Rockabilly rebel Setzer rocks this town


Rockabilly rebel Brian Setzer, center, with Kevin McKendree on piano and Noah Levy on drums, performs at Lynn Auditorium Wednesday night.


LYNN – Brian Setzer rocked this town, rocked it inside out and made a deliriously happy Lynn Auditorium audience scream and shout Wednesday night.

On the longest day of the year, Setzer performed the shortest show of the year. Well, that’s not entirely accurate. It just seemed that way; Setzer and his crack Rockabilly Riot trio were on stage for a high-octane 90 minutes, and the night zipped by faster than a ’55 Thunderbird Roadster.

Setzer, of course, is the former Stray Cats frontman who has done his best to keep alive rockabilly, that uniquely American music form that blends the best of western swing, rhythm & blues and boogie woogie and led to rock ‘n’ roll rebellion in the 1950s and even modern-day Social Distortion-style punk.

This is joyful, hip-shaking music. You can’t help but smile and shake your tailfeathers listening to this stuff. And work up a mighty thirst. The routine: drink beer, dance like a maniac, work up a sweat, drink beer, dance like a madman, sweat it out. Repeat.

At the center of it all is Setzer, elegantly dressed in a pinstriped black suit and sporting a mile-high retro hairstyle that features tubs of pomade, I’m sure. A little dab simply won’t do ya. By concert’s end, Setzer’s perspiration-drenched ’do resembled Donald Trump’s if he got caught in a wind tunnel.

Setzer, an underrated guitarist and singer, was on fire. He wowed the rowdy crowd with stellar playing on a variety of Gretsch guitars, including his trademark maple-stained model and a guacamole-and-lime green beauty. He shined all night, especially on “’49 Mercury Blues” and an instrumental version of Bill Monroe’s classic “Blue Moon of Kentucky.”

His simpatico bandmates (bassist Mark Winchester, drummer Noah Levy, Jerry Lee-like piano man Kevin McKendree) are first-rate musicians. Winchester is a wonder to watch, spinning and dancing with his ginormous Lebron James-sized double bass, which he slapped and plucked with fervor.  

Versions of Stray Cats favorites “Rumble in Brighton,” “Stray Cat Strut,” “Fishnet Stockings” and “Rock This Town” rocked with abandon, as did a fast-and-furious “Drive Like Lightning (Crash Like Thunder)” and “Slow Down,” which segued into Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues.” Setzer paid tribute to his idols, Gene “Be Bop a Lula” Vincent and Eddie “Summertime Blues” Cochran, with a terrific run-through of “Gene and Eddie.”

I love jiving to Setzer’s 11-piece BSO Orchestra, but this quartet setup distills the music to its most basic, euphoric state. Fans can’t help but jump, jive and hail Setzer as the world’s foremost rockabilly rebel. He was in top form Wednesday night.

Bill Brotherton is the Item’s Features editor. Tell him what you think at


The Isley Brothers take us to the next phase

Ronald Isley performing in Lynn.


LYNN – Can a 76-year-old gentleman be a sweet-talking, seductive loverman? You bet, especially if you’re Ronald “Mr. Biggs” Isley, the iconic soul singer who charmed ladies and their fellas out of their seats Thursday night at Lynn Auditorium.

Ronald and younger brother/guitar hero Ernie brought their catalog of hit songs and their Isley Brothers band (five musicians, three gorgeous dancers and powerhouse singer Kandy Johnson Isley, Ronald’s 35-years-younger wife) to town for a dazzling 80-minute show. The uptempo numbers got the near-capacity crowd up and dancing; the slow love songs melted the coldest of hearts.

Having problems with your partner? Forget couples counseling, just pop “Between the Sheets” or “This Old Heart of Mine (Is Weak For You)” into the CD player and let the Isleys work their magic. Problem solved.

The crowd was really into the music, from the first notes of opening song “Fight the Power” to the closing salvo of their funkified cover of Seals and Crofts’ “Summer Breeze” and the classic “Shout,” recorded in 1959 by the Isleys and famously revived in the film “Animal House.” Ronald can’t quite reach the high notes these days, but his voice is still smooth and strong.

“That Lady (Part 1)” was a highlight, with Ronald, holding a cane and hat and looking dapper in a glittery black suit, swaying to the soulful beat.

Truncated versions of funk archetype “It’s Your Thing” and “Twist and Shout” (with a bit of Wilson Pickett’s “Land of 1000 Dances” tossed in) got audience members moving and grooving while the band cooked and the ladies danced the frug, the jerk and, of course, the twist. Would’ve been nice to hear longer versions of these tunes, but they sounded great.

Ronald sat down for a fine run-through of Todd Rundgren’s “Hello, It’s Me,” which started with a snippet of Lionel Richie’s “Hello” and found the crowd shouting encouragement to the singer and band.

Kandy Johnson Isley showed off her mighty, gospel-influenced voice during “(At Your Best) You Are Love,” a duet with Ronald, and the Whitney Houston homage “Jesus Loves Me,” earning the night’s loudest applause.

Ernie Isley seized the spotlight with his ferocious, beautiful playing on “Love the One You’re With,” a soulful strut. His “Voyage to Atlantis” was a guitar showcase. He hitched up his black leather pants and laid into some ferocious solos, playing his tricked-out, coffee-colored Stratocaster

behind his back and with his teeth ala Jimi Hendrix (who played guitar with the Isley Brothers in the early ‘60s).

“Shout” was a rousing closer. The dancers, in tight, white fringe outfits, made like the Ikettes while the band roared through the rock classic, never getting a little bit softer now. This was a full-tilt boogie.

Isley Brothers twist, shout and wow crowd



Ronald and Ernie Isley in concert Thursday night at Lynn Auditorium.


LYNN – Can a 76-year-old gentleman be a sweet-talking, seductive loverman? You bet, especially if you’re Ronald “Mr. Biggs” Isley, the iconic soul singer who charmed ladies and their fellas out of their seats Thursday night at Lynn Auditorium.

Ronald and younger brother/guitar hero Ernie brought their catalog of hit songs and their Isley Brothers band (five musicians, three gorgeous dancers and powerhouse singer Kandy Johnson Isley, Ronald’s 35-years-younger wife) to town for a dazzling 80-minute show. The uptempo numbers got the near-capacity crowd up and dancing; the slow love songs melted the coldest of hearts.

Having problems with your partner? Forget couples counseling, just pop “Between the Sheets” or “This Old Heart of Mine (Is Weak For You)” into the CD player and let the Isleys work their magic. Problem solved.

The crowd was really into the music, from the first notes of opening song “Fight the Power” to the closing salvo of their funkified cover of Seals and Crofts’ “Summer Breeze” and the classic “Shout,” recorded in 1959 by the Isleys and famously revived in the film “Animal House.” Ronald can’t quite reach the high notes these days, but his voice is still smooth and strong.

“That Lady (Part 1)” was a highlight, with Ronald, holding a cane and hat and looking dapper in a glittery black suit, swaying to the soulful beat.

Truncated versions of funk archetype “It’s Your Thing” and “Twist and Shout” (with a bit of Wilson Pickett’s “Land of 1000 Dances” tossed in) got audience members moving and grooving while the band cooked and the ladies danced the frug, the jerk and, of course, the twist. Would’ve been nice to hear longer versions of these tunes, but they sounded great.

Ronald sat down for a fine run-through of Todd Rundgren’s “Hello, It’s Me,” which started with a snippet of Lionel Richie’s “Hello” and found the crowd shouting encouragement to the singer and band.

Kandy Johnson Isley showed off her mighty, gospel-influenced voice during “(At Your Best) You Are Love,” a duet with Ronald, and the Whitney Houston homage “Jesus Loves Me,” earning the night’s loudest applause.

Ernie Isley seized the spotlight with his ferocious, beautiful playing on “Love the One You’re With,” a soulful strut. His “Voyage to Atlantis” was a guitar showcase. He hitched up his black leather pants and laid into some ferocious solos, playing his tricked-out, coffee-colored Stratocaster behind his back and with his teeth a la Jimi Hendrix (who played guitar with the Isley Brothers in the early ’60s).

“Shout” was a rousing closer. The dancers, in tight, white fringe outfits, made like the Ikettes while the band roared through the rock classic, never getting a little bit softer now. This was a full-tilt boogie.

Bill Brotherton is the Item’s Features editor. Tell him what you think at





Classic Rock Show more than a feeling

The Classic Rock Show performed at Lynn Auditorium.


LYNN — The Classic Rock Show is billed as “the ultimate live jukebox.” Truer words have never been spoken.

Thursday night at Lynn Auditorium, an 8-piece band played just-like-the-record versions of some of classic rock’s greatest hits. The A-Z of Rock World Tour 2017 included AC/DC to Zeppelin and ZZ Top and nearly everything in between.

Three strong vocalists (Rudy Cardenas, Johnny West and Emily Jollands), two fiery guitarists (James Cole and Howie G) who played licks off of practically every record that mattered to the baby boomer crowd, keyboardist Henry Burnett, and a tight rhythm section of Wayne Banks (bass) and Karl Penney (drums) wowed the crowd for just short of three hours.

The Led Zeppelin classic “Whole Lotta Love” kicked off the night in hard-rocking fashion, with Cardenas replicating Robert Plant’s feral howls and Howie G. aping Jimmy Page’s solos, wielding his gold Gibson Les Paul like a weapon. Cardenas also aced his Freddie Mercury vocal on “One Vision,” not the Queen song I would’ve chosen (“Bohemian Rhapsody,” “Killer Queen,” “Tie Your Mother Down”) but that’s a mere quibble.

West took the mic for a high-octane blast through Deep Purple’s “Highway Star,” miraculously hitting those otherworldly Ian Gillan high notes. Memories raced through my head: It was 1972 again and my buds and I were headed into town to see the metal giants at the old Garden, passing around a bottle of Boone’s Farm apple wine we’d smuggled onto the train.

The set list likely brought back similar memories for the mostly AARP-eligible audience. One gent proudly wore a sweatshirt that boasted “I may be old but I got to see all the cool bands”; last night’s clad-in-black octet was a better-than-expected facsimile of those classic bands. The evening was a smile-inducing, headbanging nostalgia trip, with the band reeling in the years, just like The Dan would proclaim.

It was one hit after another. Journey’s “Separate Ways,” the Doors’ “Riders on the Storm” (awesome!), Zep’s “Stairway to Heaven” and a wondrous acoustic run-through of “Going to California,” ZZ Top’s “La Grange,” Wings’ “Live and Let Die,” Kansas’ “Carry on My Wayward Son,” Dire Straits’ “Money For Nothing” (with the iconic MTV video shown on a screen at the rear of the stage), Eagles’ “Hotel California,” AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell” and on and on.

Peter Green-era Fleetwood Mac (“Oh Well”) segued into Stevie Nicks-era Fleetwood Mac (“Rhiannon,” with the underused Jollands singing lead). The night’s least-known song, Gary Moore’s ferocious “Still Got the Blues,” was one of the night’s best and showcased to great effect the talents of singer West, guitarist Howie G and guitarist Cole, who coxed splendid sounds from his Plaistow, N.H.,-made Fractal Audio guitar amp and a series of axes.

The band smartly rocked a spot-on cover of “More Than a Feeling” by local heroes Boston (that band’s guitarist Barry Goudreau of Swampscott will bring his new band to the Auditorium on April 22). Indeed: “So many people have come and gone/Their faces fade as the years go by/Yet I still recall as I wander on/As clear as the sun in the summer sky/It’s more than a feeling.”

And former Swampscott resident/then-baby-faced David Lee Roth was represented by “Jump,” the Van Halen classic. The encore was sublime: Skynyrd’s “Freebird” and The Who’s still relevant “Won’t Get Fooled Again.”

