Pub band

Celtic crushers Rebel Collective hit Bank of NH Stage

Concord’s Capitol Center for the Arts continues its happy trend of bringing homegrown acts to the smaller Bank of NH Stage when Rebel Collective appears there on July 23. The raucous, Celtic-infused sextet started out at True Brew Barista, a nearby Bicentennial Square hub for local bands before the owners retired and closed it in July 2020.

At that time, 2015, the group consisted of three cousins on main instruments and a rhythm section, and was a casual affair. “We’d always joked about doing a pub band,” guitarist and singer Michael Green said by phone recently. “One year, we decided to throw something together and have a show, and we had a lot of fun.”

After True Brew, they went on to play St. Patrick’s Day events, at Manchester’s Shaskeen and Salt hill Pub in the Upper Valley. Their sound was informed by Green’s roots. “I am about half Irish, with my grandmother being straight off the boat. That said, it wasn’t part of my upbringing really, and it was through the music of the Pogues and Dropkick Murphys that I started getting into the history of Ireland and my own ancestry.”

When the band got booked to play the New Hampshire Highland Games, Scottish songs were added to their set, creating a boozy hybrid that sets them apart. They’ve opened shows for the Dropkicks, Flogging Molly and Derek Warfield, all the while writing original songs, a few of which appear on 2018’s Old Sad State.

The title cut of that EP is a true, if half remembered, story of a wild night “with a bottle of Pogues whiskey, singing for the fair maidens and hoping they’ll feel frisky” that ends “out in the street, singing for salvation in the moonlight.” Though the hooch is named after Green’s “favorite band forever,” he’s no fan, not by a long shot.

“It’s god-awful and I don’t recommend it,” he said, but he is thankful that, as Shawn Colvin once noted, he got a tune out of it. “We weren’t feeling too good the next morning, but I’m lucky in the fact that I might make bad decisions, but at least they usually make good songs.”

Rebel Collective changed significantly when accordion player and high harmony singer Brian Waldron moved to Florida in 2021. Brought on board were fiddler Esther Bostick and guitarist Jordan, whom Green calls Granddaddy SG for his 1960s vintage Gibson. With Green, Ross Ketchum on mandolin, guitar and vocals, and Pete Provencher and Connor Veazey on drums and bass, the new direction is “really similar in a lot of ways” to what they were doing before, Green said, but with an edge that comes from swapping a squeeze box for a rocking ax.

“It’s not heavy, but it’s not clean, and it really fills up the sound … we’ve committed to making a bigger, cohesive sound,” he said. “It’s led to having more fun [and] while we miss having Brian’s beautiful voice we gain by having other singers. Our gang vocals are a little bit thicker. We’re the same, just different.”

After releasing one studio effort, they’re not in a hurry to make another record. They have plenty of other novel pursuits to fill the time, including a Flag Hill Whiskey release party in the fall, along with another Highland Games. Besides, given their Celtic Crush repertoire, audiences often can’t tell the band’s own material from cover songs, which pleases Green.

“I’ve had people come up and thank me for playing this old traditional song, and they’re talking about one of my originals; I don’t correct them,” he said. “It’s a kind of a barometer; if you’ve written a song and it immediately resonates like they’ve heard it before, you know you really wrote a good one. I let them say their piece and take it as a compliment.”

The Concord show will benefit Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of New Hampshire, a nonprofit the band has been helping out for years, including playing their annual fundraiser and tasking one of their dancers to high step crowds into filling a tip jar at shows. “We were able to raise a couple thousand for CASA last year,” Green said. “So we’re really excited to take this great opportunity at this great event and use it as a way to continue doing our work for them.”

Rebel Collective
When: Saturday, July 23, 8 p.m.
Where: Bank of NH Stage, 16 S. Main St., Concord
Tickets: $18 at

Featured photo: Rebel Collective. Courtesy photo.

