Party the year away

Music, comedy and more for New Year’s Eve

Here are a few of the parties planned for Sunday, Dec. 31. Know of more? Let us know at

3S Artspace (319 Vaughan St., Portsmouth, 766-3330) $24 and up. Harsh Promadillo is a semi-annual prom-themed dance party; dress loud and have fun with it. A prom king/queen will be crowned. Music from Harsh Armadillo with Adra. 8 p.m.

815 Cocktails & Provisions (815 Elm St., Manchester, $120. Music from DJ Shamblez, Siren of the Circle Burlesque, magic by Benjamin, photo booth, best-dressed contest, door prizes, Champagne toast with open bar menu and small bites. 8 p.m.

Alan’s (133 N. Main St., Boscawen, 753-6631) Hell on Heels plays a variety of music from old to new, rock, country, blues and a few surprises. 8 p.m.

American Legion Post 8 (640 Central Ave., Dover, 742-9710) Live music by Dancing Madly Backwards, full bar, food and snacks, dance floor. 8 p.m.

Artisan Hotel at Tuscan Village (17 Via Toscana, Salem, $175. Sky High Soirée with all-you-can-eat bites, a sparkling welcome and farewell prosecco toast, cash bar, and exclusive rooftop access all night. A few floors down there’s a separate bash with Dueling Pianos starting at 6 p.m. with passed appetizers, fresh raw bar, a grand Tuscan-style Salumi board followed by a three-course sitdown dinner, dessert bar and late-night snacks that will keep the party going until 2024. 6 p.m.

Bowl-O-Rama Family Fun Center (599 Lafayette Road, Portsmouth, $99 per lane package includes shoe rental for up to five people, two hours of unlimited bowling, large one-topping pizza, fountain beverage pitcher, five $5 arcade game cards and party favors. Noon.

Bridgewater Inn (367 Mayhew Turnpike, Bridgewater, 744-3518) Classic rock band Horsepower performs downstairs, with DJ upstairs spinning all night long. $50 per person includes buffet (5:30 to 7:30 p.m.) and party; $20 for party only. Hats & tiaras, noisemakers, beads and Champagne toast. 8 p.m.

The Brook Casino (319 New Zealand Road, Seabrook, $30. Diamonds & Dice New Year’s Eve with special guest DJ Ryan Cabrera. 10:30 p.m.

Buckey’s (240 Governor Wentworth Hwy., Moultonborough, 476-5485) Red Hat Band is back, a tradition at this Lakes Region spot. 9 p.m.

Cercle National Club (550 Rockland Ave., Manchester, 623-8243) Potluck dinner and appetizers with Mugshot Monday playing rock covers at this members club, with Champagne at midnight. 7:30 p.m.

Chop Shop (920 Lafayette Road, Seabrook, 760-7706) AC/DC tribute act Who Made Who performs with country rockers Bulletproof, at a party including hors d’oeuvres, party favors, outdoor fun, and awards for best dressed along with Champagne toast at midnight. 6:30 p.m.

Chunky’s Cinema Pub (707 Huse Road, Manchester, 232-4794) $30. Comedy show starring James Dorsey, Matt Barry and Greg Boggis. 7 p.m.

Chunky’s Cinema Pub (151 Coliseum Ave., Nashua, 880-8055) $30. Comedy show starring Phillip Anthony, Joey Carrol & Pat Napoli. 7 p.m.

Chunky’s Cinema Pub (150 Bridge St., Pelham, 635-7499) $30. Comedy show starring Jody Sloane, Mark Scalia & Dave Decker. 7 p.m.

Colonial Theatre (613 Main St., Laconia, $30. A Very Broadway New Year’s Bash with trivia, social bingo, karaoke, costume contest, dancing and games. Ticket includes light appetizers, Champagne/sparkling cider toast. 7:30 p.m.

Copper Door (15 Leavy Dr., Bedford, 488-2677) Clint Lapointe plays from 4 to 7 p.m., and the restaurant stays open until 11 p.m. Starts at 3 p.m.

Copper Door (42 S. Broadway, Salem, 458-2033) Bella Perrotta plays from 4 to 7 p.m., and the restaurant stays open until 11 p.m. Starts at 3 p.m.

Derryfield (625 Mammoth Road, Manchester, 623-2880) $25. Once again, the Chad LaMarsh Band, a high-energy dance combo with male and female lead vocals, entertains with tunes from the ’60s to now, with Champagne toast at midnight and party favors. 9 p.m.

