Yes connection

Jon Anderson recreates ’70s era with new group

By Michael Witthaus

On June 13, Jon Anderson & the Band Geeks released a video for “Shine On.” The original song recalls “Siberian Khatru ‘’ and other classics from his former band Yes. Guitarist Andy Graziano’s frenetic arpeggio caused a YouTube commenter to exclaim, “Jon turned to Steve Howe & said, ‘hold my beer’” and another to say “This IS Yes. … The spirit is with Anderson and always has been.”

The Rock & Roll Hall of Famer will weave a few tracks from True, a full album due this summer, with 1970s Yes material on June 22 in Concord. His collaboration with the Band Geeks — Graziano, multi-instrumentalist Richie Castellano, Andy Acolese on drums, and keyboard players Christopher Clark and Robert Kipp — began in 2018, when he saw them cover “Heart of the Sunrise” on their classic rock-centric podcast.

“I went, wait a minute, they sound just like us; they sound perfect, and they look so happy,” Anderson recalled in a recent phone interview. A month later he called Castellano to thank them. “In the middle of the conversation, I said, ‘Why don’t we go on tour?’ He kind of went, ‘What?’ I said, ‘Yeah, we could go on tour and do sort of epics and classics.’”

For still unclear reasons, Anderson, Rabin & Wakeman had dissolved earlier in the year, so the singer was looking for a backing band. However, Castellano is in Blue Öyster Cult, so logistics were tricky. When the pandemic happened, he had to wait some more. Late last summer, after intense rehearsals, they finally were able to play for audiences.

“I couldn’t believe how good it was when we actually performed,” Anderson recalled. “We did 12 shows together and that really inspired me to want to work with them more, because they were just very open, grateful, thankful and everything about life.”

An original from the upcoming LP that’s been previewed at shows is “True Messenger,” which Anderson wrote over a decade ago. It includes elements of “Wondrous Stories” and “Roundabout” along with many tempo changes.

“I’d been working with a guy called Jamie Dunlap, who does a lot of the music for South Park; I found him to be a great musician,” he said. “We wrote two or three songs and that was one of them that I sent to Richie … he opened it up with ideas.”

Castellano was initially “kind of freaked out” at the thought of going into the studio, but Anderson reassured him, “I think we’d make a great album that probably would sound like Yes, and people who love Yes will like it; that’s what we aim for. There are two large 15-minute pieces, and the rest are very happy-go-lucky, rock ’n’ roll, and who knows what.”

The new project has charged up Anderson’s creative energy, and he shows no signs of slowing down.

“I want to tour the world with this band, and after that, who knows?” he said. “For the next couple of years I’m just going to go out there and perform the Yes classics and epics, plus the True album. New music is new music; by the time you’ve got it on the road, it blossoms. It’s just one of those natural things.”

In 2017 Yes was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, an occasion that marked the last time its original members played together, performing “Owner of a Lonely Heart” and “Roundabout.” Sadly, it was without original bassist Chris Squire, who’d died two years before.

Still, Anderson has fond recollections of the experience.

“I was very happy,” he said. “I think one of the things that was exciting about it was that we shook so many hands during the course of the evening. I was there with my beautiful wife, Jane. We were just having a good time, sipping Champagne. Then I remembered, ‘Wait a minute, I’ve got to go on and sing. I’ve got to be careful.’ We got up there and did two songs with the band. It was really fun, and the energy backstage was fantastic.”

Yes Epics, Classics & More featuring Jon Anderson & the Band Geeks
When: Saturday, June 22, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Capitol Center for the Arts, 44 S. Main St. Concord
Tickets: $59 and up at

Featured photo: Jon Anderson and the Band Geeks. Photo by Steven Schenck courtesy Glass Onyon PR.

