• April 26, 2014

    Goddamn Winners

    Goddamn Winners by Paul Robicheau
    Chris Duggan of the Goddamn Draculas roared into the winner's circle at Friday's Rumble finals. Photo by Paul Robicheau.

    Even after the Goddamn Draculas were announced as the winner of the 2014 Rock ‘n’ Roll Rumble, it was hard to tell which band was champion on the crowded, champagne-soaked stage at T.T. the Bear’s Place… More>

  • April 25, 2014

    Welcome to your weekend

    Welcome to your weekend by Improper

    Nerd fests, scavenger hunts, beer + comedy, free music and more… More>

  • April 25, 2014

    A zonkey is a real thing

    A zonkey is a real thing by Alexandra Cavallo

    And it is as cute as it sound… More>

  • April 25, 2014

    Cali Comforts

    Cali Comforts  by Jacqueline Houton
    Richard Neutra, Kaufmann House, Palm Springs, 1946. Photo: Julius Shulman, 1947. Getty Research Institute. ©J. Paul Getty Trust

    Mad Men’s California sojourns have been a bit of a downer. A sunnier take on the state at midcentury waits at the Peabody Essex Museum in California Design, 1930-1965: Living in a Modern Way. On view through July 6, the exhibit features 250-plus objects—a sleek 1964 Studebaker Avanti, bathing suits made from parachute silk, an ice crusher that looks like a weapon wielded by a comic book hero, early Barbie dolls, cheery ceramics, clean-lined furniture and other mementos of movements that aimed to democratize design, uniting craft and mas… More>

  • April 24, 2014

    Weekend Ideas

    Weekend Ideas by Paul Robicheau
    Aimee Mann and Ted Leo hit the Paradise behind their debut album as the Both. Photo by Christian Lantry.

    It's Finals night at the Rock 'n' Roll Rumble on Friday, as the Goddamn Draculas, Petty Morals and wild card Await Rescue battle it out, while the Both (a band with Aimee Mann and Ted Leo) plays the Paradise and Mean Creek holds court at the Middle East. And Saturday, the 18-piece Maria Schneider Orchestra takes a graceful flight at Berklee… More>

Sound Ideas

Boston Calling Goes Big, Broad and Balmy

Pixies triumphantly blasted the biggest Boston crowd they’d ever drawn. Tove Lo seductively lifted her top for a quick flash. Jack Black’s Tenacious D spoofed rock with surprising passion and precision. And bands spanned a scattershot spectrum from Americana to dance-pop, psych-rock and hip-hop, giving the near-50,000 people who invaded City Hall Plaza over the three-day weekend a full potpourri of Boston Calling.

“That’s the most psychedelic City Hall I’ve ever seen,” Beck said as kaleidoscopic lights sprayed that concrete edifice on Friday’s opening night. “That’s the way it should be.” And Beck matched the mood with a masterful mashup, eschewing his Grammy-winning Morning Phase in favor of a greatest-hits festival set, from the grungy “Devil’s Haircut” to the falsetto-soul of “Sexx Laws” and a “Where It’s At” spiced with classic-rock teases. He even reinserted sitar into “Loser.” So kill me, baby, but Beck slayed with a show that wasn't topped all weekend.

Not that the 22 other acts were short of trying though, starting with space-rockers Tame Impala that first night. Good weather got ever better as the weekend wore on, and Boston Calling shuffled the deck to satisfy various tribes with a favorite band/style one set, only to introduce them to something entirely different next.

Saturday afternoon wove a dance-pop vibe with female-fronted acts like Tove Lo and Marina & the Diamonds, who built momentum sealed by the pumping “How to Be a Heartbreaker.” Yet those sets were contrasted by the topical, double-barreled raps of Killer Mike and El-P of the fun and fiery Run the Jewels (pictured above) and the fashionably bratty alt-pop of Gerard Way. St. Vincent’s Annie Clark (pictured below) cranked up her lead guitar to serve notice that she was the day’s most impressive shredder -- as well as a coolly enigmatic vocalist who broke her façade to jump into the crowd. That’s not to take away from singer/guitarist Ben Harper’s incendiary lap steel, used sparingly in a more somber, melodic set with his revived Innocent Criminals, sparked by Roxbury percussionist Leon Mobley. Or the dual guitar textures of My Morning Jacket, its unusually insular set weighted toward its adventurous new album The Waterfall before the Kentucky rockers finished with the wound-up stomp of “One Big Holiday” – a fitting selection for Memorial Day weekend.

Southeastern-bred Americana instead surfaced as Sunday’s afternoon center, with two past and pending Newport Folk favorites. The Lone Bellow (pictured below) served emotive three-way vocals and guitar riffing – well, two guitars and one mandolin -- and Jason Isbell's country-shaded songcraft shared his skill for earthy observation and slide-fueled guitars in new and old material.

In turn, Lucius – replacing Chet Faker before returning to play the harbor-side ICA on Aug. 14 – delivered a gospel-esque new song between its art-pop fare. Jess Wolfe also feted her Lucius vocal partner Holly Laessig with a cake for her 30th birthday – 11 years since they started out here at Berklee. Aussie troubadour Vance Joy (pictured below) shared pleasant shuffles capped by earworm hit “Riptide” on his way to charm Taylor Swift’s stadium crowd in Foxboro on July 24-25, before sonically fidgety alt-rockers TV on the Radio finally provided a welcome, chaotic jolt in a tour-capping set that peaked with “Wolf Like Me.”

“I love the energy of this – it’s a nice thing to have,” TV on the Radio’s hyperactive frontman Tunde Adebimpe told the City Hall Plaza crowd. Even the Pixies seemed to get that, lining up at the stage edge to wave at the hometown masses both before the band crunched into “Bone Machine” and after Joey Santiago’s noise-guitar acrobatics in set-closer “Vamos.” Yeah, they miss original bassist/singer Kim Deal’s voice and personality, but with Paz Lenchantin assuming those chores on tour, the Pixies have tightened up in a different way, seemingly sounding better than ever.

Before the Pixies struck a note, Boston Calling was already looking ahead, with the on-site announcement of its Sept. 25-27 edition, headed by the Avett Brothers, alt-J, Alabama Shakes, Hozier and Of Monsters and Men. Here’s that full lineup.

All photos by Paul Robicheau (c) 2015

Sound Ideas

Weekend Ideas

Prog-rock is alive and well in the hands of Steven Wilson, who plays the Berklee Performance Center on Friday in support of new album Hand. Cannot. Erase. Opening his U.S. tour at the Worcester Palladium on Tuesday, the British singer/guitarist unspooled dynamic, lushly layered songs that mulled loss and regret to backing films and animation, a darkly atmospheric package that evoked Pink Floyd, Rush, Genesis and Tool. Wilson lent his own winsome voice and melodic sensibility with a robust band that included guitarist David Kilminster, last seen atop The Wall with Roger Waters. Elsewhere on Friday, on a contemporary jazz note, the Chicago-bred pianist Ramsey Lewis rolls into Scullers Jazz Club to celebrate the 50th anniversary of his album The In Crowd!

Otherwise, the weekend’s all about the heavyweight rock fest Boston Calling, which opens Friday evening with a triple bill of Beck, Tame Impala and Sharon Van Etten on City Hall Plaza. I particularly love Boston Calling at night, when the sun and wind disappear to offer less distraction and improved acoustics, and light shows dot the face of City Hall. However, there’s plenty to see the rest of the weekend, with near-continuous music from two alternating stages starting about 1 p.m. – and the ability to skip a band or two for a break. Saturday highlights include Boston’s own skewed rockers Krill, hip-hop shakers Run the Jewels, coolly efficient art-rocker St. Vincent and heady rock headliners My Morning Jacket, while Sunday offers the Lone Bellow (jump here for my recent interview), Lucius (filling in for the ill Chet Faker before the band returns to play the ICA in August), alt-rockers TV on the Radio and Boston’s own triumphant Pixies. Here’s the full lineup with set times.

Speaking of a break from Boston Calling, Sunday also offers a nearby diversion at Ned Devine’s in Faneuil Hall with Listen Local, a free program of great local bands that was formerly given the playful tag Boston Clawing. Among the bands working the stages at the Irish pub between 5:30 p.m. and closing will be Tigerman WOAH (a Boston Calling alumnus), Le Roxy Pro, Feints, Reverse, Band Without Hands and Rumble finalist the Static Dynamic. Memorial Day will be a day of rest -- except for the end to the traditional four-day Campfire Festival (with dozens of performers including Rose Polenzani, Dietrich Strause and the Novel Ideas) at Club Passim.

Oh, and if you can’t wait until an Oct. 29 TD Garden date, the Who brings its greatest-hits farewell tour to Mohegan Sun in Connecticut on Sunday. Just don’t blow marijuana smoke near Roger Daltrey’s sensitive voice – he just stopped a show on Long Island over that.

Sound Ideas

Rock Institution T.T. the Bear's Plans Closing

Jane’s Addiction, PJ Harvey (pictured), the Strokes – those were just a few of the rising rockers I first saw at T.T. the Bear’s Place (still kicking myself for missing the Arcade Fire there). Plus all the great local bands, many of them showcased in recent years at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Rumble, at that Cambridge nightspot.

The announcement that the Central Square club plans to close July 25 -- made by owner Bonney Bouley on the club’s Facebook page -- is sad news, bringing to mind the closure of likewise-foremost Boston rock institutions the Rat and the Channel. Bouley says she could not agree on a lease arrangement with the owners of next-door club the Middle East who recently bought the building housing both venues.

No matter the eventual fate of the space, it’s the end of an era for a rock club that over 30 years -- in addition to Bouley – has been run by such scene mainstays as standout booker Randi Millman (now at Atwood’s Tavern) and the late, great bartender Jeanne Connolly as well as current general manager Kevin Patey.

Patey just reported that Stephen Stills of CSNY fame dropped by T.T.'s last night to see his daughter perform; Stills won’t be the only one dropping by over the next couple of months to pay last respects to the club.

Improper Now

Somer Lovin'

Local flavors at the 17th annual Taste of Somerville

In case you missed it: Somerville has been quietly but steadily establishing itself as a powerhouse dining and drinking destination over the past few years. With relative newcomers like La Brasa, River Bar and Aeronaut Brewing Company bolstering an already eclectic scene, Somerville has officially put area foodies on notice.

So, we’re stoked about Taste of Somerville, now in its 17th year and taking over a lot in Davis Square on June 3 for an evening of tasty eats and drinks from the aforementioned spots as well as Bergamot, Bronwyn, Highland Kitchen, Somerville Brewing and more than 30 other purveyors. Proceeds benefit elderly support nonprofit the Somerville Home, so grab your tix while they last.  

Taste of Somerville runs from 5:30 to 7:30 pm on June 3 at 50 Holland St., Somerville. $50; $75 VIP. tasteofsomerville.com.

Sound Ideas

Boston Ballet Broadly Entertains with "Thrill of Contact"

The Boston Ballet has a spring in its step – and a mischievous penchant for stylistic juxtapositions in dancing, costuming and music – in recent programs. And that’s especially true in “Thrill of Contact,” which closes the season in crowd-pleasing fashion this Thursday through Sunday.

The company had already kicked into May with “Edge of Vision,” a program with music spanning Ravi Shankar, Bach and the Chieftains’ Paddy Maloney, whose Uilleann pipes flavored “The Celts,” a lively piece that Boston Ballet turned into its own vision of “Riverdance.” It was proof that these professional ballet dancers seemingly have the skills to pull off just about anything.

How about comedy as well to balance the drama? “Thrill of Contact” dashes what the average person might expect from a ballet program, potentially to entertain a wider audience -- yet with a challenge to absorb the extremes.

Sure, “Thrill of Contact” begins with the traditional delights of the George Balanchine-choreographed “Theme and Variations,” a classical ballet where dancers elegantly weave in cyclical lines to the music of Tchaikovsky. But then “fremd,” choreographed by company dancer Jeffrey Cirio, takes a fractured modern turn. Starkly dressed dancers mix sweeping contortions and slow-motion movements (with flicked fingers lending subtle details) while the contrasting soundtrack spookily alternates electronic music (led by the sparse twitching of Aphex Twin) and solo classical piano to the largely detached visions.

However, after William Forsythe’s “The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude” (visually bright with dancers in contrasting yellow and purple outfits to the brisk sounds of Schubert), the program closes with the Broadway-esque farce of the Jerome Robbins-choreographed “The Concert (Or, the Perils of Everybody).”

There’s some great dancing amid visual props, including a somberly beautiful passage that involves people raising and lowering umbrellas. But nearly every sequence of the Chopin-scored “The Concert” is sweetly timed to comic effect, from onstage solo accompanist Freda Locker dusting her piano keys to a group of ballerinas falling out of sync to a running, gag-laced storyline with a Groucho Marx-ist husband lured by a free-spirited dancer, before everyone turns into butterflies.

If audiences have open minds to stretch from the traditional to the contemporary, plus humor for good measure, “Thrill of Contact” provides theater-goers with a broad slice of entertainment.

Sound Ideas

Weekend Ideas

Bassist/singer Esperanza Spalding embraces a restless creativity, having shifted from small-combo Brazilian samba and string-stoked chamber jazz to big-band electric funk and jamming with Prince since she won a Grammy for Best New Artist over Mumford & Sons, Florence + the Machine, Drake and Justin Bieber. Spalding’s not about to stop, slipping into the Paradise Rock Club on Saturday with her latest project, Emily’s D+Evolution, where she’s made herself over with glasses and braids and incorporated poetry and movement into her new band. And there’s more jazz in store on Friday with great pianists commanding each of the city’s main jazz clubs. Berklee-trained Yoko Miwa gets elegant and fluid with her trio at the Regattabar while the venerable Donal Fox brings his classical/jazz blend to Scullers with his Inventions Quartet featuring vibraphonist Warren Wolf.

UK rock fans get a double dose as well this weekend with energetic crowd-pleasers Kaiser Chiefs at the Paradise on Friday and the Bobby Gillespie-fronted Primal Scream at Royale in support of its first album in five years, More Light. On the local-band front, HarpoonFest takes over the seaport Harpoon Brewery both Friday and Saturday with a sweet lineup including Jenny Dee & the Deelinquents, Nemes, the Rationales, Sidewalk Driver and Bearstronaut. Here’s the full music lineup for HarpoonFest. And Mastodon pumps its ambitious metal roots at House of Blues on Sunday.

Sound Ideas

Weekend Ideas

The weather’s getting warmer, but the shows are still inside -- with a few hot ones to consider this weekend. On Friday, the Icelandic pop ensemble Of Monsters and Men, best known for casting its co-ed charms in “Little Talks,” plays the Orpheum Theatre behind its new album Beneath the Skin. The same night, chamber-pop group San Fermin plays the Sinclair (with local duo You Won’t replacing Natalie Prass as opener). Here’s a taste of San Fermin live and here’s a jump to my recent chat with its locally raised keyboardist-composer Ellis Ludwig-Leone.

Saturday brings Boston-launched soul-folk troubadour Martin Sexton to House of Blues while Sunday brings young jazz guitar hotshot Julian Lage to acoustic roots at Club Passim and Lo-Fang – the pop stage project of classically trained strings player and singer Matthew Jordan Hermerlin -- to Brighton Music Hall.

Improper Now

Mary Pawpins

Entitled Cat Boston provides luxury cat-sitting services in your home

Cat owners go to great lengths to keep their feline masters (er, friends) happy. That explains the success of Entitled Cat Boston, a new luxury cat-sitting service that opened late February, but is already racking up some rave online reviews from some satisfied kitty owners. Owner, sitter and self-proclaimed cat lady Katherine Bergeron—who also co-owns alternative art space Torrent Engine 18—attributes that to her service’s special attention to detail and care.

“There are a lot of people whose cats are like their kids,” she says. “It’s not just, ‘oh, you know, we’ll dump food in a bowl and she’ll probably be fine.’

 Entitled Cat’s sitting services extend far beyond dumping food in a bowl. For the price of $39 per half hour visit—though Bergeron says she almost always ends up staying with the cat for far longer because “I want to be there, because I actually enjoy their company!”—Bergeron will come to your home and make sure your cat is taken care of from nose to tail.

 That care includes nail clipping, grooming, one-on-one playtime (she’s been known to make a play “kitty tunnel” out of paper bags to keep her charge stimulated and engaged if the owners are gone for more than a few days), feeding and even some less pleasant jobs.

“I don’t really put this in my literature, but I actually wash out the cat box, which almost nobody does,” she says. “I mean, I’m almost wondering if maybe I should tell that to some people, because they hardly ever do even if they get dumped out regularly.”

It’s a dirty job, but Bergeron says she’s more than happy to do it. She’ll also administer medications (free of charge if it’s a simple matter of giving a cat a pill with its food, for a reasonable extra charge if it’s a more complicated process) and accommodate special requests. Bergeron makes a personalized house call before accepting any job, to meet both the cat and their owner and to deliver a questionnaire outlining any needs or wants.

“I had one client who asked that I have a fresh Brita water in a regular ceramic cup for her cat because her cat thought of herself of a person,” she laughs. “She was an only cat so she drank out of a regular water bowl, but she also liked to drink out of a ceramic cup. She would just hop up on the table and drink out of her ceramic cup because she thought she was a person!”

Bergeron tends to think of her four-legged clients as little people as well. And, she says, she’s never met a cat she hasn’t liked.

“I like all cats. I’m good with very shy cats, [but] I’m good with more gregarious cats. I am fairly adapted to a lot of the personalities of different cats,” she explains. “There are cats that will bounce right up to you and meow at you and are ready to get pet. And there are some cats who will hide under the couch. Either one is fine with me. I think that’s all part of their owner’s personality. If they really care about the cat, they’ve probably raised it long enough that they’re able to give it a personality so they trust people. Something a lot of people don’t know about cats is that you actually have to raise them to trust people, they’re not like dogs where they’re automatically trusting.”

With so many positive reviews just a few months in business, Bergeron hopes Entitled Cat will continue to grow, but, no matter how big it gets, she plans to remain just as hands-on.

“I really like doing it. It’s a passion project, because I really do love cats,” says Bergeron, who doesn’t own a cat of her own, because her partner is allergic. “When I was in junior high, we would have a classroom show where we would have a format where people would read the news at the front of the class. I had an animal show and I answered questions about animals. I was a pretty dorky kid. I brought my cat in for show and tell!”

For more info about Entitled Cat Boston visit entitledcatboston.com.

Sound Ideas

Zip-Tie Handcuffs Wrap Up Rumble

Zip-Tie Handcuffs accented their punk side in rightly winning the 2015 Rock ‘n’ Roll Rumble at T.T the Bear’s Place on Friday.  The power trio narrowly edged out Nemes – an Americana-shaded band delivering its own genre-smashing energy flavored by fiddler Dave Anthony – and the Static Dynamic, its bombastic enthusiasm topped by flame-haired vocalist Jess Collins.

On the surface, Zie-Tie Handcuffs evoked Nirvana with shambolic combustion, navigating tight changes with oddly punctual harmonies just when its loud, bass-heavy songs were about to fall apart. Bassist Ian Grinold (pictured) and guitarist Matt Ford even tossed/swapped their instruments for one equally effective song and later added a cover of “Rain,” a Beatles surprise coincidently played on occasion by Boston avant-punks Mission of Burma (though Burma didn’t throw in that hardcore-tempo shift in the middle).

Grinold accepted a sparkly winners’ crown adorned with antlers and feathers on a champagne-sprayed stage after a guest set by the Gravel Pit. The annual Rumble, coordinated by WZLX “Boston Emissions” host Anngelle Wood, began with 24 of the area’s best bands.

Sound Ideas

Weekend Ideas

The first weekend of May explodes with live music – and good weather to follow! Boston’s best local bands highlight Friday night. Dark chamber-pop group Jaggery performs a song cycle inspired by Leonardo da Vinci at the Museum of Fine Arts’ Remis Auditorium, while glam-rockers Sidewalk Driver get theatrical at Emerson’s Black Box Theatre, upstairs from the Paramount Theater downtown. And while judges tally their votes in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Rumble, the Gravel Pit rocks T.T. the Bear’s Place at 11:45 following finals sets by the bombastic Static Dynamic (9:30), folk-fusion animators Nemes (10:15) and grunge detonators Zip Tie Handcuffs (11 p.m.). Should be a wild and wooly battle; I’ll go with the Handcuffs. Friday night also brings the lively, eclectic Australian multi-instrumentalist Xavier Rudd & the United Nations to the Paradise Rock Club.

Electric bebop guitarist Mike Stern leads an all-star band at the Regattabar both Friday and Saturday with trumpeter Randy Brecker, bassist Anthony Jackson and drummer Dennis Chambers, a lineup that should even rock more than this one with Stern and Brecker. Also on Saturday, Western-shaded folk-rockers Lord Huron hold court at the Paradise, the impressionistic indie-folk Great Lake Swimmers settle into the Sinclair and the Dave Wakeling-led ska-rockers the English Beat return to Johnny D’s Uptown. And for a difference experience, Morphine-associated saxman Dana Colley joins percussionist/clarinetist Ken Winokur (Alloy Orchestra) and multi-instrumentalist Jonathan LaMaster (ex-Cul de Sac) to convene their Psychedelic Cinema Orchestra and improvise a live soundtrack to Ken Brown's '60s film work at the Institute of Contemporary Art on Saturday.

Sunday, the 32nd annual MayFair takes over Harvard Square with multiple stages that include sets by local rockers the Sheila Divine, Freezepop, Bent Shapes, Air Traffic Controller, Parks and Hallelujah the Hills. And the weekend rounds out that night with Canadian folk trio the Wailin’ Jennys (pictured) at the Somerville Theatre, gonzo funk-rock veterans Fishbone at Royale and ambitious the prog-pop icon Todd Rundgren, winding up his latest multi-media presentation at the Wilbur Theatre.

Sound Ideas

Replacements Rock Sinclair's Converse Series

Monday’s line outside the Sinclair foretold a rocking hot-ticket event like Harvard Square hasn’t seen since Dan Ackroyd called his buddies to the 1992 opening of the original House of Blues a few blocks away. For this night, the first in a diverse five-night music series presented by Converse Rubber Tracks Live, former Sinclair headliners Dinosaur Jr. was merely an opener act for the Replacements, the iconic ’80s Minneapolis garage-punks whose reunion trek has been mostly festival-size.

Yes, on the one hand, this should have been a bigger venue. Free tickets for the series (which continues with synth-pop headliners Passion Pit on Tuesday, speed-metal kings Slayer on Wednesday, Chance the Rapper on Thursday and the punk Descendants on Friday) were distributed by lottery, which left many fans empty-handed. Dozens of late-arriving winners with wristbands were even left on the sidewalk, waiting for people to leave to make room in the 525-capacity club.

Inside, the Sinclair was packed more than usual, partly to accommodate an extra soundboard and a security/photo pit. But once Dinosaur Jr. followed local band Young Leaves, with J. Mascis stoking his scuzzy guitar leads through the arc of three Marshall amp stacks behind him, the anticipation built for a special night.

Then the Replacements hit the small stage like Lone Rangers in black eyemasks and proceeded to blow off steam with scrappy rock ‘n’ roll made for rooms like the Sinclair. There were a few sloppy moments like an aborted song launch while singer/songwriter Paul Westerberg fumbled to light a cigarette. At another point, bassist Tommy Stinson, the band’s other original member, piped, “Finally got that one down. Thanks for shopping.” And the middle of the quartet’s 85-minute set wandered into blues that goofed on Whole Foods and a T. Rex cover spot where the ever-youthful David Minehan (from Boston’s own Neighborhoods) got to sing “20th Century Boy” with aplomb while he and Westerberg ripped away on their guitars.

But mostly, the Replacements – now anchored by drummer Josh Freese -- were tighter and more professional in their duties than during their famously drunken heyday. Westerberg was focused and intense in the chorus to “Anywhere’s Better than Here.” And the homestretch – with fans on the floor hopping with fists in the air to anthems “Can’t Hardly Wait,” “Bastards of the Young” and “Alex Chilton” – delivered a transcendent payoff.  “Are you satisfied?” Westerberg sang in an encore of “Unsatisfied,” and for the crowd, that answer had to be affirmative.

Just make sure if you’re going to another one of these Converse Rubber Tracks Live Boston shows (promoting Converse’s new global headquarters on the city’s waterfront), get in line early to ensure you don't miss out.


Sound Ideas

Weekend Ideas

Wild Flag existed – sadly – for only one great 2011 album. But we can consider ourselves blessed that while Carrie Brownstein and Janet Weiss revived Sleater-Kinney, singer/guitarist Mary Timony hatched her own spunky all-woman power trio Ex Hex, which plays Great Scott on Friday (as well as the Sinclair on June 13).  Also Friday, fiery Welch alt-rockers the Manic Street Preachers make their highly anticipated return at the Sinclair, while Boston’s long-excellent jazz/groove/world collective Club d’elf brings back original drummer Erik Kerr as well as violist Mat Maneri for an old-school night at the Lizard Lounge.  Psych-prog rockers Ghosts of Jupiter (now with the Ryan Montbleau Band's Jason Cohen on second keyboard) retool at the Davis Square Theatre in advance of a new album. And here’s the lineup for the Rock and Roll Rumble semifinals, which conclude Friday at T.T. the Bear’s Place.

On Saturday, Johnny D’s Uptown rumbles with the invigorating Afro-Cuban grooves of New York’s renowned Pedrito Martinez Group, led by the conga virtuoso of the same name, presented by World Music/CRASHarts. And Boston-bred acoustic guitar/cello trio Tall Heights charms with an early show at Brighton Music Hall.

Sound Ideas

Weekend Ideas

Spring’s in the air with a hodgepodge of diverse shows that includes a Boston-bred jamband that’s rising above the radar. Dopapod has both the heady grooves and gall to spend the whole weekend at the Sinclair, and has already sold out its three-night ticket package toward that end. Nice openers too, with Soule Monde (featuring keyboardist Paczkowski and Salem-rooted drummer Russ Lawton from Trey Anastasio’s band) on Friday and the slinky reggae jammers Dub Apocalypse on Saturday.  Another local veteran fringing the jamband scene, Ryan Montbleau brings his soulful rock to the Paradise Rock Club both Friday and Saturday night. On Friday and Saturday, the Rock 'n' Roll Rumble preliminaries also round out at T.T. the Bear's Place. Here's the schedule.

On Saturday, eclectic roots singer Rhiannon Giddens steps out from string band the Carolina Chocolate Drops at the Somerville Theatre in support of her aptly named, T Bone Burnett-produced solo debut Tomorrow is My Turn. In turn, the opera-trained Giddens was drafted for Burnett’s new “Basement Tapes” project with Elvis Costello, Jim James and Marcus Mumford. On Sunday, local nylon-string guitarist Juanito Pascual leads his fluid New Flamenco Trio in afternoon shows at the Museum of Fine Arts, the Juliana Hatfield Three returns to rock Cuisine en Locale, and English guitar legend Jeff Beck holds court with his instrumental band at the Orpheum Theatre. When it comes to six-string masters, especially how he coaxes vibrato cries from his Stratocaster, there’s no one that sounds like Beck.

Improper Now

Converse and Bowery Present Killer Lineup of Free Shows

Slayer, Passion Pit, The Replacements, Chance the Rapper and more...

Holy crap, you guys. Just when you thought Boston Calling was the biggest music event of the year, Coverse and Bowery Boston dropped this on us: A killer five-night lineup of shows, kicking off April 27, that includes—wait for it—Cambrdge-bred Passion Pit, Slayer, The Replacements, Chance the Rapper, Dinosaur Jr. and more. And it's all totally free.

We'll wait while you pick your jaw up off the floor.

Good? Tickets will be doled out through a lottery (we're guessing competition is going to be a little fierce) through an online registration process starting this Monday at noon. Registrants cant sign up for a chance to win two tickets for the show of their choice. The hardest part, as we see it, is going to be choosing which night to play for.

Peep the full lineup and register here. And godspeed. 

Sound Ideas

Weekend Ideas

Nothing like a true rebirth of spring to mark the return of the Sonics, the seminal garage-rockers from Tacoma, Wash.  Long before Nirvana -- or even Jimi Hendrix -- broke out of the Northwest, the Sonics delivered hard, raw and highly influential rock. Now the band has released This is the Sonics, its vital-sounding first album since the ’60s – in fact, 50 years since its debut – and plays an early show at the Brighton Music Hall on Friday with Boston’s compatible, incendiary soul-rocker Barrence Whitfield & the Savages, plus Muck & the Mires. And with Gerry Roslie (lead vocals, keyboards), Larry Parypa (guitar) and Rob Lind (sax) still in place five decades later, the Sonics appear poised to shake up the place. Speaking of resurgence, ’70s-bred British folk-rocker Joan Armatrading  will perform solo with love and affection on guitar and piano for her last major tour at the Berklee Performance Center on Friday, while the hypnotic Tal National – the most popular live group in the African country of Niger – debut locally at Johnny D’s Uptown, with both shows presented by World Music/CRASHarts. The Soft Moon unleashes its psychedelic rush at Great Scott, and the hootenanny-happy Spirit Family Reunion – steeped in Hank Williams and Bob Dylan – holds court at the Sinclair to help round out a hopping Friday night.

Polymath jazz pianist/composer and Harvard professor Vijay Iyer brings his virtuoso trio with bassist Stephan Crump and drummer Marcus Gilmore to the Regattabar both Friday and Saturday, likely to mix reconfigured standards with material from acclaimed recent album Break Stuff – boundaries likely included.  Also, when it comes to malleable jazz on Saturday, vocalist Cassandra Wilson dips into the Billie Holiday songbook at Berklee to celebrate Lady Day’s 100th birthday. Back to another seminal group along more unusual lines, the French progressive rock group Magma gets choral with its own invented language in its 45th anniversary tour stop at Brighton Music Hall. And Swedish indie-folk singer/songwriter Jose Gonzalez floats back into the spotlight, bringing his feathery acoustic touch to the Paradise Rock Club on Saturday.

Sunday explodes with the boisterous fun of married keyboards/drum duo Matt & Kim at House of Blues, promising a mix of piano pop, EDM dance moves and frisky crowd interaction.  On the more sophisticated side at Symphony Hall, jazz giants Chick Corea and Herbie Hancock go face-to-face on dual pianos in a Celebrity Series concert. Dweezil Zappa recreates his father Frank’s 1975 album One Size Fits All with his repertory group Zappa Plays Zappa at Berklee, and the Icelandic electronic band GusGus invades the Sinclair on Sunday. Not to mention that Sunday marks the opening night of the 2015 Rock 'n' Rumble preliminaries, which take place the entire week (except for Wednesday) at T.T. the Bear's Place with 24 great area bands. Support local rock!

If Fish Steps Aside, Boston 2024 Should Look to the Red Sox

Larry Lucchino would be a perfect fit as the face of the bid.

The hits just keep on coming for John Fish, the chair of Boston 2024. The past week has seen Mayor Marty Walsh’s support of him questioned, his previous anti-Olympics criticism dredged up, and Fish once again going after anyone who dares to question the Olympic bid.

The appearance of a construction magnate such as Fish heading up the bid—even with Suffolk Construction’s recusal from the project—will simply be too much for the voting public to swallow come November 2016. If the proposal to host the games wants any chance to be passed, it’s going to need a new face behind it. Richard Davey, who has valuable experience as transportation secretary and previously at the MBTA, was a smart pick to lead the charge as the CEO, but there needs to be someone as the face of the bid who’s able to add excitement and project a vision for the 2024 Olympic Games. And it needs to be someone other than Fish.

As I’ve called for on multiple occasions dating back to last spring, Fish needs to step aside. Even if Suffolk stays away from any projects, his company would certainly benefit from any increase in construction and development. A bigger and bolder Boston is only a good thing for John Fish. And while we might think a bigger and bolder Boston is in everyone’s best interests, is it really going to help a middle-class couple in Hyde Park that simply wants a good education for their kids and safe streets at night? What do they get out of the Olympics? And that’s the hitch in the entire argument, right? But it’s one that Fish fails to acknowledge.

But who should fill Fish’s shoes? There’s one answer that initially seemed farfetched when I pitched it early this year, but it seems like an idea that could have some legs. Larry Lucchino should head the Boston 2024 campaign.

Lucchino can certainly take a lot of criticism, but he’s done a masterful job with the Red Sox on the business side of things. His biggest fault in the eyes of some might be middling with the roster, rest assured that he won’t be picking the fourth member of Team USA’s 4x100 relay, and I don’t think Coach K (or maybe coach Stevens by then) will ask him who should be the 12th man for the U.S. basketball team. He will be in charge of the business side of things, and there’s simply no debating the job he’s done with the Red Sox, turning what was mostly a potential goldmine into something very close to an actual goldmine. He hired Janet Marie Smith to oversee Fenway Park’s renovations, and having connections to such a renowned stadium architect, who built such gems as Petco Park and Camden Yards, is only a plus in the Olympic process. Sign me up for a Janet Marie Smith-designed Olympic stadium. I might not even want that to be temporary.

His ability to sell every square inch of stadium space to sponsors and advertisers would be a plus for the Olympics, as would his ability to monetize the Olympic experience. How much would you pay for a replica torch? Or a brick on the torch runway? The Yale-educated lawyer would likely find out.

Lucchino’s availability is certainly in doubt, but coming on the heels of a spring training report (that was since debunked) that he’s less involved in the Red Sox organization than in the past, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that he take an indefinite leave from the Sox to head up the Boston 2024 bid. If it fails at the polls in November 2016 or is shot down by the IOC in 2017, then it’s back to the Sox. But if it succeeds, then he can move forward, cementing a legacy akin to what Peter Ueberroth left with the 1984 Summer Olympics in L.A.

Maybe Fish knows he’ll need to step aside and he’s waiting till closer to the referendum to do so. If he waits till next spring to hand the reins over to a new chairperson, they can sell the voters on the promise of transparency and the hope for change in an Olympic process that has so far been a sour experience for most of the city’s residents. Lucchino turned the Sox history of 86 years of heartbreak into a cash cow and a franchise that is admired across the country. Surely, he can help lead a turnaround of Boston 2024 after a bunch of rough months.

Sound Ideas

Weekend Ideas

It’s a Good Friday to catch a show, starting with Twin Shadow – aka onetime Bostonian rocker George Lewis Jr. – cranking up the more anthemic/synthetic moods of his debut major-label effort Eclipse at the Paradise Rock Club. The Decemberists (pictured) share their spare-to-ornate, folk-to-rock range on What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World, a worthy complement to the group’s older catalog at House of Blues both Friday and Saturday. Brazilian pianist Elaine Elias also does the same two-night stand at Scullers Jazz Club.

On Saturday, a one-night supergroup that includes Gov’t Mule/Allman Brothers guitarist Warren Haynes, Bad Company drummer Simon Kirke, Megadeth bassist Dave Ellefson and Extreme singer Gary Cherone and bassist Pat Badger pays tribute to rock greats such as Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Kurt Cobain and Amy Winehouse who lost their lives to substance abuse at age 27. Proceeds from that show at the Berklee Performance Center go to local recovery program Right Turn, which has roots in the music community. The same night, singer/guitarist Benjamin Booker, whose self-titled debut was my favorite album of 2014, brings his sparse but adrenalized garage-blues to the Sinclair.

You’d be hard-pressed to find a more dynamic, delightful talent than Lisa Fischer, the Grammy-winning R&B soloist who’s become an A-list backup singer from the Rolling Stones to Nine Inch Nails, leading her band Grand Baton at the Wilbur Theater on Sunday. Here’s her stunning take on Led Zeppelin’s “Rock and Roll,” which I reference in a recent interview that you can jump to here. And later on Sunday night, vintage soul-influenced producer-turned-performer Matthew E. White brings his band to Great Scott behind his fine new album Fresh Blood. Here’s another jump to my interview with that Virginia-based singer/guitarist.

Sound Ideas

Weekend Ideas

Thirty years strong, its evolving ranks still fronted by horn veterans Tom Halter, Charlie Kohlhase and leader Russ Gershon, local treasure the Either/Orchestra makes a rare stop at the Regattabar on Friday for a night spanning modern jazz originals, an Ethiopian traditional song and a cameo by singer Gabrielle Agachiko. The same night, Blackberry Smoke brings its jamming blues and country-tinged brand of classic rock to House of Blues, while the Nile Project brings musicians from 11 African countries together for a hypnotic mash of instruments and cultures at Boston University’s Tsai Performance Center, presented by World Music/CRASHarts.

Free-jazz enthusiastists have a treat in store Friday through Sunday at the first Brandeis Improv Festival, which takes over that Waltham campus with interesting programs that are free and open to the public, including performances by drummer Milford Graves, pianist Tim Ray, guitarist Dave Tronzo and the collective Club d'elf. Here's the full rundown.On Saturday, in another World Music/CRASHarts show, the nine-piece Heritage Blues Orchestra bridges blues, jazz and gospel from the country to the urban landscape at the Somerville Theatre. Shoegaze rockers Swervedriver crank up the guitars once again at the Sinclair. But Saturday’s most eye-catching bill pairs the gritty, impressionistic Texas singer/songwriter Shakey Graves (pictured) and sassy, eclectic country singer Nikki Lane -- whose All or Nothin’ remains one of my favorite 2014 albums – in an early show at Royale.

Sunday, however, may offer the most potential for surprise. The coy, charming Texas chanteuse Kat Edmonson shares her unique voice at Scullers Jazz Club, for a 4 p.m. matinee as well as an evening show. Tabla virtuoso Zakir Hussain brings his Celtic Connections ensemble to the Somerville Theatre in a third program by World Music/CRASHarts. And the under-the-radar indie supergroup Diamond Rugs, including Deer Tick’s John McCauley and Los Lobos’ Steve Berlin, stokes its swinging party tunes at the Sinclair to cap the weekend.