The music of the ‘60s and ‘70s truly was the best; I feel sorry for the current generation that’s force-fed execrable, overproduced pap that will likely be forgotten in five years let alone five decades from now.  

No Stones? No Kinks? No Creedence? No problem! The Classic Rock Show was a blast.

A day of reading in Saugus

Bill Brotherton is The Item’s Feature Editor. He can be reached at

A “portrait of America’s blue collar heart”

‘Rust Belt Boy,’ a memoir by Paul Hertneky.


The first time Paul Hertneky saw the ocean it was a revelation. Those who have read his memoir, “Rust Belt Boy: Stories of an American Childhood,” have experienced a similar reaction.

Hertneky grew up in Ambridge, Penn., a struggling steel town that saw its factories close and manufacturing cease. It was a town with no future but that’s where their futures lied, to paraphrase Richard Thompson. Anxious to start a career, he decided to flee, like many of his generation. In 1978, he landed a job at The Real Paper in Boston and moved to the North Shore.

“I hadn’t seen the ocean till I was 17 years old. When I moved to Boston I wanted to find a place near the sea.” Nahant beckoned. He found an apartment with a view of Lynn harbor, close to the beach and an old Italian couple as neighbors who invited him to supper every Wednesday.

“I used to sit on the rocks and watch the sun set. I would walk to the sports bar (The Tides) and catch Steelers games. Now that I live in Hancock, N.H., I’m a Patriots fan,” he said in jest. “Lynn reminded me of home. I’d spend time in the Buick pool hall, on the second floor, (of a building on Washington Street/Central Avenue). It was run very carefully by an old-timer. It was great. I felt at home there.”

Critics have embraced Hertneky’s book, offering such plaudits as “Rust Belt Boy brings to life, in loving, lyric detail, an essential but overlooked portrait of America’s blue collar heart” and “I felt Hertneky was writing a love letter to my own boyhood, and at the same time a Dear John letter, telling me goodbye to all that. If you’re one of the six million baby boomers who walked away from a dying hometown, read this book and remember another America.”

Hertneky’s memoir has struck a chord with readers, not only in Pennsylvania but especially in New England where struggling mill cities with rivers running through them, such as Lynn, Peabody, Lawrence, Lowell and Fall River, have seen factories shut down and good-paying manufacturing jobs go elsewhere.

No one is more surprised at the book’s reception than Hertneky.

“I underestimated how many people in the Eastern United States grew up in these mill towns, in ethnic neighborhoods. In many ways, New England is a rust belt, too.”

“The national media says these cities are dying. That’s the wrong adjective,” said Hertneky. “The cities are struggling, they are changing.”

Hertneky is hoping to schedule readings of his book at libraries and retirement centers in the Lynn area and throughout New England soon. “I wrote this book for people who love reading and love literature. But I also wrote it for people back home who read one book a year.”

“I was back in Lynn for the Mavericks concert at City Hall Auditorium a couple of weeks ago. I was very impressed,” said Hertneky, praising the downtown arts community, the nice restaurants and the energy created by young adults who live in the area.

“It reminds me of Pittsburgh and other big cities that have followed a similar path to reinvention. Salem took advantage of the train line; it’s Lynn’s turn. This is what happens in the rust belt cities.”

Hertneky said a follow-up book might look at those individuals who abandoned their hometowns but are now returning. “People are coming back to their hometowns. They come back and buy inexpensive restaurants and turn them into expensive restaurants. Coffeehouses spring up, becoming almost a community center for young people in these great industrial cities. Lynn is in a great spot.”

“Rust Belt Boy: Stories of an American Childhood” is available at

Bill Brotherton can be reached at

Happy Hallmark holidaze

Prince Leopold (Stephen Hagan) and commoner Emily Taylor (Lacey Chabert) are in love but mean Isadore, Queen of Cordinia (Jane Seymour) is determined to end their romance in “A Royal Christmas.”


Dear God, heaven help me! I’m hooked on those schmaltzy Christmas movies that are filling up the Hallmark Channel and Ion Television schedules this month.

It’s getting serious. A couple of weekends ago my beloved Patriots were manhandling the L.A. Rams. My lovely, long-suffering wife of 30 years and I were watching the game in our favorite haunt. Legarrette Blount had just busted loose and turned a fourth-and-1 into a 43-yard touchdown run. At halftime the Pats were up 17-zip and I felt an overpowering urge to ask the bartender to change to the Hallmark Channel. I’m sure the gents at the bar wouldn’t have minded.

I mean, really? The Pats had this one locked up. And “Holiday Engagement” was on. It’s a doozy. Thirty-something Hillary loses her newspaper job and gets dumped just before she’s heading home to spend Christmas with her judgmental family; so she logs onto an online dating site and convinces some poor sap to pose as her boyfriend. Bet you can guess where this is headed! Right?

The day before, I was sitting on the loveseat in our tiny TV/treadmill/music room watching “A Firehouse Christmas” on Ion. I was pounding down pinot grigios and nervously picking at a spinach salad when my saintly wife came in from the backyard, where she had just drained the oil out of the lawn mower for the winter. I was dabbing tears with a Kleenex and pointing at the TV. “Jenny and Tom belong together, and his beyotch of an ex is doing her best to (expletive) things up.”

She wiped her hands with a rag and said “Bill, what’s happened to you? I miss that sarcastic, curmudgeonly lump I fell in love with. Please turn on a football game and eat some meat.”

Get me an intervention, stat! These predictable, formulaic romantic comedies have turned me into Mr. Softee. I used to jump off the stage at Clash concerts. I used to cut down trees with a handsaw and split two cords of wood in one day. I used to rotate the tires on both cars just for the hell of it. I used to wrestle bears naked (OK, you got me; I lie. I wore clothes).

Yet here I am, bawling my eyes out because Kristi and Matt are back together after a silly misunderstanding in “Christmas Mail.” I’m beyond happy these kids were able to work it out; everyone could tell they were made for each other.   

The saddest thing is there’s not even any sex in these movies. Every one of these couples has taken a vow of celibacy for the entirety of their relationship. If somebody catches them sneaking a kiss or holding hands, they turn all red and start stammering.

It’s not like these films are populated with star actors, either. Jane Seymour plays a mean queen in “A Royal Christmas” and Elisabeth Rohm from “Law & Order” plays a conniving, detestable she-devil in the totally excellent “A Christmas Kiss.” That’s about it, unless you consider the mom from “Happy Days” (Marion Ross) and Tim Allen’s sidekick in “Home Improvement“ (Richard Karn) stars. I don’t.

And the plots are so simplistic and predictable it’s laughable. I don’t mean to ruin the movies for you, but the cute couples always end up together. There’s often a wicked witch of a woman or an egotistical successful man as the antagonist. The main character is usually a workaholic, sad sack, lost soul or a sweet gal who lacks confidence or is waiting for her big break; many return to their home town having turned cynical from being beaten down by life or burned from love. And everyone seems to love ice skating. Go figure (skate).

Doesn’t matter one bit. These rom-coms are comfort food for the soul, a glimmer of innocence and hope in a world increasingly filled with incivility, intolerance and anger. I’m going to continue to binge-watch ’em until my eyes are bloodshot and sore.

Well, I hate to cut you off. But the UPS truck is outside and the dude in the brown outfit is walking toward my front door with a package in hand. He must be delivering that 10-movie Holiday Romance Pack I had overnighted. Which should I watch first? “Single Santa Seeks Mrs. Claus?” “Moonlight & Mistletoe?” Oh, this sounds promising: “A Boyfriend For Christmas” — Heartsick singleton Holly is trying to help a woman regain custody of her kids during the holiday season but pro bono lawyer Ryan never shows up in court. Furious, Holly sends him a nasty letter. And then she meets-cute this terrific guy…

His name is Ryan. Could it be that slimeball who bailed on the court appearance? What do you think?

Here we go again. Now, where did I put those damn Kleenex.

Bill Brotherton is the Item’s Features editor. He would love to know which Hallmark/Ion Christmas movies you like best and which ones to avoid. He can be reached at

Etheridge electrifies, rocks and seduces

Photo by Nicole Goodhue Boyd

Melissa Etheridge performed Thursday night at Lynn Auditorium.

By Bill Brotherton

LYNN — “It’s great to be here in Lynn, the City of Firsts,” said Melissa Etheridge Thursday night at Lynn Auditorium. “So, for the first time on this tour, we’re going to do this song by John Lennon.”

She and her bandmates, drummer Brian Delaney (of the New York Dolls) and bassist David Santos (Billy Joel/Elton John, John Fogerty, Crosby Stills & Nash), kicked into “Happy Christmas (War is Over)” and it was one of those moments that are rare in concerts these days: the performer and fans were of one voice, singing loudly this plea for peace. A very Merry Christmas/And a happy new year/Let’s hope it’s a good one/Without any fear. And so this is Christmas/For weak and for strong/For rich and the poor ones/The world is so wrong/And so happy Christmas/For black and for white/For yellow and red ones/Let’s stop all the fight”

It segued into a “All we are saying, is give peace a chance” chant and it caused goosebumps. There were many couples in the auditorium and lots had tears rolling down their cheeks.

Equally powerful was the encore, a white-hot version of “Like the Way I Do,” the centerpiece of her self-titled debut album. When Etheridge opened for Little Feat at Great Woods in 1989 she closed her set with this ferocious rocker. Few in attendance that night knew who she was, but after her incendiary set it was obvious she was destined for stardom. Thursday night the song made a similar impact: it shocked, electrified and rocked; it seduced and affected just like it did all those years ago in Mansfield. It is one of the ‘80s greatest rock songs. Thursday night, Etheridge shook her leg and curled her lip like Elvis while unleashing blistering guitar solos and a sparkling vocal. Splendid.

The Melissa Etheridge Holiday Trio was in town and they played a mix of Christmas songs, Stax cover songs from Etheridge’s recent “MEmphis Rock and Soul” album and her million-selling hits. For the most part it was a rocking good time, though Etheridge’s chatty nature, though well-intentioned, slowed the pace a bit mid-set.

Etheridge, an iconic gay and lesbian activist, remains optimistic despite the election of President-elect Trump. “We are going to be all right,” she said, confident the next generation will do what’s right.

The biggest cheers, of course, came for the hits. Etheridge, 55 and a 12-year breast cancer survivor, thrilled fans with heartfelt run-throughs of “I Want to Come Over,” “Light a Light,” “Come to My Window,” “I’m the Only One” and an extended “Bring Me Some Water,” which evolved into a fast-paced “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” and circled back to “Some Water.”

But the Stax covers were terrific, too. William Bell’s “Any Other Way” was a funky wonder. Sam and Dave’s “Hold on I’m Coming” got people moving and grooving. Albert King’s “Born Under a Bad Sign” was a bluesy treat, with Etheridge’s raspy howl sealing the deal. Ditto on a soulful cover of Otis Redding’s “Merry Christmas Baby.” Her guitar playing, on a series of Gibsons, Fender Telecasters and Ovation 12-strings, was fabulous all night.

Etheridge, of course, attended Boston’s Berklee College of Music in 1979 and played around town, singing covers of songs by Barry Manilow and others before she headed to California and started creating her own music and a sizable buzz.

Thursday night, Etheridge had a Kansas City Chiefs guitar strap attached to her white, 12-string Ovation guitar. Her Chiefs were playing the Oakland Raiders on Thursday Night Football  and she was anxious to return to the bus to watch the second half. At the end of the show, after nearly two exhilarating hours, she said “Thank you Lynn, Boston, Massachusetts, New England … see you in the playoffs.” And she promised to return next summer. Yay!

Bill Brotherton is the Item’s Features editor. He can be reached at

Hermits, Americans win on Veterans Day


Peter Noone in concert Friday night at Lynn Auditorium.

