December 10, 2013
It’s been serving scribes since 1997, but one might say Grub Street is entering the fast lane. Last year, Boston’s independent writing center unveiled a spiffy new HQ at 162 Boylston Street, boasting twice the elbow room of their former digs. (If you visit, be sure to take a close look around: In a creative take on crowdfunding, they allowed everything from the elevator button to the coffee machine to the toilet paper holder to be endowed by an individual sponsor and christened with a classy plaque.) Then this fall, the nonprofit secured a gran… More>
December 06, 2013
The only person missing was Joe Biden. As Boston Mayor-elect Marty Walsh was finishing up a photo shoot and interview with The Improper Bostonian outside Old City Hall on Friday, a crowd of onlookers started to gather. As Walsh was preparing to leave, who was walking by, but Marty Walsh. That’s right—the “other” Marty Walsh. Well, that depends on who’s talking… More>
December 06, 2013
The days of being a championship contender came to an abrupt halt this summer when the Celtics parted ways with Doc Rivers, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. In the aftermath comes a transitional year in which the team is looking to build up the value of each of its players. With this in mind, all season long we’ll be judging the players in terms of value in The Improper’s Celtics Player Power Ranking. The healthy players will be judged based upon their on-court performance, while also keeping in mind their age, contract and appeal to another tea… More>
December 05, 2013Laurie Sargent returns to town with an an all-star bunch of friends to perform Friday at Somerville's Arts at the Armory.
Two great singers from different worlds – Laurie Sargent and Art Garfunkel -- make rare appearances at venues off the beaten path in Somerville and Arlington as part of a weekend that also includes the Boston Music Awards and a Hanukkah concert by Matisyahu… More>
December 04, 2013
Jacoby Ellsbury’s departure from the Red Sox for a reported 7 year, $153 million contract from the rival New York Yankees is sure to do many things. It will spice up a rivalry that has run hot-and-cold the past few years. It will give Red Sox prospect Jackie Bradley Jr., who got better with every major-league stint last year, a chance at an everyday job. It will force Ellsbury to shave. (That’s a good thing.) It could lead to scores of people surrounding Brian Cashman and shouting “liar, liar, pants on fire” as the Yankees GM has often said he’… More>
Catching up with Boston's independent writing center
It’s been serving scribes since 1997, but one might say Grub Street is entering the fast lane. Last year, Boston’s independent writing center unveiled a spiffy new HQ at 162 Boylston Street, boasting twice the elbow room of their former digs. (If you visit, be sure to take a close look around: In a creative take on crowdfunding, they allowed everything from the elevator button to the coffee machine to the toilet paper holder to be endowed by an individual sponsor and christened with a classy plaque.) Then this fall, the nonprofit secured a grant from the Massachusetts Cultural Council that will help create the country’s first literary cultural district in downtown Boston. Currently being mapped, the district is a joint effort with other local literary luminaries, including the Boston Public Library, the Boston Athenaeum, the Boston Book Festival, and audio magazine The Drum. And just this month, Grub Street announced that a second student from their two-year-old Novel Incubator program clinched a book deal: Patricia Park’s debut novel, Re Jane, a Jane Eyre remix set in Brooklyn with a Korean-American heroine, will hit shelves in 2015. And of course, there’s a stacked roster of other workshops, classes, and events that offer writers a chance to hone their craft and connect outside the halls of academia.
Speaking of events, this month promises a number of notable Grub Street happenings: center open houses this week, a “Word Play” bash at the Gardner Museum on December 19, and, on December 31, Beantown Out Loud, a First Night festivity featuring readings from authors Sue Miller, Steve Almond, and Grub Street artistic director Chris Castellani, as well as performances from Regie Gibson and the Grub Street Teen Slam Poetry Team. But despite the December bustle, literary agent and Grub Street executive director/founder Eve Bridburg took the time to answer a few Qs on writer boot camp, what makes Grub Street tick, and her current reading list.
Exciting news about the Novel Incubator—how did that program come to be? The idea was born out of our experience on the ground working with novelists. We saw that it was a need, because it’s an area that MFA programs really don’t cover. Some do, but most don’t, because it doesn’t fit with an academic structure very well. The short story works better generally in a traditionally constructed MFA program…. So we sat down and tried to plan what we thought would be the program most useful to a very serious writer with a draft already in hand. What makes the program unusual is that you have to have a full draft of the novel just to get in. And obviously it has to be a good draft and a draft where we can see a way to help the author get it to publishable by the end of the program…. It has a very strange shape and a very interesting curriculum. Sometimes they meet intensely for months at a time, and then there are long breaks for writing. And what’s unique is that everybody in the class reads everyone else’s novel fully twice, and the instructor reads it fully twice. And then outside people read it as well so that the bubble is burst too. When you start working with 10 people very intensely, it’s good to pause and also get outside perspective at some point.
The incubator has seen two publishing contracts after just two graduating classes of 10 students each—not too shabby a track record! That’s the other thing I think is unique about it, that we launch it and end it at Muse [literary conference the Muse and the Marketplace] every year. Students are meeting and connecting with the publishing world twice during the program, and we also invite them back. If they’re not ready, we tell them: Don’t use your appointments with agents if you don’t feel like the book is done after 12 months. Come back the next year or the year after and make those connections then. So in both cases, the women whose books were ready and who got book deals found their agents through Grub Street. The other thing I think is really neat that we didn’t quite anticipate is that the students who go through the program have an alumni group that meets regularly. They have an agenda and built a website, and they want to help each other and help novelists. So they’re creating this community so that when somebody has a book deal and is ready to launch, they’ll have a platform. The website is called Dead Darlings. It shows the kind of extraordinary investment it is for these people. It’s a really rigorous program, sort of like a part-time job. People feel like they’ve been through boot camp when they get out, and at the other end of it they have lifelong readers.
You’re having a series of open houses this week. Why should a writer who’s new to Grub Street come check it out? It’s really an incredible community of people. And I think that for people who want to write and get more serious about their writing, it’s really a unique resource in the country. There’s no other place like it, and there’s something for everybody. You can come if you’re just writing your first poem and discovering your voice. You can also come and really work on a third draft of a story. You can come and finish your novel. You can come once you’ve published your novel, join the Launch Lab, and work with other people who are all learning social media and figuring out how to go public with their work and find readers. We’re really trying to build the most dynamic ecosystem for writers at every stage…. And we have scholarships for everything. A lot of the stuff we do with teens is completely free, but every adult offering has scholarship money available, and we’re really trying to aggressively increase the funding for that. Money should never stop people from coming.
So, what have you been reading lately? Right now I’m reading a book about President Garfield, nonfiction—Destiny of the Republic by Candice Millard. It’s about President Garfield and the crazy guy who assassinated him. He died of a sepsis infection that could have been avoided, so there’s a strong medical theme in it as well. I’m really enjoying it; it’s a great book. She’s using fictional techniques to bring the story alive. And he was such an interesting and incredibly erudite guy. It’s so sad that he wasn’t able to be president. She starts every chapter with a quote, and every single quote from him I just want to hang up in my office. He was an incredible writer. Now I want to read his diaries.
Marty & Marty, Part II
Same name serendipity! Mayor-elect bumps into the man Joe Biden called
Mayor-elect Marty Walsh talks to Marty Walsh, the former Sen. Kennedy aide, Friday outside of Old City Hall.
(Photo by Holly Rike)
The only person missing was Joe Biden. As Boston Mayor-elect Marty Walsh was finishing up a photo shoot and interview with The Improper Bostonian outside Old City Hall on Friday, a crowd of onlookers started to gather. As Walsh was preparing to leave, who was walking by, but Marty Walsh. That’s right—the “other” Marty Walsh. Well, that depends on who’s talking.
Marty Walsh, the former aide for the late U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy, received the infamous phone call from Vice President Joe Biden on the night state Rep. Marty Walsh was elected to be Boston’s next mayor. Biden said: “You son of a gun, Marty. You did it!”
Friday was the first time the pair had seen each other since that call.
Walsh, the former Kennedy aide, said his 15 minutes of fame lasted even longer than he thought, and he mused about how he can hopefully get any dinner reservation he wants in the city now.
Walsh, the mayor-elect, said he was the “other” Marty Walsh once upon a time. When Kennedy won re-election in 2006, he thanked Marty Walsh onstage and the state rep’s mother proudly pointed it out to him. Alas, Kennedy was talking about his aide.
To read Mayor-elect Marty Walsh’s interview with The Improper, check out the Dec. 18 issue, which also features an in-depth interview by Jonathan Soroff with Mayor Thomas M. Menino.
Celtics Player Power Rankings - Week 6
A new man takes the top spot
Required explainer: The days of being a championship contender came to an abrupt halt this summer when the Celtics parted ways with Doc Rivers, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. In the aftermath comes a transitional year in which the team is looking to build up the value of each of its players. With this in mind, all season long we’ll be judging the players in terms of value in The Improper’s Celtics Player Power Ranking. The healthy players will be judged based upon their on-court performance, while also keeping in mind their age, contract and appeal to another team in a possible trade. We took last week off because of the holiday break. Check out the previous rankings here. Onto this week:
1. Jared Sullinger (previous ranking: 2) – Jeff Green has been dethroned. Well, it’s more like Sullinger seized this crown. The second-year forward has finally stayed healthy for a couple of weeks and regained his conditioning. The results have been great, with a consistency on the boards and in the scoring column. As his playing time has increased, so has his production. He’s even debuted an interesting three-point shot to mixed results. Saturday’s loss at Milwaukee is an example of that turning out badly for the Celts, but he’s had some good games with the trey.
2. Jeff Green (previous ranking: 1) – He must feel like the soldier at the end of A Few Good Men, who says: “But we did nothing wrong.” Alas, he’s still out of the top spot. He’s scored double-digits in all but three games this year, and he’s gone for 16 points or more in seven of his past eight games. He’s heating up.
3. Jordan Crawford (previous ranking: 6) – Mr. Triple Double. The ever-smiling Crawford has been such a revelation that when GM Danny Ainge was talking about cultivating the young guys (Bradley, Sully, etc.) this week, he mentioned Crawford. He’s a free agent at the end of the year, and he’s quickly gone from dead salary to a real asset. How much do you think a team like Chicago would trade for a guy like this?
4. Avery Bradley (previous ranking: 3) – The shooting guard is back to being a positive on offense in the wake of a rough start. Add in his usual great defense—although he’s been mired in foul trouble too much—and he’s had the junior year he needed to have.
5. Brandon Bass (previous ranking: 7) – With the injury to Kelly Olynyk, Bass moved back into the starting lineup. The big minutes led to an uptick in scoring and rebounding, but raise the question of what happens when Olynyk returns. Clearly, Bass is a little thrown off his game coming off the bench.
6. Courtney Lee (previous ranking: 5) – The Celtics struggled when Lee was out with injury. Upon his return, they clicked back into place. The veteran guard has been effective all season long in his limited role.
7. Kris Humphries (previous ranking: 8) – Hump started playing on more than just Hump Day. He’s had some good days and some bad days as coach Brad Stevens figures out who to give bench minutes to in the frontcourt. He’s done just enough, however, to make some other teams think he could be an interesting piece as an expiring contract down the stretch.
8. Vitor Faverani (previous ranking: 9) – The Skinny Sinbad is now growing an afro or a mohawk-fro. Either way, it’s an interesting look. Also interesting: His scoring ability amid erratic playing time.
9. Gerald Wallace (previous ranking: 11) – He said something good about his teammates and coach. He also went another game without taking a shot. But more importantly, he said something nice.
10. Phil Pressey (previous ranking: 10) – With so many guards playing well, and Crawford thriving as a point guard, he’s seen his playing time reduced. Still, he’s proven himself as a capable ball-handler.
11. Keith Bogans (previous ranking: 12) – He actually played in the first half on Saturday. AND he took a shot that wasn’t blocked. So, two "firsts" for the season.
12. MarShon Brooks (previous ranking 13) – With foul trouble and injuries, he played down the stretch on Saturday, and even scored. It’s like a church league: Playing time for everyone!
Unranked because of injury: Rajon Rondo, Kelly Olynyk
Upcoming games: Fri. vs. Denver, Sun. at New York, Tue. at Brooklyn, Wed. vs. L.A. Clippers
Predicted record in upcoming games: 3-1
Two great singers from different worlds – Laurie Sargent and Art Garfunkel -- make rare appearances at venues off the beaten path in Somerville and Arlington as part of a weekend that also includes the Boston Music Awards and a Hanukkah concert by Matisyahu.
Although she was a major-label rising star with ’80s Boston pop-rockers Face to Face, Laurie Sargent chose an earthier, roots-aligned path as a solo artist and in Twinemen with Morphine survivors Billy Conway and Dana Colley. Now living on a Montana farm, where she took to mandolin, Sargent returns home to celebrate her new album Little Dipper and the Shooting Star with a gang of notable friends at Arts at the Armory in Somerville. In addition to drummer Conway and saxophonist Colley, Sargent will be joined by guitarists Stu Kimball (now Bob Dylan’s right-hand man) and David Champagne, harp ace Jim Fitting (Session Americana), Either/Orchestra horn mainstays Russ Gershon and Tom Halter, keyboardist Evan Harriman and violinist Ian Kennedy, who all contributed to the album at High ‘n’ Dry Studios in the Armory. Expect tunes from throughout Sargent’s solo catalog as well as Twinemen and Orchestra Morphine, the ensemble assembled to honor the late Mark Sandman. Much of that same cast played in Orchestra Morphine as well as at this 2012 show with Sargent that included bassist Andrew Mazzone, who died of cancer earlier this year after recording for her new album as well.
Art Garfunkel possesses both a unique voice and history, most notably in his famed duo with Paul Simon, and he’ll share both in an acoustic show at Arlington’s Regent Theatre on Saturday and Sunday. In addition to songs, “An Intimate Evening with Art Garfunkel” promises anecdotes, prose and a Q&A with the audience, which might prove as interesting as an angelic sail through “Bridge Over Troubled Waters.” Here’s Garfunkel singing his solo hit “Bright Eyes” at a 2012 concert in Europe.
It’s also holiday time – with a couple of alternative outings from Erin McKeown and Matisyahu. McKeown’s Manifestra was one of this year’s better (and topically serious) albums, but the maverick folkie still has time to send up the season with her irreverent Anti-Holiday Spectacular on Friday at Club Passim. Expect playful profanity and help from guests that include Cranky Carolers like the ones at this 2011 edition (don’t miss the Lynyrd Skynyrd guitar breakdown). And while Matisyahu has shorn the beard that he wore when he broke out a decade ago as a Hasidic reggae star, the rapper/singer born Matthew Paul Miller returns to House of Blues on Saturday with his “Festival of Light” tour. Here’s a recent performance of his inspirational tune “One Day.”
The annual Boston Music Awards again take over the Liberty Hotel on Sunday with award announcements as well as performances by such local luminaries as Bearstronaut, Moe Pope & Quills, Barrence Whitfield, Pretty & Nice, You Won’t, Reks, Shun Ng, Big D & the Kids Table, Coyote Kolb and 2013 Rumble winners Eddie Japan. Over in Cambridge, Nashville-based Australian singer and multi-instrumentalist Anne McCue holds court at Atwood's Tavern that afternoon with her bluesy folk-rock before Boston roots singers Amy Black and Sarah Borges team for a Sunday night celebration of music recorded at Alabama's legendary Muscles Shoals studio. Also on Sunday, the Montreal-based Genesis tribute band the Musical Box inhabit the 1972 album Foxtrot at the Sinclair. That show should not only feature the dramatic “Watcher of the Skies” and the 20-minute opus “Supper’s Ready” but this namesake song as a bonus, complete with Peter Gabriel-era costuming.
Why Jacoby Ellsbury's exit is different for Sox owners
The current regime is not used to seeing their homegrown guys bolt
Jacoby Ellsbury’s departure from the Red Sox for a reported 7 year, $153 million contract from the rival New York Yankees is sure to do many things. It will spice up a rivalry that has run hot-and-cold the past few years. It will give Red Sox prospect Jackie Bradley Jr., who got better with every major-league stint last year, a chance at an everyday job. It will force Ellsbury to shave. (That’s a good thing.) It could lead to scores of people surrounding Brian Cashman and shouting “liar, liar, pants on fire” as the Yankees GM has often said he’d like to stay under the $189 million tax in the coming year. (Was that all a strategic ruse?) It will evoke comparisons to Johnny Damon. It will make the Yankees a better team for 2014, and it will give folks another chance to see whether elite speed ages well and Carl Crawford’s case was an anomaly. It will also be uncharted territory for the Red Sox owners.
They’ve brought three World Series titles to Boston in 10 years. They’ve taken a hardline with Pedro Martinez, Derek Lowe, Johnny Damon and many other stars that have departed for more money. But they’ve never seen this. In their time as owners, they’ve never had a player who they drafted and nurtured depart as a big-name free agent. They traded away Manny and Nomar— and they didn’t draft or sign them anyways. They didn’t draft Jason Bay. The closest thing was Jonathan Papelbon, who left for less than one-third of what Ellsbury has garnered.
Sure, the Sox organization has seen homegrown guys depart as free agents: Roger Clemens, Wade Boggs, Mo Vaughn, Carlton Fisk—heck, even Dwight Evans bolted for Baltimore at the end of his career. But this ownership—despite vacillating between taking a hardline on free agency (2005-06) to opening their wallets (2007-2011)—has never had its own homegrown superstar leave.
Ellsbury’s departure is hardly a surprise, and with Bradley ready to step in, the Sox might be better off two or three seasons from now, but it’s still a change for this ownership. In a way, it’s business as usual: They’ve never paid market value for any of their homegrown guys, but that hasn’t quite stopped them from resigning them. They’ve extended Dustin Pedroia, Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, Kevin Youkilis (although the current ownership didn’t draft him) and David Ortiz (who they signed) at what would be considered below-market contracts. They reportedly offered Ellsbury similar deals and he turned them down, so he’s gone. But even the Patriots—who some folks ridiculously call cheap—paid top dollar at some point in their careers for Tom Brady, Logan Mankins and Vince Wilfork. You wonder if the Sox, who have changed their front office philosophy at different times, might soon rethink the approach that led to Ellsbury’s departure. Being tight with money (and a huge rash of injuries) led to missing the postseason in 2006. Opening the coffers before 2007 led to that year’s World Series title and almost another one in 2008. But opening the coffers also led to 2011’s disappointment. Being loose with money (but not years) last offseason led to another World Series title.
Currently, the Sox have plenty of inexpensive prospects in the pipeline who are almost ready to contribute, so it’s not as if they’ll be strapped for cash to fill out the rest of their roster (plus they just raised ticket prices an average of 4.1 percent). The Sox could easily have penciled Bradley in at LF and moved the Daniel Nava/Jonny Gomes platoon to 1B, and keeping Ellsbury and Bradley for the next 6 or 7 years would’ve also given the Sox a long-term solution in the OF, where they don’t have as much talent in the minors. In the end, however, Ellsbury was likely a luxury they could afford, but they didn’t need. And so he walks to the Yankees. When he returns to Fenway on April 22, it will feel for fans just like the countless other athletes who have returned. But it will feel different for John Henry, Tom Werner and Larry Lucchino.
Why the Sox are right to move on from Salty
Love for catcher not quite backed up by stats
The end has come for Jarrod Saltalamacchia and the Red Sox. Boston reportedly signed A.J. Pierzynski to a 1-year, $8 million contract earlier today, thereby cutting ties with Salty. While the rest of baseball’s free-agent market has moved at a Jose Molina-type trudge, the catcher market has moved quicker than Jason Kendall in his prime. And at each turn, Boston fans have held out varying degrees of hope that Salty would return, but looking back on it now, the signs were all there that the team was ready to move on from him.
Take a look at his 2013 statistics: A 14 HR campaign, with a .338 on-base percentage and a .466 slugging percentage seems like something you’d want every season, but consider a few more stats. He was successful in part because he had a .372 batting average on balls in play, which is far higher than the typical .300 mark. According to the wins-above-replacement metric, last season was his first positive offensive year in his major league career, so when that .372 number aligns back with league norms, he could be in for quite a regression. Then consider that in three seasons as the primary catcher for Boston, he struck out in three of every 10 plate appearances. In high-leverage situations in his career, that number spikes to strikeouts in 39 percent of 234 plate appearances. While his walk rate has improved from 6.2 percent in 2011 to 9.1 percent last season, his plate discipline is still a negative—and he presses even more (unsuccessfully) when the going gets tough.
This is a player who dropped a catch on a play at the plate in Game 2 of the World Series — a play that eventually led to Craig Breslow, who was backing up Salty, to overthrow third base. This is a player who uncorked an off-the-mark throw to third base in Game 3 of the World Series as part of a play that was more remembered for Will Middlebrooks bumping into Allen Craig. While Breslow and Middlebrooks (or, actually, umpire Jim Joyce) took the heat for the plays, more solid plays by Saltalamacchia could have prevented them from happening in the first place. This—and his offensive struggles against good pitching—led to him being benched in favor of David Ross during the final three games of the World Series.
When the Sox were rumored to have Salty on the trade market last winter, it seemed like it was to clear the way for a Ross/Ryan Lavarnway platoon, but what if it was just because they thought Salty wasn’t very good? What if the reason that they didn’t offer him the $14 million qualifying offer was that they didn’t even want him around for $8 million a year, let alone $14 million? What if they had Brian McCann, Carlos Ruiz, Pierzynski all ranked ahead of him on a free-agent list? What if they considered the readily available Ryan Hannigan, Geovany Soto, Molina and Dioner Navarro all to be his equal? They reportedly tried to trade him last year, they benched him in the World Series, they didn’t offer him the qualifying offer, and they signed a 37-year-old catcher with a declining offensive game to replace him. It really is possible the Red Sox front office never saw much value in Salty.
It would be understandable for Boston fans to have overvalued him, seeing as how—despite only playing with the big-league club for three seasons—his fate has been intertwined with Boston’s for a bit longer than that. After being traded to a Texas team that was "catching rich" at the time with Taylor Teagarden and Max Ramirez (let this be a lesson to those who think the Sox will have a logjam with Lavarnway, Butler, Vazquez, Swihart and Denney all in the organization), he was soon rumored to be on his way to Boston. Fans debated whether the cost of acquiring him as Jason Varitek’s successor was worth giving up Justin Masterson (more of a reliable pitcher) or Clay Buchholz (who had flashed upside, but had struggled with consistency). In the end, the Sox stood pat and Salty soon encountered troubles with Texas at the start of 2010 that included not being able to throw the ball back to the pitcher. Before clearing his head of those mental troubles (perhaps the same mental stuff he encounters when striking out so much in high-leverage situations), he was traded to Boston in a buy-low scheme for three minor-league prospects. The Sox staff helped him overcome his throwing troubles and he seized the starting role from Varitek in 2011—a position he held until this year’s World Series.
It’s over for Salty in Boston, and the Sox have plenty of stats to back up their decision to move on from him, but it might take fans a little longer to stop discussing him. After all, it’s a habit. He’s been a hot-stove topic for more than five years, and it won’t stop anytime soon.
Dave Tronzo’s the unorthodox master manipulator of slide guitar while Reeves Gabrels has spun his mercurial six-string flights with David Bowie and now the Cure (after serving in several Boston bands, from the Dark to Bentmen). The two virtuosos make a rare joint return to the Lizard Lounge on Friday as a sonic tag team in the Moroccan/jazz/dub/groove collective Club d’Elf, celebrating the digital-only Fire in the Brain (Live at Berklee), on the college's student-run indie label birnCORE. Recorded at the Café 939, the eight-song release includes Tronzo as well as fellow Friday collaborators DJ Mister Rourke (who also plays the Lizard on Saturday with Dub Apocalypse), drummer Dean Johnson and d’Elf bassist/ringleader Mike Rivard. Here’s a taste of a previous d'Elf night with Gabrels and Tronzo: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FcAofl1fotw.
On the more mainstream side, Cuban trumpet veteran Arturo Sandoval hits Scullers Jazz Club Friday through Sunday on the heels of President Obama bestowing him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the country’s highest civilian award. The Grammy Award winner, who’s up for two more Latin Grammys on Thursday, is known through "For Love or Country," a movie based on his life starting Andy Garcia, and is about to release I Want to Wish You a Merry Christmas. Here’s a recent live clip of Sandoval: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nj6KIMnwKMs.
British folk-punk troubadour Frank Turner has amassed an army of followers who thrive on his poetic, charismatic performances, and those fans will no doubt be rewarded when Turner leads his Sleeping Souls at House of Blues on Saturday. Here is Turner’s band rousing the festival circuit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YVOJXHPX6oc. And the Tuareg guitarist Bombino and his rhythmic band should be more in their hypnotic element at the Sinclair on Sunday than at this past summer’s Newport Folk Festival, where their African desert fusion proved a bit too loud for that fest’s smallest stage: Here’s a sampling of their singular groove: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f_n80VHl9us.
Q&A: Being Courtney Lee
Celtics' veteran guard dishes on life in the NBA
Boston Celtics guard Courtney Lee answers questions at the Celtics' Shamrock Foundation Golf Tournament this fall.
(Photo by Steve Babineau / Boston Celtics)
Boston Celtics guard Courtney Lee was drafted by the Orlando Magic in 2008, shooting his way into the starting lineup, where he served a big role in Orlando's march to the NBA FInals during his rookie season. Since then, he's been tagged as a three-and-D player, a guy who has the ability to hit three-pointers and play lockdown defense. With a void in veteran leadership this season, he's stepped up in his second year with the Celtics. He's improved his all-around game and is contributing every night despite limited minutes. He sat down with The Improper just as the offseason was ending, sharing his views on the best bagel in the city, his first NBA game in front of his hometown crowd and his favorite shop on Newbury Street.
Matt Martinelli: You’ve had a chance to play a full season here. Even though you live in Orlando in the offseason, what are your thoughts on Boston as a city?
Courtney Lee: I think Boston is a wonderful city. Orlando is known for tourists, adventures and whatnot, downtown there is up-and-coming, but Boston is already established. Everywhere you look, there’s big buildings, there’s nice parks. I actually went and ate at the 52nd floor of the Top of the Hub at the Prudential building. I wish I would’ve done it last year. I enjoyed it. Having dinner with the view. I like the city because there’s a lot to do.
How much time do you spend during the offseason in Orlando?
I was in Orlando and then I was in L.A. I took a couple trips. I might’ve been to Palm Coast (Fla.), Miami, but for the most part I spent half of it in Orlando and half of it in L.A.
What’s your favorite road trip when you guys are on the road? Is there a city that you’re always looking forward to play in?
There’s two. I always look forward when we go into Orlando to play because that’s where my family is now. And then Indianapolis because that’s where I’m originally from. That’s where everyone I went, from elementary on up, everyone I went to school with. So it’s always great to see everybody.
What was that like the first time you played the Pacers, seeing everyone?
My rookie year, we played the Pacers like our third game of the season and at that time, I was still not playing as a rookie. So the first time I went back, it wasn’t a good experience, but then the second time I went back was midway in the season and by then I had broken into the starting lineup and I was starting then. I had a big game. So it was a good feeling to be able to go back and be able to play and have my grandmother and whatnot be able to watch me play because the Pacers were our favorite team.
How often do you keep in touch with your family during the season?
If not daily, then every other day. My mother calls and texts me every day. I talk to my brother every other day. I send him a text message, saying what’s going on. He’s watching my house in Orlando, so I gotta make sure he’s not breaking anything. But I talk to my family every day or every other day for the most part.
Any other spots that stick out for you in Boston?
Newbury Street sticks out. I like fashion, and Newbury Street has a lot of trendy stores. Riccardi, I like that store a lot. And restaurants – it’s a bad one, but a goody. Shake Shack. They just put it in off Route 9. I like that place a lot. It’s not too far. The food is good. There’s a lot of other spots I like. Café Bagel is probably one of my favorite spots. It’s in Needham, and I think there’s another one of them in Cambridge. Best bagels – customize them so anything you want, you can get.
You’re one of the holdovers from last season, how’s the team bonding been?
We still have a lot of the guys who were here last year, so we have a relationship. And then with the new guys, they’re coming in, filling holes and we’re all learning at the same time because we have a different coach. So we’re all getting it and building the chemistry at the same time, so I think everything is coming along at the right time.
Your new coach is into analytics. Were you big into math growing up?
Growing up, math was one of my favorite subjects. It really was. Being big into stats, it helps in its way, here and there. But there’s also an understanding that it’s still a game and you still have to guard your man. But stats can help find a player’s capabilities and what his tendencies are. Like, does he like to go right and shoot the pull-up. And what percentage of time he does that. Stats can come into effect and help that way.
Celtics Player Power Rankings Week 4
Sully's sophomore bump
Required explainer: The days of being a championship contender came to an abrupt halt this summer when the Celtics parted ways with Doc Rivers, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. In the aftermath comes a transitional year in which the team is looking to build up the value of each of its players. With this in mind, all season long we’ll be judging the players in terms of value in The Improper’s Celtics Player Power Ranking. The healthy players will be judged based upon their on-court performance, while also keeping in mind their age, contract and appeal to another team in a possible trade. Check out last week's rankings here. Onto this week:
1. Jeff Green (last week: 1) – The enigmatic swingman follows up a 2-point game with a 4-point game, and then he explodes for 19 against the Spurs. His name is being bandied about as the carrot that could bring back Omer Asik. That’s the only reason he stays atop the rankings.
2. Jared Sullinger (last week: 7) – More like sophomore bump. He’s finally getting his conditioning back, and he posted a 19-point, 17-rebound game in addition to a 26-point, 8-rebound game this week. He earned his first start of the season on Wednesday. It’s hard to see him moving from the lineup anytime soon.
3. Avery Bradley (last week: 3) – He’s got the shoot part of shooting guard down. He averaged 21 attempts a game in the final 3 games of the week. He’s yet to rediscover his 2012 touch, but he scored 27 against Minnesota and 19 against San Antonio.
4. Kelly Olynyk (last week: 4) – The rookie was quietly productive on the two-game Texas trip, and he really clicked alongside the talented, young starting five on Wednesday in San Antonio.
5. Courtney Lee (last week: 5) – He was the only bright spot in the disastrous game against Houston. He’s continued to steadily produce in limited minutes this year.
6. Jordan Crawford (last week: 2) – He’s stabilized the point-guard position, and he continues to be stable off the court. The next thing to watch for is how Rajon Rondo’s return affects his move to more of a combo guard spot.
7. Brandon Bass (last week: 6) – After proving his worth in the first few weeks of the season, his name popped up in trade rumors and he had an abysmal Texas trip. We’ll see how he responds to getting bumped out of the starting lineup on Wednesday going forward.
8. Kris Humphries (last week: 10) – He got a few minutes of play during the three-game road trip, and he might’ve produced just enough to convince a team he’s worth taking a gamble on down the stretch.
9. Vitor Faverani (last week: 9) – He had his obligatory big rebounding game against Minnesota, but was otherwise a nonfactor, or even a negative factor, this week.
10. Phil Pressey (last week: 8) – A plus-16 in the Houston game was a product of playing well in blowout time. He must improve on the road before Rondo returns, in order to continue to get useful minutes.
11. Gerald Wallace (last week: 10) – Expletive deleted. Perhaps he’ll get his wish and be traded to a contender. If not, maybe he’ll get traded to the Knicks.
12. Keith Bogans (last week: 12) – His nonguaranteed $5 million deal seems mighty useful with all these trade rumors floating around town. He got his only shot of the year blocked, which used to happen to me in CYO games.
13. MarShon Brooks (last week: 13) – He scored 8 points against Minnesota! And then … tough times again.
Unranked because of injury: Rajon Rondo
Upcoming games: Fri. vs. Indiana, Sat. at Atlanta, Mon. at Charlotte, Wed. vs. Memphis
Predicted record in upcoming games: 2-2
Past week’s record (Fri.-Thu.): 0-4
Past week’s predicted record: 1-3
Our Cover shoot with Jenny Dell
Take a look behind the scenes of our Holiday Shopping cover shoot with NESN's Jenny Dell.
Thanks to an amazing team, we were able to pull this shoot together just days after the Boston Red Sox won the World Series. Jenny was an absolute delight to work with and jetted off to a well-deserved vacation right after the shoot.
Wardrobe styling by Evan Crothers/ENNIS Inc. and hair and make-up by Mariolga.
Photographed by the very talented Adam DeTour.
Once known for wielding an autoharp, Canadian folkie Basia Bulat has gravitated to the guitar-like charango as she fords atmospheric indie-pop territory on her intriguing new album Tall Tall Shadows. But it’s her resonant, expressive voice (like Natalie Merchant with wider range) that stands out most as Bulat heads for an intimate Friday night date at Johnny D’s Uptown: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3DjusNKfVT0. Another singer/songwriter with an expressive personality who’s no longer under the radar, Lissie flashes more of a rock edge on her new album Back to Forever as she heads for a show at Royale on Friday: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s-ZIPCDbh4s&feature=youtu.be.
Speaking of personality, singer/saxophonist Kalmia Traver and her mates in Rubblebucket are swimming in it -- with their funky art-pop jams and quirky stage trappings. However, the Vermont-gone-Brooklyn group’s Friday appearance at the Paradise Rock Club also serves as an affirmative return after Traver’s recent treatments for early-stage ovarian cancer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x2hQT1wny9A. Then, on Sunday, Grammy-winning singer/songwriter India.Arie burrows into her smooth neo-soul of her new album SongVersation at the Wilbur Theatre: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z6E5SlEw2gg.
Yet this is truly a weekend for jazz fans to celebrate. First, there’s the annual John Coltrane Memorial Concert at Northeastern’s Blackman Auditorium. On Saturday, the concert ensemble will be joined by the New England Spiritual Ensemble to perform “jubilee songs” (music that Coltrane was versed in as a child) to honor the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and the young victims of the 1963 bombing of a church in Birmingham, Alabama. That's a different slant for the John Coltrane Memorial Concert, seen here in its 2009 program: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2JVpB4O6my0.
But the weekend’s biggest event showcases a living saxophone legend at Symphony Hall. The 80th birthday celebration for Wayne Shorter not only features jazz’s premier composer with his stellar quartet of fellow improvisers in pianist Danilo Perez, bassist John Patitucci and drummer Brian Blade. It’s a three-hour concert that also features Sound Prints (another marvelous unit that’s fronted by horn standouts Joe Lovano and Dave Douglas and includes crack drummer Joey Baron) and ACS, the trio of pianist Geri Allen, drummer Terri Lyne Carrington and bassist Esperanza Spalding. That’s a practical jazz-festival bill like you'll find at Newport (and the 5 p.m. start time means the concert shouldn’t interfere with the Patriots/Broncos football game). Here’s a recent clip of the Wayne Shorter Quartet with the master grabbing his soprano sax to lead the group's high-wire act: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QKqySIXp3Ao.
JFK's secret: The best presidential golfer
Fifty years after his death, stories live on about the president as a reclusive golfer.
Friday will mark 50 years since Brookline native President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas. The legend of Camelot has had its ups and downs since then, but Kennedy’s love for golf—aside from a Seinfeld reference—has been mostly overlooked. USGA curator/historian Mike Trostel, a Pembroke native, shared some stories about his fellow Bay Stater’s connection to golf.
Matt Martinelli: When did JFK first start playing golf?
Mike Trostel: He played the game from an early age. Mostly at the Hyannisport Club on Cape Cod, which was really close to where his family had their summer home. It kind of became the summer White House when he was in office. Really, the whole Kennedy family excelled at all sports, and enjoyed competition whether it was touch football or golf. Kennedy was probably the best presidential golfer, especially coming after Eisenhower, who played so much.
What was his handicap?
He didn’t keep an official handicap, but estimated it probably would have been in the 7-8 range. He really just played a handful of (full rounds) when he was in the White House. What happened was Eisenhower before him loved golf, and was very public about his love of golf. He probably did more to grow the game, along with Arnold Palmer, in that era of television, than anyone else. But he also came under a lot of criticism for that. I think people were feeling like—here’s a guy who played 800 rounds during his 8 years in office. People thought maybe he should be doing more work and playing less golf. Eisenhower had a putting green put in on the South Lawn of the White House, so he could use it almost on a daily basis. So, when Kennedy took over, he had a passion for the game, but really tried to keep it under wraps. When he went out to play, often times he’d go to spots on the course where the media couldn’t get to. He’d play 5 or 6 holes and then leave after that. He wouldn’t necessarily play a full round. He was a very good player. He had a fluid and graceful swing. That summer in 1963, he actually had his swing filmed. A videographer came out—I believe they were in Newport—and he’s wearing these Nantucket red pants and a blue shirt, and he had the whole round filmed. What he was going to do was send the film to Arnold Palmer, and then have Palmer come up over the winter and give him a golf lesson. Palmer would review his swing and then kind of come up and talk golf with him. Obviously that never happened that winter of ’63-’64. He was certainly determined to get better, even if he tried to keep his love for the game hidden from the public eye.
Was he a good putter or was it more ball-striking?
He had a very fluid swing. As far as presidents go, of the ones who I’ve seen swing, it is by far the best. He did have a habit after he finished his swing to kind of face the target. He always wanted to see where the ball would go. He was a decent putter, and a single-digit handicapper, so he could certainly get it around. There’s a good story I’ve heard—and it’s tough to tell what’s embellished and what is actual fact—but when he was running for office in 1960, he was playing at Cypress Point, and it was on the 15th hole, a par 3. He hits a shot and the ball hits the green and is rolling right toward the cup. All of his playing partners are yelling for it to get in, and he’s like: No, no, no. I don’t want that ball to go in the hole. If that went in, and it got out, all the public would think another golfer was trying to get into the White House. So he was very conscious of his public image. Certainly from the USGA’s point of view, we want to encourage everyone to play golf, but at the time there was a little sensitivity because of Eisenhower playing so much.
Did he have to get rid of that putting green at the White House when he took over?
Kennedy didn’t. Nixon had it taken out. Nixon was the vice president to Eisenhower, and Ike really wanted to have something that they could do together. They tried fishing, and it didn’t work out. Then they tried golf, and Nixon stunk. He was terrible. Eisenhower was all over him to get better. When Nixon took over, he just said “The hell with it” and he took out the putting green. It remained out until Bill Clinton took office, and he had it put back in. It’s still there, and President Obama and Joe Biden have actually used it at certain points.
If you had to rank top three presidents in terms of golf, would Kennedy be at the top?
As far as his playing ability, without a doubt, he was certainly up there. Gerald Ford was actually a real good golfer. Went to the University of Michigan, played football there, was actually drafted by two teams, the Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers. He was lampooned on SNL for hitting people in the gallery later in life because he played in a lot of pro-am tournaments, so he was known for that. But it’s tough since if you’re a golfer—even someone who shoots in the 80s and mid-90s—if you have so many people crowding the fairway, it’s very difficult. Going back to William Howard Taft in 1909, all but three presidents have played golf, with different levels and different intensities. It’s a lot, so obviously there’s something about the game of golf that has drawn the presidents to it. You can see it even among the Bushes who played a lot. George W. Bush gave up the game for a little while out of respect to troops and their families when we had the military interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan, but he’s come back to the game. He plays golf several times a week and has been very outspoken about how much he loves the game. The first President Bush’s grandfather was a president of the USGA and a seven-time club champion at a course up in Maine, so golf ran through their veins. Even President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who obviously had polio and was stricken to a wheelchair, was a great golfer when he was younger. It’s a game that has drawn a lot of presidents and Kennedy is almost certainly, in my mind, the best of the bunch.
How’d the 4-iron come to the USGA museum?
It’s the MacGregor Tourney FC-4000 club, and he very much liked it. It was donated to us by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, a year after the president’s death. It’s a club that when he was in Hyannisport he had used for a great shot, and he talked about it very much in-depth. Those irons, the MacGregor irons, if you take a look at it, they’re very tough to hit. It looks a little like a butter knife. For someone who doesn’t play that much, it’s a very difficult club to hit.
An Optimist's Take on Pats' Loss
Forget the blown call, there were plenty of good signs from New England on MNF
In the light of day, it is fair to view last night’s Patriots vs. Panthers game as one of those games that will be defined by the final call. Pats’ fans will not soon forget the picked-up flag at the end of the game as tight end Rob Gronkowski is getting wrapped up in the end zone. But last night’s game had a lot more than a controversial ending, and since it’s not a season-ending loss, it’s worth taking the long view on what actually happened in the game. It might be easier than watching the GIF of Gronkowski in the end zone for the thousandth time today.
Offense on all cylinders – For the first time all season, the Patriots last night had their full complement of offensive players. After waiting 10 weeks, the results didn’t disappoint. There were merely seven offensive drives last night, but the Patriots were in Carolina territory on all of them. The first one stalled when Tom Brady was sacked on third-and-4 on the Carolina 40, pushing New England out of go-for-it mode on fourth down. The second drive ended with Stevan Ridley coughing the ball up on second-and-11 in the red zone. The third one was hampered by a personal foul penalty on Logan Mankins, but still resulted in a field goal. The Patriots knocked off that bye-week rust in the second half, scoring two touchdowns on their first two drives of the half. They followed that up by kicking a field goal on fourth-and-1 in the red zone, simply because of circumstances. (The drive really was lost when Brady and McDaniels called for a throw to the end zone on third-and-1. It’s a call they make often, with seemingly little success. I have no problem with the call under normal circumstances, since you’d probably go for it on fourth down. However, in those circumstances, where you would kick a field goal late in the game to go ahead, you need to focus on simply picking up 1 yard to extend the drive.) On the Patriots’ next drive, the game ended — no need to rehash that. So, that’s 7 drives, no three-and-outs, and all ending in Carolina territory, just one with a punt.
Vereen’s return – Shane Vereen looked dynamic in Week 1, raising the hopes of Patriots’ fans until the next day when it was revealed that he had a broken finger and would be placed on short-term IR. Last night was his first game back, and he gave the team a pass-catching runner (he had 8 catches), who can easily shift to wideout, thus catching the defense flat-footed. It’ll be interesting to see if the Patriots run him a bit more in the coming weeks, but right now a team with Vereen, Gronkowski, Danny Amendola, Aaron Dobson and Julian Edelman in the skill spots, looks like a versatile grouping. It’s not the 2007 Patriots, but you won’t be able to cry that Brady doesn’t have anyone to catch his passes.
Secondary injuries – The final drive by the Panthers was reminiscent of Carolina’s final drive in Super Bowl XXXVIII, when Rodney Harrison was playing with a broken right arm. The Patriots secondary was too banged up to stop Ricky Proehl on the touchdown in that game, and last night they couldn’t contain Ted Ginn Jr. It’s understandable when you consider Ginn is one of the fastest players in the league, but you still wonder if a healthier secondary might’ve changed the outcome. Aqib Talib was hurt on the bench (again), while Alfonzo Dennard and Steve Gregory were inactive because of injuries. Missing three of their top 4 secondary guys showed on that play, as Arrington was left to cover Ginn alone. None of these injuries seem to be of the season-ending variety, so the cavalry will soon come to help this beleaguered bunch.
Mobile quarterbacking – The Patriots were burned on a couple of huge third-down plays when they overpursued Cam Newton. Without Vince Wilfork or Jerod Mayo in the middle for the Patriots, Newton was able to find a seam there on multiple occasions and soon scamper to the outside for long gains. It’s something New England just couldn’t defend. The good news is, they won’t really have to defend it that much the rest of the season. Andrew Luck is a mobile quarterback, as is E.J. Manuel, but Peyton Manning, Alex Smith and Andy Dalton are not going to be making those moves in the playoffs.
Yes, there are negatives to take away from last night’s game. A more physical opponent rattled the Patriots, and the game’s limited amount of possessions made it feel like one of those Super Bowl losses to the Giants. But for a team that has battled injuries and age all year, last night’s game was a sign that the Patriots will be competitive the rest of the season. The game might come down to a picked-up flag or the debut of a new penalty in the league. Or it could swing on a questionable call in their favor. But that’s all to be determined in January. (Note: The Patriots are still down one on game-changing calls, so karma still owes them one favorable call this year. Maybe we save it till January?) For now, the Patriots are two games up in the division, and after last night, there’s reason for optimism.