The Music Roundup 22/07/21

Local music news & events

Funny night: Third Thursday laughs continue with Chris Tabb topping the bill along with Liam Hales and area favorite Nick Tocco. Tabb is the House MC at Foxboro’s Comedy Scene who cites Bernie Mac as a key influence, and a favorite at clubs throughout New England. Hales is a burly New Hampshire native who returned home recently after spending 15 years in L.A. Thursday, July 21, 7:30 p.m., SoHo Asian Restaurant & Bar, 49 Lowell Road, Hudson, $18 in advance, $20 at the door; email

Retro al fresco: New Orleans’ French Quarter is imported to New England by Soggy Po’ Boys. The vintage musical collective combusted into a group 10 years ago on Fat Tuesday and quickly became a Tuesday night fixture at Dover’s now-closed Barley Pub. They perform an outdoor courtyard set at that city’s Children’s Museum. The show is adults only and includes a snack box and cash bar. Friday, July 22, 6 p.m., Children’s Museum of New Hampshire, 6 Washington St., Dover, $15 at

Giant step: Possessing skills as both performer and musicologist, Taj Mahal arrived on the Southern California scene in 1964 and settled into the venerable Ash Grove club in Venice Beach, where he formed The Rising Sons with Ry Cooder and guitarist Jesse Lee Kincaid. The Rolling Stones caught him at the Whisky A Go-Go one night and recruited him for their Rock & Roll Circus TV special. Saturday, July 23, 8 p.m., Jimmy’s Jazz & Blues Club, 135 Congress St., Portsmouth, $50 and $100 at

Country kid: A singer-guitarist in the mold of Brad Paisley, Frankie Ballard also had the distinction of having Kip Moore and Chris Stapleton write a song for him. A good guy, Ballard recently went back to his high school in Battle Creek, Michigan, for their bicentennial and taught a guitar class for students there, helping them learn the Johnny Cash classic “Ring of Fire” and throwing out the first pitch at a ball game. Sunday, July 24, 8 p.m., The Goat, 50 Old Granite St., Manchester, $25 at

In the park: Enjoy free outdoor music as the 19-piece Compaq Big Band performs with guest vocalist Marina Evans. Bring a blanket or lawn chair for the early twilight show, but be prepared to get up and dance, as the boisterous ensemble moves through swing, ballads, foxtrots, Latin and even a few Top 40 songs. Evans is a North Shore native who began singing at a young age and has appeared all over the world. Wednesday, July 27, 7 p.m., Emerson Park, 6 Mont Vernon St., Milford. See

Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris (PG)

Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris (PG)

A woman seeks to own a Dior dress in Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris, an absolute charmer of a midlife fairy tale.

London housecleaner Ada Harris (Lesley Manville) still talks about her husband Eddie, who didn’t return from the war but was only ever listed as “missing in action.” In 1957, she gets official word that the crash site of his plane was found and, with the return of his wedding ring, Ada is officially considered a widow by the British government. This turns out to be important for two reasons. The first is that some part of her had clearly hoped that her husband was still out there somewhere. The second is that she is owed 13 years of back widow’s benefits. Add that to some other small windfalls and she suddenly has the money to chase what has recently become her dream: to buy a Christian Dior dress.

After seeing a, as she calls it, “500 pound frock” at the home of a woman she cleans for, Ada, who appreciates not just the artistry of the dress but the escape and fantasy it represents, has decided she’s going to get herself one, even if she’s only wearing it to a local dance at the legion hall.

She flies to Paris, planning to only stay a day, but, after lucking into viewing the latest Dior collection, she learns that to have the dress of her dreams, she must stay a week or so to have it fitted. Luckily, she has charmed the Dior accountant, Andre Fauvel (Lucas Bravo), who invites her to crash at his Paris apartment and has made a friend in the Marquis de Chassagne (Lambert Wilson), who helps her see the possibility for romance again. Ada wins over Natasha (Alba Baptista), a Dior model with more academic aspirations, along with pretty much everyone she meets except Claudine Colbert (Isabelle Huppert), Dior’s number two and a stickler for the exclusivity that is the Dior brand.

