Old school

Greg Fitzsimmons brings his comedy to Manchester

It was inevitable that Greg Fitzsimmons would find his way into comedy. His father was a revered New York City radio host who knew guys like Henny Youngman and emceed Friars Club roasts. “It was sort of the family business…. It’s like when your father’s a doctor, you think, ‘OK, Dad did that, I could do it,’” Fitzsimmons said by phone recently.

That prediction has been borne out by a career lasting over 30 years. He’s won accolades for his writing skills, including four daytime Emmys working on the Ellen DeGeneres show, and his standup, which comes to Manchester for two shows on Aug. 12 and Aug. 13. However, Fitzsimmons’s first foray into comedy happened in Boston, not the Big Apple.

In the late ’80s, while attending BU, he tested the waters at places like Nick’s Comedy Stop, one among a rich crop of new comics.

“Joe Rogan and I started at the exact same time,” he said. “We spent a lot of time in cars together, going to gigs all over New England. Dane Cook, David Cross, Marc Maron, Louis C.K., Bill Burr, Patrice O’Neal…. Those were all the guys that were around when I was coming up. It was just crazy that there was this much talent.”

One luxury they shared during that time was access, even if there were plenty of what Fitzsimmons termed “hell gigs … true saloon comedy where it was never assumed that the comedian was the funniest one in the room” — a hard but valuable proving ground. Today’s young comics are encountering a different terrain.

“It’s so competitive at the entry level, trying to get seen and get stage time,” Fitzsimmons said. “I was fortunate enough to make a living when I wasn’t even very funny just because there was a ton of rooms and they needed warm bodies. Because of that, I was able to log my 10,000 hours and get to a more proficient place.”

Fitzsimmons was one of the first comics to launch a podcast, in the mid-2000s. It grew out of a radio show Howard Stern gave him for his Howard 101 channel. “I would get these really great guests, like Bill Burr, Adam Carolla, Jimmy Kimmel and Sarah Silverman, and then it would be over so fast,” he said. “So we’d continue with the same guest for another hour.”

The Fitzdog Radio podcast marks its 1,000th episode in a few weeks. Along with Ellen, he’s also written for HBO’s slice-of-standup-life series Crashing, The Man Show, Politically Incorrect and Lucky Louie. The latter was his favorite. “I just had so much respect for Louis [C.K.],” he said. “We started in Boston together, we’ve always lived in the same city, and we have kids that are the same age. We’d drive to work together and just talk about ideas … very organic, I didn’t have to imagine anything. We just had to tell stories from our life.”

An unconventional show with a dour disposition, Lucky Louie only lasted one season, though HBO ordered a second one that wasn’t made. “I think the show was aesthetically unappealing … done to look like The Honeymooners,” Fitzsimmons said. “With the drabness of the characters, it became something people [who] watch sitcoms weren’t used to. They wanted a bunch of people in a bright coffee shop.”

The comic’s onstage act doesn’t suffer similarly. Fitzsimmons is quick and instinctive, adept at crowd work and able to mine his own life for comedy gold. Lately, as he noted in a recent Fitzdog Radio episode, he’s hitting on all cylinders.

“I’m very funny right now; it goes in waves,” he said. As to why, “it’s all about being in the moment. … There are times where you’re caught up in your thoughts and second-guessing, trying too hard, worrying about whatever you’re doing wrong. Then there are times you just get in the pocket … it’s money. Even the same jokes you’ve been doing for a long time have new life in them for some reason.”

If it sounds easy, it’s not, he continued, offering advice to aspirants: “Comedy is a game of inches; each joke lives and dies on a turn of a phrase, losing a word or adding a little tag line,” he said. It starts with finding a voice. “Some people are storytellers and it doesn’t hinge on the words as much. But life for most comics really is about rolling up your sleeves, really honing the material. Because people are seeing a lot of comedy; they know the difference. They can feel it when somebody has put in the work.”

Greg Fitzsimmons
When: Friday, Aug. 12, 8:30 p.m. and Saturday, Aug. 13, 9 p.m.
Where: Chunky’s Cinema Pub, 707 Huse Road, Manchester
Tickets: $30 at chunkys.com

Featured photo: Greg Fitzsimmons. Courtesy photo.

The Music Roundup 22/08/11

Local music news & events

Dad jokes: One of the reasons comedian Robbie Printz welcomed the birth of his first child over a decade ago was the prospect of having new jokes for his act. Printz was inspired by an Eddie Murphy show to break into comedy, deciding to parlay a childhood spent making up his own SNL skits into a career telling jokes. He’s appeared on Comedy Central and won the Boston Comedy Fest. Rob Steen hosts an under-the-tent show. Friday, Aug. 12, 7 p.m., Tuscan Kitchen, 67 Main St., Salem, $30 at tuscanbrands.com.