DoubleTree by Hilton Manchester Downtown (700 Elm St., Manchester, $35 and up. Comedy show starring Ken Rogerson, Tim McKeever, Rob Steen and Alex Giampapa, also separate Dueling Pianos show, dinner/hotel packages available at 6 p.m.

Doubletree by Hilton Nashua (2 Somerset Parkway, Nashua, $149. Food, laughs and dancing, as a multi-course dinner is followed by Boston comics Pete Costello and Dave Russo followed by local favorites Joppa Flats; Champagne toast. 6 p.m.

Eagles Club Concord (36 S. Main St., Concord, 228-8922) Dave Graham performs, non-members signed in. 8 p.m.

Eagles Club Salem (8 Eagles Nest, Salem, 337-8053) $30 and up. Ring in 2024 with the Manhattan Band. 8 p.m.

East Side Club (786 Massabesic St, Manchester, 669-1802) NYE party with DJ Keith. 9 p.m.

Flying Monkey (39 Main St., Plymouth, 536-2551) $49 and up. Standup comedy from Season 12 America’s Got Talent finalist Preacher Lawson. 8 p.m.

Fody’s (9 Clinton St., Nashua, 577-9015) Perfect Entertainment and Captain Morgan Promo Girls bring a 2024 celebration party with live DJ and giveaways. 9 p.m.

Fody’s Derry (187 1/2 Rockingham Road, Derry, 404-6946) DJ Jay and Captain Morgan Promo Girls bring a NYE 2024 celebration with prizes and giveaways. 9 p.m.

The Goat (50 Old Granite St., Manchester, 603-4628) NYE party with Seven Day Weekend is reprised. 8 p.m.

The Goat (142 Congress St., Portsmouth, 658-4628) Rob Pagnano performs at 9 p.m.

Governors Inn Hotel & Restaurant (76 Wakefield Road, Rochester, 332-0107) $85 includes dinner with appetizers and dessert, along with dancing to classic rock and pop cover band Bad Penny. 7:30 p.m.

Grappone Conference Center (70 Constitution Ave., Concord, Disco dinner party with DJ spinning hot tracks all night long. Groove to your favorite tunes and show off your best moves on the dance floor. 7 p.m.

Hermit Woods Winery & Eatery (72 Main St., Meredith, $35 to $45. Begin with a 5:30 p.m. wine tasting, then enjoy jazz singer Ashley Warwick accompanied by Craig Jaster on piano and Brian Warwick on drums. Intermission Champagne toast of Cirque De Strawberry and a special dessert included with ticket. Show ends early, leaving time for another party to ring in 2024. 7 p.m.

Jewel Music Venue (61 Canal St., Manchester, $45. A Big Gay Events production, Studio 24 harkens back to the height of the disco era when Studio 54 was the epicenter of glitz, glam and parties. The soiree is hosted by Pancake and Sasha Stone and Boston DJ Andrea Stamas, with drag from Chi Chi Marvel and CiCi Crystal. 9 p.m.

LaBelle Winery (345 Route 101, Amherst, 672-9898) $145. Three-course plated dinner and music from Freese Brothers Big Band followed by a stroll through the LaBelle Lights. 9 p.m.

Luna Bistro (254 N. Broadway, Salem, $100. Get a head start with an afternoon Dueling Pianos cocktail party that begins with dinner and Rat Pack music from Joey Canzano. Later, it’s passed hors d’oeuvres and a “ball drop” at 4 p.m., followed by more dancing and a raffle drawing. 6 p.m.

Lynn’s 102 Tavern (76 Derry Road, Hudson, 943-7832) Crave rocks out at this annual bash. 8:30 p.m.

Murphy’s Carriage House (393 Route 101, Bedford, 488-5875) $40. Comedy show with Bob Niles, Amy Tee, E.J. Murphy and Eric Hurst. 8 p.m.

Murphy’s Taproom (494 Elm St., Manchester, $30. Comedy show with Chris D., Joe Espinola and host Jack Lombardo. 8 p.m.

Music Hall Loft (131 Congress St., Portsmouth, 433-3100) $35. After outdoor First Night festivities, high-energy string band Rockspring performs, with a midnight Champagne toast. 10 p.m.

