Two of a kind

April Cushman and Brad Myrick team up

On paper, the pairing of April Cushman and Brad Myrick is unexpected. At the recent New England Music Awards, she won for Best Country Act, while he was nominated in the jazz category. Over the years, however, they’ve connected a lot, at area open mics and through bookings done by NH Music Collective, an agency co-run by Myrick.

Recently, they tried playing together informally and found a strong musical connection. So, when Cushman got an offer to open for Scotty McCreary at Keene’s Colonial Theatre, she reached out to him to see if he’d be interested in making her solo act a duo for the show.

It turned into a heady night, as the sold-out crowd responded thunderously to their first song, a rarity when most fans are typically trickling in when the opener is on stage. That gig led to a headlining date for Cushman’s band at the intimate Colonial Showroom on Dec. 9, with Myrick joining the group; it sold out. Over the past several months, they’ve played many shows together, in big and small rooms.

“Brad and I have always been booking with each other and playing a lot of the local places,” Cushman said in a recent co-interview with Myrick. “It just came about that we should collaborate and come together. I’m a rhythm guitarist and Brad is amazing at everything he does. We’re both huge advocates of original music. I regret not doing it sooner than we did.”

Though his recorded output points in one direction, “I gotta say, I’m decisively a rock and pop guy,” Myrick offered. “It’s funny, when I moved back to New Hampshire after being away for a decade, the first project that got some traction was a quintet, so everybody around here started thinking of me as a jazz guy.”

Cushman concurred. “A lot of country music stuff is really rooted in rock and bluegrass,” she said. “When you think about taking Brad and me separately and combining them together where we are both so rooted in rock … country music is very pop these days, and bluegrass … it just worked very well.”

Myrick is especially excited by working in the studio; the two connected in a big way there. Cushman’s debut, The Long Haul, was made in Nashville with session players, and Cushman was looking for a change, both in approach and venue. In November, she and Myrick recorded two of her songs at The Greenhouse Studio in Gilford, for release next year.

“Smoke” is a both aching and sweet ballad that alludes to the trap of social media. “Do you feel like you have to use that filter?” Cushman sings. “Are you stuck somewhere in between who you are and what they see?” Myrick’s fingerpicking guitar perfectly complements the all-acoustic track. The treasure-every-moment “Borrowed Time” is equally intimate and includes a Myrick harmony vocal.

“I wanted to come out of the gates with the first record … radio-ready,” Cushman said. “But at the end of the day, I never played on any of those tracks. I tracked all the vocal work myself … but any of the acoustic guitar on The Long Haul, it’s not me. Playing with Brad in the studio and keeping it local, I think is very important.”

“It was really easy for me to share music with April because she’s got songs; the lyrics are relatable,” Myrick said. “As a side man, I’m listening to the singer, I’m thinking, ‘How do I support that and give it a second voice?’”

Their next duo show is opening for Joe Nichols in Boston Dec. 15. Locally, they’ll do an apres-ski set at Sunapee Resort on Friday, Jan. 6, and share the stage with Houston Bernard Band at the Press Room in Portsmouth on Jan. 20. Both are keeping busy solo schedules. Myrick has a few holiday shows upcoming, including one at Café One East in Warner on Dec. 17 and another at Contoocook Cider Co. on Dec 21.

He spent last summer in Italy, recording a soon to be released record with longtime musical partner Nicola Cipriani. “I think it’s my masterpiece, the best thing I’ve done in 41 years of being alive; I’ve never been so excited about music,” he said, adding, “the last few months have been great playing with April; she’s on such a great trajectory right now. I’m so proud of her, she’s just killing it.”

Death, Seventh Son, Nights of the Dead and Somewhere in Time. When it sells out, there are other items that headbangers will love, like a Pantera set, along with standalones of Ronnie James Dio and Twisted Sister’s Dee Snider.

Featured photo: April Cushman and Brad Myrick performing at NEMA2022. Photo Credit: M. Allen Photography

The Music Roundup 22/12/15

Local music news & events

Christmas nuts: Like most suburban American kids, piano player Eric Mintel got his first taste of jazz from A Charlie Brown Christmas and its Vince Guaraldi soundtrack. Though Mintel didn’t know it was jazz, he knew he liked it, and the special helped spawn a lifetime love of the genre that’s seen him play at the White House twice. Mintel is back to perform the timeless holiday favorite with his quartet. Thursday, Dec. 15, 4 p.m., Rex Theatre, 23 Amherst St., Manchester, $29 and up at

Sonic beauty: Guitar virtuoso Tim Reynolds formed his electric power trio TR3 in the late 1980s and got a big boost in the following decade through his collaboration with Dave Matthews. He stuck mostly to acoustic music in the following years before meeting bass player Mick Vaughn and drummer Dan Martier and re-forming TR3 in 2007. In early 2022 the group released Wild In The Sky, a live album. Friday, Dec. 16, 8 p.m., Bank of New Hampshire Stage, 16 S Main St., Concord, $36 at