This baby-bird-feather gentle movie also features Ellen Thomas and Jason Isaacs playing Ada’s understanding friends back home. Everybody here turns in a solid performance, suffused with warmth and kindness, even, ultimately, most of the jerkier characters. Leslie Manville very nearly twinkles at points but she carries it off without seeming dopey or naive. She gives Ada more personality, more inner life than what strictly appears on the surface.

Is it the most complex tale you’ll see all year? Probably not, but I dare you (particularly if you are a woman of a certain age; what age exactly I’m not sure except that I am definitely of that age) not to be won over by the ideas — that life can still change and surprise you (in the good way), beauty (and more important, feeling beautiful) is not the sole right of youth, hard work by people who spend a lot of time caring for others and not getting the glory will be rewarded. And there are pretty dresses! What’s not to like? B+

Rated PG for suggestive material, language and smoking, according to the MPA on Directed by Anthony Fabian with a screenplay by Anthony Fabian & Carroll Cartwright & Keith Thompson & Olivia Hetreed (based on a 1958 novel by Paul Gallico, one of four Mrs. Harris novels), Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris is an hour and 55 minutes long and is distributed in theaters by Focus Features.

Where the Crawdads Sing (PG-13)

A solitary young woman in rural coastal North Carolina finds herself accused of murdering a former boyfriend in Where the Crawdads Sing, a slow and occasionally dopey drama.

In 1969, Kya Clark (Daisy Edgar-Jones) is known in her small North Carolina town of, I forget, Bumpkin Cove or something, as “marsh girl” because she has lived most of her life largely alone in a house out in the marsh. After her mother leaves Kya’s abusive father when she is a child (Jojo Regina) and one by one her other four siblings run off and then her father himself (Garret Dillahunt) fades away, Kya is left to care for herself. She earns a meager living by picking mussels and selling them to the kind couple, Jumpin’ (Sterling Macer Jr.) and Mabel (Michael Hyatt), who run a small store. Mabel helps Kya get shoes and learn basic math and just generally keeps an eye on this child that she knows is basically alone.

When Kya is a teenager, she reconnects with childhood friend Tate (Taylor John Smith), who shares her love of the natural world of their coastal-marsh-swamp environment and shows his affection for her by bringing her feathers and teaching her to read. But he has big college plans, so he leaves Kya, never returning or even writing her a letter. Since people vanishing without a trace is kind of a trigger for her, Kya basically decides to heck with Tate. Then, years later, she meets Chase (Harris Dickinson), a local jerkface whom she is worn down into dating largely because most people in town are openly terrible.

This story is told in flashback, starting with Kya’s childhood in the early 1950s and moving through the 1960s, as 1969 Kya sits in jail accused of Chase’s murder. Everyone sort of assumes that marsh girl, who is treated like something between Bigfoot and a witch, is of course guilty of killing this from-a-good-family man (never mind that everybody seems aware of his womanizing and general awfulness). Tom Milton (David Strathairn), a good-hearted retired lawyer, decides she isn’t getting a fair shake and takes her case.

This movie serves as an excellent tourism commercial for coastal North Carolina and also serves up some shabby-chic vibes in Kya’s marsh-nestled home, particularly once she’s decorating things how she likes them. And Edgar-Jones is, I guess, fine. Watching her — and because there is so much time when this molasses drip of a movie is just repeatedly underlining stuff we already know about how awful the townsfolk are or what an unsympathetic murder victim Chase is — I found myself thinking Edgar-Jones (who is British) has a Jane Eyre like quality that might work in some BBC adaptation. So hey, Edgar-Jones’ agent, take a few short clips from this movie and show it to whoever is making the inevitable Jane Eyre limited series. Short clips, because whenever Edgar-Jones and one of her two goober-y boyfriends spend too much of some scene just sort of gazing at each other the movie tips over from earnest to doofy. C+

Rated PG-13 for sexual content and some violence including sexual assault, according to the MPA on Directed by Olivia Newman with a screenplay by Lucy Alibar (from the novel by Delia Owens), Where the Crawdads Sing is two hours and five minutes long and distributed in theaters by Sony Pictures Entertainment.

Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank (PG)

In a land of cats, a dog seeks to become a mighty samurai in Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank, an animated movie loosely based on Blazing Saddles, according to the internet, and featuring Mel Brooks with a small voice part.

Hank (voice of Michael Cera) the dog is about to be executed, largely for the crime of sneaking to the land of cats, when cat Ika Chu (voice of Ricky Gervais), a kind of middle-management government type, gets the idea to essentially give the dog what he wants and make him a samurai. Specifically, make him a samurai protecting Kakamucho, a town that Ika Chu wants wiped off the map to improve the view from the palace he built to impress the cat Shogun (voice of Brooks). The Shogun is slated to pick a successor soon and Ika Chu is certain he’ll get the job if the Shogun is wowed by the palace. He assumes that the townscats will be horrified that a dog has been sent to protect them and they’ll kill Hank, which will allow Ika Chu to arrest them all.

But Hank has some loveable goofus qualities and is able to find a reluctant mentor in the form of retired cat samurai Jimbo (voice of Samuel L. Jackson). With the help of Jimbo, Hank gains the begrudging respect of the Kakamucho residents. That is until Ika Chu decides to use that budding confidence to turn Hank into a little bit of an ego monster.

The movie also features the voices of George Takei, Djimon Hounsou, Michelle Yeoh and Aasif Mandvi. And, yes, in the spirit of the source material, we get some beans and toots.

As much as my kids enjoy fart humor, some of the killing- and violence-focused portions of the movie felt not quite sanded down enough for a younger audience. We get some fourth-wall-breaking meta humor (Hank realizing that he’s in the training montage part of the movie) but that also feels like a mix-in not thoroughly incorporated into the Dairy Queen Blizzard of this movie, which feels like has chunks of ideas throughout but never quite adds up to more than “watered down Kung Fu Panda.

Ultimately Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank feels like it needs more and less — more rewrites and more silliness, less discount Dreamworks aimed-at-the-adults jokes and less Ricky Gervais (for all that he’s a good villain here, he also feels like he takes over fairly regularly). I can see the potential but the movie as it is just feels underwhelming. C

Rated PG for action, violence, rude and suggestive humor and some language, according to the MPA on Directed by Chris Bailey, Mark Koetsier and Rob Minkoff with a screenplay by Ed Stone & Nate Hopper (based on Blazing Saddles by Mel Brooks & Normal Steinberg & Andrew Berman & Richard Pryor & Alan Unger), Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank is an hour and 38 minutes long and distributed in theaters by Paramount Pictures.

Featured photo: Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris.

Book Lovers by Emily Henry

I love a well-written rom com that’s not super cheesy and entirely predictable, and I often still enjoy the ones that are. I’ve read Emily Henry’s two other novels, Beach Read and People We Meet on Vacation, and I really enjoyed them (that falls somewhere between just plain “enjoyed” and “loved”). I admit I was hoping Book Lovers — a book about love and people who love books?! — would reach “loved” status, but ultimately the main characters were a little too bland to get me there.

Still, I really enjoyed Book Lovers, which centers on Nora, a New York City literary agent who is described as cold and entirely focused on her job. She thinks of her life as a book; as the main character, she sees herself as the villainess, never the hero. She meets Charlie, a book editor, to pitch her author’s latest book. He says no. They’re not especially kind to each other. The end.

But! Two years later, that book she’d pitched has become a bestseller with a different editor, and Nora heads to the town the book is set in, Sunshine Falls, because her sister Libby is pregnant with her third child and said she wanted to get away, specifically to that small town, before the baby is born. Nora agrees to go with her sister because she feels like the two used to be closer, and she wants to rebuild that bond. She even agrees to follow Libby’s checklist of small-town things to do, like sleep under the stars and save a small business.