The Music Roundup 24/06/20

Local music news & events

Local sounds: Enjoy a sumptuous buffet of regional music at Market Days, running through Saturday in downtown Concord. There’s music on three stages representing the Granite State and more, such as Ultimate Queen Celebration, a tribute performance closing out Friday’s festivities on the Main Stage in front of Concord Co-Op. Bicentennial Square will host the most local talent. Starts Thursday, June 20, 1 p.m., Pleasant and South Main streets, Concord,

Shape shift: On any given night, Marcus Rezak might play fiery blues rock originals, perform with Frank Zappa’s old band mates, or do a prog-rock-infused Grateful Dead tribute. This time he brings Phish 1.0: Gumbo to town. It focuses on the Vermont band’s earliest phase, some of which happened at the storied club he’s playing at, and includes vintage gear from the same period. Friday, June 21, 8 p.m., Stone Church, 5 Granite St., Newmarket, $15 at

Pond crossers: Enjoy the hits of bands from The Beatles and Stones to Wham! and Radiohead as the Brit Pack performs. Founded by U.K. musicians Mark Sidney Johnson and Will Haywood Smith, with Americans Brian Percival and Matt Nakoa, the group faithfully covers decades of classics, from the British Invasion to early MTV through the ’90s second wave fueled by Oasis and Radiohead. Saturday, June 15, 8:30 pm., Rex Theatre, 23 Amherst St., Manchester, $35 at

Melody man: The soprano saxophone played by Kenny G gave soft jazz an identity; countless fans who couldn’t name an instrumental song if they tried will pick out his ’80s smash “Songbird” while winding through the aisles at Target on the weekend. His 1992 album Breathless is the best-selling instrumental record of all time, going platinum over a dozen times; his latest LP is Innocence. Saturday, June 22, 7:30 p.m., Colonial Theatre, 609 Main St., Laconia, $59 and up at

Blues power: Bring a mister and big bottle of water to see Brian Templeton & the Delta Generators perform a gazebo show, as record temperatures are forecast. Wednesday, June 26, 7 p.m., Town Common, 265 Mammoth Road, Londonderry, $39 and up at

Inside Out 2 (PG )

The puberty alarm goes off and suddenly Riley’s mind is a construction zone with new emotions in Inside Out 2, a less jolly, more complex sequel to the 2015 Pixar movie.

Riley (voice of Kensington Tallman) is 13 and on the cusp of high school. Inside her mind, Joy (voice of Amy Poehler) has learned to let Riley’s emotional experiences have balance — Anger (voice of Lewis Black), Fear (voice of Tony Hale), Disgust (voice of Liza Lapira) and of course Sadness (voice of Phyllis Smith) all have a place in Riley’s life. Joy does tidy things up at the end of the day, sending the less than ideal memories to the back of Riley’s mind, letting Riley’s sense of self (as physically represented by a sort of crystalized snowflake sculpture thing that grows from the roots of the memories kept down below) develop from only positive memories.

Then the puberty alarm goes off and suddenly a wrecking ball crashes through headquarters and the emotional control panel has new colors. A frazzle-headed orange creature pops up and introduces herself as Anxiety (voice of Maya Hawke). Along with her come a small turquoise-colored Envy (voice of Ayo Edebiri), a large shy pink Embarrassment (voice of Paul Walter Hauser) and floppy French Ennui (voice of Adele Exarchopoulos). Anxiety, however, has plans and quickly takes over.

Her plans involve helping Riley to make and solidify friendships with the high school hockey team players, especially team captain Valentina (voice of Lilimar).

While on the way to a three-day hockey camp with her middle school friends, Riley learns that her besties will be going to a different high school. Though a “sadness is a part of life” Joy looks at the camp as a way for Riley to spend as much time with her buddies as possible, Anxiety quickly convinces the gang that Riley needs to use it to make friends with Valentina and secure her place on her high school hockey team so she won’t be friendless and alone next year. Anxiety’s special skill is painting vivid pictures of the things that can go wrong for Riley, so emotions old and new agree to follow Anxiety’s lead, until the original emotions start to argue Anxiety’s actions don’t reflect Riley’s true self. Then Anxiety vacuum tubes them out to “The Vault” to be locked up — “suppressed emotions,” one of them cries.

But of course you can’t keep a plucky Joy down. She rallies the original emotions to find the sense of self that Anxiety jettisoned when it got in the way of her Valentina plan and take it back to headquarters to save Riley.

