One voice

International guitar duo performs in Concord

The best guitar duos carry on a conversation with their instruments, but Nicola Cipriani and Brad Myrick engage in musical mind-melding, two sonic serpents swirling into a rope of notes. The Italian-born Cipriani and Concord native Myrick recall the similarly synchronistic Tom Verlaine and Richard Lloyd, of the ’70s rock band Television.

Those two, though, had amplifiers. not to mention lyrics and a rhythm section. Cipriani and Myrick speak strictly through their fretboards — and they’re unplugged. On stage, they sit in angled chairs to play, with eyes moving fluidly between each other and an eavesdropping audience.

They also compose this way, a practice firmed up on the 2020 album Reflections. Released in the spring of that year, this fine effort disappeared in the pandemic’s fog. A canceled world tour was another costly problem, and even worse was the lockdown’s impact on their creative process.

“We tried to compose from a distance,” Myrick recalled in a recent joint interview with Cipriani. “For the kind of music that we do, it ended up being impossible…. We need to be in the room together, have the interplay, the visual connection. We just found that it wasn’t working out, so basically we were on pause for almost three years.”

Finally, the two have new a new album, Silver Lining, and are back on tour. They spoke during a pause on a Southern run that wrapped up in Asheville. It resumes with a show at Bank of NH Stage on March 5, and another the next day at UNH’s Paul Creative Arts Center. In April they’re in Italy, and they hope to book a few South American dates later in the year.

The cover of the new album is a monochrome Noemi Trazzi photo of Myrick and Cipriani facing each other in a terminal. This theme is explored in the opening track, “Ritrovarsi.” The Italian word translates to “find again,” and for Cipriani, the joyous, playful track has “a double meaning … to find ourselves again as artists and composers, and find each other.”

“Like reunite,” Myrick added.

With all the talk of Covid silver linings in the world of music like extra time to reflect and write, there weren’t many for the duo. That’s reflected on the new album. With titles like “Ode To Solitude” and “Remember To Breathe,” many of its songs came from “the experience that we had all been through,” Myrick said. “There was a lot of darkness in there, some tension, some melancholy.”

The seemingly ironic title was chosen, Myrick explained, because “we found that there was still so much good that we were able to pull out, even in this really challenging time — for me particularly.” That said, Silver Lining isn’t intentionally a pandemic album. “A lot of artists made those,” Cipriani said, while allowing that “it was a perfect photography of where we were at the time, actually.”

A suite in three stages, “Dragonfly Ritual” is one of the record’s celebratory moments. “I think that speaks to silver linings,” said Myrick, who wrote it as he watched the regal insects mating from his back window. “They’re attached as they’re flying, then they detach. I think they’re the only animal that does that; it’s this really incredible kind of ritual.”

Though a tonic, quiet contemplation doesn’t compare to the feeling Cipriani and Myrick had walking on stage and leaving with a standing ovation a few weeks ago at Coastal Carolina University, where they once recorded a live album.

“It was rewarding and it was inspiring,” Myrick said. “It is just totally propelling us forward. For me at least, and Nicola can tell me if this is true for him, it’s confirming that this is exactly what I should be doing artistically right now.”

“It is a huge privilege, what we are able to do…. I never get the sensation that I’m doing a kind of a normal job,” Cipriani agreed. “When we go to places like the university, and get the chance to meet a lot of people, especially young students that are really passionate and searching for their own artistic way, it’s so inspiring.”

One big benefit of live performance is it gives their instrumental music a narrative.

“We get to tell the stories and share the ideas behind it, so we can give people a little bit more information before they listen,” Myrick said. “Here’s what we were feeling, this is what sparked the idea; now maybe you have an idea in your head, and you can take it into a place, follow on the journey, and make it your own with us.”

Nicola Cipriani and Brad Myrick
When: Sunday, March 5, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Bank of NH Stage, 44 S Main St., Concord
Tickets: $23.75 at
Also Monday, March 6, 8 p.m., Paul Creative Arts Center (Verrette Recital Hall), 30 Academic Way, Durham

Featured photo: Nicola Cipriani & Brad Myrick. Courtesy photo.

The Music Roundup 23/03/02

Local music news & events

Sound & vision: One of New England’s great musical resources, Mark Erelli performs an intimate set. Diagnosed with a degenerative retinal disease a few years back, Erelli reflects on a new album, Lay Your Darkness Down, arriving later this year. His 2018 song “By Degrees” bemoans society’s tolerance of preventable tragedies — “I thought something had to change,” he sings, “but somehow it’s become routine.” Thursday, March 2, 7:30 p.m., Flying Goose Pub & Grille, 40 Andover Road, New London, $25 at

Folked up: North Carolina favorites Chatham Rabbits, the husband-and-wife duo of Sarah and Austin McCombie, are joined by Rachel Sumner & Traveling Light. The bluegrass duo got creative during the pandemic by playing more than 200 neighborhood shows in their home state, on a rolling mobile stage. Ex-Twisted Pine member Sumner has wowed crowds with her modern folk sound, releasing a debut LP last year. Friday, March 3, 7 p.m., The Word Barn, 66 Newfields Road, Exeter, $15 to $20 at

Rap reggae: A pair of great local bands support headliner Merrimack Delta Dub Set, a groove-based combo described as a mash-up of UB40 and The Roots. Led by singer-guitarist Sean Stanton, they often feature freestyle raps in their sets. Rounding out the bill are the jamtastic and energetic Humans Being, along with Faith Ann Band, one of the region’s most incendiary acts, who are currently in search of a new guitarist. Saturday, March 4, 9 p.m., Shaskeen Pub, 909 Elm St., Manchester, $15 cover at the door.