Prankster pop: A wildly adventurous combo for over two decades, SeepeopleS is readying the release of a new album later this fall featuring help from Morphine’s Dana Colley and Jerome Deupree, Nikki Glaspie and Nate Edgar from Nth Power and Dave Matthews collaborator Tim Reynolds, and a few others. The “anti-genre” band appears at a favorite area spot with Way of the Headband and Lucid Elephants. Saturday, Aug. 13, 9 p.m., Stone Church, 5 Granite St., Newmarket, $15 at stonechurchrocks.com, 21+.

Shady music: Performing outdoors under the Bridge Street bridge, the Shawna Jackson Band is a country rock band led by a local singer with roots in gospel music, back for a second act after taking a long break to raise a family. Members include Oklahoma-born guitarist Dan Messick and fellow axe man Bruce Stone, a Granite State native who spent a decade playing the Highway 49 circuit in California. Saturday, Aug. 13, 6 p.m., Stark Brewing Co., 500 N. Commercial St., Manchester. See shawnajacksonband.com.

Rock show: The twice pandemic-postponed Goo Goo Dolls tour is finally underway, with support from alt rockers Blue October. They’re one of Buffalo’s best-known bands and a big reason the movie City of Angels was even watchable, and their new album, Chaos In Bloom, is being hailed as a return to their early sound. The shows are also getting good reviews — “a true feeling of being alive,” wrote one critic. Sunday, Aug. 14, 7 p.m., Bank of New Hampshire Pavilion, 72 Meadowbrook Lane, Gilford, $25 and up at ticketmaster.com.

Morning song: Early Sunday acoustic concerts continue in central Concord with Ryan Williamson, a homegrown singer-songwriter who jumped into performing after his mother tricked him into playing an open mic night. Now one of the busiest musicians in the area, he’s a one-man band who covers a range of material; a mashup of Lee Brice’s “Hard to Love” and Tom Petty’s “Learning to Fly” is a set standout. Sunday, Aug. 14, 10 a.m., White Park, 1 White St, Concord. More at walkerlecture.org.

Manchester International Film Festival

The Manchester International Film Festival brings shorts, documentaries, feature films, cult faves and a search for Adam Sandler to the Rex Theatre (23 Amherst St. in Manchester) Friday, Aug. 12, through Sunday, Aug. 14. A ticket for a one-day pass costs $20 or get a weekend pass for $50. See palacetheatre.org/film.

In last week’s (Aug. 4) issue of the Hippo, we talked to festival organizers about how the event came together and to some of the filmmakers about their entries. Find the e-edition of the issue at hippopress.com; the story starts on page 10.

In addition to the films, see a star of stage and screen live in person at “An Evening with John Lithgow” at the Palace Theatre (80 Hanover St. in Manchester; palacetheatre.org) on Saturday, Aug. 13, at 7:30 p.m. Tickets for the John Lithgow event, which start at $50 (and are separate from the Saturday pass purchased by itself), include a pass to all festival events.

Screenings on the schedule include these:

Friday, Aug. 12

Sherlock Jr. (1924) a silent film directed by Buster Keaton with live musical accompaniment by Jeff Rapsis at 5:45 p.m.

Slap Shot (1977) the ice hockey movie starring Paul Newman, screening with live comedic commentary from comedian Jimmy Dunn, Roadkill from Greg and the Morning Buzz and retired NHL Referee Mark Riley at 7:30 p.m.

Saturday, Aug. 13

Shrek (2001) at noon (with $5 tickets)

Finding Sandler (2022) a documentary about a director who passed up having a drink with Adam Sandler back in 1998 and decides to fix that mistake. 6:30 p.m.

An American Werewolf in London (1981) 9:05 p.m.

Sunday, Aug. 14

Love Is Strange (2014) which stars John Lithgow, Alfred Molina and Marisa Tomei. 1 p.m.

Haute Couture (2021) a French film, presented in partnership with the New Hampshire Jewish Film Festival. 3 p.m.

Find a longer list featuring films including the shorts on the schedule in the story from Aug. 4 and more specifics on times at the Palace’s event website.

Featured photo: Love is Strange.

Bullet Train (R)

Brad Pitt helms a pretty good collection of supporting players and fun cameos in the bafflingly flat Bullet Train.

I see what you want to be doing here, Bullet Train, maybe even what you think you are doing. Director David Leitch also directed Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw, which is a masterpiece of a certain kind of film-making, and is an uncredited director on John Wick, which is another one of cinema’s greatest super-fun, eat-it-up-with-a-spoon franchises. I feel like that sorta-dumb-but-excellent sweet spot is where Bullet Train wants to be. And should be, by all rights, with its cast, its many action scenes that take place on a speeding train, its regular diversion into caper and its Japanese candy wrapper visual aesthetic, but it just doesn’t get there.