Guess who lives in Sunshine Falls, guys? Charlie! It’s his hometown, and he’s back to help his parents, who have health issues, run their bookstore. Turns out he’s not so bad! Even with him there, though, the story is more about Nora and Libby and family and the things we do for them no matter what. It’s … nice.

Here’s one of my issues with the book. Nora is constantly described as cold-hearted and ruthless. Her author’s newest book is kind of about her, in fiction form; the main character is known as a “shark.” Nora sees herself in the character immediately and hates that people see her that way.

The thing is, there are very few times in the book — Book Lovers, not the book in the book – that Nora actually seems cold-hearted. She’s never really mean. She desperately wants to please her sister. She spent much of her young adult life making sure Libby was taken care of after their mom died, which meant sacrificing the relationship she was in at the time, and, for a long time, the possibility of other relationships. She’s cautious, but understandably. So that contradiction throughout the book was a little frustrating for me, and I had a hard time connecting with her character.

I also vacillated between loving the dialogue and being annoyed by it. It definitely flows well and is fun to read most of the time, but occasionally it feels a little over the top, a bit too scripted — like, no one in real life can banter back and forth that wittily for that long.

Take this small part of a scene where Nora and Charlie are at a bar, begrudgingly sharing bits of their lives before challenging each other to a game of pool.

Why do you care why I’m here?’ I [Nora] ask.

Morbid curiosity. Why do you care about my bad day?’

Always helpful to know your opponent’s weaknesses.’

He holds the cue out. ‘You first.’

I take the stick, flop it onto the edge of the table, and look over my shoulder. ‘Isn’t now the part where you’re supposed to put your arms around me and show me how to do it?’

His mouth curves. ‘That depends. Are you carrying any weapons?’

The sharpest thing on me is my teeth.’


But then I loved the very next, non-dialogue line: “I settle over the cue, holding it like I’ve not only never played pool before but have quite possibly only just discovered my own hands.” The book, for me, was a roller coaster of “Ugh, Emily Henry, you’re trying too hard,” and “Aah, Emily Henry, your writing is brilliant!”

The plot is somewhat unique, and the genius of it is that the predictability is meant to be predictable because it’s a romance novel that’s about book lovers who are experts in the typical tropes and characterizations of romance novels. Henry describes them in those terms, and creates a plot that’s purposefully “this is where the story is supposed to go,” and it does. There are a couple of twists, which I didn’t find all that stunning or exciting, but there is some originality that helped level up my feelings for the story.

All in all, Book Lovers is definitely worth the read. It was a little more same-same than I had hoped, but it’s still a fun book that most rom-com lovers will really enjoy. B+Meghan Siegler

Book Notes

Animals, including humans, not only eat less in periods of hot weather, but also do less. Researchers have found a connection between high temperatures and lower productivity. If this tendency toward summer sloth also applies to your reading, it’s a good time to take a break from the 400-page multi-generation historical novels and indulge in bite-sized fare. Here are some story and essay collections easily digested in the embrace of a hammock.

Night of the Living Rez (Tin House, 296 pages) is a collection of 12 stories set in the Penobscot Indian Nation in Maine. The author, Morgan Talty, is a citizen who grew up there. This is his first book, but his writing has been published in collections of the best American short stories in 2020 and 2021.

The Angel of Rome: And Other Stories (Harper, 288 pages) is from Jess Walter, whose six novels include Beautiful Ruins and The Financial Lives of the Poets. His stories have been called “wonderfully inventive” and the publisher says they’re about “those moments when everything changes — for the better, for the worse, for the outrageous.”

Embrace Fearlessly the Burning World (Random House, 352 pages) is a collection of essays by Barry Lopez published posthumously. Lopez was a widely acclaimed nature writer (Arctic Dreams and Of Wolves and Men) who died of cancer in 2020; his work has been compared to that of Henry David Thoreau.

Ghost Lover (Avid Reader Press, 240 pages) is by Lisa Taddeo, a two-time Pushcart Prize winner who lives in Connecticut. The Guardian says Taddeo is known for writing about “female desire.” The Kirkus Review says the stories “take us into the world of people cooler and more attractive than we are.”

