Authors Posts by Adam Krauss

Adam Krauss

5 POSTS 0 COMMENTS

Estimates vary, but since opening its doors two and a half years ago in Portsmouth, Earth Eagle Brewings has brewed somewhere around 75 beer varieties. What might be more impressive than the sheer volume of beers are the names bestowed upon them when they’re ready for the public. Whether it’s an oatmeal stout known as Ghetto Defiant or a gruit called Love Potion #9 — for its use of African and South America aphrodisiacs — the nanobrewery has been piquing patrons’ curiosity and taste buds. For an inside look at how Earth Eagle names its brews, we caught up with bar manager Sarah Bryan.

I’ve heard you describe what’s going on here as an “emotional experience.” What do you mean by that?
In a way, a lot of what we do is experimental. We like to pull from a lot of diverse environments for our ingredients. We have a house forager, who’s wonderful — her name is Jenna (Rozelle) — and she’s constantly traveling all over the Seacoast to find things for us. We use invasive species from time to time, so it’s really fun, and kind of a constant challenge, to see what we can and can’t brew with.

And what names you can give them?
The naming of the beer ties in a lot with our own personal history, the history of the area, the history of some of the ingredients we use, and there’s also a whimsical aspect to it. We’ve named beers after Roman gods, Greek gods, Aztec gods and goddesses. That being said, we’ve also named beers after the “Trailer Park Boys” show and in-house jokes, so it’s kind of a fun and constantly rotating process for us.

Estimates vary that from 60 to 80, maybe 100, original beers have come through here. What are some of your favorites?
My favorite off the top of my mind would have to be Samquanch, which is a lower alcohol sour gruit. It’s namesake (is) from “Trailer Park Boys,” a Canadian comedy show featuring mostly low-brow humor. It definitely reflects some of what we love to indulge in outside the business.

I’d imagine it’s hard keeping all these stories and names straight. Does it make your job trickier, because you find yourself explaining the names a lot?
I definitely think it’s part of the consumer experience for us. It does kind of lend our own personal take. We’re not exceptionally self-serious. That being said, we do our best to master our craft, and there is a lot of history involved in it, which is part of the fun.

Has your memory improved, having to recall all these factoids and stories?
Well I do try. We do a lot of one-offs, so sometimes when you’re searching for that one beer, that one ingredient, you do have to dig pretty deep. But we do try and we’re trying to catalogue ourselves a little more efficiently these days.

Not to put you on the spot, but how many Earth Eagle beers can you name in 30 seconds, starting — now!
Half Jack, Jackwagon, New England Gangsta IPA, Ancestral IPA, Red Ryder, Puca, Nocturnal (which is our American stout), Engine Joe (which is our espresso porter), Antoinette, Antoinette with Pears … [quick pause] … Ruby, Albert II, John Paul Agnus II, Retriever, Schizzam … [quick pause] … shoot!

No worries — we’ll let the record show I interrupted you.

Top of page: Sarah Bryan of Earth Eagle Brewings. photo by Scott Kaplan of      Yankee Brew News

The opening of Portsmouth’s African Burying Ground memorial on May 23 was the culmination of a decade-long community project. Savannah, Ga.-based artist Jerome Meadows joined the project in 2008 and designed the memorial park located on Chestnut Street. Before the memorial opened, The Sound sat down with Meadows to talk about his hopes for the project, race, and the psychology of public art.

