Looking forward

No More Blue Tomorrows celebrates debut LP

Anyone searching for hope in the regional music scene will be heartened by No More Blue Tomorrows. The Nashua trio’s eponymous first album covers a bevy of bases, all of them well. The opening track, “It’s Kind of a Funny Story,” pulses with power, recalling a young, hungry Green Day. It’s followed by the cowpunk rave-up “Lonely.”

This scorching one-two punch continues with a masterpiece of symphonic pop. “If You’re Around” is a lost-love power ballad that builds to a roaring crescendo recalling the Goo Goo Dolls’ ’90s hit “Iris.” With cello, violin and layered harmonies, the song improves with each listen.

Lead singer and principal lyricist Connor Coburn co-wrote it with Cameron Gilhooly, his former bandmate in Hunter. Coburn left the group, along with NMBT bass player Peter Davis, in 2019. The way it came to be is, to continue a theme, something of a funny story, Coburn explained in a recent phone interview.

“Me and Zak [Lombard, NMBT guitarist] started recording it at the studio one night, really late,” he said. “We’re drinking, smoking cigarettes. Peter was out partying somewhere, and he came back. It’s like two in the morning, and I say, ‘Hey, Peter, record your guitar parts, record your drum parts.’ We’re doing all this recording at three in the morning when we’re all kind of drunk, and it just works.”

The band’s moniker references a line from the David Lynch movie Inland Empire. Its cool sound is the main reason Coburn and his mates chose it, but also because picking a name can be harder than writing a song, and they were exhausted by the process. “It’s the worst part of being in a band,” he said, adding that maybe there is a bit more to it.

“If you want a deeper … fake explanation, it’s in a very dark scene in the movie, but it has kind of a positive sound to it. So it has this kind of duality…. I think our music kind of has that too. It’s a little dark and a little somber and a little edgy, but also kind of upbeat and fun.”

They do get playful, on “For Forever,” an Americana romp with honey-sweet pedal steel guitar that’s another of many album highlights. Another gem is “Real as a Heart Attack,” a country punk car chase of a song that draws from many of Coburn’s biggest inspirations.

“Whiskey Town is a big influence of mine, and Ryan Adams,” he said. “Rhett Miller, obviously Old 97s is a huge influence, but also old-school ’70s punk and ’80s punk. It’s a lot of different things, but we managed to bring it together.”

Many of the songs came out of Coburn leaving Hunter after five years with the NEMA-winning group. He and Davis quit on the same night.

“We were both feeling like we had outgrown the band in a sense,” he said. “It just kind of stopped working at a certain point. I needed to do my own thing and have a little bit more freedom.”

There aren’t any hard feelings, he continued; it was simply time to move on.

“We all still talk, there’s no animosity, but things had gotten kind of rocky at the end. I was like, yeah, I’m already writing songs with them and for them, I may as well just do this for myself with more creative leeway. Peter was like, ‘Yeah, let’s do that.’”

The first song completed in the wake of Hunter’s dissolution was “Chaperone,” which Coburn began while still in the band. “I wrote it in the van while we were on tour,” he said. “We had even started playing bits of it in shows. Me and Cam would sound check with it, play a verse or two. That was kind of the first song that really got me out of that band. … Musically, it signified a pretty big shift for me. It’s kind of a punky, anti-conformity song.”

NMBT first played live in mid-2021 and have gigged “relentlessly” all over New England. They have four area appearances to close out the month. They’re in Nashua at Penuche’s Aug. 17, San Francisco Kitchen Aug. 24 and Peddler’s Daughter on Aug. 25 — the latter is a release show, then Labelle Winery in Amherst on Aug. 31.

With an album finally out, they’re ready to take the next step and tour nationally, but for now will savor the achievement.

“We listened to the final mix [and] the whole time, we were like, holy crap, did we create this?” Coburn said. “It’s funny when it goes from the stage of a dive bar to a record that sounds really good and you’re really happy with.”

