Raising the decade

Seventies Dead from Rainbow Full of Sound

The Grateful Dead have continued to have a rich afterlife since their final show in 1995. First as Furthur, then as Dead & Company, most of its remaining members resumed touring a few years after Jerry Garcia died. Tribute acts reinvent the group’s songs in a myriad of genres, like local jam band Roots of Creation, with its Grateful Dub franchise.

Then there are the faithful re-enactors. Best known is Dark Star Orchestra, which will pull a setlist from the vault on any given night and let Deadheads guess the time-traveling destination. Rainbow Full of Sound takes that idea a step further, taking on whole tours.

Waynard Scheller put RFoS in 2012, to recreate the Dead’s 1980 run at New York’s Radio Music Hall. It was supposed to be a one-time deal. Fans loved it, though, and RFoS became a staple in Scheller’s home base of New Jersey.

In early 2020 they embarked on their first national tour, this time doing every date from the legendary 1972 European tour — almost. “We got about nine shows in, and then Covid shut us down,” Scheller said in a recent phone interview. When lockdown ended, they were finally able to finish. “Song by song, show by show, in different cities around the country. It was a huge success.”

This time around, Scheller and his shifting cast of close to 30 musicians are stretching out even more.

“It’s evolved into retracing the ’70s,” he said. “We’re starting with Europe ’72 and ending with Terrapin Station.” An upcoming show at Newmarket’s Stone Church will have Scheller on keys, guitarists Steve Bernstein and Jim McGuigan, Alan Lerner on drums and bass player Jair-Rohm Parker Wells.

RFoS is no ordinary cover band. In their hands, songs like “Eyes of the World” and “I Know You Rider” can rise above the original versions. Scheller suggests how the Dead might have sounded if Bruce Hornsby had been in the piano seat instead of Keith Godchaux in the 1970s.

Schiller is quick to point out that Godchaux was playing in the band when he was first drawn to the Dead, and that his successor Brent Mydland cemented them as a favorite band.

“When I saw them for the first time in 1978, it was Keith,” he said. “The second show was Brent. I caught like 200 shows with him on keyboard, but Keith was my first influence.”

He is a big Hornsby fan and covers many of his songs as a solo artist. Much like the band he emulates, instinct guides Schiller when RFoS performs.

“It comes out organically,” he said. “It’s not like I plan to sound like this one or that one; I just allow my influences … between Keith, Brent and Bruce … to come out on any given night.”

This is not the first Dead tribute Schiller has been part of. He initially worked with members of venerable Long Island band the Zen Tricksters, touring as Jam Stampede. He then played with Dark Star Orchestra founding guitarist John Kadlecik. One memorable night, he did a show in a New York City crypt, and in the process met Zach Nugent, of Garcia acolytes JGB, and Kenny Brooks.

Brooks played with Dead guitarist Bob Weir in RatDog, and the introduction led to an invite for Schiller to co-produce a benefit show in San Francisco, where he played in Weir’s band. “It was definitely surreal,” he said of the night. “I was kind of in shock … I wouldn’t say starstruck, because I didn’t get his autograph. It was an honor to work with him.”

That experience with the Jerry Garcia Foundation, raising money for the Yoko Ono-founded charity Imagine There’s No Hunger, led to his path crossing with Hot Tuna’s Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady, and, subsequently, to Jason Crosby and Grahame Lesh of the Lesh Family Band.   

It all rests on a love of the Grateful Dead. As to why the seminal jam band excites him so much, “it’s a combination of a lot of things,” he said. “I like the improv part, where we can create music within the music. Every night we perform, it’s a different experience, and that’s interesting and stimulating as a musician.”

Finally, Schiller said, “the songs are just amazing … country, blues, bluegrass, jazz, rock and reggae, they just mixed it all together — and the big picture is the Grateful Dead.”

Rainbow Full of Sound w/ Schells & Vine
When: Saturday, May 13, 8 p.m.
Where: The Stone Church, 5 Granite St., Newmarket
Tickets: $20 at stonechurchrocks.com

Featured photo: Waynard Scheller. Courtesy photo.

The Music Roundup 23/05/11

Local music news & events

Rant master: “It’s difficult to satirize what’s already satiric,” Lewis Black said a couple of years ago, but the acerbic comic keeps on trying. His latest tour, Off the Rails, pokes fun inclusively, as he likens America’s political parties to ideological mystery meat, saying, “they both taste like chicken,” and ends each show with The Rant is Due, a response to a fan’s complaint, submitted online. Thursday, May 11, 8 p.m., Colonial Theatre, 609 Main St., Laconia, $49 to $60 at etix.com. 

Double play: Best known as a percussive acoustic guitarist, Senie Hunt has been plugging in lately, with a blues rock-based band influenced by Hendrix, Stevie Ray and others. For a homecoming show, he’ll perform two sets, the first with a fiddler, mandolin player and resonator guitarist, and the second with the electrified Senie Hunt Project. Local rocker Brooks Young will open. Friday, May 12, 8 p.m., Bank of NH Stage, 16 S. Main St., Concord, $21.75 at ccanh.com. 