Sound Ideas

Boston Ballet Finds Contrast in "Shades of Sound"

Boston Ballet’s current program “Shades of Sound” is all about striking contrasts, from minimalist white-to-black stage sets to music that ranges from Tchaikovsky to the White Stripes. There’s no other way you’d hear the melody of Jack White’s “The Hardest Button to Button” played on tuned cowbells in a percussion section spread through the side boxes of the Opera House, heightening a sense of stereo in opening piece “Chroma” as part of the Boston Ballet’s largest-ever orchestra.

Of course the music by Jody Talbot and White -- iced by that satellite menagerie of drums and mallet instruments – complements the facile, fluid movement of the dancers, briskly stretching and dipping in graceful contortions choreographed by Wayne McGregor and staged within a white box. George Balanchine’s “Episodes,” evolving to a grey backdrop for dancers in black-and-white, came off more static (by comparison) yet playful in a pas de deux by Dusty Button and Lasha Khozashvili in the Saturday matinee of the program’s first weekend.

Finally, in its Boston Ballet debut, the closing Hans van Manen-choreographed “Black Box” cast its title’s shade in both its backdrop and costuming. The women sported party dresses with high heels rather than pointe shoes and paired off in frisky ballroom and tango steps to a range of classical pieces. Later, with champagne flutes in hand, the couples devolved into movements of drunken frivolity, complete with staggering toward a waiter for hopeful refills – and a toast to the audience. A dash of humor to top off the occasionally rocking attitude and music of a ballet program well suited to a general audience with spring in its step.

“Shades of Sound” closes out with performances this Thursday through Sunday.  Tickets at Boston Ballet.

Sound Ideas

Weekend Ideas

Spring arrives with a slew of concert options. Perfume Genius highlights Friday’s palette at the Sinclair, as frontman Mike Hadreas sings and plays piano with an atmospheric and lyrical tension that draws power from his perspective as an out gay man. Perfume Genius’ third album Too Bright ranked among 2014’s best pop albums. The same night offers the New Orleans funk-fusion of Galactic at House of Blues and the ’80s-bred power pop of the Smithereens at Johnny D’s Uptown.  

Saturday’s the busiest night. Lou Barlow's band Sebadoh returns to action at the Brighton Music Hall, passionate indie-rockers Cold War Kids hit House of Blues and the socially rooted folk-punk group Andrew Jackson Jihad roll into Royale. Roots-rock enthusiasts shouldn’t miss a chance to catch the spirited ex-Blasters brothers’ team of Dave & Phil Alvin with the Guilty Men at the Sinclair. On the jazz side, guitarist John Abercrombie leans to lyrical ballads with his quartet of pianist Marc Copland, bassist Drew Gress and frisky drummer Joey Baron at the Regattabar. And if you’re up for a Saturday road trip to the other end of the state to toast spring, Goyte (yes, the “Somebody That I Used to Know” guy) joins kindred indie-pop experimentalists Zammuto at MASS MoCA’s Hunter Center in North Adams.

On Sunday at Club Passim, tough and tender singer/songwriter Mary Gauthier shares tales of heartbreak from her recent album Trouble & Love with fellow country-shaded artist Allison Moorer, who sorted through her own personal struggles (including her divorce from Steve Earle) on her own Down to Believing. And across Harvard Square at the Sinclair the same night, singer Georgia Nott and her multi-instrumental brother Caleb of the New Zealand electro-pop group Broods seal their introduction.

Sound Ideas

Rumble-Ready Lineup 2015

It’s about time for another 24 local bands to square off in the annual Rock ‘n’ Roll Rumble at T.T. the Bear’s Place. Rumble organizer and WZLX “Boston Emissions” host Anngelle Wood has announced the nightly lineups for the event’s six preliminaries in mid-April.  

Long run by WBCN, the Rumble has served as a rite of passage (win or lose, because nobody really loses) for decades of Boston bands, from the Neighborhoods and ’Til Tuesday to the Dresden Dolls and last year’s winning Goddamn Draculas -- or the Drax for short. After the week of preliminaries (including a traditional Wednesday off for rest), the semi-finals kick in on Thursday and Friday, April 23-24, followed by the finals on Friday, May 1. Here’s the preliminaries schedule, with nightly set times for each band:

Preliminary Night #1
9:00 – Mister Vertigo
9:45 – The Rare Occasions
10:30 – Band Without Hands
11:15 – Nemes

Preliminary Night #2
9:00 – Drab
9:45 – Eternals 
10:30 – Raw Blow
11:15 – Duck & Cover

Preliminary Night #3
9:00 – Le Roxy Pro
9:45 – Salita
10:30 – The Static Dynamic
11:15 – Psychic Dog

Preliminary Night #4
9:30 – Mercury on Mars
10:15 – Dan Webb and the Spiders
11:00 – Dirty Bangs
11:45 – Protean Collective

Preliminary Night #5
9:30 – Nate Leavitt Band
10:15 – The Dirty Looks
11:00 – Murcielago
11:45 – Zip-Tie Handcuffs

Preliminary Night #6
9:30 – New City Ghost
10:15 – Yale, Massachusetts
11:00 – Soft Pyramids
11:45 – The Warning Shots

Sound Ideas

Weekend Ideas

It’s almost St. Patrick’s Day, so it must be time for the Dropkick Murphys to take over House of Blues. This year, Boston’s Celtic-punk favorites will actually spend the holiday performing in Ireland, but the band will still pack House of Blues this Thursday through Sunday. It’s been three decades since jazz guitarist Pat Martino suffered an aneurysm that took away his memory and ability to play, but at age 70, he’s seemingly on an upswing with his fluid, spidery, post-bebop facility and back at the Regattabar with his organ trio on Friday. Willie Nile settles in over at Club Passim the same night. He’s best known as a veteran rock ‘n’ roll songwriter (who’s joined onstage by Bruce Springsteen on occasion), but he’s also trading guitar for piano to sing some of his newer material this tour. And speaking of guitar, Singapore-bred and Boston-based acoustic virtuoso Shun Ng pops into Club Passim for a 1 p.m. Saturday afternoon show that promises special guests (J. Geils harmonica ace Magic Dick being likely for starters). Check out Ng’s recent solo cover of “Bohemian Rhapsody” that drew online praise from Queen’s Brian May.

When Saturday night rolls around, the annual Reykjavik Calling concert at the Middle East Downstairs presents the rising Icelandic bands Kaleo and Beebee & the Bluebirds opposite Boston-based outfits Love in Stockholm and George Knight with Pablo Palooza for some cross-cultural collaboration. It’s free but with an RSVP through www.eventbrite.com). Over at the Brighton Music Hall the same night, Scott Weiland (of Stone Temple Pilots and Velvet Revolver fame) fronts his new band the Wildabouts. And the Airborne Toxic Event commands the Paradise Rock Club both Saturday and Sunday, performing its more experimental, synth-based recent album Dope Machines as well as old hits led by “Somewhere Around Midnight” in a relatively intimate space for that LA band. And Sunday offers two fine sax encounters, in the jazz realm with Either Orchestra leader Russ Gershon leading a trio at Somerville’s new space the Green Room, while ex-James Brown and Parliament-Funkadelic alto king Maceo Parker gets funky up at Rockport’s intimate Shalin Liu Performance Center.

Seriously Funny

Mary Lynn Rajskub may be best known for her signature scowl, which she donned on television thriller 24 as Chloe O’Brian, the right-hand woman to Kiefer Sutherland’s Jack Bauer. However, Rajskub’s certain set of skills includes bringing the laughs on shows like 2 Broke Girls and the recent revival of Arrested Development. She sets her sights on Laugh Boston for a series of stand-up shows on March 12-14. / Hannah Landers

Tell me about your Boston shows. What can audiences can expect to see?

Well, it’s stand-up comedy. [Laughs] It’s a lot of me talking and being ridiculous and not too dirty—a nice amount. And it’s a live show so anything can happen. Most of my material is personal.… Also a lot of people recognize me from 24 so that creates quite a bit of material, usually up top at the show. Sometimes people look at me not knowing what to expect because a majority of people know me from a very serious show, so that’s always fun.

That actually goes into what I was going to ask about. A lot of people know you best from 24, a serious drama. Do you think your stand-up side surprises people?

Absolutely, and it took me a while to understand that.… I see myself as always doing more comedy, but I get so many people that don’t know what to expect. There’s always the couple that’s like, “See? I told you she was funny!” “Well, I don’t know. I’ve never saw her smile.” The way I finally started to understand it is if I went to a comedy club and Walter White came out and was standing in front of the microphone.

You mentioned a lot of your comedy is autobiographical. Do you have a topic or subject you like to touch on during every stand-up show?

I talk a lot about my family. I have a husband and a kid. And… we actually got pregnant three months into dating. So usually at the top of my show, depending on who’s in the audience and how much I feel like they’re into 24 or not, I will address that because sometimes people just really want to talk about that. And then I kind of segue into this stuff that is very candid and comes from living life by the seat of your pants type of situations.

You’ve been a part of so many ensemble casts on shows like Arrested Development, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia and Modern Family. Who would be in your dream ensemble cast?

Oh my gosh, that is a really tough question. I hate questions like that, where they’re like, “What is your favorite all-time whatever?” And you’re like, “I don’t know! Don’t put me on the spot!”
We can come back to it if you need some time to think about it.

Yeah, that might be some homework for me.… There’s certainly tons of funny women right now, which I love. It seems like every year there’s somebody new and unique.… Like that Ghostbusters cast that they announced? I’d love to work with Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy or Amy Schumer or Maya Rudolph. I’d love to do something with a bunch of funny ladies.

Which role has been the most fun for you to identify with?

I really like Gail the Snail [from Always Sunny] because she’s disgusting and I like that I was forced to identify with that. I had to dig deep inside of me and find the grossest version of me that I could possibly be and that was very liberating.

Have you always known that you wanted to be a performer?

No, not at all. I went to school for painting and I didn’t like the critiques that people were giving me so I just started speaking and doing live performance. Although I did do acting when I was a kid and in high school, but I never thought it was anything that I could go into. I just did it because I enjoyed it.

How did you initially become interested in painting?

Looking back—and even now—I would be in trouble if I had to anything other than something artistic.… My parents signed me up for a watercolor class. It was all older women and I was like 15 and we just recreated greeting cards. So you’d take a greeting card and you’d take your piece of paper and recreate the flowers from the greeting card. And I just loved it. And then when it was time to go to college… I just kind of looked up and I was like, “Oh, I don’t really want to go to school and I don’t want to get a job. I’ll go to art school!”

Between painting, stand-up and acting, what would you say is your favorite creative outlet?

I like to be able to go back and forth. Painting is definitely more solitary and more inward. I think stand-up has been a really good training ground because you have to be aggressive and I’m not really an aggressive person. So learning how to do that has been really, really, really good for me.… You have to learn how to command the stage and be really clear about what you’re talking about. And also have a good time because if you’re not having a good time, everybody else isn’t having a good time. So stand-up is tough but it’s also kind of a party. It’s gotten me out of my own head.… And acting would probably be the in-between of both of those worlds.

What would your dream role be?

My dream role would be to… almost be in a comedy where I’m a mom who’s just a regular person and then by the end becomes a crazy vigilante warrior fighter. That would be my dream, is to be able to kind of do a little bit of everything. Maybe have something that seems like a totally normal situation that ends up in a fight for life or some kind of spy situation or some kind of showdown.… So at the beginning you see me making breakfast and everything’s okay but everything’s not what it seems and then I gotta throw down. Like some movie cuts on my face and a metal bikini by the end.… That would be the dream role.

Sound Ideas

Weekend Ideas

It’s feast or famine with live music, and this weekend offers one those ridiculously rich spreads. Let’s start with Friday. Roxbury-bred drummer Roy Haynes reigns as one of the jazz greats, having served with John Coltrane, Charlie Parker and Sarah Vaughn, and the 89-year-old icon brings his Fountain of Youth band into Scullers Jazz Club for the first of two nights. Chris Thile returns from his Nickel Creek reunion to front the Punch Brothers’ inventive contemporary bluegrass at House of Blues. Joan Osborne takes a break from new band Trigger Hippy to float solo hits like “One of Us” and this one in an acoustic duo at Johnny D’s Uptown. Guitarist Andy Gill remains the only (though most crucial) original member of the great Gang of Four when that British post-punk band hits the Paradise Rock Club. Cross-cultural party band Red Baraat celebrates the Hindu holiday of Holi with its Festival of Colors at the Sinclair; here’s a snatch of a recent show and a jump to my recent interview. And Arcade Fire multi-instrumentalist Will Butler (brother of that band’s frontman Win) brings his solo project to the Middle East Downstairs.

Atmospheric rock returns to the intimate Jackie Liebergott Black Box Theatre at Emerson’s downtown Paramount Center with a spirited double bill of Hallelujah the Hills and psych-rock terrors New Hymnal Highway on Friday and a night of more somber, elegant folk-tinged music with Marissa Nadler, Damon & Naomi (ex-Galaxie 500, Luna) and Glenn Jones on Saturday. Looking at the rest of Saturday’s options, beginning down the street at the Wilbur Theatre, Genesis guitarist Mike Rutherford hits the road with his ‘80s pop alternative Mike & the Mechanics. Alloy Orchestra performs one its live soundtracks to the film The Son of the Sheik at the Somerville Theatre and G. Love & (his original) Special Sauce return to rock House of Blues with their rappy blues. Over in Harvard Square, Rockport’s own Paula Cole surfaces at cozy Club Passim to revisit her catalog, likely to include this old hit from back when Katie Holmes was a TV teenager on “Dawson’s Creek.” And around the corner at the Sinclair, Maine native Aly Spaltro returns as Lady Lamb the Beekeeper, delving into more open-hearted material from her new album After, a shift in tone from her brilliant if sometimes harshly passionate past fare. And Great Scott rocks on Saturday with the psychedelic sounds of Moon Duo.

Sound Ideas

Solid Sound Broadens Summer Outlook

Solid Sound has announced a typically diverse lineup for its June 26-28 music and arts festival at MASS MoCA in North Adams. In addition to two nights with host band Wilco (plus its side projects), Solid Sound vies to lure young indie-rock fans with Parquet Courts (SPIN magazine’s 2014 Band of the Year), Mac DeMarco and Real Estate, expand its jazz pedigree with sax veteran Charles Lloyd’s quartet and guitarist Bill Frisell, and solidify its folk/roots audience with Taj Mahal, the Richard Thompson Trio, NRBQ, the Felice Brothers and enchanting newcomer Jessica Pratt. Eclectic pop group Cibo Matto will join in, while Shabazz Palaces add experimental hip-hop. And as a most promising wild-card booking, 68-year-old Nigerian pioneer King Sunny Ade & his African Beats should get the grounds jumping with their hypnotic big-band juju grooves.

No word yet on whether Wilco will resurrect its all-covers request night from 2013. John Hodgman will return to anchor a comedy revue, this time with Tig Notaro, Paul F. Tompkins and The Daily Show’s Jessica Williams, and storytelling troupe the Story Pirates and Vermont’s Circus Smirkus should entertain the kids. Solid Sound takes over the main field, courtyards and auditorium of MASS MoCA every two years, with festival-goers free to roam the Berkshires contemporary art museum’s sprawling galleries. More information on the lineup and tickets can be found here at its website.

Sound Ideas

Weekend Ideas

Maybe nothing as grabbing as last weekend’s stunning Sleater-Kinney show, but plenty of cool, diverse concert options to rock your world. For starters, jazz-fusion fans might want to submerge into the dark, psychedelic jams of DRKWAV, an all-star trio with keyboardist John Medeski, saxophonist Skerik and drummer Adam Deitch, celebrating their new album The Purge at the Regattabar on Friday. The same night across Harvard Square, the Juliana Hatfield Three resurrects her ’90s-born guitar pop at the Sinclair on the heels of the trio’s comeback debut last month. Boston’s gonzo Americana-rockers Tigerman WOAH strike up a record release party at Somerville’s Cuisine en Locale, while fans of Louisiana music who are up for the road trip can catch the Cajun outfit BeauSoleil avec Michael Doucet in Rockport’s striking Shalin Liu Performance Center on Friday as well.

More roots music, this time on the Celtic side, when World Music/CRASHarts presents the traditional Irish group Altan at the Somerville Theatre on Saturday. And the Florida-born band Hundred Waters, fronted by vocalist Nicole Miglis, brings its heady swirl of organic and electronic music to the Sinclair the same night. Sunday boasts two other young, women-fronted rock bands on the rise. Sydney Sierota and her brothers in the LA pop quartet Echosmith strive to build on the success of their hit single “Cool Kids” at the Paradise Rock Club while the grungy London rockers Wolf Alice stir the pot at the Middle East Upstairs. And California indie-rockers the Dodos round out Sunday’s slate at the Brighton Music Hall.

Red Sox Spring Training Preview

Breaking down what to watch for at each position.

Spring training started this week for the Red Sox, and games at JetBlue Stadium in Florida will soon follow.

No Boston month has ever been as snowy as this February. And very few months have ever been this cold. But hope is on the doorstep. It comes not in the five-day forecast, but rather in the three-word refrain: Pitchers and catchers. Yup, spring training is here, and all position players have arrived for the Red Sox. Here’s a positional preview of what to keep an eye on amid the glorious goings-on in Fort Myers, Florida.

Catcher (Christian Vazquez, Ryan Hanigan)

Entering last season, many Red Sox fans would’ve been happy to see Boston pick up Hanigan as the primary catcher. But the former Andover standout was brought to the Sox this season to backup Vazquez. The pitch-calling, pitch-framing and overall defensive impact of Vazquez, 24, is not in question at all. He is elite in those categories, and—knowing how important a good defensive catcher is—that will let him keep his starting spot. But questions remain about his bat. He has eventually hit at every minor-league level, and if he improves to even league average then he’ll be an All-Star. Keep an eye on how he’s progressing offensively, as well as if Hanigan can raise his anemic BABIP levels from the past two years. This position is not only strong at the major-league level, but top Sox prospect Blake Swihart will be waiting in the wings at Pawtucket. Where to play Swihart, a power-hitting catcher who’s good defensively when you already have Vazquez? Let’s just say that’s a problem of the One Percent.

First Base (Mike Napoli)

The only question with Napoli is how much a good night’s sleep will help his performance at the plate. An average fielder and above-average hitter, he had surgery to correct his sleep apnea this offseason. There are not many other question marks with Napoli. At age 33, he is what he is, so there’s not much to track with this position. One minor thing to keep an eye on is if Daniel Nava, Garin Cecchini, Allen Craig—or even Hanley Ramirez or Pablo Sandoval play any innings at first base. It’d be nice to know who might play there in a pinch—especially if Craig is ultimately traded.

Second Base (Dustin Pedroia)

A negative presence at the plate last year, the former MVP struggled to find any power after years of hand/finger injuries. He’s 31 years old, and second basemen have a history of aging poorly, so questions about a drop in productivity are normal. But if his power rebounds, he will rejoin his spot among the MLB elite. So keep an eye on if Pedroia hits any homers in Florida. Now, if he can just replicate the career-best defensive year he had in 2014. 

Shortstop (Xander Bogaerts)

The would-be franchise player struggled in his first full season—or more specifically, for three full months in the middle of his first full season. He arrived to Florida this year, attributing last year’s slide to poor conditioning (and not his midseason move to third base), something he says he fixed in the offseason. He’s going to hit at the major-league level, something proven by his three months of above-average productivity. The long-term question is can he be an average defender. Listening to defensive guru Brian Butterfield, he can. But keep an eye on how Bogaerts moves toward grounders up the middle and to his right. If he’s snagging a bunch—even if he can’t get the runner out at first on his throw—then it shows improved lateral agility. And that will go a long way to helping him be the Sox shortstop for many years to come.

Third base (Pablo Sandoval)

Spring training hadn’t even started before Sandoval was in the crosshairs of fans and media for his supposed weight problem. The controversy soon died down, but after he signed a five-year deal at nearly $20 million a year, he will be target for some. He’s most likely going to hit and field well—he has every year during his career. But keep an eye on how Sandoval handles the media/fan spotlight. It’s weird to think that such a happy go-lucky guy could be anything but loved in Boston, but guys like Carl Crawford and John Lackey got off to a bad start in Boston and almost never recovered. The three-time World Series winner who’s only 28 should be a big hit in Boston. But he needs to set the tone in spring training.

Outfield (Hanley Ramirez, Rusney Castillo, Mookie Betts, Shane Victorino, Daniel Nava)

There’s a lot of talent in this group, which doesn’t even include defensive ace Jackie Bradley Jr., who certainly could be a factor if he relearns how to hit. (The fact that he struggled at Pawtucket late last season was encouraging since it meant he had developed a massive flaw in his swing rather than was overmatched by major-league pitching. He had a .374 OBP in Pawtucket in 2013. He previously could hit.) But this current crop also comes with a few questions. Ramirez has never played the outfield, and while he actually projects to be a passable leftfielder, taking on a new position could theoretically affect him at the plate. For all of the injury concerns, the only seasons in which he’s played fewer than 125 games were 2011 and 2013. Since breaking into the league in 2006, he actually has played more than 150 games five times. But staying healthy in spring training would help his adjustment to a new league and a new position. Castillo is penciled in to start in center after the Sox committed more than $70 million to bring him aboard last season. While he performed well during his short stint in Boston, as well as during winter leagues, he still only has 40 major-league plate appearances. His defense and speed were as advertised, but his power really popped during that short sample size. Can he keep it up this season? Moving to right field is where the real questions come into play. On paper, most forward-thinking people would rather start Betts and relegate Victorino to the bench. But is that really forward-thinking? What if Victorino can replicate his 6 WAR season from 2013? But if Betts had played a full season last year, he was projected to post a 6 WAR as well. The free-agent-to-be Victorino wouldn’t want to be buried behind Betts on the bench, so he’ll put up a stink if that’s the case. Farrell has already backed Victorino as his starting right fielder. But where do you play a dynamite young player like Betts? Perhaps everywhere. They could use him to give players an occasional day off in the infield or outfield and when there’s a long-term injury. Keep an eye on how many different positions Betts plays during spring training. Does he even get spot starts at third base and shortstop? That would be one way to know the Sox are serious about Victorino playing right field and not simply bluffing to drive up his trade value. Meanwhile, Daniel Nava, written off after a bad April last season, was actually the team’s second-best position player according to WAR in 2014. He’s currently this team’s fifth outfielder. And a perfect fit among a righthanded-heavy bunch. That’s an embarrassment of riches.

Designated Hitter (David Ortiz)

Three-time World Series winner. The Improper's 2014 Boston’s Best cover boy. In honor of the Royal Rooters: ’Nuf ced. Keep an eye on him, but only to savor the greatness. 

Utility (Brock Holt)

If everyone’s healthy, somebody is going to get traded or sent to Pawtucket among Holt or Craig. Holt can play every position aside from catcher, and he was valuable last season filling in when needed, but he tailed off at the plate in the second half of the season. He’s a guy who will have a long career a utility player, but that’s hardly a stable career path. And at 26, he could learn that tough lesson this spring—especially if the Sox envision a super-utility role for Betts this season. However, Holt would have to get bumped by Craig. The former St. Louis player was the epitome of clutch (if such a thing exists) until last season. Not only was he not clutch last season—but he was not good at baseball. At all. Some rumors have floated about him taking reps at third base, which would allow him to fill a corner outfield/corner infield role with the Sox this season, while they hold onto him to see if he can take over full time at first base in 2016. If he rebounds to his previous levels of production, then he’s a bargain at an average salary of $8.5 million the next three seasons. Keep an eye on if Craig hits at all in spring. If he does hit well, the Sox will likely explore a possible trade—or perhaps find a way to squeeze him onto the major-league roster.

Starting Pitching (Rick Porcello, Clay Buchholz, Wade Miley, Joe Kelly, Justin Masterson)

Ace, ace, ace. All the chatter that surrounds the Sox goes back to the question of who they would start in Game 1 of the ALDS. It’s a bit presumptuous, no? If they get there, it will likely be because one of these five guys really stepped up. They all possess No. 1 starter upside. Porcello is 26 and has improved nearly every year. Miley has gotten worse every year since his great 2012 debut, but he did pile up 183 strikeouts last season, so he’s got some swing-and-miss stuff in addition to durability. (Plus this photo! Please let this be on the scoreboard for every start at Fenway.) When you think about Clay Buchholz, are the first three months of 2013 what do you think of? Because he was the Cy Young front-runner till he was injured. And speaking of Cy Young contenders, Kelly pronounced himself a candidate for the award this winter. He was quite effective in 2012 and 2013, although far from a No. 1 starter. He’s still only 26, however, and the amount of raves about his raw stuff could fill War and Peace. The fifth member of the rotation is Masterson, who was a top pitcher in 2011 and 2013, but struggled last season amid shoulder and arm injuries. So, to sum up the Red Sox starters, there are five solid guys, four of which (aside from Porcello) are coming off seasons in which they performed below their career averages. It’s safe to say the Sox bought low on a few of them. Keep an eye on how they all pitch—and their postgame comments on how they feel—this spring. Yes, it’s a lot to keep an eye on, but from this group could come a couple of No. 1 guys and three No. 2 performers. Or there could be three guys who are sporadically hurt all season, forcing the Sox to tap into their promising group of minor-league starters (Matt Barnes, Steven Wright, Henry Owens, Eduardo Rodriguez, Brian Johnson and Edwin Escobar).

Relief Pitching (Koji Uehara, Junichi Tazawa, Alexi Ogando, Edward Mujica, Craig Breslow, Anthony Varvaro, Robbie Ross)

This could be an area of weakness for the Sox. Signing Uehara to a 2-year, $18 million deal was one of the more underrated moves of the offseason, considering his recent, historical dominance—and the fact his poor performance late last season was injury related. And Tazawa will be back in his setup role, likely contributing the same stability he has for two straight seasons. Aside from that, however, I wouldn’t be surprised to see anyone else who I slotted into the bullpen falter and not make the team. Ogando has the most potential and a proven track record, but he’s far from a sure thing after his injury-filled 2014. Supporters of Mujica always mention that he improved late last season, but that’s a bit of a false narrative considering his xFIP in the second half of the season was worse than in the first half. Varvaro was a solid reliever for Atlanta for the past two seasons, and he’s got the best chance of being the guy you see on the mound in May and ask, “Where’d they get this guy from? I trust him more than Mujica.” Breslow had a poor 2014, which he blamed on his long 2013, but he’s shown a pattern of decline for a few years now. Ross suffered from the Daniel Bard Illness last season, being yanked around from starter to reliever and never recovering. Just as likely to grab any of the final bullpen spots are: Tommy Layne, Zeke Spruill, Heath Hembree and Brandon Workman. Keep an eye on Ogando in camp. If he’s healthy and producing, the Sox could use him as a relief ace this season, a weapon that could come in handy with so many rotation questions.

Winter Games

Mayor Marty Walsh captured the spirit of the city when he spoke out about this winter’s record-breaking snowfall: “I don’t know what to say to anybody anymore. Hopefully it will stop eventually.” To say everyone is ready for this winter to be over would be an understatement. 

In the meantime, here’s something fun—even if it is a little outdoorsy—for us cabin-fever-stricken and snow-bound Bostonians to do: support local businesses by playing Boston Bingo, and you may get something in return yourself. Enter completed cards to win tickets to see the Bruins or even a chance to sip lattes with the Mayor himself.

And while it may be hard to get to your favorite restaurant when the wind chill is 20 below and you’re stuck in between two disabled trains, you’ve probably already finished some of the squares today: hit the gym, order something “large” (espresso, please), and snack on a croissant. Or go for a whimsical option: treat your furry friend to something nice, visit your local bookstore or snag something spicy. Besides, some activities are long overdue. When was the last time you treated yourself to a blowout or mani/pedi? Your winter-worn hands and split ends will thank you.

Spring can’t come soon enough, but picking out flowers for a loved one might speed up the wait. 

Off The Bench

Red Sox Seize Rare Opportunity

Why Signing Yoan Moncada is a Smart Move.

On the surface, the Celtics and Red Sox seem similar only in their Boston location. One is in the stages of a multi-year rebuilding project, while the other is a year removed from a championship and favored by oddsmakers to return to the World Series this season. But although Celtics president Danny Ainge has garnered lots of attention for his asset-accumulation strategy, Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington has been doing the same thing. The latest example: Yoan Moncada agreeing to a contract with the Sox for $31.5 million, which will cost the Sox twice that after you factor in a 100-percent tax.

The initial reaction is to wonder where he fits. When you scroll through the Sox lineup, almost every starting position player is under team control for at least three more years. The only players who aren’t are Mike Napoli and David Ortiz (and Shane Victorino if you count him). Not to mention, the prospects such as Garin Cecchini, Devin Marrero and Blake Swihart, who are all currently blocked by other young talented players. It’s an overflow of talent, but that didn’t deter Cherington when he signed Hanley Ramirez to play left field in November or when he signed Moncada this time around. Ramirez is an outstanding hitter, who you worry about position with later. If scouting reports on Moncada are true, he’s also an outstanding talent, who you worry about position with down the line.

By signing him, the Sox have to pay the $31.5 million tax, but they don’t have to forfeit a draft pick (like signing a player in free agency) and they don’t have long-term financial implications that come with going over the luxury tax (loss of revenue sharing, repeater tax). They had already exceeded their international budget to sign two of the top three international pitching prospects in August, so the penalties of not being able to go over the international budget for the next two years were already in place. The Sox have oodles of money coming in these days from national and regional TV deals, not to mention sponsorships. Spending each year to the $189 payroll limit before a luxury tax kicks in would leave them with a large amount of profit. Going over that limit can take a financial toll in the long run. But the chances to spend money outside that tax are very limited, and they were already going to be even more limited with the international budget penalty looming regardless of this signing. So, they paid an extra $31.5 million now to take a chance on Moncada. He’s young and the chances any team has to simply sign young, talented players in the current system are close to nill. Those types of players never hit free agency until they’re near the end of their prime. They’ll figure out where to play him later, but they’ll be satisfied they have him as an asset in their organization right now. It’s about accumulating talent. Danny Ainge knows it. And based on his past few moves, Cherington does, too.

Sound Ideas

Weekend Ideas

Sturgill Simpson brings new life to an old sound, the classic country of ’70s-era Waylon Jennings, and infuses it with his own perspective and sound, including touches of psychedelia. Simpson hints at that in his light show, as he leads his quartet into the Paradise Rock Club on Friday (before he returns this summer for the Newport Folk Festival), supporting one of 2014’s best albums in Metamodern Sounds in Country Music. The same night, gospel-soul legend Mavis Staples will take you there at the Shalin Liu Performance Center up in Rockport.

Saturday brings the rare chance to catch Midge Ure, best known as the singer for Ultravox and a co-organizer of Band Aid and Live Aid, who plays Johnny D’s Uptown on a solo acoustic tour likely to include his take on this Ultravox gem. And commanding singer/songwriter Mary Fahl branches out from her former group the October Project, playing intimate Club Passim on Saturday. Watch for Ariel Pink to hit the Paradise stage the same night in his glammy high heels, animating his oddball retro-pop with his playful showmanship, while the Sinclair hosts Maine-based veterans Rustic Overtones, renowned for live shows that jam together soul-funk and psychedelic garage-rock.

Sunday brings perhaps the weekend’s most anticipated show to House of Blues: the return of Sleater-Kinney (pictured), which burst out of the Pacific Northwest’s riot grrrl scene in the ’90s to become one of American’s best bands before disbanding in 2006.  The buzz has since grown, fueled in part by Carrie Brownstein’s newfound celebrity as the co-star of the comedy show “Portlandia.” But more importantly, she and fellow guitarist/singer Corin Tucker and drummer Janet Weiss have reignited their spunky chemistry on Sleater-Kinney’s worthy new album No Cities To Love (they just dropped this rad video of one of its songs) and now they're taking it to the next stage.

Sound Ideas

Weekend Ideas

With the Black Crowes broken up again – perhaps even for good, given the latest impasse with his brother Rich, singer Chris Robinson has turned full energies to the Chris Robinson Brotherhood, a band that loves to jam in the tradition of the Grateful Dead. CRB, where the singer plays a guitar opposite foil Neal Casal, certainly should be stretching out in a two-night stand at the Paradise Rock Club on Friday and Saturday.

CJ Chenier also draws on family legacy, that of his late father Clifton, as he makes zydeco rock at Johnny D’s Uptown on Friday.  Bright, edgy LA indie-rockers Bad Suns hold court the same night at the Brighton Music Hall, where the textural Wisconsin indie-folk group Phox follows on Saturday (you can also jump to my recent interview with Phox frontwoman Monica Martin here). UPDATE: Phox show is POSTPONED to a later date.

George Clinton conducts his extended funk jams with the latest, sprawling edition of his institution Parliament-Funkadelic at House of Blues on Saturday. And NOW POSTPONED TO MARCH 7 due to weather, Shaun Wolf Wortis will host his 22nd annual Mardi Gras Ball, this year at Cuisine en Locale, a health-care benefit for the New Orleans Musicians Clinic. Ex-Slide frontman Wortis will be backed by his Legendary “Vudu” Crew led by sax man-about-town Paul Ahlstrand, with guest singers including Jen “Jenny Dee” D’Angora, Peter Moore, Andrea Gillis and Amber Casares, who proves in rehearsals that it should be a night to remember.

Sound Ideas

Sam Smith Smiles in Grammy Snoozer

Sam Smith was the big winner at Sunday’s Grammy Awards, taking four golden gramophones with polite charm that fit a largely droopy night and came with his observation that it was “only until I started to be myself” that he found success. But the British crooner who captured the Best New Artist, Song, Record and Pop Vocal Album categories was also overshadowed by an Album of the Year surprise and tons of performances, topped by Annie Lennox, Beyonce, Madonna and Sia.

Beck’s surprise win for Album of the Year with Morning Phase, beating both Sam Smith and Beyonce, even drew a self-curtailed bum rush from Kanye West, hinting at his infamous Beyonce-was-robbed VMAs interruption of Taylor Swift. It seemed like a joke until West later spouted off to E! News, suggesting Beck should have given the trophy to Beyonce. Beck took it all politely, as surprised as anyone, having already snatched Rock Album of the Year from the Black Keys, U2 and Tom Petty, who wins anyway for shared future royalties on Smith’s “Stay With Me.”

West got to perform twice on the show, even joining Paul McCartney (who you couldn’t really hear anyway) and Rihanna on “FourFiveSeconds.” Other successful collaborations included Smith with MJ Blige and a ubiquitous gospel chorus, Tony Bennett going “Cheek to Cheek” with a classily gonzo Lady Gaga, country standout Brandy Clark with harmonizer Dwight Yoakum, and best of them all, Hozier with Annie Lennox, who didn’t seem quite in step with his “Take Me to Church” but brought down the house with her zesty take on “I Put a Spell on You.”

For her part, Beyonce (who still won three Grammys) hauntingly sang “Precious Lord, Take My Hand” like a bridal angel, amid black men in white suits who raised palms in a subtle reference to the “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” movement. The oddly bellhop-attired Pharrell Williams made the same visual commentary with dancers in hoodies raising their hands in his chaotically recast “Happy,” a classical piano solo poorly shoehorned into the production as a weak attempt to broaden the musical styles offered on the telecast. But presenter Prince dropped the most obvious yet clever line in “Like books and black lives, albums still matter.”

Much like Beyonce stood in contrast to her sexy “Drunk in Love” romp at last year’s Grammys, Katy Perry followed her Super Bowl prop party with divorce ballad “By the Grace of God” after moving words against rape and domestic violence from President Obama (on video) and assault survivor Brooke Axtell.

Madonna showed she still pushes enough buttons, beyond the fountain of youth, to dance like a matador among men with bull horns and masks on her new “Living for Love” and ultimately (if it was indeed her) ascend toward the heavens. It could have been a rousing introduction to the night, but Madonna had done that before. So the kickoff honors when to classic hard-rockers AC/DC, which could use the boost since it was the band’s first live appearance in four years. With drummer Phil Rudd facing drug charges in New Zealand, shaven-headed replacement Chris Slade was back behind the kit, flanked by hanging bass drums for “Highway To Hell,” a worthy follow-up to the lame new song “Rock or Bust” that had attendees donning light-up devil horns.

More devilish fun would have improved the rest of the three-hour-plus show, which was mired in too many dull performances, including “The Voice” coaches Adam Levine, Gwen Stefani and Usher, perhaps lucky that their show is on the same promo-shameless network. And the shy Sia perhaps trumped everyone with a “Chandelier” performance-art piece where the singer apparently faced a wall while wigged doppelgangers (including former “Saturday Night Live” star Kristen Wiig) enacted a dramatic dance as head-scratching as much of the night.


You Won, Rob!

Patriots' Rob Ninkovich Basks in their Super Bowl Victory.

Rob Ninkovich sacks Russell Wilson in Super Bowl XLIX. (Photos by David Silverman / New England Patriots)

Rob Ninkovich awoke on Super Bowl Sunday to an alert on his iPhone: “You’re old, Rob!”

It was his 31st birthday, and he’d set up the automatic alert years ago. Hours later, he was still old, but he was something else, too: A Super Bowl champion.

It had been 10 years since the Patriots won a Super Bowl, coming oh-so-close a couple times in the ensuing decade. And it’d also been years since the Patriots’ defense had been the focal point of the team. But this season was different. This Patriots team had sealed two previous victories (against Oakland and Baltimore) with interceptions late in the game. The defense had stepped up long before Malcolm Butler muscled his way to infamy with a play that was so memorable it’s simply known, for now, as The Play.

Ninkovich will never forget The Play. Among the 11 players on the field for the Patriots, two were undrafted, four more had been cut, and two players had suffered career-threatening injuries. Ninkovich was one of the guys who’d been cut. And, while all of New England’s fans had been sent into a panic a minute earlier thanks to a miraculous Seattle catch, he and his teammates drew on that same focus and guile that helped them overcome adversity before. Ninkovich was only focused on what the play call would be.

