Ivory dreams

Dueling piano bar new in Manchester

Sonya Gelinas embodies the spirit of an entrepreneur. She and her husband, Josh Philbrick, run The Smoothie Bus, a mobile business that now has brick-and-mortar locations. Gelinas is also CEO of CARE Counseling Services, with offices in New Hampshire and Massachusetts, and she’s one of the company’s therapists.

So when Gelinas strolled past the former Black Brimmer in downtown Manchester a few years back and imagined turning it into a dueling pianos bar, it was inevitable that she’d see the idea through to fruition. When Penuche’s shuttered, she and Josh began to make a move.

On May 2, Keys Piano Bar & Grill had its soft opening; a bigger celebration will happen later. For now, every Friday and Saturday has a pair of pianists playing audience requests, bantering and leading sing-alongs to favorites like “Friends In Low Places.” There’s also a spinning wheel containing several NSFW stunts.

Gelinas became a fan of dueling pianos while she was attending college in Tampa, Florida, where she regularly went to Howl at the Moon, a chain of bars. “I had so much fun, so those memories are embedded in my mind forever,” she said during an interview in Keys’ downstairs sports bar.

She’s looking to recreate that feeling at Keys.

“We want to be in line with what Howl at the Moon has created. We want a very interactive experience,” she said. “We want to have a place where people can go out and sing along and have fun and interact with the pianist…. That’s our goal, really, just a lot of audience participation.”

When she first began dreaming about opening Keys, Gelinas wanted a franchised version of the place she fell in love with in Tampa. “I said, I’m going to turn that into a Howl at the Moon one of these days. But Howl at the Moon doesn’t franchise, so we couldn’t do that. We had to build our own,” she said.

A Manchester native — she graduated from Central High in 2001 — Gelinas has a sentimental streak for the energy at the old “Brimmer” and hopes to bring it back.

“I’ve heard a lot of stories,” she said. “We had one couple come in, and they’re like, do you know we met here? Twenty years ago, we met here at the Brimmer. That’s really cool … it is kind of a hallowed space.”

Keys has launched a Caribbean-themed menu with jerk chicken, a Cubano sandwich and Island Fusion Tacos among the dishes. Also, they offer an adult take on the couple’s daytime business.

“We have eight different frozen boozy smoothies, which will be nice on a hot summer day,” Gelinas said.

Shows are free, but the only way to guarantee a seat at the bar is by signing up on the Keys website. Every performance is preceded by a party. “People can come in and eat during that time or have a couple drinks,” Gelinas said. “That way when the show’s on they’re just ready to have fun.”

A rotating cast of performers is provided by Shake, Rattle and Roll Pianos, a New York City agency.

“Every weekend we can expect a different combination, which makes it really exciting, but these aren’t just pianists, they’re entertainers,” she said. “That’s what makes them special. I’ve been to enough dueling piano shows to know that the personality of the guy behind the keys is way more important than whether or not they can play or sing.”

Keys Piano Bar & Grill has a lot in common with the couple’s other ventures.

“We build businesses based [on] passion,” Gelinas said. “My husband and I were really fond of helping people live happier lives, which is perfectly in line with the smoothie shop…. I know when I drink a smoothie every day I feel good. My health care business is about making people better. Now we have this venue, which is all about bringing people together, in happiness and fun.”

Dueling Pianos
When: Fridays and Saturdays (pre-party 6:30 p.m., show 7:30 p.m.)
Where: Keys Piano Bar & Grill, 1087 Elm St., Manchester
Tickets: keysmanch.com

Featured photo: Courtesy photo.

The Music Roundup 24/05/30

Local music news & events

Bucolic: Now that the weather is improving, a Word Barn concert starring Ryan Montbleau happens outdoors in their meadow for the first time this season. A few years ago, Montbleau made a series of records titled Wood, Fire, Water and Air, with the final song of the last disc offering a sense of closure and peace. Musician and artist Dan Blakeslee will open. Thursday, May 30, 7 p.m., The Word Barn Meadow, 66 Newfields Road, Exeter, $15 and up at portsmouthnhtickets.com.

Quirky: Purposeful, political and widely varied in musical approach, Bella’s Bartok is a band that defies description. On “Graveyard Funk” they build on a “Monster Mash” drum riff for a masterful bit of horror funk, while “Into the Woods” is an eerie gothic waltz. The band is part of a terrific double bill, with Seacoast-based Bitter Pill opening with a special brand “rhythm and bluegrass.” Friday, May 31, 8 p.m., Bank of NH Stage, 16 S. Main St., Concord, $23.75 at ccanh.com.