Get motivated: Best known for leading Recycled Percussion, Justin Spencer is also a philanthropist, writer and public speaker. His day-long “It’s Your Life” seminar is an effort to help energize those looking for personal growth. “I promise that when you spend the day with me, I will arm you with all the tools you need to start carving out the new version of yourself,” Spencer wrote in a press release. Sunday, March 5, noon, Rex Theatre, 23 Amherst St., Manchester; entry is $99 at

Country rock: When their 1973 single “Amie” finally hit the charts in 1975, Pure Prairie League were helping define what’s now called the Americana genre, with their Norman Rockwell album covers driving the point home. Past members have included Vince Gill, who replaced original singer Craig Fuller in the late ’70s and sang lead on the band’s biggest pop hit, “Let Me Love You Tonight.” Wednesday, March. 8, 7:30 p.m., Bank of NH Stage, 16 S. Main St., Concord, $53.75 at

At the Sofaplex 23/03/02

Babylon (R)

Margot Robie, Brad Pitt.

Writer-director Damien Chazelle gives you three hours and nine minutes of 1920s and 1930s Hollywood, as the business adapted to sound and the movie industry machine chewed through the people involved. Here, we focus on Nellie LaRoy (Robie), a young woman who cons her way into a Hollywood party from which she lucks her way into a movie and briefly becomes a silent star sensation; Manny Torres (Diego Calva), who is working the party as a kind of general fix-it guy (help this elephant get up the hill to the house, help these goons dispose of an overdosing starlet); Jack Conrad (Brad Pitt), an established star who takes on Manny as his assistant; Sideny Palmer (Jovan Adepo), a trumpet player who finds stardom and a financial windfall in front of the camera but doesn’t get any relief from the persistent racism he deals with as a Black artist, and to a lesser extent Elinor St. Jean (Jean Smart), a gossip columnist who even in the 1920s knows that movie fame is fleeting.

A lot of names — Olivia Wilde, Max Minghella, Jeff Garlin, Spike Jonze, Flea — show up for cameos and as do actors playing historical types (Irving Thalberg, William Randolph Hearst). It’s, uhm, cute, in the same way I found the Citizen Kane cosplay of Mank cute and amusing in a “photo book about 1930s Oscars” kind of way. Even better are process-y scenes that demonstrate, with some equally cute exaggeration, how these early movies were made — and some of the ways that pre-code films were a lot racier than the movies that were on screens a decade later. An extended sequence of Nellie and director Ruth Adler (Olivia Hamilton) trying to film a scene of a talkie while the cast and crew swelter in the heat (air conditioning would be too loud) and have to deal with the sensitivities of the microphones is particularly fun. There is also a nice bit of storytelling in who made it through the transition — not Nellie and her Harley Quinn accent, for example.


But this movie is so much elaborate scene-setting, so much “The Magic of the Movies!” and so much Hollywood doing a guided tour up its own rear that it is, at times, completely intolerable. And, from Singin’ in the Rain (which is a touchstone for this movie) to the most recent Downton Abbey movie, I feel like I’ve seen a lot of this stuff before. And it’s more than three hours. Three. Hours.

Babylon is nominated for Oscars in categories for costume design, original score and production design and while I can understand those nominations, I don’t think it would be my pick in any of those categories. C+ (but a strong B for the “Nellie shoots in sound” scene.) Available for purchase and on Paramount+.

Bardo, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths (R)

Daniel Giménez Cacho, Griselda Siciliana.

Early in Bardo, co-written and directed by Alejandro G. Iñárritu, we watch as Lucia (Siciliana) delivers her and husband Silverio’s (Giménez Cacho) son, Mateo. Moments after his birth, doctors tell her Mateo says he doesn’t want to be out in a world as messed up as this and so they put him back, er, in. This pretty well sets the scene for the movie we’re watching, where Silverio jumps around in time and where the truth of a situation is often rendered lyrically more than realistically. Silverio, a journalist turned filmmaker, started his career in Mexico, where he and his family are from, but moved to Los Angeles with his wife and kids when they were young. He wrestles with the U.S./Mexico of it all — from the Mexican American War to the present relationship between the countries and what it means for the people who move between the two. He also has a conversation about Mexican-ness with Cortés and occasionally finds himself in the desert with migrants. He also wanders through his own life, suddenly child-sized when he talks to his father, and talking with his children Lorenzo (Iker Solano) and Camila (Ximena Lamadrid) while thoughts of Mateo are never far from his mind.