Celtics Player Power Rankings - Week 3
Jordan Crawford's rise continues
Required explainer: The days of being a championship contender came to an abrupt halt this summer when the Celtics parted ways with Doc Rivers, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. In the aftermath comes a transitional year in which the team is looking to build up the value of each of its players. With this in mind, all season long we’ll be judging the players in terms of value in The Improper’s Celtics Player Power Ranking. The healthy players will be judged based upon their on-court performance, while also keeping in mind their age, contract and appeal to another team in a possible trade. Check out last week's rankings here. Onto this week:
1. Jeff Green (last week: 1) – Much as there is a National TV Game Rajon Rondo and a Local Cable Game Rondo, there seems to be a Miami Jeff Green and an Every Other Game Jeff Green. The 24 points were nice to see from Green, but the stat about him having the highest field-goal percentage in the NBA since 2007-08 on game-tying or go-ahead shots is the most impressive. The Celtics now know they have a go-to guy for the last shot—something that’s hard to find in this league.
2. Jordan Crawford (last week: 6) – It’s a long season, so I say let’s get ahead of ourselves. Let’s have some fun. And Crawford, well, he’s fun. His reputation coming from Washington was less-than-stellar, but when you look back on his career, he averaged 16.3 points with Washington his rookie season, and then he averaged 14.7 in his sophomore season. He’s also averaged more than 3 assists per game. He can score (he’s a passable shooter and a very good slasher) and pass. His offensive performance to start the year has been no fluke. The question remains: Is his off-court maturity a fluke? Thus far, he’s shown no signs of trouble.
3. Avery Bradley (last week: 3) – He’s playing far better since giving up some point-guard duties to Crawford, but it’s easy to cast a wary eye at Bradley in Wednesday’s loss to Charlotte. Coming off a 24-point performance against Orlando, he scored 7 points and was limited to just 23 minutes.
4. Kelly Olynyk (last week: 4) – At times, Olynyk plays like a veteran. In crunch time, however, he often can look more like a rookie, which is an understandable thing three weeks into his rookie year. He’s still starting and finishing most games, so he’s a step ahead of most rookies.
5. Courtney Lee (last week: 9) – He’s shooting 56 percent from the floor (40 percent from 3-point range), so he’s likely to come down to earth soon. He might’ve earned more playing time, but there’s nobody to send to the bench in favor of more playing time for Lee. Even if he never gets a shot at extended minutes, this team needs a player who can contribute in limited spurts. Lee’s done that this season.
6. Brandon Bass (last week: 2) – It was a mediocre week for the frontcourt veteran. His season numbers are now in line with the two previous campaigns before last season. Nearly 12 points per game and 5 rebounds is useful, but it looks to be the established ceiling for Bass.
7. Jared Sullinger (last week: 5) – Just when he was settling into a 20-25 minute role with the team—and putting up double figures in points—he got hurt. It’s frustrating to watch him stop-and-start so far this year, but there remains hope he can string together some standout games when healthy.
8. Phil Pressey (last week: 7) – Given the opportunity to carve out a role as the backup point-guard, Pressey has seized it. He played significant minutes in all four of the past week’s games, and he produced value in all three wins. That’s a nice thing to say about an undrafted rookie during his first month in the NBA.
9. Vitor Faverani (last week: 8) – While Slim Sinbad’s minutes have tanked (he played just 3 minutes against Miami), he’s shown an appetite for the 3-pointer. It’s too early to tell whether he’s actually a good long-distance shooter (although scouting reports from Spain certainly mentioned that aspect of his game). It’s not too early, however, to have the crazy three-point shots add to Faverani’s lore.
10. Gerald Wallace (last week: 13) – It’s easy to tune out Wallace’s rants about his teammates, and it’s just as easy to overlook his contributions to this team. But you really shouldn’t overlook his effort. His pass to Green on the game-winning basket in Miami was right on target, and he tried to will the team to victory on Wednesday (10 points, 8 rebounds).
11. Kris Humphries (last week: 10) – He plays on every Wednesday, so it really is Hump Day. He got some productive playing time against Miami, but he was back to the bench for the next game. His lack of a long-term deal makes him an easy guy to bury on the bench. Check out Humphries’ off-court moves (as described to The Improper’s Sarah Hagman).
12. Keith Bogans (last week: 11) – On the team simply to give some other team the benefit of cutting a $5 million non-guaranteed deal next year.
13. MarShon Brooks (last week: 12) – You haven’t seen him on the court much this year, so if you wonder what he looks like, you can find a picture of him in the dictionary under “odd man out.”
Unranked because of injury: Rajon Rondo
Upcoming games: Fri. vs. Portland, Sat. at Minnesota, Tue. at Houston, Wed. at San Antonio
Predicted record in upcoming games: 1-3
Past week’s record (Fri.-Thu.): 3-1
Past week’s predicted record: 2-2
One of the greatest male vocalists from Seattle’s ’90s grunge scene and rock in general, Chris Cornell has thrilled fans with the recent reactivation of Soundgarden. But Cornell will be in acoustic mode for his Friday solo show at the Emerson Colonial Theatre, where he’ll surely present songs from that band as well as his former outfits Audioslave and Temple of a Dog, including this nugget: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mo-GvfC9B5Y. When Phish emerged from the Northeast in the late ’80s to pioneer today’s jam-band scene, Widespread Panic did the same from the South with its earthier, bluesy sound, spinning its own always-different shows. The band from Athens, Ga., has been rejuvenated over the past several years by new lead guitarist Jimmy Herring and recent setlists seem particularly diverse, laced with old and new nuggets and covers, promising a fine return to the relatively cozy Orpheum Theatre on Friday: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nTnOYDPHsyI. And fans of pastoral indie-rock (early Bon Iver, etc.) might catch Mutual Benefit before that brainchild of Boston-to-Brooklyn songwriter Jordan Lee grows larger. The group plays tiny PA’s Lounge in Somerville on Friday behind its subtly captivating new album Love’s Crushing Diamond, which is starting to cause national ripples. Here’s a live taste of Lee and company’s music: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MY2kSulkY6A.
Guster has developed a cult-like national following for its playful alt-pop and the trio’s giving back to its hometown, returning to the Lowell Memorial Auditorium on Saturday to play Riverfeast 2013, a benefit for the Greater Boston Food Bank sponsored by radio station 92.5 The River. Here’s a short recent clip of Guster in concert: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=23BP2ngRPHA. And centered by vibrant frontwoman Alexis Krauss, Sleigh Bells have become of the more exciting young live acts in recent years with its noisy dance rock. The group turns up the volume at Royale on Saturday: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fEOJyt_J48I
Sunday finds hip-hop maestro Kanye West continues his Yeezus tour, his first solo tour in five years, having recovered from the recent loss of his ambitious staging, which includes a pyramid with a huge, circular overhead video screen. Expect the future Mr. Kardashian to rock onstage robes and even a glittery face helmet: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B_Gr7472vVY. Sound like he’s headed for a bad rap? Check out the spectacle at the TD Garden with hot comer Kendrick Lamar in support. Also, in a more stripped down vein, singer/songwriter Elvis Costello holds court at the Wilbur Theatre on Sunday as part of his first major solo acoustic tour in a decade. He may spin this one: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=obHp2bmqU5Y.
To-do list for Red Sox offseason
Breaking down the hot-stove chatter
The waves from the Red Sox splashing into the Charles River on Duck Boats have not yet stilled since the World Series parade, but with the general managers meeting in Orlando this week, the offseason is most certainly here.
In the offseasons after past championships, the Sox have faced some difficult decisions. After 2004, they moved on from Derek Lowe and Pedro Martinez. After 2007, they could’ve walked away from World Series MVP Mike Lowell, but with A-Rod as the only other viable 3B option, they locked in Lowell for 3 years, $36 million. That turned out to be overpaying for an aging player who had a rebound season and got hot in the playoffs. They enter this offseason with many free agent / trade possibilities at each position. Let’s break it down position-by-position:
Catcher — In a slight shocker, the Red Sox did not offer incumbent catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia the $14 million, one-year qualifying offer. In doing so, they gave up the right to draft-pick compensation if he signs elsewhere. With the average value of a first-round pick being seen as $5 million, they decided it wasn’t worth the risk. It’s obvious they see him as less than a $10 million a year player in light of this, and the fact he was benched in the World Series. The Sox have David Ross returning for a larger than usual, but not quite platoon role. They have Ryan Lavarnway as minor-league depth (albeit one that manager John Farrell gave short shrift to when he was with the team this year despite Lavarnway’s good offensive production). They also have Christian Vazquez as a defensive-minded prospect, and Blake Swihart as an offensive-minded prospect. Add to the mix recent draft pick Jon Denney and they’re overflowing with depth. But general manager Ben Cherington has shown he won’t just hand a prospect a job. He signed Jonny Gomes, Stephen Drew and David Ross last season when he could’ve just relied on Jackie Bradley Jr., Jose Iglesias and Ryan Lavarnway. That means a short deal of two years—for Saltalamacchia or another veteran such as free agent Carlos Ruiz, or a trade for Ryan Hannigan—is the likely move. Prediction: Carlos Ruiz (two years, $20 million)
First base — Mike Napoli was tendered, and rejected, a $14 million qualifying offer. In his first season as a full-time first baseman, he provided decent offensive output, with some slumps popping up from time to time. But he always took a lot of pitches, even when the final result was a strikeout. There are not too many obvious internal solutions at first base. The Sox could form some platoon out of Mike Carp and Jonny Gomes, or they could move Ryan Lavarnway there. They also could move Will Middlebrooks there, depending upon how the left side of the infield shakes out. But those moves all feel like stopgap, emergency type moves. Those are not the plans you make to enter a season. Having passed on Cuban prospect Jose Abreu, the Sox have no internal prospect, which could allow them to make a long-term commitment. There are short-term solutions, such as Corey Hart coming off a season-long injury. When healthy, Hart was a good power option, who walked and struck out at average rates. But his return from injury is not a given. Prediction: Mike Napoli (three years, $39 million)
Shortstop/third base — These positions are intertwined, with Stephen Drew’s fate likely determining whether or not Xander Bogaerts begins the season at third base or shortstop. It appears that Drew will likely sign a long-term deal elsewhere, leaving Bogaerts to start the year at shortstop. So, what to do about third base? It was left to Will Middlebrooks this season, and he blew his opportunity. He struggled so badly on two separate occasions that he was moved to Pawtucket once and glued to the bench the other time. He obviously has power, but his lack of plate discipline really sticks out as an outlier in the grind-out-at-bats lineup. Hot prospect (and on-base machine) Garin Cecchini will likely start the season in AAA, with a call-up possible at some point this season. That leaves Middlebrooks as more of a short-term solution than a long-term solution. But he’s not a sure enough thing in the short term, so he might be better off as trade bait. Could he be packaged with another starter or a pitching prospect to land Chase Headley? Headley would be a free agent after 2014 (when Cecchini would likely be ready), giving the Sox a likely first-round compensation pick as well. Would Milwaukee’s Aramis Ramirez (one year at $12 million left on his deal) be a trade target? Could the Sox simply sign Jonny Peralta to a one-year, make-good deal, relegating Middlebrooks to a backup role? Either way, expect most of the Red Sox intrigue later in the offseason to revolve around third base. It’s the position most likely to be solved via trade. Prediction: Sox trade for Aramis Ramirez.
Center field — Jacoby Ellsbury’s tenure with the Red Sox seems like it will be coming to an end sometime in the next month. He will sign a big contract elsewhere after being the most valuable player on the team this season. His departure will leave a big hole in production that can’t be easily replaced, but will need to involve small upgrades at other positions. His specific departure at center field can be easily replaced (although not at the same value) with Jackie Bradley Jr., who will provide some of what Ellsbury did. Bradley struggled in his first shot with the Sox this season, but he improved in later appearances. The Sox will likely hedge against him failing by signing a mid-level player to a 1-year deal. Eric Young seems like the perfect fit as a platoon partner for Bradley (not that he needs it). Prediction: Sox sign Eric Young, $6 million.
Left field, right field, second base — Status quo if everything else happens as planned.
Bullpen — The trinity of Koji Uehara, Junichi Tazawa and Craig Breslow will all be back. While a dip in production is likely, all three have been consistent, so a huge dropoff shouldn’t be expected. Then again, relievers are an unpredictable breed, so you can’t take anything for granted. Expect the Sox to dabble in the market for some lower-level bullpen arms. Brain Wilson, Francisco Rodriguez, Jesse Crain, Joe Smith and Kevin Gregg are all possibilities. Prediction: Sox sign Jesse Crain, $5 million.
Starting pitcher — The Sox certainly don’t need to make a move. They have six quality starting pitchers, and a load of guys in AAA and AA who can contribute in a pinch. They have, however, expressed a desire to stay below the $189 million luxury tax. If they make all the above moves, they might need to ditch a starter. Ryan Dempster and Jake Peavy are both at the end of their contracts. Peavy would fetch more, but he also might be a guy who you would extend a 2015 qualifying offer (providing draft-pick compensation) after this season. That makes him more valuable production-wise as well as long-term. However, Dempster provides versatility with his experience pitching as a reliever. The Sox also could look to either sell high on the cost-controlled and underrated Felix Doubront, the soon-to-be-a-bargain John Lackey or the injury-prone-but-ace-when-healthy Clay Buchholz. Tim Hudson has been linked to the Sox, and they could certainly make room for him—and see little dropoff in production—by signing him to a lower salary (say $10 million) and trading Peavy. But that seems to be a lot of work when all you really want to do is cut costs. Prediction: Sox eat about $4 million and trade Dempster.
Getting the Axe
Chatting with the leading ladies of "Lizzie Borden"
Dramatic deaths are de rigueur for the opera stage; axe murders, not so much. But that’s what’s on the agenda for this month’s production of Lizzie Borden, a one-act chamber version of Jack Beeson’s 1965 opera that’s getting its world premiere at the Park Plaza Castle courtesy of Boston Lyric Opera. The libretto takes some liberties with Fall River’s infamous double murder: Here there’s no doubt about Lizzie’s guilt, and her older sister Emma becomes younger sister Margret, who gets a sea captain suitor named Jason. But the production’s two leading ladies—mezzo-soprano and Met vet Heather Johnson (pictured at top left), who plays the eponymous axe wielder, and Grammy-nominated soprano Caroline Worra (pictured at bottom right), who plays ill-fated stepmother Abigail—still made time for a road trip to the scene of the crime for some inspiring research. We chatted about their visit, the pleasures of villainy and the artistic challenge of “pacing the crazy.”
I understand you spent the night at the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast Museum this weekend. Can you tell us a bit about your visit?
Heather: We went down yesterday, took a nice leisurely drive down, had a little lunch, checked in, took some rather interesting photographs, and actually spent the night in the Andrew Borden suite, which apparently is one of the most haunted rooms in the house. It was great to be in the space where it all happened. And I will say that getting all the information and being in the house itself changed my view of whether she was guilty. I’ve always thought that she wasn’t guilty. But being in the house and seeing how small it is, how there was no way she could have not heard what was going on, there was no other option but for her to have done it.
Can you tell us about your roles—the musical and theatrical demands, and how you approach playing these characters?
Heather: As for Lizzie, I can speak for myself, I’ve never played a role like this before. I’ve played roles that are long and big like this before, but never one that’s quite so deranged. You could say deranged, or you could say troubled…. The way that they’ve done the reduction—usually it’s 2.5 hours, but we’re doing it in 1.5 hours—everything is sort of compact, so you have to really pace yourself emotionally. You have pace the crazy so it doesn’t all happen at once. It’s really brilliantly put-together. The goal of the librettist and the composer, Jack Beeson, is that by the end of the opera, the audience feels justified in what she’s done, or at least have gone on this journey enough with her that they understand why she got to the point to do what she did.
Caroline: As for Abigail, my character, it’s been a lot of fun to play—I sort of see her as the villain. I’ve gotten to play the villain a couple of times in other productions of other shows. I did Agrippina here a couple of years ago. I think there are a lot of similarities in the fact that she’s this strong woman using her feminine wiles to have her way with all the men. She’s just trying to always control the situation. Getting to play a character like that, a really strong, in-control woman, is a lot of fun. Muah ha ha ha! [Laughs maniacally.] I feel like the entire time I get to keep egging her on and driving her to the edge. It’s kind of fun because the sky’s the limit with this character. You do want the entire room to say, “Yes, go give her 40 whacks,” at the end.
BLO’s Opera Annex productions are staged in different kinds of nontraditional spaces, in this case the Park Plaza Castle. Can you tell us a bit about what to expect with that setting?
Heather: Caroline and I have both performed in many nonconventional spaces before. It can be a challenge but it’s always very rewarding, not only for the performers but also for the audience, because it’s a much more intimate setting. And especially for a piece like this, such a psychodrama, if you will, we think it will be a really great setting. If you’re sitting at the lip of the stage—this will be a very long three-quarter stage—you’re only about three feet away from the performers. So it’s a really intimate way for someone to witness a piece of drama and opera…. It takes away the stuffiness of being in a theater. It adds a whole other dimension: The stage itself plays into the drama.
What might you want someone who’s new to opera to know about the production? What makes it a must-see?
Caroline: Especially in this day and age, I think people are always excited to come to an opera in English. People will be able to stay right with the story, right with the drama, minute by minute, which is always exciting. Operas almost feel like movies, and this is kind of like the thriller that we all like to go see at the movie theater. So it’s a perfect date night. [Laughs] And also the fact that it’s only 90 minutes: The drama keeps going the entire time. It really flies by. People won’t have a release—an intermission relieves the tension, but this is great because it just keeps building and building.
Heather: The music is really interesting because it’s got big, beautiful, lyric movie-music moments when it’s very grand, and then, especially in my part, there’s a lot of atonal music. Every character has music that fits their character. For instance, the love interest, Jason, has these beautiful, languid, loving lines that he sings to the sister, Margret, and Margret has these beautiful lines she’s singing, so the romantic characters have very romantic music. My music is crazy…. Some of it is difficult—I don’t want to say difficult to listen to, but the difficultness of the music suits the drama of the moment. The creepy music fits her mood and what’s happening to her, so it’s really well-constructed.
Boston Lyric Opera’s Lizzie Borden plays November 20, 22, 23 and 24 at the Castle at Park Plaza, 130 Columbus Ave., Boston. For tickets, call 617.542.6772.
Celtics Player Power Rankings - Week 2
Big week for Brandon Bass
The days of being a championship contender came to an abrupt halt this summer when the Celtics parted ways with Doc Rivers, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. In the aftermath comes a transitional year in which the team is looking to build up the value of each of its players. With this in mind, all season long we’ll be judging the players in terms of value in The Improper’s Celtics Player Power Ranking. The healthy players will be judged based upon their on-court performance, while also keeping in mind their age, contract and appeal to another team in a possible trade. Knockoffs of this concept have already sprung up after we debuted it last week, but we present our player rankings for week 2:
1. Jeff Green (last week: 1) – Riding the pine at the end of the third game of the season is a bad sign for your most promising player, but Green was able to overcome the benching (while not complaining to the media about it) and submit back-to-back good games. He still has a tendency to fall into the background sometimes, but than can be partly explained by not having a true point guard on the floor.
2. Brandon Bass (last week: 6) – I know, I know. He’s “too old” to be a valuable asset for this team. But he is actually only 28 years old, and he has a little more than $8 million due to him this season and next. He’s been the most consistent performer for coach Brad Stevens this season. His team-high 20 points in the team’s first win over Utah is a sign of the anchor he is for a team in transition. Add in good defense and decent rebounding numbers and he could help many contending teams looking for frontcourt help (hello, Knicks).
3. Avery Bradley (last week: 2) – It’s quite simple. He will never be a good point guard in this league. But that doesn’t mean he can’t be a very good shooting guard. His defense has remained solid all year, and while he posts an occasional game with a few assists, he’s far more comfortable when there’s someone else on the floor to handle the ball.
4. Kelly Olynyk (last week: 3) – Still looking for his first NBA double-double, he came close against Utah’s talented frontcourt, notching 14 points and 8 rebounds. He’s been inconsistent (as you’d expect a rookie to be), but he’s gaining more minutes and his height has been useful defensively. The next step for Olynyk is performing in crunch time.
5. Jared Sullinger (last week: 5) – The second-year forward is still getting his conditioning working. For now, he’s posting solid scoring and rebounding numbers, as well as showing a deft passing touch, in limited minutes. Two questions remain: Can he offer the same value at 30 minutes a game? Can he make up for the size advantage he gives up on the defensive end?
6. Jordan Crawford (last week: 11) – He’s led the team in assists the past two games as he plays more minutes handling the ball alongside Bradley. Take away the horrible Detroit game the entire team played and he’s had 9 assists and 1 turnover in the past week. He’s also publicly uttered no gripes over his role or the team’s poor start.
7. Phil Pressey (last week: 10) – The undrafted rookie made the most of playing in his first home game on Wednesday, helping the second-quarter run and never once coughing up the ball. If he keeps up his good play, he should see an expanded role before Rajon Rondo returns. And Rondo won’t be playing 40 minutes a game this year, so Pressey needs to position himself as the backup.
8. Vitor Faverani (last week: 7) – Slim Sinbad’s minutes went from 37 last Friday to 6 on Wednesday. He announced himself to Boston with 12 points, 18 rebounds and 6 blocks in the home opener, and then he disappeared in the next home game. Such is the life of a rookie.
9. Courtney Lee (last week: 9) – The only thing keeping Lee down on this list is his deal runs for two more years after this season. He picked up his play this past week, and his performance has been consistent enough to make him a role player on a contender.
10. Kris Humphries (last week: 10) – A couple of DNPs to his name, Humphries showed little rust when he was unearthed on Wednesday. Add in the Knicks’ frontcourt issues and his expiring contract could easily be moved.
11. Keith Bogans (last week: 13) – He gave a nice high-five from the bench the other day, so he moves up.
12. MarShon Brooks (last week: 12) – Like Bogans, he’s only played in one game.
13. Gerald Wallace (last week: 4) – Oh, how quickly things change. Last week he was the veteran who was going to keep everyone in line. Now, he’s the veteran without a filter. It’s hard to keep track of how many times he’s spoken out to the media. I think it’s five times. With two more seasons left on his $10 million-per-year deal, this pairing of a transitional team with a veteran is not going to get any easier. He came off the bench on Wednesday and was a huge spark to the victory, but he griped about his role before and after the game. It’s not been a good week for Gerald Wallace.
Unranked because of injury: Rajon Rondo
Upcoming games: Fri. at Orlando, Sat. at Miami, Mon. vs. Orlando, Wed. vs. Charlotte
Predicted record in upcoming games: 2-2
It’s been 20 years since Joshua Redman, a summa cum laude graduate from Harvard and son of fellow saxophonist Dewey Redman, released his major-label debut. He’s remained busy since, trying different ensemble setups while remaining largely true to the quartet format – and adding orchestral strings to his lyrical new album Walking Shadows, a set of ballads suited to his sweet tone. Redman’s also sure to turn up the heat on Friday when he plays a World Music/CRASHarts show at the Berklee Performance Center with his touring quartet featuring pianist Aaron Goldberg, bassist Reuben Rogers and drummer Gregory Hutchinson: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LEZSSH6BLDo. Or for a different Friday night spin, London-bred pop singer Kate Nash hits House of Blues in support of her bristly and tuneful, more indie/punk-rocking third album Girl Talk: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=67lPSp3loHQ.
On the real indie front, the Cambridge Elks Lodge will be hopping with dozens of bands from 3-11 p.m. both Friday and Saturday courtesy of Boston Hassle 5, a showcase for experimental, punk, noise-pop and electronic music that also moves after hours to the Cantab Lounge the first night and the Western Front the second night. The mainly Northeast-based slate of groups includes rising stars Speedy Ortiz, Fat Creeps, Krill and noisy mavericks Lightning Bolt: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JlqjySV1ggU. Here’s the schedule for the Boston Hassle fest: http://bostonhasslefest5.tumblr.com/.
Royale will also rock this weekend with stylistically opposite heavyweights. Red Baraat will get the room shaking to its infectious fusion of North Indian bhangra rhythms, jazz, hip-hop and New Orleans brass band music, teetering between a batch of horns and percussion that includes bandleader Sunny Jain’s dhol barrel drum: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zZrqJk5IFH0. And acclaimed blues-rocker Gary Clark Jr., whose last local appearance was sitting in with the Rolling Stones at TD Garden, returns to Royale both Sunday and Monday to unleash Hendrix-influenced guitar sparks: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0li7C0Tb2WU. Clark's an underrated singer as well, as shown on his great 2012 debut Blak and Blu, which broadened the Texas hotshot’s commercial potential with a slickly produced menu that included touches of soul and even hip-hop. It’ll be interesting to see where he goes next.
A Different Side of Sargent
The MFA and the Brooklyn Museum team up for John Singer Sargent Watercolors
The rivalry between NYC and Boston doesn’t stop at sports. Back in 1909, John Singer Sargent participated in a major watercolor exhibition in New York and Boston, the first of only two such shows in his lifetime. The Museum of Fine Arts put in an offer for his paintings, only to discover—“greatly to the frustration of the trustees of the MFA,” says MFA director Malcolm Rogers with a wry laugh—that the Brooklyn Museum had already scooped up the whole lot.
But when a second show was staged in 1912, they were ready: The MFA bought out the entire exhibition’s worth before Sargent had even finished all the paintings, marking what was then the museum’s largest acquisition from a living painter.
Now, more than a century later, the two institutions have teamed up for a joint exhibition, bringing their collections together for the first time in John Singer Sargent Watercolors, on view now at the MFA.
“This may not be the Sargent you think you know, the portrait artist of the Gilded Age,” says curator Erica Hirshler of the exhibition’s 92 watercolors. Sargent was bored with the form that had been his bread and butter: portraits in oils for aristocratic patrons, who often demanded grand backdrops and glamour-shot regalia. The mural commission from the Boston Public Library allowed him time to paint for his own pleasure, and at the start of the 20th century he increasingly focused on watercolors. Many are landscape scenes drawn from his travels—shaky views from a Venetian gondola, sunlit stones in the Carrara marble quarries, quiet corners of a Tuscan garden—often featuring fragmented nooks and crannies instead of the sweeping panoramas one might expect. Others are portraits of a similarly intimate scale: his friend and niece relaxing in the Swiss Alps in Simplon Pass: Reading, a pair of Middle Eastern men who gaze back at the viewer in Bedouins, relatively unencumbered by then de rigueur Orientalist narrative, and the weary, weathered, yet dignified subject of A Tramp, perhaps the most pointed rejoinder to his swaggering portrait commissions.
Sargent didn’t originally intend to sell or even display such works. (His friend and fellow painter Edward Darley Boit—yes, that Edward Darley Boit—had to talk him into their joint 1909 exhibition.) But they were a hit, with the Times dubbing them “fine champagne for a connoisseur’s dinner.” They still fizz. Drink it all in through January 20.
Q&A: Being Kelly Olynyk
Celtics' rookie opens up on his first days in Boston
The Boston Celtics drafted Kelly Olynyk with the 13th pick in this year's NBA Draft, and the rookie 7-footer raised expectations with a summer-league performance that turned heads. Before starting the preseason this year, the former Gonzaga player, who grew up in Canada, talked about his firsts (impressions of Boston, paycheck and nonstop summer) with The Improper in an exclusive interview.
Matt Martinelli: It’s been a whirlwind of a summer for you since you got drafted. What’s been the highlight?
Kelly Olynyk: I guess you’d say the highlight is getting drafted. It’s your goal, dream and aspiration as a kid. So, I think that was the highlight and I can’t thank Boston enough for doing that and making my dreams come true. Other than that, there’s been lots of highlights throughout. Getting out to Boston, doing a press conference. Being with the national team for a couple of days, even though I wasn’t able to play because of my foot. Being able to be with them for a little while was fun. It was a great time to see that team come together, and hopefully it continues to work in the future. And then, coming back, and being able to get out in the community and find my way. Getting out to Canobie Lake, riding the T. Getting to start a little early, and getting some workouts in. It’s just been a fun ride, and I’m really looking forward to what the future has in store. I’m just trying to come in, work hard and get a chance to make some things happen.
Had you ever been to Boston before?
No, I’d never been here.
What were you expecting?
I didn’t really know what to expect, but everyone said it was a huge sports town, and the fans are unbelievable, which they are. I didn’t know really what to expect in terms of a city, and how it would work. But it’s been great so far. I’m really loving it, embracing it, and it’s a city with great people obviously, great food, great culture, great restaurants. It’s fun to be a part of the great sports teams.
Any spots you visited that really stick out?
I’ve been downtown a couple of teams. Fenway was unbelievable with the history and everything there. I went to the Patriots’ game once, which was really cool. Everything been great so far, it’s a really historic town. Going to the finish line of the Boston Marathon and seeing that kind of scene and what happened, and the trauma that was there before, was pretty touching. Boston is a beautiful city. It’s got lots of different attributes and accolades, where it feels like a home. That’s my take on Boston so far.
As far as adjustments off the court, all of a sudden, you went from attending college to collecting a paycheck. How’s that been?
It’s different. Like you said, you’ve got paychecks and stuff, which you didn’t have in college at all. In college, you’re trying to look through your couches to find 50 cents so you can go and get a Combo or something. Out here, it’s like you have a little bit more money — obviously not yet—but it will come in. It’s different and it’s hard for me to change into that lifestyle where you’re just spending stuff. And coming into a new city, it’s different. You’ve got to try and build everything from scratch. For me, all my stuff is all the way across the country in Spokane (Wash.) or in Canada. So, it’s all in the West Coast, so if you walk into my apartment, it looks like it’s just a carpet and a wall. I don’t have furniture. I don’t have a TV. I don’t have — if you open the cupboards, I don’t have forks and glasses and spoons and plates. If you open the fridge, I might have a water bottle in there. I don’t have anything. Hopefully, the freezer is making ice, but other than that, I don’t have anything in there. I still have some stuff to do to settle in, but you know, it’s different being in this lifestyle, so hopefully I can make a transition.
How about growing up, who were the players and people you admired the most?
Well, first of all, my dad was a huge role model for me in my life, helping me become who I am today, on and off the court. He was a basketball coach my whole life, and he played when I was younger, so that was really big and being from Canada at the time, Steve Nash was an icon, so watching him grow up and him become the player he is today, and what he went through, that was huge. And then I was born in Toronto, so the Raptors were always right there, so I loved watching them play. And my mom helped scorekeep with the Raptors, and my dad was with them for a year, so they’re pretty instrumental, and I love watching them as well.
(Photo above by Steve Babineau / Boston Celtics)
Say "Cheese," Champs!
A day in photos at the Red Sox Rolling Rally
In the summer of 2001, Boston had gone 15 years without celebrating a title. With no championship teams to fete, the city threw a celebration for Ray Bourque, the legendary former Bruin who had just won his first Stanley Cup with the Colorado Avalanche. But less than a year later, there was a celebration of the Patriots' first Super Bowl title in February 2002, which culminated with a rally at City Hall Plaza in near subzero temperatures. Since then, there's been a parade for every major sports team in the city. Saturday's Sox rolling rally was the franchise's third in this time. Here's a look at pictures from the parade, including the private rally inside Fenway Park before the parade. (All photos by The Improper's Matt Martinelli.)
A crowd of season-ticketholders crowded into Fenway Park on a November morning that weather that was nicer than at least half of the team's home games.
Mayor Menino's speech came off without a gitch. Uh, we mean glitch.
Looks like there's enough room for the 2013 World Series
champs' pennant to slip in nicely next to 2007.
Look it's the bullpen cop, Steve Horgan!
He gives half-a-Horgan (otherwise known as just raising one hand).
And there's the full-on Horgan! I wonder if his arms hurt from doing this so much.
Mr. Henry, meet Officer Horgan. Who's more popular these days?
I have no doubt Larry Lucchino is sending a selfie to Theo Epstein at this moment.
And Dustin Pedroia gets into Horganing!
Don't forget, local product John McDonald gets a ring, too.
Evidence that Mike Napoli at one point did have his shirt on during Saturday's day of revelry.
If Andrew Miller hadn't gotten hurt this season, he wouldn't have to wear his jersey so fans would know who he is.
You can't quite tell, but that is baseball ops adviser Bill James in the shadows directly under the Hyundai ad. On his iPad. Is he filming the day or just coming up with some under-the-radar signings (Chris Young?) to recommend for GM Ben Cherington.
The Dropkick Murphys' trailer got stuck in the mud and delayed the parade for about 10 minutes. Of course it did.
Clay Buchholz on family duty before the parade hit the streets.
Jenny Dell, as photogenic as ever. It's almost like a hologram of her from the NESN promo ads.
Walpole Joe Morgan, who was honored during the summer, 25 years after leading the Morgan's Miracles squad to the 1988 AL East title, an improbable midseason run we haven't seen around these parts since.
Jake Peavy, perhaps negotiating to buy the Duck Boat right at this very moment.
Xander Bogaerts - we might see him on this route again in his career.
David Ross just looks like a cult hero, backpack and all.
The World Series trophy is a little odd looking (certainly not as cool as the Stanley Cup), but David Ortiz's MVP trophy is pretty sleek.
Koji Uehara with a virtual high-five. Otherwise known as a wave.
Craig Breslow even has a deer-in-the-headlights look at the parade. Sox fans have to hope the Yale grad can snap out of it before next season.
There was a big shoe. There wasn't explanation.
Too bad David Ortiz got the fire department shirt. Napoli could've some extra threads for the day.
If you squint, you can see the boats, which were supposed to go up to the lagoons along the Charles River. However, the route was cut short. Nobody was complaining, though. The whole season was one long joyride.
Vote for BMA Nominees
Nominees have been announced for this year’s Boston Music Awards, with many familiar local artists vying for honors – and some not so familiar artists (you could insert My Dick jokes here). In addition to the usual Aerosmith and Dropkick Murphys entries, frontrunners include the R&B-edged Bad Rabbits and Internet-fueled pop duo Karmin, onetime Improper cover subjects. There’s even a category for Best Boston Artist Who Doesn’t Live in Boston. The list of nominees follows and you can vote at http://www.bostonmusicawards.com/ through Dec. 2. Winners will be announced in performance-laced ceremonies at the Liberty Hotel on Dec. 8.
Artist of the Year
Album/EP of the Year
Bad Rabbits, American Love
My Dick, My Dick's Double Full Length Release
Kingsley Flood, Battles
Pretty and Nice, Golden Rules for Golden People
Song of The Year
Bad Rabbits, “We Can Roll”
Bearstronaut, “Passenger Slide”
Della Mae, “This World Oft Can Be”
The Field Effect, “Ogunquit, ME”
Viva Viva, “Dead In Yr Tracks”
New Artist of The Year
New Highway Hymnal
Ruby Rose Fox
Live Artist Of The Year
Rock Artist Of The Year
Hip-Hop Artist of the Year
Grey Sky Appeal
Moe Pope & Rain
Pop /R&B Artist of the Year
Americana Artist of the Year
Girls Guns and Glory
Christian McNeill & Sea Monsters
Blues Artist of the Year
Gracie Curran & the High Falutin’ Band
Roomful of Blues
DJ Artist of the Year
DJ Paul Foley
Electronic Artist of the Year
Case & Point
Folk Artist of the Year
David Wax Museum
Gospel/Inspirational Artist of the Year
Berklee Reverence Gospel Choir
Rashad McPherson & Divine Purpose
International Artist of the Year
Los Rumberos de Boston
Women Of The World
Jazz Artist of the Year
Lake Street Dive
Moira Lo Bianca
Metal/Hardcore Artist of the Year
Punk Artist of the Year
Big D and the Kids Table
Mighty Mighty Bosstones
Singer Songwriter of the Year
Female Vocalist of the Year
Amy Renee Heidemann
Ruby Rose Fox
Male Vocalist of the Year
Producer of the Year
Video of the Year
Louie Bello, “Shotgun”
Kingsley Flood, “Sigh A While”
Mean Creek, “Cool Town”
Parlour Bells, “Bachelor Hours”
Best Boston Artist Who Doesn’t Live in Boston
Eli Paperboy Reed
Family Of The Year
Hooray For Earth
Lady Lamb the Beekeeper
Best Dance Night
Best Live Music Venue
Brighton Music Hall
The Middle East
T.T. The Bear’s Place
Best Live Ongoing Residency
Dennis Brennan Band at Lizard Lounge
Tim Gearan Band at Atwoods
Primordial Sounds at Middlesex
Session Americana at Toad
Roy Sludge at Radio
Best Music Blog
Jump the Turnstyle
Ryan’s Smashing Life
Tuesday Night Recording Club
Future Beauty brings avant-garde Japanese fashion to the Peabody Essex Museum
Leotards and Lycra minis were hardly the most radical fashions of the ’80s. Thirty years ago, Japanese designers Rei Kawakubo and Yohji Yamamoto rocked Parisian runways with austere, sculptural, asymmetric and purposefully imperfect designs that flummoxed many Western critics, who derided what one termed “Hiroshima chic.” But as shown by Future Beauty: Avant-Garde Japanese Fashion, on view at Salem’s Peabody Essex Museum from Nov. 16 through Jan. 26, such designers have had a lasting global impact. The exhibit features nearly 100 garments from three decades, runway videos and even a “dressing room” where visitors can try on select clothes. We tapped curator Lynda Roscoe Hartigan to learn about three favorite designs.
> “It’s about the power of black as a statement in terms of changing how you look at clothing on the body,” Hartigan says of this layered look by Kawakubo for Comme des Garçons’ Autumn/Winter 1983-’84 collection. “It was at a time when Western designers were totally into a very form-fitting, sexualized approach to fashion. That black conceals a lot. The Japanese, in relation to attitudes to sexuality, believe if you cover the body, especially a woman’s body, that’s much more alluring and mysterious than revealing everything right away.”
> “After World War II, as Japan tried to figure out its place in the world, industry of particular types became very important,” Hartigan says of this honeycombed creation by Junya Watanabe for Junya Watanabe Comme des Garçons’ Autumn/Winter 2000-’01 collection. “One of them was the textile industry. Where they’ve really had a huge impact on the world is in industrial-style materials. That’s what’s going on with this garment: advances in synthetic materials that can do things other kinds of cloth simply cannot do.”
> “It’s a perfect indication of why Yamamoto is a designer who walks between the East and the West,” Hartigan says of this gown from Yamamoto’s Spring/Summer 1995 collection. “It’s absolutely elegant in a form-fitting way. So it’s not that Japanese designers rejected Western fashion tradition. But he’s playing with it in a very poetic way. To me it’s one of the most beautiful ensembles in the exhibition because it’s very fluid. Yamamoto trained as a tailor, and his exquisite tailoring really comes across.”
Collection of the Kyoto Costume Institute. Top: Gift of Comme des Garçons, Photo by Taishi Hirokawa. Center and bottom: Photos by Takashi Hatakeyama.
Celtics Player Power Rankings
Home opener provides a good chance to examine the roster, player by player
The 2013-14 Boston Celtics will be far different than what fans had come to expect in recent seasons. There was a rhythm to the Doc Rivers-Paul Pierce-Kevin Garnett teams. They would lose the second game of a road back-to-back. They might slip up against an inferior team. But as the 2012 season showed, they were always ready for the big games. The roster has changed dramatically from then till now. Rajon Rondo’s torn ACL last season against Atlanta (which he played with in overtime!) forever changed the course of this franchise’s history. They never got a chance to have a transition year in which Pierce and Garnett could be relied upon less. They were fighting for survival (and truth be told they were floundering even with a healthy Rondo). As the Red Sox just showed, you can never count a team out before the season, but basketball is slightly different. You need at least a couple of superstars to succeed. Right now they have a possible one (Rondo) and he’s injured. What they have left is a collection of young promising players mixed with veteran contributors who can still produce but are slightly overpaid (either in years left on their contract or average salary). The upside of this team is likely the edge of playoff contention, fighting for the 8th seed in the growing-stronger-by-the-week Eastern Conference. The future of this franchise is to add one or two more stars to the roster. One way is with future draft picks (gained by their own poor performance or by the troubles of the Nets and the Clippers) and the other way is to trade away enough assets (picks, players, expiring contracts) to get a star in return. With this in mind, all season-long we’ll be judging the players in terms of value in The Improper’s Celtics Player Power Ranking. The healthy players will be judged based upon their on-court performance, while also keeping in mind their age, contract and appeal to another team in a possible trade. Without further ado, and as the Celtics plan to open their most unpredictable season in a few years, we present the rankings:
1. Jeff Green – He has what amounts to a two- or three-month audition as The Man until Rajon Rondo returns from his torn ACL. After a lackluster preseason that saw new coach Brad Stevens at one point scrap his plan to use Green as a shooting guard at times, expectations were a little low coming into the season opener. But Green responded with 25 points on 50 percent shooting (including 2-3 from three-point range). In addition, he added 5 rebounds and committed just 1 turnover. Even when Rondo returns, the scoring burden will remain on Green. In order to score, you gotta shoot. With 16 attempts on Wednesday (and 9 free throws), he had a good start to following that mantra.
2. Avery Bradley – The defensive ace fouled out on Wednesday, and in his role as point guard (in Rondo’s absence) he committed as many turnovers as assists (four). He also missed all three of the three-pointers he attempted. What made him so valuable late in the 2011-12 season was that in addition to providing suffocating defense he also shot 40 percent from three-point range (this after missing nearly all of his first two dozen three-pointers in the league). Bradley’s future in the league is likely as a shooting guard, but he’s been the point guard since Rondo went down and it seems to have hampered his progress aside from a great fourth quarter in Game 6 of the first round last postseason. The fourth-year player was not signed to an extension at Thursday’s deadline, leaving him a restricted free agent at the end of the season.
3. Kelly Olynyk – What’s tougher than playing in your first NBA game? Doing it on the road in the city you grew up. That’s what Olynyk faced on Wednesday, and he responded with disappointing results. He was also missing his usual frontcourt partner, Jared Sullinger, who was suspended by the Celtics for off-court behavior, so that’s another reason for possible discomfort. No need to worry, however. The Celtics’ latest first-round pick continues to receive rave reviews from Stevens, and his sweet shooting stroke isn’t going to disappear anytime soon. His upside might not be that of an All-Star, but he can certainly be a longtime contributor in the league.
4. Gerald Wallace – After seeming AWOL during the offseason, Wallace showed up shortly before the start of Celtics’ practices and he’s fit right in off the court in Boston. He’s already met with Boston icons Tom Brady and David Ortiz and declared his allegiance to the local teams. More importantly, he called out his teams’ preseason effort, demanding focus and effort at all times. He was only included in the trade with Brooklyn because the salaries needed to match up, and with his big contract he could’ve been a bad fit here, but for now he’s saved himself a lot of ridicule with his comments and demeanor. In his first game Wednesday he looked to be a solid defensive presence, but he could only muster one shot, which he made. With this team facing possible offensive troubles at times this year, he’ll need to be a presence on both sides of the floor.
5. Jared Sullinger – Suspended by the Celtics on Wednesday for an off-court confrontation with his girlfriend, Sullinger showed a lapse in judgment this summer. While rehabbing from back surgery, he showed up overweight at the start of the preseason. And then he went on to be one of the most consistent performers on the team. He is such a talented passer and scorer and has a knack for finding rebounds, but he’s been questioned at times for his “motor.” It seems like for every good thing you find about Sullinger, there’s something to be worried about with him. It’s hard to tell whether he’s destined for a Big Baby type career or whether he can rise above it to be a consistent contributor. In his sophomore season, we should all find out. Judgment reserved.
6. Brandon Bass – He seems to have been the forgotten man during most of his career, whether he was buried on the bench in Orlando or providing surprise production in Dallas. Entering his third season with the Celtics, his production offensively and defensively seems to be exactly what you want from a role player if you’re a contender. With one more year left on his contract after this season, he could be the most likely player to be traded from this team. On Wednesday, he scored 17 points (6-7 shooting) and posted a plus-12 in his 32 minutes. Those types of performances just make him more and more likely to be dealt to a more veteran team.
7. Vitor Faverani – The Brazilian rookie came over from his time in the Spain league with a nickname ready made: El Hombre Indestructible. But let us offer another one based upon his appearance: Skinny Sinbad. Well not quite skinny, but skinner than Sinbad, at least. I’m sure Celtics’ fans had some overly excited nicknames for him Wednesday. He scored 13 points in the first half after making a surprise start, but he was kept off the scoreboard in the second half. Despite his reputation as a good rebounder, he only collected 3 boards, although he did add 3 blocks. He was signed to a 3-year, $6 million contract in the offseason, a move that forced the Celtics to trade away Fab Melo and make some other transactions just to fit under the luxury tax for the upcoming season. If the front office went to so much trouble to get him on this team, they must think very highly of him. For one half, he certainly lived up to that promise.
