February 20, 2014
Less than 1.5 inches. That’s how close captain Meghan Duggan and the rest of her U.S. Olympic hockey teammates came to fulfilling their dreams. Team USA had never trailed in the game, and clung to a one-goal lead with one minute remaining. With an empty net for a desperate Canada, the puck got loose and glided its way down the desolate ice… More>
February 19, 2014
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 Rankings. The healthy players will be judged based upon their on-court performance, while also keeping in mind their age, contract an… More>
February 18, 2014
Steve Langton’s run in the 2010 Winter Olympics came to a sudden halt in Vancouver when his sled crashed. In the ensuing four years, he had redemption on his mind. After Monday’s run, that goal became a reality for the Melrose native. For the first time in 62 years, Team USA was represented on the podium in the two-man bobsled as Langton and Steve Holcomb captured a bronze medal with a thrilling fourth run in Sochi… More>
February 14, 2014
Emily Cook saved her best Olympic finish for her last Olympic appearance. The three-time Olympian finished in eighth place in the aerial skiing event, but she might depart Sochi with a slight “what-if” feeling lingering in the back of her mind. After easily qualifying for the first two finals (when the field was cut from 38 to 12 and then to 8), she fell on her landing and finished tied for seventh with 64.50 points, thus missing a chance to advance to the third final (a field composed of four skiers)… More>
February 13, 2014Boston-based pianist Danilo Perez brings his expanded Panama 500 band to Scullers Jazz Club. Photo by Raj Naik/Luke Severn.
Valentine’s weekend spins fine musical twists sandwiched by the world-class jazz of Dave Holland's Prism group with Kevin Eubanks and Danilo Perez's expanded Panama 500 band. There's also the jazz-blues of Catherine Russell, the Irish pop rock of Kodaline, the R&B/soul of Eli “Paperboy” Reed (who's ready to add contempory pop colors to his retro attack) and a shot of classic rock from Cheap Trick… More>
Music can thrive on collaborative spontaneity, which we can celebrate this week in many forms, from rock to funk to jazz to Americana. Even West African singer/guitarist Habib Koite has shaken up his band (apart from longtime bassist Abdul Berthe) for his semi-annual World Music/CRASHarts booking at the Somerville Theatre on Friday. And judging from this recent clip, the virtuoso Koite maintains his hypnotic, textural reach.
You can’t stomp through three hours of roof-raising funk like George Clinton does with his sprawling cast of Parliament-Funkadelic without spontaneity. Expect madness like this when Clinton’s P-Funk invades House of Blues on Friday. And on the jazz front, the Regattabar offers Four Generations of Miles Davis with an esteemed cast that includes drummer Jimmy Cobb (the sole survivor from 1959's classic Kind of Blue), saxophonist Sonny Fortune, bassist Buster Williams and guitarist Mike Stern, who fired up Miles’ ’80s funk-rock yet conveys bebop sensibility. That's just one reason why this mixed bag of sidemen appears to click like they do at this recent concert; they’ll play both Friday and Saturday. And for the first time in more than a decade, locally based singer Tanya Donelly plans to reunite with Throwing Muses (and play an opening set) when the Muses play the Sinclair on Friday – and Monday. Donelly co-founded the band with her step-sister Kristin Hersh three decades ago in Newport, R.I., and it’s sweet to contemplate the two spontaneously blending voices again, although Throwing Muses also prove vital as a continuing trio on last year’s Purgatory/Paradise and this recent live clip.
The rest of the weekend gets a little jammy, starting with the arena-ready Americana of the Avett Brothers at the TD Garden on Saturday. The Avetts are teaming with kindred spirits Old Crow Medicine Show and are bound to combine forces for a big ole hootenanny based on this video from a recent show. Speaking of brothers, the same night at the Paradise Rock Club, guitarist Luther Dickinson has put aside the Black Crowes to regroup with his drumming sibling Cody in the North Mississippi Allstars, reigniting their hill country blues-rock like a finely skewed marching band based on this recent clip. And on Sunday, out at the Bull Run Restaurant in Shirley, the seasoned boys of Los Lobos toast their 40th anniversary with an acoustic date along the lines of their new album Disconnected in New York City.
Finally, for our Thursday Throwback, it’s also the 40th anniversary of Genesis’ The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, honored in a fresh feature posting on The New Yorker’s website. That prog-rock concept opus was the band’s last album with Peter Gabriel, who will be inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame (for the second time) as a solo artist in April. Alas, there’s little decent footage to be found from the 1975 Lamb tour, but here’s a full 1973 Genesis show with Gabriel, costumes galore.
Breaking the reality mold
The first thing you need to know about Mark Wahlberg’s new reality show Breaking Boston is that it will in no way resemble Wicked Single, another Boston-based reality show that aired last year. In other words, if you’re tuning in to watch young women get drunk, sleep with each other’s boyfriends and throw punches, you should switch the channel.
“We wanted to tell a story that’s never been told before,” says executive producer Stephanie Drachkovitch. “We’ve seen the fighting, we’ve seen people saying ‘eff you’ across the dinner table to their family. What we really tried to do is capture some of the nuance and some of the reality we’re not used to seeing.”
The reality is that of four working class women struggling to overcome some big obstacles, including addiction, legal issues and lack of education. It’s a different formula from the “reality” we’re used to seeing on TV. (Think the McMansions and McDrama of the Real Housewives set.) That’s due largely to Wahlberg’s commitment to the integrity of the project, Drachkovitch says.
“Mark really wanted to capture the essence and the spirit of second chances, because he feels like that’s what he got,” she says. “He really wanted to capture that theme today, especially in a group of girls because, as he says in our opener, ‘show me one tough guy from Boston and I’ll show you 10 tough girls’.”
The show draws inspiration from the tough (very tough!) women who played Wahlberg’s onscreen sisters in his 2010 film The Fighter. None of these girls, however, come from Central Casting.
All four girls knew each other before filming, meaning the relationships are actually, well, real. Moreover, none of these girls are out to score their 15 minutes of fame.
“Mark is still friends with everyone from the neighborhood and he introduced me to a few people, pointed me in the right direction,” says executive producer Bill Thompson. “And in some cases, the girls didn’t want to do the show. That’s exactly opposite of what you [usually] see. One of the cast members, she had an amazing story but... she didn’t want to put it all on television. But Mark convinced her that we were going to do it right, that we weren’t going to embarrass her and it’s going to be worth it in the end. She called me yesterday, saying she’s happy she did it.”
Breaking Boston premieres on March 13 at 10 pm on A&E.
Top 20 Red Sox Storylines of Spring
Musings amid the dog days of the Grapefruit League.
It's been 125 days since the Red Sox won their third World Series this century, 91 days since Jacoby Ellsbury left for the Yankees, and 17 days since Red Sox pitchers and catchers reported to spring training. On the flip side, it's 27 days till the Red Sox open their season in Baltimore, 29 days until The Improper's Red Sox Issue is released, and 232 days until the World Series is tentatively scheduled to start. Yup, it's spring training, a time when writers will come up with more numbers than the Sloan Sports Conference as a gimmick to write a column. And so here's another. It's time for the Top 20 Sox storylines to keep an eye on during the dog days of the Grapefruit League.
1. Fenway Fun – The 102-year-old ballpark has had a big offseason, even without any of the major renovations that fans had gotten used to under the current ownership. Red Sox owner John Henry mused that a new ballpark would be needed because of structural issues in a few decades. The Sox also secured a long-term deal to continue to close down Yawkey Way on gamedays, and put forth an idea to serve Fenway Franks and other overpriced concessions from a takeout window year-round. While Mayor Marty Walsh said during the campaign that he’d be in favor of selling beer in the aisles, there’s been no push for that. Perhaps in response to outgoing Mayor Menino’s BRA agreement on Yawkey Way (considered by some to be a “sweetheart deal”), Walsh has pushed back on the agreement for the Sox to close off part of Van Ness Street on gamedays. Right now it looks like the mayor and Sox owners are not quite on the same page, and it’ll be interesting to see how the relationship develops.
2. Pay the Man, Part 1 – David Ortiz has been squawking about his contract for about a month, which follows his career mantra: He has never been comfortable going into a season without a contract for the next year. It’s a status that Pedro Martinez sometimes complained about as well. Ortiz, however, is stuck in a bit of a corner; the Sox have no motivation to extend him, and if he has a good year and is tendered a qualifying offer after the season, he’ll cost any team interested (has to be an AL team because of the DH) a draft pick. While the Sox would be smart to ride it out, they’ve also gotten a lot of value from him over the years, and if all he wants is a $14 million deal tacked on every spring, that won’t kill the rich Red Sox who have an albatross-free payroll right now. It’s likely worth giving into Ortiz.
3. Pay the Man, Part 2 – Speaking of contracts, it’s Jon Lester. The homegrown Red Sox ace has been nothing short of spectacular in the postseason, and he’s been durable during his major-league career. The 30-year-old has had solid peripherals throughout his career, but he’s never quite had that standout year. His best seasons were 2009 and 2010, and his mediocre season last year was overshadowed by his overpowering postseason. Lester’s on the record as saying he will give a hometown discount, but what’s his baseline? Does he want a discount off of Cole Hamels’ contract (age 30, 6 years, $144 million before the 2013 season)? Among all pitchers the past 3 years with a minimum of 500 innings, he’s 27th in xFIP (the most accurate representation of a pitcher’s performance), right ahead of Edwin Jackson (age 31, 4 years, $52 million before the 2013 season) and behind Ricky Nolasco (age 31, 4 years, $49 million this offseason). The overwhelming feeling seems to be to resign Lester at a discount…but 5 years, $100 million wouldn’t be too much of a discount.
4. Fragile as Clay – Forget what Morgan Spurlock says. Clay Buchholz’s fast-food ways did not supersize him. The Sox best—and most fragile—pitcher admits to often stopping by McDonalds since he’s too busy sometimes to cook for himself. The Sox brass haven’t come out and said that his lean frame has led to more injuries (he missed half of last season), but they’ve put Buchholz in touch with a nutritionist with the hopes that he could build up his body to better sustain the stress of pitching. It’s worth monitoring for signs this spring on whether this ploy might pay off during the season.
5. Koji Uehara’s Encore – The 2013 world championship season will be remembered by a lot of things that happened in the postseason, but the daily dominance of Uehara was the most impressive part of the year, and his season ranks on the short list of the best years by a reliever. The Sox’ fourth choice for closer last season went one month without allowing a base runner and about 10 weeks without allowing a run. What will the soon-to-be-39-year-old do to follow that up? He’s always had great peripherals in his short major-league career, so it’s a fair bet he will still be great, but just not quite so masterful. For a guy who had durability questions heading into last season, it’s also worth wondering if his 87.2 innings last season will have any lingering effects this spring.
6. The 12th Man – As with most teams, the Sox will likely carry 12 pitchers to start the season. Barring injuries (a huge if), you can expect to see on the opening roster: Lester, Buchholz, John lackey, Feliz Doubront, Jake Peavy, Chris Capuano, Uehara, Junichi Tazawa, Craig Breslow, Edward Mujica and Burke Badenhop. That leaves one spot up for grabs among veterans Andrew Miller, Jose Mijares, Francisco Cordero and youngsters Drake Britton and Brandon Workman. Miller is the favorite, but he’s returning from a major injury last season and any setback could hurt his chances.
7. West Springfield’s Own – Capuano was signed in the wake of Ryan Dempster’s surprising retirement announcement. He will make up to $5 million, and his signing looks to be a bit of a steal, since if he’s healthy, Capuano is a good bet to pitch as well as Dempster, who was signed for $13 million. He’s the team’s sixth starter—and since rotations go five deep that leaves him as the odd man out for now. Will Capuano earn his keep as a lefty reliever or will an injury give him an opportunity to start? The Sox will likely keep him with a starting pitcher’s workload all spring.
8. X Finds His Spot – The hitting was never a question for phenom Xander Bogaerts, and his poised World Series performance simply reinforced that opinion. But Bogaerts was playing out of position in the field, manning third base instead of his natural shortstop. Ironically, third base was the position most scouts figured he’d play in the big leagues, simply because his large frame was more of a fit at the hot corner. But Bogaerts’ bat offers much more value if he can play a competent shortstop. So, can he play a good shortstop? The jury is still out, but the only thing that could seemingly derail him at this point would be if any struggles in the field carry over to the plate.
9. Will He Have Patience? – Some Sox fans might rather the organization have traded the oft-impatient Will Middlebrooks if it meant keeping Jenny Dell around? But the Sox instead kept the 25-year-old, who slugged 17 homers in 374 plate appearances (making Bill James’ prediction of 32 homers in a full season seem far less outlandish when you think about it). The problem with Middlebrooks comes from his lack of patience at the plate. He struck out in more than a quarter of his plate appearances, and walked just 5 percent of the time. In a lineup that grinded out at bats and led the majors in on-base percentage, Middlebrooks stuck out in a bad way. Can the youngster alter his plate approach to be more patient?
10. Backstop Backlog – The Red Sox catching corps’ is lacking much of a middle age this season. A.J. Pierzynski, 37, and David Ross, 36, are the presumed major leaguers—and both have minor injuries this spring. Ryan Lavarnway, 26, and Dan Butler, 27, are the next oldest players in the system. The two split most of the catching duties in Pawtucket last season. Top prospects Blake Swihart, 21, Christian Vazquez, 23, are advancing through the system quickly, and the team drafted Jon Denney, 19, in third round last season. With so much catching depth in the system, it will be tough for the Sox to find enough playing time for all these guys. Might there be a deal that unloads Butler or the once highly regarded Lavarnway?
11. H&H – Although Drew is still lurking in the shadows, the Sox will need a backup second baseman and shortstop. The battle for the role will be between Brock Holt and Jonathan Herrera. Both players still have options, leaving open the possibility they could end up in the minors. Holt has the better bat, but Herrera possesses the better glove. With few ongoing position battles for the Sox, the scrum for utility infielder is one to watch. The Sox could even go outside the organization to fill the need, while shuttling Holt and Herrera back to Pawtucket.
12. AJ & Friends – Oh, the uproar! The Sox signed Pierzynski, the guy once voted as baseball’s “Most Hated Player.” How would he fit in with the Bearded Band of Brothers? Would he ruin the team’s vaunted chemistry, which some observers believed was key to winning the World Series? Well, so far nobody has punched him in the face, and nobody has told the media they’d like to punch him in the face. So maybe he’s not a bad guy after all. Still, we’ll be looking to see if anybody punches him in the face at some point in the spring.
13. Sizing up Sizemore – The 31-year-old was once one of baseball’s hottest young stars. But he missed the past two seasons with injuries and hasn’t played a full season since 2008, which capped off a four-year run in which Sizemore was really, really, really good. He was worth 26.8 WAR according to Fangraphs during that span, with Carlos Beltran’s 22.2 WAR second among all outfielders. But Sizemore has never come close to that level since, and he likely won’t approach those numbers this year. But if he can stay healthy, his bat will be welcome in an outfield that has no sure offensive standout.
