As many people have noticed, we have been pouring in tons of incredible books of late. Perhaps because we have purchased nearly 100,000 books in the last 2 months alone. Large collections include subjects such as Philosophy, Mathematics, Physics, Political and social theory, fiction, Ancient and Medieval studies. Not sure why this year we are getting much more books than previous years…..perhaps has to do with the baby-b00mer generation having build libraries and are now in the process of downsizing, retiring, etc. Whatever the reason, it has been truly amazing and we have weeks worth of book collections scheduled already into the fall. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us.
The very word “surreal” is an appropriate summation of guitarist, composer, artist and gamer Roger Clark Miller.
His interests have taken him on a path of existence that would be very hard to make up. From his days as a co-founder of seminal Boston rockers Mission of Burma, to the heady arrangements constructed by the Alloy Orchestra, and all of his musical endeavors in between, Miller knows no artistic bounds. Chase that which calls to you and navigate as best you can. Let the muse be your guide.
When Miller sets foot in Portsmouth Book & Bar on Saturday, May 17, he’ll be continuing to carve out another path he’s ventured down lately: that of the coordinator of his very own surrealistic games night.
The evening also will showcase his DJ skills, as he’ll provide the soundtrack to the night’s events.
If there’s any certainty of what will occur on Saturday, it’s that no matter what preconceived idea one may have in mind as to what may occur, the evening will definitely be out of the ordinary.
SPOTLIGHT: Tell me a bit about the evening you have planned. What inspired you to create this type of event?
MILLER: When I delved into Surrealism in the mid-70s, I found a way to create dream-like settings without the psychedelics, if you know what I mean. My friends and I would play the “Exquisite Corpse” drawing game on a regular basis. I expanded my interest in Surrealism during Mission of Burma (see our first 45, “Max Ernst”), and incorporated imagery and stories from my dreams in the lyrics. As I delved further, I discovered the word games, frottage drawing (using a pencil or other drawing tool to make a rubbing over a textured surface), and my son ended up creating “The Dream Game” for his fifth-grade project in Quincy (Mass.)! This “Dream Game” is played on a board with dice: by following the directions on the board you spontaneously write down a very phantasmagorical/dream-story, and it really works.
So eventually I had a good pile of games that I enjoyed playing with my friends, so why not do it in public? So far I’ve done it at Mass MoCA (Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art), Real Art Ways in Hartford, Conn., and the I.C.A. (Institute of Contemporary Art) in Boston. It’s always great fun.
The setting is that everyone sits at a table supplied with paper and drawing/writing tools. I explain the “Exquisite Corpse” drawing game, and people go at it! I stroll the tables explaining the various word games, and explaining the rules to the “Dream Game” and how to utilize frottage drawing to create interesting visual compositions. An extra plus is that everyone at a table quickly gets to know each other as they play the games.
The more you put into it, the more you get out of it. It’s up to the players, really. I love walking by tables and no one is talking, they’re all concentrating on writing words or drawing. Then when the paper is full, they open the paper up and read the surrealist sentences to each other or show the drawings. It’s really a blast, and sometimes astounding results are achieved, all through surrealist activities. Of course, these are the same games the Surrealists played in the ’20s and ’30s in Paris and other places.
SPOTLIGHT: The other element of interest here is the fact that you DJ these events. Tell us a bit about the soundtrack you provide. How does music enhance the overall experience?
MILLER: A very wide variety of music and styles will be included. From rock, there’s Roxy Music and Brian Eno’s early work, some Mission of Burma songs qualify, especially with my use of dreams in lyrics. Both the “Dream Interpretations” from my “Elemental Guitar” CD, and music from some of my other bands: Exquisite Corpse (of course!) and with my brothers Benjamin and Laurence, M2 and M3. Of course John Cage, Steve Reich, and some just abstract sounds. Not all of this music is ‘technically surrealistic,’ but it suits the evening. Often people will come up to me and ask what piece is playing. I like that.
Basically the music is mildly disorienting — helpful for surrealist activities — and encouraging towards the unusual — also helpful for surrealist activities. Often abstract.
SPOTLIGHT: What do you know about the Book & Bar? What excites you about producing this event at the venue?
MILLER: I know (co-founder) Jon Strymish — isn’t that enough? He has taken a number of pretty cool photos of Mission of Burma, the Binary System, and other ensembles I’ve been in. On the CD called “Monsoon” — me; William Hooker and Lee Ranaldo (from Sonic Youth) — most of the photos are by Jon. I like his style. I figure his club would have style as well, based on that. I’ve heard nothing but good stuff about the place, and it seems a great venue for the games. Good size, casual vibe, high-quality beer!