“I was thinking that they were going to do something to move the quarterback in the pocket, like a dash. Or some type of [play with Russell] Wilson rolling to his right. In those situations, quarterbacks can throw the ball away if they don’t see what they like,” Ninkovich recalls. “He stayed in the pocket, the ball came out really quick, and so I engaged with the tackle, and once I saw the ball release, I flipped back around to see where the ball was going. I saw Malcolm jump in front of it and catch it. I just threw my arms in the air in complete excitement and disbelief that this just happened. That we just did this. It was awesome.”

Cue the Duck Boats. But none of it happens if not for Ninkovich making two defensive stops earlier in the second half. The first was a stuff of Seattle running back Marshawn Lynch on third-and-1: “I looked at the tackle’s eyes, and I saw him looking down from me, so I knew he wasn’t coming to block me. … I just went right for Lynch, and I was going to tackle him no matter what. If he had the ball or didn’t have the ball.” He followed that up a few drives later with a sack of Wilson on third down that set the stage for the first of Tom Brady’s two fourth-quarter touchdown throws.

An hour later, Ninkovich embraced his wife and 19-month-old daughter as they arrived on the field to celebrate. As his daughter played with confetti, his wife, full of emotion, said to a teary Ninkovich: “You did it, babe.”

As Ninkovich was still soaking up the victory the next day, he saw a far friendlier message on his phone than the previous day. It was from another relative who had been on the field to celebrate: “I had the time of my life,” his dad wrote. “My chest could explode right now. I’m so proud of you.”

Sound Ideas

Weekend Ideas

Break out of the cold. John C. Reilly might be best known for his comedy films with Will Ferrell (“Shake and bake!”), but he’s also an American roots music enthusiast. John Reilly and Friends -- including singer Becky Stark, singer/guitarist Tom Brosseau and bassist Sebastian Steinberg -- dig into folk, country and bluegrass in an Arts at the Armory concert in Somerville on Friday. Also on the acoustic side the same night, indie-rock singer/songwriter Damien Jurado plays an early show at Brighton Music Hall. And the Paradise Rock Club finds drummer Joe Russo’s Almost Dead (with guitarists Scott Metzger and Tom Hamilton and keyboardist Marco Benevento), diving into its exploratory take on the Grateful Dead repertoire that Russo plied as a member of Furthur.

Newly signed to Nonesuch Records, UK folksinger Olivia Chaney (pictured) will release her debut album later this year, but brings her haunting voice and multi-instrumental skills to the Lizard Lounge on Saturday for an early showcase. Jazz saxophonist Chris Potter -- who’s played with Dave Holland and Pat Metheny and once trailed only Sonny Rollins on tenor in a DownBeat readers’ poll -- plays two shows at the Regattabar the same night. Chris Potter’s Underground group will feature guitarist Adam Rogers, bassist Fima Ephron and drummer Nate Smith.  The Rumble-winning Goddamn Draculas celebrate their hard-rocking debut album The Drax at the Middle East Downstairs on Saturday, while LA-based rockers Grizfolk bring electro-tinged Americana to the Middle East Upstairs on Sunday.

Super Bowl XLIX Preview

Five Pro-Patriots Thoughts And Five Pro-Seahawks Thoughts

Even before Super Bowl XLII, with their team favored by more than two touchdowns, most Patriots fans could still see that the game could go either way. Sure, the Pats had won 18 games in a row, but the win over the Giants to end the regular season was closer than most games (38-35). And starting with Roosevelt Colvin’s season-ending injury against Philadelphia in Week 11, the 2007 Patriots defense turned from among the NFL’s best to average. There is always a road to victory and a road to defeat. Here are five observations that could lead to a Patriots victory, and five observations that could turn the game in Seattle’s favor.

Five Thoughts That Favor the Patriots

Rob Gronkowski is Healthy: This is perhaps the most obvious advantage that the Patriots have that everyone is overlooking. He’s never been healthy for an entire postseason since his rookie season. He was hurt during Super Bowl XLVI. He’s healthy now, and while he might not post a 100-yard game, he’s still going to require double coverage from the Seahawks. That means someone else will be open. He’s the queen of the chessboard and the best player who will take the field on Sunday. (Rob Gronkowski photo, courtesy of New England Patriots)

Patriots Offensive Adaptability: No running back carries in the second half vs. Baltimore. A 148-yard game from LeGarrette Blount vs. Indianapolis. Yup, those were two very different game plans. But it goes deeper than that, especially if Bryan Stork returns to the Pats on Sunday. With him, they can run or pass out of their normal alignment. Without him, the only way they’re running is if Cameron Fleming comes on the field as an extra blocker. But Stork provides the versatility that the Pats will need. Gronkowski can catch or block. Same with Brandon LaFell. And running back Shane Vereen can catch (52 catches), run (4.1 yards per carry) and block. It’s conceivable the Patriots could play with most of the same personnel all game: Tom Brady, Julian Edelman, Vereen, Gronk, LaFell and the five offensive linemen could fill 10 of the 11 spots for the majority of plays. If you see those guys on the field, are you selling out to stop the run or the pass? You just don’t know. That’s what makes the Patriots truly unpredictable.

Are We Sure the Seahawks are Great? This is a toss up. Yes, they’ve won 11 of their past 12 games. But the only teams with a winning record that they beat during that run were the Cardinals with their backup and third-string quarterbacks, and the Eagles with their backup quarterback. Oh, and the Packers. In Seattle. After only scoring on a fake field goal in the first 55 minutes of the game. But they beat the teams that they had to in order to get the No. 1 seed in the NFC. And they got healthier along the way, getting guys like Kam Chancellor back up to speed.

On to Seattle: Fans saw a glimpse of the Patriots’ strategy to move past Deflategate last Saturday when coach Bill Belichick praised his team as the best in the league. It was reminiscent of his “On to Cincinnati” rallying cry, which came with a strong defense of his team during that week. It also brought to mind his reportedly stirring pregame speech against the Carolina Panthers in 2004, when he said: “Everybody’s talking about the how Panthers are similar to us. They’re not us. They’ll never be [expletive] us. They’ll never be champions. We’re the [expletive] champions, and the trophy is coming back where it belongs.” If there’s ever a time to bring out a similar emotional pregame speech, Sunday is that time. Players don’t need any extra motivation before a game as big as the Super Bowl, but it can’t hurt, right? And a little extra motivation during practice always helps too.

Tom Brady and Bill Belichick: This needs no explanation. They’ve been in five of these things together and they’ve won three.
Five Thoughts That Favor the Seahawks

The Seahawks Defense: Sure, they lost a few players from last year, but the sheer volume of playmakers that this team employs on defense is staggering. The Patriots really shouldn’t make a habit of throwing the ball toward Richard Sherman or Earl Thomas or Kam Chancellor. And Seattle’s front seven is just as good, with a run defense that was phenomenal this season. For all of the adaptability that the Patriots offense has, the Seahawks can match it on defense.

The Patriots’ Run Defense: Marshawn Lynch is good. But if the Patriots had a stout run defense, they could likely stop him. The problem is the Patriots’ defense has been below average, especially of late. Even during a dominant performance against the Colts, Indy still used its mediocre running backs to average 4.4 yards per carry. And Baltimore went for nearly 5 yards a run during the divisional playoff game. The Patriots could load up against the run, and I expect to see run-stuffing safety Patrick Chung provide a lot of help. But they could have done that against Baltimore as well, and they didn’t during the first quarter.

Russell Wilson: The Seattle quarterback really might have the “it” factor. He’s got a leadership quality and fearlessness that allowed him to rally from a two-score deficit with 5 minutes to go. Plus he has the ability to beat teams with his arm and his legs. Those types of players have often hurt the Patriots, and they were defenseless against Wilson running the read-option when they faced him in 2012.

The Crowd: Seahawks fans are reportedly coming to Arizona in droves to watch the game. Sure, most of the Super Bowl tickets go to nonfans, but Seattle is far closer to Arizona than New England is, so it’s easy to see that 12th Man making an impact on the atmosphere. If that’s the case, it could disrupt the Patriots with any pre-snap movement or audibles.

The Improbability Factor:  How did Seattle beat Green Bay? They were outplayed on both sides of the ball for more than three quarters. They were down two scores with less than 5 minutes to go. It was a complete ass kicking. And yet they still won. If they can win despite getting so outplayed, then imagine if they actually play well? All bets are off, and the Seahawks won’t simply have won back-to-back Super Bowls. They might have won back-to-back Super Bowl blowouts.

After sorting through the good and the bad, it’s hard to predict how the game will go. It’s difficult to envision Seattle putting up a big point total, so if they don’t score more than 21 points, will the offensive-minded Patriots have a chance? Sure. But the recipe for all postseason Patriots losses since 2007 has been that the offense never gets going. They haven’t scored more than 21 points in a postseason loss since the AFC Championship defeat in Indianapolis. If they bank 21 or more on Sunday, they’ll win. More likely, however, they’ll need to find a way to win a 16-13 or 12-10 Super Bowl. In cases like those, it’s nice to know the Patriots have a special teams edge (5th in DVOA to 19th for Seattle) since field position could mean a valuable field goal here or there. The defense can likely hold up against the one-dimensional Seahawks. But the question remains whether the Patriots can score on Seattle. A simple look at the Packers game shows they likely can score a little bit (and Green Bay left a lot of points on the board settling for field goals). So the guess here is the Patriots pull out a squeaker: 20-16.

Sound Ideas

Weekend Ideas

Kingsley Flood finds the sweet spot between the Clash and the Beatles on To the Fire, the first of three EPs that the band plans to drop in 2015 and a convincing follow-up to 2013’s winning Battles. The Boston-bred sextet fronted by DC songsmith Naseem Khuri cranks the energy even higher onstage, a reputation that won’t change with new fiddler Eva Walsh. Yet when Kingsley Flood fires up the Sinclair on Friday, they're also likely to switch it up with Khuri on piano for rootsy new ballad "Cavalry." In terms of another Boston-groomed talent, soul singer Ingrid Gerdes holds court at Johnny D’s Uptown the same night, while the Indiana-bred instrumental jamtronica outfit Lotus blooms at House of Blues. And jazz trumpeter Roy Hargrove leads his quintet at Scullers both Friday and Saturday.

Like Kingsley Flood, Dr. Dog has earned its stripes onstage, so the veteran Philly group’s new album Live at a Flamingo Hotel seems overdue as a live document of Dr. Dog’s adventurous rock/pop churn, on full display Saturday at House of Blues. Cape-bred “American Idol” alumnus Siobhan Magnus, who toured as a guest vocalist with classic rockers Boston last year, brings her band at Johnny D’s the same night. And platinum-coifed punk survivor Billy Idol hits the Orpheum Theatre on Saturday to animate ’80s hits like “White Wedding” and “Rebel Yell” as well as material from Kings & Queens of the Underground, his first studio album in a decade – with guitar foil Steve Stevens still aboard.

Finally, for a Thursday Throwback, if you missed Israeli folk-pop singer Asaf Avidan’s astonishing local debut last year, here’s a close document of what you missed. Good reason not to miss him next Thursday at the Paradise Rock Club (this time with a band) behind his intriguing new album Gold Shadow.

Going Out

Game Plan: We mapped out your Super Bowl menu

Ballin' eats.

Super Bowl Sunday is all about the game, of course, but that doesn’t mean you can fumble when it comes to the food. Whether you’ll be out on the town or down on the couch, you can cheer on your hometown heroes without going hungry. / Grace Rasmus 


Craigie on Main

Satisfy pork-loving guests with Craigie’s Swanky Super Bowl Party Package. $75 gets you 4-6 servings, including a slow-roasted baby pig’s head, tortillas, black beans, guac, salsa, cornbread and fried pigs’ tails.

Extra point: Add a rack of crispy, spice-crusted heritage pork ribs for $20.

853 Main St., Cambridge (617-497-5511) craigieonmain.com


The restaurant is offering a six-person Super Bowl Feast To-Go ($49) consisting of an 18-piece square Sicilian pizza, balsamic garlic chicken wings and pepperoni-flavored popcorn.

345 Congress St., Boston (617-345-0005) pastoralfortpoint.com

Rosa Mexicano

Rosa Mexicano is offering a Guac-to-Go Party Pack ($5 per person), a take-out version of their signature guacamole en molcajete with housemade tortillas and corn tortilla chips.

Extra point: Don’t miss out on the pre-game—Rosa Mexicano delivers right to your door.

155 Seaport Boulevard, Boston (617-476-6122) rosamexicano.com



Area Four

Order up one of Area Four’s Super Bowl specials, such as their tuna taco pizza pie with lime chili sauce, plus brown bean barbecue pork ribs.

500 Technology Sq., Cambridge (617-758-4444) areafour.com

Battery Park

Snack on shareable plates like pulled pork tacos and cheesesteak egg rolls among a sea of 17 HD TVs.

Extra point: At the end of each quarter, expect gift card giveaways, along with raffles for T-shirts, hats, liquor bottles and a tailgate grill.

33 Batterymarch St., Boston (617-350-7275) batteryparkboston.com

BOKX 109 American Prime

Work up an appetite for all-you-can-eat baked mac and cheese, seven layer dip and chicken wings in flavors like barbecue, Asian, hot and hotter.

Extra Point: Get a pitcher of draught beer for $10.

399 Grove St, Newton (617-454-3399) bokx109prime.com


It’ll be first-come, first-served at Bronwyn with specials including wagyu sauerbraten chili, paprika chicken wings, coriander-garlic kielbasa and foot-long bratwursts with haus mustard.

Extra point: Make game day an all-day affair with brunch from 11 am–2:30 pm and bar snacks from 2:30-5 pm.

255 Washington St., Somerville (617-776-9900) bronwynrestaurant.com


Ride the Patriots’ coattails at Papagayo. If they take home the Lombardi trophy, guests will get all their food for free. There are only two small catches: sit down with a reservation by kickoff at 6:30 pm, and purchase a beverage.

Extra point: Even if the Pats lose, you’ll still get 50 percent off your total food bill.

283 Summer St., Boston (617-423-1000); 15 West St., Boston (617-423-3600) papagayoboston.com

Restaurant dante

In addition to complimentary pomodoro bruschetta at the bar, the chefs will send around arancini with porcini risotto, mozzarella and truffle honey every time the Pats score.

40 Edwin H. Land Boulevard, Cambridge (617-497-4200) restaurantdante.com

Sweet Cheeks Q

Sweet Cheeks hosts an all-day Pig Skin Pig Out buffet, where $30 buys signature biscuits, barbecue meats, hot and cold sides and non-alcoholic beverages.

Extra point: If you’re looking for more of a kick, stop by the Bloody Mary or mimosa bar.

1381 Boylston St., Boston (617-266-1300) sweetcheeksq.com

The Tap Trailhouse

The Pats Pairing special ($15) includes a Noble Dog—a baked bean-topped half-pound beef hotdog poached in brown sugar and Freedom Trail Ale—along with one of three New England craft beer flights in a dark, light or seasonal brew.

Extra Point: If the Patriots win, each table will get a gift card for the dollar amount equal to the team’s final score.

19 Union St., Boston (617-367-0033) thetaptrailhouse.com 

Why Tom Brady is a bad bet to be the Super Bowl MVP

History Shows Young Players Win More Than QBs

Confession: In our eyes Tom Brady can do very little wrong. He’s the definition of not only a living legend, but a living legend still playing. Tom Brady’s Super Bowl MVP odds stand at 8/5. Not a bad bet for the quarterback of the Super Bowl favorite, right? Wrong. He might be the favorite, but it’s a bit of a bad bet.

While the Super Bowl MVP has the reputation of being a quarterback’s award, it’s actually even more of a young man’s award. And despite Brady’s otherworldly conditioning regimen, he’s still 37 years old. If he were to win the award, he’d be the second oldest Super Bowl MVP, behind only the 38-year-old John Elway in Super Bowl XXXIII. In fact, no other player older than 34 has ever won it. (Tom Brady photo, at right, courtesy of the New England Patriots / David Silverman)

Of course, football itself is a young man’s game, so simply stating that there hasn’t been an MVP older than 31 in 15 years doesn’t tell you too much. Aside from Brady, the only player of consequence on either team who is older than 31 is 32-year-old Vince Wilfork. As a defensive tackle, he isn’t even individually listed on Odds Shark’s odds. But looking at the AV-adjusted average age of Super Bowl winning teams and comparing it to the Super Bowl MVP gives some better perspective. (H/T: Football Perspective, which uses the approximate value of each player and calculates that into the team’s average age; otherwise every team would skew younger with undrafted rookies filling third-string roles.)

If you look at the previous 48 Super Bowls, even including the days when impact players played longer (think Bart Starr and Len Dawson), the MVP skews to a young player rather than a quarterback. There have been 26 quarterbacks named MVP in the previous 48 Super Bowls. But there’s been 29 players named MVP who were younger than or the same age as their team’s average age.

When you narrow the focus into a more current time period, such as the past 25 Super Bowls, 16 MVPs have been younger than or the same age as their team’s average age. During that same time period, 15 MVPs were quarterbacks. The past 15 years? Same slight edge for younger players: Young guns with 10 of 15 MVPs, while quarterbacks were 9 of 15 MVPs.

A quarterback is actually more likely to win the season MVP than the Super Bowl MVP. One simple explanation is that the quarterback’s greatness is likely to even out during the entire regular season more than during one fluky game. But consider another reason. Former Patriots offensive lineman Matt Light told The Improper last week that the bigger your family, the more responsibilities you have during the lead up to the Super Bowl.

“It’s a real rat race to get everything figured out. If you’re married, it’s a whole other set of circumstances because you’ve got your wife’s family and your family. And you’ve got to make sure your wife has everything she needs,” Light says. “If you’ve got kids, god forbid you got little criminals running around like I did, you’ve got to make sure they’re all taken care of.”

If that were true, then it would hold true that single players with no kids were more likely to have less outside distractions before the Super Bowl—and possibly have a better game. But there’s no real data available for players’ familial status. The closest you can get to breaking out single nonparents is to generalize that younger players are more likely to be single and without kids—unless you’re Antonio Cromartie.

So rather than thinking the quarterback is the favorite to win the award, it’s actually slightly more likely that the MVP crowned on Sunday is a player who is younger than his team’s average age. Knowing that, you might want to look past Brady in the MVP betting odds on Sunday. One player who still falls in the young’uns category? Twenty-five-year-old Rob Gronkowski.

Going Out

Agenda: 'Point Break' live at The Sinclair

Vaya con Dios, brah

Can’t wait for the summer release of the Point Break remake? Keanu Reeves fans can get their nostalgia fix at Point Break Live! at the Sinclair.

For one night only, the rock club will transform into a movie set—on which the audience plays the “extras”—for a parody of the ’90s action flick about a gang of bank-robbing surfer bros and the rookie undercover cop investigating them. Billed as the first “reality play,” Point Break Live! stars an audience member—chosen in an on-the-spot “Are U Keanu?” contest—as Reeves’ Johnny Utah. The insta-movie star reads his lines from giant cue cards provided by a “production assistant.” Hilarity and chaos obviously ensue. Essentially a live, messy, beer-fueled reproduction of the making of Point Break, the show has been called “a remake so bad, it’s outright homage” by The New York Times. Endorsement enough for us, brah.  

For more info visit sinclaircambridge.com.


Q&A: Super Bowl Champ Matt Light

Former Pats Lineman Gives Peek Into How N.E. Prepares for the Super Bowl

Matt Light went to five Super Bowls during his time with the New England Patriots, winning three of them. The former left tackle is still working hard, only now it’s to help youth gain different outdoor experiences through the Matt Light Foundation. To that end, Light’s foundation is helping fulfill a couple more dreams thanks to its Super Bowl raffle. He’s giving away a Super Bowl package, including two tickets, to the winner of a raffle. All you have to do is buy a $2 ticket (five minimum) at lightraffle.org before the entry deadline on Thursday at 4 pm. Light chatted with The Improper on the giveaway and his past Super Bowl experiences. 

So what’s included in the Super Bowl package? 
We’re doing two tickets to the game. They’ll be great seats. We’re doing airfare through JetBlue. And a hotel stay for Friday, Saturday and Sunday night. We’re throwing in VIP tickets to the Taste of the NFL, which is a very cool event, where they pair an NFL legend or player with a local chef from each city. All 32 teams are represented. There a lot of great names involved and they put on a whole show the whole night. So they’ll have two tickets to that as well for Saturday night.
It’s just this concept is really starting to take off now. We’ve done it for five years, but you really see it starting to take off now. Anybody can have the opportunity, instead of the traditional, auctioning something off and whoever has the most money in the room gets it. This is something where everyone can participate, either on an entry level, or if you want to up your chances, you can buy a lot more chances. The person who just won the one we did for the AFC Championship Game bought 25 tries and she won. I think it’s a great model where anyone can win. What this will do for our foundation is huge. We typically have a lot of people who say, ‘Hey, I wanted to support the foundation but it was cool because I gave the printout of the tickets to my niece. She waited the day of the drawing by the phone and it was cool for her to be a part of it because she learned something about your foundation.’ (Photo of Matt Light, courtesy of the NFLPA)

How much did you raise for the AFC Championship Game?
For that one, we raised $130,000, which was phenomenal. What that does for us, is it puts us years ahead when it comes to having the ability to expand certain things, add a little more programming and bring on more people that we didn’t think we’d have the ability to do. It’s a huge win for the foundation. We’ve been around since 2002, working with kids from all over the country. Our goal now is to try to sustain this thing forever, and this is going a long way in helping us reach that goal.

How different is it for you to see the Pats make the Super Bowl as an onlooker?
It’s great. I’ve really enjoyed watching them this season. The first couple of years, I was too busy hitting a lot of things on my list to really focus on the team. I kind of needed to step away from the game and get back to the real world. I definitely did that. I definitely took advantage of a lot of things I had to pass up while I was playing. Bill always had a unique way of telling us it. He said, ‘If there’s a drawer in your house somewhere and everything the outside world throws at you, you deal with that some other day. You put it all in that drawer. Once the season’s over, you can get to all those other things, but until that day, you’ve got a job to do.’ I’ve been going through that drawer for the past couple of years. And then this year, being able to watch what these guys have done at a lot of positions, and a lot of people have stepped up and contributed. It has been great. I’ve got enough guys on the team that I can still live through because I’ve played with them and spent a lot of time with them. It’s been fun to see the differences. Really in this playoff run, having home-field advantage and earning the right to play at home was such a key thing. It was great for me because I got to go to the games, and be there for it. To feel the excitement of the playoffs, especially the AFC Championship Game, it brings up a heck of a lot of good memories.

Speaking of home-field advantage. You do the narration now, for that pregame video, right?
Ha. I’ve never actually heard that live, which is a good thing. Like most people, I tend to want to hurl myself off the nearest cliff when I hear my voice.

Well, maybe you can fill James Earl Jones’ shoes some day. You played in five Super Bowls. Did that experience help by the fifth one?
Well, I think these two weeks leading up to the game are some of the more intense days as a player that you can ever go through. No matter how many times you go through it, you still have the same inputs, the same people. Typically, it’s magnified. It’s a real rat race to get everything figured out. If you’re married, it’s a whole other set of circumstances because you’ve got your wife’s family and your family. And you’ve got to make sure your wife has everything she needs. If you’ve got kids, god forbid you got little criminals running around like I did, you’ve got to make sure they’re all taken care of. It’s an amazing feat to be able to mobilize an NFL football team, let alone all the hangers-on and the family who want to go. So, it never gets any easier each time when it comes to prepping for the trip down, taking all your family and trying to make sure all the arrangements are made. And you’ve got a million or 2 million fans wanting to be there right alongside you, so they’re scrambling to get anything there. It’s definitely a difficult thing to navigate the Super Bowl experience as a player. But I would say the organization—from Bill, the player personnel people, the administrative people in the Patriots organization—is well equipped to handle something like this. They’re as regimented and detail-oriented as any person on Earth. Bill’s been there and done that, and he knows how to keep these guys focused and on track. It’s just not an easy thing to do.

Does any moment stick out more than another from playing in the Super Bowls?
Everything sticks out. They were all so unique and different. I can remember going down to New Orleans and you had all those security concerns with 9/11. And of course, the city of New Orleans being as wild a place as you can be. You had Mardi Gras mixing with 9/11 security concerns, and they’re trying to tell us, ‘There’s places in New Orleans you don’t want to go to.’ You always get these debriefings from the local police and the FBI. It’s really unique, and all those were always pretty wild. Each city and each town is so different. We were fortunate. You go to a place like Houston for the Super Bowl and it’s an hour and a half to get from one place in Houston to the other since it’s such a sprawling area. Contrast that to New Orleans, where you have about 4 billion people in one small, little area. To Jacksonville. To Phoenix. The good thing about this is, they’ve been in Phoenix before for the Super Bowl. They kind of know the lay of the land and they’ve spent time out there. They’ve already been through this, and I think they’re going to be great and taking advantage of everything they can.

Does anything change in the preparation from Bill? Do the players notice anything different in his approach?
Well, I think everyone feels it. We’re creatures of habit. People have talked about that in the past. You never really can fully understand it unless you lived it throughout a season or 11 seasons. Because we take advantage of every single second, and we have a schedule that we keep, and because we’re so programmable as players, when you introduce something as big as the Super Bowl, it changes everything. Everybody’s a little bit on edge and uncertain as to what to expect. That takes the preparation from the coaches, and everybody can sense that something is different. So Bill really has to emphasize what’s most important and try to keep people on track. I think the week is definitely something that’s completely different on many different levels for many different reasons. Overall, Bill’s always trying to take it back to: What is it that’s going to give us an edge. How can I get these guys to focus less on the distractions and more on the game plan? The little tiny things that will make this game seem more approachable. He’s going to be talking this week about halftime. You never talk about halftime. But he’s going to talk about it because halftime is going to be so different than any other game these guys have played that if he doesn’t make note of it, it’s going to seem like things are way off. He’s going to talk about the pregame, and how you shouldn’t get too amped up too early. There’s a ton of time between when you leave the field for warmups and come back on. And even when you’re back on the field, it’s three or four or five times longer from the time they get back on the field to when the actual kickoff is. This will be a real test for how you manage the expectations that the coaches have, the players have, and really educate them on what to expect leading up to this game.

What were the actual tips for halftime and pregame? Was it spent making more adjustments or extra time staying loose?
Typically for halftime, you run into the locker room, and offense and defense each take their side of the locker room. Coaches all convene as quickly as they possibly can. The coordinator will go over some keys. If the head coach wants to say something to one side or the other, he’ll do it. Then the position coach gets to you. All that happens one after the other after the other. Before you know it, very quickly you’re out the door and back playing the second half. In the Super Bowl, it’s a little more laidback. They’re going to get in, take their time. Coaches are going to spend a little more time talking about what they’ve seen, and the guys upstairs and what they’d like to see done. They’re going to have a much more relaxed feel. Everything will slow down, and there’s a lot more time for one-on-one conversation and Bill will have plenty of time to address them. And they’re going to give them a heads-up on what it all looks like. And they’ll know exactly what to expect. 

In your view, do you think this deflated ball controversy will be distraction or motivation? Or neither?
I don’t know. It’s crazy to me. I don’t think it’ll be a motivator by any means. The guys are going to be motivated to go out there and win a championship. They’re not going to be motivated to get people to forget about something as meaningless as the amount of air put in a football. The bottom line is, I think it’s really disrespectful to Indianapolis. To think that their coaches and players place the amount of air in the ball as the reason for their loss is crazy. Those guys lost the game—and they know this, and they don’t need anybody to say it was air in the football. They lost the game because they didn’t execute to the level that the Patriots did. And that’s the end of the story. I think the National Football League does a really good job of feeding into these types of issues. I think the National Football League—and the people who speak on behalf of them—could have very easily said this is an issue that we’ll deal with and look into, end of story. They could have easily handled this better and not fed into the hype. I’m not sure if they don’t realize the sport is as popular as it is. But if they go look around and check ratings, I’m pretty confident in the job they’ve done so far. They don’t need to have this as part of the overall fanfare of the Super Bowl.

Did you have any doubts about the Patriots’ offensive line after those first few games, or did you think they might pull it together?
I had my doubts when they let Logan go, and that’s not to be disrespectful to the guys there. The team rallies around certain things, and when you’ve got a guy who has been there as long as he has been, that’s a tough adjustment for anyone to make. Not just the guys filling his shoes, but for that entire offensive line to function together and have an attitude and an edge. I was actually concerned when they let Logan go, but they’ve got a lot of guys who have experience. Sebastian (Vollmer) and Nate (Solder) are two great tackles. They both did a great job all season long, even with some of the people who said there were games where they struggled. You’re going to have that. I never worried about the one or two plays a game. It’s the whole body of work. If you look at the season as a whole, they had to get some guys some work to fill some gaps. Look at what (Brian) Stork did. Guys like Kline, who has been asked to do everything he can. Ryan Wendell going from center to guard.
It’s not an easy thing to do, and they did it all with a new coach with a drastically different approach to coaching the offensive line than Dante Scarnecchia. If you look at it all—the criticism and the praise—you’ll see you had a group of guys who performed at a high level throughout most of the season. And they got better week to week. I think they’re going into the final game of the year with a lot of confidence. They should. They should be a very confident group. And hopefully they’ll be a little healthier. If they can get a guy like Stork back on the field, it gives you a bit more options when it comes to players. You just never know what’s going to happen in the last game of the season. These guys have been taking a beating all year, and you want to have depth and have experience, so hopefully they’ll have that.

Any game plan that you think the Pats need to execute to get a win?
There’s a million things, and Bill will have his keys to the game offensively and defensively and with special teams. You can get real specific in that. Nobody knows how they’re going to attack them. They’ve got so many different ways in running their offense and defense that they’ll be able to keep Seattle off balance. He’s going to want to throw some wrinkles in there. He’s going to want to start the game a certain way. That game will prove itself out early.
From my perspective, I think that they have to be the aggressor, the team that’s taking it to Seattle. They’ve got to play with a ton of energy. They’ve got to come out and hit them in the mouth. They’ve got to set the tempo of that game early, and they’ve got to be able to sustain it throughout the game to come away with the win. Seattle, I would imagine is going to have the same approach. They live and die with the big plays and that defense hitting you in the mouth. And they get after quarterback, and make those types of plays. New England has to set that tempo early because they can play the same type of game. There’s only a couple of things that Bill really wants out of his team. He wants them to play a physical game and win those battles on the offensive and defensive line. And I think he wants a smart team. So, he’ll want them to be aggressive early and sustain that. That’ll be crucial to winning the championship.

Sound Ideas

Weekend Ideas

An eclectic spread of rock, jazz and country this week. First, Garth Brooks dipped his toes back in the water at Las Vegas, now he’s returned from retirement to hit the road. He’s in Boston for the first time in more than 17 years, rounding out a four-night stand at TD Garden with two shows on both Friday and Saturday and another on Sunday. And Brooks must enjoy the chance to share the bill with his singer-wife Trisha Yearwood. On another front, ArtsEmerson dips into a double night of localized rock at the Paramount’s Jackie Liebergott Black Box Theatre. Rootsy rabble-rousers Tigerman WOAH and the atmospheric Faces on Film take over the intimate downtown stage, followed by psych-folk charmers Quilt and loop-savvy soloist Julia Easterlin on Saturday. All great artists casting uniquely textured spells in a fresh, welcome setting.

On the other hand, jazz artists who are pushing the sonic parameters of their craft dominate this weekend’s landscape. That’s clearly what Bill Frisell does, making his distinctly processed electric guitar swell, sigh and sting across genres. On his cozy new Guitar in the Space Age and tour that includes two Friday shows at Scullers Jazz Club, the Berklee graduate takes a rubbery ride through surf, pop and folk chestnuts of the ’50s and ’60s with empathetic pedal-steel ace Greg Leisz, bassist Tony Scherr and drummer Kenny Wollesen. Even more adventurous in terms of covering classic material, the Bad Plus (pianist Ellen Iverson, bassist Reid Anderson and drummer David King) tackles free-jazz renegade Ornette Coleman’s 1972 landmark Science Fiction on Saturday at the Berklee Performance Center. In that quest, the trio will be augmented by Tim Berne, Ron Miles and Sam Newsome on horns (as pictured above).

Back to rock – and the covering of an entire album, the Tragically Hip revisits its 1992 favorite Fully Completely in the course of the Canadian band’s Saturday show at House of Blues. New Orleans’ iconoclastic roots-rockers the Iguanas blend R&B and Tex-Mex with Cajun and zydeco in an early show at Johnny D’s Uptown the same night. And it’s also a busy week for New Hampshire-bred singer Laurie Sargent. She and drummer Billy Conway recently lost their Montana farm house to fire (there’s a crowdfunding campaign to replace lost items and defray rebuilding costs). She’s spending this weekend at Club Passim, opening for Kris Delmhorst on Friday and Saturday and Caitlin Canty on Sunday before Sargent hits the Lizard Lounge on Thursday to perform Carole King’s Tapestry, another classic album given an unexpected reading.

Sound Ideas

Weekend Ideas

A real grab bag of styles and settings grace this week’s concert options. LA collective the Dustbowl Revival blows into the Brighton Music Hall on Friday with horns, fiddle and accordion in tow, nodding to the early 20th century with its playful blend of folk, jazz and roots originals and covers. From earth to space, an opposite experience might be the late French composer Gerald Grisley’s “Le Noir de L’Etoile,” a contemporary classical piece for six percussionists and electronics that echoes the rhythmic effect of a pulsar. It’ll be presented by local outfit Sound Icon in a free concert at Somerville’s Arts at the Armory, with the musicians surrounding the audience. More spectacular is "The Long Count/The Long Game," an abstract multi-media piece at the ICA featuring vocalist Shara Worden (My Brightest Diamond), guitarists Aaron and Bryce Dessner of the National, and Kelley Deal from the Breeders, inspired by the Mayan book of creation. Also on Friday, bluesman Joe Louis Walker fires up his guitar at the Regattabar, David Lowery does annual double duty with his slyly rocking Cracker (pictured) and Camper Van Beethoven at the Middle East Downstairs, and veteran ska favorites Bim Skala Bim call the gang back to town for a rousing late show at Johnny D’s Uptown.

Saturday brings the wry old-school country crooner and guit-steel ace Junior Brown to Johnny D’s. However, acoustic-string fans might start their day early with “Extraordinary Afternoon of  Guitars,” a 1 p.m. show at Club Passim with fingerstyle virtuoso Shun Ng (who just tackled a one-man version of “Bohemian Rhapsody”), harp guitarist Dan LaVoie and Trevor Gordon Hall, who plays a guitar fitted with a kalimba. Saturday’s big event is skyrocketing pop singer Sam Smith, holding court with fans who want to stay with him at Agganis Arena -- a huge jump from his Sinclair gig last year. Just down the street the same night, the Vaselines, the resurrected Scottish pop group once revered by Kurt Cobain, play the Brighton Music Hall. And the cozy Plough & Stars between Harvard and Central squares presents the reunited Dirt Merchants – back for an encore after rocking one of the better sets in last fall’s wonderful Pipeline! anniversary series – with the Thalia Zedek Band.

Sound Ideas

Festivals Calling

The first wave of summer festival lineups are dropping just as Boston Calling has announced another blockbuster slate for Memorial Day weekend on City Hall Plaza, headlined by the Pixies, Beck and My Morning Jacket.

Early-bird tickets go on sale at noon (promo code BOSTON) for the May 22-24 downtown music festival, also highlighted by the return of Ben Harper & the Innocent Criminals, Jack Black’s comedic rock duo Tenacious D, space-rockers Tame Impala, St. Vincent, TV on the Radio, Marina & the Diamonds and lauded hip-hop duo Run the Jewels. “Riptide” hit-maker Vance Joy, Jason Isbell, Gerard Way, the Lone Bellow and Sharon Van Etten, as well as local bands Krill and the Ballroom Thieves, help round out Boston Calling’s two stages of 23 artists with non-overlapping sets.

The Boston Calling lineup comes right on the heels of details from traditionally mammoth festivals to the South. Tennessee institution Bonnaroo’s massive June 11-14 spread includes Billy Joel, Mumford & Sons, Deadmau5, Kendrick Lamar, Florence + the Machine and Robert Plant. And the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival will overlap weekends between April 24-May 3 with a sprawling lineup that boasts Elton John, the Who, Jimmy Buffett, Ed Sheeran, No Doubt, Jerry Lee Lewis and the Meters within its seven-day schedule.

On a smaller scale, the Newport Jazz Festival has announced its July 31-Aug. 2 lineup for Fort Adams State Park on the Rhode Island waterfront. Its three-stage mix of artists includes Chris Botti, Cassandra Wilson (celebrating Billie Holiday), Jamie Cullum, Dr. John (making up for his health cancellation last year), Snarky Puppy, the Bill Frisell Trio, the Maria Schneider Orchestra, Jon Batiste & Stay Human, Fred Hersch and Ambrose Akinmusire. Ironically, the Newport Folk Festival, which is yet to announce any artists for its widely anticipated July 24-26 event at Fort Adams, just sold out the bulk of its ticket packages within two days, leaving only Friday and Sunday tickets available for that weekend.

Add the June 26-28 return of Wilco's wonderful Solid Sound Festival (also yet to name other artists) at MASS MoCA in North Adams after a year off, and a stacked Mountain Jam just over the New York border on June 4-7 with Plant, the Black Keys, Alabama Shakes, Gov't Mule (including a Dark Side of the Moon set) and Lake Street Dive, and it's shaping up to be another hot summer for outdoor music.

