June 10, 2013The xx slyly dances into cool, ethereal electro-pop at the Bank of America Pavilion. Photo by Paul Robicheau.
“I barely recognize this area of town,” Grizzly Bear frontman and Watertown native Ed Droste said as fans filtered into the Bank of America Pavilion Saturday. As another summer kicks in, the Seaport district indeed looks more like the Back Bay with its swanky new bistros and bustling sidewalks. Then again, that sprawling harbor-side tent may not be where you’d expect to absorb a perfect pairing of hip, heady indie-pop like Grizzly Bear and The xx… More>
June 06, 2013Singer/songwriter Patty Griffin casts light through a rainy night at House of Blues on Friday. Photo by Cambria Harkey.
Friday may be a washout for weather, but it's a busy night for concerts with Patty Griffin at House of Blues, Devendra Banhart at the Wilbur Theatre and Ariel Pink at the Sinclair. Saturday clears up for outdoor double bills with popular locals Dispatch and Guster at the Comcast Center, while The xx and Grizzly Bear weave arty atmospherics at the harborside Bank of America Pavilion. Deer Tick kicks Sunday on a Boston Harbor cruise… More>
June 06, 2013
Patriots' punter Zoltan Mesko can kick a football very far, but it's his charity work that goes a lot further. The fourth-year punter won the 2012 Ron Burton Community Service Award for his work off the field and is hosting Zolioke, his second annual karaoke fundraiser Saturday at Royale. (NOTE: The Improper Bostonian is a sponsor of the event.) In an interview with The Improper Bostonian, the 27-year-old Romanian native touched on immigration laws, his knack for kind acts, love for Hoolywood, one hectic summer internship, and one unforgettabl… More>
June 04, 2013
For more than a dozen members of the Bruins, the run to the Stanley Cup title in 2011 offered a chance at redemption—and it was a chance they seized in the aftermath of the 2010 disaster. But for one player, there was no such redemption. … More>
May 31, 2013Gary Cherone, Jimmy Buffett, New Kids and Dane Cook join Steven Tyler in Boston Strong finale. Photo: Paul Robicheau.
“We’re not just one of the greatest cities on Earth, we’re one of the greatest families on the face of this Earth,” Donnie Wahlberg of New Kids on the Block told the sold-out TD Garden crowd at Thursday’s “Boston Strong” benefit. And that comment summed up the event to aid victims of the Boston Marathon bombers. It was true of fans as well as performers who crossed genres and generations to offer the biggest-ever assemblage of Boston-rooted heavyweights for one event… More>
On the Move
Dance on surprising stages
The calendar may not yet quite concur, but in our book it’s officially summer—and we’re already debating whether shorts qualify as work-appropriate. The dance scene is keeping it casual too: This month, local companies are taking shows out of the performance hall and into less-expected, ultra-intimate venues, from public parks to a b-ball court. Here are a few musts to put on your dance card.
On the court… Contemporary dance and classical strings team up with hip-hop and spoken word in Hoop Suite, a rap opera featuring Cambridge’s Anna Myer and Dancers and talented teens from area public-housing developments. It’s hitting local basketball courts this summer before playing stages in Boston, New Haven, and Providence next fall and spring. June 20, 8:30 pm, Conway Park at Central St. and Somerville Ave., Somerville. Free. hoopsuite.org.
In a church… Pull up a pew for Dancing for the Planet, a performance benefitting the Massachusetts chapter of climate-change-combatting nonprofit 350.org. Emmanuel Church will serve as a stage for contemporary stylings from Zoé Dance Company, Indian-inflected moves from Navarasa Dance Theater (pictured), and West African rhythms from Nani Agbeli and the Agbekor Drum & Dance Society. June 21, 7 pm, Emmanuel Church, 15 Newbury St., Boston. $20; $15, students and seniors. warrensenders.com.
In a park… Back in the ’20s, Mayor Curley banned Isadora Duncan from Boston’s stages after her performances at Symphony Hall left audiences “shocked by her scanty costumes and radical addresses,” as the Times reported. Fortunately, our tastes have matured, and Sandra Zarotney Keldsen and Kelli Edwards of Dances by Isadora are giving the mother of modern dance her due, performing her nearly century-old works in the great outdoors. June 22, 2 pm, Royall Park, Medford; June 25, 12 pm, Seven Hills Park, Somerville. Free. dancesbyisadora.com.
In the studio… Boston Ballet trades its grand stage at the Boston Opera House for its South End HQ’s intimate Studio 7 for Pointe on Music, the final BB@home performance of the season. The June 27 show is already sold out, but there are still tickets left for June 26—and with less than 150 seats for each performance, there’s not a bad one in the house. June 26, 7:30 pm, 19 Clarendon St., Boston. $35. 617.695.6955, bostonballet.org/bb-at-home.
Deconstructing the Doc Rivers rumor
The problem with those who scream is it’s hard to hear the substance in their words since your focus goes to their style of delivery instead. But back in early May when Screaming Stephen A. Smith said that Doc Rivers, Paul Pierce and KG could all be traded to the Clippers, it couldn’t easily be brushed aside. Not from the guy who first had the LeBron James-to-Miami story three years ago. He might be loud, but he’s connected. And when Doc Rivers’ first public comments in a month came on Smith’s local radio show in New York, his report gained an even greater credibility. Why else would Doc go on a local show in New York other than he has a great relationship with Smith?
And now here we sit, a month later and—according to reports—a version of that deal that Smith first mentioned is in play. And it all makes sense when you look at it closely. Kevin Garnett has said he will only play for Doc Rivers. Doc Rivers has implied in the past that he wants to coach a contender. If Garnett can play miles from his offseason home in Malibu, then why not bring Doc along? And maybe Pierce, too.
If it happens, will fans be sad to see an official era that began in the summer of 2007 come to an end? Yes. But if you’re trading or releasing Paul Pierce for the savings, then it’s hard to see things going smoothly for the franchise from there. What happens after that is Garnett retires and you get nothing for him, and Rivers is left half-invested in coaching a team; ask Terry Francona circa 2011 how that works. If the Celtics were going to keep Pierce, it’s hard to see any of this tough breakup happening, but that seems to be the domino that might have fallen internally and forced all of this talk about Rivers leaving. There’s no doubt that Rivers is among a handful of top offensive coaches in the league, someone who values defense above all else, and someone who is seen as a great coach to play for. Right now, he’s the reason why any free agent might come to Boston in 2014, and losing him would take the biggest attraction out of town, but you might lose him anyway since he can always just quit.
The rumored haul is Eric Bledsoe, DeAndre Jordan and two first-round picks for Rivers and KG, and that might be worth it. Does Jordan fit in Boston? I suppose it depends on the new coach. Bledsoe has shown a lot of raw talent, but he hasn’t improved much, whether that was because of coaching or not remains to be seen. Could Bledsoe fit as part of a 3-man backcourt rotation with Bradley and Rondo? Possibly—they’d be quick, cause havoc on defense, but they’d give up a lot of size to defenders. If it doesn’t work, then one of the three could fetch something in trade for a better fit on the team. More importantly, Ainge would begin to collect some trade assets (right now it’s just Sullinger/Green/Rondo/Bradley as useful players in other teams’ eyes based on contracts), which is what led to creation of the team in 2007.
The next decision is who’s the new coach. Vinny Del Negro, a Bay State native, has been the first name mentioned and every fan of the Celtics can shout in unison: Pass. He just coached Jordan and Bledsoe and the Clippers, and while he was better than during his stint as a Bulls’ coach, he still has a ways to go. A number of names would pop up, including George Karl (trouble in the postseason, but the reigning Coach of the Year), Brian Shaw (always a bridesmaid in these searches, so maybe there’s some unspoken reason; he also donned the Celtic green at one point), Lawrence Frank (former assistant here, but he just flamed out in Detroit) and maybe even one of the Van Gundy brothers. But the best name to coach this season might be the guy pulling the strings: Danny Ainge. He’s had some health issues that might keep him away from the stress on the bench, but he coached the Phoenix Suns for 3 ½ years in the 1990s and had a winning record every year with teams that had some rather underwhelming rosters (and a rather ornery Robert Horry who threw a towel in Ainge’s face on the bench).
The sight of Ainge on the bench would seem bizarre, but it would be far from the oddest turn of event for the Celtics this month. Plus, who could wait for him to face off with Doc on the bench for the Clippers? It might be one of the few times Celtics fans would root against the Clippers. After all, it’ll be hard to root against Rivers and KG (and maybe Pierce). If they’re teamed up with Chris Paul, it would give Celtics fans a look at what might have happened if Paul had been traded for Rondo before the 2011-12 season. Plus, it would drive the Lakers nuts if the Clippers won a championship. As the saying goes: Any enemy of my enemy is a friend.
This could be the last time in Boston for the Rolling Stones, given the ages of band members and the apparent limit that fans have for ticket prices. But I don’t know. Based on the Stones’ Wednesday show at the TD Garden, there’s plenty of life left in the venerable group -- and tickets remain for its return to the Garden this Friday: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QmqK4teMg98.
From the biggest room in Boston to one of the smallest, Toad is a small Porter Square bar with a stage wedged at the end and a history of great local acts. To cap its 20th anniversary week, Toad hosts special shows Friday with the energized soul of Jesse Dee (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O6jg6Jt4mQ0), Saturday with the Motown-flavored Jenny Dee and the Deelinquents (if they can even fit on and around that stage) and Sunday with Session Americana. Also on Friday, Brooklyn alt-country group the Lone Bellow has become a rising sensation with its three-part harmonies and squeezes in an evening at the Sinclair before swinging back to play the Newport Folk Festival next month: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EXTStxViVVw.
The Dave Matthews Band pulls into the Comcast Center on Saturday and Sunday for its annual two-night stop, which allows the group to indulge the sizable range of its setlist. Alas, I won’t be on hand this year if DMB unfurls one of its rare, extended versions of “Seek Up,” a dynamic, spiritual buildup that taps the onetime jam-band’s roots in jazz fusion, perhaps leaving the fratboy faction of the crowd a bit confused: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ud2y4ZXQ5JA. Finally, ska-punk veterans Rancid return Sunday to launch its own two-night stand at House of Blues: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=26FCYKo4XAU.
Stones Relax and Roll
Beyond the anti-hype around the Rolling Stones’ “50 & Counting” anniversary tour, particularly in their overestimation of the ticket-price market, lies the chemistry that spawned the title of World’s Greatest Rock ‘n’ Roll Band. And the Stones lived up to that legacy in Wednesday’s first of two Boston concerts, a lean, mean and celebratory two-hour-plus jaunt that could put most younger performers to shame.
Yes, despite his deeply wrinkled face at age 69, Mick Jagger constantly shuffled back and forth on the stage and around the edges of the tongue-shaped floor ramp like a yoga ringmaster with a sturdy voice, while drummer Charlie Watts, 72, made his stutter-step beat look effortless. The Stones were, as actress Cate Blanchett piped in an opening video montage of rocker-studded testimonials, “So skinny, it pisses me off.”
What made the Stones still click after 50 years, however, was their singular sound and devil-may-care attitude, so ingrained that it made magic from casual strokes. No one else could duplicate the brittle notes of “Paint it Black” or slicing chords of “Jumping Jack Flash” with the same sting as guitar pirate Keith Richards, whose mischievous T-shirt showed the Mona Lisa with his eyes and smile.
The Stones were so damn relaxed about it all. After tinny-sounding opener “Get Off of My Cloud,” which allowed a moment to view the preening Jagger and Co. as flesh-and-blood musicians beyond caricature, the band even stumbled its way into “It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll (But I Like It).” But the band soon found the groove as Richards snapped Chuck Berry riffs with a lift of his leg, and a perfectly polished performance wouldn’t have seemed so right. Even a transcendent “Gimme Shelter,” which soon jump-started the set, dipped and surged with an improvisatory feel, especially when backup singer Lisa Fischer strutted out to soar and stalk toe-to-toe with Jagger with powerhouse pipes that no guest vocalist could have matched.
The Stones were jamming on songs they knew backward and forward, living in the moment with shared grins that clearly went beyond counting money in their heads. You could hear it most in the guitars, the mix-and-match rhythms and leads of Richards and foil Ronnie Wood, who drew more focus on the huge video backdrop without the distraction of those old stadium-size props. When Richards’ early ’70s mate Mick Taylor came aboard for a few songs, centered by a 10-minute romp through “Midnight Rambler,” the sense of spontaneity was palpable and thrilling, down to the spots that sped up and slowed down. Jagger, who also blew a hearty harmonica, helped cue the pack with flickering fingers behind his back.
The guitar nirvana continued with blues-rock nugget “I’m Going Down” via a guest spot by Texas upstart Gary Clark Jr. (his third cameo call for the Stones, though the smart money remains on hometown hero Peter Wolf to appear at Friday’s Stones reprise). Clark swapped verses with Jagger as well as leads with Richards and Wood, joining a tasteful three-way conversation of sweeping single-note accents.
The 22-song set was also paced with somewhat breezier hits like “Beast of Burden,” “Emotional Rescue” and “Miss You,” which surged as Watts countered Darryl Jones’ funky bass pop with a tight disco beat. Scruffy in look and voice, Richards also sang his customary two-song allotment, going with the acoustic “You Got the Silver” (spiced by Woods’ slide work) and heartfelt highlight “Before They Make Me Run.” And the Stones inserted back-to-back token new songs with feisty authority. Watts rode his crash cymbal while Richards and Woods mugged each other on in "Doom and Gloom," while “One More Shot,” which initially echoed “Street Fighting Man” to the point that it seemed like a teased addition to the setlist.
Still, some generations-spanning songs stood out in particular for intact sonic signature. The main set climaxed with the slash-and-thump punch of “Brown Sugar” (although its lyric has evolved into the more PC “Just like a young girl should”) and “Sympathy for the Devil,” with Jagger sweeping to center stage in a feathery black cape and longtime pianist Chuck Leavell building the song with a gospel-esque flourish. Speaking of gospel, the sprawling Boston University Marsh Chapel Choir graced “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” to open the encore, which closed with final three-guitar raveup “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.”
The near-full house certainly got some satisfaction. Was it worth those top-priced tickets for $600? Certainly not. Or the $150 lowest price tickets that floated on Ticketmaster for increasingly better seats, or that mystery smattering of $85 tickets? Maybe. It used to be such a buzz when the Rolling Stones hit town, particularly in a smaller venue than Foxboro. Now the biggest buzz in town surrounds our hockey team in the Stanley Cup Finals, something even Jagger played up to in hoisting a Bruins jersey with his name and the number 50, though he didn’t actually put it on. Hopefully this weekend will bring more magic (on separate nights) for the Stones and the Bruins, two historic teams that draw a pretty penny, but at least deliver.
Hour is Right for Tebow Time
Why Pats bringing on famed QB is a win
There’s no reason to Tebow at the feet of Patriots’ coach Bill Belichick with news that his team reportedly signed the scorned New York Jets quarterback—any team could have picked him up—but there’s plenty of upside, and Foxboro could be the perfect spot for the down-on-his-luck former first-round pick.
There is no denying Tebow can be a positive influence, and he has leadership and intelligence. You need only look at the 2011 regular season when Tebow was leading the Denver Broncos into the second round of the playoffs. This signing does make sense and here’s a few reasons why.
- Tebow has the proper awareness, etc., but he has one fatal flaw as a quarterback: He cannot throw a real pass. Although it seems like throwing the football well is important for a quarterback, it is far less important for a young quarterback. During Tom Brady’s first season as starter, many pundits dismissed the future MVP for throwing the football “sideways.” But Brady showed something far more special when the game is on the line—and Tebow showed similar qualities in 2011. Brady developed his passing skills over time, and Belichick is betting that Tebow might do the same.
- There will be no clamor to start Tebow in Foxboro as there was in Denver and New York. There were only a few places he could’ve signed where he would not threaten the team’s starter. He will have a hard time beating out Ryan Mallett as the team’s backup quarterback, but what Tebow can do here is sit in a corner and learn. Take time to learn from Tom Brady, one of the best quarterbacks in the history of the game. Take time to learn from one of the best coaches in the history of the game. Take time to learn how to throw. He’s got plenty of time in Foxboro.
- You only need to look at the examples of Randy Moss and Chad Ochocinco to see how the Patriots organization deals with outsized personalities. You can bet Tebow won’t be doing wind sprints shirtless in the rain in Foxboro. He will be not seen and he will not be heard—and if he is, he will not be here for long.
- Tebow’s always been intriguing beyond as a quarterback to offensive whiz Josh McDaniels, who drafted him two rounds earlier than expected while he was head coach in Denver. McDaniels saw that there were many ways to use a fast, large player such as Tebow. While Tebow might be spending most of his time under center during practice, don’t be surprised if he shows up as a wide receiver or running back from time to time. For a team that will often line up its tight end as a running back or its running back as a wideout, there’s plenty of chances to use Tebow’s versatility.
Tebow’s already a respected leader, and the master plan will be to try to mold him into a great passer through practice, but for now he can contribute as a do-everything player. Stick to that plan, and there’s plenty of good to come from this signing.
