Hometown son

Drew Dunn headlines Nashua Center

While it was being built, Drew Dunn would drive by the Nashua Center for the Arts and think about performing there one day. On Dec. 2, the 2010 Nashua High School South graduate will headline, the latest milestone in a comedy career that was quick out of the gate when it started 10 years ago and continues to rise.

“Nashua is my hometown,” Dunn said by phone recently. “I’ve lived in a lot of places, but it’s cool to be able to do this.”

Dunn’s easy-going demeanor and razor-sharp instincts combine with innate humor for a comedic style loved by both fans and fellow comics. The latest example of the latter is Dane Cook, who saw Dunn open for him in West Hollywood a few months back and was impressed enough to invite him on tour.

Connecting with the Boston comic was, Dunn said, “kind of super random.” Cook streams video games on Twitch, and Dunn’s dad follows him on the popular website. When Drew posted about the show on his social media, Dad messaged Cook. “He told him we’ve been big fans for a long time, we’re both from the New England area…. That got Dane to watch a few minutes of my set.”

The comic’s career has seen a steady checklist of successes. Playing the Johnny Carson Great American Comedy Festival in Carson’s hometown of Norfolk, Nebraska, was an early triumph, “the first time I got on a plane and did standup.” Dunn won the Boston Comedy Festival in 2017; later he went to the Pacific Northwest, where he lived in grade school, and took top honors at the month-long Seattle International Comedy Competition.

The biggest highlight since then has been hitting the road with Cook, which will continue next year. It included a stop at the Wilbur Theatre, which Dunn called “one of the last major venues in Boston on my checklist.” Overall, the tour is “the first taste of the next level of this business that I’ve had, and it’s inspiring. It makes it feel a little bit more attainable.”

Such glamorous highs are the result of an arduous journey.

“I’ve done everything from campground shows talking to people sitting in their golf carts in the middle of the day, to random breweries and stuff like that,” he said. Throughout, “I’ve learned comedy is a marathon…. Hard work adds up over time to be able to create moments like [the Nashua show], which makes it worthwhile. Building something and then sharing it, continuing to go from there, it’s a never-ending road, this whole standup game. I’m just happy to be on it.”

Dunn acknowledged other comics who helped him along the way, including early mentor Corey Rodrigues. “He always seemed a step or two ahead of me, so any time I’d be running into something new, he’d be a guy I’d hit up.”

Manchester comic Paul Landwehr, who’ll open in Nashua, is another. Dunn recalled working the door with him at Dick Doherty’s Comedy Den in Boston when both were starting out.

Amiability is key to Dunn’s success. “My business model when it comes to this whole thing is to just be funny and nice to everybody, because it’s more fun that way. So many comics get in this competitive mindset of trying to one-up each other — ‘Why is he getting an opportunity and not me?’ or ‘Why is she winning and not me?’ For me it’s always been us comics versus the crowd. If more people are seeing standup comedy, that’s a win for all of us.”

Dunn sees a rising tide in the regional scene.

“I think comedy in general, and particularly in Boston, is probably in a better state than it’s ever been,” he said. “I wasn’t alive in the ’80s and that boom, but comedy in general now, there’s more people watching and listening and going to live shows as far as standup goes than ever before in the history of time. To be a part of that … is just infinitely exciting.”

Drew Dunn w/ Paul Landwehr and Will Mars
When: Saturday, Dec. 2, 8 p.m.
Where: Nashua Center for the Arts, 201 Main St., Nashua
Tickets: $29 at etix.com

Featured photo: Drew Dunn. Courtesy photo.

The Music Roundup 23/11/23

Local music news & events

Christmas nuts: The Heather Pierson Trio is again playing Vince Guaraldi’s music from A Charlie Brown Christmas throughout the region, including an intimate show at a Lakes Region winery preceded by a complimentary tasting. Pierson’s performance includes other Guaraldi selections and holiday favorites. Thursday, Nov. 30, 7 p.m., The Loft at Hermit Woods, 72 Main St., Meredith, $25 and up at eventbrite.com, more dates at heatherpierson.com.

Roots night: Fronted by a self-proclaimed reformed punk, Matt Charette & the Truer Sound rock across a range of genres. A good example is “Swinging,” a can-do love song that Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers fans should love, one of many gems from their latest long-player, Lo-Fi High Hopes. Also appearing are June Star, a Baltimore duo that features pedal steel guitar on many of their songs, and the twangy Girls on Grass. Friday, Dec. 1, 9 p.m., Shaskeen Pub, 909 Elm St., facebook.com/junestarband.