Doctor folk: Celebrating 30 years of performing, Ellis Paul isn’t slowing down, with a double LP inspired by the Beatles’ White Album out soon called 55. The title is a reference to the number of years since the Fab Four’s 1968 release. The singer-songwriter has won multiple Boston Music Awards, and received an honorary Doctor of Letters degree from the University of Maine in 2014. Saturday, May 13, 7:30 p.m., Rex Theatre, 23 Amherst St., Manchester, $29 and up at palacetheatre.org. 

Mama mirth: A Mother’s Day brunch presented by Keg Stand Comedy includes four female comics who are also moms, with a full buffet included in the ticket cost. Laughs during the sumptuous meal will be provided by Alana Foden, the empress of her own long-running series of shows, Sara Poulin, who’s also a singer and actress, Jolanda Logan and Mona Forgione. Sunday, May 14, 11 a.m., Backyard Brewery & Kitchen, 1211 South Mammoth Road, Manchester, $75 at eventbrite.com. 

Iconic pair: An ever-changing all-star cast drives Prince/Bowie, a fusion of legends that began as an informal extra at the Catskill Chill Music Festival a few years back, and continued by acclamation with theater and festival shows. Among the various players are members of Twiddle, Snarky Puppy, Trey Anastasio Band, Lotus, Pink Talking Fish and TAUK, with Matt Wayne providing horn arrangements. Wednesday, May 17, 8 pm., 3S Artspace, 319 Vaughan St., Portsmouth, $26 to $30 at 3sarts.org.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (PG-13)

Peter Quill and the gang return for one last? (probably not) hurrah in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 — not the worst Marvel Cinematic Universe movie, but not nearly as fun as the The Marvels trailer that preceded it.

This outing is largely Rocket’s (voice of Bradley Cooper) story, though he is often separated from the main group, so we don’t get a lot of his cranky raccoon personality or the group dynamic that was such a big part of the first outing. We meet up with the gang hanging out on Knowhere, doing Guardians work and trying to help a depressed and frequently drunk Peter/Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), who still hasn’t gotten over the loss of his Gamora (Zoe Saldaña) back in Infinity War.

Adam Warlock (Will Poulter), a powerful but stupid creation of the Sentinels (think “golden Elizabeth Debicki” from the second Guardians), shows up to steal away Rocket. The gang — Groot (voice of Vin Diesel), Mantis (Pom Klementieff), Drax (Dave Bautista), Nebula (Karen Gillan) — manages to keep Rocket from being Warlock-napped but he’s grievously injured and attempts to heal him uncover that Rocket is, essentially, password protected. The crew sets off to find the lab where Rocket’s enhancements were engineered to get his system unlocked and make him capable of being healed. This puts them in the path of The High Evolutionary (Chukwudi Iwuji), a powerful nutcase whose experiments have resulted in a variety of strange species, from the golden Sentinels (who were trying to steal Rocket for him) to animals like Rocket with tortuously applied extra limbs and abilities to a planet of humanoid animals that have, like, rabbit faces but otherwise mow the lawn and drive 1980s-model sedans and stuff.

The alternate-universe Gamora, who was stuck in the present after Endgame and who is now a professional thief with Sylvester Stallone and crew, joins up with the Guardians gang to head to the High Evolutionary’s base of operations to search for the Rocket password. She may not have the same emotional connection to Peter and the others but she also finds herself fighting to unlock Rocket’s password and protect him from the High Evolutionary henchmen trying to steal him. It seems that Rocket and his abilities to learn and think for himself represents the HE’s most promising technological achievement and he wants Rocket’s brain to help him engineer another super species.

I know that all sounds like a lot of plot, but somehow it isn’t. It’s like rice cakes — seems large but there’s not actually a lot to it when you dig in. This movie has a lot of ideas but not much in the way of fully developed story; it’s more like pieces of “oh, and maybe they could” glued together, kind of the way you do with a project where you don’t have a really clear focus and so you just keep adding “more” until it looks big enough.

I think the writers’ strike and the accompanying A.I. talk probably put this fear out into the ether, but what I felt very quickly while watching this movie was that this was the kind of movie we’re all afraid we’ll get if A.I. starts writing films. Like, it seems Marvel-ish, it has lines that feel like jokes, it has a line up of well known songs for the soundtrack, it has the general vibe of its creator having seen previous Guardians movies. But there is that Uncanny Valley, timing-not-quite-right feel to it — to the quips, to the physical humor, to the emotional beats, to the music. If this movie were a person it would be blinking both not enough and then suddenly too much.

James Gunn, human writer on all the previous Guardians movie (and the loveably goofy Christmas special), is the writer and director here. Why the movie feels like it was more lab grown than organically created, I’m not sure. Maybe it’s trying to do too much? It puts Rocket at the center but still tries to give us Peter’s story and his relationship woes and tell the story of the group and its development, and it seeks to establish this very bonkers villain who either needed to dial it back or just turn the knob all the way up. (As is, the HE is just kind of a forgettable nothing.) And there’s some character development for Mantis that gets worked in even though it feels like the movie doesn’t really have time for it.

