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Mother Iguana plans release show

Restlessness animates many artists; insomnia can cripple more than a few. For a Concord guitarist and singer-songwriter it does both. On the new album Eyeball Planet, Mac Holmes, performing as Mother Iguana, has created a song cycle about sleeplessness. The music isn’t comforting, but it brilliantly conveys the experience of the struggle to finally rest, both sonically and lyrically.

Though well-ensconced in the local music scene, Holmes recruited 22 musicians from around the world for the project. Each was given a loose outline to work with. Their tracks were emailed and assembled, collage-like, for each song. Frank Zappa and Charlie Mingus are named as influences, and the complex, textured results evoke both. Holmes explained his approach in a recent phone interview.

“My process was to write detailed prompts and briefs … including a number of reference tracks,” he said. “I encouraged people to bring their own ideas to the table and if something contradicted my idea, I’d love to hear that as well. My thinking was, they know what they do best, better than I do.”

International collaboration wasn’t the plan when Holmes began writing a few years ago.

“My initial vision for it was to do fairly dense, psychedelic arrangements with a lot of moving parts. And I can’t play most of those instruments,” he said. “Once I started along that path, I figured I should push that as far as I could go with it and just layer those things up … that’s the aesthetic I was trying to work with.”

Brazilian percussionist Tom Andrade appears on every cut, playing an exotic list of instruments too lengthy to catalog, including guizo, udu, agogô, seeds and, more prosaically, bongos. “I just love what he did so much,” Holmes said. “I wanted him on the whole thing.”

Carina Bruwer, a flute player from South Africa, offered a standout performance on “It Must Always Be Night,” which leads off the album. “She sent four or five takes of her just shredding the flute, and I felt compelled to use as much of it as I could,” Holmes said. He set them into multiple places in the mix, “kind of weaving in and out in different parts. Midway through the song, they’re kind of all going at once.”

Another Holmes influence is songwriter Van Dyke Parks, best known for his collaborations with Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys. “Lights Out” is reminiscent of Parks’ work. The touchstone song hints at the ambivalence of being on the line between waking and dreaming. “I watch the crack beneath the door, and every breath I take reminds me I’m awake, reminds me I’m alive,” Holmes sings over bouncy chords, and a swampy swell of horns, cello and vibraphone.

A release show for Eyeball Planet will happen Saturday, May 27, at Penuche’s Ale House in Concord. Singer Kelsie Collins, who contributed to the album (and is Holmes’ girlfriend), will be in a band that includes Zane McDaniel on bass, fiddlers JD Nadeau and Audrey Budington, along with multi-instrumentalist Brian Burnout.

Collins, who plays jazz standards and vintage country songs with Holmes in the duo Mac & Kelsie, will do a few of her own songs.

Missing from the group will be drummer/percussionist Killian Venman, who died suddenly on May 12. At the time of his death Venman was working with Holmes on a project at Rocking Horse Studio in Pittsfield, where Eyeball Planet was mixed. Holmes considered postponing the show, but encouragement from others who knew Venman compelled him to carry on with the date.

“I’ve repeatedly heard from friends that he would have wanted me to do that,” he said, “because he was very supportive. He was also a very ambitious, creative guy, who always had crazy art projects going on. That resonates with me as being the truth.”

Losing his close friend and collaborator does, however, cast a pall over what was supposed to be a celebration. That said, he’s glad to put the finishing touches on a project that’s consumed years of his life.

“It was already having a weird impact on my mental health, just in terms of orienting so much of my mental real estate,” Holmes said. “I indulged my mania working on this thing way past the point where anyone would even notice little things I was changing. I’m definitely proud of it, and the response to it so far has been good. A number of people whose opinions I really respect have said nice things about it.”

Mother Iguana
When: Saturday, May 27, 9 p.m.
Where: Penuche’s Ale House, 16 Bicentennial Square, Concord

Featured photo: Mac Holmes. Courtesy photo.

The Music Roundup 23/05/25

Local music news & events

Poetry slam: The weekly spoken word gathering Slam Free or Die has two familiar names, Amber Tamblyn and Derrick Brown. Tamblyn is an actress, director and writer whole latest book is Listening in the Dark: Reclaiming the Power of Women’s Intuition. Brown is a comic who’s penned books, screenplays and librettos. Thursday, May 25, 7 p.m., Stark Brewing, 500 N. Commercial St., Manchester, $3 to $5 at the door (sliding scale).