8. Kris Humphries – He’s got a big $12 million expiring contract and a name that made him famous for an off-court relationship, but he also has some game. After a disastrous 2012-13 season in Brooklyn, he will get a chance for redemption in Boston. He might not fetch a lot in a trade (the Celtics might be better off just letting him walk away in the offseason rather than trading him away for salaries that will clog up future cap space), but he still has on-court value as evidenced by his 8-point, 9-rebound performance in 20 minutes on Wednesday. It will be interesting to see how his role expands or shrinks as the season continues.
9. Courtney Lee – Another consummate pro like Bass, he’s only 28 years old, but he might struggle to find time on this year’s team once Rondo comes back and Bradley moves back to shooting guard. As it is, if Green is going to get time in the backcourt, then Lee will only end up getting somewhere near the 14 minutes he got in Wednesday’s opener. He shot 40 percent from three-point range in his two years before coming to Boston and shot 37 percent last year. In the second year of a four-year contract, he will be tough to trade, although with more minutes on a team he could carve out a better role for himself. He’s a good defender and shooter who can get to the basket and also gives a solid effort, but he needs to raise one aspect of his game to “very good” level in order to get more playing time. If he was a very good ball-handler, for example, he would be playing a lot more point guard with Bradley back at shooting guard. But for now, he’s an underutilized player on the bench.
10. Phil Pressey – The undrafted rookie figures to get his best chance at playing time in the months when Rondo is out of the lineup. He played nearly 4 minutes on Wednesday in an effort to help Bradley with ball-handling duties. If the team continues to struggle with turnovers (they had 22 on Wednesday and only 15 assists), they might need to play Pressey more. The rookie needs to respond with good performances in order to not be simply a blip on the radar screen. Coming out of college, he profiled as poor-man’s Michael Carter Williams, but whether that translates to a role is to be determined.
11. Jordan Crawford – He led the team with 5 assists (and only 1 turnover) on Wednesday. He also made 3 of 5 shots in his 17 minutes. In the offseason, he talked about being more mature now, and it’ll be a storyline worth watching. He certainly has the scoring talent and passing ability to be a good player in the league, but his fall from grace in Washington last season raised some red flags. If he provides a consistent defensive effort this season, then he’s an asset who will appreciate in value.
12. MarShon Brooks – The Celtics declined his $2.2 million option for next season this week, and Brooks, who had a dynamic career at Providence College and some prolific moments in his first season for the New Jersey Nets, earned a healthy scratch in the season opener. If Lee is going to have trouble finding playing time, then Brooks will be in even worse shape. He’s a good shooter, his shot selection has always been lacking, and his defense has never been a positive. If he loses confidence on the bench this season while waiting for an opportunity, he might be out of the league.
13. Keith Bogans – A big beneficiary of the Brooklyn trade, Bogans will pocket $5 million this season to make the trade work out. He also has two more nonguaranteed years left on his contract to make him valuable in the offseason to any team that wants salary relief. It’s hard to believe he’s only three years removed from starting every game on the 2010-11 Chicago Bulls, a team that finished the season with the best record in the NBA. He didn’t play on Wednesday and won’t see much time all year. His value is in his veteran leadership (although it’s tough to lead from the bench) and his contract.
Unranked because of injury: Rajon Rondo
World Series Win Completes Worst to First, and Straight Into History
The Red Sox celebrate Shane Victorino's three-run double in Game 6 of the World Series. (Photo: Michael Ivins/Red Sox)
(This article appears in the Nov. 6 issue of The Improper.)
The cynical cliche is that sports fans don’t root for players; they root for laundry. During the 2012 season, that was the reality for Red Sox fans dealing with an unlikable lot of personalities. And by the start of the 2013 season, it seemed like nobody was doing much rooting at all—for the laundry or the players. The decade-long sellout streak ended at the second home game of the season, and Sox games were relegated to a footnote on the local sports scene.
But starting with David Ortiz’s pep talk to a wounded city in April, continuing with night after summer night of improbable comebacks and culminating with a high-drama October run, this Band of Bearded Brothers won the fans back.
Sox die-hards weren’t rooting for the laundry; they were rooting for each of these players, individually and collectively. There were so many stories to choose from: John Lackey’s year of redemption; the gutsy World Series performance by an injured Clay Buchholz; the electric enthusiasm of Mike Napoli, Jonny Gomes and Shane Victorino that overflowed in home-run trots after breaking out of their playoff slumps; franchise player Dustin Pedroia playing all season despite a torn ligament in his thumb; Koji Uehara delivering a historic pitching season while acting like a 10-year-old kid on a sugar kick; and Ortiz’s postseason glory, which cemented him alongside Tom Brady as one of the two icons of this Golden Age of Boston Sports that’s yielded eight titles since the turn of the century.
The beauty of these improbable champions is perhaps best seen in a kid who turned 21 years old just in time to taste the victory Champagne that filled the clubhouse after Game 6 of the World Series. Xander Bogaerts is the greatest prospect the Red Sox franchise has had since people started keeping track of those things. He was deemed not ready for regular at-bats when the postseason began, but in every opportunity he had, he succeeded. He entered Game 3 of the ALDS as a pinch-runner, and he scored. He went into the next game as a pinch-hitter, and he got on base and scored. Then he got on base again. And scored. Finally, manager John Farrell gave him a chance to start during Game 5 of the ALCS, and he never left the Sox lineup for the final eight games. Mixing his promise with his poise, he finished the postseason with hitting statistics on the team that were second only to Ortiz’s.
Bogaerts’ tale is the story of this year’s Red Sox. Dismissed as unready to succeed, they never let go once given the opportunity. It’s reminiscent of Jacoby Ellsbury’s exciting emergence in the 2007 World Series. The possible departure of free-agent-to-be Ellsbury, by some metrics the most valuable player on the team this regular season, proves that stories and players can be cyclical. Whether they’re prospects or stars, they’ll all hang up the uniform for good someday. What will stay with the fans are the major moments: the joy of Ortiz’s series-turning grand slam against Detroit, the sudden defeat from an obstruction call, the sudden victory from a pickoff play. And the once-in-a-lifetime pandemonium of a World Series clincher at Fenway Park. Don’t lose track of these players and their stories. Collectively, they won a World Series. Individually, they won back our passion.
Echoing her song “This Tornado Loves You,” Neko Case’s a force of nature with her prairie-wide voice and feral-hearted sensibility. She soars again on The Worse Things Get, the Harder I Fight…, recalling the evocative atmospheres of 2006’s Fox Confessor Brings the Flood, one of the last decade’s best albums. Rebounding from her loss of parents and grandmother, Case couches fearless snarl in tender resolution on the a cappella “Nearly Midnight, Honolulu” (where she emphasizes with a verbally abused child at a bus stop) and blurs gender and animal identities in the robust “Man,” splicing alt-country and indie-rock with restless sonics to match her poetic and feisty lyrics. She’s also an edgy performer with a flexible band that includes harmony foil Kelly Hogan, closing a U.S. tour at the Orpheum Theatre on Friday. Here’s another new song from a recent concert: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HRE-PqxjisI.
The Yonder Mountain String Band stands tall among young musicians bridging traditional bluegrass and jam-band territory, especially with its emphasis on a live setting. Here the Colorado quartet, which pulls into House of Blues on Friday, even performs inside a cave, presumably inside some yonder mountain: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3euYLS0VM8E. And you won’t find a tasteful and influential jazz guitar virtuoso than Pat Martino, who had to relearn his instrument after surgery for a mid-career brain aneurysm. Now 69, he’s far from slowing down, on the fretboard or on the road, at rooms like the Regattabar, where he plays with his trio Friday: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zMtiCGVcYyg
The Newport Folk Festival’s become a launching pad for a broad new breed of bands that balance indie-rock and folk – and take it to the clubs and beyond with new-found popularity. Spirit Family Reunion strips down its music with an old-timey feel and rolls into the Sinclair on Friday for a double bill with Newport comrades Hooray for the Riff Raff that should spark additional collaboration along these lines: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S_TcjGvuPn8. And Seattle-bred ensemble the Head and the Heart, appearing both Friday and Saturday at Royale, ranks among the genre’s more commercially promising outfits on the heels of its new album Let’s Be Still: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sTEScxbquuM (you may notice Neko Case onstage).
Fans of the late, great Frank Zappa and guitar enthusiasts in general can also hit House of Blues on Saturday to see son Dweezil tackle his father’s live classic Roxy & Elsewhere and additional nuggets like “Muffin Man” with Zappa Plays Zappa: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k2JV1Lkz51A&feature=c4-overview&list=UUpUsOwFCmWhNHisRLSIwcug. Here’s a jump to my recent ZPZ interview with bandleader Dweezil Zappa as well: http://www.improper.com/going-out/back-to-the-future/.
A Rarity Looms in Game 6
Up 3-2 Sox fans get chance to see a clincher
The Boston sports scene has come a long way from when the city was throwing rallies for Ray Bourque winning a Stanley Cup in Colorado, or cheering a Yankees’ World Series loss in 2001 like it was a hometown team’s victory.
But for all of the championships won in this Golden Age of Boston Sports, tomorrow night’s Game 6 of the World Series holds a different promise.
The last time the Red Sox won a World Series in Boston was … 1918, when Carl Mays led the Sox over the Cubs in a six-game series.
It would be only the second time a local team won on its home turf since 1986. During the current run, only the Celtics’ title in Game 6 of the 2008 NBA Finals came at home.
The last time any Boston team had a chance to clinch a title at home and lost was 1975, when the Sox lost to the Reds in Game 7 after winning the classic Game 6.
The last time a Boston team had a chance to close out at home in Game 6 and didn’t take advantage of it was the 1974 Celtics, who lost Game 6 and went on to win Game 7 on the road against the Milwaukee Bucks. And here’s the kicker …
The Red Sox, Celtics and Bruins have never led 3-2 in a World Series, NBA Finals or Stanley Cup Finals, with at least one remaining at home, and not gone on to win a title. It’s simply never happened. The Celtics won 11 titles in such situations. The Bruins have never faced such a situation. The Sox won 2 titles in such situations.
Tickets are going for at least $1,000 and up to $24,000. Tomorrow night provides a rare opportunity that even fans that have celebrated a lot of recent championships can recognize.
Tribute Zone -- or Not!
Phish joined musical tributes to Lou Reed on Sunday by opening a Hartford show with his anthem “Rock ‘n’ Roll.” No surprise there; the song highlights Reed’s Velvet Underground clincher Loaded, which Phish covered as one of its periodic Halloween album “costumes.” And Phish has been cranking out a load of covers en route to another classic album tribute for this Thursday’s trick and treat in Atlantic City.
Phish scattered 11 covers over two stacked nights at Worcester’s DCU Center over the weekend. While the band shies from its New England roots for New Year’s Eve and Halloween extravaganzas, it’s nice to see regular gigs fly at this level without those hyped, hard-to-catch holiday tickets. On a short fall tour of hockey barns where Phish exploded in the ’90s, the quartet hit Worcester in a rarified jamming zone unseen since that heyday, when the newly face-lifted arena was called the Centrum. It wasn’t just the covers, topped by the Who’s “Drowned” (another Halloween holdover given a mutating 20-minute ride), Led Zeppelin’s “No Quarter” (bridging “Mike’s Song” and “Weekapaug Groove”) and Blues Image’s 1970 hit “Ride Captain Ride.” It was the way the band freely deconstructed and scorched serpentine originals like “Bathtub Gin,” “Stash,” “David Bowie” and the new “Light.” And that was all just in Saturday’s mammoth throwdown (Friday was even longer, topping three hours of music), concluding with an encore where jazz drummer and Berklee professor Kenwood Dennard took over Jon Fishman’s seat to change up the groove of “Possum” and Stevie Wonder’s “Boogie On Reggae Woman.”
Which brings us back to Halloween, with Phish operating at the height of its chameleonic powers, on the eve of its 30th anniversary... for the first time ever, anybody can watch Phish unveil its album choice live via one of the band’s increasingly frequent pay-per-view webcasts: http://livephish.com/phish/Halloween-2013-Webcast.asp. Call it Couch Tour (just avoid pre-game spoilers because the group usually hands out programs at the door). Past second-set costumes have been the Beatles’ “White Album,” the Who’s Quadrophenia, Talking Heads’ Remain in Light, the Velvets’ Loaded, the Rolling Stones’ Exile on Main St. and Little Feat’s Waiting for Columbus. What’ll it be this time? Advance rumors have run from serious possibilities (Steely Dan) to hopefully joking ones (Huey Lewis). So...
HALLOWEEN POSTSCRIPT: Just when it's gotten so predictable that everyone assumes they'll get a classic album, Phish pulled a mean trick on Thursday. After people likely scratched their heads in confusion over what album Phish was covering, the band debuted a dozen new originals in a set that was sharply played, largely interesting and eclectic, fluidly drawing on ambient prog-rock, roots-rock, (even breaking down into a stage-front acoustic setup) and chorus-driven pop. Phish even sported choreographed dancers with someone in a furry suit on the funky "Wombat," then pulled a prank where "Barney Miller"/"The Godfather" actor Abe Vigoda, 92, appeared in that suit for a curtain call. It was like hi-jinks from a New Year's Eve show. But surely many fans who expected to hear a classic album for Halloween felt let down (to say the least!), especially since Phish steered clear of covers through the night's three sets... until an encore of Bob Dylan's "Quinn the Eskimo."
Of course, Phish doesn't always announce in advance that it will cover another band's album on Halloween, much less a classic one. And while it's presumtuous to think Phish was playing its own classic album of the future as it heads into the studio, the overriding quality and range of the new songs were surprisingly high, suggesting a band that's geared to click in a live environment could be cooking up one of its better studio efforts.
The Nightmare of Game 3
Thoughts on obstruction, Salty and WMB
A few thoughts on Game 3 while wishing Game 4 was a day game:
- The umpires got the obstruction call correct in Game 3 last night. It was correct to the blind eye: Will Middlebrooks obstructed Allen Craig from scoring safely. It was correct in the rulebook: There doesn’t need to be intent, the player just needs to be in the way after fielding a ball. But, it should be noted that Middlebrooks is not on the line at all. He is simply on the grass. And Craig’s decision to run home on the grass rather than on the line caused Middlebrooks to be in the way. If Craig had decided to run on the actual basepath, he wouldn’t have been obstructed. Also, Middlebrooks certainly kicked up his leg trying to trip Craig, which shows the intent to trip. However, Craig didn’t trip because of the kick. A closer look shows he tripped over Middlebrooks’ thigh. It was the correct call, but it’s far more complex a play than it seemed at first.
- The obstruction call clouds the other parts of that play, including Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s boneheaded decision to throw to third base, and Middlebrooks’ inability to grab a catchable ball. Make no mistake, the Sox have now lost two World Series’ games because of ill-advised throws to third base, but Craig Breslow’s actual throw to third base in Game 2 was a bad throw. Saltalamacchia’s throw was poor throw that Middlebrooks should’ve been able to handle.
- Middlebrooks’ contributions to last night’s game before the walkoff play included letting a ball get through his glove for a run-scoring double, popping up on the first pitch in the top of the seventh inning and striking out on 4 pitches in the top of the ninth inning in an at-bat that seemed to last fewer than 10 seconds. Stephen Drew’s slump is horrendous. He is 2 for his last 37 at the plate. However, there is no solution on the roster. You can argue that the Sox should’ve made another move at the deadline to shore up the right side of their infield (or simply not traded Jose Iglesias), but right now Drew has to start over Middlebrooks since he at least is not hurting the team in the field.
- Saltalamacchia has been in the middle of both ill-advised throws. He let Gomes’ throw to the plate get by him in Game 2 and last night, he made the off-target throw. Add in that he’s 0-10 with seven strikeouts in the past three games and you can easily make a case that David Ross should be in the lineup for Game 4 and possibly the rest of the series. Sox manager John Farrell has seen many of his players mired in deep postseason slumps (Middlebrooks and Jonny Gomes) and the replacements Daniel Nava and Xander Bogaerts have come through. It is time for Saltalamacchia to ride the pine in favor of Ross.
- Speaking of Farrell, he was flummoxed by the National League rules and seemed to manage like a guy who has only managed a few dozen games in an NL park before. He admitted that he missed an obvious double switch to insert Workman for Saltalamacchia and Ross into the pitcher’s batting spot in the eighth inning. He also opened himself up to second-guessing by letting Workman bat instead of Mike Napoli in the ninth inning, as well as by taking Felix Doubront out in the seventh inning when his time came up in the order. They were both defensible moves, but they’re unfamiliar decisions for Farrell. As long as the two leagues play by different rules during the season, this will always be a problem. It’s a ridiculous problem, but Farrell will need to be more aware of it in Games 4 and 5.
- Breslow’s two World Series appearances have been nothing short of disastrous, but a play here or there and he might’ve breezed through his outings. In Game 2, he came in with guys on first and second. He was distracted by the runner on second base and he got into a 2-2 count to the Cardinals’ worst batter. Then came a double steal on Saltalamacchia’s double clutch, and a need to pitch more carefully to the batter, who he then walked. He followed that up by getting a shallow fly ball out to left field, which ended with Breslow’s error. In Game 3, he gave up an infield single and then grazed Carlos Beltran with a pitch. He is deserving of a third chance in Game 4.
- The Sox lineup, which was so good top to bottom all season, only has five consistent hitters right now (Jacoby Ellsbury, David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, Nava and Bogaerts). If anyone else is at the plate (aside from Ross or Napoli), you expect an automatic out and are just hoping the player can run up the pitch count.
- In addition to last night being the second time in two games that the Sox lost a game on an ill-advised throw to third base, it was the second time in a week that New England sports fans were subjected to a call (once again the correct call) of a little-used rule that ended up deciding the game. Two Sundays removed from the Tom Brady and David Ortiz Legendary Evening, the fans have seen the highest of highs swing to deep lows.
Halloween's nigh and spirits are out and about. It’ll be extra-crazy out in Worcester, where the circus comes to town for Phish at the DCU Center on Friday and Saturday. The Vermont jam kings just hit Glens Falls, NY, where they began their Halloween tradition of covering another band’s classic album with the Beatles’ “White Album” in 1994, and Phish bookended its return with two tunes from that pop opus. Next Thursday, Phish will unveil some other classic album onstage in Atlantic City, but old-school Worcester should provide more than a warm-up (random covers or otherwise) as the group has been finding its own vintage form: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hR3lVxqgaMA.
When it comes to dressing up, Kevin Barnes and his Georgia-born collective Of Montreal like to indulge in danceable psychedelic pop with sound and vision: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OJB1V2yUtlU. Committed to the road, having gone up and down the ladder of rooms around town, Of Montreal plays the Middle East Downstairs on Saturday. And there’s a terrific Friday triple bill of garage-y veterans at the Sinclair with the Fleshtones (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KRY7i4fxHPM), Los Straitjackets (who wear Mexican wrestling masks to begin with) and Southern Culture on the Skids performing songs from their recent Halloween-themed compilation Mondo Zombie Boogaloo.
Then there’s a larger than usual round of local bands impersonating other classic bands on Friday. At the Middle East Downstairs, there’s the Lights Out channeling Tom Petty, the Field Effect as Green Day, the Fastest Lane (with Will Dailey) as the Eagles, the Life Electric as Foo Fighters and Magen Tracy and Leesa Coyne as Heart. Next door at T.T. the Bear’s Place, there’s Ad Frank appearing as Nick Cave and the Ad Seeds, Lifestyle as Depeche Mode, Eldridge Rodriguez as the Jesus and Mary Chain and Pretendica, who split Pretenders and Elastica tunes. And over at Great Scott, there’s the 11th annual Pill Halloween with the Luxury as the Verve, the Susan Constant as Metric, the Daily Pravda as the Psychedelic Furs and DJs Ken and Michael V as Daft Punk.
Sunday turns a bit jazzy and more sophisticated. Guitar virtuoso Adrian Legg’s strings ring clean at Club Passim (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e9pWlrSTcgg) while singer/guitarist Madeleine Peyroux, who tackles Ray Charles’ classic Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music on her new album The Blue Room, interprets a range of songs with bluesy aplomb: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nd6PX__snYk&feature=c4-overview&list=UUbz4uaGZmmXJHMlnncmrfGw. Finally, there’s the weekend’s most unique and worthy show, the SuperGroup benefit concert for addiction recovery program Right Turn at Royale on Sunday. It sports an all-star cast with singers Joan Osborne (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BQ1rGAdai5Q), Paula Cole and Shea Rose, New Orleans upstart Trombone Shorty, Lemonheads leader Evan Dando, guitarist G.E. Smith, local harmonica ace James Montgomery, Bad Company drummer Simon Kirke and Right Turn founder Woody Giessmann, the drummer from the original Del Fuegos.
Umps get Game 1 call right — again
Uproar over reversal forgets recent history
What short memories we all have. It’s evident whenever you hear “greatest ever” discussions about a player, a team, a game, a movie, a moment. But I’m surprised the memories are as short as they are today.
In the wake of last night’s noncontroversial Game 1 first-inning play, in which umpire Dana DeMuth was overruled by his fellow men in blue on Cardinals shortstop Pete Kozma’s botched catch at second base, there were many columns written in which it was deemed unprecedented. There was talk by Tim McCarver and Joe Buck on the Fox broadcast of the game about how far the umpires have come in the past 10 years that they can come together and overrule a fellow umpire.
It all made for an intriguing side story, which overshadowed a gem of a pitching performance by Red Sox starter Jon Lester (who has also gotten more headlines about a “substance” after a tweet by a Cardinals minor leaguer than for his actual pitching) and a shocking outpouring of offense by Sox hitters. ESPN’s Jayson Stark quoted Cardinals’ manager Mike Matheny as saying how rare umpires overruling each other is:
"That's not a play I've ever seen before," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "And I'm pretty sure there were six umpires on the field that had never seen that play before, either. It's a pretty tough time to debut that overruled call -- in the World Series."
The only problem with this storyline is it’s wrong. It’s flat-out wrong.
Not only have there been calls overruled in baseball before, but it’s happened in the postseason. In fact, it happened twice in one game. One famous game. The setting was Yankee Stadium in Game 6 of the 2004 ALCS. The first overruled call was a Mark Bellhorn homer, which was originally ruled a double by the outfield umpire. The six umpires conferred and found (correctly) that the ball had hit a wall behind the outfield fence and bounced back on the field. It was ruled a home run for the Red Sox.
The second overruled call came innings later when Bronson Arroyo had the ball hit out of his hand by Alex Rodriguez. The first-base umpire initially ruled that Arroyo dropped the ball, but after huddling with his colleagues, the call was reversed and Rodriguez was ruled out.
The media is not expected to remember inane details about games, but these were turning point calls in the most hyped rivalry in baseball. The reversed calls helped the Sox engineer the greatest postseason series comeback in baseball history. The call gave birth to a new nickname for A-Rod, with fans calling him “Slappy.” Both of these calls were overruled. McCarver and Buck even called the game.
It’s spelled out specifically in umpires’ rules that they can confer and overrule the initial call when “an umpire responsible for the call clearly errs in judgment because he can’t see the ball was dropped.” It happened in this game in 2012. It happened last night.
Sox fans should remember a time when some umpires wouldn’t huddle with each other over disputed calls. Red Sox manager Jimy Williams, when arguing a phantom catch by Yankees’ second baseman Chuck Knoblauch in Game 1 of the 1999 ALCS, said all he wanted was for the umpires to talk together about disputed calls. He got his wish in 2004. Twice. He got it again last night. Call it karma for the 1999 blown call. Call it getting it right. Call it whatever you want. Just don’t call it unprecedented.
Memory speaks at Sophie Calle: Last Seen
History's biggest art heist inspires a two-part exhibition at the Gardner Museum
It’s funny how an exhibit about absence can feel like a homecoming.
In 1990, while an exhibition of her work was on view at the ICA, French conceptual artist Sophie Calle was interviewed in Boston for the art journal Parkett. She requested that the conversation take place at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in front of a painting she loved, Vermeer’s 1658-’60 work The Concert. Only weeks later, that painting, along with a dozen other works of art, were stolen in what’s widely considered history’s biggest art heist—a particularly devastating loss for the Gardner, an institution defined to a large degree by constancy. (Isabella Stewart Gardner’s will famously stipulates that her arrangement of her beloved collection must remain unaltered, or else the whole lot will go to Harvard.)
Museum director Anne Hawley recalls the aftermath, when the Gardner was “crawling with FBI agents” and had to be repeatedly evacuated after attention-seeking criminals called in bomb threats; she herself received threats on her life and was told to vary her routes home after work. It was during this tumultuous time that she heard from Calle, who said that she’d like to come back to do a project about the missing art. “Her call was like an angel,” Hawley says.
Calle spent many hours in the affected galleries, interviewing curators, guards, and other museum staffers about their memories of the missing works. Their widely varying responses form the text of Last Seen… In some cases, the words are displayed within a frame that is the same size as the missing work; in others, a silhouette outlining the absent object—an ancient vessel, a Rembrandt self-portrait only slightly larger than a postage stamp—appears over the words. Accompanying each collection of recollections is a photograph of the empty space once occupied by the stolen art. Completed in 1991, the installation has since been exhibited around the world, in New York, Paris, Rotterdam, Copenhagen and beyond, but never in Boston. Until now.
“The last artist working in this building before Sophie was Sargent,” says contemporary curator Pieranna Cavalchini, who got her first introduction to the Gardner through Calle’s art, years before she dreamed of working at the museum. In a way, Calle’s project marked the unofficial beginning of the Gardner’s artists-in-residence program, which, since its official start in 1992, has allowed artists to live on the property and draw inspiration from the collection. Today the resulting work appears in exhibits in the Gardner’s new wing. That’s where Calle’s Last Seen… and a new companion series, What Do You See?, are on view together now through March 3, 2014, in the exhibit Sophie Calle: Last Seen.
What Do You See? was created in 2012 after Calle returned to museum, which had reinstalled four empty frames from the stolen paintings since her last visit, making their absence fully visible. This time, she interviewed staff and visitors in the Dutch Room, but did not specifically mention the missing paintings. Their words are paired with portraits of anonymous individuals photographed from behind, looking into the empty frames.
An exhibit about absence sounds like it could easily be an empty post-modern gimmick. In Calle’s hands, it’s surprisingly affecting. She’s worked with the subject of loss before—exploring the loss of sight in The Blind, which incorporated interviews with blind people about their definitions of beauty, and the loss of her mother in Absence, currently on view in New York. She’s also frequently enlisted others as collaborators, witting and otherwise—working as a hotel maid in order to photograph hotel guests’ belongings, following a man she met at a party in Paris to Venice and secretly tailing him through the city streets, inviting strangers to read her bedtime stories atop the Eiffel Tower. Here, her amalgams of staff and visitor responses create kaleidoscopic evocations of the missing works, each seen from a dozen diverse and divergent perspectives. Though hints of their identities sometimes surface, none of the speakers are identified, and one is left to wonder whether and how the artist has edited (or even invented) their words.
They share their memories of a painting’s colors, the stories they told themselves about a scene, the thing that always bothered about them about a particular piece. “But of course, Rembrandt was the best-looking one when all the others looked old and sick. We used to call him Robert Redford,” says one about the artist’s cameo among the seasick apostles in The Storm on the Sea of Galilee. “What was he doing? It was so arrogant of him,” asks another about the same. One respondent was more focused on the painting’s depiction of Christ: “Everyone’s working to save his neck and He’s the only one who isn’t working. That’s how you know He’s God.”
Someone says of a vessel dating back to the Shang dynasty: “My obtuse masculine consciousness would have just been honing in on the furniture had it not been for the lady in my life pointing it out.” Another says of the Degas drawings, “They just seemed like quick studies that he almost dashed off on a napkin while he was having a glass of absinthe.” The man pictured in Manet’s Chez Tortoni, meanwhile, elicits this: “He’s enjoying life but he’s not just a pleasure seeker. There was a mind at work there.” Responses particularly resonate in the case of A Lady and Gentleman in Black, which had an absence of its own: Comments nod to X-rays that revealed that Rembrandt had painted over a depiction of the couple’s child. One can presume why.
The empty frames, too, spur responses. “My first reaction is that I am looking at screen and all I have to do is wait and it will turn on,” one says. “To be honest, I don’t think it elicits much response anymore. I see a lack of something that I don’t know,” adds another. Someone else counters, peering into the glass of the empty frame, “I see a perfect tribute, better than a reproduction. I see an installation, an invitation for people to sit and look at themselves as a piece of art.”
It’s a wild yet carefully orchestrated chorus that reveals much about the workings of memory, but also about the experience of art itself, laying bare why people respond differently to an art theft than to, say, a bank robbery. It’s not so much the molecules of paint and the gradually decaying canvases that are precious; it’s the responses they’re capable of conjuring in us. Those are what were stolen on that March night more than two decades ago. But as Calle makes clear, they have not been entirely lost.
The World Series, A-Z
A letter-by-letter preview of the Red Sox-Cardinals matchup
The scene from Fenway Park in Game 1 of the ALCS, the Boston Red Sox vs. the Detroit Tigers. (Improper photo by Matt Martinelli)
The 2013 Red Sox continue their improbable run this week with Game 1 of the World Series against a familiar foe, the St. Louis Cardinals. For many Red Sox fans who had turned away from the home team these past two seasons, let this be a comprehensive primer on this year's team and a preview for the World Series. We've covered every angle, and, yes, every letter. We just can't guarantee it finishes with a "W."
A – All-Star advantage: Red Sox fans might not have been watching when the American League beat the N.L. 3-0 in July, but the result of that game gives Boston home-field advantage in the World Series. In a matchup between two teams with an even amount of talent, the home team has a 54 percent chance to win (leaving the road team with a 46 percent chance). So, Max Scherzer and Mariano Rivera, thanks for the extra boost.
B – Beards: You can’t watch coverage of the Sox without hearing about those damn beards, but that’s because you can’t watch coverage of the Sox without seeing them. Some are creepy. (Clay, please shave immediately after the final out of the season. Don’t even think about leaving the clubhouse without doing it.) Some are funny looking. (What’s that white stripe in David Ross’ beard? Will he earn a Just For Men contract out of this?) But one is truly epic. Mike Carp’s beard is perfectly shaped, not scary since it’s a lighter shade and really looks like what a blacksmith’s would look like in the ’90s. You know, the 1890s. The 2003 Sox had “Cowboy Up.” The 2004 Sox were the “Why Not Us” Idiots. (The 2011 Sox had Popeye’s fried chicken.) These Sox have the beards.
C – Cardinals: This St. Louis team is the exact team you didn’t want to face in the World Series. Most Sox fans would’ve preferred the hobbled Dodgers with players who we already know can’t handle the bright lights of Boston (former Sox not-quite-stars Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford). The Cardinals have a deep starting lineup of hitters, two stud pitchers in the rotation (Adam Wainwright and Michael Wacha) and a solid bullpen. Both teams went 97-65 this season. St. Louis scored 183 more runs than their opponent. Boston scored 197 more runs than their opponent. It’s fair to say they’re evenly matched. But don’t forget that Tampa Bay was the least desirable wild-card team for the Sox to face. And Detroit was the team you most feared facing in the ALCS. The result was the Sox winning both.
D – Defense: What else would “D” stand for in sports? It has been said that, while pitching and offense get all the attention, defense is the category of a team that best predicts success once you get to the postseason. The Red Sox are among the Top 10 in many team defensive stats for the season, while the Cardinals are in the bottom five in the majors.
E – Ellsbury, Jacoby: The Sox centerfielder began his career with a 2007 season that looked a lot like the one currently being put forth by Sox prospect Xander Bogaerts. He was on the team in August and September, and forced his way into the lineup in the ALCS with good results. He followed up that performance with a World Series in which he got on base in half of his 18 plate appearances. He could’ve made a legitimate claim to being the MVP of that 2007 World Series. What has followed included many injuries, a 2011 season in which he should’ve won the MVP, and three seasons in which he led the league in stolen bases. He is a joy to watch, a true sparkplug at the top of the order and has been the Sox’ most consistent offensive producer this postseason. He’s a free agent at the end of this season, so this could be his final performance in a Sox uniform. Instead of worrying about his departure in the offseason, enjoy what you’re seeing now.
F – Farrell, John: The new Red Sox manager (born on the same day as Roger Clemens, for all you trivia buffs) was always the perfect fit for this organization. The pitching staff’s performance worsened when Farrell left his role as Sox pitching coach after the 2010 season to manage the Blue Jays. The Sox tried to get him back to manage the 2012 season, but they were rebuffed by the Jays’ organization. They tried again after the stink bomb of Bobby Valentine in 2012, and they got him (and David Carpenter, who was a lights-out reliever for Atlanta this season after the Sox waived him) for Mike Aviles. Farrell’s personality was a perfect fit for the clubhouse, and on a roster full of team MVP candidates, you could easily make a case for the man in charge who has run a strict, steady ship all year long.
G – Gomes, Jonny: The ringleader of this band of bearded brothers, Jonny Gomes’ two-year $10 million contract was the first one that general manager Ben Cherington gave out in an offseason full of free-agent pickups. Most of the moves were criticized as costing too much money for over-the-hill players, but most have worked brilliantly. Gomes is one of the brilliant ones. On a contending team, paying $5 million a year to a dependable player, who won’t complain about playing time and keeps things loose in the dugout is worth it. Especially if he can mash lefties like Gomes’ track record shows he can. He posted a .188 on-base percentage in the ALCS and struck out in 7 of his 18 at-bats, but the Sox won all 4 games he started. It might be a coincidence, but Farrell has said he’ll stick with Gomes for his defense and base-running over Daniel Nava, who has performed better offensively. So far, despite the better judgment of most stat-heads, it’s hard to argue with the results. He is the Kevin Millar of this year’s team.
H – Henry, John: The Sox owner was lampooned a lot these past couple of years, from his handling of Terry Francona’s departure to his hands-off approach and his ownership of the Liverpool soccer team in England. But his team is in the World Series for the third time in the 12 seasons he has been owner and he’s about to finalize his purchase of one of Boston’s other iconic properties, The Boston Globe. Could he set up the timing so the first paper he publishes trumpets his third World Series title? Needless to say, it’s a good time to be Mr. Henry.
I – There is no “I” in this Red Sox team. Move along.
J – Jon & John: Jon Lester and John Lackey were two of the fall guys for the 2011 collapse. Both starters were supposedly part of the chicken-and-beer crew, and Lackey, who was pitching hurt, was by some accounts the worst pitcher in the American League that season (his 114 earned runs allowed were the most in the majors). Lester wasn’t much better in September, posting a 5.40 ERA and a 1.61 WHIP. They stunk. This year, the two were the most reliable Sox starters all season long. In the postseason, they’ve combined to win 4 of their 5 starts, giving up a total of 9 runs. As much as Cherington’s free-agent pickups have paid off, a lot of the Sox success can be tied to returning players improving. The redemption of Lackey and Lester has been at the forefront of that.
K – Koji! There’s nothing to be said about Uehara that hasn’t already been pointed out. He just won the ALCS MVP after closing out all 4 Sox victories. He pitched six innings in 5 games and struck out 9 batters without walking anyone and giving up just 4 hits. In his first 33 1/3 innings as Sox closer, he struck out 46, walked two, gave up 8 hits and allowed no earned runs. He retired 37 batters in a row at one point. He posted the lowest season WHIP in the history of the major leagues. He has been historically great. And his high-fives and fun demeanor make him a true delight to watch. In a game with so many fake tough guys, he stands out not just for his lights-out performances, but his joyous celebrations. Every time he pitches, it’s the highlight of the game.
L – Losses in the World Series: The Sox have not lost a World Series game since 1986 (when they lost Games 6 and 7 to the Mets, no need to rehash this). They swept the Cardinals in 2004 in a World Series that would’ve been ho-hum if the Sox weren’t ending an 86-year drought, or if they hadn’t just won 4 games in a row in the ALCS against the Yankees to climb out of a 3-0 series deficit for the first time in postseason history. They swept the Rockies in 2007 in a World Series that most baseball fans likely do consider ho-hum. That series came on the heels of overcoming a 3-1 series deficit against Cleveland in the ALCS. It’s as if the baseball gods came together both years and decided that Red Sox fans could use a little bit less drama in the World Series. That’s 8 straight World Series wins for the Sox. A dozen might be asking too much, right?
M – MVP: There is only one player in this series who has a regular season MVP and it’s Dustin Pedroia. The man who battled a thumb injury all season, and saw a power outage in his usual “Laser Show” as a result, is one of the most accomplished stars in this series. Although his slugging percentage is way down, he still posted a .372 on-base percentage this season and a .385 OBP in the ALCS.
N – Napoli, Mike: The Sox were about to sign the first baseman in the offseason to a 3-year, $39 million contract when they found he had a hip problem. Instead, they inked him to a 1-year deal for $5 million and incentives. Napoli hit all those incentives and he’s been a solid player in the field while being streaky at the plate. He only got two hits in the ALDS and started the ALCS going 0-6 with 6 strikeouts. And then he struck: He hit the game-winning homer off Justin Verlander in Game 3, followed by two hits in Game 4, and three hits and a homer in Game 5. Napoli was with the Texas Rangers when they made the World Series in 2011. He posted a .464 on-base percentage and hit two homers. He also saw his team blow a 2-run ninth-inning lead (with two outs) and a 2-run 10th inning lead in Game 6, throwing away a championship in excruciating fashion against the St. Louis Cardinals. He owes the Cardinals payback, and his birthday is the same day as a possible Game 7. This series could be pointing to the guy whose initials spell out: M.A.N.
O – Ortiz, David: The Sox designated hitter has come through with big hits almost on-demand in his postseason history. Most Sox fans felt mighty confident when he strode to the plate with the Sox down 5-1 in Game 2 of the ALCS. Big Papi delivered as expected with a grand slam, one of his two hits in an otherwise subpar series. With a great history of big hits in the ALDS and ALCS, it’s easy to forget how sensational he’s been in the World Series. In 2004 and 2007, he combined for a .441 on-base percentage and a .571 slugging percentage. He’s the only current member of the Sox to have won both World Series this century. And another World Series win would leave him behind only Harry Hooper (four World Series titles) and the immortal Heinie Wagner (who was on the Sox in 1912, 1915, 1916 and 1918, but only played in the World Series in 1912) for the most championships with the Red Sox.
P – Pujols, Albert: The Cardinals are back in the World Series for the fourth time in the last 10 seasons. But this will be their first appearance without Albert Pujols during that time. The three-time MVP hasn’t been missed since he left St. Louis after 2011. The team’s lineup has traded the power of Pujols for the performances of unheralded players such as Matt Carpenter and Allen Craig (who will return from injury to play in the World Series). Meanwhile, Pujols has been disappointing during his two seasons with the L.A. Angels.
Q – Quintin Berry: Thank goodness Cherington traded for the speedy outfielder from Kansas City on Aug. 27, otherwise we’d have nothing for the “Q” section (maybe QI or QAT for all you Scrabble fans?). Quintin has been as advertised, filling the pinch-runner role Dave Roberts made famous for the Sox in 2004. He stole a base in the ALDS and the ALCS, but neither led to runs. In his two-year career for the postseason and regular season, he still has never been caught stealing. He’s 28-28.
R – Relievers: If there’s been anything to quibble with John Farrell’s performance as manager, it’s been with his usage of relievers in the postseason. His three excellent relievers — Junichi Tazawa, Craig Breslow and Uehara — have combined to give up 1 run in 18 innings. Despite the lofty numbers, he’s gone to Franklin Morales and Brandon Workman at times to get out of jams. In Game 6 of the ALCS, he turned to Morales and Workman, allowing the Sox to lose their lead, before going to Breslow and Tazawa. Someone should tell Farrell, who has correctly used Uehara for more than 1 inning at times, that he can use Breslow in a tight situation before the 7th or 8th inning. He did it in Game 4 of the ALDS and it worked. He hasn’t done it since.
S – Speed: If speed were a true difference-maker, the Cardinals wouldn’t get very far. They were last in the N.L. with 45 steals this season, getting caught 22 times for a 67 percent success rate. The Sox were third in the A.L. with 123 steals, getting caught only 19 times for an 87 percent success rate. The Cardinals make sure their opponents can’t steal, either. Their catchers combined to throw out 40 percent of runners and gave up only 39 stolen bases all season. The Sox gave up the most stolen bases in the majors (133) and threw out only 24 percent of runners.
T – Team history: These two franchises have a history. This will be the fourth meeting between the two in the World Series, with St. Louis winning in seven games in 1946 and 1967, and the Sox winning in 2004. The four meetings between the franchises will tie the Giants vs. A’s and Cubs vs. Tigers as the most common World Series matchups that don’t include the Yankees.
U – Uber-offenses: The Red Sox scored 853 runs this season. The Cardinals scored 783 runs. Each led their respective leagues in runs scored (scoring is less in the N.L. because they don’t have the designated hitter). Critics have pointed to the Cardinals’ .865 OPS with runners in scoring position as proof their scoring prowess is a fluke (the Sox had a .794 OPS), but regardless of that statistic, the Cards were still quite good at the plate. They led the National League in on-base percentage (.332) and had seven of their eight position players post an OBP of .339 or higher (league average is .318). The Sox had 12 players get more than 200 plate appearances and 11 of them had an on-base percentage of .333 or higher. Will Middlebrooks, who was benched in the ALCS in favor of Bogaerts, is the only player who didn’t reach that threshold.
V – Victorino-ing: Is that not a thing? I just assume that Shane Victorino’s enthusiasm-fueled, fistpump-filled home-run trot after his game-winning grand slam in Game 6 has become an Internet sensation, in the same vein of Boston cop Steve Horgan’s arms-up celebration after Ortiz’s slam. Yes, Victorino was slumping terribly for the entire ALCS. He was 2-23 before his big hit and Farrell had considered dropping him from the second spot in the lineup. He also had gotten hurt in August, causing him to stop hitting from the left side against right-handed pitchers. But in Game 6, against a right-hander, he delivered with a homer run over the Green Monster that comes second only to Carlton Fisk’s 1975 classic in Game 6 of the World Series. Is it a slump-buster in addition to being an iconic shot? We’ll know in a few days.
W – Wacha & Wainwright: The Sox have a formidable rotation, but the Cardinals have an otherworldly 1-2 punch in Adam Wainwright and Michael Wacha. Wainwright was the second-best pitcher in the N.L. this season, and has a career postseason ERA of 2.10 and a WHIP of 0.91. In the NLDS, he gave up just two runs in 16 innings. In the NLCS, he gave up 2 runs in 7 innings in a Game 3 loss. Wacha, 22, has outshone the 31-year-old veteran in his first postseason. The 2012 first-round pick (signed with the compensation pick the Cardinals got for losing Pujols to the Angels) was called up at the end of May for a few starts. He returned for good in August. He started 5 games in September and only gave up runs in two of them. In his final start of the regular season, he went 8 2/3 innings before giving up a hit. In his first postseason start, he didn’t give up a hit until the 8th inning. In both of his two NLCS starts he did not give up a run. He appears right now to be the best pitcher in baseball.
X – Xander Bogaerts: The Sox infielder has been dubbed one of the best prospects in baseball. He is 21 years old and he forced his way into starting Games 5 and 6 of the ALCS. How did the inexperienced rookie play when called upon? He has 11 plate appearances in the postseason and has gotten on base 8 times. Most Red Sox fans having been waiting a long time for the most-hyped prospect since at least Clemens. Xander has delivered. Now, the unflinching rookie (he’ll actually be a rookie next season) will get a chance in the World Series.
Y – Yadier Molina: Ortiz and the Cardinals’ catcher are the only remaining players from the 2004 World Series rosters. While Ortiz has stayed in the limelight for 10 seasons, Molina has had a slow rise in productivity and popularity. He finished fourth last season in MVP voting and is considered the best defensive catcher in baseball. At the plate, he has posted three straight seasons with an OPS above .800. If the Sox are silent on the base paths, you know who to blame.
Z – Zombie Cardinals: These Cardinals are hard to kill. In Game 5 of the 2012 NLDS, they were down 7-5 with two outs in the 9th inning and came back to win 9-7. In 2011, they were down 2 games to 1 in the NLDS and NLCS and won both series. In the World Series that year, they were down to their final out on multiple occasions in Game 6, and yet they won the game and Game 7 to win the championship. This team, much like a zombie, simply won’t die. Game 7 this year is currently scheduled for Halloween. You connect the dots. What’s the best way to kill a zombie again?