It can all read as sort of self-indulgent at times — a criticism the movie itself makes of itself in its foldy self-referential way — but the movie is so good-humored and genuine about what it’s doing and how it knows you know it knows what it’s doing that I was, you know, never mad at it. It’s weird and mournful but also joyful — and, here’s where the Oscar nomination comes in, absolutely visually stunning. A nominee in the cinematography category, Bardo makes good use of its frequently very lovely settings but also of the dreamlike way it’s shot and the way scenes morph into other scenes in the way your dream might take you from a memory to a fear to a recent conversation. I see how this movie could annoy someone — its lead is, after all, a Great Man Looking at His Life — and maybe I just got lucky and saw this movie at the moment I was most open to this kind of twisty, floaty ride but: A Available on Netflix.

Empire of Light (R)

Olivia Colman, Michael Ward.

Olivia Colman can act the heck out of anything, is my main takeaway from Empire of Light, a sssslooooow movie (that is actually only an hour and 55 minutes) about a woman and her unlikely relationship in 1980s Thatcher U.K.

Hilary (Colman) works at the Empire, a movie theater, in a town on the English coast that instantly made me think of the Morrissey song. Though we don’t learn the full details for a while, we know that she has struggled with mental health issues and that the medication she is now taking has left her feeling flat. It’s not that she’s unhappy — taking dance lessons, making small talk with coworkers, engaging in a deeply unsexy affair with the theater’s manager (played by Colin Firth) — but there just isn’t a spark in her. And then arrives Stephen (Ward), a young man who didn’t get into university and whose Jamaican heritage makes life difficult in a time when racism and nationalism seems to be on the rise in England. Stephen and Hilary take an immediate shine to each other despite the age disparity. Their friendly coworker-ship soon turns into something more, but both of them are struggling with issues greater than a sunny romance.

Empire of Light is Oscar nominated for Cinematography and I fully get why — it’s a beautiful-looking film, from the fading glory of the Empire, a movie palace that once had multiple floors and a rooftop cafe, to the lights and grays and shadows of the city. And I wouldn’t be surprised if Colman was, like, 8 or 9 on the list of nominated actresses. Elements of this movie are very compelling. But the movie as a whole needed a jolt of energy. B

Available on HBO Max or for rent or purchase.

To Leslie (R)

Andrea Riseborough, Marc Maron.

Leslie (Riseborough, nominated for actress in a leading role*) goes to see her 19-or-20-year-old son James (Owen Teague) after being evicted from the motel where she had been living. He quickly kicks her out after she refuses to stay sober and steals money from his roommate, sending her back to their hometown, where his grandmother and her boyfriend (the parents of his unmentioned father, I think) put her up. Nancy (Allison Janney) and Dutch (Stephen Root) are minorly supportive but also harbor deep grudges toward Leslie and she’s soon kicked out of their house too. She floats around her hometown, eventually getting caught hanging out near a motel run by Sweeney (Maron) and Royal (Andre Royo). Sweeney takes pity on Leslie and offers her a job cleaning the motel along with a room to stay in, which begins a fraught and shaky friendship.

Riseborough gives an interesting and highly watchable performance as a woman who can’t quite get out her own way — she won more than $100,000 in a lottery years ago but squandered it partying — and is battling a serious alcohol addiction. Is it a strong enough performance to carry the weight of the * for which this small movie is known? The asterisk is the story surrounding Riseborough’s Oscar nomination, the campaign for which was a grassroots affair by famous fans and, according to a New York Times explainer from Feb. 8, her manager. The Academy got involved in the uproar after nominations were announced and, whatever rules may have been bent, her nomination stands. It will probably always bear the stain of being the nomination that denied Viola Davis for The Woman King or Danielle Deadwyler for Till an Oscar nod. And while both of those are better performances than Riseborough’s work here, they are also better than nominee Ana de Armas in the icksome Blonde, so really it’s not all Riseborough’s fault.

On its own merits, To Leslie is a solid movie worth a watch. B+ Available for rent or purchase.

Cocaine Bear (R)

A bear does cocaine in Cocaine Bear, a movie that is 100 percent exactly what you think it’s going to be.

This movie opens with title cards giving us facts about black bears citing Wikipedia as its source, which feels tonally perfect. Like, here’s some information but we didn’t work super hard to get it and we don’t stand by its accuracy. (But, speaking of Wikipedia, a link on this movie’s Wikipedia page will take you to the tale of the “real life” Cocaine Bear, who has apparently been stuffed and is now on display at something called the “Kentucky for Kentucky Fun Mall” and also the bear’s nickname is sometimes “Pablo Eskobear” and, well, I definitely recommend the “Cocaine Bear” Wikipedia page.) This movie is directed by Elizabeth Banks and if you can picture her seriously reading you facts about bears, that gives you a sense of where this movie is, vibe-wise, even though she herself doesn’t appear in the movie.

It’s the “this is your brain on drugs” 1980s and a drug smuggler dumps duffel bags filled with cocaine out of an airplane and into a Georgia forest before jumping himself. Well, before preparing to jump himself. Before he can actually jump, he bonks his head, falls out of the plane and ends up splatting in someone’s yard. But the gang expecting the cocaine — led by Syd (Ray Liotta, in his final role, according to IMDb) — knows that most of it is still out there and needs to go collect it so as not to incur the wrath of the cartel wholesaling it to them. Syd sends his son, Eddie (Alden Ehrenreich), who is still grieving the loss of his wife and is generally disinterested in his dad’s whole drug-dealing thing, and Daveed (O’Shea Jackson Jr.), a friend to Eddie but also no-nonsense in his approach to the cocaine retrieval, to find the missing drugs.