Fab: Spanning the eras, home-grown tribute act Beatlejuice performs. Originally led by Brad Delp until his death in 2007, the reverent cover band carries on with changing members, all with long resumes in the regional music scene. They delight in doing Beatles songs from “Love Me Do” to “Paperback Writer,” with drummer John Muzzy perched behind a genuine “Ringo” kit. Saturday, June 1, 7:30 pm., Rex Theatre, 23 Amherst St., Manchester, $29 at palacetheatre.org.

Reflective: When he performed in the Lakes Region a year ago, John Hiatt brought the band behind Slow Turning, the follow-up to his breakout album, Bring the Family. This time, he plays solo. Sunday, June 2, 7 p.m., Colonial Theatre, 609 Main St., Laconia, $49 and up at etix.com.

Doomy: A twilight show at a growing craft brewery has five acts, led by VRSA, a New Haven band making its Concord debut. The title track of its latest album, Saltwater Circadian, echoes early Black Sabbath at the outset, then morphs into a bullhorn, slash and burn affair, great stuff. Also on the bill are Manchester-based Hobo Wizard, Komodo, BÜZÊM and Evil Bong. Tuesday, June 4, 6 p.m., Feathered Friend Brewing, 231 S. Main St, Unit 2, Concord. More at songkick.com.

Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga (R)

A young girl is stolen from a “place of abundance” and introduced into the harsh world of post-apocalyptic Australia in Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga, a downbeat and fairly unnecessary origin story for the character played by Charlize Theron in Mad Max: Fury Road.

I mean, I assume it’s Australia, because of the accents and the Mad Max of it all.

As we learned in Fury Road, Furiosa (Alyla Browne as a kid, Anya Taylor-Joy as an older angrier girl) grew up in the “green place” in a world (or, at least, an Australia) that was otherwise a war-torn, resource-scarce desert. Due to some technical difficulties at the theater I went to, I missed the first few minutes of the movie and started watching as young girl Furiosa is thrown over the seat of some marauding grungy dude’s motorcycle. Her mother (Charlee Fraser) goes after her, both to save Furiosa and to prevent the three grungy bikers who are stealing her away from telling anybody about their hidden fertile land. With the help of a resourceful Furiosa, her mom is able to eventually kill all the kidnappers before they can tell the secrets of the “place of abundance” as they describe it. But she can’t get to Furiosa before the girl is taken to Dementus (Chris Hemsworth, thoroughly de-handsomed with some fun prosthetics), the biker gang leader. Furiosa won’t give up her homeland’s location, even when he is torturing her mother, but Dementus decides to keep her around, perhaps hoping that one day she might lead him there.

Eventually Dementus hears about another “place of abundance” — the Citadel run by Immortan Joe (Lachy Hulme), the skull-face-breathing-mask guy from Fury Road. Dementus decides he and his gang will take it over but his first attempt fails in the face of Joe’s overwhelming force of War Boys. He hatches a craftier scheme to gain control of Gasland, one of the wasteland fortresses and the source of fuel for Joe’s empire. Eventually, Dementus makes a deal with Joe for him (Dementus) to run Gasland in exchange for Joe getting Furiosa as one of his eventual brides. Furiosa is still a kid, mostly non-talking, when this deal is made, and after a few days of watching a childbirth and trying to dodge Joe’s creeper sons (Josh Helman, Nathan Jones) she runs off and hides among the mechanics at the Citadel, posing as a boy.

Years later, when she has grown into Taylor-Joy, Furiosa becomes a worker on a newly crafted War Rig. After a battle with raiders during the initial run, the truck’s driver Praetorian Jack (Tom Burke) realizes: that Furiosa is a badass during a fight, that Furiosa is a girl and that he rather likes this badass girl. They do food-for-fuel runs together, with Furiosa hiding her rage toward Dementus until his growing recklessness puts him in direct conflict with Immortan Joe — and eventually with her.

In Fury Road it was Theron doing the big, interesting performance; here it’s Hemsworth. Not unlike Mad Max, Dementus lost his family — a stuffed animal that belonged to his long-gone children is always strapped somewhere to his person. He seems to cause chaos and suffering not for any particular thrill but because it’s something to do. Likewise, his interest in seizing power seems more like a nonchalant troll than an ambition for leadership. Hemsworth, the actor, seems to enjoy the scruffy unprettiness of his character.