Nan King Restaurant (222 Central St., Hudson, 882-1911) Patty’s Energizer Karaoke rings in the new year. Have dinner and sing your favorite song. 7:30 p.m.

Nashua Center for the Arts (201 Main St., Nashua, $39. Juston McKinney’s Year in Review debuts at the region’s newest venue. 8 p.m.

New London Barn Playhouse (88 Main St., New London, 526-6710) $175. Curated dinner menu, Champagne and an assortment of drinks, and entertainment including Alec Michael Ryan, Hannah Hunt and Cara Rose DiPietro from the 2019 Acting Intern Company. 6 p.m.

Palace Theatre (80 Hanover St., Manchester, 668-5588) Recycled Percussion is again home for the holidays. Ring in 2024 with junk rock, two shows, 3 and 4:30 p.m.

Pats Peak Ski Area (686 Flanders Road, Henniker, 728-7732) New Year’s fireworks (slopes close at 8:45 p.m.) and dancing to The McMurphy’s in the Sled Pub. No NYE party. Night lift tickets start at 4 p.m., last call 10:30 p.m.

Pembroke Pines Country Club (42 Whittemore Road, No. 3128, Pembroke, $160. Comedy from Mike Koutrobis with dancing and food. Buffet starts at 6:30 p.m., comedy at 8 p.m., followed by dancing until midnight with a Champagne toast.

Portsmouth Gas Light (64 Market St., Portsmouth, 430-9122) Winter Wonderland party on the third floor, passed hors d’oeuvres, Champagne toast, late-night buffet, giveaways, with VIP packages available. 8 p.m.

Red’s Kitchen & Tavern (530 Lafayette Road, Seabrook, 760-0030) Live music by Redemption Band, cocktails, food and more. 8 p.m.

Rex Theatre (23 Amherst St., Manchester, 668-5588) $30. Two shows from comedian Jimmy Dunn, at 7:30 and 9 p.m.

Riley’s Place (22 Mt. Vernon St., Milford, 325-2177) $10. Soultown Band plays the best of Motown, with soup-to-nuts dinner sold separately (make reservations). 9 p.m.

Rockingham Ballroom (22 Ash Swamp Road, Newmarket, $40. With a theme of Retro Fantasy, it’s dancing all night on the area’s largest dance floor. DJ host Johnny B Groovy and his Soul Sister. Party favors, healthy late-night food and dessert table, midnight glass of Champagne. 8 p.m.

Saddle Up Saloon (92 Route 125, Kingston, 369-6962) $25. Ring in the new year with live music from Bite the Bullet; tickets include a midnight pizza buffet. 8 p.m.

Shaskeen (909 Elm St., Manchester, 625-0246) All-inclusive Epic New Year’s Bash with 200 tickets sold covering a dinner buffet, midnight Champagne toast, live DJ and open bar (no shots). The club will be closed to anyone without tickets (21+ only). 8 p.m.

Skymeadow Country Club (6 Mountain Laurels Dr., Nashua, $110. Dinner and comedy with Mark Scalia and Joey Carroll, along with DJ dancing ($50 without dinner). 6:30 p.m.

Soho Bistro (20 Old Granite St., Manchester, 222-1677) $21. Masquerade gala promises the hottest crowd, dazzling beauties and epic music with entertainment from Medio Pollo. 9 p.m.

Stone Church (5 Granite St., Newmarket, 659-7700) $20. A Very Max Chase New Year’s Eve featuring Superfrog, Amulus, and The Chops. 6 p.m.

Strand Ballroom (20 Third St., Dover, 343-1899) $50 and up. Comedy with Dave Sheehan, followed by ’80s tribute act Neon Wave, with finger foods and midnight toast. 7 p.m.

Sweeney Post No. 2 (251 Maple St., Manchester) Live music from Stray Dogs, with a potluck dinner, so bring an app, favorite dish or dessert to share. 8 p.m.

Tower Hill Tavern (264 Lakeside Ave., Laconia, 366-9100) DJ Kadence hosts NYE party. 8 p.m.

Tupelo Music Hall (10 A St., Derry, 437-5100) Adam Ezra Group and opening duo dynamo Sirsy play with a four-course dinner at 5:30 p.m. for $95; 9 p.m. show only is $45, and all tickets include a Champagne toast.

Wally’s Pub (144 Ashworth Ave., Hampton, 926-6954) Scott Brown & the Diplomats with Highway 20 Fried provide the live music at this epic bash. 9 p.m.