Well-rounded: An eclectic local bill has doom rockers Dead Harrison, whose 2020 premonitory anthem “End of the Bloodline” was one good thing to come out of the pandemic, and Horsefly Gulch, the twang-fueled alter ego of prog rock trio Mindset X. Dust Prophet, a metal band that’s the latest project of guitarist and Bluntface Records founder Otto Kinzel, and Witch Trot, a Maine-based stoner grunge trio, round out the show. Friday, May 26, 8 p.m., Strand Theater, 20 Third St., Dover, $10 at

Country goth: Leading purveyors of the Underground Gothic scene The Legendary Shack Shakers do a Manchester date. Playing a bluesy mix of swamp music and rockabilly, they’re led by singer/harmonica player J.D. Wilkes, who’s done studio work with Merle Haggard, Sturgill Simpson, John Carter Cash, Mike Patton and Hank Williams III. The Kentucky band’s most recent album is Cockadoodledeux, released in 2021. Saturday, May 27, 8 p.m., Jewel Music Venue, 61 Canal St., Manchester, $20 at

Full throttle: With a long list of iconic songs, Collective Soul isn’t easing up. A new album, Vibrating, was released last year Sunday, May 28, 8 p.m., Casino Ballroom, 169 Ocean Blvd., Hampton Beach, $39 at

Stars turn: Named after now-sober Alice Cooper’s ’70s celebrity drinking club, Hollywood Vampires is the world’s most famous cover band. Joe Perry, Johnny Depp and Tommy Henricksen join Cooper singing songs by performers who didn’t survive that decade of excess. Their latest album is a live recording of the group’s second show in front of tens of thousands at the 2015 Rock in Rio festival. Tuesday, May 30, 8 pm., SNHU Arena, 555 Elm St., Manchester, $39 to $99.50 at

Fast X (PG-13)

Dominic Toretto family family family car vroom boom in Fast X, a scene-setting part-one situation.

Which I knew going in. I’ve read that Fast X is the second (or maybe third, according to Vulture) to last of the Fast & Furious central-storyline movies. The result, though, is that the characters largely spend the movies segregated off in their own locations and quests building toward a cliffhanger.

But first the movie goes back to Fast Five, the entry where the gang meets The Rock and eventually steals a vault by dragging it out of a building, to do a little retcon-ing. I don’t remember all the particulars of that movie but Fast X is all “what if Fast Five’s bad guy had a son and what if that son was Jason Momoa?” After Fast Five bad guy (played by Joaquim de Almeida) bites it, his son Dante (Momoa) is left to seek revenge.

Er, eventually.

Ten years later, Dom (Vin Diesel) and the gang are barbecuing it up in Los Angeles, listening to an underused Rita Moreno, playing Toretto grandma, yada yada about family. Later that night Cipher (Charlize Theron) appears at Dom and wife Letty’s (Michelle Rodriguez) door. Cipher, an annoying villain from a few of the previous movies, has been out-villianed by Dante and now she’s on the run from her own henchmen. Trouble’s a-coming, Cipher tells Dom before he calls “The Agency” (a law enforcement group of some kind?) on her. Also, it’s likely the mission Dom’s crew — Roman (Tyrese Gibson), Tej (Chris “Ludacris” Bridge), Han (Sung Kang) and Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel) — are on is not for The Agency, as they believe, but an elaborate trap. Somehow, Dom and Letty bend time to get to Rome like immediately (with a Dom muscle car — does he just have them stashed all over the world?) to try to warn the gang. The truck the gang steals is not full of some supercomputer thing as they’ve been told but a giant, hilarious-looking Acme-style bomb that eventually goes rolling through the streets of Rome, getting everyone involved labeled as terrorists. Letty ends up sent to a secret Agency prison, the Roman+ gang sorta wanders around Europe providing exposition and Dom heads to Rio (the setting of the Fast Five stuff) to look for Dante and provide the movie with a scene of street racing, which is the whole franchise’s origin.

Along the way, various members of the Fast family have cameo conversations with fun franchise regulars, like Helen Mirren as Queenie Shaw and her son Deckard (Jason Statham). We also get newbie Tess (Brie Larson), daughter of Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell), and Isabel (Daniela Melchior), sister of the late mom of Dom’s son, little Brian (Leo Abelo Perry), who is now old enough to be kidnappable and participate in action scenes and stuff. B, as they call him, spends some of the movie with his aunt Mia (Jordana Brewster) and some of the movie with the latest Toretto, Dom’s brother Jakob (John Cena — who gets to be a little goofier than I remember him being in the last movie).