Ultimately, what they’re saving Riley from is Anxiety’s increasingly aggressive ideas of the things that could go wrong and the resulting beliefs they create in Riley that she’s not good enough. In the movie’s climax, Anxiety creates something of a storm of this blend of real and imagined horrors — which we see as an emotion tornado where Anxiety is both moving so fast she kind of loses her physicality but is also frozen in place. That’s a pretty good visual representation of being in the grip of panic or anxiety — a combination of an increasingly intense feedback loop and of being stuck. The movie also shows Riley — with the help of external friends and internal emotions — working her way out of this feeling. I don’t know that it means anything to younger kids in the audience — the younger members of the crowd in the theater I saw this movie at were antsy by this point — but I do feel like it’s a good teachable moment for teens and tweens. This moment — and a good bit of the movie — does feel more successful as “art saying something about life” than as “entertaining for the littles.”

When I say this movie is less jolly and more complex, I think that’s what I mean. In the first movie, older but still kid Riley was dealing with the sadness of moving away from her friends. This is a life difficulty that I think is easily graspable to a kid, even a younger one. There is something more nuanced about Riley’s fears and hopes and struggles here — she isn’t really losing her friends, she can still see them, but she won’t be with them every day and will be without the social protection a group of buddies brings and so needs to replace that with older kids she must work to impress (versus the buddies who more naturally share her interests). I think the movie does a good job of examining how this feels and how — without veering into Afterschool Special Peer-Pressure territory — your ambitions for certain friends or social acceptance can cause you to act in ways that are against your core beliefs, your sense of self.

In addition to tackling a muddier problem, Inside Out 2 feels less sharp in general probably in part because we’ve seen all this before. The movie’s funniest new addition is probably Bloofy (voice of Ron Funches), a old-school hand-drawn-looking animated dog-thing that is a character from a preschool show that Riley secretly still loves. Bloofy asks questions of a nonexistent audience and has a helpful fanny-pack friend named Pouchy (voice of James Austin Johnson) — all very Dora the Explorer and my kids laughed at both the visual and character absurdities of Bloofy and Pouchy, who always seems to have very Acme-looking dynamite at his disposal.

I asked my daughter, who is not so far from Riley’s age, what she thought of the movie and her response was that the movie itself is decent but that she hated how Anxiety was trying to ruin Riley’s life. Yeah, tell me about it, I thought. It did help to underline to me, though, that while all the Bloofy wackiness and the punny “brain storms” (idea light bulbs hailing from the sky) and the occasional raft ride on a giant broccoli were entertaining enough for the kids, the ideas in this second outing were probably more interesting and thought-provoking for their grownups. B+

Rated PG for some thematic elements, according to the MPA on Directed by Kelsey Mann with a screenplay by Meg LeFauve and Dave Holstein, Inside Out 2 is an hour and 36 minutes long and distributed in theaters by Walt Disney Studios.

Featured photo: Inside Out 2.

Our Kindred Creatures, by Bill Wasik and Monica Murphy

Our Kindred Creatures, by Bill Wasik and Monica Murphy (Knopf, 374 pages)

With the notable exception of factory farms, cruelty to animals is generally not tolerated in the U.S. today. Criminal penalties exist for everything from neglect to the hoarding of pets; New Hampshire’s definition of animal abuse even includes taking a colt from its mother in the first three months of life.

It’s hard to imagine, then, that just 175 years ago animal cruelty was rampant and for the most part rarely noticed or remarked upon. The change to where we are now didn’t occur gradually but was the result of a moral crusade that began in the 1860s with three New Englanders at the helm.

In Our Kindred Creatures, husband-and-wife team Bill Wasik and Monica Murphy weave together the stories of George Thorndike Angell of Massachusetts, Caroline Earle White of Philadelphia and Henry Bergh of New York, the latter of whom was said to have founded “a new type of goodness.” While many other people have argued for compassion to animals over the course of human history, these three were especially effective and their stories are remarkable.

But let the reader beware: The book is tough reading for the tender-hearted and anyone who loved the movie The Greatest Showman. Hugh Jackman’s portrayal of P.T. Barnum, it turns out, left quite a bit out.

Angell is perhaps the best-known of the three crusaders, as his name is attached to a Boston animal hospital and an animal shelter near the Massachusetts-New Hampshire state line. But it’s Bergh whose story is the most compelling. He was left a fortune by his father, which enabled him to travel as a young man. During those travels he had a moral epiphany when he watched a brutal bullfight in Spain and was horrified not just by the suffering of the animals but by the glee he witnessed in the audience by a family with young girls. Bergh came to believe that “cruelism” arises when people are entertained by animal suffering of any kind, and that human beings themselves are made morally worse by even witnessing it.