Ladybug (Brad Pitt) — that’s a code name — is an ambivalent criminal directed by his handler (Sandra Bullock, largely just as a voice) to steal a sleek metallic briefcase on a bullet train traveling from Tokyo to Kyoto. Easy job on a snazzy train — except an assortment of other sketchy characters have been hired to watch the briefcase or take someone out or otherwise cause trouble on the train. These not-just-bystanders include the affable brothers Lemon (Brian Tyree Henry) and Tangerine (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), a too-shiny girl played by Joey King called The Prince, a rumpled mess (Andrew Koji) whose young son is in the hospital, a man called The Wolf (Bad Bunny) and a woman called The Hornet (Zazie Beetz). And some other people — many introduced with a title card and a backstory. Or we get to see their backstory later. You get some vengeance, some grudges, a nice mix of languages with stylish subtitles and some highjinks that blend overly complicated plan and dumb luck. And through it all, a kind of John Wick by way of Guy Ritchie violence is delivered in a way that is highly choreographed, extremely stylized and, like, not funny exactly but not without a sense of humor in that Fast & Furious/John Wick way.

Like I said, I should totally love this.

But I didn’t. The overall effect of Bullet Train reminded me a bit of how I felt about the recent Netflix movie The Gray Man, where it had the look and feel of the kind of movie it was trying to be without actually being that movie. This is the Paris Las Vegas hotel, the EPCOT Parabellum Pavilion version of a high-energy action romp; it is telling you, loudly, that that is what you are watching without ever really convincing you of it.

I can not overstate the strangeness of being so underwhelmed by a movie with such a strong cast. Pitt is such a great goofball, and here he gets to tap into those comic abilities. Henry is fun (despite this: Lemon has a whole affectation about how Thomas the Tank Engine explains how people are in the world and it is, er, tolerable but not as awesome as the movie thinks it is). Lemon feels lifted out of a (better) Guy Ritchie affair. I would be inclined to say “this movie needs more characters as developed and thought through as Lemon” except that I wonder if “more” is this movie’s problem. Maybe this movie needs, to borrow from Coco Chanel, to take a few assassins off before it leaves the house.

Some of the cameos — Beetz, for example, and a few I haven’t mentioned — are super fun, or at least they would be if the movie were having fun instead of “portraying a mandatory jolliness experience,” which is how it feels like the “fun” is being given to us here. I wanted to like this movie more, I will probably watch it again when it winds up on some streaming service or some TNT Saturday afternoon lineup (which is how I went from “meh” to “woo-hoo!” on the 2017 Guy Ritchie take on King Arthur). But at first viewing, at least, all that speed and flash fizzled far more than it crackled. C+

Rated R for strong and bloody violence, pervasive language and brief sexuality, according to the MPA at filmratings.com. Directed by David Leitch with a screenplay by Zak Olkewicz, Bullet Train is two hours and six minutes long and distributed in theaters by Columbia Pictures.

Featured photo: Bullet Train.

The Summer Friend, by Charles McGrath

The Summer Friend, by Charles McGrath (Knopf, 227 pages)

For people of a certain socioeconomic class, “summer” has long been more of a verb than a noun. To summer at the Cape or in Newport, or even spend a month at some Dirty Dancing type resort, was a privilege far removed from going somewhere with the kids for a week or two.

In his memoir The Summer Friend, Charles McGrath acknowledges the class divide in our experience of summer, writing, “In this country, the idea of vacations … didn’t come along until the nineteenth century, and it was initially embraced by people who didn’t work all that hard to begin with. … Working people didn’t get time off, and farmers, in particular, were busiest during the hot summer months.”

So thank the rich if you enjoy summer because the season as we know it began with the wealthy embarking for their “camps” in the Adirondacks and “cottages” in Newport to escape the heat of the South and cities. Of course, summer activities were quite different then, because in the 1800s swimming and sunning weren’t popular activities: “What people mostly did was stroll around and wait for the next meal, sort of like people in rest homes,” McGrath drolly observes.

Not so McGrath, a former editor for The New Yorker and The New York Times, whose remembrance of summer is much more action-packed and includes a friend, also named Chip, who hailed from New Hampshire.

That friendship, cut short by metastasized prostate cancer, is ostensibly the subject of this slim, often elegant memoir. However, the seasonal friendship, though it spanned decades, didn’t provide enough material to fill a book, and a more accurate title would have been “My Summer House,” filled as the book is with McGrath’s reflections on his own summers, both as a child and as a parent. (He’s the father of New Yorker writer Ben McGrath, who also published a memoir about a doomed friendship this year; it’s called Riverman.)

McGrath’s summer friend was Chip Gillespie, a New Hampshire native whose father taught (and was briefly the headmaster) at Phillips Exeter Academy. The men met — at a square dance — because McGrath and his wife had decided they wanted to spend their summers as they did in childhood, decamping to a primitive cottage for an extended period of time instead of flying the family to a Disney resort or some exotic locale.

As it turned out, both the McGraths and the Gillespies had young children of the same gender and age, and as so often happens, the need for children’s playmates helped to facilitate the parents’ friendship, as did the natural gregagriousness of Chip and his wife, Gay. (McGrath would say at Gillespie’s funeral that, “of his many abilities, Chip’s greatest talent was for friendship.”)