Rhythm & whoops: Standup comedy is paired with soulful music as Steve Bjork and Sean Sullivan co-headline with support from Ken Murphy and Sean Tracey. The laughs are preceded by a set from Finesse, a Detroit-based singer whose blend of R&B and gospel has been called “uplifting and inspiring.” Saturday, Dec. 2, 6:30 pm., Rockingham Ballroom, 22 Ash Swamp Road, Newmarket, $25 at rockinghamballroom.club.

Home-grown: The latest NH Music Collective Sunday Sessions show has Ryan Williamson along with the hArt of Sound, two area musicians performing original compositions. Williamson is a wizard at looping his way to a full band sound. Colin Hart cites influences from Radiohead to Muse to Nine Inch Nails, calling has project a “surreal alternative electronic rock brainchild.” Sunday, Dec. 3, 6 p.m., Bank of NH Stage (Cantin Room), 16 S Main St., Concord, $15 at ccanh.com.

Country kid: Lee Biddle is a singer-songwriter with hardscrabble songs like “Lonesome Whistle Blues.” He inhabits the spirit of a Depression era ex-soldier on “Risky Whisky” but pays respect to his roots with “New England,” calling the region “my home, where I belong.” Wednesday, Dec. 6, 6 p.m., Saddle Up Saloon, 92 Route 125, Kingston, see facebook.com/leebiddlemusic.

Wish (PG)

A girl wishes upon a star and the star comes down to hang out in Wish, an underbaked mush of a fairy tale about the eternal struggle between security and liberty that also has the feel of a half-hearted Disney IP origin story.

Asha (voice of Ariana DeBose) is a 17-year-old living back in the once upon a time on the Mediterranean-y island of Rosas, which is ruled by King Magnifico (voice of Chris Pine), who founded the city-state years earlier with his wife Queen Amaya (Angelique Cabral). King Magnifico is a good sorcerer and he designed Rosas as a land where people of all backgrounds could come and live together in peace and safety under his rule — so right away you know he’s a villain. But this would be a real short movie if everyone else realized it, so the people of Rosas just think of him as a benevolent ruler who grants wishes. Every citizen gives Magnifico their wishes when they turn 18 — wishes being represented by a sort of glowy bubble — and he keeps them safe. Regularly, he picks one citizen to have their wish come true, which he accomplishes with his magic. In the meantime, the adult populace is not burdened by these wishes, the content of which they forget.

Asha is interviewing to be his apprentice and help him with his magic-ing. Perhaps she’s a little hopeful that doing this will help her 100-year-old grandfather Sabino (voice of Victor Garber) and her mother Sakina (voice of Natasha Rothwell) get their wishes granted. But when she sees her grandfather’s wish bubble floating around Magnifico’s wish bubble arboretum and asks Magnifico to grant it, he basically says “no job for you” explaining that her grandfather’s vague desire to create something that inspires future generations could lead to revolution or violence.

A dejected Asha later sings a song about wanting more for her people than All Of This and poof, a star appears. The star is a cute little blob of a thing that squeaks around and sprinkles glitter dust, giving animals, like Asha’s pet goat Valentino (voice of Alan Tudyk), the ability to talk and sing another song about how we are all made of star dust. Asha becomes determined to retrieve her family’s wishes — and eventually everybody’s wishes — so people can have the chance to make them come true on their own. As Asha’s friends observe of their 18-year-old buddy Simon (voice of Evan Peters), giving up their wish makes people a little less themselves, less whole.

Meanwhile, the magical light show caused when the star came to Earth has Magnifico worried that someone else is using magic and challenging his rule. He can’t figure out what’s going on with his own good-guy magic so he turns to a book of dark magic and also asking people to fink on each other to try to find this Threat to Rosas. He goes from being a basically benign dictator who is maybe a little too impressed with his own handsomeness to being a megalomaniac who won’t tolerate any dissent because one teen girl asked him a question.

Also, Asha maybe invents animation using the tiny-drawing-on-a-page-corner flipbook method?

We get a lot of information about the Wish — how it makes people feel to give it to Magnifico, how he cares for them, what he does with them when he gets his dark magic, why he is such a helicopter mom about people’s hopes and dreams. There is a general “Magnifico lost his birth family in a land riven with strife,” which is what pushed him to make a cheery dystopia. But there is a sense of “oh and also this” when it comes to story elements rather than a clear, streamlined story with clear motivations for Magnifico. Similarly, the movie is filled with general Disney Easter Eggs that often play as in-jokes and almost appear to maybe sort of build up to something — “and that’s how A became B” — but also don’t really. All the nods to Peter Pan and Bambi etc. (and all the visuals that feel like “remember that cottage from Sleeping Beauty? This isn’t that but hey made you think of it didn’t we?”) feel more like a fast food “100 years of Disney” promotional meal package than a real story. There’s a world in which Disney just creates a montage of discussion of wishes and dreams with clips from its movie library and achieves the same thing (that thing I think being the centrality of wishes and dreams to Disney stories) with more genuine emotion and brevity.