“I barely recognize this area of town,” Grizzly Bear frontman and Watertown native Ed Droste said as fans filtered into the Bank of America Pavilion Saturday. As another summer kicks in, the Seaport district indeed looks more like the Back Bay with its swanky new bistros and bustling sidewalks. Then again, the sprawling harbor-side tent may not be where you’d expect to absorb a perfect pairing of hip, heady indie-pop either.
The Brooklyn-based Grizzly Bear and British headliner The xx aren’t exactly suited to arena-sized pavilions with their rather shy, minimalist strokes. Yet both groups forged a suitably arty, atmospheric playlist for Saturday’s packed, young-ish audience.
Fans seemed particularly enamored by The xx, the more stylish of the two bands, in sound and aesthetic. In stark white light that contrasted their black outfits, guitarist Romy Madley Croft and bassist Oliver Sims physically and vocally danced a sly duet, completing a triangle with producer Jamie Smith, who fleshed out a pulse as both DJ and percussionist from his backing platform.
Croft managed a few slight smiles, but Sims stayed in character, coyly enunciating his resonant voice and tilting his bass guitar in angular poses as the pair swayed into stoic face-offs. The tone seemed somber even when the beat rose, and most everything they played and sang was sleek and austere if quietly emotive, like whispered conversations of love lost on a remote plateau.
Alas, the group’s cool, modern update on the Cure and New Order began to sound and look the same, short on melodic hooks beyond standouts like “Crystalised” and “Sunset.” The xx luckily unveiled lasers halfway through, shooting prism-like planes over the crowd that cast impressionistic swirls from stage smoke, sweeping fans into more of a rock show than just a seductive social soundtrack.
For music alone, perhaps the evening’s most engaging song came when Grizzly Bear fired up its 2009 hit “Two Weeks,” with its staccato electric piano and ascending wordless vocals swimming around the chorus “Make it easy? Take your time.” Although the group offered a perfect backdrop for the waterfront in netted water bottles that resembled floating buoys, Grizzly Bear seemed more out of its element across a mere 50-minute set that leaned on the tempered blossom of 2012’s Shields. Yet that one chorus rang with the tenor of a perfect song to greet the summer.
Maine-bred, Texas-based songwriter Patty Griffin stands out with the trebly ache of her soulful, singular vocals, and her new album American Kid brings import to that voice. Largely themed to honor her soon-to-pass father, the album’s rooted in raw, sparsely textured Americana that lends focus to her lyrics, and Griffin will surely highlight it at House of Blues Friday. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z9HjyllzNAI. At the other end of the neo-folky spectrum, Devendra Banhart takes a widely whimsical approach on his new album Mala, which proves moody and minimalist, yet ultimately frisky. He’ll be stretching out at the Wilbur Theatre the same night with a full band (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kgNub34H3VI). You can also jump to my recent Banhart interview here: http://www.improper.com/going-out/mood-changer/. And when it comes to quirky personality, you have a classic case with LA psychedelic-pop veteran Ariel Pink, who hits the Sinclair Friday: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ocp7rvHnczg.
After Friday’s rain, Saturday suggests a fine night for outdoor double bills. The populist pairing comes from local favorites Dispatch and Guster, who each recently put out live albums (an acoustic one for Guster) and share the stage at Mansfield’s Comcast Center. Here’s a recent taste of the neo-jammy Dispatch (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jwOiogdtgNA) as well as the charmingly poppy Guster: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=bbW7Wsylggc. In town by the harbor, arty atmospherics are the order of the night at the Bank of America Pavilion with the pairing of soberly sensual British minimalists The xx (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nRymd6GXzZs) and Brooklyn-based, hazy pop experimentalists Grizzly Bear: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_U-5eiI6G_c. On Sunday, Rhode Island’s rootsy and often rowdy Deer Tick gets to run rampant on a Rock On! Concert Cruise on the harbor: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RFw43aHdnRM.
Being Zoltan Mesko
O&A with Pats' punter
New England Patriots punter Zoltan Mesko is hosting Zolioke on Saturday at Royale. (Photos courtesy of the New England Patriots)
Patriots' punter Zoltan Mesko can kick a football very far, but it's his charity work that goes a lot further. The fourth-year punter won the 2012 Ron Burton Community Service Award for his work off the field and is hosting Zolioke, his second annual karaoke fundraiser Saturday at Royale. (NOTE: The Improper Bostonian is a sponsor of the event.) In an interview with The Improper Bostonian, the 27-year-old Romanian native touched on immigration laws, his knack for kind acts, love for Hoolywood, one hectic summer internship, and one unforgettable Adam Sandler song — which he'll recite if you ask nicely.
Matt Martinelli: You have such a strong connection with charity and you have your own event coming up. Is there anything in particular that makes charity so important to you?
Zoltan Mesko: It’s the social responsibility I think we all have as humans, to help one another out. I happen to be in a very fortunate situation. I consider myself very lucky in having some received some great genetics from my parents— and maybe with some help from above. But it’s definitely something that I feel like everyone deserves the right to be happy, so why not try to bring everyone up if we can.
This is the second year of Zolioke, right?
Yeah, the second year.
Do you have any specific songs in mind?
Any specific songs? No. Honestly, whatever comes on the radio, I will sing out loud in the car. So, I’m not really embarrassed to embarrass myself. You know, if I can do it for a great cause—I love entertaining people, whether it be where the expense of the laughter is at myself, which I prefer rather than someone else—then I’m all for it.
Are you going to get (field goal kicker Stephen) Gostkowski to sing “Lonesome Kicker” or anything like that?
That’s actually a funny song that I memorized in high school for a speech class or something.
Yeah, the guy in the song, he’s from Europe, right?
Yup. Andre Kristacovitchlalinski Jr.
He played for the Steelers.
Any memories from …
I can sing it for you right now if you want?
Ha! Any memories from your time in Romania? I know you moved when you were 10 or 11, right?
Eleven years old. I still remember a lot of things. The first thing that pops into my head is kind of the economic struggle that my parents had, as everyone did. We were pretty well off, I mean both my parents were engineers and they had good jobs. Really, they were making about $100 a month, per person. Each of them was making $100 a month, and it was really tough. Even though I’m an only child, I don’t think I’m that spoiled because I knew the limitations of our income and what I could and what I couldn’t get.
You guys won the immigration lottery to come over here. How was that?
Yeah, it was a green-card lottery. 20 million applicants and 55,000 winners.
So, were you notified by mail? What was that scene like?
We were notified by mail, yes. It was a huge envelope, and my dad wanted to present it to my mom, and she thought it was another, like, dead cockroach or something in the kitchen, and was like ‘Oh my god, get away from me.’ But it ended up being good news. I was ecstatic because I knew America from the movies, and it seemed quite the place.
Do you follow anything about this immigration bill being bandied about?
I follow it a little bit. I listen to NPR a little bit, rather than read about it. I’m all for bringing educated people into the country. That’s really what the green-card lottery is about. It’s kind of a filtration system of getting educated people into the country. Like Canada is doing, as well. They’ll accept immigrants if they’re more highly educated. They’ll register them as taxpayers and they’ll contribute to the GDP in the long-run.
You mentioned earlier you learned a lot about America through movies, and you took part this year in a Hollywood training?
Yeah, through the NFL, there was a Pro Hollywood boot camp. It was kind of a crash course on the business of Hollywood. Whether it was financing the production of films, the cinematography part, the directing, the acting, the screenwriting. All those things put together into one week of classes from 7 am to 10 pm. And it was very, very educational, and the networking opportunities that were created there were phenomeonal. The NFL did a great job in putting that together.
So is there any part of the business that you have your eye on down the road?
I like the acting part. I like the entertaining part. It’s like piggybacking off of Zolioke. I love making people laugh, smile, have storytelling. I love that part.
Are you in an upcoming movie—the one about the Browns GM?
Well, I mainly did some background work, not anything amazing. But it was amazing in the fact that I got to be on set, and I got to learn about the business. Whether you’re the main actor or the background person, or the makeup person, you’re still going to learn because you’re going to cross paths with a lot of very gifted people in their arena.
Is it true you worked in private equity a couple of summers ago?
I did. I had an internship at a private equity firm a couple of summers ago in Philadelphia. That was very educational as well, getting to learn that industry.
Were those guys as demanding as Bill Belichick?
Yeah. It’s pretty project-oriented and when that is the case, you’ll stay until midnight or after midnight sometimes to get things done. It’s another profession where it’s production oriented.
That’s cool. Do you hang around here in the offseason?
I do. I hang around here, sometimes I’ll take a little vacation. Maybe a week or two, just somewhere to get into some warm weather. But really, this is my home base these days.
What’s your favorite place to go out here?
I love going to dinner at Del Frisco’s. They really have a nice atmosphere there. Especially during the summer, if people can get out on the deck over there, overlooking the harbor with the sunset, that’s pretty cool.
So, do you still see your folks a lot?
I see them a couple of times a year. I go out to Cleveland for a few days. And they’ll come in to see a game or two, and then they’ll catch a couple of away games. We get to see each other fairly often, I guess, for being a 10-hour drive away.
And in your other downtime, what are your interests?
I like playing a little golf. I definitely am a goofy type of dancer, so if I can go dance a little bit— at any venue, really—with a few friends, then I can have a good time anywhere.
Are there any particular courses around here you like for golf?
The ones that don’t have many wooded areas because that’s usually where I find my golf ball, out of the fairway. So, I keep it light-hearted these days. I used to take it very, very seriously, but then it’s a no-win situation if you don’t put in the work. Even then, it’s a sport you can never perfect because it’s always beating your best.
Are tickets still available for your event Saturday?
Tickets are still available on Ticketmaster by searching “Zolioke” and also people can follow me on my Twitter handle @ZoltanMesko and we’re putting on a bigger and better show this year, so I’m really crossing my fingers that people come out. Last year, we had about 700 guests and it was a huge turnout, and I love it. It’s for a great cause, which is what I love about it. And you’re guaranteed to have a great time.
All right, the Zoltan Mesko Guarantee.
Rask's redemption tour
With 2010 collapse still fresh for Tuukka, atonement could strike twice for Bruins
For more than a dozen members of the Bruins, the run to the Stanley Cup title in 2011 offered a chance at redemption—and it was a chance they seized in the aftermath of the 2010 disaster. But for one player, there was no such chance.
For goalie Tuukka Rask, 2011 was a time to take a backseat and watch the historic stretch of goaltending by teammate Tim Thomas. The opinionated goalie started all 25 games in 2011 while posting a goals-against average of 1.98, forcing Rask, who had filled in during the 2010 playoffs, to the bench.
The thinking behind the Bruins’ postseason success in 2011 was that they rode the hot goaltender to a title. But it was more than that. There was a feeling that the team had seen rock bottom the year before. After experiencing the worst, they were fearless and played like it — and with that came redemption. It’s a script that’s similar to the one written by the 2004 Red Sox in the wake of the 2003 disaster—minus the shots of whiskey.
In 2010, the Bruins blew a 3-0 series lead in the second round of the playoffs against Philadelphia. It was the first time that had happened in the NHL in nearly 40 years. With Thomas struggling late in the year, Rask had taken over as the team’s starting goalie as the season wound down. He was in net for all four losses to Philadelphia and gave up 15 goals in those games (4.25 GAA). Despite an injury to postseason maestro David Krejci being a more valid excuse for the collapse (he played in the 3 wins and was hurt for the 4 losses), the blame was pinned partially on Rask.
The only problem with the redemption script was that Rask didn’t play in 2011. Thomas was the star. When Thomas retired before this season, it left the team in Rask’s hands, giving him the same chance at redemption his teammates found two years ago. To this point, the 26-year-old Fin has found his groove. In the first two games of the Eastern Conference finals, against a Pittsburgh team that ranked first in the NHL this year in scoring (3.38 goals per game, with Chicago second at 3.10), Rask has yielded just 1 goal. He has a 1.99 goals-against average in 14 games this postseason. He looks to be one of the main reasons why the Bruins could make their second Stanley Cup Finals in three years.
He’s playing like there’s nothing to lose—and after 2010, it can’t get any worse. Turns out the Hollywood redemption script could have a ready-made sequel.
“We’re not just one of the greatest cities on Earth, we’re one of the greatest families on the face of this Earth,” Donnie Wahlberg of New Kids on the Block told the sold-out TD Garden crowd at Thursday’s “Boston Strong” benefit. And that comment summed up the “Evening of Support and Celebration” to aid victims of the Boston Marathon bombers. It was true of fans as well as performers who crossed genres and generations to offer the biggest-ever assemblage of Boston-rooted heavyweights for one event.
Camaraderie ran high in response to the tragedy (football hero Doug Flutie observed onstage of bomb victims, “It could have been any one of us”). The Dropkick Murphys flew in from Colorado to drop three acoustic songs from the Rose Tattoo charity EP that the rockers released on iTunes for the cause -- and sounded as soulfully right as a roots outfit as they do a punk band. Then the Murphys fired up “Shipping Up to Boston,” with its defiant cry of “I lost my leg!” casting an eerie new meaning, while New Kids on the Block piled onstage in commemorative Bruins jerseys to help shout the final chorus.
Surprisingly, there wasn’t much difference in style as the New Kids took over with their hard-hitting show band for body-swaying favorites like “Hangin’ Tough” before springing surprise guests. Bell Biv DeVoe (two-thirds of New Edition) was the closest the five-hour-plus bill got to hip-hop with its slinky “Poison,” and Boys II Men (who wore Celtics jerseys) let a poignant sing-along with “One Sweet Day.” As a beautiful final gesture, the New Kids hopped into the front rows at set’s end to hug bomb-injured VIPs.
In contrast, the song-swapping duo of James Taylor and Carole King offered soothing waves of balm with chestnuts like “Shower the People” and “Will You Love Me Tomorrow?” In King’s “You’ve Got a Friend,” when Taylor sang, “They’ll take your soul if you let them, oh but don’t you let them,” the crowd cheered.
Then there was the Aerosmith-led finale. Remember when Aerosmith and the J. Geils Band shared a bill at Fenway Park and everyone hoped they’d play together, but bad blood seemed to scuttle that dream? There was Peter Wolf taking the microphone from Steven Tyler for a verse of “Dirty Water” as part of a gloriously chaotic encore where New Kids on the Block, Jimmy Buffett, Dane Cook, James Taylor and members of Boston and Extreme mixed it up, starting with the Beatles’ fitting “Come Together.”
By contrast, early sets by Boston and the Geils Band were potent-enough nostalgia blasts (Geils harp ace Magic Dick still wails on “Whammer Jammer”), if weighed down by thoughts of which original members were missing due to internal politics. Aerosmith, with original membership intact, stoked its own brief greatest-hits set with Tyler hitting the high notes of "Dream On" and scatting to Joe Perry's guitar solo in "Sweet Emotion." Yet the night’s most blistering turn ironically came from out-of-town country guest Jason Aldean, whose well-oiled band rocked on its way to Fenway Park sell-outs in July. But as veteran radio host Matt Siegel noted, this wasn’t a night for competition, just shared pride and support for The One Fund: https://secure.onefundboston.org/page/-/donate9.html.
The bad company of Matt Cooke
Where Penguins forward ranks among recent Boston sports villains
For Bostonians today, he’s the second-most hated guy with the same-sounding last name. But tomorrow, when the puck is dropped on the Bruins’ Game 1 matchup with the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Bay State’s hatred for Matt Cooke will surpass the blunders of dramedian Dane Cook. And for Bruins’ fans, that will be a return to normalcy.
The Pittsburgh forward has been Villain No. 1 in this town since he blindside Marc Savard, forever altering the Bruins center’s career, which ended shortly thereafter thanks to ongoing concussion symptoms. In the mind of Bruins’ fans, he’s a dirty player with no redeeming qualities. Sure, he’s supposedly changed his game and cleaned up his suspension-worthy, rules-altering act, but he hasn’t changed any minds here. And that’s why this old-time hockey series will be fun. It’s always better with someone to direct all your ill will toward.
Bruins’ fans haven’t been confronted with a villain in such a high-stakes situation in awhile, but there’s been some famous ones for the other local sports teams in the past 25 years:
Roger Clemens: For Red Sox fans, he would likely take the cake. His antics in Game 3 of the 2003 ALCS (along with Pedro’s if we’re being honest) sparked a furious brawl that led to Red Sox Nation hating Karim Garcia and Don Zimmer as well. But most of the vitriol was directed toward Clemens, who took delight in facing his former team and long since been labeled a turncoat for forcing his way onto the Bronx Bombers. Clemens doesn’t quite measure up to Cooke since lingering memories of his excellence in Boston made it hard to have complete venom for him, but he certainly had a way about him that made you loathe him more than you ever loved him.
Bill Laimbeer: A truly dirty player, Celtics fans can take solace in the fact he has failed miserably in his attempt to be an NBA coach, retreating back to the WNBA this season. But when the former Detroit Pistons bad boy was on the court in the 1980s, he wrecked havoc on the Celtics. The way he tossed elbows and pushed Celtics around while smirking the whole time infuriated the opposition. It turns out the fans weren’t the only people who wanted to slug him as Robert Parish and Michael Jordan were just a few to square off with the man with a punchable face. Let the late, legendary Celtics’ broadcaster Johnny Most describe it after Laimbeer took down Larry Bird in 1987: “A completely unnecessary foul by Laimbeer and he has the audacity to complain about it. They have been called a dirty ballclub and I can see why. This a typical disgusting display by Rodman, Laimbeer, and Isaiah Thomas. The yellow, gutless, way they do things here.”