Bob (Isiah Whitlock Jr.), nominally a detective but primarily an Isiah Whitlock character, suspects that Syd’s gang might be looking for the cocaine and goes on the hunt for it in hopes of nabbing them.

Before those opposing forces can get to the drugs, though, a trio of crime-minded dummies — whose IMDb names are “Kid (Stache)” (Aaron Holliday), “Vest” (J. B. Moore) and “Ponytail” (Leo Hanna) — find one of the duffels and hides it in the forest, hoping to go back for it later.

But before any of these guys start their cocaine search, a large female black bear finds some of the cocaine, consumes it and decides she loves cocaine. She is single-minded on getting more cocaine — possibly grunting something like “yum yum” when she’s near it? maybe that was my imagination. And while not usually portrayed this way, cocaine seems to give her the munchies, specifically for humans, the more clueless the better.

This is bad news not just for the cops and criminals on the search for the drugs but also for anybody who happens to be in the woods, like for example single mother Sari (Keri Russell), searching for her tween-ish-aged daughter Dee Dee (Brooklynn Prince) and Dee Dee’s buddy Henry (Christian Convery), who have cut school to go to the forest in search of a waterfall. And forest ranger Liz (Margo Martindale), who is far more concerned with seducing wildlife expert Peter (Jesse Tyler Ferguson).

Everybody, every Margo Martindale and Keri Russell and Ray Liotta body, seems to be having a total blast here — and why not. The movie is called Cocaine Bear and the coked up bear quickly overtakes all other storylines and character elements as being the key issue of the movie. This is not a horror movie, this isn’t even a thriller really, it’s just a bear, on cocaine, chasing O’Shea Jackson Jr., who like his dad (Ice Cube) is solid at being the straight man in a wacky situation. What’s not to enjoy? The movie — like this year’s Plane or last year’s Beast — is totally and completely up front about what it is going to deliver to you and then it delivers exactly that. What are this movie’s themes? Bear on cocaine. What is this movie’s central argument? That a bear on cocaine will want more cocaine. What does this movie make you feel? That you are watching a bear on cocaine — or, you know, a good-enough rendering of a bear. This movie does have some gore, which feels more for the comic “ew” of it all than to really induce fear. There is a “glued on mustache” sensibility that pervades this movie, which perhaps keeps it from reaching some, I don’t know, higher height of intoxicated bear cinema but also keeps things humming along at a nicely unserious, deliberately shabby level. Which is all to say, if Cocaine Bear seems both really stupid and like something you, with your daily stresses and worries, might need in your life, you are absolutely correct. B

Rated R for bloody violence and gore, drug content and language throughout, according to the MPA on Directed by Elizabeth Banks and written by Jimmy Warden, Cocaine Bear is an hour and 35 minutes long and is distributed in theaters by Universal Studios.

Featured photo: Cocaine Bear.

Weightless, by Evette Dionne

Weightless, by Evette Dionne (Ecco, 245 pages)

Are doctors who lecture their patients about their weight “fat shaming” them or “following the science”?

That’s the question at the heart of Evette Dionne’s Weightless, an account of her life as a Black woman with obesity who has had multiple health problems over the course of her often size 22 life and is now diagnosed with heart failure.

Part memoir, part journalism, Weightless explores Dionne’s struggles to fit into a society that prizes thinness even as it now demonizes “fatphobia” to the point of purging the word “fat” from Roald Dahl books.

In many ways, America has gone all in on what is commonly called “body acceptance.” Plus-size models are a thing, even making the swimsuit issue of Sports Illustrated. Most fashion designers offer extended sizes. There’s even a movement to help overweight women avoid being weighed at doctors’ offices (you can present a card that says “Don’t weigh me unless medically necessary”).

Despite all this, our culture “hates fat people,” Dionne says. “Whether it’s Netflix greenlighting a television show that glorifies losing weight as a form of revenge or airlines enacting policies that purposefully discriminate against fat people, the world believes that we must assimilate and become smaller — not that it should become bigger to accommodate us.”

Proclaiming “Fat people aren’t a problem that needs to be solved,” she catalogs a long list of problems that fat people need to be solved. These include the indignity of flying (needing seat belt extenders and sometimes having to purchase two tickets), the unceasing rudeness of strangers (on one flight she confronts someone who was texting insults about her) and the tendency of those in the medical profession to brusquely dismiss anything that’s wrong with an obese person as something that can be solved by losing weight.

“There’s a running joke around fat people that if you go to the doctor for a sore throat, they’re going to ask you to take a blood sugar test to make sure you’re not diabetic,” she writes. (I can confirm that happens even after death, having recently heard of a case in which “obesity” was put as the cause of death of a woman in her 60s who unexpectedly died at home.)

Dionne says she set out to write the book as a way of shining a light on the biases of the culture, to “shift how we individually and collectively understand the fat experience.” She says that fat people “want, need and deserve new stories.”