Wish feels like a movie that had some general ideas of what it wanted to do and where it wanted to go but had no clear idea how to get there and so it just filled in the gaps with “default Disney story” stuff. Likewise, the music feels very much like someone shoved Frozen and Moana into a food processor and this is the texture-less paste that came out. The songs here read as extremely first-drafty and forgettable.

All that said, my kids and other kids in a very full theater seemed to be mostly hanging in with this movie — perking up the most when Valentino the goat was in on the action (the line, which also appears in the trailers, that involves him saying he found a secret door with his butt got a big laugh). The talking animals do provide some nice moments of weirdness and I wish (ha) the movie had gone more in on that kind of goofiness than on creating something that feels more like a commemorative coin than a lively new story. C+

Rated PG for thematic elements and mild action, according to the MPA on filmratings.com. Directed by Chris Buck and Fawn Veerasunthorn with a screenplay by Jennifer Lee & Allison Moore, Wish is an hour and 35 minutes long and distributed in theaters by Walt Disney Studios.

Trolls Band Together

Poppy, Branch and the crew reunite for a caper winding them through the music of pop boy bands of the last 30+ years in Trolls Band Together, a perfectly cromulent hour and a half of kid entertainment.

Poppy (voice of Anna Kendrick), queen of the Trolls, and Branch (voice of Justin Timberlake), her frequently grumpy boyfriend, prepare for the marriage of Poppy’s good friend Bridget (voice of Zooey Deschanel) and Gristle (voice of Christopher Mintz-Plasse). Bridget and Gristle are both Bergens, who are larger and more monstery than Trolls and used to eat Trolls but now everybody parties together. As Bridget and Gristle say their I-dos, the ceremony is interrupted by John Dory (voice of Eric Andre), Branch’s long-estranged brother. Branch and his four brothers were once members of the boy band BroZone together but broke up after a concert went wrong when they tried to achieve the perfect family harmony. John Dory wants the group back together to give perfection another try as he thinks it will be the only thing that can break the diamond bottle their brother Floyd (voice of Troye Sivan) is being held in. Floyd was trollnapped by Velvet (voice of Amy Schumer) and Veneer (voice of Andrew Rannells), a brother-sister pop duo of plasticy-looking creatures. They are personally talentless but have devised a way of draining Floyd of his talent to make them seem like the superstar vocalists they pretended to be.

As Floyd was Branch’s kindest brother, he decides to join John Dory on his quest, eventually scooping up other brothers Spruce (Daveed Diggs), who now calls himself Bruce and runs a resort with his wife and many children, and Clay (voice of Kid Cudi) to rescue Floyd. Along the way, the gang comes across an old Bergen putt-putt course that is now home to a band of Trolls left behind in Bergen Town all those years ago when Poppy and her father, then-King Peppy (voice of Walt Dohrn), escaped. As has already been spoiled in some of the trailers, one of those Trolls is a fast-talking, quick-hair-braiding, high-energy Troll named Viva (voice of Camila Cabello), Poppy’s long-lost sister. Viva is excited to see Poppy again but does not know about or believe the news that Trolls and Bergens are now friends.

As with other entries in this jukebox sugarfest series, Trolls Band Together pastes together bits of boy band song elements — reaching back to Boyz II Men and New Kids on the Block as well as Timberlake’s own NSYNC, which delivers a new original song for this movie and all the moms seeing it who remember a boy band fandom of their youth. It’s cute, as the music always is in these movies, though this one doesn’t feel quite as tune-packed as previous entries. This movie also feels less about Poppy than previous entries, which focused on Poppy’s leadership or Poppy’s friendship with Branch. Here, she feels more along for the ride.

And that’s all fine. These movies aren’t Pixar-in-its-prime levels of story-telling and visual delight. But they are fast-moving, upbeat, silly and occasionally weird in a way that provides a nice little tart element to all this cotton candy. They are kid-friendly without being actively adult off-putting. B-

Rated PG for some mild rude and suggestive humor, according to the MPA on filmratings.com. Directed by Walt Dohrn and Tim Heitz with a screenplay by Elizabeth Tippet, Trolls Band Together is an hour and 31 minutes long and distributed in theaters by Universal Studios.

Featured photo: Wish.