Featured photo: Behind the Seams: My Life in Rinestones by Dolly Parton

The Music Roundup 23/12/21

Local music news & events

Hometown bash: The Concord scene celebrates the holiday as Lucas Gallo & the Guise hold forth for a jammy night of music. The group includes Gallo and JamAntics mates Eric Reingold and Freeland Hubbard, along with Curtis Marden. Expect some of Gallo’s solo tunes and a few numbers from his old band among the upbeat jams at this party; surprise guests are a foregone conclusion. Thursday, Dec. 21, 7:30 p.m., Penuche’s Ale House, 16 Bicentennial Square, Concord. See

Holiday laughs: It’s a little bit of everything as comedian Kelly MacFarland hosts a seasonal soiree that promises holiday glow-ups, last-minute gift ideas, giveaways, a Yankee swap and an ugly sweater contest. Of course, there’s standup, with a lineup rounded out by Kathe Farris, Emily Ruskowski and Dan Crohn. MacFarland had an eventful year that included the supergroup Mother of a Comedy Show. Friday, Dec. 22, 7:30 p.m., Rex Theatre, 23 Amherst St., Manchester, $25 at

Wishful fashion: Now in its 19th year, the Ugly Christmas Sweater Party is a fundraiser for Make-A-Wish’s New Hampshire chapter. To date, the annual event has amassed over a quarter million dollars for the charity. Entertainment happens in three locations, with DJ Terry Moran in the function room, beloved rockers Never in Vegas on the main room stage, and D-Comp playing outside. Saturday, Dec. 23, 7 pm., Derryfield Country Club, 625 Mammoth Road, Manchester, $20 at

Maine thing: A two-day, three-show run capped by a couple of New Year’s Eve performances from Bob Marley is further proof that along with being a king of the region’s comedy circuit, he’s probably the busiest funny man in the country. Tuesday, Dec. 26, 8 p.m., Rochester Opera House, 31 Wakefield St., Rochester, $42.50 at

Celtic twist: Few bands connect with their audience quite like Enter the Haggis. A loyal “Haggis Head” fanbase has rewarded them, crowdfunding their last four albums. Bagpipe- and fiddle-forward, ETH blends the storytelling of traditional Celtic music with high-energy rock and rhythm. Wednesday, Dec. 27, 8 p.m., 3S Artspace, 319 Vaughan St., Portsmouth, $25 and up at

Chicken nuggets and naughty elves

A look at new family films

Need to entertain an all-ages crowd? There are several new streaming movies geared at family audiences — though the exact ages of who is in that audience may vary.

Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget (PG) is probably good for most elementary schoolers and up (Common Sense Media pegs it at 7+), though it is a movie with chicken heroes and chicken nugget-making villains, so be forewarned if you have picky eaters and you don’t want to knock nuggets off an already small list of acceptable foods.

The original Chicken Run came out forever ago in 2000, but in the time of the movie it hasn’t been quite as long. The original crew of chickens who Great Escaped from Tweedy Farm now live a pleasant life on an island well away from people. Coop leader chicken Ginger (now voiced by Thandiwe Newton) and American rooster Rocky (now voiced by Zachary Levi) have a little chick of their own — Molly (Bella Ramsey), who as the real action of the movie gets going is a teenager chicken. She gazes longingly at the land across the water, especially when she sees a brightly colored truck for Fun Land Farm — a happy chicken has his very own bucket and is giving two thumbs up. Against her parents’ wishes, Molly decides to find out what Fun Land is all about and manages to get on a truck with her new friend Frizzle (voice of Josie Sedgwick-Davies). Ginger and Rocky and a gang of chickens are in hot pursuit and when it becomes clear where she’s gone — and that “Fun Land Farm” is a terrifying, nugget-making megafactory — they organize an attempt to break her out.