No More Blue Tomorrows
When: Thursday, Aug. 17, 6 p.m.
Where: Penuche’s, 4 Canal St., Nashua
More: nomorebluetomorrows.com
Album release show on Saturday, Aug. 25, 9:30 p.m., Peddler’s Daughter, 48 Main St., Nashua

Featured photo: No More Blue Tomorrows. Courtesy photo.

The Music Roundup 23/08/17

Local music news & events

Active rock: A triple bill in Concord is topped by Any Given Sin, a Maryland quartet that can’t be pegged down to any single rock genre, though “Dynamite,” the track that helped them on SiriusXM’s Octane Test Drive a while back, lines up with any Motley Crüe power ballad. They’re joined by Alabama alt rockers Shallow Side. Thursday, Aug. 17, 8 p.m., Bank of NH Stage, 16 S. Main St., Concord, $23.75 at ccanh.com.

Alfresco country: Since debuting with the 2002 heartstring-tugger “The Impossible,” Joe Nichols has steadily topped the country charts.” His latest album, Good Day for Living is highlighted by a title track celebrating life’s small pleasures. He performs at a driving range that’s also a music venue; local musician April Cushman opens. Friday, Aug. 18, 7 p.m., The Range, 96 Old Turnpike Road, Mason, $48 and up at etix.com.

Twang ’n’ roll: Before finding their cowpunk form, the Supersuckers followed the lead of the Ramones and Stooges; 30 years on, sole founding member Eddie Spaghetti is nostalgic, and the title cut of the new Play That Rock N’ Roll name checks some of his punk and metal inspirations. The rest of the disc celebrates fast living, loose morals and hard partying with irreverence and bashing bravado. Saturday, Aug. 19, 8 pm., Jewel Music Venue 61 Canal St., Manchester, $15 and up at eventbrite.com.

Americana master: In the early 1990s Mary Chapin Carpenter’s star rose on country radio, but un-Nashville songs like “This Shirt” and “He Thinks He’ll Keep Her” soon found her in a niche occupied by rootsier artists like Shawn Colvin and Marc Cohn. Her latest, One Night Lonely (Live), got a Grammy nomination for Best Folk Album. Brandy Clark opens her area show. Sunday, Aug. 20, 7:30 p.m., Nashua Center for the Arts, 201 Main St., Nashua, $73 and up at ticketmaster.com.

Downunderful: Named after their small Australian hometown, Seaforth is the duo of lifelong friends Tom Jordan and Mitch Thompson, now in Nashville. Their love of country music was inspired by fellow Aussie Keith Urban, whom they jokingly call “Uncle Keith.” Songs like “Good Beer,” a collaboration with Jordan Davis, go down as easy as the brewing company sponsoring their area show. Monday, Aug. 21, 7 p.m., The Goat, 50 Old Granite St., Manchester. See weaareseaforth.com.

Ultra-Processed People, by Chris van Tulleken

Ultra-Processed People, by Chris van Tulleken (W.W. Norton & Co., 313 pages)

Is there anyone on the planet who doesn’t know processed food is bad for you? Probably not, but as it turns out, there’s something even worse — ultra-processed food, which Chris van Tulleken eviscerates, along with its makers, in the aptly named Ultra-Processed People.

Ultra-processed food, according to van Tulleken, is not food, but “food-like substances that we’ve never encountered in our evolutionary history” but which we are now consuming in large quantities with little thought to its effect on our bodies.

Van Tulleken is a British physician who specializes in infectious diseases; his research is on how corporations affect human health, and so yes, there’s a villain in Ultra-Processed People, and it isn’t the consumer. And in van Tulleken’s telling, it’s unclear (and possibly unlikely) that the good guys will win, so ensnared as we are in the villain’s grasp. He describes consumers as prey in the industry of ultra-processed food production, with their products the bait.

Although these pseudo-food products weren’t even available 200 years ago, they now comprise about 60 percent of the diet of people in the U.S. and U.K., van Tulleken writes. And they’re making us unhealthy and obese, he argues, saying that people don’t overeat when they are presented with fresh, healthy meats and vegetables; they are driven to overeat when their diet lacks the fresh food and nutrients the body craves.