That may be true, but the experiences that Dionne describes here are in fact old stories. Anyone who has grown up overweight has stories about bullies; any obese adult has stories about not being able to fit in a carnival ride, or being rejected by a potential lover because of their weight, or getting an underhanded “compliment” about weight loss that feels like a punch.

Dionne writes movingly about her assorted embarrassments and outrage in ways that could theoretically help other people be more compassionate, but the reality is, the cruel people she describes aren’t the ones who would read this sort of book, unless it was assigned. Her audience, her tribe, are those who have walked in her shoes.

As much as I empathize with Dionne, having lived through some versions of experiences she describes, I found it difficult to embrace her premise, which is that “Weight discrimination is as serious and widespread as the issue of ‘obesity’ itself.”

The bulk of medical research suggests otherwise.

There are those who have argued that overweight people can be just as metabolically healthy as those who are of what doctors deem “normal” weight, or those who are underweight, especially if they exercise. But Dionne is not making this argument. In fact, from her opening page, in which she declares “I am in heart failure,” she establishes that she is not a healthy person, and her problems are not only physical; she also has battled extreme anxiety and depression.

She writes, in a chapter about wanting to become a mother, “There’s no doubt I will be a fat mother, just as my mother was a fat mother” and also, “I will be a chronically ill mother, who will often have to prioritize my own health needs above the immediate needs of my children.”

She also acknowledges the ways in which her life became easier after she lost some weight after becoming ill, but says that in some ways this made her sad.

“Whenever I discuss what heart failure has done and continues to do to my body … my feelings are cast aside as people gush about how good I look. ‘You’re beautiful now’ is a common refrain. ‘You’re so small’ is another. What I also hear is: heart failure might have cost you, but sickness has also granted you something more important than your aches and pains.”

There is heart-rending truth here, and much pain bravely revealed.

But the book would have benefited from a chapter in which Dionne considered the ways in which the doctors she dismisses might be right — that obesity, not weight discrimination, is the biggest problem for people who are seriously overweight, that in fact, her obesity might have been responsible, at least in part, for many of her problems.

That is not to say that cruelty is ever justified, and I personally think she should have “accidentally” spilled a cup of water or coffee on the texting guy’s phone. And no, no one needs a diabetes test when they visit a doctor for a sore throat. But there is some reasonable middle ground when the subject is obesity, or at least there needs to be. Right now, it’s all finger-pointing and name-calling even as Americans keep getting larger and sicker.

As likable as Dionne is (but for some revelations that are truly TMI), disappointingly, Weightless breaks no new ground. B-

Album Reviews 23/03/02

Mona Mur, Teen Icon (Give/Take Records)

Having kicked off her rebelliously edgy career during the punk explosion of the ’80s, this German-born sort-of-icon has, through the years, collaborated with such artists as FM Einheit, Marc Chung and Alex Hacke of Einstürzende Neubauten, which places her in the position of fronting as an early prototype of Zola Jesus, or a female aggro-industrial William Shatner, take your pick. She put out an album called Snake Island last year, which had some good S&M club vibes, not that it takes a huge amount of talent to cobble together something that sounds Rammstein-ish, and that takes us to now, and this two-sided single, wherein she covers two songs, Nirvana’s “Smell Like Teen Spirit,” and Siouxsie And The Banshees’ “Icon.” Just quickly, the latter tune goes down easier than the former, as the slowed-down “Teen Spirit” is about two minutes too long. The Siouxsie tune works better, what with its being buried in effects. This is a novelty record for goths, basically. B

Ledfoot & Ronni Le Tekrø, Limited Edition Lava Lamp (TBC Records)

I had Ledfoot (a.k.a. Tim Scott or Footless), an American singer-songwriter and 12-string guitarist who’s had tunes covered by Bruce Spirngsteen and Sheena Easton, confused with current Lynyrd Skynyrd guitarist Rickey Medlocke, mostly because they look quite alike, scrawny, older scarecrow dudes with gray hair. Meanwhile, Le Tekrø is the Norwegian guitarist who founded the hair-metal band TNT. I was expecting a lot of blues-rawk that was long past its sell-by date, but no, apparently what brought these guys together was a love of Dire Straits, or maybe Stealers Wheel, seeing as how this record’s opening track, “Little Rosie,” brings a vibe that’s as close to “Stuck in the Middle with You” as anything I’ve heard in, well, ever. I mean, this is a mixed bag of vintage AM radio stuff, with “Crying’” checking in with a sound that combines Willie Nelson with Roy Orbison. A valiant effort, and I’m sure they enjoyed themselves. A


• A whole wagonload of CDs will hit your stores and pirate radio stations this Friday, March 3, so beware the Ides of March, as we enter into literally the worst month of the year, with its teaser warm days that suddenly turn into “one last howling blizzard” that’re always followed by 10 straight days of rain, sleet, grayness, and the realization that you didn’t have enough money to pay all your February bills, and so you eat nothing but Beefaroni for a few weeks and everything feels hopeless and then suddenly the Easter Bunny shows up and you heave a sigh of relief, knowing that it’s just about warm enough to say “who cares about rent anyway” and pack a knapsack and go live under the Interstate 93 overpass.