14. Center Stage, Again – Last spring was the Jackie Bradley Jr. Show. Would the Sox call him up to start the year? Had he earned it with his spring in which he hit .950 with 53 HRs in 51 at-bats? (Well, not quite.) Bradley certainly earned his spot on the Opening Day roster, but once he got there he struggled. The rookie ended up with three more separate stints with Boston last season, and the King of Applebee’s improved in each of his trips. The on-base skills that Bradley has shown at every step of the minors should translate into him being a valued starter in the majors. It’s hard to believe that the replacement for Jacoby Ellsbury is under the radar this spring, but so far that’s the case.
15. The Long Goodbye – He’s lurking in the shadows this spring. In every grounder Bogaerts fields, every pitch Middlebrooks sees, every overthrow Holt makes. He’s the Tom Joad of the Red Sox. And he might not go away soon. Represented by power agent Scott Boras, Drew declined a $14 million offer from the Sox at the start of the offseason. Boston stands in line to get a Top 50 draft pick as compensation for losing Drew … if they actually lose him. There’s two long-term plays by Boras: Have Drew wait until April 1, so he can sign without the threat of having draft-pick penalty attached to him next offseason; have Drew wait until after the early June draft, so that the team that signs Drew won’t have to forfeit a draft pick (screwing the Sox). Boras has a long history of exploiting loopholes for his clients, so either of those scenarios is not far-fetched. Or he could simply sign with a team looking for help after a spring injury, but for now Drew is waiting on the sidelines.
16. AAA Rating – Allen Webster, Rubby De La Rosa, Brandon Workman, Anthony Ranaudo, Matt Barnes. That’s one heck of a minor-league rotation, with Workman the only player who has not been a constant on Top 100 prospect lists during his development. There should be plenty of jockeying among these five to be a spot starter or injury replacement if the big club needs it during the season.
17. Safe at Home – A lot of the early focus this spring has been on the new rules of the home-plate collision. When can a catcher block the plate? When can a runner barrel into the catcher? How will all of the people who romanticize the Pete Rose-Ray Fosse collision in the All-Star Game react? Most teams are now teaching their catchers to apply a swipe tag, and third-base coaches will need to factor the new rules into their decisions when to send or stop runners. It’s worth keeping an eye on how third-base coach Brian Butterfield and the Sox veteran catchers play under the new rule. Aside from that, the biggest reward from the rule will be the ability to watch Buster Posey play a full season in his prime.
18. Medic Madness – Rule number one for the Red Sox should be never let a blind man use a fishing knife. Unfortunately, Jake Peavy did, and now he’s hurt. It is the most prominent of what will likely be many injuries for the Sox this spring. The major questions with every injury is: How severe, and who is hurt? If Middlebrooks goes down for four months, you likely have your answer to the Stephen Drew problem. If it’s Peavy for a week, well, there’s plenty of cavalry behind him, even if they all don’t have their own Duck Boat.
19. Instant Controversy – Instant replay in baseball has arrived—39 years too late for Carlton Fisk and the 1975 Red Sox, who were jobbed by Ed Armbister’s interference in Game 3 of the World Series. Hockey, football and basketball have all had some form of it for many years, so it was just plain stupid that baseball was the last to implement it. While there’s been replay on home runs the past few years, the sport has now almost completely embraced replay. Managers are allowed one challenge a game, and get a second challenge if they win the first. If the manager is out of challenges, an umpire can initiate a challenge after the sixth inning. The system will not cover balls and strikes, trap plays and a few other instances. So, in addition to double-guessing the 100 things a manager does each game, fans now have one more thing to debate. Let the challenges begin.
20. Jenny’s Job – Don’t call it the Curse of The Improper! Jenny Dell, who graced the cover of The Improper’s Dec. 4 issue, was ushered from the Red Sox dugout to the NESN sidelines this offseason after disclosing her relationship with Middlebrooks. After reportedly flirting with Fox Sports 1, she was last seen covering the Celtics for NESN, which—considering the C’s poor season and that NESN broadcasts none of their games—means she’d contribute about 30 seconds of material each day. But the real question is who will replace her for the Red Sox? Elle Duncan and Sarah Davis both contributed to NESN’s first telecast, and I think we know who Mike Carp favors for the job.
Rajon Rondo Smears Remain a Mystery
The All-Star's fate hinges on success in the NBA lottery.
The Rajon Rondo reports have been piling up fast and furious this week, and the sheer number of them is no coincidence. But it is the timing of these leaks—which added together look a lot like smear campaign—that makes you wonder if the Celtics have already made up their mind on the direction of a rebuild. The only problem is that history (i.e., the last time the Celts made the NBA lottery) shows us the true direction of the franchise won’t be known until May 20. That makes the current string of reports all a bit baffling.
First, it was the report in The Boston Herald that Rondo had skipped traveling with the team to Sacramento, instead staying behind in Los Angeles to celebrate his birthday. Within a day, Grantland reported that Rondo was dangled at the trade deadline and might’ve actually put the kibosh on a trade to Sacramento. And fewer than 12 hours later, Jackie MacMullan says the Celtics have scouted Dante Exum (the top-rated point guard in the draft) more than any other team. The final hammer came a few days later: An “unnamed” scout said Rondo was overrated and that he would prefer 40 other point guards ahead of him.
There’s a few ways to look at the purpose of a smear campaign. It could certainly lower Rondo’s contract demands, forcing him to take less money or less years to stay with the Celtics when he’s a free agent in 2015. A similar smear war was waged in the lead-up to him signing his current 5-year, $55 million deal in 2010. That campaign worked to a degree, and led Rondo to sign for what is now a bargain price.
Perhaps—if the Sacramento trade rumor is true (Is it a coincidence that Rondo missed traveling to this exact city? Or that his coach was so frustrated later that night he earned the first ejection of his coaching career?)—they’re at their wits’ end with him declining to resign with Sacramento, and this is a way to send him a message that life in Boston will not be comfortable. But this smear campaign is a riskier play than 2010 because if the Celtics decide to trade Rondo, then they’re only decreasing his value in the trade market.
Whether Rondo should be traded or kept is a question that won’t be answered until the lottery on May 20. For proof of this path, look no further than the 2007 draft lottery. The Celtics had a veteran All-Star (Paul Pierce) and a chance at a top pick in a loaded draft; the Seattle SuperSonics also had a veteran All-Star (Ray Allen) and a chance at a top pick in a loaded draft. In the days leading up to the lottery, Pierce was quoted as saying he wasn’t sure he would stick around if the Celtics won the rights to select Kevin Durant or Greg Oden. The Celts, however, ended up with the fifth pick, and the Sonics ended up with the second pick. For the Sonics, that meant taking Kevin Durant and trading Ray Allen to pair Durant with a player more his age. For the Celtics, it meant trading the pick (Jeff Green) in order to pair Paul Pierce with a worthy peer in Allen. The two teams both found success: the Celtics went on to trade other assets for a third veteran All-Star (Kevin Garnett) and won a title, narrowly missing out on a second title (damn you, Artest!); the Sonics begat the Thunder who have made one NBA Finals appearance and are destined for more. That’s two teams with the same assets leading up to the lottery, who made firm decisions (win now or rebuild fully) and saw the fruits of it.
This year, the Celtics will be in the same situation. They have one All-Star veteran and a chance for a top pick in a loaded draft. While there is no LeBron James (i.e., immediate impact) in this draft, the top three picks (Jabari Parker, Joel Embiid and Andrew Wiggins) are all consensus future All-Stars. The next level of guys includes a few point guards (Exum, Tyler Ennis, Marcus Smart). If the Celtics get a Top 3 pick, they’d be wise to trade Rondo to a team picking somewhere in the 4-8 range (maybe the Lakers who would want a veteran next to Kobe), and pair two young studs (say, Parker with Exum). This would be the start of an all-in rebuilding phase, similar to what the Sonics/Thunder went through after the 2007 lottery. If the Celtics land in the 4-8 range, then the best bet is to use that as part of a package to trade for a veteran (most rumors point to Kevin Love). Celtics fans would basically be living like it’s 2007 all over again.
Either way, it’s two very different outcomes for Rondo’s future with the Celtics. He will either be retained in a win-now scenario or dealt as part of a long-term rebuild. But the fact that those outcomes won’t be decided until after the lottery makes these recent reports (which look like a smear campaign) all the more baffling. Was it perhaps information that Sacramento leaked in the wake of the trade breakdown? It's hard to say for sure, but it would've been playing with fire for the Celtics to do it.
March roars in like a lion, and that includes Kings of Leon. The Tennessee band of brothers (and one cousin) are back at the TD Garden on Friday, rebounding from their 2011 U.S. tour, curtailed after singer/guitarist Caleb Followill’s melted down onstage in Dallas. The boys are riding high on comeback album Mechanical Bull, and even if they appear a tad stiff onstage, they’ll have plenty of big fancy video screens as well as a killer opener in guitarist/singer Gary Clark Jr. Here’s a sampling of a fairly recent Kings of Leon show. Other Friday night options include breezy folk-pop tunesmith Brett Dennen at Royale and frisky indie-rockers Miniature Tigers doing a dance rush at the Brighton Music Hall.
Boston-bred psych-rockers Quilt know how to stitch a spectral, dreamy haze that advances echoes of Summer of Love-era Jefferson Airplane. And the group, which displays sonic growth and depth on its fine new album Held in Splendor, pulls into Great Scott on Saturday. Here's an older Quilt gem live. The same night, smooth-voiced Mayer Hawthorne (without the glasses these days) brings his playfully seductive soul-pop to House of Blues, while singer/songwriter Dar Williams celebrates the 20th anniversary of her debut album The Honesty Room.
Sunday counters the Oscars with three very different concerts: spry, heady rockers Young the Giant at House of Blues, instrumental post-rock believers Caspian at the Middle East Upstairs, and evolving a cappella pioneers Sweet Honey in the Rock toasting the group's 40th anniversary at Symphony Hall.
For my Thursday throwback, St. Vincent is poised to explode behind an eponymous new album of ramped-up digital mashing – and a boldly visual show (at House of Blues tonight) that suggests Annie Clark learned more about presentation than music from her recent partner David Byrne. Apart from her virtuoso guitar eruptions, Clark has rarely broken statuesque form at her center mic in the past, but this 2011 live studio session from St. Vincent explores a more dramatic edge that she’s now grabbing with theatrical gusto.
True Team Players
A Final Note on the Winter Olympics
It is fitting that all the medals won by the Olympians who were previewed by The Improper ended up being team medals. In talking with the athletes before the Winter Olympics in Sochi, they all lauded a collective effort, not simply from their teammates but rather from the people who surrounded them during their formative years in the Bay State.
Meghan Duggan, who captained Team USA to a bittersweet silver medal in women’s hockey, cited her many coaches, but a couple in particular: “When I was in mite instructional, my best friend’s parents coached us. They’re still two of my closest family friends at this point. Tim and Lois Hayes, they’re from Danvers. They’re husband and wife, and their son is my best friend, and they’ll claim that they taught me everything I know. But they did, and obviously you’re so vulnerable at that age and you can learn so much, and they really did a great job with me.”
Steve Langton helped the U.S. snap a 62-year streak with a bronze in the two-man bobsled and followed it up with a similarly dramatic bronze medal in the four-man bobsled on the final day of the Olympics. Langton said his parents were supportive of his athletic pursuits, from track at Northeastern to bobsled.
Emily Cook, who scored a Top 10 finish in the ski aerials event, said having the right support team was extremely important in coming back from an injury in 2002 that left her wondering if she’d walk again.
“It was kind of a matter of relying less sometimes on motivation and more on commitment, and then also surrounding myself with people who related to me that way. Making sure that the people around me were supportive of what I was doing. On those days that were really hard, those were the people who were rallying and supporting me so I could get there,” Coook said “It’s definitely not something I did on my own, but I think I developed the ability to work hard and overcome stuff during that injury. It’s not something I would ever take back. It’s something I’m incredibly grateful for, looking back today.”
Simon Shnapir, who captured a bronze in team figure skating, said that while his parents first got him on the ice, it was his coach who prodded him to compete in pairs.
“When I first worked with Bobby, our coach, I just skated as a singles skater. I wasn’t very good,” Shnapir said. “My coach was a pairs skater, and he got me into it. I loved it, and ran with it.”
Everywhere you looked on TV, there were stories of coaches and family who worked together to mold this current crop of Olympians, who then worked together with other Olympians to bring home medals and experience success on the world stage. It might take a village to raise a child, but all it takes is teamwork to raise an Olympian.
Comedian and 30 Rock alum Tracy Morgan brings the funny to the Wilbur Theatre on March 1.
When did you realize you were funny in life?
I realized it very early. Maybe four. Very early. Just growing up in a big family and making everybody laugh. So I always had a built-in audience.
Where do you get ideas for your stand-up material?
I live my life, my experiences. I don’t have to look for content. Everything is in me.
Do you write things down or do you practice?
No I don’t...I don’t do none of that stuff. That’s for amateurs. I’m Tracy Morgan. I’ve been who I am for 45 years; I don’t have to practice that.
What’s it like doing character voices for animated films?
It is kind of difficult because when you do those movies, you have to be very specific because they have to match your voice with whatever character and you’re not in the studio with anyone.
What is the most enjoyable part about being a stand-up comedian?
And what’s the hardest part?
None of it to me. I just feel like I was born to do this. So I don’t see it hard at all. But now things are different. You know, there’s a lot of PC now, and I think that PC is starting to turn us into censorship. So that’s difficult being that I make my living talking and telling the truth and expressing what I see and how I feel. Now it’s like you can’t do that anymore, so that’s pretty difficult. So I wonder, I’ve asked myself, “Would Richard Pryor be able to exist? Would…George Carlin? Would those greats be able to exist in a world like this?” And I don’t think so. I mean, I love the world I’m living in because I’ve been afforded so many great things. But I just don’t appreciate PC. And I don’t think any comedian or artist does.
We’re looking forward to your show coming here.
Thank you! I would just want to ask the audience, put your camera phones away and recorders away and let’s just enjoy the show.
I’ll pass along the message. Thanks, Tracy.
Thank you, baby.
Spring Fashion Sneak Peek
Forget your winter blues for a while and take a sneak peek into our Spring Fashion issue, hitting the streets on March 3rd.
We flew down to beautiful Jupiter, Florida, to thaw out for a few days and shoot this spring’s freshest looks. Drawing on the season’s bright hues and multicultural prints, we set out to find tropical backdrops at Jupiter Beach Resort & Spa as the setting for this year’s cover story. Be on the lookout for punchy colors, tropical-inspired patterns and perforated details—the perfect antidotes to the polar vortex.
Produced by Lydia Santangelo. Photos by Montana Pritchard.
On the Rocks!
Geranium Silk Chiffon and Techno Mesh Collage Top, $950, Sand Silk Chiffon Asymmetrical Skirt, price upon request, both at Vera Wang; Mesh Lotus Headband, $140, Mesh Wicker Double Headstrap, $98, both at Colette Malouf; Sigerson Morrison Sandal, $495 at Addison Craig.
Imagination Top, $398, Hula Hibiscus Charmer Bikini Bottom, $64, both at Nanette Lepore; K Belo Sweet Jane Swim Top, $95 at PikNik; Dior Promesse Sunglasses, $420 at Saks Fifth Avenue.