The idea that people are overweight or obese because they don’t exercise enough and lack willpower, he says, “doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.”

“For example, since 1960, the U.S. National Health Surveys have recorded an accurate picture of the nation’s weight. They show that in white, Black and Hispanic men and women of all ages, there was a dramatic increase in obesity beginning in the 1970s. The idea that there has been a simultaneous collapse of responsibility in both men and women across age and ethnic groups is not plausible. If you’re living with obesity, it isn’t due to a lack of willpower; it isn’t your fault,” he writes.

So what is ultra-processed food, exactly? Van Tulleken describes it as anything wrapped in plastic that has at least one ingredient that you usually wouldn’t find in a typical home kitchen. That definition, taken literally, is problematic, because if 60 percent of what’s in your pantry is UPF, there’s probably some overlap in the ingredient list. So maybe he should have said what you wouldn’t find in a typical home kitchen in the 1940s, or ingredients we can’t pronounce or don’t recognize, but we get the point, which frankly isn’t new. Some years ago, I read a diet book by a chemist who stopped eating processed food when she realized that her angel food cake contained an ingredient she’d used that day in a lab.

And scientists have increasingly been sounding the alarm about artificial sweeteners that we’ve been using for decades; van Tulleken retells the story of how saccharin was discovered in 1879 by a Johns Hopkins chemist trying to make medical compounds from coal tar. When he accidentally got some on a piece of bread at dinner, the chemist later wrote, “I had discovered or made some coal tar substance that out-sugared-sugar.”

Eating should be simple, van Tulleken argues; the human body has an internal system that tells us what and how much we need, but we have thrown it out of whack by feeding it things the body is not meant to eat. And that doesn’t mean we’ve thrown it out of whack by eating sugar and carbs — when they are real food, not ultra-processed, they’re not the problem. So to demonstrate the problem, van Tulleken commits to eating no ultra-processed food for a month, and then 80 percent ultra-processed foods for the next month, all the while being medically monitored. (He also encourages readers to do the same — to “give in — allow yourself to experience UPF’s full horror” — while reading the book. Full disclosure: I did not.)

Some of what he ate is similar to products marketed as healthy in our supermarkets — for example, cereal fortified with vitamins, or high-protein granola bars. But while eating a chocolate-chip caramel bar one morning, feeling that it was certainly more healthy than a candy bar, van Tulleken investigates the ingredients and discovers that, in addition to multiple additives, one ingredient was “hydrolysed beef gelatin — cow tendons. It wasn’t enjoyable after that.” As one researcher told him, “Most UPF is not food. It’s an industrially produced edible substance.” Also, he argues, it’s designed to be addictive.

So, how do we stop? Van Tulleken’s brother, who struggled with his weight, decided that UPF was an addiction no different from alcohol or drugs, so he stopped eating it altogether. So did the author. Others may be fine eating UPF occasionally, even with the full knowledge of what it is. But knowing what you’re eating is the first step in stopping.

But surprisingly, while van Tulleken backs some government policies to improve labeling and marketing to children, he comes down on the side of freedom and says, “I sincerely don’t have a moral opinion about eating UPF. … I don’t care how you feed yourself or your child. The goal should be that you live in a world where you have real choices and the freedom to make them.”

Well, yes, but he just spent 300 pages telling us that UPF is killing us, so it seems a strange conclusion to draw.

While van Tulleken’s credentials are impressive, along with his willingness to offer himself up as a guinea pig of sorts, Ultra-Processed People is a little bit of a mess, structurally, and in its conclusions.

