini campground area that will be set up on display to check out.”

Other vendors expected to attend include DraughtPick, a locally created website and mobile app providing users with the most up-to-date details on craft breweries and beers; Morrill Dairy Farm, which produces local grain and barley; and some members of the Concord Fire Department Union, the festival’s partial beneficiary.

Participating Breweries

• 603 Brewery (Londonderry, 603brewery.com)
• Backyard Brewery & Kitchen (Manchester, backyardbrewerynh.com)
• Branch and Blade Brewing (Keene, babbrewing.com)
• Canterbury Aleworks (Canterbury, canterburyaleworks.com)
• Chapel + Main (Dover, chapelandmain.com)
• Concord Craft Brewing Co. (Concord, concordcraftbrewing.com)
• The Czar’s Brewery (Exeter, theczarsbrewery.com)
• Dam Brewhouse (Campton, dambrewhouse.com)
• Daydreaming Brewing Co. (Derry, daydreaming.beer)
• Deciduous Brewing Co. (Newmarket, deciduousbrewing.square.site)
• Elm City Brewing Co. (Keene, elmcitybrewing.com)
• Empty Pint Brewing Co. (Dover, emptypintbrewing.com)
• Feathered Friend Brewing Co. (Concord, featheredfriendbrewing.com)
• Frogg Brewing (Marlborough, froggbrewing.com)
• Garrison City Beerworks (Dover, garrisoncitybeerworks.com)
• Great North Aleworks (Manchester, greatnorthaleworks.com)
• Great Rhythm Brewing Co. (Portsmouth, greatrhythmbrewing.com)
• Henniker Brewing Co. (Henniker, hennikerbrewing.com)
• Hobbs Tavern & Brewing Co. (West Ossipee, hobbsbeer.com)
• Kelsen Brewing Co. (Derry, kelsenbrewing.com)
• The Last Chair Brewing Co. (Plymouth, thelastchairnh.com)
• Liars Bench Beer Co. (Portsmouth, liarsbenchbeer.com)
• Lithermans Limited Brewery (Concord, lithermans.beer)
• Loaded Question Brewing Co. (Portsmouth, loadedquestionbrewing.com)
• Long Blue Cat Brewing Co. (Londonderry, longbluecat.com)
• Martha’s Exchange Restaurant & Brewing Co. (Nashua, marthas-exchange.com)
• Moat Mountain Smokehouse & Brewing Co. (North Conway, moatmountain.com)
• Modestman Brewing Co. (Keene, modestmanbrewing.com)
• Muddy Road Brewery (New Durham, find them on Facebook @muddyroadbrewery)
• Northwoods Brewing Co. (Northwood, northwoodsbrewingcompany.com)
• Odd Fellows Brewing Co. (Nashua, oddfellowsbrewery.com)
• Oddball Brewing Co. (Suncook, oddballbrewingnh.com)
• One Love Brewery (Lincoln, onelovebrewery.com)
• Out.Haus Ales (Northwood, outhausales.com)
• Post & Beam Brewing Co. (Peterborough, postandbeambrewery.com)
• Rockingham Brewing Co. (Derry, rockinghambrewing.com)
• Schilling Beer Co. (Littleton, schillingbeer.com)
• Smuttynose Brewing Co. (Hampton, smuttynose.com)
• Spyglass Brewing Co. (Nashua, spyglassbrewing.com)
• Stoneface Brewing Co. (Newington, stonefacebrewing.com)
• Stripe Nine Brewing Co. (Somersworth, stripeninebrewing.com)
• TaleSpinner Brewery (Nashua, ramblingtale.com)
• Throwback Brewery (North Hampton, throwbackbrewery.com)
• To Share Brewing Co. (Manchester, tosharebrewing.com)
• Topwater Brewing Co. (Barrington, topwaterbrewingco.com)
• Tuckerman Brewing Co. (Conway, tuckermanbrewing.com)
• Twin Barns Brewing Co. (Meredith, twinbarnsbrewing.com)
• Vulgar Brewing Co. (Franklin, vbc.beer)
• Wildbloom Beer (Henniker, wildbloombeer.com)
• Woodman’s Brewery (Bristol, woodmansbrewery.square.site)