This sequel has the same British sweetness and can-do spirit of the previous Chicken Run (even if it doesn’t feel quite as clever) and other Aardman movies, though it isn’t quite as gentle as Shaun the Sheep outings. It’s a plucky adventure with enjoyable visuals. (B+, Netflix)

The Bad Guys: A Very Bad Holiday(TV-Y7) is set earlier in the Bad Guy timeline than the 2022 movie, back when the crew was still bad: Mr. Wolf (voice of Michael Godere), Snake (voice of Chris Diamantopoulos), Mr. Shark (voice of Ezekiel Ajeigbe) and Ms. Tarantula (voice of Mallory Low) — bad and not being voiced by their bigger-name movie actors. The crew is looking forward to their traditional Christmas Day heisting of loot, when the city is too focused on celebrating to notice. But then they accidentally destroy a beloved Christmas parade balloon, essentially crushing the holiday spirit of the city. Thus, in order to be able to rob on Christmas, they must first “save Christmas.” At a brisk 22 minutes, this lightweight bit of naughtiness and fun entertained my elementary-school-age kids even if it doesn’t have quite the cleverness or the finesse of the feature. (B, Netflix)

New Hampshire’s own Adam Sandler is the star voice and one of the writers on Leo (PG), a full-length (an hour and 42 minutes) animated movie about two classroom pets: Leo (voice of Sandler) the lizard and Squirtle (voice of Bill Barr) the turtle. Leo has ticked through the years eating lettuce while watching decades of fifth-graders go by, dreaming about life outside. Then he overhears a dad guess that lizards only live about 75 years; figuring he’s about 74, Leo is suddenly desperate to see the world. When a new teacher forces kids to bring home the school pets over the weekend, Leo sees a chance to escape. But instead he finds himself doing the thing animals aren’t supposed to do — he talks to human child Summer (voice of Sunny Sandler), who has trouble fitting in with the other kids. He helps her improve her conversation skills and make friends. He returns to the classroom determined to make a break for it the next week but soon finds that he likes talking with the kids during his weekends at their houses and enjoys helping them with their problems. The movie is peppered with strange but charming Adam Sandler songs — in one, to tell a girl she should stop crying, he croons “boo-freaking-hoo”; it’s weird but I liked it? Which is my overall feeling about this movie — it’s funny and also weirder and kinder than you’d expect. For my kids, the movie was comedy gold; they cracked up frequently. (Small note of caution: one song does have fifth grader wistfully singing about the joys of being age 9, when he used to leave out cookies and milk.) (B, Netflix)

Merry Little Batman (13+), like all Batman properties, feels older and darker than the vaguely Captain Underpants-ish cartooniness of the animation would suggest. Batman long ago ended crime in Gotham and thus Bruce Wayne (voice of Luke Wilson) hasn’t donned the Batsuit in quite a while; he spends all his time with his 8-year-old son Damian (voice of Yonas Kibreab). When a surprise call for superhero assistance lures Bruce out to Nova Scotia on Christmas Eve, Damian is left with a sleepy Alfred (voice of James Cromwell) at Wayne Manor. A chance burglary becomes something of a Home Alone situation, with Damian donning a paper bag Batman mask and makeshift cape to protect his home and, most importantly, the junior utility belt his dad gave him. Soon Damian is heading in to Gotham with a Batsuit of his own attempting to retrieve his belt from the thieves while the Joker (voice of David Hornsby), who is of course behind the initial theft, gets a more dastardly idea than just city-wide present-purloining after seeing the chaos Damian visits on his henchmen. I enjoyed the animation style here and the relatively sweeter Batman story but I would definitely save this for the tweens and up (B, Prime Video).

Getting into some live-action offerings, Genie(PG) features sad-dad Bernard (Paapa Essiedu) having lost his job due to the jerkiness of his boss (Alan Cumming), and alienated his family, wife Julie (Denee Benton) and young daughter Eve (Jordyn McIntosh), due to overwork. Sitting in his apartment alone, he glumly rubs the dust off an old jewelry and out pops Flora (Melissa McCarthy), a genie. She tells him the “three wishes” of lore are a myth — he gets unlimited wishes! Once she convinces him of her powers, he sets about trying to use his wishes to win back his family, accidentally getting in some light art-theft trouble along the way. The movie is sweet; McCarthy is good as a knowledgeable-but-distractable style of genie. (B-, Peacock or available for purchase).