What made the first Guardians movie and these characters a delight was the shagginess of them — generally, they’re not the best or the brightest and they are frequently jerks to each other, but they were scruffily likable and had their adventures in a more fantastical space setting than, like, the Iron Man/Captain America top-shelf part of the MCU. While Vol. 3 keeps us in a land of odd creatures and big colors, the charm and the low-fi fun are mostly gone and have been replaced with something too processed to let its characters have memorable moments or its story to really pop. C

Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, strong language, suggestive/drug references and thematic elements, according to the MPA on filmratings.com. Written and directed by human person James Gunn, who is I guess bound for DC now, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is two hours and 29 minutes long and is distributed in theaters by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.

Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. (PG-13)

A 12-year-old comes home to New York City from a happy summer at camp to learn that her family is moving to the New Jersey suburbs and all the horrors of sixth grade will be experienced with new kids at a new school in Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, a very sweet, 1970s-set adaptation of Judy Blume’s classic novel.

Margaret (Abby Ryder Fortson), only child of Barbara (Rachel McAdams) and Herb Simon (Benny Safdie), likes living in the city, near her beloved grandmother Sylvia (Kathy Bates). She’s nervous about what this new place and these new kids will be like. On arriving in New Jersey, she’s sort of claimed by neighbor girl Nancy (Elle Graham), also a sixth-grader, who will be in Margaret’s class. Nancy has queen-bee-ed herself to the leader position in a foursome of girls that now includes Margaret as well as Janie (Amari Alexis Price) and Gretchen (Katherine Mallen Kupferer). She demands that this club concern themselves with bras, periods and the boys they like, a list she insists begins and ends with Philip (Zachary Brooks), a boy in their class.

Margaret, though, is quickly charmed by Moose (Aidan Wojtak-Hissong), friend of Nancy’s slightly older brother Evan (Landon Baxter). And, informed by the lady in the department store that she doesn’t really need a bra, Margaret finds that she’s been talked into wearing a very uncomfortable “grow bra.” Please, she prays to/begs of God, please let her chest grow and let her get her period and be normal and regular like everybody else — except of course the only “everybody” who really seems to be in that boat is a girl named Laura (Isol Young), who is living out her own tween hell thanks to Nancy’s unfriendly comments.

Meanwhile, underneath all the “why, God, why?” of being 12, Margaret is dealing with something of a religious struggle after learning some difficult aspects of her family’s history. Barbara never talks with her strict Christian parents — and Margaret has never met them — because they cut Barbara off when she married Herb, who is Jewish. Neither Barbara nor Herb has ever imparted religion on Margaret, saying she can decide for herself when she grows up. But now Margaret has decided that she’d like to decide — trying out synagogue with her grandmother and church with some of her friends and hoping she’ll feel something that will let her know “what she is.” Along the way, she talks to God — pouring out fears and general anxieties about, you know, 12.

I don’t remember how much of this is in the book but in between elements of Margaret’s story we get these little peeks at Barbara’s story and her struggles and changes. She has gone from being a working mother in the city to a stay-at-home mother in the suburbs. She is also dealing with going from being a mother to a kid to being a mother to a tween girl who is gently trying out aspects of teenage-ness and looking for bits of independence. This might be one of those things you notice more depending on where you, the viewer, are personally, age- and life-circumstance-wise, but I enjoyed how the movie gave us Barbara’s struggles and her attempts to find her place in this new environment. McAdams fills in this character so nicely, giving us so much context to who Barbara is with just a facial expression.

To a smaller degree, we also get little glimpses of Sylvia’s life and her changes. With her family no longer nearby in the city, she’s sort of rearranging her identity. Margaret’s independence and her distance mean changes for Sylvia too — eventually leading to an extended trip to Florida — which is just a neat aspect to see examined, even just briefly.

But what this movie really does best, I think, is get to that “please let me be normal” desperation at an age when there really is no “normal.” Fortson is a winning Margaret — selling Margaret as a kid and Margaret as a teen, Margaret as a willing follower and Margaret as someone who knows how to stand up for herself. The character can take you right back to your tween self while the movie offers gentle character studies of multiple generations. B+

Rated PG-13 for thematic material involving sexual education (or really, the lack of sexual education by these girls who have to rely on a stolen anatomy book and a school health class) and some suggestive material, according to the MPA on filmratings.com. Written and directed by Kelly Fremon Craig, Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret is an hour and 46 minutes long and is distributed in theaters by Lionsgate.

Featured photo: Guardian of the Galaxy Vol. 3

Saving Time, by Jenny Odell

Saving Time, by Jenny Odell (Random House, 364 pages)

The quote that opens Jenny Odell’s Saving Time is from the late painter Agnes Martin: “I wish the idea of time would drain out of my cells and leave me quiet even on this shore.”

For anyone who feels that way (and doesn’t everyone feel that way?) Odell proposes to teach us how to discover a life “beyond the clock” — to imagine “a life of identity and source of meaning outside the world of work and profit.” To do so will take up a rather large chunk of your time, which is exquisitely ironic, but Odell showed in her first book, 2019’s How to Do Nothing, that she has a penchant for pithy titles that have little to do with the actual books.