You know how it is, am I right, but meanwhile there are albums to mention, like Ignore Grief, from Xiu Xiu, the three-person California-based experimental art-rock band whose oeuvre is up to 13 albums now, as of this one, which is the band’s first sine 2021’s Oh No, a record made up entirely of weird duets, for whatever reason. Anyhow, they have a new band member as of now, namely David Kendrick, who was formerly with Sparks and Devo, which is probably why he looks as old as Santa Claus. But never mind that, let’s see if I can tolerate more than a minute of the teaser single “Maybae Baeby,” I doubt it but let’s just see. OK, this is just noise nonsense, a bunch of clanging wind-chime things or whatever, all while some lady recites some deconstructionist manifesto about how everything is sooo confusing and awful. I’d expound further on all this, but my stomach’s had about enough of it for today.

• OK, very good, so next up is The National Parks, with their fifth album, 8th Wonder. This American folk-pop band is from Provo, Utah, a slightly underrated city that’s known for — well, Mormonism and a few pockets of enthusiastic anarchists to balance things out. For the last couple of years the band has gone in a more pop direction, but meanwhile they also embarked on a “Campfire Tour” in which they played intimate shows in small venues, all to prove that they haven’t made up their minds as to what they want to be when they grow up, or some such. Right, so I’m listening to the title track from this new album, and it’s very light and wimpy, like if Guster were possessed by Ben Kweller. It has all the rebellious antiestablishmentarian gravitas of the Brady Bunch Band, but that’s OK, because we can always use a band that begs to be ignored.

Kali Uchis, a Virginia-born R&B-reggaeton-whatever diva whose real name is Karly-Marina Loaiz, is releasing her third full-length on Friday, Red Moon In Venus. Uchis guested on a couple of Gorillaz songs on their 2017 Humanz album, and her second, Sin Miedo, album did pretty well. The new tune, “I Wish you Roses,” would fit in fine in your Spotify between Lana Del Rey and Mitski; it’s OK overall.

• We’ll close with — good grief, what even is this, Daisy Jones & The Six is a fictional band in a real TV show of the same name, about a Fleetwood Mac-style band in the 1970s, except there’s a real album out, called Aurora, which has a plodding, maudlin single titled “Another Love.” The dude singer sounds like Peabo Bryson a little. Have fun with this nonsense, haters of good music.

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).

The thrill-seeker’s drink

It was my bragging that brought on my most recent identity crisis.

It was Monday morning, and someone asked what I had done over the weekend. Instead of using one of the responses recommended in the official small talk manual — “You know, same ol’ same ol’” or “Not much; chew?” — I was feeling a little bit full of myself and gave an honest answer:

“I was a little tired on Saturday, and I ended up taking a three-hour nap….”

The response was all I could have asked for — something along the lines of, “Wow. You lucky bastard!” — but it got me thinking. Is this what my life has come to? I used to have dreams and ambitions. I planned to travel the world, get a regrettable tattoo, learn to bungee-jump, maybe act as a courier, delivering a mysterious package to a country ending in “-stan.”

But here I was, bragging — bragging! — about taking a medium-long nap. Even by napping standards, three hours is not all that impressive; I remember crashing for 14 hours once, after a particularly long night. Eighteen-year-old me would be pretty appalled with how I have turned out.

This is a riff on a cocktail by Colleen Graham, in which run-of-the-mill gin is replaced with cucumber gin and the wasabi is bumped up to adventurous levels.

Adventurer’s Cocktail: Cucumber Wasabi Martini

  • 4 slices of cucumber
  • ¼ teaspoon prepared wasabi paste
  • ½ ounce simple syrup
  • 1½ ounces cucumber gin (see below)
  • ½ ounce fresh squeezed lemon juice

Muddle three slices of cucumber in a cocktail shaker.

Add simple syrup and wasabi. Muddle again.

Add gin, lemon juice and ice. Shake thoroughly, long enough to get halfway through a very groovy song.

Strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with the remaining slice of cucumber.

Go out and seek adventure, like, I don’t know, fighting for a parking space at the gym or promising your daughter to go with her to the Barbie movie this summer.

Wasabi seems like an unlikely flavor for a cocktail, but surprisingly it’s the cucumber that does the heavy lifting here. The wasabi supports it, linking arms with the lemon juice and providing backup vocals. The sweetness of the syrup brings out the fruitiness of the cucumber.

It’s just really good.

Cucumber Gin

  • Persian cucumbers
  • An equal amount (by weight) of medium-quality gin — Gordon’s is my go-to for infusing.

Wash, but don’t peel, the cucumbers.

Blend the cucumbers and gin on the slowest speed in your blender. You are trying to chop the cucumbers finely to maximize the amount of surface area they have exposed to the gin, but you want them to still be in large enough pieces to filter out.

Store the mixture in a large jar, someplace cool and dark, for seven days.

Strain, then filter and bottle this very delicious gin.

Featured photo: Cucumber wasabi martini. Photo by John Fladd.

In the kitchen with Rachel Mack and Sara Steffensmeier

Rachel Mack and Sara Steffensmeier are the new owners of Laurel Hill Jams & Jellies (, a Bedford-based producer of dozens of jams and jellies made from local fruits, wines and teas. The pair of sisters, who also happen to be next-door neighbors in Bedford, took over the business last month from founder Sue Stretch, who retired after 15 years. Stretch had previously worked as a teacher for more than four decades, and is also the former president of the Bedford Farmers Market. Working out of both of their home kitchens, Mack and Steffensmeier will continue to produce each of Stretch’s more than 50 flavors of jams and jellies, and have some of their own ideas in the pipeline as well.