The Gillespies had the McGraths over for dinner the following night, and there was soon after a playdate for their daughters from which Chip Gillespie arrived on the water in a sailboat to pick his daughter up by towing her across the channel to their house. “Who knew you could do that with a sailboat, and how could you not want to be friends with the guy who thought of it?” McGrath writes.

It’s not that McGrath wasn’t accomplished in his own right, but Gillespie, an architect five years older, seemed to have the more interesting life, and McGrath came to be something of a fanboy. Gillespie was the instigator behind the pair’s more daring adventures, such as jumping off bridges at night and skinny-dipping with their wives, and it was Gillespie who taught his city friend how to trap lobsters, and to illegally obtain fireworks from Phantom Fireworks in Seabrook.

Unlike the McGraths, the Gillespies lived in the unidentified beach town in Massachusetts, year-round; they “made summering into something like an occupation,” McGrath writes. There was a built-in imbalance to their friendship since McGrath was there on vacation while Gillespie was still working; the Gillespie family vacationed in Canada.

But the two took to hanging out together when Gillespie wasn’t working, and while it appears they didn’t talk much, they participated in the storied rites of affluent male-bonding: playing golf, sailing, checking scores on ESPN, and performing random chores like sanding their boats and hauling trash to the dump. There was an easy camaraderie between the men, and they picked up the friendship easily when the McGraths came to town. Then Gillespie got sick.

Diagnosed with prostate cancer, he fought it off for a few years, but the cancer spread catastrophically, to the point of destroying his hip and eventually claiming his life. It appears that Gillespie worked to hide the extent of his illness from his friend, or maybe they just weren’t that close after all. For a significant friendship, the men seemed to not talk much, at least not about significant stuff, and this is passed off as being common among men. “Call it cowardice if you want, but my sense was that he didn’t want to talk about death or friendship either. I thought it was enough that we were just there in the same room,” McGrath wrote.

At the end, though, McGrath expresses his profound regret at what was not said; when he finally gets around to expressing how he feels about Gillespie and their friendship, it’s in a letter delivered in the final months of Gillespie’s life, and McGrath admits that it was too little, too late. “This book is what I should have given him,” he confesses.

Few people lose friends or family without pangs of guilt and regret, so in this, The Summer Friend is a cautionary tale. It is also a fine summer musing, though mostly for people of a certain age and class. Your cousin from Boston may not care much for it, but your grandfather from Newport definitely will. B

Book Notes

People in the U.K. forgave Americans for stealing the sitcom The Office, the actor Benedict Cumberbatch and even the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. But they still haven’t gotten over how we took over the Man Booker Prize.

The most prestigious literary award in the U.K., the Booker Prize honors the best fiction written or translated into English and it was only opened to American authors in 2014. It didn’t take long for Americans to win: Paul Beatty won in 2016 for The Sellout and George Saunders in 2017 for Lincoln in the Bardo, leading critics to grouse that Americans had “colonized” the award and should be excluded again. That hasn’t happened, and this year’s longlist will likely renew the complaining: six of the 13 novels on the list are from the U.S.

And one, Nightcrawling (Knopf, 271 pages), has the distinction of the youngest author ever to be nominated for the prize. Leila Mottley is now 20 and started writing the novel when she was 16. (Last month, we gave it an “A.”)

If you’re playing at home (highly advised), here are the other American books to read, or at least skim, before the 2022 winner is announced on Oct. 17:

Oh William! by Elizabeth Strout (Random House, 256 pages) is about “a grief-stricken woman who helps her ex-husband investigate his family past,” according to NPR.

Booth by Karen Joy Fowler is a fictionalized story about the family of the man who killed Abraham Lincoln (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 480 pages).

Trust (Riverhead, 416 pages) by Hernan Diaz is about New York tycoons during the 1920s and ’30s. A New York Times review called it “ intricate, cunning and constantly surprising.

After Sappho (Liveright, 288 pages) by Selby Wynn Schwartz is a publisher’s dream, an award nominee before it’s even been released. Scheduled for January, it’s been described as “speculative biography” tying together the lives of diverse artists such as Virginia Woolf and Romaine Brooks and imagining them as queer trailblazers.

The Trees by Percival Everett (Graywolf, 288 pages) is a thriller/mystery about racism and lynching set in rural Mississippi. Given the subject matter, it’s a nod to the author’s skill that some of the reviews mention that it’s often witty.

Finally, shoutout to the Irish author Claire Keegan, whose Small Things Like These is the shortest book nominated in Man Booker history, coming in at 116 pages.

Book Events

Author events

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, gibsonsbookstore.com) 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, gibsonsbookstore.com) on Friday, Aug. 12, at 6:30 p.m.

E.B. BARTLES will sign and discuss (with Sy Montgomery) her book Good Grief: On Loving Pets Here and Hereafter at the Toadstool Bookshop in Peterborough (12 Depot Square; 924-3543, toadbooks.com) on Saturday, Aug. 13, at 11 a.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. Free event; register at www.bookerymht.com/our-events.