Path to Paradise
Garden Plaid Jacket, $660 at Clover Canyon; K Belo Popsicle One-Piece Birdie, $225 at PikNik; Double Happiness Jade and Lapis Earrings, $176 at Nanette Lepore.
Friday’s a big night for Boston-bred sensation Lake Street Dive, which appears on “The Late Show with Dave Letterman” hours after taking the stage at the Sinclair, the first of two advance hometown sellouts with one at Royale to follow on April 6. But things have already been snowballing for the foursome of former New England Conservatory undergrads who blend soul, jazz and pop into a fresh, dynamic attack topped by the soaring vocals of Rachael Price. The group just released its new album Bad Self Portraits in the wake of such coups as 1.4 million YouTube hits for its sidewalk cover of the Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back” and a spot at the star-studded Inside Llewyn Davis concert in New York where Lake Street Dive brought the house down with this original.
Speaking of another band with local (sic) roots, Berklee alumnus Ari Picker has stripped his North Carolina outfit Lost in the Trees from an orchestral folk-rock sextet to a dreamy electronic pop quartet for its new album Past Life and plays the Museum of Fine Arts’ Remis Auditorium on Friday. Here’s a taste of the retooled Lost in the Trees in concert. And over at House of Blues the same night, Railroad Earth delivers its hearty, bluegrass-steeped jams for its faithful following.
Saturday offers the Boston debut of Israeli star Asaf Avidan at the Somerville Theatre. The show’s presented by World Music/CRASHarts, but Avidan’s not a “world music” act. He’s a haunting folk-pop artist with an arresting voice that evokes the sound of Nina Simone and Jimmy Scott more than his deep-voiced idol Leonard Cohen. And since singer/guitarist Avidan is performing solo, that voice will get plenty of space as it does on this live rendition of the title track from his album Different Pulses. You can also jump here for my recent interview. Also on Saturday, saxophonist Bill Evans has played with Miles Davis and the Mahavishnu Orchestra, but he’s been blending bluegrass and jazz with his fusion group Soulgrass, which plays the Regattabar the same night, albeit without the couple of cool guests from this clip. Also, the (again) Boston-rooted singer Eilen Jewell weaves her spell at the Sinclair on Saturday.
Parents looking to finish school vacation week with a kid-friendly bang also might want to consider the Boston debut of Circus Oz, an Australian performing troupe that’s invaded the Shubert Theatre through the weekend with a loose, attitudinal mix of juggling, acrobatics, humor and music.
And RIP Bob Casale, the guitarist from Devo who died from heart failure this week. Devo was a one-of-a-kind band that delighted and perplexed from the get-go, evidenced in this week’s throwback concert clip from 1980. I especially love the wacky choreography of “Uncontrollable Urge,” which begins at the 6:16 mark.
Dr. Love, Ph.D.
Your mother may have sound advice on a lot of subjects, but does she have Ivy League expertise in casual sex and hook-ups? Dr. Justin Lehmiller, Harvard psychology fellow and The Psychology of Human Sexuality blogger, uses science to debunk common dating and relationship beliefs.
You can’t approach a guy the same way you approach a girl.
“[Both] men and women prefer it when people approach us directly and simply say hello, compliment us or start up a casual conversation,” explains Lehmiller, adding that cheesy pick-up lines are usually a turnoff. “When it comes to attraction and relationships, we all seem to want a partner who is intelligent, funny and honest.” In regards to appearance, research shows men prefer good looks only slightly more than women.
Friends with benefits are destined for disaster.
“The problem that a lot of friends with benefits run into is that they don’t establish any ground rules up front, [so] one of you might develop unreciprocated feelings,” says Lehmiller. But, when friends with benefits are good communicators, he believes it’s possible to have a mutually satisfying experience that can result in an even stronger relationship.
All relationships will always have an undying passion.
“It’s exceedingly rare for couples to experience eternal passion in the real world,” says Lehmiller. “In most cases, passion builds up very quickly, but fades after a few months or years.” Some psychologists explain this experience as developed tolerance to the “feel good” brain chemicals induced from being with our partner. Just blame our biology.
It’s unlikely you’ll meet your significant other at a bar.
“Believe it or not, bars and restaurants are actually one of the most common ways people report meeting their romantic partners today,” Lehmiller says. “It’s possible to find love almost anywhere.” So you might want to keep that tab open.
Winter Olympics - Feb. 20
It was thisclose to gold for Duggan and her U.S. hockey teammates.
Less than 1.5 inches. That’s how close captain Meghan Duggan and the rest of her U.S. Olympic hockey teammates came to fulfilling their dreams.
Team USA had never trailed in the game, and clung to a one-goal lead with one minute remaining. With an empty net for a desperate Canada, the puck got loose and glided its way down the desolate ice. If it went in, it would mean Canada’s stranglehold on gold would end after three straight Olympic titles. It would mean the first gold for Team USA since the 1998 gold-medal classic in the sport’s inaugural showing. It would mean that the past four years of training day in and day out to beat Canada, including the past year in Bedford, had paid off. But the puck did not go in. It hit the post. And the width of that post made all the difference. In the end: Canada 3, USA 2.
Canadian star Marie-Philip Poulin netted a game-tying goal with less than 1 minute to go in regulation, and she added the game-winner on a power play in overtime to give Canada the gold over a gassed Team USA.
The disastrous end overshadowed a dominant first 59 minutes of play by Team USA, which included a goal from Duggan, the Danvers native who was featured in the Feb. 5 issue of The Improper. After scoring the go-ahead goal to put Team USA up 1-0, Duggan dropped down on one knee and did a fist pump, a celebration reminiscent of her first Olympic goal in a 2010 game against China. The stakes in this game, however, were much higher—and Team USA's valiant effort met the challenge for most of the night. Before departing for Sochi, Duggan told The Improper that a win against Canada in the gold-medal game would be the ultimate achievement.
“Winning Olympic gold I think has been a dream since I was a kid. And we’re working day in and day out to get there,” Duggan said.
At one point today, Duggan and Team USA stood less than a minute from gold. They now stand four years away – Feb. 2018 in South Korea.
Celtics Player Power Rankings - All-Star Break Edition
Rondo and Sully lead the way, but future assets are hard to find.
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 Rankings. 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 the previous rankings here. Here's the pre-trade deadline edition:
1. Rajon Rondo – As Rondo gets healthier and closer to his old self, the rumors surrounding him have tended to get better. A package from the Kings of McLemore, Isaiah Thomas and two first-rounders sounds intriguing. But if Rondo is going to be traded, it’s more likely to be on draft day, when the Kings and Lakers might be looking for a PG and the Celtics—if they have a top 3 pick—might be fully committed to rebuilding around an under-20 stud. Or it could be as part of a package for Russell Westbrook if his return to Oklahoma City goes poorly, forcing the Thunder to seek more of a passing point guard to put next to Kevin Durant. He will be either traded for a package of picks and a young player in late June or he’ll be part of an overhauled team come July.
2. Jared Sullinger – At the start of the year, you could have had a legitimate debate about who the second-most valuable player on the Celtics was. That’s no longer the case. Whether it was from gaining more NBA experience, or thanks to a pep talk about effort from his father, Sullinger has brought consistency to the court for the past month. With that, his numbers have improved, but questions remain: Is it the Dino Radja Effect (i.e. somebody has to put up numbers on a bad team), and could his effort slip again? For those reasons, he might end up being the centerpiece of a summer trade for a proven superstar. But for now, just entertaining that type of conversation shows he’s on the right track.
3. Avery Bradley – He’s a restricted free agent at the end of the year, but with injury issues (his ankles) always popping up, it could hurt his value. There’s no denying what a force he can be when healthy, even more so when he’s playing next to Rondo, but his health has always been a big question.
4. Jeff Green – He’s had a couple of 8-point games lately, but in his last dozen games before the All-Star break he had three games in which he scored more than 29 points. Complaints about his inconsistency and his passive play are legitimate, but he’s still a good guy to give the ball to when the game’s on the line. Reports that the Celtics would need to “dump” his salary on someone are stretching the truth. At $9 million per year, he’s not a value but he still provides production that’s in line with his veteran salary.
5. Kelly Olynyk – The rookie is the best bet to climb these rankings in the second half of the season. He had double-doubles in his last two games before the All-Star break, and he’s looked the most comfortable during February than he has at any point in his short NBA career. His starting spot in the Rising Stars Challenge might not raise as many eyebrows in retrospect.
6. Phil Pressey – It’s hard to believe it’s come so quickly, but we’ve now entered the part of the rankings in which the player is worth no more than a second-round pick in return (and teams buy second-round picks every year for less than it takes to buy a starter house in Needham). Pressey has shown flashes of skill, and he’s certainly a bargain on his salary, but his upside is a serviceable backup point guard.
7. Brandon Bass – The Celtics’ big man has been rumored in a few deals this year, and it wouldn’t surprise anyone if he was traded before the deadline. He’s a consistent contributor and a great guy in the locker room, but he’s not going to play crunch-time minutes for a championship contender. That makes next year’s $7 million price tag one the Celtics would be wise to get themselves out from under. It’s not onerous, but he’s not worth it.
8. Kris Humphries – He’s making $12 million this year, but his contract expires at the end of the year. For some team with a similar, yet less productive expiring contract player (Phoenix with Emeka Okafor; Charlotte with Ben Gordon), Humphries might be worth flipping a second-round pick to the Celtics to upgrade. But the Celtics really have no reason to make this trade as long as Humphries is playing the good-soldier role in the locker room.
9. Jerryd Bayless – The player the Celtics received for Courtney Lee is a free-agent-to-be and cannot be combined with another player in a trade. That hasn’t stopped his name from coming up in trade rumors. Much like with Humphries, since the price would likely being a low-value second-round pick, it’s hard to see any motivation for the Celtics to trade him.
10. Chris Johnson – Any team could’ve signed him to contract at the start of 2014, but the Celtics made the move, eventually inking him to a long-term nonguaranteed low-risk deal that could be combined with other nonguaranteed deals (see Keith Bogans) to bring in a veteran. He’s been great when given a chance, but there isn't much long-term value. While people probably said that about Jeremy Lin, they also said that about Vander Blue …
11. Vitor Faverani – The Brazilian center's three-year, $2 million contract is not worth it. The Celtics had to dump salary in order to sign Faverani and still stay under the luxury tax. They were taking a risk, and the project simply hasn’t turned into anything worthwhile.
12. Keith Bogans – Dear Keith: Stay home. You signed for $5 million a year (about $3.8 million more than you otherwise were worth) and spoke about being a veteran leader, but you couldn’t handle being relegated to the bench every day so you were sent home. You will be cut before mid-July, so hang tight for the next four months.
13. Joel Anthony – It’s still hard to see Anthony declining his $3.8 million player option for next year, but he’s seen how Bogans dealt with not playing, and he’s seen what life on the bench for a struggling team is like, so maybe he’ll opt out and try to sign a one-year $2 million deal elsewhere. Or maybe the Celtics will buy him out for about $2 million? It’s hard to see how taking on his contract was worth what will likely be three second-round picks.
14. Gerald Wallace – Crash finished second in Grantland’s 30 worst NBA contracts, but that’s being a little harsh. Not because he still has something left in the tank, but because he only has two years left on his contract. The four-year deals signed last offseason are likely more onerous than Wallace’s.
Winter Olympics - Feb. 17
Langton ends Team USA's two-man bobsled medal drought with a bronze.
Steve Langton’s run in the 2010 Winter Olympics came to a sudden halt in Vancouver when his sled crashed. In the ensuing four years, he had redemption on his mind. After Monday’s run, that goal became a reality for the Melrose native. For the first time in 62 years, Team USA was represented on the podium in the two-man bobsled as Langton and Steve Holcomb captured a bronze medal with a thrilling fourth run in Sochi.
Through the first three heats, Russia and Switzerland held firmly to the top two spots and it appeared Team USA had a stranglehold on third place. In the fourth and final heat, however, the second team from Russia set a blistering pace on the track, posting a time of 56.57 seconds and jumping from a tie for fifth place into contention for the bronze. Langton and Holcomb, however, kept their composure and posted a time of 56.68 seconds, enough to claim the bronze by a margin of 0.03 seconds.
Before departing for Sochi, Langton told The Improper that winning a medal was on his mind.
“Winning a medal for my country is the reason I'm still competing,” he said. “Everything I've done over the past four years has been to put myself in a position to make that goal a reality.”
The Northeastern grad will compete in the four-man competition on Saturday and Sunday, closing out the Winter Olympics.
Winter Olympics - Feb. 14
Emily Cook hangs it up at the Olympics with a Top 10 finish.
Emily Cook saved her best Olympic finish for her last Olympic appearance. The three-time Olympian finished in eighth place in the aerial skiing event, but she might depart Sochi with a slight “what-if” feeling lingering in the back of her mind. After easily qualifying for the first two finals (when the field was cut from 38 to 12 and then to 8), she fell on her landing and finished tied for seventh with 64.50 points, thus missing a chance to advance to the third final (a field composed of four skiers).
She scored an 80.01 on her qualifying jump, which put her in the finals. On her second jump, Cook garnered a score of 82.21. Her third jump concluded with the fateful fall, and perhaps Cook sensed she had missed an opportunity. NBC's cameras showed her looking up at the scoreboard after her jump, with her trademark smile meshing with a slight grimace on her face. She would’ve needed a score of 88.51 to qualify for the four-women finals. If she had made the finals, her chances to medal would’ve been high considering Lydia Lassila took home a bronze medal with a 72.12 score, and Mengtao Xu tallied an 83.50 for the silver. Alla Tsuper of Belarus won the gold with a score of 98.01.
Despite a medal having been within her reach, Cook will likely depart Sochi with a sense of accomplishment, having scored her first Top 10 finish in the Olympics. She missed 2002 because of injury, and finished 19th in 2006 and 11th in 2010.
The Improper’s Feb. 5 cover girl talked last month about her plans after competing in Sochi: “Thankfully, I have a whole week after I’m done competing to celebrate with my teammates and kind of take in the experience. … I think closing ceremonies will be special for sure.”
Cook was cognizant that winning a medal in Sochi out of a field of 38 women would be tough, so she had made peace that the outcome would matter far less than the process.
“I really think that I’ve done absolutely every thing I can do to perform my best in Sochi,” Cook said. “My goal is certainly 100 percent to come home with a medal, but I know for sure that having left no goal unturned and having done everything that I can, no matter what happens in Sochi I’m going to walk away very satisfied and very happy with the career that I’ve had.”
Cook’s career has spanned a few generations of women’s aerial skiers, including the current crop of up-and-comers. Her Team USA teammate Ashley Caldwell, 20, scored the highest marks of anyone on the mountain on Friday. Unfortunately for Caldwell, her 101.25 score came during qualifying and she failed to make it out of final 12 to the final eight. Cook took a sense of pride in taking her younger teammate under her wing.
“Ashley is my 20-year-old teammate and I met her when she was 14. We roomed together her first week. We definitely have learned a lot from each other. We complement each other really well. She’s young and fun and giddy and she keeps me laughing and keeps me grounded and reminds me why I started this sport,” Cook said.