By Bill Brotherton

LYNN — Veterans Day turned into veterans night Friday at Lynn Auditorium. The co-headliners — Herman’s Hermits starring Peter Noone and Jay and the Americans — had their first hits in 1964 and 1962 respectively and both have toured in various incarnations since.

These veterans hark back to a more innocent time, just before the United States’ involvement in the Vietnam War escalated. Their radio hits about love, dancing and pining for Mrs. Brown’s lovely daughter soon gave way to “Eve of Destruction,” “For What It’s Worth” and other protest songs. This double bill was terrific nostalgic entertainment for lovers of sixties pop music; my collection of 45s includes most of the songs that were performed Friday night.

Noone and his Hermits, veterans of the British Invasion, finished the evening with 90 minutes of high-energy fun.  Noone, surprisingly only 69 years old (he was 15 when the band’s first hit “I’m Into Something Good” was released), is a fantastic charismatic frontman. The guy’s a pro: He did his homework and referenced many local people, places and things, such as getting lost in Revere, the abundance of Dunkin’ Donuts shops and, when a gent in the front row dropped a CD tossed his way, he namechecked Bill Buckner. He got the near-capacity crowd to sing the chorus “I’m at Lynn Auditorium in Lynn Massachusetts” during a cover of “Do Wah Diddy Diddy.”

These days, Noone, who still has that groovy mop-top hair and toothy grin, travels with a talented foursome of hired hands that does justice to the Hermits’ pop gems. It’s been awhile since I’ve seen an audience respond so positively to a performer, particularly during the band’s closing salvo of classics “No Milk Today,” “The End of the World,” “Can You Hear My Heartbeat,” “Mrs Brown You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter” and, especially, “I’m Henery the Eighth, I Am,” with its rousing chorus and Noone’s overly affected British accent. “Dandy,” “Listen People” and “There’s a Kind of Hush” also brought folks back to the days when worries were few and rock ‘n’ roll radio was king.

The theatrical Noone is a hoot, equal parts stand-up comic and singer. He’s also a fine mimic, delivering amusing impersonations of Tom Jones (“It’s Not Unusual”), the Monkees’ Davy Jones (“Daydream Believer”) and Johnny Cash (“Ring of Fire”). The set was heavy with covers of British Invasion hits, including Freddy and the Dreamers’ “I’m Telling You Now,” The Yardbirds’ “For Your Love” and Gerry and the Pacemakers’ “Ferry Cross the Mersey.” No “Leaning on a Lamppost,” though; I would’ve liked to have heard that.

Jay and the Americans, in the opening slot, were equally entertaining, though in a more doo-wop, fifties way. Their show would fit in well with those programs PBS airs during its annual beg-athons.

Original member Sandy Deanne and long-timers Marty Sanders and Jay Reincke — the third “Jay” to assume the lead vocalist role — and their 5-piece USA band wowed with a set that was filled with humor and classic tunes from back in the day.

Dressed in red (slacks and shoes), white (jerseys) and blue (pleather jackets) on this Veterans Day, the crowd went crazy for their show, nodding approval whenever a long-ago song was sung. The pre-Beatles rave-up of “Some Enchanted Evening” and the percussion-heavy “Only in America” segued into vintage treats like “She Cried,” “Save the Last Dance For Me” and “Cara Mia,” which brought the audience to its feet for an extended ovation. A three-song tribute to former touring mate Roy Orbison (“Crying,” featuring Reincke’s strong, deep voice) was a standout. The Ronettes’ “Be My Baby” and “Walking in the Rain” drew loud applause, as did “Come a Little Closer” and “This Magic Moment,” the perfectly written pop song that closed the set.

Early during the show, Jay and company thanked veterans for their service and asked vets in attendance to stand. About 50 gentlemen did. The audience roared and clapped for more than a minute. “Every day as far as we’re concerned in Veterans Day,” said the band members. As their hit song states: “Only in America/Can a guy from anywhere/Go to sleep a pauper/And wake up a millionaire. Only in America/Can a kid without a cent/Get a break and maybe/Grow up to be President.”

These veteran performers were certainly presidential on Veterans Day.

Bill Brotherton can be reached at:

Downtown cooks with Raw Art

Shayna Fratini’s drawing, “Qis,” is on display at the Blue Ox. Fratini is one of six artists featured in Raw Art Works’ 2013 exhibit who were picked for display at the Oxford Street restaurant. 


LYNN — In a word, amazing things are happening at Raw Art Works downtown. It changes kids’ lives for the better each and every day.

Since 1988, RAW has provided free after-school arts programming for the city’s youth and its staff has encouraged kids to tell their stories through the arts. The dedication of its staff and the students’ creativity that’s on display in the nonprofit organization’s Central Square headquarters is remarkable. “When I came down here for the first time and looked at the artwork on the walls, I was astonished that many of the pieces were made by elementary school kids,” said Alex Ashley, development operations manager.

An exhibit that opens Tuesday night at the Blue Ox on Oxford Street is just one of its many success stories. Six paintings by alumni from RAW’s 2013 exhibit, “In a Word,” will be displayed in the restaurant’s dining room. The students’ work will surround a large art piece created by RAW founder Mary Flannery. The event is open to the public, free of charge. Wine and light hors d’oeuvres will be served from 5-6:30 p.m., with a poetry reading by Gladys Hidalgo, a prominent local slam poet and RAW alumna, at 6 p.m..

Sarah Brogna, development manager, said for “In a Word” “students were asked to make up a word, make up a definition and write a poem around it.” The results are impressive.

Michael Aghahowa, who is expected to attend the exhibit opening on Tuesday, created the verb “nie,” which means “to draw near.” His poem: A mermaid calls/A festive party. I want to go see what is going on. Fresh baked brownies/Walking past Kennedy’s Fried Chicken/sleep after a long day’s work. I am nie. With my personality, I attract cool friends and amazing people into my life.

Shayna Fratini made up “qis,” a noun that means “a vital force (in Chinese thought).” Her poem: “Feeling like I am at the top of a rollercoaster/On the verge of dropping, and then letting go. Like the explosion of a shaken up soda/The sounds of bubble gum popping/After a long day at the beach, the taste of salt on my lips/or the smell of a crisp air on a breezy day/I am qis, I don’t let obstacles prevent me/From getting where I want to be.

Poems and art by Danielle DeVellis, Arielis Kinser, Francisco Vasquez and Danielle Shay will also be displayed.

Ashley added that “In a Word” is the work of RAW’s high school portfolio development group CORE, which answered the question, “What three-letter word represents what you value in your life?” CORE artists, most of whom go to college, were challenged through observational drawing to depict their own hands in sign language. While capturing the gestures that spelled out their three-letter word, they also created a composition and a poem to further describe how the word related to them.  

Brogna said more than 600 students, age 7 to 21, benefit from RAW’s free programs. There is a waiting list. “The focus is on art therapy, which helps get them to understand themselves, too.” The organization has a $2 million budget, which is mostly funded by grants and individual donors; 605 individuals made contributions this year, the most ever.

From the nonprofit’s website: Raw Art Works pursued its mission to ignite the desire to create and the confidence to succeed in underserved youth. RAW believes that all kids should be SEEN and HEARD and is committed to helping kids tell their stories through the arts. Youth respond creatively to compelling questions focused on what is really going on in their lives. Within RAW’s culture of care and safety, kids create in unexpected ways, envision new possibilities and transform their lives.

Ashley enthusiastically tells of one class where students sit in a circle and are asked to rate their day from 1 to 10. “If it’s 5 or below, the student is asked ‘Do you want to talk about it?’ They say why they’re feeling bad, and it’s common for another student to say ‘I feel that way too.’ It gives them the sense they are not alone. They can identify with what their friends are going through.

For more information about RAW programs, volunteer opportunities or the “In a Word” exhibit, go to

Lydia Pinkham Building tangled up in blue (tape)

Carla Forte-Orr, left, watches her teacher Kirsten Bassion shape clay at The Clay School in the Lydia Pinkham Building in Lynn where they will open their studios to the public on Nov. 19 and 20. 


LYNN — In 2006, Kirsten Bassion came up with a particularly inspired idea: The artists renting space at the Lydia Pinkham Building on Western Avenue would all open their studios to the public on the same day.

More than 100 art lovers walked into the Pinkham for that first Lydia Pinkham Open Studios and Holiday Sale.

Last year, some 750 visitors checked out the wares of 45 artists.

The 11th annual Lydia Pinkham Open Studios and Holiday Sale takes place Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 19 and 20, and Bassion said as many as 70 artisans will participate. The group won a grant from the Lynn Cultural Council and, for the first time, artists from downtown Lynn will join the fun, but only on Saturday.

We’re sitting in The Clay School, Bassion’s business on the third floor, and the spacious studio is a beehive of activity. Nearly two dozen students and instructors are in three rooms, making pottery, glazing ceramics and mixing paint. Most of her instructors have been on staff for several years, some all the way back to 2005 when Bassion found the space on Craigslist and opened the school. And students travel from all over; on this day one woman is visiting from Argentina.

“We have a diverse group of participants this year,” said Bassion, who grew up in Marblehead and today is raising her family there. “Potters, painters, sculptors, illustrators, filmmakers, glass blowers, those in mixed media … there’s a lot of talent here, and we’re all excited to show off our work on the 19th and 20th.”

Bassion has ordered a huge box of blue painters tape, which she said will help guide visitors from one studio to the next.

“It’s like following the yellow brick road, only it’s blue,” she said with a smile. “There are quirky alleys and corridors in this building, and it can be difficult to navigate. The tape will hopefully stop anyone from getting lost or confused.”

There will be greeters at the front door, ready to answer questions and give directions. White Christmas lights will adorn the doors of studios that are open, and all artists will be in their studios. Hot cider and refreshments will be served.

Bassion has a dream that every artisan and arts organization in Lynn will eventually get involved. She envisions a whole weekend of events, where trolleys will transport arts lovers to restaurants and galleries throughout the city.

“The reason is selfish. We want to show our work. Every year open studios has grown, more people come and more people buy items that are made in Lynn. I am proud of this community; it’s a talented group of creative people,” she said.

Participating artists at this years Open Studios include Kimberly Allison, Kyle Day, Kathleen Speranza, Anyes Borden, Jay Borden, Couture Planet (Kathy Cormier), Jackie Diehl, digs (Kate Luchini & Tim Hansen), Vicente Disla, Alice Drew Ceramics, Family Stories Through Art (Sharon Santillo), Robert H. Farris, Rolf Flor, Lara Goodman, Ryan Hood, Christine Johnson, John Maciejowski, Freda Nemirovsky, Wayne Nickerson, SugarMatty’s (Matt Jacobs), Mary Spitzer, Annette Sykes, Laura Wilhelm, Arlene Zubris and others.

Lydia Pinkham Open Studios, 271 Western Ave., Lynn, Nov. 19 (10 a.m.-5 p.m.) and Nov. 20 (11 a.m.-4 p.m.). Admission is free. For more information on the artists, go to

Bill Brotherton can be reached at

Miller flies like an eagle at Lynn Auditorium


Steve Miller in concert Sunday night at the Lynn Auditorium.



LYNN — Some people call Steve Miller the Space Cowboy. Others call him the Gangster of Love. And what the hell is the pompitous of love?

I’m guessing a little reefer madness influenced the midnight toker on that one. Probably on the silly Really love your peaches want to shake your tree” line as well.

He’s a joker, that boy. He’s also a terrific entertainer, as the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer showed Sunday night at Lynn Auditorium before a near-capacity crowd. The Steve Miller Band wowed with a 20-song set that mixed mega-hits with deep album cuts and thrilling blues explorations. At age 73, Miller’s voice and showmanship are as solid as ever. It was one fine show from start to finish.