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

TOM MOORE Andy’s Summer Playhouse (582 Isaac Frye Highway in Wilton; 654-2613, andyssummerplayhouse.org) and Toadstool Bookshop will present an event with Tom Moore, one of the authors of the book Grease, Tell Me More, Tell Me More: Stories from the Broadway Phenomenon That Started It All on Friday, Aug. 19, at 5 p.m. at Andy’s Summer Playhouse. See andyssummerplayhouse.org/grease to RSVP to the event.


OPEN MIC POETRY hosted by the Poetry Society of NH at Gibson’s Bookstore (45 S. Main St., Concord, 224-0562, gibsonsbookstore.com), 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 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 22/08/11

Jackboy, Majorly Independent (1804 Records)

I do make a constant attempt to cover all musical genres in this space, and yeah, it’s made me a jack of all trades and master of — OK, not all that many, especially indie hip-hop records that sound like I’ve heard them before, a ton of times, and break no new ground. Like this one, which does, for its part, come with receipts: JackBoy — real name Pierre Delince — spent the first six years of his life in Haiti, then wound up in Florida, where he became part of Sniper Gang with Kodak Black, with whom he has (of course) beef nowadays. I won’t get into why I’m convinced this guy’s “fame” is largely generated by a bot swarm, nor will I bother rattling off a list of very similar-sounding artists, since you know the drill by now: smack talk and savings account fables delivered via “clipped cadences and pained operatics,” as one rap wiki observed (in a review snippet that could describe, well, nearly every rapper ever), while the beats explore basic trap, polite neo-crunk and whatnot, nothing too crazy. You see, folks, albums like this don’t want actual music reviews, they want sets of biographical drama bullets on the artist. My DMs and PMs are wide open if you disagree, but I can’t imagine anyone would. As is, sure, it’s tight and whatnot. And absolutely disposable. C+

Rusty Santos, High Reality (Lo Recordings)

This Los Angeles-based producer/musician has worked with tons of bands and artists, usually in the space occupied by purveyors of wetwork tuneage of pretty high quality: Chui Wann, Gang Gang Dance, Animal Collective (since you likely have no idea what those acts sound like, just think pretty layers, electronically tweaked/pinched vocal lines, things like that in general). By my count, High Reality is Santos’s sixth solo album, his forte a guitar/vocal thing with varying levels of roughness on the sample side. Opener “Dream In Stereo” is throwback Beck, for sure; it starts with a really woozy, wobbly sample that, it turns out, is a template for most of the songs that are aboard this thing. It’s kind of dated in that regard; in the press materials for this one he yammers about learning all kinds of stuff, which would be natural, given the collaborations in which he’s figured, but after many minutes of wobbling and slow-trilling and whatnot it feels like the work of a one-trick pony who should probably stick to remixing and things like that. B-


• Aug. 12 is here, homies, here it comes, we may as well just call it September, fun-time’s over. But since the 12th is a Friday, there will at least be some new albums, if that’s any consolation (I know, I know), so let’s pull up the barnacle-covered lobster trap, toss the bewildered-looking starfish back in the water and see what albums wandered into my crafty little device for capturing albums before they can swim away and not have to face my mightily eloquent blah blah blah. We may as well start with movie soundtrack dude Danny Elfman, whose new album, Bigger Messier, consists of a bunch of remixes from his 2021 artist album, Big Mess. Right, so just to clear up one of the questions that always comes up about Danny Elfman: He is the uncle of actor Bodhi Elfman, who is married to actress Jenna Elfman, so they’re not siblings or whatever, he’s just — you know, whatever an uncle-in-law is called. Now, you also may not know that Elfman was in a really awful band called Oingo Boingo in the ’80s. They were like Devo but basically 200 percent less funny, but one interesting thing is that there’s been a lot of confusion around one particular actor who appeared in Oingo Bongo’s video for their really terrible single “Little Girls”: Tons of young people are clogging internet boards proclaiming that they’re convinced that the actor is indeed Peter Dinklage from Game Of Thrones. However, some smarty-pants on LinusTechTips.com set the entire internet straight in one post, so the question will never be posed again, ever, by anyone, because the internet is a perfect, self-maintained mechanism. To wit: “Peter Dinklage was 12 when that song was released, so it’s very unlikely that the person with a mustache who looks nothing like Peter Dinklage is him.” So there’s that; and remember, Elfman’s pretty dumb-looking; he played the parts of all the Oompa Loompas in the Willy Wonka movie that starred Johnny Depp, and, cutting to now, I wasn’t that impressed with anything I heard from the Big Mess album, like, it kind of wanted to be an edgy rock album but wasn’t interesting; however, the Squarepusher remix of “We Belong” turns the original tune, a morose, funereal droner, into a dubstep tour de force. It’s fine, but has nothing to do with the original. Let’s just leave that here.