Family Switch(PG) also trods familiar ground, with a family that feels disconnected from each other and find themselves Freaky Friday-ed after a run-in with a twinkly Rita Moreno. Mom Jess (Jennifer Garner) wakes up in the body of soccer star teen CC (Emma Myers) and vice versa; dad Bill (Ed Helms) swaps with 14-year-old son Wyatt (Brady Noon), and baby Miles (Lincoln and Theodore Sykes) swaps with the dog. That last swap has nice comedy potential — it’s hard at times to know whether we’re supposed to think the baby or the dog is smarter. The kid/parent swaps feature familiar beats about the olds trying to relate to “fellow teens” and the kids trying to pull off adultness. There are some nice moments of comedy: teens in the parent bodies wonder why they’re exhausted at like 7 p.m. and why everything close up is so blurry; the dad suddenly in his son’s body says he feels like Spider-Man in that he can run without cramping up. It’s cute but it also drags and there’s more talking than hijinks. (C+, Netflix)

The magic in Candy Cane Lane(PG)is also of the trickster nature: dad Chris Carver (Eddie Murphy) inadvertently signs a contract with naughty elf Pepper (Jillian Bell) for enchanted Christmas decorations in his attempt to win a big cash prize in a neighborhood holiday decorating contest. The “12 days of Christmas”-themed tree he buys features “lords a leaping” and the like that come alive and he must retrieve the “gold rings” in order to keep from joining Pepper’s collection of tiny Christmas village figurines — previous victims voiced by Nick Offerman, Chris Redd and Robin Thede. Eventually Chris has to bring wife Carol (Tracee Ellis Ross) and kids Joy (Genneya Walton), Nick (Thaddeus J. Mixson) and Holly (Madison Thomas) in on his unfortunate bargain. There are moments of nice holiday zaniness and geese-a’layin-related humor and David Alan Grier is a fun Santa Claus. (B-, Amazon Prime Video)

The Family Plan (PG-13) is decidedly an older teens and up movie but it has a goopier family movie sensibility, making it for — no one? Mark Wahlberg is Dan — suburban car salesman and dad of baby Max (Vienna and Iliana Norris) and teens Nina (Zoe Colletti) and Kyle (Van Crosby) and loving husband to Jessica (Michelle Monaghan). Before he became all that, though, he was a government assassin. When worlds collide he must first fight a dude in the supermarket while Max is Bjorn-ed to him and then trick his family into a “Las Vegas road trip yay!” that is really a meetup to get passports for new identities for them all. Along the way he has to fight off henchmen — discreetly — while trying to get up the nerve to tell his family about his past. Meanwhile, they are each dealing with issues of their own: Kyle is secretly a video game-playing superstar and Nina is a snotty jerk because of a clearly terrible boyfriend. The movie is too violent for younger kids and kinda too boring for anybody else. (C, Apple TV+)

Featured photo: Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget.

Eat, Poop, Die, by Joe Roman

Eat, Poop, Die, by Joe Roman (Little, Brown Spark, 253 pages)

One of the most fascinating and underrated places on the planet is Surtsey, an island off the southern coast of Iceland born in the 1960s. This land mass, the product of a volcanic eruption, was hoisted above water as if offered on a platter by Poseiden himself, offering scientists the chance to study how life develops on an inhospitable slab of rock.

It turns out that despite the grandest theories of theologians and biologists, life — on this rock, anyway — needed something humble, and kind of gross, for it to emerge and take root. It needed excrement. It was nitrogen deposited on Surtsey via the waste of visiting seabirds that began the alchemy that led to vegetation growing on the island, leading to more animals colonizing the virgin island.

The story of Surtsey and its remarkable development over the past half century begins Eat, Poop, Die, Joe Roman’s surprisingly engaging study of how the most basic of functions contributes to the world’s ecology. The book’s crude title and attendant jokes (“Perfect bathroom reading” reads one commendation on Roman’s website) detract from the seriousness of the work, and its elegance. That said, it takes some work to get the average reader interested in how excrement and rotting corpses power the planet, so perhaps a little levity (including a sideways photo of the author on the book jacket) was necessary.

Roman, a scholar at the Gund Institute for Environment at the University of Vermont, can tell you more about whale poop than you want to know: for example, “In addition to being rich in nitrogen and phosphorus, the concentration of iron in whale poop is more than ten million times greater than in the surrounding seawater in the Southern Ocean.”

Whales’ nutrient-rich excrement helps nourish microscopic animals, and when whales die and their carcasses sink to the ocean floor, they create a habitat called “whale fall” which is ecologically important because, as Roman writes, “The abyssal seafloor is a vast nutrient-poor desert.” When whales are hunted to near extinction, or stranded on beaches and their corpses blown up with explosives, the natural order is disrupted in a way that is no less destructive because it is invisible to humans.

