• April 03, 2014

    Weekend Ideas

    Weekend Ideas by Paul Robicheau
    The legendary Al Kooper celebrates his 70th birthday at the Regattabar on Friday.

    It's a weekend for legends, local and otherwise, from 70-year-old musician and producer Al Kooper and '80s favorites Robin Lane and the Chartbusters (following a documentary about Lane) to Jason Moran's dance-savvy jazz tribute to Fats Waller and tabla maestro Zakir Hussain's Masters of Percussion with ex-Journey drummer Steve Smith. Other concert alternatives include Hurray for the Riff Raff, Pentatonix and Lake Street Dive… More>

  • March 31, 2014

    Improper Agenda

    Improper Agenda by Improper

    Mark your calendar with our upcoming picks in music, film, theater and mor… More>

  • New books to commemorate the Boston Marathon tragedy by Improper

    We've rounded up just a few new tomes that pay tribute to the Marathon bombings… More>

  • March 31, 2014

    When words fail

    When words fail by Alexandra Cavallo

    '102 Hours' tells the story of the Boston Marathon bombings through iconography alone… More>

  • March 28, 2014

    The Stoked guys want you to want...their pizza

    The Stoked guys want you to want...their pizza by Alexandra Cavallo

    Music buffs know Scott Riebling from Boston alt-rock outfit Letters to Cleo, but the bassist-turned-producer has been making pizza almost as long as he’s been making rounds on the local club circuit. These days, he can be found behind the wheel of Stoked Wood Fired Pizza Co., a new food truck he started with Toirm Miller (of defunct vegan cart Jack and the Bean Bowl).  … More>

Improper Now

Tickets On Sale Alert

Hot tickets for the week of April 25

Modern Baseball play the Middle East on June 7


Modern Baseball
With Tiny Moving Parts, The Hotelier + Sorority Noise
June 7 at the Middle East Upstairs

Andy Grammer
June 25 at the House of Blues


July 12 at Blue Hills Bank Pavilion

Kings of Leon
With Young the Giant + Kongos
Aug. 9 at the Xfinity Center

Ed Sheeran
Sept. 9 at the Xfinity Center


Frank Turner & the Sleeping Souls [Boston Calling after-show]
With Rebuilder
May 25 at the Sinclair

De La Soul
July 17 at Paradise Rock Club

Presidents of the United States of America
Aug. 9 at Paradise Rock Club

Echo & the Bunnymen
Aug. 14 at Paradise Rock Club


Wiz Khalifa, Young Jeezy, Tyga + more
Aug. 2 at the Xfinity Center


Boston Calling ft. The National, Lorde, The Replacements,
Nas x The Roots, Neutral Milk Hotel + more
Sept. 5-7 at City Hall Plaza

Sound Ideas

Calling up to the Majors

Before City Hall Plaza rocks Memorial Day weekend with the likes of Jack Johnson, Death Cab for Cutie, the Decemberists and Modest Mouse, Boston Calling has announced the Sept. 5-7 lineup for its second downtown festival of the season – and of the four held so far, it’s the best edition yet.

Grammy-winning pop avatar Lorde joins the Replacements (in their first Boston show since 1991), and the National (whose Aaron Dessner curates Boston Calling) to headline the end-of-summer event at City Hall Plaza. Other acts include Neutral Milk Hotel, the Roots (both alone and collaborating with Nas), Childish Gambino, Spoon, Girl Talk, the Hold Steady, the 1975, Lake Street Dive, the War on Drugs, Sky Ferriera, White Denim, Future Islands and our own Gentlemen Hall. Early bird tickets go on sale Thursday at 10 a.m. bostoncalling.com.

This caps what’s shaping up as a particularly rocking festival summer. The Green River Festival at Greenfield Community College has announced a July 12-13 slate that includes Josh Ritter, Trombone Shorty, Lady Lamb the Beekeeper and the Lone Bellow as well as several acts including Lucius, Trampled by Turtles and Hooray for the Riff Raff that also play the mostly long sold-out July 25-27 Newport Folk Festival, which has also added such artists as Kurt Vile, Wilco's Jeff Tweedy and Jimmy Cliff (there’s also the Aug. 1-3 Newport Jazz Festival, which ranges from John Zorn’s Masada to Wynton Marsalis and Dr. John). There’s also the July 31 to Aug. 3 Gathering of the Vibes in Bridgeport, Conn., with Widespread Panic, John Fogerty, Disco Biscuits and Ziggy Marley. Now there's even an Aug. 2-3 inaugural Nantucket Music Festival headed by Guster, Bruce Hornsby and Steel Pulse. Start your engines.

Improper Now

Welcome to your weekend

Rumble semi-finals, Lou Reed pizza covers, Marathon parties and more.

Panama Wedding play the Sinclair Friday


Rock ‘n’ Rumble Semi-Finals

Let's get ready to...keep on rumbling. The 35th annual Rock ‘n’ Rumble rages on with night two of the semi-finals tonight, with so-far-victorious bands Goddamn Draculas, Tigerman WOAH, Feints and Barricades vying for a spot in the finals... and plenty of bragging rights. Catch some or all of the action at T.T. the Bear’s Place this Friday. Doors open at 8:30 p.m.
T.T. the Bear’s Place, 10 Brookline St., Cambridge, 617-492-0082

Panama Wedding 

Long Island native Peter Kirk has come a long way from working 11-hour days and performing for one-person audiences. The solo artist, who recently inked a deal with Glassnote Records, unveiled his new band, Panama Wedding, at SXSW, generating all kinds of buzz with their hit single “All of the People." Their uptempo, sunny sound recalls equal parts Peter Gabriel, Vampire Weekend and a little something all their own. Feel the love when they open for Dan Croll at the Sinclair tonight. Doors at 8, show at 9 p.m. Tickets $15.
The Sinclair, 52 Church St., Boston, 617-547-5200


The Pizza Underground

Macaulay Culkin has come a long, weird way from battling bumbling home invaders in Home Alone. More than two decades later, the actor is now a kazoo player and drummer (if you consider a pizza box a drum kit) in the Pizza Underground, a pizza-themed, Velvet Underground tribute band. Pretty sure you have to see/hear this to believe/fathom it. Get a preview with our recent interview before heading over to Church for the show. Doors open at 6 p.m., and tickets cost $15. (Maybe that ticket price will even include a slice or two)
Church, 69 Kilmarnock Street, Boston, 617.236.7600

International Record Store Day

Every April, indie record stores across the globe prepare for RSD with sonic treats including limited-edition releases and special artist appearances, signings and shows. Recordheads should stop by Newbury Comics or Nuggets Records this Saturday to embrace the fact that some fan over in Germany is also smiling ear to ear when he snags that rare EP out of the bin. 


Boston Marathon Pasta Dinner

If you can’t run like a marathoner, at least you can eat like one. On Sunday night, mingle with runners, family, friends and spectators while you overload on a buffet of penne marinara, four cheese baked rigatoni and Toblerone chocolate. The carb overload is the perfect preparation for a day of running or, for most of us, a day of drinking. The Boston Athletic Association’s dinner runs this Sunday from 4:30 to 8 p.m. at Boston’s City Hall. Tickets are $20 and must be purchased in advance.
Boston City Hall, 1 City Hall Ave., Boston, 617-635-4000

Midnight Marathon Bike Ride

We're pretty sure the only thing that could get us through a 26.2 mile, midnight bike ride is the promise of a towering stack of pancakes at the end of it. (Face it, you can often find us chowing down on pancakes at 1 am anyway.) If you can’t physically run the marathon route, bike the miles instead, alongside 1,000 other cyclists at the sixth annual Midnight Marathon bike ride. The friendly ride begins in Southborough at midnight, finishes up on Boylston Street, and tops off with a pancake after-party at Boston Common Coffee Co. until the T opens in the early morning. At that point, you may as well stick around to cheer on the runners. Registration is free and the race begins at midnight.
Boston Common Coffee Co., 515 Washington St., Boston, 617-542-0595

Final Mile Drinks

Embrace your lack of athleticism (we're right there with you) and sip cocktails while watching other, heartier folks finish up the marathon at mile 26. Positioned right in the middle of the marathon’s final mile, Eastern Standard’s window and patio seating offers front row spots without the chaos of Kenmore Square. With a strict 90-minute table rotation, the restaurant staff optimizes how many diners can enjoy the view. Get there early and snag a seat, and enjoy some specialty cocktails, beer and wine on Monday morning.
Eastern Standard, 528 Comm. Ave., Boston, 617-532-9100

__By Frankie Barbato



Celtics Player Power Rankings - Season-Ending Edition

From Rondo to Wallace … and Everyone In Between

There was a time 20 years ago, when the Celtics missed the playoffs for the first time since Larry Bird began playing, that they gave out shirts to all the fans for being “the best fans in the world.” That motto was repeated a lot as the Celtics closed out a losing season on Wednesday. In those 20 years, the Celtics have now gone through three of these “rebuild and hope for a good draft pick” seasons. It’s fair to say that fans know how it goes now. We’ve been ranking players all season at The Improper based upon their salary and on-court value. In a season in which the main goal was about collecting and improving assets, we looked at each player and his salary to come up with the season-ending player ranking:

1. Rajon Rondo – The Celtics guard returned nearly one year to the day after tearing his ACL (an injury that he played through in the fourth quarter of a game last year). The results were up-and-down. By the end of the season, he looked more explosive to the hoop and he did have double-digit assist totals in 8 of his final 10 games. It’s hard to overlook, however, that the team was 6-24 in games he played this season and that a lot of the problems with closing out games stemmed from Rondo having to direct end-of-game situations, as opposed to just giving the ball to Paul Pierce and clearing out. His only public off-court transgression came from skipping the flight to Sacramento, a move that marred what was by all accounts a step-forward season from Rondo as a leader. He’s got one season left on a submarket deal, so the Celtics will need to make a decision whether to put veteran talent around their point-guard leader, or trade him away before he hit free agency. With a salary-cap hit of only $11 million, this offseason is the best time to pair a high-priced veteran with him and fit under the cap. Soon, he’ll be making nearly $20 million a year.