• Yikes, look, folks, it’s Japanese stoner/psychedelic-metal masters Boris, with their new album Heavy Rocks 2022; this is probably awesome! The trio usually gets lumped in with Seattle’s plodding drone-meisters Sunn(((O))), mostly because they collaborated on a (rather unnecessary) record; you should ignore any such nonsense and go check them out if you’re into Jack White’s retro-hard-rock and that kind of thing. But wait, maybe I spoke too soon, because I haven’t even listened to the new advance tune “She Is Burning,” so for all I know they’re horrible now, let’s go check it out. OK, forget it, this is wicked cool, hyper-thrash hard-rock with dueling guitar riffs, why aren’t these guys 100 times bigger than they are now?

• Oh, how adorable, San Francisco borderline punk outfit OC’s have changed the spelling of their band name to Osees, just to make sure their fans won’t be able to find their new album, A Foul Form, on the internet (again). Isn’t that special? Too bad, because the title track is hardcore no-wave, thrashy, really bad-ass, love it.

• We’ll wrap it up with 1980s-famous synthpop duo Erasure, whose new LP, Day-Glo (Based On A True Story) is broken up into “chapters.” The tune “Chapter 2” is krautrock-ish roller-rink techno that immediately made me think of aughts-era Haujobb. I can deal with it.

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).

Summer bellinis

Another reason to buy prosecco

Legend has it that the bellini was invented by Giuseppi Cipriani, owner of Harry’s Bar in Venice, Italy. Sometime between the mid-’30s and the mid-’40s he created this seasonal beverage made with puréed fresh Italian white peaches and prosecco, and as the legend states, he named the drink bellini as it reminded him of the peachy-pink color of a toga worn by a saint in a painting by Venetian artist Giovanni Bellini. The bellini has been selected by the International Bartenders Association (IBA) for use in the annual World Cocktail Competition (WCC) in bartending. There are variations to this blend, some of which call for the addition of mandarin orange juice, strawberry purée or pomegranate juice, but the peach purée reigns supreme when one thinks of the bellini.

Today it is easy enough to find several labels of prosecco, some relatively inexpensive and others a little pricier. The price points on most proseccos are generally accessible: from less than $10 per bottle to a little more than $25 per bottle. Several labels available in New Hampshire still come from Italy, but there is an increasing supply coming from California. As I am a firm believer that “life is too short to drink cheap wine,” I opt for the better quality, sometimes reflected in its price point.

Prosecco is made from a blend of grapes but the Italian varieties must contain at least 85 percent glera, with the rest being local and international varieties, including chardonnay, pinot blanco, pinot grigio and pinot noir. It is produced using the Charmat method: The base wine is produced, but instead of bottling, it is put into a sealed stainless steel tank, kept cool and under pressure to produce the effervescent bubbles. It is then filtered and bottled. This method of winemaking eliminates the second fermentation and riddling, the freezing and disgorging of the lees, and the addition of the dosage, or sweet wine — all the intensive work required of the Methode Traditionelle production of Champagne. With the Charmat method a small dosage of sweetened wine may be added, but this is added to the bulk wine before bottling. The bubbles of prosecco may be smaller, and the taste generally of more fruit than a sparkling wine produced by the Methode Traditionelle, but I like to think of this as a comparison of apples to oranges, a comparison a whole other column can be devoted to!

In making our bellinis, I selected the Santa Margherita Prosecco Di Valdobbiadene Superiore D.O.C.G. Brut, available at the New Hampshire Liquor and Wine Outlets, priced at $25.99, reduced to $19.99. This wine comes from the Conegliano-Valdobbiadene region of Veneto, Italy. It is made from 100 percent glera grapes. The winemakers allow the wine to sit on its lees for three months after fermentation, producing a creaminess not found in other proseccos I have tasted. The color is pale straw, the bubbles full, and to the nose there is citrus, peaches, pears and a touch of almond. To the tongue it is crisp and clean, with a fair amount of apple and more citrus. This is a delightful prosecco to sip enjoy with a meal or pair with a peach purée, to create a magnificent bellini!

Now, about the peach purée. It is tough to find! You can find it online, and Shaw’s sells a cocktail mixer, Stirrings Simple Peach Bellini, available at $7.99. This is a mixer created from real ingredients without preservatives; however, it is made from orange juice concentrate and peach purée. It’s pretty good and provides one with an easy recipe for that bellini: one part of the mix to four parts of prosecco, poured into a chilled Champagne flute. Doesn’t get much easier than that! But I have found I can create my own peach purée, by cutting an organic peach preserve with a little of the prosecco to create a purée, adding a couple of drops of lemon juice to cut the sweetness, then following through with the 4-to-1 recipe, or proportions to suit one’s taste. If you have the time and interest, you can create your own peach puree. All you need is a food processor or blender, a little sugar, honey or maple syrup, and of course fresh peaches. The concoction can be frozen!