John Abernathy You are Kind by Molly McGhee

Jonathan Abernathy is an unemployed college dropout, age 25, with no prospects for anything getting better — his “loans, IOUs, and bills so diverse ecologists would be within their jurisdiction to classify the collection as an ‘ecosystem.’”

He has a quarter of a million dollars in student loan debt (“with an APR so lethal it can kill within a week”) and inherited credit card debt from his parents “in the low six figures.”

Living in a basement apartment not much wider than the length of his body, Abernathy is so profoundly miserable that he is envious of his landlord going to work — “going somewhere where someone will tell her what to do. Then in exchange for this, they will give her money. Jonathan Abernathy would like to be told what to do in exchange for money.”

This is the set-up of Molly McGhee’s glorious debut novel, which paints a dystopian picture of what is commonly called late-stage capitalism and its effect on America’s underachieving young adults. Other than the misery of young people saddled with soul-crushing debt, there is little realism here, however. Abernathy lives in a world in which “dream auditors” infiltrate the dreams of sleeping citizens, this being possible because it has been discovered that “humanity shares a consciousness while it sleeps.”

People who are chosen to be dream auditors don special clothes and wander about the dreams of troubled sleepers, cleaning out the nightmarish stuff so that the person can sleep better and therefore be more productive at work — all the better for the economy. The service is much in demand by companies whose workforces “seem depleted.”

In this strange world, Jonathan Abernathy is recruited for an auditing job — appropriately enough, during his sleep. He’s desperate for the job because the alternative is selling hot dogs off a food truck, and this new job promises $20 a night (though, sadly, no health care) plus incremental student loan forgiveness and a temporary freeze on collections while he is employed.

So he’s grateful to have work, even if it’s strange and his co-worker/mentor, Kai, is even stranger. She is one of three women who populate Abernathy’s life, the others being his landlord, Kelly, and his neighbor, Rhoda, a single mother who always smells of pine and is in desperate circumstances of her own and, astonishingly, seems interested in him. Their relationship deepens as Jonathan becomes more entrenched in his job and continues with it despite troubling signs that everything might not turn out OK in the end, for anyone involved.

That is not a spoiler — the book begins even more ominously, with the line “Though it will take three years, from this moment, for death to act, Jonathan Abernathy will never live a life unmarked again. Death will be tethered to him as a shadow.” There are also some Jacob Marley-esque apparitions on the book’s cover.

Why read something that’s such a downer, especially during the holiday season? It’s a fair question, but in a world saturated with formulaic books, this is not one. Poor doomed Jonathan Abernathy, who earnestly recites affirmations to keep his spirits up (Jonathan Abernathy, you are strong! Jonathan Abernathy, you are brave! Jonathan Abernathy, there is nothing in life not meant for you!) gets our sympathy in part because McGhee convincingly paints him as a helpless pawn in the cold capitalist machine, and also because he is an orphan, both parents having died by suicide. These are odds not just stacked against him, but malevolently working to ruin him, as his new employer also seems to be.

At the same time, Abernathy has a sweet optimism that exists because of his willful oblivion. He wants to be a good person; he wants to be a good worker; he wants to be needed at work. (“He anticipates the feeling of being needed with the same fervor that he looks forward to arriving at a destination with air-conditioning after a long heat-soaked walk.”) But as it turns out, you can’t affirm yourself out of terrible things that have happened in the past, both your own, and that of people you know. And we keep reading, because we care about Jonathan Abernathy, and honestly, just want to know what happens to him. Closure matters.

This is McGhee’s first novel; she was working in a publishing house as she wrote it, and as such, the novel is polished in a way that some debut efforts aren’t. You can tell when someone spends their days immersed in words. You can also tell when someone is disillusioned with capitalism, as McGhee, like many of her generation, appears to be. She equates work with dreams, writing, “To work and to dream is to forget.” In this world, work is the merciless maw that consumes our hours, leaving precious little of the meaningful stuff. Is it preachy at times, and a bit too single-minded in insisting that Abernathy is a victim, devoid of any agency in his life? Of course. Is it also a book you will think about long after you’ve lent it to friends? That, too. B+

Album Reviews 23/11/30

CrowJane, Bound To Me (Kitten Robot Records)
I’d thought it’d happened a lot more recently, but it turns out I haven’t heard from this Los Angeles kook lady since the release of her Mater Dolorosa EP in October 2020, which I described using RIYL comparisons like Swans and Einstürzende Neubauten. In this new five-songer she’s aiming for Siouxsie Sioux’s brand of weirdness, or so it says on the thing in front of me, and that sort of ’80s-goth-pop epicness is prominent in the works here, helped out by some pretty sweeping orchestral layers and Blue Man Group-ish drum-thumping (I should probably also mention that it’s a really captivating, super-nice tune). Elsewhere we have “Ides Of March,” which is like Siousxsie in metal mode, just an outstanding wreck-stuff rockout that’s got a bit of KMGDM to it. I hadn’t detected such a high level of accessibility in her earlier EP, but this one is remarkably good, well worth checking out. A+ —Eric W. Saeger