Bernard Pollard: A Patriots-killer. Sure, Pittsburgh Steelers’ safety Ryan Clark may talk a tough game and he once took out Wes Welker, but the true villain for Patriots fans always shows up at the most inopportune time. A journeyman for most of his career, Pollard has taken out FOUR Patriots – forever altering FOUR seasons. First, it was Tom Brady. Coming off a record 50 TDs in 2007, No. 12 was leveled with a season-ending injury at the hands of Pollard in the 2008 season-opener. At the end of the 2009 season, Pollard ruined the Patriots’ title hopes when he awkwardly tackled Welker in the regular-season finale. Season over for Welker – and as it turns out the Pats, who lost in the first playoff game without their dynamic receiver. Two years later, in the AFC Championship Game, Pollard knocked out Rob Gronkowski, causing the Pats’ most dangerous offensive weapon to be rendered useless in the Super Bowl. And this past season, he knocked the Patriots’ top runner, Stevan Ridley, out of the AFC Championship with a game-altering hit.
Will Cooke reach the level of these hated athletes? It’s hard to say, but the fact that he’s still in the minds of fans more than three years after his hit on Savard means he’s got lasting power – and he’s in bad company (cue the overplayed song).
Art in the Yard
The urban landscape is dotted with abandoned spaces lost in limbo. Roxbury’s Bartlett Yard was one such spot. It had served as a transportation hub since the mid-1800s, when it held stables for the horses that pulled the city’s streetcars. From there, as Dudley Square developed into one of Boston’s major commercial centers, once second only to Downtown Crossing, it became an electric trolley facility, and eventually an MBTA bus yard. But it closed in 2005, sitting vacant for years.
No longer. In 2014, it’ll be redeveloped into a new residential and retail complex called Bartlett Place. Right now though, it’s a home for art.
“There’s development that’s been planned there for a long time that hasn’t happened yet. People were somewhat frustrated at the slow pace,” says Jason Turgeon, a resident of Roxbury’s Fort Hill neighborhood, the producer of the free Greenway arts festival Figment, and now one of the organizers of Bartlett Events. “So I asked the developers if, while we’re waiting on progress from design and financing and all the things needed to make a huge development happen, they would mind if we used it for some kind of community events. To my surprise, they said yes.”
Turgeon teamed up with friend Jeremy Alliger of the nonprofit Alliger Arts and architect Mark Paulo Ramos Matel, a Rose Fellow working with the Bartlett Place developers, gathering grant funds and volunteers. This spring, they set out to transform half of the 8.6-acre site from a debris-strewn, weed-choked lot into a destination for culture and connection. “The half we have is a pretty funny puzzle-piece configuration,” Turgeon says. “It’s really a fun site because of the way it’s laid out. There’s nooks and crannies and corners where you can do stuff. It really has a nice flow to it.”
The space includes two hulking former bus garages. On May 18, their dozens of doors became canvases for stunning street art at Mural Fest, the kickoff of Bartlett Events’ summer lineup. “There’s all kinds of stuff on the walls, everything from people who’ve never done any public artwork before to Boston’s incredibly talented muralists,” says Turgeon. “Most of them [the artists] found us after the word got out that they could legally paint. They came out of the woodwork. Some of these guys knew each other 20 years ago and hadn’t seen each other for five or 10 or 15 years. It was a homecoming for a lot of these guys…. They were doing this illegally in high school 20 years ago. Now seeing them do it legally, and some of them actually have careers out of it, and just how talented some of these guys are—it’s really cool.
Over the course of the fest, nearly 1,000 spectators descended on the yard to take in art, food truck fare, and performances from famed Boston b-boy/girl crew the Floorlords. “Somebody on site mentioned it was the most diverse event they’ve ever been to in Boston,” Turgeon recalls. “Latino and black and white, and old grandparents walking around, and every kind of income range—it was really fun to see such a broad cross-section of Boston’s population.”
Open to the public every weekend through October, Bartlett Yard aims to serve as a multi-purpose gathering place for locals; PickUpFooty@ is already organizing weekly pickup soccer games there. “I’m most excited just to get the community down there, to get people to this part of Dudley and to Roxbury, to experience what this part of the neighborhood has to offer,” Turgeon says. June’s event lineup includes a Sculptural Potluck, staged in concert with eco-minded arts collaborative HarborArts. Held at Bartlett Yard on June 15 and at the East Boston Shipyard sculpture gallery on June 16, the potluck will have DJs spinning as attendees participate in an art swap and contribute found objects to two temporary sculptures. It’s an event that seems to get to the heart of Bartlett Yard’s mission—meeting your neighbors, exchanging art and ideas, and transforming the overlooked dross of the everyday into something beautiful.
Photos courtesy of Bartlett Events
June rolls in with some hot shows this weekend. When he’s not touring with the Allman Brothers Band or his own solo group, guitarist/singer Warren Haynes remains busy with his outfit Gov’t Mule, which plays the waterfront Bank of America Pavilion on Friday. Heavy on power blues-rock, though willing to mix it up (with guests or otherwise), the Mule even appeared at the folk/bluegrass-slated Merlefest this year: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nN922p6sEL4.
Speaking of bluegrass, there’s clearly virtuosity in the hands of the five women in Della Mae, the Boston-based acoustic group that just released its fine debut This World Oft Can Be on Rounder Records. But there’s also breezy crossover appeal to fans of pop and country who tune into Della Mae’s original tunes. The group hits the Lizard Lounge Saturday to launch its “Tour of the Squares,” a brief blitz of local haunts that also includes shows at Club Passim Monday and an early set at the Middle East Upstairs on Monday. Here’s a taste of what to expect live: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c8DEseFQmxA.
New Kids on the Block proved surprisingly strong on Thursday’s Boston Strong benefit bill, displaying not only heart and spirit but intact voices and a rocking backup band. This bodes well for the “Kids” to return to the TD Garden Sunday to launch a two-night stand on the group’s “Package Tour” with 98 Degrees and Boyz II Men. Here’s NKOTB at its March record release show at the Orpheum: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZdrZPe2014E.
Interview With a Vampire
True Blood's Denis O'Hare performs in the Huntington Theatre Company's Selected Shorts on Tour: Springtime, Sex & Baseball on June 8.
Photo courtesy of Symphony Space.
True Blood's Denis O'Hare performs in the Huntington Theatre Company's Selected Shorts on Tour: Springtime, Sex & Baseball on June 8.
What about W.P. Kinsella's short story, “The Thrill of the Grass,” translates well to performing?
It's mostly an aural experience because most people experience it over the radio. And whenever you do a short story for the radio, we're not using sound effects and we're not usually doing vast characterizations, so you're reading it with an ear towards how it will be perceived by the listener. Most short stories, and this one also, are just good tales, and they're compelling. This one is certainly a great tale and it's filled with wonderful details for the ear and the eye.
Do people ever close their eyes when they're listening?
No, I don't think so. It's like when you read a book, you begin to form the images in your head, even though your eyes are still open and you're reading. So I think just sitting in the audience, watching somebody read, you begin to have your head filled with the images. It's an oddly compelling experience to watch somebody read.
W.P. Kinsella also wrote the short story that inspired Field of Dreams. Have you been watching that film to prepare?
I haven't. I've seen it and I think it's fantastic, and he as a writer is so skilled. What's great about him as a writer is that even if you aren't, for instance, an incredible baseball fan, his writing is so lush and so compelling and so psychologically interesting.
Are you drawing on any personal baseball experiences for your performance?
[Laughs] No. You know what? I'm in general not much of a sports fan. I'm just not interested. But, I'm a great fan of literature and I'm a great fan of metaphors. I did a play called Take Me Out about 10 years ago that was all about baseball. I had a monologue in that where I talked about how amazing baseball was as a game, and people would go, 'Wow, you must really love baseball." And I'd say, 'No, I love acting and I love metaphors.' But I did play baseball, so it's the one sport that I actually played with some skill.
What do you think the main difference is the vampires in True Blood compared to the vampires from Twilight?
Well, the vampires in True Blood are real vampires. The ones in Twilight are baby, made-up, silly vampires.
Are there real vampires?
Absolutely, and they're on True Blood. Vampires don't go out in the daylight. That's one of the basic rules that has always existed in time and memoriam. You just don't get to be in the daylight, that's one of the trade-offs. You get to be immortal, but you can't walk in the sun.
What's the best part about playing a vampire king?
The character has a lot of power, and with all that power there's a certain sense of freedom–a great abandonment of caution. He's just a delightful character in that regard because he sort of is childlike, and I love that aspect.
Who's scarier: a die-hard baseball fan or a vampire?
I would say a die-hard baseball fan is scarier. Vampires actually don't believe in anything, they just sort of drift along, whereas die-hard baseball fans will fight to the death for what they believe. And that's a little scary.
Being Jared Sullinger
Q&A with Boston Celtics' big man
Boston Celtics forward Jared Sullinger stands with two Boston middle schoolers at the Stay in School Awards Celebration, presented by Arbella Insurance. (Photo by Steve Babineau)
Boston Celtics big man Jared Sullinger is unlike many of his peers when he’s on the court. Not many high school basketball players are declared the top player of their class in the country. Not many college basketball players delay a million-dollar payday to go back to school for a year. Heck, Mark Zuckerberg bolted Harvard for the promise of far less. Not many NBA players get to start alongside at least two Hall of Famers during their rookie year. But off the court? Sully, the Ohio native with the made-for-Boston nickname, has a far more relatable routine for a 21-year-old.
Sullinger took part last week in the 22nd annual Stay in School Awards Celebration, which honored Boston public school students for attendance and other classroom achievements. After speaking as part of a panel with former Celtics as well as local school officials, Sullinger shared his thoughts exclusively with The Improper Bostonian on hotspots he still wants to see in the Bay State and what his life at home has been like during his year in Boston.
As far as a normal off-day for you, when it doesn’t involve rehab or practice, what do you end up doing?
A normal off-day for me is just trying to explore Boston and find new places to go. That’s about it.
What’s your favorite spot that you’ve seen so far?
I really don’t have a favorite spot. I’m still learning Boston. When the weather gets nice after this tornado weather we’re having, I might try to check out Cape Cod or Martha’s Vineyard. I might go out there. I go downtown every now and then.
Any favorite restaurants or spots to hit up?
Nah, I don’t have any favorites. Maybe Red Lantern—I like Red Lantern. I like a couple other spots.
How often have you gotten to see your family?
Not much. We came to a decision as a unit: Me, (Celtics president) Danny (Ainge), (trainer) Ed Lacerte and my agent David Falk. We came to a decision to keep me here. Kind of be away from distractions. I understand that basketball is my main thing right now.
Do you talk to your dad after games or anything like that to get advice on basketball?
Nah, when he stopped coaching me, we cut ties on talking about that sort of stuff.
Last year, you get your first paycheck in the league. It’s not Kevin Garnett-type bucks, but it’s still a lot. Did you splurge on anything?
I just paid my utilities. I had bills to pay, you know the first paycheck of the month, and it just went to that and paying off different things. It goes quick.
So, you hit about half the cities in the NBA during the season before you got hurt. Did you have a favorite road trip or anything?
Every road trip was fun, but probably the most fun was Istanbul (in the preseason). We went overseas and we got to experience something new and we had to stick together as a unit.
How much different did you find your first year from college? You come in and you’re around older, established players, as opposed to being the top dog in college.
Well, I knew I was going to have to pay my dues. Everybody has to pay their dues. I paid my dues when I was younger. I wasn’t the best player when I was younger and I just had to pay my dues and keep playing and playing hard to get me to the level I’m at now.
When you’re at home are you usually watching movies or video games?
I go to the movies, every now and then. I’m into video games, too. Call of Duty, Tomb Raider, I play it all.
What’s the last movie you saw?
Iron Man 3.
Did you like it?
Yeah, I loved it. It was a great movie.
What other stuff are you doing on your rehab – are you doing a lot of yoga?
Not too much yoga, more stuff to keep my core and my back strong.
Now that’s downtown revitalization. With a massive musical stroke, Boston Calling not only packed City Hall Plaza with 18 worthy alternative rock acts over Memorial Day weekend, but positioned itself as a virtual new venue on the Hub’s landscape by announcing a second edition of the festival Sept. 7-8.
“Tonight, we are young. So let's set the world on fire!” singer Nate Ruess of the Grammy-winning fun. cried in Saturday’s anthemic finale, and one could almost feel the heat off the stage as mock flames filled the backdrop. Well, not really; Saturday proved cold, wet and long, nearly nine hours long for die-hard attendees. But these were the young at heart, in spirit and fortitude as well as age. Boston’s first ticketed two-day rock fest sold out in advance through a largely collegiate demographic that promoters will tap further with a likely warmer September follow-up that’s headlined by Vampire Weekend and Passion Pit (tickets on sale Friday). And that must be cool with Mayor Thomas Menino, who appeared on crutches Saturday to give Boston Calling his thumbs up.
The capacity crowd of 20,000 surged in brisk but better Sunday weather for rousing main-stage sets by Of Monsters and Men and the National, whose guitarist Aaron Dessner co-curated both editions of the festival, announcing the next one onstage to seize the momentum. And when National frontman Matt Berninger climbed over the barricade to burrow far into the general-admission mob while ranting “Mr. November,” Boston Calling sealed its triumph with a moment of communal electricity.
In retrospect, the inaugural Boston Calling made the best of the weekend's unseasonable weather fluctuation with the arc of its programming. The first day needed an extra energy boost to combat the damp chill and got that pop from fun. as well as ADD keyboard/drums duo Matt & Kim, who treat performance like a frat party, complete with balloons and grind ‘n’ bump breakdowns to recorded dance music between songs.
That was as close to an EDM rave as this Boston Calling got, though Saturday rode an electro-pop streak with second-stage bands that hinted at Florence + the Machine, the moodily striking MS MR (fronted by orange-haired Lizzy Plapinger) and the plucky Marina and the Diamonds. Welch-born Marina Diamandis arrived with bridal veil over bomber jacket, twirled to the beat, worked the crowd edges, and wheeled out a mannequin-in-briefs by a handle on its butt, nodding to Madonna and Lady Gaga in the process.
Before Ruess bounded around the main stage with fun., serving a delightful cover of Paul Simon’s “Me and Julio Down the Schoolyard” and declaring Boston Calling was his band’s best-ever show, the Shins mitigated waves of drizzle with a magnificent set of indie-rock. Aided by the day’s best sound mix, wafting from the main stage toward City Hall (where acoustics fell prey to bricks and breezes), the group shifted from the darkly Beatlesque swells of “Port of Morrow” to the acoustic strum of “New Slang,” where fans echoed the whimsical cooing of leader James Mercer.
Of Monsters and Men played up their own sing-along hooks in the same early-evening slot on Sunday for the weekend’s biggest crowd. In turn, the Icelandic band has smartly amped up its charming folk-pop to project to the masses. Co-singers Ragnar þórhallsson and especially Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir moved more purposely about the stage to engage the masses, from “Lighthouse” (introduced as a song about summer) to the band’s “hey”-spiked hit “Little Talks,” while martial drums put beefy drive beneath the trumpet and accordion icing.
With clearer skies and a more laidback vibe, Sunday leaned toward indie-rock guitar bands, though the upbeat Ra Ra Riot and masterful violin manipulator Andrew Bird incorporated strings into their sound. The stark Dirty Projectors, with their odd guitar tunings and polyphonic vocal bursts, seemed to puzzle the early main-stage audience. But the Walkmen surely won new fans with their lean, steely rock, which the National's Berninger later noted “kicked us in the ass to be a better band.” Young the Giant likewise wowed with dark but ebullient surges behind bouncy, emotive frontman Sameer Gadhia on the second stage, where Portugal. The Man ruled with textural propulsion on Saturday. Alas, that stage next to City Hall, long used for radio station concerts, proved more difficult to negotiate with the larger, migrating crowd.
But the National rose to the occasion as the final act. The bespectacled Berninger looked like the cool college professor in his short trenchcoat, centering his Brooklyn-based band’s brooding squall with baritone musings that recalled R.E.M. in the feverish peak of “Squalor Victoria.” And in the new “Graceless,” when guitarist brothers Aaron and Bryce Dessner gnashed and swung in Edge-y tandem over the galloping drums of Bryan Devendorf (who rounded a second brothers’ team with bassist Scott), the intensity was encompassing in the shadow of downtown buildings. A sporadic horn section only blurred the crispness of their chemistry.
Maybe best of all for a city-rooted festival, rising local groups -- the funk-edged Bad Rabbits and mainly instrumental post-rock outfit Caspian -- each got to open the main stage, and that’s a move that Boston Calling apparently plans to maintain. Boston-based You Won’t and Bearstronaut will join the Sept. 7-8 lineup , which will also include Kendrick Lamar, Local Natives, the Gaslight Anthem, Major Lazer, the Airborne Toxic Event, Bat For Lashes, Solange, Deer Tick and Okkervil River on alternating stages.
Boston Calling struck a successful chord as a youthful rock festival unlike anything ever seen in this city. And promoters aren’t wasting any time in winding up for another chapter.