A batch of indoor gigs highlight mid-October, starting with a Friday night trifecta of distinctive locals. Singapore-bred transplant Shun Ng should be jazzed for his first Boston-proper club show at Berklee’s Club 939, but the solo acoustic dynamo has already dazzled people from Club Passim to the Outside the Box Festival. He’s only developed further (and earned an audience with producer Quincy Jones) in the several months since this Redstar Studios show: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p6nHhEmWhwQ. The sprawling, Ethiopian-American Debo Band might accent its jazz roots at the Regattabar, but don’t count on that from a band with a rock edge that includes accordion, sousaphone, electric guitar and wah-wah violin as well as charismatic singer Bruck Tesfaye: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=omKJKwHkgas. And for a blast from the ’90s past, singer/songwriter Todd Thibaud reunites Friday with his Americana-styled band the Courage Brothers (rounded out by Jim Wooster, Dave Lumina, Mike Rivard and Larry Finn) for a one-off at the Lizard Lounge. Barbara Kessler opens the gig. Here’s a clip from the good ole days: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UHQFPYiA8kc.
Saturday features another Americana-styled group, the husband-wife duo Over the Rhine, playing the Somerville Theater in support of their lovely new double album Meet Me at the Edge of the World, inspired by the Ohio couple’s old farmhouse: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c1XY_d2wCTk. Or if you’re up for more of a Queens accent, get another blast from the past as charming pop inconoclast Cyndi Lauper showcases her 1983 debut She’s So Unusual at the Citi Wang Theatre. Here’s a preview (skip to the 3:30 mark if you want to get to the song): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Kca1UkrkiQ.
Sunday includes the return of Scottish indie-rockers Franz Ferdinand, whose new Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Actions pops with some of the catchiness of the band’s eponymous 2004 debut (which sported the hit “Take Me Out”) in tunes like this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OhKSCtdttQ8. And as Father John Misty, ex-Fleet Foxes drummer Josh Tillman has unleashed his ego as a confrontational Jim Morrison-style bandleader, but he’ll channel his wit and whimsy into the solo singer/songwriter mold at the Somerville Theatre on Sunday: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GJjllKLkAHY.
Why Xander's time is now
Prospect's use is a no-lose situation
The lineups for Game 5 of the ALCS have been posted and the worst-kept secret is official. Mega-prospect Xander Bogaerts will make his first postseason start, the debut coming in Boston’s ninth game of October.
Here’s what has Bogaerts done in his four postseason plate appearances: Walked on six pitches, walked on six pitches, popped out on seven pitches, doubled on two pitches.
Against tonight’s starter, Anibal Sanchez, who sometimes struggles with his control, the more patient Bogaerts was the obvious choice to replace free-swinging Will Middlebrooks, who had a .411 OPS from Sept. 10 until the end of the regular season and who has posted a .530 OPS in 26 at-bats this postseason.
Last night, Detroit manager Jim Leyland shook up his lineup with lots of success as the Tigers scored 7 runs off Sox starter Jake Peavy. Sox manager John Farrell balked at any moves, instead sticking with the same crew that had batted .133 during the first three games of the ALCS. The result was a Sox loss.
Tonight, Farrell follows Leyland’s lead, much in the way that in Game 4 of the ALDS he followed Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon’s ultra-aggressive philosophy that the Rays manager employed in Game 3 of the ALDS. He will start Jonny Gomes in left field and sit the platoon-favored Daniel Nava, a move to get Gomes’ energy in the lineup that might’ve been better served at the expense of Mike Napoli at 1B. He will start David Ross, who has had success catching Jon Lester, and sit the more offensively inclined Jarrod Saltalamacchia. But most importantly, he will start one of the best prospects in baseball. It’s something that many fans have wanted for more than a week. Heck, Farrell wouldn’t even play him in meaningless games at the end of the season. But Bogaerts’ chance is now. It’s been three times on base in four times at-bat. The small sample size will get a whole lot bigger tonight.
A Double Date for Romeo and Juliet
Actors' Shakespeare Project and Boston Theater Company each tackle the Bard's tragedy
Romeo and Juliet may be currently bombing at the box office, but it’s another story on Boston stages. This month sees two different takes on the Bard’s most excellent and lamentable tragedy—one from a theater-scene stalwart celebrating its tenth anniversary season, the other from a brand-new company hitting the boards for the first time. Here’s how they’re putting their spin on one of Shakespeare’s most frequently performed works.
Actors’ Shakespeare Project—the Improper’s 2011 pick for Boston’s Best theater company—kicks off its tenth anniversary season at Dorchester’s historic Strand Theatre. As usual, it’s aiming to keep the spotlight on Shakespeare’s words, but do keep an eye out for a few production tweaks, including a gender reversal for the role of Benvolio (here “Benvolia”), some modern touches (such as a rapping Mercutio, played by recidivist scene stealer Maurice Emmanuel Parent, and contemporary dress from costume designer Kathleen Doyle), and a setup that includes 80 on-stage seats for an up-close view of the very visceral action (the program even credits a “violence designer”).
Thu.-Sun. through Nov. 3 at the Strand Theatre, 543 Columbia Road, Dorchester, $15-$50 at ovationtix.com
Photo by Stratton McCrady Photography
It’s thought that Shakespeare started writing his story of woe in his 20s, so it’s an appropriate inaugural production for Boston Theater Company, a new group of 20-somethings aiming to showcase classical texts while adding contemporary twists. And there are a couple of doozies here: They’ve recast the feuding Capulets and Montagues as Democrats and Republicans (which admittedly sounds like far less of a stretch in light of the recent meltdown in DC). It also trims Shakespeare’s text down to a down to a 90-minute running time—and, suiting its Club Café setting, punctuates his verse with modern pop songs. Also befitting the dance club digs? The free drink that comes with every ticket.
Oct. 24 and 25 and Nov. 1 and 2 at Club Café, 209 Columbus Ave., Boston, $15 at brownpapertickets.com
Our contributing fashion editor, Lydia Santangelo, invites us all to a glamorous Italian-inspired wedding. Be sure to pick up our Wedding issue, out October 23rd, to see even more of this striking celebration.
Video by Long Haul Films
Trent Reznor always had sound and vision in mind with his pioneering industrial-rock outfit Nine Inch Nails, and he’s only refocused his interest in abstract, three-dimensional lighting with movable scrims for NIN’s return to the stage after a four-year hiatus. As Reznor dabbled in award-winning film scoring for “The Social Network” and “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” interest apparently grew for the return of NIN, as the band hits the TD Garden on Friday (and Mohegan Sun Arena on Saturday) behind its streamlined new album Hesitation Marks. Expect old hits as well, and a striking stage set that reveals itself from a minimalist start (a la Talking Heads’ immortal “Stop Making Sense” concert film) in keeping with the new record’s more electronic leanings, before both sounds and visions explode: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=raqWfu5WlgU.
Canadian singer Abel Tesfaye plays off his own thick, moody atmospheres with a haunting falsetto in his alt-R&B vehicle The Weeknd, which plays the second of two nights at the Orpheum Theatre on Friday: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SULCHKnsizg. Local roots-rock favorites Kingsley Flood have won fans from the Newport Folk Festival to the Brighton Music Hall, where they toasted new album Battles with a two-hour May throwdown that included Clash and Stones covers and even a marching band. Who knows what to expect as the energized band graduates to the Paradise Rock Club this Saturday. Here’s a more intimate glimpse of the Flood: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mIK0vxwb61o. And Arizona-bred guitar/bass brothers Curt and Cris Kirkwood reanimate their country-tinged alt-rock band the Meat Puppets (best known for its cameo on Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged program) at the Brighton Music Hall on Sunday: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M9Rznrw5Zis.
Finally, if it’s Columbus Day weekend, it’s time to HONK! That annual fest of activist street bands takes over Somerville’s Davis Square, starting with a free Friday kickoff at Johnny D’s Uptown and spreading through the parks and streets on Saturday and Sunday. It’s a colorful, lively, diverse and family-friendly experience with plenty of individualistic attitude: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mUd13Vapr3M. Here are the full schedules: http://honkfest.org/schedule/.
Monday John Farrell v. Tuesday John Farrell
How the Sox skipper learned from mistakes to earn ALCS berth
Many a managerial career has been ruined by postseason decisions—a fact that every Red Sox fan older than 10 knows well. That’s why after a long season of 162 games in which Sox manager John Farrell seemed to push a lot of the correct buttons with decisions (and almost all the correct buttons in the clubhouse) it was so jarring to see him manage Monday night’s Game 3 of the ALDS like it was just another regular season game. Was this man who seemed so reasonable and competent actually unaware that postseason managing required a different tact than managing a team through a six-month season? Did he not watch former Sox skipper Terry Francona so swiftly change his tactics every October, managing proactively with a quick hook? But the beauty of baseball lies in its repetition, and so almost 24 hours later Farrell was offered a chance at redemption. He could stubbornly stick by his guns or he could show he had learned. Tuesday, at almost every step of the way, Farrell chose the proactive approach. And most of those decisions, which led to the Red Sox squeaking out a 3-1 win over Tampa Bay and a berth in the ALCS, were the exact opposite of what he chose on Monday night. Let’s break down the moves:
Leave the starter in to wriggle his way out of the jam
On Monday night, Sox starter Clay Buchholz had given up a single and a double and was facing Evan Longoria with two outs in the 5th inning. He had yet to give up a run and was seemingly pitching well before the inning began. At this point, Farrell could’ve gone to one of his right-handed relievers (Brandon Workman, Ryan Dempster or Junichi Tazawa) to pitch to the Rays’ best player. It was certainly a defensible decision to leave Buchholz in and Farrell did. Longoria homered to tie the game at 3. On Tuesday, Sox starter Jake Peavy had given up a double and a single and had gotten two outs in the sixth inning. Farrell proactively pulled Peavy, who at that point had only thrown 74 pitches, in favor of reliever Craig Breslow, who then struck out 4 straight batters.
Pinch-hit rookie Xander Bogaerts for Stephen Drew against a lefty reliever
On Monday, with two guys on base and two outs in the 8th inning of a tied game, Stephen Drew batted against a lefthander reliever. The same Drew who posted a .585 OPS against lefties in the regular season. On the bench was right-handed hitting Bogaerts who had gotten on base 10 times in 18 regular-season plate appearances against lefties—good for a .556 OBP (or more than Drew’s OBP and SLG combined). Drew popped up. On Tuesday, down 1 run with 1 out in the 7th inning, Bogaerts was sent to pinch-hit for Drew against a left-handed reliever. He drew a walk and came around to score the tying run.
Pinch-hit for Jarrod Saltalamacchia against a lefty reliever
With two guys on base and 1 out in the 8th inning on Monday night, Farrell let Salty, who has an OPS nearly .250 lower against left-handers, bat against a left-hander. His other options included pinch-hitting backup catcher David Ross, who is good against lefties. On Tuesday night, Farrell pinch-hit Gomes for Salty. While the move didn’t pay off, it should be noted that Gomes put the ball in play, something Salty didn’t do on Monday when he struck out, failing to advance the runners to second and third.
Bring in Koji Uehara to get out of trouble before the 9th inning
On Monday night, Farrell went to rookie Brandon Workman in the 8th inning with two guys on and 1 out in a tie game instead of utilizing the lights-out Uehara who hadn’t pitched since Saturday. Workman allowed the go-ahead run to score. On Tuesday, with two outs in the 8th inning, one guy on base and the Sox up 1 run, Farrell opted for Uehara against David DeJesus, who proceeded to strike out swinging, preserving the Sox lead.
Why did Farrell manage differently in the final three innings on Tuesday night? Did he get sick of watching Tampa manager Joe Maddon manage like his hair was on fire for the first 33 innings of the series and decide he needed to match him? Did he realize that the Sox have one of the deeper teams in the playoffs and that it’s best to fully utilize that bench? Or is he simply a guy, managing in his first postseason series, who learned from his mistakes on Monday night and decided to go for the kill on Tuesday? That’s not only the most reasonable answer, but it’s also the most satisfying. Whatever the reason, Sox fans should hope they see more of Game 4 John Farrell the rest of the playoffs.
High-Fives for Boston
Breaking down local sports teams amid busy week
There are a few times of the year when it’s a sports smorgasbord for fans.
April offers up the start of the playoffs for the NHL and NBA, the start of the season for baseball and the NFL Draft. April 2004 looms large in local memories as a time when all four of the major sports teams collided to make news. The Patriots traded for Corey Dillon, while the Bruins and Celtics were in the playoffs and the Sox were embarking on a season that we could only dream about at that point.
October also holds multiple layers of intrigue for local sports fans, and these past few days—and tonight—are no exception. Let’s break it down, team-by-team:
Red Sox: Things couldn’t have gone any better for the Sox in their first two playoff games this season. They faced two lefty starters, which had been kryptonite for them for much of the season, and they battered them both, including a drubbing of Tampa Bay ace David Price. Sure, there were a bunch of bloop hits that fell in, but Price’s velocity was down, and he was not getting many swings and misses—a sure sign that he wasn’t fooling anybody on Saturday. Boston’s ace, Jon Lester, was outstanding for most of Game 1, and Koji Uehara submitted a stirring performance in the 9th inning of Game 2, nearly striking out the side on his nine pitches. But, the old adage remains that you haven’t swung a series until you’ve won a game on the road—and the first team to do that in this matchup is guaranteed to win the series. Tampa Bay won three games in a row to get into the ALDS, so it’s not too hard to imagine them forcing a Game 5 back in Boston.
Patriots: When the schedule came out in the offseason, you likely circled yesterday’s Cincinnati game as one that the Patriots might lose. And that was when you envisioned a healthy Vince Wilfork, Danny Amendola, Rob Gronkowski, Steven Ridley and Shane Vereen. OK, maybe you never envisioned a healthy Vereen. Regardless of how the game played out—the offensive line springing leaks like it was Super Bowl XLII, rookie wide receivers struggling in their first road game in bad weather conditions, the secondary (aside from Aqib Talib) giving up inopportune big plays—this team remains 4-1. Some of the problems yesterday were fixable and some could be signs of a bigger problem, but the one constant that remains is that the receiving corps will likely suffer through some good games and some bad games. Such is the life when you rely on inexperienced receivers.
Bruins: That was a short offseason, eh? After three months off, the Bruins were back at it on Thursday night and again on Saturday. They picked up two wins, including one over the vaunted Detroit Red Wings, a team that’s now in their division thanks to NHL realignment. The stout defense and goaltending has been there to start, allowing just one goal in each game. Last year’s playoff sensation Torey Krug even notched his first regular-season goal on Saturday, hopefully a harbinger of a successful rookie season.
Celtics: The Brad Stevens Era begins tonight. After six seasons of defining this team by its players (the new Big Three), it is now defined by its young, smart coach, who is jumping from college to the pros. Tonight is his team’s first preseason game, and you could go straight down the roster and come up with storylines and what to watch for from the 13 players under contract who will play tonight. It’s telling that Stevens was quoted during the weekend as saying Avery Bradley and Jeff Green are the mainstays and he’s really just hoping to find the right guys around them. That will be the Celtics’ motto until Rajon Rondo returns from injury sometime in December or January. A lot of this season will be about rooting for players to do well enough to increase their trade value.
Revolution: Amid those great runs for the Boston sports scene last decade, the Revolution would always end up in the MLS finals (where they always seemed to lose; they were the ’90s Bills of professional soccer). You might not have been able to name who their opponent was, but it was always something you could root for when it happened. As the MLS has exploded in popularity the past few seasons, the Revs have struggled. This season they’re on the edge of the playoff race, sitting three points out of a berth with three games to go.
Who the Sox need to step up in Game 1
These three players could be X-factors for ALDS opener
Four days off can seem like an eternity in baseball, and for the Red Sox, it’s been even longer since they played a meaningful game (last Friday at Baltimore). So, there will be different signs of rust with most of the players. But beyond rust, there are three players worth keeping an eye on in Game 1 of the ALDS today against Tampa Bay.
Stephen Drew - The Sox shortstop has been as advertised as a free-agent pickup. He hit 13 HRs and had an OBP of .353. But, just as advertised, he’s also struggled against lefties with a .246 OBP. That’s bad news for Drew since Tampa will have a southpaw starter for the first two games of the series. Drew has gone 2-5 in his career (small, small, small sample size) against Game 1 starter, Matt Moore. The hope behind starting him is that he might be able to better exploit Moore’s control problems than backup Xander Bogaerts. However, Game 2 against precision pitcher David Price will be another story entirely. If Drew struggles today, he will most likely find himself on the bench for Game 2, and even if he doesn’t he should anyway. For his career, Drew is 0-1 against Price, drawing one walk and striking out five times. Anything better than an 0-fer in the first two games from Sox shortstops will be more than expected.
Jon Lester – The last time the Sox faced the Rays in the playoffs (2008 ALCS), Lester pitched a gem in Game 7, but fell short. His career seemed limitless at the time, but as with most pitchers, he’s had ups and downs since then. If Lester pitches well today, you’ll feel better about a possible Game 5 showdown between him and Price, if the series goes that far. If he doesn’t, in the back of your mind, you’ll be thinking: The Sox better win this in four games. Also, a good Lester start could shorten the set-up bridge to Koji Uehara (although, be aware that Uehara has had 4 appearances in the postseason: 2.1 IP, 5 Hs, 3 HRs, 5 ERs, 2 BBs, 4 Ks).
Will Middlebrooks – The Sox struggled this season against lefties, and one of the reasons was because they couldn’t rely on one of their right-handed sluggers, Middlebrooks. Middlebrooks started the season with a 3 HR-game in Toronto, but after struggling mightily, he was sent down in June. IN August, he was promoted and ripped the cover off the ball. Since Sept. 10, he has an .411 OPS, which is awful. There’s no doubt he’s a young player prone to streaks. If he’s in a hot streak for this series, he’ll really help the Sox rough up Tamap’s lefties. If not, he’s just one more automatic out at the bottom of the order.
It’s a grab bag of solid concerts for the start of October. Midwestern singer/songwriter Angel Olsen has one of those nakedly haunting voices that makes her recent signing to the hip indie label Jagjaguwar a sensible choice, much like Sharon Van Etten before her. Olsen will perform Friday at the Museum of Fine Arts’ Remis Auditorium: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IoqMdCo6_FQ.
Saturday offers shows by unique veterans in their fields. If it wasn’t for some group named Phish, moe. would stand alone as the Northeast’s premier jam-band, blending classic rock, prog-rock, folky country and spacy reggae into its own signature sound over the past 15 years. With a fluid, dynamic rhythm section flanked by the intertwined guitar flights of Chuck Garvey and Al Schnier, moe. returns to the Orpheum on Saturday: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1e_W-sNQzGo. And at House of Blues, LA punk iconoclasts X rev up old favorites with their original lineup, fronted by Exene Cervenka and John Doe, who balance caterwaul and country inflection in their unique harmonies: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bugiXBokQYs.
You could count Twin Door Cinema Club as another huge-in-the-U.K. group that’s lesser known around here, but that hasn’t stopped the group from Northern Ireland from selling out its shows at Royale on Saturday and Sunday: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JRflh9OU_HE. Likewise, Earl Sweatshirt has spent time with the controversial hip-hop collective Odd Future, but the young rapper’s blazing his own path as a solo artist with introspective insight and distinctive flow in support of his album Doris. He’s playing to a full house at the Sinclair on Sunday: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vXCZwF3UmSw.
Who Sox fans should want to face
An guide to viewing the AL wild-card games through Sox-colored glasses
And then there were six. Soon there will be five. Then just four.
So goes the wild-card elimination in the American League. Texas and Tampa Bay will face each other tonight, and the winner will travel to play Cleveland on Wednesday night. In most years, this wouldn’t have mattered for Boston fans, but for the first time since 1967, the Red Sox finished alone atop the AL standings. The fact their opponent won’t be revealed until Wed. night adds intrigue, but what team should Sox fans be hoping to face? Let’s break it down:
Tampa Bay Rays
If Tampa wins, they will have used David Price in tonight’s game and likely Alex Cobb in Wednesday’s game against Cleveland. The result looks like a Matt Moore-Price-Cobb-Jeremy Hellickson-Price rotation against the Red Sox. That’s quite formidable and less than optimal for the Sox, who likely hoped that if the Rays advanced, they would’ve used Price in the do-or-die game on Wednesday. Instead, he will have pitched in the do-or-die game Monday, leaving him available for a possible Game 2 vs. the Sox (and then rested for a Game 5). The Sox have played well against the Rays down the stretch, but their pitching is tough—and it’s best not to face Price twice.
Just to get into the wild-card game, they had to burn ace Yu Darvish yesterday in what amounted to a do-or-die game. The result is that Darvish won’t be pitching in these wild-card games and he will be ready for a possible Game 1 in Boston on Friday. While Darvish going in Games 1 and 5 for the Rangers is less than ideal, the rest of the staff around him is not as strong as the Rays. The Rangers, however, will be aided by the return of Nelson Cruz from his suspension for steroids. With Darvish’s schedule set up so well, Texas becomes dangerous for the Sox, even with a shaky rotation behind him.
A lot of people will point to Cleveland’s 10 straight wins to end the season as a reason to avoid them. And they can also point to Ubaldo Jimenez’s recent lights-out performances on the mound. Much like Darvish, the Sox would face Jimenez in Game 1. However, the Indians are the team you should most want the Sox to face, and it’s not simply because of a storyline with Terry Francona. Those final 10 wins were against Houston, Minnesota and the Chicago White Sox. The dregs of the AL. They went 19-33 against teams still alive. They are beatable. So, Sox fans should fire up the VCR and toss in some old copies of Major League, it’s time to catch Tribe fever — at least on Wednesday.
Q & A: Being Jordan Crawford
Celtics guard opens up about brother, fashion, Detroit
Celtics guard Jordan Crawford smiles after the Shamrock Foundation's Teeing Up For Kids golf tournament.
(Photo courtesy of Boston Celtics)
Always wearing a grin on his face, Celtics guard Jordan Crawford, 24, looks not only like a missed shot on the court won’t deter him from shooting again soon, but that a bad day off the court can’t keep him down for long. Crawford hasn’t had too many bad days this offseason and his outlook for the coming Celtics season is optimistic. The fourth-year player has already recorded two career triple-doubles in his short career, and he averaged 9.1 points per game for Boston last season after coming over from Washington in a midseason trade. Crawford sat down with The Improper Bostonian this week after the Celtics’ Shamrock Foundation’s sixth annual Teeing Up For Kids golf tournament. He talked about his offseason, giving back to Detroit and growing up with his big brother Joe, who briefly played in the NBA.
Matt Martinelli: How was your offseason? You were out in the Drew League in LA, how was that?
Jordan Crawford: Oh, it was real fun, real fun. Every day, the competition is real hot, that’s what makes it the most fun. And they’ve got a playoff system. Kobe came out to watch the game, so people are there to support it.
When did you get back into the Boston area?
Beginning of the month.
Have you done anything interesting since you got back?
Went to the Red Sox-Yankees game. It was fun. Sat in the Monster seats.
How was that?
Pretty cool. I liked it.
The Boston area is known for its sports intensity. Is that something you got a flavor of?
Definitely. I hope to win fans over on the court just by how competitive I am. I like the fact that every sport here is really played at a high level.
You’re a bit of a fashion guy, is that right?
A little bit. I mean, I clean up nice.
What’s your go-to clothes?
Simple but flashy. Anything like that.
How was growing up in Detroit?
It was great. It made me who I am today. Now, it’s my turn to give to Detroit, so that’s what I’m trying to do. I ran a camp. I had an agent, business manager, the mayor of Detroit and a couple of different people talk about their business to the kids, each profession.
What’s your top city on road trips to visit? Is it going back to Detroit?
Nah, I like Chicago. Toronto. You can stop with Toronto.
Do you still get a lot of recognition from dunking on LeBron when you were in high school?
That’s pretty much all they know me for.
Yeah, yeah, they still talk about.
How often do they keep in touch with your brother?
Every day, every day.
He had a different experience than you in the NBA. How did that affect you?
He led the way for everything. He led the way blindfolded. He didn’t really know the recruiting system. He had a chance to jump from high school to the league. He didn’t take it. He learned from that. The school he picked, we learned from that situation what’s important about the school you pick. He did everything first, and then I followed him, which made it easier for me.
Was it always like that growing up?
Oh yeah. With him around, I could say anything. I felt like I could do anything cause I got him.
Do you play him one-on-one? Who wins those?
No, we don’t really play one-on-one cause it might not end too well, so we don’t want to … we just stay away from that.
You want to keep friendly?
Yeah, we gotta stay away from that.
You’re kind of seen as a spark scorer and so is Jamal Crawford. Do you ever get confused for him?
They call me Jamal a lot. You know, stuff like that. We got similar games in the way we can score in bunches, but I think we got two different games to be honest.
Yeah, you’re more of a passer?
Yeah, a few things. Yeah.
I know you’ve said you want to be more of a leader on the team. How’s that going? What sort of ways do you think you can help with the younger players?
They’re already kind of looking up to me, just a little bit. I been here for a minute, so it’s my job to lead them in the right directions, lead them in drills. Make sure I’m going hard, so they go hard.
Beautiful fall weather holds true for the Beantown Jazz Festival. The annual, Berklee-run event kicks off on Friday with vibraphone dean Gary Burton’s new quartet (featuring guitarist Julian Lage, bassist Scott Colley and Pat Metheny drummer Antonio Sanchez) playing the first of its two nights at Scullers Jazz Club: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CmKrkiMLpTw. But the Beantown centerpiece remains its Saturday afternoon-long free lineup along Columbus Avenue in the South End. This year’s multi-stage program is highlighted by eclectic soul-funk singer/bassist Meshell Ndegeocello (whose most recent project honors Nina Simone) and Living Colour drummer Will Calhoun’s jazz trio as well as adventurous jazz trumpeter Christian Scott and soulful singer Robin McKelle and her Flytones. Here’s the whole schedule: http://www.beantownjazz.org/schedule.html.
Apart from Beantown, Friday night offers the sleek rock-fusion fireworks of guitarists Joe Satriani (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yMT66bI1JkE) and Steve Morse at the Orpheum Theatre and the hypnotic jangle-rock of the Feelies at the Sinclair: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DRMr3m6hxgA. Two other area fests are worth considering on Saturday. Up in the town of Newbury, Boston alt-rock trio Buffalo Tom caps the first afternoon of the American Music and Harvest Festival on Spencer Pierce Little Farm; here the band gives a new spin to a New Order classic: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aWIi650UMhE. And back in Somerville, the Union Square pub Bull McCabe’s showcases several bands including Christian McNeill & Sea Monsters and Dub Apocalypse (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uUNkISk7tfU) as part of its Roots to Reggae Outdoor Music Fest in its adjoining lot.
Sunday presents a tough choice between three great Oregon bands. Portugal. The Man plays House of Blues, having grown in popularity from roots in Sarah Palin’s Alaska hometown to showcases such as May’s Boston Calling with its edgy, psychedelic pop: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bqezQk_R0mI. The Portland-based Blitzen Trapper, which pulls into Royale, hasn’t fully cracked such a wide audience but has consistently pumped out albums of fetching, experimental country-rock over the past decade: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ahwZaxlKqyM. And the dark horse worth catching now is Typhoon -- and not simply because its new album White Lighter casts a few echoes of Mumford & Sons and Of Monsters and Men. The 11-piece indie-rock ensemble includes horns, strings and two drummers and brings its celestial communion to the Brighton Music Hall: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JVHhrP11WMI.
Why the final 10 days matter for Sox
Five things to watch for as Boston takes a victory lap
The Red Sox, on the verge of clinching the division title, are finishing out their regular-season home schedule this weekend, and this final homestand has taken on a valedictory-feel of senior week to it, but there’s plenty of things to still be watching for with the Red Sox during the final 10 days of the season.
1. The quest for 100
Jon Lester goes for his 100th career win tonight amid a stretch of pitching in which he’s been near-dominant since taking nine days off between starts in mid-July. However, that’s not the quest for 100 we’re talking about – that would be the quest for 100 wins. The Sox would need to go 7-1 in their final eight games, which seems like a lot to ask until you consider the competition (three vs. Toronto, two at Colorado, and three at Baltimore, which could be eliminated by then). While manager John Farrell will be trying to balance his team’s health, they will have four days off before the postseason begins on Oct. 4, so he’ll want to keep his players from getting too rusty.
2. If they win 100 games, can this be the “Best Sox Team Ever”?
The last Sox team to get to 100 wins was the 1946 Red Sox (104-50, +198 runs scored), which lost in Game 7 of the World Series. Other Sox teams in contention for a “best-ever” franchise title are the 1949 Sox (96-58, +229 runs scored), which missed out on being the A.L. representative in the World Series at a time when there was no postseason (a season that’s best described in David Halberstam’s Summer of ’49 book). The 1978 Red Sox went 99-64, with +139 runs scored, but … Bucky Dent. And the 2007 Red Sox went 96-66 with +210 runs scored, won the AL East and went 11-3 in the postseason en route to winning the World Series.
However, the 1912 Red Sox are pretty clearly the best team in franchise history. They went 105-47-2 (two ties!) and had a +255 runs scored mark, all while racking up a .691 winning percentage and later winning the World Series 4-3. With a staff led by Smoky Joe Wood and an outfield consisting of Tris Speaker, Harry Hooper and Duffy Lewis, they were the best – bar none. But could this team be the best since that 1946 team? They currently have a +181 runs scored and a 93-61 record. If they win the World Series, get to 100 wins and get to +200 runs scored, they could make a valid case for being the best Red Sox team in 67 years. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves just yet.
3. Who will be on the postseason roster?
Guaranteed spots for position players (13): Jarrod Saltalamacchia, David Ross, Mike Napoli, Dustin Pedroia, Stephen Drew, Will Middlebrooks, Xander Bogaerts, Jonny Gomes, Mike Carp, Daniel Nava, Jacoby Ellsbury, Shane Victorino, David Ortiz.
Guaranteed starters (4): Clay Buchholz, Jon Lester, John Lackey, Jake Peavy.
Guaranteed relievers (5): Koji Uehara, Craig Breslow, Junichi Tazawa, Brandon Workman, Franklin Morales.
You can quibble with Morales, Workman, Bogaerts or Ross, but let’s be realistic and call them locks based upon their recent usage by Farrell. That leaves one position player and one pitcher for sure, while keeping that 25th spot for one or the other. The position player is likely to be Quintin Berry, who can do one thing (steal bases) very well. Farrell has already shown a willingness to use him as a pinch-runner since he was acquired in late August The pitcher is likely to be Ryan Dempster, who has held down a spot in the rotation admirably and who pitched out of the bullpen for the Chicago Cubs from 2004 to 2007. And that leaves one final spot for a position player or an 11th pitcher. The chances of using an 11th pitcher in a five-game series that takes place over seven days are unlikely. If the Sox opted for a pitcher it might be Felix Doubront (who will be squeezed out of the rotation but has expressed a desire not to pitch out of the bullpen) or Matt Thornton, who has been unimpressive as a reliever. So, who will the Sox tap as an extra position player? The candidates look to be: Jackie Bradley Jr., Ryan Lavarnway or John McDonald. Neither of these guys will play much, if at all, but if Ellsbury and Victorino are still hurting, the player most likely to be used is Bradley. If the Sox need an emergency third catcher, they can always turn to Napoli, so that makes Lavarnway an unlikely inclusion. Although they might pinch-hit for Drew against tough lefties, they’ll likely do it with Bogaerts and would never need to use McDonald unless there was an injury. So, the final three spots will likely be Bradley (whose multi-hit game yesterday was encouraging after a horrendous month), Dempster and Berry.
4. What will be the postseason pitching order?
Farrell commented this week that Jon Lester, John Lackey and Clay Buchholz are all lined up so that any of them could pitch Game 1. Buchholz has the least postseason experience of the three, but he’s also put up the best regular season numbers despite missing months of time. Lester has been on the aforementioned roll and dominated in a 2008 run to the ALCS. Lackey has been consistent all season while leading the team’s starters with four times as many strikeouts as walks. Lackey also has a good postseason pitching resume from his time with the Angels. The best balance of the three is likely a rotation of Lester, Buchholz, Lackey – followed by Peavy in a possible Game 4 and Lester if Game 5 is needed. That would leave the team with Buchholz, Lackey, Lester, Peavy to start the ALCS, and set up Lester in a possible ALCS Game 7, or – if every series goes the maximum amount of games – in the World Series.
5. Which teams should the Red Sox want to face in the postseason?
It is nearly locked that Detroit and Oakland will win their divisions, and they are both battling Boston for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs as well as the right to face the wild-card game winner in the ALDS. The magic number to clinch home-field advantage is seven over the A’s and six over the Tigers. So any combination of losses by those teams and wins by the Sox will clinch it.
But who is best to play in the wild-card slot? Would it be a Rangers team that is struggling, and has seen ace Yu Darvish look a little more mortal. If Darvish pitched a wild-card game, he wouldn’t pitch until a possible Game 3 of the ALDS, which makes Texas even more beatable. Or would it be an Indians team that is surging despite the fact its No. 1 starter Justin Masterson has been sidelined and might be out for the year. The Indians have beaten bad teams in this recent run and their final nine games of the season are against the three worst teams in the American League. Or would it be the Rays, who are also struggling down the stretch and would have the same scenario with David Price that the Rangers have with Darvish. The Rays, however, have a deeper stable of pitchers to pluck from for starts in Games 1 and 2 of a possible series.
The Royals, Yankees and Orioles are all a little on the periphery of the wild-card race, and if you’re a Sox fan, it’s likely better to see them all miss out. The Sox haven’t played great against Baltimore or Kansas City, while the Yankees are the Yankees. Whenever the Sox can make the postseason while the Bronx Bombers miss out, it’s a win.
It’s best to root for the Indians to advance after beating out the Rangers in the wild-card game. Cleveland is not as good as they look and their pitching is the weakest of the bunch. Plus, who wouldn’t mind seeing Indians manager Terry Francona face the Sox?
As for the NL playoffs, root for the old and transplanted franchises to make it: L.A. Dodgers, Atlanta Braves, Pittsburgh Pirates, St. Louis Cardinals and Cincinnati Reds. Add in old franchises such as the Indians, A’s, Tigers and Sox and it’s enough to make a baseball historian stop longing for the good ol’ days when the top team from each league simply met in the World Series.
So, over the final eight games, keep an eye out for:
The best performer among Bradley Jr., Lavarnway and McDonald.
How well Buchholz, Lester and Lackey pitch.
The Sox winning seven more games. (It clinches home-field advantage and gets them to 100 wins.)
The Sox outscoring opponents by a total of 19 runs (gets them to + 200 runs on the season).
The Indians and Rangers winning the two wild-card spots.
The A’s and Tigers losing enough games to help the Sox clinch home field even if they don’t win 100 games.
Who said the final 10 days of the season won’t matter?
British humor, by way of 18th-century Italy
The Lyric Stage's One Man, Two Guvnors brings commedia dell'arte to 1963
One Man, Two Guvnors, the smash Brit hit that’s receiving its New England premiere at the Lyric Stage Company through October 12, is a slapstick farce punctuated by bawdy one-liners, audience participation, and skiffle interludes from a live band tucked above the stage. It’s set in 1963 Brighton, but the source material is even more of a throwback: The comedy is actually a takeoff on Venetian playwright Carlo Goldoni’s Servant of Two Masters, a 1743 work in the style of commedia dell’arte, a Renaissance genre heavy on improvisation and populated by masked stock characters like Arlecchino (a.k.a. Harlequin). Here’s a guide to some of the swinging-sixties characters—and their commedia counterparts.
Francis Henshall: Our “Man” of the title, the hapless Francis is based on Servant’s Truffaldino, Goldoni’s take on the traditional Arlecchino role, a comic servant characterized by gluttonous appetites. Employed by small-time thug Roscoe Crabbe (who’s actually Rachel Crabbe in disguise), Henshall also starts working on the sly for Rachel’s boyfriend, Stanley Stubbers, making increasingly zany attempts to keep each employer from meeting the other. But mostly, he’s motivated by hunger—for food, until he manages to steal a proper meal while serving lunch to both bosses at the same pub in one of the play’s wildest scenes, and then for love, thanks to the charms of Dolly.
Pauline Clench and Alan Dangle: Charlie’s ditzy daughter Pauline and her love interest, wannabe thespian Alan Dangle, are based on Goldoni’s Clarice and Silvio, examples of innamorati (“the lovers”), stock characters who pretty much exist to be in love. They’re guaranteed to be united by the end of the play, but first have to overcome obstacles—in this case, Pauline’s previous engagement to Roscoe, who’s owed money by her dad.
Charlie “The Duck” Clench and Harry Dangle: These two are examples of the vecchi (“old ones”), old men who stand in the way of the innamorati’s love. Based on Goldoni’s Pantalone, a rich and stingy old merchant type, Charlie is a retired gangster and the father of Pauline; he wants her to marry Roscoe so he can keep his money to himself. Harry, Charlie’s lawyer and Alan’s father, is based on Goldoni’s Dr. Lombardi, a take on the learned, pompous, and usually rotund Il Dottore type.
Rachel Crabbe and Stanley Stubbers: Based on Goldoni’s Beatrice and Florindo, these “Two Guvnors” of the title form the play’s other pair of innamorati, only slightly less silly than Pauline and Alan. Stanley killed Roscoe, which somehow hasn’t hindered his romance with Roscoe’s twin sister Rachel; she’s posing as her dead brother in hopes of getting Charlie’s cash and running off with Stanley to Australia.
Dolly: Charlie’s sassy bookkeeper and the object of Francis' affections, Dolly is based on Goldoni’s Smeraldina, herself a take on Colombina, traditionally a comic servant and Arlecchino’s mistress. Often, she’s the only character on stage with a fully functioning brain. Here, she gets some of the best lines, including a prediction that within two decades there'll be a woman in 10 Downing Street who'll act as "feminine voice of compassion for the poor" and put an end to foreign wars.
All production photos by Mark S. Howard
The weather forecast looks pretty perfect for the annual two-day Life is good Festival in Canton, on the spacious field at Prowse Farm at the foot of the Blue Hills. Saturday’s a more lively affair with hip-hop outfit the Roots (in the wake of their crafty new collaboration with Elvis Costello) preceding Hall & Oates on the main stage. Hall’s enjoying a resurgence with his TV show “Live From Daryl’s House,” where friends stop by to jam, which sounds a lot like what the Roots do on Jimmy Fallon’s late-night show. Maybe they’ll collaborate, though it’s not like Hall and his partner John Oates are lacking their own crack musicians (back in the ’80s, they packed the arenas with their previous group): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sis-HqB9APU.
Laidback guru Jack Johnson likewise provides a heavyweight headliner on Sunday. While the weekend’s lineup seems a bit thinner after that, Saturday keeps busy with punchy California folk-rockers Dawes, bluegrass-rockers Trampled by Turtles and local favorites Gentlemen Hall and Ryan Montbleau, while Sunday includes Amos Lee, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band and local soul singer Jesse Dee. It’s a great family-friendly fest with Yo Gabba Gabba! both days, plus a side stage. And headliners are done by 9:15, although a coffeehouse stage keeps going, with ex-Soul Coughing frontman Mike Doughty on Saturday and local roots roundtable Session Americana on Sunday. Net proceeds for the whole shebang benefit the Life is good Kids Foundation. Here’s the full rundown: http://content.lifeisgood.com/festival/.
Speaking of worthy causes, Crash Safely rounds out its multi-venue benefit for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society at Jamaica Plain’s Midway Café. Friday offers the return of Boston garage-punk ravers the Titanics plus Lenny Lashley’s Army of One and Corin Ashley, while a pair of Bowie-esque glam kings -- Sidewalk Driver (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VYsu96xytLM) and Gene Dante & the Future Starlets -- top Saturday’s bill.
Saturday’s bigger shows feature electro-pop duos past and future. Genre pioneers the Pet Shop Boys bring skewed, stylish synth-pop to House of Blues, and what’s interesting in this recent clip aren’t even the visual effects employed by Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe, but all the smart phones documenting the moment: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-6TWVVZt1Do. And fast-rising Brooklyn electro-pop duo MS MR, fronted by red-headed Liz Plapinger, impressed at May’s Boston Calling and returns to charm the Brighton Music Hall: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kMc95ivk7Mc.
Sunday comes alive with yearning Scottish alt-pop group Travis, celebrating its new album Where You Stand at a place that you do that, House of Blues (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s7wvkqUz2YM) and indie-rockers GROUPLOVE. That rambunctious group parties it up at the Sinclair before moving to Somerville on Monday for an acoustic gig at the Center for Arts at the Armory, a big catch for that wonderful grassroots venue: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c0tahJzm3JY.
An enduring bastion for live rock, T.T. the Bear’s Place continues its 40th anniversary celebration with hallowed local rockers coming out of the woodwork for energized bills that bridge past and present. The Central Square club has long hosted both Boston bands (the Zulus, O Positive) and international upstarts (my fondest early memories include seeing Jane’s Addiction and PJ Harvey there), with a recent shift toward the local, fueled by the annual Rock ‘n’ Roll Rumble. Anyway, this week culminates with a Friday bill that’s highlighted by the anthemic Sheila Divine (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e9BvJ0cB6Vk), the Gravel Pit, the Field Effect, and a resurrected Emergency Music. Saturday boasts a flashback with the Classic Ruins, O Positive, a reunited Three Colors (another wonderful ’80s pop outfit with Chris Harford, Hub Moore and Dana Colley), the Dogmatics, and Boston rock patriarch Willie Alexander. Here’s the full lineup, but that doesn’t include surprise guests popping in: http://ttthebears.com/public/calendar.php.
Plenty else going on this weekend as well. Bank of America Pavilion gets atmospheric with the obliquely textured delights of British art-pop minimalists Alt-J (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g8F3qd6W6Nk) and homegrown indie-rockers Lord Huron on Friday, while Great Scott will be pumping with intriguing Stockholm electro-pop collective Kate Boy: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=htOITH48WpI.
Saturday’s a bigger deal, starting with the free, all-ages late afternoon/early evening MixFest 2013 at the DCR Hatch Shell, showcasing Gavin DeGraw, grownup boy band the Backstreet Boys and Icelandic sensations Of Monsters and Men: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f7q0NlGDPBw. Roots-music fans should burrow into the songs of recent New England Conservatory graduate Sarah Jarosz, who plays Harvard Square’s Sinclair with her string trio (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2uhXBZG1AVo), or spunky South Carolina husband-wife duo Shovels & Rope, trading off on guitar and drums at Royale: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B78Zlr2vAlA. There’s also Canadian singer/songwriter Dallas Green’s dramatic outfit City and Colour at the Orpheum Theatre: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7fiy8wX5CH4. And art-punk fans may favor the return of Cleveland-hatched avatars Pere Ubu, fronted by the unpredictable David Thomas, at the Brighton Music Hall on Saturday. Here's an old favorite anew: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T3wxyzLeRe0.
Finally, Sunday rolls around with legendary Hub frontman Peter Wolf rounding up his Midnight Travelers (whose members have been filtering into the J. Geils Band) to deliver both solo and Geils Band classics at Webster’s lakeside Indian Ranch: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gVNmuKH2Mek. The concert is part of the motorcycle ride benefiting the Cystic Fibrosis & Multiple Sclerosis Foundation.
Mayoral candidates weigh in on Hub sports
A new Revs stadium, beer sales at Fenway, 2024 Olympic bid among hot topics
The Improper Bostonian’s sports blog, Off The Bench, asked the 12 mayoral candidates to answer questions on issues for sports fans. While The Improper Bostonian recognizes that education, the environment and development are far more important issues for the future of city, inquiring sports fans had a few questions for the candidates. Six of the candidates submitted responses. Here are their complete answers:
Would you support an effort to have Boston host the 2024 Olympics as has been considered?
John Barros: Yes, but I would not make such a decision lightly. It requires a process to determine the costs and benefits to the city and to actively manage the both. The effects of the Olympics on host cities vary widely. We want to ensure that such an event would contribute to our goals for progress in our city. Having said that, when it comes to sport we are passionate, knowledgeable, loyal and dedicated and would be incredible fans for the 2024 Games. Mix that with our amazing restaurants, tourist attractions, public transportation, diversity and lodging and you have an ideal host city.