2. Jared Sullinger – The second-year player was asked to shoulder a lot of the load for this Celtics season and he flashed plenty of promise. As is befitting of a player who had logged only half a season of play, he was at times inconsistent. Asked to develop a 3-point shot, he put up 208 tries from behind the arc, making 27 percent of them. It’s not a “don’t ever shoot” percentage, but more of a “work on this more” mandate. After a January stretch of seven straight games in double-digit points, he only had 16 points in the next three games. Sullinger, who showed up looking physically fit in October, was a little rounder by the end of the season as well. Effort, weight and consistency seem to be the three things that could push Sullinger to an All-Star level. With plenty of quality power forwards in the league, Sullinger could also be easily replaced or upgraded—perhaps as part of a larger offseason trade. There’s no denying he has plenty of value.

3. Kelly Olynyk – If you look up “late-season improvement,” you might find Olynyk’s picture. Or you might find it next to “garbage-time improvement.” It’s hard to figure whether Olynyk’s average of 26 points in the final three games of the season represented true improvement or was a matter of getting extended minutes with a lineup that had few scoring options. It’s likely a little bit of both, with a lot of “small sample size.” Still, he consistently improved, and while he will never be a plus-defender, he showed a deft passing touch. Coming from a rookie class with little All-Star potential, he might be one of the few standouts three years from now.

4. Jeff Green – A scorer by trade, Green scored in double-digits in 68 games this year, but it’s those 14 games when he didn’t that has left many fans scratching their heads. Making $9 million a year, but with an opt-out after next season, he’s likely paid the exact salary he should be. The salary of someone who is a fourth or fifth best player on championship team. As the most consistent offensive threat this season, however, he struggled. It remains to be seen what Green’s worth is across the NBA, but he is a candidate to be dealt this offseason.

5. Avery Bradley (RFA) – The Celtics get the right to match any offer on Bradley this offseason. Based upon the tepid restricted free-agent market last season, he likely will re-sign with Boston. The oft-injured guard was exactly as advertised this year. He was streaky offensively, coming into his own later in the year, while being the best defensive player on the team. And he missed 22 games. He is a legitimate NBA starter and coming back on a 4-year, $24 million salary would make sense for the Celtics.

6. Brandon Bass – The Red Auerbach Award winner played every game this season and gave the Celtics consistent two-way production. Another free agent after next season, he’s due to make $7 million in 2014-15. That’s an overpay for a rebuilding team, but for a contender looking for a third or fourth big man, he could be worth it in return for some dead salary.

7. Phil Pressey – The Celtics have had a fair share of undrafted/late second-round point guards during Danny Ainge’s tenure (Lester Hudson, Orien Greene), but Pressey stood out during his rookie campaign as a solid passer and defender. Part of it was being given the backup PG role all season, but if you close your eyes you can see Pressey as a longtime backup PG in this league. And the Celtics have him for two more nonguaranteed years.

8. Keith Bogans – A veteran who was upset at being kept on the bench, he was sent home midseason. So why is he high up on this list? His $5 million nonguaranteed deal. To make salaries match, he can be paired in a trade with someone like Brandon Bass or Jeff Green and be cut to offer salary relief for the receiving team. He could be the final part to a trade for Omer Asik or restricted free agent Gordon Hayward.

9. Kris Humphries (UFA) – Humphries will likely bolt in free agency to play for a contending team, but a shout out goes to a guy who seemed not only like a throw-in to the Brooklyn Nets trade, but also somebody who might not be a great fit in the locker room. That storyline was wrong, as Humphries consistently brought the energy of a guy who was hungry to prove critics wrong. Depending upon how quickly the Celtics plan to rebuild, he might be worth bringing back at a lesser salary.

10. Chris Johnson – The 23-year-old swingman was chucking up 3-pointers for the Rio Grande Valley Vipers when the Celtics signed him to a 10-day contract in January. His energy and sporadic bursts of offense helped him avoid DNPs, while his long-distance accuracy proved useful. Johnson is signed for three more nonguaranteed years, so he could be packaged in a trade to offer the same type of relief as Bogans.

11. Vitor Faverani – Do you realize that “Skinny Sinbad” started the season opener? And had a double-double in the home opener? There’s no doubt that Danny Ainge went through hoops to get the 25-year-old Brazilian on the roster, but he showed an inconsistent effort and poor defense before he was sidelined by injury. He will be paid $2 million a year for the next two years.

12. Chris Babb – Babb, by all accounts, provided a nice energy and spark to the Celtics’ practices. He got very little playing time, however, and he was one of those nonguaranteed deals that Johnson and Bogans have. If he’s not traded, he will have to earn his way onto the team in training camp.

13. Jerry Bayless (UFA) – Bayless provided that offensive spark that the Celtics have been missing since Nate Robinson was traded. While he was a better locker-room influence than Robinson, he also had the same inconsistency. And when the shots weren’t falling, he was a liability on the court. He will likely be playing elsewhere next season, but he did provide some excitement in his short stint here.

14. Joel Anthony – Why the Celtics picked up Anthony in return for Jordan Crawford (and some paltry second-round picks) remains a bit of a puzzler since Anthony will likely opt-into his contract next year and pick up a salary near $4 million. He only played 18 games, and at one point, you could argue the Celtics might’ve been trying to freeze him out so he didn’t want to play here next year, even if it meant giving up guaranteed money. But recent news reports indicate he’s returning.

15. Gerald Wallace – It was a rough off-court start for Wallace, who was M.I.A. in the offseason after being traded from Brooklyn. He then proceeded to chew out his teammates to the media on multiple occasions until he was told to shut his trap. He provided effort on every occasion, but he also provided signs that he’s a long way from his days as an All-Star. Two years, $20 million for the guy whose season was ended by injuries. Swallow hard Celtics’ fans. The first of three first-rounders from the Nets comes this season.

Sound Ideas

Weekend Ideas

You want anchovies with that? A wide plate of options awaits your concert-going weekend, from Boy George to a band with Mccauley Culkin that does pizza-themed covers of the Velvet Underground.

In addition to rounding out the second straight night of semi-finals in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Rumble at T.T. the Bear’s Place, Friday kicks off the weekend with a Latin-tinged flair in the spicy, experimental dance-funk of the Venezuelan group Los Amigos Invisibles at the Paradise Rock Club and the alt-rock verve of famed Texas troubadour Alejandro Escovedo and his Sensitive Boys at the Brighton Music Hall. (Escovedo then moves down to the Narrows Center for the Arts in Fall River on Saturday).

Saturday offers four other distinctly different experiences. Ex-Culture Club frontman and ’80s celebrity Boy George has regained his soulful footing to croon at Royale, while indie-rockers We Are Scientists carry on at the Brighton Music Hall. And self-described “flower punk” rockers the Black Lips stir up the Paradise, even if the Atlanta band no longer engages in the destructive stage behavior of their earlier days. There is, however, word that the Lips will be bringing a scent machine to provide an appropriate aroma for the show. Still, the weekend’s oddest event belongs to former “Home Alone” child star Culkin singing about slices with his Pizza Underground cohorts in the quaint confines of Church in the Fenway. What would Lou Reed think?

Alas, for my Thursday throwback, I bow to the mighty AC/DC, whose rhythm guitarist and songwriter Malcolm Young has taken leave from the band due to illness (reportedly a stroke that has left him unable to play). And play he has for 40 years, as the driving riff engine behind younger brother Angus’ lead guitar antics, seen here in the exhausting momentum of “Let There Be Rock” at England’s Castle Donington in 1991. Supposedly, AC/DC will soldier on without him in the studio next month, though it seems less likely that the band will tour without him. Granted, the band’s biggest album – Back in Black – came after Brian Johnson replaced original lead singer Bon Scott, the above video includes replacement drummer Chris Slade, and even Malcolm’s spot was filled on a 1988 tour by nephew Stevie Young. But it’s going to be hard to replace Malcolm’s heart and soul.