Improper Now

This American Dance: 'Three Acts, Two Dancers, One Radio Host' hits Boston

Checking in with Monica Bill Barnes and Anna Bass pre-show

As the longtime host of "This American Life," Ira Glass has tackled diverse material, from a trip to the country’s biggest party school to a look at life as a Muslim family in post-9/11 America. But he’s taking on a totally new challenge with Three Acts, Two Dancers, One Radio Host, which brings radio stories to the stage through modern dance in a unique collaboration with Monica Bill Barnes & Company. Glass met Barnes when they were cast in a So You Think You Can Dance parody in New York; soon after, Glass invited Barnes & Co. to perform in a film version of "TAL." That experience spawned Three Acts, which mixes mediums on Jan. 24 and 25 at the Citi Shubert Theatre. We talked to dancers Barnes and Anna Bass pre-show. 

What initially drew you to this project?

Anna Bass: I’ve been working with Monica for 12 years now, dancing with her. She was the one that really conceived and directed and sort of had the initial idea about the project and I was just lucky enough to be pulled into it as her dancing partner. But we worked with Ira in May 2012 on "TAL Live," the cinema version of his show. And after that experience of seeing him put that show together we were both so drawn to him as a showman. We had never seen him perform before and he was such an amazing mastermind of that even that we said ‘we’ve got to do something else with him.’

I assume you were both longtime fans of "This American Life"?

Bass: Oh yes, we both were.

Did you have any favorite episodes, coming into this?

Bass:  I love the cars one that he did, the care salesman one. Anything with David Rakoff. I love the fiasco one—have you listened to that one? It tells a story about a production of Peter Pan and everything going terribly wrong. It’s fantastic. There’s one that he did about going to camp, where he interviews kids.

I like the ones he does with kids.

Bass: Me too. He has such a sincere and sweet way of interviewing them. 

So, how do you go about translating radio stories to a stage, through dance?

Monica Bill Barnes: Yeah, like, what the heck? [laughs] Honestly, it was mostly trial and error, trying to find our way into what the show would be.  I feel like the only rule that we all had was that we never wanted the dancing and the talking to be redundant or representative. We always wanted them both to be relevant and to be able to stand on their own. And the hope is that the combination of the two adds meaning to both. Not illustrating each other, but actually running parallel. And I feel that, ultimately, the pieces of the show all have that theme in common. They’re definitely related, there’s no sort of randomness to it, but they’re bringing their own intentions. So, as an audience member, you have the opportunity to make the meaning, it’s not being handed to you on a silver platter. And that’s what ended up making the collaboration work, is that common thread. 

Bass: And every story has a different way of being translated onstage. Some bits are just dancing, some bits are just Ira talking, there are two sections in which actually hear Monica and I talk, on a recording. But the translation is different for every story. Sometimes the dance is overlaid on top of it, sometimes it’s really juxtaposed. And we found that it really made sense for every story to have a different translation. And what works best is when there’s sort of connection where they overlap in an unexpected way. 

How did you choose the stories that ended up in the show?

Bass: It was very collaborative. Ira came into the very first rehearsal with a list—because he remembers every episode he’s ever done—and so he pulled from all those episodes…the way we began was with stories that involved performers. And then the show really developed from there. But Monica had a lot of thoughts on stories too. She’s a longtime fan as well, and knows a lot of episodes by heart, so she brought a lot of stories to the table.

Barnes: You know, it’s interesting—I think the amount of material, over the whole process, would be enough to fill three shows. And I think that there’s something about the actual stories and the dances that are in the shows that sort of rose to the top and ended up feeling relevant in the way that the rest of the material, no matter how fun, or interesting, or hard to dance….I just think that, at the end of the day, it sort of comes back to the idea of they added up to more than just the combination of the two. And we’ve been performing the show for a while, so luckily we’ve had the opportunity,  like a new play would, where there was sort of a preview process. We were able, basically, over a year or so of touring, to shape and understand the show in front of audiences. And that I feel really lucky about. I think we didn’t understand—or I didn’t, I’ll say—things that we thought worked well in the studio and then we’d see them on stage and be like ‘ooh, that doesn’t quite feel as good.’ And I feel like, in a way, that’s common of every process and every show, that there’s a learning curve, once you get it in front of people. 

Were there any stories that you really wanted to get in, that just didn't translate?

Barnes: Oh my God, yes. Totally. That’s so great, nobody has actually ever asked me that question! Yeah, there was this one story that I still feel, in the back of my mind, that I’m trying to figure out how to mash it into the show. It’s this totally, utterly charming story that Ira had about an actor who is just a good, solid working actor. Not famous, but has done film and television and a lot of theater. And he’s actually seeing a show and somebody comes up to him and asks him if he wouldn’t mind taking a picture. And he’s flattered and he’s just feeling like ‘gosh, I’ve really arrived and this is so extraordinary,’ and it turns out, of course, that the people wanted him to take a picture of them. [laughs] Not to be in the picture! And between Ira interviewing him, he’s just such a charming storyteller—and that sentiment, there’s a piece of that sort of feeling of mild but deep humiliation that really runs in everything that I choreograph. And I just kept thinking ‘oh, I’m going to be able to figure out how to make this work.’ And I never did. I choreographed three different versions of it, but no, I just couldn’t smash it in to save my life.

How would you describe the show to someone who had no idea what it was about?

Bass: I would say it’s a 90 minute extravaganza of storytelling that’s sort of pulled out of a suitcase, kind of like a magic trick, that takes you on a ride about what it’s like to be a performer, all the different relationships we have in life and how those affect our lives, and sort of the journey of life. And there are a lot of surprises and unexpected twists and turns. And we hope it’s a fun time—we have a great time doing it!

Since we're on the topic of "This American Life," I have to ask: Did you listen to "Serial?"

Bass: I did. I listened obsessively. 

Barnes: Yes.

So...do you think Adnan did it?

Bass: I don’t think he did it. I think he’s innocent. I believe him. I don’t think Jay did it, I think it was somebody else, and they’re all just covering. I think that Adnan got wrapped up in it, the wrong place at the wrong time. I loved it though.

Bass: You know what’s so interesting? My husband and I were just talking about this, again, because we listened to the last part of it together. Truthfully, I don’t know, but I did feel so utterly sure that whether he did or didn’t do it, if I were on that jury, there was not enough to convict. That, presuming he’s innocent, there was not a case to prove his guilt. And I almost feel like that was one of the really brilliant turns that Sarah took in the whole podcast. Which was to sort of take the attention away from the actual event and to turn it onto an examination of the way we think about guilt and innocence, and sort of a larger examination of our own way of dealing with justice. I’m honestly not sure but I’m sure that he shouldn’t be in jail. 

Think you could ever bring "Serial" to the stage through dance?

Barnes: [laughs] I think that we would really be pushing our luck with that. You gotta know when to stop.  No, no “Serial: The Kickline.” 

Buy tickets and get more information at celebrityseries.org.

Boston Olympics: 24 on 2024

Breaking down everything you need to know about the Hub's bid.

The announcement that Boston was the USOC choice to bid on the 2024 Olympics sent shockwaves through the city yesterday, but it wasn’t all that surprising if you’ve been paying attention to the bid process for the past two years. Here are 24 thoughts, hypotheticals and opinions about it as the city preps for the 2017 IOC decision.

1. NBC last year agreed to pay nearly $8 billion for Olympics rights from 2020 through 2032. The company has a massive amount of sway with the IOC, and you’re nuts if you don’t think there will be pressure to have the Olympics in the U.S., so that NBC can reap two-and-a-half weeks of ratings primetime gold. Sure, the Olympics are a ratings behemoth on tape-delay, but imagine the numbers they’d do for live events on the East Coast. A Boston Olympics will also allow some of the day events to be broadcast live in primetime in Europe. The IOC knows this, which is why any U.S. bid was always going to be the favorite this time around. Just follow the money.

2. Don’t be fooled by all this talk of Boston being an underdog bid. Sure, it’s not exactly on the level of L.A. or Washington D.C. as a city, but there were negatives with all other three cities. Washington always had greater security concerns because of the White House. San Francisco could barely handle the America’s Cup, and Olympic events are held all day. Can you imagine a javelin event being delayed because of fog? That leaves L.A., whose motto was, “We’ve done this before.” So have Paris and Rome, so that’s not exactly a great selling point.

3. The rumors of a combined California bid (S.F. and L.A.) or a Bay Area bid (S.F. and Oakland) came together too late, but if the austere Olympics doesn’t work, perhaps it’s worth revisiting in a couple decades. If the Olympics are just one big TV show, why does it need to be broadcast from the same city?

4. Kudos to No Olympics Boston, which formed the only organized protest to any U.S. bid. It managed to push Boston 2024’s lack of transparency and accountability into the spotlight. Here’s hoping the group manages to continue its fight for the next 30 months or even the next decade, helping to add some accountability and pushback to the Olympic bid process. The Boston 2024 committee isn’t accountable otherwise, and an organized opposition could provide the checks and balance needed along the way.

5. Speaking of Boston 2024, it’s time to clean things up a little bit. Forget a press conference, how about more timely public meetings? Why is there a month between each of them?

6. Not only that, but even if they manage to keep the cost of the Olympics at $5 or $6 billion, it’s still awfully fishy having a developer lead the process. It’s time for John Fish to step down from his position, something I called for in the summer. There was a time when an unknown guy named Corey Dinopoulos was putting the Boston 2024 bid forward, and then Fish took over to rally the business and political leaders behind it. Now it’s time for him to step aside.

7. An intriguing replacement gaining steam in online forums? Red Sox CEO Larry Lucchino, who has shown great vision with Fenway Park and marketing the Sox during the past dozen years. (h/t: SoSH) The pregame ceremonies that Lucchino and righthand man Charles Steinberg have cooked up at Fenway gain their fair share of ridicule, but they’d be right at home at the Olympics. And Lucchino has far less of a connection to developers—although he worked for John Henry, who's married to Linda Pizzuti, whose dad started Pizzuti Development. Oh, and not to mention the Henrys have a big parcel of land on Morrissey Boulevard that might be prime property for some sort of Olympic-related development. But that’s a bit tangential and it’s a lot less of a connection than being an actual developer. We know Lucchino can take a lot of heat in whatever position he’s in, and he can provide results. Plus, can you imagine the smear campaign he might lead against say the women’s volleyball coach if they fail to live up to standards? Make it happen.

8. Media lodging at the universities is really a key to the bid. While the media might balk or snicker over living in “dorms,” have you seen the Student Village at BU? It’s not really dorms. It’s more like luxury apartments. And the toilets all flush and the lights all work. Consider this an upgrade in media accommodations, especially after Socchi. And it would avoid a bunch of hotels being built for the extra population crunch and then being left unused in later years.

9. And making the Olympic Village something that could be turned into UMass Boston dorms not only is smart (the city’s branch of the state university can stand to be far more prominent), but also will provide the state a way to funnel cash to the Olympics effort without going directly to it. They can just send it to UMass Boston. See the tricky accounting here? It’s why we need a good watchdog group around.

10. If the worst occurs and accommodations are tight, Boston can also bring in big cruise ships like Barcelona did in 1992 to lodge thousands of people. This would be tough, however, if the harbor was being used for events. But taking advantage of the fantastic Harborwalk with more docks and a far more convenient (more times and more stops) public water transportation system could have a positive effect on the city. With climate change commissions already pushing for changes and better barriers for the Harborwalk to fight rising sea levels, you have a non-Olympic impetus to get this done right.

11. Since the Boston Marathon route doesn’t qualify as an Olympic course, perhaps the route along the Emerald Necklace, which is used for the half-marathon, could be worked into a full marathon course. It’d be a great way to revitalize Frederick Law Olmsted’s grand vision, which has fallen into disrepair in some locations. It’s a necklace: it should be a shining part of the city.

12. While current plans don’t call for a new basketball arena, by 2024 the TD Garden will be nearly 30 years old. The Celtics were clamoring for a basketball-only stadium last decade, and—while the renovations to TD Garden are nice—this would be a way for them to get their wish. And holding the women’s basketball events at the very small Conte Forum, while the men’s hoops are at TD Garden seems a little odd in the Title IX world. Holding men’s hoops at a new Celtics arena and women’s hoops at TD Garden feels a bit more equitable.

13. And while the rumored Revs stadium in Boston is not tied to the bid, it would certainly benefit from the bid. The Olympic stadium would be right next to it, thereby guaranteeing improved infrastructure near the site (including more work on the I-93 underpass project).

14. Building a temporary Olympic stadium is a good way to force the IOC to pay for it, considering the IOC pays for all temporary structures. But then, what do you do with the land after the stadium is razed? Well, if the Krafts have a soccer stadium next door, and there’s an empty parcel of land next door, could they build a football stadium next door by 2030? Think Patriots Place North. Sure, Gillette seems state-of-the-art now, but so did all those Astro-Turf cookie-cutter stadiums that were built in the 60s. They were gone fewer than 40 years later. It’s not that Gillette will age like that, but it wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility to be thinking of a new stadium a decade from now.

15. Also, there are plenty of sites—Suffolk Downs, anyone? Castle Island, maybe cap the Mass. Pike between the South End and Chinatown—that could certainly handle an event or two that are not involved in the bid. Hopefully that changes.

16. It’s a shame that a decision is not made until 2017. With all that needs to get decided, built, etc., it’s hard to accomplish all that in 7 years. While, there’s a lot still to be hashed out about Boston’s bid (thanks again for no public meetings yet!), learning if Boston were the host in 2016 would make things a little easier. The IOC is almost asking for construction struggles and cost overruns because of the way the process is currently set up.

17. The reasons for opposition to Boston are all quite strong and valid, but there’s a few that are a bit bothersome. The first is traffic. It’s 10 years away, so this assumes we’re all still using regular cars and haven’t switched over to driverless cars, which are expected to cut way down on traffic jams. But let’s say we are. The events don’t all occur at 7 pm. Many events would be during the day, and the traffic crunch would be spread out over time. Of course, the streets in Fort Point can’t even handle traffic from the governor’s inauguration ball at the BCEC, so who knows. But the traffic crush is a bit overblown during a time of the year when the city is without 250,000 students.

18. That lack of a student presence in the summer is why Boston is likely a better bet for the Summer Olympics than if they had made a bid in conjunction with New Hampshire for the 2026 Winter Olympics. Although the Winter Olympics are a far smaller event, the city simply wouldn’t have enough room to hold media, athletes, spectators AND college students.

19. The second irksome argument is the provincial view that the city can’t handle the development or the actual event, or that it would change the city’s footprint too much. The city’s footprint needs to change anyways because the demand for housing is going through the roof. There’s a shovel in the ground on more than 10,000 housing units across the city right now, and nobody’s blinked an eye over that construction. We can handle a little construction, and change is coming no matter what. They’re not tearing down historic structures to put up an aquatics center. They’re building over/around rail yards and tearing down eyesores.

20. Now, should we be spending $6 billion on middle- and low-income housing instead of the Olympics? Sure, but developers aren’t lining up to build those, and the city’s OK with raking in higher property taxes from the luxury units instead of middle-income units.

21. One part of the Boston bid that’s popped up in the past 24 hours is the use of Boston Strong, which feels a bit misguided. It’s odd to tie the bid to a terror attack on the city or even to tie it to the city’s spirit shown after the attack. While the city should continue to remember and support all the victims of the attack, holding an Olympics here won’t help those victims directly—and linking the Olympics to resiliency after an attack will only serve to make the Olympics more of a target if they are held here. We can be Boston Strong without touting it. In fact, that might make us stronger.

22. The effect of a bid on tourism is also a valid negative, as London reportedly saw a dip in tourists leading up to the 2012 Olympics. The summer is usually boom time for tourists, so that’s a strong negative against any Boston bid.

23. Comparisons to the Big Dig are almost why holding the Olympics here would be a good idea. Shouldn’t the city want to show that it can get things done efficiently? And put to rest the tired Big Dig punchline? Yes, it was over budget and a massive headache that also had construction flaws. But connecting the Seaport, Fort Point and North End to the rest of the city has been a positive. Just not a $22 billion positive.

24. But with billions up for grabs in any Olympic bid, it’s hard to trust non-elected officials to divvy it up in a fair manner. The mistrust comes from citizens’ experiences, not just their cynical views. There are no mechanisms for the public to hold the Boston 2024 committee accountable. That’s a recipe for trouble. If done precisely the correct way, the 2024 Olympics could work—but what are the odds of that? It’s something we’ll all be grappling with for the next 30 months at least.

Sound Ideas

Weekend Ideas

On a weekend that’s dominated by football playoffs, a Red Sox-aligned concert stands out. But there’s other musical action in store as well. Guitarist Johnny A, who was just inducted to the Boston Music Awards’ Hall of Fame, flashes his chops at Johnny D’s on Friday. The same night brings resurgent jam-tronica outfit Particle to the Sinclair with guest drummer Allen Aucoin of the Disco Biscuits. And Kansas-based YouTube star Kawehi brings her looped mashup skills to the Brighton Music Hall on Friday in advance of a Kickstarter-funded new EP in March. Hopefully Kawehi can build her reputation beyond covers like this viral Nirvana reinvention.

Punk-Americana outfit the Devil Makes Three charms House of Blues on Saturday, although Hot Stove Cool Music offers the main event at the Paradise Rock Club. That annual benefit arranged by ex-Sox GM Theo Epstein and his brother Paul for their Foundation to Be Named Later charity usually provides a chummy blowout with sportswriter Peter Gammons and Hub-launched rock notables Kay Hanley, Bill Janovitz and Tanya Donelly. This year, they’ve sweetened the party with the Juliana Hatfield Three’s first show in nearly 20 years, reunited garage-pop favorites the Cavedogs, the Hold Steady’s effusive frontman Craig Finn, and legendary producer and Somerville resident Al Kooper, best known for his signature organ lick in Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone.” The scorecard’s filled out with the likes of Eli “Paperboy” Reed, Will Dailey, the Gravel Pit, Jen Trynin and the Figgs’ Mike Gent, making it a night worth extra innings. And it’ll kick into gear after the Patriots game. Likewise, after Sunday’s football matchups, DC rapper Wale drops his populist rhymes at the Paradise to wrap up the weekend.

Sound Ideas

NYE/Weekend Ideas

Perhaps it’s no surprise that New Year’s Eve is hopping with more music than the upcoming weekend. First Night presents Hoboken indie-rock heroes Yo La Tengo, celebrating their 30th year at the Hynes Convention Center, Ballroom B (with $10 First Night buttons, though $35 reserved seating improves chances of securing a spot), preceded on that stage by seasoned alt-rocker Thalia Zedek’s band. Meanwhile, Carolina Chocolate Drops’ Dom Flemons takes his folk-rooted solo act to the Berklee Performance Center, followed by the great songstress Patty Larkin. And Emmanuel Church on Newbury Street hosts notable Vermont singer/songwriter Anais Mitchell, preceded by Wax & Gold, the dynamic duo of saxophonist Danny Mekonnen and drummer Adam Clark, breaking down the Ethiopian pop of their group Debo Band with other originals and improvisations. For a full-scale lineup and info, here’s the 2015 First Night site.

The clubs are just as busy on Wednesday, primarily with locals-done-good in 2014, beginning with fierce new jack funk-rockers Bad Rabbits (with Moe Pope's hot new hip-hop group STL GLD as an opener) at the Paradise Rock Club and jazz-pop dynamos Lake Street Dive at the Sinclair, capping their three-night stand with a prom theme. The Brighton Music Hall presents reunited DC rockers the Dismemberment Plan on a perfect occasion to bust out “The Ice of Boston,” a crowd favorite that references New Year’s Eve in the Hub. Veteran troubadour Ellis Paul follows an afternoon First Night set at the Hynes with two shows at Club Passim as part of his traditional year-end stand. Vapors of Morphine, which teams Morphine saxman Dana Colley and drummer Jerome Deupree with guitarist Jeremy Lyons, closes out the year at its favored haunt cozy Atwood’s Tavern before launching a Saturday residency in 2015. Likewise, Bull McCabe's spiritual regulars Dub Apocalypse raise the reggae roof at that intimate Union Square outpost. And just south of town in Milton, the warehouse-fashioned restaurant Steel & Rye offers an inclusive NYE bash with spirited local punk-Americana outfit Tigerman WOAH, whose exciting year included a set at Boston Calling.

Finally, note two highlights for this upcoming weekend. Rocking organ trio Soulive (who recently sat in with the Tedeschi Trucks Band at House of Blues) keep it grooving at the Paradise on Friday -- with Dub Apocalypse as opener. And the Sub Rosa Songwriter’s Retreat invades Club Passim on Sunday to open a two-night stand with an all-star collective that features Jocie Adams, David Champagne, Rose Polenzani, Sean Staples and Miss Tess amid the sprawling cast.

Sound Ideas

Weekend Ideas

Christmas barely fades in the rear-view mirror before the Mighty Mighty Bosstones kick into their traditional Hometown Throwdown with three nights at House of Blues this weekend. It could be the ska-punk heroes’ last local shows before opening for Foo Fighters at Fenway Park next summer, and Dicky Barrett and the Bosstones especially sweeten the pot on Friday with Fishbone and Sunday with Andrew W.K. as part of their supporting casts.

Friday also sports seasoned local folk-rocker Melissa Ferrick at Club Passim. And the Lizard Lounge keeps busy with eclectic jazz/groove collective Club D’elf on Friday (with a lineup that includes guitarist Randy Roos and keyboardist Alain Mallet) and soul-rocker Christian McNeill & Sea Monsters on Saturday with notable Martha’s Vineyard cohort Willy Mason as an opener.

Sunday rounds out with a pair of troubadours of different ages and audience. The venerable Tom Rush resurrects memories of his old Club 47 days with his annual Symphony Hall show, this year featuring vocal trio Red Molly and sax hotshot Grace Kelly among his guests. And Northampton favorite Stephen Kellogg brings his folk-pop craft to Somerville’s Arts at the Armory, juggling the song list on his Every Night’s A Little Different Tour.

Improper Now

What's in a name?

Seth Cohen is a man on a mission.

Seth Cohen is on a mission to meet every other Seth Cohen in the world. No, not that Seth Cohen, though yes, he gets that a lot. “A couple times a month, I’m asked, ‘Have you ever heard of that show The OC?’ Well, of course I have,” Cohen says. “I can’t escape it!” But a new Seth Cohen might come to the top of your Google search results, thanks to the Seth Cohen Project, which has the Bedford-bred Cohen traversing the country and soon, he says, the globe. Cohen started the project a couple of months ago, on a bit of a whim. “I was at a place in my life where I wasn’t sure ‘what’s next,’ and I had always wanted to go on some great adventure—chasing windmills or hunting unicorns,” he says. “So this search for my namesakes seemed as good as an excuse as any to venture out into the world, find some adventure and perhaps find myself in the process.” And he’s already had adventures aplenty. From a competitive bridge player to a high school dropout turned body builder turned WWF wrestler turned law school grad, all the Seth Cohens he’s met have led incredibly interesting, rich lives, Cohen says. And one of the best parts? “They have also, without my prompting, started to reach out to each other and connect,” he says. “Cool!” We caught up with Cohen in between stops on his journey to talk about his project. 

How have you been finding all these Seth Cohens?
By all means necessary. I started on LinkedIn, because people use their real name on LinkedIn. The issue is that you can't communicate with people until they have 'connected' with you, so I can't tell the Seth Cohens why it is I am trying to connect. The same issue exists with Facebook, and Facebook is also littered with fake profiles for the fictional Seth Cohen (Adam Brody) as well as people who for whatever reason (particularly internationally) use "Seth Cohen" as their screen name, almost 10 years after The OC. So Facebook is only so-much help. I then started just calling people up from the online Whitepages and/or Pipl.com, but literally 90 percent of those numbers are out of date or just plain wrong. I have also used Google, but for the most part you just get page after page of 'Why Seth Cohen is the perfect boyfriend' and 'Seth Cohen is my spirit animal' — all referring to the fictional Seth Cohen. But if you use qualifiers like "Dr Seth Cohen" or "Seth Cohen, Body Builder' you can eventually uncover some that way. Now that the project is getting out there a bit, they have started finding me, which is the best way!

Have you been surprised by the number of Seth Cohens willing to meet with you?
No. I'd be more surprised if they weren't willing to meet. 

Have any Seth Cohens declined your request to meet?
Two. One was quite rude about it. He said "Well that's your project, I don't see why I should get involved.” I explained to him that the Seth Cohens I have met have all found it to be a fun and even enlightening experience, but he didn't care. He was a cranky old guy. The other was really nice about it, but seemed to have some serious identity issues wrapped up in his name.

Who has been the most interesting — or surprising — Seth Cohen you’ve met thus far?
Each and every one has been amazing in their own way. There was one who grew up as a severe stutterer, but has gone on to overcome it and become the best type of overachiever. He is a successful businessman, his own boss, loving family man and has visited 77 countries! I myself grew up with severe dyslexia, and so we bonded over facing extreme adversity early in life and how it shapes you going forward. 

Then there was one who appeared to be a mild mannered, conservative Manhattan tax attorney. He sat down and said "I don't think I have the typical Seth Cohen story to tell.” Turns out that he was a high school drop-out turned electronic salesman turned body builder turned WWF wrestler (Yes! Seth Cohen was body-slammed by The Hulkster!) turned strip club bouncer turned bar owner and then finally a later in life GED recipient, college grad and then, finally, law school grad. He was also the happiest most content guy you will ever meet. He has lived five lifetimes already and is now a happy family man and successful tax attorney. He told me it's not so scary sitting across the table from a bunch of power-lawyers once you have been body slammed by Hulk Hogan. Never judge a Seth Cohen by his cover.

And there was one who is a competitive bridge player. I went to the National Bridge Tournament and I can tell you one thing for sure — the world of competitive bridge is not what you think it is. Not at all.

Those were the most interesting/surprising - but I can't stress enough - each and every Seth Cohen meeting has been a fascinating experience and I have learned so much, and had so much fun, from and with each.

Where is the farthest you’ve traveled, so far, to meet a Seth?
I've only been meeting them for about a month. So, not far...yet. They have all been in the North East (New York, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Massachusetts). But I have been talking to ones from the Dominican Republic to New Zealand and beyond, and am gearing up to visit each and every one of them. 

Have you met any Seth Cohens that you think you’ll keep in touch with?
All of them. Almost every single one has asked me to get in touch next time I was in their town — a few have even offered me a place to crash next time I am in town. 

What do the other Seths think of the project?
They all think it's really cool. It's not every day that you get to sit down with a perfect stranger and have a chat. They all seem to understand that it's not so much about meeting my namesakes as it is about connecting with people I would never otherwise connect with, visiting places I would never otherwise visit and experiencing things I would never otherwise experience. And to a lesser degree, the same is true for them. It's a new experience for them — obviously — and life is all about new experiences! 

Ultimately, what are you hoping to get out of all this?
The meaning of life. And to inspire others to follow their dreams.

Last question: Did you watch The OC?
Yep. ... When Facebook first became popular I reconnected with many old friends who promptly told me “I’ve been looking for you for years, but all I could find is some kid named Adam who was on some show called The OC. Damn you Adam Brody. Damn you.




Rajon Rondo's Connect Four

Revisiting the Events That Led to the Celtics Trading Their All-Star Point Guard.

Rajon Rondo’s career with the Boston Celtics lasted 3,096 days (that’s 74, 304 hours or 4,458,240 minutes or 267,494,400 seconds, if Rajon is counting at home). Acquired in a draft day deal for straight cash, he made four All-Star teams, won an NBA title, racked up triple-doubles galore and added even gaudier stats on national TV and in playoff games. His pass-happy mindset energized the fans, and evoked memories of past Celtics playmakers such as JoJo White and Bob Cousy. But, with free agency looming, his time was clearly at the end in Boston. It’s not because he broke his hand in the shower during the preseason. It’s not because he got benched this month at the end of a game against Washington. It’s not even because he’s shooting only 33 percent at the free-throw line, which has lead to him shooting less in the lane, a malady that can be career-ender (just ask Andris Biedrins). It’s because of a series of events during the past two years, which—if any of them went the other way—might have led to Rondo still being a Celtic today. In honor of Rajon, let’s play Connect Four, and connect these four events to Rondo’s departure.

Jan. 25, 2013: Rondo tears his ACL – Not only did he tear his ACL, but he played in the final 12 minutes of the game after the injury. His toughness was never questioned, and when his injury was diagnosed two days later, that was the true end of the latest Celtics era. Before the injury, there was a chance—based upon the Celtics’ moves in the preceding offseason—they could rebuild on the fly. They brought back Brandon Bass and Jeff Green, signed Courtney Lee and had Avery Bradley and rookie Jared Sullinger around the core of Rondo, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. Although the team had struggled until Rondo’s injury, there was hope. But Sullinger got hurt soon after Rondo, and the Celtics bowed out in the first round of the playoffs. By the time Rondo returned from injury in mid-January of 2014, Lee, Pierce, Garnett and coach Doc Rivers had all been traded, and the chance to rebuild on the fly was gone.

May 21, 2014: Celtics get the sixth pick in NBA Lottery – If the Celtics had gotten the No. 1 pick, perhaps they would have traded Rondo anyways and gone with a long-term rebuild around one of the franchise players available in the draft. If they had gotten a Top 3 pick, perhaps it would’ve been enough to lure the Timberwolves into trading Kevin Love to Boston. But the sixth pick in the draft simply didn’t have enough value for the Celtics to make a godfather offer to Minnesota, a move that would have paired Rondo and Love together in Boston. Most Celtics’ fans have the teams lack of lottery luck in the back of their minds as Boston enters a looong rebuild.

June 26, 2014: Celtics select PG Marcus Smart – The Celtics picked sixth and snagged the best player available. That happened to be a point guard. If the injured Joel Embiid doesn’t go third overall, does he fall to the Celtics at No. 6? If the Celtics pick a center, could Rondo have coexisted with him? For all the talk of Smart playing as a shooting guard, or the Celtics playing two point guards together, sometimes the easiest solution is the most obvious one, and from draft day on, most people figured Rondo would be traded to allow Smart to play his natural position.

July 11, 2014: LeBron James returns to Cleveland – LeBron’s decision had ripple effects that were set in motion the day he signed. In his letter announcing his return to the Cavaliers, he never mentioned Anthony Bennett or Andrew Wiggins, the two key pieces to a future trade for Kevin Love. It became obvious that Love would be traded to Cleveland, thus finally closing the door on any Rondo-Love speculation in Boston. And with Love off the board, there were no other available superstars for Boston to acquire. Just one to trade away.

Sound Ideas

Weekend Ideas

The holidays are here -- and this weekend’s shows follow in that spirit. To begin, Matisyahu celebrates Hanukkah with his annual Festival of Light tour at House of Blues on Friday. A few years since the once-Orthodox reggae rapper shaved his beard, Matisyahu has broadened his sound into slicker rock directions on his latest album, Akeda, and he promises a duet with opener Judith Hill. She’s a powerhouse best known as a past contestant (who should have won) on “The Voice” and backup singer featured in the documentary “20 Feet From Stardom,” with her debut album due next year. Speaking of mainstream, Chris Issak channels his smooth baritone for a Christmas show at the Wilbur Theatre the same night. And over at the Sinclair, Boston’s latest synth-pop export Magic Man returns home to host an all-ages “holiday party” with friends Gentlemen Hall and the Novel Ideas. Here’s a jump to my recent interview with co-founder Sam Lee and here’s a clip of Magic Man live. And Northampton's noisy indie-rockers Speedy Ortiz round out their three-week Friday residency at Great Scott.

If the holidays are a time for giving, there’s also a great cause at House of Blues on Saturday with Chadwick Stokes’ seventh annual benefit for Calling All Crows, an organization that unites musicians and fans in activist partnerships. In addition to the Dispatch/State Radio frontman, the night sports a full set from Brooklyn’s stellar art-pop group Lucius (featured on one song of Stokes’ broad upcoming solo album The Horse Comanche, which sounds mighty fine on advance listening) and an early slot for loop-savvy vocalist Julia Easterlin. Stokes will also perform at a pre-show reception for VIP ticket buyers, part of a weekend of Calling All Crows events. The same night brings the melodious husband/wife team of Johnnyswim to the Sinclair for a Christmas show. And over at the Brighton Music Hall on Saturday, Brazilian-born vocalist Bebel Gilberto returns in support of Tudo, her first studio album in five years, serving a more relaxed, less electronic extension of her bosa-nova roots.

Saturday and Sunday present another Christmastime tradition with multiple Club Passim shows by acclaimed Stoughton singer/songwriter Lori McKenna, who plays with her band the first night and solo the second night. In addition to penning hits for artists from Faith Hill to Hunter Hayes, McKenna sketches deft character studies on Numbered Doors, which Rolling Stone magazine listed within the Top 20 of the year’s best country albums.

Sound Ideas

Boston Music Award Winners

Will Dailey

Will Dailey, National Throat

Lake Street Dive, “Bad Self Portraits”

When Particles Collide

Bad Rabbits

Hallelujah the Hills

Dutch ReBelle

Bad Rabbits

Cask Mouse

Gracie Curran and the High Falutin’

DJ Frank White

St. Nothing

Dan Blakeslee

Los Rumberos de Boston

Lake Street Dive


The Hotelier 

Lori McKenna

Ruby Rose Fox

Jesse Dee

Ed Valauskas

Hallelujah the Hills, “I Stand Corrected”


“Heroes” at T.T. the Bear’s Place 

The Sinclair

Louie Bello at Abby Lane

Allston Pudding

Randi Millman

Johnny A

Sound Ideas

Weekend Ideas

Holiday preparations include some cool live music this weekend. Boston’s the last stop in a banner year of touring for the Tedeschi Trucks Band, a year in which slide guitar ace Derek Trucks put the Allman Brothers Band in his rearview mirror. Especially given singer/guitarist Susan Tedeschi’s local roots, the married couple’s 11-piece soul/roots group promises a hearty celebration on Friday and Saturday at House of Blues. Tickets are scarce, the Friday show will be webcast, and both nights promise special guest openers not to be revealed until show time. Also expect mid-set “unplugged” segments along the lines of this TTB take on a Rolling Stones tune.

Meanwhile, across town in Arlington on Friday, the Regent Theatre hosts its Rock ‘N’ Soul Holiday Concert. That annual local extravaganza features the bluesy James Montgomery Band, soul shouter Barrence Whitfield, rock vets the Fools and Charlie Farren, Cars keyboardist/ukulele songman Greg Hawkes, surf-rockers Tsunami of Sound and Gary Hoey, and dream-pop newcomers All Eyes on Me.

On Saturday, World Music/CRASHarts presents the edgy, eclectic jazz of the Brad Mehldau Trio at the Berklee Performance Center. The pianist will be performing with his empathetic, long-term trio of bassist Larry Genadier and drummer Jeff Ballad, bending originals and standards known to include tunes by Radiohead or this one by Sufjan Stevens. Indie-rockers Cymbals Eat Guitars also pull into the Brighton Music Hall the same night behind their new album LOSE, where the group delves into nostalgic echoes of their New Jersey upbringing.

Even if you didn’t catch Lisa Fischer’s prominent role in “20 Feet from Stardom,” the Oscar-winning documentary about popular backup vocalists, you’ve possibly seen Fischer perform with the Rolling Stones or Nine Inch Nails. Now the versatile singer’s hitting Scullers Jazz Club under her own name, as Fischer fronts Grand Baton for Saturday and Sunday shows that mix rock, jazz and R&B.

Sunday’s also the night for star-studded casts. On the mainstream national pop stage, there’s the KISS 108 Jingle Ball at the TD Garden with Iggy Azalea (and her "Fancy" friend Charli XCX), 5 Seconds of Summer, Calvin Harris, Jessie J, Lil Jon and the locally launched Meghan Trainor and Keisza.  And downtown at the Revere Hotel, stars of the local scene represent at the 2014 Boston Music Awards, which includes performances from Will Dailey, Dutch ReBelle (August's Improper music issue covergal), Johnny A, Tigerman WOAH, Jenny Dee & the Deelinquents, Goddamn Draculas, STL GLD, Dan Blakeslee , Creaturos and Sidewalk Driver.

Sound Ideas

Rock For Safety

Wednesday’s Keep Safe Boston benefit for Planned Parenthood at the Brighton Music Hall presents strong, diverse local bands that include Parlour Bells (one of my 10 picks in the Improper’s annual summer Music Issue), Corin Ashley, the Color and Sound, and the Rationales.

But that lineup scratches the surface of companion digital album Keep Safe Boston, a compilation of songs from 50 artists that represent the cream of the hometown rock scene. The above bands are joined by the likes of Petty Morals, Hallelujah the Hills, White Dynomite, Eddie Japan, OldJack, Muy Cansado and the John Powhida International Airport. And if that sounds like a prime slice out of recent Rock ‘n’ Roll Rumble history, consider that the driving force behind Keep Safe Boston is Rumble organizer and WZLX DJ Anngelle Wood.

In turn, the album serves as a great warmup for this Sunday's annual Boston Music Awards at the downtown Revere Hotel, where Powhida's Airport, Hallelujah the Hills and Ruby Rose Fox will even perform.

Women, in particular, represent on the compilation with Fox's boldly stylish "Die Pretty," Apple Betty's bracing "Skin of My Teeth," When Particles Collide's crunchy "Constant Disaster," Jennifer Tefft's spooky "Breathe" and Kingdom of Love's swoony electro-pop cut "Two Souls." But highlights also span the head-swirling emo uplift of the Color and Sound's "Back to Me," the thoughtful honky-tonk of Nate Leavitt, the dashing levity of Ad Frank's "French Translation" and the proggy rush of Protean Collective's "Caldera."

Keep Safe Boston -- initially launched as a way to honor the women lost 20 years ago in Brookline clinic shootings -- promises future digital releases for various local causes. Meanwhile, click here to scroll and listen to some of these great songs and pay-what-you-can to download the whole album on Bandcamp, with proceeds going to Planned Parenthood.