We don’t know if the midnight toker will hang around until election day to lobby for the state’s pot referendum, but he did urge concertgoers to vote on Tuesday. The outspoken, reluctant hall of famer also introduced the harmonica-fueled blues song “Living in the USA” thusly: “It was written in 1968, when politicians were really crazy.”

Miller’s bandmates have been with him for many years, and this is one tight, rocking outfit. Kenny Lee Lewis (bass), Gordy Knudtson (drums), Joseph Wooten (keyboards), Jacob Petersen (rhythm guitar) and Miller (vocals and lead guitar) got the party started by opening with three of Miller’s biggest hits: “Jungle Love,” “Take the Money and Run” and “Abracadabra.” The main set closed with “Fly Like an Eagle” and a ferocious “Rock’n Me,” sending the crowd into a frenzy. The encore was sublime: “The Stake,” “Swingtown” and, of course, “Jet Airliner,” the tune written by Bostonian Paul Pena. All three are from Miller’s 1977 smash album “Book of Dreams” and this nostalgic trip back in time was as comforting as a mom-prepared meal of meatloaf, Tater Tots and butterscotch pudding.

The audience vigorously sang along to all the hits; they sang so loudly I bet “Jet Airliner” rattled windows in Wyoma Square. There were even a few cigarette lighter tributes at the end, a throwback to Miller’s ‘70s and ‘80s glory days.

Miller is one of rock music’s most underrated guitarists, shown during his muscular solos during the lesser-known bluesy songs “Going to Mexico,” “I Want to Make the World Turn Around” and the Santana-influenced “Shu Ba Da Du Ma Ma Ma Ma.” During “Winter Time,” Miller played a twin-necked guitar — both 6- and 12-strings — to marvelous effect. His effects pedals went into overdrive during an extended “Fly Like an Eagle.”

Miller’s between-song stories were great, too, especially the tale about how brazen 12-year-old Miller and his schoolmate Boz Scaggs started a band and convinced Dallas club owners to book the outfit for $125 in 1956. He then sang “Gangster of Love,” a risque song by Johnny “Guitar” Watson, that was the first tune the young band learned.

Chelsea’s own Adam Ezra, sans band, opened with a short set of his fiery pop songs and covers of “Ziggy Stardust” and “Take It Easy” by the dearly departed David Bowie and Glenn Frey. He shared a story that at age 17 he and a pal traveled to Great Woods in Mansfield to see his idol — Steve Miller — in concert. He admitted it was a special thrill to open for him.

Seeing Miller and his band in Lynn Sunday night was a thrill for all attendees as well.

Bill Brotherton can be reached at

Ready to Rumble: ‘West Side Story’ succeeds like gangbusters

The cast of “West Side Story” at a dance in the gym. The show will be playing at North Shore Music Theatre through Nov. 20.


BEVERLY —West Side Story” premiered on Broadway way back in 1957. And sadly, here we are nearly six decades later, and its story of two warring gangs battling over control of their NYC neighborhood is as relevant as ever. Guns and not switchblades are now the weapons of choice and the comical disrespect for the police depicted in this iconic musical has devolved into utter contempt in today’s world.

The aim is not to turn this review into a political screed, but watching North Shore Music Theatre’s excellent, entertaining production of this groundbreaking show Wednesday night, one couldn’t help but compare the scared, frustrated, angry young men in the Jets (white) and Sharks (Puerto Rican) with the scared, lost, enraged young men in 2016 America.

“West Side Story” was the antithesis of the golly-gee-willikers, nifty-fifties’ “Happy Days” portrayal of life in these United States. Conceived, directed and choreographed by Jerome Robbins, it was nominated for seven Tony awards. Leonard Bernstein composed the music and a kid by the name of Stephen Sondheim wrote the lyrics. It’s one of the greatest, most influential musicals of all time, and it turned Broadway on its ear, with its daring focus on social problems, brilliant score and aggressive dancing.

It also became a fantastic film that won 10 Academy Awards including best picture and best supporting actor prizes for Rita Moreno and George Chakiris.

Based on Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet,” the central story focuses on the young protagonist,Tony (Bronson Norris Murphy), a former member of the Jets and best friend of the gang leader, Riff (Tyler John Logan), who falls in love with Maria (Evy Ortiz), the sister of Bernardo (Alexander Gil Cruz), the leader of the Sharks. Murphy and Ortiz, both blessed with strong voices and solid acting skills, have great chemistry and shine as the idealistic, doomed star-crossed lovers. Their climactic scene is filled with agitation and sadness.

The NSMT cast is uniformly superb. Logan and Cruz stand out as leaders of the rival gangs, acting tough on the outside but scared witless inside. NSMT favorite David Coffee, who will soon move full-time to Beverly, is steady per usual as drugstore owner Doc. Salem State University graduate DJ Petrosino is fine as Chino.

Michelle Alves, as Bernardo’s girlfriend Anita, is a wonder. She brings tenderness to her scenes with Ortiz, humor to her scenes with the girls and appropriate rage to a scene in which she’s assaulted by the Jets. Her voice is lusty and powerful.

The choreography, supervised by Diane Laurenson, is athletic, physical and demanding, and the ensemble handles it with ease. The men shine during the deadly rumble, the women while singing the praises of “America.” All sparkle during the vibrant, energetic, sexy “Dance at the Gym,” the hipster Beat jazz of “Cool” and the dream ballet.

The cruddy, juvenile delinquent Jets add a bit of levity with the hilarious “Gee, Officer Krupke,” the clever rhymes and lyrics by Sondheim a hint of what was to come in his  masterful career.

The show is filled with songs that have become standards: “Somewhere (There’s a Place For Us),” “I Feel Pretty,” “Tonight” and “America.”

Director Bob Richard keeps the action moving and the tension building from scene to scene, culminating in a pair of shocking, violent Act 2 scenes (Doc’s Drug Store, 11:40 p.m.) and (The Street, midnight) that draw gasps from the audience.

“West Side Story” is at the Music Theatre through Nov. 20. See it, and bring an impressionable teenager with you: It might change his or her life.

Bill Brotherton can be reached at

The truth is out there: Author talks possibility of alien visits

Boston-based author Ben Mezrich will talk about his latest nonfiction book and his writing career on Wednesday, Nov. 9, as featured author at the Jewish Community Center of the North Shore’s annual Jewish Book Month Speaker Series


Despite having been a writer on “The X-Files,” Ben Mezrich has never been a big believer in UFOs.

That changed when the Boston-based author started doing research for his latest nonfiction book, The 37th Parallel: The Secret Truth Behind America’s UFO Highway.

“I grew up in a family of scientists, but never had a sighting of my own. I was skeptical. It wasn’t until I dug into this book that I see it now as more of a possibility,” said Mezrich. “As mind-blowing and incredible as it seems, I am convinced there is evidence of at least one (alien) visitation.”

“The 37th Parallel” focuses on UFO hunter Chuck Zukowski, a former sheriff’s deputy in Colorado who has spent the better part of three decades investigating alien sightings, secret government activity and the bizarre incidences of mutilated livestock that have occurred on the 37th degree of latitude.

Mezrich, 47, will talk about “The 37th Parallel” and his writing career on Wednesday, Nov. 9, as featured author at the Jewish Community Center of the North Shore’s annual Jewish Book Month Speaker Series.

The Harvard University graduate is certainly prolific, having penned 16 books, including the wordily-titled best-sellers “Bringing Down the House: The Inside Story of Six MIT Students Who Took Vegas for Millions” andThe Accidental Billionaires: The Founding Of Facebook, A Tale of Sex, Money, Genius, and Betrayal.” They were the basis for hit movies “21” and “The Social Network.”

“The 37th Parallel” will also become a major motion picture, produced by New Line Cinema.

“It all started with a call from a Hollywood producer friend who said ‘Ben, there’s this guy, Zukowski, who has investigated cattle mutilations. More than 10,000 cows have been found lying on their left side, with missing organs, completely drained of blood. Go check him out.’”

Mezrich flew to Colorado and hung out with Zukowski. It didn’t take him long to realize there was a book and a movie “in this totally crazy tale. Mutilated cattle and government coverups. Weird conspiracy theories, dating back to the ’40s. Thirty to forty percent of people believe we have been visited by life on other planets. It’s quite compelling. It will make a great movie.” Robert Downey Jr. is in talks to play the lead role, said Mezrich, who approached the subject as would a journalist, reporting facts and avoiding speculation.

Does Mezrich believe we’ve been visited?

“I believe there is fairly good evidence of at least once in our history something did crash here. I think it all centers around Roswell (the supposed crash site of a flying saucer in New Mexico), whether or not it’s an alien spacecraft, no one can say. The Air Force refuses to release information or speak about it,” said Mezrich. “Presidents have pushed to have the files opened. I know Hillary Clinton wants to get the files opened.

“The majority of UFO sightings are explainable. Not all are. I am becoming more and more convinced there is definite evidence of a coverup,” said Mezrich, who added that a private aerospace company has been rumored to have had a UFO in storage for more than 50 years.

Is the truth out there? Mezrich will likely expound on the subject Wednesday night in Marblehead.

Mezrich’s next project? “Woolly: The True Story of the De-Extinction of One of History’s Most Iconic Creatures.” Slated to be published by Simon & Schuster’s Atria Books next year, it tells the story of a Harvard geneticist and a team of scientists who try to bring back the woolly mammoth from extinction. It, too, will become a movie.

Ben Mezrich at the Jewish Book Month Speaker Series, Wednesday, Nov. 9, 7 p.m., at the Jewish Community Center of the North Shore in Marblehead. Tickets: $18; at or 781-476-9909.

Praising to the high heavens in Lynn

Doreen Murray, Donna Murray and Rev. Adrienne Berry-Burton, from left, rehearse at the Zion Baptist Church in Lynn in preparation for their fundraising concert on Saturday.


LYNN — For years, the Rev. Adrienne Berry-Burton has been helping students stay on course at the University of Massachusetts-Boston.

Now the Lynn resident and longtime member/interim minister at Zion Baptist Church is seeking help for UMass-Boston’s ecumenical Oasis of Faith Campus Ministry.

Berry-Burton is presenting the Joy and Praise Concert Saturday at 5 p.m. at Zion Baptist to help support the ministry, which relies on donations and grants. She has lined up an impressive array of musical and vocal talent.

“It will be a wonderful time. Music will include classic joy-filled hymns (“How Great Thou Art,” “Jesus Loves Me”) and songs like ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow,’” said Berry-Burton, who has lived in Lynn since 1984 and raised four children here.

Members of the Joy and Praise Concert ensemble are Mrs. Elizabeth Baez Loja, Mrs. Donna T. Murray, Mrs. Doreen Murray, Mrs. Mary Bunnie Jones, Zion’s senior pastor the Rev. Dr. Kirk B. Jones, Mr. Tom Jones, the Rev. Viola Morris-Buchanan and Father Oscar Pratt, who started his career at Lynn’s Sacred Heart Church and is now at Saint Katharine Drexel Parish in Roxbury.

Musicians are Mrs. Virginia Peacock Makkers, minister of music at Zion, Mr. Jeff Brooks, a keyboardist at Zion, and bass guitarist Junior — “just Junior, no last name,” said Berry-Burton.

The welcome will be given by the Rev. June Cooper, executive director of City Mission Society of Boston.

We’re sitting in the sanctuary at Zion Baptist, where guests are greeted by the words “Here through these doors pass the most wonderful people in the world.” Berry-Burton and Donna Murray, a member of Oasis’ board of directors and wife of Zion Baptist’s beloved late pastor Walter R. Murray, are eager to talk about the campus ministry,

“Sixty percent of the job is listening, counseling students. Very rarely are the meetings by appointment. Usually, it’s ‘I hit the wall. Will you listen?’” said Berry-Burton. Some students are homeless and hungry; others are grieving the death of a friend. Many just want to talk.