Inspired by animal-rights efforts in Europe, he came back to the U.S. and founded the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in 1866. Shortly afterward, thanks to Bergh’s efforts, New York passed its first anti-animal-cruelty law and ASPCA officers were given power to issue citations and make arrests. Bergh himself took to the streets, at first going after people abusing horses, and cattle en route to slaughter. He also boarded a ship carrying sea turtles from Florida to New York and tried to bring its captain to justice. (The effort failed when the judge ruled that turtles were fish and were not subject to animal cruelty laws.)

But Bergh most famously sparred with P.T. Barnum, whose story in The Greatest Showman was shockingly whitewashed. As Barnum bought and displayed an enslaved person in his exhibits, he also had elephants and whales captured and brought to New York for display. The whales all died in short order, but none in such a grisly fashion as the two that were burned in the fire that consumed Barnum’s “museum” in 1865.

Bergh and his compatriots were operating in a time in which animals were as numerous as humans on city streets, and they were not romanticized as they are today. Their excrement and, often, carcasses, were everywhere, and stray dogs were rounded up and drowned en masse in New York and beaten to death in Philadelphia. Dogfighting and rat baiting (betting on how fast dogs could kill a collection of rats) were common and cheap forms of entertainment.

Animals were also suffering behind closed doors in more sterile environs — laboratories and classrooms where vivisection was common — and at one point Bergh sent his ASPCA agents undercover into hospitals to see first-hand what was being done, similar to the undercover operations still done by PETA today.

Word spread throughout New England about what Bergh was doing, and the ASPCA offices were visited by people hoping to launch similar efforts in their own communities. One such person was Caroline Earle White, who visited Bergh on her way home to Philadelphia after spending the summer in the Adirondacks. White, like many people drawn to the animal-abuse cause, was an abolitionist, and she went on to found the Women’s SPCA of Pennsylvania and the American Anti-Vivisection Society.

She was also instrumental in the change to a more merciful manner of killing shelter dogs — using carbon dioxide, which of course is seen as cruel today, but at the time was seen as a step up from bludgeoning a dog to death with an ax. Also, in a revolutionary shelter that White and her colleagues created, dogs were given shelter and water, “and all were fed a healthy diet of horsemeat, cornmeal, and crisped pork skin, even those destined for culling.”

A Quaker-turned-Catholic, White had been troubled seeing mules and horses struggling to pull streetcars heavy with coal. She had started changing her routes around town so that she didn’t have to endure the sight. But one of the more horrific examples of horses being literally worked to death happened in Boston in 1868, when a “sleighing horse race” took place that resulted in the deaths of both animals after they were compelled to pull 400-pound sledges from Boston to Worcester, a distance of 38 miles.

The winner died the night of the race; the other horse a few weeks later. Reading about the event compelled Angell to renew efforts on behalf of animals, pushing for a law that would prevent such abuses and starting a newspaper that would go to every town in Massachusetts with the name “Our Dumb Animals” (“Dumb” here meant mute, not stupid). The publication would endure until 1970.

Wasik and Murphy are excellent storytellers, which is no surprise — he is the longtime editorial director of The New York Times Magazine, she is a veterinarian, and their first book, 2012’s Rabid, a history of rabies, was well-received. What was surprising to me was how much of this story I knew nothing about, even as an animal lover living in New England — from the Barnum whales to a horse plague that swept the country in the 1870s to how a novel published more than a decade earlier in England, Black Beauty, came to be harnessed by Angell to galvanize compassion for horses.