Saving Time offers what Odell calls “conceptual tools” for thinking about time, not time-saving strategies. It is what is commonly called a deep dive into the theme, with Odell leisurely rambling through every rabbit hole to which her observations lead. This is not usually a bad thing, except for the fact that people attracted to a book called Saving Time are likely to be, well, in a hurry for its points to be made. And Odell will not be hurried; she writes with the indolence of someone sprawled in a hammock on a summer day.

Which is kind of her point. Her thesis is this: Our contemporary notion of time is closely (and somewhat bizarrely) tied to work and wages, even while much that surrounds us on the planet unfolds on geologic time. This is not good. Odell rues the state of the modern worker (of which the famously tracked Amazon employee is perhaps the most pitiable example) while tracing the origins of the clock-driven world. Capitalism is an unnamed villain here, even though she points out that until industrialization, human beings stood in for machines, per the slaves of ancient Rome and Egypt.

And for all the blame that has been heaped upon Jeff Bezos, it’s interesting to learn that even the “father of our country,” George Washington, had Bezos-like standards at Mount Vernon, writing to an overseer at one point that slaves should do “as much in 24 hours as their strength, without endangering their health, or constitution will allow of.” That and the Amazon mindset were brilliantly and presciently mocked in a 1936 Charlie Chaplin film called Modern Times, in which a company tries to get more out of its workers by using a machine to quickly feed them their lunch. “The Billows Feeding Machine, a practical device which automatically feeds your men while at work. Don’t stop for lunch! Be ahead of your competitor.”

Of course, the need to get more out of workers wasn’t limited to men. Odell writes, “It is telling, for example, that the owners of the mills in Lowell, Massachusetts, tried to argue that longer hours were actually good for the women. Without the ‘wholesome discipline of factory life,’ the women would be left to their own dangerous whims, ‘without a warrant that this time will be well employed.’”

Odell invites us to consider what our employers are buying with the wages they pay us: a specific service or good, or our time? If the latter, what are the boundaries? And in a society in which “discretionary time” is vastly different and often varies by class, what, if anything, do we owe those most deficient in time, which amounts to life itself.

Interestingly, the time problem seems, in many ways, a cruel gift of technology, which expanded the ways in which we can be tethered to a clock. Odell notes the work of German sociologist Hartmut Rosa, who writes of “a hypothetical character named Linda, an overwhelmed professor who rushes through her day, never having enough time to fulfill all her obligations to students, co-workers, family, and friends; expected to be always available, answerable to everyone; with the feeling that she’s always falling short and running behind.”

Linda, Odell writes, “does not have access to Feierabend, the feeling of leisure that peasants and farmers might have had when the cattle and children were in for the night” — the pleasant sense that work is, at least for a couple of hours, concluded. Nor does anyone with a cell phone perpetually turned on, and thus reachable by anyone all the time. (Some countries are trying to address this with legislation colloquially known as “the right to disconnect.”)

Seeing the struggles of their parents and grandparents, younger people are resisting their path, choosing to be less ambitious, more protective of their time. There are costs, not only in material goods but in the respect of their elders. For example, the young Chinese factory worker who in 2016 quit his job in order to take a lengthy bike trip — “I have been chilling,” he wrote — started a movement called “lying flat,” but those who participated were widely decried as lazy and shameful. Lie flat if you want, the message is, but don’t talk about it in public.

Time moves differently for people in different circumstances; for prisoners incarcerated for life, of course, time is a construct almost incomprehensible to those who have relative freedom. And the disabled and those who work with them have their own concept of time called “crip time,” which acknowledges, among other things, the extended amount of time it takes to do things relative to the non-disabled population.

Odell wrote this book, or at least some of it, from the privileged position of an artist’s residency in the Puget Sound, which gifted her the opportunity to muse about time in the slow-drip fashion of geologic time. As such, Saving Time often seems something like elitist navel-gazing. Additionally, there are many smart and insightful thinkers whom, for whatever reason, it is a struggle to pay attention to, and Odell is among their class. The topic is important; she makes that much clear. But Saving Time is not a book I would recommend. C

Album Reviews 23/05/11

Julian Loida, “Giverny” (Gratitude Sound)

Preview title track from the album of the same name, which will be out in a couple of weeks. Art wonks will recognize Giverny as the small town outside of Paris where Claude Monet lived and worked, a place and feel that jazz/ambient percussionist/composer Loida tries to conjure through talkative piano lines, some well-placed string breaks, vocal chanting and a generally peaceful feel. Loida’s one of the good ones, his work spanning genres; he collaborates with dancers to compose scores for their performances and has partnered with visual artists and musicians from all walks. His eclectic geniality has extended into the area of community service as well: For more than two years Loida ran the Children’s Program for Shelter Music Boston, “bringing music and trauma-informed educational programming to children and families experiencing homelessness and financial insecurity in Greater Boston.” The full-length LP will be one to look forward to for certain. A

Champlin Williams Friestedt, Carrie (Sound Pollution Records)