His general rightness for the role unfortunately highlights the “not quite” fit of Taylor-Joy with the Furiosa role. Or maybe it’s the role that’s just not that exciting. Something about the character just doesn’t quite have the same pull as in Fury Road.

Also not quite standing up to the predecessor for me are the visual elements. Though one of Furiosa’s more successful components, they don’t quite smack you in the face the way they did in Fury Road. I do think the fact that we’ve seen this desert wasteland and the mutant-like people who populate it before — all dirt-caked and weird hats and the whole War Boy body paint thing — reduces the wow factor. Also, you know, it’s more sand. The second Dune maybe filled my “the beautiful wasteland of sand dunes” needs for a while.

I said about Fury Road that it was a B movie with first-class movie visuals, and that is true here. The B-movie-ness pokes through constantly and it’s a not unfun aspect of the movie. I don’t know if it’s a sense of humor, exactly, but the movie definitely has a smirky quality that when paired with the stop-motion-y-speedy-closeup thing does give you that overall “schlocky in a good way” vibe. At 90-ish minutes, this would be kind of a bummer romp — all despair and ruin but with hints of camp. At its actual two-hour-and-nearly-30-minute run time, it’s got more of a saga feel, yes, but in the slog sense rather than the “sweeping epic adventure and drama” sense. I feel like this movie, like the cobbled together cars in it, should get me in the audience all revved up and “ha, let’s go, crazy racers!” Instead, I felt more grumpy, more “OK, movie, tick tock, let’s go.” C+

Rated R for sequences of strong violence and grisly images, according to the MPA on filmratings.com. Directed by George Miller and written by George Miller and Nick Lathouris, Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga is two hours and 28 minutes long and is distributed in theaters by Warner Bros.

Featured photo: Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga

The Guncle Abroad, by Steven Rowley

The Guncle Abroad, by Steven Rowley (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 320 pages)

It took me a minute to get back into the world of Patrick O’Hara, also known as GUP (Gay Uncle Patrick) to Maisie and Grant, Patrick’s now 14- and 11-year-old niece and nephew, respectively. The last time we saw these characters, in Rowley’s The Guncle, they were five years younger. Maisie and Grant had just lost their mom, and their dad, Greg, was struggling with addiction, so a very unprepared Patrick stepped in as their temporary guardian while his brother checked himself into rehab. Hilarity, along with a good dose of all the emotions that come with family, love and loss, ensued.

Now GUP is back in charge as he leads Maisie and Grant on a journey to understand love ahead of their dad’s impending wedding to Livia; meanwhile, Maisie and Grant are on a mission to get Patrick to get their dad to call off the wedding. They’re not fans of Livia (although they seem to like their soon-to-be Launt — Lesbian aunt — much to Patrick’s annoyance).

“The key was not so much for the kids to understand their own [love] languages … but for Patrick to open their eyes to the ways in which Greg and Livia might be a good match, and ways in which Livia might be expressing love for the two of them that they were currently missing. Guncle Love Languages.”

The wedding is set to take place in Lake Como, Italy. As Greg and Livia prepare for their big day, Patrick takes Maisie and Grant to some pretty amazing places that he believes exemplify love: Salzburg, Austria (where they all joyfully revive some famous The Sound of Music moments), Paris and Venice. The locations make for beautiful backdrops for this quest of Patrick’s, even while his message is largely unheard and his niece and nephew dig their heels in.

Patrick’s conversations with the kids are often hilarious — he doesn’t coddle or hold back his opinions in the way most adults might. The kids aren’t quite as fun as they were in the first book, which makes sense because they’re older and not as amused by Patrick. Grant has lost his adorable lisp, but he hasn’t lost his unintentional wit.

“‘Careful, your mug might be hot,’” Patrick tells Grant when they’re in Paris drinking fancy hot chocolate. “‘This hot chocolate is for sipping, not gulping like a pelican.’ ‘I wish I was a pelican,’ came Grant’s reply. ‘Then I could store more of this in my throat pouch.’ Patrick shuddered. ‘Don’t say throat pouch in a chocolaterie.’”

What Rowley does really well here is explore how grief can still take a hold of us even as the years pass and our lives move forward. Moments big and small — a wedding or a memory of watching The Sound of Music — can evoke all kinds of emotions, from acute sadness to a sense of peace in knowing that the person you loved and lost would be proud of the people she left behind.

While Patrick is mainly focused on getting Grant and Maisie to accept Greg and Livia’s relationship, he’s nursing his own heartbreak while struggling to come to terms with hitting the half-century mark in age. Patrick broke up with Emory because he felt like he was too old for him, so even while he’s found renewed success in his acting career, he’s feeling lonely and missing Emory. It’s the kids who pick up on the missing-Emory part and ultimately force Patrick to acknowledge his fears.