Improper Now

Tickets On Sale Alert

Hot tickets for the week of April 18

The Kills play the Paradise on July 8


O.A.R. and Phillip Phillips
July 10 at Blue Hills Bank Pavilion 

Justin Timberlake 
Dec. 13 at Mohegan Sun Arena 


Darius Rucker

Sept. 12 at Blue Hills Bank Pavilion


Howie Day
June 14 at the Sinclair

Alice Smith
June 26 at Brighton Music Hall

The Kills
July 8 at Paradise Rock Club

Aug. 1 at Great Scott

Q&A: Being Craig Breslow

The Red Sox reliever muses on the "smart guy" label, the MCATs and pediatric cancer.

Craig Breslow, 33, is one of the few pitchers who is a legitimate threat every year to have an ERA lower than his IQ. The Red Sox reliever and Yale graduate has thrived out of the bullpen, posting one of his best seasons last year in Boston’s run to a World Series championship. A Connecticut native, Breslow started the Strike 3 Foundation, which provides money for pediatric cancer research and will hold Sip Happens May 19 at the Boston Children’s Museum. The Improper Bostonian is one sponsor of the food and wine tasting, which still has tickets available. Breslow talked with The Improper about “smart guy” labels, studying for the MCATs and his connection to pediatric cancer.

Matt Martinelli: You’ve had a bit of job security the past few years, which is hard to come by as a reliever. How does that compare to when you first started out?
Craig Breslow: Last year was the first year I had a multi-year deal. Knowing where you’ll be more than one year in advance is the biggest thing for me. The commitment they made to me. It was a great thing for me, especially it being so close to my home.

Did the proximity to home make it easier to re-sign here?
It’s obviously nice to pay closer to home. Your family and friends have an opportunity to see more games, but the biggest factor to me re-signing was the two-year commitment, along with the chance to win. The Red Sox ownership is going to put together the best team they can possibly field. At the trade deadline last year, they saw an opportunity to secure an upper-tier starting pitcher in Jake Peavy, and there was no hesitation to go out and get him. The confidence in knowing that year in, year out, they’re committed and they’re going to make an effort to win the World Series is the most attractive thing about it.

You’ve gotten a lot of accolades for being the smartest guy in baseball. Do teammates try to stump you?
I wouldn’t say stump so much as if there’s a question, it invariably filters back to me, even if it’s a topic of which I have no idea.

You played for Billy Beane—would you say you’re smarter than him?
Until my playing days are over, or until my baseball career is over, even sometime after playing, I don’t think I’ll answer that. Billy is a very, very sharp guy. I learned a lot while playing for him. I have a tremendous amount of respect for the job he’s able to do, even with limited resources. I don’t believe that the adulation and admiration that he garners is unfounded.

Does the “smart guy” tag get annoying at all? Does it make people overlook your talent?
It never gets annoying. Ultimately, being called smart is a compliment, and being complimented that much is never an insult, especially when you consider how quickly celebrities and professional athletes get criticized. But certainly, I feel like there are times when my accomplishments on the field have warranted more attention than they’ve gotten. So, I’ve kind of made a commitment to my teammates when I step in the clubhouse that I’m going to be the best baseball player I can be. I think as my career has unfolded, there’s really been a shift from: Here’s a really smart guy who plays baseball to here’s a guy who plays baseball. 

What’s the toughest thing you’ve ever done?
Was it 
pitching in the World Series?

The World Series was very difficult, and it was an incredible experience. I don’t think I would call that the most difficult thing I’ve ever done because it was doing the same thing that I was doing when I was 10 years old and playing Little League baseball. The only thing that was different was the number of people watching. Hmm, the most difficult thing I’ve done? Making it to the major leagues was incredibly difficult, but that kind of falls into the same realm of you’re just continuing to play a game. Taking the MCATs was really difficult.

Were you studying while you were in the minors?
I took them very, very early on in my minor league career. I was balancing playing baseball while I was reviewing biochemistry.

This past World Series, you had some uncharacteristic rough outings. What’s going through your mind after those games?
To be perfectly honest, now that it’s 2014, I haven’t looked back at all.

You grew up in Trumbull (Conn.). Did you play sports with Chris Drury growing up?
He’s three years older than me, so I was obviously very aware of the success of that Little League team and his hockey career. I remember him umpiring some of my games, but I never actually played with him. When he was in New York, we exchanged emails since we were two professional athletes from the same small town. I got a chance to connect with him.

Do you have a favorite spot to go in Boston?
If I had to say I have a favorite spot, it’d probably be Newbury Street. If we get an off-day or have a day game and we have a chance to walk down the street, we always go. It’s a great street, with a lot to do, and a lot of character.

What’s your favorite road trip?
I always enjoy going to New York. It’s the only place outside of Boston that’s even closer to home. It’s always fun. Yankee Stadium is another tremendous venue and a team rich in tradition and history. The media makes so much of the Yankees-Red Sox series. It’s great.

Your fundraiser comes up on May 19. How important is the mission to cure pediatric cancer? I know it’s very personal for you.
My sister was diagnosed with thyroid cancer when she was 13. She’s a few years older than me. I was 11. When you’re 11 years old, it’s hard and incredibly scary to hear someone has cancer. I remember questioning whether she was going to die the day I heard she had cancer. Fortunately, her diagnosis was OK. She was treated at Yale and I’m fortunate enough, as a baseball player, to have established Strike 3. We’ve dispersed over a million dollars in grants. Inclusive in that is a $50,000 research grant to research doctors that allows oncology fellows to actually pursue their research. Last year, we sponsored one. This year, we’re going to sponsor two of them.

Are you able to follow up a little bit on how the grant goes?
Yeah, we exchange emails and get profiles of the work. We get progress reports on the exact project that we funded. It’s a really neat thing for me, for our staff, our donor base to be able to keep up with this tangible project that we’re funding. We also gave $500,000 to Yale University Children’s Hospital. We were the founding sponsor of their Pediatric Bone Marrow Transplantation Program, which is the only one of its kind in Connecticut. They had their first patient in Sept. 2011. It’s one thing to support an organization that’s doing work, but it’s a totally different feeling to look and say, 'Wow, a program we started five years ago is now accepting patients.'

If you ever went back into medical school, would it be pediatric oncology?
I’m not sure. I always imagined that my medical career would probably take me down a path of orthopedics, but I felt like that was probably just a result of me being a professional athlete. At this point, it certainly could be that. Ten years from now, after raising all this money for cancer research, if I go to medical school. I don’t know. 

Sound Ideas

Weekend Ideas

Spring’s in the air, and so’s a buzz about London Grammar, the ambient British trip-hop trio that plays the Paradise Rock Club Friday as part of a sold-out 12-date American tour. Here’s a taste of what the under-the-radar fuss is about. On the local scene, Friday and Saturday also mark the closing nights for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Rumble preliminaries (in which Tigerman WOAH, Goddamn Draculas, Barricades and Western Education have so far punched their tickets for the semi-finals). Pick up the action at T.T. the Bear’s Place; the Rumble lineup info’s here.

Saturday cooks with a few shows of note, including two longtime area favorites. Boston’s psychedelic reggae-rockers Spiritual Rez stoke up the horns to get the Sinclair hopping. And talk about longevity: having jammed for more than 40 years (way before Phish and the jamband scene developed), Max Creek plays Church on the heels of guitarist Scott Murawski’s recent tour in Phish bassist Mike Gordon’s band. And at Johnny D’s Uptown, Simon Townshend -- a sideman in his brother Pete’s band, the Who -- shows the power of family genes in a solo showcase.

Sunday offers the pick-of-the-weekend at House of Blues when singer Emmylou Harris celebrates the expanded reissue of her shimmering 1995 album Wrecking Ball with its producer/guitarist Daniel Lanois, with bassist/guitarist Jim Wilson and drummer Steve Nistor filling out their band. Lanois, who’s also famous for co-producing U2’s greatest albums, will also perform as the opening act.  Here’s the album’s lovely title track, a Neil Young tune, performed by Harris and Lanois at a 2012 Canadian festival. The same night, Chelsea native Chick Corea, who played keyboards with Miles Davis before streamlining fusion power with Return to Forever, stretches out in a solo piano concert at the Wilbur Theatre. And ’80s rock darlings the Psychedelic Furs love their way at the Sinclair.

For my Thursday throwback, in honor of tonight's Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame induction of Nirvana, I’ve been one of many people musing about the legacy of the late Kurt Cobain. He always seemed like a candle that was going to glow bright and burn out, and this full-show video from an infamous 1991 Dallas club show sees Cobain in a typically on-the-edge moment when he tussles with a bouncer who pulls him back from a stage dive. This show took place weeks after Nevermind exploded; on the eve of the album’s release, I saw Nirvana headline a WFNX show at Axis with Bullet LaVolta and Smashing Pumpkins that proved saner if still wild.