OK, so this is a throwback-AOR supergroup of sorts, featuring Toto singer Joseph Williams, Chicago singer (for 25 years!) Bill Champlin and Swedish guitarist-producer Peter Friestedt, who released two LA Project albums that Billboard magazine, naturally, liked. Now before you confuse the title track with the old hair-metal Europe ballad, it’s not, it’s more of a happy-ass yacht-rock joint, co-written by Grammy Award-winning songwriter Randy Goodrum and features Champlin duetting with the another guy who fronted Chicago, Jason Scheff. Boy, I’ll bet there was some awkward vibes in the recording studio when they tried to fit those two egos into the booth, but it’s a very nice song, if 30 years past its sell-by date (I expected to hear Jack Paar’s “Man In Motion” song from St. Elmo’s Fire in followup just to complete the mummified feel). “The Last Unbroken Heart” pickpockets the ding-donging electric piano sound from ’80s Whitney Houston for the LP’s worst, most mawkish moments, and so it goes throughout, music to eat lobster with granny and grampy by. A


• May 12 is on the way, bringing with it albums galore, ye, albums as far as the eye can see, like the classic biographical children’s tale One Fish Two Fish, except with albums, and I’m so excited to see if there’s anything good in this big pile! Looky there, it’s Alison Goldfrapp, who used to be in a band called Goldfrapp that featured the singing of one Alison Goldfrapp, so apparently she quit her own band to start a new one with herself? I don’t know, and let’s not dive into the Wikipedia over something so dumb (OK, I did, Goldfrapp is a duo with some keyboard player dude, I hope he’s not super-mad at her for making it obvious that she thinks he’s worthless in front of the entire planet), let’s just have a look at her new album, The Love Invention, because that’s what’s on the flames for us to talk about and blah blah blah. I have one of her albums — oops, I mean just a plain Goldfrapp album, and listened to it a few times, but it never really stuck. It was easy-time techno, which I can always deal with, but it wasn’t super-sexy or all that melodic — OK, it kind of sucked, not trying to be mean or anything, but I’ll do the dutiful and pick a random song from this new album, because the whole thing is available on YouTube right now! “So Hard So Hot” uses the same dreadful kind of keyboard sound Paul McCartney used on “Wonderful Christmastime,” so that’s a big minus right off the jump. Eh, then it smooths out and turns into a decent afterparty deep-house tune. Nothing really innovative, just decent enough technopop.

• British alt-rock/darkwave trio Esben and the Witch is named after a Danish children’s book, and let’s see, what else does Wikipedia know about them — hm, nothing really, just that they got together at some point and decided to play rock ’n’ roll songs together, which is how bands form, in case you weren’t sure. Their song “Marching Song” was used on TV shows like Beavis and Butt-head and Ringer, and so on. Hold Sacred, the band’s new LP, includes songs, one of which is “The Well.” The singer kind of sounds like Siouxsie Sioux, but not as much as Florence Welch does. The song’s kind of droopy and sad, with lots of reverb, it’s OK I guess.

BC Camplight is the stage name of New Jersey-based singer-songwriter Brian Christinzio, who lived in Philadelphia, Pa., for a while, where he lived in an abandoned church, then moved to the U.K., where he got his act together, and then the po-po in England banned him from the country for some reason. He’s been on the straight and narrow since then; maybe you heard his 2015 single “Just Because I Love You” (not to be confused with the Anita Baker song, of course), a Smoky Robinson-meets-Brian Wilson sort of bedroom-soul tune that did OK with critics but, like basically everything else he’s done, didn’t really make him much money in record sales. That brings us to the here and now and his new album, The Last Rotation Of Earth, due out Friday. The title track is sort of like what would happen if Jr Jr could write good songs, or at least ones that would have a snowball’s chance of getting on commercial radio without annoying people. It has an enthusiastic piano line, over which Christinzo lays some subdued Beck-like college-rock vocals to decent effect.

• We’ll call it a column with Wilderness Within You, the new album from Parker Millsap, who is actually not related to Ronnie Milsap, so just stop that right now. The title track features Gillian Welch (who probably only showed up because she thought this guy’s related to Ronnie Milsap). The tune is really nice, steeped in unplugged bluegrass finder-picking, you might like it.

If you’re in a local band, now’s a great time to let me know about your EP, your single, whatever’s on your mind. Let me know how you’re holding yourself together without being able to play shows or jam with your homies. Send a recipe for keema matar. Message me on Twitter (@esaeger) or Facebook (eric.saeger.9).

The Musketeer

In my youth, in the late 18th century, I watched a television show about stunt performers. One of the things that stuck with me was a stunt man getting ready to be thrown off a roof, and after going over all his safety protocols, the last thing he did before the fall was to make sure he had his “buddy” with him — in this case, a tiny, dog’s squeaky toy. Apparently, many stunt people have a superstition about carrying a small toy with them during a stunt, so they have a friend with them and don’t have to go through something harrowing alone.

Most driving is somewhat harrowing for me, so for many years I’ve carried a “buddy” with me. In my case he is a 2-inch-high figurine of a musketeer, holding a sword in his right hand and a dagger in his left. Having him with me has always made me feel slightly cooler. I like to imagine myself raising an eyebrow, twirling my mustache with one hand and nonchalantly placing my other on the hilt of my sword. In my daydream, an alley full of street toughs — or, more likely, a clerk at the DMV — would scuttle away, completely intimidated.