Coffee music: Boston-based music educator Sarah Fard performs as Savoir Faire, blending topical songwriting with jazz-infused retro pop. Her most recent EP, Think Twice, “packs a surprising punch,” PopMatters wrote in September, “as both the music and lyrics are deeply felt and rise high above the surface-level pleasures of contemporary pop.” The artist channels Nico on the noir-ish “Alias,” a look at implicit media bias. Saturday, Dec. 17, 5 p.m., Union Coffee Co., 42 South St., Milford, $35 at

Holiday songbird: Though in her 80s, singer Judy Collins hasn’t slowed down, releasing a new album earlier this year; Spellbound is noteworthy for being Collins’s first collection of all original songs. She’ll draw from it as she performs Christmas favorites at her upcoming concert. Holiday & Hits has become a tradition this time of year, as Collins brings the spirit and charms audiences through the Great Christmas Songbook. Sunday, Dec. 18, 4 p.m., Tupelo Music Hall, 10 A St., Derry, $55 and $60 at

Blues rock: Taking a turn away from his percussive guitar style, the Senie Hunt Project is a plugged-in affair that evokes the Allman Brothers more than Leo Kottke. Now based in Nashville after making his mark in the Concord area, Hunt returns often to play for his hometown fans, including a rare set with his rocking band at a downtown basement haunt. Wednesday, Dec. 21, 9 p.m., Penuche’s Ale House, 16 Bicentennial Square, Concord,

At the Sofaplex 22/12/15

Lady Chatterley’s Lover (R)

Emma Corrin, Jack O’Connell.

In this adaptation of a book that I feel like I should have read but probably won’t ever, dissatisfied Lady Chatterley, a.k.a. Connie Reid (Corrin), starts an affair with Oliver (O’Connell) the groundskeeper at her husband’s, Lord Clifford Chatterley (Matthew Duckett), big family estate. The pair got married during what sounds like a brief mid-World War I romance, after which Clifford returns to the front. After the war, he comes home paralyzed from the waist down and drags Connie from London out to the family’s country home. She seems initially interested in making the best of things, but Clifford is not interested in finding new ways to, uhm, show affection. He is, however, interested in having an heir — so long as Connie doesn’t catch feelings for the guy she chooses to hang out with for just long enough to get pregnant. Connie is actually appalled by this idea and increasingly annoyed by Clifford himself — first with his dumb literary friends as he tries to be a writer and then by the businessmen who appear when he decides to take over the running of the local mine. By the time we get to the “workers should be grateful for whatever crumbs we brush their way”-type discussion, we’re well out of sympathy for Clifford and just fine with Connie pursuing her affair with the kindhearted Oliver, who made it to lieutenant in the war but just wants the peace and quiet of groundskeeping.

This movie is very pretty and filled with lots of scenes that I think are supposed to be steamy and romantic of the pretty Corrin and the very pretty O’Connell in various states of undress. But the movie, which takes nearly 50 minutes of its more than two-hour run time to get to the Lover part of things, feels like it is running at .75 speed. We get a lot — A Lot — of scenes of people walking through fields at less than a brisk pace or just staring off into the middle distance or looking after someone who is leaving the shot. It’s maybe supposed to help build tension but mostly it made me want to fast-forward.

Joely Richardson shows up as a character who seems mainly like she’s supposed to deliver information but she does help to highlight some of the more interesting aspects of the movie. There is this whole post-war labor-management tension that runs through the story as well as some nods to the idea that, after the calamity of the war, maybe some prewar societal conventions are just less important to some people (Oliver seems to represent, to a degree, the idea that after the battlefield people might be less willing to just “know their place”). But the movie doesn’t do much more than present these ideas — you know, between long walks. B- Available on Netflix.

Descendant (PG)

This documentary from Higher Ground Productions (the Obamas’ production company) looks at the current residents of Africatown, a neighborhood near Mobile, Alabama. The community was founded by people who had been enslaved and transported to Alabama from Africa shortly before the start of the Civil War. The trip, which was an illegal smuggling operation some 50 years after the international slave trade had been outlawed in the U.S., ended with the people being offloaded from the ship, the Clotilda, which was then burned to hide the crime. After the Civil War, many of the Clotilda survivors and their families moved to Africatown, which is still home to many of their descendants. The documentary follows both the rediscovery of the Clotilda and the attempts by community members to memorialize their families’ histories and place them in the larger context of the calamity of slavery in the U.S.

The movie serves as a nice companion piece to Zora Neale Hurston’s book Barracoon, which was published in 2018. It features her 1927 interviews with Cudjoe Lewis, one of the last living survivors of the Clotilda. The movie focuses not only on the stories of the Clotilda survivors but also the way land grabs and indifferent zoning have led to Africatown’s being surrounded by industry and to the hollowing out of the area’s main street. As much as its story contains an important slice of American history, the community is shown as a vibrant, energetic and hopeful part of the present. A Available on Netflix.