Off the Wall

The titans of 20th-century art didn’t confine their work to canvas. That’s clear from the fashions and furnishings featured in Artist Textiles: Picasso to Warhol, a newly opened exhibit at Lowell’s American Textile History Museum. On loan from the Fashion and Textile Museum in London, it gathers 200 rarely seen pieces—skirts and scarves, rugs and bed sheets, ties and tablecloths—that brought modern art to the masses. Here’s a sample: See if you can match the master to his textile design. 

A. Andy Warhol    B. Pablo Picasso    C. Henri Matisse   D. Salvador Dalí

1.   2.  

3. 4. 

Artist Textiles: Picasso to Warhol is on view through March 29 at the American Textile History Museum, 491 Dutton St., Lowell (978-441-0400) athm.org

Scroll down for answers...




















1: D  2: B   3: C   4: A  


Chung's Jamz

The Patriots safety picks his top karaoke songs.

Patrick Chung’s been following in the footsteps of a few legendary Patriots defenders during his two stints in New England. Now, he’s going to be following in the footsteps of Larry Izzo (Larryoke) and Zoltan Mesko (Zolioke) as he hosts Open Mic Holiday Party, a celebrity karaoke fundraiser on Mon., Dec. 15 at 7 pm at Showcase Live in Patriot Place. The Patriots safety, who funded a six-week summer music program for teens through his Chung Changing Lives charity, has an affinity for music. His mother, Sophia George-Chung, was a Jamaican reggae star in the mid-80s. A raffle, auction, photo booth, DJ and desserts will all be part of the karaoke event, which will begin with a performance by Chung and Boston Children’s Hospital patients. Tickets are $50 and can be purchased at chungchanginglives.org. Chung shared with The Improper his top karaoke songs, and his reasons for picking them. Enjoy his list on Spotify, above!

1. “As She’s Walking Away,” by Zac Brown Band
Patrick Chung: Lyrically, I love this song.

2. “Live Your Life,” by TI (featuring Rihanna)
PC: You only live one life, so you have to live it to the fullest. It’s a great song for the crowd to sing, and it’s a great duet song.
3. “You Remind Me,” by Usher
PC: This is an oldie but goodie. It’s a song you might struggle to hit all the notes with, but it’s a perfect song that the crowd will know.

4. “Bump 'n Grind,” by R Kelly
PC: This is pretty much a song you can serenade the crowd with, attempting to hit each high note correctly, while you give 100 percent effort. Its an oldie, but it’s a song the crowd will remember and enjoy.

5. “Rude,” by Magic!
PC: This is another song that will get the crowd singing along, and I love how it has a little reggae fusion to it.

6. “We Dem Boyz,” by Wiz Khalifa
PC: This song gives everyone energy, and it’s a great song selection to do with all my teammates. Of course, crowd participation means everything for this one.

7. “Latch,” by Disclosure
PC: I love the sound and beat of this one. This is definitely a Top 40 hit that everyone knows.

8. “Jingle Bell Rock,” by Bobby Helms
PC: Since our event is holiday themed, I wanted to put my favorite holiday song on the karaoke list. “Jingle Bell Rock?” Why not.

9. “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”
PC: Another holiday classic.

Sound Ideas

Summer Tickets Onsale for Foos, U2 and Wilco's Solid Sound

Got next summer’s rock plans nailed down yet? The Mighty Mighty Bosstones and the Dropkick Murphys respectively add more hometown power to the Foo Fighters’ July 18 and 19 Fenway Park shows that go on sale today at 10 a.m. through this link. That’s on top of Boston art-punk legends Mission of Burma on the first night (a cool but curious choice, though Dave Grohl was way into underground punk back in the day), while night two has the British duo Royal Blood joining the Dropkicks.

Also, U2’s July 10 and 11 shows at TD Garden (a thankful step down from Gillette Stadium) go on sale Monday at 10 a.m. here. The Irish mega-rockers coincidently announced their 2015 tour on the heels of Rolling Stone bizarrely naming U2’s free iTunes-launched Songs of Innocence the No. 1 album of 2014. The so-called iNNOCENCE + eXPERIENCE tour promises two different nights – and presumably a healthy Bono, who’s recovering from surgeries after a serious bicycle tumble in Central Park.

And on the festival front, a limited number of early-bird tickets are also available today at 10 a.m. for the return of Solid Sound at MASS MoCA in North Adams. The June 26-28 festival will again include headliner Wilco and its side projects, a comedy cabaret hosted by John Hodgman and a cast of other bands soon to be announced. Past participants (who have also collaborated with Wilco at the unique multi-stage event) include Neko Case, Lucius, Yo La Tengo and the late Levon Helm. The link for tickets and info is here.

Sound Ideas

Weekend Ideas

Best known as the red-haired captain of Vermont jam-kings Phish, guitarist/singer Trey Anastasio also regularly sets sail with his own band, a groove machine that’s expanded from a trio to group with horn section over the past 15 years. The Trey Anastasio Band opens a two-night stand at the Orpheum Theatre on Friday with a repertoire of shared Phish tunes as well as its own covers and originals, including a taste of upcoming album Paper Wheels and TAB standards like this. In a similar vein for an after-show, the funky Berklee-spawned, Brooklyn based ensemble Turkuaz lets loose at the Middle East Downstairs. Trombone Shorty also wraps up a two-night visit to House of Blues with his funky, high-powered New Orleans rock fusion. And over at Great Scott, Northampton’s noisy indie-rock upstarts Speedy Ortiz open a residency of three consecutive Friday nights.

Saturday brings charismatic, crowd-pleasing English rockers the 1975 to House of Blues with a sleek, dark but dance-y mashup that more closely echoes the decade after the band’s name. North Shore soul-rockers the Ross Livermore Band, on a recent tear to release a video a month like this one, plays Great Scott the same night. And the short-lived if somewhat legendary ’70s Cleveland art-punk combo X_X (pronounced Ex-Blank-Ex), which was recently profiled in the Sunday New York Times, has regrouped behind founder John Morton for a limited tour that slips into the Midway Café in Jamaica Plain on Saturday. Morton, formerly of proto-punks the Electric Eels, tends to balance the weird and the abrasive, at times manipulating a theremin as well as throttling a guitar.

Sunday brings the certainly legendary Cat Stevens (now named Yusef Islam) to the Citi Wang Center to Boston for the first time since the ’70s troubadour known for songs like “Wild World,” “Peace Train” and “Father & Son” converted to Islam and left the secular music business. On his short American tour, with paperless tickets to cut down on scalpers, Islam/Stevens has been performing his hits (which also include this one) as well as a chunk of his bluesy new album Tell ’Em I’m Gone. The same night, fans of both jazz and jam-bands can celebrate the reunion of Medeski Scofield Martin & Wood at House of Blues. It’s a chance for guitarist John Scofield to mesh fun, gnarly grooves with MMW, a group that has its own avant-jazz roots at New England Conservatory. Here’s MSMW performing a track from its new album Juice, a more accessible effort from the all-star improvisers.

Sound Ideas

Live Review: Bob Seger and J. Geils Band Rock TD Garden

“Say I’m old-fashioned, say I’m over the hill,” Bob Seger sang at the TD Garden on Saturday. “Today’s music ain’t got the same soul. I like that old time rock and roll.”

The soldout crowd agreed, at least with the part about the music. Seger’s Silver Bullet Band and Saturday’s opener the J. Geils Band ruled their respective home strongholds of Detroit and Boston (and vice versa) in the late ’70s and early ’80s, animating earthy blues-based rock that appealed to a working-class ethos. So it made perfect sense for both to return to the (new) Garden on the same bill.

Of course much has changed over the past 30 years. Seger’s closer to the supposed relic he sang about in 1979’s “Old Time Rock and Roll.” Now 69, a step ahead of Geils Band elders in age, the grey-haired Seger appears happy to live at his own pace. He surfaces every few years to tour behind a new album (though there's word this may be his last ride), his Silver Bullet Band down to sax foil Alto Reed and bassist Chris Campbell as original members. And the Geils Band’s national profile has slid up and down under a part-time rebirth without new music, though frontman Peter Wolf maintains a fine solo career. An acrimonious split with namesake guitarist Jay Geils didn’t help, even if local axe heroes Duke Levine and Kevin Barry join drummer Tom Arey in punching the right notes.

So this was Seger’s tour, with the Geils Band merely in support. The hometown icons did their best, packing 10 tunes into their 45 minutes. If not the dervish of old, the dancing Wolf flashed showmanship and finesse as he worked the larger stage in a sparkly jacket, while Magic Dick still blew his stratospheric harp licks. The pace slipped into mid-tempo for hits “Give It To Me” (boosted by its closing jam), “Centerfold” and “Love Stinks,” but raveups like “Detroit Breakdown” and “Looking for a Love” helped keep the Geils Band’s houseparty on track.

For his part, Seger more than held his own across his two-hour, 21-song set, beaming that megawatt smile and pumping his fists in the air, while his grainy voice still rang true (if at times overpowered by his 14-piece band or fans singing along). Granted, after the opening stretch, Seger sat down for nearly every other song. He strummed acoustic guitar on tunes like “Mainstreet,” “Like a Rock” (resuscitated live with Rob McNelley's neat slide guitar), the Wilco/Woody Guthrie cover “California Stars” and the inevitable “Night Moves.” And he played piano for the stripped-down “We’ve Got Tonight” (which drew a big ovation and a bigger grin) and “Turn the Page,” one of the most affecting songs about life on the road. “Here I go, playing star again. There I go, turn the page,” Seger sang, and his folksy rapport with the crowd suggested that he’s not in the business for the star turn anyway.

However, rather than a mere concession to age, Seger’s balladeer mode was part of the dynamic fabric woven by his large band of moveable pieces, echoing Bruce Springsteen's likewise-cushioned E Street reboot. Driven by drummer Don Brewer from Grand Funk Railroad (particularly on nugget “Travelin' Man”), the group often included three female backup singers and a four-man horn section. They peaked on rockers like “Hollywood Nights” and “Detroit Made,” a John Hiatt cover that opens Seger’s new album Ride Out, fitting for a mostly Michigan-born, now partly Nashville-based, touring band.

Seger, whose music could partly be seen as a precursor to modern country (making his recent TV pairing with Jason Aldean a natural match), added a fiddler for other songs, including “The Fireman’s Talkin,’” about his brother-in-law who’s a Phoenix firefighter. That was another down-to-earth touch, as was a Stevie Ray Vaughan tribute (even if Seger mistakenly called the late guitarist’s band the Fabulous Thunderbirds) with the new, closely manufactured “Hey Gypsy.” Detroit's old-time rocker, who weaves back to Connecticut's Mohegan Sun Arena with the J. Geils Band again this Saturday, covered the bases with humility and personality for any age.

Sound Ideas

Weekend Ideas

Moving past the turkey, the snow and the sales, Thanksgiving weekend provides sure concert highlights. Run the Jewels’ sophomore album RTJ2 rides atop 2014’s hip-hop releases, as the rap duo of Killer Mike and El-P mixes dark imagery and jittery production with quick, hard-hitting wordplay. They’re bound to pump up the Paradise Rock Club on Friday, even if the energy isn’t quite as charged as Monday’s emotional show in St. Louis, just after events unfolded in nearby Ferguson. Also on Friday, Beverly native Angie Miller -- seemingly on track to win last year’s “American Idol” before placing third -- brings her powerful voice to the Brighton Music Hall behind her new pop EP Weathered, funded through PledgeMusic.

Saturday’s big show comes in the form of a double bill at the TD Garden with Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band, touring behind Seger’s new album Ride Out, and Boston’s perennial J. Geils Band. Here’s Seger performing one of his classics, prompting a hearty sing-along on a recent tour. Likewise, the Worcester-bred punk band the Hotelier has prompted impassioned sing-alongs in the wake of its emotive 2014 release Home, Like No Place is There. And it’s a dynamic bound to reignite Saturday when the Hotelier returns to the Middle East Downstairs for an early evening all-ages bill with The World is a Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid to Die. And there’s virtuosity in store on Sunday when the Paradise rocks with New York funk-fusionists Living Colour, featuring guitarist Vernon Reid, singer Corey Glover, drummer Will Calhoun and bassist Doug Wimbish.

However, the weekend’s most sweeping event is local label Signature Sounds’ 20th anniversary celebration. It takes over Northampton's Academy of Music for three days (culminating with Lake Street Dive on Sunday), but some of the acts are doubling up in Cambridge. On Saturday, the progressive string band Crooked Still -- led by co-founding singer Aoife O’Donovan and banjo ace Greg Liszt -- reunites for the first time in two years with early and late shows at the Sinclair. And folk/blues veteran Chris Smither follows at the same venue on Sunday with his Motivators, a rare band appearance for the usual solo performer behind his career-spanning retrospective Still on the Levee.

A Two-fer Kicks Off Red Sox Offseason

... And Guarantees There's Plenty More Moves to Come.

In a headline-grabbing two-fer, the Red Sox reportedly locked up Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez in a span of 24 hours. And with that, it’s on to the pitching, right? Almost. Here’s the 2015 Red Sox starting lineup after the reported signings:

1. Mookie Betts, RF (under team control through 2020)
2. Dustin Pedroia, 2B (under team control through 2021)
3. David Ortiz, DH (under team control through 2017)
4. Hanley Ramirez, LF (under team control through 2019)
5. Pablo Sandoval, 3B (under team control through 2019)
6. Mike Napoli, 1B (under team control through 2015)
7. Rusney Castillo, CF (under team control through 2019)
8. Xander Bogaerts, SS (under team control through 2019)
9. Christian Vazquez, C (under team control through 2020)

I hope you like this lineup, since aside from Napoli all the players are under team control for the next three years, at least. And only Ortiz is able to be a free agent before November 2019.

As of now, Boston's extra outfielders will make $28.5 million next year (Yoenis Cespedes, $10 million; Shane Victorino, $13 million; Allen Craig, $5.5 million) and that’s before you get to Daniel Nava, who almost certainly stick on the roster because of his left-handed hitting. The Sox will likely trade Cespedes, nabbing a pitcher in return. The Hisashi Iwakuma rumor makes great sense for the Sox, saving them $4.6 million for luxury tax calculations and also gives Boston a legit No. 2 starter. Iwakuma’s K/BB ratio is off the charts. He was hurt in 2014, but he’s a year removed from finishing third in the Cy Young race. And the Sox will also likely trade either Allen Craig or Shane Victorino, since even having nearly $20 million in outfielders on your bench is a foolish investment when you have your entire starting outfield locked up for the next 5 years. Even a pure salary dump of simply Victorino, combined with the Iwakuma-Cespedes swap, puts the Sox luxury tax obligations for 2015 at $158 million (the tax kicks in at $189 million). That’s $31 million more to spend. More than enough to sign Jon Lester ($23 million per year) and Andrew Miller ($7 million per year). Say Lester signs elsewhere, then the Sox still could sign Miller, trade cost-controlled Joe Kelly as part of a package for Cole Hamels, and then sign low-cost lottery ticket Brett Anderson to fill Kelly’s spot in the rotation. Either way, the Sox positioned themselves for the long term by signing Ramirez and Sandoval, and they also set up the ability to make salary-shedding outfield trades that could really give them more financial flexibility to pursue pitching this offseason.

But that’s only the roster construction for 2015. Let’s examine the future of the Sox, with a few familiar prospects in mind. With the Sox set in the outfield for the next five years, Jackie Bradley Jr. either becomes an incredible defensive role player, or he becomes trade fodder, with the Sox needing to decide whether they’re better off trading him now or trying to increase his trade value by rediscovering his solid offensive approach in AAA. In terms of future bench players, Bryce Brentz (extra pop off then bench) fits more of a profile of a player the Sox are better off keeping. Will Middlebrooks also looks to have almost no chance of being back with the Sox. While Sandoval might not stick long term at third base, he’s a good defender there right now. But say he moves to first base when Napoli bolts, the Sox could turn to any number of players before Middlebrooks’ name was called. They could shift Bogaerts to third base and bring up Marrero to play short. They could bring up Garin Cecchini or Travis Shaw to play third base (although Sandoval might be a better defender than them both; maybe Cecchini or Shaw would be better at first base in that scenario), or they could even turn to utility players Brock Holt and Juan Francisco in the short term. Three years from now, Rafael Devers might be ready to contribute. As for the logjam of pitchers, you really can never have too much minor-league pitching depth. Some pitchers might be used as centerpieces of trades (for say, Hamels) and others might be used as sweeteners to deals (if the Mariners balk at Cespedes for Iwakuma, they might not be as opposed if they’re getting Allen Webster or Matt Barnes thrown in). Others will continue to toil away in Pawtucket, spot starting in Boston and perhaps competing for one open spot in the rotation this spring.

The offseason is less than a month old, and the Sox have all but solved their offensive questions with their weekend moves. The focus now turns to adding pitching and dealing from a position of strength in shedding the salaries of extra outfielders. The fireworks have begun, and the show is far from over.

Fancy Feasts

Looking for Thanksgiving meals that don't involve your own oven? Read on for feasts, from Italian-inspired to alcohol-infused and everything in between. / Katie Smith

Beacon Hill Hotel & Bistro

1-10 pm. $61.

To start: Pork Paté with cherry mustard, gooseberry jam and sourdough

The meat: Pumpkin Gnocchi with roasted root vegetables, pecans, sage and ricotta salata

To finish: Grafton aged cheddar with quince compote, walnuts and raisin bread

25 Charles St., Boston (617-723-7575) beaconhillhotel.com

The Beat Hotel

11 am-10 pm. Prices vary.

To start: Creamy mushroom soup with sherry, thyme & chives ($10); Buffalo cauliflower ($12)

The meat: Thanksgiving Bowl Azteca with adobo-spiced quinoa, tomatillo salsa, fresh corn, squash, green beans, avocado, baby spinach ($24-$27)

To finish: Cranberry apple bread pudding ($10)

13 Brattle St., Cambridge (617-499-0001) beathotel.com

The Beehive

11 am-midnight. $46; $18, children’s turkey dinner; $12, children’s menu.

To start: Bacon-wrapped scallops (+$5)

The meat: Seared Atlantic halibut with wild rice, farro, cipollini onions, exotic mushrooms and porcini broth

To finish: Pecan pie

541 Tremont St., Boston (617-423-0069) beehiveboston.com

Bistro du Midi

1-8 pm. $68; $29, children under 13.

To start: Seared foie gras with brown butter, squash and cider jus (+$19)

The meat: Pan-roasted codfish with Fregola Sarda, broccoli rabe, black olives and a pecorino emulsion

To finish: Pumpkin cornmeal tart with goat cheese ice cream.

272 Boylston St., Boston (617-426-7878) bistrodumidi.com

BOKX 109

5 pm-1 am.

To start: Potato on the Side with Karlsson’s Gold Potato Vodka, prosciutto-wrapped olive ($14)

The meat: Wild Turkey Gobbler with Wild Turkey Bourbon, grenadine, ginger ale ($12)

To finish: “Thanks a Latte” Pumpkin Pie with Crop Spiced Pumpkin Vodka, Godiva Chocolate Liqueur, fresh espresso, crème Chantilly float ($15)

Need to know: Drink up! These festive holiday cocktails are available throughout Thanksgiving week.

399 Grove St., Newton (617-454-3399) bokx109prime.com

Boston Chops

Noon-8 pm. $79.

To start: Classic beef “pot pie” with harvest vegetables

The meat: 14 oz. prime rib eye

To finish: Rustic apple cobbler

Extra helping: Family-style sides include herbed brioche stuffing with walnuts and roasted sweet potato puree with maple.

1375 Washington St., Boston (617-227-5011) bostonchops.com

City Table

Noon-10 pm.

To start: Brussels sprouts salad with toasted pine nuts, Great Hill blue cheese, roasted butternut squash and sherry vinaigrette ($12)

The meat: Sliced beef tenderloin with roasted baby sweet potatoes, prosciutto and green bean bundle and lobster hollandaise ($34)

To finish: Pumpkin crème brûlée with pine nut brittle ($9)

65 Exeter St., Boston (617-933-4800) citytableboston.com


Noon-8 pm. $99; $25, children under 12.

To start: A mélange of heirloom roasted beets, chèvre, red kuri squash, celeriac spiced pumpkin seeds

The meat: Misty Knolls “Turducken” with turkey breast, duck rillettes, chicken boudin, Robuchon potatoes, hash of Brussels, turnips, butternut squash, cranberry sauce and gravy

To finish: Pumpkin Cheesecake with house-made graham cracker, chai tea glace and salted white chocolate caramel sauce

371 Comm. Ave., Boston (617-517-5915) deuxave.com

Grafton Street Pub & Grill

11 am-9 pm. $38.

To start: Grilled apple salad with baby arugula, pumpkin croutons, blue cheese and cranberries

The meat: East coast cioppino, Jonah crab, scallops, PEI mussels, clams, shrimp and squid

To finish: Warm brown sugar cake with salted caramel ice cream and apricot

Extra helping: Purchase wine and beer pairings for an additional $18.

1230 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge (617-497-0400) graftonstreetcambridge.com

Legal Harborside

Noon-8 pm. $60.

To start: Short rib raviolo with celeriac emulsion, root vegetables and horseradish gremolata

The meat: Georges Bank sea scallops with spaghetti squash and a pomegranate-curry emulsion

To finish: Apple turnovers with salted caramel ice cream

270 Northern Ave., Boston (617-477-2900) legalseafoods.com

M.C. Spiedo

1-6 pm. $58.

To start: Roasted butternut squash soup with roasted apple butter and pumpkin seed pesto

The meat: Roasted squab with olive, pancetta, bread stuffing and citrus thyme sauce

To finish: White pumpkin cheesecake

606 Congress St. @ D St., Boston (617-476-5606) mcspiedoboston.com

Restaurant dante

1-8 pm. $69.

To start: Cauliflower ravioli with brown butter, sage and hazelnuts

The meat: Roast duck with sour cherries, chestnut stuffing and rainbow greens

To finish: “Gimme a Sliva” of Four Pies: apple, chocolate pecan, pumpkin and ricotta pie slivers

40 Edwin H Land Blvd., Cambridge (617-497-4200) restaurantdante.com

Russell House Tavern

11 am-8:30 pm. $45.

To start: Magret duck breast carpaccio with candied pistachio and Schezuan pickled cranberry

The meat: Root vegetable lasagna with robiola, ricotta and oyster mushroom jus

To finish: The New England cheese board with three local cheeses and traditional accompaniments ($9)

14 John F. Kennedy St., Cambridge (617-500-3055) russellhousecambridge.com

Stephanie’s on Newbury

Noon-7 pm. $48 or $60 depending on entrée.

To start: Potato pancakes with smoked Norwegian salmon, sour cream, chopped onion, fried capers and caviar

The meat: Baked stuffed shrimp with three jumbo shrimp stuffed with shrimp, scallop and crab stuffing served with caramelized pumpkin, fresh pea risotto and lemon beurre blanc ($60)

To finish: Apple pie with melted cheddar cheese and vanilla bean ice cream

Extra helping: Thanksgiving dinner out means no dishes to wash, but it also means no leftovers, but Stephanie’s fixes that with a Take-Home Open-Faced Sandwich. ($19).

190 Newbury St., Boston (617-236-0990) stephaniesonnewbury.com

Temple Bar

11 am-9 pm. $39.

To start: Pumpkin bisque with arugula pistou, smoked mussels and spiced pumpkin seeds

The meat: Grilled prawns with a puree of sweet potatoes, allspice-roasted apples and bitter greens

To finish: Caramel apple cobbler with vanilla bean ice cream

Extra helping: Purchase wine pairings for an additional $19.

1688 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge (617-547-5055) templebarcambridge.com

Top of the Hub

11 am-8 pm. $65; $25, children ages 6-12; free, children under 5.

To start: Acorn and butternut squash bisque with maple sugar whipped cream and calvados butter

The meat: Braised short ribs with whipped potatoes and cider-glazed carrots

To finish: Apple cranberry cake with maple sauce and apricot compote

Extra helping: Sweeten your night with a complimentary visit to the Skywalk Observatory.

800 Boylston St., Boston (617-536-1775) topofthehub.net

Sound Ideas

Weekend Ideas

Photo by John Londono

Touring bands get used to weather, but Interpol got extra when the moody New York rockers' bus got stuck for days in Buffalo’s man-high snowfall, (UPDATE) now forcing the postponement of Friday's House of Blues show on top of scuttled gigs in Toronto and Montreal. An intimate alternative the same night, out Route 2 past I-495 at the Bull Run Restaurant in Shirley, would be a solo double bill with dusky-voiced Johnette Napolitano from Concrete Blonde and New Hampshire-born, Montana-based Laurie Sargent, whose earthy voice has graced Twinemen and Orchestra Morphine.

Saturday’s the big night, starting with an early show at the Brighton Music Hall with guitarist/vocalist Daniel Lanois. Best known as a producer for U2, Emmylou Harris (who he recently joined on tour) and Bob Dylan, Lanois spins atmospheric rock akin to his Canadian countryman Neil Young, but with more free-wheeling dynamics. It helps that his trio -- currently out in support of Lanois’ impressionistic new album Flesh and Machine -- features the tastefully rambunctious jazz drummer Brian Blade.

Funky Colorado ensemble the Motet expands the groove in a late Brighton Music Hall show on Saturday, while the Barr Brothers weave their folk-tinged spell at the Sinclair behind Sleeping Operator. The Montreal group led by lead singer/guitarist Brad and drummer/banjo player Andrew Barr (formerly of jam-conscious band the Slip) has evolved into a textural song-based outfit that includes the classical harp playing of Sarah Page. And this new tune gives the Barr Brothers a hearty live number that taps into African desert blues. Across Harvard Square at the Regattabar, there’s also the acoustic virtuoso fusion of the Juanito Pascual New Flamenco Trio on Saturday. And on Sunday, surprisingly free of loops and playback, German composer Nils Frahm suggests a cross between classical recital and EDM experimentation when he commands his banks of synthesizers and pianos.

Finally, for my Thursday throwback, with Julian Casablancas fronting his solo band at House of Blues next Wednesday, here's a live TV set of the singer back in 2002 when he burst onto the scene with the Strokes.

Sound Ideas

Weekend Ideas

Bob Dylan hasn’t always pleased in recent years on his never-ending tour, given his ever-weathered mumble and interpretive liberties with classic songs. Yet the word of late is that he’s in better voice, settling into his odd new role as a new-millennial minstrel. Dylan’s been serving two sets heavy on ballad-y originals from the pre-rock stew of country, jazz and blues on 2012’s Tempest and other recent standouts, and even encoring on occasion with Frank Sinatra’s “Stay With Me.” He has Charlie Sexton and Boston’s own Stu Kimball on guitars, eschewing that instrument himself in favor of hands-free vocals when not at an acoustic piano. And he likes the lights down low. So you know what to expect (sort of) when Dylan slips into the Orpheum Theatre on Friday. Here’s a taste.

TV on the Radio hasn’t fully regained its momentum since losing bass player Gerard Smith to cancer in 2011. However, the soulful Brooklyn art-rockers are poised to turn it on again with Seeds, a new album out next week and sounding like one of the band’s best – and most accessible – albums, complemented by a Friday date at the Paradise Rock Club. The same night also sizes up a hearty, textural party at the Sinclair with another Brooklyn band, San Fermin, a chamber-pop outfit assembled by classically trained composer Ellis Ludwig-Leone and sporting co-ed vocalists, horns, strings and percussion. Friday also offers earthy, emotive flamenco vocalist Diego El Cigala in his Boston debut presented by World Music/CRASHarts at the Berklee Performance Center.

Saturday strikes a balance between the light and the dark in a folky vein at the Middle East. Locally bred bluegrass-crossover gals Della Mae, who have toured the actual Middle East, promise to preview the follow-up to last year’s Grammy-nominated gem This World Oft Can Be in the club’s larger downstairs room, with Kristin Andreassen (ex-Uncle Earl) joining the bill. Upstairs, also with New England connections, there’s a dark yet joyful, folk-rocking mashup with O Death, Death Vessel and Tigerman WOAH, particularly joyful in the stage resurrection of O Death from the Oct. 30 theft of its van, equipment and merchandise in LA. The band has raised $26,000 in donations through a GoFundMe campaign, though some of its original instruments are irreplaceable. And both Saturday and Sunday at House of Blues, snazzy LA popsters Fitz & the Tantrums ride their successful evolution from retro-soul similar to the Dap-Kings to new-wave dance rock closer to Hall & Oates.

Sunday, in fact, offers the weekend’s busiest, most diverse batch of concerts. British guitar icon Johnny Marr steps up to the mic with his band at the Paradise Rock Club, dipping into songs from his days in the Smiths as well as recent solo albums. Midwest-born, New England-bred and Nashville-based, singer-songwriter Joe Fletcher brings his wry, lyrical storytelling to Atwood’s Tavern. A quartet of siblings, breaking dance-pop band Echosmith packs the Middle East Downstairs in the wake of the group's smash single “Cool Kids.” Back to the World Music front, veteran Brazilian star Milton Nascimento brings his venerable charms to Berklee, possibly to pick up the accordion as well as his guitar with his band. And jazz guitarist/composer Pat Metheny takes another spin through the area, appearing at Worcester’s Hanover Theatre with his adventurous electro-acoustic Unity Group that includes saxman Chris Potter, picking up some repertoire from the original Pat Metheny Group.

Finally, for my Thursday Throwback, with Neil Young celebrating his 69th birthday this week, here’s Young in a full British TV concert from 1971.

Q&A: Being Marcus Smart

Avery Bradley, Wyc Grousbeck and Marcus Smart last night at Avery Bar. (Photos by Brian Babineau / Boston Celtics)

Celtics rookie Marcus Smart has made a quick impact on and off the court since he was drafted with the sixth pick in this year’s NBA Draft. Off the court, he made headlines when he bought his mother a house in his hometown in Dallas, adding another chapter to his stirring family story. And on the court, he’s a hard-nosed defender, providing an on-ball pressure that’s reminiscent of Avery Bradley—only with some added physicality. Last night, Smart donned one of his famous bow ties for a party at the Ritz Carlton’s Avery Bar to introduce the latest version of the Celtics’ alternate uniforms.

While the on-court threads have gotten mixed reaction on the Internet, they do provide one unique feature. There’s a new touch on the gold star that was added this season on the back collar of all uniforms for NBA-title winning franchises. It’s got the No. 17 on it, signifying all the titles the Celtics’ franchises have won. While it’d look silly to give the Celtics 17 stars, this is a nice feature, helping set apart the most successful NBA franchise from franchises such as Dallas or Portland that have only won one title. The current gold star hints at no difference between any of the title franchises. Let’s hope this feature gets picked up league-wide.

Smart took some time during the evening for an exclusive chat with The Improper to touch on his salad days in the NBA. 

Matt Martinelli: So your first couple paychecks obviously went to the grand gesture of buying your mom a house. What’s the next one going to go to?

Marcus Smart: That’s a good question. I’d have to say to probably buying a new car. I need a car so I can get around here a little easier. I’ve been Ubering a lot.

Great. Do you have your eyes on any car in particular?

Not really. Not yet. Hopefully something will catch my eye when the time comes.

What’s been the most unexpected thing about NBA road life?

The most unexpected is that the difference between college and NBA life is not that much different. And that’s been the most unexpected thing about it. You do have a lot more responsibilities, but it’s still the same game. Nothing’s changed. It’s just the players are a little bit bigger and older.

Do you find anything different on the road?

The travel is a little longer than what it was in college. You’re going more from city to city, which is a big toll on you. When you’re in college, you don’t really travel as much, and you usually have more days off.

What was going through your mind when you saw all your friends and family at your homecoming game in Dallas?

I was happy to see everyone. It was crazy how many people showed up.

How many people did you have show up?

Just from my family, about 35 people. From friends and everyone else, it was a lot more. I couldn’t count how many. 

Is there going to be another big homecoming when you go to Oklahoma?

I actually don’t know about that. I have no clue how many people will show up at that game, but I guess it will be. I can’t tell at this point.

How often are you still able to talk to your mom?

I talk to my mom every day. She calls me at least twice a day. Before I go to bed and when I wake up. I gotta talk to my mom every day. I feel out of place if I don’t. 

So you’ve been doing that for awhile?

Yup—even in college.

Sound Ideas

Weekend Ideas


Women rule this weekend's concert options, from traditional-steeped veterans Mavis Staples and Mary Black to pop-dressy upstarts like Kimbra and Rubblebucket. But Friday also starts intriguingly at Great Scott with the electro-organic rock of Zammuto, seen in this recent live clip, while you can jump to my interview here. And Memphis country-punk journeymen Lucero opens a three-night stand (that includes an acoustic set in each show) at the Sinclair. On the local front, the Lizard Lounge also has a great weekend with CD release parties for the Motown-tinged, increasingly rocking Jenny Dee & the Deelinquents on Friday and energized soul-rockers Old Jack (with Feints powerhouse Amy Douglas opening solo) on Saturday.

Saturday kicks in with the return of folk-rockers the Nields – led by sisters Narissa and Katryna -- to Club Passim for afternoon and evening shows that should tease an upcoming album crowdfunded through PledgeMusic. Soul icon Mavis Staples, coming off her triumphant 75th birthday celebration at the Newport Folk Festival, brings her band to John Hancock Hall the same night. And after 25-plus years of performing, Irish singer Mary Black has embarked on a farewell tour that stops once more at the Berklee Performance Center with her daughter Roisin O.

Sunday explodes with tantalizing female-fronted bands. Topping the pack is New Zealand sparkplug Kimbra, aspiring to Prince-like pop with her flamboyant voice and fashion sense at the Brighton Music Hall. While she’s the center of attention, Kimbra also plays off a snappy band that includes some of the same musicians that first backed her on tour with Gotye as his famous duet partner. Just over at the Paradise Rock Club, another smart, danceable option for those who prefer horns in their funk. Both musically and visually, the Vermont-bred band Rubblebucket weaves fun, arty grooves behind enticing vocalist/saxophonist Kalmia Traver. And there’s yet another heady Sunday dance-rock party happening at Royale with the Montreal group Stars, featuring the vocal tradeoffs of Amy Millan and Torquil Campbell and bubbling with earthy textures and a disco sheen.

Finally, for my Thursday Flashback, with Stevie Wonder heading to the TD Garden next Tuesday to play his ambitious 1976 double album Songs in the Key of Life in its entirety, here’s a prime 1974 German TV concert. Granted, Wonder isn’t rocking it quite the same way these days, but he and his band remain a crack machine with heart and hits.

Sound Ideas

Live Review: Phish Trumps Umphrey's Monster Mash

Twenty years since Phish played the Beatles’s entire “White Album” as a musical costume to launch a Halloween tradition, bands — particularly in the ambitious jam-rock realm — have made offbeat covers part of the holiday routine. Perhaps that’s why Phish messed with expectations last year, surprising with a Halloween sequence of unrecorded originals that went into the Vermont band’s own upcoming album, Fuego. Many fans felt cheated, and nobody was sure whether Phish would even play a cover album this year.

Well, on a weird, ultimately wondrous Halloween that capped a week when the Allman Brothers Band played its final show, jam-bands from moe. to Widespread Panic went crazy with covers.  But Chicago’s rising Umphrey’s McGee raised the bar by unleashing wild mash-ups in its first of two nights at Boston’s House of Blues while Phish redeemed itself with a spooktacular production at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.

With sleek, fearsome musicianship (plus artful lighting by ex-Bostonian Jeff Waful), Umphrey’s stands as the band most likely to ascend to the jam-band throne that Phish and fellow elders will ultimately bequeath. In past years, the sextet seemed too cleanly proficient for its own good, speaking more to the head than the heart with its technical prowess.

Thankfully, Umphrey’s has evolved into an earthier flow and nailed Halloween mash-ups both in costume (like one of Twisted Sister’s Dee Snider in a Devo hat) and music. In addition to originals that suggest Steely Dan as a prog-metal band, Umphrey’s ripped through Aerosmith’s “Sweet Emotion” and “Walk This Way,” wound with snippets of the James Gang’s “Funk #49” and even a group-wide percussion jam. The band alternated sung verses of Radiohead’s “The National Anthem” with rapped refrains of Beck’s “Loser,” plus a snatch of Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight.” And the group topped its Friday show with a smoking splice of the Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage” and Ted Nugent’s “Stranglehold.” It was hard to believe that Phish or anybody else could top those cover jams on this All Hallows' Eve.

However, shortly after Umphrey’s wrapped up in Boston, Phish hit the Vegas stage for a cover-album set where the band not only made up for last year but conceptually transcended any of its previous Halloween pranks. And it was streamed for free via YouTube after technical difficulties with the first set of Phish’s paid webcast prompted the switch, a spontaneous gift that many local fans likely picked up on for a late-night treat.

Rather than a popular classic like past album choices Quadrophenia or Exile on Main St., Phish tackled an obscure sound-effects album called Chilling, Thrilling Sounds of the Haunted House. And the group bent that 1964 Disney Studios release to its own musical and theatrical whims, with holiday-appropriate set design by longtime cohort Chris McGregor.

The stage had turned into a mock graveyard of dancing zombies that echoed images from Michael Jackson's Thriller video. A narrator from a crypt lit a fuse that sizzled across the front of a two-story haunted house where silhouettes revealed the band ferociously jamming in the upstairs windows. Then the upper walls flopped down in an explosion of lights and fog to reveal the four musicians facing each other in ghoulish makeup and white tuxedos, improvisationally rocking and riffing around the album’s spooky themes.

The spell of the Haunted House began to waver over a long set, much as with any unfamiliar dark horse. But the night included prime bookended sets of originals that also made this one of Phish’s better Halloween shows. And it was capped by an unusual encore pairing: Sudbury native Mike Gordon singing Leonard Cohen’s “Is This What You Wanted” (with its haunted house references), followed by the Edgar Winter Group’s instrumental oddity “Frankenstein,” with Page McConnell wailing away on a keytar.

