Jammin’ June

Northlands Fest includes Twiddle farewell

This year the Northlands Music & Arts Festival’s two main stages offer established acts like The String Cheese Incident, Mike Gordon of Phish, Twiddle and Pigeons Playing Ping Pong, along with a few interesting side projects.

One is Goose spinoff Oreolo; another is Super Sonic Shorties, an all-female supergroup with Nikki Glaspie and Kanika Moore (who perform separately with Nth Power and Doom Flamingo respectively), Katty Rodriguez and Marcie Chapa of Beyoncé, Jennifer Hartswick (Trey Anastasio), Ella Feingold (Silk Sonic) and Amy Bellamy (G. Love).

A campground stage kicking off Thursday night is sold out, but area fans can see two of the acts next month, as Funky Dawgz appear July 1 at Jimmy’s Jazz in Portsmouth, and Bella’s Bartok play Exeter’s Word Barn the same day.

One big piece of news surrounding the festival is Twiddle’s plans for a touring hiatus at the end of the year. The Vermont jam stalwarts will do two Friday night sets. On Saturday their singer and guitarist Mihali plays solo, with surprise guests.

Mihali spoke with The Hippo in a recent phone interview (edited for length).

What does it mean to you that 2023 will be the end of touring?

It’s just a break mainly for reflection, for me to do some other stuff musically. It doesn’t really feel too much different … maybe some people look at it as like a closing of the first chapter, but I’m looking forward to the future, and the future of Twiddle when we decide to come back as well.

How does your solo music differ from what you’ve done with Twiddle, and where do you see that going?

The instrumentation and the type of players are different. I’m a lot more focused on the song rather than the jam with this next project, which is something I’ve been passionate about over the last few years.

The Distance Makes the Heart Tour is named after a track from Twiddle’s last album. Does its name reflect the song’s emotions?

There wasn’t too much of a direct correlation … I think I just liked the fact that we had the song out and we’re going to be taking a little distance. I think for me it was a little bit of a metaphor. I think I speak for a lot of people in our organization that a bit of a break is necessary right now. All we’ve been doing is Twiddle for 20 years, and I think it’s only natural to want a break, and, you know, distance makes the heart grow fonder.

When you started Twiddle, did you have ambition or were you surprised by how it took off and became so big?

When you’re in it you don’t really realize that’s what’s happening. To me, it just felt like growth, and it just felt like it would always just continue to grow. It wasn’t like now we’re hitting our stride or we’re blowing up. It felt like a natural progression … honestly, I didn’t pay too much attention to how fast we were moving. It’s just all we knew…. So it just kind of just felt normal for us, I guess.

And then one day you and moe. were selling out Red Rocks.

Red Rocks was a huge goal I had set early on for myself as a performer. So getting there was really a blessing. It’s always a blessing to play that stage. I don’t think that’s anything I’ll ever take for granted.

What are some of the other things that stand out for you?

Looking back over 18 years as a band, I mean, there’s been so much, it’s hard to tell. All the Lockn’s were great and every amazing opportunity we’ve had has been a memory we will all hold forever. It’s hard to nail down a few because there’s been so many beautiful musical moments. It’s been quite a journey. I look forward to what the future brings too. We’ve got a lot more to offer people; it’s certainly not the end.

How did this decision happen? Were you all just sitting around saying, wow, I’m tired, it’s time to take a break?

It’s just the natural way of things. I think that it’s only natural to have change in your life. Change is good for growth, and reflection. I personally just felt that that was necessary.

One of my favorite moments on Every Last Leaf was the jam with John Popper. What was that experience like being in the studio?

John’s great. He’s a buddy of ours. We’ve done a few shows with him over the years. I’ve sat in with Blues Traveler and opened for them a couple of times as well. John’s an incredible musician and such a great presence to be around always, but that was all recorded during the pandemic, so everything was done remotely. We weren’t actually in the studio with him when he cut his parts.

Is there anything that didn’t happen, any bucket list items that are still in the bucket?

No, just new music and more shows, hopefully some growth, it’s all you can ever ask for. We’re really blessed with such a great fan base and such a beautiful community around us. So, you know, just continue to move forward, healthy and happy. That’s all I can really ask for.

Anything I haven’t asked about that you’d like fans to know?

No, just come join us. Have a great time. I’ve got a lot of great friends playing with me at Northlands. Make sure you check that set out. I got a lot of fun stuff to bring for you. We have a lot of good shows left this year. We hope everybody comes out and checks them out. We’re playing really well.