Berry-Burton and the other chaplains are always available to offer one-to-one pastoral care and spiritual direction, giving all a welcoming place to receive support.

Berry-Burton helps students in the multicultural Interfaith Campus Ministry Center, serving as director on the Student Affairs Leadership Team. A campus ministry has existed at UMass-Boston since 1974.

She adds that a multicultural harvest festival is held every November, where students or various cultures and religions get together for a meal and a celebration of faith. The ministry also emails scripture each week, hosts meditation sessions and leads prayer and Bible study.

All this takes money.

“The chaplains work with the Student Affairs team, but we are not employees of UMass. The ministries are funded through donations and grants,” said Berry-Burton. “This is a tough time economically for most campus ministries. Many campus ministries have ceased to exist and most of us are struggling to survive. There are many, many students, staff and faculty to care for and encourage. Solvency is difficult. This concert will help fund the ministry.”

Murray added “Rev. Adrienne never says no. She has always helped people. I am so proud of her. She is committed to the campus ministry, and as funds dried up it would have been easy to say ‘I’m all done.’ Instead, she did all the work to form and fund the nonprofit Oasis of Faith and keep the ministry open. I’m happy to be on the board.”

Berry-Burton says she’s not a trained vocalist, but that growing up in a musical church-going family in Pittsburgh and having played violin in high school gave her an appreciation of the arts. She smiles when discussing her mom’s side of the family, some of whom performed on the “Chitlin Circuit,” the name given to venues throughout the eastern, southern and upper midwest areas of the United States that were safe and acceptable for African-American entertainers. “I had my church music and I had some honky tonk music, too,” said Berry-Burton with a smile.

The last two Joy and Praise fundraising concerts were held in Somerville. Berry-Burton said she’s finally “brought it home to Zion.”

“And I’m sorry the team (Boston Red Sox) didn’t win, and I feel bad for Big Papi, but the last two concerts were the same day as the team’s World Series parade. I’m happy we don’t have the competition this year,” Berry-Burton said with a smile.

Joy and Praise Concert, Saturday, 5 p.m., at Zion Baptist Church, 4 Adams St. Extension, Lynn. Admission: $15; $10 age 65 and older; $5 age 12 and younger. For details, call 617-287-5838 or go to

Something new brewing downtown

Patrick Nelson, general manager of the White Rose Coffeehouse, pours steamed milk into a latte during the business’ soft opening on Tuesday.


LYNN — Arts lovers have one more reason to celebrate the downtown’s resurgence: The White Rose Coffeehouse opened Tuesday at 56 Central Ave. and its ambitious, enthusiastic owners plan to serve up live music, poetry, art, food, craft beers/ciders, creative cocktails, coffee and more.

Co-owner Kato Mele, a self-described “Pine Hill girl,” said the goal is “to bring more arts and culture to the Arts and Cultural district.” A Gypsy Jazz Brunch is set for Sunday, Nov. 13, and cellist Ian Maksin will perform on Nov. 26 at the large space just down the street from the Lynn Museum and the LynnArts building. Cafe Moka and Gulu-Gulu Cafe formerly occupied the space.

Fans of vinyl records — which includes me and about everyone else I know — will be excited about “33 ⅓ Thursdays,” a sort of open mic hosted by Seth Albaum, founder of Lynn Happens and a local DJ/photographer. Starting Nov. 17, music enthusiasts are invited to bring along their fave albums or 45s, from which they will get to play at least two songs on a turntable provided by Albaum.

Piano bar nights and drawing classes are also planned.

“We’re here to provide a community space where people can meet, chat and get to know one another,” added Mele. “There will be no TV. There will never be a TV in this coffeehouse.”

Co-owner Bob Kerr, a local musician and chef, will be in charge of the kitchen. Co-owner Patrick Nelson, a 2006 Classical High grad, will supervise the bar. He insists his espresso martini is the best in the world: We might all have to try one to see if he can back up that boast.

Mele said the coffeehouse’s name is significant. The White Rose was a non-violent, intellectual resistance group in Nazi Germany led by a group of students at the University of Munich. The group conducted an anonymous leaflet and graffiti campaign that called for active opposition against fascism and the Nazi regime.

A grand opening will be held soon. The coffeehouse will be open Monday-Saturday, 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Coming attractions

Connor Garvey will perform at the me & thee coffeehouse in Marblehead on Friday.

‘Heathers’ in Saugus

The Theatre Company of Saugus will present the North Shore premiere of “Heathers The Musical” starting Friday. The dark comedy about surviving the horrors of high school arrives just in time for Halloween.

In “Heathers,” based on the 1989 film, Westerberg High is ruled by a shoulder-padded, scrunchie-wearing junta: Heather, Heather and Heather, the hottest and cruelest girls in all of Ohio. But misfit Veronica Sawyer rejects their evil regime for a new boyfriend, the dark and sexy stranger J.D., who plans to put the Heathers in their place — six feet under.

Performances are scheduled for Fridays and Saturdays, Oct. 21, 22, 28 and 29, starting at 8 p.m., with Sunday matinees on Oct. 23 and 30 starting at 2. TCS will present “Heathers” at a new venue, the American Legion Hall, 44 Taylor St., Saugus. The hall has a cash bar with beverages and refreshments available.

Tickets are $25 for adults and $22 for seniors and students. To purchase or reserve tickets, for directions to the venue or for more information about the show, please visit the Theatre Company of Saugus website at or call 781-816-7019.

“West Side Story” at NSMT

North Shore Music Theatre in Beverly will present “West Side Story” starting Tuesday, Nov. 1. The classic musical will run through Nov. 20. For tickets and information, call 978-232-7200 or visit

Garvey, Rose at me & thee

On Friday, the me & thee welcomes back singer-songwriters Connor Garvey and Raina Rose. Doors open at 7:30 p.m.; music begins at 8 p.m. The me & thee coffeehouse is at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Marblehead at 28 Mugford St. Tickets are $15 in advance; $18 at the door. Tickets are available at

Sweet Wednesday in Peabody on Monday

The award-winning folk/roots rock band Sweet Wednesday will perform on Monday from 7-8 p.m. in the Peabody Institute Library’s Sutton Room, 82 Main St., Peabody. Singer/songwriters Lisa Housman and Dave Falk share lead vocal duties and harmonies, with Lisa on guitar and multi-instrumentalist Dave lending his own style to guitar, mandolin, harmonica, banjo and violin. Admission is free.

Holiday Fairs

Is your church or organization holding a holiday fair this year? If so, send the information to Features Editor Bill Brotherton at and we’ll happily promote it in the paper.

Rock and Roll will never die

The J. Geils Band

By Bill Brotherton

The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame nominations were announced on Tuesday, and the Cars and the J. Geils Band, two great but underappreciated Boston bands, are on the list.

Both have been nominated before. Maybe voters will show more love this time.

This is the second nomination for the Cars, who were nominated last year and became major stars in the late ’70s new wave scene. Ric Ocasek, Ben Orr, Elliot Easton, Greg Hawkes and David Robinson merged 1970s guitar-oriented rock with synth-driven pop that would flourish in the ’80s. The Cars were named Best New Artist in the 1978 Rolling Stone Readers’ Poll and won Video of the Year for “You Might Think” at the initial MTV Video Music Awards in 1984. Their self-titled debut album sold six million copies and appeared on the Billboard album chart for 139 weeks.

This is the fourth time the Geils band has been nominated, the first since 2011. Led by legendary frontman Peter Wolf, the band led an uptempo R&B revival (“Looking For a Love,” “Give it to Me”) before they found fame with such radio-friendly ’80s hits as “Love Stinks,” “Freeze Frame” and “Centerfold.” The band (Wolf, John Geils, Stephen Jo Bladd, Magic Dick Salwitz, Seth Justman and Danny Klein) is one of the greatest live acts of all time.

If the band is inducted into the Rock Hall, it’ll be interesting to see if the band’s namesake shows up for the ceremony. John Geils and his former bandmates are in the midst of a bitter fight over rights to use the band’s name.

(Local angle: Brian Maes of Lynn, David Stefanelli of Lynnfield and Johnny A of Salem play in Peter Wolf and the Houseparty 5, one of the Woofa Goofa’s bands that gigs when Geils isn’t on the road.)

First-time nominees include late rapper Tupac Shakur, pop band Journey and Seattle-based grunge rockers Pearl Jam. The influential disco-era band Chic, the Susan Lucci of the Rock Hall voting, is on the ballot for the 11th time.

Also nominated for the first time: the hardcore punk pioneers Bad Brains; 1980s synth-poppers Depeche Mode; Jeff Lynne’s 1970s hit machine Electric Light Orchestra; Lollapalooza founders Jane’s Addiction; 1960s folkie Joan Baez; Steppenwolf, Canadian rockers of “Born to be Wild” fame.

Others back as nominees include Janet Jackson; soul singer and former Rufus frontwoman Chaka Khan; the late “I Gotcha” singer Joe Tex; the German electronic music band Kraftwerk; Detroit-area punk forerunners MC5; the Zombies, British makers of “Time of the Season” and “She’s Not There”; and progressive rockers Yes.

More than 800 artists, historians and music-industry officials vote, with results announced in December and induction next April.

There is no set number of inductees. This year’s class added five members.

To be eligible, all of the nominees had to have released their first recording no later than 1991. The induction ceremony, open to the public and televised later on HBO, will take place in Brooklyn’s Barclay’s Center.

You can vote online for your top five selections cast as a “fan’s ballot” at

Inductees will eventually be enshrined in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame museum in Cleveland.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Scene: Seen and heard in Downtown Lynn

William Shatner performs his monologue during his show “Shatners World: We Just Live In It” at the Lynn Auditorium on Sunday night. Photo by Paula Muller.

By Bill Brotherton

LYNN — Do anything fun on Sunday? I spent the day downtown, admiring the work of local artists, howling at an outrageous musical based on “Silence of the Lambs” and enjoying William Shatner’s entertaining one-man show.

In downtown Lynn? Really? Word about the burgeoning arts scene here is busting out beyond the city’s borders. Many of the folks I chatted with at the “Fine Artists of the Lydia Pinkham” opening reception in the LynnArts gallery took the train up from Boston or Newburyport. And the majority of those laughing at “Silence! The Musical” and Shatner’s show-biz stories were out-of-towners.

The city of Lynn is increasingly becoming a destination for arts lovers. And at suppertime many  downtown restaurants were busy, filled with “Star Trek” aficionados anxiously awaiting the Lynn Auditorium show by their hero, Captain Kirk.

Add in the Lynn Museum, which had a German film crew onsite Sunday, numerous programs at North Shore Community College, a growing music scene and more, and it’s obvious there’s a lot happening here.

First stop on Sunday was the LynnArts building on Exchange Street, where more than 100 persons mingled, sipped wine, ate munchies and applauded the work of eight artists whose studios are in the Lydia Pinkham Building. The paintings on the gallery’s walls by Jackie Diehl, Rolf Flor, Christine Johnson, Jill Madigan, Freda Nemirovsky and Kathy Speranza drew much praise, as did the photographs by Todd Gieg and the wood sculptures by Mary Spitzer.

The “Fine Artists of the Lydia Pinkham” show continues through Nov. 15. Admission is free.

Next was a walk down the hallway to LynnArts’ Black Box Theatre, where Arts After Hours presented “Silence! The Musical,” the New England premiere of a parody of “Silence of the Lambs,” that wowed a matinee crowd. The gruesome 1991 film that starred Jodie Foster as a young FBI cadet seeking help from Anthony Hopkins’ Hannibal Lecter, an incarcerated and manipulative murderer, to help capture a serial killer is an unlikely subject for a stage musical.