Apparently I’m not the only one to feel that way. For three cars and several mechanics, I’ve dropped my car off to be serviced, only to find my musketeer on the dashboard waiting for me, obviously placed there when the mechanic was done playing with him.

Last week, my teenager asked me to drive them to school. It was the morning of the AP Literature Exam, and the apprehension was palpable. When I pulled into the parking lot of the school, we just sat in silence for a moment or two. Eventually, lacking any practical advice, I pulled my musketeer from his spot under my dashboard and held him out.

“Would you like to take The Musketeer with you?”

A moment’s silence.

“Yes, please.”

I’ve been facing down a few challenges lately, and I for one, could stand a little more insouciance in my life, right now.

The Musketeer

This is a riff on a cocktail called The Aramis, after one of the title characters in The Three Musketeers. Apparently there already is a drink called The Three Musketeers, but it is a sweet, ice creamy, after-dinner affair named after the candy bar. That’s not really what I’m going for here, so I’ve adapted something a bit more specific.

  • 2 ounces very cold gin — I put mine in the freezer for several hours
  • 1 ounce fresh squeezed lime juice
  • ¼ ounce simple syrup
  • ½ ounce blue Curaçao

Combine the gin, lime juice and simple syrup over ice, in a cocktail shaker. Shake until the shaker starts to frost over.

Pour into a cocktail glass.

Using a spoon, touching the inside of the glass, slowly pour the blue Curaçao down the side of the glass. Because it is denser than the rest of the cocktail, it should sink to a puddle in the bottom.

Ask your digital assistant to play the William Tell Overture at volume 9. Sip your drink like a boss.

In theory, blue Curaçao is orange-flavored. The reality is that it just tastes blue. The gin and lime juice are pretty bracing, but the hint of syrup and the Curaçao round it out. It will help you feel like a musketeer named after a Greek philosopher.

Featured photo: The Musketeer. Photo by John Fladd.

Handheld tarts bursting with blueberries

It isn’t quite blueberry season in New Hampshire, but there’s no reason to delay planning. Never mind that you probably can find some decent berries that were grown elsewhere available in the produce department of your grocery store.

These tarts are easy to make; the cooking portion is done in under 20 minutes. The longest part of the recipe is chilling the finished product. You could eat them right away, but the chilling time allows both fillings to set up a bit more firmly. No judgment if you want to eat them as soon as they are done!

For the ingredients, there are three notes. First, you want phyllo tart shells, which I did have to search for. My local grocery store didn’t carry them, but my Walmart superstore did. Fresh blueberries are the ideal ingredient for this recipe. You can use frozen, but I would start with just one tablespoon of water when making the sauce. Finally, for cream cheese, be sure to use full fat. Do not buy Neufchâtel; it has a slightly grainy texture, which you’ll notice. You want these tarts to be ultra creamy.

Feel free to make these now, but keep the recipe handy for blueberry season. They make a perfect dessert to bring to a cookout this summer.

Handheld tarts bursting with blueberries
Makes 15 tarts

15 phyllo tart shells
⅓ cup granulated sugar
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
3 Tablespoons water
½ Tablespoon lemon juice
1½ cups blueberries
4 ounces cream cheese
⅓ cup powdered sugar
2 Tablespoons whole milk

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Place tart shells in the cups of a mini muffin pan or on a rimmed baking sheet.
Bake for 4 minutes.
While shells bake, combine granulated sugar, cornstarch, water and lemon juice in a small saucepan, whisking until smooth.
Stir in the blueberries, and bring to a boil over high heat.
Reduce heat to low, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until the blueberries release some of their juices and the sauce thickens.
Remove the sauce from the heat, and allow to cool to room temperature.
Remove tart shells from the oven.
Combine cream cheese, powdered sugar and 1 tablespoon of milk in a small bowl.
Stir until smooth, adding the additional tablespoon of milk if needed.
Divide cream cheese mixture evenly among the cups.
Top with a layer of blueberry sauce.
Store tarts in a sealed container for at least 4 hours before serving.

Featured photo: Handheld tarts bursting with blueberries. Photo by Michele Pesula Kuegler.

In the kitchen with Maggie Josti

Maggie Josti is the owner of Maggie’s Munchies (magmunch.com), a business offering scratch-baked goods like whoopie pies, cupcakes and cookies that she runs with her husband, Trevor. Originally from Malden, Mass., Josti has been cooking and baking her whole life, and worked in the restaurant industry for more than a decade prior to starting Maggie’s Munchies. Since launching last August, Maggie’s Munchies has participated in fairs, festivals, shows and other events across the Granite State. Find them next at one of two events set to take place on Saturday, May 13 — one member of the couple will be serving their sweet treats during Kids Con New England at the Douglas N. Everett Arena (15 Loudon Road, Concord), while the other will be attending the Great New England Mother’s Day Craft & Artisan Show at the Merrimack Premium Outlets (80 Premium Outlets Blvd., Merrimack).