Too bad Phish doesn’t stage its holiday extravaganzas closer to home these days. After two more Halloween weekend nights in Vegas, Phish (which only played one night locally this year at Mansfield's Comcast Center) next greets 2015 with four shows in Miami, beginning New Year’s Eve. Who knows what will happen that night.

Sound Ideas

Halloween Foreshadows Exhibit Closing

Happy Halloween! It’s been exactly 30 years since I shot this photo of Human Sexual Response at the now-defunct club Spit. I’m showing the actual photo in my exhibit “Boston Rock Flashbacks,” which closes after this weekend at Cuisine en Locale (156 Highland Ave., Somerville) and also includes live or portrait shots of Throwing Muses, the Dropkick Murphys, Mark Sandman, the Neighborhoods, and the Dambuilders.

There’s a closing reception for the exhibit from 6-8 p.m. Monday, which also happens to be taco night at Cuisine en Locale. Or you can see the photos in the upstairs lounge through the weekend at “ONCE Muertos,” a Dawn of the Dead festival featuring the theatrical band Walter Sickert & the Army of Broken Toys on Saturday night or Sunday afternoon.

Sound Ideas

Weekend Ideas

Bruce Cockburn

Halloween’s full of tricks and treats on the concert scene. Jam-bands really know how to do it up conceptually on Halloween. Take Phish or moe. (doing separate pay-per-view webcasts from Las Vegas this year) or Gov’t Mule, which is about to release a CD/DVD set of its 2008 Orpheum show of Pink Floyd covers. This year, Boston gets a live burst of Umphrey’s McGee, which has spent past Halloweens playing diverse cover mash-ups and donning the odd mask, headlining House of Blues both Friday and Saturday with buds Dopapod. Elsewhere on Friday, it may be a trick to get into Hozier’s sold out Paradise Rock Club show, since a lot of folks would love to hear the brooding Irish troubadour deliver his hit “Take Me To Church.” But the musically and lyrically pointed rapper Brother Ali gets into a resonant flow that nods to Gil Scott-Heron at the Middle East Downstairs the same night too. And among the local bands impersonating more famous acts on Halloween, the most intriguing is a Great Scott bill that includes the Daily Pravda being joined by Ruby Rose Fox to perform the music of Lana Del Ray.

Chrissie Hynde isn’t playing pretend on Halloween. In fact, she hits the Orpheum on Saturday without her longtime vehicle the Pretenders. She’s touring with a new bunch of guys behind her solo debut Stockholm, though Hynde’s been dropping some Pretenders tunes like this one into her sets. Another Ohio-bred option for Saturday, arty indie-pop upstarts Walk the Moon, controls the tide at the Sinclair, while veteran Canadian troubadour Bruce Cockburn rolls into the Somerville Theatre for his first local date in three years.

For a different experience, Walter Sickert & the Army of Broken Toys bring their dark, theatrical cabaret-rock to a Day of the Dead celebration at Cuisine en Locale on Saturday night and Sunday afternoon. And Patrick Bruel, who’s been called the French Bruce Springsteen, commands the Berklee Performance Center on Sunday. Bruel certainly seems to fit the Springsteen comparison in this video clip, particularly in the crowd’s reaction, as he reworks a David Bowie tune and takes it from there.

Finally, for a Thursday Throwback, with John Zorn on hand next Tuesday for a New England Conservatory student/faculty retrospective of his music at Jordan Hall, here's a clip of a 2010 show where the wildcat composer/saxophonist conducts Marc Ribot, Joey Baron, Cyro Baptista, Kenny Wollesen and others.

Mayor Menino, 1942-2014

Mayor Thomas Menino’s death, which tragically came too soon into his retirement, will be marked in the coming days with tributes from across the world. From the powerful president to the regular citizens that populate this city, thousands of people were touched—and, yes, at times amused—by the Hyde Park native. While he ruled City Hall with an iron fist, he was never afraid to display his lighter side, be it by donning a chef’s hat a charity event, reading a book to school kids, taking a sleigh ride with his wife, Angela, in the New Year’s Eve parade, or even posing in a fashion feature for us in the early aughts. After rising from City Council president to mayor in 1993, he later won five elections to keep his spot as Boston’s most powerful politician. In that time, he reshaped the city, helping to transform the Seaport and Fenway areas into the booming neighborhoods they are now—just two accomplishments on a list too long to enumerate here. In December, he spoke with Jonathan Soroff as his tenure was winding down. Here are a few highlights, but check out the entire interview, along with quotes from prominent citizens about Boston’s longest-serving and much-loved mayor.

JONATHAN SOROFF: WHAT DO YOU MOST WANT TO BE REMEMBERED FOR AS MAYOR? Two things. Both are intangible. One is how the city works much better today than it did when I came into office. We had a huge problem from 1973 on. We were a racially divided city. We’re much better today—not perfect, but everyone gets along much better, and we don’t have the nonsense we used to. I’m very proud of that. The other piece is education and our children. We’ve made a lot of gains. Again, not perfect, but we’re much better. When I became mayor, the schools were vastly underenrolled. Now they’re overenrolled. I once had to go to a job fair in Florida to recruit teachers. We went to Panama for math teachers. This year, we had 3,000 applicants for 300 jobs. So it’s a city where people want to raise their children again.

BEST PART OF THE JOB? Being in the neighborhoods. Talking to people. Learning from them. As mayor, you’re sometimes isolated. You’re in this office, with these big walls. I enjoyed being out listening to criticisms, ideas.

FAVORITE DIGNITARY TO ENTERTAIN? President Clinton was fun to be with. I’ll tell you a funny story about him. He and Ted Kennedy were here announcing a crime bill, and Clinton goes, “We’ll get something to eat. My staff’ll take care of it.” So I ask his staff where we’re going, and they say to a hotel. I said, “I’m not going with you unless we go to a neighborhood place.” “Oh, no, we can’t. It’s the president of the United States.” So I said, “I’m not going with you.” So they ask the president, and he says, “Whatever the mayor wants, we’re gonna do.” So we ended up at Mike’s City Diner in the South End. It’s Teddy, me, the president and some of his staff. Afterward, the bill comes. Teddy has no money. Clinton has no money. Old me pays the bill, because they don’t carry money. So the following week, I’m going to breakfast at Charlie’s Sandwich Shoppe in the South End with Al Gore. I said, “Before we go in, do you have any money?” He asked why. I said, “Last week, your partner stiffed me.”

Celtics Season Preview

Five predictions for Boston's 2014-15 schedule.

Rajon Rondo's looming free agency is the biggest storyline of the season. (Photos by Brian Babineau / NBAE)

The Boston Celtics kick off their 2014-15 season tonight. It’s a season that’s road was determined on May 21, when the lottery balls bounced against the Celtics and landed them the sixth pick in the draft. A top three pick would’ve given them the currency to chase Kevin Love and fill in around the edges with a rim protector such as Omer Asik. Instead, they snagged Marcus Smart, a highly touted combo guard who was projected to be the top pick in the draft in 2013. It was signal that—despite management’s best efforts—a long rebuild is ahead. But that long rebuild doesn’t need to be devoid of fun or memorable moments. Heck, the 1997-98 Celtics knocked off the defending champs (the Bulls) in the season opener en route to 36 wins in Rick Pitino’s first year of coaching a mishmash of players. Or it could get ugly with the Celtics trading away veterans such as Rajon Rondo and Jeff Green for future draft picks and young players. Here’s five predictions for the upcoming season: 

Rajon Rondo will play at least 80 games with the Celtics, posting his best statistical season to date.

A “nap-time decision” for the season opener, we’ll soon find out whether Rondo can play in the first game of the season, let alone 80 of them. But the big question is if he’ll be around after the Feb. 19 trade deadline to suit up for the game against the Sacramento Kings on Feb. 20. It’s a twist of fate that the first game after the deadline is at Sacramento, the same team he’s been linked to in rumors and the same city he skipped out on traveling to last year in Birthdaygate. That was a game in which coach Brad Stevens coincidentally also earned his first ejection as a coach. But let the conspiracy theorists read into that incident what they will. Rondo’s got half the season to prove he’d be worthy of a deal along the lines of 5 years, $95 million (not quite the max, but still more than other teams can offer). If he scores more than his previous high of 13.7 points per game and continues to distribute about 11 assists per game, then he’d likely be a guy you’d want to keep around for a rebuild—or at least to keep some buzz among fans and sponsors during the rebuild. With Rondo, you’d only be one All-Star away from a spot in the Eastern Conference semifinals. 

Jeff Green will lead the Celtics in scoring … before being traded at midseason.

The expectations for Jeff Green have weighed him down since the day he arrived in Boston. Forget for a moment that the Celtics hosed the Thunder in the Kendrick Perkins-Green deal (Perkins was never the same after his ACL injury). Green led the team in scoring last season, but he wasn’t a demonstrative leader and he had too many 5-point games to go along with 25-point games. That’s not a bad thing, but for a team that needs a consistent scoring threat, Green was too often passive. If he was the fifth or sixth option on a contender, he’d be lauded—but as the third-highest paid player in Boston, he’s often criticized. With a player option on his deal after this season, the Celtics could certainly trade him to a team such as Golden State or Washington for a late first-round draft pick. When he’s gone, he will likely be labeled a bust, but that’s not fair to Green, a hard-working, productive player. He’s just not what others want him to be.

The Rajon Rondo-Marcus Smart-Avery Bradley-Kelly Olynyk-Jared Sullinger lineup will log the most—and most productive—minutes on the team.

On paper, it looks like three point guards and two power forwards, so it might be a tough fit. But consider the lineup the Warriors played in 2013 of Jarrett Jack, Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry, or the Phoenix Suns backcourt of Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe from last season. Both of those backcourts were very productive and caused nightmare matchups for other teams. The perimeter defense of Smart/Bradley/Rondo would be a massive strength, especially as the NBA game drifts farther out to the 3-point line. That backcourt pressure would help make up for Olynyk and Sullinger’s defensive troubles. Olynyk and Sullinger are both talented passers with good shooting touch, which will be needed since Smart and Rondo’s shots are unreliable. This lineup would be fast and would include two guys who can create their own shot (Rondo and Smart) as well as two exceptional off-the-ball cutters (Bradley and Olynyk). Olynyk and Sullinger would play interchangeable “big” positions on offense, while Bradley and Smart held down two interchangeable wing spots. Oh, and they’re all 23 or under, aside from Rondo. This is the lineup you sell as part of the rebuild.  This is the lineup you need to make work, barring a change of luck (or the rules) in the draft lottery in the next few years.

James Young will spend at least a month in the developmental league.

It’s nothing against the Celtics’ rookie, but missed time from his preseason injury compounded with missed time from his offseason injury has put him far behind the 8-ball—and he was already a bit of a project since he’s coming off only one year in college. Young’s shooting ability looks like it will find him a place on the court at some point, but getting time ahead of Bradley, Smart, Green, Evan Turner, Marcus Thornton and even Gerald Wallace looks like it could be tough. That makes him a third-string player at the start of the season, so he’s better off playing 35 minutes a night in Maine. It’s similar to what happened with Bradley during his rookie season, and it worked out well in the long run for him, eventually displacing a Hall of Famer in the starting lineup midway through his second season.

The Celtics will win 34 games, finishing 10th in the East.

While the Raptors will be good again, the Celtics should benefit from an otherwise weakened Atlantic Division. Coach Brad Stevens seems far more relaxed and wise this season, and it’s apparent he wants the rebuilding effort to bypass the tanking stage, which is possible. The Pacers and Mavericks are prime examples that you don’t need to bottom out to improve. But you can also look at the top 3 teams in each conference (Spurs, Clippers, Thunder, Bulls, Wizards, Cavaliers) and find a total of 13 players picked in the top 4 of the draft. The Celtics haven’t had a top 4 draft pick since 1997. While the Celtics might be better off stripping the roster bare to tank, that’s a tough sell for sponsors and season ticketholders, not to mention a fanbase that likely can’t handle one more lottery night that goes wrong for Boston after a season of tanking. That makes Stevens a fine leader for a team that wants to instill a culture of hard work and defense. With the goal of a top-10 defense and the ability to at least get offense in spurts (Thornton, Turner, Green, Bradley, Sullinger), the Celtics could sneak out a few wins they shouldn’t simply by getting hot and playing solid defense. The upside here is the 7 seed in the East, and the worst is finishing 14th. Celtics fans, repeat after me: “At least you’re not Philly fans.” That mantra should be good until the 76ers win the 2020 title.

Improper Now

You can haz cat videos

An Internet cat video festival comes to town.

Roomba Shark Cat

From Grumpy Cat to Lil Bub, Henri Le Chat Noir to Nyan Cat, one thing is clear: The kittehs are officially killing it on the Internet. Our feline friends may not give a damn about us, but we humans are certainly obsessed with them—and when it comes to the fractious mess of clickbait and comment thread battles known as the World Wide Web, cat videos are the great equalizer.

So it’s no surprise that there is now an entire festival dedicated to this genre of cinema. On Halloween eve, cat lovers can sit back and watch 70 straight minutes of kitty-centric YouTube videos, Vines and short films at the 2014 Internet Cat Video Festival, a feline film fest curated by Minneapolis’ Walker Art Center, now in its second year. Billed as the “first offline celebration of online cat videos,” the festival inspired last year’s Copy Cat film fest in Somerville and features an all-star cast of cats. To see them on the big screen, prowl on down to the Berklee Performance Center on Oct. 30. 

The 2014 Internet Cat Video Festival screens on Oct. 30 at 6:30 and 9 pm at the Berklee Performance Center, 136 Mass. Ave., Boston. $12. berklee.edu


Patriots Riding High at Midseason

Six Thoughts on New England's 6-2 Start.

“Our whole season’s in front of us.” — Tom Brady, Oct. 27 

About the only thing you can nitpick with Tom Brady during this past month might be his sense of time. As crazy as it seems (weren’t they just 2-2 and needing a season-saving win vs. Cincy?), the whole season is not in front of them. Rather, half the season is in the books. So let’s play hurry-up and look at six things (one for each of the wins) that stand out during the first half of the Patriots’ season.

Can Rob Gronkowski stay healthy for the playoffs? (Photos Courtesy of The New England Patriots)

Long-range Forecast

While the next five games for the Patriots are being grouped together by most fans and pundits, New England actually has to face teams with winning records in the final 7 of 8 games—and the three games to end the season are all divisional contests. It’s never a good idea to look too far ahead on the schedule, but if you do want to look at those next 5 games, the Colts’ game is after a bye and the Lions’ game is at home, so they look like the two best bets for a win. If you assume road games at San Diego and Green Bay are the two toughest, then it makes this weekend’s game against the Broncos the swing game in that five-game stretch. As if the game needed any more hype.


The five starters who played on the offensive line replicated their performance against the Bengals yesterday. That combo of Solder-Wendell-Stork-Connolly-Vollmer has helped the offense score 94 points in the two games it was healthy for this season. But health remains a question since the interior of the line has little depth. The Logan Mankins’ trade looks pretty good right now (Mankins did give up 9 sacks in the second half of last season), but an injury would change things in a flash since Josh Kline and Jordan Devey have looked uneven in their appearances to date.

The Power of Gronk

Speaking of limited depth, the Patriots’ front 7 on defense are thin thanks to the injuries to Chandler Jones and Jerod Mayo, but let’s not forget that in the AFC Championship game last season, the Patriots “held” Denver to 26 points without Vince Wilfork, Jerod Mayo and (mostly) Aqib Talib. The problem has been offense in the playoff losses. Or more specifically, the problem has been that Rob Gronkowski has been hurt in the recent Patriots’ playoff losses. With his nemesis T.J. Ward coming to town with Denver this week, fans must be hoping Ward doesn’t take the mantle from Bernard Pollard and become a Patriot-killer. While any week that Gronk doesn’t get hurt is one game closer to having him healthy in the playoffs, perhaps a Vincent Jackson acquisition before the trade deadline would at least hedge on that bet, providing the offense with an oversized receiver in the event that Gronk does get hurt.

Secret Defensive Weapon

The Patriots’ secondary is not simply putting up league best pass-defense numbers, they’re also staying healthy and boasting an enviable amount of depth. Alfonzo Dennard was inactive for yesterday’s game—he was the Patriots’ top cornerback in the AFC Championship Game last year. Logan Ryan has solidified his role as the third cornerback, and former starter Kyle Arrington was limited to only 9 plays on Sunday. While adding Brandon Browner and Darrelle Revis grabbed the headlines, signing Patrick Chung for less than $1 million has provided New England the missing fourth piece in its secondary. The move has been underrated, but Chung’s familiarity with the system and success defending the run were the perfect fits next to three great pass defenders like Browner, Revis and McCourty.

Piling On

Two of the Patriots’ victories this season have included those wild momentum “pile-ons” that have been intermittent in the years since Tedy Bruschi and Co. helped the Patriots win their Super Bowls. It’s the backbreaking turnover returned for a touchdown that comes right after an offensive score. Usually those “pile-ons” put the game out of reach, and this season they certainly have. Against Cincinnati, the Pats went from a 10-point lead midway through the third quarter to a 24-point lead 10 seconds later after Gronkowski caught a touchdown, and Brandon Bolden caused a kickoff return fumble that Kyle Arrington returned for a touchdown. Against Chicago, the Patriots led by 10 with less than two minutes remaining in the first half, when Brady again hit Gronk for a TD. The Bears’ next play from scrimmage was a strip sack that Rob Ninkovich returned for a touchdown. Those plays basically ended the games, and allowed New England to rest its players a little bit. It seemed like those plays happened often during the Patriots’ title years (and during the perfect regular season, actually). It’s nice to see the return of them.

Mr. Patriots

It’s now safe to put the Tom Brady rumors to bed. As this Grantland article pointed out, Brady’s deal becomes fully guaranteed in Week 17 of this year, and since the trade deadline is this week, he won’t be going anywhere this season. Once the deal becomes fully guaranteed, the cap implications of cutting or trading him at any point before the 2017 season would be titanic and crippling to any sort of team building. The Patriots would have to cut him by Week 17 or trade him this week to avoid such a fate—and coming off four straight wins that’s not happening. So it’s safe to say Tom Brady will be on the Patriots until at least 2017. Sorry Jimmy G. fans. He might have to play out this rookie contract as a backup and re-sign here as the starter in 2018.

Sound Ideas

Live Review: Fleetwood Mac back in top form at Boston Garden party

When you have a record in your quiver like Rumours, one of the best-selling albums of all time with 45 million copies sold, you can kick off a concert like Fleetwood Mac did Saturday in its second sold-out stop at TD Garden this month. Especially if you have Christine McVie back after a 16-year retirement to join Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham in restoring all three of the lead singers from that 1977 classic.

Hence came the “Keep us together” chorus of opener “The Chain,” one of four straight jukebox-worthy tunes from Rumours, followed by Nicks’ signature 1975 smash “Rhiannon.” Yet beyond the nostalgic joy of having all three voices harmonize those vintage hits, Buckingham then announced a new “profound and prolific chapter” for the band, an allusion to songs reportedly in the works for a comeback album.

But no new songs, solo songs or pre-Buckingham/Nicks songs showed up in Fleetwood Mac’s two-and-a-half hour set, which actually grew stronger as it branched deeper into this quintet’s musical personalities (lengthy banter aside). Pianist McVie, the eldest band member at 71, beamed positivity into edge-of-sappy pop like “Say You Love Me” and “Over My Head.” Nicks tempered her witchy mystique for earthy, resonant delivery even in mid-set “Sisters of the Moon” and “Seven Wonders,” which she admitted wouldn’t have been done if not for its inclusion in the TV series “American Horror Story.” Buckingham hit virtuoso extremes from solo acoustic selections to his stinging, finger-picked guitar climax to “I’m So Afraid” while stoking the rock edge of “Go Your Own Way” with tribal drummer Mick Fleetwood, who fueled the energy of “World Turning” despite his overdone solo bash. Only bassist John McVie, recovering from cancer surgery, played the silent partner.

They all looked good and sounded spot-on musically and vocally, so did they really need three female backup singers, an extra guitarist and an extra keyboardist? “Tusk” was powerful before pre-recorded horns synced to video of the USC Trojan Marching Band that graced the album. Band members seemed in fine spirits as well, complimenting each other left and right, apparently quite sincere and happy about it all. Granted, they’re boosting a lucrative brand, starting with pricey sold-out concert tickets. And they must be in better mental and physical shape than in the cocaine-fueled days that Rumours was made, when relationships (between Buckingham and Nicks as well as the divorcing McVies) were in tatters.

Mac fans (especially many who never caught this full classic lineup) would do well to jump on this bandwagon -- if they can afford a ticket, and perhaps before any new songs arrive for better or worse (Saturday’s main misstep was 1987’s glossy “Little Lies,” set to video of made-up young eyes and lips). Beyond a date this Saturday in Hartford, Conn., the band just added shows into the new year, including the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence, R.I. on Jan. 28 and Connecticut’s Mohegan Sun on Feb. 7.

Sound Ideas

Weekend Ideas

Alumni from this year’s Newport Folk Festival are blowing up as hot-ticket club picks this month, from Benjamin Booker’s Hendrix-ian garage-punk rush at T.T. the Bear’s on Wednesday to Hozier’s bluesy, brooding soul at the Paradise come Halloween. Alejandro Rose-Garcia, the Texas musician who goes by the name Shakey Graves, brings his resonant, thorny folk-blues to his own advance sellout at the Sinclair on Friday. Even when he plays solo, he’s a charismatic performer, adding a beat via kick pedals. Also on Friday, old-school blues fans can enjoy Sugar Ray & the Bluetones, with guitarist Monster Mike Welch alongside veteran singer/harpist Sugar Ray Norcia at Johnny D’s Uptown, where the band celebrates its sterling new album Living Tear to Tear.

Saxophonist Joshua Redman storms Scullers Jazz Club for a Friday-through-Sunday stand with his seasoned trio of bassist Reuben Rogers and drummer Gregory Hutchinson. And Saturday rocks with additional options, from venerable local jam-band Max Creek at Johnny D’s to guitar virtuoso and former King Crimson frontman Adrian Belew leading his Power Trio through the paces at the Sinclair. Bassist Les Claypool’s band Primus returns to the Orpheum with drummer Tim “Herb” Alexander back aboard after heart surgery to showcase the group’s new album Primus & the Chocolate Factory, a psychedelic revision of the Willy Wonka tale. Original UK punk band the Damned -- theatrical in its own way -- roars into Royale the same night, while Fleetwood Mac reappears for its second TD Garden show of the month with songbird Christine McVie back in the fold.

On Sunday, Rivers Cuomo revisits his old Harvard stomping grounds with Weezer to cap the weekend at the Sinclair with another ultra-soldout show to share the pop-crushing band’s potent comeback entry Everything Will Be Alright in the End. Here's a live Weezer song from that album. And finally, for a Thursday Throwback, with Curt and Cris Kirkwood bringing the Meat Puppets to the Sinclair next Wednesday, here’s a full, pro-shot 1992 show from the Southwestern psycho-country-punk group’s glory days. Filmed in Italy, this concert came a year before Nirvana tapped the Meat Puppets as special guests for its landmark MTV Unplugged session.

Improper Now

Adulthood 101: Join the Society of Grownups

A new learning initiative just for emerging adults.

We learned a lot in college, but even those who attended the most elite institutions may have a gap or two in their educations. Namely, how to navigate all those pesky real-world issues, from starting a 401(k) to cooking dinner without the help of a microwave. Enter Society of Grownups, a new learning initiative from MassMutual and IDEO, launched Oct. 8, that aims to serve as a “masters program for adulthood.”

The target demo, according to “professional grownup” and director Nondini Naqui, might be “a 42-year-old who’s buying their first home, or a 27-year-old deciding if now is the time to expand their family, or a 32-year-old who’s moving in with their significant other and wondering how they should split the bills.” Basically, it’s all of us. Moreover, Naqui says, it’s about making growing up fun, rather than a chore. “When I was a kid, all I wanted to be was a grownup. Somewhere along the way, it lost that luster and that fascination, and I thought, ‘Oh, being a grownup has all these responsibilities.’ I just want to get back to that, to it being exciting. It’s not about sacrificing everything; it’s about living the life that you want to live.”

From their Brookline headquarters, the Society offers one-on-one financial advisement, cheekily named classes and supper clubs where fledgling grownups can mix and mingle. We rounded up just a few of the classes that caught our eye. 

THE CLASS: No Cereal for Dinner (Learning to Cook Like a Grownup)

TAKE IT IF: You’ve subsisted on a diet of ramen, beer and pizza for the better part of the past five years. Cereal? Please, that would require having milk in the fridge, and last time you checked, the only stuff in there was half a case of Miller, a bottle of ketchup and something furry that might have once been a vegetable. 

THE CLASS: Beyond the Hostel (Planning Grownup Trips)

TAKE IT IF: The highlights of your last big vacation included all-inclusive booze, a wet T-shirt contest and a questionable dalliance with a stranger. 

THE CLASS: Loans & Groans (A Student Debt Workshop)

TAKE IT IF: You hear from the good folks at Sallie Mae more often than your parents. Payback’s a bitch, but you can do it!

THE CLASS: Home is Where... (The [Apartment, House, Loft, Studio, Bungalow] Is)

TAKE IT IF:You could have bought a small country (OK, a small country house) with the cash you’ve paid landlords—but aren’t sure whether you’re ready to be king or queen of your own castle. 

THE CLASS: In case of a Zombie Apocalypse (Why You Should Think About a Will)

TAKE IT IF: You find legalese scarier than death itself. In case of an actual zombiepocalypse, it’ll be good to have your affairs in order. Actually, it’ll be good to have them in order either way. 

— Visit societyofgrownups.com for more info. —

Sound Ideas

Weekend Ideas

It’s a Friday night to catch some of Boston’s best bands. Atop the list is this fall's third and best edition of Crash Safely, a benefit for the National MS Society headed by a power-packed combo of Township, White Dynomite and the Field Effect at the Middle East Upstairs. Next door at T.T. the Bear’s Place, there's also an Animal Rescue League benefit including Cask Mouse, the Rationales and Muy Cansado -- a CD release party for the latest Boston Does Boston release, where local bands cover each other's songs. And the veteran chamber-rock outfit Birdsongs of the Mesozoic lays its soundscapes at Johnny D’s Uptown.

The locally bred options continue Saturday with Dinosaur Jr. leader J Mascis stripping it back behind his appealing solo effort Tied to a Star and Beverly post-punk favorites Caspian celebrating their 10th anniversary with a concert at their hometown's Larcom Theatre, sampling the band’s catalog in chronological order.

There’s more action on tap Saturday, including groovy English indie-rockers Bombay Bicycle Club at House of Blues. On the jazz front, singer Dianne Reeves entertains at the Berklee Performance Center while the 37th annual John Coltrane Memorial Concert honors the 50th anniversary of the landmark A Love Supreme at Northeastern’s Blackman Theatre with guest saxman Donald Harrison joining a septet that includes Leonard Brown, Yoron Israel and George W. Russell, Jr.

Sunday turns to downtown theaters. Pink Floyd may have a new album, but don’t expect any tour; leave that to the Australian Pink Floyd Show to recreate down to the lights, props and lasers as well as fine musicianship at the Orpheum.  And when it comes to reinvention with covers, the YouTube-boosted Scott Bradlee’s Postmodern Jukebox gives contemporary pop like this Robin Thicke hit the jazzy old-time treatment at the Wilbur.

Finally, for a Thursday Throwback, with the passing of British house-music producer Mark Bell this week, here’s a 1998 show where Bell mixed electronic rhythms opposite a string octet on singer Bjork’s Homogenic tour.

Culture Shack

Booking It

The founder of the Boston Book Festival shares her reading list

Persistence paid off for Deborah Porter. “We’ve been trying to get Doris Kearns Goodwin to the festival for years,” says the founder of the Boston Book Festival, whose sixth annual installment brings more than 50 free events—including a history keynote from the Pulitzer-winning Goodwin—to Copley Square Oct. 23-25. The author of The Bully Pulpit is one of five keynote speakers, along with Thirty Girls novelist Susan Minot, 14-time Grammy winner and first-time memoirist Herbie Hancock, Pritzker-winning architect Norman Foster and kids’ keynote Rick Riordan, author of the Percy Jackson & the Olympians series (“Someone called the office yesterday to say they’re driving here from Ohio to see him,” Porter confides). And there’s a host of intriguing happenings beyond the headliners, from Writer Idol, where literary agents will pick apart the first page of hopefuls’ manuscripts, to a literary jam session with authors of musically themed novels and the indie-rockers of the Michael J. Epstein Memorial Library. To tide us over till the fest, we asked Porter about her reading list of late.


What’s on her bedside table right now: “I am reading Euphoria by Lily King, who is presenting this year. It’s based on the life of Margaret Mead—really enjoying it. I’ve also been reading Scott Anderson’s Lawrence in Arabia. He too will be appearing at the BBF. And I’ve been dipping into The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert. It is fascinating, but oh so depressing.”

The last book that kept her awake: “Hmm. Ari Shavit’s My Promised Land. It had a great deal of meaning to me, and it was at times very difficult to read.”

What she’ll read next: “Jennifer Haigh, author of our One City One Story pick, ‘Sublimation,’ has recommended Richard Flanagan’s The Narrow Road to the Deep North as well as Fourth of July Creek by Smith Henderson. Looking forward to those. After the BBF.”

Sound Ideas

Weekend Ideas

HONK! if you love live music, especially if you love activist street bands taking it to the people at Columbus Day weekend’s free annual HONK! festival, split between Davis Square and Harvard Square. They’ll be lots of horns, percussion and street spirit fueled by crowd participation, as seen here with the What Cheer? Brigade, coming back as one of 27 bands taking part this year. Here’s the full schedule, though it’s easy to wander and find a mob scene or a band on a hidden byway.

Friday’s big show is the return of Fleetwood Mac to TD Garden, this time sounding more whole with Christine McVie back in action with Lindsey Buckingham, Stevie Nicks, John McVie and Mick Fleetwood after her 16-year retirement. And over at the Paradise Rock Club the same night, Berklee-bred pop singer/songstress Betty Who takes another step on her quest for world domination behind the release of her debut full-length Take Me When You Go. Here’s one of Who's live confections. Other Friday concert options include the Carolina Chocolate Drops’ Dom Flemons going solo at Club Passim and a Crash Safely fundraiser for the National MS Society at Jamaica Plain’s Midway Café with the feisty Petty Morals, Gymnasium and Tsunami of Sound among others.

This weekend also marks the finale of Pipeline! at 25 presents: 50 Years of Boston Rock, a historic 13-night toast to the 25th anniversary of MIT campus radio station WMBR. Cuisine en Locale gets busy on Friday with bands including Green Magnet School, Orbit and the Red Telephone, while Saturday brings the series’ hottest ticket to that Somerville hall with headliners the Cavedogs, Gigolo Aunts, Flying Nuns, Drumming on Glass, and the Dambuilders’ Dave Derby aboard. And the celebration spearheaded by former “Pipeline” host Bob Dubrow wraps on Sunday at the Middle East Downstairs with reunions by the Bags, Voodoo Dolls and the Underachievers. Here’s the full, final rundown (click on “see more” near the top).

Saturday also presents the opportunity to witness what ’60s psychedelia-shaded shenanigans that Foxygen can get itself into at the Paradise Rock Club. Another great Boston band from the past, Wheat, performs its 1997 lo-fi landmark Medeiros in its entirety at Atwood’s Tavern on Saturday, while Sunday offers the chance to catch broad-minded punk bassist Mike Watt ( the Minutemen, Stooges) in his experimental trio collaboration with Italy’s Il Sogno del Marinaio at Great Scott.

Sound Ideas

Vote! The Boston Music Award Ballots are Live

Jarrod McCabe

Photo: Jarrod McCabe

Lake Street Dive (pictured), Will Dailey and (this year’s Improper music issue cover girl) Dutch ReBelle are among local artists nominated in multiple categories on the 2014 Boston Music Awards ballot. Public voting, which began at Saturday’s free Sound of Our Town concert in South Boston, continues here. Winners will be announced in Dec. 14 ceremonies at the Revere Hotel, and performers for that night will be revealed in coming weeks. Here are the 2014 nominees:

Bad Rabbits
Dutch ReBelle
Lake Street Dive
Speedy Ortiz
Will Dailey

D-Tension, D-Tension’s Secret Project
Hallelujah the Hills, Have You Ever Done Something Evil?
Magic Man, Before the Waves
Quilt, Held in Splendor
Will Dailey, National Throat

Air Traffic Controller, “The House”
Dutch ReBelle, “Yen”
John Powhida International Airport, “Cover Me I’m Going for Milk”
Lake Street Dive, “Bad Self Portraits”
Skaters, “Miss Teen Massachusetts”

Petty Morals
St. Nothing
The Color And Sound
The Needy Sons
When Particles Collide

Bad Rabbits
Goddamn Draculas
Parlour Bells
Sidewalk Driver
Tigerman WOAH

Goddamn Draculas
Hallelujah the Hills
Mean Creek
Petty Morals
Speedy Ortiz

Cam Meekins
Dutch ReBelle
Michael Christmas

Bad Rabbits
Dwight & Nicole
Eli “Paperboy” Reed
Louie Bello
Shea Rose

Cask Mouse
Joe Fletcher
Sarah Borges
Session Americana

Gracie Curran and the High Falutin’
Peter Parcek
Quinn Sullivan
Roomful of Blues
Sugar Ray and The Blue Tones

Bianca Oblivion
Chris Ewen
Frank White
Leah V

Andre Obin
Pale Hands
St. Nothing

Ballroom Thieves
Dan Blakeslee
David Wax Museum
Mutual Benefit

Debo Band
Los Rumberos de Boston
Marcus Santos
Shun Ng

Danilo Perez
Grace Kelly
Lake Street Dive
Omar Thomas
Rebecca Parris

The Proselyte

Guerilla Toss
Razors in the Night
The Hotelier

Lori McKenna
Marissa Nadler
Nate Leavitt
Ruby Rose Fox
Will Dailey

Amy Douglas of Feints
Jenny Dee of Jenny Dee & the Deelinquents
Marissa Nadler
Ruby Rose Fox
Sarah Rabdau

Barrence Whitfield
Christian McNeill
Gene Dante
Jesse Dee
Roy Sludge

Benny Grotto
Brian Charles
Clinton Sparks
Ed Valauskas
Justin Pizzoferrato

Free Pizza, “Boston MA”
Faces On Film, “The Rule”
Hallelujah The Hills, “I Stand Corrected”
Matthew Connor, “How Is July Already Over?”
STL GLD, “Again”

Eli “Paperboy” Reed
Hooray for Earth
Lake Street Dive
The Both

Don’t Ask Don’t Tell at Great Scott
Heroes at T.T. the Bear’s Place
Make It New at Middlesex Lounge
Pico Picante at Good Life
Soulelujah at ZuZu

Atwood’s Tavern
Brighton Music Hall
Great Scott
Red Star Union
The Sinclair

Bored of Health at the Plough & Stars
Eleanor Bigsby at Toad
Louie Bello at the Abbey
Tim Gearan at Atwood’s
White Owls at Toad

Allston Pudding
Boston Hassle
Daykamp Music

Sound Ideas

Weekend Ideas

Another whirlwind weekend for live music, from the outdoors to the clubs, and local bands play the busiest dance cards. But Friday starts with two very different, emotive singers in stripped-down mode. Brandi Carlile usually rocks with a rootsy vibe, but she’s taking unplugged to the extreme on her Pin Drop Tour, performing without amps or microphones at Sanders Theatre with bandmates Tim and Phil Hanseroth plus cellist Josh Neumann.  Closer to this kind of gig (minus the mics). And over at House of Blues, Swedish singer Lykke Li grows from her electro-pop roots to get stark and minimalist with echoey power ballads on her third album, I Never Learn. Here’s one of those tracks live and here’s a jump to my recent interview.

It’s a trifecta weekend for Pipeline! at 25 presents: 50 Years of Boston Rock, as the series of historic local band reunions shifts to other rooms. The Middle East Downstairs is the place to be Friday for the roots-oriented Blood Oranges (led by mandolinist Jimmy Ryan) and Lazy Susan as well as the pop-aligned Fuzzy and veteran Robin Lane & the Chartbusters. Then Pipeline! goes heavy at the Middle East Downstairs with a Saturday hard-rock reunion night (excepting the oddly placed avant-chamber group Birdsongs of the Mesozoic) that includes sets by Quintane Americana, Kudgel, Crazy Alice and Orangutang. And the celebration moves to the Paradise Rock Club on Sunday with a broad bill that includes local pioneers Willie Alexander & the Boom Boom Band and the Atlantics’ Fred Pineau as well as rockers Tree, Shake the Faith and the night-closing ’80s favorites Heretix. Here’s the full rundown with set times (click on “see more” toward the top).

But the weekend’s biggest event is Sound of Our Town, a free music festival laced with local luminaries at the Lawn on D, the new outdoor experimental arts park next to South Boston’s convention center. Running from 3 to 10 p.m., Sound of Our Town includes rapper Dutch ReBelle (the recent Improper cover girl who wowed at the Middle East last week behind her new album ReBelle Diaries), dreamy psych-rockers Quilt, noisy indie-rockers Speedy Ortiz, R&B-schooled belter Eli “Paperboy” Reed and headliner the Both, featuring Ted Leo and onetime Bostonian star Aimee Mann. The celebration’s presented by the Boston Music Awards, which will announce this year’s nominations and kick off voting on site that night. Scroll down this page for all the acts and set times.