Northlands Music & Arts Festival
When: Thursday, June 15, through Saturday, June 17 (camping pass required for Thursday music)
Where: Cheshire Fairgrounds, 247 Monadnock Hwy., Swanzey
Tickets: $25 to $299 at theticketing.co; lineup at northlandslive.com

Featured photo: Twiddle. Courtesy photo.

The Music Roundup 23/06/15

Local music news & events

L.A. rocks: During its late-’80s heyday, glam metal-punk hybrid band Faster Pussycat was an MTV fixture, touring with Guns N’ Roses and appearing in the rockumentary The Decline of Western Civilization Part 2 – The Metal Years. Now sober front man Taime Downe keeps the name alive these days. A new single, “Like A Ghost” backed with the Johnny Thunders’ song “Pirate Love,” came out late last year. Thursday, June 15, 7 p.m., Tupelo Music Hall, 10 A St., Derry, $40 at tupelohall.com.

Familial: Deeply rooted in New Hampshire, Bitter Pill brings its genre-bending acoustic sound over from its Seacoast home. The group is led by the father-daughter team of Billy and Emily Butler and formed originally for the soundtrack of a Players’ Ring production of Titus Andronicus. They’re on a double bill with Horsefly Gulch, the alter ego of prog rockers Mindset X, who’ve put out several new songs lately. Friday, June 16, 9 p.m., Shaskeen Pub, 909 Elm St., Manchester, more at bitterpillband.com.

Special night: Singer, songwriter and saxophone player Grace Kelly will perform a pair of songs with Nashua High School’s 15-member North Treble Choir at her upcoming Gate City show. “She’s the First” and “We Will Rise” are called anthems about empowering women and education for girls. It’s a first for the musical prodigy, who’s played the Hollywood Bowl and appeared on The Late Show. Saturday, June 17, 8 p.m., Nashua Center for the Arts, 201 Main St., Nashua, $40 and up at etix.com.

Funny brew: An area microbrewery presents a slate of standup comics including Nick Tocco, a favorite at several area showcases, along with Charlestown, Mass., native turned Granite Stater Bob Stuart, and a deep bill including Awais Hussain, Steve Blackwood, Dave Twohig and Jonah Simmons. The evening is presented by charity-minded promoter Alan Foden’s Comedy on Purpose. Wednesday, June 21, 7 pm., Long Blue Cat Brewing Co., 298 Rockingham Road, Londonderry, longbluecat.com.

Transformers: Rise of the Beasts (PG-13)

The animal-y Transformers Maximals make their appearance in Transformers: Rise of the Beasts — collect them all, on sale now at a store near you!

Once upon a time, the gorillabot Optimus Primal (voice of Ron Perlman) became leader of a group of other animal bots who escaped a world about to be eaten by Unicron (voice of Colman Domingo), a Death Starry-looking being who is a little bit Sauron and a little bit Galactus. Though he is able to eat the world the Maximals are living on, Unicron can’t move on to other worlds because his helper Scourge (voice of Peter Dinklage) failed to find the energy key thing that will allow him to wormhole throughout the universe. Optimus Primal and crew took the key while escaping the planet, eventually landing on Earth.

In the present day — which is 1994 New York City — Noah Diaz (Anthony Ramos) is just a guy struggling to help his single mom, Breanna (Luna Lauren Velez), and his sick younger brother Kris (Dean Scott Vazquez), who is being denied medical care for his sickle cell anemia because his family is behind on his bills. Noah loses out on a security job and decides to turn to a buddy offering him some non-violent criminal work. It’s supposed to be an in-and-out job stealing a Porsche from a parking garage. But the car in question turns out to be Mirage (voice of Pete Davidson), an Autobot. And Noah slides into the car just as Optimus Prime (voice of Peter Cullen) is calling all Autobots.

A troubling light beam — that only the Transformers can see — marks the location of a reawakened energy key and the possible calling of Scourge and Unicron.

The key was inadvertently reawakened by Elena (Dominique Fishback), an antiquities expert examining artifacts recently delivered to the museum where she works. She knows the hawk sculpture she’s been given isn’t Egyptian or Nubian as was claimed but she didn’t know the piece’s exterior was going to fall away and reveal a large glowstick crystal inside.

Thus do Autobots, Mirage and Noah and Elena all end up near the key, whose light has called Scourge and some other bad guys that are probably available as action figures and in multi-character sets. Eventually they all fight together to try to stop Scourge from taking the key. Noah thinks they should destroy it to prevent Unicron from eating Earth or any other world but Optimus Prime hopes to use it himself to help the Autobots go to their home world. The gang learns that there is another piece of the key they must find and a Maximal hawkbot called Airazor (voice of Michelle Yeoh) shows up to help them find it.