You grew up in the ’60s, and I’m wondering whether the events of the last two years — Trayvon Martin, Ferguson, Baltimore — have changed or enhanced this project for you?
In all truthfulness, I began to feel somewhat — I don’t want to say jaded — but disappointed that the hard work of the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s seemed to have not fulfilled itself. I live in a neighborhood that’s pretty much the ghetto, and I look at folks who are struggling with respect to economics and politics and it just seems like there’s such a disparity between where a lot of the society is now compared to where it was headed back in those days, and so it leaves me wondering why that is. And then these movements are coming about, and that’s encouraging because it seems to be harkening back to those days. But I guess I feel concerned about how they can prove to be beneficial, and looking at it this way is my sense that it’s the same political-economic-sociological dynamics, and we need to bring something new into the discussion. And what I don’t see in the discussion a lot is art and culture, and so it’s quite encouraging for me to be working on this project. Art is being utilized in a way of reparations, if you will, sociological reparations, by restoring dignity, and so it just reaffirms for me that what needs to be brought into the discussion nationally is culture, art, something that would help to break the gridlock, cut through the adversarial nature of these opposing forces. So I would hope that with this project here, by being a monumental assertion of culture within that racial context, we’d get the kind of play that would put it out there for other communities to consider.

ABG_4A mother and child take in the new African Burying Ground Memorial sculpture.

So do you hope your work here starts a certain dialogue?
It certainly could, but again, a dialogue that’s not couched in “me versus you.” I think it’s just interesting that the subjects of the piece are where it all started — African people being brought into America. So we’re really taking about them, and perhaps in talking about them we can come together collectively with a common cause rather than talking at each other.

Speaking at 3S Artspace (on May 20), you said people are conditioned to order things, things like shapes and colors.
Yeah, the brain is like, “Let’s categorize all of this, put this in some kind of order.”

How do you want or expect people to order or categorize this work?
There’s a lot there. I tried to take into account (that) public art, by its nature, is often experienced by people who were not looking for it; they’re not thinking about art, they may even be thinking that art is a waste of time. So I like to include elements in there that, even for those individuals, there’s something they can look at and draw them into it. There’s such a variety of visual elements, but of course, the whole thing is about these enslaved people who were buried and disrespected and disregarded for so long, so that would be a common objective in terms of what should be on people’s minds.

ABG_3Pallbearers carry one of the caskets to the crypt during the reburial ceremony.

Tell me a little bit more about the implicit or subliminal effect of art. What is it, what does it lend itself to, and how might it play out with this project?
I think part of it has to do with this idea that the mind is looking to put things together in such a way that they become meaningful, that they become discernible. In designing this space, you’re walking through an environment that is rather specific and precise and it’s designed to take you out of the normalcy, or the mundaneness, of streets and concrete and asphalt and rectilinear environments so the minute you step into the site, psychologically, whether you are aware of it or not, you are in a different kind of environment in terms of how you move through it and that is designed to be more humanistic. I would hope that once a person comes off the site they’re thinking, or they have a heightened awareness of, what other environments are like. In other words, being taken out of the rat race and being put in a space that’s engaging, so when you go back in the rat race, maybe you feel a little less willing to settle for that.

When I think of the rat race, I think of competition, things that don’t foster empathy and tolerance. Where do those concepts fit into this project?
Those entry figures are street-level, they’re life-size, and I’ve designed them in such a way that I’m hoping will create a sense of connection with these people — so you’re walking down the street and all of a sudden there’s this person standing there. Are you compelled to interact with him or her? And then realizing what that person represents, to get into their story. I’m also intrigued by what happens when strangers end up at the site at the same time. To what extent might they find — instead of passing each other as we often do — a compulsion to interact with each other on the basis of slowing down and being about the issues and the concepts. That can be racial, but it can also just be what it’s like to be human.

ABG_6The Blind Boys of Alabama perform at a community celebration at The Music Hall.

In the process of creating this, did you experience anything new?
I did, especially with the life-size figures, the male in particular, because he represents the first enslaved person here in Portsmouth. I’m thinking, “Yeah, I know about slavery, I know how horrible that was.” But, when it came to dealing with him as a person and his face, I found myself really at a loss as to how deep I need to go into what that mental experience had to have been. Because his face has to express something, and quite frankly, it took a while to really go into that space and sort through the intense emotions. I had to balance that against what I want for a connection between the average person walking down the street not looking for art, not thinking about art, and suddenly they’re confronted with this figure and they’re compelled to engage rather than turn away.