Keep NH Brewing Festival
When: Saturday, July 9, 1 to 4 p.m. (VIP admittance begins at noon)
Where: Kiwanis Waterfront Park, 15 Loudon Road, Concord (behind the Douglas N. Everett Arena)
Cost: General admission is $50 in advance and $55 on the day of the festival; VIP admission is $65; Designated driver admission is $20
Visit: nhbrewers.org
Event is rain or shine. No children or pets are allowed. All attendees, including designated drivers, must be 21 years of age or older.

Featured photo: Photos courtesy of the New Hampshire Brewers Association.

The Weekly Dish 22/06/30

News from the local food scene

Get your Greek eats: Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church (68 N. State St., Concord) will hold its next boxed Greek dinner to go, a drive-thru takeout event, on Sunday, July 10, from noon to 1 p.m. Now through Wednesday, July 6, orders are being accepted for boxed meals featuring chicken with orzo, Greek salad and a dinner roll for $15 per person. The event is drive-thru and takeout only — email ordermygreekfood@gmail.com or call 953-3051 to place your order. More takeout and pickup meals are expected at the church in the coming months. Visit holytrinitynh.org.

Grape expectations: Join LaBelle Winery (345 Route 101, Amherst) for its next Walks in the Vineyard wine class, the second of a four-part series, on Sunday, July 10, from 11 a.m. to noon. Wine educator Marie King and vineyard manager Josh Boisvert will lead attendees through a fun and educational walk through the vineyard, focused on the life cycles of the vines. Attendees will learn how the wine enjoyed in a glass starts as grapes on vines, and will also get a chance to taste four LaBelle wines during the session. The growth pattern of the vines and the seasonal stages each one goes through, from the onset of ripening to post harvest, will all be covered. More events in the series are scheduled to take place over the coming months through October — no previous attendance or prior knowledge of wines are necessary to attend any of the walks. Tickets are $30 per person plus tax, and reservations are suggested. Visit labellewinery.com.

Tastes of Thailand: Daw Kun Thai Restaurant held a ribbon-cutting on June 17 to celebrate its reopening at a new location at 93 S. Maple St. in Manchester, according to an announcement from co-owner Desmond Holman. The eatery had previously been open across the Queen City, at 2626 Brown Ave., since May 2017. Holman’s wife, Nipaporn, who came to the United States from northeastern Thailand more than a decade ago and learned to cook from her grandmother, serves as the head chef. Named after the national flower of Thailand, Daw Kun features a menu of appetizers, like Thai-style crab rangoons, spring egg rolls with shrimp and deep fried tofu with ground peanuts and a sweet sauce; more than a dozen lunch options like curries, vegetable dishes, fried rice and noodle plates, with beef, chicken or pork; and house specials, like choo chee salmon, with coconut milk, lime leaf, fresh chili sauce and jasmine rice, and Daw Kun spicy ribs, which are served in a spicy curry sauce with black pepper, steamed veggies and rice. At its new spot, Daw Kun Thai is open Tuesday through Thursday, from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Friday and Saturday, from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Visit dawkunthai.com.

Caribbean spirits: Faraday West Indies Rum, an ultra-premium blended rum featuring three small-batch spirits from artisanal distilleries in Barbados, the Dominican Republic and Martinique, is now available in New Hampshire, according to a press release. It’s named after the cable ship Faraday, which began its journey in Rye Beach and laid the first transatlantic cables between Europe, the United States and the West Indies. The rum features a citrus and grassy note that’s balanced by butterscotch and vanilla, finishing with a smooth, oak-charred whiskey flavor. “Our promise is that this is a unique rum like none you have tasted,” founder Owen Hyland, a UNH graduate, said in a statement. “It’s authentic [and] made by artisans who have been at it for a long time.” According to the release, the rum recently won a gold medal at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition. Visit faradayrum.com.

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