Finally, O. Henry Prize winner Frederic Tuten is out with The Bar at Twilight (Bellevue Literary Press, 288 pages). From the Los Angeles Times Review: “In ‘The Snow on Tompkins Square Park,’ a man has entered a horse bar, and the bartender, a blue horse, tells him flatly, ‘We serve horses here, and people who look horsey. You aren’t and you don’t.’” Sign me up. — Jennifer Graham

Book Events

Author events

PAULA MUNIER and SARAH STEWART TAYLOR present their respective mystery novels The Wedding Plotand The Drowning Sea at Gibson’s Bookstore (45 S. Main St., Concord, 224-0562, on Thursday, July 21, at 6:30 p.m.

LINDA REILLY presents her cozy mystery No Parm No Foul at Gibson’s Bookstore (45 S. Main St., Concord, 224-0562, on Tuesday, July 26, at 6:30 p.m.

DIANE HALLENBECK presents Rejecting Fear: Learning to Be Led By Love at the Bookery (844 Elm St., Manchester,, 836-6600) on Thursday, July 28, from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. Free event; register at

MARY ELLEN HUMPHREY presents My Mountain Friend: Wandering and Pondering Mt. Majorat Gibson’s Bookstore (45 S. Main St., Concord, 224-0562, on Thursday, July 28, at 6:30 p.m.

KATHLEEN BAILEY and SHEILA BAILEY present their book New Hampshire War Monuments: The Stories Behind the Stones at Gibson’s Bookstore (45 S. Main St., Concord, 224-0562, on Thursday, Aug. 11, at 6:30 p.m.

R.A. SALVATORE presents Glacier’s Edge at Gibson’s Bookstore (45 S. Main St., Concord, 224-0562, on Friday, Aug. 12, at 6:30 p.m.

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

VIRGINA CHAMLEE presents Big Thrift Energy: The Art and Thrill of Finding Vintage Treasures at Gibson’s Bookstore (45 S. Main St., Concord, 224-0562, on Monday, Aug. 15, at 6:30 p.m.


OPEN MIC POETRY hosted by the Poetry Society of NH at Gibson’s Bookstore (45 S. Main St., Concord, 224-0562,, starting with a reading by poet Sam DeFlitch, on Wednesday, July 20, from 4:30 to 6 p.m. Newcomers encouraged. Free.

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

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

Book Clubs

BOOKERY Monthly. Third Thursday, 6 p.m. 844 Elm St., Manchester. Visit or call 836-6600.

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

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

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

BELKNAP MILL Online. Monthly. Last Wednesday, 6 p.m. Based in Laconia. Email

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



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

Album Reviews 22/07/21

Svvarms, Adaleena EP (Hilltop Records)

It would appear that this East Bay, San Francisco-based duo have designs on a more or less newfangled genre that might be best described as “yacht rock indie.” This isn’t to imply that a lot of indie bands haven’t tried their hands at chilly pop music that grandmothers might like, but this is pretty straightforward stuff, not a bunch of tunes that are by turns gloomy and awkwardly pretty. And besides, if there’s anything these guys would love for me to say about them, it’s that they’re yacht-rock-ish, you can just tell. Like Vampire Weekend on ketamine or Luke Temple with designs on classic radio, the tunes aren’t as kludgy as you might expect from a band that sounds heavily influenced by Wilco and Radiohead, not that I might not be wrong about that. Whatever, the bottom line is that there’s something mildly Simon and Garfunkel about them, but there’s nothing cringey about that aspect. Some good, unique experiments in sound really help to flesh this out. A

Randal Despommier, A Midsummer Odyssey (Sunnyside Records)