The authors say they researched Our Kindred Creatures for three years; 30 would have been equally believable. They have crafted an extraordinary, though heartbreaking, story. A+ —Jennifer Graham

Album Reviews 24/20/06

J.M. Clifford, Trains, Thinkin’ and Drinkin’ (Brooklyn Basement Records)

You know, a lot of people think they don’t like any country music, but they’re usually thinking of a specific subgenre. If you’re like me and hate WWE wrestling-intro country-metal but like Appalachia-tinged bluegrass purism, you’ll like this one, which is from a Brooklyn-based artist and educator, who hatted out to Nashville so he could recruit such renowned session players as Seth Taylor, Jeff Partin, Jeff Picker and Bronwyn Keith-Hynes into this fold. By day, Clifford is a New York City elementary school music teacher, so there’s no NSFW element to it, but innovation does abound (he won a spot as a showcase artist at the 2023 IBMA Business Conference in Raleigh, North Carolina). With titles like “Old Brown Shoes” and “Billy Goose,” you can smell the unplugged, organic moonshine from the get-go. It’s assuredly a curveball, influenced by Norman Blake, Gillian Welch, Leonard Cohen, Tom Waits and Tony Rice, which doesn’t mean it’s not instantly accessible and addictive. It’s simply good, honest stuff that instantly sticks. A+

Blackwater Railroad Company, A Lovely Place to Die (self-released)

Love it when this space can stick to one subject. In this case it’s deeply rootsy stuff; whereas J.M. Clifford’s new record (elsewhere here) is reliant on a sparser sound, this irresistibly folky LP tends to teeter between country, rock, soul and balladic folk, but with real purpose. Reportedly that’s a new development for this band, which recently added drums and saxophone to extend their lineup to five (I wasn’t crazy about the sax sound, which is a bit raw, but some people like it that way, you know, more like a Clarence Clemons type of vibe). Singer Tyson T. Davis has a picket-fence-toothed flavor to him that’s remindful of the dude from Primus; matter of fact, that’s the source of much of the charm here, but oh, did I tell you these guys are from Alaska? Aside: It’d be super cool if our local New Hampshire bands would be less fedora-hat and more like this (my OG readers have seen all the complaints I’ve lodged against bands like Truffle; give me a bunch of crazy rednecks from wayyy up north any day over those guys). A-


A seriously abridged compendium of recent and future CD releases

• Friday, June 21, will bring to us many new albums, try to calm yourselves, frantic fam, but first, a retraction, because for the first time in the 20 years I’ve been your favorite Best Of NH award-winning local music journalist, accept no substitutes, I have made an actual mistake! OK, I’m kidding; misremembering or carelessly bungling something is mother’s milk to me as you well know, but this time someone felt besmirched and expressed hesitance to buy my new book (order it from your local bookseller right away if you haven’t) if I didn’t fix the situation pronto please! Yes yes, in the June 6 issue I talked about The Concrete Jangle, the new album from Steve Conte, and in my abject stupidity I said that he’d only been with the New York Dolls for a very short time. That, I must confess, was FAKE NEWS, because I’d read Wikipedia’s totally incorrect timeline entry for the Dolls instead of digging further into the matter. Anywhatever, Steve messaged me on my cursed Facebook and told me “My actual timeline in the Dolls was this: In 2004 I joined the Dolls with [David] Johansen, Sylvain, Kane & made the live album & DVD, Morrissey Presents The Return Of The New York Dolls: Live From Royal Festival Hall. Then Kane died, was replaced by Sami Yaffa, and in 2005 we began the world tour (which lasted until 2010). In 2006 we made the studio album, One Day It Will Please Us To Remember Even This produced by Jack Douglas, in 2008 we made Live At The Fillmore East and in 2009, we made the Todd Rundren-produced studio album, Cause I Sez So. In 2010 I left the band after 6 years to join up with Michael Monroe (Sami, who was in Hanoi Rocks with Monroe, pulled me in) and that was the end.” Anyway, that’s important, and you should buy this new music album from Steve Conte, because he is awesome and writes great songs; you can buy it from that obscure little boutique online shop, Amazon-dot-something, same as my book, that’d be great.

• Holy black holes, Batman, I have no idea who any of these artists are, this week, so I will learn about them now, just like you! Let’s see, blah blah blah, first we have indie pop songstress Gracie Abrams, a new nepo baby whose dad is Hollywood super-producer J.J. Abrams; it must have been such a struggle for the poor thing to get a rock ’n’ roll recording contract (sad emoji)! The Secret Of Us is the album, and now I shall sally forth to listen to the single, “Close To You.” Oh boy, now we’re cooking with some serious contrivance, it’s a bloopy, foggy slow tune and she’s trying to sound like Billie Eilish, why didn’t she just buy the T-shirt instead of forcing me and whoever else gets stuck reviewing this stupid thing (someone from Nylon or whatever) to listen to this for content? Can you even stand these nepo babies (eyeroll emoji), #JustBuyTheTeeShirt, let’s make that hashtag happen on the double, eh?