Similarly, Roman looks at the surprising connection between salmon and forest growth in Alaska and the Pacific Northwest. What do fish have to do with trees? A lot, it turns out, when the fish are the favorite meal of bears who live in those forests, as well as other creatures that eat salmon, such as eagles, mink, coyotes and wolves.

Scientists are able to determine where nitrogen in plant life originates by a chemical signature that varies by flora and fauna. And there are researchers whose jobs involve comparing the trees next to streams full of salmon with trees that grow next to salmon-less rivers. Spoiler alert: The salmon-adjacent trees “grew faster and taller — which was good for the salmon, as more shade and large woody debris provided cooler summer temperatures and river structure that aided in salmon reproduction and growth.”

The reason, scientists speculate, is the marine-derived nitrogen in the fish gets distributed in the forest through bear excrement. “The salmon life cycle and the massive pulse of nutrients the fish deliver are crucial aspects of forest ecosystems. The trees, streams, and salmon are all connected.”

Roman writes not just from a desk but from deep in the field. For his chapter on salmon he visits a salmon research station in Alaska; he travels to Surtsey, and to Yellowstone National Park to observe how the reintroduction of wolves changed the ecosystem there. As one sign in the park explains it, “Although wolves do not directly affect all life around them, their effects possibly tumble down the entire food chain. This hypothesis is called a ‘trophic cascade.’”

And don’t count the buffalo out — they have roles as groundskeepers, with their excrement depositing nitrogen and phosphorus into the soil. As bison disappeared on the prairies, so did their natural fertilization. Roman interviews a Native American who calls bison “eco-engineers” because in addition to the nutrients they leave behind, they plow the fields with their hooves. This is not a book for reading while you’re eating lunch, as I learned when coming across something called the Bristol Stool Chart, an illustrated scale of the variety of human feces, used by medical practitioners. And of course, human excrement is addressed here; mammals defecate about 1 percent of their body weight every day, with humans making about two trillion pounds of waste each year, much of which is not contributing in a positive way to the planet’s ecology. But some is — I learned, with some dismay, that some people fertilize their gardens with their own urine. (It’s called “pee-cycling,” and yes, Roman tried it, although fist bump to his family who wouldn’t let him set up the system at home or use it in their garden. Instead his urine went to a pee-cycling center in Brattleboro, Vermont.)

But the bulk of the book is about non-human animals and the largely unnoticed role their bodily functions serve in our world. While Roman is careful to note that some of the theories he writes about are unproven, he makes a convincing case that when animal populations shrink, we’d best pay attention, because there are costs other than not being able to see a certain species anymore. In centuries past, for example, John James Audubon famously described migrating pigeons as blocking out the sun; others have described rivers so dense with salmon that you could walk across the water on top of the fish.

Roman believes that replenishing depleted populations is “one of the best nature-based tools we have to face the climate crisis. Wild animals, through their movements and behaviors — their eating, pooping and dying — can help rebuild ecosystems, recycle and redistribute nutrients, keep the planet a little cooler, and address the biodiversity crisis.” We need to “rewild the world,” he says, in a conclusion that is more of an op-ed than a science book. Having established himself as an authority on poop, who are we to argue? It’s a fine book for animal lovers, climate warriors and science geeks, but otherwise may struggle to find an audience. B

Album Reviews 23/12/21

Dollyrots, “Auld Lang Syne” (Wicked Cool Records)

I absolutely hate New Year’s Eve. It’s the last celebratory moment before everything freezes here in New England for a good four or fifty months, and in honor of that, the lowest-tier 20something-age drinkers are out and about, having fun while we marrieds try to stay awake till midnight as if we’re somehow relevant. I’m basking in a little joy here, though: Finally a holiday record darkens my emailbox, after I’d given up hope (I probably missed like 20 of them, and I do apologize to any PR person who sent me news about one I absentmindedly deleted), and look at this, it’s a husband-wife punk team (the lady plays bass and sings, hubby does the guitars) who used to be on Joan Jett’s Blackheart Records label, doing everyone’s — OK, my, after “O Holy Night” and “Feliz Navidad” — least favorite holiday song. It starts out semi-seriously, as tedious as any other rock version you’ve heard, then it moves to a sort-of-fast tempo, nothing too wild, just something they’re probably hoping will make it onto a rom-com soundtrack, mostly to be annoying. I have no idea why I bothered with this at all. C

Various “Artists,” Yule Log Jamz: The World’s Hottest Wood Burning Sounds (Pretty Good Friends Records)