Maddi Ryan, Growing Pains (self-released)
In this EP I’m hearing a cross between Amy Grant and [place random anti-diva like Lorde here] undergirding the voice of this Boston-area singer, who racked up Country Act of the Year nominations at count-’em-three New England Music Awards events. Enough Kellie Pickler/Taylor Swift wannabes have dropped CDs on this desk that I’ve forgotten what real disappointment feels like, but stop the presses, this five-song EP is proof that this particular cowboy-booted Insta princess knows her way around a studio, or at least whom to seat at the mixing booth’s least rickety chair, whichever the case. “Wilderness” opens things with some Swift-in-Jewel-mode crooning atop an acoustic guitar line, her soprano aiming for the angsty, hormone-bending vibe that usually leads to a boring chorus, but instead she stays on top of it, adding a truly pleasing vocal harmony, then some floaty dobro and similar layerings as it eventually morphs into Norah Jones-ish Americana. She’s a serious contender, I kid you not. A


A seriously abridged compendium of recent and future CD releases

• Friday, Dec. 1, is the next CD release day, ermagersh, where did the summer go, what are we even doing here, and now let’s riff on ancient legendary arena-rock band Genesis for a minute, because one of the new rock ’n’ roll CD releases you can buy this week is I/O, from original Genesis singing person Peter Gabriel, his first since, holy catfish, 2011! Like his Genesis-singing successor, Phil Collins, Gabriel is famous for writing dishwasher-safe AOR-pop for dentists’ offices and Dollar Tree stores, and he’s most famous for being the singing person in the song trenchcoat-wearing kickboxing-slacker John Cusack was playing on his boombox during the famous “why aren’t the cops grabbing that guy” scene in the 1989 movie Say Anything. That alone elevated his cred far higher than that of Popeye-The-Sailor-lookalike Phil Collins, whose 1980s hits were horrible enough, but in order to ensure his ”Worst Song Of All Time” achievement award — and most Xers and Boomers have subconsciously erased all this from memory — Collins participated in a duet with really bad singer Philip Bailey on the song “Easy Lover” from Bailey’s 1984 LP Chinese Wall. The only ’80s rock music fail that came anywhere close to unseating that tune as the, you know, Worst Song Of All Time, was Eddie Murphy’s hilariously hubristic fish-out-of-artistic-water laughingstock, “Party All The Time,” which saw the first time a record company ever called an emergency Auto-Tune guy to come in and clean up Murphy’s transparently off-key vocal, and let’s not forget the video for Billy Squier’s “Rock Me Tonight,” in which he pranced around a bedroom like a preteen girl overdosing on Flintstones vitamins, a cringe-gasm so explosive that Squier’s career instantly tanked faster than the Lusitania. But yes, Gabriel has always been borderline listenable in my book, like, “Games Without Frontiers” was OK, mostly because I, like everybody else, thought it was either Psychedelic Furs or Echo And The Bunnymen, who even knew, you know? But anyway, whatever, “Turn It On Again” was a cool Genesis song, even though Peter Gabriel wasn’t there at the time, so here we go, let’s have a look at what’s on this new Peter Gabriel album, and wait a second, two remixed versions of the kickoff single song, “Panopticom,” have been released thus far: the “Bright Side Mix” (done by Mark “Spike” Stent), and the “Dark Side Mix” (mixed by Tchad Blake), both of which were released in January of this year. The Bright Side Mix is OK; the song is important-sounding in a first-world-problems sort of way, studious Gabriel nonsense that’s kind of a chore to listen to, same as always.

Love Minus Zero is a new collaborative project between electro-revival producer Tiga and Scottish producer Hudson Mohawke, who was part of the “wonky” techno scene (think slo-mo dubstep with a lot of distorted, wobbly dance beats) until the end of the Aughts. L’Ecstasy is their forthcoming debut full-length, which spotlights “Love Minus Zero,” a track that’s a few years old, a really cool, hypnotic dance joint combining dubstep, trance and tribal, you’d probably like it.

We Owe is the solo project of Swans’ Christopher Pravdica, whose new LP Major Inconvenience uses such things as autoharp and djembe to make off-kilter tunes like the new “Time Suck,” a woozy, discordant, Throbbing Lobster-ish experiment.