What do you draw on in order to capture those emotions?
Really, what it came down to, what made it so different, after the imagination, the history, was simply humanity, being a human being. This may sound strange after all these years, but I never approached or thought of the institution of slavery to that degree of personal involvement with it. Yes, the imagination would make me think, “Wow, the middle passage must have been horrific, the sense of indignity and confusion.” But, because of the nature of these figures, I really found myself going into a level of humanistic depth that I had not before, and it took a while to go in there, sense what that was, and come out with something that was telling of that, but at the same time, engaging with a public who you have no control over — who they are or what they’re perceptions are going to be.

ABG_1Artist Jerome Meadows speaks at the African Burying Ground on May 23.

Do you foresee that experience of tapping into new depths with this project informing future undertakings?
Oh, absolutely. Most definitely.

How do you see Portsmouth?
That’s a very good question. I’ve been coming here for four-plus years and, in the first years, fairly often, in terms of working up the design. And I was struck, first off, by how few people of color I see, and that always makes me think several things: Why is that? To the extent there are people of color here, what must they be going through? But, the more I talked to people, both black and white, the more there’s a sense of … it’s just the way it is and it’s not like black folks were chased away by the Klan or something like that. It just happens to be the circumstances of this city. But then, of course, with this layer on top of that is this African Burying Ground and really the impressive commitment that this community, with its racial identity, has put towards bringing this thing about. I remember after designing it, when we priced it out, the city said, “Well, if that’s what it’s going to take, that’s what we’re going to do.” And, having committed to raising that much money, and money for art and for art about African-American people — that sort of superseded any qualms or questions I had about racial disparity, because the voice was ready to speak in a positive way about the issue. And, ultimately, that voice should be coming from whoever is a human being, regardless of their racial identity or anything else.

 

With each introduction, the extent of the heroin epidemic plaguing the region came into greater focus. In the first row was a woman whose daughter is a heroin addict and has been to rehab five times. Behind her was a grandfather who said his grandson would be dead if he wasn’t picked up each of the three times he overdosed.

Over his shoulder was a young man in recovery, and across the room was a man in his 26th year of being clean. Joining them was a father who lost a daughter, a recovering addict and graduate student, and a middle-aged man — one of many people to describe themselves as a “person of longtime recovery” — who attended five funerals in the past month.

Such was the scene at the start of “Let’s Talk About the Heroin Epidemic,” a community forum held at The Music Hall Loft on Monday, April 27. About 80 people were there, including local and state officials, to share ideas and receive updates from prevention, treatment, and recovery workers and law enforcement. The event came less than a week after the city marked its second heroin overdose death this year.

Health officials expect the number of lives lost to heroin in New Hampshire this year to “eclipse” the 321 registered in 2014, said Sandi Coyle, the regional coordinator for Allies in Substance Abuse Prevention at the United Way of the Greater Seacoast. The majority of those deaths are people in their 20s and 30s and the trail leading to heroin overdoses starts with young people abusing alcohol, marijuana, and prescription drugs, according to Coyle.

“To have the programs cut down to where they are right now, it’s horrible.” — Heidi Moran
of Southeastern New Hampshire Services

Portsmouth resident Crystal Paradis said she organized the event following the death of a friend and local writer, Cody Laplante. “We had to do something,” she said, but she wasn’t sure what so she sought the public’s help. Following the forum, she felt encouraged that there are so many “people impassioned and ready to do something.”

Jason Corkum, nearing two and half years of recovery after a “25-year run,” said communities have to get creative with the ways they engage addicts and personal contact is critical. “I know for me, when I was getting high, whoever was knocking on the door, I was dying for them to just open the thing and let me out,” he said.

Yet it’s become harder to keep that door open due to state budget cuts, according to Heidi Moran, clinical administrator for Southeastern New Hampshire Services in Dover, and it’s been widely reported that New Hampshire currently ranks next to last of states at providing treatment services. Before budget cuts, Moran said her 28-day rehab program ran six to eight weeks, and the 90-day halfway house extended up to a year. Today she also lacks transitional housing options, though at one point she was able to provide three apartments and three bedrooms.