It works, in a sick, perverted sort of way. Most of the sight gags are priceless, and videos add to the mayhem. There’s a hilarious dance number in a morgue. The songs are raunchy and rude (and catchy, though most of the titles can’t be printed in a family newspaper; one song will stick in your brain, and it’s the most vulgar of all). And there’s a Greek chorus of lambs that’ll shock you with inappropriate behavior.

There are some strong voices in the talented cast, especially by Chas Kircher (Hannibal). Jeremiah O’Sullivan (serial killer Buffalo Bill) steals every scene he’s in, and Lisa McDonough (Clarice) is solid in the production’s “normal” role. Michael Barry’s terrific, especially as Clarice’s papa. None of the lambs are sheepish about going gonzo. And Priscilla Strom of Bent Water Brewery aced her guest cameo.

“Silence” continues through Oct. 29. Buy your tickets, $20-$30, at, before Salem’s Halloween crowds scare them all up. Leave the kiddies at home though.

Truth be told, I’ve never seen a single second of “Star Trek.” That didn’t lessen my enjoyment of the 90-minute one-man show by Shatner, that show’s iconic Captain Kirk, at Lynn Auditorium.

Dressed in jeans, a tight black T-shirt (more than the universe is expanding) and dark cardigan, Shatner got his loudest cheers from an appreciative crowd whenever “Star Trek” was mentioned or shown on a video screen behind him. A filmed sit-down with Patrick Stewart, who is known more for playing Capt. Picard in “Star Trek: The Next Generation” than theater’s classic roles, was particularly touching.

The affable Shatner, whose booming voice echoes many a Shakespearean actor, is a born storyteller. “Shatners World: We Just Live In It,” his look back at his career — in movies, TV, on stage and on record — was filled with humor, heart and sarcasm. The video of the many parts he’s played, from “TJ Hooker” and “Twilight Zone” to “Boston Legal” and numerous live appearances in the early days of TV, were consistently entertaining.

His most prominent prop was an ergonomically-friendly chair, broken in by Lynn’s Community Development Director

in his office for the past month. It was used to best effect when Shatner rode the chair like a horse, during a revealing monologue about horses and his love of animals.

For a look at Lynn Auditorium’s upcoming shows, go to

Sky Blue Pink, by Christine Johnson, is on display in the gallery of LynnArts, as part of the “Fine Artists of the Lydia Pinkham” show.

Sky Blue Pink, by Christine Johnson, is on display in the gallery of LynnArts, as part of the “Fine Artists of the Lydia Pinkham” show.


The Arts After Hours rendition of “Silence of Lambs,” “Silence! The Musical,” will run at The Black Box Theatre through Oct. 29. Paula Muller

The Arts After Hours rendition of “Silence of Lambs,” “Silence! The Musical,” will run at The Black Box Theatre through Oct. 29.

Lynn artists are in the pink

Kathleen Speranza working in her studio in the Lydia Pinkham building on Western Ave. in Lynn. (Item photo by Owen O’Rourke)

By Bill Brotherton


LYNN — The Lydia Pinkham Building on Western Avenue has long been a center of innovation and creativity. The historic building’s namesake was known throughout the world in the 1870s for inventing a “women’s tonic” that claimed to provide relief from menopausal pains. Today, the building is home to dozens of artists who make magic in studio spaces scattered throughout its four floors.

For the first time, several of those artists are banding together to show their creative works off-site. Starting Saturday, the “Fine Artists of the Lydia Pinkham” show occupies gallery space in the Lynn Arts building on Exchange Street. It continues there through Nov. 15.

Participating artists are Jackie Diehl, Rolf Flor, Todd Gieg, Christine Johnson, Jill Madigan, Freda Nemirovsky, Kathy Speranza and Mary Spitzer. They are excited about sharing their paintings, sculptures and photographs with a whole new audience.

Flor, a watercolorist and the group’s newest member, came up with the show idea after being wowed by his fellow artists’ works. Attending an open studios event here two years ago spurred him into revisiting his love of painting. “I thought it would be fun to see all of these works in a proper gallery,” he said, relaxing in Speranza’s spacious third-floor studio. “The talent here is incredible.”

The art show is long overdue, agree his supportive colleagues.

“It’s going to be exciting. There’s a great synchronicity between us and LynnArts,” said Speranza. “I’ve been here the longest, people come and go … this is the best group of people. Something is in the air now, a lot of people are serious about art.”

“I think the show is a terrific idea,” added Diehl. “Creative work has been going on here for many, many years. ”

Speranza, the most senior person of the group, has been at the Pinkham since 1999, which is across the street from her home. Her paintings of ocean and sky are breathtaking. She teaches painting and drawing at the Rhode Island School of Design and in her studio.

Gieg, a photographer, moved to Lynn from Boston’s Fort Point artists community. “I felt isolated at first, but by dumb luck I heard about the Pinkham space. There’s a better rapport here than I had in Boston; everyone is so supportive and enthusiastic.” Gieg is currently preoccupied building a diorama of the Narrow Gauge Railroad that ran from Boston to Lynn. “I’m looking for a home for the diorama,” he said, “but it’s complicated. It’ll take another 15 or 20 years to finish it.” The diorama will not be at the gallery show.

Diehl got back into painting after being laid off from her graphic design job in 2009. “I live in Nahant, surrounded by water, and that’s my subject,” she said.

“Jackie magically makes acrylics look like oils,” praised Flor.

Spitzer, a sculptor who works primarily with wood, moved here from New Jersey six years ago. “It was important to me to find someplace I could be part of a studio setup. I was accepted here from day one; everyone was so welcoming from the start, not only other artists but the business owners in the building too.”

“It will be a really good show,” said Flor. “It’ll be tough to curate, but it’s going to be really good.”

“Fine Artists of the Lydia Pinkham” show, Oct. 15 to Nov. 15, LynnArts Gallery, 25 Exchange St. Admission is free. An opening reception will be held Sunday, Oct. 16, 2:30 to 4 p.m.

Lynn will be picking up Good Vibrations

Brian Wilson is bringing his “Pet Sounds 50th Anniversary World Tour” to the Lynn Auditorium on April 29.


By Bill Brotherton


LYNN — I’m sure you’ve been thinking “Wouldn’t it Be Nice” if Brian Wilson played Lynn Auditorium.

Well, the Beach Boys mastermind is bringing his “Pet Sounds 50th Anniversary World Tour” to the auditorium on April 29. The first set will feature the influential “Pet Sounds” album in its entirety. The second set will be packed with the Rock and Roll Hall of Famers’ hits. Al Jardine and Blondie Chapman will be on stage with Wilson, 74, during what he’s said is the last time he’ll be performing “Pet Sounds” from front to back. Lynn is one of only 37 cities on this tour.

A ticket presale begins today (Wednesday, Oct. 12) at 10 a.m. at The secret code word is beach … but don’t tell anybody.

“This is one of the biggest, if not the biggest, performer we’ve booked yet,” said Jamie Marsh, Community Development director. “We’ve been trying to bring Brian Wilson to the auditorium for at least five years. Now that we’ve proven ourselves and artists and managers know they are treated well in Lynn, the auditorium is on nearly everybody’s radar in the business.”

Marsh said the auditorium, which seats about 2,100, competes with the Wang Center, Wilbur, Orpheum and House of Blues in Boston and other regional venues for the top talent. Pat Benatar and Boz Scaggs have stated how much they enjoy playing in Lynn; both have packed the place three times. Steve Miller is coming back for the second time, on Nov. 6.

“There were so many cities on this great tour that myself, my band, Al and Blondie just couldn’t get to playing,” said Wilson in a statement. “We’re performing more shows than ever before and the fans keep asking for more! It’s been a real trip so far and I’m happy that we’ll have the chance to reach so many people that weren’t able to catch our shows this year.”

In 1965, with the Beach Boys out on tour, Wilson began session work on some of the most deeply personal recordings of his career. Inspired by The Beatles “Rubber Soul,” he challenged himself to create an immaculate musical masterpiece. A vast departure from the band’s then commercial sound, the resulting “concept album” achieved great critical success and changed the musical landscape

“Pet Sounds” ranks second on Rolling Stone magazine’s greatest albums of all time.

‘Silence’ will have you screaming with laughter

Chas Kircher, portraying Hannibal Lecter, rehearses for “Silence! The Musical,” which begins performances on Friday at Lynn Arts’ Black Box Theater. Photo by Paula Muller

By Bill Brotherton

LYNN — If you like your entertainment crude, rude, twisted and sick, “Silence! The Musical” might be right up your alley.

It’s a musical parody of “Silence of the Lambs,” the gruesome 1991 film that starred Jodie Foster as a young FBI cadet seeking help from Anthony Hopkins’ Hannibal Lecter, an incarcerated and manipulative murderer, to help capture a serial killer who skins his victims.

Arts After Hours will present the New England premiere of “Silence” Oct. 7-29 at Lynn Arts’ Black Box Theater on Exchange Street.

“This makes ‘Sweeney Todd’ seem like ‘Sesame Street,” said director James Tallach. “One memorable line from the movie becomes a whole musical number. It’s not for the kiddies. We don’t advise parents to bring their kids … but parents might enjoy this night out to get away from the kids,” said Tallach, with a devilish smile.

This is uncharted territory for actor Chas Kircher, who will play Hannibal the Cannibal. By day he’s an elementary school music teacher. Past roles include good-guy Mark in “Rent” and wise-guy gambler Sky Masterson in “Guys and Dolls.” The Revere resident admits “I’ve never played anything like this before.”

Tallach, born and bred in Scotland, moved to Massachusetts in 1998 for a computer programming job. Working with the now-shuttered Turtle Lane Playhouse in Newton, his career quickly changed course. He and Kircher met there, and when the Lecter role for this production went unfilled after auditions, he gave his pal a call. “Chas seems normal, but so does Hannibal Lecter,” Tallach said.

“I’m silly with kids all day,” said Kircher. “I was a bit taken aback when James said I was perfect for this role. … I love the movie, and the chance to take that iconic character and put myself into it was irresistible.”

This show marks Arts After Hours’ fifth year of enticing tourists from Salem’s Halloween festivities to downtown Lynn. It has been a huge success. Corey Jackson, managing director of Arts After Hours, said for last year’s “Texas Chainsaw Musical” audience members came from as far away as England, Australia, Canada and South Africa.

Theater fans who enjoy Ryan Landry’s productions with the Gold Dust Orphans — “The Greatest Little Theatre Company since the Last Supper” — will eat this up faster than a helping of liver, fava beans and a nice chianti. In fact, 2016 Elliot Norton Award winner Tim Lawton, a member of the Gold Dust Orphans (“Thoroughly Muslim Millie”), is music director for “Silence.”

Nicole Spirito is choreographer and cast members include Lisa McDonough, Jeremiah O’Sullivan, Samantha Gambaccini, Michael Barry, Ariel Sargent, Alexander Colacchio, Ricky DeSisto and Kircher.

Tallach said there will be one important change this year: There will be no “Splatter Zone,” special seats where eager audience members would get covered in “blood.” The reason is far from nefarious. “Simply, it was tough to clean it up after each performance.”

But no worries, insisted Tallach, “There will still be a whole lot of blood. Lots and lots of blood.”

The New England premiere of “Silence! The Musical” will take the stage at Arts After Hours, Oct. 7-29, at Lynn Arts, 25 Exchange St. For tickets and information, call 781-205-4010, go to or visit Arts After Hours’ Facebook page.

Were prog rock icons great? Yes!

Jon Davison performs in Yes during the Yes – The Album Series concert at the Lynn Memorial Auditorium on Thursday.


LYNN — The death of founding bassist Chris Squire last year means there are no original members in the current touring band of progressive rock titans Yes.