These cameos underline a central problem with these movies, which is that everybody has more of a personality than Dom. Diesel’s gravelly voice family talk is the whole character now. He doesn’t even have a lot of menace anymore. Letty and Mia, OG characters who have also had less and less to do as the movies have gone on, are not particularly lighting the screen on fire but Letty does get some fun scenes with Cipher — ones that made me appreciate Theron’s presence. Then you have Statham, whose straight-faced over-the-top tough guy shtick just, like, sparkles. Or the very nice Cena. Or Momoa, who absolutely understood the assignment. In the trailers, there’s a shot of Dante in a silky purple shirt with some kind of shark-tooth-y looking necklace, his hair in what I’m pretty sure is a scrunchy, his fingernails painted purple and his sunglasses sporting a chain of the “grandma librarian” variety. It is perfect. It really sums up his approach to Dante, which is, like, theatrically yet psychopathically bonkers with almost cutesy flair. It’s fun but it does highlight how little fun Dom has become.

But, look, Dom turns a couple of helicopters into nunchucks with his muscle car and sorta plays the Claw arcade game with a crane to knock that Wile. E. Coyote bomb into a river. How much can you really complain about lackluster acting and character development when it is so clearly Not The Point of this? I might not care about Dom’s family and his kid and all the forgettable dialogue about these things, and this movie might have no idea what to do with all its characters at this point, but when it’s on, doing ridiculous stuff with muscle cars and acting like “jumping” is basically the power of flight, it delivers a good time. B-

Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action, language and some suggestive material, according to the MPA on Directed by Louis Leterrier with a screenplay by Dan Mazeau and Justin Lin, Fast X is two hours and 21 minutes long and is distributed in theaters by Universal Studios.

Featured photo: Fast X

All the Beauty in the World, by Patrick Bringley

All the Beauty in the World, by Patrick Bringley (Simon & Schuster, 226 pages)

When Patrick Bringley’s older brother died after a lingering illness, his life was upended at age 25 and so he did the only thing that made sense at the time: He applied to be a guard at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, that hallowed institution most people simply call “The Met.”

Like a lot of us, Bringley had visited the museum as a child and had memories of being gobsmacked by a couple of exhibitions even at age 11. Looking at a Pieter Bruegel painting from 1565, he writes, “I experienced the great beauty of the picture even as I had no idea what to do with that beauty. … As such, my response to the picture was trapped inside me, a bird fluttering in my chest.”
The opportunity to be a guard was both employment and healing, though he didn’t realize it at the time. Bringley’s brother, Tom, was two years older and a math genius who was, at the time he was stricken with cancer, studying for a Ph.D. in biomathematics (which I’d never heard of, but which is exactly what it sounds like: the use of mathematical models to understand biology). Newly wed, he’d been philosophical about his fate and rapid deterioration. (“Everybody suffers, my time. Everybody dies, my time.”) But the loss of such an extraordinary person, and the time caring for Tom for before he died, hit the family especially hard. Art of all kinds was one way they coped — reading Dickens, tacking a Raphael print above Tom’s hospital bed.

After Tom’s death, Bringley and his mother took their grief to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, where his mother lost herself in a painting of Mary supporting the dead body of Jesus, a cathartic experience. “She cupped her face and her shoulders shook, and when I met her eyes, I saw she wept because her heart was full as well as breaking, because the picture inspired love in her, bringing both solace and pain. When we adore, we apprehend beauty. When we lament, we see the wisdom of the ancient adage ‘Life is suffering.’”

It was on his way back home to New York that he conceived of quitting a dream entry-level job he held at The New Yorker, where he hobnobbed with people like Stephen King and Michael Chabon, in order to stand as a sentry at the Met, which in many ways was not a dream job. (It’s so hard on the feet that the guards are given extra compensation to buy socks, and you have to work there more than a year to get a week’s vacation, the timing of which is assigned by seniority.) But working at the museum expanded his horizons in ways working penny-ante tasks for the magazine for four years had not. It connected him with the ages, and with beauty, and gave him an education as fine as — or finer than — any Ivy League school.

Bringley becomes an authority on the various pieces of art in the corridors he patrols, as well as the minutiae of what the museum contains. (He takes to counting, for example, the number of inhabitants in the paintings in any particular hall — “I will count 210 Jesuses in Section B” — and says, “If you’re wondering how I could possibly count all that, you underestimate the kind of time I have.”