Barely-there jazz to peel grapes by. This album is composed of stripped-down rubs of the music of Swedish baritone saxophonist Lars Gullin, a child prodigy who, like so many mid-century jazz players, had something of a cursed life. His first stint as a bandleader ended after a car accident (nobody died, but it apparently prompted the band to quit or something; Gullin was a long-time methadone addict when he died in 1976, so, you know, it’s not too mysterious). Despommier heardGullin’s “Danny’s Dream” and found it quite epic, which takes us to this, a duo project between Despommier and guitarist Ben Monder in barely plugged mode. It’s very light stuff, and to be honest, at first blush (“Toka Voka Oka Boka”) it feels a bit too much like an academic exercise for my taste. That’s not to say the principals didn’t enjoy putting this together, but if I had the capabilities of these guys, I certainly wouldn’t have. B-


• July 22 is our next general-release Friday, when the new CDs hit the streets, all of them hoping to get some love and props from all the young homies and coolios who flock to the record stores to get down to the rock music. My favorite is when you go into Barnes & Noble and all the homies and peeps are test-listening to all the new and ill and groovy rock music on test headphones, and once in a while some grandmother will put on a 1950s Jerry Lee Lewis album and start twerking like a boss right there, while the homies and coolios and skater punks and crazily pierced goth-industrial Draculas all look on and elbow each other, blissfully ignoring the fact that one day their own grandchildren will laugh at them behind their backs for listening to Bruno Mars and having a Hello Kitty tattoo on their butt, nice and safe and out of sight, where totally no bosses would ever see it and fire them. It comforts me to see that people still care about art, even though it peaked when Gallagher smashed his first watermelon on live TV in the 1980s, back when you’d tune into MTV and they’d say, “Hey folks, you’re watching MTV, and we’ve got Simple Minds!” OK, old joke? Perhaps, perhaps, but you young kids weren’t there, you never had to watch videos from Phil Collins and Spandau Ballet, so if I feel the need to make a rusty old joke, I’ve earned the right to it, OK where were we. Oh no, it’s Zooey Deschanel, a.k.a. The Queen Of All Druggie Moonbats, in her vanity rock ’n’ roll project with M. Ward, She & Him, but guess what, this isn’t going to be the duo’s normal level of horribleness, it’s 100 times worse, because this new album probably has a lot of obscure Brian Wilson cover songs on it, if the title, Melt Away: A Tribute To Brian Wilson, is any indication. Good grief, do I really have to do this? Trust me, I sure wouldn’t, if there were just one album being released on the July 22 by a band that at least five of you people had ever heard of, but no, sure, I’ll go listen to their stupid rub of “Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” but if I have to do that, it’s a drinking game, and you people have to participate in it. Rules: one shot if there’s a crummy Postal Service lo-fi techno part that sucks completely, and you have to drink the whole bottle if there’s ukulele. Ready? Ack, ack, this is awful, no Postal Service and no ukulele, but Zooey’s voice is worse than it’s ever been in history. Why does Zooey hate music so much, seriously?

• Hamburger jokes ahoy, mates, looky there, it’s famous pudgy gastronome Jack White, with his latest effort to revive arena rock, the Entering Heaven Alive album! Say, did you know that this Stay-Puft guitar monkey took Meg’s last name when they got married? It’s true, his given last name was Gillis. Aren’t weird rock ’n’ roll facts interesting? I think so, because usually they’re a lot more interesting than the albums put out by weird rock ’n’ roll people, especially in the case of this guy, who hasn’t met a Led Zeppelin riff he didn’t want to steal, but like Steve Harvey once famously said, “Wait a minute!” because this is a folk album, not a Zep album with a chick singer! Teaser track “If I Die Tomorrow” is sort of like if Bowie’s “Major Tom” got super-glued to Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Free Bird.” No further comment.

• Alt-rock band Sports Team is from London, England, and their first album, Deep Down Happy, went to No. 1 in Scotland and no place else. Gulp, their second LP, includes the song “Cool It Kid,” a pub-rock holler-along tune that’s awful except for the chorus.

• Lastly we have Canadian alt-country The Sadies, a band composed of all guys. “All The Good,” the single from Colder Streams, their newest full-length, sounds like a 1960s Rolling Stones ballad, but with banjo, and thus concludes our descent into the abyss for this week.

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).

Mombasa Michelada

I’ve never been very good at meditating.