What is your must-have kitchen item?

A cookie scoop. I use it for the fillings, for the whoopie pies themselves [and] for the cookies.

What would you have for your last meal?

A boneless rib-eye steak, homemade mac and cheese and a coffee frappe.

What is your favorite local restaurant?

Parker’s Maple Barn in Mason is definitely my favorite place to go.

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

Duff Goldman from Charm City Cakes would be cool, because I’d love to get his feedback.

What is your favorite item that you offer?

Our cinnamon roll whoopies are the best. … It’s two homemade cinnamon rolls with the whoopie pie filling in the center, and then our cinnamon icing on top. We serve it with a fork and a knife because it gets a little messy.

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

What I absolutely love is when I go out to a restaurant and they offer something different that’s a unique take on a classic recipe.

What is your favorite thing to cook at home?

Homemade mac and cheese is always the go-to. I never love it any less when I make it, and my kids don’t either. I can switch up the cheeses for something new and add so many different toppings.

Second annual Vine & Hops at The Hil
From the kitchen of Maggie Josti of Maggie’s Munchies

3 medium overripe bananas, peeled and mashed
⅓ cup melted salted butter
¼ can pure pumpkin
Pinch of salt
¾ cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon baking soda
1½ cups all-purpose flour
Optional: chocolate chips, nuts, spices or dried fruits

In a bowl, add the bananas and butter and mix with a spoon or stand mixer until well combined. Add the pure pumpkin, salt, sugar, egg, vanilla extract, cinnamon and baking soda and mix until combined. Add the flour and mix until combined. Add any optional desired ingredients such as chocolate chips, nuts, spices or dried fruits. Bake at 350 degrees for 55 to 65 minutes, depending on your oven. You should be able to stick a toothpick into the center and it will come out clean. If it’s browning too much but not done in the middle, place tin foil over the top loosely and bake until fully cooked. Let it cool for a few minutes in the pan, then flip upside down onto a wire rack and continue cooling.

Featured photo: Maggie Josti of Maggie’s Munchies. Courtesy photo.

Sips by the slopes

Vine & Hops at The Hill returns

Just before it reopens for a fourth season later this month, The Hill Bar & Grille at Manchester’s McIntyre Ski Area is inviting attendees ages 21 and up to partake in a night of food, beer and wine samples, along with live music and silent auction items to support local charities.

Vine & Hops at The Hill, happening on Thursday, May 18, is a joint partnership with Rock 101’s Greg & The Morning Buzz. Returning for a second year, the event will feature more than 300 craft beers and wines available to taste, alongside eats from local restaurants. Proceeds generated from the silent auction will go toward Lend a Helping Can, a nonprofit whose beneficiary organizations include 12 New England-area agencies combating hunger and homelessness.

“Last year was our inaugural event, and it was a good turnout, but we are definitely expecting a larger turnout this year,” McIntyre Ski Area marketing director Aly Coakley said. “We have a big tent scheduled to come in and be set up outside so we can utilize the indoor and outdoor space. We have such a great opportunity to use The Hill in the summertime now.”

The entry fee allows attendees to sample food and drinks from vendors that will be set up both inside the restaurant and out on its patio. A full list of participating breweries, along with the available selection of options they will be pouring, can be viewed online at the event’s website.

“One cool thing to note … is that we have a new partnership that we’re doing with 603 Brewery. They created The Hill Bar and Grille’s Down Hill IPA, which is an exclusive beer for us,” Coakley said. “We’re going to have samples of that available, and have that for purchase during the summer. … We’re also going to have five different tables of a variety of wines, from lower-end ones to some higher-end wines that are worth trying out.”

Passed hors d’oeuvres and a chef’s carving station from The Hill Bar & Grille will be featured at the event, while about half a dozen other local eateries are expected to serve options of their own, including barbecue from KC’s Rib Shack and seafood from Hooked Restaurant. During the evening, everyone will have a chance to bid on a variety of prized items, from tickets to an upcoming Boston Red Sox game to a tour with the Manchvegas Brew Bus for up to 10 people. McIntyre will also take bids on skis, a snowboard and a 2023-2024 season pass.

“Typically there’s a starting bid, based on the value of that item. By the end of the night, whoever has the highest bid wins, and then we would just cash them out from there,” Coakley said. “They take their item home and then that money would go directly to Lend a Helping Can.”

Since 1990, Lend a Helping Can has raised more than $2 million, including a record $382,000 raised in the year 2022. Beneficiaries include the New Hampshire Food Bank, Families in Transition, My Friend’s Place and multiple local and regional branches of the Salvation Army.

The Hill Bar & Grille, meanwhile, is expected to reopen for the season on May 30, Coakley said, with events scheduled throughout the summer before it closes for ski season around the end of October.

Second annual Vine & Hops at The Hill
When: Thursday, May 18, 5 to 8 p.m.
Where: The Hill Bar & Grille (McIntyre Ski Area), 50 Chalet Way, Manchester
Cost: $50 per person; ticket includes food, beer and wine samples, as well as access to bid on the featured silent auction items. Tickets are available in advance online and on the day of the event.
Visit: mcintyreskiarea.com/activities/vineandhops
Event is 21+ only.