In conversations with visitors to the museum, and with his coworkers, he brings us fully into the job with him, letting us see through the eyes of first-time and regular visitors the effect that the ancient art has on them. All the while, he himself is healing, not only from his brother’s death but from the stifling job and career trajectory that he had escaped. A remark from a co-worker one day is telling: “You know, it really isn’t such a bad job,” Brimley’s colleague says. “Your feet hurt, but nothing else does.”

One of the gifts of All the Beauty in the World is that you don’t need to know anything about the Met, or even about art, to enjoy the book. The best memoirs don’t just chronicle the author’s experiences; they also bring value to ours. Bringley provides an easily digestible education of some of the Met’s greatest pieces, and the museum itself, and rough illustrations show the outlines of the art. As such, this is a great book for anyone planning a visit to the museum.

But it also opens a window into why art matters, and Bringley’s account can kindle, or rekindle, an interest gone dormant. His reflections on grief will be especially poignant to anyone who has recently experienced a loss, as will his slow path to recovery.

The book spans roughly a decade, during which time Bringley marries and becomes a father, an experience he compares to the “Virgin and Child” paintings of the masters. (“How composed the Child always looks! How serene the holy parent! By contrast, the animal squirming in my arms is lusty, rude, ridiculous.”) His experience of fatherhood is a hopeful one, analogous to life: “goodness subsuming the struggles.”

He ends with some advice for the Met goer: “Come in the morning, if you can, when the museum is quietest, and at first say nothing to anyone, not even a guard. … Find out what you love in the Met, what you learn from, and what you can use as fuel, and venture back into the world carrying something with you, something that doesn’t quite easily fit in your mind, that weighs on you as you go forward and changes you a little bit.” Wise counsel from a short but memorable book. A

Album Reviews 23/05/25

The Waymores, Greener Pastures (Chicken Ranch Records)

This one comes with a backstory that’s kind of encouraging for artists slogging away in more remote, less arts-centric areas of the country. We’re talking about throwback-country/bluegrass stuff here, the real deal, and this duo’s success came about when they released a two-song demo featuring Marty Robbins’ “Don’t Worry” and Buck Owens’ “Under Your Spell.” Their hayseed sound is so close to Tammy and George’s that it caught the ear of actor Howard Zinn, who passed it along to a music producer buddy, Shel Talmy, a 1960s fixture who’d done The Who, Bowie and The Kinks among others. All of a sudden there were heavyweight session players all over the pair’s orbit, and this record, their third full-length, comes as a result of all that. Dave Pearlman (who’s worked with Merle Haggard, Hoyt Axton and all those guys) is on steel guitar, creating a large proportion of the magic; the songs weave a tapestry of old-school country and pop that’s at times reminiscent of Linda Ronstadt, Bonnie Raitt, that kind of thing. Good for them. A+

Michael Dease, The Other Shoe: The Music of Gregg Hill (Origin Records)

There are jazz-heads who read this space, watching like lonely lost puppies, ever hoping I’ll finally get back to giving the genre some love, and the guilt does weigh mildly heavy, so let’s do this one, from Georgia trombonist Dease, whose previous 15-odd records as a bandleader were mostly on Posi-Tone Records, with guest shots scattered in his oeuvre with the Dizzy Gillespie All-Star Big Band and others. Here he pays tribute to equally fruitful Michigan-raised jazz composer Gregg Hill, who grew up on swing and big band stuff as a kid and went on to cobble 150 pieces starting at age 39 (see? It’s never too late, folks). All About Jazz called this one of the year’s best LPs to date, to which I can only rejoin with a meek “sure, why not,” given that I’ve been such a bad apple this year (again, my apologies). Dease has rearranged some of this stuff, which may have led to its being more mathematically interesting; “Wake Up Call” evokes Monk and leads to what sounds like a post-bop outing for the most part. Flashes of keyboard brilliance stand out, but Dease does hold down the melodic focal points. Nice blend of echo-bop, for lack of a better term. A+