City Councilor John R. Connolly: It would be wonderful to host the Olympics, and I support the idea. Boston is a world-class city and we ought to show it by bringing the world here as often as possible. There is no better stage than the Olympics, Paralympics, and the Gay Games. If we do submit an Olympic bid, I’ll work to make sure that infrastructure improvements go to help the entire city and can be used to improve the quality of life for all our residents for years to come.
City Councilor Rob Consalvo: While I always support the idea of Boston going for the gold, I would have to do a serious cost-benefit analysis, consider the impact on our downtown and our neighborhoods, and weigh that against my priorities for moving Boston forward.
City Councilor Mike Ross: Boston would be an excellent host city for the 2024 Olympics, and I support the effort to launch a bid. We already have an excellent range of sports facilities throughout the region, from professional venues to those of our colleges and universities. Boston’s rivers, harbor, and close proximity to mountains offer logical venues for some of the Olympics’ more unique events. Additionally, hosting the Olympics would be a significant opportunity to showcase Boston as a world-class city. An Olympic bid could also serve as an incentive to make major investments in our city’s infrastructure, such as expanding and improving public transportation and roadways, and spurring housing creation. While I would support a mix of public and private funds for those purposes, I would not support public investment in new sports venues. Olympic host cities have a history of committing public money to the wrong investments and not trusting that private funds will fill the void. If Boston were to submit a bid for the Olympics, I would commit to making it a smart and prudent investment for taxpayers.
Bill Walczak: I would like to see the Olympics in Boston. We should be able to put together a great package that uses our universities’ great facilities and housing, in addition to our sports arenas, to keep the cost lower than building everything new. Boston is a wonderful city, and it would be great to show it off to the world.
State Rep. Martin J. Walsh: I support taking a look at it. I am glad the Massachusetts Senate passed Sen. Donahue’s bill to do a feasibility study, and I will vote in favor of a study if it reaches the House floor. It’s an expensive proposition to just BID on the Olympics, nevermind host them. I’d like to hear what the experts have to say about the long-term economic impact. I do like the idea of the infrastructure that would be left behind, and would be excited to think about how to program these new places.
It's been rumored that the New England Revolution have considered a move from Foxborough to Boston.
(Photo courtesy of NE Revolution)
Would you support a new stadium for the Boston Celtics (basketball only) or New England Revolution in the city?
John Barros: Soccer is the most popular sport in the world and Boston is home to a lot of soccer fans. I think it would be incredible if our residents had the opportunity to watch the Revolution here in the city and spend their money locally. I understand the need for an additional venue with large capacity and high-quality acoustics, but it would be hard not to see the Celtics and Bruins banners hanging together at a game.
City Councilor John R. Connolly: I am open to new stadiums if they are developed with private funds and with meaningful community input to mitigate issues like traffic, noise and other impacts. As Mayor, I want us to accomplish great things to make our city even more vibrant and fun, but I’m not willing to saddle Boston taxpayers with the costs of new stadiums.
City Councilor Rob Consalvo: I would welcome a soccer stadium in Boston to house the New England Revolution and I would listen to concepts for a basketball-only facility for the Boston Celtics. In terms of the Revolution soccer stadium, as mayor I would reach out to the Kraft family and encourage them to identify sites and then my administration would work with the surrounding neighborhood to make this happen. I would also require them to make a long-term commitment to partner with the BPS in an effort to fund or offset costs associated with the athletics programs in the BPS. I would put a codicil in place to ensure that jobs created at a soccer-only facility are offered to qualified City of Boston residents. With regard to a basketball-only facility for the Boston Celtics, I appreciate the economics associated with any interest the ownership team would have in creating a home of their own, however as mayor I would have to weigh the economic impact that relocating the team to another part of the city would have on the North Station, Haymarket, North End and Faneuil Hall. As mayor I will work to strengthen all of Boston’s neighborhoods.
City Councilor Mike Ross: The TD Garden has been serving Celtics and Bruins fans very well in the past several years during the teams’ recent string of successful seasons and I see no need to build a new arena for either team. Additionally, new development in the West End and Bullfinch Triangle neighborhoods surrounding the Garden are turning the area into a destination for new housing, offices and diverse retail options. A newly approved project will also build housing, retail space, and a much-needed supermarket on the parking lot that now sits between Causeway Street and the stadium. On the other hand, I do support the idea of developing a midsize stadium for the New England Revolution in the City of Boston. I have long believed that instead of a casino at the Suffolk Downs site, a new soccer stadium and family entertainment complex would be a great addition to the city.
Bill Walczak: No. I think we have adequate facilities for our sports teams. I prefer that the large parcels of land that stadiums and arenas require be used for housing and commercial development that create jobs that offer careers and pay living wages.
State Rep. Martin J. Walsh: I personally am a big fan of the Boston Garden and would like to keep the Celtics there with all of the history having been made in that building. I would support a new stadium in the city for the Revolution. They are a great team and should be a bigger name in the Boston sports scene.
Mayor Menino has pledged to start the Plaza of Champions at City Hall Plaza, with a forthcoming Bill Russell statue that will eventually be joined by statues of the city’s other sports stars. Would you consider honoring this plan?
John Barros: Absolutely. Mr. Russell is arguably the greatest player to ever play the game. He won 11 world championships. He was a 12-time All-Star and 5-time Most Valuable Player. He is more than a basketball legend and Hall-of-Famer. He broke the color barrier as a player and when he became the first black head coach of a professional sports team. He is a human and civil-rights advocate and has mentored and inspired countless young people. In addition to this statue, I would promote a contest among young artists to create pieces to honor him throughout the city.
City Councilor John R. Connolly: In 2011, I joined with Councilor Ayanna Pressley to file the resolution in support of the statue of Bill Russell, a true Boston sports legend and a Presidential Medal of Freedom winner. City Hall Plaza is an eyesore desperately in need of a redesign, and statues of great Bostonians, including athletes, could be one part of a larger plan to help improve this civic space.
City Councilor Rob Consalvo: As mayor I would honor the plan for a plaza of champions and commission a Bill Russell statue but my priority would be to commission and site a statue of Martin Luther King Jr.
City Councilor Mike Ross: It has been exciting to witness the progress of construction of the Plaza of Champions over the past few weeks. I think it is a great use of that corner of City Hall Plaza, and as mayor, I would look forward to building it into a cherished Boston sports tradition. I would start by honoring Patriots legend Gino Cappelletti. Gino has made an indelible mark on the Patriots franchise and fans all over. However, I think capturing him as he kicked a field goal would likely make a more engaging statue than him broadcasting a Pats’ game for the radio.
Bill Walczak: I am very happy that we are finally recognizing Bill Russell, one of the greatest sports figures in sports history. I support the idea of a Plaza of Champions, as it will go well with my plan to build a City of Boston Museum in City Hall on the mezzanine and at the northwest entrance to City Hall. In a city so rich in sports history, and one in which so many of the greats have done just as much for the city as they have for their teams, their legacy deserves honoring.
State Rep. Martin J. Walsh: Yes, I think this is a great idea, Boston has such a rich history of accomplishment in sports and the best fans in the world. We should immortalize those athletes who brought so much pride to our city throughout the years.
Aisle vendors are restricted from making beer sales at Fenway Park. (Photo courtesy of Michael Ivins / Boston Red Sox)
At sporting events in the city, would you be in favor of allowing beer to be served by aisle vendors, or would you keep the current regulation of only buying beer at concession stands (unless you’re in "luxury" seats)? What do you think of the current policy of only allowing higher-paying patrons to have alcohol served to them?
John Barros: I think that if they are going to serve alcohol to people in higher-paying seats then everyone, regardless of seat, should be able to access that service. However, I also think the best way to watch a sox game is with a Fenway Frank (mustard and ketchup), peanuts and water.
City Councilor John R. Connolly: Sporting events are chances for people to come together and join fellow fans to show their pride in Boston’s teams, so I think it makes for a better fan experience when people aren’t subject to different rules based on what they paid for their tickets. I would be open to it, but would need to know the enforcement plan for minors and overconsumption.
City Councilor Rob Consalvo: If elected mayor, I would keep an open mind and listen to all ideas to accommodate concessions and alcohol service at entertainment venues provided there is a clear and responsible plan to do so. In exchange for the right to do so I would ask the owners and operators of these of facilities to partner with the Hero Campaign at their venue and offer free soda or water to a designated driver. The Hero Campaign is the sister program to John’s Law, the first of its kind in the nation, anti-drunk driving law that I had passed as law in Boston while serving on the Boston City Council.
City Councilor Mike Ross: We need to stop being afraid of alcohol sales in this city, especially when the rules are not applied evenly for everyone at a sporting event. I would be in favor of serving beer in the aisle as long as we are smart about training vendors not to overserve customers or serve to minors. There is no reason why convenient, legal access to a beer at the game should be determined by how much you could afford to spend on your ticket.
Bill Walczak: I think everyone should buy beer at concession stands.
State Rep. Martin J. Walsh: Yes, I would be in favor of allowing beer to be sold in the aisles.
Where do you stand on the Fenway-area street deal the Red Sox owners have to shut down parts of Van Ness and Yawkey Way? Should the current deal be continued?
John Barros: The street closings contribute to a festive and safe pedestrian space for baseball fans. However, the current financial arrangement needs to change. When the agreement between the Red Sox and the Boston Redevelopment Authority expires at the end of this season, it should be renegotiated to ensure that public streets are used to benefit the public. In the 10 years of the current agreement, the Red Sox paid an average of just $186,000 per year for use of the streets, even as Yawkey Way and Lansdowne Street generated an estimated $5 million in annual revenues.
City Councilor John R. Connolly: The closing of Yawkey Way on gamedays has been beneficial for fans and for the neighborhood, but we have to make sure that a new agreement to keep Yawkey Way closed on game days provides a good deal for the city of Boston and is handled in an open and transparent manner. The BRA needs to let some sunlight in on the negotiations and ensure that the community has a real chance to comment.
City Councilor Rob Consalvo: I support the present agreement with the Red Sox owners to shut down parts of Yawkey Way and Van Ness Street. I believe that area safety on gameday has benefitted from this agreement. However, upon completion of the present agreement, as mayor I would entertain new ideas to ensure that the taxpayers of the City of Boston are getting the best possible deal including exploring an open-bid process for the rights to do so.
City Councilor Mike Ross: As the city councilor that represents the Fenway neighborhood, I have been actively involved in the conversations around the lease terms between the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) and the Boston Red Sox for the exclusive use of Yawkey Way and Lansdowne Street on gamedays. I have repeatedly called for the BRA and the Red Sox to make the lease negotiations transparent to ensure that residents of the city and Fenway neighbors are receiving the most equitable deal given the value and impact of the use of the streets. Whether it is our parks or our streets, anytime the City of Boston or the BRA grants exclusive use of public space to a private business or institution it is critical that a fair price for use of the space is negotiated through an open and transparent process. In circumstances when public right of ways are being closed to the general public or changes to the physical landscape are proposed, the surrounding community must be engaged and included so that appropriate benefits and mitigation are included in final terms of the lease. Since the original 2003 lease deal for the use of the streets, the Red Sox have dramatically increased revenue from use of the streets. Any renewed lease terms should reflect the fair market value of the use of the streets by the Red Sox to create the most fair and even deal for the team and the City. The Red Sox are a cherished institution in Boston and the team has been an outstanding partner in the Fenway community and the city at large. However, it is critical that the negotiations for their use of public space be conducted in an open and public process.
Bill Walczak: While I appreciate the incredible tourism and economic boost that comes from 81 home games every season, I don’t believe Yawkey Way should continue to be a sweetheart deal. The Red Sox, as we know, are a big-market team with near-perfect attendance and tremendous merchandise sales in an economically thriving MLB. They can afford to pay the full price.
State Rep. Martin J. Walsh: Fenway Park is a national treasure and the Red Sox are a beloved institution. In the 12 years that the current ownership has been at the helm they have demonstrated strong leadership, innovation and a willingness to work with our community. When the street-lease deal was struck between the city and the Red Sox in 2003, it made complete sense. It was an experiment, and the city was and should have been more than happy to take on some of the risk, while figuring out if the idea would work. It has worked—better than anyone could have imagined! Now it’s time for the City to receive a more equitable share of the revenue. While I appreciate that the Red Sox organization does pay taxes on their existing property and sales, the lease agreement is separate from that and should be addressed separately. This is simply a matter of having the organization pay its fair share. We can’t and won't give away the store. The middle-class taxpayers of the city have to be protected.
What’s your favorite Boston sports moment?
John Barros: My favorite Boston sports moment was Adam Vinatieri’s 45-yard field goal in the 2001 playoffs versus the Oakland Raiders. The distance, the cold/windy/snowy conditions, mixed with the pressure makes it my favorite. And we all remember what happened next: That kick sent the game to overtime, with the Patriots eventually winning the game and their first of three Super Bowls between 2001 and 2004.
City Councilor John R. Connolly: I used to be a Patriots season ticket holder. I was at Super Bowl XXXVI sitting in the end zone where Adam Vinatieri’s field goal won the game.
City Councilor Rob Consalvo: 1984 NBA Finals. Celtics win game 7 over LA Lakers. Series MVP Larry Bird. I was 15 years old and this series and this NBA championship solidified my love of Celtics basketball and 3-point shooting!!
City Councilor Mike Ross: Like many people, my favorite Boston sports moment is also one of my earliest: the first time my father took me to Fenway Park for a Red Sox game. I was 7 years old and still remember the thrill of walking out of the entrance tunnel and seeing the field below us and the Green Monster looming over left field. Fenway Park is a real Boston treasure and surely countless Bostonians share a similar cherished memory of their first ball game. It’s one of the reasons I have been so proud to represent the Fenway neighborhood in my 14 years on the City Council. It’s also why, as a freshman councilor, I fought to save Fenway Park from being bulldozed and moved. I’m glad we saved Fenway so that kids can experience their first Sox game and visit to the park for generations to come.
Bill Walczak: My favorite sports moment happened July 24, 2004. As I remember, the Red Sox and Yankees were here in Boston for a late-season game in the heat of a pennant race. It was questionable whether or not the game was going to be played because of weather conditions, but the Red Sox and Yankees both pushed for a late start, understanding the importance of the game. After hours of delay, the game started and early-on Bronson Arroyo pegged Alex Rodriguez with a pitch that sparked the famous glove-to- the-face from Jason Varitek. This was at a time when the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry was white hot, and the brawl sparked the Red Sox. What is often forgotten is the fact that the nearly automatic Mariano Rivera came in to close the game out, and Bill Mueller smacked a walkoff home run over the bullpen to win the game for the Sox. That was a momentum changer in a year that we took home the first World Series championship in 86 years. That moment and that year were incredibly momentous and emotional for this city, which had been through Slaughter and Buckner and Dent and Boone, and were finally able to shed ourselves of the curse after a long, long wait.
State Rep. Martin J. Walsh: That’s easy—after my first season as a Little League coach, watching my team of 7- and 8-year olds jump in to Dorchester Bay after winning their first championship.
Chowda calling! That was the old City Hall Plaza, better suited for food or beer fests than rock shows. Particularly since most concerts were wedged into that space with the brick stage on the Haymarket side of City Hall. That’s where May’s inaugural Boston Calling put its second stage. But for its encore round over the weekend, that alt-rock festival smartly switched to what amounted to alternating main stages on either end of the plaza. At the same time, Boston Calling bumped its lineup to 20 acts that stylistically branched into hip-hop, R&B and electronic/DJ sounds as well as more collegiate pop and punk.
So where were the crowds? With the kids back in town and better weather, Boston Calling hovered at about three-quarters capacity of 15,000 after selling out its chilly spring debut. Granted, even if there weren’t clams on the menu, the September lineup was a bit less exciting when it came to heavyweight draws. But really? Nightly headliners Vampire Weekend and Passion Pit dealt their modest charms, with the coy Vampire crew eliciting ridiculously loud cheers for its light, indie-Graceland songcraft and the Hub-born Passion Pit gang bolstering its buoyant synth-pop with guitar and bass changeups. And highly touted rap upstart Kendrick Lamar delivered the goods with a crisp live band and a crowd-pumping flow on tracks like “Swimming Pool (Drank).”
On the other hand, roots-rockers Okkervil River and Deer Tick didn’t entirely click in introducing new material -- Deer Tick even served its yet-to-be-released Negativity in full, with a cameo by singer John McCauley’s girlfriend Vanessa Carlton. Bat for Lashes proved Natasha Khan soared with an enchanting voice but a lack of memorable music (despite a tribal element also evident with the rousing Local Natives). By comparison, the Airborne Toxic Event particularly jolted with its road-honed, anthemic songs, as violist Anna Bulbrook even crowd-surfed and singer Mikel Jollett dedicated a bracing cover of “I Fought the Law” to Boston’s finest.
In turn, police and security seemed vigilant but relaxed as Boston Calling solidified its standing, with Mayor Thomas Menino dropping by for another onstage blessing. The festival plans to return next year. Here’s hoping for an even stronger lineup, with the same perfect weather!
How Amendola eclipsed Welker
Three observations from Patriots' Week 1 win
Three observations from New England’s 23-21 win over the Buffalo Bills yesterday. All three observations are on offense, which obscures a solid defensive game for the Pats, who made a mediocre offense look mediocre.
1. First-down, Danny Amendola – All the talk after the game was how Amendola did his best Wes Welker impression, but—statistically speaking—Welker never did that. Amendola caught 7 third-down passes that resulted in a first down. Welker’s game-high with New England? Five third-down passes that resulted in a first down. Both of Welker’s games came in 2007 (against the Cowboys and Eagles), and that type of performance from Welker had been showing up less and less in recent years. Part of the reason for Amendola’s impressive number of first-down conversions on third down was he had plenty of opportunities with such a weak receiving corps on the field yesterday, and the Pats needed to use all three downs most of the time in order to gain a first down. But the final result was something Welker never did, and seemed more similar to Troy Brown’s role with this team in past years.
2. Zach who? – In Week 1, 16 tight ends gained more than 40 yards in a game, and three of them had more than 100 yards receiving. The Patriots? Michael Hoomanawanui caught one pass for 5 yards. Hyped undrafted rookie free agent Zach Sudfeld had zero catches. For a team that ushered in the era of two tight-end receiving threats, it was remarkable how little the position was relied on in the passing game yesterday. When All-Pro Rob Gronkowski returns later this season, the Patriots are likely to lean more on the tight-end spot, but the dual-threat at tight end looks to be a thing of the past for the Patriots this season.
3. Tread slowly – The Patriots were expected to run the football more this year with Stevan Ridley as the team’s primary runner, but Ridley put the ball on the ground twice yesterday (he was ruled down on the first fumble) and occupied the sidelines for the rest of the game after the second occurrence. Ridley has been prone to fumbling in his career and told The Improper before the season that improved ball security was one of his goals for 2013 (as well as being the first Bill Belichick-coached running back to have back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons). The reality was far different for Ridley yesterday, and with Brandon Bolden hurt, as well as LeGarrette Blount looking like a bruiser who’s better used in short-yardage situations, it was Shane Vereen who was thrust into being a three-down back. There’s no evidence to suggest he couldn’t handle the role fulltime as he averaged 7.2 yards per carry (14 carries, 101 yards) and caught 7 passes for 58 yards. Despite the fact he was labeled a third-down threat this season, Vereen had only previously caught a total of 8 regular-season passes in his career. Yesterday’s game helped him solidify his role as Danny Woodhead’s replacement on third downs this season and just might have given him a leg up over Ridley going forward.
A closer look at four smaller companies coming to the Greater Boston Theatre Expo
Heads up, theater buffs: this Tuesday, September 10, will see the first-ever Greater Boston Theatre Expo, a free dramaturgical buffet bringing 50-plus companies to the BCA’s Cyclorama for meet-and-greets, sneak peeks at the upcoming season, and special giveaways. Running from 5:30 to 7:30 pm, the evening will include lots of theater-scene stalwarts, like the Actors’ Shakespeare Project, the American Repertory Theater, ArtsEmerson, Company One, the Huntington Theatre Company, the Lyric Stage Company, and SpeakEasy Stage Company, to name a few of the large and medium-sized companies participating. But the Expo also features a number of small and fringe companies you may not have heard of. We shined a spotlight on four to find out more.
Year founded: 1995
What’s in a name: Poet Guillaume Apollinaire was one of the leaders of an explosion of artistic activity in the early 20th century that resulted in the modern art movement in painting, dance, music, sculpture, and theater. Apollinaire coined the term Surrealism, which he applied to his only play, Les Mamelles de Tiresias. The revolutionary artistic energy of Apollinaire and his contemporaries—Cocteau, Jarry, Picasso, and Chagall, to name a few—and their risky, wildly creative, and collaborative theater works serve as both inspiration and challenge.
Favorite past production: Rhinoceros by Eugene Ionesco. We did it in the park with an army of actors in trench coats and rhino heads. Being outside and able to create new environments for each scene and surround the audience with the action made it a really visceral experience.
Can’t-miss upcoming production: This spring we’re producing Stupid Fucking Bird, Aaron Posner’s “sort of adaptation” of Chekhov’s The Seagull. We produced The Seagull outdoors in 2005, and more recently our indoor moving production of Uncle Vanya, which was so popular we brought it back for a second run—so there’s been a lot of requests for more Chekhov. Stupid Fucking Bird may or may not be what the Chekhov fans are asking for, but it manages to stick pretty close to the original while being extremely funny, irreverent, and contemporary.
Most memorable behind-the-scenes moment: We recently did a reading of the opening play of our season, From White Plains. The play follows four men—two are lovers, two best friends—and the fallout in their relationships when one outs another as the man who bullied him and his now deceased best friend in high school. It was a simple reading in a living room, and the actors were seeing the words for the first time, and the emotion and connection were just overwhelming.
Why you should check out Apollinaire at the Expo, in 10 words or less: Amazing season of local and US premieres! & Free beer*
*(Free beer will be delivered at the theater, not the Expo, alas.)
Year founded: 2006
What’s in a name: We like to inspire audiences to question their preconceived notions about the world around them, to enable them to see things from a unique perspective. We're interested in moments of discovery when what was once "common knowledge" becomes or is discovered to have always been untrue—such as the shift in perception from a "flat earth" to a "round earth" world view.
Favorite past production: Our 2012 production of Michael Frayn's Copenhagen stands out as particularly exemplary of the kind of work we do. We used the audience seating in the Factory Theatre to build a model of the atom, through which Bohr and Heisenberg wove their conversation about the atomic bomb like protons and electrons circling the nucleus.
Can’t-miss upcoming production: In March 2014, our "Literature in Dystopia" season starts off with the New England premiere of Ann Marie Healy's What Once We Felt. Macy O. Blonsky is trying to get The Last Novel published in a eugenics-based caste society where DigiDirect Downloads provide instant entertainment and babies are downloaded too (but you might get an Error).
Most memorable behind-the-scenes moment: We took the cast and crew of Blood Relations to Fall River, to visit the Lizzie Borden house and get a feel for the setting of the real-life events on which the play was based. The actresses playing Lizzie and Emma Borden were excited to pose for pictures with their own gravestones—until we reminded them that they were standing over their actual decaying bones. The resulting photo was priceless.
Why you should check out Flat Earth at the Expo, in 10 words or less: Plays you've never heard of but you can't live without!
Year founded: 2012 in Boston; 2001 in New York (After 9/11 and a move to Massachusetts, the company was dormant for 10 years. Now we're back, in Boston, and stronger than ever.)
What’s in a name: The late David Hopkins, original co-founder of Sleeping Weazel with Charlotte Meehan, thought of the name to allude to his idea that "systems are leaky" and that the "weasel" can always find a way through any wall of resistance. It also refers to the notion of "dreaming awake," that liminal space wherein new artistic forms can emerge.
Favorite past production: We're especially proud of Kenneth Prestininzi's lecture play Birth Breath Bride Elizabeth, starring Stephanie Burlington Daniels, that we premiered in September 2012 and then went on to ArtsEmerson's The Next Thing Festival in February to critical acclaim.
Can’t-miss upcoming production: The Madness of Small Worlds, to be performed at ArtsEmerson's Paramount Center on October 25 and 26, will include two madly funny monologues (Horrocks and Wu World Woo) by legendary playwright Mac Wellman and Wrench, a short post-apocalyptic tragi-comedy by Whiting Award-winning playwright Elana Greenfield.
Most memorable behind-the-scenes moment: When Austrian artist Erwin Wurm agreed to have us exhibit his astonishing video Am I a House? in our cyber art gallery before we even opened our first season of theater in Boston, we literally screamed with joy for quite a long time.
Why you should check out Sleeping Weazel at the Expo, in 10 words or less: We make surprising art theater for enthusiasts, lovers, and dreamers.
Year founded: 2005
What’s in a name: Our name was loosely inspired by the idiom "Shouting fire in a crowded theater."
Favorite past production: 2010's Blackadder II: Live, our stage adaptation of Season 2 of the classic British sitcom.
Can’t-miss upcoming production: Exit, Pursued by a Bear, by Lauren Gunderson, opening next month!
Most memorable behind-the-scenes moment: Artistic director Darren Evans played Rock Band for 24 straight hours in a marathon fundraiser.
Why you should check out Theatre on Fire at the Expo, in 10 words or less: We don't do cute and we don't do boring.
The actual worst stat in baseball
MLB has a no good, horrible, very bad category
Baseball fans live and die with stats, more than any other sports’ fans. There’s been a lot of talk about eliminating the “win” category from pitchers’ stat lines because it’s so dependent on a team’s performance. For what seems like at least a decade, great baseball minds have argued for getting rid of the “save” statistic, which not only is flimsy, but—as Jonah Keri points out—actually influences on-field events and strategy. We’re up 3 runs in the 9th inning? Better bring in a specific guy to deal with that.
But it’s neither of those statistics that is the worst in baseball. That goes to the younger sibling of the save statistic: The blown save. How ludicrous is this stat? Let’s say a reliever enters in the 7th inning with no outs, a 1-run lead and the bases loaded. The reliever gets three outs, but lets one runner score, while at least keeping it a tie game. That reliever is credited with a blown save. When was the last time you saw a guy get credited with a three-inning save in a 1-run game? Probably around the same time players wore shorts. Even if he didn’t get allow anyone to score, the reliever in that case would never actually be in line for a save since he’d never pitch the next two innings and finish the game. Despite the fact a “save” was never really in play for him, he is credited with a blown save.
In Thursday’s game against the Yankees, Boston’s Junichi Tazawa came into the 7th inning with the bases loaded, 1 out and the Sox leading 7-4. Tazawa—not pitching that great—gave up two ground ball singles, a double and struck out two batters. He left with the Yankees up 8-7 and a blown save on his blotter. It was the first extra-base hit he had given up with runners on base all season, so was it his first blown save of a season that has seen him post a 67 strikeouts to just 10 walks and a WHIP of 1.18? Nope. It was his eighth blown save of the season.
And it’s not just Tazawa who is portrayed in poor light thanks to the blown save. Remember the good Daniel Bard? The guy who is held in such high regard for having pitched lights out in 2010 and most of 2011? In 2010, he had 76 strikeouts in 74.2 innings, along with a WHIP of 1.00 and a 1.93 ERA. He had 7 blown saves that season. He had 5 blown saves in 2011.
This stat is akin to charging a bystander with a crime (and they only do that on TV shows). I’d propose a revision—such as you can’t have a blown save in any inning before the 9th—but the whole stat seems so absurd that it’s best to just stop keeping track of it. Sure, eliminating wins or saves would be more drastic and is also warranted, but let's not overlook the low-hanging fruit. Worst things first: Let's kill the blown save.
The first full weekend of September comes alive with the reprise of the Boston Calling Music Festival at City Hall Plaza, as well as other colorful shows. That includes the Allman Brothers Band at Mansfield’s Comcast Center on Friday. The Southern rock veterans remain energized by the taut, serpentine guitar leads of Derek Trucks and Warren Haynes as well as the newly restored vocal ballast of patriarch Gregg Allman: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w1kThDf4xeA. Steve Winwood opened recent shows and sat in with the Allmans, and there’s a real good chance that singer Grace Potter will step out for her own Comcast cameo after an opening round with her band the Nocturnals.
Saturday’s an interesting bag of concerts. There’s another wild double bill of mixed generations at the Wilbur Theatre with the Rides --- a new blues-rock supergroup with Stephen Stills of CSNY and Buffalo Springfield fame, Electric Flag keyboardist Barry Goldberg and younger guitar hotshot Kenny Wayne Shepherd (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BxeCDSArcT0) -- and the opening Beth Hart Band. Hart’s finally back on track after the wrong medication fueled a career nosedive (http://www.improper.com/going-out/beyond-the-blind/), but her raspy hurricane of a voice can remind of Janis Joplin or Steve Marriott. Speaking of a powerhouse entertainer on his own comeback trail (he recently sat in with ’80s buddies Los Lobos at the Outside the Box festival on Boston Common), homegrown garage R&B singer Barrence Whitfield & the Savages celebrate the release of their new album Dig Thy Savage Soul at the Middle East Downstairs: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0FZl8WFtVEE. And if you’re more tickled by elaborate costumes and staging as well as electronic pop-rock, take in the Australian (with a fetish for Aztec attire) act Empire of the Sun at House of Blues on Saturday as well: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dnSKOk3dULI.
But the big action’s on City Hall Plaza this weekend with Boston Calling, as the two-day festival vies for more of the college audience with its second edition. Saturday favors pop/rock with Vampire Weekend, Local Natives (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Hg9vujUhag), the Gaslight Anthem, the Airborne Toxic Event, Bat for Lashes, Deer Tick and Okkervil River (here’s a jump to my recent interview with Okkervil frontman Will Sheff: http://www.improper.com/going-out/village-preservation/). Sunday delves more into hip-hop, soul and electronic music with Passion Pit, Kendrick Lamar, Major Lazer, Solange and Flume. Boston bands also get in on the action with Viva Viva and You Won’t on Saturday and Bearstronaut on Sunday. Here’s the full lineup and set times from the festival website: http://www.bostoncalling.com/wp-content/uploads/BC2_lineup.jpg.
Labor Day weekend already! Some people may remember Texas-bred troubadour Steve Earle for his left-wing political edge or past substance abuse, but that stuff truly looms in the rear-view mirror on The Low Highway. The veteran singer-songwriter's diverse latest album keenly balances the biting rock of his early career with frisky country and winsome Americana, all informed by Earle’s storytelling insight. He’s back on tour with his trusty band the Dukes (currently minus his singer wife Allison Moorer, who's apparently minding their young son off the road), making two area stops this holiday weekend. On Friday, Earle and company play Prescott Park in Portsmouth, N.H., then they roll into the Rhythm & Roots Festival at Ninigret Park in Charlestown, R.I., on Saturday: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OA8Doog8Ozw.
Running Friday through Sunday, Rhythm & Roots remains a bustling multi-stage, family-friendly festival that nods to its Cajun/zydeco roots, featuring such acts as Steve Riley & the Mamou Playboys (celebrating its 25th anniversary with guests) and Geno Delofose & French Rockin’ Boogie, who both take turns on the dance stage. But this year’s edition also includes Amy Helm, Corey Ledet, Marcia Ball, Della Mae, Carolina Chocolate Drops, the Taj Mahal Trio and a 50th anniversary celebration for and by the Jim Kweskin Jug Band. Plus daily Mardi Gras parades for the kids. Here’s the schedule: http://www.rhythmandroots.com/ws/pages/schedule.php.
Boston’s harborside also hops on Saturday with the electronica-tinged jams of STS9 and Umphrey’s McGee, which weaves prog-rock and metal into slippery, spontaneous arrangements: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HLQj29tDpXc. And Lowell’s Boarding House Park offers the enchanting Irish sounds of Solas on Saturday: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YlbMwM3j5T0.
Why Ben Cherington has work to do
Sox GM needs to make 1 more trade
Today’s Red Sox trade of Clayton Mortensen marked a first for the team this season: They no longer employ every 2013 reliever who’s pitched for them. This is in stark contrast to past years, when pitchers such as Chad Fox, JC Romero or Cla Meredith were tossed aside midseason after failing to perform for the Sox. They all went on to find success later in the season, with that success sometimes carrying over to the postseason.
This year, general manager Ben Cherington has been tight with his relievers, never giving up on one completely until the recent Mortensen trade, which yielded Quintin Berry in return. Berry was brought to Boston for his legs (28 for 32 on steals in AAA this year), and you don’t need to be a Boston sports savant to know how important a pinch-runner can be in postseason baseball. Look no further than Dave Roberts, a July 31 acquisition in 2004, who swung the ALCS with his stolen base in Game 4. The Sox have picked up speedy guys for the stretch run in the years since, sometimes picking up the same one twice (Joey Gathright).
But a look at the 20 pitchers who have pitched in relief for Boston shows that Cherington might not want to call his roster complete after the Berry trade. Here’s a breakdown in categories of the relievers.
Completely trust: Koji Uehara. Enough said.
Trust: Craig Breslow, Junichi Tazawa. Two guys going in different directions as Breslow has improved as the year has progressed and Tazawa has struggled of late. The guess here is Tazawa won’t go into a Daniel Bard circa Sept. 2011 swoon.
Could go either way: Matt Thornton, Brandon Workman, Franklin Morales. Two guys who were on the DL recently but have a respectable past in Thornton and Morales, while Workman has given up runs in three of his five relief outings after pitching great in the rotation.
Work to do, but don’t count them out: Alex Wilson, Drake Britton, Rubby De La Rosa. These guys have experienced varying levels of success this year or in the past as relievers. They’re all young, but are either struggling (Britton, De La Rosa) or hurt (Wilson) now. They all have the proper “stuff” that could allow them to succeed this season.
Not going to pitch in a high-leverage spot: Pedro Beato, Jose De La Torre, Brayan Villarreal, Steven Wright. Tried and failed despite a few bright spots form Beato and Wright this season. Some of these guys might still get called up in Sept.
Hurt (mentally or physically): Alfredo Aceves, Andrew Bailey, Daniel Bard, Joel Hanrahan, Andrew Miller.
Gone: Clayton Mortensen. That Marco Scutaro trade turned out to be a bust, eh?
In Rotation: Felix Doubront. And he’s doing just fine.
Barring injuries, the Sox have three guys who they can trust this postseason. Beyond that, they might find a couple of guys in the next few tiers of players, but Cherington should be on the phone and scouring the waiver wire before the Aug. 31 deadline. He’s just given up on his first reliever in 2013, and it’s time to bring in some new blood.
Keystrokes of Genius
Typewriters take over Gallery 360
To collector Steve Soboroff, his prized vintage typewriters—once owned by the likes of Ernest Hemingway and John Updike—hold a talismanic power. “The idea that geniuses sat there and accomplished what they accomplished on these typewriters… it gives me the chills,” Soboroff says. But to Northeastern University art director Bruce Ployer, curator of the newly opened exhibit Celebrity Type, they’re first and foremost beautifully designed objects—hence why the wall text lists each machine’s model and year first, in a larger font than that accorded to the famous name of its former owner. “For me,” Ployer says, “the typewriter is the star.”
On view now at Northeastern’s Gallery 360, Celebrity Type features 14 machines representing a wide swath of styles, eras, and personalities, some accompanied by relevant ephemera, like copies of typed manuscripts with the author’s handwritten cross-outs and corrections. There’s the 1929 Underwood Standard Portable owned by Hemingway, who wrote his dialogue on a typewriter to better capture the rapid-fire rhythms of speech. Ray Bradbury's 1947 Royal KMM churned out many of the sci-fi scribe’s works, though not his most famous one. (Fahrenheit 451 was written in a nine-day marathon on UCLA library typewriters rented for 10 cents per half-hour, to the tune of $9.80.)
Some typewriters date to early in their owners’ careers: A teenage John Lennon used his Imperial “The Good Companion” Model T to type lyrics for Beatles precursor the Quarrymen, and Tennessee Williams’ 1936 Corona Junior, purchased while he was a student at Washington University in St. Louis, tapped out Battle of Angels, his first play to be professionally produced. But George Bernard Shaw’s 1934 Remington Noiseless 7x was purchased late in life, when he’d written all but five of his dozens of plays.
The most appealingly alien entry is Andrea Bocelli’s Standard Perkins Brailer, a sinuous silver design with nine keys, used by the blind tenor in his studies and to type opera verses. Joe DiMaggio’s 1934 Smith Corona Sterling, a gleaming burgundy number used in the home he shared with Marilyn Monroe, is perhaps the most pristine of the bunch. Orson Welles’ 1926 Underwood 4-Bank shows more wear, but despite some flaking paint it’s a handsome mahogany-hued specimen, complete with its original portable box (portability being a relative concept, of course).
A couple of the typewriters belonged to more notorious names. Jack Kevorkian’s 1950s Signature 300 turns up in an appropriate hospital-scrub green. (Dr. Death was also the author of eight books.) Then there’s Ted Kaczynski’s Montgomery Ward Signature, seized during the FBI raid of his Montana cabin; for some reason the Unabomber had removed the machine’s top, revealing its gleaming metal innards.
For some gallery goers, the exhibit is an occasion for nostalgia. “I can’t believe how many people have come out of the closet as typewriter geeks,” Ployer says. But for others, including many Northeastern students, it’s a chance to see and touch machines they’ve never used, having grown up typing on laptops and smartphones, never knowing the comforting clacks and dings that provided audible—almost musical—proof of progress.
Speaking of music, a September 5 reception will feature a performance from the Boston Typewriter Orchestra, plus backstories from Soboroff, whose daughter attends Northeastern. Can’t make the party? The exhibit is free and open to the public daily through September 25.
A smattering of cool shows grace the last full weekend of August, with Friday the busiest night. Hunx & his Punx shake up the Brighton Music Hall as frontman Seth Bogart and his Bay Area brethern share their flirty blasts of girl group-flavored bubblegum punk: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7iTRQJDbycw. The Cult (still led by singer Ian Astbury and guitarist Billy Duffy) hit House of Blues to celebrate Electric, the Rick Rubin-produced 1987 album that turned the English post-punk band into hard-rockers who combined Doors-like mysticism with Zeppelin-heavy riffs: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z3NSpdelpFY. And the world/jazz/groove collective Club d’Elf serves one of its marquee nights at Cambridge’s Lizard Lounge on Friday with guitar foils Duke Levine and lap-steel ace Kevin Barry: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EQKo5fNAFI0. The ensemble anchored by bassist Mike Rivard and drummer Dean Johnson also enlists saxman Tom Hall and percussionist Jerry Leake, who opens with Indian duets featuring sarod player George Ruckert.
It’ll be a different scene at Cohasset’s South Shore Music Circus when 79-year-old falsetto pioneer Frankie Valli and the (younger latest crew of) Four Seasons parlay the buzz of Broadway smash Jersey Boys into their own Friday night revival of timeless ’60s pop sing-alongs like “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Rag Doll” and “Sherry”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=luQGJpqjOZs. (Valli and the Four Seasons then move to the Cape Cod Melody Tent on Saturday and Sunday). And Lowell’s Boarding House Park comes alive Friday with Newfoundland’s biggest band, Great Big Sea, supporting their two-disc set XX, which separates the group’s pop-oriented fare with its traditional folk repertoire. Expect an exuberant dollop of sea-shanty spirit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZyhCm9Up8lE.
Saturday afternoon provides another local chance to catch up with rocker Pat Benatar and her guitarist husband Neil Giraldo, this time bringing their catalog of ’80s hits to Webster’s lakeside Indian Ranch. Except for a few tempered notes, Benatar still belts them out. And the married duo has been sharing a clever awareness that their band isn’t the only one to record a song called “Heartbreaker”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=deQEj6lS0C0. Another star from the ’80s, though more in the Christian pop realm, Amy Grant plays the South Shore Music Circus on Sunday night: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nRflO8Tflig.
Being Lee Nguyen
Q&A with man in the middle for New England Revs
New England Revolution midfielder Lee Nguyen (Photo courtesy of New England Revolution)
With the New England Revolution in playoff contention for the first time in a few seasons, the 26-year-old midfielder is often in the middle of the action. Nguyen, who is of Vietnamese descent, played in the Vietnamese Super League as well as in Europe before coming to the MLS. In his second season for the Revs, he opened up about his new favorite hobby, his aquatic aspirations and living large in Vietnam.
Matt Martinelli: You’re 26, but you’ve had quite a journey to get here.
Lee Nguyen: Yeah, I’ve been almost everywhere.
It started when you went pro out of Indiana University. What went into the decision to go pro at that time?
After the season, I had a lot of offers and agents coming in and talking to my dad and to me, and telling me “You have a lot of opportunities to go pro.” And if I was interested, they would want to help. A lot of countries were talking to my coach at Indiana and trying to get insight on if I wanted to leave or not. That took a lot of consideration, and in talking with my family, I just felt like it was the right time to go.
So, you got a firm offer?
A couple of agents came to talk to me and I decided which one was the best for me at the time. One came to talk me and was like: “You can go play pro in MLS or overseas because you have a lot of opportunities in both.” I just felt like it was an opportunity that not many people get, and I wanted to take a hold of it.
Do you have any plans to go back to school once everything in your career is over?
Yeah, it’s been in the talks. It sucks, I still have a lot of schooling left, so it’s one of those things where I just have to commit to it. I wish it was one of those things where I just need to go back and finish a semester. It’s a long haul, a lot of time I need to put into it. Hopefully, at some point I can finish it.
How’d the Vietnam opportunity arrive? Did they contact you?
They contacted my dad because he knows a lot of people over there. They had been trying to get me over there for awhile. First, when I was in college. Then, when I moved to Denmark. They kept talking to my dad. And it was one of those things where it was a tough decision to leave Europe, but at the time it was a contract that I couldn’t turn down. You take it, and you gotta commit to it. So, I just said, let’s go 100 percent and do it.
What was it like over there? Were you a bit of a celebrity?
It was definitely surprising at first. I didn’t know how big I was over there. Going over there, I knew soccer was definitely the number one sport, but it was a countrywide sort of thing. The whole country knew about me, and that I was coming there. The reception I got when I was over there was unbelievable. My name was in all the newspapers, everywhere. I thought it was a big deal, but I didn’t know how big it was until I got over there.
Was there any one particular instance when you were over there and you realized how big a deal you were?
It was crazy because when I first arrived there, it was around midnight. I wasn’t expecting anything, I was just expecting to go down there and land. I was with my agent at the time, and we were just expecting to land, get picked up by the club, and call it a night. And I got there, and we were just—paparazzi, were there, cameras were everywhere—and I thought, what the hell? I thought we were just landing. It took an hour just to get out of the airport because as we were waiting for my bags, people just wanted autographs and pictures. I was blown away by it all.
When you came to MLS, were you homesick or was it just a good opportunity?
A little bit of both. I always had short offseasons, so I never really had a lot of time to visit home. In Vietnam, you have kind of like two or three months off. For that timing, it was always nice to come home, but it was a little bittersweet. It was nice, but it sucked you had to leave so soon. So, I was a little homesick, and I wanted to come back and play in front of friends and family. I just wanted a different challenge. Vietnam was a great time. I had a lot of fun playing with my teammates, and it’s something I always can go back to if I wanted to. But at the same time, I didn’t want to just be content there. I wanted to challenge myself and come back here and prove myself.
How did Vietnam compare to your time in Europe? Did you prefer Europe over Vietnam, all things considered?
There are pros and cons to both. Vietnam was nice because of the celebrity status and you’re catered to. It’s always nice to have that. At the same time, I love Europe because it’s so competitive over there. The football was great. That’s what I enjoy doing. I enjoy playing every day. Getting up every morning and going to train with the best players in the world was just amazing. I took every chance I could to learn from those guys. I just love playing with those types of players who are on a different level like that. I think I miss that the most. Just being able to learn from those guys.
What’s your typical offday like around here?
During the season, it’s pretty easy, I don’t really do too much. I golf once or twice a week with some of the guys on the team. It’s probably my favorite hobby, really. I’ve been getting into that a lot.
Where do you guys go?
Just around here. There’s a number of different courses I go to all around. In Canton, Norton, near Foxboro. Then I go up to the city, hang out there with my girlfriend. Right now, we’re trying to take sailing lessons. We’re trying to get into that. Trying to find time on my day off and go to the Charles River, and take some lessons. We’ve never done it. I’m looking forward to that.