I was a little surprised to learn that Rise of the Beasts earned a PG-13 rating — it is perhaps the closest live-action analog to those many Transformer cartoons on Netflix that seem to transfix my kids despite seeming to me like a lot of exposition punctuated by very basic fight scenes. The “real” nature of the robots and people (and thus the “realness” of the violence they’re involved in) might put it out of reach for my younger elementary school kids but for interested tweens it’s probably fine. There’s no icky Michael Bay-ish male gaze stuff, and nothing jumps out at me as being super inappropriate for your average double-digit-age kid. Anthony Ramos and Dominique Fishback are both likable, capable people without having a whole lot of personality beyond that.

“This movie would be fine to take a nap to” is a thought I had while watching it, as was “the Transformer action figures this movie is advertising should be cheaper” (you can find some for $10-ish but $15 and up seems more common). This movie is benign enough that I don’t mind that I’m watching a two-hour-plus commercial for a Mirage action figure — particularly if they could price him at $9.99.

Perhaps the movie anticipated some parental grumpiness and thus to keep the elders amused it throws in a few 1990s hip-hop needle drops that have you thinking “aw, hey, that song” and then drifting off on nostalgia. So, if “benign OK-ness for much of the family” is what this movie was shooting for, it basically hits its mark. Maybe it climbs to a B- if your kids are old enough for this sort of thing and you’re just looking for tolerable family entertainment, a C+ for everybody else.

Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi action and violence, and language, according to the MPA on filmratings.com. Directed by Steven Caple Jr. with a screenplay by Joby Harold and Darnell Matayer & Josh Peters and Erich Hoeber & Jon Hoeber, Transformers: Rise of the Beasts is two hours and seven minutes long and distributed in theaters by Paramount Pictures.

Featured photo: Transformers: Rise of the Beasts

The Collected Regrets of Clover, by Mikki Brammer

The Collected Regrets of Clover, by Mikki Brammer (St. Martin’s Press, 314 pages)

Clover Brooks is 36, single and surrounded by death — not the thing you’d want to put on a Tinder profile. The lifetime New Yorker lives alone in a rent-controlled apartment she shared with her grandfather growing up and she works as a death doula — the opposite of a birth doula. She sits with dying people, ensuring that they don’t die alone and helping them to process their pain and other complicated emotions they are experiencing. She keeps three notebooks in which she records notes; they are labeled “Regrets,” “Advice” and “Confessions.”

That’s what you need to know to understand the title of The Collected Regrets of Clover, a debut novel from Mikki Brammer, an Australian transplant who has a remarkable level of knowledge of New York City, where she lives now. It is a surprisingly upbeat novel, given the subject matter. The protagonist is a lonely young woman who has been hobbled by grief, having lost both parents as a child and, later, more traumatically, the grandfather who raised her. You might call her death-haunted; the first line of the novel is, “The first time I watched someone die, I was five.” (It was her kindergarten teacher.)

Clover does not have much of a life outside her work, caring for her two cats and a low-maintenance dog and keeping up with her neighbors. The only thing she does with any regularity is attend an occasional death cafe — a group where people gather to talk about death and enjoy refreshments (yes, this is a thing) — and every weekend have breakfast out and visit the bookstore she used to frequent with her grandfather before he passed more than a decade ago.

The few friends she has are old, and they include the 70-something bookstore owner and an elderly man who lives in her building and has known her since childhood. An only child who never learned to be social, she sees no reason to make friends and finds all the companionship and solace she needs in her structured life and in her books. Or so she thinks.

You probably see where this is going. Which is the only problem with this generally engaging book.

From the moment Brammer introduces a character named Sebastian, an overly enthusiastic visitor to a death cafe who tries to befriend Clover, there is a likely trajectory of this story. Our heroine will resist Sebastion’s overtures for only so long, and eventually he will bring her the companionship and love that she has long resisted. (She has never, she reveals, uttered the words “I love you” nor had them said to her — although her grandfather, a biology professor at Columbia University, clearly loved Clover deeply, he wasn’t one to say it, and her parents, whom she only vaguely remembers, had been more interested in each other than their child before they died in an accident while visiting China.)

To her credit, Brammer doesn’t follow that well-trampled plot, at least not completely. Instead, the story takes a sharp detour when Clover takes on a new client who, at 91, is dying of pancreatic cancer and has two months to live. Although she had a good marriage and a fulfilling life, she has long wondered if her life would have been better if she had married another man, someone she fell in love with when she was young and living in France. Clover does some research and finds the man seems to be living in Maine, so she sets off on a New England road trip to find him to fulfill the dying woman’s last wish.