• Onward, my scamps, on we go, to May 26 and the albums that will sally forward thence; the moon will enter its first quarter phase the next day, May 27, bringing with it laments of regret from the record-buying world, as they give a listen to the things they purchased this Friday! O Fortuna, no store returns on CDs that have been opened, abandon all hope ye who blah blah blah, so let’s do some reconnoitering, so your money won’t be used on musical nothingburgers, I am here to help you! Ha ha, look what’s first on the docket, a new album from the Spinal Tap of techno, Sparks, titled The Girl Is Crying In Her Latte, I can hardly wait! No, you know what, Sparks isn’t like Spinal Tap, they’re more like ManOWar, that band that used to dress up like Conan the Barbarian, like they have this stubborn fan base that insists their limp tunes are the best ever, because good taste can’t be taught to people, but it doesn’t matter because they’re already a parody of themselves, which leaves them impervious to snark attacks from mayhemic jerks like me, whose sense of duty calls on us to remind people that Sparks and ManOWar are really stupid bands and that it’s OK to give up on that one friend who believes otherwise; not everyone can be saved, is what I mean, like some people who voted for Vermin Supreme for president weren’t being ironic, they literally believed he was going to give everyone a pony or whatever it was. OK, now that I’m almost out of room for this nonsense, it’s time to go listen to the title track from this new Sparks album, and — wait, Cate Blanchett is in the dumb video? Hellooooo nurse, heart-eyes emoji, I’ve had a crush on that lady forever, let’s see if she can change my mind about Sparks! Oh, for Pete’s sake, no, she can’t, the tune is their usual Devo-krautrock with Cate Blanchett standing still throughout the video and breaking into a boomer dance every 30 seconds, this is so stupid that I wouldn’t be surprised if the Stupid Stuff Society sends Sparks a cease-and-desist order. Why on earth would someone even do this?

• Moving on, it looks like all of today’s “artists” have names that rhyme with “snarks,” because here we are with a new LP from Nigerian R&B/indie-folk lady Arlo Parks, titled My Soft Machine! It’s her second album; 2021’s Collapsed In Sunbeams suffered from a lack of touring owing to Covid, but it did chart pretty well everywhere. So let’s check out the new single, “Pegasus,” which includes a guest appearance from Los Angeles-based indie-folkie Phoebe Bridgers. Well, well, the song is really nice, sort of a trip-hop-pop hybrid recalling Kate Bush in mellow mode but with some drum glitch and stuff like that. Nothing wrong there, let’s push our luck and move on.

• Next, it’s More Photographs (A Continuum), the latest album from Kevin Morby, a Texan who was formerly with the bands Woods and The Babies and is eight albums into his solo trip as of this one, which I assume is a bunch of remixes lifted from his 2022 LP, Photographs. The single, “This Is A Photograph II,” is like a cross between Wilco and ’70s disco, and there’s lots of edge to it, believe it or not. Cool stuff, I can deal with it.

• And finally, we have Canadian hard-indie band The Dirty Nil with a new full-length, called Free Rein To Passions! Teaser single “Nicer Guy” is an amalgam of Weezer and Foo Fighters, which shouldn’t be too hard to imagine, and it’s pretty decent overall, because the singer sounds angry but awkward. Wow, I wasn’t mean to any bands this week, was I? Wait, no, I was, to Sparks, never mind.

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).

Too many thorns

I know I’m not the first person to point this out, but the original versions of a lot of nursery rhymes and fairytales were pretty brutal. In the original version of Little Red Riding Hood, the story ends with the wolf eating her. Ring Around the Rosie is about the Black Death. In The Old Woman Who Lived in Her Shoe, the shoe is less an actual shoe and more a family-planning metaphor. An old version of Snow White was known in Switzerland as The Death of Seven Dwarfs.

Few of them though, are as hard-core as Rapunzel:

“The prince was overcome with grief, and in his despair, he threw himself from the tower. He escaped with his life, but the thorns into which he fell poked out his eyes. Blind, he wandered about in the forest, eating nothing but grass and roots, and doing nothing but weeping and wailing over the loss of his beloved wife. Thus, he wandered about miserably for some years, finally happening into the wilderness where Rapunzel lived miserably with the twins that she had given to.” — Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, Rapunzel

Never mind Rapunzel’s mother selling her into captivity to a witch in exchange for a head of lettuce at the beginning of the story. These four sentences alone would make an eight-episode Netflix series. Also, wife? Twins?

“That’s both fascinating, and disturbing,” you say, “but how does it relate to cocktails?” I’m glad you asked.

In my relative youth, a combination of poor decision-making skills and the callous forces of Capitalism left me living in a forest cottage for a summer, with literally no money, existing largely on birdseed and the berries that I could forage in a nearby clearing. I can attest to the flesh-slashing properties of blackberry thorns.