• Lastly we have yet another Bandcamp mess to decipher: When No Birds Sang, a joint-effort album between grindcore outfit Full Of Hell and heavy shoegaze dudes Nothing. “Spend The Grace” is a skronky, apocalyptic, blissed-out noise exercise, but other than that it’s probably fine for bouncy-house parties.

Character Reference

I’m not certain what’s been going on with my dreams lately.

I’m generally a heavy dreamer — most nights will have two or three — but I tend to have a particular menu:

• The one where I’m late for something and it takes me a distressingly long time to pack my suitcase. The longer I look, the more laundry is spread across the floor, most of it mismatched socks.

• The one where I break into the house of somebody I used to know 20 years ago and look for someplace to take a nap.

• The restaurant with a dishwashing area the size of a warehouse, and they start turning the lights off before I’m done with the dishes.

• The one in the world’s largest hotel, with a fantastic view of the ocean.

But for the past week or so, I’ve been having a whopper at some point during the night that is unusually crisp and to the point. It’s almost like one of those TV shows where people accidentally have each other’s dreams.

Last Wednesday, apparently Dream Me got blackout drunk and behaved very badly. The whole dream was different friends and acquaintances filling me in on how much I had disgraced myself. Interestingly, my Dream Friends were not much more responsible than I was:

“You let me DRIVE!!?”

“Well, we weren’t going to miss this!”

Normally I would probably be bothered by this and wonder what was going on with my subconscious, but the night before, I had led a revolution in Polynesia against a supernatural regime, armed with a bar of soap. Soap might not seem like a very effective tool for social change, but my followers were very inspired by it.

Last night, I was involved in a competition between superhero colleges. Students from competing schools kept asking what my superpower was. I’d tell them to slap me as hard as they could, and they’d start to, but something huge and distracting would happen. Finally, one of the other students put together that my superpower was Dodging Fate.

Which is to say, the more I try to figure out what message my brain is trying to send me, the more I need a drink.

Here is a seasonal one that is delicious and fairly straightforward. I wrote a story a few years ago about a girl who was trying to scam her way into a Cranberry Queen beauty pageant. It is called:

The Character Reference

As we all know, character references are, by their nature, deceptive. So is this drink.

  • 2 ounces vodka – this is a good job for Tito’s
  • 1½ ounces triple sec
  • 3 ounces unsweetened cranberry juice
  • seltzer to top, ~3 ounces

Shake the vodka, triple sec and cranberry juice with ice, and strain into a tall glass.

Top with seltzer, and stir gently.

Garnish with an orange wedge and a straw.

This is a lovely, light-tasting highball that, like most character references, neglects to tell you its whole story. Cranberry and orange are another classic combination. The vodka plays its part behind the scenes and will look over its shoulder saying, “Who? Me?” if you go looking for it. Keep in mind, though, that this has three and a half ounces of alcohol in it.

This is an excellent holiday party drink — it looks so lovely that other party guests are likely to ask for a sip, then ask for one of their own. After several people have had several of these, the conversations will get significantly more interesting.

As will your dreams

Featured photo: Character reference. Photo by John Fladd.

The Art Roundup 23/11/30

The latest from NH’s theater, arts and literary communities

Shop the artists: The Picker Artists (3 Pine St. in Nashua; pickerartists.com) will hold their annual holiday open house on Saturday, Dec. 2, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. See the website for a list of the building’s resident artists, who will sell pieces including photography, mixed media, glassware, jewelry and more.

Holly Jolly Folly: The first two of four holiday concerts by the New Hampshire Gay Men’s Chorus will take place this weekend. Check out their “Holly, Jolly, Folly” show on Saturday, Dec. 2, at 7:30 p.m. at Christ the King Lutheran Church (3 Lutheran Drive in Nashua) as well as Sunday, Dec. 3, at 3 p.m. at the Stratham Community Church UCC (6 Emery Lane in Stratham). You can also see them next Saturday, Dec. 9, at 7:30 p.m at the Park Theatre in Jaffrey and on Sunday, Dec. 10, at 3 p.m. at Derryfield School (2108 River Road in Manchester). Tickets cost $25 (ages 12 and under get in free); see nhgmc.com.

Virtual tour: See the works of Art 3 Gallery’s (44 W. Brook St. in Manchester; art3gallery.com, 668-6650) current exhibit “The Power of Art” online in video gallery tours as well as onsite Mondays through Fridays from 1 to 4:30 p.m. The exhibit features paintings, sculptures, photographs, mixed media and more.