What is your must-have kitchen item?

Rachel: My must-have in the kitchen is my sister. … I am just always happier and calmer when she is in the kitchen with me, and things just seem to go smoother. It is more than just having a second set of hands. It is more fun when we work in the kitchen together.

Sara: Probably my measuring scale. It helps me make sure I’ve got exactly the right amount of fruit to get the jam or jelly to set perfectly. And I like having my sister in the kitchen as well!

What would you have for your last meal?

Rachel: Some of my favorite food memories are from my aunt and uncle’s farm. My Aunt Barb is the most amazing gardener and cook. She uses produce from the farm and local meat whenever possible.

Sara: Good Mexican food. It’s a food that has always made me happy. Also, the calories don’t count in the last meal scenario!

What is your favorite local restaurant?

Rachel: I would have to say Moat Mountain [Smoke House & Brewing Co.] up in North Conway. It is relaxed and fun and feels very New Hampshire to me. … I don’t feel like a trip up to the mountains is complete until we’ve eaten there.

Sara: I lived in Nashua recently and was always looking for an excuse to go to YouYou [Japanese Bistro]. It’s delicious and is always a change from my home cooking.

What celebrity would you like to see trying one of your products?

Rachel: I know U2 isn’t the coolest band in the world anymore, but I am still a massive fan. So I would have to say I would probably freak out if I saw either Bono or The Edge trying our jams or jellies.

Sara: There’s no one in the world I could pick that would match the sheer super-fan delight Rachel would have if Bono tried her jam, so I’m going to clear the way on this one and let her have her dream.

What is your favorite jam or jelly that you offer?

Rachel: We have so many amazing flavors, but if I could only ever eat one flavor again I would have to go with our Superb Strawberry Jam. When you start with good-quality strawberries and take your time to make a small batch of the jam, the flavors build into something amazing.

Sara: Tough question! I love the sweet-tartness of the raspberry, which I use in oatmeal and sometimes as a smoothie add-on.

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

Rachel: One thing that I love about the New Hampshire food scene is the farmers market culture in our state. Obviously farmers markets are not unique to New Hampshire, but our markets have a bit of magic that is missing from ones I have been to in other parts of the country.

Sara: I love how so many people I know grow their own fruits and veggies and have livestock! I think it’s cool that we’re connecting back in small and large ways with where our food comes from.

What is your favorite thing to make at home?

Rachel: I love to bake bread. Sourdough is my favorite!

Sara: Anything gluten-free. My options at the grocery store are limited in that regard, so I like exploring what I can create, that I can eat, in my own kitchen. … Plus, I need crackers and bread. They are great jam and jelly delivery systems!

Baked brie with Zetz Red Pepper Jam
From the kitchen of Rachel Mack and Sara Steffensmeier of Laurel Hill Jams & Jellies

1 small brie wheel
1 4-ounce jar Laurel Hill Zetz Red Pepper Jam
Cooking spray

Lightly spray a baking dish with the cooking spray. Place the brie wheel in the center of the dish. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes. In a saucepan, heat the jam until melted. Spoon the jam over the baked brie prior to serving.

Featured photo: Rachel Mack (right) and Sara Steffensmeier, the new owners of Laurel Hill Jams & Jellies. Courtesy photo.

Get it made

Lighthouse Local, Bedford Baking Co. now open

A new cafe and market now open in Bedford aims to be a one-stop shopping destination for a wide variety of New Hampshire-made goods, from jams, jellies and maple syrups to infused cooking oils, blended coffees and teas, chocolates and more.

Lighthouse Local, housed in the former Sweet Boutique space on Kilton Road, is also home to the Bedford Baking Co., which offers freshly baked breads and pastries alongside a menu of hot paninis and cold sandwiches. Both concepts arrived just after the new year, according to owner and longtime Bedford resident Linda Degler, who took over the space in September.

Degler, who also runs the Bedford Event Center and New Morning Schools, said the shop’s original conception stemmed from her enjoyment of baking. The idea to feature a retail area of local products, meanwhile, came from coordination with the nonprofit New Hampshire Made.

“I thought, ‘Yeah, we’re local and we’re small, but then so are they and so are they,’ and so why don’t we just bring them all together,” she said. “I mean, it’s basically like throwing a party. You have friends from this circle and friends from that circle and you introduce them and it’s fun.”

Out of the gate, the shop has retail products available for sale from companies like Ben’s Sugar Shack, Van Otis Chocolates, Laurel Hill Jams & Jellies, Monadnock Oil & Vinegar Co. and the Yankee Farmer’s Market. Degler noted that the shop is also the first brick-and-mortar account for 603 Perfect Blend, run by a Manchester-based husband and wife team that is known in the local farmers market circuit for their loose-leaf teas and gourmet flavored sugars.

For several of its featured products Lighthouse Local offers samples during business hours. Degler said she plans to continue growing the retail space with additional purveyors. Although most hail from the Granite State, she said she is open to having others from neighboring states.