Cook planned before the Games began for this to be her final Olympics. The 34-year-old Belmont native is unsure when she’ll walk away from competitive skiing, but she knows she won’t make it to 2018.
“We’re going to take a little bit of downtime. I’ve got a bunch of plans in March, and hopefully in April I’ll find a beach somewhere to go relax on and find out what I want to do for the rest of my life,” she said. “It’s definitely going to be a whole new adventure. It’ll be different for sure. I’ve been on the national team since 1997 when I was 18, so it’ll be exciting. I’ve tried to retire before and it’s never been the right time. I’m definitely excited for the next month, but I’m also really looking forward to what’s coming next.”
Valentine’s weekend spins some fine musical twists, with rock, folk and R&B sandwiched by world-class jazz. Acoustic bassist Dave Holland has juggled a few different jazz projects in recent years, but his latest quartet slips closer to the electric fusion he helped pioneer with Miles Davis in the late ’60s. He’s found a worthy cast in Prism with keyboardist Craig Taborn (ex-sideman for Dave Douglas and James Carter), drummer Eric Harland (currently in Charles Lloyd’s quartet) and guitarist Kevin Eubanks, a late ’80s Holland associate who took a detour as bandleader on the “The Tonight Show.” Expect more challenging detours from Holland’s Prism as the group closes a two-night stand at the Regattabar on Friday. Or for a more conventional touch of romance that same night, feisty jazz-blues vocalist Catherine Russell might do the trick to light your fire at Scullers Jazz Club
More upbeat options for the night of Valentine’s Day include Irish rockers Kodaline, floating their Coldplay-like appeal at the Paradise, and Brookline native Eli “Paperboy” Reed’s homecoming at the Sinclair with guest Ruby Rose Fox. Reed’s known for his powerhouse R&B/soul persona, but the singer’s expected to stretch into contemporary pop territory on his upcoming Warner Brothers debut. Advance single “Woo Hoo” rides a stuttering electro-dub backdrop that makes Bruno Mars sound retro.
Boston-based pianist Danilo Perez may be best known of late for his trailblazing improvisations with the Wayne Shorter Quartet, but he’s also released a stream of outstanding albums as a leader. The latest, Panama 500, may be his best yet – or at least the most far-reaching as a tribute to his homeland, encompassing jazz, classical and folkloric elements. The album’s split between two trios, one with Shorter bandmates John Patitucci and Brian Blade, the other with his longtime trio mates Ben Street and Adam Cruz, who join Perez at Scullers Jazz Club on Saturday and Sunday, including a matinee. Violinist Alex Hargreaves, one of Perez’s former students from the Berklee Global Jazz Institute, and Cuban percussionist Roman Diaz augment the pianist’s group for this stand.
Soulful, Laurel Canyon-styled rockers Nicki Bluhm and the Gramblers also play the Sinclair with the likewise folky Joe Pug on Saturday. And Sunday, classic-rock fans can surrender to Cheap Trick at Lynn Auditorium. Apart from the messy replacement of drummer Bun E. Carlos with guitarist Rick Nielson’s son Daxx, it’s the same band that infamously rocked Budokan, with singer Robin Zander and bassist Tom Petersson joining the hammy Nielsen and his collection of multi-themed and even multi-necked guitars.
Finally, for this week's throwback, with singer/guitarist Stephen Malkmus bringing the latest edition of his fine band the Jicks to the Paradise on Feb. 25, here's a full 1999 show with his wooly original outfit, the legendary Pavement.
Breckenridge, CO, a quaint town located about 80 miles from Denver, prides itself on top-notch skiing and a
rich gold mining history. But if you're slope skills are lacking, there's plenty of alternative outdoor adventures to get your heart pounding. And when you're not mushing with huskies or zipping through treetops, enjoy comfort food, unique shops and brewpubs dotted along a main street plucked straight from a Brothers Grimm tale.
Photos and Video by Mallory Scyphers
The following videos were captured with a GoPro Hero3 camera fastened to a chest mount strap.
^ Top Left: A snowy morning walk though town; Top right: Fresh powder on the rockies; Bottom Left: Lunch in a yurt before ziplining; Bottom Right: Skis stacked at the base of the mountain
^ Outfitted with a GoPro Hero3 camera, I was able to capture these awesome stills of our snowmobiling adventure (Bottom row of photos taken separately)
^ Top Two Rows: Breckenridge Brewery; Row Three: Amazing Grace Natural Eatery; Fourth Row: A view of skiers from the base of the mountain; Bottom Left: Breckenridge Nordic Center; Bottom Right: View of town
^ Photos from the Breckenridge Distillery
Winter Olympics - Feb. 12
Castelli, Shnapir go all-out in finale
Imagine this: You’re well positioned for a Top 10 Olympic finish, with a legitimate shot to move up even higher in your first Olympics. You already have a bronze medal in your possession. You go all-out, right? Knowing that if you pull off some of the toughest moves you’ve tried in competition, then you could move up the standings. And knowing that if you stumble, then you can look back fondly and say you tested yourself on the highest stage. It’s a no-brainer, right?
Local pairs skaters Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir found themselves in that exact situation and they attempted a no-regrets program in the free skate on Wednesday in Sochi. The result was ninth-place overall and a season-best score of 120.38 (61.25 technical, 59.13 component) for the duo in a performance that could have been even higher. Set to the theme from Skyfall, Castelli and Shnapir lost points on execution for three different moves, the biggest loss coming on the most-ambitious move—quadruple salchow. Even calculating a completely flawless program, however, the best the pair could’ve finished was sixth, and that’s giving them the most possible points for execution.
They scored a season-best score in the short program on Tuesday, good enough for ninth-place in that segment. They followed that up with a season-best score in the free skate on Wednesday, again finishing with the ninth best score in that competition—good enough for a ninth-place finish overall. There’s no doubting that this year’s crop of pairs skaters shined brightly during the Olympics. The Russian team of Maxim Trankov and Tatiana Volosozhar set an Olympic record en route to winning the gold. In 2010, the 187.82 overall score that Castelli and Shnapir posted would’ve been good enough for sixth place.
With no more Olympic competitions, the pair will head home with a bronze medal earned in the team competition, a Top 10 Olympic finish, two season-best performances, and the peace of mind that comes from attempting such an ambitious final skate.
The U.S. women’s hockey team, led by captain and Danvers native Meghan Duggan, might have beaten Canada in recent exhibition games, but getting over the hump in the Olympics is going to be a challenge. Canada outlasted the U.S., 3-2, with the difference-maker coming on a controversial goal. Canada has now won 18 straight games at the Olympics. Both teams will advance to the semifinal round, with the U.S. likely to face Finland on Monday. Duggan has yet to score a goal, but she did earn some time in the penalty box on Wednesday.
“They’re our biggest rival and we’re training day in and day out to beat them if that’s what it comes down to.” Duggan told The Improper before departing for Sochi. “But we’re just focused on ourselves right now. We’re doing a lot of the little things, working hard, training hard, changing around a lot of things. We’ve been focused on ourselves this past month, doing all that, and we were successful against Canada [in exhibitions].”
They’ll likely get one more shot, and it will be on the greatest stage: The gold-medal game.
Sealed With A Diss
This Feb. 14 isn’t just for the happy couples. For those not swooning over candy hearts and teddy bears this year, stick it to Cupid with one of these anti-Valentine’s Day festivities.
If you’re not feeling the romance, dance Friday night away with fellow haters at this Theater District restaurant’s anti-Valentine’s Day party. Eat your heart out while taste-testing the special menu featuring mini Big Macs, fried Snickers bars, chili cheese fries and individual Ben & Jerry’s cups.
Abby Lane | 255 Tremont St., Boston | 617-451-2229 | abbylaneboston.com
Destroy the warm and fuzzies with angsty music, films and poetry, alongside aptly named dishes that include arrabbiata “angry” pizza, jerked chicken and irate rice and voodoo cookies.
Area Four | 500 Technology Sq., Cambridge| 617-758-4444 | areafour.com
Prefer pizza and beer to roses and chocolate? Say “puck love” while enjoying special pies and reruns of classic Bruins games at this North End pizzeria’s bash.
Ducali Pizzeria & Bar | 283 Causeway St., Boston | 617-742-4144 | duca.li
Howl at the Moon
Celebrate love the cynical way at the dueling piano bar’s Love Sux party, which will feature games, prizes and cocktails. Bring along those ex photos that you use as dartboards for free admission.
Howl at the Moon | 184 High St., Boston | 617-292-4695 | howlatthemoon.com
Winter Olympics - Feb. 11
Shnapir, Castelli post season-best score
Scoring a season best in the Olympics is one of those too-good-to-believe stories, but you can add it to the list of achievements for local skaters Simon Shnapir and Marissa Castelli. The pair, based out of the Skating Club of Boston, skated, twirled, glided and jumped their way to a 67.44 score and a ninth-place finish in the short program of the pairs figure skating competition on Tuesday in Sochi.
Taking the ice for their third competitive skate of the Olympics, Castelli and Shnapir calmed their nerves and put forth their best performance to date, staying free of any scoring deductions. Their routine was set to Carlos Santana music—the same as during the team skate last week. The experience from that performance most certainly helped them improve their technical elements score, which led to the overall improvement from 64.25 to 67.44, the top U.S. score. The pair sits fewer than eight points away from the third-place duo, but jumping past so many competitors to land a place on the podium seems unlikely. They finish up with the free program, their final skate of the Olympics, on Wednesday at 10:45 am (NBC Sports).
Despite the long odds to gain a medal, tallying a season-best score to go along with the bronze medal earned in the team skate ensures this will be a satisfying Olympic experience for Castelli and Shnapir.
Winter Olympics - Weekend 1
Bust out the bronze for Shnapir and Castelli
The team figure skating competition made its Olympic debut in Sochi, and while the competitiveness of the format was questioned (Russia clinched before the final skate), this much is certain: It was a success for locals Simon Shnapir and Marissa Castelli, who are no longer simply Olympians. They’re Olympic medalists, bronze medalists to be precise.
The pair had both been featured in The Improper before the Olympics, and Shnapir cited the duo’s long history as a key to success.
“We have more experience together now because we’re in our eighth year together, coming up,” Shnapir said before departing for Sochi. “For us, the biggest change was just the way we communicate, the way we work together, how we react together. I think that’s the most important part.”
After finishing in fifth in the short program of the team competition, Castelli and Shnapir took fourth—out of a reduced field of five countries— in the free program on Saturday. For the second performance in a row, the pair stumbled with the triple salchow, and they also had trouble with a quad salchow. Despite that, Castelli and Shnapir finished only 3 points out of third place, and the 117.94 score solidified the U.S. hold on third place. All that was left was to have Jason Brown, Gracie Gold and the team of Meryl Davis and Charlie White perform up to their capabilities on Sunday. When they did, Castelli and Shnapir found their way to the podium as part of the U.S. team medal.
There’s little time to celebrate as Shnapir and Castelli return to the ice on Tuesday at 10 am on NBC Sports as part of the pairs’ short competition. While they finished fifth in short program in the team event, they face longer odds in this competition. The field in the team event only included one team from countries such as Canada and Russia. Those countries will field multiple contestants in this event, and those contestants are ahead of Castelli and Shnapir in world rankings. The one optimistic view heading into Tuesday’s competition is that the Skating Club of Boston-trained pair has gained some Olympic experience and shaken off some nerves by already performing in Sochi.
Elsewhere in Sochi, Danvers-bred Meghan Duggan tallied an assist at the U.S. women’s hockey team followed up its 3-1 win over Finland with a 9-0 rout of Switzerland. The win clinched a spot in the top two of the group for the U.S., who will take on archrival Canada on Wednesday at 7:30 am on NBC Sports.
Keep up with the full schedule of Olympians featured in The Improper Bostonian, and pick up an issue on newsstands now.
Winter Olympics - Day 2
Sharing opening ceremony memories
The opening ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympics might have included a fifth-ring failure (hey, at least they didn’t accidentally burn peace doves like in 1988), but the pageantry and spirit of the ceremony is a reason why the ceremony was cited by all four Olympic athletes recently profiled in The Improper as being the highlight of their experiences, past and present. Here are their exclusive recollections of the opening ceremonies in past Olympics.
Emily Cook, aerial skier: “My favorite Olympic moment was the opening ceremonies in 2006. We had an incredible team. It was so amazing to share it with these people. I cried. It was incredibly emotional. It was the biggest accomplishment of my career to date. I’ve had World Cup wins. I’ve had national championship wins. There’s been a lot in this career that’s been amazing, but that moment was what I had put all the hard work into.”
Meghan Duggan, hockey captain: “The opening ceremony (in 2010) was incredible. Obviously, you watch it on TV every two years. It’s something that just burned in my heart for so long. It’s everything it’s cracked up to be. You walk out in front of all those people. You almost can’t even believe it. And you’re marching in with the entire U.S. team. It’s an incredible feeling. I think that’s the day that it hits you that ‘Wow, I’m an Olympian, and I’m here to represent my country. So it’s great.’ ”
Steve Langton, bobsledder: “Opening ceremonies (in 2010) was unforgettable. As a lifelong athlete, being an Olympian was the first dream I can ever remember having. For that reason, walking into the Olympic stadium with my Team USA teammates was something I will carry with me forever.”
Simon Shnapir, figure skater: “I know it sounds cliche, but the Olympic experience is what I’m looking forward to. Being there and seeing the rings everywhere, that’s definitely going to be the number-one thing that we’re both looking forward to.”
You can catch the opening ceremonies on tape-delay tonight on NBC.
Keep up with the full schedule of Olympians featured in The Improper Bostonian, and pick up an issue on newsstands now.
Before the Bad Plus became a featured attraction at jazz festivals and even the Institute of Contemporary Art (for a take on Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring last February), the trio cut its chops in small rooms equally suited to jazz and rock, which made sense with a repertoire dotted by covers from Ornette Coleman to Nirvana and Blondie. The Bad Plus has been focusing more on its originals in recent years. But either way, expect frisky, malleable interplay with a pinch of wry humor when bassist Reid Anderson, pianist Ethan Iverson and kinetic drummer Dave King conclude a two-night stand at Scullers Jazz Club on Friday. Here's a recent live clip of the Bad Plus.
Boston’s Americana scene also takes the spotlight this weekend with two fine album-release celebrations. First, Girls, Guns and Glory teams with Sarah Borges to toast their respective new outings Good Luck and Radio Sweetheart at the Sinclair on Friday. GGG has come through transitions, but the band -- still anchored by Ward Hayden’s smooth vocals – has been raising its national profile. And feisty Borges boasts her own new band of fine local roots-rockers after having a baby with guitarist Lyle Brewer, who opens that show along with the Swinging Steaks. And over in Davis Square, Amy Black brings her fine country and soul-inflected songs back to Johnny D’s Uptown for early shows both Friday and Saturday to celebrate her assured new album This is Home. The Southern-bred singer’s sweet sound and storyteller’s sensibility swings between Nashville and Muscle Shoals, whose historic studio inspired a recent covers EP that Black has posted for free download (she's been doing shows to promote it with Borges as well).