“We need funding,” Moran said. “The longer people can receive continuous structure and help and guidance and counseling and support … the more effective … and to have the programs cut down to where they are right now, it’s horrible.”

“We’re not going to arrest our way out of this. We need to come up with different solutions.”
— Portsmouth Police Sgt. David Keaveny

Sgt. David Keaveny said the Portsmouth Police Department is changing its views as it grapples with the epidemic. “We’re not going to arrest our way out of this,” he said. “We need to come up with different solutions,” including a peer-to-peer program. “People who have been through the experience are probably more apt to talk about … how they saw the light,” he said.

Portsmouth police are looking into whether they have the authority to admit someone at risk of overdosing to the emergency room without their permission, similar to what happens with people threatening suicide, according to Keaveny.

Keaveny said two or three officers are dedicated to going after “people looking to make a profit off of heroin,” but “we’re trying to change our views on the people who might get arrested” so they can be directed to counseling or a drug diversion court. He said people who have been arrested are inclined to plead guilty and avoid a prolonged ordeal, but he encouraged the audience and others to be an “advocate for that person. Let their story be known to the prosecution, let their story be known to the judge.”

Some of us make it big. The rest of us make it to karaoke.

It’s an experience unencumbered by inhibition or fears of being off key, of protocols unwritten but highly regarded — don’t hold the mic too close to your mouth, have fun, and, whatever your shtick, don’t rely on extended air guitar solos.

A bacchanalian enterprise fueled by iTunes and hours in the car singing your favorite songs, a night of karaoke can be a trip through memory lane. After all, where else will you be reminded why, after all these years, we still haven’t shaken the likes of Kris Kross from our collective memory?

The extent to which there’s anything of consequence on the line for karaoke singers depends on how much they’re invested in the performance. But the calculus varies. That was clear on a recent night in Dover at Sonny’s Tavern, which has been hosting karaoke nights, dubbed by host Erik Swanson as Karaoke is Real, for about a year.

Some of the singers helping rip through some 60 songs over four hours said karaoke is their way of blowing off steam and simply cutting loose. Others, however, described the night in metaphysical terms.

“It sounds weird, but it’s almost the most spiritual thing that I do,” said Swanson, who relies on a catalogue of some 800,000 songs to keep things going.

“There’s a reason people sing in church,” he added. “I think there’s something about people coming together and singing that’s really cool.”

4077_Sonnys_Karaoke-6Karaoke Is Real host Erik Swanson takes the mic at Sonny's.

Swanson said Sonny’s has enjoyed a successful run of Thursday night karaoke because the focus is on having fun, not competing. “The ‘karaoke crowd’ doesn’t hang here — you know, the guys who are at every karaoke night,” he said.

To keep things light, and keep singers creative, Swanson often comes up with themes for the weekly sessions — an homage to ‘80s hair bands, punk rock, prom night, and clowns are a few. Last Halloween, performers dressed up as their favorite artist and stayed in character throughout the night.

“People get really into this stuff,” Swanson said.

As the night progressed more revelers appeared, each adding an air of intrigue and joviality to an already happy scene. It was a decidedly millennial crowd, and a mosaic of denim and flannel formed beneath the outdoor wedding lights hanging from the ceiling.

Among the performers on a recent Thursday night was Portsmouth’s Sam Ueda, who sang a tune by Three Dog Night. “I’ve always loved performing and sometimes my week gets stressful, and this is a great end to my week,” he said. “I look forward to the day where I can just kind of let it all out.”

Taylor Lane of Dover, who keeps a “couple-scrolls-worth” of songs on her iPhone, performed DJ Kool’s “Let Me Clear My Throat.” Though her performance suggested otherwise, Lane said what she lacks in musical talent she makes up in skill.

“The difference between talent and skill … is you practice for hours and hours,” she said. “I drive a lot for work so I sing in the car a lot, and I’m like, ‘I should sing this for karaoke.’”