SPOTLIGHT: Do you have any history with Portsmouth, N.H.? Did Mission of Burma ever play the (late) Elvis Room by chance?
MILLER: The Alloy Orchestra has played The Music Hall on a couple of occasions, always fun. I don’t think Burma played Portsmouth, but I can’t always recall where we played way back in the day (1979-1983). It kind of p——- me off that my bands don’t play New Hampshire much, so here’s a chance to change that, even if this ain’t a band …
SPOTLIGHT: What are you looking for people to take with them when they experience an event of this nature? What’s the communal feel?
MILLER: That by working together you can create something totally unexpected. The end result is inherently collective. The Surrealists claimed that the unconscious/subconscious of the players was revealed, and I have found that, to some degree, that is definitely true. I’ve walked by tables where people are discussing why they drew a particular image, based on what was going on in their life. And it’s just plain downright fun in a social fashion. Everyone’s making art, even if they don’t normally do that! What’s the problem with that? Nothin’ but fun.
The Surrealist games inherently produce imagery rubbing up against imagery that wouldn’t normally happen. So one sees connections in things one normally wouldn’t think of. I believe that is useful in day-to-day life, to make life more interesting. The unexpected — it can be marvelous.
SPOTLIGHT: What is the most surreal experience you’ve had while hosting one of these events?
MILLER: For me it’s mostly work! For three hours I don’t stop talking and explaining and listening to people’s word-games or looking at their drawings. Honestly, most of my life it’s about ME creating things. Here, it’s about me supplying the experience to OTHERS, making it easy for them to create. I love it, actually. When I see participants amazed at what they created, or just laughing at them, that makes me totally happy. I love seeing things being created, by myself or others. But I’m usually pretty tired by the end of the three hours! Probably the most surreal part of these events is the dreams I’ll have later that night …
Says the aforementioned Strymish: I’m really excited about this event …; Watching Roger play guitar in Mission of Burma when I was 17 was a life-changing experience, and seeing his integrity and thoughtfulness in everything he’s done since has been an inspiration. So I am stoked to be able to bring this to Portsmouth and see the inspiration go forward.
BEST NEW BOOKSTORE:
BOOK & BAR, Portsmouth
Owners John Petrovato, Jon Strymish, and David Lovelace realize that books and beer or wine are even better together. Pick from high-quality used books while sampling from their menu of beers, wines, gourmet sandwiches, and pastries. 40 Pleasant St. 603-427-9197; bookandbar.com
Known for the tax-free shopping, the waterfront views, and the historic sites, the city of Portsmouth sits just 60 miles north of Boston. Nestled near the mouth of the Piscataqua River, it stretches 16.8 square miles. The population is 21,233.
The history: Settled in 1623, Portsmouth prides itself on being the nation’s third oldest city. It served as an epicenter for the rail and sea industries and was a focal point on the Eastern seaboard until the late 1800s. The Portsmouth Naval Shipyard (across the river in Maine) was established in 1800 as the country’s first naval shipyard. Today, the region is noted for its beautiful historic charm and many attractions. For example, the USS Albacore Museum is a retired 1953 US Navy submarine, giving visitors a glimpse at life on the water. TheStrawberry Banke Museum is another popular family site. The outdoor museum covers 10 acres and traces Portsmouth’s earliest English settlement’s history through the many historic houses and exhibits.
The shopping: Downtown Portsmouth is lined with cute boutiques and shops.. Walk down Congress Street and circle around the many side streets for a variety of art, antiques, clothing, local goodies, books, fine jewelry, and more. Market Square is located in the center of downtown and is the start of many local walking tours. Visit the galleries, browse the old-fashioned shops, and explore 0ne of the many 17th-century buildings. Tugboat Alley is considered a local tradition, with nautical-themed gifts and collectibles for all ages. The Book and Bar is located in the Old Custom House, offering a relaxed, no-media atmosphere with a wide selection of used books and small cafe. The best part about shopping in Portsmouth? No sales tax.
The harbor: The seaport city overlooks the mouth of the beautiful Piscataqua River, a short, wide river that divides New Hampshire and Maine. Take a guided tour or walk solo along thePortsmouth Harbor Trail. The path passes more than 70 historic and scenic sites and provides a taste of the local charm and culture. Another great way to take in the scenes is by boat. Board one of the daily scheduledPortsmouth Harbor Cruises, narrated tours where guests learn about local wildlife, folklore, and waterway history.