Cool, damp weather wasn’t what we had in mind for Memorial Day weekend, particularly for the strong inaugural Boston Calling music festival, but that’s the forecast we’ve been dealt and we’ll make the most of it!
You can start indoors with a few choice Friday concerts. Don’t expect Robert Fripp to rip incisive leads on electric guitar like he does in King Crimson or even stand out in the crowd when the reclusive Fripp returns to lead his Orchestra of Crafty Guitarists at the First Church in Cambridge. What you’ll get are dozens of acoustic guitar players weaving cyclical patterns through a mix of disciplined technique and improvisation that’s unique to each evening: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QkDm6XTCLRg.
Stylish jazz drummer Roy Haynes still cooks on the kit at age 88, making his Fountain of Youth band particularly well-named. The Boston-bred ace, who’s worked with everyone from John Coltrane to Pat Metheny, caps a two-night stand at Scullers Jazz Club on Friday: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-YP4tFzOas4. And Boston hip-hop’s well-represented the same night at the Sinclair when New Orleans lifestyle rapper Curren$y tops a smart bill that includes the conscious MCs Akrobatik and Mr. Lif as the co-frontmen of the Perceptionists (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LQjXH1e34VI), the Lawrence-bred team of Statik Selektah and Termanology with Sean Price, and creative upstarts Moe Pope & Rain.
OK, time for Boston Calling, opening the summer festival season right at the heart of the Hub. They’ll be two stages on City Hall Plaza with nine bands per day Saturday and Sunday, from breakout locals Bad Rabbits and Caspian to headliners fun. and the National. Both days are sold out except for VIP tickets, though there are readily available tickets on craigslist, possibly fueled by the dip in the weather forecast, at least for Saturday. Befitting the downtown landscape, there’s also re-admission with bracelets, so fans have the option to slip outside for food, drink or -- more crucially -- ample shelter if the skies open up. You can get the rundown of bands and set times here: http://bostoncalling.com/wp-content/uploads/BostonCalling-Schedule-800x600.jpg. And here’s a taste of a few of the bands that’ll be performing – the Shins: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f-Yi0XXN9z8, Dirty Projectors (one of my favorites): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YXUcCLRaggo and Young the Giant: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rvce4HAPA2c&feature=player_detailpage.
Time heals all troubles for Red Sox bullpen
Bailey returns to a rehabbed bullpen
Andrew Bailey and Jarrod Saltalamacchia (Michael Ivins/Boston Red Sox)
The texts were coming from a friend nearly every time the Red Sox bullpen took over a game in April or early May: "Relief is the wrong term for these pitchers" or the far more succinct "This pen sucks."
Despite an array of relief pitchers who looked good on paper and some who even looked good on the mound, the results were just not adding up. Sure, the Sox started 18-8 in April, but that was largely because of a starting rotation that produced quality starts in almost every game and a lineup that scored the fourth most runs in the major leagues. Of the 8 losses, 4 were credited to relievers and two of the wins came only after the bullpen had blown the lead.
The April numbers backed up the disappointing performances: The Sox bullpen ranked 21st in the majors in FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching: a stat that judges a pitcher based solely on home runs, walks and strikeouts, removing any plays that involve fielders) and 22nd in ERA. Early-season injuries to Joel Hanrahan, Craig Breslow and Andrew Bailey sapped any sort of consistency from the bullpen. Fill-ins such as Daniel Bard and Stephen Wright proved to be ineffective, while Alfredo Aceves continued with his odd career behavior on and off the field, which has now landed him in the minor leagues.
But beyond those stats, the eye test seemed a little different. Koji Uehara was pitching well. Junichi Tazawa, Clayton Mortensen and Andrew Bailey would have one bad game after a week of good ones - it just so happened that those bad games were not all at the same time. Joel Hanrahan had pitched poorly, but it seemed directly related to an injury. And there was hope in another statistic: The Red Sox relievers were striking out batters at the third highest rate in the majors in April. The only pitcher who seemed to be underperforming consistently was Andrew Miller, who in my eyes was the only true failure. "Cut him!" I told many friends.
But with the starting rotation and offense providing cover, the Sox bullpen was given some time. Nobody was released from the organization or traded - as has been the case in prior years. (And most of those guys always tend to do better immediately with their new teams: Chad Fox in 2003, JC Romero in 2007, Ramon Ramirez in 2010; that's not even counting Cla Meredith, Alan Embree or Javier Lopez.) My supposed candidate for that honor - Andrew Miller - has had his rebirth with the Sox rather than for another organization. After allowing baserunners in 5 of his first 7 appearances, he's allowed a runner in just 2 of his last 13 games. Why was he given time to turn things around? Well, the answer is simple: The team just didn't have anyone else who was healthy.
April travails have led to May triumphs for the bullpen: The team has improved to 18th in the majors in ERA and 15th in FIP. And which team's relievers have struck out the highest ratio of opposing batters this year? The Red Sox.
With Bailey activated off the DL yesterday, the Red Sox bullpen looks to be as close to healthy as its been all year and the organization has maintained its depth through the early-season troubles (aside from Hanrahan undergoing season-ending surgery). Pitchers who you'd feel comfortable with a lead on the mound include: Uehara, Tazawa, Bailey, Miller and Breslow. Most teams can make do with three, so to have five seems downright luxurious. Clayton Mortensen and minor-league callup Alex Wilson and have provided solid depth and kept the Sox in some games that lesser relievers might have let get out of reach. Franklin Morales looks close to returning from the disabled list, which would reinforce the bullpen either in the form of Morales or starter Felix Doubront, who might make way for Morales in the rotation.
The disappointing texts from my friend about the Sox bullpen have stopped—for now. Just wait until he sees the NL All-Star roster in a month with the likely inclusion of one relief pitcher the Sox traded before the season.
Chicago troupe the Hypocrites raise their flag at the A.R.T.
The Pirates of Penzance was the only Gilbert and Sullivan opera to have its official premiere in America: The pair staged it in New York City on New Year’s Eve in 1879 in hopes of securing U.S. copyright protection and preventing unauthorized productions. But it didn’t work, and as had happened with the Brits’ previous hit, H.M.S. Pinafore, scores of knockoffs played across the States, often taking great liberties with the libretto and orchestration (and, of course, failing to generate royalties for the show’s creators). It’s safe to say that they probably didn’t improve on the original. But the liberties taken in the adaptation from award-winning Chicago troupe the Hypocrites have quite different results: a night of Victorian opera that somehow manages to delight squirmy small children, sundry hipsters, and graying Cantabrigians alike.
Playing at the American Repertory Theater through June 2, the Hypocrites’ fun and fizzy Pirates of Penzance transforms the Loeb Drama Center into a wonderland of beachy-keen kitsch, complete with tiki lights and a grass-hut bar churning frozen drinks. Traditional seating is available, but brave souls should opt for the onstage Promenade, where you may perch at a picnic bench, on a plastic cooler, inside a kiddie pool alongside assorted rubber duckies, or on the floor (though be forewarned: you may inadvertently get a glimpse up a pirate’s short-shorts). Wherever you sit, don’t get too comfy. The action unfolds all around you, and a bathing beauty or Major General will likely need to be in your spot at some point during the show. Cast members gesture or tap you on the shoulder to let you know it’s time to scoot, which works out fairly smoothly, considering all the piratical hijinks afoot — there was only one drink-spilling collision during my viewing.
Running 80 minutes — with a whopping one-minute intermission — the show sails along at a brisk pace, and the beach-party shtick feels weirdly pitch-perfect instead of gimmicky, perhaps in part because Gilbert and Sullivan’s plot is already so goofy. Our hero is Frederic, who was mistakenly apprenticed to a band of a tender-hearted pirates (who spare all those who claim to be orphans). Frederic loves his mates, but is such a goody-goody "slave of duty" that he feels compelled to help the police bring his former crew to justice once his employment ends at age 21. He also falls for the banjo-plucking Mabel, after realizing that the crew’s maid, Ruth — the spectacled, curler-headed, accordion-playing old biddy who’s the only female he’s seen since childhood — isn’t the paragon of beauty she’s led him to believe. (In a clever move, the fabulous Christine Stulik plays both Ruth and Mabel.) But Frederic’s plans are derailed when he’s told that his leap-day birth means his term of service technically extends until his 21st birthday — when he’ll be 84.
The hyper-kinetic cast spit out polysyllabic rhymes, sing, dance, and play a panoply of instruments — ukulele, clarinet, harmonica, guitar, banjo, xylophone, washboard, finger cymbals, even a saw — often all at once, weaving in running jokes and eliciting laughs with something as simple as a trilled syllable or a well-timed stomp. All in all, it goes down as easy as those tropical cocktails from the grass hut, sans hangover.
Pirates of Penzance plays at the A.R.T.'s Loeb Drama Center through June 2. Find tickets and more information here. Photos by Evgenia Eliseeva.
Off The Bench
Being AJ Soares
Q&A with New England Revs defender
New England Revolution defender A.J. Soares, 24, recently sat down with the Improper Bostonian to share some details about his off-field life – including his favorite restaurant in Boston, his thoughts on yoga and a hidden gem in Boston’s parks system. In his third season with the Revs, Soares has provided some consistency to the rebuilding franchise despite missing some time this season because of injury.
Matt Martinelli: You’re kind of a California guy. You grew up on the West Coast. Went to school on the West Coast. You’ve been on the East Coast for a couple of years now. How’s the adjustment been?
A.J. Soares: Well, there’s a noticeable difference, but I love it. I like living in Boston. It’s a fun place to live, there’s a lot to do. I like city life regardless of where I am, so it’s a place I enjoy living. The hardest thing is just being really far from my family and my close friends. I had a lot of close people who were around me – and my family is important to me, so that’s probably the biggest adjustment.
How often do you get to see your family?
Not that often, really. I have my dad come out for a week or something every year – and hang out. My mom might come out for a game or two. And I’ll see them when we go to LA, but other than that, I only see them in the offseason. So, that’s tough, but I love the job and it’s worth it. It’s worth not seeing them to play soccer for a living.
Does that make LA your favorite road trip when you guys are hitting the road or is there another city?
Well, Seattle this year was awesome because my best friend plays for Seattle, so his family went up and my whole family went up there – and a lot of our friends went up and met us up there. Really, anywhere on the West Coast, I’m going to have some people that I know. But overall LA is definitely my favorite city because I get to see my nieces and nephews and everyone – and just being back in a place where I’m familiar with everything.
Now, you’re from a big family, right?
Yeah. Huge family. I’m sixth of six
Were you, being the youngest child – I was the youngest child – were you the spoiled one or were you sort of able to slip through the cracks?
No, no. I was getting beat up every day. I was getting my butt kicked by my older siblings. I’m sure I was spoiled in some ways – and I’m sure they would say I was spoiled. I was spoiled with time, really. My parents came to all my games and everything like that, so that was good. I love being the sixth of six. I seriously think that helped me in my soccer career – being the youngest. Because growing up, I was always playing against my brother and his friends. He’s four years older than me, and I was always getting beat up and physically manhandled by my brother and all his older friends. Then one day you grow up and it kind of works to your advantage. You’re tougher and you’re used to playing sports against older people. So, in a weird way, I think it kind of helps you in your career to be the youngest.
I hear that. So what part of Boston do you live in?
I live in Brighton, technically. But I live pretty close to BU. I love the area – a lot of young people. A lot of cafes. A lot of music venues for live music. Anna’s Taqueria is my favorite place. I was fortunate to do some work with them, so it’s good. I love my neighborhood and I’ve embraced it. I definitely have had a positive experience with all the people there – and I really enjoy living there.
During an off-day in the season, obviously you’re usually in here practicing. Today, you’re getting treatment. What else does an off-day entail?
I think it’s important for athletes, for every job, really, to take at least one day a week where you’re completely shut off mentally from your job. It’s hard to do here because sometimes we do work 7 days a week. But when I do get an off-day, I like to completely not think about soccer. I won’t even watch games if they’re on TV. I do a lot of yoga. I have a really great teacher at the yoga studio I go to. So, I do a lot of yoga, which is awesome because it lets you focus on something else. You’re completely focused on what you’re doing when you’re there. And there’s not a thought in my mind of soccer – or of anything outside of what I’m doing there. I always spend a lot of time at a couple of cafes I really like. There’s a couple different parks I like. I like to spend time outdoors when it’s sunny. It reminds me of home. I just kind of relax, really. I don’t do too much. I’m not the type of person who’s going to spend all night at the club on my one off-day. I’d rather relax, enjoy the sun, drink some good coffee, do some yoga. That kind of thing.
So, what’s the yoga studio that you go to?
Sweat and Soul Yoga. It’s the best. It’s a great deal – it’s $10 cash. And you don’t have to sign up. You don’t have to pay $200 a month to do any of this stuff. The quality is really high and the people are really great, so I love it there.
Do you hit up the parks in Brighton? I know there’s one …
There’s one park I really like. It’s called Corey Hill Outlook. It’s tiny and it’s up on a hill. You kind of can see over Boston. It’s conveniently located near an Anna’s and near some cafes I like. Sometimes, I’ll just be driving home and I’ll just stop there. Hang out for 3 minutes or hang out for two hours. And just enjoy it. Just there and look at trees.
Do you have a roommate?
No, I live by myself. I’ve lived by myself ever since I came here. The first time I ever lived by myself was my rookie year, and we weren’t sure who was going to be on the team and who wasn’t, and I needed to get a place to stay, so I just ended up getting a studio by myself – and I actually enjoyed living by myself. I spend a lot of time just hanging out and relaxing, so I don’t mind being by myself at all. I kind of like it – I get to go home and think about something other than work.
Are you here in the offseason, too?
Part of the offseason I’m here. It changes every year. You never know. If you’re injured, you’re here a little more. If you’re not, then maybe you go home. Maybe we’re in the playoffs. I probably spend more of the offseason in California. I’m here for some of it, and I’m sure every year I’m here I’ll be here longer and longer in the offseason.
Do you have a favorite restaurant?
Well, Anna’s is my favorite place to grab food, but my favorite restaurant is the Daily Catch in Brookline. It’s phenomenal. I think it started in the North End, but it’s seafood, Mediterranean, kind of Italian seafood. It’s phenomenal. It’s a tiny restaurant. It’s probably got seats for like 12 people, but I love it. And I kind of know – there’s one woman who waits on you, and there’s one chef – so I kind of know them now. So, the food’s phenomenal. I just go there and say ‘Make something. Whatever.’ It’s great.
Do you have any gripes about living the city? You have to commute a little to get to Foxboro.
I don’t mind the commute. Driving doesn’t bother me at all. I’m just sitting there listening to music, which I might be doing anyways. The drive does not bother me at all. The only time it’s not cool is if we get home late. Or when you come into the airport after a road trip, I’m like ‘I could just be home in 10 minutes,’ but I’ve got to come to the stadium, get my car, drive home. But it’s worth it to me to be somewhere that I really enjoy living. So my time – even when I’m not working – is positive. It’s not to say that I wouldn’t enjoy living in Foxboro, but having lived in Berkley, and growing up in a place where there’s a lot of people, I definitely wanted to be in the city, where I could experience new things all the time.
What are your goals, professionally, within the MLS?
I set goals, but I definitely take my career one day at a time, so, obviously, my goal today is to get better so I can start training. But I really want to win. I love winning. That’s one of the things I love about soccer. I love the camaraderie and all that, but I definitely love winning. I want to get to the playoffs, and help this team go far in the playoffs, and hopefully get their first championship at some point. I kind of see Paul Pierce, you know he’s from the West Coast, from LA. He came out here and he finally took them to the championship – and hopefully it doesn’t take too long – but I kind of see that. And I think, well, he did it. I can do it.
And he went through the rebuilding that you are.
Yeah, the team here is great now. We’ve got a lot of talent now. There’s a lot of excitement. We’re going to get better and better every game.
Do you have any other role models?
Yeah, I have a lot of role models. There’s soccer players who I look up to – I look up to athletes in general. Paul Pierce, like I said, he’s a guy who’s great all the time – and basically he came to the last place he expected to come when he was drafted. I think he was a Laker fan growing up. So, it’s kind of odd. And now he’s a legend for the Celtics, so that’s great. I look up to even someone like Floyd Mayweather. I’m a boxing fan, and – I don’t want to act like him at all – but his confidence. He knows he’s going to win every single fight. And that’s something that I just look at and I’m amazed at how positive he is that he’s going to stay undefeated and he’s never going to lose a fight. I think that’s awesome. I think to have that confidence is great.
The fourth thing that comes up when you Google your name is AJ Soares-Alex Morgan. Now, she’s an old friend from Cal, right?
Yeah, she’s a good friend of mine. She’s a great person. She’s a phenomenal person, actually. She just came up like a normal girl. Now, she’s the most famous soccer player in the world. And she’s the same exact person, which is amazing. I hang out with her in the offseason and she’s the exact same person. Not one thing has changed, other than her car.
What does she drive now?
Ha – it’s nobody’s business – she can drive whatever she wants. Anyways, she goes out with my best friend and we’re close. She’s a great person. I’m happy for her and her career. She deserves it. She’s the hardest-working athlete who I know. That’s why she’s the best.