I call today’s cocktail“Too Many Thorns.” The prince from Rapunzel would agree with me.

Too many thorns

  • 2 ounces gin – this week, I’m using Engine Organic Gin, which comes in an oil can, because why not?
  • ½ ounce blackberry syrup (see below)
  • 1 ounce fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • ½ ounce blackberry brandy
  • 1 egg white

Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker, and dry-shake it (without ice) for 30 seconds. It is important to do this, because if you add an egg white directly to ice it will seize up in an extremely unappetizing way.

Add ice, and shake for another 30 seconds.

Strain into a cocktail or coupé glass. Your drink should have a foamy head on it.

Raise a toast to our unnamed, bethorned prince wandering blindly through the wilderness, eating grass and roots, and eat some pâté on a cracker.

So, what’s with the egg white?

Two things: First, it adds a foamy, velvety quality to a cocktail. Additionally, egg whites are slightly alkaline, which levels out the acidity from the lemon juice and blackberries. Lemon is a classic combination with blackberries, and the bite from the gin cuts through the sweetness of the drink and reminds you that there is an adult in the room. Hopefully you.

Though it’s usually grown-ups who climb towers and get their eyes gouged.

Blackberry syrup

Combine one bag of frozen blackberries with an equal amount (by weight) of sugar in a small saucepan. Cook on medium heat. As the berries thaw, the sugar will draw the juice out from them. Because they’ve been frozen, all the cells in the berries have been stabbed by ice crystals and are more than willing to cry about it. Cook slowly, until the mixture comes to a boil. Somewhere in this process, mash everything with a potato masher. Let the mixture boil for 10 to 15 seconds, to make sure that all the sugar has dissolved.

Remove from the heat, then strain it to remove seeds and berry guck. This will keep for several weeks in your refrigerator.

Featured photo: Blackberry without the thorns. Photo by John Fladd.

In the kitchen with Adam Donnelly

Adam Donnelly of New Boston is the executive chef of the Riverside Grille (737 River Road, New Boston, 384-2149,, which opened in January. Known for its eclectic modern-American menu, served alongside a full bar in a family-friendly casual setting, Riverside Grille offers items like burgers, wraps, sandwiches and flatbread pizzas in addition to plated steak and seafood dishes. Donnelly is originally from Goffstown and has several years of local restaurant experience, mostly specializing in classic French and Italian cooking.

What is your must-have kitchen item?

The easy answer is to say a French knife, but it’s because it’s true. You can use it for almost anything.

What would you have for your last meal?

Mac and cheese. Always has been and always will be. … You can always mess with it a little bit and do it how you want.

What is your favorite local restaurant?

It’s Firefly [American Bistro & Bar] in Manchester. They are old friends of mine and great owners. I learned more from Chef David [Becker] when I was younger than anyone else and I attribute a lot of what I’ve done to those relationships.

What celebrity would you like to see eating at the Riverside Grille?

To be honest, I would much rather see the members of my community enjoying themselves. We have been missing a gathering point for our communities and I love that people can do that here. Especially in a small town like this, I think it’s really important.

What is your favorite thing on your menu?

I would love to say it’s the new app sampler or the Mixed Grille, but it is definitely the grilled stuffed chicken. [It has] fresh spinach and feta cheese, topped with roasted tomatoes and a garlic cream sauce. It’s got everything you want in a dish.

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

I have really enjoyed that people are getting back to basic homestyle dishes — classic Americana. The culinary world got pretty pretentious for a while and I think it’s kind of returning to its roots now.

What is your favorite thing to cook at home?

I really like to cook breakfast for my kids [ages 9, 8 and 7] in the morning. They have been picky up until now, but they’re really opening up to new things. Cheese omelets are their newest favorite.

Tasha’s pan sauce
From the kitchen of Adam Donnelly of the Riverside Grille in New Boston

Any cut of steak to your liking
Red wine
Pinch of garlic
Pinch of rosemary
Pinch of thyme
1 cup beef stock
1 to 2 Tablespoons butter

Sear the steak in a cast iron pan and finish it in the oven. Remove the steak and deglaze the pan with red wine. Add the garlic, rosemary and thyme and simmer for a minute. Add the beef stock and reduce by half. Take off the heat and add a couple of tablespoons of butter. Swirl until melted. Stir it up and serve.

Featured photo: Adam Donnelly, executive chef of the Riverside Grille in New Boston. Courtesy photo.