This is a great libation for a hot summer afternoon. Slightly sweet and light in alcohol (the prosecco is typically 11 percent), it is a wonderful drink to impress your guests with your superior tastes and talents, and your impressive knowledge of wines and the history of cocktails. Enjoy the summer heat on your deck and patio with a cool bellini!

Featured photo. Courtesy photo.

Nectarine and strawberry salad

The heat of summer may have you thinking about meals you can make without turning on the stove or the oven. A little something on the grill, a side salad, some bread — it’s a perfect formula for dinner on a hot August day. I find that when I think about salads, I often turn to a green, leafy base. Then, I remind myself to think differently and end up with a salad such as this.

This salad is incredibly easy to make, but (said with much emphasis) you do have to plan a little bit. Before starting the salad prep, you need to make your own simple syrup. If you make your simple syrup the day before you want to eat this salad, you’ll be in good shape. Prep and assemble the salad the next morning, which will take all of about 10 minutes. Then, at dinnertime that night, you have a wonderfully chilled and flavorful salad ready to be eaten.

There are only five ingredients in this recipe, which adds to its simplicity. Make sure you can find nicely ripe nectarines and strawberries. You don’t want overripe, as the time spent macerating will make them too mushy. For the mint, fresh really is best. Dried won’t add the flavor or texture you want. However, for the lime juice, bottled is just fine.

Ingredients in hand, you have a refreshing salad to cool you off!

Nectarine and strawberry salad
Serves 4

2 nectarines
12 strawberries
1½ Tablespoons minced, fresh mint, about 10 leaves
2 Tablespoons simple syrup*
2 Tablespoons lime juice

Chop nectarines and strawberries into bite-sized pieces, discarding pit and leaves.
Transfer to a medium-sized bowl.
Add minced mint and gently toss to combine.
Pour simple syrup and lime juice into a small bowl; stir well.
Add syrup mixture to fruit, and toss gently to combine.
Refrigerate for at least 2 hours to allow flavors to meld.

*Simple syrup recipe
1 cup water
½ cup granulated sugar
Combine in a small pot and bring to a boil.
Stir until sugar dissolves completely.

Featured Photo: Nectarine and Strawberry Salad. Photo by Michele Pesula Kuegler.

In the kitchen with Rick Carvalho

Rick Carvalho is the owner of OakCraft Pizza (2 Cellu Drive, Suite 111, Nashua, 521-8452, oakcraftpizza.com), a fast-casual eatery specializing in fresh wood-fired pizzas that opened in Nashua’s Amherst Street Village Center last September. A Hollis native, Carvalho said pizza-making started out as a passion project for him a few years ago. In the spring of 2019 he enrolled in an intensive course in Staten Island, New York, where he learned how to make and serve pizzas in a restaurant setting. OakCraft Pizza offers completely customizable options on an assembly line before your pie reaches the end. It’s then ready to be cooked in a wood-fired oven, which came overseas from Italy. There are multiple specialty pizza offerings, or you can choose to build your own — other menu items include cheesy garlic bread, salads, meatballs with red sauce, and hand-filled whoopie pies. Prior to opening OakCraft, Carvalho and his family formerly owned franchises for four Dunkin’ Donuts stores across Nashua.

What is your must-have kitchen item?

Definitely a dough scraper, or a baker’s third hand, as people will call it. … It’s just such a great utility tool that makes my life so much easier.

What would you have for your last meal?

Probably a really nice steak, cooked medium, with mashed potatoes … and then I’d finish it off with creme brulee.

What is your favorite local restaurant?

My wife and I got married at LaBelle Winery in Amherst six years ago. We love going there for brunch.

What celebrity would you like to see eating in your restaurant?

I’d probably go with either Matthew McConaughey, because he seems like a cool guy, or Justin Bieber, because I want him to be my target audience as a business. … If Justin Bieber comes into your restaurant and he throws one Instagram post up there about it, I mean, you’re going to retire.

What is your favorite thing on your menu?

The Vodka Pie. It has a house-made vodka sauce and fresh mozzarella, prosciutto, mushrooms and just a splash of peas … and then we finish it off with grated imported Parmesan and fresh basil. It’s an ode to a traditional Italian penne alla vodka … so it just kind of brings in a little bit of culture, and it’s something you can’t get anywhere else around here that I know of.

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

Definitely vegan options … and then also just a higher-end experience. I think people are starting to finally get that around here, and I think it was a huge push in why we opened and with what we’re doing.

What is your favorite thing to cook at home?

I used to cook a lot at home, actually. … The thing I’ve cooked the most at home would be chicken Parm with just like a simple pasta.