Something for everyone as the warm weather kicks in. Philly native and onetime Bostonian rocker Kurt Vile has shaken up the blogosphere for several years, between his solo ventures and his former co-led outfit The War on Drugs. And he’s dropped a drawling, sprawling delight with his melodic new album Wakin on a Pretty Daze, where the singer/songwriter weaves electric and acoustic guitars layers in lengthy songs of laconic bliss and offhand bite. See how it’ll fly with his band the Violators at the Sinclair Friday: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ru-py7LV5DE.
Over at House of Blues the same night, singer/songwriter Josh Ritter burrows into reflections on his recent divorce from his new album, The Beast in Its Tracks, though he’s not one to brood or lash. He’s got his Royal City Band to help thoughtfully break down songs from throughout his career in various permutations, starting with solo acoustic Ritter. And speaking of permutations, in honor of this week’s finale of TV comedy “The Office,” here’s an odd clip of Ritter and bassist Zack Hickman playing in a van with “Office” star Rainn Wilson on drums: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=POwOPvgvVS0. For his part, Iron and Wine figurehead Sam Beam lightens and loosens up in the wake of his new album Ghost on Ghost, which he’ll showcase on Friday at the Berklee Performance Center: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sw7ctQ0fWFM. And if you’re a fan of arena country, Brad Paisley’s one class act, able to swing between an acoustic hoedown and Southern-style rock built for the big crowds, like the one likely to christen this season’s opening of the Comcast Center on Friday: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BgDwaK-l9So
Want some free outdoor music? Saturday opens with the Radio 92.59 EarthFest 2013 at the DCR Memorial Hatch Shell on the Charles River Esplanade that afternoon, featuring the David Lowery-fronted combo of Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven as well as crack Boston pop-rockers Gentlemen Hall and the mainstream outfit Vertical Horizon. Here’s an old Camper Van Beethoven favorite: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sn5E-oHqkNI. In terms of dig-deep emotionalism, you can’t beat soul singer Charles Bradley, discovered as a James Brown impersonator in Brooklyn bars and now impressing audiences with his own heartfelt songs. The singer and His Extraordinaires get down at the Paradise Saturday. Here’s a live clip (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TMRdlvNpwoY ) as well as a jump to my recent Bradley interview: http://www.improper.com/going-out/pressing-on/. Speaking of veterans in another genre, 82-year-old Jim Hall, the iconic patriarch of tasteful jazz guitar, brings his trio with bassist Steve LaSpina and drummer Jonathan Blake to Scullers Jazz Club on Saturday: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rlNXWaXXFbU.
Finally, on Sunday, the Mickey Hart Band grooves into the Paradise, with the Grateful Dead's wild-card drummer leading a crew that boasts singer Crystal Monee Hall (a Tony Award winner with "Rent"), percussionist Sikiru Adepoju and even Widespread Panic bassist Dave Schools. Here's their recent take on a playful Dead staple: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A90SNBLPIOk.
For his new solo album Clarity, Laszlo Gardony set up microphones at the piano in his Berklee studio on one inspired morning, and improvised pieces for 49 minutes. The contemplative result’s a reminder that the Hungarian-born pianist could be Boston’s version of Keith Jarrett for his sensitivity and spontaneity as a soloist. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sV8KiBRMqKE&list=PLD99E108929657003. However, when Gardony plays the Regattabar on Friday, he’ll not only bring his trio of bassist John Lockwood and drummer Yoron Israel but guest saxophonists Bill Pierce and Don Braden as well as Stan Strickland on flute, bass clarinet and vocals. It promises a wide-ranging night of standards and Gardony’s originals. And when it comes to blues-rock guitar, Joe Bonamassa has exploded as a virtuoso for the masses both here and abroad. He has smoothly vaulted from clubs to giant halls like the Citi Wang Theatre, where Bonamassa will sing with his ax on Friday: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RNfs27d-brU.
Among early ’90s alt-rock songsmiths, Buffalo Tom stood as one of Boston’s most endearing entries, balancing pop smarts and punk propulsion with heart-on-sleeve emotion. Luckily, the trio’s legacy didn’t stop there as singer/guitarist Bill Janovitz, bassist/singer Chris Colbourn and drummer Tom Maginnis still perform periodic shows and even released the worthy new Skins in 2011. The trio test-drives the Sinclair both this Friday and Saturday: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9YkQ_GGOdfQ. Other strong locally rooted bills on Friday include the Thalia Zedek Band (supporting her new album Via) at Radio in Somerville and a psych-rock communion with Ghost Box Orchestra and Animal Hospital at the Middle East Downstairs.
In terms of both wild fashion and fashionable wildness, Karen O forged a formidable reputation as the frontwoman for the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, even if she’s toned down the abrasive histrionics over the past decade. At least the trashy New York art-punk trio, which hits House of Blues on Sunday, has put aside its synthesizer dalliance from a few years back on new album Mosquito. Here’s the title track from a recent show: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TI94o72LopI. In turn, Texas-bred singer-songwriter Steve Earle digs into poignant, lowdown character portraits with an effortless flow on his new fine The Low Highway, backed by his Dukes and Dutchesses, a band that includes his singer/accordionist wife Allison Moorer. Here’s one from the album (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IJJJwMmrdSo ), although you can expect Earle to mine his deep catalog when he brings his Americana/bluegrass ensemble into the Wilbur Theatre on Sunday.
Opera on Tap's barroom bravura
There’s been offstage drama in the opera world, given closings of companies like Opera Boston, which shuttered in January 2012 despite having recently staged the world premiere of Madame White Snake, a Pulitzer winner. But the fat lady has yet to sing: Evangelists are shredding the stuffy rep and cultivating new fans. Take Opera on Tap Boston, the young chapter of a national nonprofit that’s bringing arias into bars. The vibe is casual, the performers up close—no opera glasses needed. “Instead of being on stage and in costumes far away, we’re right next to you,” co-director Abby Krawson says. “We’re wearing jeans, and we’ll probably have a beer in our hand.”
In its first year, OOT Boston has provided post-show entertainment at the A.R.T., staged an intimate evening at 13Forest Gallery and secured a residency at Jacob Wirth, where singers from the 50-strong roster serenade the crowd on second and fourth Saturdays. “One night, we had a bachelor party at one end of the bar and a man celebrating his 95th birthday at the other,” Krawson says. “You never know what to expect.” Take one recent gig, when a first-timer’s rendition of the “Toreador Song” from Carmen had a crew of 25 beer-chugging rugby players stomping and singing along. Some nights have themes—“Opera’s Most Dysfunctional Relationships,” say—while others offer a taste of a local company’s new production. “We’re trying to work with other companies to promote opera in general, not necessarily trying to promote ourselves,” co-director Kathryn McKellar says.
A new venue, JP’s Milky Way Lounge, will host the group’s one-year birthday bash on May 8. It’s a chance to expand OOT’s reach—and to celebrate. “We approached a lot of bars…. They were daunted by the idea of opera,” McKellar says. “Since then, people come to our shows and love it. In fact, when we first started, I thought, let’s publicize ourselves as a cabaret group. But my boyfriend was like, ‘No, no. People want to have an epic Saturday night.’”
Boston Strong to Rock the Garden
A roll call of Boston rock heavyweights and other music and comedy superstars will perform on May 30 at the TD Garden for “Boston Strong: An Evening of Support and Celebration,” a benefit concert for The One Fund Boston, helping those most affected in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings.
The lineup features Aerosmith (flying back from Singapore to participate), Jason Aldean, Boston, Jimmy Buffett, Dane Cook, a reunion of Extreme, Godsmack, the J. Geils Band, New Kids on the Block, Steven Wright, and James Taylor, who will perform separately and together with Carole King while letting his seasoned band back some of the performers. Additional artists will be announced.
Tickets -- ranging from $35 to $285 with no additional fees or service charges -- go on sale this Monday, May 6, at 10 a.m. through Live Nation and Ticketmaster. All tickets will be paperless in an effort to circumvent scalpers (concert-goers must bring the credit card used for purchases to the turnstiles).
Donnie Wahlberg of New Kids on the Block briefly choked up at today's House of Blues press announcement by promoter Live Nation and the TD Garden when he spoke of the “worst nightmare” of events that prompted this star-studded show. “It’ll be a chance for us to let go of some of this emotion,” the singer/actor said, “to celebrate this great city and its resiliency. Boston’s gonna f---king rock that night.”
For more information on the concert, slated to start at 7 p.m., check out www.aconcertforboston.org
Kingsley Flood may have entered the local consciousness as an Americana act, but the group fronted by singer/guitarist Naseem Khuri nods to the Clash as well as Dylan with charismatic rocking and contagious wordplay, as evidenced on the versatile sextet's dynamic second album, Battles. Fresh off two of its members playing in Eddie Japan's Rumble-winning set at T.T. the Bear's a week earlier, Kingsley Flood finally celebrates its album release with fine support act Air Traffic Controller at the Brighton Music Hall on Friday, a date rescheduled from the Feb. 9 blizzard: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NgRdngDyD0U.
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club fires up its bluesy, gauzy rock at House of Blues on Friday, in support of its latest release, Specter at the Feast. The album includes a cover of the Call’s “Let the Day Begin” in honor of that group’s recently passed leader Michael Been, whose son Robert Levon co-fronts BRMC on bass and vocals: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pdFUV0hGPAg. And rounding out the night on the jazz end, New England Conservatory-trained composer Darcy James Argue leads his savvy, intelligent big band Secret Society into the cozy Regattabar to showcase its new album Brooklyn Babylon, an ambitious song cycle that imagines an alternate universe of the 18-piece ensemble’s New York hometown: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oK_2xrvUckU.
There were rumblings that the beloved ’80s British band the Smiths might finally reunite, but of course that never happened – and now singer Morrissey has been battling illness. On the other hand, guitarist Johnny Marr (who’s since played with Talking Heads, Modest Mouse and the Cribs) will hit the Paradise Rock Club on Saturday in support of his new solo album The Messenger. And lo and below, Marr’s been singing some Smiths nuggets himself: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XlGTF7H7gF0. In turn, singer Peter Murphy (recently in the news for a DUI arrest) rolls into the Paradise on Sunday to specifically perform songs by his pioneering goth outfit Bauhaus: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gcfpVOgU0i0.
Sometimes the seasoned veterans get a leg up on youthful upstarts. That’s what happened Friday in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Rumble when the cinematic pop outfit Eddie Japan bested roots-rockers Glenn Yoder & the Western States and garage-punk combo Twin Berlin in the contest’s final round at T.T. the Bear’s Place.
Fronted by suave, cool singer David Santos, Eddie Japan delivered memorable songs that balanced an ’80s rock feel with spaghetti western/mariachi flavors from the trumpet of keyboardist Chris Barrett, whose Kingsley Flood bandmate Jenne Morgan centered a string trio for grand finale “A Town Called Nowhere.” By then, the sextet’s membership had swelled to 11 members, with guitarist Eric Brosius’ wife Terri, a fellow ex-member of 1988 Rumble finalists Tribe, shining as one of two backup singers.
Eddie Japan played the same hand consistently through the three-week, 24-band contest hosted by WZLX “Boston Emissions” host Anngelle Wood and her team, while other groups hit highs and lows along the way. Cyclonic psych-rockers New Highway Hymnal and the appropriately suited riff devils White Dynomite proved explosive in the preliminaries before sputtering in the semi-finals – and Twin Berlin nearly did the same with some sloppy Nirvana/Pixies echoes but still made the finals as a wild card. Nonetheless, even with a tightened performance from Twin Berlin and an energized late-set surge from Yoder’s earthy alt-country crew that suggested a possible victory, the night belonged to Eddie Japan.
Spring kicks into high gear. My Morning Jacket frontman Jim James steps into frisky, minimalist pop-soul territory with his oft-enchanting solo debut Regions of Light and Sound of God. Expect to hear the entire album plus a smattering of tunes from MMJ and his collaborations Monsters of Folk and New Multitudes when he brings a full band to Royale Friday: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EzKLWHXN0-4. It’ll also be worth catching opener Cold Specks, who’s joining James in this summer’s Newport Folk lineup.
In turn, the Rock ‘n’ Roll Rumble reaches its glorious conclusion at T. T. the Bear’s Place on Friday when shambolic punk-rockers Twin Berlin (think Nirvana, Pixies and Replacements) join alt-country tunesmiths Glenn Yoder & the Western States and the stylish, spaghetti western-flavored rockers Eddie Japan in the finals, with a closing guest set from ’80s garage-rockers the Dogmatics. Here’s the Rumble schedule: http://wzlx.cbslocal.com/2013/03/11/2013-rock-roll-rumble-night-schedule/. And two rivals from the 2012 Rumble join forces the same night over at the Brighton Music Hall, celebrating new recordings for each. Classic-rock restorers Ghosts of Jupiter (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PYtlqIZV0bI ) looked like they could win it all in last year’s preliminary round before Vermont roots-rockers Bow Thayer and Perfect Trainwreck surged to snatch the crown. So take your pick between Rumbles past and present.
Old-school progressive rock fans have secured a new standard-bearer in Steven Wilson, the once and future Porcupine Tree head who brings his crack solo band (with ex-Zappa drummer Chad Wackerman) to the Berklee Performance Center on Saturday, casting spacey, neatly illuminated and virtuosity-laced echoes of Pink Floyd and Genesis: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Hp6lYx4Fvw. Just blocks away at House of Blues the same night, Trent Reznor also pushes the envelope for visual enhancement when he warms up for his Nine Inch Nails resurrection by hitting the stage with How to Destroy Angels, his electronic band with wife Mariqueen Maandig and soundtrack collaborator Atticus Ross. The three-dimensional, sculptural effects of the group’s movable scrims and lighting are truly mind-bending: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hJ-57q4JbCc. As for other late ’80s rock luminaries, Black Francis hits his old stomping grounds with a solo date at the Sinclair Saturday, sharing tunes from his former band the Pixies as well as from his solo catalog: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=04iy0hCUzvw. And on Sunday, sharp-witted English folk-punk troubadour Billy Bragg rolls into the Berklee Performance Center: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0RAcKkYqlRw . He’s not likely to shed any tears over the passing of old target Margaret Thatcher but recently reacted to the passing of the ex-prime minister with a call to organize with an eye to the future.
Finally, hats off to the bands headed by the Dropkick Murphys and State Radio that play a Sunday matinee benefit at House of Blues for the Boston Marathon bombers' victims and their families.
Another crammed week on the concert front, though all these Friday shows are now postponed. Welch indie-rock trio the Joy Formidable recorded its new album Wolf’s Law in remote, snowy Maine. But the band fronted by spirited singer-guitarist Ritzy Bryan should transform that atmospheric setting into a surprisingly expansive, extroverted sound at House of Blues Friday: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9XiVXwv5OcA. At the other end of the spectrum, the spectral Americana duo Brown Bird celebrates its new self-produced release Fits of Reason with kindred Providence country-blues outfit Joe Fletcher & the Wrong Reasons at the Brighton Music Hall. Expect some collaboration, based on this recent live clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xmVMaPqZBLE. And if you haven’t taking the opportunity to bask in the churning grooves of the Feelies, the hypnotic indie-rock veterans from Hoboken, N.J., resurface at the Sinclair on Friday as well for one of their semi-annual visits: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-qQiyyZhjDQ.
The annual Rock ‘n’ Roll Rumble also concludes its Thursday/Friday semi-finals at T.T. the Bear’s Place with propulsive pop-punk quartet Twin Berlin, psych-rock ravers New Hymnal Highway, harmony-iced popsters Camden and twangy, cinematic Eddie Japan, which added backup singers (including Terri Brosius, sister of guitarist Eric Brosius -- both from ’90s alt-rockers Tribe) and cameo strings in the preliminary round. Here’s the full rundown for the semis: http://wzlx.cbslocal.com/2013/03/11/2013-rock-roll-rumble-preliminary-nights-schedules/.
Back to shows slated to still happen, Saturday belongs to England’s dark post-punk veterans Killing Joke, led by ominous frontman Jaz Coleman, returning to the Paradise Rock Club: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=knRbSj7cvBg. On a lighter note, droll country revivalist Junior Brown brings his frisky baritone and double-neck “Guit-Steel” licks to Johnny D’s Uptown. Here’s an old favorite from a recent show: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BeWSWrulc2A. And you think you’ll never hear a different take on a U2 cover, you haven’t checked out Greensky Bluegrass, the Michigan outfit that brings banjo, mandolin, dobro, guitar and upright bass to a wide repertoire at the Middle East Downstairs on Saturday as well: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=10gEQcIpAj4.
Sunday goes in different directions. At age 74, South African singer/flugelhorn player Hugh Masekela, who plays a World Music/CRASHarts show at Berklee, has been around for decades, from his 1968 hit “Grazing in the Grass” to Paul Simon’s 1986 album Graceland. But Masekela’s still going strong, based on this recent concert appearance on his home continent, begun with a lengthy but stirring speech: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y1rUak6mOLY. At age 25, Kendrick Lamar released one of 2012’s best hip-hop albums in Good Kid, M.A.A.D City and he’ll be taking the stage at Lowell’s Tsongas Arena: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PtaTO5pT5g8&list=SPJzLTReoSNQTIRWuayOCtJXqxwf_c3TlQ&index=3. Finally, fans of experimental indie-rock have a choice on Sunday night. The surgical mask-wearing cult group Clinic return to the U.S. for the first time since 2010 to play the Sinclair in support of their neo-psychedelic new outing Free Reign: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wrg3T3RLuEo. And on its new Sub Verses, the ever-evocative Akron/Family leans to denser electronic textures than the folk, rock, African rhythm and choral music that frame the band’s malleable spells. Consider the improvisational edge that the multi-instrumental trio also weaves live: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QYgPLY-iesA.