Friday’s other considerations include the New Orleans funk/jazz/jam veterans Galactic at House of Blues, though it’d be worth the trip for opener Charles Bradley alone. At age 65, fronting his Extraordinaires with the classic soul power and charisma of his idol James Brown, Bradley lays his heart on the stage with the compelling, authentic humility of a man discovered in his twilight years after a life of poverty and tragedy, outlined in the documentary “Soul of America.” Check out this clip from Bradley's recent show at the Paradise. It was great to see his second album Victim of Love earn its share of love last year. And Saturday finds Cibo Matto, the New York duo of Japanese expatriates Yuko Honda and Miho Hatori, bringing its arty, kaleidoscopic mash of hip-hop and exotic flavorings to the Sinclair as the group prepares to drop its new album Hotel Valentine on Feb. 14.
Sunday belongs to Boston’s legendary post-punk pioneers Mission of Burma, closing a short string of Northeast dates with a benefit show at Arlington's Regent Theatre for Somerville First, a non-profit aiming to develop a sustainable economy for local businesses. Despite playing infrequent shows (here's a clip from England), Burma has solidified its standing over the past 12 years (that’s three times longer than the band’s early ’80s heyday) with five tautly unhinged albums that spin dust devils of sonic and rhythmic invention. The Regent date includes Burma drummer Peter Prescott’s new instrumental solo project MiniBeast as well as Quincy's Bugs and Rats. Also of note, earlier Sunday evening at the ICA, guitarist Roger Miller’s Alloy Orchestra bandmate Ken Winokur weaves his junkyard percussion with fellow clarinetist Beth Cluster of Clubfoot Orchestra and ex-Cul de Sac multi-instrumentalist Jonathan LaMaster for live accompaniment to psychedelic Super 8 films of Ken Brown, who conjured light-show collages at the Boston Tea Party in the late ’60s.
Finally, for this week’s throwback, in honor of New Orleans favorite Dr. John bringing his Nite Trippers to the Wilbur Theatre next Wednesday, here’s a 1984 TV set with the good doctor (aka Mac Rebennack) and Texas blues guitarist Johnny Winter (who’s coming to Shirley’s Bull Run Restaurant on Feb. 21, two days before his 70th birthday).
Winter Olympics - Day 1
Shnapir, Castelli skate in new event
Who needs the Opening Ceremony? Locals Simon Shnapir and Marissa Castelli took the ice today, a day before the torch is officially lit in Sochi, and were among the first American athletes to compete in the Winter Olympics. Judging by their result, the pair did just fine despite the fact the torch is still unlit. They met—and possibly exceeded—expectations in their first performance.
They took part in the new team figure-skating event that pits 10 countries against each other in eight events: Short and free programs for each of the four categories (men’s, ladies’, pairs, dance) in which competitors gain points (from 10 for the best to 1 for the worst) for their country. Following up Jeremy Abbott’s seventh-place finish in the men’s short program for Team USA, the duo that trains at the Skating Club of Boston finished fifth in the pairs’ short program.
Dancing to tunes of Carlos Santana (“Smooth” and “Black Magic Woman”), the pair lost points on a triple salchow but otherwise were hit with no other technical deductions, gaining a composite score of 64.25 (34.99 technical score, 29.26 component score). Despite ranking behind them in the world rankings, they finished well-ahead of the French contingent of Vanessa James and Morgan Ciprin. Russia finished the competition in first place (and took second in the men’s program), well ahead of a group of three countries bunched in from second (Canada) to fourth (Italy).
“I think we’re both excited about the team event,” Shnapir told The Improper before departing for Sochi. “I think that’s another cool opportunity for figure skating to gain some publicity.”
Based on expectations, the best hopes for Shnapir and Castelli to medal during the Winter Games will be as part of Team USA in this new team-skating event. Today’s effort marked a good start toward that goal, although Russia and Canada are firmly in the lead. A better result might have seen Canada slip to fourth (by 3 composite points) amid that group in the pairs’ program, but Team USA has its favored skaters in the dancing and ladies’ events yet to go. Shnapir and Castelli will skate again as part of this team event on Saturday at 1:05 pm (it can be seen live on NBC Sports).
Keep up with the full schedule of Olympians featured in The Improper Bostonian, and pick up an issue on the streets.
Follow the Winter Wonders
Times, cable stations for following local Olympians
The Improper’s current issue profiles four local athletes—Emily Cook, Meghan Duggan, Steve Langton and Simon Shnapir—in the Winter Olympics. Here’s a schedule (with times in Boston) of each of their performances, as well as where you can watch these Bay Staters. The Improper will have quick recaps of the athletes’ work each day they compete, as well as some outtakes from their interviews leading up to the Games. In addition, we’ll have some photos from John Huet, who shot the photos for the magazine feature and who will be in Sochi to photograph the Games.
Thursday, Feb. 6
12:10 pm (NBCOlympics.com; tape-delay primetime on NBC) - Simon Shnapir and Marissa Castelli compete in the pairs’ short program for the team competition.
Friday, Feb. 7
11 am (NBCOlympics.com; tape-delay primetime on NBC) - Opening ceremonies
Saturday, Feb. 8
3 am (NBC Sports) – Team captain Meghan Duggan and a multitude of others with Bay State connections compete in the U.S. women’s hockey preliminary game against Finland.
1:05 pm (NBC Sports; tape-delay primetime on NBC) - Shnapir and Castelli compete in the pairs’ free program for the team competition.
Monday, Feb. 10
5 am (NBC Sports) – Duggan leads the U.S. women’s hockey team in a preliminary game against Switzerland.
Tuesday, Feb. 11
10 am (NBC Sports; tape-delay primetime on NBC) - Simon Shnapir and Marissa Castelli compete in the pairs’ short program.
Wednesday, Feb. 12
7:30 am (NBC Sports) - Duggan leads the U.S. women’s hockey team in a preliminary game against Canada.
10:45 am (NBC Sports; tape-delay primetime on NBC) - Simon Shnapir and Marissa Castelli compete in the pairs’ free program. This will be their final competitive performance of the Olympics.
Friday, Feb. 14
8:45 am – 2 pm (NBC Olympics.com; tape-delay primetime on NBC) – The Improper’s cover girl Emily Cook competes in qualifying and finals of ladies’ aerial skiing. This will be the final Olympics competition for Cook, who told The Improper she’ll be retiring sometime in the next year.
Saturday, Feb. 15
TBD – Duggan leads the U.S. women’s hockey team in a quarterfinals game, if necessary.
Sunday, Feb. 16
11:15 am (NBCOlympics.com; tape-delay primetime on NBC) – Steve Langton takes part in the U.S. men’s two-man bobsled preliminary heat.
Monday, Feb. 17
7 am (NBC Sports) or 12 pm (MSNBC) - Duggan leads the U.S. women’s hockey team in a semifinals matchup, if the squad qualifies.
9:30 am (NBCOlympics.com; tape-delay late night on NBC) – Steve Langton takes part in the U.S. men’s two-man bobsled finals heat.
Thursday, Feb. 20
7 am bronze-medal game (NBC Sports) or 12 pm gold-medal game (NBC) - Duggan leads the U.S. women’s hockey team in a medal game, if the squad qualifies.
Saturday, Feb. 22
9:30 am (NBCOlympics.com; tape-delay primetime on NBC) – Steve Langton takes part in the U.S. men’s four-man bobsled preliminary heat.
Sunday, Feb. 23
4 am (NBC Sports; tape-delay daytime on NBC) – Steve Langton takes part in the U.S. men’s four-man bobsled finals heat.
This post has been updated from its original form.
For the past year, Groupmuse has brought chamber concerts to local living rooms. Now the tempo is only increasing.
For Sam Bodkin, founder of Groupmuse—a network connecting classical musicians with millennial audiences through BYOB house parties turned chamber concerts—Beethoven’s Große Fuge was a gateway drug. “My first year of college, I was sitting in the basement of one of my best friends,” a cellist who gave an impromptu performance, Bodkin recalls. “It was truly one of the formative moments of my life.” Bodkin started raiding the Newton Free Library’s classical section; soon he was hooked. “I decided I was going to devote my life to figuring out how to bring my generation close to classical music, because a sort of unfortunate corollary to this wonderful personal discovery was the realization that my generation didn’t know sherbet from Schubert.”
The Groupmuse concept started marinating after Bodkin met New England Conservatory students who threw house-party concerts in Allston. “It was very much a college party—drinking, socializing, partying—but it was tied together by truly great young musicians playing their hearts out.” Coupling that experience with memories of Couchsurfing across Europe, he hosted the first Groupmuse in January of 2013. Now four to five Groupmuses gather every week. After each, a bowl for musician donations is passed around, as is a clipboard so attendees can volunteer to host a party for their own friends and members who’ve RSVP’d through the Groupmuse website. “We are so overwhelmed by how well this has been working in getting young people to come to classical music every single week.”
Bodkin thinks Boston’s character has much to do with the rapid growth. “It’s a small city, but we have all these world-class cultural institutions,” he says. “You have this preposterous concentration of musical talent.” But starting this month, Groupmuse is expanding, with parties planned for Austin, Philadelphia, San Francisco and New York. Bodkin’s also developing a revenue model. “The problem is, of course, that 20-somethings are the most hilariously broke demographic,” he says. “But we do know that there are probably more affluent middle-agers that also want intimate experiences with art that’s so close—just a foot away. And they don’t necessarily want strangers coming into their homes and getting tipsy.” The plan is to curate private performances for clients who control the guest lists.
But Bodkin’s mission remains making classical accessible for young audiences—as reinforced by a recent comment from a first-timer that was music to his ears. “He said, ‘I don’t think I’ve been in a room where so few people were on their cellphones for such a long time.’ That made me so happy.”
Sports Thoughts, Sans Super
Catching up with the local teams ... but staying away from the NFL
It’s only been 12 days since the Patriots were knocked out of the playoffs, and so it’s more than reasonable to assume some local fans are not quite jazzed about the Super Bowl. In that spirit, here’s a look at where the other local teams stand in an NFL-free blog post.
Red Sox – Don’t worry about David Ortiz’s contract. The current rules surrounding the qualifying offer being what they are, he will have a standing offer at $14M every offseason if he wants to take it. The market and value of DHs being what it is, he won’t receive a similar offer in free agency. Maybe he hashes out one of those Tim Wakefield lifetime contracts, but even that deal had to be changed at the end of Wakefield’s tenure. The real intrigue surrounds the free agency of Stephen Drew. Will they let him walk and take the compensation pick (likely to fall in the 30s) in the upcoming draft? Or will they use him to fill the hole on the left side of the infield. And yes, there is a hole. After what we saw from Will Middlebrooks for most of last season, you can’t blame Sox fans if they wanted him reassigned rather than NESN’s Jenny Dell. He’s a streaky, strikeout-prone, impatient hitter. He’ll likely get better – because that’s what young players mostly do, but it’s risky to pin your hopes on him. He’s not nearly as much of a sure thing as Xander Bogaerts. As it stands now, Jonathan Herrera would be the backup infielder, but he can be sent down to Pawtucket. If last year is any guide, that will be the move for Herrera as Cherington will maximize all of that flexibility at the start of the year. That leaves Drew as someone who could once again bolster the team’s depth. Is signing him worth giving up that pick and having to dump one of the starting pitchers in a trade to fit under the luxury tax? With ample pitching depth in the organization, perhaps that’s the best allocation of resources. An even better allocation might be letting Drew walk, gaining the pick and then trading a starter in a package for a soon-to-be free agent third baseman (Chase Headley, Aramis Ramirez). Expect a solution in the next couple weeks.
Bruins – The NHL season seems even longer this year with all the games squeezed in around the Olympic break, but this Bruins’ team has a knack for following up some nice games with absolute stinkers—much like last night’s game against Montreal. Yet there’s no need to worry about just one game. This team kept its head above water while dealing with a slew of injuries early this season. In doing so, they got a chance to try out younger players and see who fits and who doesn’t. Now, most of those injured players—aside from Dennis Seidenberg—are expected back this season. So you’re eventually adding a guy like Adam McQuaid to a defensive corps that has a more-improved Matt Bartowski as well as Kevan Miller, who was unearthed from Providence. It’s hard to predict what happens in the playoffs when one bad bounce can knock you out of a series, but the Bruins will have a chance once again this year.
Celtics – Six weeks ago, the Celtics were atop the Atlantic Division, but now they sit at the bottom with the third-worst record in the league. The teams are so jumbled up at the bottom of the standings that it’s hard to say for certain that the Celtics will be assured of a Top 7 pick (this is a very deep draft, but most scouts have zeroed in on the Top 7 as all having max-contract upside). But if they do get a Top 7 pick, Danny Ainge will have a chance to go one of two ways. Keep the pick and trade Rajon Rondo (presumably for Detroit or Sacramento’s pick if it falls in the Top 7) or trade the pick as part of a package for a veteran All-Star to pair with Rondo. In the “Keep Rondo” scenario, a few other moves (in addition to getting an All-Star) such as perhaps a sign-and-trade for Gordon Hayward or a trade for Omer Asik would need to be made. In the “Trade Rondo” scenario, you’d hope to build your team around two of the young guys from this draft—say Marcus Smart and Jabari Parker. It would take longer to rebuild, but you might have a longer window for success since the players would be younger. On the downside, the success of two young players would be far less predictable than that of a Rondo-and-All-Star duo.
Patri … just checking to see if you were still paying attention. No NFL here today.
Revs – Yes, the Revs. They made their much-awaited return to the playoffs last season with an unanticipated run. Now, they’ll have Charlie Davies for a full season in the system, and the former national-team member should be a factor on the field after struggling during his brief time with the team last season.
The Patriots might not be in this year’s Super Bowl, but that hasn’t stopped Boston’s pubs and eateries from gearing up with viewing parties and game-inspired menus. Whether you’re looking to show off your competitive eating skills or sample fine dining from the comfort of your couch, football fanatics and foodies alike can enjoy our pick of game-day festivities.
What could make this year's Super Bowl any better? (OK, other than the Patriots.) How about a halftime pizza buffet and a wing-eating contest at this third annual Super Bowl Party?
113 Dartmouth St., Boston | 617-262-9874 | clerysboston.com
Go seriously luxe this Super Bowl Sunday. Chef/owner Steve “Nookie” Postal will throw you and 300 friends an over-the-top party—including foie gras, caviar, lobster and top-shelf bottles—for a neat $30,000.
11 Broad Canal Way, Cambridge | 617-945-7030 | commonwealthcambridge.com
Snack on tailgate-inspired bites such as salt and pepper wings, pork belly tacos and pulled pork potato skins.
825 Washington St., Newton | 617-964-2665 | cooknewton.com
Craigie on Main
This Sunday, you can eat out while crashing on your couch. Craigie’s "Pigskin Package" includes “Head to Tail” roast pig, tortillas and two salsas.
853 Main St., Cambridge | 617-497-5511 | craigieonmain.com
Olde Magoun’s Saloon
Enjoy all-you-can-eat at this BBQ Tailgate Party with wings, coleslaw, bacon mac and cornbread. Before the smorgasbord, sample soups (or submit a gallon of your own) at their chili cook-off.