Where’d you grow up?
I grew up in Dallas.
No sailing down there.
No, we just have lakes and speedboats, I guess. I’m a Southern boy, so there’s a lot of country in me. I’m used to a big house, big backyard, and it’s a little different over here. Living the city life now.
Do you live right in Boston?
I live about 15 minutes out, kind of toward the Braintree/Quincy area. I can hop on the train. I’m halfway between the city and here, so it’s a nice little commute for me and my girl.
What’s your favorite restaurant in the city?
It all depends. We have our set days. We both love pho, Vietnamese food. So we go eat that a lot. We go to either Chinatown or Dorchester. Another thing is if we want to go sit outside bayside, we’ll probably go to Legal’s Seaport. We like the view there, so that’s probably one of our other hotspots. Either that or sitting on Newbury Street. Over by Cafeteria, just enjoying people-watching. Those are some of the things we do. Cambridge, we’ll go down there, we’ll go to the Bon-Me place, Vietnamese sandwiches, I don’t know if you’ve ever been there. She likes that, too. It’s just fun when your girl likes the same things you like.
Yeah, that’s good.
Some will be a little picky about food, but not her.
What do you envision once your career is over? Do you have any goals beyond that?
I’d love to keep doing what I’m doing and being in the sport. I want to get my coaching license and hopefully get into coaching afterward, but hopefully I can play soccer as long as I can. When I am done playing, I do want to stay in the sport and hopefully consider coaching and helping other people.
Why Joe Girardi should shut up
Yankees' manager standing on shaky ground
“One of the reasons I was so upset is ... I mean that baseball is a weapon. … It’s not a tennis ball or it’s not an IncrediBall that’s soft. It’s a weapon and it can do a lot of damage to someone’s life.”
— Joe Girardi, Yankees manager, Aug. 20, 2013
Shut up, Joe.
You’ve been on a 48-hour bender in which you’ve appointed yourself the new authority on beanballs, and now it’s time for it to end. You’re upset that Red Sox pitcher Ryan Dempster hit Alex Rodriguez in his elbow pad with a pitch that looked like it was purposefully thrown at A-Rod on Sunday night. You’re worried that a guy who has been tied to using a number of different banned substances during his career might’ve suffered ill effects from a baseball, even though of all pitches that were thrown toward A-Rod in that at-bat, none of them were as close to his head as your closed fist was to home-plate umpire Brian O’Nora’s head.
And by the way, what was it you were arguing with O’Nora so vehemently that you were tossed from the game on Sunday night? Was it that A-Rod was hit or was it that a warning was issued to both teams so the Yankees didn’t have a chance to retaliate? What would the Yankees have retaliated with, Joe? Would it have been with an IncrediBall?
For those who are bringing up Tony Conigliaro’s beaning in the same breath as the A-Rod beaning, the only thing the two have in common is they both happened on Aug. 18. Yes, Dempster’s choice to hit A-Rod was not smart since it awoke a sleeping giant and cost the pitcher a 5-game suspension, but he came nowhere near the head of the Yankees’ third baseman. I’m sorry, did I miss the part where Dempster is the first pitcher to ever hit a batter intentionally? In the same interview Girardi gave today, he refused to rule out retaliation from his team when the Yankees and the Red Sox meet again ... after decrying the senseless act by Dempster and talking about how he told his son never to hit someone intentionally. It’s a life lesson for the young Girardi, but apparently not for his players.
I'm all for getting rid of the beanball, retaliation, etc. In an era of greater education about brain injuries, it's as dumb as fighting in hockey. And as long as we’re getting rid of the beanball, this stuffy, no-fun, follow-the-unwritten-rules culture of baseball should go along with it. There’s no reason Bryce Harper should be hit with a pitch because he’s a young kid with promise. There’s no reason a player should get a ball in thigh because he ran around the bases too slowly after a home run.
But Girardi's effort is to get rid of the beanball only when it hits one of his players. How many times as a catcher did he call for a batter to get hit? How many times as a manager? Did he just now see the light? He referenced concussions in his postgame rant about the beanball. Did I miss some medical discovery where you can get concussed by a pitch on your elbow?
Joe, you were upset the Yankees didn’t get to retaliate. You were taking heat off the daily Yankees/A-Rod drama by playing up this story. You might even have a point about the future of the beanball in baseball. But spare me the indignation about how Dempster is dangerous. In the 5-plus years, you’ve been manager, your pitchers have hit a total of 329 batters. Were they all accidental? Joe, it’s time to just shut up.
Mid-August and the weather’s great for some mini-roadtrips to catch outdoor music. To start, the state of Massachusetts allows that the Dropkick Murphys will travel west down the Turnpike to rouse the troops on a Friday night at Mountain Park in Holyoke: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_irNd4ANCSA&list=PLtiW-MdJL3WT0wNneCkrL1eMQAM984S9o. On Saturday, Lowell’s quaint Boarding House Park’s the place to be for homegrown singer-songwriter Josh Ritter and his Royal City Band (before they move to Tanglewood on Monday to open for Grace Potter & the Nocturnals): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W7ybK4AYdrA. And though some people have missed John Mayer more than others as he’s been recuperating from voice surgery over most of the past two years, the somewhat ubiquitous star will be up and running with his blues-inflected guitar licks and catchy tunes at the Comcast Center Saturday: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wKFIY4Ws2UM.
The Salem Jazz and Soul Festival’s a bit lighter on name headliners this year, but the free two-day event next to the water at Salem Willows remains a great place to soak in cool sounds from the region and beyond. Saturday’s opening afternoon includes a set from blues-rooted duo Dwight and Nicole, whose singer Nicole Nelson stepped out to make four chairs turn on NBC’s “The Voice” last year: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3UlX1hod4Lk. Here’s the whole schedule: http://salemjazzsoul.com/music.html. Finally, Rockport’s beautifully designed Shalin Liu Performance Center may be indoors, but it has an ocean view backing its stage. It also boasts a dynamic jazz festival that delivers poll-winning vocalist Kurt Elling on Friday, flexible violinist Regina Carter (who tackles African folk music on her recent album Reverse Thread) on Saturday and the long-aligned duo of saxophonist Branford Marsalis and pianist Joey Calderazzo on Sunday: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DUEJoYbi8Ko.
Local ska veterans Bim Skala Bim return to toast the Outer Cape’s Beachcomber in Wellfleet on Saturday night before returning to Boston to head a Rock and Blues Concert Cruise on the harbor Sunday afternoon (the band’s last local reunion for a spell): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wZCU0as0Bos. Or for a little longer road trip, the Tweed River Music Festival takes place this weekend in Stockbridge, VT, featuring Bow Thayer & Perfect Trainwreck and many of Boston’s best bands, including Mellow Bravo, Tim Gearan, Ghosts of Jupiter, Garvy J, White Dynomite and John Powhida. It’s quite the artistic adventure, hinted at by this 2012 festival footage featuring Thayer and his extended musical friends after the four-minute mark: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jg1VS7Rg7p8.
Koji Uehara headed for history
Sox closer's season matching Papelbon's prime
Koji Uehara’s high-fives to his teammates are an exuberance not seen in the home dugout at Fenway Park since Orlando Cabrera had his special super-secret handshake with each teammate in 2004. By the end of this season, his pitching could be the type never before seen by a closer on the mound at Fenway Park.
Since the creation of the save stat in 1969, the Sox have seen some good relievers post good seasons (Lee Smith, Bob Stanley), but Jonathan Papelbon’s 2006 and 2007 performances stand as the pinnacle of seasons by a Red Sox closer. Uehara wasn’t thrust into the closer role until the last week of June, meaning he won’t be able to match Papelbon’s totals in the meaningless save category, but if the veteran Japanese reliever continues to attack the strike zone while maintaining a mix of deception, his final numbers could rival Papelbon’s for tops in franchise history.
Uehara this season has posted the following numbers in categories relevant to this discussion: 53.1 innings pitched, 320 ERA+ (this compares ERA to league average; higher is better), 0.68 walks and hits combined allowed per inning, 12.35 strikeouts per 9 innings, 8.33 strikeouts for every walk, 55 appearances, 5 homers allowed. He also has 12 saves.
You’re free to look at both Papelbon’s 2006 and 2007 seasons and pick the best one out for yourself, but upon my analysis, 2006 wins out. Here’s how he did in the same relevant categories as Uehara: 68.1 innings pitched, 517 ERA+, 0.776 walks and hits combined per inning, 9.9 strikeouts per 9 innings, 5.77 strikeouts for every walk, 59 appearances, 3 homers allowed. Papelbon had 35 saves. These numbers were for a full season, while Uehara still has more than a quarter of the season remaining.
Since Uehara was thrust into the closer’s role on June 27, he’s allowed 9 hits and 2 walks with 33 strikeouts, and 1 run (a homer) in 24 2/3 innings. His career numbers show that this run isn’t out of the ordinary for him, so it’s not as though Sox fans should be waiting for the other shoe to drop. There might be some regression, but it’s unlikely to come in the form of a monthlong blowup.
There were rumors tying Uehara to Boston when he was a member of the Orioles. Instead, Baltimore traded him to Texas for Chris Davis (not a bad deal, eh?). After toiling away for the Rangers, he came to Boston as a free agent. And thanks to making his 55th appearance last night, he triggered an option that will bring him back to Boston for $5 million next year. (55 appearance, $5 million, high-fives. I think we know Uehara’s favorite number.) By the time Uehara finishes up for the Sox, maybe the debate between Papelbon’s 2006 and 2007 as greatest Sox season by a closer will have been replaced by a debate between Uehara’s 2013 and 2014.
The Jungle Book's costume designer talks creature couture
The Huntington Theatre Company’s 2013-2014 season will soon get off to a roaring start with The Jungle Book, a new stage adaptation by Tony-winning director Mary Zimmerman that draws on both Disney’s 1967 animated flick and Rudyard Kipling’s 1894 stories. Produced in association with Chicago’s Goodman Theatre and playing at the BU Theatre from September 7 through October 13, the musical about a young “man cub” and his jungle adventures features a 12-member band with Western jazz and traditional Indian instruments and a 19-member cast that includes The Improper’s own recent pick for best local actor. But Mara Blumenfeld’s stunning costumes also play a starring role. Blumenfeld is a veteran costumer designer whose work was last seen in Boston at the Huntington’s production of Candide two years ago, and she’s a longtime collaborator with Zimmerman—but this show presented some uncharted territory. “The biggest challenge from the costume standpoint is, aside from Mowgli and the little girl at the end, everyone else in the show is an animal. So the big question is, how are you going to deal with that?” says Blumenfeld. “We did not want it to be everybody in big, fuzzy, plushy mascot costumes. That we knew from the beginning.” Speaking by phone from her home base in Chicago, Blumenfeld filled us in on traveling halfway around the world for research and going through a whole “graveyard of monkey-tail prototypes.”
You and several other members of the production team got to travel to India for research. Can you tell us a bit about the trip and how it influenced your designs?
We went two Decembers ago, December of 2011, and we were there for 10 days. We were in Rajasthan in northern India, which is the area where Kipling grew up when he was a child…. Dan [set designer Dan Ostling] and I tend to be designers who have a really restrained, controlled, tight palette to our work. And one of the things that was really eye-opening and liberating was in India the use of color and pattern is so much more expansive than a lot of our Western aesthetic tends to be. So you have hot pink next to bright orange next to lime green next to yellow, and it’s all this sort of riot of color, both in the clothing people wear and the level of decoration and ornamentation that you see in the architecture. There’s not a wall or a shop window that doesn’t have that level of joyousness and explosion of color. I think, for both Dan and I, that was a real revelation and very freeing to allow ourselves to embrace that kind of aesthetic and the idea of pattern on top of pattern.
Most of the characters are members of the animal kingdom, which must have posed an interesting challenge. How did you approach it?
Whatever we did, we knew that the human being inside the costume had to be paramount and not be encumbered by a lot of costume gimmickry. And in both looking at our time in India and looking at a lot of research, we sort of came to the realization that we don’t have to make them be animals. They can have animal attributes: They can have tails, they can have claws, ears, whatever it is. But the vocabulary we were working in was in the realm of these traditional Indian costumes, and also to a certain extent with some of the characters—for example, the elephants—of British costumes of the 19th century, because there’s that huge influence of the British Raj during that period when Kipling was a child himself. The characters of the elephants, they’re kind of military—the English-in-India influence. Another place where that British element came in was in the vultures, which are based on this idea of the classic Victorian undertakers. So with each animal grouping, it was about finding what is the essential thing that indicates “animal.” Is it the ears for the elephants? Is it the fur collars for the wolves? Is it the tails for the monkeys? So it was really identifying what is the animalistic element that’s sort of iconic. That became our guiding principle for approaching the design. And there’s also this whole sense of class structure. You have Shere Khan and Bagheera, who are the big cats of the jungle, sort of the royalty, the kings of the jungle. So their costumes are based much more on these very elaborate, ornate clothes that the maharajahs wore. They’re very elegant, very regal, very decorated, versus the monkeys who are sort of more scrappy and everyday. So there was also that sense of priority and hierarchy in the creatures.
When you look at the costumes individually, was there one that was the most challenging?
One that was a huge amount of work but really gratifying was the Peacock Lady. That was one of the really early images that Mary had. Often with her shows, there is a central image that’s the germ of the idea, and you sort of don’t know what it all means till you get to the end. But she always, from very early on, had the idea of framing the story with this bookended Victorian child in his glum little nursery, and that the thing that is our conveyance to the world of the jungle and of the imagination was this mysterious, otherworldly Peacock Lady. It’s an error, in that [the colorful] peacocks are male. But it was this idea of combining the image of a Victorian bustle dress, which has a shape that mimics the shape of a peacock, with the big bustle tail. So she had the image of this mysterious figure—Is she a woman? Is she a bird?—and her being the thing that pulls the child/Mowgli into the world of the jungle, and then at the end brings him back to reality. That costume, because she’s on stilts and seven and a half feet tall, had a lot of technical demands. It is making a haute couture dress, a single custom-made thing that requires hours and hours of work. And it’s only on stage for a very short amount of time, but it’s one of those things where Mary said, “I know this isn’t going to occupy a lot of time on stage, but it’s the first thing we see that takes us into the jungle.” And the other significance is the peacock is the national bird of India. She is India, in a way.
How did you come to costume design?
I started out acting from the time I was a little kid—worked at a small equity theater all through high school, and ran props and wardrobe, and acted in the non-equity kids’ shows. I came to Northwestern totally thinking I was going to be an actor. I went to a very small school, grew up right outside Philadelphia, and like a lot of young performers you’re kind of a big fish in a small pond. And then you get to Northwestern, and it’s a this huge impressive group of people, and you realize, “Huh, I’m like pretty average. I’m OK, but I’m not anything all that.” [Laughs]… I randomly in freshman year got assigned my winter quarter in the costume shop. The guy who would eventually become my teacher, my mentor, who was the costume professor, was designing one of the university shows. And I remember seeing his sketches and just being blown away. It sounds so stupid and naïve, but it was one of those realizations of like, “Oh, you can do this as a job.” … Even though it’s been years since I’ve been on a stage—and if I had to get up on stage in front of anybody I’d probably just throw up at this point—I think my initial history and background as a performer is one of my assets as a costume designer. Even now, I still love playing dress-up, and I do try stuff on. If I’m going to ask an actor to wear something, I want to know what it feels like, so I’m trying out the monkey tails and trying out the elephant ears.… I think that’s the thing I really ended up loving about costume design: It’s all the things I really loved about acting, but without the stress of having to be on stage myself. I loved the rehearsal period; I loved the rehearsing even more than I loved the performing. So I think somehow accidentally I fell into the right place where I’m meant to be.
All production photos by Liz Lauren
Looking at golf 100 years after Ouimet
Brookline caddy's 1913 miracle changed sport forever
Francis Ouimet's golf clubs from his 1913 U.S. Open win. (Photos Courtesy of USGA Archives)
It’s been 100 years since Francis Ouimet won the U.S. Open at the Country Club, and with the U.S. Amateur coming to Brookline next week, it’s worth noting just how much the sport has changed during that time period.
There was no Masters. There was no Augusta Country Club, even. There was no PGA Championship. There was no PGA, even. But beyond how the professional and amateur circuits have changed, the sport itself has been transformed since the former caddy from Brookline stunned the world in 1913.
The buzz on the driving range or the putting green these days is always about the best new club, but these changes are minimal compared to the biggest change: Steel shafts were introduced in the 1930s, before later giving way to graphite shafts. Back when Ouimet was making his way through the Country Club, he had hickory-shafted clubs. Five of them are still in possession by the U.S. Golf Association, according to USGA curator/historian Mike Trostel.
“It’s hard to believe looking at them, that he could go around and shoot even par—he shot 72 in the playoff. To say that the equipment has evolved is quite an understatement,” Trostel said. “Players now with the equipment can get the torque and flexibility of the shaft tailored to each swing. So, the clubs are not just coming straight off the shelves—even 20 to 25 years ago, that’s what a lot of people were getting. Now, you can go in and deal with any sort of manufacturer. You take 10, 20 swings, they put your swing on video and they say, well for your swing, here’s what equipment is going to work best.”
The advances in equipment have led to golf courses getting longer in order to keep today’s big hitters challenged. The Country Club played at about 6,200 yards when Ouimet was competing against British favorites Harry Vardon and Ted Ray. The course will play at 7,300 yards for the U.S. Amateur next week.
And, of course, the clothes have changed. When the great Payne Stewart died tragically (shortly after playing in the 1999 Ryder Cup, which coincidentally was held at the Country Club), golf lost the last remaining image of how its competitors used to look. Stewart often dressed in caps and knickerbockers pulled up with high socks. It’s exactly how the 1913 golfers looked.
“In the playoff for 1913, it was pouring rain and these guys were wearing wool clothes, button-down shirts, so it’s going to be heavy,” Trostel said. “Today, if it rains … you’ve got a Gore-Tex rain suit. It’s really night and day as far as if it’s 95 degrees, you have the moisture-absorbing shirts. They’re a lot lighter. Players are allowed to wear shorts.”
But perhaps the biggest change for golf has been its popularity. Before Ouimet won, it was seen as a British sport, but in the past 100 years, the game has seen tremendous growth. It’s due in part to Ouimet’s win captivating the country.
“He was 20 years old at the time, comes across and beats Harry Vardon and Ray, who were two of the absolute best players in the game. It was bigger than a golf story. It really transcended that,” Trostel said. “You had on the final day 10,000 people watching, which was by far the biggest crowd that had ever watched a golf match ever before. Almost more than double. It really inspired a lot of people to pick up the game in America.”
There were 10,000 people watching in 1913. Come Sunday, Aug. 18 on the final day at the U.S. Amateur, there will be at least a million watching at home on NBC.
Guitar fans can go crazy with choices this week, from pedal-steel firebrand Robert Randolph to jazz virtuosos Tuck Andress and Mike Stern to festival rockers Shuggie Otis and Explosions in the Sky. One huge exception: Justin Timberlake and Jay-Z’s two-night pop and hip-hop throwdown at Fenway Park.
Robert Randolph has given an Allman-esque jolt to the sacred steel tradition, and after a bit of a slick crossover dalliance, he’s returning to course with his funky new album Lickety Split, which throws in covers of the Ohio Players’ “Love Rollercoaster” and the Rascals’ “Good Lovin.’” The best way to experience Randolph, however, is to see him rip up a stage with his Family Band, which hits the Wilbur Theatre on Friday: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B0LjnfnujeQ.
There’s guitar heaven at the jazz clubs as well. Be-bop/rock fusionist Mike Stern has been pairing it up of late. He last appeared at the Regattabar with John Scofield, and now he’ll be trading licks with Eric Johnson in the same room on Friday and Saturday. Both players share finesse on the fretboard; it’ll be interesting to see how they contrast. Here’s Johnson in action: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w0pZd98u-H0. Along similar lines, Tuck Andress wields a nimble, tasteful touch on his hollow-body guitar. But when you pair Andress with his wife and souful singer Patti Cathcart, you get a perfect date with virtuosity and romance: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XuDw-P4ljCU. Tuck and Patti play Scullers on Friday and Saturday with percussionist and singer Vinx as their opening act – a surprising bonus for two acts that have headlined the room on their own.
Speaking of Scullers, reborn R&B iconoclast Shuggie Otis casually tore up the place on Wednesday. Fronting a seven-piece band (with three horn players) that played smooth, funky grooves, Otis sang soulfully but mainly grabbed attention with clean, string-bent guitar flights in the vein of Jimi Hendrix: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lKKbGE1kET8. And yes, he played his song “Strawberry Letter 23,” a ’70s hit for the Brothers Johnson. All that bodes well for Otis’ turn at the Nines, a one-day festival taking place on Saturday at Willard Field in Devens, about 30 miles northwest of Boston. He’ll be on a bill that includes Dr. Dog, Delta Spirit, Matt Pond, Kid Koala, and the compact guitar army Explosions in the Sky. Here’s a jump to my recent interview piece on Explosions in the Sky (http://www.improper.com/going-out/sonic-fireworks/) and here’s the full Nines rundown: http://theninesfestival.com/lineup/schedule/.
Speaking of “festivals,” if you’re hitting the clubs on Saturday night, you can immerse yourself in the cream of Boston’s psych-rock scene at Fuzzstival 2013, a Middle East Downstairs program featuring Ghost Box Orchestra, CreaturoS and the New Highway Hymnal, whose frontman Hadden Stemp raises quite the racket on guitar: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QCoZznVVnOg. You can also read more about the New Hymnal Highway in my recent annual roundup of 10 worthy Boston bands: http://www.improper.com/features/the-right-tracks/.
The weekend’s biggest event, however, is the stadium summit of Justin Timberlake and Jay-bringing their “Legends of the Summer” tour to Fenway Park on Saturday and Sunday. The two superstars have taken the term “co-headliners” seriously: they've been weaving in and out of each other’s music as they perform with an 18-piece band: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QkNKCC6L2-8. And finally, back to the guitar thing, if you prefer hot licks with a country flavor, Nashville veteran Vince Gill has earned a reputation for his guitar playing as well as his smooth vocals. He’s sure to showcase both at the South Shore Music Circus on Saturday: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EXhEsyNk3FI.
Beck in Rare Form
Beck emerged in the mid-90s as the ironic, laconic master of the lo-fi collage, patching a quilt of alt-rock, folk, soul, blues, Latin and hip-hop that led to such studio jewels as Odelay, Guero and the more downbeat Sea Change. Especially given his relative absence the past few years, fans may not think as much about Beck as a performer, but he sure turned that around at Bank of America Pavilion on Friday.
After opening with a few acoustic songs in the same vein as his recent Newport Folk Festival set, Beck donned the same cheap-vintage electric guitar he favored when he first hit town at the Middle East and rumbled into “Black Tambourine,” the first of many reworked grooves driven by drummer Joey Waronker. He was the only addition to Beck’s Newport backing trio (despite advance word that the Boston show would sport a big band), but that was enough to nail a fuller sound.
Beck suddenly threw a curve, testifying solo at the stage’s edge and adding a high-wheezing harmonica to tackle oldie “One Foot in the Grave” like a hip huckster in his wide-rimmed black hat. And by the time he launched into a pulsing round of Soft Cell’s “Tainted Love” and wove “Think I’m in Love” into Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love” on the late disco star’s home turf, Beck had clearly sealed the deal.
The rest of the near-two-hour set was gravy, from a rocking mid-set trifecta of “Devil’s Haircut,” “Loser” and “Hotwax” through other cover surprises. Beck played Galaxie 500’s “Tugboat” with members of that Boston band in the crowd and later slid into a frisky snatch of “Billie Jean,” even busting a couple of fair Michael Jackson dance moves while fans impulsively sang, “The kid is not my son!”
Granted, this was a clean-cut, cosmopolitan Beck, playing a neatly rehearsed set with a band that he largely kept reigned in, though he had the good sense to let guitarist Smokey Hormel cut loose a couple of times. And boy, those malleable grooves were wicked in the hands of Waronker, returning for a brief stint with Beck in addition to his current duties with Thom Yorke’s Atoms for Peace.
With stylistic nods to the Beatles, Neil Young and Tom Waits, Beck flashed his chameleon-like charms and reminded how many great tunes he has to sell onstage. And hopefully he’ll record something new soon beyond his recent sheet-music-only album Song Reader, which got shorter shrift among the electric hits.
New Order fans were dancing in delight at hearing those electro-pop pioneers recast their classic ’80s hits at the Bank of America Pavilion on Wednesday. And singer/guitarist Bernard Sumner led the party with a fair bounce in his step for a guy who'd posted online just days earlier that he’s been playing in pain with a broken leg.
Perhaps Sumner was feeding off the energy of a Boston audience happy to hear songs like “Temptation” and “Bizarre Love Triangle” live for the first time in 20 years. Granted, this was New Order without estranged bassist Peter Hook, who’ll be in town Sept. 10 at the Paradise to recreate the group’s first two albums with his new band the Light. Hook’s high, melodic bass lines gave New Order songs their most musically incisive element, and replacement Tom Chapman earned an unusually bright spotlight on Wednesday for his taut reproduction of those parts.
Consider that highlights like “Blue Monday” and “The Perfect Kiss” otherwise found Stephen Morris manning a drum machine instead of flailing at his kit, while Sumner, keyboardist Gillian Gilbert and second guitarist Phil Cunningham lent sparse icing to those songs’ brisk, disco-fied rhythms. “Love Vigilantes” helped break a tempo-based sameness with humanized resonance in Sumner blowing melodica and singing about seeing wife and child over Morris’ slower-swinging rock beat.
Videos, lasers and a bright mirror ball nonetheless lent visual overload to contrast the music, though an encore of three songs by Joy Division (the band that hatched New Order after the suicide of frontman Ian Curtis) lent a particularly weird touch when the words “Forever Joy Division” flashed on the screen. “Love Will Tear Us Apart” remains an indelible song -- and despite Hook’s absence, many fans surely left the Pavilion with memories they’ll long remember.
August roars in with great concept options that span rock, country, blues and jazz. After playing the stripped-down troubadour’s role in Newport last Sunday, Beck goes electric at Bank of America Pavilion on Friday with an expanded band that should let him dive into his eclectic catalog. Maybe he’ll even bring turntables: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ou2zUrktBe0. Another eccentric rocker with an even longer history, Todd Rundgren is on the road behind his suspect new, electronica-influenced album State, but diehards can judge for themselves when the singer/guitarist hits the Wilbur Theatre on Friday with a small outfit that apparently includes comrades Prairie Prince (the Tubes) and Kasim Sultan (Utopia): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zTWd41tRcP0. Alabama singer-songwriter Jamey Johnson’s the real deal as a no-nonsense county artist who dispenses with the artifice of showmanship and simply burrows into gritty, heartfelt songs of loss and heartache. He’ll bookend the weekend at House of Blues on Friday night and Webster’s lakeside Indian Ranch on Sunday afternoon: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mMAy7cw1HEU.
Blues fans can get their kicks with Buddy Guy at Lowell’s Boarding House Park on Saturday as the guitar legend deeps into his deep Chicago-style well and playfully shares the spotlight with his 14-year-old New Bedford protégé Quinn Sullivan: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RdRC_o-J0HA. Also on Saturday down the Cape, the Naukabout Festival takes over the Barnstable County Fairgrounds in East Falmouth with a range of acts headed by the Adam Ezra Group and the David Wax Museum, which seems to be shifting into more of an Americana rock stance: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fEpHVjfHz2E. And in town at House of Blues, the metal-reared acoustic duo Rodrigo y Gabriela shows how to take six-string virtuosity to a new high: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rrCmkLoxFRs.
This is also a huge weekend for jazz, primarily with the Newport Jazz Festival, which is highlighted by an 80th birthday celebration for Wayne Shorter, whose stellar quartet with pianist Danilo Perez, bassist John Patitucci and drummer Brian Blade will also be joined by special guest Herbie Hancock. That’ll be Saturday in addition to sets by Marcus Miller, Robert Glasper and Esperanza Spalding’s Radio Music Society (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Zc2jWUZcvY). But Sunday also offers a parade of iconic headliners, including Chick Corea, Roy Haynes, Jim Hall, as well as younger stars Joshua Redman and Hiromi. Here’s the whole Newport Jazz schedule: http://www.newportjazzfest.org/index.php?pID=321. Fireball bassist/singer Spalding also rolls out to Tanglewood’s Seiji Ozawa Hall for a Sunday evening performance.
Behind the Scenes of our Music Cover Shoot
Some behind the scenes footage of our Music cover shoot with Della Mae.
Shot by Simon Simard at Quixote Studio in Allston, MA. Fabulous styling, and hair and make-up by Rina Pastiokostas and Michelle McGrath, both of TEAM Artist Representative.
For this shoot we actually had all the ladies bring their own wardrobe on set and Rina was able to put together some killer outfits mixing and matching all their clothes and accessories!
Collaborations can be spotty, but there’s no hesitation on the part of the Black Crowes, Tedeschi Trucks Band, and the London Souls, which all formed a potent bill that hit the Bank of America Pavilion on Tuesday and return there on Aug. 6.
For Tuesday’s encore, Susan Tedeschi joined the Crowes’ Chris Robinson in a rousing duet of Ray Charles’ “Let’s Go Get Stoned” that included a buttery slide solo from her guitarist husband Derek Trucks as well as backup from members of both bands. Then the TTB horn section greased the groove as the Grateful Dead-associated Bobby "Blue" Bland romp “Turn on Your Love Light” became an ever greater free-for-all. The two singers built to a feverish pitch while the London Souls’ Tash Neal joined for both a verse and a tingling guitar solo. And Norwell native Tedeschi engaged Crowes brother Rich Robinson in a playful tradeoff of biting guitar licks herself.
The finale was all the sweeter for coming on the heels of a steamrolling finish from the Crowes. The back-from-hiatus Georgia group’s earthy, booming groove made stark contrast to the soulful big-band finesse of the Tedeschi Trucks Band. Despite a few meandering moments lifted by the rock-solid rhythms of drummer Steve Gorman, the Crowes were clearly having a great time (grinning brothers Robinson included) and closed with a wicked segue from “Hard to Handle” into the Billy Joe Royal/Deep Purple nugget “Hush” and back again. One might well muse how the Crowes and company will shuffle the deck on their return visit.
Stretching the Canvas
Artists for Humanity gets some new elbow room
Susan Rodgerson started Artists for Humanity more than two decades ago, working with just six kids after school in her snug studio space at 450 Harrison Avenue. Today her nonprofit annually mentors and employs 250 teens, giving under-resourced youth hands-on experience in art and design at AFH’s Fort Point headquarters, the EpiCenter. Opened in 2004 as Boston’s first LEED Platinum-certified building, it spans 23,500 square feet—and it’s only getting bigger.
Yesterday, AFH announced a land gift from Gillette/Procter & Gamble that will mean 9,000 square feet of added elbow room. “What this new space allows us to do is to spread out a little bit and do more of the building instead of just the designing of products,” says Rodgerson, AFH’s founding executive and artistic director. “One of our very good clients is the City of Boston, and we design bike racks for various neighborhoods. Our kids go through the whole design process and have the chance to make a prototype, but we don’t have the space to have a welding facility.”
That will change once the new addition is completed, hopefully within five years. “We have plans to have a maker studio where people can come tinker and innovate and create with our kids on equipment that they’re trained to use,” Rodgerson explains. Maker studios, like Somerville’s Artisan’s Asylum, have been popping up around the country, providing shared workspace and tools for creative projects. The concept seems like a natural fit for the Innovation District—christened and championed by Mayor Menino, who spoke at Tuesday’s press conference—and a natural fit for AFH. “It’s what we’ve been doing for 20 years," Rodgerson says. "This enables us to get more people involved with AFH, to give teens who work here an even broader exposure to people and ideas.”
The new addition will also feature a gallery and store that can accommodate larger pieces—like teens' furniture designs made from upcycled magazines—than AFH’s existing shop at Faneuil Hall, which stocks screen-printed T-shirts and other lightweight products. But most importantly, the added space will allow AFH to double its youth participation, giving more teens the chance to build creative portfolios and gain business experience through commissioned projects, like a public art installation for Massport, a robot-fabricated mosaic for Fort Point firm Artaic, or even a giant papier-mâché piggy bank parade float for South Boston’s Mt. Washington Bank. “They get to meet clients and work with them one on one. The table is turned, and the young person who’s the artist is the expert,” Rodgerson says. “Within three weeks you see a transformation where young people who have been given this important responsibility feel that they’ve earned respect. They feel that they’ve proven that they are an employable young person and that they have ideas.”
Many program participants go on to careers in art and design—and many come back to serve as mentors themselves. In fact, one of AFH’s original participants helped design the EpiCenter, leading an architecture program for teens during the build-out a decade ago. “We really want to do that again and turn the project, the building, into a learning laboratory,” says Rodgerson, “so that we can engage with engineers at MIT and architects at Wentworth and design-build artists at MassArt, and really bring people together to create this new creative industry that we have, for the people, by the people.” She adds with a laugh, “I’m an old hippie, and I just love that.”
Peavy trade just how Sox Drew it up
Offseason signing gave Boston plenty of flexibility, value
Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington said last night that the Jake Peavy trade came together in a few hours. But really, it’s been building since December of this offseason. That’s when Cherington signed Stephen Drew to a $9 million contract for this season.
It was considered a low-risk signing at the time, and a move that would allow the Sox to be patient in developing their young stable of shortstops. It has done so much more.
Let’s see what the Sox have gotten for their $9 million: Drew has delivered a .308 on-base percentage, with a slugging mark above .400. Add in 4.5 runs saved on defense, according to Fangraphs’ UZR. Those are valuable numbers from a shortstop – and he’s been worth 1.4 wins more than if the Sox just grabbed a guy off the street and put him at that position.
Aside from offering value on the field, Drew looks like a guy who will get a qualifying offer from the Sox this offseason, which means that if he signs with another team the Sox will receive a first-round pick. Chalk up another asset in their arsenal.
But the value – and how this ties into the Peavy trade – has been in allowing the Sox time to sit back and better evaluate their shortstop position.
Jose Iglesias originally received playing time during a time when Drew was on the disabled list. He hit well, and when Drew was hurt again, he came back up and hit even better. The result was, he stayed in Boston, building his value as a defensive wizard who now had at least a glimmer of offensive hope.
Without Drew, the starting shortstop role would’ve been his from the get-go, and while the results might’ve been the same, they certainly wouldn’t have been able to trade Iglesias midseason. But, by trading Iglesias now, the Sox are still capitalizing on that glimmer of offensive hope. By the end of the season, that glimmer of hope might’ve been gone had Iglesias continued his current offensive woes (batting .177 since July 6). In return for Iglesias (and a few A-ball lottery ticket prospects), the Sox got Peavy, who will be a valuable member of the starting rotation this year and next at a reasonable price — and then the Sox can get another pick if they offer a qualifying offer and Peavy bolts for another team after the 2014 season.
So, by signing Drew, the Sox were able to not only get reasonable production out of him, they were able to turn Iglesias into 15 months of a former Cy Young winner, and put themselves in position to gain two extra first-round picks. All while keeping the shortstop position warm for uber-prospect Xander Boegarts. He might only have a few more months in a Red Sox uniform, but Drew could be paying dividends for the Sox for a long time.
Once a place where people would plop down chairs to enjoy the old guard at the main stage in the shadow of Fort Adams, the Newport Folk Festival has become a playground for the active young who bustle between its three stages to find gold. That was true more than ever this past weekend, when sold-out crowds of 10,000 swarmed the fest on Saturday and Sunday while nearly as many endured rain to enjoy an added Friday lineup. Great performers -- and highlights -- evenly graced the three stages, and fans followed, particularly congregating around the Quad tent on the cozier field inside Fort Adams’ walls to split the difference.
Bands joined the bustle with sit-ins. Spirit Family Reunion hit all three stages, even playing a Carter Family song with Iris Dement (still unmistakable with her Appalachian angel’s voice) in addition to revving up the Quad crowd with their acoustic hootenanny. Andrew Bird practically went country in tandem with Tift Merritt. Decemberists frontman Colin Meloy’s informal Quad solo set sported a two-song reunion with his on-hiatus group, whose members also played in the bluegrass-y Black Prairie, which let singer/violinist Annalisa Tornfelt soar from Norwegian folk sonorities to Led Zeppelin’s “Over the Hills and Far Away.” Deer Tick’s John McCauley’s own acoustic solo set likewise included covers of both Hank Williams and Jimmy Buffett, his mom joining in for “Margaritaville.” In turn, Amanda Palmer brought out her father to sing a Leonard Cohen song.
Newport’s broad take on folk found a perfect weekend closer in LA alt-rocker Beck, who resurfaced for an acoustic set with backing trio. Looking like a preacher son of Bob Dylan or Johnny Cash in his all-black suit and wide-brimmed hat, Beck promised “some pensive, ponderous folk dirges,” which fit a few tunes from his downbeat Sea Change and Mutations albums. But he also dipped into his recent Song Reader album of only sheet music with tuneful results as well as retooled rock favorites “Jackass” and danceable encore “Where It’s At,” which didn’t have any turntables with the microphone, but saw Beck have fun with a drum machine.
Beck also got in on the collaborations with a surprise cameo by Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, one of the weekend’s only folk old-timers among the young indie-rockers. Even acoustic-rooted crowd-pleasers like the charismatic Avett Brothers and the Lumineers played the main stage like anthemic arena-rockers with cellos. Since the Lumineers largely graduated to vaulted status behind one hit, when singer Wesley Schultz asked fans to put away cellphones and cameras during “Ho Hey” to be in the moment, perhaps he really meant to curb online overexposure. But the group also tried to share a more intimate scale but marching out into the huge crowd for a couple numbers on their makeshift second “stage.”
Other Saturday highlights included the scrappy country-rock duo Shovels & Rope, trading off on guitar and drums like kids in a candy store, My Morning Jacket’s Jim James (if simply for personally adding a psych-soul sax solo to his latest solo foray) and particularly Father John Misty, for simply shaking things up. The rock-sided Misty (aka Josh Tillman, ex-drummer for Fleet Foxes) played the weekend’s provocateur with Jim Morrisson swagger, waving his mic stand, falling to his knees while he wrapped the mic cord around his neck, and baiting the crowd. He distanced himself from the scene at hand, saying that folk music went from being blacklisted to a sign of “luxury and acceptance.”
Lord Huron lent a Sunday highpoint with bright indie-folk enriched by textural and rhythmic counterpoint behind singer/guitarist Ben Schneider, though the Harbor stage had a weird flow in moving from Black Prairie to the hypnotic if bombastic desert-rock groove of Niger’s Bombino to solo singer-songwriter Beth Orton. The English neo-folkie said she was shy to play during the daytime and later injected her sweet cover of the Ronettes’ “I Wish I Never Saw the Sunshine.”
Friday was a bit of an endurance test in the rain, but proved rewarding, starting with the Newport debut of Boston’s Kingsley Flood, which showcased its 2013 release Battles, dipped to the strum and sway of “Sigh a While” and ended with the bouncy “I Don’t Wanna Go Home,” violinist Jenee Morgan stomping every beat hard into the stage. Hey Marseilles served orchestra folk evocative of waves crashing against a rocky shoreline, and Phosphorescent battled the rain with dueling keyboard antics and funky synth behind frontman Matthew Houck. Rootsy rockabilly crooner JD McPherson’s voice rang with R&B depth as he danced across the stage. And Feist captivated the main stage with her sweet blend of folk-pop and snappy rhythms, playing to devoted fans huddled under ponchos and umbrellas. Newport was just warming up, and the rest of the weekend’s weather was about to take a turn for the best.
Hannah Lott-Schwartz contributed to this report.
On prospects, picks and trades for Sox
Deal could be more likely this week with extra picks possible in offseason
With MLB.com releasing its Top 100 prospect list last week, all the midseason prospect lists are out. The timing couldn’t be any better for the Red Sox as they look to deal from a position of strength in order to upgrade their team for a possible playoff run. But there's an even more interesting way to upgrade their farm system at the end of the season, and it's one that could offset any loss in prospects at the trading deadline this week.
According to MLB.com, the Red Sox have eight of the Top 100 prospects in baseball. The list includes: Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley Jr., Allen Webster, Henry Owens, Matt Barnes, Anthony Ranaudo, Garin Cecchini and Trey Ball. John Sickels included six of them in his Top 75 prospect midseason list. In addition to Keith Law naming four of those players in his Top 50, he mentioned Blake Swihart in a “just missed” category, which gives the Sox nine total players who made one of these lists.
Those lists don't include Brandon Workman, who has submitted two good starts to begin his career in the majors, Drake Britton, who has yet to be scored upon out of the pen for the big-league club after being used as a starter in the minors, or Rubby De La Rosa, who is no longer technically a prospect, but is still in AAA at age 24 and has what scouts call a "live arm." Add in young players (Felix Doubront, Daniel Nava, Will Middlebrooks, Jose Iglesias, Ryan Lavarnway) who have contributed in the majors and are still in their pre-arbitration years and you can see this organization is rich with prospects and young players. These are the most coveted assets in baseball, and the Sox are rich with them. They will likely only get richer this offseason.
Under the rules of the collective-bargaining agreement, the Sox can offer any of their free agents a “qualifying offer” of $13.25 million this offseason. The free agent can either accept that offer to come back and play for a year, or he can test the free-agent market. If the player rejects the offer and signs with another team that is not one of the 10 worst teams in the league, then the Sox would then get that team’s first-round pick. Players who might leave as free agents after spurning the qualifying offer are: Jacoby Ellsbury, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and perhaps even Stephen Drew or (a slightly bigger stretch) Mike Napoli, who might take less per year to get a long-term deal.
That means—in addition to already having nine prospects in Top 100 lists, and a handful of other young contributors, the Sox could have as many as five first-round picks in this year’s draft when you count their own pick. There’s no doubt that Boston’s farm system will be thriving for the next few years, especially if even half of those projected first-round picks come to fruition (and don’t include flops like Pat Light). That’s the sort of future that could allow the Sox to move a few of those top prospects in the right deal (See: Lee, Cliff) this week without thinking twice.
Robert Plant seems comfortable in his own skin. He could have hitched his ride with Led Zeppelin a few years ago to reclaim the world’s biggest rock throne, yet he followed his muse to explore American roots music, first with Alison Krauss and then Patty Griffin and his Band of Joy. On Thursday, the singer brought his so-called Sensational Space Shifters to the Bank of America Pavilion with an earthy air that suggested more of a grateful connoisseur than a rock star about to turn 65.
His voice hardy, if slightly couched in reverb and more modest range, Plant still pumped out several Zeppelin nuggets, if fashioned to his own whims. “Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You” made a surprise opener behind Liam “Skin” Tyson’s flamenco-styled guitar, while an African banjo solo by Gambia’s Juldeh Camara suddenly slipped into the re-stretched groove of “Black Dog.” Amid that song’s laidback curve, the song’s “Ah-ah! Ah….!” chant rang like a sing-along anthem to fans. And so not to change up everything and disappoint purists, Plant tackled set-closer “Whole Lotta Love” pretty straight, with a detour into “Who Do You Love?”
Zeppelin, after all, bastardized the blues, and Plant made sure to credit sources. The Shape Shifters based “Spoonful” on Charlie Patton’s 1929 version and rode Bukka White’s “Fixin’ to Die” to a peak where Justin Adams topped a rockabilly solo with resonant slaps to his guitar body. Plant also dipped into his ’80s solo catalog: “Big Log” still rang true with its airy guitar twang while “In the Mood” simply seemed dated.
His mostly British six-piece band threw in unpredictable grooves throughout, largely thanks to jazz-trained drummer Dave Smith. Camara (who doubled on African violin) added exotic flavor along with John Baggott, whose electronic twists nodded to his work with Massive Attack and Portishead. Over its nearly two hours, this show didn’t sustain itself at the level of Plant’s recent outings with Krauss or his (so far) one-off Zeppelin reunion. Nonetheless, his hair tied back in a bun, the singer clearly enjoyed taking a trip on his own terms.
Tech-savvy Kendall music venue Redstar Union brings the live room online
Everyone knows Kendall Square is a hotbed for high-tech firms; fewer realize the ’hood is home to a cutting-edge music venue. Opened last year, Redstar Union’s state-of-the-art space boasts dreamy acoustic tuning, multi-track audio and multi-camera video capacity, and an LED curtain for phantasmagoric visuals. But the most interesting feature is its split personality: It’s a live room and a recording studio, an intimate venue—with standing room for just 100—that aims for global reach, streaming HD media live and on-demand to online audiences.