4077_Sonnys_Karaoke-8Taylor Lane invokes DJ Kool during a rendition of “Let Me Clear My Throat."

Lane recently returned from Portland, Ore., which she described as the “karaoke capital of the world.” She didn’t like it. “It wasn’t the same” as the scene at Sonny’s, she said. “Everyone was really competitive about it, kind of mean. I was really upset.”

Laura Hackney of Newmarket described karaoke as the “next best thing” to performing professionally. “It makes me feel like the performer,” she said after singing Carole King’s “I Feel the Earth Move.”

“I am performing, but I’m also emulating her,” she said.

Sonny’s co-owner Mark Ryan’s assessment was simple. “I’m really digging it,” he said.

Though karaoke at Sonny’s tends to be a free-flowing affair without strict conventions, participants do tend to abide by a few unofficial rules — and, as Swanson said, none of them have to do with “getting the notes right.”

They include having a strong stage presence and injecting something original — Swanson said spoken word works for him — into instrumental portions of songs.

And what if you don’t have a song in mind and you’re picking one on the fly? According to Swanson, avoid “trite” songs, like Sir Mix A Lot’s “Baby Got Back,” and, for sake of brevity, “never sing ‘American Pie.’” The most important thing, though, is something impossible to imitate or improvise: passion. In other words, as Swanson said, you’ve got to “care about what you’re singing.”

Sing along at Sonny’s Karaoke is Real every Thursday at 9 p.m. at Sonny’s Tavern, 328 Central Ave., Dover, 603-343-4332.

Top of page: Nikki Hentz lets loose during Karaoke is Real at Sonny’s Tavern.

Seacoast comedians have built a scene on community, friendly competition,
and unexpected laughs

By Adam D. Krauss
Photos by Michael Behrmann

An elemental fixture of the Seacoast’s music scene, Steve Roy is no stranger to the stage. But something is different on a recent Friday night at The Stone Church in Newmarket. Instead of cooking up folk and bluegrass jams he’s just sitting there, staring out across a crowd of 80 people here for an evening of comedy.

Sandwiched between his upright bass and the evening’s host, comedian Josh Day, it’s unclear just what Roy is looking at. The lighting and the dark sunglasses he’s wearing have turned his eyes into a purplish-blue reflecting pool; his expression is blank. He resembles a man caught in a near-shamanistic vision, deliberate and calm, stoic before an audience remembering life before all the cold and snow.

Then again, maybe Roy’s still processing the horror of what took place earlier, when Day, excited to start February’s installment of the monthly comedy series he’s been hosting here for the past year, accidentally punctured Roy’s bass with a stool. There in the shadows sits the bass, a chunk of its wood missing.

“I was horrified,” Day says later. “I actually had a panic attack.”

cs_3_CMYKSteve Roy and Josh Day on stage at The Stone Church.

Granted, he and Roy, friends since childhood, shared a good laugh over the mishap. But it highlighted the “free-form nature” of the region’s growing comedy scene, one that he and other comedians say is steeped in community and unique for the unpredictable nature of its shows.

“You’re always going to be thrown curveballs that you have to deal with,” says Day, a native Granite Stater who devoted himself to comedy after a near-fatal accident about three years ago.

Those variables are stitched into the culture of the Seacoast comedy scene and help set it apart from other regions, particularly Boston, comics say. When it comes to Boston, the very thing that makes the city stand out — bigger acts and more comedy venues — can actually squash or limit organic experiences, particularly interactions between comics and fans.

Working the region
Comics stress that dynamic is partly due to where they perform in New Hampshire — places like bars, Elks Clubs, and VFWs, where comedians can’t always expect everyone present to be there for laughs coming from the stage.

That means comics have to work the crowd a bit more, says Jay Grove, a Dover native who runs Veronica Laffs Comedy Club in Raymond and hosts “Match Game” shows locally, including at Radoff’s Cigar Shop and On The Rox Lounge in Rochester.

“You have to be able to gun-sling a little bit,” he says. Those skills separate comics working the New Hampshire circuit from those in Boston, where some “don’t know how to deal with it when people don’t sit and listen to them.”