Sr. (R)

Robert Downey Jr. makes a documentary about his father, the filmmaker Robert Downey Sr., who died in 2021. The movie features interviews with Sr. starting in about 2019 — and while Jr. put together his film, Sr. worked on his own cut. He also dealt with worsening health due to Parkinson’s disease, a situation that pushed Jr. to learn and discuss as much as he could with his father while they could still be together. While giving us the professional life of Downey Sr. (an idiosyncratic filmmaker in the 1960s through the mid aughts),the movie also tells an intergenerational story of a son (Jr.) attempting to embrace the good and make peace with the bad from his childhood while also raising his own children. The movie reminded me a bit of Dick Johnson Is Dead, another documentary about a filmmaker coming to terms with a father’s mortality. Sr. is incredibly sweet with Robert Downey Jr. being shockingly vulnerable and honest as he examines the relationship with a father he clearly loves and admires. A Available on Netflix.

Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio (PG)

Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio (PG)

The tale of the wooden puppet gets the Pan’s Labyrinth-but-animated treatment in Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio, a beautiful-looking weird-in-its-own-way adaptation.

All Pinocchios are weird, is my theory on this IP. In the league of cautionary fairy tales, this one seems to lean the hardest on the cautionary element, making it sort of disturbing from the jump no matter how a director or writer chooses to go with it. This particular Pinocchio is maybe less disturbing than others but still dark. But maybe in my top five for potential Oscar animation nominees?

Once again, we get a sad Geppetto (voice of David Bradley), a woodworker in Italy who lost his young son during World War I. After years of drowning his sadness in wine, Geppetto one day crafts a wooden version of his son that a spirit (voice of Tilda Swinton) gives life to. The wooden boy, more angular and del-Toro-ish than his usual incarnation, declares Geppetto his papa and joyfully goes about discovering/destroying their house.

Geppetto is at first a little horrified by this wooden creature, particularly when a talking cricket hops out of a hole in the wood to verify Pinocchio’s (voice of Gregory Mann) story. But quickly Geppetto, Pinocchio and Sebastian the cricket (voice of Ewan McGregor) form a little family. That family is not terribly well accepted by the outside world, this being a very conformity-focused Italy in the increasingly fascist time of Mussolini. Local fascist muckety-muck Podesta (voice of Ron Perlman) says that Pinocchio must go to school to learn discipline, and thus begins the string of events that leads to Geppetto, Pinocchio, Sebastian and a surly monkey (voice of Cate Blanchett) ending up in the belly of a large fish.

This movie hits all the usual points: Pinocchio being sent out into the world with nothing but a cranky cricket to guide him, then him being tricked into becoming a performer for Count Volpe (voice of Christoph Waltz), a long separation between Pinocchio and Geppetto and Pinocchio falling into the clutches of yet another scammer who plays on boys’ worst instincts. Only in this case the scammer is Podesta, who takes Pinocchio and his own son Candlewick (voice of Finn Wolfhard) not to the amusement-park-ish Pleasure Island to be turned into a donkey but to a fascist military school to become cannon fodder for the Italian fatherland.

All this imagery — with the joyful and innocent Pinocchio sort of stumbling through the increasingly dark Italy — is extremely well done. The animation here is of the stop-motion variety (according to Wikipedia) and the characters have a very tactile, dimensional, puppety look. We can see the wood grain and knots in the pine that make up Pinocchio, who at times has almost a “wooden stick insect” appearance. We see the whiskers in Geppetto’s beard and mustache, which have a thick look, like “hairs” that have been carved and painted. The Italian village manages to look both like a physical space and fantastical, with the sunniness of the exteriors balanced by the menace of the fascist imagery in the posters in the town square. It is all exceedingly well done — so well done that I think it tips over into the scary frequently. Common Sense Media pegs this for age 11 and up and I would say — with the war, the death, the sadness and the frequent peril of Pinocchio — yeah, at least that. Maybe more like 12 or 13. Even the Swinton-voiced “blue fairy” character, who sort of looks like a human moth ancient godlike character with two sets of wings dotted with eyes, is at the very least unnerving.

I feel like this Pinocchio has plenty to delight fans of animation as a form and of Guillermo del Toro as a visual storyteller but isn’t exactly my choice for young-kids family movie night. B+

Rated PG, according to Netflix, where it is streaming. Directed by Guillermo del Toro with a screenplay by Guillermo del Toro and Patrick McHale, Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio is an hour and 56 minutes long and distributed by Netflix.

Emancipation (R)

Will Smith plays a man escaping Confederate captivity in Emancipation, a movie by director Antoine Fuqua.