The best eating advice ever, it seems was, given succinctly by Michael Pollan when he wrote “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” That’s mostly what van Tulleken is saying, just more awkwardly. C

Album Reviews 23/08/17

Bluphoria, Bluphoria (Edgeout Records/UMe)

I’m late to the ball by a couple of months on this one, the debut LP from this northern California-based alt-rock band, whose guitarist/frontman Reign LaFreniere is a Black dude who grew up on stuff like Hendrix, Dylan, James Brown, Pink Floyd and whatnot; he’s all about retaking the hard-ish-rock genre back to its roots, and for that he should be thanked, sort of, I suppose. Produced by Mark Needham (Imagine Dragons, Mt. Joy, The 1975, others), it’s a mixed bag of throwback-bar-band-microwaving. Opener “Set Me Up” is blatantly ’80s, a kissin’ cousin to Greg Kihn’s “The Break Up Song” with a Lenny Kravitz buzz to it (not reaching for the handiest reference there, either, it just is); “Believe in Love” is a cross between dance-floor Prince and the main theme from Footloose. Harmless, idiotic fun throughout. The closest they’ll come to New Hampshire during their current tour is the Middle East Upstairs in Cambridge, Mass., on Nov. 9. B

James Rivera’s Metal Wave, New Wave Gone Metal (Massacre Records)

In “am I the only one who thinks the ’80s rebirth has overstayed its welcome” news, this is a project from former Helstar singer Rivera, 10 New Wave tunes re-rubbed as hair-metal versions, and the only really interesting thing about this, to me anyway, is the fact that no one’s done it before, unless they have, not that I want to find out. OK, strike that, be nice Saeger, the concept does work in some of the tries, for instance the rub of Bauhaus’s “Bela Lugosi’s Dead”; I always thought the original version was kind of lumpy and dumb, and some Ozzy-style guitar definitely breathes new life into it, even if Rivera’s campy vocals border on Weird Al level. Wasn’t a big fan of the version of The Ramones’ “Pet Sematary,” being that the original track was fine; same goes for the Cure’s “Love Song.” The band’s take on Tears For Fears’ “Everybody Wants To Rule The World” is so well-deservedly awful toward a Mercyful Fate manner that it’s the best on board. A hearty “meh” to this. B-


• I haven’t trawled through this week’s list of new CD releases that can only be found on the top-secret list we professional music journos consult when we put on our nappy fez hats and begin writing our edgy newspaper columns (psst, Amazon.com is the most reliable place, really, but we always tell readers we use Metacritic, just so you’ll think we’re actual wizards), so I don’t yet know what rock ’n’ roll albums are coming out this Friday, Aug. 18. There’s a reason for my telling you all this; it’s because I predict that a holiday album will be in the list, being that Christmas is so close (anyone have some liquid nitrogen I could spray on myself to get a little relief from all the insane heat?), so let’s have at it, let’s look at the list and see who’s going to be the first dumb band/artiste to take the plunge this year and try to impress us rock journos with their polite renditions of “O Holy Night” and whatever, even though, ironically enough, said band/artiste is most famous for “having beefs” and/or getting arrested and publicly canceled for some totally Christmas-y act of sexual depravity or etc., let me go take a gander here, dum de dum — Ack! Ack! I win, and I’m not kidding, I hadn’t looked at the list yet: It’s actress/singer Renee Rapp, who plays Leighton Murray in the HBO Max series The Sex Lives of College Girls, with an album called Snow Angel! The title track has a happy-gloom-chill feel to it, like Lana Del Rey, except Rapp’s singing is more gimmicky/interesting than that, sort of yodel-y. OK, it’s not a hardcore Christmas tune, but it is definitely Christmas-minded, toward a calculated, corporate fashion, because the lyrics don’t include words like “Christmas tree” or “Kringle,” but there are references to frozen noses and boyfriends, so tough noogies, guys, I’m calling it, I win, so let’s hop on Yukon Cornelius’ North Pole sleigh and go be Christmas-y and independent together! Wahoooo!