All in all, there’s a good mix here of lighthearted fun and emotional depth. When things start to get heavy, it’s a good bet that there’s going to be a laugh-out-loud moment or a clever quip that maintains the levity. Launt Palmina is especially good for a laugh (at one point she “mistakenly” mistranslates Patrick’s new role in Grease, to which an annoyed Patrick quickly clarifies that his role is to teach the boys the hand jive).

If you’re looking for a not-too-serious-but-not-too-fluffy summer read, The Guncle Abroad delivers. Definitely start with the first book, though, if you haven’t had the pleasure of reading it yet. B
—Meghan Siegler

Album Reviews 24/05/30

Göden, Vale of the Fallen (Svart Records)

Awesome, a sludge-metal album, such a cute sludge-metal album, who’s the good boy! The public relations person uses the confounding blurb “Celtic Frost is to Triptykon what Winter is to Göden” to describe it, because see, Göden is the follow-up project to Winter, same guy and whatnot, take from that what you will. This “slab” starts out with a really depressing instrumental with fake strings, then it moves into some super-slow Exorcist stuff with the title track. I think he’s grumble-singing about the fiery end of civilization, but it could also be about bunnies, I don’t know. The singer bro sounds kind of like Papa Satan from Ministry but he’s trying too hard. On and on it goes for 4.5 minutes, then it’s “Urania,” which sounds like the previous tune but in a different key. It’s haunted graveyard music for making sure your mom doesn’t dare enter your room without knocking super loudly. C

Clare O’Kane, Everything I Know How To Do (Pretty Good Friends Records)

It’s been too long since the last time a standup comedy album came in for inspection. I think the last time somebody sent one in, I was listening to a lot of Doug Stanhope’s stuff, but nowadays I’m into Anthony Jeselnik, the American Psycho of comedy. But I’ll get sick of him too, of course, all of which leads to the question “Why do people buy comedy albums?” given that once you’ve heard the jokes, why listen to them again? Anyway, this pansexual, polyamorous OCD sufferer from New York City riffs on her quitting the Saturday Night Live writing staff, bravo for her, and she does get plenty raunchy. Personally, I think everyone has an OCD gene somewhere in there, and her takes on it aren’t all that funny. It gets better when she equates people’s reactions to her pansexuality lifestyle to when you see some rich person riding around on one of those electric one-wheel gizmos, like what are you even supposed to talk about with someone like that? She’s a good egg, this lady. B


A seriously abridged compendium of recent and future CD releases

• Cowabunga, dudes, it’s the May 31 CD-release Friday, that’s pretty gnarly, isn’t it? It means that we are heading straight for the summer, on our totally tubular and bodacious day-glo skateboards, and to take us into the molten lava temperatures (and always rainy weekends, again) that are surely ahead, it’s time for y’all to stop looking at sight-gag TikToks and sneaking peeks at all the nonsense your exes are up to on Facebook, and survey the squadron of albums that are, as we speak, headed to our Pandoras and toy Apple apps, for our listening perusal and etc.! But first, I hope you’re saving your buffalo nickels and Bitcoins, because my second book will be coming out on June 10! It’s a semi-humorous “travel guide” of sorts for people who spend a lot of time on Twitter and Facebook and whatnot discussing politics! It is titled My Year In The Online Left: Social Media, Solidarity, And Armchair Activism, and you’ll be able to order it at basically any bookstore in the world, so remember to do that, please, at least one of you, out of pity, that’d be great, now let’s look at all the new albums that had the audacity and the brass Chiquita bananas to dare darken my music-journo door, expecting me to give them unbiased reviews and urge my thousands of readers to buy said albums, when in reality, as usual, said albums will have me running for the Pepto-Bismol and guzzling the whole bottle-load of its shocking-pink wonder drug elixir in one gulp after hearing to just a few notes from said whatnots! No, I’m just kidding, gag me with a spoon, let’s have a look at the new album from Australian sports-bar standbys Crowded House, Gravity Stairs! You all know the House, or at least you’ve heard the Sixpence None The Richer cover version of their song “Don’t Dream It’s Over,” because it plays at every Hannaford supermarket whenever you can afford to go in there, good for them. The new single, “Oh Hi,” is a mellow blend of MGMT and ’90s radio-pop that goes down quite nicely, thankyouverymuch.