West Elm's New Shop-in-Shop
A trip to the market takes on a whole new meaning with the opening of West Elm's shop-in-shop. The Fenway location, which celebrates its seventh year in August, is now one of eight stores to feature the West Elm Market, a division of the city-chic brand that champions local purveyors of specialty foods, personal care items and kitchen and garden appliances.
Photo credit: Randy Gross
The Brooklyn-based company is Pottery Barn's urbanite sister, proving you don't need a white picket fence to enjoy a smartly decorated home. Market also gives us city slickers access to homegrown products while we wait for our favorite outdoor markets, such as SoWa's summer Sundays, to open. At Market, there's a wide array of organic soaps, lotions, salves and scrubs nearly all made in U.S. cities—Brooklyn, San Francisco—known for young entrepreneurs embracing the organic and craft movement.
Photo credit: West Elm Market
There's a little something for the men, too. Market carries the New Hampshire line Sam's Natural, started by the wife of a mechanic named Sam who was fed up with harsh commercial soaps. The brand expanded to include deodorants, lip balms, after-shave and more, all marked by decidedly manly scents such as walnut and cedar. One catch about the all-natural products carried at Market is that you've got to use them quick—unlike drugstore brands, even the deodorants have expiration dates of just a few months because of the organic ingredients.
Photo credit: West Elm Market
West Elm Market also carries a well-curated selection of jams, sauces, rubs, pickles and the like, offering a sampling of what you might find at farmer's markets across the nation. Try Gordy's Pickle Jar for a taste of Washington, DC, or Christina Maser Preserves for a bite of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. For cooking aficionados, there's a wide collection of compact kitchen appliances and stainless steel cookware designed exclusively for Market by Belgian-based company Greenpan (a collection that's a personal favorite of West Elm’s creative director Vanessa Holden). Though the selection is varied, each piece offers intuitive design for even the tiniest Back Bay apartment. Best exemplifying that common philosophy is the retro Smeg refrigerator. At just under five feet tall, the Italian-made icebox is a smart alternative and comes in festive colors.
“The home is the first place a person can start to creatively express themselves,” says Holden. “Market offers a different way for people to fold in good design with their own aesthetic.” Design is, after all, in the details.
West Elm Market, 160 Brookline Ave., Boston | 617-450-9500 | westelm.com
Muse could simply embody a sci-fi rock geek’s dream with its grandiose prog-rock and Orwellian lyrics. But the English trio strives to appeal to audiences across the genre spectrum, all while surrounding itself with the biggest conceptual eye candy – as keenly delivered in Friday’s high-tech extravaganza at TD Garden.
A sense of spectacle’s nothing new in arena rock, where it’s easier to project to the masses with larger-than-life entertainment, though Muse has amped up the geometric potential of shifting video screens. On the band’s last visit in 2010, video imagery graced rising and falling blocks, including three that created high pedestals for the musicians. Friday’s stage set wasn’t quite as dynamic in terms of moving the players, but the centerpiece was a mammoth, collapsible pyramid of video panels that hovered between covering the band like a spaceship (shades of the Electric Light Orchestra in the ’70s) to overhead inversions that recalled U2’s Zoo TV tour at the dawn of the '90s.
Ahh, U2… not a bad band to crib from when you’re establishing a populist profile for the stadiums, especially if your musicianship mines denser sounds that more closely evoke the meeting of Queen, Rush and Radiohead. It wasn’t enough of a Zoo TV nod to flash lyrics across the inverted pyramid for the futuristic surf-rocker “Knights of Cydonia.” Like Bono, for the newer song “Madness,” singer-guitarist Matthew Bellamy donned sunglasses that reflected words for a floating video camera that he pulled to his face. Despite all the operatic bombast, Muse also knows how to sculpt melodies. When the group scaled back for Bellamy to croon “I just wanted to hold you in my arms” in encore “Starlight,” it was a U2-like shot of the warm and fuzzies.
This from a relatively remote band able to shift from the Skrillex-style mashup of the new “The 2nd Law: Unsustainable” to a thrashing snatch of Rage Against the Machine’s “Freedom” that got the GA floor crowd pogoing wildly to set-closer “Uprising.” Muse also unleashed classic-rock homages like a few bars of Led Zeppelin’s “Heartbreaker,” the Animals-identified standard “House of the Rising Sun” (with fans spontaneously singing the lyrics) and Bellamy’s best Hendrix impersonation with a squealing guitar exorcism of the “The Star-Spangled Banner” to set up the disco funk of “Panic Station.”
Not that Bellamy -- recently in the headlines for fathering Kate Hudson’s next child -- was the sole star with his six (and seven-string) virtuosity, since the trio’s thick sound was tightly balanced by the busy, meaty ignition of bassist Chris Wolstenholme (who sang lead on “Liquid State”) and the sweeping pummels of drummer Dominic Howard, while touring musician Morgan Nicholls tucked in occasional keyboards or guitar. Bellamy also flexed his falsetto at a hydraulic piano. However, this was mainly a night of mercurial bashing for the eyes and ears, delivered so sleekly that the band’s own material often seemed a bit overshadowed by the sensual onslaught. Muse's songwriting can get obtuse anyway, but nothing was about to match the overall flash.
California cool is taking over Newbury Street just in time for us to act like it’s actually spring. While the days of short-shorts and flowy dresses are still to come, vogue Bostonians can shop at two of California’s most popular exports right now in preparation: Brandy Melville and No Rest for Bridget.
Photo credit: Gretchen Devine
Arguably the better known of the two, Brandy Melville is an Italian brand at heart. But it's inspired by Los Angeles living, specializing in layering classic staples with sporadic trendy pieces. From the soft band-Ts to floral prints and dresses (ideal for upcoming Boston Calling Music Festival), the store’s pieces stand out on their own. But the Brandy look is a layered one. “We go off our basics,” says Alana Morgin, the store’s traveling visual merchandiser. “There will be your specific trendy piece that you want to show off but then there are the layers that make your whole outfit.” With the store occupying both floors of its new space, it’s the largest Brandy Melville to date.
Photo credit: Gretchen Devine
Where Brandy Melville offers casual classics, No Rest For Bridget offers on-trend pieces of boutique quality, but with reasonable pricing. Featuring brands such as Collective Concepts and Lush, NRFB also offers accessories—dainty bracelets, bubbly rings, long-chain necklaces, cloth-covered clutches—and soft-scented Voluspa candles. The store’s concept is akin to that of Forever 21, if only in the sense that they constantly receive new merchandise. “You will never walk in on a weekend and [see] the store the same as the weekend before, ever,” says manger Lisa McGinnis. For NRFB, picking Boston as their first East Coast location was a no-brainer. Next, they plan to expand all over the country.
Brandy Melville, 344 Newbury St., Boston (617-266-0246) brandymelvilleusa.com
No Rest for Bridget, 220 Newbury St., Boston (617-236-5650) norestforbridget.com
Somerville’s Davis Square could be this week’s hippest concert locale, with two cult veterans and one of Boston’s most invigorating live acts. Detriot folksinger Rodriguez continues to pack rooms in the wake of “Searching for Sugar Man,” a documentary about his comeback from relative obscurity after he became a figurehead in the fight against apartheid in ’70s South Africa without knowing it. He’ll be playing the Somerville Theatre Friday, a more intimate space than this return to South Africa a few months ago: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_uXx_DZ8ays. Then singer-songwriter Mike Nesmith, also age 70, pulls into the same theater Saturday for an evening of dipping into his country-rock catalog beyond the smashs he wrote as frontman of the Monkees. Here’s one of the better known ones, “Different Drum” (which was an early hit for Linda Rondstadt): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JriJtuBOsEc. And just across the street on Saturday, Boston’s Ethio-American ensemble Debo Band weaves eclectic, hypnotic original grooves that reflect ’60s/’70s-style Ethiopian dance music, jazz and punk rock, fronted by suave, charismatic frontman Bruck Tesfaye: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ivleU4NXSxs.
Britain’s commercial prog-rockers Muse hit the TD Garden Friday for the weekend’s biggest show with high-flying, histrionic rock and dazzling light effects: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y51oMJyYEJI. Pop vocal/piano dynamo Mika appears in stripped-down form at Royale: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qANe26lid2k. And Scullers Jazz Club will be buzzing with back-to-back nights by two dynamic piano women from Japan. Keiko Matsui brings her New Age-flavored compositions to that room on Friday (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zYKobs_asFU), followed by two nights (and a Sunday afternoon matinee) by Hiromi, still touring her virtuoso Trio Project with bassist Anthony Jackson and drummer Simon Phillips: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BXhhyD1hs_4. Also Sunday, when it comes to all-star collaborations, singer/mandolinist Chris Thile (of Punch Brothers and Nickel Creek fame) and jazz pianist Brad Mehldau mix it up at the Berklee Performance Center. Perhaps they’ll even meld their mutual admiration for Radiohead: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SH9k7NHX-sU.
Also consider the final two nights of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Rumble preliminaries at T.T. the Bear’s Place on Friday and Saturday. The first three nights were spirited and diverse, with winners in howling psych-rockers New Highway Hymnal, popsters Camden and retro-tinged Eddie Japan. Here’s the schedule and more info: http://wzlx.cbslocal.com/2013/03/11/2013-rock-roll-rumble-preliminary-nights-schedules/.
If you’ve ever wanted to recreate the MFA’s contemporary wing in your living room, pop by the 24th annual MassArt Auction on Saturday, April 13. This year’s varied sampling of creative minds features more than 300 works of every medium imaginable, including pop art, graphic prints, glass sculpture and jewelry. The art, which is mostly donated by generous artists and galleries, is divvied up into one live auction and three silent auctions closing at 20-minute intervals. Put your checkbook at ease by reminding yourself that all proceeds benefit the school’s programming and scholarships. With nearly 75 percent of the student population receiving financial aid, your money goes right back into the art education that produces such worthy pieces.
Courtesy of Alex Katz
First up for live bidding is an iconic figural print by Alex Katz, whose solo exhibit at the MFA made him a household name in the Hub.
Courtesy of Ambreen Butt
But if you’ve got the eight grand to drop on the starting price, consider getting more bang for your buck with the second piece up for grabs—Ambreen Butt’s Untitled is a chaotic collage of shredded money that seems to satirize the saying “money makes the world go ’round.”
Courtesy of Bean Finneran
With a solid list of well-known artists and 184 MassArt alumni represented throughout the auctions, there’s a piece of work to suit any taste and (almost) any price range. For the kid at heart, Bean Finneran’s colorful sculpture, titled Chartreuse Cone With Multi-colored Tips, is a nightmare game of Pick-up Sticks, with each bright green rod arranged individually.
Courtesy of Dinh Q. Le
For the socially contentious, spruce up your home with a series of political pop art by Vietnamese artist Dinh Q. Le. These eight color silkscreen prints are images taken from uprisings and revolts across the globe, including Egypt and the Middle East.
Courtesy of Erin M. Riley
If you’ve got a wicked sense of ironic humor, Erin M. Riley’s intricately woven tapestries may garner a chuckle. Instead of the typical art history subject matter, Riley recreates nude selfies taken in bathroom mirrors with her braided wool. Collectors also have the chance to bid on pieces by Michael Costello, Sol Lewitt and William Wegman.
New this year to the auction is the chance to bid online through Paddle 8. In years past, the auction itself has drawn a crowd of more than 700 collectors, meaning online bidding will make it just that much more competitive. But it also means the school has a better chance of reaching their $730,000 goal.
Getting close and kind of personal with Dawes
Photo credit: Kevin Hayes
Roots, indie, folk—whatever rock you call it, Dawes killed it in an intimate sesh last week. On Tuesday, March 26, the California boys stopped by the Foundation Room at the House of Blues to play a closed-door sound-check—compliments of indie radio station 92.5-WXRV the River and First Trade Union Bank—for some 45 fans, who either won tickets through the station or know the right people.
The River’s morning show host Rita Cary welcomed the boys with a short Q&A. Taylor Goldsmith (vocals, guitar) answered questions on the band’s genesis, songwriting, record sales, and more before Dawes gave a taste of what’s to come on their forthcoming album, Stories Don’t End, out April 9.
“It’s up to the listener to feel they way they feel,” says Goldsmith, who’s joined by brother Griffin on drums, Wylie Gelber on bass, and Tay Strathairn on keys.
They played three songs from the new album—the funky “From a Window,” lamentation “Just My Luck,” and “Someone Will,” which prompted a nearby girl to lean in to her friend and whisper, “Definitely got some direct eye contact”—before rounding out the session with fan favorite “A Little Bit of Everything,” the end track off their 2011 release, Nothing Is Wrong.
The band just wrapped up a tour with Mumford & Sons and are opening for Bob Dylan starting tonight. “Never met him—maybe we won’t,” jokes Goldsmith. “We’re just honored to share the stage.”
Harvard Square’s really hopping across three venues this week, something you couldn’t always say when it came to concerts. Jazz pianist McCoy Tyner, the ex-Coltrane sideman who’s still working it at age 74, swings into the Regattabar Friday and Saturday with his quartet including fresh Cuban drummer Francisco Mela and onetime Miles Davis saxophonist Gary Bartz as soloist: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6j1dFXbHtTY. After a mainstream dalliance with Nashville, Stoughton folksinger Lori McKenna finishes a two-night stand with her band at Club Passim Friday (before a Saturday stop at Northampton’s Iron Horse) to preview the April 23 release of her poignant new album, Massachusetts: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=al10Hefhctk. Kansas singer-songwriter Freedy Johnston, whose 1992 album Can You Fly actually scored a spot in rock critic Tom Moon’s book 1,000 Recordings to Hear Before You Die, plays Club Passim on Saturday: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-mz84QgsjhI. And activist Holly Near (there’s a blast from the past -- back when people used the term "women's music") brings her band to Club Passim on Sunday, a rare return in support of her new album Peace Becomes You.
Then there’s the happening new Harvard Square club the Sinclair. Friday presents an acoustic hoedown with Spirit Family Reunion, who play in stripped-down form even when not playing sessions like this one last year at Newport: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1ItCDpONLAw. And here’s a jump to my feature preview: http://www.improper.com/going-out/street-spirit/. British sensation Lianne La Havas supports her soulful, chameleonic debut Is Your Love Big Enough? at the Sinclair on Saturday: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UxkpBuw5gzA. And guitarist Thurston Moore’s new vehicle Chelsea Light Moving evokes less extreme shades of his old outfit Sonic Youth there on Sunday: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-DoO424TWFA.
Yes, there are alternatives beyond Harvard Square this weekend. Hard-rockers Living Colour -- guitar virtuoso Vernon Reid, Berklee-bred drummer Will Calhoun, bass demon Doug Wimbish and extroverted frontman Corey Glover -- bring their cult of personality to the Paradise Friday, celebrating the 25th anniversary of their debut Vivid by performing that album in its entirety: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yu4WA7CC1Qk. Denver-based singer Dianne Reeves has steadily grown into one of the pre-eminent jazz vocalists working today – commanding, versatile and accessible – and she’ll headline the Berklee Performance Center on Saturday: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lOe6aHOxOeU. The Carolina Chocolate Drops (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HAQPkDt5lPI) bring their old-timey magic to House of Blues with Boston’s great David Wax Museum opening. And in a third World Music/CRASHarts show Saturday, the Colombian group Cimarron presents the virtuoso cowboy music called joropo at Johnny D’s Uptown: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PKE2x0sx3Sg&feature=youtu.be.
There are also two very different road trips worth consideration. Amanda Palmer sparked a tremendous buzz last year, raising a record $1.2 through Kickstarter for her new album Theatre is Evil, igniting social media, and unleashing her new Grand Theft Orchestra for crazy, communal shows. Then Palmer did something more amazing. She cancelled tours of Europe and Australia to take a few months off and attend to a friend sick with cancer. That friend’s condition has stabilized, so Palmer’s revving up to perform again and plays a rare solo concert (you know anything might happen) at Northampton’s Calvin Theatre on Friday (also, if you haven’t seen her inspired talk at February’s TED conference, check it out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xMj_P_6H69g). In the other direction, over the New Hampshire border, prog-rockers Yes will perform three of their classic ’70s albums – The Yes Album, Close to the Edge and dynamic dark horse Going for the One – in their entirety Saturday at the Casino Ballroom in Hampton Beach. Co-founder Jon Anderson remains on the outs with the hard-touring group, his role now covered by singer Jon Davidson. In any case, this is still a chance to see both guitarist Steve Howe and bassist Chris Squire wrestle riffs in expansive chestnuts like “Awaken” (with Squire on a triple-neck guitar no less): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=da-kOOzfVII.
Finally, Sunday marks the opening night off the Rock ‘n’ Roll Rumble preliminaries at T.T. the Bear’s Place. If you think this weekend is busy with live music, consider that across the next week, 24 bands will perform over six nights at T.T.’s, a wonderful opportunity to sample the breadth of our thriving local rock scene: http://wzlx.cbslocal.com/category/rock-and-roll-rumble/.