Yet that’s not all on Saturday! Indoor shows include Charli XCX (the English pop upstart who co-wrote Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy” as well as this hit of her own) at Royale and charismatic rockers the Airborne Toxic Event at House of Blues. Tabla virtuoso Zakir Hussain performs Indian classical music with veena player Jayanthi Kumaresh and violinist Kumaresh Rajagopalan at the Tsai Performance Center at Boston University, while roots music fans can get cozy with the Howlin’ Brothers at Atwoods Tavern in Cambridge. And Sunday, the venerable Neil Young opens a two-night solo stand at the Citi Wang Theatre. He was age 24 when he wrote this classic about an old caretaker.

Sox Hope for Answers in the Offseason

Four Areas Boston Must Improve Before 2015

Worst-to-first-to-worst-to-first? If the Boston Red Sox want any chance to flip the script for 2015, they have work to do this offseason. But that’s really no different than in most offseasons. And by undertaking the great purge at this year’s trade deadline, they have far fewer free-agent-to-be decisions to make. Koji Uehara, Burke Badenhop and David Ross are the only guys from the current team who will hit the open market. If we use 2013 as a blueprint, the key to success will be deep depth, which means penciling in as many non-starters for AAA as possible. If they’re not traded, Garin Cecchini, Jackie Bradley Jr., Allen Webster, Anthony Ranaudo and Will Middlebrooks can all expect to start the season in Pawtucket. But what other moves do the Sox need to make to contend in 2015? Here are the four areas they should sort out for next year.

Starting pitching

What do you do with a guy who’s ERA jumps up 3.60 points in one season? It was hard to figure out Clay Buchholz before this year, and it’s even tougher now. Is he the guy who posted a 1.74 ERA in 2013 or the one behind the atrocious 5.34 ERA in 2014? Based on current talent and performance, you can likely get by with Joe Kelly, Buchholz and Rubby De La Rosa (hampered by the innings workload late in the year) as your third, fourth and fifth best starters. That means Webster, Ranaudo, Matt Barnes and Henry Owens are among the many pitchers who can step in if there’s an injury. What about the two pitchers at the top of the rotation? Those will have to be either signed or traded for. James Shields, Jon Lester and Max Scherzer are the top three free-agent pitchers, and it appears Shields, the third best of that bunch, will be the Sox’ primary target. But the Sox also need to trade for another pitcher. Mat Latos, Cole Hamels and Jonny Cueto have all been mentioned, and it’s not crazy to think maybe Billy Beane would trade Jeff Samardzija before he hits free agency. Either way, the Sox have at least two premier pitchers to acquire.

Third base

Will Middlebrooks is certainly not the answer. Garin Cecchini likely needs another year in AAA to hone his defense (he didn’t tank on Derek Jeter’s last hit, he’s just a bad defender) and show he can replicate the offensive numbers he put up in the lower minor leagues. Brock Holt is better as a utility guy, and Mookie Betts doesn’t have the arm to play third base. That leaves free agency as the best bet, with Chase Headley and Pablo Sandoval the two prizes at this position. Headley on an incentive-loaded short-term deal is the most palatable, but either guy looks like he would be a welcome addition to the team. Giving a long-term deal to 28-year-old Sandoval comes with few question marks aside from his weight. Aramis Ramirez, Asdrubal Cabrera, Jed Lowrie and Hanley Ramirez all would be possible fits for the hot corner but disappointing in light of the better options. This is the easiest position for the Sox to upgrade this offseason. There’s a good crop of available free agents, the Sox have money to spend and an obvious need.


Rusney Castillo, Betts, Yoenis Cespedes, Shane Victorino, Daniel Nava, Allen Craig and Jackie Bradley Jr. It’s easy to think the Sox could find five guys from that lot to play next year. Plug in Castillo in center, Betts in right, Cespedes in left, with Nava and Victorino coming off the bench—and Craig coming off foot surgery? But the pieces don’t fit too perfectly. Castillo and Betts are likely certain for the outfield. But the rest of the players create a bit of a logjam. Victorino or Cespedes are the most obvious candidates to be traded since they will be entering the final year of their contracts. But they both also hold a lot of upside, so it won’t be easy to part with either. Perhaps Cespedes might be part of a trade to get that No. 2 starter? And what about the never-ending Giancarlo Stanton rumors? The Sox could stand pat here, but that’s what you do if you’re coming off a World Series title, not a last-place finish.


Two months ago, it seemed certain the Sox would offer Koji Uehara the qualifying offer after holding onto him at the trade deadline. But late-season struggles led to his removal as closer and left his future with the Sox in doubt. Still, it seems unlikely the Sox would discount his many months of greatness because he had a couple of bad weeks. Andrew Miller has been rumored to possibly return in 2015 as a lefty out of the pen, and Junichi Tazawa was his usual dependable self for most of this year. Tommy Layne and Alex Wilson were late-season surprises, while Edward Mujica’s “resurgence” was a bit overhyped. And, of course, some of those AAA starters might see their time as starting pitchers come to an end in favor of a prominent bullpen role: Brandon Workman, we’re looking at you. There will likely be a couple of minor additions (much like Burke Badenhop and Mujica last year), but I wouldn’t expect to see the bullpen undergo a massive overhaul.

Improper Now

Hot Plates: Your fall dining picks

Chefs with new openings this season give us a peek at their menus.

The mercury may be falling, but the dining scene is only heating up. Here, chefs from four hotly anticipated fall openings whet our appetites with one standout dish from their forthcoming menus. 

The Place
Ames Street Deli, a Kendall spot  for daytime sammies and nighttime cocktails by the Journeyman team.  

The Plate
A roasted cauliflower sandwich with tobiko, pickled green beans, shiso and toasted nori.  

The Chef's Take
“As luscious and full of umami as pork belly can be, this lunch sandwich is so healthy you will absolutely deserve a dessert afterward,” says chef/co-owner Diana Kudajarova.


The Place
The newly renovated Bukowski Tavern in Cambridge, reopening under chef/co-owner Brian Poe.

The Plate
A hot dog trio: a mini alligator Andouille sausage with corn tartar sauce, a bison dog with sorachi ketchup and a venison frank with basil-cucumber relish.

The Chef's Take
“The menu at Buks is going to be very burger-centric, but we won’t forget the tots or the hot dogs!” says Poe, who also helms Poe’s Kitchen, the Tip Tap Room and Estelle’s (whew!). 


The Place
Cafe ArtScience, housed in new art and design center Le Laboratoire Cambridge. 

The Plate
Burnt tarragon-encrusted beef carpaccio with poached lobster salad, XO sauce, matsutake mushrooms and burgundy truffle.

The Chef's Take
“That’s on the more refined side,” says chef Patrick Campbell, formerly of No. 9 Park. “Lunch is going to be very different from dinner—high-volume, fast-paced and a lot more casual.”


The Place
JP’s revamped Centre Street Cafe, reopening as an Italian eatery from the Tres Gatos team. 

The Plate
Pizzoccheri lasagna with buckwheat pasta, butter-braised cabbage, confit potatoes and swiss chard, topped with fontina fonduta and fried sage.

The Chef's Take
“It’s an Italian regional dish that will utilize all local produce from Stillman’s Farm,” says executive chef Brian Rae, former chef de cuisine at Rialto. “For me, this dish means fall is here.” 




Improper Now

2014 Boston Music Awards voting kicks off with Sound of Our Town

Free BMA pre-party at the new Lawn on D!

Flyer art: Nicole Anguish/Daykamp Creative

'Tis the season to celebrate the best of this city’s music scene. The nominations for the 2014 Boston Music Awards—the annual awards show and kick-ass party that gives due cred to local artists who’ve done big things during the past year—will be announced on Oct. 4.

This year, however, BMA voting kicks off with another party: the first annual Sound of Our Town, a music festival at the Lawn on D, a new interactive arts space in South Boston. The free all-day fest, presented in part by online music mag Vanyaland and local nonprofit Music Drives Us, features a stacked lineup of talent, including Dutch ReBelle, Speedy Ortiz, Quilt, Hooray for Earth, Eli “Paperboy” Reed, Parks, the Grownup Noise and the Both (aka Aimee Mann and Ted Leo), along with DJ sets, booze and likely a few surprises. Did we mention it’s free?

This year’s BMA contenders will be announced at the festival, and voting will commence on the spot. Heads up: Live voting at the event will be weighted more heavily than online voting, so get out there and make your voice heard.


Sound Ideas

Weekend Ideas

This is ridiculous. There are so many shows going on, even I’m playing on this first official weekend of fall. So let’s dive in. Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy and his drummer son Spencer bond as Tweedy at the Berklee Performance Center on Friday in support of their rich if sprawling and somewhat downbeat new album Sukierae. Expect Jeff Tweedy to also perform some Wilco chestnuts, either solo or with the band. Later that night, rap upstart Dutch ReBelle teams with STL GLD (the MC/producer combo of Moe Pope & the Architype) celebrates the release of her new album ReBelle Diaries. Here’s ReBelle live and here’s a jump to our Improper cover story from the August music issue. And the spunky, charismatic Shovels & Rope hits Royale for Friday and Saturday shows. Here’s that Americana duo in concert and here’s a jump to my recent interview. And there's another stellar Friday Club d'Elf summit at the Lizard Lounge with guitarist Dave Tronzo and winds player Ned Rothenberg.

Another hearty weekend for the Pipeline! at 25 presents: 50 Years of Boston Rock. About halfway through the 13-night roundup of historic local band reunions, the toast to WMBR’s 25th anniversary continues at Arlington’s Regent Theatre on Friday with Dumptruck and members of Morphine and Big Dipper, and on Saturday with mid-60s band the Remains (best known for opening the Beatles’ last tour), Cardinal and the Downbeat 5. Sunday shifts to the Brighton Music Hall for one of the series’ most divergent lineups with Anastasia Screamed, the Flies, Bentmen (the theatrical tribalists that I rejoin on percussion), art-rockers Men & Volts, the Nervous Eaters and a Straw Dogs/FU’s punk sandwich. Here’s the full rundown with set times for the Pipeline! celebration. There’s also a great show for a great cause on Saturday with the first installment of Crash Safely 2014, a benefit for the National MS Society at Jamaica Plain’s Midway Café that sports Watts, Gene Dante & the Future Starlets, The I Want You (another one of my August local band picks) and members of the Figgs. Here’s more on that series.

Don’t wait until nighttime. The South End comes alive in beautiful Saturday afternoon weather with Berklee’s BeanTown Jazz Festival’s main event: a block party along Columbus Avenue with stages featuring glamorous percussionist Sheila E, hip fusionists Snarky Puppy (who also play the Berklee Performance Center on Sunday), trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire, singer Dionne Farris with the Russell Gunn Quartet, saxophonist Miguel Zenon and Screaming Headless Torsos, featuring innovative guitarist Dave Fiuczynski. Here’s the complete BeanTown Jazz schedule, including Friday and Saturday shows at Scullers Jazz Club with Oleta Adams. Over in Somerville’s Union Square, Bull McCabe’s also holds its Roots to Reggae Outdoor Music Fest from 2-11 p.m. on Saturday, highlighted by Christian McNeill & Sea Monsters (with guest singer/guitarist Tim Gearan) and Dub Apocalypse. And synth-pop fans should flock to House of Blues on Saturday night for a dance party with ’80s born English duo Erasure, featuring Andy Bell and Vince Clarke, celebrating their to-form new album The Violet Flame.

Sunday doesn’t slow down with additional shows including Pink Martini’s sophisticated cocktail (adding the Von Trapps, singing great-grandchildren of the “Sound of Music” family) at Symphony Hall, the rambunctious Black Lips at the Paradise Rock Club, and a rare reunion visit from Bob Geldof’s Boomtown Rats at Royale. With an expected hangover from this leaf-rattling weekend, I won’t like Monday either.

Sound Ideas

Weekend Ideas

The second weekend of historic local band lineups in WMBR’s Pipeline! 25th anniversary series takes over Cuisine en Locale for two nights. Friday features early U2 opener Someone + the Somebodies’ first show in 30 years (on a Friday bill also including Nisi Period and Mistle Thrush) while Saturday’s ’90s-slanted slate offers the first Dirt Merchants show in 17 years, plus the Gravel Pit and the Sheila Divine. Last weekend’s long-lost reunions ranged from ’60s psychedelic band Freeborne to ’80s hardcore band Stranglehold, and they didn’t disappoint. Here’s the latest rundown to click for all the bands and set times.

It’s a busy weekend all over with a bunch of mid-level shows. Sun Kil Moon, the indie-folk band project of singer/songwriter Mark Kozelek (formerly of Red House Painters), brings dark, haunting sounds to Somerville Theatre on Friday. Scottish pop artist Paolo Nutini returns to charm House of Blues, and psych-garage luminary Ty Segall rocks Great Scott the same night.

Grizzled troubadour Willie Nelson plays a 2 p.m. Saturday matinee out at Indian Ranch in Webster – I kinda doubt that Johnny Depp will sit in like he did when Nelson played in town earlier this summer, but you never know. What you can count on is Nelson opening with this chestnut. And music fans up for the longer drive to the northwestern corner of the state should consider the star-stacked FreshGrass festival at MassMOCA in North Adams. The event runs Friday through Sunday with such broad acoustic artists as the Carolina Chocolate Drops, newcomer Valerie June (who slayed at Newport Folk), Railroad Earth, Hurray for the Riff Raff, ex-Hothouse Flowers frontman Liam O Maolai and heavyweights David Grisman and Emmylou Harris. Here’s the entire lineup/info on FreshGrass.

In town, Saturday night ranges from cheeky British pop star Lily Allen at House of Blues to Irish-American traditionalists Solas at the Somerville Theater, while across the street at Johnny D’s, Mike Peters from the Alarm translates his songs into acoustic declarations. And the biggest show of the weekend arrives Sunday with garage-rocking duo the Black Keys firing up their expanded sound at the TD Garden with opener Cage the Elephant.

Finally, for my Thursday Throwback, here's the earliest known pro-shot video of an R.E.M. show from 1982, captured just after the release of the band's debut Chronic Town EP and including tracks from the upcoming classic Murmur. So young and scruffy on Georgia cable TV.

Sound Ideas

Weekend Ideas

Summer and fall seasons collide in a busy slate for weekend music, including the year’s last show at Blue Hills Bank Pavilion and the beginning of the month-long Pipeline! cavalcade of local bands. For starters, Bob Mould hits the Paradise Rock Club with rock band in tow on Friday to exercise his solo catalog as well as tunes from his former band Husker Du, while ex-Mahavishnu drummer Billy Cobham rolls into the Regattabar to celebrate his 1973 solo jazz-fusion landmark Spectrum. There's also the Chicago Afrobeat Project featuring drummer Tony Allen of Fela Kuti fame laying down the horns and polyrhythmic grooves at Johnny D's Uptown.

Friday's also the opening night of Pipeline! at 25 presents: 50 Years of Boston Rock with one of its older entries, the ’60s then-teen psychedelic band Freeborne, plus ’90s major-label rockers O Positive, plus Cordelia’s Day and We Saw the Wolf at Arlington’s Regent Theatre. The reunion-rich series, toasting the anniversary of MIT radio station WMBR's local music program, continues Saturday at Cuisine en Locale (the old Anthony’s function hall at 156 Highland Ave., Somerville) with the Turbines (“Wah Hey!”), the Neats' Eric Martin, the Dogmatics and others. Here’s the rundown.

On the middle of the road side, tunesmith Jason Mraz charms the masses in two relatively intimate shows at the Citi Wang Theatre on Friday and Saturday, while Saturday afternoon finds populist rockers O.A.R. join Phillip Phillips and Christina Perri at the free Mixfest 2014 concert at the DCR Hatch Shell on the Esplanade. Or for a guy who sounds and looks smartly retro with a modern edge, I’d recommend R&B rocker Nick Waterhouse’s return to the Brighton Music Hall on Saturday.

Blue Hills Bank Pavilion closes its season Sunday with a hearty if oddly matched trip of groups on the Honda Civic Tour. The frisky, entertaining and danceable Grouplove headline with Pacific Northwest psychedelic pop modernists Portugal. The Man, but get there early for the impressionistic folk-rock big band Typhoon.

Finally, for my Thursday Throwback, with this week’s free iTunes stunt release of U2’s Songs of Innocence, I’m looking back to the band’s last truly revolutionary drop, 1991’s Achtung Baby, and its subsequent concert tour. “I’m ready for what’s next,” Bono sang live in “Zoo Station,” the first several new songs that opened the band’s 1992 shows, coming off dark and playful, eccentric and electrifying. U2’s new surprise album initially yields a string of pleasant, cleanly produced tunes, but nothing that’s instantly memorable like the Achtung Baby stuff. Maybe that’s an unfair yardstick, and Songs of Innocence seems more lyrically engaged than recent efforts, but let’s see the quartet get back on tour to see how it all pans out, whether U2 remains rock giants or has-beens.

Culture Shack

Swiss Kicks

Smart Swiss design doesn’t stop at Swatches and pocketknives. Consider these sneakers designed by Thilo Alex Brunner for Swiss shoe brand On, on view as part of Excellent Swiss Design, an exhibit running from Sept. 10 through Nov. 22 at MassArt’s Sandra and David Bakalar Gallery.

“The On sneaker not only looks great but is extremely pioneering,” says Lisa Tung, MassArt’s director of curatorial programs. “It has a patented hollow-core sole that allows the runner to have a soft landing yet enables a hard ‘push off.’” Like the rest of the featured designs, the sneaks are a selection from the Design Prize Switzerland, which gives props to innovations in fashion, interior design and other creative fields—so expect to see everything from compostable furniture to E-Broidery textiles embedded with LEDs and solar cells. Says Tung: “One could imagine some great Halloween costumes made out of it!” 

Sound Ideas

Live Review: Boston Calling Moves The Masses

The National scaled majestic rock as the façade of City Hall became a psychedelic light grid. Goth-pop princess Lorde proclaimed her night magical, as was her set after a three-hour storm delay. And the Replacements hit town for the first time in 23 years, rocking both old and young fans silly with garage-punk nuggets.

The fourth edition of Boston Calling provided a glorious mixed bag across the past three days at City Hall Plaza, opening with a bang on Friday night and closing with its most stacked, diverse lineup yet on a perfect-weather Sunday. Saturday grew problematic with the event’s first-ever evacuation to wait out thunderstorms, a smart move for safety, though it left throngs in the streets and bars as well as under City Hall’s VIP alcoves for that extended wait. It didn’t help that Volcano Choir and Girl Talk never got to play after the Hold Steady had mustered some momentum with its Springsteen-tinged guitar rock behind frontman Craig Finn’s constant wide-armed gestures.

After social media helped beckon the faithful back to the plaza, however, Lorde emerged about 9 p.m. and set it all right. “I’m so, so grateful to you for staying,” the 17-year-old New Zealand star told the crowd. And backed by a drummer and keyboardist, she worked her narrow sonic palette with sincerity and grace, while losing herself into spastic dance contortions when the beats kicked in. When she ditched her black jumpsuit to emerge in flowing red cape and crown for “Royals,” it felt like a shared coronation, with fans singing along, “Let me live that fantasy!” Seconds after Lorde’s finish, Childish Gambino cranked up on the alternate stage as if to keep the crowd from leaving, though “Community” actor/rapper Donald Glover’s broad, busy and evolving hip-hop pastiche proved a confusing contrast.

Sunday pretty much delivered from top to bottom, though for split factions of fans. The kids went wild for English quartet the 1975 (despite or perhaps partly because of singer Matthew Healy’s detached flourishes to the atmospheric alt-rock) and especially for Twenty One Pilots. That Midwestern duo stormed the stage in Ninja-like masks to bash through sleek piano/drums pop, Eminem-ish raps and even a soft ukulele changeup of Elvis Presley's “Can’t Help Falling in Love,” a mish-mash often more crowd-pleasing than musical. And young devotees sang along to it all, waving their hands high and even supporting a drum-kit platform that flamboyant Josh Dun broached the barricade to play.

Those two late-afternoon bands came between guitar-centric outfits favored by other, partly older fans. On the early side, Texas quartet White Denim shifted and stung like a prog-rock ZZ Top, jamming far beyond the blues with twin guitars and active rhythms. But the more textural glide of the War on Drugs, led by Bay State native Adam Granduciel, tended to wash into mid-afternoon background sound (in keeping with the title of the band’s fine new album Lost in a Dream), despite wondrous surges. And the Boston-bred Lake Street Dive was the day’s starkest standout with jazzy soul-pop that charmed friends and newbies alike as soon as singer Rachael Price opened her mouth. Price soared over the spry retro-groove (and whistling of guitarist/trumpeter Mike Olson) in “Bobby Tanqueray” and she testified like Etta James with crowd-cheered vocal inflections in “Don’t Make Me Hold Your Hand.” In one of two new songs, Price teased about breaking the good-girl mold, singing “Can’t you see this is only the beginning.” With this band, yes.

Edgier pop-rock returned after sundown with another Texas outfit, Spoon, which explored its dark and light duality, from its stage attire (three musicians in black, two in white) to songs that veered from cool to funky, seductive to dissonant. Yet singer Britt Daniel broke the black-and-white mold to sport a Red Sox cap for the “The Underdog,” probably not a coincidence given the home team’s recent turn. Daniel also had the nerve to salute the Replacements by suggesting they should have new songs, though the ’Mats charged through their return with proven fare.

The most notable first impression cast by the matured, half-original Replacements was how tight and forceful they sounded, perhaps too tight for a band that forged its legacy on sloppy (i.e. drunken) performances. The quartet (with local Neighborhoods veteran David Minehan on lead guitar), proved able to stop on a dime in songs including “Can’t Hardly Wait” and even the early thrasher “Love You Till Friday,” which morphed into Chuck Berry’s “Maybelline.” But the ’Mats luciky began to show their seams, when Paul Westerberg went from joking about not knowing what to play to actually forgetting lyrics in “Androgynous” and seeking help from his old bass foil Tommy Stinson at the same mic. Westerberg also blew a mean harmonica in “White and Lazy,” and it was a great sight to see teenagers and geezers alike shouting along to “Bastards of Young” on the railing in front of the stage.

In another sharp contrast of style for the audience, Sunday’s final set again cut to hip-hop with Nas and the Roots, together and separately. Alas, except for a couple of quick jams, that turned out to be separately for the most part. Veteran MC Nas has been showcasing his 1994 classic Illmatic, but he mixed it in a half-hour opening that hit a peak with the fierce bravado of “One Mic,” before the Roots crew took over the second half, working their own catalog as well as such divergent covers as Kool & the Gang’s “Jungle Boogie,” Guns N' Roses’ “Sweet Child O' Mine,” and George Thorogood's “Bad to the Bone.”

There’s a different vibe to Boston Calling at night, when the screens are going, the light show’s darting around the face of City Hall and the bands sound better in the still air. And perhaps that works best on opening night when everything’s fresh, before the diverse, daylong marathons. It certainly worked Friday, when Neutral Milk Hotel brought much of its 1998 cult landmark In the Aeroplane Over the Sea to life, from the folky solo tunes of reclusive singer Jeff Mangum (hard to see in his cap and wooly beard apart from his ban on cameras and video screens) to the ensemble’s lovely, shambolic din of horns, accordions and singing saw. You could imagine the influence on previous Boston Calling headliner the Decemberists, just to name one band. And the National capped the first night with an even stronger set than its inaugural appearance, with dizzying visuals and guitarists Aaron (who curates the event) and Bryce Dessner gesturing to fans. Frontman Matt Berninger also plowed deep through the crowd during “Terrible Love” before the group closed with the acoustic “Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks.”

Geeks of all stripes found their tribe in this year’s Boston Calling lineup, which drew 45,000 over the entire weekend, though attendance seemed to be less than half of that each day, short of sold out. Perhaps folks hold on to the image of City Hall Plaza as an unforgiving brick-and-concrete place, especially in hot weather. But it wasn’t that bad, apart from Saturday’s uncertain storm break. Even without the welcome video screens (one of which was lowered Saturday for the storm), the sightlines and the sound were fine in most spots. Sure, Boston Calling can be expensive if you’re only keen on seeing one or two acts. But when they announce next year’s lineup, hopefully more kids and adults will enjoy taking advantage of our city’s own major music festival.

Sound Ideas

Weekend Ideas

It’s (almost) all about Boston Calling this weekend, with the most dynamic, varied lineup yet for the three-day music festival on City Hall Plaza – and hard to believe, single-day, two-day and three-day passes remain. Besides such stellar headliners as the National, Lorde, the Replacements, Childish Gambino, Neutral Milk Hotel and Nas with the Roots, there are many rising stars to catch, from locals Lake Street Dive to Future Islands, the War on Drugs, San Fermin and the 1975, seen here at a recent show. And unlike most fests from Lollapalooza to Newport Folk, the back-and-forth twin stages mean continual music without your having to miss a thing – unless you want to leave and come back. Here’s the whole rundown, including the stage schedules.

On any other weekend, Steely Dan at Blue Hills Bank Pavilion would be a big deal on Saturday -- and it still is for those who want to bask in the sly, sophisticated songs of Donald Fagan and Walter Becker. Hard to believe that Steely Dan once relegated itself to the studio, given its crack semi-annual runs with a jazzy large ensemble spiced by a horn section, backup singers and drummer Keith Carlock, who's particularly explosive on this classic.

There are also a handful of notable club shows. Friday boasts North African desert guitarist Bombino at the Sinclair while Handsome Dick Manitoba fronts Dictators NYC at the Middle East Downstairs to keep the punk-rock legacy of his Dictators tenure alive. Texas’ iconoclastic rockers White Denim pull into town a day earlier than their Boston Calling slot to play a Saturday night after-party at the Sinclair (where the Roots’ Questlove DJs on Sunday). And just over the New Hampshire border at the Portsmouth Music Hall, the hip country-folk troubadour M Ward shares his charms on Saturday as part of the theater’s Intimately Yours series.

Finally, for my Thursday Throwdown, I look forward to the return of King Crimson at the Citi Emerson Colonial Theatre on Sept. 15-16 by looking back at Crimson’s last tour before guitarist Robert Fripp (bathed in blue in this full 2008 show) disbanded his evolving prog-rock unit. Not that it’ll be the same this time out. Fripp retained only Pat Mastelotto (as part of a three-drummer lineup that commands the front line onstage) and bassist Tony Levin, while bringing in old Crimson saxman Mel Collins. Expect more than a fair share of instrumental intensity nonetheless.

Sound Ideas

Local Rock History Comes to Life for 'Pipeline!' Concerts

Theatrical tribalists Bentmen and charismatic pop-rockers Heretix and O Positive are among the latest acts added to Pipeline! at 25 presents 50 Years of Boston Rock, a historic 13-night lineup of 80 local bands. Many are specially reuniting for this staggering 25th anniversary celebration of MIT radio station WMBR’s “Pipeline” show.

Scattered between five venues, the festival will run weekends from Sept. 12 to Oct. 12. It’ll include such local legends as the Remains, Willie Alexander & the Boom Boom Band, and Robin Lane & the Chartbusters well as the Cavedogs, Gigolo Aunts, the Blood Oranges, Green Magnet School, Dirt Merchants, the Bags and the Sheila Divine, plus more surprising reunions from Someone & the Somebodies, Men & Volts, Lazy Suzan and the phoenix-like ’60s teen psychedelic band the Freeborne.

The groups have been divided onto eye-popping bills at the Regent Theatre, the Middle East Downstairs, the Paradise Rock Club, Brighton Music Hall and new venue Cuisine en Locale, a community-based, sustainable food company in the former Anthony's function hall at 156 Highland Ave, Somerville. Tickets are on sale.

Here’s the Facebook event page:  https://www.facebook.com/events/640418139399689/.

And here are the night-by-night lineups -- in descending order of planned appearance, meaning the first band listed is the last band onstage.

SHOW #1 - Fri. Sept. 12 at Regent Theatre, Arlington: Doors at 7. The Freeborne, O Positive, Cordelia's Dad, We Saw the Wolf, String Builder.

TICKETS: http://regenttheatre.com/details/1st_night_pipeline_at_25_presents_50_years_of_boston_rock

Facebook Event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/1486054074967978/

SHOW #2 - Sat. Sept. 13 at Cuisine en Locale, Somerville: Doors at 6. Stranglehold, The Turbines, The Neats' Eric Martin & friends, The Dogmatics, Baby's Arm, Miranda Warning + 1 more TBA.

TICKETS: http://pipelineatcel1.eventbrite.com

SHOW #3 - Fri. Sept. 19 at Cuisine en Locale, Somerville: Doors at 6. Nisi Period, Someone & the Somebodies, Pods, Purple Ivy Shadows, Mistle Thrush, Curious Ritual +1 more TBA.

TICKETS: http://pipelineatcel2.eventbrite.com

Facebook Event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/297176617128582/

SHOW #4 - Sat. Sept. 20 at Cuisine en Locale, Somerville: Doors at 6. The Sheila Divine, Dirt Merchants, The Gravel Pit, Fertile Virgin, Honeybunch, Evol Twin +1 more TBA.

TICKETS: http://pipelineatcel3.eventbrite.com

Facebook Event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/840342315978853/

SHOW #5 - Fri. Sept. 26 at Regent Theatre, Arlington: Doors at 7. Dumptruck, Vapors of Morphine, Big Dipper’s Bill Goffrier & friends, The Jigsaws, The Barnies.

TICKETS: http://regenttheatre.com/details/show_5_wmbrs_pipeline_at_25_presents_50_years_of_boston_rock

Facebook Event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/872378212789485/

SHOW #6 - Sat. Sept. 27 at Regent Theatre, Arlington: Doors at 7:30. The Remains, Cardinal, The Downbeat 5.

TICKETS: http://regenttheatre.com/details/the_remains_live_at_the_regent_theatre

Facebook Event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/821759141182608/

 SHOW #7 - Sun. Sept. 28 at Brighton Music Hall, Allston: Doors at 4. Anastasia Screamed, The Flies, Bentmen, Men & Volts, The Nervous Eaters, The F.U.'s / Strawdogs + 1 more TBA.

TICKETS: http://www.ticketmaster.com/event/01004D05B46F8119

SHOW #8 - Fri. Oct. 3 at @The Middle East Downstairs, Cambridge: Doors at 6. Fuzzy, The Blood Oranges, Robin Lane and The Chartbusters, Tacklebox, Lazy Susan, Buttercup + 1 more TBA.

TICKETS: http://www.ticketweb.com/t3/sale/SaleEventDetail?dispatch=loadSelectionData&eventId=5309405

Facebook Event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/302475619933774/

SHOW #9 - Sat. Oct. 4 at The Middle East Downstairs, Cambridge: Doors at 6. The Clamdiggers (proto-Upper Crust), Orangutang, Bulkhead, Birdsongs of the Mesozoic, Kudgel, Quintaine Americana, Crazy Alice.

TICKETS: http://www.ticketweb.com/t3/sale/SaleEventDetail?dispatch=loadSelectionData&eventId=5309665

Facebook Event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/248855668571736/

 SHOW #10 - Sun. Oct. 5 at Paradise Rock Club, Boston: Doors at 4. Heretix, Willie Alexander & The Boom Boom Band, Shake The Faith, Reddy Teddy, The Charms, Big City Rockers (The Atlantics), High Risk Group, The Dents.

TICKETS: http://www.ticketmaster.com/event/01004D05BA559E14

Facebook Event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/1529549527275437/

 SHOW #11 - Fri. Oct. 10 at Cuisine en Locale, Somerville: Doors at 6. Green Magnet School, Orbit, The Red Telephone, Hullabaloo, Permafrost (Miles Dethmuffen), Unnatural Axe, Luca Brasi.

TICKETS: http://pipelineatcel4.eventbrite.com

Facebook Event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/776267429095535

SHOW #12 - Sat. Oct. 11 at Cuisine en Locale, Somerville: Doors at 6. The Cavedogs, Gigolo Aunts, Flying Nuns, The Rising Storm, Drumming on Glass, The Natives, The Dambuilders' Dave Derby & friends.

TICKETS: http://pipelineatcel5.eventbrite.com

SHOW #13 - Sun. Oct. 12 at The Middle East Downstairs, Cambridge: Doors at 6. The Gizmos, The Bags, The Voodoo Dolls, Kenny Chambers / Electric Ears (Moving Targets), The Underachievers, Carrie Bradley (of Ed's Redeeming Qualities, The Breeders, The Buckets).

TICKETS: http://www.ticketweb.com/t3/sale/SaleEventDetail?dispatch=loadSelectionData&eventId=5309685

Facebook Event pages: https://www.facebook.com/events/1513300288882675/



Improper Now

Brush Strokes of Genius: Boston Calling's 'Blank Canvas' winners on their inspirations

Peep the five Boston Calling mural contest winners, pre-fest.

Now in its fourth installment, Boston Calling is experimenting with new ways to get the community involved and amped about the bi-annual music festival (as if the consistently excellent lineup wasn’t enough). To that end, earlier this summer they put out a call for art for their Blank Canvas contest, which challenged local artists to create a mural to be displayed at the fest come Sept. 5. The winning murals are quite different, but all have one thing in common: love for music and this city. We caught up with four of the five winners** to ask about their inspiration — musical or otherwise.

Kyle Hebert, 26, graphic designer

The inspiration?
“Remember when every blank canvas, whether it be the walls of your bedroom or the soles of your shoes, was covered with the artists and musicians that you loved?”

Soundtrack to the art?
“I’m always listening to music while designing. Typically, I listen to artists that I’m going to see in concert soon. Boston has some amazing venues and events, and there are always great bands coming through. There wasn’t a particular song or artist that influenced this project, but I’m sure I listened to the National in preparation.”

Psyched to see live at Boston Calling?
"I’m stoked to see The National for the first time."

Eric Byers, 19, student

The inspiration?
“The inspiration for my mural can best be summarized by the connection that the festival creates between the city and its people.”

Soundtrack to the art?
“When I'm working on art and design I don’t usually listen to anything in particular. While creating this specific design I happened to be listening to my current favorite artist, Cherub.  No certain song or artist inspired me while I was working—sorry to be boring!— but rather my experience last year at the festival, and what I saw.”

Psyched to see live at Boston Calling?
“I’m most excited to see Lorde this year. But, also, Childish Gambino, The National, Nas, Sky Ferreira, and Bleachers.”

Corey Corcoran, 28, admissions counselor at MassART

The inspiration?
“Really, I've always wanted an excuse to draw a duck boat!”

Soundtrack to the art?
“I'm always listening to something when making art. Usually, it's music or comedy podcasts. I'm a huge fan of WMBR in Cambridge and discover a lot of great music through them. In hammering out the design for the mural, I listened to the new album by the War on Drugs to try to plug into the spirit of Boston Calling.”

Psyched to see live at Boston Calling?
“In addition to the War on Drugs, I love Future Islands - they put on a truly awesome show.”

Michelle Stevens, 17, student

The inspiration?
“All attendees of the festival become connected with the city through being part of this special display of Boston culture, even the performing artists.”

Soundtrack to the art?
“I always have music playing when I’m working on my art, it helps me to get into my own little world and block out distractions. Foster The People is my typical go-to band, their sounds have a way of getting my creative juices flowing. However, the playlist going as I worked on this Blank Canvas mural was heavily the Vaccines, the 1975, Sam Smith, the Pillowmen, and Bleachers. When it gets to be really late at night as I’m working I’ve been putting “Salt” by Bad Suns and the Knocks’ remix of “Girls” by the 1975 on repeat—they keep me awake!”

Psyched to see live at Boston Calling?
“I’m excited to see Bleachers. I saw Jack Antonoff with fun. at the first Boston Calling; I’m looking forward to seeing him as a frontman. I think Strange Desire is a great record. The 1975 is one of my favorite bands—I saw their show at Royale earlier this year, so it will be awesome to see them again in a festival setting. It will be quite an experience to see Lorde. Some others I’m excited for are Gentleman Hall, Lake Street Dive, Childish Gambino and Twenty-One Pilots.”

**The fifth winner, Tim Murley, was out of the country at the time of this piece, so we couldn't tap him for his inspiration, but you can check out his winning mural below!

For more info and tickets visit bostoncalling.com.

Q&A: Being Charlie Davies

The Revs' striker opens up during a long conversation on his comeback, five years in the making.

Photo by David Silverman

Charlie Davies was so close to realizing his dream of the World Cup. He was only a few years out of Boston College and playing for the national team in 2009 before a late-night car accident killed a woman in the car he was a passenger in. The tragedy left Davies, now 28, scarred and with a long road back to the soccer field. He opens up in an exclusive conversation with The Improper on the toughest part of his recovery. Wearing a Muhammad Ali T-shirt and lunching at Alma Nove in Hingham, the kid who grew up in New Hampshire reflected on playing with the Revs, what his recent revival means, the best parts of living in Boston and much more.

Matt Martinelli: This past month you’ve been resurgent on the field. How does that feel for you?
Charlie Davies: It feels great to finally feel injury free, healthy and also fit. And then to be producing on the field at the same time is like bringing me back to where I was in the past. I’m taking it game by game. I think I’ve improved with each game, and I just hope it continues. It’s a great feeling to know that all the hard work is finally paying off.

What do you think has been the most important part of it?
I guess it’s been my mental strength with staying healthy. And just making sure that when I got the opportunity I took it. I wanted to make the most of it. I was so ready for the chance.

What did it feel like when they told you that you were starting for the first time a month ago?
It was an awesome feeling. To finally start, and then to score in my first home start. It was special.

Does your family get to go to the home games?
No, but they will this fall. They’re really looking forward to that because they haven’t seen me play yet with the Revolution. 

Were you drawn back to the Revs because of your ties to the region: Growing up here, going to BC, having your wife here?
Yeah, I wanted to be back here. It was more attractive and easier for me to go through it because of the adjustment period that I would have to go through was much less. It was easier for me to come back, knowing that my wife and I had already bought a home here and that we’d live one mile from her parents. It was one of those moves that you feel comfortable making not just professionally, but for off the field as well. It’s been unbelievable to be back, and now I’m a part of helping out with the BC men’s soccer team. Getting able to meet up with and see so many people who I grew up with and went to school with has been fantastic.