518 Medford St., Somerville | 617-776-2600 | magounssaloon.com
Watch the game while skipping the sports bar scene. This Harvard hotspot’s menu offers takes on halftime favorites, like Narragansett corndogs, Thai-style chicken wings and roasted peanuts with Kaffir lime.
52 Church St., Cambridge | 617-547-5200 | sinclaircambridge.com
Cinematic bands with Boston roots grace the start of a deceptively busy weekend in different settings. For a sit-down experience, Gem Club celebrates the release of its sparsely atmospheric album In Roses at the Museum of Fine Arts’ Remis Auditorium on Friday. With his voice and piano, songwriter Christopher Barnes spins fragile melancholy similar to Antony & the Johnsons, if with less drama and more patient reflection, assisted by vocalist Ieva Bererian and cellist Kristen Drymala, who also punctuates their soundscapes with pedal bells. And for late-night club denizens, Arms & Sleepers (comprised of Max Lewis and Mirza Ramic) marks its local return from hiatus to play the Middle East Upstairs. Expect visual overlays and percolating beats underneath the duo’s film-inspired soundscapes.
Alternative hip-hop fans will more likely hit House of Blues on Friday for chill, slinky headliners Aer, the Wayland-bred duo of Carter Schultz and David van Mering. They’ve shared the stage with Grammy darlings Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, and adopt a breezy pop sound for their new single “Says She Loves Me.” Horn-happy jazz fans have a pair of fine options Friday and Saturday, and they could even hit both. Stylish, bop-weaned trumpeter Roy Hargrove holds court at Scullers, while alto sax firebrand Kenny Garrett hits the Regattabar, his music seeming broader and more inviting of late. Or check out the ruminating, under-the-radar jazz of Sketches, a young Brooklyn outfit that includes ex-Either Orchestra alto player Jeremy Udden, at Inman Square’s Lily Pad on Friday.
Soul fans can savor the gospel-steeped sass of Mavis Staples (on the heels of her second album with Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy, the Grammy-nominated One True Vine) on Saturday in Cary Memorial Hall, a Colonial-styled auditorium in Lexington. Count on Mavis to deliver her sly attack on classics from her days with the Staple Singers as well as other nuggets, evidenced in this frisky clip from 2013.
Finally, for my Thursday throwback, in anticipation of the Arctic Monkeys’ Feb. 6 show at Agganis Arena, here’s the band when they were punky whippersnappers, before their Queens of the Stone Age-inspired turn toward slower, darker rock.
Hot Rock, Cool Jazz On Way
We’re still mired in the frigid cold of January, but the summer festival season begins to loom large with this morning’s announcement of the Boston Calling lineup for Memorial Day weekend on City Hall Plaza. The Newport Jazz Festival has likewise revealed an intriguing, well-balanced schedule for early August.
Jack Johnson, Death Cab for Cutie and the long-absent Modest Mouse are slated to headline the now-three-day Boston Calling Music Festival, split between two stages. Other artists include Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros, Brand New, the Head and the Heart, Tegan and Sara, Bastille, Jenny Lewis, Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls, the Neighbourhood, Phosphorescent, Built to Spill, Kurt Vile and the Violators, Walk off the Earth, Warpaint, Cass McCombs, Maximo Park and the Districts. Tigerman WOAH! and Magic Man represent the local landscape.
This will be the third edition of Boston Calling curated by Aaron Dessner of the National, who closed the first one on Memorial Day Weekend last year. Vampire Weekend, Kendrick Lamar, Of Monsters and Men, the Shins and Lucius were among the many acts that played the downtown space last year. Tickets go on sale tomorrow (Jan. 29) for presale three-day passes and VIP tickets, the latter allowing access to the City Hall mezzanine overlooking the plaza. The event takes place May 23, 24 and 25. For more information, go to www.bostoncalling.com.
For those who prefer jazz to rock, the Newport Jazz Festival has already revealed its lineup as well – and it’s another impressive spread, expanded to three days at seaside Fort Adams State Park in that Rhode Island city.
The Newport Jazz Festival opens Aug. 1 with a rare bevy of challenging musicians both emerging and established, the highpoint being a “marathon” of John Zorn’s Masada that includes such virtuoso henchmen as Dave Douglas, Mark Ribot, Cyro Baptista, Mark Feldman, Greg Cohen, Joey Baron. Other artists on that Friday bill include Jon Batiste and Stay Human, Rudresh Mahanthappa’s Charlie Parker Project, Snarky Puppy, and big bands led by Miguel Zenon and Darcy James Argue.
Saturday, Aug. 2, will include the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis, Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue, Dave Holland’s Prism band with Kevin Eubanks, new Grammy winner Gregory Porter, Robert Glasper Experiment, Brian Blade and the Fellowship Band and the Kurt Rosenwinkel New Quartet.
The jazz fest rounds out Sunday, Aug. 3, with the likes of Bobby McFerrin, David Sanborn, Dr. John, the Gary Burton New Quartet, Viyay Iyer Sextet, Danilo Perez Panama 500, Ron Carter Trio, Lee Konitz Quartet, Ravi Coltrane, the Cookers with Gary Bartz, Billy Harper, Cecil McBee and Billy Hart, and the Mingus Big Band. For more information, go to www.newportjazzfest.org. Tickets are on sale now for both the jazz festival and the folk festival, which hasn’t released its lineup yet.
My random access memories from the 2014 Grammy Awards:
Silence is golden for Daft Punk, the reclusive, helmeted French electronic pop duo that swept its nominations, including Album of the Year over Taylor Swift and hip-hop spoilers Macklemore & Ryan Lewis. It helps when you have Chic guitarist Nile Rodgers, singer/top producer Pharrell Williams and soft-rock relic Paul Williams to say your thank yous, with Paul noting he got sober only to get a call from robots. Nice live romp through Record of the Year “Get Lucky” with an added assist from Stevie Wonder -- and the Daft Punk 'bots in the control booth.
Macklemore and Lewis not only heisted Best New Artist and skunked the likes of Jay Z, Drake, Eminem and Kanye in their nominated rap categories, but delivered the night’s most stirring performance. In contrast to hip-hop's past homophobia, “Same Love” saw a line of diverse couples married by Queen Latifah, though the performance didn’t need Madonna leaning on a cane in a cowboy suit to warble “Open Your Heart.” On a side note, it was also interesting how music began to cut off one of Macklemore’s acceptances just as he noted that they made their album without a record label. Not the kind of thing the music industry likes to hear.
Lorde was the night’s third main winner, taking two awards, including Song of the Year for her glorious “Royals,” which she starkly performed in white blouse and dark pants with minimalist keyboard/drums backing. And her podium moments broke her solemn gothiness by showing her age with shy, giddy awkwardness.
Was that a surreal slow-mo effect when Best Rock Performance winner (over Bowie, Zeppelin, Queens of the Stone Age, etc.!?) Imagine Dragons teamed with rapper Kendrick Lamar, or was it watching front-row Taylor Swift being the first to rise and dance? Yet that most ridiculous pairing turned into one of the powerful when Lamar surged into a lather and red splotches exploded onto their white suits. No wonder the Dragons’ label rushed out a “Radioactive” remix with Lamar.
Speaking of dancing, it was funny watching the Imagine Dragon guys digging on Merle Haggard singing about marijuana with fellow country outlaws Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson (with the token Blake Sheldon) in “Okie from Muskogee.” Or watching Yoko Ono groove during a song by Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr. Or watching Sir Paul and Steven Tyler goofily move to “Get Lucky.” Extra crowd shots certainly worked better than playing YouTube covers during some nomination rundowns rather than the deserving artists’ own videos.
Speaking of Swift, she also redeemed herself a bit with piano ballad “All Too Well” (despite her head-banging hair antics), leaving the grandiose production shtick to Katy Perry, who flashed her “Maleficent” dark side on “Dark Horse.” Her music clearly paled next to the witchy production but at least she didn’t sing “Roar.”
If pop singers somehow get a pass for lip-syncing when they’re doing something as strenuous as dancing, I suppose it’s totally ok for Pink when she’s flipping, twirling and doing contortions like a trapeze artist and wannabe wrestler.
Besides Lorde, it was great to see worthy young talent like Kasey Musgraves (who even scooped Best Country Album away from Swift, Blake Shelton, Tim McGraw and Jason Aldean!) and Traditional R&B Performance winner Gary Clark Jr. Guitar firebrand Clark was mainly in his element trading hot licks with Keith Urban, who seemed to surprise Clark with a playful punch to the arm after their showdown.
I guess when Sir Paul and two-thirds of Nirvana can knock off a tune in a couple hours of studio jamming, it’s apparently good enough to beat not only Gary Clark Jr. and Muse but the Rolling Stones and Black Sabbath as well for Best Rock Song. “Cut Me Some Slack” – will we ever really remember it?
In a revisionist world, Ringo Starr could be the most endearing ex-Beatle, at least for that “Photograph” song, played with guys like Peter Frampton and Don Was, even if the guys from Black Sabbath couldn’t maintain straight faces/diction in introducing him. Likewise, poor Cyndi Lauper couldn’t read a teleprompter.
Congrats to Medford-bred drummer and Berklee professor Terri Lyne Carrington winning Best Jazz Instrumental Album, a first in that category for a woman.
Forget the speech cut-offs. The worse offense of the night came during the night’s closing hard-rock mashup when Queens of the Stone Age was crushing a handoff from Nine Inch Nails (oddly with Fleetwood Mac’s Lindsey Buckingham), only to be left in mid-song for long-shot credits and ads for sponsors and the network.
Maybe Jay Z, who performed with his steamy wife Beyonce, had the night in perspective when he raised his Best Rap/Sung Collaboration trophy and said to their baby girl Blue Ivy, “Daddy’s got a gold sippy cup for you.”
Here’s a full rundown of winners/nominees: http://www.grammy.com/nominees
Oh, to be young, in the trenches, and bringing fresh life to bluegrass. It’s a great weekend for string bands, starting with the Michigan-based Greensky Bluegrass at the Paradise Rock Club on Friday and continuing on Saturday at the Sinclair with the Deadly Gentlemen’s Ball, with Peter Rowan joining Joy Kills Sorrow, Julian Lage, Chris Eldridge and of course the Deadly Gentlemen, featuring Crooked Skill banjoist Greg Liszt. Our other homegrown talent (and recent Improper cover gals) Della Mae had to cancel their Ball appearance because they’re nominated for a Grammy and are going to Sunday’s ceremony. Hope they get lucky!
Speaking of all-star talent, check out Hard Working Americans, a bluesy grassroots-rock supergroup that includes singer/songwriter Todd Snider and Widespread Panic bassist Dave Schools, playing the Brighton Music Hall on Friday. On Saturday, modern roots reggae fans should flock to the Paradise to catch John Brown’s Body, while the Brazilian-born jazz singer Luciana Souza dips into introspective space with her jazz quintet featuring guitarist Lionel Loueke and harmonica player Gregoire Maret at Sanders Theatre. And Sunday finds 311 singer/guitarist Nick Hexum fronting his solo quintet at the Sinclair, offering jazzy funk-rock jams that differ from the commercial alt-reggae-rock of his main gig.
Finally, totally off the beaten path from my YouTube trolling, here’s a full 1970 show by Chicago, oddly introduced by West Coast legend Bill Graham out at Tanglewood, back when that horn-stoked band really cooked with guitarist Terry Kath (RIP), before Peter Cetera and Robert Lamm led the slide into pop pap.
Before the Decemberists, there was Neutral Milk Hotel, a band that unspooled bleak folk-rock songs brimming with gloriously obtuse lyrics and eclectic icing, from accordion and oom-pah brass to grungy bashing. The group also released its 1998 landmark In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, a hallowed artifact for indie-rock hipsters in the wake of singer Jeff Mangum’s withdrawl from music shortly thereafter. After a round of solo dates, a bearded Mangum has revived Neutral Milk Hotel for its first shows in 15 years, and die-hard fans have snapped up tickets to a two-night stand at the Orpheum Theatre that concludes Friday. In keeping with the singer’s reclusive nature, photos or videos (even from cellphones) are forbidden, so take this rough, recent clip as a rare bit of stealth.
Once a rare opportunity as well, though now practically an annual rite at the Middle East Downstairs, is the chance to see David Lowery front both of his cult-favorite bands, the also-eclectic Camper Van Beethoven and the straightforward, once-mainstream rockers Cracker Friday. While we’re talking about reunited ’90s heroes, Boston’s own Pixies return to the Orpheum Theatre on Saturday, supporting a second new EP of cool rockers (if short of the magic of nuggets that still dominate the live sets), this time with touring bassist Paz Lenchantin (A Perfect Circle, Zwan) in place of departed member Kim Deal. Here’s a classic from a recent Pixies appearance (with previous replacement bassist Kim Shattuck). And here’s a jump to Sarah Hagman’s recent Q&A with guitarist Joey Santiago. Other Saturday options include the arena hip-hop bravado of rapper Jay Z, commanding the TD Garden on his own after his joint stadium trip with Justin Timberlake, and the brassy Trombone Shorty stirring up House of Blues with his powerhouse New Orleans funk-rock. You can also jump to my recent interview with frontman Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews.
Celtics' Gamble Not Worth Taking
Trade is a risk unlikely to pay off
The transformation of Jordan Crawford from a guy you might cut in October (and just eat his salary) to a guy fans can complain they got little in return for in January is a credit to the guard as well as coach Brad Stevens. But it’s clear that Celtics’ general manager Danny Ainge couldn’t find much in value in Crawford himself, instead taking back a player and picks that are a huge gamble. Part of the reason for such low return is that a lot of teams or unable to trade their picks this year (they carry contingencies based on prior trades) or unwilling (this year’s draft is loaded). And so in return for Crawford, who was sure to be pushed out of the lineup with his production dipping in conjunction with Rajon Rondo’s return, Ainge took a risk. From the outside, it looks like it might not pay off.
In return for two expiring contracts (Crawford and MarShon Brooks), the Celtics received Joel Anthony from Miami as well as 2016 second-round pick and a first-round pick from Philadelphia that turns into two second-round picks if the downtrodden 76ers fail to make the playoffs this season and next.
Anthony has a $3.8 million player option for next year that he’s likely to exercise. If Keith Bogans took $5 million to sit on the bench this year, I don’t see why Anthony would pass up a similar payday since he’s likely to earn just the veteran’s minimum on the open market. There’s a chance that Anthony opts out, but let’s peg it at about 10 to 20 percent. In most recent years for the Celtics that wouldn’t matter, but they were in line to have about $10 million in cap space next year (accounting for cap holds) and could have had even more if they traded Brandon Bass. So the $3.8 million is a gamble, but is the chance at a first-round pick (guaranteed to be in the 15-30 range) worth that risk. And are three second-round picks a good enough consolation prize?