Rat Knight: There are still a few days to see Brandon Cable’s exhibit “Rat Knight in Rochester,” which will hang at Carnegie Gallery of the Rochester Public Library (66 S. Main St. in Rochester) featuring the works of Cable, who self-published his first comic book, Rat Knight, described as a “tongue-in-cheek parody with its own unique twist on the thriller and superhero genres,” according to a press release. The exhibit runs through Saturday, Dec. 1, and is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Thursdays through Saturdays (9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays through Wednesdays). See more of Cable’s art at brandoncableart.com. See rochestermfa.org for more on the exhibits of the Rochester Museum of Fine Arts.

Here they come wassailing: The chorus Con Tutti will present a solstice concert, “Here We Come A’Wassailing,” on Saturday, Dec. 2, at 7:30 p.m. at South Church (292 State St. in Portsmouth) featuring songs from Ireland, France, Ukraine, England, Wales, Italy and elsewhere, according to a press release. Tickets cost $20 and are on sale at contutti.org; remaining tickets will be sold at the door (door opens 30 minutes before concert time), the release said.

Paintings and sculptures: An exhibit featuring the contemporary paintings and original ceramic sculptures of Shaune McCarthy will be on display at the Art Center (1 Washington St., Suite 1177, in Dover; theartcenteronlinegallery.com) through Friday, Dec. 30. “Shaune McCarthy gained initial recognition for her intricate figure sculptures showcased in galleries throughout New England. Her transition to painting has marked a distinctive chapter in her career, resulting in a harmonious blend of spontaneity, drama, and vivid patterns that define her contemporary works,” according to a press release.

The Art Center will also feature the works of more than 40 artists in its “Annual Contemporary | Abstract” exhibition, including paintings, collages, mixed media, printmaking, photography and sculptures, according to a press release. Featured artists include Tim Gilbert, Joe Flaherty, Beth Wittenberg, Dawn Boyer, Rebecca Klementovich, Maria “Pep” Manalang, Brian Wagoner (aka Bunkt_) and Brooke Lambert, the release said.

There will be a “Meet the Artist” event on Saturday, Dec. 2, from 6 to 9 p.m. The gallery is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m to 2 p.m.

Music with their mouths: The a capella group Rockapella will perform Friday, Dec. 8, at 7 p.m. at Stockbridge Theatre (44 N. Main St. in Derry; stockbridgetheatre.showare.com, 437-5210). Tickets cost $35 to $40.

Holiday with the Statesmen: The Granite Statesmen, an a capella group singing four-part harmony, will perform their Christmas Chorus on Saturday, Dec. 9, at 7 p.m. at Judd Gregg Hall (Nashua Community College, 505 Amherst St. in Nashua). Tickets cost $20; see granitestatesmen.org.

German-inspired Christmas

Amherst market riffs on the European market tradition

Last year Lindsay Buchanan, with the help of a committee of volunteers, put together a German-inspired Christmas market at the Amherst Village Green. This year the Amherst German Christmas Market will be on Saturday, Dec. 9, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

“The point was to create a Christmas event for my community that would appeal to all ages,” said Buchanan, who was raised in Amherst. “Amherst puts on a really great Fourth of July and Halloween, and I just felt that we could use something for Christmastime.”

With a love for traveling and experiencing other cultures, she landed on the German Christmas market theme. The original German Christmas markets, she said, started during the Middle Ages when people in Germany would go out to buy supplies for the winter. Buchanan stayed true to the outdoor setting and incorporated other European aspects with German goods sold by vendors.

“Our committee works very hard donating their time and we still have a long way to go before we reach our vision,” Buchanan said. “Every year we learn more and make adjustments. … We plan to add more authenticity as the event evolves.”

While shopping is the focus of this event (Buchanan stresses it is not specifically a food event), those looking for some German eats find offerings including German classics such as brats and sauerkraut, potato latkes, currywurst (fried sausage with a sauce with curry powder on top), glüwein (a spiced German wine), lebkuchen (a German gingerbread), and much more.

There will also be a biergarten, live music including German tunes, popular music and Christmas classics, and an appearance from Santa Claus.

Find other food vendors listed on the event’s website, amherstchristmasmarket.org.

Other market items include New England-made crafts and German decor and imports such as star lanterns and nutcrackers. Some of the most popular items include candle bridges, ornaments and smokers.

“Last year we received 8,000 to 10,000 attendees and we designed the event with the expectation we would receive about a third of that, so it was shocking and bewildering to see these really big crowds,” Buchanan said. “A lot of people [reported] they drove in from out of state, so it was much bigger than we could have ever anticipated. … We’re trying to make adjustments with the anticipation of a big crowd again.”