I had an instructor tell me once that it’s important to listen to your heartbeat or think very hard about your breathing. The way he put it, your brain is like a monkey that is always looking for something to do, so you need to distract it with counting and stuff.

“That makes sense,” I thought to myself. “Because, when you think about it, monkeys are pretty mystical creatures. It’s weird how wizards and witches have familiars and patronuses like cats or elk, because it would be really something to meditate and manifest a pack of angry mandrills. And actually, Angry Mandrill would be a really good name for a high-proof, banana-flavored rum. Maybe with chilies in it….”

And I missed another opportunity for self-enlightenment.

The only time I actually ever succeeded at meditating, it happened — as so many important things in life do — when I wasn’t trying to.

At one point in my youth, I found myself broke on the streets of Mombasa, on the East Coast of Africa. Well, not broke-broke — not George Orwell broke — but not in a position to be picky about my hotel accommodations. Somehow, I found myself surprised at how hot and humid it was. This should not have been much of a shock, as I was on the Equator, about a mile from the Indian Ocean, but The Obvious has always been a bit of a blind spot for me.

I needed someplace to stay, and I followed a couple of German backpackers to a not-quite-scary, kind-of-OK-if-you-squinted-at-it-hard-enough hotel. I managed to score a room for a couple of dollars a night.

(As it turned out, the reason the cheapest room was so cheap was that its window was right next to the loudspeaker of the mosque next door that called worshipers to prayer at five each morning. But that’s another story.)

Obviously, my room didn’t have anything like air conditioning — though there was a large ceiling fan over my bed — and I didn’t have any money to go out at night, but that was OK, because the sheer, overwhelming heat and humidity sucked away any enthusiasm I might have had to do anything anyway.

For two nights, I lay on my bed all night, under the fan sweating.

I kept two or three liters of water by the bed and I would alternate sweating and drinking, drinking and sweating. Taking in water, and feeling it seep back out of me. Over and over again.

It was the single most meditative experience of my life.

So, as I look at the weather forecast for the next week, with temperatures and humidity predicted to be in the 90s, I find myself somewhat uncharacteristically nostalgic for Mombasa.

Mombasa Michelada

A michelada is a Mexican beer cocktail. Many people make theirs very much like a bloody mary, with tomato or even clam juice, spices and sometimes an extra shot of tequila. I like mine a little on the lighter side to facilitate the whole meditative sweating thing.

1 lime wedge and some chili-lime spice to rim the edge of your glass or mug. I like Tajin.

2 oz. passion fruit cocktail – you can find this on the top shelf in the juice aisle at your supermarket

  • ½ teaspoon hot sauce – I like Cholula
  • ½ teaspoon miso paste
  • A pinch of celery salt
  • A pinch of black pepper
  • A handful of torn and mangled cilantro leaves
  • A bottle of Pilsner or lager beer – you can’t go wrong with something Mexican like Modelo

Rub the rim of your glass with your lime wedge, then set it aside for your garnish. Sprinkle some of your chili-lime powder on a plate and touch the rim of your glass down in it to rim the edge of the glass.

Chop or tear your cilantro and put it in the bottom of your glass. This is optional, if you are one of those people who think it tastes like soap, but it is highly recommended.

Fill the glass halfway with ice. This is somewhat heretical; you have been warned.

In a separate dish or cup, mix the hot sauce, miso, celery salt and pepper into a paste. Slowly mix in the passion fruit juice, until it is all smoothly mixed. Pour the mixture into your glass.

Fill the glass with beer and garnish with your lime wedge. Stir gently.

Beer, spice and acidity are excellent playmates. This is a surprisingly meditative drink.

Hmm. Delicious, but maybe a bit strong — add more beer.

Oh, that’s good! But now the cilantro is taking over a little — add a little more juice.


I’m not saying that this experience will be the same as lying under a fan on the equator, counting the cracks in the ceiling, but I recommend it anyway.

Featured photo. Mombasa Michelada. Photo by John Fladd.

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