“This started with New Hampshire Made, and now people are calling us,” she said.

On the bakery side, Degler has partnered with Trina Bird of the Bird Food Baking Co. to oversee pastries. Bird, of Goffstown, is perhaps best known locally for her craft doughnuts, of which she has made a countless number of wild flavors, as well as her cakes, cupcakes and cookies.

Degler has also recruited Natalie Camasso as an in-house baker; Fylisity Baker-Scott, who primarily runs the front; and Kyle Altman, a former manager at Mile Away Restaurant in Milford who created the shop’s lunch menu. Offerings to start have included a few sandwiches and paninis, with some fresh sides, like cranberry coleslaw, cucumber pesto, and mozzarella and tomato with a balsamic glaze.

As with the retail area, Degler’s goal is to grow the bakery arm of the business.

“I am interested in renting kitchen space … maybe to new bakers who want to get a foot in but maybe they don’t have a kitchen … and we’ll sell their products down here to get [them] started,” she said. “I’d like to find somebody who supplies breakfast pastries. That would be a really good addition here, especially with all the office buildings around.”

Lighthouse Local/Bedford Baking Co.
Where: 21 Kilton Road, Bedford
Hours: Wednesday through Sunday, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
More info: Visit, or find them on Facebook @lighthouselocalcafe or on Instagram @lighthouselocal
Suppliers interested in getting their products on the shelves of Lighthouse Local can contact owner Linda Degler directly at

Featured photo: Baked goods from Lighthouse Local. Photo by Linda Degler.

SouperFest returns

Annual tasting benefit moves back indoors for its 14th year

For one day only, Concord’s Bank of New Hampshire Stage will turn into a prime tasting destination for area soups, chowders and chilis. It’s time for SouperFest — the event, one of the chief fundraisers for the Concord Coalition to End Homelessness, returns on Saturday, March 4.

This will be the first SouperFest to take place indoors since 2019, and also the first time in its history that it’s happening inside of the concert venue. After the pandemic forced its cancellation in 2020, SouperFest transitioned outdoors to a mostly takeout format the following two years.

Unlike with those events, which encouraged pre-ordering your soup online, this year’s SouperFest will offer soups on a first-come, first-served basis at $5 each while they last.

“The pre-orders made it very, very difficult, because we had a lot of individuals that didn’t pre-order that were walking up … and we’d have to count how many outstanding orders there still were,” said Greg Lessard, CCEH’s director of housing initiatives. “I always like to have extra but you just never know how many folks will turn up that day, and how hungry they are.”

Eleven Concord establishments have donated a soup, chowder or chili to be served by volunteers during the fundraiser. The flavors are diverse, ranging from a vegetarian split pea soup courtesy of O Steaks & Seafood to beef and turkey chilis from The Common Man and Georgia’s Northside, respectively. There’s also going to be a turkey pot pie soup from The Red Blazer and a butternut squash soup from The Centennial Hotel’s Granite Restaurant & Bar, among others.

“We encourage them all to make something different,” Lessard said. “Every one of the restaurants that had done it for the last two years stepped up, and we actually picked up a few.”

Attendees can get their eight-ounce cups of soup to go — along with complimentary rolls and water — or grab a seat at the venue to listen to RoZweLL, a rock cover group set to perform.

“The thought is that they will come and see acquaintances, have some soup and listen to the band,” Lessard said. “The lounge area upstairs is open for our guests as well.”

As soups will be served until they sell out, Lessard said getting to the event early is a good idea.

“We anticipate that most folks will be there … right at opening,” he said. “Some soups will be more popular than others. … If folks are getting hungry and there’s a line that’s taking a few minutes, they will have the opportunity to select from two soups while they’re in line inside.”

The Coalition has already raised more than $60,000 through its dozens of business sponsorships, and all SouperFest proceeds will go directly toward its programs.

14th annual SouperFest
When: Saturday, March 4, noon to 2 p.m.
Where: Bank of New Hampshire Stage, 16 S. Main St., Concord
Cost: $5 per soup (no pre-orders); soups are available first-come, first-served while they last
Cash and credit cards will be accepted at the door, in addition to donations benefiting the Concord Coalition to End Homelessness.

Featured soups

• The Barley House Restaurant & Tavern (beef barley soup)
• The Common Man (beef and bean chili)
• Concord Food Co-op (clam chowder)
• Concord Hospital and Karner Blue Café (broccoli cheddar soup)
• Georgia’s Northside (Santa Fe turkey chili)
• Granite Restaurant & Bar (butternut squash soup)
• Hermanos Cocina Mexicana (creamy mushroom soup)
• O Steaks & Seafood (vegetarian split pea soup)
• Revival Kitchen & Bar (mushroom beef and barley soup)
• The Red Blazer Restaurant & Pub (turkey pot pie soup)
• The Works Cafe (lentil soup)

Featured photo: Concord’s SouperFest tasting benefit returns on Saturday, March 4, moving back indoors after taking place outside the last two years, as pictured above. Photos by Mulberry Creek Imagery.

Stay in the loop!

Get FREE weekly briefs on local food, music,

arts, and more across southern New Hampshire!