Stephen Colbert named as Letterman replacement

Colbert will host "The Late Show" when David Letterman retires

Well, it looks like Suey Park, “Twitter activist” and human who doesn’t understand satire (or deliberately misunderstands satire in order to further her “Twitter activism” agenda) has gotten her way. Colbert has been canceled. In a manner of speaking. 

A couple of weeks ago Park started the hashtag #CancelCobert in response to a joke taken from The Colbert Report, and tweeted by Comedy Central, that she deemed racist. And, sure, if taken out of the context of The Colbert Report, it sure was. But, um, as I assumed the entirety of the free world knew, The Colbert Report deals in satire (which is a fancy way of saying “jokes used to make fun of bad things by pretending to be that bad thing.” Bad things like, you know, racism). Anyway, Park and her legions of Twitter followers failed to get the joke and called for the cancellation of Colbert. 

And now it looks like it's going to happen. Well, sort of. 

It was announced today that Stephen Colbert will be stepping in to fill the much buzzed-about vacancy on The Late Show when David Letterman retires. As of yet, no date has been set for the passing of this lofty baton, or the #cancellation of The Colbert Report, but Colbert had this to say about the big announcement:

“I’m thrilled and grateful that CBS chose me. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go grind a gap in my front teeth.”

No word yet if any Twitter crusaders for the fair and ethical treatment of the dentally challenged have taken up Internet arms about this latest statement, which should definitely be taken completely seriously. 

Improper Now

Tickets On Sale Alert

Hot tickets for the week of April 11

Phantogram play the House of Blues on June 21


Fleetwood Mac
October 10 at the TD Garden


June 21 at the House of Blues

“Mad Decent Block Party” with
Diplo, Flosstradamus, Chance the Rapper + more
August 10 at the Blue Hills Bank Pavilion


The Antlers
June 25 at the Sinclair

July 22-23 at the Sinclair

The Deadly Gentlemen
with Sarah Jarosz
May 25 at the Sinclair


Sound Ideas

Weekend Ideas

Friday’s a night for local legends. Al Kooper has distinguished himself in so many ways. He wrote the 1960 pop hit “This Diamond Ring,” led the original Blood, Sweat and Tears, played organ with Bob Dylan (starting with that iconic part to “Like a Rolling Stone”) and produced Lynyrd Skynyrd’s first three albums. Recently, the retired Berklee professor oversaw a box set of the late guitar great Michael Bloomfield. And on Friday, Kooper (who has lived in Somerville since the late ’90s) will celebrate his 70th birthday at the Regattabar with his Funky Faculty.

In the early ’80s, Robin Lane and the Chartbusters emerged as one of Boston’s most heralded bands, releasing three major-label records and appearing on MTV. Lane had sung on Neil Young’s Everybody Knows This is Nowhere before moving to Boston and getting swept up in the post-punk scene, and today she helps female survivors of abuse through music. Filmmaker and Chartbusters drummer Tim Jackson tells Lane’s story in his new documentary “When Things Go Wrong,” titled after the group’s best known song, and the film screens on Friday at Arlington’s Regent Theatre, a benefit premiere to help pay for music clearances. Lane and Jackson will answer questions after the film, then perform with the Chartbusters and friends including Barrence Whitfield and Tanya Donelly. Here’s a vintage clip of Lane and the Chartbusters performing at the Rat, one of Boston’s most legendary rock clubs.

Speaking of legends, Fats Waller was a giant of jazz, advancing stride piano with a flair for entertainment and leaving classics like “Ain’t Misbehavin’” and “Honeysuckle Rose” in his wake. Modern piano innovator Jason Moran brings his own vision to the pianist/singer’s work with his Fats Waller Dance Party, combining jazz piano trio and contemporary dance music, with bassist/singer Meshell Ndegeocello in the lineup at the Berklee Performance Center on Friday. Here’s a taste of Moran’s tribute party, complete with hulking Fats Waller head mask.

Saturday offers heavy-hitters of a different genre. A cappella sensations Pentatonix get vocal at House of Blues while the Sinclair hosts the old-timey country-folk of Hurray for the Riff Raff, led by singer/songwriter Alynda Lee Segarra, and fellow New Orleans upstart Benjamin Booker before they both return to the Newport Folk Festival in July. Likewise, on Sunday, Lake Street Dive invades Royale, another sold-out club (like the Sinclair before it) on the exploding New England Conservatory-bred quartet’s road to bigger stages like Newport behind its new release Bad Self Portraits. In a World Music/CRASHarts program on Sunday, tabla maestro Zakir Hussain brings his latest Masters of Percussion lineup to Symphony Hall with jazz and ex-Journey drummer Steve Smith joining the Indian percussionists. The same night, BeauSoleil avec fiddler Michael Doucet brings its unique Cajun/zydeco gumbo, as seen in this recent show, to Johnny D's Uptown in Somerville. And Sunday marks the first of six preliminary nights of the 2014 Rock 'n' Roll Rumble at T.T. the Bear's Place with a particularly strong opening that includes Tigerman WOAH and Guillermo Sexo. Here's the whole schedule.

Finally, for a Thursday Throwback, speaking of Al Kooper helping to launch Lynyrd Skynyrd, here are those Southern rockers in their early glory at a full 1976 concert, capped of course by "Free Bird."

Improper Now

Improper Agenda

Mark your calendar with our upcoming picks in music, film, theater and more


To call the Rock ’n’ Roll Rumble a mere “battle of the bands” would be like referring to the Olympics as a glorified “field day.” The annual throwdown for sonic supremacy is both mutual lovefest and all-out war, and to the victor go the spoils — namely, bragging rights worth a neckful of gold medals. Sponsored by WZLX’s Boston Emissions, the 35th annual Rumble’s 24-band bill is stacked with local talent, including indie fixtures Guillermo Sexo, free-wheelin’ Americana jammers Tigerman WOAH, jangly guitar-driven rockers Airport and many more. As usual, it all goes down in this area’s unofficial music capital, Central Square, at T.T. the Bear’s. It kicks off with the first of six preliminary rounds on April 6 and rages on all month. Let’s get ready to rumble.

New Orleans-bred, Juilliard-trained pianist and vocalist Jon Batiste serves as the artistic director at large for Harlem’s National Jazz Museum, but that isn’t his only outlet for musical outreach. With his band, Stay Human, Batiste brings jazz to the  streets and subways of New York, staging impromptu performances they call “Love Riots.” The goal: to encourage deeper appreciation of music and connection with one another. That same spirit drives their first full-length album, Social Music. Join the revolution when their tour in support of that album hits the Sinclair on April 8


He’s like a next-level Martha Stewart— if Martha was a buzzed-about Norwegian dude covered in ink. Prop stylist extraordinaire Paul Lowe found fame when he expanded his Internet portfolio into the food/craft blog and online magazine Sweet Paul. Six years later, Lowe’s cooked up his first book, Sweet Paul Eat & Make: Charming Recipes and Kitchen Crafts You Will Love. The book features well-crafted recipes (a highlight is breakfast polenta with hazelnuts, pears and honey) alongside easy-to-follow home projects (such as bent-fork bookends and vegetable-dyed tablecloths) that don’t require a culinary degree or art fellowship to master. Gastronomy meets glitter glue on April 10 at Brookline Booksmith.


Even in the Eternal City, living “la dolce vita” has to come to an end. Such is the case for onetime novelist and serial playboy Jep Gambardella in The Great Beauty. The Roman hedonist’s life of excess starts to crumble when Gambardella learns about the death of an old girlfriend on his 65th birthday, prompting him to reflect on his debaucherous party years. The most recent winner of Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars and Golden Globes, The Great Beauty juxtaposes pulsating dance scenes against the city’s ancient ruins. Catch it in a double feature with the film that inspired it, Federico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita, on April 13 at the Brattle Theatre.


There’s a reason bread is referred to as the “staff of life.” A culinary staple in virtually every culture, bread has long been a familiar staff upon which all can lean. Not by Bread Alone plays upon that theme in a performance that features 11 deaf-blind actors from the Tel Aviv-based Nalaga’at Theater Deaf-Blind Acting Ensemble, who bake bread on stage while recounting stories of lives spent in darkness and silence through movement, spoken word and surtitled sign language. At the end of the show, audience members are invited to sample the bread, which serves to represent the commonality shared by the actors , the audience and people everywhere. Come see—and taste —this unique theater experience at the Paramount Mainstage through April 6.


There were no classrooms or teachers at the New York School, and it issued no degrees. An avant-garde movement that made the Big Apple an international art powerhouse in the 1950s, the New York School was made up of artists who refused to paint by numbers, rejecting traditional styles in favor of abstract, messy, expressive strokes. Manhattan’s James Gallery, directed by artist James Gahagan, was among the first to feature the modern movement. The space closed its doors in 1962, but now the Artists of the James Gallery exhibit has brought its works, including Gahagan’s own
Jubilant Harvest (pictured here), to Boston. Find your inner bohemian at ACME Fine Art through April 26.