Bacon it happen

New Hampshire Bacon & Beer Festival returns

By Maya Puma

Unique flavors of savory bacon and smooth cold beer take center stage at the New Hampshire Bacon & Beer Festival, returning to Anheuser-Busch Brewery in Merrimackon Saturday, June 3.

The festival is a fundraiser for the High Hopes Foundation, which has raised more than $600,000 in the last seven years. It will feature 60 craft brewers — the greatest number in the event’s history, up 20 from last year — and each is expected to serve at least two to three varieties, including beers, ciders, meads and a few cocktails.

“Quite a few have been with us since Day 1,” festival organizer Jeremy Garrett said of the participating drink vendors. “We’ll have 150-plus different craft brews to pull from.”

North Country Smokehouse of Claremont, a longtime partner, provides the bacon to each of the event’s participating samplers, from food trucks to competitive barbecue teams. Samplers are then given creative freedom to craft any dish they want with the bacon. Attendees can expect to discover everything from maple bacon cupcakes and ice cream to bacon pizza, bacon macaroni and cheese, bacon-wrapped Italian sausages, fried dough with bacon and all kinds of other goodies.

Garrett said the Pulled Pork People’s Choice contest, a new feature to last year’s event that proved to be super popular, is also returning.

“These are competition barbecue teams from throughout the Northeast and Canada, so 25 of them will be doing pulled pork samples,” he said, “and again, they are going to be creative with it. It may just be samples of pulled pork with some barbecue sauce on it. I know some folks are doing things like mac and cheese with some pulled pork on top.”

New this year is a Bacon People’s Choice contest, in which attendees choose their favorite bacon samples.

“Between the bacon and pulled pork samples, everyone should leave with at least a pound of food in their bellies,” Garrett said.

Attendees receive a sampling cup and tickets they will use to vote for their favorite bacon and barbecue samplers as part of the contests. There are special perks available to VIP attendees, including a new cocktail hour from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. that will feature exclusive appetizers and drinks. According to Garrett, VIP attendees can also enter the festival an hour early, at 12:30 p.m. Live music by The Slakas will be featured.

The High Hopes Foundation, according to general board director Lisa D. Rourke, is now in its 40th year of providing life-enhancing experiences and adaptive equipment to terminally and chronically ill children in New Hampshire. As a New Hampshire-based nonprofit, Rourke said, the Foundation receives no government grants or state funding and therefore runs solely on volunteers.

Garrett said all proceeds from the festival go directly to the High Hopes Foundation, which is aiming to surpass its threshold of $110,000 in ticket sales from last year.

Seventh annual New Hampshire Bacon & Beer Festival
When: Saturday, June 3, 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. (VIP cocktail hour begins at 11:30 a.m., VIP admittance begins at 12:30 p.m.)
Where: Anheuser-Busch Brewery, 221 Daniel Webster Hwy., Merrimack
Cost: General admission is $60 online and $80 onsite if available; VIP admission is $100 online and $125 onsite if available. Designated driver admission is $35 online and $50 onsite if available (food samples only)
Event is 21+ only. No children, pets or outside alcohol allowed.

Participating bacon samplers

The Alamo Texas Barbecue and Tequila Bar (Brookline,
All Real Meal (Manchester,
Bone Daddy’s Competition BBQ Team (find them on Facebook)
Celebrations Catering (Manchester,
Clyde’s Cupcakes (Exeter,
Dandido Sauce (Manchester,
Donali’s Land and Sea (Nashua,
Heavenly Dogs and Catering (find them on Facebook)
Hill’s Food Service (
Jeannette’s Fried Dough (find them on Facebook)
New England’s Tap House Grille (Hooksett,
North Country Smokehouse (Claremont,
Phily’s Good Eats (Candia, find them on Facebook)
Piggy Sue’s Steakin’ Bacon (
Rambling House Food & Gathering (Nashua,
R & J Texas Style BBQ on Wheels (
Saucehound BBQ (
Stark Brewing Co. (Manchester,
The Traveling Foodie (
Uno Pizzeria & Grill (
Welbilt (

Featured photo: Scenes from the New Hampshire Bacon & Beer Festival. Photos by Celia Gatsas.