Post-Emancipation Proclamation but mid-Civil War, Peter (Smith) is enslaved along with his wife, Dodienne (Charmaine Bingwa), and their children on a Louisiana cotton plantation when he is taken to do work on the Confederate army’s railroad. As hellish as the conditions on the plantation are, the prison camp Peter is taken to is even worse, with the heads of men who attempted to escape displayed on pikes. The captors seem to be significantly more invested in torturing the men they’re holding than in the war effort and seem to be on the verge of murdering Peter when a brief distraction allows him and a few other men to get away. The men run toward the snake- and alligator-filled swamp that stands between them and the Union Army, where they have heard that they will be recognized as free, thanks to the Emancipation Proclamation.

On the trail of the escapees are Jim Fassel (Ben Foster) and two fellow bounty hunters. For a good part of the movie, we get a chase between Fassel and his stupid dogs and Peter, who attempts to use the rough terrain of the swamp to his advantage.

For me, this movie frequently suffered from what I think of as Gangs of New York syndrome, where a wobbly central story sits in the middle of a fascinating and well-rendered history. The stories about how people contemplated freedom versus what could happen to them and their family if they tried to reach a safer harbor are interesting. The decisions people made, how they held themselves and their families together while enslaved — how Dodienne kept her children with her, how Peter drew from a deep well of faith — are solidly engrossing stories. But the movie too often turns its focus to other stuff — like the chase between Fassel and Peter or, even less interesting, Fassel and his motivations.

To this unevenness, add Will Smith’s sometimes strong, sometimes wobbly performance. Sometimes it is really affecting; he gives us a man with a singular purpose — getting back to his family — but a lot of hurdles to achieving that, who has to negotiate with both enemies and allies, neither of whom really have his interests at heart. Other times, I feel like I’m just watching Will Smith giving a very performance-y performance, jammed into some very dark history.

I think ultimately that history and the very arresting way it’s shot, largely in black and white with these very artful wisps of color, make Emancipation worth watching. B-

Rated R for strong racial violence, disturbing images and language, according to the MPA on Directed by Antoine Fuqua with a screenplay by Bill Collage, Emancipation is two hours and 12 minutes long and distributed by Apple TV+, where it is streaming.

Featured photo: Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio (PG)

Screaming on the Inside, by Jessica Grose

Screaming on the Inside, by Jessica Grose (Mariner, 197 pages)

Every decade or so there emerges a new book by a writer who became a mother and was clearly not up to the task. The latest in the genre comes from The New York Times’ Jessica Grose, whose Screaming on the Inside is billed as an indictment of how society treats its mothers. In fact, it’s more of an indictment of the life choices that Grose has made. This is not mommy shaming, just the facts.

Grose is an opinion writer for the Times, and also writes a newsletter about parenting. She has been yowling for several years about America’s mothers being in crisis, hence the book’s subtitle: “The unsustainability of modern motherhood.” This is a popular position in a culture that likes to aggrandize individuals’ problems into societal crises. Parenting is difficult, yes. And the pandemic added new stresses. But Groses’s assessment, which is as much a hysterical rant that probably should have remained in her personal journal, is tiresome to read and full of cringy confessions that undermine her case.

She begins by admitting that, despite covering family policy, she had not looked into the provisions of the Family and Medical Leave Act before getting pregnant at the time she took a new job. She was therefore shocked to learn that she could not just walk away from her new job when she developed debilitating morning sickness and severe anxiety (having gone off antidepressants while trying to get pregnant). She does herself no favors by saying that she “could barely leave the house because I was afraid of both barfing on the subway and sarin gas attacks,” nor by telling the story of how she was incredibly rude to one of her new editors on a work call. Not surprisingly, she was reprimanded and soon left that job.

Thus begins the pattern of the book: a tale of personal woe, followed by tales of woe from a few other women, followed by some statistics and comparisons to Europe:

“A study of around three thousand women from Norway, which has universal health care and paid sick leave, showed that three-quarters of women had taken at least one week of sick leave during their pregnancies. The median length of sick leave was eight weeks, and half of women needed between four and sixteen full weeks away from work. This is what should be standard for American mothers, too.”

We can definitely have a serious conversation about whether American companies are accommodating enough to pregnant women, but citing the number of women who take sick leave during pregnancy — in a country where paid sick leave is available — is probably not the evidence of need that Grose thinks it is.

But OK. Let’s continue to the birth of her first child and her admission that she’d barely even held a baby before coming home with one, her reluctance to breastfeed, her sad attempts to find friends who also had babies through mom groups. (“The only thing most of us had in common was that we had sex in March 2012.”) She later had to qualify her criticism, saying “This is not to say that all mom groups are judgmental and oppressive.”

Despite all the unhappiness and struggle, she then has another child, and takes a job at the Times when her daughters are 2 and 5. There, she comes under attack from the newspaper’s famously acidic commenters whose comments cause her, “in my darker moments,” to ponder the question: “Am I really somehow constitutionally unfit to be a mother?”