Improper Now

New books to commemorate the Boston Marathon tragedy

We've rounded up just a few new tomes that pay tribute to the Marathon bombings

On the eve of the 2014 Boston Marathon, writers from both here in town and across the country commemorate the tragedy at last year's marathon through newly released books. 

4:09:43: Boston 2013 Through the Eyes of the Runners by Hal Higdon 

After the first bomb went off 4 hours, 9 minutes and 43 seconds into the race, many marathoners kept running—not toward the finish line, but toward loved ones, to help the injured or to safety. 4:09:43 tells their stories. Compiled by Runner’s World contributing editor Hal Higdon, the book weaves a single narrative from the perspectives of 75 runners who experienced the tragedy firsthand, taking readers on a particularly personal journey from start to finish.

26.2 Miles to Boston: A Journey Into the Heart of the Boston Marathon by Michael Connelly ($18.95)

While the events at the 2013 marathon certainly shook our city's foundation, we're still standing — and the world’s oldest annual marathon isn’t going anywhere. In 26.2 Miles to Boston, local writer and runner Michael Connelly recalls the marathon’s rich history in 26 trivia-packed chapters — one for each mile. This all-new edition also explores the marathon’s future, including interviews with runners prepping for 2014 who are out to prove that Boston’s runners are as resilient as Boston itself.

The Boston Marathon: A Celebration of America’s Greatest Race by Tom Derderian ($22.95)

Though the Boston Marathon attracts runners from around the globe, it has always retained a distinctly hometown feel. New England Runner Magazine writer Tom Derderian explores the marathon's deep local roots in this book that traces the marathon’s route through Hopkinton, Framingham, Newton, Brookline and more, through trivia and vintage photos that intertwine Massachusetts history with the marathon’s evolution.

Stronger by Jeff Bauman ($26)

Waiting for his girlfriend to cross the finish line, Jeff Bauman locked eyes with Tamerlan Tsarnev. Ten seconds later, a bomb went off at his feet. Within minutes, a photograph of him being rushed away in a wheelchair, both legs gone, had gone viral. The survivor’s powerful new memoir recalls the horror of the attack, Bauman's role in identifying the suspects and his inspiring road to recovery.

Boston, You’re My Home by Suzie Canale ($15)

How do you talk to kids about tragedy when even adults have trouble making sense of it all? This children’s book takes a step in the right direction with Caroline, a little girl worried about moving to Beantown until her parents explain why their new home is “Boston Strong.” The bedtime story tackles tough topics without actually mentioning the bombings, and benefits the One Fund, helping kids—and parents—feel proud to be Bostonians.

By Elissa Bernstein

Improper Now

When words fail

'102 Hours' tells the story of the Boston Marathon bombings through iconography alone

They say that a picture is worth a thousand words, and that’s certainly true of one new book recalling the events at last year’s Boston Marathon.

On the eve of this year’s marathon, Cambridge design firm Tank Design is releasing 102 Hours, an entirely iconographic book that tells the story of that day and those that followed. “The tragedy at the finish line, paired with the response from our local and federal governments over the next few days, was unlike anything we’d ever seen before, and it was happening in our neighborhoods, outside our windows and pouring out onto our phones, televisions and computer screens,” says senior designer Elanie Blais. “We thought it would be an interesting challenge to simplify the story to its core, strip it down to just a series of events, with no words. Iconography is the simplest human language we have; it transcends all language barriers, and most cultural ones, too.”

All profits from the book sales will benefit Youth design, a Boston-based nonprofit that educates and empowers urban youth to become the next generation of designers.

“Something clicked when I found out how young the two Tsarnaev brothers were,” Blais explains. “It resonated with me how important it is for us to provide mentors for our youth. It seems that every time there’s an incident like the one last April, it happens because people feel rejected, as if their community doesn’t care about them. This project is more about solving the problem from its roots.”

 102 Hours ($20) is available for purchase at 102hours.com.  

Plus: Check out our roundup of even more new books commemorating the Boston Marathon!

Improper Now

The Stoked guys want you to want...their pizza

Music buffs know Scott Riebling from Boston alt-rock outfit Letters to Cleo, but the bassist-turned-producer has been making pizza almost as long as he’s been making rounds on the local club circuit. These days, he can be found behind the wheel of Stoked Wood Fired Pizza Co., a new food truck he started with Toirm Miller (of defunct vegan cart Jack and the Bean Bowl).  

“When I moved to Boston, I fell in love with the city—it’s my favorite city in the U.S.—but I couldn’t find pizza as good as where I grew up,” Riebling says.

“Scott’s been making pizza for 20-plus years, and I’ve been partaking in his pizza parties,” Miller adds. “We’re doing something different. It’s a little bit off the beaten path as far as traditional food trucks.” 

That’s because their truck is equipped with a wood-burning oven. “I was on the Internet for at least three days just looking for trucks that could handle the weight capacity,” Riebling says. “It’s not much fun parking it, but driving it seems to be no problem.”

He and Miller are confident that any logistical challenges are worth it. “What we’re trying to do is provide a three-minute pizza that’s very different, texture-wise, than, say, your typical Papa Gino’s,” explains Riebling, who admits he’s dragged his family to Naples simply to try the pizza. 

Papa Gino’s, this is not. Priced around $6-$9, the 10-inch personal pizzas are made with high-end ingredients like sea salt, imported Italian tomatoes and organic herbs. They also offer a vegan pie, as well as a soy-based, dairy-free mozzarella option. And they’ll be slinging that ’za till midnight Thursday through Saturday: Stoked is part of Mayor Walsh’s new late-night pilot program for food trucks, launching within days of the debut of the T’s late-night service. 

“Pizza, college kids and late Friday nights is a pretty good combination,” Miller says. “I always thought that last call and everything closed down way too early, especially the T service. I think having it will get more people into the city, in the city later and will trigger more of the restaurants and business. It’s a long time coming.”

No arguments there. But we have one more question: Won’t it get unbearably hot in that truck in the summer?

“Worst case scenario, we’ll just have to come up with some creative outfits,” Riebling says with a laugh. “I’ll be out there in my Speedo, come August.”

Sound Ideas

Weekend Ideas

Phish tickets go on sale Friday for the jam kings’ annual summer tour, which kicks off July 1 at the Xfinity Center (Great Woods). But in the meantime, Phish fans can see bassist/singer Mike Gordon’s solo band play House of Blues on Friday. The Sudbury native has tightened his musical bonds with guitarist Scott Murawski (Max Creek) on his new album Overstep and current tour, on which Gordon is sprinkling a few Phish nuggets, including that band’s long-shelved “Spock’s Brain.” Also on Friday, Grammy-winning songwriters Steve Earle and Shawn Colvin team up at the Berklee Performance Center for “Songs and Stories: Together Onstage,” a showcase for swapping tunes and duets that’s likely to contrast his alt-country verve with her more impressionistic pop-folk. Here’s Earle performing one of his songs that Colvin often covers. And alto sax prodigy Grace Kelly toasts her 10th anniversary of playing Scullers Jazz Club. Expect bebop with some slight pop flavor.

On last year’s standout album The Silver Gymnasium, Austin indie-rockers Okkervil River struck a bit of an ’80s E Street Band tone behind singer/songwriter Will Sheff’s poetic waxing about his small-town youth in Meriden, N.H. The band had some trouble conveying that storytelling sprawl at Boston Calling last year but should be more in its element when Sheff leads Okkervil River in the small-club environs of the Sinclair on Saturday. Over at House of Blues Saturday, comedian/rapper Donald Glover (Troy on NBC’s Community) lets his musing music flow under his stage name Childish Gambino. And on Sunday, Asif Ali Khan & Party carry on the devotional Sufi tradition of his Qawwali mentor, the late, great vocalist Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, at Boston University’s Tsai Performance Center, a World Music/CRASHarts booking.

Finally, for today’s Thursday Throwback, seeing the young Irish lads of the Strypes at Great Scott last week made me think of catching the first tours by U2. Before they return with a full new album’s worth of hype, here’s a glimpse back at when the U2 guys were just beyond their teens.

Improper Now

Tickets On Sale Alert

Hot tickets for the week of March 28!

On sale Friday at 10 am

David Gray
May 3 at the Orpheum Theatre

With A$AP Ferg
May 5 at the House of Blues

On sale Friday at noon

Against Me!
With Tony Molina, Big Eyes
May 5 at Royale

Peter Murphy
June 12 at the Paradise Rock Club

Q&A: Being Saer Sene

Revs striker dishes on life in Boston, long weekends in France and the upcoming season

Saer Sene, 27, is a third-year player for the New England Revolution, who has seen his first two seasons with the Revs conclude with season-ending injuries. Sene made his mark in 2012 with 11 goals in his first season. He added 5 goals last year in the Revs' run to the playoffs. New England started this year 0-2, and will open its home season on Saturday against Vancouver at Gillette Stadium.