How does the BC coaching on the side work, timing wise?
We get a lot of time off in the afternoons. We’re normally just busy from 8 am till noon. With that extra time, I thought it’d be great for me to get extra experience with coaching to see how I liked it. And knowing that I could really help out the kids at Boston College transitioning maybe into something professional and knowing I could try to get the best out of them in the college ranks. It’s been an awesome experience so far, and hopefully, in my first year with them, we can win something.

Do a lot of the guys on the team try coaching? I know A.J. Soares was working with Harvard.
That’s what kind of sparked my interest is A.J. told me he had a great time with Harvard, and so I figured BC would be great. And so the coach I had when I went to BC is still the coach. And he gave me a call and put in my head about coming to help out and coach the guys when I could. It was an easy decision for me. I feel like I’m back in the BC community, I get to go to football games, and so I’m excited.

You met your wife there. How’d you guys meet?
Christian theology class, in the first semester. We had to introduce ourselves in the class and say where we went to high school. And she said her name and where she went to high school. She went to Noble and Greenough School, which is a rival high school of mine. So that was my “in” to kind of introduce myself to her. It took me probably a month and then we started dating. It will be 10 years at the end of September.

Wow, so did she follow you when you were playing internationally?
I left after my BC season in junior year, and she stayed to finish school and graduate. Then she moved to Sweden to be with me.

What went into that decision to turn pro?
It was one of those bittersweet moments just because you’ve sort of prepared yourself to do everything you could to be a professional. But at the same time you’re coming from a boarding school where school is the priority and athletics are second. Your dream is kind of always to get a college degree. It was a tough decision because I felt like I always wanted to be the first person in my family to get a college degree. And at the same time, knowing that why you go to school is to prepare yourself for the future and set yourself up for your job. I knew that soccer was going to be my job and it was one of those moments and opportunities that I knew I couldn’t pass up. So I had to leave, and I had to tell my wife—well, girlfriend at the time—that I had to pursue my dream and see how far I could take it. It worked out in the end. It was the right decision, and hopefully now I can start taking a class here or there to put my foot in the door to start finishing up my degree.

What do you think it was last year that made it tough to break through? Was it coming to the Revs midseason?
Yeah, it was coming over midseason. And they also had in their minds that Juan Agudelo was that center guy, which is the position I’m playing now. And they wanted to play only one striker and they wanted to put me on the wing, which I had never played before in my career. Having to adjust to learn a new position and a new formation was pretty difficult. I never got into rhythm and never got settled. It was kind of what I expected, coming here so late and with the team on a good run to make the playoffs. So, I guess my main goal was to be settled and ready for the next season because I knew Juan was leaving. And I ended up getting injured for most of the preseason. I missed three quarters of the preseason, so that also made it extremely difficult because by the time I was catching up, guys were already fit and playing games. Then it becomes an issue of just catchup for the first part of the season. I came back and I did well in the first game of the season but my body wasn’t really prepared physically. And I kind of got injured again. It took me awhile to get over that as well. Finally, I got fit again, and I had to wait for my chance again. He gave it to me. And the rest was history after that.

Yeah, you guys needed a spark there. It’s been a streaky season.
Such a streaky season. The good thing is, as streaky as we’ve been, we’re still right in it. This Saturday is probably our biggest game that we’ve had in awhile. (Ed. Note: They won 3-0.) So, I think Jermaine (Jones) will play in the game, too. I don’t really think he’s even fit or ready yet because he’s been in vacation mode since the World Cup, but it’ll be interesting for sure.

Did you watch a lot of the World Cup?
Almost every game, and usually with teammates. My wife was pretty into it. We were able to watch almost every single game. If I wasn’t able to watch it live, I recorded it and watched it later.

Did you watch it in 2010 or was that tougher?
That was very difficult. It was probably one of the most difficult times in my whole life. But I was able to watch it and support them, but it was extremely difficult.

Do you still have the national team on your radar?
Yeah, for sure. I’ll never give up that desire to kind of come full circle. I feel like I’m on the right path. If I continue to improve and continue to produce then I’ll get the chance again. It’s exciting because I don’t think it’s possible for me to get complacent because of everything I’ve been through. I’m always trying to get better and working as hard as I can. And that’s probably been my problem is I’m always doing too much extra, I wouldn’t be able to recover and that’s when I’d get injured.

Is this the best you’ve felt since 2009?
Yes. Without a doubt.

Do you feel like it’s all one big, five-year comeback? Or has it been smaller steps?
I think it’s been all one big thing. There’s definitely been some victories along the way. It’s a lot of highs and a lot of lows. And it’s just me balancing the ups and downs. It’s been difficult at times, but I think I’ve finally managed to know how to get through it and continue to get better. I think I’m finally on the right path. I know my body and when to stop and when to go. I think I’ve finally mastered that part of preparation. It should be hopefully smooth sailing from now. Now it’s just a matter of me producing every game instead of me having to worry about when my body’s going to break down.

Was there a low point for you in all this?
I’ve had many low points, but the lowest was definitely the call I had from Bob Bradley right before the 2010 World Cup to tell me that he couldn’t take me to the camp before they made the cuts for the World Cup because he didn’t think I’d be ready. And he said, as painful as it was, that I had to keep going and keep working and that I’d be able to get back if I continued to work hard. That right there, having felt like you’d reached the ultimate goal, the thing you dreamed of as a kid. To finally participate, and have it really be the defining moment, and it was taken away from you. And knowing that everything you worked hard for, you’re not going to get what you hoped. That pain and sadness and depression kind of all hit me then. That was May 2010. It probably lasted a month—the depression. And then it was kind of like, I went to the Bahamas for a week and my wife was like, ‘You’ve had your time to sulk. It’s expected. You shouldn’t feel bad that you feel this way, but now it’s time to get back on the horse and keep going. You’ve made it this far and nobody ever thought that was even possible. Now you know you can get back. It’s just going to take time. It’s time to power through it, and we’re in it together.’ And as soon as I got back from the Bahamas, I was like, ‘OK, I’m ready to go back at it. It’s been a bumpy ride and it’s been a long road, but I think you know, good things come to those people who work hard for it, but I’ve been patient and I’ve definitely put in the work to have success. So I’m starting to see a little glimpse of it now. Hopefully the tide turns and things continue to be positive for me.

Where were you when you got that call?
I was in France, just in my apartment. It was kind of late. I remember kind of, as soon as I heard him call, and I heard his call, tears started coming down my eyes. I just knew where the conversation was headed. And I knew the inevitable pain that was coming. Tears started to flow, and my wife knew right away what the call was about. That was a real rough time.

Did you expect that or were you planning to go to camp?
I was planning to go to camp. I had hoped to just go. I probably didn’t think I was going to make it, but I hoped I’d have a chance to go in and show the guys that I’m working my way back. And I was hoping to put the camp in good spirits. And there’s also the little hope that if you’re in camp you can make the 23. Even if I’m the twenty-third guy picked. I really thought that I would be a part of that camp. That’s what hurt. There was a little bit of a shock involved.

How long were you in the hospital after the crash?
I was there about a month.

So was everything after that sort of at a quick pace as far as your recovery?
It felt extremely slow, but with each week I would do something that I couldn’t do before and it gave me that push to go through the next week to get through the tough times. Each week I would improve, and that’s how it would go throughout, up until May. I felt like I was always improving in something, but I knew I was far, far away. I was always improving in something, but I wasn’t anyway near where I was. Mentally I was checked out because I didn’t have the speed, I didn’t have the strength, the coordination was gone. The instincts I had were gone. I had to relearn how to do everything. I felt like I really had to learn to shoot and pass again.  To run, to cut, everything that came to me naturally was not there. I was hesitant on everything I did.

Did living abroad make it tougher in the recovery?
Yeah, nobody spoke English, and I wasn’t great at French. It was extremely difficult. I felt like I wasn’t improving as fast I was in the States because I wasn’t doing soccer things yet. Once the ball came into play, it was like a crazy, crazy challenge. And it was something I hadn’t done and prepared myself physically for how tough it would be.

How was the experience living abroad overall?
It was an amazing experience. I’ve learned so much from it. You see all the different people, the different cultures, people speaking different languages, the different food. We traveled a ton. That was the best part, getting to travel and experience the different cultures and cities and the different foods and the history. I was so glad and thankful that I got a chance to do that. And I would never change a thing just because the experience was that good.

What was your favorite trip?
Rome. Rome just blew my mind. All the history and the people were awesome, the food was awesome. You’re going to the Colosseum, you’re going to the Vatican, the Spanish Steps, the Trevi Fountain, all these never ending things to see. I was just like, this is paradise. This is—for me—the best city in the world. I loved Italy in general, but Rome was fantastic.

How long were you guys there?
We stayed there for four nights. I think we walked around the city one day for 10 hours.

Yeah, the food, you can just go in anywhere…
Yeah, and it’s just unbelievable.

And the wine …
Yup, for days. 

Have you played with Jermaine before now? 

No. I met him in 2010 when he started with the national team. Whenever they would go on trips, I would go to dinner with the guys. And we built up a pretty good relationship. Before he came here, he was texting me for a couple weeks about, ‘What’s the city like? How’s the city? Do you really like the city?’ Obviously I told him what the city’s like and where to go, what to see, what to do. I think it’s like that in any city. When you have someone who knows the city well and can guide you through the ins and outs, you can really appreciate the city. I feel like a lot of people don’t ever get to appreciate the South Shore, and obviously the Cape. And then you’ve got Boston. Like Teal (Bunbury) on my team had never been to the North End before. Last week he went and said, ‘This place is awesome.’ I said, ‘You’ve been here for this long and you’ve never been to the North End?’ It’s just getting them to experience different parts of the city. The North End is fantastic. I try to go there with my wife maybe once every two weeks.

Any particular spot?
Prezza has always been our favorite. We’ve tried a bunch of different spots in the past year, though. We’ve tried Nico, we’ve tried Mamma Maria. Trattoria di Monica. We tried the other Trattoria on Hanover. Umm…

They’re all Trattorias…
Yeah, and they’ve all been unbelievable. I still think Prezza is the best, but I want to say if you want homemade Italian, I probably wouldn’t choose Prezza since it’s a bit modern. For that, Mamma Maria was amazing.

Do you care to weigh in on the eternal Mike’s vs. Modern debate?
We just go to Mike’s all the time. Do you?

Well, there’s a place a couple blocks away called Bova’s that’s great.
Better than both? I gotta try it then.

Is the North End the neighborhood you always go to in Boston?
Well, we’re foodies, so we like to eat everywhere. The North End is a big part of it. The South End, we love to go to. We had our rehearsal dinner at Mistral, so we love Mistral. The Butcher Shop. We love meats and cheeses, and they have a great charcuterie board and great wine there. Sorellina is very good. We love the Seaport. Strega and Empire in the Seaport. Legal’s if you want to go on the rooftop is nice. We love Indian food, so our closest one in Quincy is unbelievable, Punjab Café, but if we’re ever in the city we eat at one on Newbury. It’s great because we try different restaurants, but we like our favorites. Oh, and we love Barcelona in Brookline. We ate there Monday and Tuesday night this week. I like Barcelona because they have more meat plates and I feel like the other ones don’t fill me up enough.

What else do you do on offdays, outside of soccer?
The beach is a big thing. If we have a day off, it’s probably guaranteed we’re going to Old Silver Beach in North Falmouth because my wife’s parents have a house there. It’s literally a five-minute bike ride to the beach. That’s probably the biggest thing that we do. Otherwise, we’ll go to bowling at Jillian’s. Usually we play (Revs) games on Saturday, and so Sunday and Monday are free. On Sunday we try to get as many guys as we can for brunch. And we’ve gone recently to Toast in Hull. It’s a fantastic breakfast place. Unbelievable. Open till 2 pm. And usually we’ll take the boat in from there and we’ll go to Jillian’s to bowl.

Who is the best bowler on the team?
I want to say I am. Usually it’s competitive, but usually I end up with the best score.

What do you usually score?
Usually 175, at least 160 and up. I’ve bowled a 240 before. 

Are you able to catch movies and watch TV?
We have a movie theater right here. We’ll walk over. It’s $5 Tuesdays. It’s really convenient. We usually see every movie that comes out. TV shows, we’re big into Ray Donovan and Homeland.

Who do you hang with mostly on the team?
Lee (Nguyen) and Teal (Bunbury). 

Lee’s had a good season, too.
He’s had a fantastic season. He’s really done well. I think he’s exceeded his own expectations.

The wave of popularity hit this year with the World Cup. Do you think it will level off?
No, I think it’s still progressing. I think the league speaks for itself. The revenue that the league is making, the TV rights. And the new teams. Vegas just put up stadium plans for a Las Vegas team and it looked unbelievable. There’s two new teams next year. New York City FC and they partnered with the New York Yankees and Manchester United so that’s going to be a fantastic team, and going to New York City twice is awesome; and then Orlando, which will have Kaka from Brazil. That will be an awesome team to play against. Atlanta the following year, and Miami is supposed to be in that same timeframe with David Beckham being the owner. And I guess there’s a couple spots up for grabs. I heard the Minnesota Vikings are trying to put a team in their dome, and Vegas is making a strong case for a team. I can’t imagine having to play a team in Vegas with 110-degree heat at 2 pm.

It would have to be a dome, right?
Yeah, and we’ll see how the players can last a full year in Vegas. Make sure they’re not broke and living in the stadium. 

What do you think the tipping point for the MLS was?
I think when they got David Beckham that was kind of catalyst that got people thinking: This team is for real. They’re really trying to do it. And soccer is the most played youth sport in America. So I think as time goes on, as these kids grow up, they’ll start to understand the game. More people are starting to follow the teams from England and Spain, so more people are understanding the game of soccer more. Where as when I was a kid people were like ‘what’s offsides?’ Or they’re calling you ‘soccer buddy’ because nobody else plays soccer. Literally nobody played soccer growing up in Manchester, New Hampshire, so I had to play Pop Warner football and then that justified me playing soccer with my friends. They would say, ‘Oh, he’s good at Pop Warner football, so I can’t really talk trash to him.’ So I tried to play every other sport. I wrestled as well. Now, the popular thing to do is play soccer. With these MLS academies, where kids can play, people are starting to see how cool soccer is, and with the culture and what the World Cup means, I think it’s really picking up and catching on. I think it’s only going to continue to blow up.

Is there anything they could do to grow the game more?
Not really. I think they’ve done a great job. I’m thinking back to when I first started to watch the Revolution in the mid-90s and they had these five-second shootouts. You could run up and score if the game was tied. You had to start from 35 yards and you had the ball. And you had a clock to score in 5 seconds. And that was how they thought they could get the American public interested in the games. So it’s come a long way.

Did you used to go to any of the Revs games?
Oh yeah, I loved watching the Revolution. I was a fan. It was surreal to join them. It’s crazy to be scoring goals in Gillette Stadium.

Are you seeing an uptick in crowds and enthusiasm?
Yeah, I think the crowds have been great, but the stadium is just too big for our team. You get 20,000 to 25,000 people to a game, and that’s a great crowd. But in a 75,000-seat stadium it looks empty. It kind of takes away the atmosphere and the environment. If you had a 30,000-seat stadium or even 20,000 seats, and you could enclose it like a European stadium, you would keep the sound inside. That builds the best atmosphere, the best environment for the games. I think the Krafts are working real hard to get us a soccer-specific stadium because they know what a difference it can make. But in the meantime it’s still been good to be there. I love the stadium. It’s just lacking that base you’d get from other fans like in Kansas City because the stadium is so small. Or Portland. Seattle has a football stadium, but they fill it.

So is Gillette busier with the Patriots around?
Yeah. I enjoy it. I like seeing the guys walk around because I’ve always been a Patriots’ fan. For me it’s cool every time you see Tom Brady walking around the stadium.

Do you interact with any of them at all?
Not really. A couple of the guys on the team are friends with some of the guys. If I go to Cafeteria on Newbury, I know the manager there. He’s got a good group of friends within the Boston professional teams, but I’m not close with any of the guys from any of the other pro teams.

Are you the player Jermaine knows the best on the team?
Yeah. I’m taking him out to dinner tonight, I think to Del Frisco’s. I gotta head to a massage after this.

Oh, where?
In Quincy. This place changed my life. It’s called Thai Health Spa. Lee’s the one who kind of introduced me to it. And they walk on your back and dig their heels in your pressure points.  They crawl on your back with their knees and they full on go at these spots. They usually hit every trigger point that’s been bothering me. Usually it’s my lower back and my hamstrings. They just kill it. It makes the biggest difference for me.

When did you start going there?
About a month ago. (Laughs.) 

Now we know your secret.
Ha. That’s been a thing we do every week now. It’s definitely helped a ton. I really feel a big difference after going there.

What was it like the first time when they’re walking on you.
It was weird. They have a little bar on the ceiling, and she was on it and digging her feet. She was cracking my back with her toes. She was adjusting my back like a chiropractor. I was like, ‘Oh, this is weirdest thing I’ve ever done in my life.’ And then it was a crack. And then the other side, ‘Crack.’ And I was like, ‘What the hell?’ But after I left there I was like, this is the most relaxed I’ve been in a long time. I felt really loose and not tight anymore. Just dehydrated and had to drink a ton of water after it. There’s points where I’m trying not to tense up since it’s a good amount of pain, but I guess it’s the good pain—if there is a good pain.

Is it just Lee and you who go there? You gotta get the whole team going.
I’ll eventually transition into getting one guy in and another guy in. I’m not sure how other guys might like it.

What are you thinking post-soccer career?
Well, I could see myself being a commentator. Or being involved in TV somehow. I see myself being involved in coaching, too. I've got the year at BC and I'll see how I like it. Maybe I want to coach professionally. Living here and coaching at Boston College is pretty ideal. That'd be a fantastic option. It's tough to see because it's close, but it's still not that close. I'm nowhere near being able to think about it. I'm confident I'll be able to transition into anything. I'm like a people person, I love talking and helping people out, so I think my skillset will help me with most jobs. I'm not nervous about it, and I'll welcome it when it does come.

Sound Ideas

Live Review: Tom Petty Charms the Fenway Park Faithful

“They’re playing it in Boston,” Tom Petty drawled on Saturday, recalling what he was told in the wake of initially flat response to his Heartbreakers’ 1977 single “American Girl.” So Boston became one of his favorite cities to play, from the Paradise Rock Club to Fenway Park, where Petty & the Heartbreakers held court on Saturday, capping their two-hour set with the ringing chords and universal euphoria of “American Girl.”

In his decades-long career since recording that song, Petty has endured as a sort of garage-rocking Dylan, adopting Americana-shaded folk and jam-rock with a sly smile to offset the sneer. And he’s mostly done it with the Heartbreakers, a band that he called “the closest as I have to family,” still anchored by first-call session keyboardist Benmont Tench and now-dreadlocked lead guitarist Mike Campbell.

On Saturday, Campbell stood out with his unique tone, from his pinched cry in “A Woman in Love (It’s Not Me)” -- following a lovely piano intro by Tench -- to his sitar echoes in “Don’t Come Around Here No More.” But perhaps the comfort level that Campbell and Petty have honed over a 44-year-partnership was most evident when, rather than play different guitar models for ego-fueled contrast, they wielded matching vintage axes on the newer “I Should Have Known It” and outcast anthem “Refugee,” confident to complement each other as one.

The Heartbreakers came out kicking with the Byrds raveup “So You Want to Be a Rock ‘n’ Roll Star,” whose 12-string Rickenbacker sound also inspired the Florida-born, LA-based Petty. Not that the 63-year-old frontman acted much like a star, laconically pacing the no-frills stage in his jeans and suede boots with slow, sweeping hand gestures. He followed with “Mary Jane’s Last Dance,” its nod to marijuana sliding home when the song concluded and Petty asked the sprawling audience, “How are ya feeling?”

Fans were already feeling alright after opener Steve Winwood, who still sounded great at 66, focusing on his Traffic catalog in an hour set that also sported ’80s pop hit “Higher Love” and Spencer Davis Group gems, all driven by a grooving bass-free band. There was no letup as the singer switched between organ and guitar and fueled such classics as “The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys,” “Empty Pages,” “Dear Mr. Fantasy” and “Gimme Some Lovin,’” though it would have been nicer in a smaller space. Petty, by contrast, risked floating a mid-set, acoustic-tinged lull, though likely engaging diehards with deep tracks “Rebels” and “Angel Dream (No. 2).”

Nonetheless, Petty touched most of the bases (ha, another baseball cliché), even if a handful of nuggets like “Listen to Her Heart,” “Breakdown” and “You Got Lucky” went unplayed. You couldn’t blame the inclusion of three hearty tunes from the Heartbreakers’ chart-topping new Hypnotic Eye, peaking with the gritty “U Get Me High,” where the Heartbreakers dug into an AC/DC-like riff grounded by drummer Steve Ferrone, who Petty called the “greatest musician that I’ve ever met.” And so the family circle widened, with fans joining the clan to pipe the chorus to “Free Fallin’” as if they were hypnotized in a final salute to big summer concerts at the ballpark -- though Jack White’s on deck for a smaller “Bleacher Theater” show on Sept. 17.

Sound Ideas

Weekend Ideas

Labor Day weekends tend to be slow for concerts, but a couple of festivals and a Fenway Park show bolster this year’s landscape. For starters, there’s Campfire, a Club Passim marathon of dozens of sets from Friday through Monday, featuring veterans like Jennifer Kimball (ex-the Story) and former Treat Her Right frontman David Champagne as well as up-and-comers. Here’s the Campfire schedule.

Down in Charlestown, R.I., zydeco and Cajun music still enliven the multi-stage Rhythm & Roots Festival at Ninigret Park with the likes of CJ Chenier, Steve Riley and Terrance Simien. But performers also include roots-rockers Donna the Buffalo celebrating their 25th anniversary, heartfelt R&B survivor Charles Bradley and his Extraordinaires (maybe worth the trip alone), bluegrass rockers Leftover Salmon with Little Feat’s Bill Payne, and elusive troubadour Jim Lauderdale. There’s also a Family Stage, plus the daily Mardi Gras parades with the Hot Tamale Brass Band. Here’s the website for Rhythm & Roots, which lasts Friday night through Sunday. On Saturday afternoon, up in Newburyport, there’s also the free Riverfront Music Festival sponsored by 92.5 The River, this year featuring worthy locals Will Dailey (celebrating his worthy new album National Throat) and Air Traffic Controller, plus acoustic act (and One Direction songwriter) Jamie Scott, stylish folk-rockers Delta Rae and reborn pop hitmakers Toad the Wet Sprocket, who've been around ocean themes before. Here’s the website.

But Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers headline the weekend’s big show at Fenway Park on Saturday night behind their chart-topping, riff-rich new album Hypnotic Eye, which deserves the live airing of a few tracks like this. Should be a great night of classic rock in the ballpark, especially with Steve Winwood as an opening act.

Alas, the also-classic pairing (especially for guitar fans) of ZZ Top and Jeff Beck at Blue Hills Bank Pavilion has been cancelled because ZZ Top bassist Dusty Hill fell in his tour bus and injured his hip. Maybe it’s rubbing salt in the wound, but for my Thursday Throwback, I’m going back a few weeks to ZZ Top jamming one of their biggest hits with Beck, a virtuoso who’s always welcome back with his own band.

Sound Ideas

Weekend Ideas

August may be winding down, but this weekend’s just winding up -- at least on Friday. The two biggest shows couldn’t be more different. Swedish electro-pop princess Robyn teams with Norwegian electronic duo Royksopp at Blue Hills Bank Pavilion for separate sets as well as a collaborative finale based on their joint EP Do it Again. Expect sweeping, pulsing soundscapes with alluring vocals and some questionable play clothes. Then, over at the Sinclair, the Strypes invigorate garage R&B/rock that’s far beyond their years. The Irish teenagers tore up Great Scott in March, even adding a Ramones cover. They’ll probably be only better this round, and the time after that, and the time after that. Hell, they’re impressive now.

Also on Friday, ex-Bostonian rockers Hooray for Earth get loud, dark and synthy for the Wavelength series at the Institute of Contemporary Arts on the waterfront. And local rock icon Peter Wolf brings his Midnight Travelers to Lowell’s Boarding House Park (not sure if Wolf will serve this bluegrass twist on one of his J. Geils Band nuggets) while New Wave survivors Martha Davis and the Motels (with old sax man Marty Jourard also aboard) assume total control at Johnny D’s Uptown in Somerville.

On Saturday, local folk-blues journeyman Chris Smither plays Prescott Park in Portsmouth, N.H., celebrating his fine career retrospective Still on the Levee. And Sunday presents another mixed bag of returning veterans of different stripes. It’ll be the last return for Motley Crue, which rocks Mansfield’s Xfinity Center with all their metal hits, plus a drum solo on an overhead rollercoaster and a fire-shooting guitar and, hell, you get the idea. At the opposite end of the spectrum, New Age-y keyboard guru Yanni gets orchestral at Blue Hills Bank Pavilion. Also, ’80s synth-rock fans can check out the Retro Futura show at the Wilbur Theatre, featuring Howard Jones, the Thompson Twins’ Tom Bailey and ex-Ultravox singer Midge Ure, who also helped spearhead Band Aid (“Do They Know It’s Christmas?).

Finally, for my Thursday Throwback, with the original X back to resurrect its vital roots/punk at the Sinclair next Tuesday (and frontwoman Exene Cervenka likely toning down her political conspiracy views), here’s X in its commercial heyday.  

Sound Ideas

Live Review: Arcade Fire Levitates Xfinity Center in Mansfield

Arcade Fire’s cultivated carnival at Mansfield’s Xfinity Center on Tuesday night was a source of much reflection. Literally, for starters. There were glittery congas in the expanded 11-piece band, an overhead bank of hexagonal mirrors, and a dancing mirror man that popped up in the crowd, plus Regine Chassagne panning the pavilion with hand mirrors during “Reflektor.” As she and frontman/husband Win Butler sang in that title track from the band’s latest album, “We fell in love, alone on a stage, in the reflective age.”

That's an age where Arcade Fire reflect the danceable commonality between the electro-wash and Afrobeat of respective Tuesday openers Dan Deacon and Antibalas as well as the disco sheen of Studio 54 and arty big-band tribalism of Talking Heads, given an extra splash of Haitian rhythm that nods to Chassagne’s heritage. It's also an age where Arcade Fire show considerable growth since the group played cozy T.T. the Bear’s Place a decade ago, evolving from indie-rockers to arena rock stars.

Ironically, the songs that reached the greatest heights on Tuesday were ones that Arcade Fire played at T.T.’s , anthemic numbers from its 2004 breakout Funeral like “Rebellion (Lies),” “Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)” and grand finale “Wake Up,” where wordless choruses reached giddy crescendos. The same went for “No Cars Go,” which revved into a triumphant bellow undercut by Chassagne’s accordion.

Arcade Fire has since grown stranger and deeper in ways that didn’t always cut through on Tuesday, despite showy trappings. The title track of 2010’s Grammy-winning The Suburbs reflected on a bored life as more of a plod until Butler got worked up at the end, crying “I would waste it again!” And even a throbbing encore of “Here Comes the Night Time,” with a cast of extras wearing papier-mache heads that mimicked the Pope and Obama as well as band members, seemed ponderous until it exploded into overdrive with a blizzard of confetti.

As a towering frontman who’s apt to borrow a fan’s camera for crowd footage, Butler’s normally the focal point of the Montreal-based group. Yet he seemed somewhat subdued or detached during much of Tuesday’s action. Of course that’s easier to do with so many players – some as life-size puppets -- swapping instruments and lending a hand, even if the sense of abandon was more reigned in than in the past. Butler nonetheless remained the frisky ringmaster, climbing atop his monitor speaker, and resonated with Bryan Ferry-esque cool in the funky glide “We Exist,” which he introduced with the declaration, “The right to marry is a human rights issue.”

On this night though, it was Butler’s spouse who shined brightest, as Arcade Fire’s comparatively hidden weapon. Chassagne mesmerized with her pantomime moves, both with a face mask and without. She sang “It’s Never Over” in the crowd while a skeleton-costumed character waved arms behind her, filmed to create a spook visual effect on the backdrop. And when Chassagne strutted to center stage to sing “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains),” she flashed a voice and personality that reminded of Bjork, another arty singer who mixes well with electronic icing. Then she swirled about the stage, waving florescent streamers, while fans in the pit waved tiny Canadian flags.

In additon to all the reflectors, masks and violins, plus a smattering of ticket-holders in costume as requested, Arcade Fire connected with the crowd by covering a favorite local band as it has in cities across its tour. After a fakeout of papier-mache imposters miming to Boston’s “More Than a Feeling,” the group broke into the punky rush of the Pixies’ “Alec Eiffel,” with Butler’s effusive brother Will throttling the bass.

Many in the crowd likely didn’t recognize that lesser Pixies track. Yet Win Butler foreshadowed his love, announcing earlier that Partners in Health -- a charity that aids Haiti and receives a dollar from each Arcade Fire ticket sold -- was “the coolest thing to come out of Boston, except for the Pixies.”

As a guy who spent time around Boston, starting with high school at nearby Phillips Exeter Academy, Butler knew his subject matter, even if his sense of priority in that comment hinged on playful brashness -- like the show itself.

Go With the Flow

Charting the Patriots' 2004 Coaching Staff

The 2004 Patriots’ season culminated with the franchise’s third title in four years, but the team’s two coordinators left for head coaching jobs before the confetti had even finished falling on the Super Bowl celebration. Bill Belichick’s staff of 13 assistant coaches that year included four future head coaches (denoted by bigger logos below) and four other future NFL coordinators. Some of the assistants (Matt Patricia, Ivan Fears) have stayed with New England for all 10 years, while others left this offseason (Dante Scarnecchia to retirement, Pepper Johnson to Buffalo). Here’s a look at what the most well-traveled coaches from that legendary staff have done in the 10 years since the Patriots’ last title.

Graphic by Mallory Scyphers

Sound Ideas

Weekend Ideas

Tori Amos digs the nuance and dynamics of solo performance, and piano-heavy material from her fine new album Unrepentant Geraldines fits an intimate indoor space like the Opera House, where she plays on Friday. Straddling her bench between two keyboards, Amos has been shuffling setlists, including covers from Depeche Mode to Billy Joel to this interpretive run. The same night, the David Wax Museum should swing from playful to romantic with its Mexican-flavored folk-rock to the Center for Arts in Natick. Eclectic rapper Moe Pope and producer the Arcitype toast their new project STL GLD with guests including our recent Music Issue cover artist Dutch Rebelle at the Brighton Music Hall.  And Boston ska pioneers Bim Skala Bim bring their annual New England jaunt to Wellfleet’s Beachcomber on Friday and then Hookfest in Portsmouth, N.H., on Saturday. Here’s a flashback to last year’s Bim bash at the Beachcomber as well as a jump to my recent interview.

Rockport’s Shalin Liu Performing Arts Center remains a hidden jewel on the northern shore, hosting jazz and pop as well as classical acts. And it’ll groove all weekend with the Rockport Jazz Festival, which presents pianists Donal Fox (doing his cross-genre “Mashups in Afro Blue”) on Friday and elegant post-bop master Kenny Barron on Saturday, while premier bassist Christian McBride closes it out Sunday evening after a 2 p.m. matinee of swing guitarists led by the legendary Bucky Pizzarelli. Also on the festival front north of Boston, the free annual Salem Jazz and Soul Festival takes over Salem Willows on Saturday and Sunday with acts that include Delta Generators and the Berklee-bred upstart Alissia Benveniste.

Lyle Lovett cast a unique shadow on the alt-country scene at the dawn of the ’90s, deadpanning his way through horn-laced tunes like “Here I Am” with his Large Band, which he’ll be fronting at Lowell’s Boarding House Park on Saturday. And the dance-savvy indie-rockers Miniature Tigers hit the Brighton Music Hall on Sunday.

This week, we saw one slice of what a future without the Allman Brothers Band will be like as Warren Haynes teased some Allman gems with his band Gov’t Mule during a jam-sprawled set at the Blue Hills Bank Pavilion. After serving in the AAB for more than 20 years, Haynes certainly can lay claim to that catalog. However, for my Throwback, with this weekend being one of the last chances to catch the AAB at the Peach Festival in the Poconos, here’s a vintage chunk of the Allman Brothers back in 1970.

Q&A: Being Patrick Chung

Patriots' safety opens up about his charity, love for music and his post-NFL dream of firefighting.

Patrick Chung returned to New England this year after one season in Philadelphia. (Photo Courtesy of New England Patriots)

Patrick Chung, 26, played for the Patriots for his first four seasons, before leaving to play for the Philadelphia Eagles as a free agent before the 2013 season. After one year away, the former second-round pick is back in New England, hoping to solidify his spot on the roster. He's also working on his charity, Chung Changing Lives, which collaborated with the Boston Chinatown Neighborhood Center to hold a free, six-week intensive SMART camp (Summer Music Academy for Real Teens) for kids to get immersed in music. It's the second year of the camp, and it culminates with a performance in the Chung Jam Session on Aug. 17 at the Hard Rock Cafe. Doors open at 6 pm, jams begin at 6:30, and tickets are $50 (VIP, $250) at ticketweb.com, with proceeds going to SMART. And Chung assures us that some of his famous football friends will be in attendance. The Jamaican-born player opened up to The Improper on the program, his mom's musical stardom, returning to New England and his possible post-NFL plans.

Matt Martinelli: Is Chung Changing Lives primarily focused on music?
Patrick Chung: We just started out with music. Hopefully we can branch out into other things. And it can be like academics and athletics. But right now we’re just starting with music camp, and the finale is Aug. 17 at Hard Rock Cafe. And you can watch the kids perform in the finale for what they’ve been working on since July 7, when the camp started. They can perform for family and friends, and everyone who buys tickets. There’s going to be some performances by local artist Louie Bello, JAM’N 94.5’s Maverick. It’s going to be a good turnout, and hopefully the kids have fun.

How often is the camp?
Every day since July 7, they’ve been working, doing their producing, laying down their vocals, and learning how to do video and that stuff. Everything that has to do with music, and every aspect of music, they’ve worked with, and finally they can display what they’ve been practicing and learning. I talked to Louie the other day, and he said there are lots of talented kids, and they’re really good.

Have you gotten a chance to swing by the camp at all?
Oh yeah. My wife and I have been by, and we were there for some activities. We were hanging out with the lyric class, watching them learn how to write lyrics. It was fun. There are a lot of kids there, and they’re having fun.

How many kids are in it?
There’s 30. There were 15 last year, and now there’s 30, so it’s doubled a bit.

What got you into music?
My mom was a famous reggae singer (Sophia George-Chung), and my dad was her producer. It kind of just grew on me. I love music. It’s kind of a stress reliever. You have a bad day, you write about it. You have a good day, you write about it. I just like music. It can change your whole mood sometimes. If you hear your favorite song on the radio and you’re having a bad day, it makes it a little better. I just want to keep the art in school. Some schools are shying away from art in school, and I’m trying to keep it in school. It can be constructive in kids’ lives.

Are you listening to anything in particular these days?
I listen to everything. I listen rap, hip-hop, country, alternative, rock—as long as it has a story, a message and a good vibe to it, I like it.

Do you still listen to your mom’s music?
Yeah, I listen to everything. Every once in a while, her song will come on the iPod.

Even though you were not playing in New England last year, this camp has been in Boston both of the past two years. Was there any reason behind that?
We started it out here in Boston. I feel like I’m going to help the city that helped me. Boston and the New England Patriots gave me my first opportunity, so I feel obligated. Even if I didn’t feel obligated, I think it’s the right thing to do to help the city that helped me. Given my opportunity here, I’ve been able to have certain things in my life. So I can give back to the community and do everything I can for this community that helped me.

What’s your favorite part of living in New England now that you’re back? Was there anything you knew you had to visit when you got back here?
Not anything like that. I just like being back. My family’s here. My friends are here, and I was here for years. I just like Boston. It’s a cool place.

Are you here in the offseason as well?
I’m sort of scattered around, mostly wherever I’m training.  But I’m here a fair amount.

What brought you back to New England?
Philly didn’t work out, and I started just working out and training and being ready for whoever calls. I wasn’t really angling to go somewhere. In the NFL, you don’t get to pick a team, they pick you.

Has there been anything different since you were here for the 2012 season?
Nah, it’s pretty much the same. You just work hard and stay out of trouble. That’s what they preach here.

Take me through an offday for you.
Well, you go to the sauna, steam room, veg a little bit. Not too much. You just gotta get your body back right—kind of chill out. I like to barbecue every once in awhile. It all depends. I watch a little film.

What do you barbecue?

And you get to see a little more of your family on the offdays as well?
Absolutely, as soon as I get done, I come home and just chill out. Wrestle with the little man—he’s crazy.

What was it like leaving New England?
It was just a business thing. The past is the past, and I’m where I want to be now. I’m not really worried about anything else. The guys we have in this locker room are good, on and off the field. I’m just happy to be back here.

Is there anything that stands out in your career as the biggest highlight to date?
Well, going to the Super Bowl was awesome. Going was a good experience, but I can’t really call that a greatest moment—you want it to turn out better. So, I’ll put that on hold, right now. I don’t have any yet.

You had that Monday Night game against Miami a few years back that was great, right?
I loved that game, but as far as greatest moment—I got a couple more years, so hopefully there’s a big one coming soon.

Do you have any post-NFL plans in mind?
I think about going into music or coaching or firefighting.

My best friend just got called up as a firefighter. He’s worked very hard, long hours, but it’s a great job. Why not go out there and try to help save some people.

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