Jon Anderson seems content to work with Jean Luc Ponty and focus on the upcoming “An Evening of Yes Music & More” tour with Trevor Rabin and Rick Wakeman (at Boston’s Wang Theater on Oct. 19).

To further complicate matters, longtime drummer Alan White, who joined in 1972, is recuperating from recent back surgery and had to sit out Thursday night’s show at Lynn Memorial Auditorium.

Steve Howe, of YES, jams on the guitar during the YES - The Album Series concert at Lynn Memorial Auditorium on Thursday. shasak | Item Live

Steve Howe, of Yes, jams on the guitar during the Yes – The Album Series concert at Lynn Memorial Auditorium on Thursday.

So, how did the lineup of Steve Howe (guitars), Geoff Downes (keyboards), Billy Sherwood (bass), Jay Schellen (drums) and Jon Davison (vocals) fare? Pretty darn well, thank you very much.

But this was truly a show for Yes die-hards. Marginal fans who went expecting to hear “Owner of a Lonely Heart” — a turgid pile of you know what IMHO — and other radio-friendly tunes were probably ready to take poison about halfway through the close-to-25-minute set-ending “Ritual (Nous Sommes du Soleil).”

This was also the hardest rocking, aggressive-sounding Yes show I’ve seen in a long time. The band is on the road performing the 1980 album “Drama” in its entirety, sides 1 and 4 of 1973’s  bombastic, fantastic opus “Tales from Topographic Oceans” and a handful of greatest “hits.”

The stage was jam-packed with instruments and equipment. The space allotted for Downes’ keyboards was larger than my first apartment.

The six songs from the hard-rocking “Drama” kicked things off. Howe was on fire from the start, the menacing “Machine Messiah,” to the beautiful acoustic solo during “Leaves of Green.” He was a man possessed. He came to play, and drummer Schellen pushed him all night.

Vocalist Davison sounds so much like Anderson it’s eerie. He hits high notes that only dogs can hear; his tighty-whities must’ve been particularly tight. He shined on “Into the Lens” and fan favorites “I’ve Seen All Good People” and “Siberian Khatru,” which revved up the crowd even more before a 20-minute interval (that’s Brit-speak for intermission).

It’s a shame White missed the gig, because the ambitious “Topographic Oceans” was the first Yes album he played on. (Steven Wilson has remixed the double album; it will be released next month.) I always found the album indulgent and banal, but the crowd was jazzed and attentive and even rowdy during the long (20-minutes-plus) “The Revealing Science of God (Dance of the Dawn)” and especially the percussion freakout with synchronized lights and smoke in “Ritual.”

The encore (that’s Brit-speak for encore), a one-two punch of “Roundabout” and “Starship Trooper,” got the crowd clapping, standing and cheering.

Bill Brotherton can be reached at

Lynn guitar hero shares stage with favorite band

Lynn’s Anthony Coughlin, right, performs with Steel Panther frontman Michael Starr.


Picture this: You’re attending a show by your favorite band. Next thing you know, you’ve been invited onstage to play guitar.

It happened to Anthony Coughlin of Lynn. The 20-year-old Saugus High graduate rocked out to Steel Panther at the Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom in New Hampshire last Sunday. When he held up a sign to request the hilariously vulgar “17 Girls in a Row,” the band stopped mid-song and called him to the stage.

“It was easily the best moment of my life,” said the Information Technology major at Southern New Hampshire University. “Surreal is the only way to describe it. I was on stage with my favorite band of all time. I was nervous at first, but once I started rocking it went great.”

Equally awesome, after the show he got to hang out with the L.A.-based metal band that includes Michael Starr, Lexxi Foxx, Stix Zadinia and his hero, guitarist Satchel. The boys signed a custom guitar Coughlin made to resemble Satchel’s model.

“They were very complimentary, saying what a great job I did,” he said. “I’ve left out the profanity they’re known for … of course.”

Ah yes, the jaw-dropping, tongue-in-cheek profanity. Check out the band’s lyrics if you dare, and imagine the words accompanied by a Spinal Tap, Guns N’ Roses, Def Leppard metal onslaught.

Coughlin is a fine guitarist in his own right, as the crowd soon discovered. He’s been playing since age 13, when he traded in his Ibanez starter guitar for a Gibson Les Paul, a gift from his parents. He’s forming a band and is president of his college’s music club.

Israeli history hits home with Marblehead filmmaker

Producer and director Jeff Hoffman works on his forthcoming film “4 Million Bullets” in his Marblehead studio.


MARBLEHEAD — Jeff Hoffman’s resume is filled with some of the biggest names in television shows and videos.

He has worked for “60 Minutes” and “20-20.” He was a camera operator for “Pee-Wee’s Playhouse,” Michael Jackson’s iconic “Thriller” video, and TV’s campy “Melrose Place.”

The Marblehead native has produced documentaries at the North and South poles and made a Hollywood Western for German TV.

But no project has captured his heart and imagination as much as “4 Million Bullets: The Untold Fight For Survival.” The self-funded documentary series has consumed his life for the past six months. It tells the remarkable story of Israel’s War of Independence and the clandestine efforts of wealthy Jewish industrialists who, Hoffman said, raised $190 million in 1945 and sent ships, arms and airplanes to Palestine under the noses of the FBI and the British.

It was inspired by his grandfather, the late Leo Quint, an upholsterer from Newton who was one of thousands who helped the effort. Quint traveled often to Israel with his GMC work vans, which he donated to the Israeli Defense Forces for use as ambulances.

“My Zionist grandfather shot 8mm black-and-white movies covering some 20 years, and a box full of them was left to me,” said Hoffman, 60, who tired of Hollywood and the nomadic life, moving back to Marblehead with his wife and daughter last year. He watched the home movies, which recorded family vacations to North Conway, N.H., and other locales in addition to Quint standing next to the vans in Israel.

“I was fascinated,” he said. “I mentioned it to my dentist the next day, and he said ‘Do you know about the secret bullet factory in Israel?’ A fake kibbutz, Machon Ayalon, was built, disguised as a bakery and laundromat, and young volunteers worked around the clock underground making the bullets used in the War of Independence. I researched it and was hooked. This is an incredible story that has never been told.”

The dramatic, compelling tale features first-hand accounts of dozens of Americans, Canadians, South Africans, Jews and Gentiles who volunteered to fight alongside the Jews in Palestine for Israeli statehood. Most of the subjects are in their 90s. That’s one reason why Hoffman is intensifying his fundraising efforts and working toward gaining nonprofit status, which would make it easier for foundations to contribute to the $1.7 million project. He ambitiously hopes to complete it by October.

“I’m a visual storyteller,” said Hoffman, a St. John’s Prep and Syracuse University graduate and a dual citizen of the U.S. and Canada. “We (Divvy Ahronhem conducts the interviews; Hoffman directs and films) have been filming throughout the U.S., Canada, Europe and Israel for half a year … capturing interviews with participants and locations that played a key role in the War of Independence,” he said. “Many eyewitnesses have passed on and time is not on our side. This is the last chance for them to share their legacies, the one chance in life to tell their story and talk about the support they gave.”

Hoffman adds that participants have been eager to tell their stories.

“We’d interview one person who would introduce us to dozens of other people,” he said. “A network has developed, which has given us access to some incredible people. This started as a 90-minute documentary and has become a series that I hope will get people involved in active discourse.”

Hoffman said he is optimistic that “4 Million Bullets” will play the festival circuit and get picked up by a cable TV station.

And to think this all started with a box of old home movies that had been sitting in his garage.

“My grandfather died in 1973,” he said. “We spent all the holidays at his house in Newton. He was a huge influence for me to become a filmmaker. He’s my inspiration … and this project is the culmination of my 40 years as a cinematographer. This is Leo Quint’s legacy.”

Celebrating a full life

Helena Wright Phillips 1911-2016


LYNN — Helena Wright Phillips celebrated her 80th birthday by going on an African safari.

For her 90th, the Lynn native went whitewater rafting, something she had never tried. At 100, she had a Facebook page and an iPad.

“Helena was an amazing woman,” said Joan Breed, her longtime friend. “She meant a lot to many, many people. We miss her.”

Phillips died on May 23 at her home in West Palm Beach, Fla., where she had moved a decade ago to be closer to her daughter, Joanna Hollis, and grandchildren. She was 104 years old, having been born on Nov. 11, 1911. That’s 11-11-11 for you numerologists.

“Her birthdate always seemed magical to us,” said Hollis. “People would suggest she play the lottery.”

A celebration of life service will be held at Phillips’ beloved Central Congregational Church on Broad Street Sunday at 10:45 a.m. Everyone is invited.

“Helena loved our church,” said Breed. “She joined in 1936 and was an intricate part of Central Congregational. She sang in the choir. She taught Sunday School. She was a deacon.”

Phillips was active in the church until the day she moved to Florida, Breed added.

“She was a very, very amazing person,” said her sister, Barbara Helinski, 90, of Lynn. “She went to Radcliffe College on a scholarship. She taught at Tower School in Marblehead for 40 years, mostly first grade, but she also taught Latin to the older kids.”

Phillips graduated from Lynn Classical High School in 1929. Helena met her future husband, John Phillips, who became an attorney, when she worked at the former Hebbard’s Drug Store at Broad and Silsbee streets. They had two children, Joanna and Charles, who lives in Bethlehem, N.H.  

“Going to Radcliffe and graduating Phi Beta Kappa at that particular time, in the 1930s, what an achievement,” said Breed. “Helena was the brightest person I ever knew. She encouraged me to get email. ‘Now, Joan, dear, there’s no reason for you not to have email,’ she’d say. You forgot she was older.”

She was also quick-witted. Breed and fellow church parishioners traveled to West Palm Beach for her 100th birthday party. A few of her former Tower students went too. After the party, Breed said Phillips surprised everyone by ordering a margarita. When one attendee said he wished he was 40 again, Phillips shot back, “I wish I was 90.”

Helinski said her sister was the third of nine children born to Robert and Inez Wright, and life was hectic at the family’s Seymour Avenue home.

“I was 13 years younger … but we became so much closer as we became older,” she said. “We’d have coffee and play cards and talk about everything and anything. She was an avid reader. She loved music, but not the modern kind. She did the crossword puzzles. And her family loved her American chop suey; nobody could make it better.”

Note worthy: Newport Folk Festival founder has Lynn roots

Newport Folk Festival founder George Wein, a Lynn native, left, poses with Jay Sweet, executive producer of the Newport Festivals Foundation, backstage at the festival on Friday in Newport, R.I., the first of three days of music at Fort Adams State Park.


NEWPORT, R.I. — When George Wein founded the Newport Folk Festival in 1959, the Lynn native never thought that the country’s premier pop music showcase would be thriving 57 years later.

But capacity crowds of 10,000 daily packed Fort Adams State Park Friday through Sunday, enjoying continuous music on four stages. Tickets are nearly impossible to get and sell out before Christmas. Attendees pile on the Fitbit steps racing from one stage to another. It’s a spectacular setting. The former Army post sits above the harbor and when the sun sets the view is incredible.

Wein, 90, spent the first eight years of his life in a home off South Common Street and took piano lessons from Lynn’s Margaret Chaloff.

He can often be seen during the folk fest, greeting music fans while being driven around the grounds in the “Wein Machine,” a golf cart. I missed chatting with him this year.

Jay Sweet of Essex now books the acts and builds on this iconic festival’s rich history. His vision is to mix established performers with up-and-coming talent, which has long been Newport’s mission. Alabama Shakes and Elvis Costello were Monday’s headliners. For me, the highlight every year is discovering The Next Big Star.