• Oh, look, the guys in the garage-punk band originally named Orinoka Crash Suite have changed the band’s name again, this time to Osees! Actually, I’m a day late and a dollar short or something, because their new album, Intercepted Message, is their fourth one released under the new moniker, isn’t it the best when bands change their names and you have to spend a good 10 percent of your column explaining that to your readers instead of describing their music? I sure do, and I probably went over this whole sordid story the last time I talked about them in this space, but we’re almost out of room for talking about this new LP, so what say we take a listen to the new single, “Stunner!” OK, it’s a cross between Flaming Lips and Primus, more or less, “boasting” a bunch of whirring space-guitar-noise and vocals that are in the Captain Beefheart realm, which means — oh, whatever, I’m not going to try to get pedagogic about this nonsense, it’s a joke song, whatever, let’s move this along.

• The three dudes from The Xcerts are originally from Scotland, but now they want to be called a British band because they moved to England. Kind of sad, isn’t it? They were around 13 years old when they first formed the band, and their upcoming fourth LP is Learning How To Live And Let Go. One of the tunes, “Blame,” has some art-rock guitar to it, but the vocals are pretty Weezer-ish, if your stomach could tolerate something of that ilk.

• We’ll call it a wrap with New York City-based rocker Margaret Glaspy, whose new album, Echo The Diamond, is on the way, spearheaded by the single “Act Natural,” which features Glaspy doing a Kate Havnevik warble over a rudimentary guitar riff. Not much to say about this one really.

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).

Miami Dancehall Cocktail

I think that it’s fair to say that Florida doesn’t have the best reputation.

Take, for example, the “Florida Man” game. If you’ve never tried this, your eyebrows are about to rise higher than you ever suspected was possible. Open an internet search engine, and enter the term “Florida man” and a date — your birthday is a good choice.

Feb. 9, for instance, when, according to the Florida Times-Union, a Florida man “was arrested … and charged with assault with a deadly weapon without intent to kill after Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation officials say he threw a 3.5-foot alligator through a Palm Beach County Wendy’s drive-thru window.”

But it wasn’t always like this. There was a time in the 1940s and ’50s when Florida was seen as a chic and even elegant place. Miami Beach was where the most beautiful and wealthy people went to be seen, to dance in the moonlight and to drink cocktails. Powerful, cigar-chomping men in good suits flashed their brightest smiles — and wads of cash — in an effort to catch the attention of beautiful women in floral dresses. White-jacketed waiters delivered drinks to wide-eyed tourists. Dance bands played, and everywhere there were flowers.

I feel like we need more of that — more white suits and fancy drinks, and fewer fast-food alligator attacks.

Miami Dancehall

  • 2 ounces dry gin – I like Wiggly Bridge
  • ½ ounce elderflower liqueur
  • ½ ounce crème de violette – a violet-flavored liqueur
  • 5 or 6 drops rose water – There is a razor’s edge between being floral and delicious, and tasting like your grandmother’s fancy soap. Err on the side of caution until you find the level of rosiness you like.
  • ½ ounce fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • ¼ ounce simple syrup

Combine all ingredients over ice in a cocktail shaker. Use a medicine dropper to measure out the rose water.

In the classic 1934 movie The Thin Man William Powell gives a master class on cocktail shaking to a group of bartenders and waiters. According to Nick Charles, Powell’s character, a well-made cocktail is all about timing: “Now, a Manhattan, you shake to a foxtrot. A Bronx, to a two-step time. But a dry martini, you always shake to waltz time.” He places his properly shaken martini on a waiting tray, held by one of the waiters, who serves it back to him. He takes the cocktail and drinks it gratefully, implying that making well-mixed drinks is thirsty work. In a similar vein, tell your digital assistant to play Miami Beach Rhumba by Xavier Cugat. Shake your cocktail to the rhythm. Given the time of year, and our climate, feel free to keep shaking until the outside of your shaker is wet with condensation.

Strain the cocktail into the fanciest cocktail glass you own.

Drink it as you dance around the kitchen.

Gin and lemon lead in this particular rhumba, followed by hints of violets and roses. This is one of those drinks that leave you searching for more of the floral finish, which leads to another sip, and then another, until you realize that you need (a) more excuses in your life to rhumba, and (b) another cocktail.