That’s what happened at last month’s Amanda Palmer salon, where the punk-cabaret chanteuse was joined by several guest musicians and writers—as well as a social-media moderator. “This was kind of rethinking that traditional role of a band leader in the late-night show, having him be an actor between Amanda and the Twitterverse,” says Redstar director of marketing Mike Young. “It was incredible to see people in London saying, ‘It’s 5 am and I have to go to work, but I can’t take my eyes off this.’ They were requesting songs, asking questions, giving commentary, responding to call and answer.”
That sense of community and connection is key to Redstar’s shows. “We have MIT robotics engineers mingling with Gypsy-jazz musicians,” Young says. “We want this to be a place where those relationships happen and ideas are born and weird stuff comes out of it.” Hence cross-pollinating programming like June’s Mic Swap, where the frontmen of local acts OldJack and Mellow Bravo swapped bands for the night, or February’s Jazz on the Rocks, where three alt-rock heavies—the Breeders’ Tanya Donelly, Buffalo Tom’s Bill Janovitz, and Will Dailey of Will Dailey and the Rivals—shared takes on jazz standards. Says Young with a laugh, “You had the alternative crowd mingling with the jazz crowd—doesn’t happen all that often.”
Roots music fans face an embarrassment of riches with Boston’s Summer Arts Weekend and Lowell Folk Festival (both free) in addition to the power-packed Newport Folk Festival. And that’s just a start as July winds up with a bang, including indoor shows with Tegan and Sara, Chucklehead and Paul Weller, plus an outdoor Yes concert.
Summer Arts Weekend takes over Copley Square Park with homegrown contemporary-bluegrass gals Della Mae (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MZ9thgZSQ2s), New Orleans voodoo groove-master Dr. John and the Nite Trippers, and the venerable Preservation Hall Jazz Band on Friday. Saturday kicks in early with children’s music favorites Vanessa Trien and Ben Rudnick before ukulele virtuoso Jake Shimabukuro, Indian funk group Red Baraat, the folky Session Americana with guests, and Afro-pop firebrand Angelique Kidjo. And Sunday’s program follows the Landmarks Orchestra with bluegrass-bred singer/fiddler Alison Krauss. Plus there are paid After Dark shows at the Fairmount Copley and Westin Copley hotels on Friday and Saturday respectively, starring each day’s artists.
The free Lowell Folk Festival by-passes star power for performers more closely aligned to ethnic communities, featuring West African, Irish, Cajun, bluegrass, fado and polka styles, as well as some blues firepower from Lil Ed and the Blues Imperials: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5YebML5Abks, all taking over downtown Lowell from Friday night through Sunday.
Newport launches its long-awaited 2013 lineup on Friday (the only day not sold out in advance) with the maverick pop singers Feist and Amanda Palmer as well as the Mountain Goats, Old Crow Medicine Show, Deer Tick’s John McCauley and others. The Avett Brothers, Jim James, Colin Meloy, Iris Dement, Jason Isbell and Frank Turner highlight Saturday, while Sunday’s bill includes an acoustic-aligned Beck, the Lumineers (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k66A5Tjn01M), Andrew Bird, Beth Orton, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, the Felice Brothers and Bonnie Prince Billy. That’s all at Fort Adams State Park overlooking the harbor in Newport, R.I.
Another road trip of note for classic prog-rock fans: Yes (in fine form despite having replaced original lead singer Jon Anderson) will perform three of its stellar ’70s albums (The Yes Album, Close to the Edge and Going for the One) in their entirety at the open-air Mountain Park in Holyoke on Saturday night: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5enF_IcSGgU. Also, if you want to catch the Black Crowes and the Tedeschi Trucks Band on Saturday night rather than wait for mid-week dates at the Bank of America Pavilion next Tuesday and Aug. 6, head to the Bank of New Hampshire Pavilion at Meadowbrook in Gilford, N.H. That slightly larger venue on the shores of Lake Winnipesaukee will be the first area stop for that double bill. And the Crowes and TTB are already merging forces to make a little jam together: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CaYJER4jJGA.
Indoors, there’s the lovefest for Canadian indie-rock sisters Tegan and Sara, singing behind their synth-poppy album Heartthrob with band at the Wang Center on Friday: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WFo72Arhh6s. The itchy, horn-driven sounds of Boston’s old funk/hip-hop favorites Chucklehead erupt after a 16-year hiatus with all original members shaking up the Beachcomber in Wellfleet on Friday and the Middle East Downstairs on Saturday. Here’s a clip of the group from its prime: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LF9S_mEgdAw. And British veteran Paul Weller (the Jam and Style Council as well as great, rootsy solo albums, and even electronic eclecticism on 2012’s Sonik Kicks) rolls into Royale for a rare appearance on Sunday: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iAcZoAHYwNk.
Q&A: Being Adrian Wilson
Q&A with New England Patriots' All-Pro addition
New England Patriots safety Adrian Wilson, 32, spent 12 seasons with the Arizona Cardinals before he signed with the Patriots this year. The four-time All-Pro is one of six players in NFL history with 25 sacks and 25 interceptions in their career. Off-the-field, Wilson has started his own sneaker line, Greats, which releases its first sneaker, called "The Wilson." Wilson chatted with The Improper before Patriots' training camp gets ready to open this Friday.
Matt Martinelli: You spent the weekend packing up. Is your whole family moving up here from Arizona?
Adrian Wilson: They’re not moving up yet. They’re gonna wait a little while before they come up, whenever I get out of training camp.
What’s it been like – I know you spent 12 seasons in Arizona – what’s it like cutting the cord from the only franchise you’ve been with in your career and moving up here to play for the Patriots?
Well, so far, it’s been good. It’s not too much of a change, to be quite honest with you. It’s not a total transition because my teammates have really helped me out, and the coaching staff has been great. So far, it’s been all about football. Really, it’s been an easy transition. There hasn’t been anything hard from the football side of it.
Do you try carve out a specific time in your day or week to spend with your family. Is there time on the off-day?
We don’t usually have anything specific. It’s really all dependent on how I’m feeling and what we’re all doing. Some days, I’ll see them more than others.
What are you most looking forward to up here in New England? Anything in particular off the field?
I think being here, much like any other place that wins, the fan base is always great. And it’s great to get to meet fans outside of football, seeing them at the grocery store, in a Target or something like that. Being able to interact with the fans is nice.
Now, you own a sneaker store and you have your own line of sneakers. How did it come about where you could take it from an interest into a business?
I was sitting down with some friends of mine and going over different ideas. Trying to develop a brand and grow the brand. The idea kind of came up. I’ve got a bunch of different people surrounding me, so whenever I’ve got an idea, I kind of just let them run with the idea and see what can come from it.
Do you remember when you were a kid what the first sneaker was, where you said “I need to have that.”
I think the first pair of Jordans, I ever saw. They were so out of my league. I knew I couldn’t have them, but I wanted them so bad. So, growing up as a kid, I was the youngest out of all my brothers and sisters – the baby out of all of them. Just growing up and having an older brother, and seeing him in high school when I was in middle school, and he was on the basketball team and football team, and they had all new shoes. To see him wear any type of Nike shoes, looked cool to me. I was like “Can I wear those shoes?”
At right, a sneak peek at "The Wilsons" from Adrian Wilson's new sneaker line.
Now, you have an Incredible Hulk nickname, is that right?
Yeah, it was actually Marquise Cole gave me the nickname after the first day he met me. It was like "You know what – don’t even call him anything. Call him Hulk." The weight room had all the DBs working together, and the next thing you know, the nickname came up, and it stuck.
What’s your workout regimen like in the offseason? As well as diet stuff?
It’s pretty strict. I try to live and breath working out as well as eating right. Getting stronger, just trying to keep my body in shape. In order to get to where I need to be in my career, in order to be the best football player I can be.
Is it two, three hours a day of all different types of conditioning?
I would probably say about three hours the first session. The second session probably takes about an hour.
Is there any diet stuff? Gluten-free-type stuff? Or anything like that?
Yeah, I can’t really expose those secrets. [Laughs.]
Does that change from team to team. Do they say ‘This is what we expect you to do nutrition-wise?”
I’ve been doing this individually on my own, but when I cam here, you see the type of staff they have here in the training room and in the cafeteria, and they are good as far as keeping your body composition in perfect shape. And it’s different from where I came from, as far as the focus on nutrition.
I know you bought No. 24 from Kyle Arrington with some diapers. What’s your connection to the number?
I really think the number sort of follows you around as a player, in your career. People recognize you from your number, and obviously your last name. Just having that number, I think it felt a lot more important to me to get it. I couldn’t really part with it, so I was going to do what I could to get that number.
Fans around here see star veteran safety cut loose, and they draw comparisons to Rodney Harrison coming here from San Diego. What would you like to have fans think of you when your time is up?
I think the whole Rodney Harrison comparison – Rodney was a great player who won two Super Bowls here – if I’m half of Rodney Harrison, that’d be great. I think to be compared to him is really unfair to him, and it’s unfair to me. He’s won championships here, and he’s won a lot of football games here, and I haven’t done anything yet here.
A lot of the leagues policies have changed as far as concussions and head injuries. Does any of that stuff pop into your mind when you’re on the field? Has it changed the way you play?
No – I just go out there and play.
What are you expecting this week when training camp happens as far as the media frenzy around Aaron Hernandez?
I can’t really talk about Aaron Hernandez.
You can follow Adrian Wilson on … Twitter: @adrian_wilson24 / Instagram: @adrian_wilson24 / Web: adrianwilson24.com
The Long Run
How many guitar players do the Eagles need? Up to five apparently, though it wasn’t until they let Joe Walsh loose in the second half of Friday’s Comcast Center concert that the Eagles took flight.
The Eagles have always been more about fine vocals and radio-ready songs than guitars anyway, and they harmonized through a nice 27-song spread for their “History of the Eagles” show -- if a little too nice at times. If anyone in the packed venue was hoping for more of a laidback celebration with America’s best-selling band of the ’70s on the hottest day of the year, they were in luck with plenty of pitch-perfect sing-alongs.
Co-founders Don Henley and Glenn Frey opened on acoustic guitars to sing “Saturday Night” and “Train Leaves Here This Morning,” relative rarities from the Eagles’ first two albums, and were joined on the second by returning county-flavored guitarist Bernie Leadon. The harmonies were clean, and everything remained even-keeled as the rest of the band filed out for tunes that echoed the desert desperado imagery on the backdrop (video of a few self-egrandizing documentary interviews with Frey and Henley didn’t help the slow pacing).
“Another night, it’s going to be a long one,” the Eagles sang, and it felt like they might be right given the tepid feel of “Tequila Sunrise” and “Lyin’ Eyes,” which Frey friskily dedicated “to my first wife, Plaintiff.” Leadon threw in some twangy licks, and a doeful-looking Joe Walsh strummed chords like a good soldier. When it was time for the stinging guitar solo in “One of These Nights,” backup musician Steuart Smith took the honors in place of the real plaintiff in Eagles history, the uninvited Don Felder (ailing absentee Randy Meisner at least drew a “Take it to the Limit” dedication).
The second set finally caught spark with the a cappella opening of “Heartache Tonight” inspiring a clap-along, and fans rose to their feet as Walsh broke free with feisty slide and wah-wah soloing on “In the City.” Walsh took charge from there, playing to his wasted-rebel image in solo hit “Life’s Been Good” (where he broke ranks to roam the stage corners) and even dusting off his James Gang nugget “Funk #49.”
The other Eagles loosened up in the process, with Henley stepping out from behind the drum kit to play electric guitar and even briefly pogo with Walsh during “Life in the Fast Lane.” And “Hotel California” provided a marvelous climax with Walsh and Smith trading tart solos in the sweet summer sweat before Walsh’s “Rocky Mountain Way” provided another spike, anchored by Massachusetts-bred backup drummer Scott Crago. Funny how an embodiment of expanded Eagles’ history led to a spunky chunk of Walsh’s own catalog for true balance.
The Eagles once played the “Hell Freezes Over” tour. Now it’s just hell with the temperatures out there. But the California rockers, who once alienated fans with the price of their comeback tickets (still high, but not Rolling Stones high) are sweetening the pot for Friday’s Comcast Center show. Co-founding guitarist Bernie Leadon has rejoined Don Henley, Glenn Frey, Joe Walsh (who’s also getting to rock his solo hits) and Timothy B. Schmit on this "History of the Eagles" tour, though hell hasn’t frozen for an appearance by outcast Don Felder. It’ll be so hot that a “Peaceful Easy Feeling” sounds inviting: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pv_RuQDkhr8.
That’s only the beginning of a heavy weekend for live music. The free ArtBeat festival kicks in outdoors at Somerville’s Davis Square, including Animal Hospital and the Either/Orchestra on Friday and Muck and the Mires on Saturday: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5vGs2coObWw. Local action continues with the semi-annual return of ska veterans Bim Skala Bim, on Friday down the Cape at Wellfleet’s Beachcomber and on Saturday at the Middle East Downstairs: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VmnuawuXYdA. And the massive free Outside the Box fest keeps the downtown busy Friday with local artists that include the Adam Ezra Group, James Montgomery and Shun Ng in addition to an avant-theatrical show with Jaggery and Walter Sickert & the Army of Broken Toys at the Spiegeltent on Boston Common. Here’s the schedule for the final weekend: http://outsidetheboxboston.org/timeline/#!programmation=timeline$2013-07-19.
Outside the Box gets bigger on the Common Saturday with a late afternoon/evening stretch starring ’90s Hub rockers Buffalo Tom, the Lemonheads (with Come’s Chris Brokaw on guitar) and ska-punk kings the Mighty Mighty Bosstones: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QSVXCLGEYYQ. Just as impressively, on the same day, the free festival also presents a string of bands at City Hall Plaza that includes fine locals Jenny Dee and the Deelinquents, Darlingside and Coyote Kolb as well as national attractions the Blind Boys of Alabama and headliner the Taj Mahal Trio: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=phC3Ru14xps.
To the south, Bob Dylan teams with Wilco and My Morning Jacket to bring their potent Americanarama tour to the Comcast Center on Saturday. After changing his lead guitarists from Duke Robillard to original sideman Charlie Sexton to new guy Colin Linden, Dylan has finally started inviting the leaders of the other bands onstage for cameos. He’s late to that collaboration party as members of Wilco and My Morning Jacket have already been joining each other throughout the tour, notably on a cover of Neil Young’s “Cinnamon Girl.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BbkaFHm8sOc.
To the west, speaking of parties, there’s no hotter live act today than gypsy-punk rockers Gogol Bordello, who headline Saturday’s first half of the two-day annual Green River Festival at Greenfield Community College: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=scx4EN72as8. On Saturday, that fest on the edge of the Berkshires also includes the Ryan Montbleau Band (losing keyboardist Jason Cohen and guitarist Lyle Brewer after summer touring), Sallie Ford & the Sound Outside (who move to Allston’s Great Scott on Sunday), the Skatalites and Bernie Worrell. Rocking singer/songwriter Brandi Carlile headlines on Sunday, following acts that include Buddy Miller & Jim Lauderdale, Spirit Family Reunion and Bombino. Just as much of a thrill at the Green River Festival: hot-air balloons rise at the dinner hour (weather permitting) as the bands rock on. That is, if you haven't had your fill of hot air this weekend.
Hippie Chic hits the MFA
“Hippie Chic.” The title is a bit of an oxymoron, hinting at the irony at the heart of the Museum of Fine Arts’ new exhibit long before you hear the first beats from the vintage jukebox stationed by the entryway. By now, it’s a familiar tune—the counterculture rejects the establishment, and the establishment coopts the counterculture’s style—but the particulars can be fascinating. On view from July 14 through November 11, Hippie Chic showcases 54 ensembles dating from 1967 to 1972. Some come from sources with underground cred, like San Francisco’s misleadingly named leather-goods line, East West Musical Instrument Company, creator of a fringed suede jacket with a stash pocket hidden in the neckline, or London’s Granny Takes a Trip, a psychedelic shop that drew rock stars to the unfashionable end of Kings Road. Others are from major mainstream designers who refashioned the outré into couture.
That trickle-up effect is felt throughout the exhibit’s five sections. Retro Hippie reveals the era’s debt to the fashions of the ’20s, ’30s, and ’40s. Searching for cheap, one-of-a-kind finds, thrift shoppers resurrected bias cuts and wide lapels, turbans and platform shoes. (Hippies: the tag-popping hipsters of yesteryear!) Yves Saint Laurent followed suit—for instance, exaggerating a ’40s silhouette with his “chubby” jacket, a pouf of marabou feathers that somehow manages to seem both soigné and kooky.
Crafty Hippie nods to tie dye, macramé, patchwork, crochet, leather tooling, embroidery, and batik, techniques youths used to make, remake, and extend the lives of their clothes. That anti-consumerist impulse isn’t exactly what comes to mind when you view the tie-dye velvet pantsuit by Halston, a eye-popping chartreuse number from 1969 that belies the rep the designer earned in the ’70s as the king of minimalism.
Ethnic Hippie turns to the era’s sometimes-cringe-worthy fascination with clothing elements from “exotic” cultures, from Nehru jackets to Native American ribbons and fringe. (Not that we’re less cringe-worthy now of course.) While the Beatles were studying Transcendental Meditation with the Maharishi, the well-travelled Thea Porter—born in Israel, raised in Syria, and stationed with her diplomat husband in Lebanon before she set up shop in London—turned imported textiles into bohemian-luxe looks for celebs and jet setters, like this crimson caftan made with silk chiffon from Gujarat, India, and ultimately sold in Beverly Hills.
Trippy Hippie features pieces with kaleidoscopic patterns, tactile fabrics like velvets and silks, and prints with the graphic punch of the day’s poster and album art. Take this Technicolor women’s tunic from LA’s Barry and Yosha Finch, adorned with moons and stars. Equally far out is the menswear, like this men’s jacket from Granny Takes a Trip, whose flamboyant “Bachelor's Button” pattern is actually a throwback dating to 1892. (It’s not just tastes that have changed since menswear’s Peacock Revolution: Some of the men’s fashions were cut so slimly, the MFA had to trim down their mannequins to make them fit.)
Last is Fantasy Hippie, the most motley grouping of the bunch, with medieval-inspired garb (Camelot came out in ’67, remember), a gingham granny dress by Adolfo that seems pulled from some other planet’s prairie, and the can’t-miss curiosity that is Carl Schimel’s “chastity belt,” a harness-like piece of jewelry whose central medallion was meant to hold birth control pills.
Viewing Hippie Chic, I found it hard not to think about another current show featuring high-fashion takes on countercultural aesthetics—the Metropolitan Museum of Art's spring 2013 Costume Institute exhibition, Punk: Chaos to Couture. But the MFA’s exhibit seems unlikely to draw the jeers that the NYC show has elicited from some of those who actually remember the radical scene it attempts to channel. That may in part be because Hippie Chic is much narrower in scope, filling just a single gallery and focusing exclusively on period pieces. (The Met show, by contrast, includes both Vivienne Westwood’s still-startling ’70s creations and mainstream contemporary designs that may not have clear connections to punk, ultra-high-end pieces that conjure only sticker shock, not culture shock.) The MFA contextualizes its fauxhemia, and for fashion and history buffs, the artistry on display may prove a groovy summer treat.
Farewell to a legend
Paul Pierce's Top 10 Celtics' moments
NBA commissioner David Stern, right, greets Paul Pierce at the 1998 NBA Draft. (Boston Celtics photo)
This past week marked the end of Paul Pierce’s 15-season career with the Boston Celtics as a trade sending him to Brooklyn was finalized. Pierce, who will be introduced as a Brooklyn Net on Thursday, made 10 All-Star teams during his career and finishes with his name second on the Celtics’ all-time scoring list, behind only John Havlicek. His arrival in town after falling to the No. 10 spot in the 1998 draft, sparked a revival for the franchise—and although his departure comes after the team lost in the first round of the playoffs this year, Pierce can still play. If you need further evidence, check out his three triple-doubles this season after Rajon Rondo got hurt. Hailed as a great scorer, his rebounding prowess will often be overlooked, but Pierce was one of those guys who always filled up every category of the stat sheet (even the turnovers column at times). Here’s one man’s ranking of Pierce's Top 10 games/moments for the Celtics:
10. 2011, Game 3 Eastern Conference First Round vs. New York Knicks
In one of the most efficient performances in the new Big Three era, Pierce scored 38 points on 14-19 shooting as the Celtics won at Madison Square Garden to take a 3-0 series lead. The series was the first in which New York had Carmelo Anthony, and the superstar was held to just 15 points in his first postseason game in front of his buzzing home crowd. Pierce was helped by Rajon Rondo, who doled out 20 assists. Everyone got into the act on the New York stage, as Ray Allen also scored 32 points.
9. March 8, 2006 vs. Philadelphia 76ers
Pierce was criticized after the 2005 season ended with a blowout loss in Game 7 at home against the Indiana Pacers, and he showed up at the postgame press conference with a bandage wrapped around his head. The forward showed up the next year and put up the best season of his career. In 2006, he averaged a career-high 26.8 points per game on 47 percent shooting from the field (at the time a career best). As part of that season, he submitted some extraordinary stretches. After winning two of the last three games with buzzer-beaters, Pierce sprung for a triple-double in Philadelphia. He scored 31 points and added 12 rebounds and 10 assists. With the Celtics trailing by 7 points with two minutes to go, Pierce scored 8 points in the final 90 seconds, to lead the team to a win.
8. Game 3, 2010 Eastern Conference First Round vs. Miami Heat
In the season before LeBron James took his talents to South Beach, Pierce and the Celtics dispatched of the Heat in five games, but it wasn’t easy. Pierce scored 32 points in Game 3 on the road, and the Celtics needed all 32 to win. Pierce’s final shot was a buzzer-beater from his classic foul-line extended spot. The Heat knew it was coming, but they couldn’t stop it. Oh, and Pierce—as he so often did—pitched in with 8 rebounds.
7. Feb. 15, 2006 vs. Cleveland Cavaliers
Pierce put up a career high (and record number of points scored in the TD Garden) with 50 points against LeBron James and Cleveland. He didn’t disappoint in the other stat categories, adding 7 rebounds and 8 assists, but the Celtics lost in double-overtime. It was part of a February in which Pierce averaged 33.5 points per game. If it felt like he was scoring over 30 points every night, it’s because he was.
6. Game 2, 2003 Conference Semifinals vs. New Jersey Nets
The Celtics were swept in this series, but Pierce certainly went out fighting. In Game 2, he racked up a triple-double, scoring 32 points on 17 shots, while grabbing 10 rebounds and dishing out 11 assists. Pierce was only slowed when he sprained his ankle later in the game.
5. 2000 season-opener vs. Detroit Pistons
In late September of that year, Celtics’ fans were just hoping Paul Pierce wouldn’t suffer the same fate as Len Bias or Reggie Lewis. Pierce had been stabbed 11 times in a nightclub altercation, which he reportedly was trying to break up. He was rushed to the hospital, and nobody was thinking about his playing career. The only thought was his survival. Five weeks later, Pierce was on the court as the Celtics opened the season against Detroit. A true grinder, Pierce scored 28 points in the game.
4. Game 4, 2003 Eastern Conference First Round vs. Indiana Pacers
A classic first-round game vs. the Pacers, a team the Celtics seemed to always face in the playoffs in the early part of Pierce’s career. Pierce scored 21 points in the third quarter, dropping a final fadeaway three-pointer in front of Al Harrington as the clock expired, turning a 12-point Pacers lead at the start of the quarter into an 11-point Celtics lead. Pierce finished the game with 37 points, and the Celtics went on to close out the Pacers in six games. It was the second time Celtics' fans had seen a truly epic performance from Pierce in the playoffs. You knew he wasn't going to be Larry Bird, but a few more of these memorable games would go a long way to solidifying his place in the storied franchise's history.
3. Game 3, 2002 Eastern Conference Finals vs. New Jersey Nets
The famous shot is of Antoine Walker yelling at his teammates in the huddle before the fourth quarter of the game, but it was Pierce who really helped sparked the comeback over his future coach (Jason Kidd) and future team. Pierce scored 19 points in the fourth quarter to complete a 21-point fourth quarter comeback, which was then the largest comeback in NBA playoffs history. The win helped Boston take a 2-1 series lead, but the Nets eventually advanced to the NBA Finals.
2. Game 7, 2008 Eastern Conference Semifinals vs. Cleveland Cavaliers
Pierce vs. LeBron, mano a mano, Game 7. This was the era of the new Big Three in Boston, but for one game, it was still Pierce’s team. He scored 41 points to counter James’ 45 points. Back-and-forth the two rivals went, evoking memories of the Dominique Wilkins-Larry Bird duel two decades earlier. On a jump ball in the final minutes of the nip-and-tuck game, the ball was tipped to James, but Pierce dove headfirst to recover the loose ball. It was a heady play that sheds a light on Pierce’s all-around play, not just the scoring that made him famous. The clinching game helped send the Celtics to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time in 6 years.
After leaving Game 1 of the NBA Finals in a wheelchair,Pierce triumphantly returned to score 15 points in the third quarter as part of a Game 1 Celtics’ win. In Game 2, he had 28 points on 16 shots and in Game 5, he played the whole game and scored 38 points in an effort to close out the series in L.A. The Celtics lost the game, however, allowing them to clinch their first title in 22 years in Boston in Game 6. Pierce won the NBA Finals MVP for his effort — the defining moment perhaps coming as Pierce dumped Gatorade on coach Doc Rivers in the Game 6 blowout. (Try not to shed a tear as you watch him hug Rivers.)
Honorable mention games: Nov. 3, 2010 vs. Milwaukee Bucks, Pierce scores his 20,000th career point; Game 2 of 2012 Eastern Conference First Round vs. Atlanta Hawks, Pierce scores 36 points and adds 14 rebounds; Feb. 10, 2013 vs. Denver Nuggets, Pierce goes for a 27-14-14 triple-double and hits a 3-pointer with 5 seconds left in double-overtime to send the game into triple-overtime, where the Celtics would win.
At right, Paul Pierce holds the NBA Finals MVP trophy aloft in 2008. (Boston Celtics photo)
After winning the NBA Finals MVP in 2008, Pierce surmised it made him the greatest player in the world at that time. It was an interesting point, and he was certainly underrated at the time. He was a Top 10 player in the league for a stretch in the 2000s, and he's certainly the greatest player a generation of Celtics fans has ever seen.
Paul Pierce, left, stands with Celtics legend Red Auerbach, who died in 2006. (Boston Celtics photo)
There’s severity to Savages. The all-woman London foursome’s stern aesthetic embraces black outfits and lacerating post-punk that sounds like Siouxsie Sioux fronting Boy-era U2, a darkly intense flipside to Bono and the boys. Savages invade the Middle East Downstairs Friday in support of their stellar debut Silence Yourself (something they encourage their audiences to do when it comes to taking photos and videos with cellphones) even if they don’t change up the dress code like they did on this French TV show: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cKdZsiO-fi0. It’s a shame that Savages go head-to-head that night against art-punk legends Wire, making their own noise at the Sinclair. Wire’s landmark 1977 debut Pink Flag inspired bands from R.E.M. to Boston’s own Mission of Burma, and the British group has continued to mix atmosphere and abrasion in the years since. For its new Change Becomes Us, Wire -- back to a quartet, with singer/guitarist Colin Newman, bassist/singer Graham Lewis and drummer Robert (Gotobed) Grey now joined by guitarist Matthew Sims -- scoured unfinished snippets of 1979-80 material to use as source and inspiration for both that album and its current shows. Sounds like another evocative ride: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3haKusbQk38.
On a more mainstream note of nostalgia, the Doobie Brothers may have floated off the map, but the California-born band’s still going strong, with the vocal/guitar core of Tom Johnston, Patrick Simmons and John McFee joined by a crack contingent that includes onetime New Grass Revival singer/bassist John Cowan, ex-Yellowjackets saxman Marc Russo, and charter Vertical Horizon member Ed Toth as one of the group’s two drummers. The Doobies will be rocking down the highway at the South Shore Music Circus on Friday: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8dkNO7B93hw. And the weekend’s biggest shows will be at Fenway Park on Friday and Saturday, as Jason Aldean proves his populist country can go over in stadiums as easily as the Grand Ole Opry: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gJWmsufNCYU. At the recent Boston Strong show at TD Garden, his band rocked the place silly like a well-oiled machine, and on the heels of Paul McCartney's giant Fenway jukebox this week, Aldean should make country music right at home in our hallowed ballpark.
When it comes to Boston concert events, however, there’s never been anything like Outside the Box, the nine-day free festival that kicks off with its first full day Saturday. The ambitious festival runs the gamut from theater to choral music, but blues-rock fans should center on an afternoon swing that sports acclaimed Austin troubadour Alejandro Escovedo (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kTLu-wh5TIU), lively Texas brethren Los Lonely Boys and the omnivorous LA rockers Los Lobos on one of several stages on Boston Common. They’ll be followed in the evening by the 150-piece ensemble Rhythm of the Universe, bringing an international flair to the Opening Ceremony. And the fest’s Sunday program will be highlighted by the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H0J5wTtM8WQ. Spend some time checking out the entire schedule for Outside the Box, which brings varied free entertainment to the Common and City Hall Plaza throughout the next week: http://outsidetheboxboston.org/.
Looking far and wide at Pats' offense
With current state of new wide receivers, it's worth comparing 2006 overhaul season to now
It’s been more than a month since the Patriots signed Tim Tebow to be their third-string quarterback. It’s hard to believe it was so recent that fans were still talking about on-field issues with New England. The tragic death of Odin Lloyd, allegedly at the hands of Aaron Hernandez, has wiped away any focus from the on-field group that will take the field for training camp on July 26. But although Lloyd’s death will forever be on the minds of fans, the focus will soon turn back to the field, and the main question will be: How does this New England offense, which last year led the league in scoring (34.8 points per game), recover from the loss of Wes Welker, Brandon Lloyd, Deion Branch, Danny Woodhead and Hernandez?
The answer might lie in looking back at 2006, the last time the Patriots had what was considered a subpar wide-receiver corps. After the 2005 season, the Patriots bid farewell to Deion Branch and David Givens, as well as Tim Dwight. It was supposed to be part of an overhaul on offense, but the team was left talent barren for the 2006 season, before eventually restocking for its undefeated regular season in 2007 thanks to new wide receivers Randy Moss, Wes Welker and Donte Stallworth. Let’s compare the 2006 offense to the predicted 2013 offense, going by position-by-position.
2006: Tom Brady
2013: Tom Brady
It’s the same guy, but is it really? Going into 2006, he was coming off a career year in 2005. He had completed 63 percent of his passes, thrown 26 touchdowns, 14 interceptions and racked up 4,110 yards. That’s after completing closer to 60 percent of his passes in 2003 and 2004. He’s coming off a far better season in 2012. While his completion percentage was also 63 percent, he passed for 700 more yards, threw 8 more touchdowns and 6 fewer interceptions than he did in 2005. In 2006, he would go on to complete 61.8 percent of his passes for 3,529 yards with 24 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. He hasn’t put up numbers that low since. While his season-by-season stats are slowly trending down from peaks of historic greatness (2007, 2010), you can expect Brady to throw for more yards and to continue to minimize mistakes with a better TD-to-interception ratio this season than in 2006. He was on his way up in 2006, and he’s on the backside of his career now, but the 2013 version of Brady still wins out.
2006: Corey Dillon, Laurence Maroney, Kevin Faulk, Heath Evans
2013: Stevan Ridley, Brandon Bolden, Shane Vereen, LeGarrette Blount, Leon Washington
Dillon had begun to slip in 2005 as the team’s lead running back. He averaged just 3.5 yards per carry. In 2006, he split the load with rookie Maroney. Dillon averaged 4.1 yards per carry, and Maroney averaged 4.3 yards per carry. Evans and Faulk combined for about 3 carries per game and averaged 4.6 yards. Faulk, as he always did, proved more useful catching 43 passes that year (8.3 yards per catch). In the 2005 and 2006 seasons, Faulk had grabbed 26 and 29 passes out of the backfield — so it’s safe to conclude that the Patriots leaned a little more on him in 2006 with a depleted group of wideouts. The other three running backs grabbed a usual amount of passes that year (a total of 44 between them).
Ridley looks to get the majority of carries this season. He led the team in carries by a large margin last year and—despite some inopportune fumbles—he produced an impressive 4.4 yards per carry. Vereen (4.0 yards per carry) and Bolden (4.9 yards per carry) both produced when they got the ball (about 60 times each) last season. Woodhead, now with San Diego, was second on the team in carries last year with 76, but he had lowest yards per carry and was more important as a blocker and receiver. He had a Kevin Faulkesque 40 catches last season. Vereen, Bolden and Ridley combined for 16 catches last season. That number is nearly three times lower than the catches the rest of the running backs produced in 2006. Enter the new guys: Washington and Blount. Despite catching an average of 36 passes in each of his first three seasons, Washington has averaged less than 10 catches the past four seasons. Blount caught 1 pass last year after catching 16 in his first two seasons combined. This year’s group of running backs might be able to ground out more yards in the running game, but they’ll be hard-pressed to equal the 2006 squad’s prowess in the passing game. If Vereen blossoms as a third-down back, he could be the answer. But this is a guy who has only caught 8 passes in his career. He can hardly be counted on as an answer.
New England will be hard-pressed to find a running back on its rosters who can replicate Kevin Faulk's 2006 campaign this year.
(Photos courtesy of the New England Patriots)
2006: Ben Watson, Daniel Graham, David Thomas
2013: Rob Gronkowski, Jake Ballard, Daniel Fells, Michael Hoomanawanui
In the middle of the last decade, the Patriots didn’t take risks on tight ends—they just drafted them in the first round every year. Graham and Watson combined for 45 catches, 675 yards and 7 touchdowns in 2005, before really turning things on in 2006. The duo caught 70 passes for 878 yards and 5 touchdowns. With a lesser receiving corps, they were asked to do more, and they delivered. In his first year on the team, Thomas chipped in with 11 catches.
Gronkowski’s production last year was 55 catches for 790 yards and 11 touchdowns— and that was just in 11 games. If he plays just half the games this season, he will at least provide half of what that Watson-Graham duo did in 2006. Ballard was hurt all of last season, but in 2011, he caught 38 passes for 609 yards. Fells caught just 4 passes last year, so equal production can be expected from him. Hoomanawanui had 5 catches last season. The two are very similar to contribute what Thomas pitched in during 2006. A hobbled Gronk and healthy Ballard will likely still surpass what Watson-Graham gave the team in 2006. A healthy Gronkowski would blow the 2006 team’s tight ends out of the water.
2006: Reche Caldwell, Troy Brown, Doug Gabriel, Jabar Gaffney, Chad Jackson
2013: Danny Amendola, Julian Edelman, Michael Jenkins, Donald Jones, Aaron Dobson, Josh Boyce
Caldwell was the Patriots’ premier free-agent pickup before the 2006 season. He had 28 catches for 352 yards in 2005, and 18 catches for 310 yards in 2004. He ended up leading the Patriots with 61 catches for 760 yards and 4 touchdowns in 2006. Brown, at age 35 in 2006, had been slowing down. He had played an average of 12 games in the previous three seasons. In 2003, he caught 40 passes for 472 yards. In 2005, he caught 39 passes for 466 yards. He kept in line with those values in 2006, when he caught 43 passes for 384 yards. He was the team’s second-best wideout. Gabriel had averaged 35 receptions in his two seasons leading up to 2006. After being grabbed by the Patriots, he had 25 receptions for 344 yards in 12 games. Gaffney also came over midseason and he caught 1 pass per game (although he had two 100-yard games in the playoffs). Jackson was a second-round pick, who already showed signs of a bust as a rookie. He caught just 13 passes.
It’s fair to say that Amendola would have better than any of the 2006 wide receivers, and he projects to be the best wideout for the Patriots in 2013. He had 63 catches for 666 yards in 11 games last year. In his last full season, he had 85 catches for 689 yards. The battle will come with who will be the second-best wideout. Edelman had 21 catches last year before suffering a season-ending injury after 9 games. Jones caught 41 passes last year for 443 yards, and has improved in each of his three seasons. In Buffalo. With Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback. It’s fair to say, he should be graded on a curve. In each of the past 8 seasons, Jenkins has caught between 35-50 passes per game for between 436 and 777 yards. You might not want on him your fantasy team, but he’s been a model of consistency. One of the Edelman/Jenkins/Jones players should be counted on to at least equal Brown’s output, and all three will likely surpass Gabriel and Gaffney’s contributions. Dobson (a second-round pick) and Boyce (fourth-round pick) will play the role of Chad Jackson, although the Patriots likely hope they’re not equal busts.
That 2006 season lives in the minds of fans as a “What if?” year. The team made the AFC Championship, where it blew an 18-point lead to the Indianapolis Colts thanks in part to its two best receivers, Reche Caldwell and Troy Brown, both dropping key passes. However, despite the narrative of that team lacking offensive firepower, that offense in 2006 still ranked 7th in the NFL (24.1 points per game) thanks to a good offensive coordinator (hello, Josh McDaniels), a star quarterback, good running backs and above-average tight ends. An average of 24.1 points per game would’ve ranked 14th in the NFL last year, as teams are running more plays and scoring more points seven years later. If this year’s offense is better than the 2006 version, you get a team that is likely to have a Top-5 offense this year, to go with last season’s defense, which ranked 9th in the NFL. That’s a championship contender. Will the offense dip? Probably. But even if it’s as “bad” as 2006, it’s still good, no matter how much talent the wide receivers have.
From the Rat to the Red Room
Booking agent Jackie Indrisano on five years at Cafe 939, must-see shows for July, and her days at Boston's most notorious rock club
“I booked my first band when I was 17. They were called Destiny. There’s a reason for that!” says Jackie Indrisano, venue manager and talent buyer for the Red Room @ Cafe 939, one of Boston’s most unique music venues. All-ages, alcohol-free, owned by Berklee and staffed largely by students, it offers an intimate room for up-and-coming acts, from Cage the Elephant and the Civil Wars to the Lumineers and Lucius. The venue recently celebrated its fifth anniversary, and Indrisano has been there from the start. But her history in the Boston scene goes back far longer: In the ’90s, she served as the booking agent for the late, legendary Kenmore rock club the Rat. We tapped Indrisano for tales from then and now, plus deets on must-see July shows.
On her start at the Rat… I legit showed up at his door like an orphan—that’s the infamous Jim Harold, the owner—and sashayed into his office. His desk was filled with Heinekens. I walked in there, and he was kind of a grumpy old man, but so lovable and wonderful and such a visionary. And I said, “I want to work for you.” And he said, “Well, what do you want to do?” And I said, “I want to learn how to book a room like this.” He said, “Well, I don’t have any jobs for you. There’s already a booking agent here.” And I said, “Well, can I intern for him? And he said, “Sure, sure, if he doesn’t care, you’re more than welcome to intern for him.” So I started interning for Scotty…. Scotty left very shortly after I was there, and when I was still greener than grass, Jim came to me saying, “Book the joint.” I knew what I was walking into. I knew it was the first place the Police had ever played in the country. I knew that the Talking Heads were the house band. I knew Hootie and the Blowfish had played up in the balcony for $75. I had heard all the stories, all the bands, Nirvana… everyone had come there. I was terrified. What was I going to bring to the table? Well, I was lucky because I was the ’90s booking girl. So I was part of the decade of 311, Everclear, the Dropkick Murphys, the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Letters to Cleo, Morphine, Tribe—I was part of that whole group. So it’s not like I was hurting for amazing bands…. It was a really fun time to book that room. I learned how to book a real, gritty, honest-to-goodness rock club. Hilly Kristal at CBGB and Jim Harold from the Rat were friends, and those were the two oldest joints in the country. And they were dirty and gritty and about as unsafe as you could get, but everybody played there. It was an honor, and it was a baptism by fire.
On what sets the Red Room @ Cafe 939 apart… Being a 200-capacity room puts us in a really cool spot because we’re kind of the emerging-artists room. It’s the launch. We get them right before they launch into hyperspace and end up at bigger rooms. So it’s really kind of cool to be that room. This place is a commercial venue; it’s not a student union. Berklee owns the property, but we function like Great Scott, T.T. the Bear’s, all our other 200- and 300-capacity brothers and sisters…. We don’t have booze in the room. We’re dry, so everything’s based on emotion; everything’s based on energy. There’s nothing’s additional enhancing your evening except for raw love of music, the passion—that’s all we’ve got in this room. That’s our drug of choice.
On upcoming shows we’ve got to see… There’s a band coming in here Friday; this is their second time through. They’re called Lily and the Parlour Tricks. They’re a must-see. Everybody who saw them a few months ago play in here left with their jaw dragging on the floor.… I think, locally, the Grownup Noise playing the night after is huge. And one of these bands I’ve had in two times, maybe three, is called Rosco Bandana. They’re playing here July 24. That’s a Jackie band—and I’m not putting myself in the third person. That’s a band that I’ve identified as “Everybody should know this band; watch what happens next.”… What else… The Folks Below, with Holly Brewer from Humanwine—that’s her new project. They’re July 27.... She’s got such a ginormous following of people. This is a new project for her, so it’ll be very cool to see how she’s changed what she did in Humanwine for this project. Not to sound ridiculous, but everything we take in here, we’re really giggly about.
On working with Berklee students… It’s the best part of the job.... Berklee has a ton of performers, but there’s also a ton of people who just want to do the business. They have to get into the school playing an instrument, which could be voice or whatever, but then they can focus on what they want. They can be MP&E [music production and engineering], they can be performance, they can be business. I get the business kids. So Michael Creamer [Letters to Cleo manager and fellow Café 939 talent buyer] and myself have this staff of six junior talent buyers. And that’s only one branch. Of course we have all the kids who want to do marketing and promo. We have a couple of kids who want to learn box office, which is huge. People don’t know what a major player box office is in the music industry. Somebody has got to sell the show; it’s not easy. That’s like the accounting of it all. Then we have all the kids who work under this ginormous arm of production. They work with Steve Nichols, who’s our production manager, on how to make a show happen—how to set it with all the lights, how to give the artists the sound they want in a room this size, make them feel good, make them look sexy. So all of these kids are getting this real experience. All of these kids get jobs and internships directly after college…. We offer them up to the music industry, and lo and behold, the feedback we get all the time is that these kids know more than half the people in the office, including agents.
On the Boston music scene today… New York’s New York, but if you really, really want to know your place in the community and carve out a place for yourself, whether you’re a band or a booking agent or a DJ, this is a really good place to do it. I’m in love with Boston. I think right now, more than I’ve seen in the last 10 years, there are these pods of folks really throwing down some major awesome on Boston. Mike Marotta and Vanyaland and everything he’s doing. Anngelle Wood of WZLX and everything she helps to curate. Richard Bouchard, who’s now booking T.T.’s. My boys over there at Sinclair and the Bowery, Josh [Bhatti], Josh [Smith], and Carl [Lavin]. My boys over at Crossroads, Ryan [Vangel] and Mike Bishop. Randi Millman taking charge of Johnny D’s and bringing it back to life…. There’s a camaraderie here and a community that makes me so happy. And then add to that the bloggers, like Ryan Spaulding of Ryan’s Smashing Life, and Hilary Hughes covering a lot of Boston and New York and writing these incredible pieces. Everybody that just keeps keeping the scene going, I have nothing but respect and admiration and joy for all of them…. Even when times are dire, even when bad things happen to the city, the music community is right there saying, what can we do? How can we help? Can we do a benefit? Can we pull a compilation together? Being attached to something like that is my life’s work. It’s profound. I’m so lucky.
Sox should run to Cliff
Ace is only deadline difference-maker for Boston
Most memories of the 2012 Red Sox season have been washed away. Forget Bobby Valentine. Expunge the memories of Josh Beckett and Carl Crawford. It’s hard to recall a weak-hitting Jose Iglesias.
But the level of trade action from July 2012 might be the same. The only trade the Sox made at the non-waiver deadline was dumping Matt Albers (and the chance to do a Bill Cosby imitation every night: “Hey, hey, hey Fat Albers, here.”) for Craig Breslow. The only trade the Sox should make this year is for a low-level bullpen arm. Let’s revise that sentence: The only trades the Sox should make this year is for a low-level bullpen arm and Cliff Lee.