Well, yes and no. Obviously, there is no federal licensing for motherhood; otherwise America’s shrinking fertility rate would be even worse than it is. And she is right that mental health struggles shouldn’t be a barrier to having a family. But there is something disturbingly celebratory about how Gross talks about her mental health; in fact, one section of the book begins with the header “Celebrating my birthday with a Klonopin prescription.” This was, in part, brought on by the panic she experienced when schools and day cares shut down due to Covid-19, and a full chapter addresses the problems that the pandemic caused for parents and children.

Those problems are real and were worse for mothers who, unlike Grose, did not have jobs that could be done from home, husbands with health insurance and children’s grandparents who could help provide care. But it was a pandemic, a once-in-a-century (if that) event, so using pandemic problems as evidence of systemic failure is one more example of her flimsy evidence.

Mercifully, this is a short book, and she concludes by describing a conversation with a pregnant friend in January of this year. The friend was ambivalent about having another baby, and Grose was initially upbeat and tried to convince her friend to be happy about the pregnancy (“Once the baby is here, you’ll feel better! … Part of me wishes I had another!”) but then feels “awful that I was still conditioned to slap a happy face on her mixed feelings.”)

Instead of trying to look on the bright side, I guess we should wallow in the emotional mud with our unhappy friends. There’s a lot to be said for honest sharing, but there’s also much happiness to be found in positivity. Unfortunately, Screaming on the Inside is a collection of shared misery with a thin menu of solutions. D

Album Reviews 22/12/15

Wolfgang Haffner, Silent World (BMG Records)

Jumping the gun a bit on this one, as it’s not out until the end of January, but it’s worth knowing about if you’re a jazzhead on a budget. German drummer and bandleader Haffner is a dreamer in sound whose real gift is being able to combine groove and bounce with a wide sound palette comprising cool jazz, tango and other Spanish flavors, all brought together in a unique way that creates a special kind of tension. In recent times, Haffner has drawn inspiration from external sources: lots of guests here, the constants being Simon Oslender (piano and keyboards) and Sebastian Studnitzky (trumpet); Haffner claims it’s his “dream band,” and I’m in no position to argue the point, given that the result is indeed rather sweeping. The record is claimed to be conceptual, nine pieces whittled down from 18 songs Haffner originally wrote for it; it progresses nicely from the sturdy “Here and Now” until the finale, “Forever and Ever,” a minimalist (but not entirely morose) number made of piano and bass. A

Fire Sale, “A Fool’s Errand” / “We Dance For Sorrow” (Negative Progression Records)

Here we go, more emo. This four-piece band is said to be a punk rock supergroup, but if you don’t mind my pedantry, it’s a power-pop thing, which, as I’ve said many times, isn’t quite the same level of scatterbrained derangement as actual punk. It all sounds the same to me, only because I don’t really care about it and never really have. But I’ll belay all that for our purposes and point out that this two-song dry run pulls out all the stops in trying to put the Negative Progression label back on the map, after the owner of the imprint (which hosted a stage on the 2003 Vans Warped Tour and released 30 albums) decided to bag it eight years ago to work as an attorney (well isn’t that the punkest, am I right?). The bass player is from Face To Face, and the other guys were in The Ataris and Ann Beretta, and it’s quite listenable for what it is. Whoever’s singing on the B-side, “We Dance For Sorrow,” has a leathery, sturdy voice that evokes old post-punk stuff like Lords Of The New Church, while “A Fool’s Errand” is Black Flag-speed Hoobastank-ish and very catchy. I don’t hate these guys at all. A


• Dec. 16 looms over my head like one of those “dementor” bros from Harry Potter, just swinging his arms and hollering all ghostly or whatever dementors do, and of course also reminding me that Dec. 16 is the last general-release Friday for new albums before the holiday week, when there will basically be no new albums, so I’ll have to make something up. Actually, now that I’m looking at this mess, there’s not a lot of albums coming out this week, and I will have to scrounge. Ah, here’s one, the latest release from Circa Survive, titled Two Dreams, their first full-length since 2017’s The Amulet. None of that means anything to me. All I know is that Circa Survive is an emo band from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, which means they’re batting with two strikes right off the jump here. They’ve been around for a while now; their first album, Juturna, did have some screamy tunes, like “Act Appalled,” which did point to a slightly more-melodic-than-usual flavor of nerd rock — OK, it was pretty cool, is what I’m trying to say, but I still hear it all the props I dropped on Good Charlotte for whatever the song was, so let’s just keep it between ourselves, whattaya say. OK, so the new record — wait a second, hold it, late breaking, from some website that knows things ( “After months of rumors, Circa Survive have confirmed to fans that they’re no longer an active band.” Well there goes that, but Two Dreams is indeed due out on the 16th, and one of the tunes, “Sleep Well,” isn’t emo at all, more like early Hanson doing a slightly trip-hop thing that has lo-fi drums. It’s pretty good, and that’s probably why they broke up; it’s always risky to make good music, you know?