Matt Martinelli: Last season, you guys made an unexpected run to the playoffs, but you got hurt late in the season.
Saer Sene: That was a big setback from to get that big an injury, but it was good to watch my teammates win. It made it easier. I think they did great. And it was a great atmosphere to win the two games and get in the playoffs. Now, I think we need to take that and move forward this year.

Do you have a specific pregame routine?
No. It's almost the same when we play at home. I hang out with my friends or my family at the house. Just hanging out and getting some rest. I don't put much pressure on myself before the game. The day of the game, before I get on the field, I'm really focused on the game. But outside of it, I dont' have any big preparation.

Is your family in the States?
No, they come here a lot to visit me. My best friend and my mom. My wife lives here. I hate to be alone. I like to be around my family and my good friends.

Did you meet your wife here?
Yeah, I met her here. I knew here before, but I met her here. We've been together two-and-a-half years now.

How often do you get back to France?
I try to get back as much as I can, but it's not that much. We don't have too many days off. The flight is six-and-a-half hours. But sometimes, when I feel like I have the time to go, I go. If not, I stay here.

Do you ever go during the season?
Yeah, I can. Sometimes if I have three days off, I just go and I ask coach if I can have a fourth day. So, I go and I can spend two days there and then fly back.

You guys have a very short offseason in the MLS, compared to other professional sports?
Yes. The offseason is really short. I'm not used to that really big offseason, it's also too much. When I used to play in Europe it was four weeks, so this is different.

With the World Cup this year, do you expect there to be extra interest?
Yeah, I think everybody's interested in the World Cup this year. If you're involved in soccer, everybody is interested in it, and everyone is going to watch it. It's a dream for every soccer player to play in the World Cup. Even if you play in the MLS, you're going to be watching.

What's your favorite road trip in the MLS?
Hmm, I dunno. I like to go play New York, and Chicago. It's a long list.

How did you originally take up soccer?
My father was a professional soccer player. My mother says when I started walking, I was always interested in the ball, and always wanted to play with the ball. When I was like 7 years old, I started to play on a team. And I just kept going.

What do you offdays usually consist of when you stick around the area?
Well, I usually like to stay home. When I'm with my wife, we sometimes go out to eat in Boston. Before we didn't do much because she was living far away from me. But this year, we'll probably do more and travel around on my days off.

Where do you like to go out in Boston?
We like to go to the Red Sox. And we like to go out to eat a lot. My favorite place to eat in Boston is probably Fogo De Chao. I like to go over there, and sometimes we have a few drinks. I like to go to the Seaport, too.

Do you have a goal in mind for this year's team?
Well, I think you saw we had a good mentality last year, and everyone was surprised. We walk together, stick together. And this year, we didn't start the first tow games of the year that well, but the mentality is good. And if we go into the game with the right mentality, we will be good. I think as soon as we can win our first game, we're going to get going.

Sound Ideas

Weekend Ideas

Yes, “Roadrunner” deserves to win the (slow) race to become our state rock song. Yet its author, Jonathan Richman, has shied from that fray. In fact, the chances are pretty much nil that you’ll  hear that Modern Lovers classic if you squeeze into the Middle East Upstairs for Friday’s last (early) show of Richman’s three-night stand. The singer/guitarist remains far from that fare in his long-pursued folky troubadour phase with drumming foil Tommy Larkins. However, the odds are good that you’ll hear “Let Her Go Into the Darkness” or “I Was Dancing in the Lesbian Bar.” Here’s a recent snapshot of Richman’s casual club act. Also on Friday, Southern alt-country rockers the Drive-By Truckers fire up House of Blues on a smart pairing with Oregon’s Blitzen Trapper.

Keb’ Mo’ is about to release a new album called Blues Americana, and that pretty much fits his smooth, folky take on the legacy of the blues that he'll be offering at the Wilbur Theatre on Saturday. On a grander scale, the orchestral rock outfit Typhoon rouses the Sinclair on both Saturday and Sunday in the wake of this rousing Brighton Music Hall show. And you can jump to my recent interview with Typhoon's Kyle Morton here. Bonus: Typhoon’s supported both nights by Brooklyn-based Maine native Aly Spaltro’s primal folk-rock as Lady Lamb the Beekeeper

Also on Saturday, local hip-hop veteran D-Tension airs out the ’80s rock fantasies of his new album Secret Project with a Middle East Downstairs cast that includes cameo singers Aaron Perrino (the Sheila Divine), Ad Frank, Jason Dunn (the Luxury) and Liz Enthusiasm (Freezepop). Finally, on Sunday, MS MR invades the Paradise Rock Club with its dark-edged, dramatic and danceable indie-pop – and who knows what color singer Lizzy Plapinger’s hair will be tinted.

Speaking of theatrical, for my Thursday Throwback, in honor of Kate Bush's announcement of her first concerts in 35 years this August/September in London, here's the stage-shy, ethereal singer live on Swedish TV in 1979.

Culture Shack

Asking for "Permission"

Jen Mergel on the MFA's new exhibit of Latin American art

Revisar/Censurar (Revise/Censor) by Horacio Zabala *Courtesy of the artist and the Ella Fontanals-Cisneros Collection

"This is not meant to be a general overview or survey," says Jen Mergel, the MFA's Beal Family Senior Curator of Contemporary Art. "This is meant to be an exhibit with teeth." She's talking about Permission To Be Global/Prácticas Globales: Latin American Art from the Ella Fontanals-Cisneros Collection—one of our picks of spring’s must-see exhibits—which opens this week. But first, Mergel gave us the lowdown on the show's title, its reception at Art Basel Miami Beach and a few of its 46 featured artists (including one who’ll be in attendance… in a coffin). 

Many of these artists have never been shown in Boston before. What most excites you about bringing this exhibit to this audience?

The obvious answer is that the art is phenomenal! But in terms of some context for the MFA in particular, of course we opened the Art of the Americas wing in 2010, which is the year I started at the museum. And then I came on to open the contemporary wing in 2011, so the conversation had been ongoing for some time about how to think through the first major thematic show in the Foster Gallery, the Linde Family Wing’s special exhibition space. It made perfect sense to us to think through extending what we’re trying to do with the Art of the Americas wing and what we’re trying to do with the contemporary wing by organizing a show that’s looking at this phenomenon. Contemporary art from across Latin America has been receiving so much critical attention, and it has been well deserved, but it really has been underrepresented in Boston. So it absolutely seemed like the right time for the MFA and the right time to show some great work. 

This is the first time the museum has incorporated live performance art in an exhibit—can you tell us about its role and the choice to include it?

There is this rich history across Latin America of art that really prompts interaction, so live performance is a key part of that. And in the show of course there are all sorts of ways you feel the presence of performance, be it photographs of Marta Minujín burning a huge effigy in a public square, or drawings of performances that were never realized and allowed in Cuba that we’ll finally be able to do in Boston, or video actions of people doing performances in Venezuelan sand dunes or the streets of Guatemala City, like Regina José Galindo. So it’s there, and to have new live projects as part of the checklist, as part of the exhibition, made perfect sense.

One example will be right at the start at the opening of the show. The public opening is this March 19, and on that evening one of the artists, Lázaro Saavedra from Cuba, will be realizing for the first time a project he had never really been able to execute in Havana. It’s from a series called “History for Historians,” and all of these are projects he would have hoped to have done or attempted to do but could not. One of them is called Funerary Egocentrism, quite a mouthful for a title. But basically he stages himself in a coffin, so it’s literally the death of the artist or the death of the author, which is a quite jarring experience—to walk into a room in an art gallery in a museum and have a person put their own body inside an open casket. But when he was thinking about this in Cuba 20 years ago in the early ’90s, he was thinking about what that gesture could have meant in terms of, say, artists’ free expression. Do they even have a life? And what is the life of their voice? 

[Note: Due to "administrative delays" regarding his visa, Saavedra's performance is being rescheduled, likely for April.]

I was especially excited to see that Regina José Galindo will be performing as well. Can you tell us about those plans?

She has been thinking through a number of proposals for us. I can’t speak to the exact content yet, but we are looking at a June date for when she would be doing this. What I can tell you is that Regina never repeats a performance, so once she does it, that’s it; it’s not something she will deliver in a different context, assuming it will have the same resonance or color. So she’s really thinking of ideas that are so specific to Boston. Coming from Central America, coming from Guatemala City, she’s also thinking about her own presence in Boston as an outsider, what that means, and how she might emphasize those notions of connection and disconnect between local audiences and her own experience coming in from outside.

A video of one of her best-known performances will be on view as well, right?