Like jazz-fusion comets, John Scofield and Mike Stern have long crossed orbits. The two guitarists were Berklee classmates in the ’70s, they overlapped time in Miles Davis’ band in the ’80s, and they’ve played on records together. But it’s been decades since the two friends, who frequently hit the Regattabar with their separate groups, shared the same stage – until Tuesday’s first of two nights of guitar heaven there.
Stern was a guest with Scofield’s Hollowbody Band (filling a slot previously filled by Kurt Rosenwinkel), a group that Scofield explained as a vehicle to play some new jazz tunes he’d written, presumably on style-appropriate hollowbody guitars. But when Stern didn’t bring a hollowbody to launch their East Coast tour at the Regattabar, Scofield followed suit: both played Telecaster-style electrics with their respective, processed guitar tones.
For Scofield, that meant rubbery single-note runs offset with fuzzy chord voicings, while Stern went for fluid, airy flights laced with biting refrains, on Scofield’s new “The Final Blues,” which opened Tuesday’s late set. From the outset, it was clear that this was still far from a guitar showdown. These were friends in relaxed mode, trading licks with the emphasis on feel and tone and mutual respect. Stern took one quick moment to grab a spare front-row seat and soak in a Scofield solo, clapping hands over his head in aw-shucks joy. And Scofield offered jocular camaraderie in noting that Stern would be selling his latest CD after the show while slyly reminding fans of the alternative of downloading it for free online.
Working over the cycling cushion of drummer Bill Stewart and acoustic bassist Ben Street, the guitarists grew friskier in “Swinganova,” with Stern thumbing his solo and Scofield feeling his way through a low-register buildup to squeezed rock riffs. And they tastefully spiraled and sliced through Sco’s swinging new “Museum” in natural sync. “What Might Have Been” proved a haunting changeup, with composer Stern wordlessly vocalizing to his own melody while Scofield laid back to watch his friend’s most soulful leads over Stewart’s brush work. But when Scofield said, “Mike, do you love the blues? Let’s do it,” and they faced off to rip through a variation on Monk’s “Straight, No Chaser,” the volume and energy levels spiked, though not as high as the casual vibe of friends hanging out for a fun night with fretboards.
Rapper, slam poet and Emerson College alum George Watsky plays Paradise Rock Club on April 1 in promotion of his latest album, Cardboard Castles.
Photo courtesy of Gaby Esenten Photography.
How has your tour been so far?
The tour’s been great. We’ve played like nine shows out of like 50 or something, so there’s a long road ahead of us. But everywhere we’ve been has had great crowds and a lot of amazing energy. We’ve basically swung through the South and now we’re heading up the East Coast.
You started off with slam poetry. Did you always know you wanted to step into the music scene or was that an accident?
Creating music was never something that I felt I’d never have the chance to do. It was whether I knew or not that there would be an audience for it and that people would show up to my concerts and know all the words. I’d always hoped that that would happen, but I never took it for granted or knew for sure that it was going to happen.
Do you think poetry is a bigger influence in your music, or do you reach both sides of the art forms when you’re performing?
I think I actually had to unlearn some of the techniques that are really effective for slam poetry when I started doing music concerts, like being very theatrical onstage. I think that sometimes that kind of theatricality, like hand gestures, doesn’t always work well for music. There are some things that did really transfer over—like telling stories and word play, metaphors—skills that are really great for slam poetry that can set your apart from other rappers too.
How long did it take for you to develop this album? What came first, the concept or the songs?
It was just the knowledge that I wanted to come out with another studio album, and I wanted it to be a collection of the best songs I could come up with. I started that process right after I finished my last real album. Even as I’ve been releasing mix tapes in the last two or three years, I’ve been kind of holding back my favorite material for this album. It wasn’t until I had a whole bunch of material that I started to think of a theme and cutting songs and trying to make it cohesive with the different songs.
How would you describe the theme you created with this album?
I think the major thing that sets it apart from a lot of other hip-hop albums that are inspirational is this album is trying to capture the feeling that a lot of young people have that we want our voices to matter in an era where technology is available to everyone and everyone can post a video on YouTube or everyone can have a Facebook page or be an artist without a publisher or a record label. We have more access to getting our work out than ever before. More and more people consider themselves artists and want their voices heard, and I think that that is a really amazing, admirable thing. But I also think that what gets lost in this desire to be the most famous and important person in the world is the understanding that there are many other people in the world who are trying to do the same thing and that as artists we have to recognize that we are not the only person that matters, that everybody else matters too.
You’re different than what most people envision as the stereotypical rapper. Did that affect your start in this industry?
You know, it’s hard to tell. I like to think that I’m a very driven person and that no mater what tools I was given that I would have found a way to make it work. Everything that is a shortcoming has also helped me too. I think that you use what makes you different to set you apart.
The concert menu lets up a bit this week, but noteworthy options still range from indie-rockers Local Natives and Hey Marseilles to blues veteran James Cotton and Wu-Tang rapper Raekwon to Indian music from tabla master Zakir Hussain with hammered dulcimer maestro Pandit Shikumar Sharma.
Friday runs the gamut. Seattle chamber-folk popsters Hey Marseilles charm with textures of accordion and strings: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8MG5Wp6Mdvo. Wu-Tang Clan member Raekwon pumps it up at the Middle East Downstairs: (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vrUzKESsszM) And Grammy-winning harmonica great James Cotton, who’s more sedentary at age 77 but still blows with hearty tone, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X3wCosygcn0, holds court at Scullers Jazz Club both Friday and Saturday.
LA indie-rockers Local Natives offer youthful drive with sweeping guitar dynamics and four-part harmonies that are projecting to larger rooms like House of Blues, where local natives will be restless Saturday night: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZdwTEAfycwo. And on Sunday, table virtuoso Zakir Hussain teams with Indian cinema composer Pandit Shikumar Sharma, who plays a hammered dulcimer called a santoor, to charm a sold-out audience at Sanders Theatre: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ULPVDVr4tDg.
The mellowing of Nick Cave has been greatly exaggerated. True, he retired Grinderman, his midlife crisis of garage-punk noise, and hatched one of his more subdued albums with his steady crew the Bad Seeds for the simmering new Push the Sky Away. He even added strings and a choir for a recent live webcast. But there’s a difference between a one-off promotional event and a grind-it-out rock tour, and the Australian goth-punk wordsmith and his septet sprang a visceral assault on a sold-out Orpheum Theatre Sunday.
Stalking the stage in his black suit and open white shirt like a vampire turned lounge lizard, the baritone frontman began on the mellow side, easing into the moody strains of the new “We No Who UR” and “Jubilee Street,” which swelled when Rasputin doppelganger Warren Ellis shifting from low-string guitar picking to a caterwauling violin solo. “I’m flying, I'm vibrating -- look at me now!” Cave sang, growing increasingly animated, with two backup singers (including fine opener Sharon Van Etten) added to the Seeds' din. And after rhapsody-in-words “Mermaids,” he pushed his front-row preaching beyond eye contact in “Higgs Boson Blues,” placing one woman’s hand against his chest as he sang, “Can you feel my heartbeat?”
Once that opening four-pack from Push the Sky Away was complete, however, the singer tore into his 1984 maximum oldie “From Her to Eternity” like a dog in heat, shifted into the brooding “Red Right Hand” (with drummer Jim Sclavunos banging a chime) and focused on a cathartic ride through catalog favorites. With its riff-greased curves, a romping “Deanna” suggested the Bad Seeds’ version of the Rolling Stones’ “(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction,” though Mick Jagger surely wouldn’t have clamored into the seats and pressed flesh like the 55-year-old Cave, who also returned to center stage with jerking leaps over his stage monitors.
There were moments of lightness, including Cave’s angel-invoking love song “Into My Arms” at the piano. But the singer primarily gravitated to the dark side, conveying his poetic songs with primal proselytizing capped by the coiled buildup of “The Mercy Seat” (a harrowing death-row tale once covered by Johnny Cash) and the seething “Stagger Lee,” a cuss-spiked flirtation with his flock.
“Some people say it’s just rock ‘n’ roll,” Cave sang in “Push the Sky Away” to close the encore of the 95-minute set. “Aw, but it gets you right down to your soul.” And there was no doubt that he had pushed heart, soul and sweat into physical performance art – and a night to remember.
Snow melts and spring delivers. People intrigued by the TV show “The Sing-Off” and collegiate a cappella groups should get a dose of the sophisticated jazz vocalese of New York Voices, the Ithaca College-born outfit that’s celebrating its 25th anniversary, with the same four members -- Darmon Meader, Kim Nazarian, Peter Eldridge and Lauren Kinhan -- for a decade. The Grammy-winning group appears both Friday and Saturday at Scullers Jazz Club: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QqjPmogR6Mg.
In the early ’90s peak of the Northeast jam-band movement, Phish wasn’t the only Vermont breakout, as Strangefolk made strides with a tuneful, steady groove around singer Reid Genauer’s rhythmic acoustic guitar. Genauer’s back fronting the classic quartet with lead guitarist Jon Trafton, bassist Erik Glockler and drummer Luke Smith when the Strangefolk Reunion brightens the Paradise Rock Club Friday before a Saturday hook-up with brethren moe. for the Snow.down fest at Spartan Arena in Rutland, Vt., near the slopes of Killington: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4b_mP4yoido.
Much farther to the northeast lies Nova Scotia, the birthplace of Natalie MacMaster, the award-winning fiddler who’ll be back to thrill fans with her charismatic, Celtic-steeped playing at Sanders Theatre on Saturday: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2q1U8CT8EyQ. And for something different just across Harvard Square, the Regattabar goes prog-rock with Stick Men, comprised of former King Crimson members Pat Mastelotto and Brookline native Tony Levin on the 12-string Chapman Stick as well as German virtuoso Markus Reuter on touch guitar: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gfhfqu5hZdI. Expect a smattering of King Crimson in addition to Stick Men originals, which might include “Whale Watch,” an 11-minute, Cape Cod-inspired tone poem from the trio’s new album Deep.
Also on Saturday is the heavenly country-shaded pairing of Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell at the Orpheum Theatre. The singer/guitarists shared the stage in Harris’ Hot Band during the ’70s and they’re back on the road in support of their duet album Old Yellow Moon (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=njGT5DZlZ38 ) with an added spark in fellow singer/songwriter Richard Thompson, who should be firing up his electric guitar with his current power trio before sitting in with Harris and Crowell.
But the Orpheum hosts the weekend’s standout show on Sunday with the long-awaited return of Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds (with worthy opening act Sharon Van Etten). For more than two decades, Cave’s dark ensemble has consistently released spectacular albums that mash gothic punk-blues and orchestral cabaret. But coming off the Seeds' harsh-rocking offshoot Grinderman, Cave and his crew take a more patient, muted approach on the new Push the Sky Away. The album largely presents the singer as a somber balladeer, his haunted baritone adrift in shimmery shadows of minimalist, hymn-like accompaniment that builds in quiet intensity. But Cave will also surely drop some menacing nuggets onstage: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hm7nmCJuSUU.
Joke's on You
Women in Comedy Festival comes March 21-24
Funny isn’t a chromosome-specific trait. But, as recently as 2007, mainstream media critics were arguing the opposite, most notoriously in the form of Vanity Fair opinion article “Why Women Aren’t Funny” by provocateur Christopher Hitchens. Fast-forward to earlier this year, where the female comedians that responded to Hitchens are now hosting the Golden Globes and getting major kudos. Nationally known women such as Tina Fey and Amy Poehler aren’t the only ones making a difference. Boston’s own comedy scene is home to one of the few events dedicated to representing minorities in the industry—the Women in Comedy Festival.
Produced by Massachusetts natives Michelle Barbera, Maria Ciampa and Elyse Schuemran, the fifth-annual event runs March 21–24 and boasts headliners Rachel Dratch, Horatio Sans and Maria Bamford. The three producers got their start in the late ’90s and early ’00s at local clubs like Improv Boston, Improv Asylum and The Tribe.
“Back then, I think that it was really hard for anyone to image there being a female Will Ferrell—and now there are female Will Ferrells. We don't even have to call them female Will Ferrells,” says Barbera. “They’re comedians in their own right. They’re nailing things like hosting the Golden Globes, while the guy hosting the Oscars is getting bad reviews.”
Barbera, Ciampa and Schuemran don’t even care to discuss if women are funny. “I think it’s total horsesh*t, and I think we should stop talking about it,” says Ciampa.
The goal of the festival is to get women noticed by scouts and agents, not prove a woman’s worth time and again. “Of course there are times when men in big comedy positions will come out and say something like [Hitchens did], but it’s a blip on the radar,” says Schuemran. Their main concern is the number of females represented in the industry. Since the inaugural festival in 2009, men have been included as part of the line-up, and the festival’s mission is to close the gender gap, not to just serve women.
“We’re looking at whether or not other festivals have a high number of women and concentrating on getting them in front of scouts and getting them hired,” says Barbera. “Twenty percent of writers in Hollywood are women, and we want to get that up to fifty percent.”
What started as a modest attempt by Barbera and Ciampa to simply put on a show with lots of female comedians grew to be more than they anticipated when Schuemran joined the team in 2010. Online submissions, which are open to various genres including improv, stand-up, sketch, musical and story telling, tripled in recent years according to the trio. This year, the festival adds the Wilbur Theatre to their list of venues. And at 1,200 seats, it’s almost a thousand seats bigger than any other venue they’ve hosted at. The local and national attention they’ve garnered is helping strengthen the network they aim to create for their performers.
The festival clearly offers a unique experience for locals. “You’re gonna get to see Rachel Dratch and Horatio Sans do the thing that made them famous, which is live improv,” says Barbera. “It’s a very rare opportunity for audiences in Boston.” Beyond that, the Women in Comedy Festival offers workshops on writing, copyright options and exploring different comedic structures. They also host intimate Q&A sessions with headliners and a staple panel discussion, an event that stuck with the women from the first year. “It reiterated what we all thought, that there was a lack of help for women getting into the industry,” says Barbera.
Despite the shared recognition and those trailblazing female comedians making names for themselves, the numbers of large national comedy festivals aren’t reflective of an even demographic. This year’s SXSW comedy festival ran the week before the Women in Comedy Festival from March 9–16—the announced line-up featured more than 50 male comedians and fewer than 10 females. The equality Barbera, Ciampa and Schuemran have helped establish in Boston’s scene has yet to translate to the national main stage.
That said, expect to see the Women in Comedy Festival return in the future. The women plan to continue producing the event so long as there’s still a disparity. The ultimate goal is to see equal amounts of both genders at all prominent comedy shows and festivals. Once that’s a reality, the women plan to abbreviate their name simply to WIC Festival and not stress the presence of female comedians so much.
In the meantime, they are working on expanding their event and website to include online industry news updates and podcasts. Rumor has it Kelly MacFarland, who’s been on the Today Show and Larry King Live, will be one of the first podcast guests.
“We want to make it easier for young women to get into comedy and know that it’s an option,” says Barbera.
The Women in Comedy Festival takes place March 21–24 at venues across Boston and Cambridge.
The city’s wealth of culinary talent could easily drain the bank account of anyone with a taste for fine dining. Thankfully, twice a year more than 200 restaurants across the city open their doors and menus to Boston Restaurant Week participants. Try five-star heavy hitters such as Mistral, No. 9 Park and Bistro du Midi or expand your palate with ethnic cuisine from Beacon Hill’s Lala Rokh and Harvard’s Maharaja Indian Restaurant. A three-course meal for under $40 costs less than some entrées on the regular menu.
Boston Restaurant Week takes place March 17–22 and March 24–29. $15.13–$38.13. restaurantweekboston.com.
De-clutter dusty bookshelves during this year’s spring cleaning sweep and bring old reads to Salem Recycles’ free biannual book swap. The event is open to both those looking to donate and those browsing for their own collection (i.e., the swap requires no actual swapping—but be a champ and bring something to the table for a little good karma). CDs, DVDs, VCRs and even blank greeting cards are accepted—any leftovers will be recycled or donated. Best of all, no plaid hipster attire required for this vintage-style day of trade.
SalemRecycles’ Free Book Swap takes place at 5 Broad St. on March 16, 10 am-1 pm with donation drop-off times March 15, 6-7 pm and March 16, 9:45 am-12 pm. Free. (978-619-5679).
St. Patrick’s Day must mean the Dropkick Murphys are shipping back to Boston for an annual multi-night bash. But our Celtic-punk heroes are playing hometown venues across the spectrum this weekend, starting with a headlining debut at the TD Garden, where they'll top an Irish festival that includes Black 47, the Mahones and Old Man Markley, plus acoustic concourse stages. Then the Dropkicks downsize to the Brighton Music Hall Saturday to play their 1999 album The Gang’s All Here in its entirety (for the first time ever) as well as other rarities -- tickets available Friday and Saturday at bars listed on the band’s website. And St. Paddy’s Day itself brings the Dropkick Murphys back to House of Blues for a Sunday finale, sounding a tad like Springsteen when the boys kick it off with this number -- at least before the song revs up and the video shooter gets momentarily capsized: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3DAqrhvKmm0.