• Some of you remember Bat for Lashes from a few years back, but I don’t, I just remember confusing her with the Fruit Bats or whatever their name was, and thinking what a stupid band name Bat For Lashes is. But that’s all water behind the bridge now, like, I can look past a lot of things, including bands that give themselves stupid names, all I ask nowadays is for bands not to sound like Pavement or Slint, that’d be great. The new album from this person, whose real name is Natasha Khan, is The Dream Of Delphi, whose title track is airy and atmospheric, except with Nintendo keyboards, which is a new one on me, I have to admit.

• British indie/baroque-pop singer/whatever Richard Hawley was raised on rockabilly, which is all anyone should be listening to these days, like my next mix for the car is going to have ’50s and ’60s music on it, like “Wooly Bully,” remember I talked about that song a couple of weeks ago, guys? Sam The Sham should have been bigger than Elvis, but that’s neither here nor there, let’s just get this new Robert Hawley album, In This City They Call You Love, off my plate so I can do some day-drinking, don’t try this at home, folks. The single, “Two for His Heels,” starts out sounding like Bruce Hornsby’s “The Way It Is,” if there are any fans of depressing music out there, then it turns into Hawley doing an Elvis impersonation over — I don’t know, some tosser track from the 1980s Fright Night soundtrack. All set with this.

• We’ll close the week with remember to buy my new book on June 10, oops, I mean the new album from Ben Platt, Honeymind! Opening song “Cherry On Top” is mildly edgy jangle-indie.

In the kitchen with Jason Duffy

Bistro 603 (345 Amherst St., Suite 1, Nashua, 722-6362, bistro603nashua.com)

Jason Duffy is the executive chef of Bistro 603. Born in Brighton, Mass., and raised on Cape Cod, Duffy got his start in the industry at the age of 14 as a dishwasher at the Chart Room restaurant before moving up the ranks there over the course of a decade. He and owner Jeff Abellard are also part of a close-knit restaurant team that has run Bistro 781 on Moody Street in downtown Waltham, Mass., since 2015. Like its predecessor, Bistro 603 features an eclectic menu of items out of a scratch kitchen, ranging from small shareable plates to larger meals with optional wine pairings.

What is your must-have kitchen item?

Dry towel folded in my pocket, tongs on hand and at the ready, and always a notebook and pen. With all the moving parts, I need to be able to grab and handle whatever’s needed with the tongs and towel, and keep track of priorities and fleeting thoughts with pen and paper.

What would you have for your last meal?

Whole roasted duck, tight scored and rendered for crispy skin tender meat. Herbs, potatoes, vegetables, demi glace or some kind of fruity compote…. For the flavor of it all and also to appreciate the perfection of it.

What is your favorite local eatery?

Unwined on Milford [Oval] in Milford. Opened recently by some friends of mine, great bar and food menu, great atmosphere, and I enjoy and applaud the people who made their vision become a reality.

Who is a celebrity you would like to see eating your food?

I’m a sci-fi geek. Maybe Patrick Stewart? Been on a Star Trek kick of late and been doing a full re-watch. Make it so.

What is your favorite thing on your menu?

I’m a big fan of our Buddha Bowl. Not the flashiest item on the menu, but delicious and healthy in its own right. More delicious/less healthy if you pair it with a piece of our braised short rib to pull apart it as you dig into it.

What is the biggest food trend you’re seeing in New Hampshire right now?

Not sure if this is exactly answering the question, but I always look for the oddball items and order that. Something that was clearly someone’s passion project, a fusion of styles and intentions, something I probably wouldn’t have thought of. I like to try people’s creations and expand my horizons.

What is your favorite thing to cook at home?

Soups. Sounds simple, but I love building them out of whatever I’ve got to work with on hand and there’s always leftovers to go back to. I could be into any kind of soup with a crust of bread, but given a choice I make a killer chili. —John Fladd

Red Pepper Pesto Cream Sauce

4 Tablespoons butter
1 Tablespoon minced garlic
2 teaspoons minced shallot
1 Tablespoon flour (or GF flour)
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup roasted red bell peppers
1 Tablespoon finely chopped fresh basil
4 Tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon grated black pepper

Pre-roast your peppers, then cover and set aside to steam. When cooled, remove the skin and seeds.
Saute the garlic and shallot in the butter until soft, then add the flour and mix on low heat for a minute to create a roux.
Stir in the rest of the ingredients, bring to a simmer for a few minutes, then run it through a blender.
We use this on our scallop dish, but it’s a great sauce for any protein or even pasta.

Featured Photo: Chef Jason Duffy. Courtesy photo.

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