The piece that will be in the exhibition throughout is the documentation of her 2003 walk through Guatemala City, ¿Quién puede borrar las huellas? (Who Can Erase the Traces?), which is so compelling, even if you don’t know the history of the genocide in Guatemala and what she was protesting in her walk from the constitutional court to the national palace, in terms of the individual who was responsible for many of those deaths [former dictator José Efraín Ríos Montt] being able to run for president. Without all of that specific knowledge of that political context, you still get chills, thinking of the simplicity and the intensity of that gesture, walking with that basin of human blood through the city. I think that’s also one of the reasons why we were inviting Regina José. Again, the title of the show, “Permission to be Global,” we wanted that title to provoke questions. What do you mean by the global? What do you mean by permission? Who needs permission? Permission for what? And the whole idea that her work can speak to a very specific context but also speak beyond that, and that it can resonate with audiences in the US, audiences in Europe—when that video footage went out around the world, it was telling people what was happening, specifically, historically and politically in that moment, but it was also an important artistic statement. It’s work like that that actually reaches the idea of the global, crossing borders, that notion of exchange, of witness to history. The point of the show is that by connecting with these artists’ works, they really do bring us closer to an ideal of what global can mean. Theirs is the art that gives us permission.

I know the exhibition opened at Art Basel Miami Beach before coming to Boston. Can you tell us about how it was received?

It was amazing to see the reception of the show and the catalogue we produced with [Ella Fontanals-Cisneros and the CIFO Foundation], because it is a very high-profile forum for contemporary art. Art Basel Miami Beach is such a densely packed schedule, and in many cases it might not always be so focused on the art. [Laughs.] But the CIFO Foundation is so well recognized for being a very serious forum for high-quality, curated exhibitions, so Ella was proud of our work and that the exhibition received comments from colleagues Europe, Brazil and other parts of the world saying, “Wow, we would really love to see this show travel.” That was a huge compliment in and of itself. But I think the most exciting thing about the reception of the show in Miami is again that it did what we would hoped; it was really sparking discussion about these timely issues. People were talking about it terms of how it relates to the art world, but also how it relates to our contemporary moment. We are all connected by the cloud, and yet there are still imbalances between the haves and the have-nots, those who have more or less resources or access or freedom. And these artists across Latin America have decades of experience addressing this.

Untitled (Globe of the World) by Wilfredo Prieto *Courtesy of the Artist/Gallery Martin van ZomerenWere there any works that especially seemed to spark conversation in Miami?

There were projects that are using digital surveillance technology, like Rafael Lozano-Hemmer’s Shadowbox: Third Person, which is tracking you as you are walking into the space. And then there were projects that are beyond humble, like Wilfredo Prieto’s tiny chickpea, Globe of the World. It’s absolutely the smallest piece in the show, and when reproduced it’s often 20 times its actual size, but it still held an entire wall of the space. And I think some people would discover it and then remark on the power of that gesture. There’s certainly a younger artist who was attracting attention because the material he chose to use was miles and miles and miles of gold chain. His name is Eduardo Abaroa. He was putting in the space the lengths of the perimeter of an island in false gold chains, piled on the floor like a little island on the gallery floor. But the project also traced the fact of the idea of this island existing in the Gulf of Mexico and the reality that it didn’t exist in the Gulf of Mexico, after centuries of people thinking it did and it appearing on all sorts of maps and all of the repercussions of that—it meant Mexico did not have access to oil drilling and sovereignty in those waters, etc. That this single glistening gold pile could then be used to explore all of those ideas, I think that was unexpected.

Image above right: Untitled (Globe of the World) by Wilfredo Prieto *Courtesy of the Artist/Gallery Martin van Zomeren


Raising the stakes on the Pats-Broncos rivalry

Why every move by both teams is focused on the passing game.

There hasn’t even been an entire week of NFL free agency yet, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t felt like a full week for fans of New England and Denver. Last offseason, the NFL arms race was quite clearly between San Francisco and Seattle. The two top NFC teams one-upped each other with signings or trades on a daily basis. The end result was the two teams meeting in a heart-stopping NFC Championship that turned out to be the “real” title game of the NFL season.

This offseason, it’s Denver and New England going head-to-head for headlines. Tuesday, the Broncos signed Pro-Bowler Aqib Talib away from New England. And Denver also snagged safety T.J. Ward, who just happened to destroy Rob Gronkowski’s knee last season. (Could he be the new Bernard Pollard?) Not to be outdone, the Patriots on Wednesday signed All-Pro Darrelle Revis to replace—and upgrade—from the injury-prone Talib. Also that day, the Broncos added All-Pro defensive end/linebacker DeMarcus Ware. Thursday turned out to be a quiet day for rest and introspection, but on Friday the Patriots added their second addition to the secondary with Brandon Browner.

Then came Saturday—otherwise known as the Day of Wide Receivers. The Patriots re-upped Julian Edelman and later added Brandon LaFell. Denver countered with Emmanuel Sanders. (One year after he signed a tender with New England, it’s amusing to see his agent being portrayed as “dirty” for his latest eyebrow-raising tactics, when it was the Patriots’ organization that was viewed in that negative light last year for choosing to sign a restricted free agent.)

The tally in the past six days is four new players for Denver and three new players for New England. Six of the seven additions are either wideouts or defenders in the secondary. The seventh is Ware, whose greatest skill is rushing the passer. Both Denver and New England’s greatest player is at the quarterback position, so it’s obvious that the scheme to stop the other would be heavily pass-focused. And that helping each quarterback by adding a wide receiver was also on the must-do list for each team.

The arms race has not come without casualties on each team. Denver will bid farewell to wide receiver Eric Decker and cornerbacks Champ Bailey and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. The Patriots will lose Talib and safety Steve Gregory, while likely parting ways with Vince Wilfork. If the decision for the Patriots came down to having Wilfork or Revis on the roster, it’s hard to argue they made the wrong decision. The league’s been moving to a passing league for more than a decade, and the Seahawks just won the Super Bowl with a defense focused primarily on stopping the pass. Wilfork’s greatest asset—among his many attributes when healthy—is his ability to be a one-man run-stuffing machine. These days, especially when your main rival is Peyton Manning, stopping the run is simply not as important as stopping the pass. The Super Bowl champion Seahawks know that. And based upon the past week, the Patriots and Broncos do as well.

Culture Shack

On the Map

Guy Ben-Aharon imports foreign dramas to Boston

All the world’s a stage, but American stages aren’t always so worldly. “If [plays] are foreign, they’re maybe British or Irish—and they present Molière once in a while,” says Guy Ben-Aharon, 23. “Imagine how much more we’d understand what’s going on in Syria if we saw Syrian plays. They wouldn’t be just an image on CNN.” 

It’s in that spirit that he founded Israeli Stage, German Stage, Swiss Stage and (whew!) the forthcoming French Stage. He started with scripts from his native Israel, organizing his first staged reading in 2010 as an Emerson undergrad. Israeli Stage has since presented 14 plays by nine scribes, fostering dialogue with post-show talkbacks, tours to college campuses (15 and counting) and diverse programming, with “narratives about Israeli Arabs, the Orthodox community in Israel, the Sephardic community in Israel,” Ben-Aharon says. “If it has strong emotional life, and it’s culturally specific but universally themed, it’ll be on our stages.” 

One rapt audience member was Goethe-Institut director Detlef Gericke-Schönhagen. After seeing The Banality of Love, about the philosophers Martin Heidegger and Hannah Arendt, he tapped Ben-Aharon to create a similar program for the Goethe-Institut. Guten tag, German Stage. Swissnex Boston followed suit, and now Ben-Aharon is working with the French Cultural Center on French Stage. 

He’s not stopping there. Next year will see Israeli Stage’s first full-scale productions. And this month marks its most ambitious program yet: a two-week residency with Israeli playwright Savyon Liebrecht, who’ll give lectures and workshop two plays, Freud’s Women and Dear Sigmund and Carl, with free world premiere readings staged at Babson, Brandeis and BU. Ben-Aharon relishes the chance to bring such works to students—and cultivate a new generation of theater buffs. “I go to the theater, and I’m often the youngest person,” he says. “It’s selfish. I want to work in theater for the next 50 years.” 


Sound Ideas

Weekend Ideas

A diverse world of concert options this weekend. People were buzzing when Bruce Springsteen opened his recent New Zealand shows with a solo acoustic cover of “Royals,” including the honored Lorde. Now the ballyhooed young pop princess is out on her own hot tour, gracing the Orpheum Theatre on Friday. And even with those pre-recorded backup vocals that she uses live, you gotta give Lorde credit for maintaining a minimalist sound and mood that that keeps the focus on her shy self. It'll only get harder to pull off as the excited crowds swell.

Jazz expands in complex directions with three Friday night choices. In his first local concert since joining the Harvard faculty, critically acclaimed pianist/composer Vijay Iyer plays a Celebrity Series concert at Sanders Theatre, both in duet with U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Pinksky in a set called POEMJAZZ and in a second half with his acclaimed trio with bassist Stephan Crump and drummer Marcus Gilmore, seen here. The snappy fusion collective Snarky Puppy comes to the Berklee Performance Center -- I expect a scaled-down edition from this smoking recent live session, but who knows how many Puppies gravitate to Berklee! And at the Lizard Lounge, Club d’elf continues to blur the lines of jazz, dub, groove-rock and Moroccan music with a lean, mean cast that includes Cuban trumpeter Yaure Muniz and experimental slide guitarist Dave Tronzo, a virtuoso who can manipulate his strings with various objects (seen here in a past Club d’Elf showdown that included keyboardist John Medeski).