Homemade chicken Parm
From the kitchen of Rick Carvalho of OakCraft Pizza

3 large chicken breasts, halved
1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 eggs
1 cup bread crumbs
1 cup marinara sauce
1 cup fresh mozzarella cheese

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees, with the rack in the middle of the oven. Heat a pan to medium-high heat on the stove and coat with olive oil. Dip chicken breasts in egg, then coat in bread crumbs. Place chicken on the pan to brown each side. Remove chicken from the pan and place in an oven-safe baking dish. Layer chicken and marinara sauce throughout the baking dish. Cover with aluminum foil and bake the chicken at 425 degrees for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and place fresh mozzarella slices on the chicken. FInish cooking until the internal chicken temperature reaches 165 degrees. Enjoy over your choice of pasta.

Featured photo: Rick Carvalho of OakCraft Pizza Courtesy photo.

Brews at the ballpark

Gate City Brewfest returns after three-year hiatus

Unlike most local beer festivals, Gate City Brewfest is unique for welcoming visitors of all ages. That’s because the annual event, returning to Holman Stadium in Nashua for its eighth year on Saturday, Aug. 20, is about more than just pouring beer — attendees are treated to an afternoon filled with games, live music acts, local vendors, food trucks and more.

This is the first time since the pandemic struck that Gate City Brewfest has been able to operate in its traditional format, said Chelsea Dennis, marketing manager of Bellavance Beverage Co., which hosts the event in collaboration with the City of Nashua each year. After taking a year off in 2020, organizers morphed the event into a music festival for 2021. But while they were able to raise funds for the Nashua Police Athletic League, Dennis said it just wasn’t the same.

“We’re excited to bring the event back to a true brewfest form. It’s been three years since then,” Dennis said. “So much has changed in that time, and we just feel like we really have the best year yet on deck. It is going to be a little different, but we think it makes the most sense.”

Since the first event in 2013, the scale of Gate City Brewfest’s offerings has grown considerably — this year, there are expected to be more than 150 individual beers, ciders and seltzers from dozens of local and regional craft breweries to choose from, all in a wide variety of styles.

“They usually decide what they’ll bring like the week before, because it depends on what inventory they have, and if anything new or seasonal is coming out,” Dennis said. “So if they have fall beers, they will try to bring them if they are ready. … I think a safe estimate would be that they each bring three to four options, so all the different kinds of beers are covered.”

Dennis added that a special VIP ticket rate grants attendees access into the ballpark an hour earlier, when a series of exclusive limited beer releases will be served.

Ready-to-drink canned cocktails will also have a larger-than-before presence at this year’s event.

“If you don’t like beer, there are so many options for you,” Dennis said. “Obviously there’s hard cider, which we’ve had every year … but more than that, we have different wine options and vodka-based and tequila-based cocktails that will be there too.”

One of the most notable changes to this year’s Gate City Brewfest is the elimination of the chicken wing competition. While it had remained a big draw over the years, Dennis said the rising costs of product and a lack of staff among restaurant participants were the major factors in the event committee’s decision not to bring the competition back. Instead, the festival is planning to welcome additional food trucks — the Seacoast Pretzel Co., which offers freshly baked Bavarian-style soft pretzels, and The Puddle Jumper, a mobile food trailer brought to you by the owners of The Flight Center Beer Cafe in Nashua, are among this year’s vendors.

A full schedule of live local music acts is planned, courtesy of Evolvement Music. Brother Seamus will kick things off at 1 p.m., followed by Slack Tide at 2:10 p.m. and the Faith Ann Band at 3:30 p.m., Dennis said. A cornhole competition is also going to be open for spectators to watch, but to participate, players must win one of the qualifier rounds at an event leading up to the festival. Upcoming rounds are scheduled for Thursday, Aug. 11, at 6 p.m. at The Flight Center Beer Cafe in Nashua; Saturday, Aug. 13, at 1 p.m., at Game Changer Sports Bar & Grill in Londonderry; and Sunday, Aug. 14, at 3 p.m., at Boston Billiard Club & Casino in Nashua.

The winner of the competition receives a pair of tickets to the Boston Red Sox game on Sept. 17, along with an overnight hotel stay at The Lenox in Boston and an all-expenses paid trip to Cisco Brewery’s pop-up beer garden in Boston’s Seaport District.

8th annual Gate City Brewfest
When: Saturday, Aug. 20, 1 to 5 p.m. (VIP admittance begins at noon)
Where: Holman Stadium, 67 Amherst St., Nashua
Cost: $35 in advance (through Aug. 18), $50 at the door, $15 for designated drivers and visitors under 21, and free for kids ages 12 and under. VIP tickets are $70 and include early access and an exclusive beer selection. A kickoff party is also scheduled for Thursday, Aug. 18, from 6 to 8 p.m., at The Thirsty Moose Taphouse (360 Daniel Webster Hwy., Merrimack)
Visit: gatecitybrewfestnh.com
Event is rain or shine. No re-entry or pets allowed. Free shuttle buses will make several stops across Nashua from noon to 5:45 p.m., including at the Elm Street garage, the High Street garage, Main Street and Pearson Avenue, Holman Stadium, and the Main Street bridge after Franklin Street.

Featured photo: Photo courtesy of Gate City Brewfest.

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