On a recent Thursday night, Grove was nestled inside Radloff’s with about 15 people, moderating a colorful edition of “Match Game.” Inspired by the classic game show, the contest pits two contestants against each other as they try to finish a sentence with a word that matches, or kind of matches, one chosen by one of three panelists.

One of the questions that night: What do you wrap your dog’s medicine in when it refuses to take it? “Falafel” wasn’t the answer, but Grove got a good laugh out of it. It was one of the more than 1,100 questions Grove says he’s written since starting the game, which will soon hit its 50th edition.

Having made comedy his full-time job about two years ago, Grove cooked up “Match Game” as a way to stay sharp in between shows and supplement his income in what he and others say is an incredibly competitive landscape, where “everyone’s fighting for the same Saturday night spots.”

We can’t talk about penises because we don’t have them, which is what a lot of guy comics talk about. So we mix it up and talk about what we’ve got going on.” — comedian Lauren Garza

The scene’s competitive nature, mixed with a desire to produce something different, led Dover’s Lauren Garza and friends to start LIPS Comedy, an all-female sketch, improv, and standup group. The group has performed at Leaven in Somersworth and Cara Irish Pub and Chameleon Club in Dover, and has a show coming up at Portsmouth Book & Bar later this month.

LIPS’ shows tend to have a “more female-centric vibe” to them, Garza says. “We can’t talk about penises because we don’t have them, which is what a lot of guy comics talk about,” she says. “So we mix it up and talk about what we’ve got going on.”

LIPS, which is made up of five women, hopes to book gigs in Boston in the coming months, Garza says, but she anticipates needing to “adjust our expectations,” when that happens, a nod to the homey mood bred by the local scene.

“Honestly, a lot of the people in the audience are friends or people we know or see around town,” she says. But no matter where the show is, “a huge part of it is just feeling out the audience.”

Good crowds, thick skins
At Josh Day’s comedy night in Newmarket, the material revolves around relationships, love and sex, families and having kids, race, current events, the Super Bowl, and more, all jovially spawned from the minds of several New England comics, including Jeff Koen and Kenice Mobley.

Mobley has performed throughout Boston, but she says it’s in New Hampshire, where she’s performed extensively, that she sees “a fuller audience,” with a “little bit more variety of people.” That, in turn, forces her to “come up with material that appeals not just to 25-year-olds living in an urban area.” The environment here is tolerant, even more so than other places. “In New Hampshire, I’ve never found people automatically crossing their arms, saying, ‘No, this chick can’t say something funny.’”

cs_1Kenice Mobley doing stand-up at The Stone Church.

Koen, from Newburyport, Mass., says shows at The Stone Church provide a “professional” setting compared to other venues where comics are vying for the attention of patrons.

“If you’re at an open mic and the Bruins are playing, people are watching the Bruins,” he says. Still, the range of experiences pays off, particularly given the number of years comics say it takes to hone their craft. “You’re cutting your teeth, getting that tough skin,” Koen says.

Among the night’s comedians is Newmarket’s own Juston McKinney. His set features more Seacoast-specific cracks: the travails of saving plowed parking spots, or whether the only school open during the recent blizzard was a home-school in Lee.

For McKinney, who’s appeared on several Comedy Central specials and “The Tonight Show,” these shows are a place to practice and refine jokes.

“I’m constantly working on new material,” he says, “and these venues give me a stage to do that. I don’t know what I’d do without it. It’s been great for me.”

Day, meanwhile, is excited by the energy of comics trying to make it locally.

“I guess it’s more homegrown comedy,” he says. “If you want to make something happen, you pretty much have to go out there and make it happen.” Preferably, Day quips, without breaking any music equipment.

Yet, his friend McKinney says, it’s “moments like that that you’ll never see on YouTube. There are just things that happen live that can’t be duplicated. You just never know what’s going to happen in
the moment.”

cs_5_CMYKJuston McKinney practicing jokes at The Stone Church.