In many ways The Collected Regrets of Clover is a literary death cafe — it is populated with millennials who grew up in families uncomfortable with talking about life’s end and who therefore are eager to explore the subject — everything from the legality of burial at sea to burial suits made out of compostable mushrooms. From Clover’s work to her memories to the visits to death cafes, the novel is one long conversation about grief and death. It’s a subject that the author seems to know something about.

One character says, “Someone told me once that [grief is like] a bag that you always carry — it starts out as a large suitcase, and as the years go by, it might reduce to the size of a purse, but you carry it forever.”

Clover has been carrying her own grief for reasons that unfold throughout the novel, and while it’s not an especially complicated story, it’s competently told and has enough light twists to keep readers engaged. The squeamish need not worry; death is largely a concept here; there are no unsettling depictions of the stages of decomposition or other things that happen to the body after we die. Nor does Brammer take up any discussion about the existence (or not) of an afterlife.

In a writing group she joined while she was working on the book, Brammer told others that she was trying to write a book about death “that’s fun and uplifting.” Strange as that sounds, she succeeded. B

Album Reviews 23/06/15

Troller, Drain (Relapse Records)

So this one is basically a cross between the ambient doom-drone of Sunn(((O))), Swans-style apocalypse-noise-punk and Raveonettes, in other words music to chant devil incantations by, in sum. It was purported to me to be possessed of such elements as “witch-house, goth-pop and industrial shoegaze,” which I suppose equals my above assessment; it’s proffered by a trio from Austin, Texas, composed of singer/bassist Amber Star-Goers (possibly not her real name), Justin Star-Goers (ditto) on guitar and SURVIVE synthesist/programmer Adam Jones. The tune “Lust In Us” is assuredly a shoegaze excursion, bathed in decidedly anti-sexual warbling and existential noise that isn’t on a My Bloody Valentine tip, more a sort of radio-static-dipped albeit melodic base. It’s a formula that could have served well enough to produce a full album, but as I pointed to earlier, the trio has other plans, mainly of the volcanic slow-motion-math variety. “Out Back” has an ’80s-synthpop edge to its woozy, muddy weirdness. B+

The Alarm, Forwards (Twenty First Century Recording Company)

During their early ’80s heyday, pushing hits like “The Stand” (which you’ve likely heard if you’re a devout follower of the 13 Reasons Why TV series; it played in the background of one episode, which led to 3 million Spotify plays) and “68 Guns” (their signature tune), this Leeds, U.K., band was a kinder, gentler Clash, I’d say; there was enough tough-guy edge to make their melodically agreeable tuneage appeal to the safety-pin-pierced patrol while maintaining a rather polite U2 flavor. This album, their first since 2021’s WAR, finds singer Mike Peters taking a decidedly Bono direction (particularly in the mid-tempo ”Another Way), which helps to justify his aping Tom Petty a bit in the blues-tinted “Love and Forgiveness.” “Transition” is the best on board here, fiddling with a sort of Ennio Morricone spaghetti-Western vibe before exploding into its Cult-inspired second half. I wouldn’t say the band’s evolved per se, but they’re still a bunch of (mildly) bad boys with a desire to make a dent. B+


• I was privileged to attend the Sisters Of Mercy show at the Big Night Live club in Boston on May 31, so it’s a great time to remind all the young ’80s-goth-rock-loving kids out there that their last album, 1990’s Vision Thing, is still available to buy and act tragic to, if you really want to be an edgelord and impress your little friends with your comprehensive black-fishnet-clad acumen! Oldsters know that the big songs on that one were the title track and “Doctor Jeep,” and that the album was produced by Bat Out Of Hell fixture Jim Steinman, but wait, a few things first. The album you really want is 1987’s Floodland, which includes the band’s most enduring hits, namely “This Corrosion,” “Dominion” and “Lucretia My Reflection,” all groove-centric tunes that inspired the Boston crowd to break into snake-charmer dance moves when they were nicely rendered at the Boston show. The classic songs were the shorter studio versions but effective nonetheless, bringing the loudest applause after a series of less well-known numbers, a couple of which were pretty cool. It was the first time I’d been to Big Night Live (or any club in the last three years, owing to Covid), and I was treated super-nicely: the staff found me a table at which to sit so that my injured foot could take a nice break here and there. Anyway, what was I — oh yes, so even though Sisters frontman Andrew Eldritch is widely regarded as the godfather of goth, he hates that appellation, so don’t do it, even though he is totally, totally goth. He’s no longer the long-haired troublemaker of olde; nowadays he looks more like James Carville than Sid Vicious, but he still sings angrily and spookily, and hearing them play “This Corrosion” was worth getting stuck in an inexplicable midnight traffic jam for 1.5 hours. And voila, there you go, vampire kids, go support your uncle Andrew!