Here are a few of my favorite things from the first two days of Newport 2016:

St. Paul and the Broken Bones were Friday’s standout. Fronted by the charismatic Paul Janeway, this supertight Alabama rhythm and blues outfit creates a rolicking soul stew, aided by a horn section that jumps, jives and wails. Think “Wild Night”-era Van Morrison. Janeway falls to his knees, writhes on his back and pours his heart into every line. Otis Redding and Solomon Burke are obvious influences. From start to finish, this was one of the best sets I’ve ever seen at Newport.

Also shining on Friday were Wild Child, a seven-piece indie pop band from Austin, Texas; Fruit Bats, a melodic indie pop band that attracted the day’s biggest crowd on the smallest stage; Boston’s Aoife O’Donovan, a fine singer-songwriter whose set was electric; Delta Spirit head guy Michael Logan Vasquez’s energetic, high-octane show that unfortunately overlapped St. Paul’s time on stage; and the Arcs, the hard-rocking side project of Black Keys guitarist-singer Dan Auerbach.

In the I’m not feeling it department, Violent Femmes, who opened with a fine “Blister in the Sun, were the most disappointing, perhaps it’s because madman drummer Brian Viglione has left to rejoin Amanda Palmer in Dresden Dolls; I love Neko Case, kd Lang and Laura Viers on their own, but together the trio’s voices didn’t really mesh … was nice to hear “Constant Craving” though; Ray Lamontagne, whose long, jarring hippie-dippy Pink Floyd and Beatles-like explorations probably alienated fans who were hoping to hear “Trouble.”   

Saturday’s lineup was stellar, the best one day of music I’ve experienced in a long time.

King of them all was Graham Nash, who blended beloved CSN hits “Our House,” “Teach Your Children” and “Marrakesh Express” with solo standouts “Military Madness” and “Chicago,” which prompted a “We can change the world” chant. He got political too, dissing both Trump and Obama. Nash, who played acoustic guitar and keyboards, was an excellent voice; Shane Fontayne added stinging electric guitar leads.

Other high points: In a surprise, Joe Ely, Terry Allen and Kris Kristofferson joined the Texas Gentlemen, with Kristofferson singing his three best-known songs: “Help Me Make It Through the Night,” “Sunday Morning Coming Down” and “Me and Bobby McGee,” assisted by rising country star Margo Price, who recalls Loretta Lynn and dazzled during her own set; Minneapolis’ Cactus Blossoms, who featured Everly brothers-like harmonies on well-written songs; Banditos, a rocking Big Brother and the Holding Co.-like outfit led by the strong, powerful vocals of star-in-the-making Mary Beth Richardson; Ruby Amanfu, a Ghana-born, Nashville-based young woman blessed with a gorgeous voice and great stage presence. Her jazzy, soulful “I Put a Spell on You” rivaled Nina Simone’s version; Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats, who incited dancing and screaming by sticking a blistering cover of The Band’s “Shape I’m In” with their own hit “S.O.B.”; Maine native Aly Spaltro aka Lady Lamb delivered a sensational set; the incomparable Ryan Adams, sitting in the center of a song circle with Nicki Bluhm and the Infamous Stringdusters for a too-short acoustic set, one of only two this gang will perform together this year. Extra points for singing “New York New York” and covers of songs by Slayer and Sabbath; Norah Jones, who drew enormous cheers for her two biggest hits “Come Away With Me” and “Don’t Know Why”; and, especially, headliner Patti Smith, who proved that even in this unhealthy political climate people have the power. She paid tribute to dearly departed Pete Seeger, Prince and Amy Winehouse in a celebratory set that had fans dancing barefoot.

This upcoming weekend, Wein’s 67th annual Newport Jazz Fest takes over the fort.

California Pizza Kitchen enters Next Chapter in Lynnfield

Brian Sullivan, the head chef at California Pizza Kitchen at Market Street in Lynnfield, tosses pizza dough during their soft opening on Wednesday.


LYNNFIELD — When California Pizza Kitchen was hunting for a site for its first “Next Chapter” restaurant in Massachusetts, it became obvious that Market Street was the perfect spot.

“We looked at a lot of sites, hundreds, in the Boston area,” said G.J. Hart, CPK’s executive chairman about the 680,000-square-foot open air mall at Routes 128 and 95. “This was far and away the best for us.”

Wednesday night, Hart was in town to show off the new sleek, modern, open-concept eatery and introduce the reimagined “Next Chapter” menu, which includes halibut, ribeye steak, salmon and more. Longtime fans will be happy to know that the beyond-awesome BBQ Chicken Pizza remains. Also in tow were Brian Sullivan, senior vice president of Culinary Innovation, and Hart’s longtime friend Jim Koch, founder of the Samuel Adams beer empire.

Hart, who guided Texas Roadhouse to nationwide success before joining CPK in 2011, said California Pizza Kitchen in the mid ’80s was the first to offer Sam Adams Lager in all of his restaurants.

Koch joked that back then a seven-course meal was a pizza and a six pack. Attendees Wednesday enjoyed seven new menu items that were paired with various Sam Adams brews. A scrumptious Wild Mushroom Pizza was paired with Sam Adams Stony Brook Red ale; a Fire-Grilled Ribeye with Boston Lager and the too-yummy-for-words Salted Caramel Pudding dessert with Cherry Wheat beer.

Competition for diners’ dollars is stiff at MarketStreet. Davio’s, Gaslight, Legal C Bar, Temazcal, Wahlburgers, Yard House and other eateries are established there.

Still, Hart said he is confident CPK will succeed.

“The Next Chapter concept is much more than pizza and salad,” he said. “The new look has much more of an open, California feel.”

The new restaurant opens on Monday.

Lynn rockers keep rolling

The original Revolver, from left, Bill Dunlop, Bob MacOrquodale, Howie “Zowie” Colclough and Ron Andrews.


LYNN — At 3:15 p.m. on Sunday, the longest running band in New England will take the stage at the second annual Razzmatazz Music Festival.

Formed in Lynn, Revolver has thrilled fans of classic and Southern rock for nearly four decades. As the Grateful Dead proclaimed, what a long, strange trip it’s been.

“I get up on stage and I’m still 22 years old in my head,” said Howie “Zowie” Colclough, with a laugh. “It started in the living room of an old mansion on Herbert Street in Lynn nearly 40 years ago. We rehearsed there, lived there and had the time of our lives there. Forty years ago, wow.”

The original quartet was comprised of Colclough on drums and percussion, Ron Andrews and Bill Dunlop on guitar and vocals and Bob MacOrquodale on bass. Dunlop left in 1979, MacOrquodale passed away in 1991 and cancer forced Colclough to take a break in 2006. He rejoined iron man Andrews, who’s performed with Revolver all 39 years, last month. Current members also include Jay Uva, guitars, vocals, who joined in 1989, Tony Uva, drums, Jay’s son, and Ron Belben, bass. There have been many personnel changes through the years.

One thing that’s been constant is its devoted fan base, which continues to grow. “Our fans have been unbelievably great,” said Colclough. “They were there when we played four-night bookings at Rick’s Lounge in 1977 and they’ll be there this weekend, too. I’ll never forget the Blizzard of ‘78. We got permission to drive so we could play. We figured no one would show up, but the place was packed, they had to turn people away, in the middle of a blizzard.”

Revolver also wowed the crowds for the eight consecutive years it played the Summer in the City series on Lynn Common in the late ‘70s and ‘80s.

“We felt like we were in the Beatles,” said Colclough. “I still have the photo of us that appeared in the Item.”

Still, the guys had to maintain daytime jobs to pay the bills.

“Yup, we all worked. We would stand in front of the coffee machine all day and do our best to stay awake. We’d do our best to make it through the day … then we woke up to play.”

Through the years the band has headlined most of Boston’s major rooms, including the Paradise and the former Channel nightclub. It has opened for such acts as Grand Funk Railroad, Creedence Clearwater Revisited, Kansas, the Marshall Tucker Band, Rick Derringer and others. It added two female singers in the early ‘80s and played original material. Even a “shady producer” in the ‘80s couldn’t drown the band’s enthusiasm and love of performing.

Colclough said Andrews, who lives in Saugus now, is Revolver’s “anchor.”

“He has always been the voice of reason, the one with the level head, the voice of reason. Even when a vote was 5-1, he had a way of convincing us all that his way was the right way,” he said.

During their 40-minute set at the Razzmatazz festival in Lynn Woods on Sunday, the band will cover songs made famous by the Allman Brothers Band, Lynryd Skynryd and other Southern rock stalwarts. “And we’ll do some Bad Company. Jay loves Bad Company.”

Colclough is looking forward to every second he can sit behind the drum kit and play. “I’m feeling really good, the best I’ve felt in years, and I never feel better than when I play. I have to thank my brother Kerry, who got me up and out of the house and playing again. I’m having a ball.”

Revolver plays at Capone’s in Peabody tonight, at the Razzmatazz Music Festival on Sunday and at O’Brien’s Pub in Lynn July 23 and 24.

Woods turns to rock


LYNN — There’s a wealth of talented rock bands hailing from Lynn, and the second annual Razzmatazz Music Festival will showcase 10 of those acts at the Lynn Woods amphitheater on Sunday. Best of all, the day-long event is free.

Tony Uva, drummer with the Dirty Floorboards and Revolver, two of the participating bands, co-founded the event with fellow local musicians Bailey Trahant and Chris Deluca. The three said the happening is designed to support and promote bands who call the North Shore home.

“We hope to have people come down for a fun-filled day to enjoy great music, play games, eat food and spend the day with other people from Lynn and surrounding communities,” Uva said.

The event evolved from the former Hodgepodge Music Festival, which spotlighted top talent during its five-year run. Uva and his mates picked up the ball last year, and more than 300 music lovers flocked to Lynn Woods for a festive day despite the threat of rain.

Trahant, a Berklee College of Music student who plays guitar and sings in the Dirty Floorboards, said there will also be raffles, a cornhole tournament and a Super Smash Bros. competition.

“It’s open to all ages,” he said. “We want to emphasize this is a free family event.”

Six of the bands from Lynn include: Revolver, the Cheap Dates, This Day in History, the Dirty Floorboards, Set the Nation and Treading Water. The other four are North Shore-based: Hot Fire, Exit 18, the Ruckus and Kaela Fanelli. The music starts around noon and winds down at 8 p.m. Each band will perform a 40-minute set. The rain date is July 24.

For more information, go to the Razzmatazz Music Festival’s Facebook page.

Lynn shows love tonight for Orlando

Right, Robert “Tish” Muise helps Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy raise the Gay Pride flag at Lynn City Hall.


LYNN — Minutes after hearing of the June 12 terrorist attack at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Jessica Leigh French knew she had to do something.

The hate crime that targeted the gay community and left 49 dead and 53 injured affected her so deeply she immediately set in motion “Holding Down Orlando,” a fundraiser that takes place tonight at Fran’s Place on Washington Street.

All proceeds will benefit Equity Florida, a civil rights organization whose mission is to help victims and their families. Doors open at 8 p.m. The $5 entry fee includes a night of entertainment that features singers, dancers, poets, musicians and drag queens. There will also be raffles and lots of food.

“The response and support have been overwhelming,” said French. “I’ve had so much help from so many different people, not only from the LBGT community but from everybody. It’s turned out much bigger than I ever thought it would be. It’s a happy thing that’s come from such a sad thing.”

French, who will host the event, said more than 240 people  have said they will attend.

She thanked the owner and staff of Fran’s Place, which is not only donating the use of the club, but contributing half of the money from bar sales.

Robert “Tish” Muise, Fran’s manager, the state’s oldest gay bar, said he too has been overwhelmed by the support.

“I must especially thank the Lynn Police Department,” he said. “They have been absolutely wonderful. They have added extra patrols and made us feel very, very safe.”

Security will be super tight, added French. All bags will be checked and patrons will be patted down.

“We want everybody to be safe,” she said.