• Jonathan Blake Williams Jr., better known as Jabee, is a hip-hop artist and actor from Oklahoma City. Chuck D of Public Enemy and Sway Calloway both think he’s awesome, so I guess it’s OK for me to say he’s awesome, because, you know Chuck D is awesome. Anyway, this fella’s new EP, Good, will be in the stores and streaming services within the next few hours, standing as the newest EP in a series of them. Reaction has been mixed so far with adjectives like “nostalgic” and “unoriginal” being the most common when people discuss it. The track “Black Star” is stoner-mellow and pretty trippy beat-wise.

• In edgelady news, Mimi Barks is a U.K.-based trap-metal artist (originally from Berlin, Germany) who likes to pour on the anger in Slipknot-ish fashion. Other than that, there’s no information to be found on her on the entire internet other than the fact that she likes to change her day-glo hair color every few days or whatnot. Her new album, Deadgirl, has a title track that’s pretty much what anyone would expect “trap-metal” to sound like: She sings in a sort of Marilyn Manson style, and then there’s a standard trap beat that’s begging for attention from goths, some Death Grips-ish flourishes, things like that. Apparently she’s going on tour with goth dude Combichrist, a show I’d attend if it were a little more worth risking Covid and all that happy stuff.

• Finally we have Atlanta hip-hop crew Germ & $uicideboy$, whose favorite thing is to put people with really gross teeth on their album covers. The latest in their DirtyNasty series is a new album called Dirtiestnastiest$uicide, and yes, the cover is as disturbing as anything else they’ve pulled. Only thing to be found online is a live version of some tune that’ll be on this record, and it’s a lot like Beastie Boys, which I’m sure will bring ’em lots of underage customers.

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).

An easy way to look extremely creative

A lot of us feel a crisis of confidence in December. We like to think of ourselves as imaginative, creative people, but then we find ourselves surrounded by actually creative people bringing their crafting A-games. We are inundated with pine cone wreaths, hand-knitted sweaters of llamas drinking eggnog, and festive crocheted door knob cozies. It’s enough to make a person anxious. It’s easy to say that nobody is crafting at you, but any time spent in book clubs or PTO meetings puts the lie to that.

Here is an easy way to win some crafting street cred.

Photos by John Fladd.

What you will need

Some white chocolate – I use white chocolate disks, made for bakers and candy-makers, but a bar of white chocolate from a convenience store would work just as well.

Powdered food coloring – Melted chocolate (you will be melting the chocolate) is extremely finicky. If it comes in contact with even a tiny amount of moisture, it will seize up. Liquid food coloring, and even gel, will make your chocolate very difficult to work with.

Something to stir your melted chocolate with – popsicle sticks are good for this, although the stem end of a spoon would work just as well.

A dry-erase marker. Also, tiny brushes to paint with.

Paper towels

A plain cocktail glass

Your overly excitable plastic container – see Hint No. 1

Using your dry-erase pen, draw a simple picture on the outside of your martini glass. Let’s try something fairly straightforward, a Christmas tree with a couple of presents.

OK, it’s not great. Don’t worry. This is one of the few times in your crafting life that you can be confident in the process. This will turn out well.

Put a small amount of white chocolate on your overly excitable plate. (In my case, it’s a tiny soy sauce dish, presumably for sushi.) Use a smaller amount of chocolate than you think you need. Heat it in the microwave for a surprisingly short amount of time, 15 seconds or so, to start.

Stir the solid-appearing chocolate. If your plate is as excitable as you think, the chocolate will quickly collapse into a molten state. If necessary, hit it with a few more seconds in the microwave.

Stir a little powdered food coloring into your melted chocolate. Start with a small amount, then more, if necessary. Again, if the mixture is a bit stiff, a few more seconds in the microwave will loosen it up.

With your tiny paintbrush, paint the colored chocolate on the inside of the glass, using your drawing as a guide. Because you are painting on glass, think of this like a store window, where you will start with all the details in the foreground, then fill in the background later.

Let’s start with red ribbons on the presents and red ornaments on the tree.

Let’s add some details further in the background: blue presents and ornaments and a brown tree trunk. You could color the white chocolate brown, but I just melted a single chocolate chip and used that.

For the tree itself, I’m going to use two slightly different shades of green. I added a little yellow food coloring to one batch to lighten it up, then a tiny amount of black to darken another. Your first set of blotches will look, er, blotchy. Trust the process.

Hey, suddenly, this is all coming together!

Until you turn the glass around and look at it from the front.

No. Don’t panic. Trust the process. Wipe off the dry erase marker.

Wow. I mean, it’s not perfect, but it would totally shut up Simmons from Accounting at the office party.

You know what we need? A cocktail to go in it.

Pomegranate martini

  • 2 ounces Pama Pomegranate Liqueur
  • 2 ounces mid-shelf vodka – I’ve been enjoying New Amsterdam lately.

Pour both ingredients over ice in a cocktail shaker. Shake until you hear the ice start to shatter.

Pour your very cold drink into your newly decorated cocktail glass.