Prescott Park: Established by former resident, Josie F. Prescott, this gorgeous waterfront attraction provides a free and accessible public park to residents and visitors. Stretching along the river from State Street to Mechanic Street, Prescott Parkis over 10 acres of lush flower gardens, walkways, seating, and grass areas designated for recreation. Perfect for a picnic visit. The “formal garden” showcases fountains, tree-lined walkways, a flower wall, and a rose garden. In the summer months, the park is home to the Prescott Park Art Festival, a series of outdoor musical performances, plays, and a juried art show.
The food: Whether you’re in the mood for fine dining or a casual bite, Portsmouth has a ton of tasty options for any foodie. The city is home to dozens of restaurants featuring just about every cuisine imaginable.Lexie’s Joint is a laidback burger joint with a twist, serving up classic burger recipies or a make-your-own burger option. It also has a variety of grilled items and melts. Shio is another popular pick, featuring classic Japanese fare from sushi to Shumai. A great go-to is the Friendly Toast. Located on Congress Street, the family-friendly restaurant serves breakfast all day and a range of tasty and unique sandwiches and main dishes.
Great music coming to Portsmouth book and bar in August. All shows free of charge.
August 1st: Laura Cortese 9:00 pm
Cortese’s rich alto voice colors the Scottish and English traditional songs with very contemporary tonality and phrasing.
August 2nd: Margaret Glaspy and Nick Hakim 9:00 pm
Sultry indie- jazz singer whose music is simple, fascinating, and beautiful. Not to be missed.
August 3rd: Rockwood Ferry 9 pm
Hailing from Ithaca, NY, Rockwood Ferry brilliantly blends roots, jazz, and progressive folk.
August 5th: Noun, Modern Hut, Little Big Bear 9 pm
Two Indie/punk acts from New Jersey NOUN (Marissa from SCREAMING FEMALES) and MODERN HUT along with twee-pop songwriter LITTLE BIG BEAR.
August 17th: Pesky j. Nixon 9 pm
Drawing influences from contemporary urban balladeers, rowdy southern bluegrass, and the sardonic yet wry wit of New England’s localized folk scenes.
August 24: Willie “loco” Alexander & Preacher Jack 9 pm
Punk rock pioneers, boogie woogie balledeers, frontman of the 1960’s proto-punk outfit the Lost, a party that shouldn’t be missed.
August 29th: Kawehi 9 pm
Hawaiian born Songwriter who plays contemporary music with electronic and toy instruments.
August 31st: Animal Hospital 9 pm
Boston-based Animal Hospital consists of Kevin Micka and is based on the idea of building a piece of music up from scratch into a completely fleshed out arrangement often containing enough parts to employ many musicians.
It’s been just about six months since Portsmouth Book & Bar opened up its doors and showed off the painstaking renovations that transformed the historic granite Chase House into the thriving business atmosphere you see today. Walking through the doors you’re welcomed by bright and vivid colors accented by remarkably ornate pillars and decorative trim molding around the ceiling — all of which was hidden by a suspended ceiling in a past incarnation of the establishment. A shame…; but boy is it nice to see the architecture of the building highlighted as it has long meant to be seen.
To say the least, the Portsmouth Book & Bar is a unique place. It’s comfortable, it’s inviting, and everything about it is infinitely interesting. It’s an establishment that is looking to aid in the distribution of fine used books for those who still covet the tangible and beautiful entity that is a book. It’s an establishment that allows you — while thumbing through said volumes of fine books — to partake in a tasty beverage, be it a gourmet latte, a high-quality wine, or a delicious craft beer. And don’t forget the food. Crafted by Chef Amy Mehaffey, the Book & Bar conjure up a luscious array of cuisine to tempt any palate — from baked goods, to sandwiches, small plates, and more.
WHAT Music at Portsmouth Book & Bar
WHERE 40 Pleasant St., Portsmouth
CONTACT 427-9197,www.bookandbar.com, and on Facebook
• June 21, 9 p.m., The UnExplainable Billy Eli & The Spook Lights (proceeds benefit the Birchtree Center for children and youths with autism)
• July 6, Ken Stringfellow. His newest album is “Danzig in the Moonlight,” and he’ll be coming from France. His band, the Posies, has been recording and playing for decades. Stringfellow played with R.E.M. for 10 years and has been with Big Star for more than 17 years.