Let’s start by answering the last question first: No. You can buy second-round picks every year. The Celtics did it last year when they took Colton Iverson late in the second-round with a pick they bought. (For that matter, you used to be able to buy first-round picks. Remember when the Celtics bought the 21st pick in the 2006 draft from Phoenix in order to select Rajon Rondo? Of course you do.) The ultimate question becomes whether Philadelphia will make the playoffs this year or next. Again, those odds are quite long. Let’s say 40 percent. Assuming that Crawford was neither seen as a salary dump nor as an asset with any value, that means the Celtics are likely assuming $3.8 million in salary for next season with the most likely outcome being three second-round picks. Sure, salary cap space is often overvalued, but despite that, the risk is not worth taking. If you somehow had the upside of the 10th pick in the draft, that’d be one thing, but taking this chance for a late first-rounder seems unnecessary. Ainge rolled the dice—not by trading Crawford, but by assuming Anthony’s salary for next season—and the payday just isn’t worth it.
Sonic Youth unfortunately fell into indefinite limbo after Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon’s marital separation. But perhaps the most fruitful surprise in the aftermath is Last Night on Earth, a new album by Moore’s guitar foil Lee Renaldo and his band the Dust, which includes Sonic Youth drummer Steve Shelley. The record includes its fair share of roiling Sonic atmospherics, but in the service of intriguing song forms. Renaldo even proves affecting as a lead vocalist. Here’s a shot of where the band takes its sound live, as it will on Friday at Brighton Music Hall.
Jake Bugg can crank on electric guitar, be it a Neil Young cover or new millennial punk-rock a la the Arctic Monkeys – as he does on his new Rick Rubin-produced Shangri La. But the young British upstart weaned himself on acoustic guitar, from sensitive ballads to folky proto-rock that nods to the Everly Brothers and Buddy Holly. Expect both sides when Bugg – still amazingly only 19 years old -- slides into House of Blues on Saturday. He’s getting a quick education on a large stage. Plus you can jum to my recent interview piece here.
Saturday also boasts the annual Hot Stove Cool Music concert at the Paradise Rock Club, and the lineup is stacked with heavy hitters as usual, all to benefit Theo Epstein’s Foundation to Be Named Later. Befitting its theme, the event has lined up the Baseball Project, an all-star group featuring Steve Wynn of the Dream Syndicate, Mike Mills and his R.E.M. associate Scott McCaughey and Fenway Park organist Josh Kantor that crafts songs having to do with our national pastime. They’ll join Howie Day, Trigger Hippy (a band with Joan Osborne and the Black Crowes’ Steve Gorman and Jackie Greene, also playing the Brighton Music Hall on Sunday), Kingsley Flood, Kay Hanley and the Gravel Pit. Cap that with Peter Gammons & the Hot Stove All-Stars, featuring Epstein, Bill Janovitz, Tanya Donelly and Little Feat’s Paul Barrere, along MC Mike O’Malley.
Singer/songwriter Amanda Shires rounds out the weekend at Great Scott, where she’ll draw from her sweetly gripping new album Down Feel the Dove, armed with her fiddle and ukelele. And don’t be surprised her husband Jason Isbell tags along to add backup before he heads off on his own dates in support of his 2013 standout album Southeastern. Here's a recent date where they combined forces.
B-B-bye for the Pats
Another stat to define New England's dominance
Sometimes in sports, it is the stat below the first line that’s truly remarkable. Take tennis, for example. You could tell someone that Roger Federer is the greatest tennis player who ever lived because he has won 17 major tournaments, more than anyone else. But what makes his dominance stand out even greater is this: He reached the semifinals in 23 straight major tournaments, spanning from Wimbledon in 2004 to the Australian Open in 2010 (and included in that run was an appearance in 18 of 19 major finals). You could point to the same thing during Barry Bonds’ run of dominance in baseball or Michael Jordan’s reign in the NBA.
For the current New England Patriots’ run, what lingers below the three Super Bowl titles and five appearances is a stat that was added to on Sunday: During 13-season run of the Tom Brady-Bill Belichick era, the team has earned eight first-round byes, including tying an NFL record with four in a row. That’s absurd. It’d be one thing to win a division eight times in 13 years (they’ve done it 11 times), but to be in the top two of the 16-team conference eight times in a span of 13 years is amazing and a testament to the current team’s staying power. Sure, the 49ers and Steelers have each earned eight first-round byes in 24 seasons, but that success spanned different coaches and different eras.
This “second-level” stat of dominance has, of course, contributed to the team’s first-level stat of five Super Bowl appearances. In earning the bye, the Patriots only have to win two games to make the Super Bowl. Taking into account home-field advantage, the extra week of rest and being a better team, nearly 75 percent of teams with first-round byes win their first playoff game and advance to the conference championship. During this Patriots’ era, they have made the conference championship six of the seven previous times they’ve had a first-round bye. (They also earned a bye during the Bledsoe-Parcells Super Bowl run, and they made the conference championship without a bye in the 2006-07 season.) A loss on Jan. 11 would actually slot them within statistical expectations: Six conference championship appearances during the eight seasons they earned a bye. But, with 11 divisional titles, five Super Bowl appearances, three Super Bowls—and yes, eight first-round byes, the Patriots have been anything but “normal” this century. Whether they face the Bengals, Colts or Chiefs, New England will have the odds on their side. For the eighth time in 13 years, they’ve earned it.
First Night Rocks Again
First Night wasn’t just saved this year as a parting gift from shepherding Mayor Tom Menino, with help from presenting partner the Highland Street Foundation and other corporate donors. The city’s annual New Year’s Eve celebration looks as strong as ever. Not only does First Night Boston 2014 offer usual touchstones like ice sculptures, fireworks and its family-favorite Grand Processional, but heavy hitters when it comes to musical acts.
Punk-rock poet Patti Smith hasn’t performed much in Boston in recent years, though she soared at TD Garden last year as a special opener for Neil Young’s Crazy Horse. She’ll be back in the headline spot Tuesday at the Grand Ballroom of the Hynes Convention Center, fronting her band with longtime guitarist Lenny Kaye and drummer Jay Dee Daugherty. Expect classics from albums like Horses, Easter and Wave as well as something from 2012’s Banga, delivered with spiritual spontaneity. She’ll also have ex-Galaxie 500 frontman Dean Wareham opening.
Grammy-winning gospel combo the Blind Boys of Alabama will also be performing at the Hynes with Bon Iver-championed singer/songwriter Anais Mitchell, while acclaimed bluegrass singer/mandolinist Sierra Hull and jazzman Donald Harrison will perform at the Berklee Performance Center. Other First Night acts, split between outdoor (ok, that sounds a little cold) and indoor stages, include folksinger Ellis Paul, family music ace Dan Zanes, the reggae-steeped Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad and local rock favorites Gentlemen Hall, Mean Creek and Walter Sickert & the Army of Broken Toys.
All for $10 admission buttons – and free for outdoor events! Check out the First Night Boston 2014 schedule and info here.
“I never wanted to be your weekend lover,” Prince sang on his guitar-soaked capstone “Purple Rain.” But the generally reclusive performer filled that role in Friday’s first of three nights at Mohegan Sun, packing that mall-like palace in Southeastern Connecticut with old-school pizazz that begged for expanded exposure.
Yes, Prince was back, seemingly as sleek, stylish and confident as ever at age 55. Confident enough to share the stage with a crack 20-piece band (on top of an opening set by Esperanza Spalding, or Janelle Monae on Sunday) and give everyone room to shine, yet remain the center of attention.
Prince has been exorcising his Jimi Hendrix side by fronting the female power trio 3rd Eye Girl of late. But he fused that group with the New Power Generation to blast Mohegan Sun Arena -- his only East Coast appearance -- with housequaking funk-rock grooves that kept the party going for nearly 2 ½ hours.
After a half-hour of funky jazz-fusion from Spalding, who upped her game with musicality and athletic grace, Prince arrived to thunder-and-lightning effects (echoing the natural-element theme of surrounding casino rooms) and kicked off at full-throttle with “Days of Wild.”
Decked out in an impeccably tailored, creamy gold suit with sparkling trim and an Afro not quite so puffy as Spalding’s, Prince piped “Where the ladies at?” to cue some playful bump 'n' weave with dancers filtered from the crowd. And that immediate, smiling nod to communal accessibility paved the way for “1999,” an early entry for hit-conscious attendees. After flashing still-fancy footwork in high heels on a speaker platform, the photo-shy singer suggested people stash the cellphones. “We’re gonna just jam tonight,” he said. “Dance with us.” (Later in the show, in enigmatic contradiction, he encouraged fans to wave cellphones and even to call their neighbors).
Much of the set was fueled by an 11-piece horn section (five players shared with Spalding’s band), split to each side and stepping out for head-to-head faceoffs – and even rising and squatting at Prince’s cue. He also gave plenty of space to his three female backup singers, all powerhouses, with the shaven-headed Shelby J. taking honors on a duet of “Nothing Compares 2 U” that Prince ended with a startling thread of falsetto scatting.
The singer also threw attention to 3rd Eye Girl during an early, stripped-down changeup of “Let’s Go Crazy” as a lurching hard-rock jam with bass player Ida Nielsen building a solo around Edgar Winter’s “Frankenstein.” And while Prince took one of his first flights on a psychedelic-colored guitar, he shared solos with six-string sparkplug Donna Grantis much of the set.
“Glad I got that out of my system,” Prince said as his full band returned. “School’s in. I’m the teacher. Let’s get busy.” And even if “Musicology” largely fell into another big vamp, the singer and the other musicians were so tight and talented, they were just killing it – in a really good way.
Prince gave shout-outs to Curtis Mayfield and James Brown as his own teachers as the sprawling funk party continued. And he closed the main set with a medley of his hits for old protégés the Time (“The Bird,” “Jungle Love”) and Sheila E (“The Glamorous Life”) like it was the ’80s, crying, “This is how we party in Minneapolis!”
The encore began in an unusual vein with Prince appearing alone at a keyboard, singing “When Doves Cry” and “Sign O’ the Times” along with fans while he punched samples of the music like a DJ -- novelty aside, wouldn't it have been preferable to hear those classics with the band? But musicians slowly joined in and the show was back to a full roar by the time Prince fired up oldies “Let's Work” and “U Got the Look,” with a leggy dancer strutting about in a fur coat.
With the budget from $125 and $195 tickets going to live musicianship rather than high-tech production, Prince was the one who had the look and the sound -- and several thousand road-trippers hanging in to join the slowly unfurled chant of “Purple Rain.”
Special multi-night concert stands just before or including New Year’s Eve have become big business, musically and financially. New England favorites helped set that standard, from the Mighty Mighty Bosstones’ Hometown Throwdown -- now in its 16th year -- to Phish’s New Year’s run at Madison Square Garden (also in pay-per-view webcasts -- maybe they'll include hi-jinks like this).
On the local front, the Bosstones rule House of Blues, mixing their ska-punk catalog and openers, with the dark ska outfit Mephiskapheles on Friday and punk bands Youth Brigade on Saturday and Boston veterans Sam Black Church on Sunday. And the Bosstones are still a well-oiled machine, based on their summer appearance at the Outside the Box Festival. Meanwhile, singer Peter Wolf, who once pioneered year-end bashes with the J. Geils Band, takes the intimate route this weekend, bringing his Midnight Travelers to the tiny Lizard Lounge on Friday and Saturday. Here's an unusual recent clip where Wolf eventually grabs the cameraphone, which keeps filming from his back pocket!
Closer than New York on the road-trip map, the legendary funk-rock recluse Prince also pops up at Mohegan Sun Arena for three nights in the wake of sporadic shows that included a blowout at his Minneapolis studio. He’s mostly been playing with the all-female band 3rd Eye Girl and hits Uncasville, Conn., with powerhouse openers in Esperanza Spalding on Friday and Saturday and Janelle Monae on Sunday.
Meanwhile, Tom Rush hosts his annual Symphony Hall soiree in the tradition of Cambridge's Club 47 (now Club Passim) on Saturday, this year with the Jim Kweskin Jug Band, Geoff and Maria Muldaur, Sarah Lee Guthrie and Johnny Irion, and Patty Larkin. And the Sinclair offers one-night stands with favorite local pan-roots fusionists, on Friday with Lake Street Dive and on Saturday with David Wax Museum, celebrating the recent birth of a daughter to violinist and donkey-jaw ace Suz Slezak. David Wax Museum also plays Fall River’s Narrow Center for the Arts on Sunday, and then both groups team up at Northampton’s Calvin Theater for New Year’s Eve.
Celtics Player Power Rankings - Week 8
Amid wild week, Sully rises back to the top
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 Rankings. 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. Jared Sullinger (last week: 5) – He’s now been commonly referred to as a future All-Star in the NBA. The second-year player continues to stretch the floor with decent three-point shooting, and—amid this week’s wild rumors—it was easy to envision a Sullinger-Omer Asik big-man combo. Scouts are calling for him to turn into a guy who puts up 20 points, 10 rebounds nightly. This past week: 19-6, 24-11, 19-8. That’s roughly an average of 21-8, so he’s getting there.
2. Avery Bradley (last week: 4) – He’s been quite the first-quarter sparkplug, getting some easy baskets in transition and knocking down some dead-eyed shots from three-point range. Better yet, he’s racking up some big rebounding numbers, averaging more than 5 per game.
3. Jeff Green (last week: 1) – With his name brought up in rumors for Asik, Green struggled through his worst week in at least a month. He failed to score much all week: Try 29 points for the three games combined. And his worst miss came when he was just a little too strong—on what was actually a good shot—with what would’ve been the game-winner against Detroit.
4. Brandon Bass (last week: 2) – He dipped in the power rankings after a scoreless game this week, but with him having been the centerpiece of the Asik rumors, it’s fair to say he has some value in the league. When as a team you go from having only Rondo as a trade asset, to Rondo and Green, to Rondo and Green and a bunch of other guys, it’s because guys are helping their trade value. Bass is chief among that group. The proposed deal would’ve been a win for the Celtics, but the downside would’ve been seeing the ever-professional Bass depart.
5. Jordan Crawford (last week: 3) – The free-agent-to-be struggled through two poor shooting nights this week, so his hot streak has definitely come to an end. It bears watching how he settles in after such a streak. Did the moment of glory get to his head or is he still the reformed Crawford?
6. Courtney Lee (last week: 6) – Everything that was said about Bass goes the same for Lee. Just a consistent contributor off the bench—something that’s harder than it looks.
7. Kelly Olynyk (last week: unranked) – Back from injury, the rookie center has been unable to stay on the floor for another reason: He’s fouling too much. He had trouble against the strong frontcourt of Detroit, but most of the team did as well—at least after the first quarter.
8. Kris Humphries (last week: 8) – Also back from injury, Humphries was the first big man off the bench against Minnesota. He continues to show glimpses of productivity when he’s in the game. The Celtics could likely find a taker for him and his expiring contract at the trade deadline, but it’s hard seeing them getting much of value for him so perhaps he’ll be here for the rest of the season.
9. Vitor Faverani (last week: 8) – Flashes of good, paired with flashes of bad. Ah, the life of Skinny Sinbad.
10. Gerald Wallace (last week: 12) – The veteran showed improvement over the past week, but his contract remains a killer. When the Green-Asik rumors had some legs, the thought of Wallace back in the starting lineup was slightly scary.