When Ben Cherington and the Red Sox front office built this team in the offseason, they built it with an eye on the 40-man roster and maximum flexibility. The team could’ve handed over the shortstop job to Jose Iglesias. They could’ve let Jackie Bradley Jr. play left field all year. They could’ve let Ryan Lavarnaway take the backup catching job. They could’ve guaranteed a rotation spot to Allen Webster or Rubby De La Rosa. Instead, they signed Stephen Drew for shortstop, Jonny Gomes for left field, David Ross to catch and Ryan Dempster for the rotation. And they signed them for short-term deals. The message to the young players was: If you force our hand, we will play you over this veteran. But for now, we have the veteran. It was the same plan that worked last year when Will Middlebrooks unseated Kevin Youkilis. And it has worked again this year, as Jose Iglesias forced his way into the field. But the main takeaway from Cherington’s strategy was that the roster was not just the starting nine and it was not just 25 players deep, but nearly 40 players deep. That means that as holes have opened up (Ross and Drew got injured, a rotation spot has been open most of the year), there have been internal solutions. And lucky for Cherington, those solutions have worked. It’s why there’s no reason for a trade. If Drew is never healthy or Iglesias suffers through a horrible slump, what will Michael Young provide the Sox that they might not find in Will Middlebrooks, Brandon Snyder, Brock Holt or even Xander Bogaerts? Ryan Lavarnaway looks to be a perfectly capable catcher in case Ross is out for the rest of the season. There’s almost too many guys to play outfield, and if someone gets hurt the Sox can turn to Bradley with confidence he can produce.
That leaves only the pitching staff to upgrade, but the bullpen seems stocked with good-enough arms such as Breslow, Koji Uehara, Alex Wilson, Andrew Miller, Junichi Tazawa—and maybe, someday if the baseball gods smile upon him again, Andrew Bailey. And so, it’s off to the rotation. A rotation that dazzled in April, but has sprung some leaks here or there since then. The best pitcher available on the trade market is Cliff Lee. The second best is Yovani Gallardo, who is Milwaukee’s version of Jon Lester. He’s got great stuff, and has at times put it together, but is going through a rough stretch. I’m not sure I’d trust him ahead of Clay Buchholz, John Lackey or Lester right now. He might start a Game 4 ahead of Ryan Dempster—but if Dempster’s going to guarantee you 3 runs allowed in 6 innings, he might be the safer pick. You don’t need the unreliable upside of Gallardo. And the options from there are worse. Webster, and even Alfredo Aceves, turned out to be good stopgaps in the rotation.
The only guy who is a sure upgrade over everyone else is Cliff Lee. The Phillies’ pitcher has a WHIP under 1, a strikeout to walk ratio of more than 5 and an ERA under 3. He would be the Sox best pitcher, and the team has the financial flexibility (projected for a $110 million payroll next year with very few holes) to take on his $25 million a year contract through 2015. He is 34, but he’s been a consistent strike-thrower the past six seasons, and that’s not likely to change. Does a package of Felix Doubront, Middlebrooks, Brandon Workman and Deven Marrero get it done for a Phillies organization that is in dire need of any young talent? It might.
The Sox have plenty of young players that can serve as trade chips—and Lee is the perfect target. This season, with this roster, he’s the only guy they need.
Stevens, Rondo a smart match
Why Rondo will succeed with new Celts coach
His basketball IQ is off the charts. He’s thinking three steps ahead of his opponent. He’s been described as a hoops savant. Newest Celtics’ coach Brad Stevens? Nope. Rajon Rondo.
Within minutes of the Celtics shocking the NBA world by hiring Brad Stevens as their new coach on Wednesday, there was clamor to trade Rondo. Stevens is as smart as they come, media savvy, preaches a value system, but … the critics say he won’t have Rondo’s respect. And so they shout: Rondo’s got to go.
A surefire way to undermine your 36-year-old coach’s confidence is to trade away your best player because you don’t think the guy you just inked to a six-year deal can earn his respect. What will the rest of the players think? They’ll think the organization has faith enough that they can guarantee the coach six years and $22 million ($1 million more than Rivers had left on his contract), but they won’t trust him with any tough cases. It’s like giving a racecar driver the keys to a garage, but getting rid of the Maserati because you think it’ll get wrecked.
Dumping Rondo because of some perceived respect issue is wrong, but dumping him because he’s not considered a great player might be something worth examining. In his last full regular season (2011-12), his adjusted field-goal percentage (factors in the amount of points accrued per field goal attempt, so 3-pointers are better than 2-pointers) ranked 26th among qualified point guards. But that stat is somewhat misleading. Rondo has never been a great shooter (although he did lead the league in field-goal percentage from that foul-line extended spot he favors) and so it’s fairer to look at his efficiency rating. Last season he ranked as the fourth best point guard in the league, behind only Stephen Curry, Russell Westbrook and Chris Paul. In his last full season, he also ranked as the fourth best point guard in the league, behind Paul, Westbrook and Derrick Rose. Advanced analytics are split on Rondo, but given his reputation as a smart basketball player, who has great vision of the floor, he might be a good on-court match for Stevens, who is known as an analytic coach. With the Celtics being one of the 15 teams that installed the SportVU cameras last season, the two could work in harmony, crafting complicated offensive sets that might outsmart more talented opponents.
Unless the Celtics have internal analytics that show Rondo is not efficient (and if they did, you’d have to think they would’ve already jettisoned him years ago), he’s worth keeping just to see what a pairing with Stevens could produce. Based upon rumblings in the media the past few days, the expectations for a Stevens-Rondo pairing will be low, so any type of success is a win. And that’s the type of fortune that will earn a coach respect—even if he’s never coached or played in the NBA.
The fireworks of the Fourth leave a wide smattering of area shows in its wake. At age 74, folk godmother Judy Collins still has the power to charm with her trademark songs and clarion voice, which should ring true at Rockport’s strikingly intimate space the Shalin Liu Performance Center both Friday and Saturday: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xnMfjQVE71s. And on a livelier in-town note, Brazil’s all-woman art-pop ravers CSS keep the Sinclair buzzing on Saturday: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZYtme0CPsUs.
The summer tent circuit keeps busy as well this weekend. Wry-witted troubadour Lyle Lovett brings his Acoustic Band (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OA_BMSToyBs) to the South Shore Music Circus on Saturday before they move on Sunday to the Cape Cod Melody Tent, which offers the silky pairing of Michael McDonald and Boz Scaggs on Saturday: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OT3Wh0b9KfA.
Other out-of-town happenings include the New Bedford Folk Festival (formerly Summerfest), which offers a bustling, cross-pollinating schedule (http://www.newbedfordfolkfestival.com/schedule.html) that includes Lori McKenna and the Kennedys on Saturday as well as Ellis Paul (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jOY5ur8Vfzc) and Cheryl Wheeler on Sunday. And Portsmouth, N.H., offers an Americana Festival on Saturday afternoon at Prescott Park with Jonathan Edwards, Slaid Cleaves and string band Joy Kills Sorrow, which spikes its original repertoire with a cover of the Postal Service’s indie-pop hit “Such Great Heights”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0bmNA63D-r8. You can also catch Joy Kills Sorrow on Sunday indoors at Club Passim. And the Zombies, featuring Rod Argent and Colin Blunstone, roll into Arlington's Regent Theatre on Sunday to embody such spectral oldies as “She’s Not There,” “Tell Her No” and “Time of the Season:” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aIeKwn1edac.
A local musician aims to create a new composition every day
“This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before.” Leonard Bernstein delivered these words 50 years ago, speaking to a still-reeling crowd at Madison Square Garden just three days after John F. Kennedy’s assassination. In the wake of April’s Marathon bombings, they held new resonance for Ipswich’s Chris Florio, whose current Kickstarter campaign takes its name, and its aim, from Bernstein’s quote. His goal: to create a new musical composition every day for a month—or, if the crowd-funding gods allow, for an entire year. “I am accepting commissions for any type of instrumentation, any size of ensemble,” says Florio, a musician, composer, and director/cofounder of Passion Records. “If somebody wants something for jazz band or something for string quartet or something for didgeridoo and five voices, I’d be thrilled to do it.” We chatted with the Berklee alum to learn more.
This project proposes a huge challenge: creating a new work every day. There could be commissions supplying some ideas, but it begs the question, how do you find inspiration? Do you ever struggle with writer’s block—or rather, composer’s block—and if so, how do you get unblocked?
I’ve never in my life suffered from writer’s block, but I’ve also never put myself in the position of creating a new piece every day for 365 days. [Laughs] I may have to figure that out when it happens, but so far it’s never happened. The failsafe fallback for me is that there are so many different methods and so many different ways to do things that if I feel like on one day the string quartet that I’m working on on paper isn’t working out, then I’ll get some jazz musicians and improvise with them, or work with some rhythm tracks, or play around with some electronic music on the computer. If one thing isn’t working, there are other places to go.
Have you used Kickstarter for projects in the past?
First time doing any kind of crowd-funding thing. It’s a weird thing to ask anybody for money; to ask strangers publicly for money is really, really weird. Marketing has never been my strength. But I really like the directness of it. You can communicate with people every day. They don’t have to do anything, but if they like what you’re doing and want to support it, it’s a really easy opportunity without any pressure. I like everything about it.… As I’m sure you know there’s not a lot of major-label interest in string quartets these days. [Laughs] With the changes in the music industry, this seems to be a model that is really fitted to what I do.
If you don’t meet your funding goal, could the project continue in some other form?
Absolutely. I’ve been a musician for a long time. I graduated from Berklee a long time ago and have been working professionally for a long time, with different degrees of financial success over the years. I’ve had major setbacks as well as big successes. One of the things that the major setbacks have driven deeply into me is that no matter what happens I’m going to keep doing this for the rest of my life. This is what I do. So yeah, if this doesn’t work, keep going. I really like the idea of committing to do music every day. So I’ll regroup and find another way to do it, maybe think about what I didn’t do successfully and go back to Kickstarter and try again.
How did you come to music?
I grew up playing guitar, like everybody of my generation did, playing Led Zeppelin in the garage and acoustic guitar in the church, playing “Blowing in the Wind” and that stuff. I got into the high school jazz band, which got me interested in doing it for a living. Got accepted to Berklee, graduated from Berklee. Did all the struggling musician stuff that everyone else did—playing weddings and divey clubs, playing for 15 dollars and a beer at all the local places. Did five years at the King Richard’s Faire. Played jazz at Wally’s. Did all the usual stuff, but doing all that built up more and more of a vocabulary that goes into everything I do. I started getting symphonic commissions in the ’90s and did a lot of that for a while. It was really fun and really rewarding. And also really frustrating, because unless you’re working with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the orchestras usually have very little time to rehearse. And you spend three months of your life writing a piece for an orchestra, and they rehearse it once or twice, play it mediocrely at best, and then that’s the end of it. But I’ve found that with the stuff that I write on paper, the best thing I can do is find the best players I can and write for whatever ensemble I can put together myself. That’s what I like to do best. I play with a jazz group called the Full Metal Revolutionary Jazz Ensemble. It’s totally free and kind of extends my vocabulary for improv. I like to put it all together and work with players that can do a whole range of stuff. I have a group of people I really like to work with in town, who have the vocabulary that if we’re doing a Led Zeppelin song, they can do it; if we’re doing a Charlie Parker song, they can do it. And if you put complicated sheet music in front of them, they can play it. I love to work with folks like that.
What are you listening to for pleasure right now?
All kinds of stuff… the soundtrack for a movie called Latcho Drom. It an older movie, released I think in the ’90s. We’ve been listening to that constantly. It’s mostly gypsy music from Western Europe. I’ve been listening to a lot of chamber music, Ravel and Mozart. What else… There are a couple of artists that we’ve been loving lately. We saw both of them as opening acts for different bands. One’s called Tim Fite. He’s a musician/performance artist from New York, and he’s pretty fantastic.
On the Road: Newport Folk Festival
Charles Bradley performing at Newport Folk Festival 2012.
As Paul Robicheau reported in our Outdoors issue, in less than a month, Fort Adams State Park’s harborside grounds-turned-venue swarm with some 10,000 people for Newport Folk Festival (July 26–28). With roots dating back to 1959, the fest nearly sold out before this year's full line up was even announced. In the half-century since its debut, greats and soon-to-be-greats such as Joan Baez and her guest, Bob Dylan (1963), and far too many others to list have graced Newport’s stages, molding the festival into an institution. And this year, it carries on with exciting developments.
Taylor Goldsmith (Dawes) and John McCauley (Deer Tick) join Colin Meloy (The Decemberists), Gillian Welch, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Jim James (My Morning Jacket) and Ben Knox Miller (The Low Anthem) on the festival’s board of advisors this year. An Evening With Dawes & Friends, to take place on Friday, July 26, and Saturday, July 27, at Jane Pickens Theater, premiers alongside the returning three-night series that Rhode Island’s own Deer Tick hosts, both music-filled evenings raising money for the Newport Festivals Foundation and Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation. But the real news comes with a full-day Friday bill—the first for the festival in years.
And lucky you—Friday passes are still available. The festival kicks off that day with our 2013 Boston’s Best Local Band winner Kingsley Flood and performances by Amanda Palmer, John McCauley, Hey Marseilles, Phosphorescent and others, with Feist rounding out the evening.
We’re on the road to Newport—so check back soon for more pre-festival updates, including a how-to guide with tips for first-timers. (To rideshare or not to rideshare? It’s not even a question.)
For Celts, bad contract isn't a bad thing
Why Gerald Wallace's $30M deal won't hurt the Celtics
It was an ordinary summer night in 1998 when the Celtics’ history changed for the good. Paul Pierce, who had been rumored to go as high as third in the NBA Draft, fell to the Boston Celtics who took the University of Kansas forward with the number 10 pick. Behind Pierce, the Celtics vaulted back to respectability for his first nine years. They made the playoffs four years in a row, including a run to the Eastern Conference Finals. After a dip that coincided with an injury to Pierce, a retooled roster won an NBA title in 2008 and made the playoffs the next five years, with Pierce not only writing his name all over the franchise’s record books, but re-energizing Boston hoops fans who warmed up to the feisty and fun-loving crew.
When Pierce—his legendary status secure, but his future in Boston not—was dealt away 15 years after he first landed on the Celtics, it was fitting that it was a trade and it was agreed to on draft night. In the NBA, there are three ways to build a team: free agency, the draft and trades. But for a franchise like the Celtics who have never attracted a superstar through free agency, there are only two ways: the draft and trades. Blame the lack of free agency success on the cold weather if you will, but the Celtics’ biggest selling point for free agents was just traded to the Clippers for a first-round pick. This team could have $50M in cap space (which to be clear, they don’t have), and they still wouldn’t be more attractive to a free agent than Dallas or the L.A. teams or the N.Y. teams or the Florida teams, or the Bulls, etc.
The trade that will send Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry to Brooklyn will leave the Celtics with Gerald Wallace at $10 million per year for the next three years. If Wallace’s contract wasn’t included, most Celtics’ fans would think the deal was an easy win. Three first-round picks, an intriguing young shooter like MarShon Brooks, Kris Humphries’ expiring contract and the chance to swap first-round picks with Brooklyn in 2017 is quite a haul. Brooklyn’s pick in 2014 will be in a loaded draft and the Nets’ cap space will be clogged with old players in 2016, so that could be a lottery pick. But Wallace’s $30M contract is the one part of the deal Celtics’ fans can’t stomach.
Wallace, an All-Star in 2010, is 30 and is an energy guy who has lost some energy. Last year, he shot below 40 percent from the field and below 30 percent from 3-point land. There is no question he is overpaid. But, his $30 million deal is easier to swallow when you consider that the cap room he will be jeopardizing for the Celtics in 2014 and 2015 is slightly overrated. Sure, you can use cap space to bring back an overpaid player in a trade, or you can use it to bid on a player who’s been amnestied, but as the league moves further from the 2011 collective-bargaining deal, there are fewer and fewer players eligible to be amnestied.
Much as Wally Sczerbiak’s deal was used to land Ray Allen or Theo Ratliff’s deal was used in the Kevin Garnett trade, Gerald Wallace’s deal could always be used to even out salaries in a trade. Even if you think that the Celtics can be players in free agency if they have cap space, they wouldn’t have had that until the 2014 offseason when they could’ve let Pierce and Garnett walk. Wallace’s contract will be an expiring deal after the 2014-15 season. So, you have one season—at the most—in which his deal could be a block toward roster flexibility.
Yes, it’s an added salary. Yes, it’s not a perfect solution. But the way forward for this Celtics franchise will be through the draft and through trades—two things that Gerald Wallace’s inclusion on this roster will not hurt, and could only help. A trade yielded Garnett. A trade of a draft pick yielded Allen. And a draft pick yielded Pierce. All together, they yielded a fun and successful run for the Celtics. This Brooklyn trade could set them up for another. Wallace won’t change that.
Behind the Scenes at the First Responders Cover Shoot
Behind-the-scenes video by Shotgun Media.
I feel selfish.
I wasn’t there. I didn’t have anyone in my life directly affected that day. I didn’t have loved ones who were affected. Yes, I had friends of friends who knew someone. But despite how closely the events circled to me, I emerged unscathed. I am certain I am among the minority.
Still, I felt emotionally paralyzed. From the first moment the news broke, when I was sitting at a pizza shop in Braintree, through the 18 hour emotional roller coaster of the lockdown on Friday and ultimate capture of the suspect, I could not get enough information. My hunger for an answer—to the ultimate question of why- could not be satisfied. For weeks after, my heart stopped every time I heard a siren. I’d hold my breath every time I saw the words “Breaking News.” I expected only the worst.
And yet, putting this cover together has been the most therapeutic experience I could have had. Between the research and correspondence, I felt like I knew these people as old friends by the time they showed up at the shoot—for many it was the first time I had seen their face. To put so much time, energy and love into the project and have a tangible product at the end is indescribable.
We thought about this cover story in the office since the day after the bombings. It was our gut instinct to do something to thank the people of Boston for the cover of our Boston’s Best issue. Who better to represent the Best that Boston has to offer?
But it had to be just right. We had numerous impromptu pow-wows about it, pulled tons of inspiration shots, debated who’d be involved, how many people, what setting was realistic and what the mood. At a company meeting we asked everyone to weigh in. This was an event that hit all of us. It was just blocks from our office. We had to get it right.
We chose to compile a group of 14 representatives of first responders from the Marathon. This was our way to pay tribute to the countless people who were involved that day. We covered as many categories as we could: runners, spectators, EMTs, police officers, firefighters, workers from Boylston Street stores, BAA volunteers, doctors and nurses from area hospitals. We narrowed it down to just those involved on Marathon Monday for logistics’ sake. But everyone deserves recognition—those who offered phones, rides, homes to strangers; the restaurants that fed the officers and law enforcement officials stationed downtown that week; the citizens of Watertown who patiently waited in their homes all day and then cheered the exiting police presence as they drove home; the Bostonians who, if nothing else, just watched out for other Bostonians a little closer. To all of you, and anyone in between: this cover is for you, too.
We scoured articles, images, our own memories to compile a long list of people to contact. Each person who was asked to be a “representative” felt just as passionately as we did about getting their group recognition for the work they did that day. We heard words like “honored” and “humbled” but really that’s how we felt, touched that they wanted to be involved in this project. As the list of people in the shoot grew, so did our crew.
With so much talent in the city, I usually struggle with picking a photographer for our local shoots, trying to just find the best match for each assignment. I can name dozens of amazing folks who could have nailed this shoot, but I had one photographer who immediately came to mind. John Huet photographed Wendy Williams for the cover of our May 8 issue on the Thursday before the Marathon. We had a call scheduled for Tuesday, April 16, to discuss images, but that quick chat turned into a recap of where we both were on Monday and our days, how he’d photographed the Marathon in the past, all the “almosts.” As soon as we confirmed the project, I reached out to him. John has a calming energy about him that I knew he’d bring to the shoot, and he was a perfect match.
One major debate was the location for this shoot. Do we shoot the finish line? A skyline? Roof or ground level? In the city or looking at the city’s skyline from Cambridge or East Boston? Ultimately, with Irving Penn as our inspiration, we decided on Exposure Place Studios at EP Levine in Waltham. It provided us with the most control and what would have been the most comfortable environment for everyone involved. This was a shoot that could not be recreated. If nothing else, we owed these first responders a flawless day.
The most amazing part of the day was watching John shoot the individual portraits. He sat across from each person, camera in hand, but not poised to shoot, and asked them: “How were you involved that day?” Maybe it was the dark studio, maybe the intimate relationship between artist and subject, maybe that calming energy John has, but people let their guard down and shared their stories. These were the stories that they didn’t intend to tell, that they eloquently avoided when being interviewed. But there was something magical in those moments when they spoke. And then that magic radiated in their portraits.
The images for the cover and photo essay had to strike the right chord. The first responders had to look strong, powerful, proud. We had hundreds of options. But culling through and finding the right grouping that looked cohesive together—that was the easy part.
I’m not sure there has ever been a cover in Improper history that has gone through 11 rounds of edits. Everyone had their own opinion. Again, the whole office weighed in: “That font isn’t right.” “The text placement is off.” “I don’t like that phrasing.” We hung up options and beat them down until we struck the right balance. We let the photo speak for itself and drove our message home: the folks before you, and those they represent, they are Boston’s Best. Plain and simple.
We put together a lot of covers here—25 a year to be exact. I’ve had the good fortune to travel to New York City and L.A. to meet major celebrities and sports stars in the city at cover shoots. But this shoot, being in the presence of these ordinary heroes, was the most star struck I have ever been. I hope this cover means as much to you as it does to all of us.
Photos by The Improper Staff
With tree-lined, terraced slopes surrounded by the brick facades of a historic mill city, Lowell’s Boarding House Park offers one of the area’s most striking settings for an outdoor concert, less than 40 minutes from Boston. Its 2013 Summer Music Series looks a tad light so far, but strongly graces its first weekend with folk godmother Joan Baez Friday and British folk-rocker Richard Thompson Saturday. Although Thompson’s latest project features an electric trio, he’ll be playing solo acoustic in Lowell as well as at Sunday’s Prescott Park Arts Festival in Portsmouth, N.H. And that’s the ideal showcase for his wry wit as well as his rich vocals and quicksilver guitar licks: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8rwUjYNfP4c.
On the classic-rock side, there’s a potent pairing of Heart and Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Experience at the Comcast Center Friday. Expect a closing streak of collaboration from the two acts, which wowed in their joint Kennedy Center tribute to Zeppelin: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DSdIeI9Sjdw. And ’60s favorites the Rascals, known for hits like “Good Lovin’” and “It’s a Beautiful Morning,” roll into the Opera House both Friday and Saturday with their well-reviewed, documentary-styled “Once Upon a Dream” concert tour: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8kIIE2hhtlE. But you won’t find a hotter indoor show Friday than the return of Fitz and the Tantrums (who just opened for Bruno Mars at the Garden) at the Paradise Rock Club. With its second album More Than Just a Dream, the LA band has gone from neo-soul in the Stax vein to more electronic touches akin to ’80s soul-pop purveyors Hall & Oates. Either way, the crew fronted by Michael Fitzpatrick and foil Noelle Scaggs provide lively entertainment value: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FDmlZMyeOHQ. And Saturday’s a coup for old-school hardcore rap fans who can check out the long-overdue Boston debut of the Geto Boys (featuring Scarface, Willie D and Bushwick Bill) at the Middle East Downstairs. The once-controversial group broke out of Houston in the late ’80s and early ’90s behind the disturbing imagery of tracks like “Mind Playing Tricks on Me,” which was recently voted by Rolling Stone magazine as the fifth greatest hip-hop song of all time: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lS8qMfYYmtc.
Webster’s lakeside Indian Ranch also provides a rustic allure with outdoor concerts that actually start at 2 p.m. On Saturday, the Central Mass. venue presents Holliston-bred country singer Jo Dee Messina on Saturday, while Sunday offers Peter Frampton’s Guitar Circus, where the ’70s-launched star best known for his blockbuster live album Frampton Comes Alive brings along guests Don Felder (ex-Eagles) and slide whiz Sonny Landreth for a show that includes such rock classics as: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-jB6CbS5zR0. On Sunday night, the Cat Empire rolls into House of Blues behind its slinky new album Steal the Light, an overdue opportunity for the genre-crossing Australian outfit to share its charismatic music on these shores again: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bmfWadj0G7E. And the Sinclair closes its weekend of the Eugene Mirman Comedy Festival on a musical note with Wesley Stace’s Cabinet of Wonders, featuring Stace (John Wesley Harding) and a locally rooted cast that includes Tanya Donnelly, Jenny Dee, Damon & Naomi, Buffalo Tom’s Bill Janovitz and Chris Colbourn on Sunday: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ajxNnF4TdGM.
Being Pedro Martinez
Q&A with legendary Red Sox pitcher
Pedro Martinez answers questions inside the Good Humor Ice Cream Truck Tuesday at Copley Place. (Photo by Chrissy Connors)
Pedro Martinez spent 7 years with the Red Sox, starting in 1998. During that time he won two Cy Young Awards, finished second in the AL MVP race and helped lead Boston to its first World Series title in 86 years. A lock for the Hall of Fame, his 1999 and 2000 seasons rank among the greatest – if not the greatest – seasons by a pitcher in baseball history. But the accolades during his time in Boston do not do justice to how much of an event it was to watch Pedro on the mound every 5 days. Each game offered a chance for history: 6 no-hit innings in the decisive game of the ALDS, spinning a 1-hitter against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, striking out 17 against the New York Yankees, dominating the first two innings of the All-Star Game at Fenway on 1999. You didn’t get up until he gave up his first hit of the game. After every fifth inning, you’d calculate if he could still reach 20 strikeouts. It was oh, so sweet. And that’s why it was a good match when Martinez showed up outside Copley Place on Tuesday as part of Good Humor’s ‘Share the Love’ campaign this summer. The truck will make unannounced stops in the city, but also plans to be at Free Friday Flicks at the Hatch Shell, City Hall Plaza for Harborfest Sampling Days (July 3 & 7), and the Fisherman’s Feast in the North End (Aug. 15-18). In an interview with The Improper Bostonian, Martinez shared his thoughts on retirement, the Boston Marathon bombings, his legacy and some advice for Boston legends like Paul Pierce who might be leaving the sports scene here soon.
Matt Martinelli: So, you’re here today with Good Humor — and you always had a good sense of humor when you were with the Sox.
Pedro Martinez: Yeah, it’s a good match. I like to get out and meet all the people. I enjoy seeing people and meeting the fans and all the people who supported me. I like all this because it keeps me able to stay close to all the people in Boston.
Do you still do other types of volunteering?
I do. I do a lot. I always have been able to give back and I like to do a bunch of different things. I still enjoy meeting the people and helping out a lot.
What’s a normal day like for you right now?
It depends on the day. I do a lot of fishing. But on days when I’m in Boston it varies Sometimes I’m in the field with players. Sometimes I’m in the front office. Sometimes I’m in the minor leagues.
Where do you like to fish?
I like all types of fishing, all the different fishes. But deep-sea fishing is what I’m really into right now. In the ocean, lake, whatever. I like the deap-sea stuff.
I know you were into gardening, are you still doing that?
I do. I like to garden, but I can’t do it all the time. I’m not there, so I don’t get to do it as much. But I like to garden.
Do you still have a place in Massachusetts?
You know what’s funny is I held onto my house for 4 years. And then right after I sold it, I came back to Boston. It was bad timing. I love Boston. This city is great, I love to be here, but I don’t have my place anymore.
You grew up in the Dominican Republic with a tough childhood. What was the first visit there when you went back and you noticed things were different for you from before? When did you get a different reception?
I’d say 1997. It was when I started to build a hospital and really give back and the hospital had kids getting heart surgery and getting all sorts of treatment. And a lot of things changed for me. It was really special.
What advice would you give any other beloved Boston sports star who’s exiting Boston? Like say Paul Pierce with the Celtics?
Well, I would say just enjoy Boston. Just enjoy everything about it. And enjoy the passion of the fans and the historic buildings and historic stadiums. Fenway is a unique place, there’s nothing like that for a baseball stadium. There’s nothing like where they play for basketball. It’s such a historic city and it’s great, so just enjoy it and don’t take it for granted while you’re here.
Where were you when you first heard about the Marathon bombings?
I had just been in the city two days ago. It was like crazy. I turned on my cell and I saw the news and I thought – why? Why would anyone do that to this city? I feel so bad for the victims and all the people who were hurt. I met Jeff (Baumann) and he said I was his favorite player and that was a good feeling. But Jeff is an incredible person. God made sure he could handle it. But I just felt so bad for everybody who got hurt.
So, you’re back in the Sox front office now – how’s that been? What type of role do you see yourself with with the Sox going forward? Is it a (Johnny) Pesky-type role? Or will you do just spring training?
Well, I never knew how much work to do there is in the front office. I never had any idea. But I like it. I like doing all sorts of different things with them. So, I could see myself doing multiple things going forward. (More below photos)
Pedro Martinez interacts with fans on Tuesday at the Good Humor Ice Cream Truck. (Photo by Chrissy Connors)
Now, back into reminiscing a bit: What was your favorite place for a road trip?
Chicago. Well, I liked them all, but I liked Chicago a lot. I liked San Diego, Seattle, and Texas and L.A. But Chicago was good. I’d go anywhere on the road, but Chicago – it’s not Boston, but it’s still good. And I like Miami, too. If I had to live somewhere else, I’d want it to be Chicago or Miami. Boston is my favorite, though.
What would you say was the best game of your career?
Hmm, I’d have to say maybe the one against New York where I struck out 17 guys. That was a great night, and I had it going. But maybe the one, there was a night game against Roger in May one year, where we both went 8 scoreless innings. And then Roger gave up a 2-run homer in the 9th and I loaded the bases with two outs, but then I was able to get out of it.
I remember that game. It was a homer from Nixon.
When you consider your years in 1999 and 2000, do you ever rank it and think those were the best seasons in history. A lot of people say that. Do you ever think that?
I don’t rank it, but I do think back and it was great. You have to just look at it. It was right in the steroids era. The league ERA was so high and I was below 2, and then you consider I had 300 strikeouts and I didn’t walk many people. I think you’d have say it was among the best.
Which player do you most enjoy watching these days?
Oh, a lot. I like Verlander and King Felix. And you’d have to say Giancarlo Stanton and Jose Reyes. I really enjoy watching him. (Miguel) Cabrera. Those are guys you pay money to go to the park to see. There’s a lot of guys. Those guys in Anaheim: Trumbo, Trout, Pujols. Posey. I enjoy watching a lot of them.
Solid Sound Covers It All
“I’m in love with Massachusetts!” Wilco's Jeff Tweedy sang Friday in a triumphant cover of the Modern Lovers’ “Roadrunner” that name-checked Solid Sound, and that Wilco-curated festival ruled its Berkshires home over the weekend with a virtual audio-visual travelogue befitting our proposed state song.
The picture-perfect kickoff to the summer’s festival season covered ground from Wilco’s guest-studded covers night to such acts as roots siren Neko Case, indie-pop group Lucius and Brazilian-bred rock ravers Os Mutantes. The only blip in the musical festivities at North Adams’ MASS MoCA campus came from the oats-sewing Foxygen, which uncorked a shambolic set of classic rock ‘n’ roll that saw security pull frontman Sam France down from the stage scaffolding while another animated band member was later ejected by police.
Tweedy later joked onstage about Foxygen getting “kicked out,” noting that when he introduced himself to Foxygen earlier, they had responded, “Jeff who?” Still, he added, “They were awesome. A little too awesome, I think.” He dedicated “Passenger Side” -- an ode to drunk driving from Wilco's 1995 debut A.M. -- to Foxygen.
Indeed, the third edition of Solid Sound proved the ideal family-friendly festival, not only for its array of music and kids’ activities, but for its unique infrastructure of shops, bars and galleries to escape the heat (or rain if there was any). The factory-born contemporary art museum’ galleries included a warehouse space hung with giant bird-like sculptures where you could peer down at one of the concert courtyards.
In its first U.S. show since 1988, the Dream Syndicate summoned Saturday’s most exhilarating set in that larger courtyard, with singer Steve Wynn and sole new guy Jason Victor hitting a guitar-slashing peak on an extended “John Coltrane Stereo Blues.” Yo La Tengo later offset noisy jams akin to onetime peers Sonic Youth with role-switching dream-pop on the same stage, which likewise closed with the minimalist strokes of Low. Then action turned to the field stage for Neko Case, who debuted a few new songs that fit her sublime fare, even though she missed some high notes in her band’s one-off appearance. And Wilco’s Saturday focus on originals balanced early mellow mode and thrashing peaks, hinged by the odd mid-set combo of the lovely lulls of “One Sunday Morning (Song for Jane Smiley's Boyfriend)” and the Radiohead-ish electric bursts of “Art of Almost.”
Friday’s request night was hard to top though, with all covers except for a rousing “Kingpin” requested by comic host John Hodgman, who sometimes manned a bingo machine with balls numbered to match tunes on a 77-page list of website suggestions. Wilco touched on the requisite Beatles, Dylan, Stones (a resonant “Dead Flowers” with Nels Cline on steel guitar), Neil Young and the Grateful Dead, albeit the trifle “Ripple.” Guitar fireworks flew in Television’s sinuous epic “Marquee Moon.” And unexpected highlights came in “New Madrid” by Tweedy’s old band Uncle Tupelo, garage-rock nugget “Psychotic Reaction” with Tweedy blowing harmonica over Glenn Kotche’s explosive drums, a slowed take on Nick Lowe’s “(What’s So Funny ’Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding,” and a playful pairing of the Kinks’ “Waterloo Sunset” and ABBA’s “Waterloo” with backing vocals from the ladies of Lucius.
Another surprise: the Replacements’ “Color Me Impressed” with that recently reunited band’s Tommy Stinson (who wasn’t on the festival lineup) on guitar, while Yo Lo Tengo joined on its own “Tom Courtenay” as well as “Roadrunner.” After a couple of botched “stump the band” requests (plus a H0dgman-thwarted attempt by one fan to shake Tweedy's hand, because he's "really shy"), Wilco even did justice to Daft Punk’s disco-y “Get Lucky.” (Heck, I'll just post the whole request-night setlist at the end).
Wilco members also capped Sunday’s final main-stage set by the jazz-groove trio Medeski Martin & Wood, which became house band for a jam session with rotating guitar guests David Hidalgo and Marc Ribot (coming from their smoky acoustic and electric duets as Border Music) and the virtuoso Cline, who delighted in experimental sonics before Tweedy emerged to sing the Wilco tune “Hate It Here.” The singer warned the crowd (which had dwindled to less than half of Saturday’s peak of 7,500) that the song didn’t reflect how he felt about being there. But he needn’t have worried. Everyone knew, and shared the love of Solid Sound.
The Boys Are Back in Town (Thin Lizzy)
Cut Your Hair (Pavement)
In the Street (Big Star)
New Madrid (Uncle Tupelo)
Dead Flowers (the Rolling Stones)
Simple Twist of Fate (Bob Dylan)
Ripple (the Grateful Dead)
Who Loves the Sun (the Velvet Underground)
And Your Bird Can Sing (the Beatles, played twice)
Psychotic Reaction (Count Five)
Tom Courtenay (Yo La Tengo, with guests Yo La Tengo)
James Alley Blues (Richard Rabbit Brown)
Waterloo Sunset (the Kinks, with guests Lucius)
Waterloo (ABBA, with guests Lucius)
(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding (Nick Lowe)
Marquee Moon (Television)
Happy Birthday (dedicated to Wilco member Pat Sansone)
(Don’t Fear) The Reaper (Blue Öyster Cult)
Cinnamon Girl (Neil Young)
Get Lucky (Daft Punk)
Surrender (Cheap Trick)
Color Me Impressed (the Replacements, with guest Tommy Stinson)
Thank You Friends (Big Star)
Encore: The Weight (the Band, with guests Lucius)
Roadrunner (the Modern Lovers, with guests Yo La Tengo)
Finding value for Kevin Garnett
With Doc gone, Pierce rumored out of town, where will KG go?
Let the gnashing of teeth begin Boston. Doc Rivers is gone to L.A., and Paul Pierce seems destined to end up elsewhere, but the one asset who might be the toughest for Danny Ainge to move is the guy who has been here the least amount of time and who offers the best value: Kevin Garnett.
More players from the Celtics want to go to L.A. than partners at SCP on “Mad Men” want to bolt for the West Coast, but with David Stern once again intervening in Chris Paul’s career by blocking Kevin Garnett from going to the Clippers, the Big Ticket has seen his options dwindle.
Make no mistake, the Celtics are hardly missing out by not being able to trade Garnett to the Clippers. DeAndre Jordan making $13M for the next two years is the type of contract that could be replicated in every offseason. There’s no doubt you can sign a guy like Nikola Pekovic or Al Jefferson for a similar average annual value this year. Paul Millsap would cost only slightly more. If you trade Paul Pierce for a $16M trade exception and a draft pick, then that type of player can be brought in via sign-and-trade. With those types of moves available, there’s no use getting worked up about the Clippers’ deal for Garnett falling through.
If Garnett can be taken at his word, he will only play for Doc Rivers, or with Paul Pierce, or for the Celtics. I don’t think Cleveland (or really any other team) would want Garnett and Pierce (nor could they make it work), and Rivers is out, so does that mean Garnett will stick around in Boston? What coach would he be OK playing for? Would it need to be Danny Ainge? Would he play for Brian Shaw? How about good friend Tyrone Lue? Or would he just retire, leaving the Celtics not only with a $15M trade exception from the Pierce deal, but also $10M in cap space that they would need to use before using the trade exception.
If he doesn’t retire, the Celtics could expect to be a playoff team next year rather than go through a complete rebuild. A team with Rajon Rondo, Jeff Green, Avery Bradley, Kevin Garnett, Paul Millsap starting, and Jared Sullinger, Brandon Bass and Courtney Lee off the bench is good enough for the 7th or 8th seed in the Eastern Conference. But the team would seem to be in a no-man’s land that Ainge has vowed to avoid.
Garnett (who can still play as evidenced by averaging 14.5 rebounds a game in the playoffs) would certainly provide the veteran leadership desired on any team with lots of guys in their 20s (like the Celtics would have). Much as Pierce could play a mentor role in Cleveland, Garnett would offer it in Boston—as he has for the past six years. It might turn out the best value he can offer the franchise is right here in Boston.
The calendar officially turns to summer and concert options are off the hook, starting with a blockbuster Friday. Christine McVie may be long gone, but Fleetwood Mac soldiers on behind the fronting tandem of Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham and the founding rhythm section of drummer Mick Fleetwood and bassist John McVie. When the Mac rolled through the TD Garden in April, the manhunt for the Marathon bombing suspects was starting to landslide, so the tone should be a bit lighter when the group kicks off the weekend at the Comcast Center: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ibc0s2W7nc.
In town, Sting brings his Back to Bass tour to the comparatively intimate Bank of America Pavilion, leading a crack band that showcases guitarist Dominic Miller, keyboardist David Sancious and especially drummer Vinnie Colaiuta, who enables Sting to nail hits from his old supergroup the Police as well as solo fare: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n2m48PSJM1U. On Friday’s club front, there’s also an in-demand bill of surging California folk-rockers Dawes with rootsy upstarts Shovels & Rope at Royale (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Wn5ser4OEQ) and sax powerhouse James Carter (who can literally make his reed instrument pop) and his organ trio at Scullers Jazz Club: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e3DcgzaG8RI.
Western Massachusetts, however, boasts this weekend’s most novel events. Wilco takes over MASS MoCA’s museum complex Friday through Sunday for its Solid Sound Festival, headlining the first two nights, and playing all requests in its first set (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=boDWjSAd3HU) in addition to curating a cast that includes Neko Case, Yo La Tengo, Foxygen and Medeski Martin & Wood. And down at Tanglewood, Melissa Etheridge’s Friday show will be followed by Saturday’s crunchy highlight, a Jerry Garcia Symphonic Celebration with the Boston Pops and guest guitarist/singer Warren Haynes, known for his work with the Dead as well as the Allman Brothers Band. Here’s a clip of Haynes covering a Garcia favorite (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BkOpzcuKkR0) in a club that’s decidedly a bit different from the setting he’ll encounter at the Tanglewood shed and lawn. By the way, Haynes will also have a small band (anchored by ace drummer Jeff Sipe) and be playing Garcia’s famous Wolf-encrusted guitar for this limited tour of orchestra programs.
Back in Boston on Saturday, another legendary guitarist, fusion virtuoso John McLaughlin leads his 4th Dimension Band at the Berklee Performance Center, showing that he still glides like quicksilver with his electric fretwork (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fABc_1OhYDk) in a group where the bassist plays with silk gloves. Meanwhile, at the Paradise Rock Club, Afro-pop partners Amadou and Mariam tap their transcendent charms: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UagthNjD0m8. And on another wavelength, there’s a Rock and Blues cruise on Boston Harbor with the Ryan Montbleau Band (with the promise of TV availability for Saturday’s Bruins game) as well as jam-rockers moe. at the Casino Ballroom in Hampton Beach, N.H.
On Sunday, the modern gypsy-styled Caravan Palace delivers its electro-swing swagger in a World Music/CRASHarts show at the Brighton Music Hall: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u39usR16jDI. And hopefully Cindy Wilson of the B-52’s is back in good health after missing some concerts earlier this month. Her venerable good-time group (with foils Fred Schneider and Kate Pierson) rolls into the Bank of America Pavilion on Sunday for a double bill with the Go-Go’s after a swing through the Newport Yachting Center in Rhode Island on Friday and the Cape Cod Melody Tent on Saturday. Anyone want to order a “Rock Lobster”? Actually, let’s roll with a Wilson vocal feature: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mvf6wFu2G7Q.
The whip-smart Rapture, Blister, Burn could have gone very wrong very easily. The plot features a college seminar titled “The Fall of American Civilization,” invoking the ideas of Betty Friedan and Phyllis Schlafly, Carol J. Clover and Nancy Friday, Jean-Jacques Rousseau and even the esteemed Dr. Phil, but the play—a 2013 Pulitzer nominee—doesn’t feel like a lecture. The four women at its center, representing three generations and dramatically different life paths, could have become cardboard cutouts standing in for Big Feminist Ideas. That the characters breathe and bend is a testament to Gina Gionfriddo’s propulsive, timely, often gut-laugh-eliciting script and the talents in the Huntington Theatre Company’s current production at the BCA's Calderwood Pavilion.
Those characters include Catherine, a driven 40-something academic who’s forged a high-powered career in New York critiquing pop culture, from porn to reality TV. But she’s taken a sabbatical from her “sexy scholar gig,” coming home to a New England college town to be with her mother, the sweet, sensible, plain-spoken Alice (played with impeccable comic timing by Nancy E. Carroll), a widowed homemaker who’s recovering from a heart attack but still serves martinis at five o’clock and frets over her daughter’s love life—or lack thereof.
After an epic drunk dial, Catherine reconnects with Alice’s neighbors, two key players from her past: her grad-school roommate, Gwen, now a high-strung stay-at-home mom of two who recently “gave up drinking and took up talking,” and Gwen’s husband, Don—who dated Catherine until he took up with Gwen during the former’s fellowship abroad 15 years ago. Once a passionate teacher, he’s now a pot-smoking assistant dean operating on autopilot, finding himself “jerking off to the computer while [his] family watches Toy Story.”
Also in the mix is Gwen and Don’s ex-babysitter, Avery, a 21-year-old coed who’s making a reality show with her wannabe-auteur boyfriend. She and Gwen become the only students in Catherine’s impromptu summer seminar course. Its martini-fueled discussions around Alice’s coffee table reveal how Catherine and Gwen covet each other’s lives and doubt the choices they’ve made, much to the bewilderment of Avery, who marvels, “You have a career and wind up lonely and sad, or you have a family and wind up lonely and sad.” Act two gives Catherine and Gwen a chance to find out how the other half lives, and while the Wife Swap-style setup sometimes strains credulity, the payoff is an exploration of the yet-unresolved issues of the women’s movement that plays out with more wit and nuance than much of our current dialogue about “having it all.” It’s no wonder the production’s run was extended through June 30th by popular demand. Catch it if you can.
Photos by T. Charles Erickson