• Aug. 2, sultry indie-jazz singer Margaret Glaspy
So…; apart from giving folks the opportunity to divulge in the age-old tradition of soaking up the ambient pleasure that you can only experience in a bookshop — an ethereal opportunity that continues to phase out at the expense of virtual shops, and the cold, personality-less plastic thin-line box known as a digital reader — what else is the Book & Bar up to? Glad you asked…; They’ve been giving touring musicians an opportunity to play their songs. In a town where music venues seem to be failing and falling in similar fashion to bookshops, Portsmouth Book & Bar is adding a little space to listen to interesting music that you may not otherwise see and hear in the Seacoast.
The three owners (of note: they have 80 years of book selling experience among them), David Lovelace (who has built upwards of seven book shops in his life — including The Montague Bookmill, which has become an iconic cultural presence in Western Massachusetts), John Petrovato (who also owns and operates Raven Books — with two locations in Boston and Cambridge), and Jon Strymish (who recently sold New England Mobile Book Fair in Newton, Mass. — the largest independent bookstore in New England for the past two-decades), along with Mehaffey have collectively orchestrated a music series that speaks to the eclectic tastes present among them. From folk, to Americana, bluegrass, Celtic, alt-country, rock, and even cabaret style performances, the series has (in its short life thus far), and will continue to offer unique listening experiences for everyone — from the casual music fan to hardcore music lovers.
Strymish — who was on the board of directors at Club Passim in Cambridge for the better part of a decade — has strong ties to the Boston music community and is looking to expound upon those connections for the continued cultivation of the series.
“My theory is to get, and expose people to musicians that are making, and feeling music, not simply selling it,” said Strymish in a recent interview. “When a musician is ‘selling’ music they’re never as interesting and exciting as they were when they started out, or had an inherent passion to play. Those are the folks we’re looking to book here. The folks that are excited about playing and have the ability to engage the crowd in amazing ways. I’m pretty excited about what we have going on.”
Mehaffey — who has spent portions of her life in Oklahoma, Los Angeles, Austin, and Boston, also has thick ties to the music scene here and abroad including Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore who has expressed interest in a future performance at the venue.
“So far it’s going great,” said Mehaffey. “The artists have been enthusiastic about the space, and the people that have attended the shows have been very appreciative and have expressed interest in what we have going on (musically) moving forward. We’re happy to have this space to afford people an opportunity to play, and listen to music. So far all the shows have been a ‘pass the hat’ affair, but for some shows we’re looking to bring in, there will likely be a cover charge. It will be a mix for sure. It’s good to have a mix (of free shows, and ticketed events).”
Up to this point the Book & Bar have hosted Session Americana, Boston favorites The Swinging Steaks, innovative cellist Rushad Eggleston, Damon and Naomi (of Galaxie 500), The Jimi Hendrix of the mandolin — Jimmy Ryan (of the Blood Oranges), Soprano Julie Braun Haines with an evening of cabaret music featuring songs by Weill, Satie and Gershwin, The Murphy Beds with Irish folk music from Brooklyn, Anna and Elizabeth — ballads, fiddle tunes, great harmonies and storytelling, and Sisters of the Moon featuring members of Della Mae.
“You never know what’s going to come through the door,” said Lovelace. “From the music, to author events, to films…; We’re just trying to keep it fresh, and keep it interesting. And — I can say this because I’m an author myself — if you’re not interested in what’s going on in here (or you’re just interested in conversing with your peers), there’s an escape valve by way of the patio that we’re building outside.”
As of right now future shows include Texas songwriter Billy Eli (June 21), Ken Stringfellow — founding member of the Posies, as well as a former member and longtime collaborator with R.E.M., and a member of Big Star, Lagwagon, and many others…; (July 6), and sultry indie-jazz singer Margaret Glaspy (Aug. 2).
“We’re not looking to pack a schedule just for the sake of booking a schedule,” said Lovelace. “We want to make sure that what we have coming is of the highest quality, and something you probably can’t get anywhere else around here.”
“We’re still getting organized, but we want folks to know that this is happening,” said Mehaffey. “It takes a village. We’re happy to have become a welcome part of the Portsmouth community, and we’re trying to give back with unique programming. We hope you’ll join us.”
FRIDAY, JUNE 21 9:00 p.m. > BILLY ELI
Texas songwriter Billy brings his “country that rocks and rock that’s country” to Book & Bar with his band featuring world class musicians. Comparisons to Billy’s style have been made to Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark, and Steve Earle. billyeli.com