More rhumbas, fewer alligators.

Featured photo: Dancehall cocktail. Photo by John Fladd.

Many flavors at We Are One

Cultural fest brings food, music and dance

By Jill Lessard

African/Caribbean and Latino cultures come together for a multi-sensory celebration featuring mouth-watering food, vibrant music and engaging entertainment at the 2023 We Are One Festival Saturday, Aug. 19, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Veterans Memorial Park in downtown Manchester.

“It’s great seeing everyone in the park getting an opportunity to participate in this event,” said Sudi Lett, co-chair of the We Are One Committee and a Chicago native who has lived in Manchester for most of his life. “It’s one of few opportunities to directly engage with Afro-Latino culture and people and an example of what we want Manchester to be about — people helping people, people learning from each other, and celebrating everything that makes us human.”

This year’s We Are One Festival will have acclaimed entertainers including drummer, dancer and New Hampshire Artist Laureate Theo Martey, founder and leader of the Akwaaba Ensemble; Boston singer-songwriter Ruby Shabazz; Zambia’s JohnLu & The Band; and Ariel y Grupo Letales, among other performers. The event will also include the talents of DJ 4eign (pronounced foreign), who has worked for some of the industry greats such as French Montana, Young MA, Fabolous and Usher. Born in Kenya, “The African kid” has become a local success as an acclaimed disc jockey on Boston radio station Jam’n 94.5.

A variety of sweet and savory treats will be offered at the fair.

“For food, we are anchored by Don Quijote Restaurant, whose chicken and beef empanadas are always popular,” said Lett, the Youth and Education Director with Young Organizers United (Y.O.U.), host of the event. “From Maya’s Kitchen, the oxtail and rice offers tender beef, flavored beautifully,” he said. “And Tokoss offers samoussas, an African dish similar to empanadas but served as a triangle with beef or chicken and veggies inside.” Cold treats will be served by Sub Zero Nitrogen Ice Cream, as well as a few new community vendors offering different versions of flavored ice.

The We Are One Festival combines the former Latinos Unidos and Ujima Collective, out of a need to create a local community with culturally appropriate offerings.

“It started out as the African Caribbean Festival and the Latino Festival, and about 10 years ago it was decided to combine efforts in a show of solidarity,” Lett said. “The success of this event goes to everyone involved, whether through attending, marketing or being a vendor.” Lett, who serves as boys basketball varsity coach at Manchester Central High School, has been attending the festival since he was a teenager and, as a legacy to his parents, Brenda and Woullard Lett, is committed to “keeping the continuity of bringing our community together.”

The We Are One legacy continues as the next generation takes up the mantle for producing the event. Sixteen-year-old Mia Rose Taylor serves on the Civic Engagement Committee for the summer program of festival host Y.O.U. Taylor became involved because she’s passionate about bettering her community — and, also, “festivals are just fun!” she said.

Considerable work is involved in mounting such a multi-faceted production, an effort that is currently shared among the Granite State Organizing Project, Young Organizers United, Centro Latino, and SDW Communications. Lett is responsible for logistics, marketing and staffing. Taylor’s job involves contacting community figures and groups to help advertise the event.

“The We Are One Festival can be just as informative as it is entertaining. There’s bound to be something to draw you in,” said Taylor, a student at Manchester Central High School. “It’s perfect for people who are looking for something fun to do with their family and friends before summer vacation is over.”

What are Lett’s favorite aspects of the event? “I’d say the food and the community.” And what does he hope folks will get from the experience? “A full belly and a great time!” 

“Immersing yourself in all these different vibrant cultures is something you don’t want to miss out on,” said Taylor. “It’s going to be a blast!”

2023 We Are One Festival
When: Saturday, Aug. 19, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. (rain or shine)
Where: Veterans Memorial Park, 723 Elm St., Manchester
More info: email waofest@gmail.com

Featured photo: Theo Martey. Courtesy photo.

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