Rock-wise, this is also the weekend leading into St. Patrick’s Day, so you can count on the Celtic-rooted Dropkick Murphys to fire up the House of Blues Friday through Sunday – and who knows what weird covers the Dropkicks might toss in, based on this free-for-all finale! On Saturday, the Middle East Downstairs picks up the annual Reykjavik Calling concert, this year mixing Icelandic bands Retro Stefson, Sin Fang and Hermifervill with Boston groups the Love Experiment and Skinny Bones. And it’s free with an RSVP on the Middle East website. But the weekend’s most exotic offering might be the local debut of Lo’ Jo in a World Music/CRASHarts booking at Johnny D’s Uptown on Saturday. A French sextet that co-founded the annual Festival in the Desert of northern Mali, Lo’ Jo transforms chansons with pop, reggae, jazz, funk, cabaret, klezmer, Roma and West African styles. Here’s a recent taste of Lo’ Jo in concert.

Finally, for my Thursday Throwback, while drummer Billy Cobham took a more swinging, traditional jazz route with Ron Carter and Donald Harrison tonight at the Regattabar, here’s what made Cobham a legend: check out his scorching drums/guitar showdown with John McLaughlin that dominates this 1972 clip of the Mahavishnu Orchestra. Now that's fusion overload. 

Improper Now

Improper Agenda

The upcoming art, theater, music and film events that should be on your calendar right now.

Oh my God, they lampooned Mormonism! Those bastards! Tony Award winner The Book of Mormon—a musical from the brilliantly perverse minds of South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, with music by Avenue Q composer Robert Lopez—is an uproarious send-up of the misguided do-goodery of the devout. A pair of earnest, bumbling young missionaries are sent to Uganda to bring the Good Word to the natives. Problem is, the villagers are too busy fending off warlords, AIDS and famine to care all that much about being saved. Marked by Parker and Stone’s twisted wit and bolstered by rousing musical numbers like “Spooky Mormon Hell Dream,” this play could be the most fun religious experience you’ll have all year. See the light April 1-27 at the Boston Opera House.

The Gilded Age was defined by gold and glitz, but artist James McNeill Whistler took the trend to another level. When asked to tweak a color scheme for shipowner Frederick Leyland’s dining room, Whistler’s creative juices overflowed. He took the liberty of adding lavish details—including gobs of gold leaf and plumed peacocks—to the room’s walls, much to its owner’s chagrin. As part of his exhibit Uncertain Beauty, Darren Waterston reimagines the famed Peacock Room as a beautiful ruin, complete with oozing glaze, hand-painted ceramics askew and a mural of melting gold. Compare past and present takes on luxury through January at MASS MoCA.

Ron Pope
never planned on pursuing a career in music. But as a baseball player at Rutgers University, Pope suffered a career-ending injury and landed at NYU, where he began to explore his second passion. After a couple of years spent fronting his popular college band, the District, he started a solo career, writing, producing and recording his own music. Almost a decade after the success of his melancholy 2006 hit “A Drop in the Ocean,” Pope explores more upbeat vibes with his latest album, Calling Off the Dogs. Join the musical Renaissance man on March 29 downstairs at the Middle East.

When a movie award comes in the form of a demonic bunny flipping the bird, golden men and glittery globes start to lose a bit of their luster. Also known as the Bacchus award, a vibrating rabbit trophy is presented to winners at BUFF, the Boston Underground Film Festival. Envisioned as “a celebration of the bizarre and insane,” the fest features works that give a one-finger salute to the limits of film, including Blue Ruin (the story of a beach bum turned assassin) and Doomsdays (about the two vagabonds pictured here, who loot offseason vacation homes). Let your freak flag fly March 26-30 at the Brattle Theatre.

Sound Ideas

Weekend Ideas

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 in high quality, costumes galore.

Improper Now

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.

Sound Ideas

Weekend Ideas

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.

Improper Now

Comic Brawn

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Photo Credit: Clay Patrick McBride

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?

Laughter. Laughter.

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.

Sound Ideas

Weekend Ideas

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.

Improper Now

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.


-Rima Butto

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.”



Sound Ideas

Weekend Ideas

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.

Cold Play

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.

Doh, Canada!?!

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.

Improper Now

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.

Abby Lane

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


Area Four

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

-Elissa Bernstein

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.

Sound Ideas

Weekend Ideas

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.

Culture Shack

Group Dynamic

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.

Improper Now

Game Plan

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


The Sinclair

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

Elissa Bernstein

Sound Ideas

Weekend Ideas

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.

Sound Ideas

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.


Sound Ideas

Robot Love

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

Sound Ideas

Weekend Ideas

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.

Sound Ideas

Weekend Ideas

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.

Sound Ideas

Weekend Ideas

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.

Sound Ideas

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.

Sound Ideas

Royal Return

“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.”

Sound Ideas

Weekend Ideas

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 

Sound Ideas

Weekend Ideas

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 

Sound Ideas

Weekend Ideas

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.

Culture Shack

Street Smarts

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

Sound Ideas

Weekend Ideas

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.

Sound Ideas

Weekend Ideas

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.

Improper Bostonian - Jenny from Shotgun Media Group on Vimeo.

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.

Sound Ideas

Weekend Ideas

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

Sound Ideas

Weekend Ideas

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.

Culture Shack

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

Sound Ideas

Weekend Ideas

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.

Culture Shack

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.

Sound Ideas

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

    Bad Rabbits
    Dropkick Murphys
    Aoife O’Donovan
    Amanda Palmer

Album/EP of the Year

    Bad Rabbits, American Love
    Bearstonaut, Paradice
    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
    Potty Mouth
    Ruby Rose Fox
    Speedy Ortiz

Live Artist Of The Year

    Bad Rabbits
    Dropkick Murphys
    Eddie Japan
    Peter Wolf

Rock Artist Of The Year

    Deer Tick
    Mean Creek
    Mello Bravo

Hip-Hop Artist of the Year

    Dutch Rebelle
    Grey Sky Appeal
    Moe Pope & Rain

Pop /R&B Artist of the Year

    Bad Rabbits
    Louie Bello
    Gentlemen Hall
    Young London

Americana Artist of the Year

    Girls Guns and Glory
    Coyote Kolb
    Christian McNeill & Sea Monsters
    Session Americana
    Tigerman WOAH!

Blues Artist of the Year

    Barrett Anderson
    Gracie Curran & the High Falutin’ Band
    James Montgomery
    Peter Parcek
    Roomful of Blues

DJ Artist of the Year

    Brek One
    DJ Paul Foley
    Leah V
    Frank White

Electronic Artist of the Year

    Case & Point
    Casey Desmond
    Andre Obin

Folk Artist of the Year

    David Wax Museum
    Aofie O’Donovan
    Ellis Paul
    Vikesh Kapoor
    You Won't

Gospel/Inspirational Artist of the Year

    David Altenor
    Berklee Reverence Gospel Choir
    Kendall Ramseur
    Rashad McPherson & Divine Purpose

International Artist of the Year

    Debo Band
    Evolfo Doofeht
    Los Rumberos de Boston
    Shun Ng
    Women Of The World

Jazz Artist of the Year

    Elan Trotman
    Grace Kelly
    Lake Street Dive
    Moira Lo Bianca
    Omar Thomas

Metal/Hardcore Artist of the Year

    Phantom Glue

Punk Artist of the Year

    Big D and the Kids Table
    Dropkick Murphys
    Mighty Mighty Bosstones
    Street Dogs
    Young Adults

Singer Songwriter of the Year

    David Champagne
    Will Dailey
    Mike Gent
    Lori McKenna
    Jimmy Ryan

Female Vocalist of the Year

    Amy Renee Heidemann
    Ruby Rose Fox
    Rachel Price
    Shea Rose
    Esperanza Spalding

Male Vocalist of the Year

    Will Dailey
    Ward Hayden
    John Powhida
    Allan Sheinfeld
    Barrence Whitfield

Producer of the Year

    Kurt Ballou
    Brian Charles
    Benny Grotto
    Statik Selektah
    Clinton Sparks

Video of the Year

    Louie Bello, “Shotgun”
    Karmin, “Acapella”
    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

    Fresh Produce
    Pico Picante
    The Pill

Best Live Music Venue

    Brighton Music Hall
    The Sinclair
    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

    Allston Pudding
    Jump the Turnstyle
    Ryan’s Smashing Life
    Tuesday Night Recording Club


Culture Shack

Eastern Standards

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

Faith Restored

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.

Sound Ideas

Weekend Ideas

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.

Sound Ideas

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.

Sound Ideas

Weekend Ideas

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.

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