• British singer-songwriter Lola Young cites Joni Mitchell and Prince as influences, so maybe her new album, This Wasn’t Meant For You Anyway, will be good, I don’t know at this juncture! Right, so in the video for the single “Messy” she’s dressed like a unicorn/elf cheerleader and she sounds vaguely like Tina Turner in chill-down mode. There are annoying samples in the beat, but this is actually a good song, go figure.

• Lastly it’s another English indie lady singer, Kate Nash, with her fifth studio album, 9 Sad Symphonies. The LP opens with “Change,” a glitch-pop thingamajig that strikes me as a joke song, what with her dunderheaded, vaguely Bjork-ish vocal approach. It’s weird, if you like that sort of thing in your disposable pop songs.

Stolen Kiss

I don’t have to tell you that this Saturday, June 22, is National Kissing Day. You’ve been stocking up on breath mints and lip balm for weeks.

There are quite a few kissing-themed cocktails. One popular one is called the Kiss Me. It’s one of those drinks that’s fairly simple in execution but calls for ingredients most of us are unlikely to have on hand. It will almost certainly require a trip to the liquor store. Because of this, you might want to save this recipe for a special occasion, like National Kissing Day.

Surprisingly, the most difficult ingredient to track down for this drink is strawberry schnapps. In the end, it required a work-around to replicate, which, in turn, required changing up the recipe’s traditional ratios. It’s easy enough to make strawberry syrup and mix it with vodka and end up with something very like schnapps.

In spite of using (almost) the same ingredients, this cocktail is different enough from a classic Kiss Me that it deserves a name of its own.

Stolen Kiss

  • 1 part rye whiskey
  • 1 part “strawberry schnapps” – see below
  • 1 part passionfruit cocktail — I like Goya’s; it’s delicious and easily available in the apple juice aisle at your favorite supermarket
  • 3 parts prosecco

Making Strawberry “Schnapps”

Combine equal amounts of frozen strawberries and granulated sugar, by weight, in a small saucepan.

Cook over medium heat, until the strawberries give up all their juice — encourage this with a potato masher — and the mixture comes to a boil.

Remove from heat, add the juice of half a lemon, and allow to cool.

Strain using a fine-mesh strainer. Eat the solids that are left behind on an English muffin or a crumpet; you won’t be sorry.

Bottle and save in the refrigerator for several weeks, although you’ll be lucky if it lasts through the weekend.

To make a decent substitute for strawberry schnapps, combine one part strawberry syrup with two parts medium-shelf vodka. I like Tito’s for this.

The Actual Cocktail

Combine the rye, “schnapps” and passionfruit with ice in a cocktail shaker. Shake enthusiastically.

Measure out and gently pour the prosecco into the cocktail shaker and stir gently. If you have an actual cocktail spoon, one with a long twisty handle, it will do a good job at mixing the drink thoroughly without de-fizzing the prosecco. If you don’t have one, a wooden spoon or even a fork will work well enough; just remember that you are mixing this gently, as if it might explode.

Strain the cocktail — again, gently — into a Champagne flute.

Drink — hopefully with company — to a kissing-themed song. There are any number of kissing songs, but my personal recommendation would be for Louis Armstrong’s version of “A Kiss to Build a Dream On.” Given agreeable company, it might make your heart feel as fizzy as the cocktail.

There’s a lot going on with this cocktail. The fact that it’s in a Champagne flute means that the fruity notes won’t hit your nose right away. Something like 70 percent of what we “taste” is actually dependent on what we smell. Because of the shape of the flute, you’ll catch this drink’s fruitiness on the back end, but with your first sip the rye will take a guitar solo. It’s on the second, third, or 17th sip that everything will fall into place. Appropriately enough, it tastes like a flirtation.

Featured Photo: Stolen Kiss. Photo by John Fladd.

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