Fine, if I’m going to get trolled, I’m passing it along to my thousands of readers. This looked to me like a holiday record, but actually it’s a variation on the virtual “Yule log,” or “crackling fireplace” that can be found on Netflix and elsewhere. Pretty Good Friends is a comedy label, not that I can for the life of me remember reviewing one of their comedy albums, and I’m (all together now) too lazy to look, but yeah, it’s kind of funny in its way. This consists of videotapes of 11 different log fires from different countries, with no talking or anything, including “the party-pumping flames of Germany, the polite crackles of Canada, and the hygge-hysterical hotness of Sweden. Plus New Zealand lit up some Manuka wood like you’ve never heard it before!!” Anyway, you can find it at, where you can pay $5 to own it forever, or just be normal and cheap and simply stream the YouTube version at their channel. They also offer a festive “Smells Like Something’s Burning” soy candle if you have $15 that you don’t figure you’d ever otherwise use under any circumstances whatsoever ever. A


A seriously abridged compendium of recent and future CD releases

• Oh by gosh by golly, it’s time for no new CDs to come out on Friday, Dec. 22, just like every year on the last Friday before ChristmaKwanzaKkah! I’ll tell you, hopelessness abounds, fam, hopelessness abounds, I’ll bet there are like zero new albums coming out for me to talk about here, and I’ll have to resort to riffing about how I couldn’t find candy canes at Walmart the other week to put on my HannuChristmaKwanazaa tree! There were literally none, which was insane, but if you want to read the whole story you’ll have to “friend” me on Facebook, but be patient; I usually only get around to checking my Facebook notifications once a month, as long as the month has a full moon in it somewhere. Oh, forget it, it’s no use, I’m going to do the dutiful and look for some albums to write about for all you good little boys and girls, you deserve a big huge ChrisHannuKwan cookie of snark, and by the gods, I will deliver, you’re just going to have to give me a minute to find something! (20 minutes later) Ack, ack, there’s nothing anywhere! Let me check Amazon, maybe Jeff Bezos isn’t too busy building his giant toy NASA to let us poor music journos know about some new albums! Wait, here’s one, from Conway the Machine and Wun Two, whoever in tarnation that is, it’s a new album, titled Palermo! This project unites Buffalo, N.Y., rapper Conway the Machine and German lo-fi producer Wun Two. The sample track I decided to, you know, sample, was “Brick By Brick,” a good example of awkward downtempo weirdness, over which Conway spits a bunch of venomous but unadventurous prattle while rapping like he’s eating a meatball sub. It’s cool, don’t get me wrong.

• I’ll tell ya, folks, for ultimate weirdness, you can’t do much better than Louisville, Kentucky’s Bo Daddy Harris, who as a kid wanted to grow up to become a superstar of something-anything. Hey, man, like I always say, if you can’t make the Who’s Who, you can always try for the What-The-Heck-Was-That, and guess what, he succeeded, folks! He continues his tradition of What-The-Heck-Was-That-ness on his new album, It’s a Southern Thing, and it’s always trippy to see him do his thing, singing his weird country tunes in that — voice of his. The closest experience I can think of to watching him sing one of his old-school country songs in his super-low weirdo voice — which you’d never expect to hear coming out of him, being that he looks like a typical Zoomer incel who’s employed at an Apple store talking to boomers about technology despite the fact that he wouldn’t know an embedded operating system from Jethro Clampett — was the first time I saw Gomer Pyle sing opera like Placido Domingo, but that’s OK! He tried doing comedy but that didn’t pan out, so obviously he was born for this, being a cross between Hank Williams Sr. and Tom Waits. Seriously, go check out one of his YouTubes, you’ll melt down completely.

• Ack, ack, there’s nothing but metal albums left, fam, except for some other CD that we’ll get to in a minute. Let’s see, we have the snobbily named Colombian thrash band Funeral Vomit, with their new album, Monumental Putrescence, which I guarantee would make a great gift for your grandma, and U.K. act Ulfarr, with their new one, Orlegscaeft! Ulfarr wears spooky eye makeup, so proceed with caution!

• We’ll vamoose for the week after one more, This Is New Tone, the new compilation LP from Bad Time Records! One of the sample tracks is “Better Home” by We Are The Union; it’s a frenzied ska-punk track that will appeal to millennials who thought Sublime were too wimpy and boring, which, of course, they were.

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