While the word “German” is attached to the title of the event, Buchanan highlights that this event is an American-European hybrid event that is not a recreation of major city markets in Germany, but is simply German-inspired, and that the Amherst German Christmas Market is an entirely volunteer-run nonprofit.

“It’s just so great that so many people want to see this event succeed and are helping to make it happen,” Buchanan said. “To go from just an idea to this huge thing, it’s hard for me to even comprehend. … We appreciate people’s patience and support. … The whole point is to have a good time.”

Amherst German Christmas Market
Where: Amherst Village Green, 2 Main St., Amherst
When: Saturday, Dec. 9, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Featured photo: Amherst German Christmas Market walkway. Photo by Lindsay Buchanan.

The Weekly Dish 23/11/30

News from the local food scene

Holiday wine class: Be sure to have a successful holiday from giving the perfect gift to serving the best flavor at Wine on Main’s (9 Main St., Concord) Winning The Holidays Wine Class on Tuesday, Dec. 5, from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Purchase tickets ($35) at wineonmainnh.com.

Winter centerpiece workshop: Make your own winter farmhouse arrangement with Kara from Enchanted Vines at Pipe Dream Brewing (49 Harvey Road, Londonderry) on Wednesday, Dec. 6, from 6 to 8 p.m. Tickets are $94 and include all necessary materials and one beer. Purchase tickets at enchatedvines.com.

Have breakfast with Santa: The Bedford Event Center (379 River Road, Bedford) hosts its first annual breakfast with Santa on Sunday, Dec. 10, from 9 a.m. to noon. Tickets ($85 for adults, $65 for children) include a hot chocolate station, a breakfast buffet, coffee, tea, juice, craft and coloring activities, the opportunity to meet and take your picture with Santa, a sing-along with Santa and more. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit bedfordeventcenter.com.

Calumet bourbon dinner: Enjoy a five-course dinner with five bourbon expressions on Tuesday, Dec. 12, at 6:30 p.m. at Ya Mas Greek Taverna & Bar (275 Rockingham Park Blvd., Salem). The menu includes charred heirloom beets, blackened pan-seared salmon, chicken tiki masala and a berry tart. Tickets start at $125 and can be purchased via eventbrite.

On The Job – Beth Wallace

Wellness and fitness professional

Beth Wallace is a dietitian, Certified Personal Trainer and the owner of The Yoga & Fitness Loft in Amherst.

Explain your job and what it entails.

I help people feel safe in their bodies. My job starts with creating and maintaining an inviting space with welcoming compassionate people, instructors and clients. I work with clients on individual postural assessments or nutrition intakes to help them better understand their bodies and learn modifications to help them feel their best. I create reports on each client.

How long have you had this job?

I have owned The Yoga & Fitness Loft since 2022 after being fully invested in the fitness and wellness industry since 1998.

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

As a teenager I loved teaching martial arts … Exercise was my life until a broken ankle shifted my focus on how to best honor my body and best support those around me. A degree in nutrition was followed by a job at a hospital with long arduous hours that never resonated with my path. … Collecting fitness and yoga certifications became more than a hobby, and in addition to teaching classes I became the dietitian for New England Gold’s Gyms in 2017. … In 2022 I had the opportunity to step in as owner at The Yoga & Fitness Loft.

What kind of education or training did you need?

The education I received in dietetics is a bachelor of science that required both food service and clinical internships. This has prepared me for all the quick-thinking on-the-job training needed in fitness and business.

What is your typical at-work uniform or attire?

My work attire is the envy of corporate moms. The uniform literally starts with yoga pants topped with comfy sweatshirts and tank tops. When I’m lecturing in person, I’ll pull out the heels and jewelry, but for a Zoom lecture I’ll still discreetly be in my yoga pants.

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

The most challenging thing is consistently not knowing what I don’t know and realizing it will take months to learn well enough to apply, from bookkeeping to search engine optimization to learning and applying yoga mudras.

What do you wish other people knew about your job?

Owning a yoga business is a little more than stretching and saying ‘Om’ on a yoga mat; it’s still running a business.

What was the first job you ever had?

Kids’ martial arts instructor and teen kickboxing instructor.

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

Slow down and pause. We’re all just people.

Five favorites
Favorite book: I am always reading three books at once: self-help, nutrition science and something for fun. Currently it’s Ask and It Is Given.
Favorite movie: What Dreams May Come
Favorite music: Country pop
Favorite food: Grapefruit or anything spicy
Favorite thing about NH: The mountain views of every season

Featured photo: Beth Wallace. Courtesy photo.

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