• Getting back to our usual business, June 16 will find you covered head to toe in albums, because it is a Friday, which means zillions of albums — most of them joke albums from troll bands, or just plain bad albums from people who still think the planet needs more albums — will enter Earth’s atmosphere at the speed of light, and they will all change course as they hurtle and make a beeline for people like yours truly, renegade music “journos” who still tell the truth about how most albums are pretty awful. But maybe that will change during today’s album-storm, as we look at the new Deer Tick album, Emotional Contracts, with a clinically detached eye, looking for something praiseworthy in this album. Yes, it’s one of those bands with “Deer” in the name, so I’m lost; I don’t remember the last few album reviews I wrote trying to excuse Deerhunter or Deerhoof or Deerpark or Deer Tick, so (as always) let’s just take the easy way by starting from scratch and having a look at this indie-rock album, which will probably be subtly boring or earth-shakingly awful like all the other “Deer” albums I’ve reviewed over my career. But look at that, it’s not so bad: “Forgiving Ties” is the closest thing to a Tom Petty single since “Learning to Fly,” except it goes nowhere melodically. It is meh but I don’t hate it.

• Jackpot, gang! Look at the title of this new album from psychedelic druggie dorks King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard, it’s going to take over half the space for this column, and for that I thank it! Ready to spend eight minutes reading the title? OK, it’s: Petrodragonic Apocalypse; Or, Dawn Of Eternal Night: An Annihilation Of Planet Earth And The Beginning Of Merciless Damnation! That leaves us about 10 words left to talk about how the bald Needle Drop music reviewer dude on YouTube thought the title track “dragged a little bit” at the end, which is wrong, as always. If you like old Black Sabbath, that’s what it sounds like, not their usual early Pink Floyd/Flaming Lips nonsense. Never pay attention to Needle Drop, is the moral to this story.

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).

Extra-crunchy okra the healthy way

Okra isn’t an item you find all that often on menus in New Hampshire. That is why I’m advocating for you to cook it at home. This recipe will show you just how amazing it can be as a side dish or appetizer.

There are two key components to extra crunchy okra: an air fryer and panko bread crumbs. The air fryer almost goes without saying. It’s hard to get extra-crunchy veggies that are healthy without an air fryer. Panko is also essential to the consistency of the okra. Regular bread crumbs don’t add enough texture.

When you are cooking the okra it is important not to crowd the slices. My air fryer has shelves, so I divide the okra slices among two racks. I also rotate the racks halfway through cooking to give exposure to both top and bottom. If you are cooking in an air fryer that has a basket, it may take two rounds of cooking.

For serving, I highly recommend you make the dipping sauce. Ketchup is a fine alternative, but the barbecue dipping sauce just adds that little something extra. Either way, keep an eye out for okra when you shop; it could be the veggie you didn’t know you love!

Extra-crunchy okra the healthy way
Serves 4

12 ounces okra
1 egg white
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder 1 cup panko
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Dipping sauce
1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
2½ Tablespoons barbecue sauce

Clean okra, and remove stem and tip ends; set on paper towels to dry slightly.
In a shallow bowl, whisk egg white and ½ teaspoon garlic powder.
In a second shallow bowl, combine panko, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, and salt.
Cut okra into 1-inch segments.
Place ¼ of okra into egg white mix.
Use a fork to toss and fully coat okra pieces.
Remove okra from egg white, using the fork, shaking to remove excess egg.
Transfer to panko mixture.
Toss until all pieces of okra are well-coated.
Spray air fryer racks with nonstick cooking spray.
Place coated okra pieces on rack.
Repeat with remaining okra.
Do not crowd the okra on the rack; use multiple racks as needed.
Heat air fryer to 375 degrees.
Place rack(s) in oven and air fry for 6 minutes.
If using more than one rack, rotate positions, and air fry for 6 more minutes.
While okra cooks, combine yogurt and barbecue sauce in a small bowl, stirring well.
Remove okra from air fryer and serve immediately with dipping sauce.

Featured photo: Extra crunchy okra. Photo by Michele Pesula Kuegler.

Stay in the loop!

Get FREE weekly briefs on local food, music,

arts, and more across southern New Hampshire!