Considering it’s only got two ingredients, this is a surprisingly sophisticated drink. The sweet/sour fruitiness of the pomegranate hits you first but is replaced by a fairly bracing booziness from the vodka. The sourness of the liqueur activates your salivary glands, so you get a really “juicy” overall impression from it.

Now the question you are probably asking is, “Won’t the drink wash away the chocolate?”

Actually, no. Your drink is very cold, so the chocolate is unlikely to melt. And, remember when we talked about chocolate’s tendency to seize when exposed to liquid? We’re using that to our advantage here. The water content of the vodka, plus the diluted ice, panics the chocolate, which clings to the side of the glass for dear life.

If you rinse this glass out gently with very cold water, you can probably get three or four uses out of it.

Featured photo: Pomegranate Martini in hand painted glass. Photo by John Fladd.

In the kitchen with Melissa Dolpies

Melissa Dolpies of Northfield is the owner of Twelve 31 Events (, and on Facebook and Instagram), a catering business she runs with her husband, Michael. In addition to operating out of a commercial kitchen in Tilton, Twelve 31 Events recently opened a full-service cafe in downtown Concord (100 N. Main St., Suite 101), where scratch-made sandwiches, soups, chowders and other items are available. A native of East Boston, Dolpies got her start in the industry in fine dining before transitioning into banquets and event catering for some of Boston’s most well-known hotels. She moved to New Hampshire in 2016 and launched Twelve 31 Events the following year.

What is your must-have kitchen item?

The obvious one is my knife, but for me, it’s also a wooden spoon. … I have probably a dozen stainless steel spoons and I always grab the wooden one.

What would you have for your last meal?

Really briny oysters. That’s definitely one of the things that I miss a lot from leaving the city.

What is your favorite local restaurant?

My go-to is Revival [Kitchen & Bar in Concord]. We go there often, we sit at the bar, and I just love the open kitchen. [Chef and owner] Corey [Fletcher] is always back there working hands-on with his staff, and I just love that. He always changes his menu and does a really great job.

What celebrity would you like to see eating at your cafe?

This is a funny one for me. Honestly, there isn’t anyone that I could say is on my wishlist. I have spent so much time in Boston and worked at such great places … and served and cooked for countless celebrities and athletes.

What is your favorite thing on your menu?

I’d have to say the clam chowder. … I have been making it for over 20 years, and it’s a recipe that I took a long time to perfect.

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

I kind of equate this question to what we do … and I think the biggest trends have all lately been due to social media. I think TikTok and Instagram and all of these influencers are really driving what I see clients looking for as our trends.

What is your favorite thing to cook at home?

I’m Italian … [and] my favorite thing to cook is what we call Sunday gravy. … We’ll change up what pasta we’re going to have, but it will always have lots of meat in it, maybe homemade meatballs or Italian sausage or braciole. We always have a good piece of crusty bread with some freshly grated Romano cheese and a salad. That’s just the perfect day for me.

Snowball cookies (Italian butter cookies rolled in powdered sugar)
From the kitchen of Melissa Dolpies of Twelve 31 Catering

1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ cup powdered sugar, plus 1 cup for rolling
1 teaspoon milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon salt
2¼ cups sifted all-purpose flour
¾ cup pecans, finely chopped

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the butter into the bowl of a stand mixer and beat on high until creamy. Add the powdered sugar in the bowl with butter. Start the mixer gently, then increase the speed to medium. Beat the butter and sugar for two to three minutes, or until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add the vanilla extract and salt.
Mix to combine. Add half of the flour, mix to combine, then add the rest of the flour. Add the pecans and mix again. Roll the cookie dough into quarter-sized balls, then place them an inch apart on a baking sheet. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the cookies are golden brown on the bottom. While the cookies are baking, place the remaining cup of powdered sugar into a medium-sized bowl. Remove the cookies from the oven. While they are still warm, roll each cookie in the powdered sugar. When they have cooled, roll them in the powdered sugar a second time.

Featured photo: Melissa Dolpies. Courtesy photo.

Slightly sweet butternut squash soup

I know we are deep into the season of snacking, and yet I am sharing a soup recipe. There is some reasoning behind this. If you have a free evening or weekend afternoon at home, you might be craving a healthier dish that is also easy to make. This recipe has the bonus of being best when served piping hot, which is perfect for the chill of December.

This homemade soup is about as simple as a homemade soup can be. You can make the cooking portion as minimal as you want. Personally, if I have free time, I like to roast my own squash, as I think it delivers more flavor. However, in a pinch, I also have been known to use frozen squash to save on time. The broth definitely can be store-bought. The flavors of the squash and cinnamon will be most prevalent, so creating a homemade vegetable broth isn’t necessary. The finishing piece of this recipe is dried cranberries. They add a nice pop of sweetness and texture to an otherwise silky soup.