11. Phil Pressey (last week: 9) – He will be glued to the bench once Rondo returns, but for now he brings that steady ball-handling to his short stints.
12. MarShon Brooks (last week: 10) – DNP, DNP, DNP.
13. Keith Bogans (last week: 11) – DNP, DNP, DNP, and a partridge in a pear tree.
Unranked because of injury: Rajon Rondo
Past week’s record: 2-1 (Predicted record: 2-1)
Upcoming games: Sat. vs. Washington, Sun. at Indiana
Predicted record in upcoming games: 1-1
It’s the week before Christmas and all through the city, there’s music a stirring, and the snow’s still so pretty – until it rains and gets icy again. Soul-rockers OldJack fires up its annual holiday homage in style at the Sinclair with fellow local favorites the Sheila Divine (whose anthemic shows made them a major draw a decade ago), the Rationales and the Nate Leavitt Band. Surf-futurists the Weisstronauts move their 15th annual Holiday Jubilee to Jamaica Plain’s Midway Café for a twanging good time with Lars Vegas and 2013 Rumble winners Eddie Japan.
Acclaimed Stoughton country-folk songstress Lori McKenna hosts her own annual set of Club Passim shows -- some solo, some with full band, and some dedicated to cover songs. And if you’d like some swinging roots, Boston-to-Brooklyn singer Miss Tess completes a two-night stand at her old haunt the Lizard Lounge on Friday with her band the Talkbacks.
If arena spectacle is your thing, you’re also in luck. You can count on Beyonce for a razzle-dazzle show filled with whirlwind choreography and special effects. But the soul-pop dynamo should have extra wind in her sails at the TD Garden on Friday following her suddenly sprung new iTunes-only album Beyonce, which included stylish videos as well as new music that she may now dip into live. Either way, Beyonce knows how to make an impression from the start. And back in the holiday spirit, the Trans-Siberian Orchestra roars into the TD Garden on Sunday with “The Lost Christmas Eve,” its latest show of flamboyant classical prog-rock, delivered with slick, over-the-top visuals and musicianship. Don’t miss the jumping/twirling violinist in this clip. Happy holidays!
Why rookie WRs could rescue the Pats
With OL injuries piling up, team needs bigger targets in red zone
The way NFL teams are set up in the salary-cap era, you can usually survive the loss of one player at one position (not including quarterback) for the season. It’s what happens when you lose two players that really tests the depth of the team. The Patriots lost two defensive linemen—Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly—within weeks of each other, but they’ve been somewhat successful in plugging in untested players such as Joe Vellano and Chris Jones. The run defense has struggled at times, but that can also be traced to the loss of linebacker Jerod Mayo.
The position where the Patriots currently could be tested is the offensive line. With Sebastian Vollmer already out for the year, the Pats lost Nate Solder in the second half of Sunday’s game with his second concussion in as many games. That left them two short on the line, and the difference was notable. With all of the shifting roles on the line, center Ryan Wendell looked like Max Lane in the 1997 Super Bowl—a turnstile for pass rushers. In past situations, the Pats might’ve kept Rob Gronkowski in to block— a skill for which he is supremely underrated. With Gronk out for the year, however, the Pats had to rely on running back Shane Vereen and fullback James Develin picking up rushers. That took Vereen out of the passing-game equation, and exposed another where the Patriots are missing two players: wide receiver. It’s gone under the radar since the more-experienced Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman are healthy, but Aaron Dobson missed his fourth game in a row, and fellow rookie Kenbrell Thompkins missed his second game in a row—both because of injuries.
Although the trickle-down effect of Solder, Vollmer and Gronkowski’s injuries hurt the Patriots’ red-zone offense on Sunday, the return of these two players could provide some relief in that area. In the 11 games he’s played this season, Thompkins has caught five passes in the red zone, with four of them producing touchdowns. In his 10 games this season, Dobson has four catches in the red zone, with two of them going for touchdowns. Both players are over 6 feet, which gives quarterback Tom Brady a bit more of a target in the red zone than on Sunday when he had three options (when Vereen was forced to stay in to block): under-six-feet-tall receivers Amendola and Edelman, as well as Michael Hoomanawanui, who before Sunday hadn’t caught a touchdown since 2010.
This is not to provide an excuse for the many bone-headed plays the Pats made on Sunday (including an overlooked two-yard pass to Vereen during the final drive that forced them to burn a valuable timeout), but instead to provide a glimmer of hope. Dobson and Thompkins looked inept at the start of the season, but they were improving before getting hurt. Being rookies, they might not regain their confidence and footing as quickly when they’re finally healthy, but it could give the team more options in the red zone, which they severely lacked after the offensive line injuries on Sunday. Strange as it sounds, the easiest way to make up for missing two starters on the offensive line might be to get back two healthy receivers.
Celtics Player Power Rankings - Week 7
Consistency takes the No. 2 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 Rankings. 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: 2) – He keeps piling up the points— and his 29-point performance against Doc Rivers’ Clippers came despite his worst shooting night (43 percent from the field) in two weeks. He’s starting to get a few more rebounds as well, but he’s still not as active on the board as he could be.
2. Brandon Bass (last week: 5) – With Kelly Olynyk out, Brandon Bass continues to impress. Averages for December: 15.2 points and 9.6 rebounds. In addition, the big man is adding stellar man-to-man defense.
3. Jordan Crawford (last week: 3) – He was scorching hot in Boston’s two blowout wins last week against New York and Denver. During the past two games, he’s cooled off from the field, but his high assist totals and limited turnovers still make him valuable. If you were watching basketball for the first time, you’d think he’s the best player on the Celtics. He’s certainly playing like he could be.
4. Avery Bradley (last week: 4) – In addition to notching his first career double-double against the Knicks (10 rebounds!), he’s shooting 60 percent (12-20) from three-point range this month. Reports are that he turned down a 4-year, $24 million deal. If he shoots like this all year, he could demand more on the open market.
5. Jared Sullinger (last week: 1) – It’s weird for Sullinger to fall from first to fifth, but that’s the way it goes when there are five consistent contributors every night. It was a rough week for the notion that Sullinger can be a stretch-5 in this league. He went 4-15 from 3-point range and he struggled to defend Brook Lopez and the Clippers’ DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin in back-to-back games. Right when you start to be disappointed by that, you remember he still hasn’t even played 100 games in the NBA. He’s going to be quite good.
6. Courtney Lee (last week: 6) – His consistency isn’t quite back to his November levels, but as Crawford and Bradley have steadied the backcourt ship, Lee has still found a role for himself. He’s just asked to do less now than four weeks ago.
7. Kris Humphries (last week: 7) – Hump hurt his knee in Tuesday’s return to Brooklyn. His absence showed as the Celtics were thin in Wednesday’s game when Sullinger was battling foul trouble. It’s a good sign for him that he was missed.
8. Vitor Faverani (last week: 8) – Speaking of Wednesday’s game – it was a chance for Skinny Sinbad to re-establish his game a bit, but he struggled when called upon.
9. Phil Pressey (last week: 9) – Unless a trade is made, his minutes will fully evaporate when Rajon Rondo returns.
10. MarShon Brooks (last week: 12) – He got some playing time after Lee fouled out on Wednesday. He even saw some time as a small forward. Unfortunately for Brooks it was a mixed bag. Still, he didn’t look completely lost.
11. Keith Bogans (last week: 11) - $5 million nonguaranteed contract could be useful in a trade.
12. Gerald Wallace (last week: 10) – Well, he’s clammed up to the media. But he’s also continuing to turn the ball over at historic rates. He plays decent defense, but he's been a negative on the offensive side. For all the goodwill the Celtics have created in the past couple weeks, Wallace seems disengaged on the court. I thought he was supposed to be an energy guy? Maybe he needs some Red Bull.
Unranked because of injury: Rajon Rondo, Kelly Olynyk
Past week’s record: 2-2 (Predicted record: 3-1)
Upcoming games: Fri. vs. New York, Mon. vs. Minnesota, Wed. vs. Detroit
Predicted record in upcoming games: 2-1
Queens of the Stone Age rock Agganis Arena on Friday night in support of the band’s keen, Grammy-nominated Like Clockwork. Expect moody, dynamic songs that nod to Nine Inch Nails/David Bowie territory when fueled with lighting-backdrop effects, evidenced in clips like this. And having scuzzy blues-rockers the Kills (with Jack White’s Dead Weather foil Alison Mossheart) in the opening slot adds its own impact.
For the second week in a row, world/jazz/dub/trance collective Club d’Elf promises a killer Friday night at the Lizard Lounge, this time with guitarist Dave “Fuze” Fiuczynski, percussion/oud master Brahim Fribgane and maybe even keyboardist John Medeski on the heels of his Thursday piano gig at the ICA. Here’s some video with both Fuze and Medeski. Also, over at the Brighton Music Hall and Great Scott this weekend, look for local bands including Township, Jenny Dee, the Lights Out, Three Day Threshold and the Luxury to cover each others' songs as part of a three-night Boston Does Boston benefit for the Animal Rescue League of Boston.
One of this week’s most wonderful surprises was local folk veteran Alastair Moock earning a Grammy nomination for his children’s album Singing Our Way Through: Songs for the World’s Bravest Kids. Moock recorded the lauded album with inspiration from his daughter’s battle with childhood leukemia as you can see here. And the nomination puts extra wind in his sails as Moock heads to the Coolidge Corner Theater for his annual family Holiday Extravaganza at 10:30 a.m. Saturday. The singer/songwriter and his band will be joined by the Fayerweather Street School Chorus for Christmas and Hanukkah favorites in addition to originals.
Virtuoso bass guitarist Victor Wooten and drum innovator Roy “Future Man” Wooten are well-traveled with Bela Fleck’s Flecktones, but it’s been a decade since the Wooten Brothers -- including keyboardist Joseph (long with the Steve Miller Band) and hotshot guitarist Regi, with his tap-happy prowess – hit the road. It should be a funky, fusion-esque throwdown like this at the Paradise Rock Club on Saturday. On the grungier end of the spectrum, guitarist J. Mascis cranks up the volume with Dinosaur Jr. at the Sinclair both Saturday and Sunday. That recurring reunion should please old fans two decades down the line.
Finally, Sunday also marks the 5th Annual Rock ‘n’ Soul Holiday Concert at Arlington’s Regent Theatre. This year’s event, which benefits Music That Drives Us, features such local heroes as soul shouter Barrence Whitfield, J. Geils Band bassist Danny Klein, singers Charlie Farren and John Powhida, the Cars’ Greg Hawkes on ukulele, the Fools, Bellevue Cadillac bandleader Doug Bell, blues swinger Erin Harpe, John Fannon and Hirsh Gardner of the band New England, and surf-rockers Tsunami of Sound. Sounds like a hopping time in the wake of snowflakes.
Why the NHL needs to ban all fights
Saturday's melee is another example that non-game violence is outdated.
It is easy to look at the multibillion-dollar franchise values, record TV ratings and overall popularity of football and say the NHL could learn a thing or two from the NFL. It is far harder to look at the hundreds of former football players suffering from memory loss or brain disease—not to mention those who have committed suicide—and say the NHL could learn from the NFL on player safety. But yeah, they could. And all you need to do is look at this past weekend’s events involving the two local franchises.
On Saturday night, it was the Bruins facing the Penguins. On the first shift of the game, Pittsburgh Penguins’ player Brooks Orpik leveled the Bruins’ Loui Eriksson, sending Eriksson out of the game with a concussion. Rather than allowing the league to later determine the proper punishment for the hit, the Bruins’ Shawn Thornton went hunting for justice. Orpik wouldn’t immediately agree to a fight, but Thornton eventually brought him down to the ice, where he was able to dole out three punches to him, leaving Orpik unconscious. As this fight was happening, the Penguins’ James Neal kneed the Bruins’ Brad Marchand in the head. Thornton was thrown out of the game and is facing a long suspension. Neal was penalized and later suspended five games. Orpik left the ice in a stretcher and has memory loss in addition to a concussion.
On Sunday, the Patriots’ All-Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski was smashed in the kneecap by Cleveland Browns’ safety T.J. Ward. Gronkowski’s cries were audible on television, and the diagnosis was a season-ending ACL and MCL tear. He left the field in a stretcher, sitting up, with his leg stabilized. But when you watch the hit, all you think is this is the new reality of the NFL. In the past Ward would’ve launched himself at Gronkowski’s head, possibly concussing him. While Gronkowski might’ve been able to play later this season, the long-term effect also would’ve been far worse from a head injury. The NFL has taken steps to lessen the amount of head injuries and it has worked. The result is more knee injuries, which is upsetting, but far easier to swallow than a head injury.
Contrast that to the NHL, where there were two concussions, two suspensions and a fifth player who was kneed in the head on Saturday in one game. Why? It is because of this antiquated rule of justice in hockey. It’s a culture that says: If you took out our best player, we’re coming for yours—either in this game or the next—with that goon we keep on our bench for these specific circumstances. It’s a culture that allows a ref to stand by as two players punch each other in the face in a preordained fight. It’s a culture that’s killing players—and it needs to end.
The New York Times’ outstanding piece on former hockey enforcer Derek Boogard’s death, laid bare all of the problems that come to hockey players after years of this pounding. It is so simple to fix this problem. No more retaliation. No more fights. Sure, there’s always going to be a skirmish and some pushing and shoving, but if a player drops the gloves, then the ref should’ve already intervened. Just look at the tumbles the NFL refs take while trying to break up any after-the-whistle fighting. The hockey purists will call foul. They will say that hockey without fighting just isn’t the same game, and it’s not at all appealing. They’re right that there are many fans that enjoy the fights. There are entire DVDs full of them. An old-fashioned fight is currently what draws the most cheers in any given hockey game, but that’s no excuse to keep it around. There used to be entire segments of football hard hits, played with a soundtrack of cackling from the on-set jocks, in an ESPN feature called “Jacked Up.” If popularity ruled the day, there’d be steroid-induced homers in baseball and spine-crushing hits in football. It’s just not in the best interests of the long-term health of the athletes.
The other line of thinking that protects hockey fighting is that letting the players police themselves leads to fewer injuries because of the fear of retaliation. How’d that go on Saturday night? Two concussions and one more knock on the head. And the only true justice will come in the forms of league suspensions. This is an asinine argument. Do the NBA players call their own fouls? Would it have been OK for the Patriots to target and take out Jordan Cameron on Sunday afternoon after Gronkowski’s knee was smashed in? Sure, it would’ve felt good at the time. Who didn’t want to take a hit at a Browns’ player? But part of being an adult and playing in an organized game is channeling that raw emotion and holding back. You can’t just turn into a vigilante. Let the referees call penalties and the league issue suspensions.
You are never going to stop injuries or violent hits in professional sports. The players move too fast and they’re too strong. Collisions are inevitable, and injuries like Gronkowski’s simply can’t be legislated from the game. But the NFL has taken a hard line in removing hits to the head, a goal some people thought was impossible. It would be far easier for the NHL to eliminate fighting. The act of squaring off and hitting each other in the head is not something that happens within the flow of the game. A true tough guy would walk away from that violence. Let’s hope the NHL has enough tough guys.
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.