The Weekly Dish 23/05/25

News from the local food scene

Eats by the slopes: McIntyre Ski Area (50 Chalet Way, Manchester) is due to reopen its seasonal onsite restaurant, The Hill Bar & Grille, for a fourth season on Tuesday, May 30, marketing director Aly Coakley confirmed. Since 2020, the eatery has been open during the spring, summer and fall months, offering a menu of burgers, sandwiches, plated entrees, salads and appetizers, with an outdoor patio and lawn seating areas in addition to indoor dining. Coakley said a number of weekly events and happenings are scheduled throughout the summer before the restaurant closes for ski season around the end of October — beer, bourbon and boards nights on Tuesdays, ladies’ nights on Wednesdays, trivia nights on Thursdays and live music and prime rib specials on Fridays and Saturdays are among those that are planned. Visit to view the eatery’s full menu.

Third time’s a charm? Postponed twice due to inclement weather, Gibson’s Bookstore’s (45 S. Main St., Concord) author event featuring longtime New Hampshire radio personality Mike Morin is now scheduled for Thursday, June 1, at 6:30 p.m. Morin will present his newest book, If These Walls Could Talk: Celebrating 100 Years of the Red Arrow, America’s Most Beloved Diner, which details various stories and anecdotes that contribute to the original Red Arrow’s lasting legacy in Manchester’s culinary scene, from connections to celebrities like Adam Sandler and Kevin Costner to its reputation as a spot for presidential hopefuls over the past four decades. No admission to the event is required, and for those who can’t make it, signed copies of If These Walls Could Talk may be ordered online at For additional details on the Red Arrow’s 100th anniversary, check out our cover story that appeared in the Sept. 29, 2022, issue — go to to find the e-edition. The story starts on page 10.

Green Mountain spirits: Vermont’s Village Garage, a craft distillery and tasting room that opened last year in the town of Bennington, recently launched three bottles of its products in New Hampshire, according to a press release. The distillery’s Village bourbon, Village rye and Village Bonfire — the latter a campfire-inspired smoked maple whiskey — are all being rolled out across the Granite State through Republic National Distributing, according to the release. “We brought Village Garage to Massachusetts, and New Hampshire is the logical next step in our New England expansion,” distillery co-founder and Vermont native Matt Cushman said in a statement. “We think Bonfire will do really well here, especially around these summer campfires.” See

On The Job – Brian Callnan

Power coalition CEO

Brian Callnan is the newly appointed CEO of The Community Power Coalition of New Hampshire, based in Concord, which empowers local communities to choose their energy sources, collaborate with utilities to upgrade energy infrastructure and provide inclusive electricity supply rates and services to all program participants.

Explain your job and what it entails.

I’m lucky enough to help spread nonprofit power opportunities for communities throughout New Hampshire.

How long have you had this job?

I just started and couldn’t be more thrilled with everyone I’ve met at CPCNH so far. It’s a great organization.

What led you to this career field and your current job?

I’ve been dedicated to the public, nonprofit model of delivering electricity for 20 years. I started out in Vermont with a focus on energy efficiency and quickly found myself working on securing renewable power options for municipal utilities and cooperatives.

What kind of education or training did you need?

I focused on resource economics in college and found that it really helped with my choice of work. Continuous training has kept me energized in this ever-changing industry. Training has helped me learn about the many different ways to meet the needs of distributed energy resources like solar PV and electric vehicles as more and more folks adopt these technologies.

What is your typical at-work uniform or attire?

I should probably wear a tie more often, but somehow they went missing.

What is the most challenging thing about your work, and how do you deal with it?  

We have so many opportunities to provide great service to our communities, and finding that we need to focus on the ones with the greatest benefits first has become a challenge.

What do you wish you’d known at the beginning of your career?

Try to find the smartest people you can to work with, even if they don’t have the exact skill set you need.

What do you wish other people knew about your job?

That you get to work with some really great people. We have some excellent minds in the industry that are working hard to make long-lasting change that focuses on the clean, efficient use of electricity. It’s a lot of fun to work with them.

What was the first job you ever had?

I started working at 13 for a sawmill right across our road. I moved a lot of lumber with my best friend that summer.

What’s the best piece of work-related advice you’ve ever received?

Always include an idea you at first don’t like; it may end up being the best for everyone.

Five favorites

Favorite book:
I love the Foundation series by Isaac Asimov
Favorite movie: Polar Express around Christmas
Favorite music: The In Sound from Way Out! Beastie Boys album is often playing.
Favorite food: My wife’s chicken paprikash
Favorite thing about NH: Our skiing in the winter and our lakes in the summer

Featured photo: Brian Callnan. Courtesy photo.

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