Participating food and beverage vendors

  • 603 Brewery (Londonderry, 603brewery.com)
  • Able Ebenezer Brewing Co. (Merrimack, ableebenezer.com)
  • Backyard Brewery & Kitchen (Manchester, backyardbrewerynh.com)
  • Buena Gave Tequila Cocktails (buenagave.com)
  • Canteen Spirits (canteenspirits.com)
  • Chuck’s BARbershop (Concord, find them on Facebook @chucksbarbershopnh)
  • CodeX Books. Antiques. Rarities. (B.A.R.; Nashua, codexbar.com)
  • Contoocook Cider Co. (Contoocook, contoocookcider.com)
  • CrowBar Hardware Store (Claremont, find them on Facebook @crowbarhardware)
  • Downeast Cider (downeastcider.com)
  • Feathered Friend Brewing Co. (Concord, featheredfriendbrewing.com)
  • Great North Aleworks (Manchester, greatnorthaleworks.com)
  • The Hill Bar & Grille (Manchester, mcintyreskiarea.com/the-hill-bar-and-grille)
  • Hooked Seafood Restaurant and Ignite Bar & Grille (Manchester, hookedonignite.com)
  • Jack’s Abby Craft Lagers (jacksabby.com)
  • KC’s Rib Shack (Manchester, ribshack.net)
  • Lawson’s Finest Liquids (lawsonsfinest.com)
  • Mast Landing Brewing Co. (mastlandingbrewing.com)
  • Northwoods Brewing Co. (Northwood, northwoodsbrewingcompany.com)
  • Rockingham Brewing Co. (Derry, rockinghambrewing.com)
  • Samuel Adams (samueladams.com)
  • Schilling Beer Co. (Littleton, schillingbeer.com)
  • Sole’s Bar (Keene, find them on Facebook)
  • Tamworth Distilling (Tamworth, tamworthdistilling.com)
    Five tables of select wines will also be available for sampling. See the event website for the full list.

The Weekly Dish 23/05/11

News from the local food scene

Prost! Join To Share Brewing Co. (720 Union St., Manchester) for its inaugural SpringFest, scheduled for Saturday, May 13, from 1 to 9 p.m. According to a press release, SpringFest — or Frühlingsfest, as it’s known in Germany — is an annual spring celebration in Munich. To Share Brewing Co. is holding its own festival in that spirit with a special release of its German festbier for the event, in addition to bratwursts, sauerkraut, pretzels from The Hop Knot and strudel from Bearded Baking Co. Stein-hoisting competitions will be at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m., and dressing in traditional lederhosen is encouraged. Reservations are not required, but parties of six or more can reserve now by emailing info@tosharebrewing.com.

A taste of Lithuania: Rodgers Memorial Library (194 Derry Road, Hudson) is welcoming back local chef Oonagh Williams, who will resume her popular Lithuanian cooking demonstrations on Saturday, May 13, from 10 a.m. to noon., followed by similar events at the library scheduled for June 10 and July 8. During each demonstration, Williams teaches attendees how to make new Lithuanian dishes and gives them the opportunity to sample them. Featured dishes during the May 13 event will include cold cherry soup and a garlicky farmer’s cheese spread with walnuts, and full recipes will be provided. Williams also brings along some of her Lithuanian cookbooks and scrapbooks from her time studying at Vilnius University. A regular guest on WMUR-TV’s Cook’s Corner, Williams is also known for her online blog of gluten-free recipes (glutenfreecookingwithoonagh.com) and has given talks on behalf of the National Celiac Association in Boston. Admission to her demonstrations is free, but registration is required. Visit rodgerslibrary.org.

May the best cakes win: There’s still time to get your ticket to the second annual Franco Foods Fleur Délices challenge, an amateur bake-off and fundraiser for the Franco-American Centre happening at Anheuser-Busch Brewery (221 Daniel Webster Hwy., Merrimack) on Saturday, May 13, from 6 to 9 p.m. The theme this year, challenge organizer and FAC office manager Nathalie Hirte said, is French fairy tales. Contestants will be tasked with creating a cake that is decorated to represent the story of their chosen fairy tale in some way. There will be a panel of judges voting on each cake in a variety of criteria, but attendees can also vote for their own favorite cake based on appearance and have access to samples. The cost is $25 per person and $20 for FAC members. See facnh.com/fleur-delices-challenge, or check out our coverage of the event, which ran in the May 4 edition of the Hippo. The story is on page 25.

Fresh catch: The Merrimack County Conservation District (10 Ferry St., Concord) is taking orders for a trout sale for fish lovers looking to restock their backyard ponds, offering New Hampshire-raised disease-free rainbow and brook trout in 6- to 8-inch or 10- to 12-inch sizes. Orders are due by Sunday, May 14 — bagged 6- to 8-inch trout can be picked up at the Conservation District’s Concord center on Sunday, May 21, from 1 to 1:30 p.m. The fish must then be released to your pond immediately. Visit merrimackccd.org to fill out an order form, or call the Conservation District at 223-6023 for more details.

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