Now, the question that remains is what to serve with this soup. Since the goal of the dish is simplicity, you could go with a loaf of bread. You also could make some grilled cheese sandwiches, if you are feeling energetic. If you want to feel like a kid again, a sleeve of saltines or other crackers would be just fine as well.

Here’s hoping you have some quiet time at home to enjoy this soup in the coming weeks.

Slightly sweet butternut squash soup
Serves 4

4 cups vegetable broth
3 cups cooked butternut squash
1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 Tablespoon brown sugar
1/3 cup dried cranberries
salt and pepper, if desired

Put broth and squash in a blender.
Purée until smooth.
Transfer mixture to a small saucepan, and place over low heat.
Add cinnamon, brown sugar and cranberries. Stir well.
Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Season with salt and pepper, if desired.

Featured Photo: Slightly sweet butternut squash soup. Photo by Michele Pedula Kuegler.

Coal in one

Virtual golf and coal-fired pizza at new Salem eatery

A new full-service restaurant and bar now open in Salem is inviting you to enjoy pizza and appetizers out of a custom-built coal-fired oven, along with craft cocktails and the option to partake in games of virtual indoor golf or ax throwing with projected targets, all under one roof.

Par28, named after the state highway where you’ll find it, is also home to Rae’s Coal Fired. The business opened just before Thanksgiving inside the former Coca-Cola Bottling Co. plant, said Jim Tomacchio, who owns and runs it with three of his four sons, Jimmy, Joe and Paul.

Tomacchio’s oldest son Jimmy said he originally became interested in pizza when he and his wife ordered pies at restaurants down in New York and New Haven, Connecticut.

“I tried the pizza down there and didn’t think it was anything like the pizza around here,” he said. “My wife’s name is Rachel, and Rae was her nickname in college, so that’s how I got the name.”

Jimmy’s younger brothers Paul and Anthony happen to be executive co-chefs of Stacks, an eatery just over the state line in Haverhill, Mass., known for its craft sandwiches. Paul, who attended New England Culinary Institute, is also part-owner of Par28 and helps oversee the restaurant’s menu, Jimmy Tomacchio said.

“He’s the one that kind of brought my pizza ideas to life,” he said.

Pizzas are cooked from scratch using gas and anthracite coal in an oven that came all the way from Washington state and can reach up to 900 degrees in heat. Jimmy Tomacchio said the oven is so large it’s capable of cooking as many as 14 pizzas at a time in just three to four minutes.

Top sellers out of the gate have included the prosciutto and fig and the meatball and ricotta pizzas, as well as the Queen Bee — that one features hot honey, crushed red pepper and “cup-and-char” pepperoni, or smaller pepperoni pieces that form into cup shapes when cooked to trap the pie’s natural juices.

All pies come in 14-inch serving sizes, and you can even build your own by choosing from nearly two dozen topping options. House appetizers like the chicken wings and the garlic knots are also cooked in the coal-fired oven, Jimmy Tomacchio said, while the bar boasts a variety of local and regional beers on tap in addition to a line of specialty craft cocktails.

The virtual golf side of Par28 came when the Tomacchios decided to combine Jimmy’s pizza concept with Joe and Jim’s love of the sport.

“I’m an avid golfer. It’s my life, and I’ve always wanted a golf simulator in the house,” Joe Tomacchio said. “I was looking into it and never pulled the trigger. But now I don’t need one, because my dream absolutely came true.”

There are a total of seven TrackMan-brand golf simulators inside Par28 that visitors can use on an hourly basis, with more than 200 courses from around the world to play on.

“There are a whole ton of tour venues where the PGA players play. You can play those same courses here,” Joe Tomacchio said. “When you’re hitting, there’s a radar that’s behind you … that reads exactly how the ball spins and how far that ball is going to go, and it projects that onto the screen.”

Settings include everything from a traditional round of 18 holes to practicing your swing on the driving range, and there’s even an opportunity to hold tournaments.

In addition to the golf simulators, Par28 has a lounge area with eight ax throwing lanes and digitized targets, enabling you to play fun games like tic-tac-toe, connect four, duck hunt and many more.

“The golf was part of the original plan, and then once we came and saw how much space we had back there, we tried to figure out what else we could do,” Joe Tomacchio said.

With a large bar area surrounded by enlarged murals on the wall of the world’s famous golf course holes, Par28 is fast becoming a popular spot for golfers and foodies alike.

“Some people think that we’re just a sports venue, so we’ll get calls all the time [when people will] ask, ‘Can we just eat there or can we just sit at the bar?’ And yes, absolutely you can,” Jim Tomacchio said. “Yes, we do offer golf and ax throwing, but we also have food and drinks so you can just come in here and enjoy yourself.”

Par28 and Rae’s Coal Fired
Where: 23 S. Broadway, Salem
Hours: Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 8 a.m. to midnight, and Sunday, 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., according to the website
More info: Visit, find them on Facebook and Instagram @par28nh or call 458-7078

Featured photo: Photo by John McCarthy, JRM Photography.

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