For an alternative Irish rock experience, the Saw Doctors return to House of Blues Saturday to celebrate their 25 years in the music business, at least for co-leaders Davy Carton and Leo Moran. Here’s the band’s first single, as resurrected in their hometown of Galway: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W3ZkfSNDvFQ.
As for non-Irish-themed entertainment this weekend, there’s jammy multi-instrumentalist/looper Keller Williams at the Paradise (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jxk9u_vePR4 ) and San Diego songstress Tristan Prettyman ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DTxrXbJwN-k ) at the Brighton Music Hall, both Friday. Saturday marks the blizzard make-up Mardi Gras for Shawn Wolf Wortis and his Legendary Vudu Krewe at T.T. the Bear’s Place, a benefit for musicians' health care. Condensed (if a bit late) to one night, the 20th anniversary event promises to be a star-studded local affair with guests such as Jen D’Angora, Jesse Dee, Holly Brewer, Rick Berlin, Peter Moore and Jittery Jack. Bring your beads – or grab them off the stage. The green ones might be popular. And you could also wear them to Scullers Jazz Club Sunday for the swinging Big Bad Voodoo Daddy: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e4734TNKC84.
Impala Runs Free
Tame Impala runs on the mind and mischief of singer and multi-instrumentalist Kevin Parker, who records alone in his remote home studio in Perth, Australia. But on the road, Parker roams free with his buddies as a bonafide band that takes liberties with his psychedelic creations, and based on Tame Impala’s U.S. tour finale Tuesday at House of Blues, those liberties span both fresh highs and some lows.
Onstage, singer/guitarist Parker and his mates still reveled in the hazy, phase-shifted sounds of guitar effects and vocal reverb, but the live band lent frisky muscle to Tame Impala’s prog-influenced side of psychedelic rock. Keyboardist Jay Watson, guitarist Dom Simper and bassist Nick Allbrook regularly riffed in fluid unison behind Parker’s plaintive lead. And drummer Julien Barbagallo cleanly rode the gaps with more active, sprawling fills than Parker played on Tame Impala’s stellar second album, Lonerism, which dominated the 85-minute set.
With vintage equipment and grounding, Tame Impala projects the look and feel of the ’60s and ’70s, yet its members also work in contemporary spheres, both rhythmically and sonically. Barbagallo still played over a galloping drum-machine beat in “Be Above It” before thumping across the Flaming Lips-sealed swells of “Endors Toi.” The quintet wove textures rather than flashy solos, nodding to Can and early Yes (whose original guitarist Peter Banks died last week), while the bass-stoked hit “Elephant” struck common ground between T. Rex and Muse.
In turn, the group refreshingly showcased the music without relying on visuals beyond colored light washes and geometric designs on a back screen that sometimes pulsed and coiled in time with the playing. However, while the set was front-loaded with more of Lonerism’s cultivated, hook-heavy hits, the second half lapsed into uninteresting breaks of improvisation, proving Tame Impala’s better as a prog-pop outfit than a jam-band. Extended solos on guitar (a snooze-inducing sprinkling of drone) and Ginger Baker-styled drums never arose in the first half, and it could have stayed that way. Parker’s a sonic architect who shouldn’t just toss around bricks, though he was brave to take the Impala for a full ride.
(feature interview with Kevin Parker: http://www.improper.com/going-out/sonic-photography/)
Getting Away With Murder
Extra host Maria Menounos produces and stars in the comedy Adventures of Serial Buddies, which follows two misfits who partake in a cross-country killing spree. The film plays at the AMC Liberty Tree 20 March 8–14.
How did you balance producing and starring?
Well, it definitely wasn’t easy. It’s definitely a major, major undertaking to produce an independent film and I was the only producer. Well, actually, there was one other producer who was experienced. We were doing a lot for very little, between trying to keep everything together and on schedule and on budget and flying in stars all over the place for it. And being in it too was kind of difficult. I remember being on roller skates in a scene, wrapping up the movie, lifting up equipment and then carrying it out and then getting into the car and then having to drive everybody home and then falling asleep at the wheel. It gets to be crazy when you’re doing so much. I was interviewing [Beth Behrs] the other day at the Grove, she’s obviously on Two Broke Girls and she stars in the movie, and she said “you were the first to wake up and the last to go to sleep.” I love making movies. It’s so much fun, it’s definitely excruciatingly difficult and a lot of work, but to have this moment where we’re now going to be seeing it with friends and family at AMC theatres across the country, is definitely the reward and the cherry on top. So we’re excited that they loved the film and wanted to distribute it, and we’re excited to go see it with everybody.
The movie has an all-star cast. Was there anyone from the cast you really connected with during filming?
Well, I was already friends with Chris McDonald and Harvey Winkle—he narrates the film. He’s a friend of mine and I love, love, love him. I mean that man…we flew into Boston to do the voice-overs and he was shooting a movie there. He was shooting until about 5 am in the rain freezing cold and showed up a hour and a half later to do his voice-over session with us. I don’t know many people who have that kind of work ethic, especially someone who has been in the business as long as he has and still is passionate, still is so excited to be a part of things. So he was amazing. I didn’t get to be there when Christopher Lloyd shot his scenes because I got called back to do the Today show, but everyone raved about him and had a great time with him. Kathie Lee and I had so much fun shooting our scenes together, so it was cool.
Do you have a favorite scene from the movie?
I have so many favorite scenes. Chris McDonald is one of my favorites because he just has this kind of reserved way of just making you laugh. His scene in the beginning of the movie just makes me die. My dad’s scene, he has a cameo with Artie Lang, is hilarious—he starts screaming at him in Greek. There’s a scene that was actually shot in my library in Connecticut with Christopher Lloyd and some of our actors and I had friends and family come in to be extras. That’s one of my favorites because we cut to close-ups of random uncles and aunts who are making the funniest faces during this really, really embarrassing scene with a sex toy. It was so funny. There are definitely a lot of laughs in it.
You’re a big South Park fan, and this film has many elements from the show. How did you incorporate those?
Well I didn’t write it, Keven [Undergaro] wrote and directed it, but South Park has that offbeat crazy humor and I love it. And Keven’s definitely twisted and warped so when you see the movie you’ll feel the same way.
You and Keven Undergaro have been making films together for years. What do you like most about working with him?
I’m starting to realize it’s not really a popular thing to work with your other half and it really works, but somehow we’ve been able to do it for the last 15 years successfully. We definitely fight a lot, I have funny footage of the producers that were working on this with us saying ‘so we go to Keven and he would say one thing then we’d go to Maria and she would say another and then she would get mad at us if we didn’t listen to her.” So we actually do work really, really well together because we have each other’s backs and we’re both willing to do whatever it takes to get it done and get it done well. We usually just clash over money. I’m the one who likes to keep things on budget, he—you know he’s actually been right every time he’s wanted to expand the budget, and I get it, but I do have to try and maintain what I promised to keep it at. So that’s where we struggle.
How did the idea of a buddy/serial killer movie come about?
It’s the first serial killer buddy film of its kind. That’s our tagline because it really is. Keven had a really unique backstory working in the carnie business meeting some checkered characters along the way, so he definitely based it on a few different people he’s encountered in his days working in that world.
It’s a busy week for ensembles large and small, beginning with jazz on Friday. The SFJAZZ Collective annually develops a new repertory around the work of a master composer and this year, the all-star octet is performing the music of Chick Corea. The Collective – which includes saxophonists Miguel Zenon and David Sanchez, trumpeter Avishai Cohen, trombonist Robin Eubanks and vibraphonist Stefan Harris – will perform the Chelsea-born keyboardist’s pieces (sans Corea himself) at the Berklee Performance Center: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IgMMPItMS70. Of course, Boston boasts its share of large ensembles, and the Aardvark Jazz Orchestra marks its 40th season at the Museum of Fine Arts’ Remis Auditorium with the world premiere of founder Mark Harvey’s “Boston JazzScape.” It’s an ambitious piece that underlines stories from the Hub’s history (from the Revolutionary War to urban renewal) with a soundtrack bridging swing, bop and free improvisation: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4na9sJ5xkaU.
For a different style of big band, moving to Saturday, you can’t beat Juan de Marcos & the Afro-Cuban All Stars, led by conductor/arranger and tres player DeMarcos, onetime musical arranger for the Buena Vista Social Club. The All Stars rose parallel to and in conjunction with the Buena Vista Social Club craze during the late ’90s and have remained active, as de Marcos has recruited a new generation of crack Cuban musicians. The 15-piece group plays a World Music/CRASHarts concert at Berklee: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fcnCy_htVMU. On a more intimate scale, Kat Edmonson grew up with the American Songbook, but she’s given her own twist to what a jazz-pop singer can do. The Texas native wraps her uniquely sultry voice around both cover songs (she was just tapped to join Elvis Costello and the Roots in a tribute to Prince in New York) and originals. She’s still touring hard in support of her exquisite 2012 album Way Down Low and she’ll stretch her sweet, folky sensibility in more of a rock-club setting (following up on last year’s opening duties for blues-rock firebrand Gary Clark Jr.) at the Sinclair Saturday: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=85QNGqg-MYI.
For a slightly rougher, more patchwork sound, you could also roll into House of Blues on Saturday for DeVotchKa, the Denver quartet of multi-instrumentalists who bridge bluegrass and Balkan music in rock ‘n’ roll and scored the film “Little Miss Sunshine”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cPJxoqfq_ow. Or if you’re a sucker for darkly textural indie-pop, cap your Saturday night at Great Scott with the English quartet Veronica Falls http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8zA0ItivO9w&feature=player_detailpage. On Sunday, Rihanna's TD Garden show has been postponed to an unknown date (for reason of laryngitis), but you can still hit the Sinclair for the first of two nights with spunky Texas alt-country pioneers the Old 97's, fronted by Rhett Miller: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iDWs8cpIjbo
Ready to Rumble
The 24 bands have been announced for the 34th annual Rock ‘n’ Roll Rumble at T.T. the Bear’s Place.
Comprised of more relative unknowns than veteran favorites, the 2013 bands are: Blackbutton, Camden, Cancer Killing Gemini, Coyote Kolb, the Daily Pravda, the Deep North, Eddie Japan, Endation, the Field Effect, Glenn Yoder & the Western States, Herra Terra, Jack Burton vs. David Lo Pan, Lifestyle, Mount Peru, New Highway Hymnal, the Okay Win, Parks, Ruby Rose Fox, the Suicide Dolls, Supermachine, Twin Berlin, Velah, Whitcomb and White Dynomite.
They’ll square off in nine nights of Rumble preliminaries that begin on April 7. That Sunday-through-Saturday run (with a Wednesday night off) often presents the broadest, most exciting matchups. Such historic Boston bands as Mission of Burma, the Lyres, the Del Fuegos, Morphine, O Positive, Letters to Cleo and the Lemonheads participated in the Rumble, many without moving past the preliminaries. But other groups (the Neighborhoods, ’Til Tuesday, the Dresden Dolls) won the Rumble on their way to fame.
Eight bands move on to the 2013 semi-finals April 18-19, and three compete in the finals April 26. Long a fixture of WBCN, the Rumble is now overseen by Anngelle Wood, host of “Boston Emissions” on WZLX.
Hype can be a dangerous thing. In their first of two sold-out nights at the Paradise, English indie-rockers Alt-J kicked off their U.S. tour Saturday with two albatrosses of expectation, having been viewed as the “new Radiohead” and winning the 2012 Mercury Prize for best U.K. album with An Awesome Wave.
The fact that Alt-J has already been announced as a Sept. 13 headliner at the 5,000-seat Bank of America Pavilion didn’t help either. Named after the Mac keystroke for the delta symbol (signifying change), Alt-J seemed far from awesome Saturday, a bit too green and much too subtle for the major rock spotlight.
An Awesome Wave offers quirky, ambient charms in blending art-rock, folk and electronic minimalism, but its lush details dissipated at the Paradise, making one wonder how much goosing in sound, lights and personality will be needed to project at the pavilion tent.
Dynamics rose when Gus Unger-Hamilton’s bass synth kicked in for “Dissolve Me” and “Fitzpleasure,” undercut by guitarist/bassist Gwil Sainsbury’s castanets, yet much of the scant 50-minute set (with encores) suffered from sameness. Guitarist Joe Newman's lead vocals were intriguing, especially in strange harmonies with Unger-Hamilton that even hinted at Gentle Giant, but weren’t too compelling either. Thom Green stood out for his novel, cymbal-free drumming, tapping his pulse on a block and tambourine, with accents on bongos more than tom-toms. But over time, Green lapsed into similar patterns, apart from a rattling snare beat on “Something Good” and glockenspiel on the dark “Ms.”
Fans still sang along to some of Alt-J’s offbeat lyrics, particularly the more accessible “I love you so” rounds of playful set-closer “Breezeblocks.” But while a packed weekend night at the Paradise (much less the Pavilion) doesn’t offer ideal conditions to absorb a hyped band’s more oblique nuances, Alt-J came across not only as understated, but underwhelming. The good news: we’re looking at a young quartet with room to grow in more than venue size.
March comes in like a lion with a wide spate of shows. Pat Green's a country artist who appeals to rock audiences with his wholesome, Springsteen-ian charisma, which he’ll bring back to House of Blues on Friday: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tIiQxh4vOWo. Saturday heats up with funk-punk pioneers Fishbone at the Sinclair. Celebrating a quarter decade, the LA band is down to three original members (manic, sax-wielding singer Angelo Moore, bassist Norwood Fisher and guitarist Walter Kibby) in recent years, but there should be no stopping the Fishbone party, especially with the horn section in full gear: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S6gn-AA80l4. Saturday options also include the dark gnash of the Unknown Mortal Orchestra at Brighton Music Hall (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uQGpiHauQ78 ) and the heavy-metal humor of Tenacious D on an acoustic tour that snowballs into House of Blues: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jfNmG01NFQA&list=UUl_nrHmP_vhDUT1eqtyjEYQ&index=1. Say, wouldn’t it be cool if the D’s mouthpiece Jack Black did a tour with Jack White just for the hell of it?
English rockers Alt-J, winners of the U.K.'s Mercury Prize for An Awesome Wave, provide the weekend’s biggest event in their soldout Saturday and Sunday shows at the Paradise. The Leeds-launched quartet weaves atmosphere, minimalism and danceability in a spiky, post-Radiohead tapestry that puts as much focus on cymbal-less drums and keyboard textures as the guitars: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FB95h7widC0. The weekend’s also rounded out Sunday with a House of Blues appearance by the provocative neo-soul songstress Erykah Badu, who has been performing her 1997 debut Baduizm in its entirety. When engaged, Badu towers over R&B wannabes with her fiery, hypnotic presence and delivery: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Zjyy-oRGYg.
Hub Gets Own Fest
Memorial Day weekend has always been a relatively dead time for concerts around Boston, but that’s about to change big-time. Boston Calling promises two days of nationally prominent bands on multiple stages at City Hall Plaza, bringing an alternative-rock showcase to the heart of our city -- unlike summer festivals such as Newport (whose folk fest is already sold out) or Wilco’s Solid Sound in the Berkshires.
Boston Calling’s Saturday kickoff on May 25 leans to crowd-pleasers in the Grammy-winning fun., the Shins, Marina and the Diamonds, Matt & Kim, Portugal. The Man, Cults, MS MR, St. Lucia and Boston’s Bad Rabbits. The Sunday finale on May 26 favors somewhat hipper, artier bands in the National (pictured), Of Monsters and Men, Young the Giant, Andrew Bird, Dirty Projectors, Ra Ra Riot, the Walkmen, Youth Lagoon and local entry Caspian. Guitarist Aaron Dessner of the National even co-curated the lineup. It’s a ticketed event: early-bird passes are going on sale this Friday.
Doors will open at 1 p.m. each day of the event and the music will go until 10:30 each night. We’ll have to see how organizers navigate the concrete-and-brick acoustics of the City Hall site, but we finally have a real in-town rock festival! It’s not as big as Lollapalooza in Chicago and it’s not as green of a spot as Boston Common, but it’s a welcome start -- to Boston Calling and to the summer of 2013. New England has finally blossomed as a major place for music festivals, and Boston Calling has jumped into the center of it.
Salon Mario Russo launches monthly pop-up beauty bar.
Trying out new beauty trends can conjure up images of dye-jobs gone awry and dated prom up-dos. But the advent of beauty bars means makeovers are becoming social and educational. Salon Mario Russo launched its own monthly series of pop-up beauty bars Friday Feb. 22, introducing new, younger clientele to its styling services in a comfortable and collaborative environment. Sparkling white wine and cake pops from Treat Cupcake Bar helped guests ease into the salon chair.
Photos by Erin Duffy
The inaugural event featured a red carpet glamour theme in honor of Sunday’s Oscars. A Top 40s soundtrack played as three stylists worked to transform event-goers' limp locks into polished coifs inspired by looks from past award shows. Included were a modern low pony tail sported by blogger and TV personality Lauren Conrad; soft, vintage-Hollywood era curls seen on Jessica Alba; and a quirky side bun donned by Jennifer Lawrence. Framed photos of the three looks lined the salon’s countertops, inviting guests to pick their own if they were feeling bold or ask for stylists’ suggestions.
To recreate the allure of Alba’s retro elegance, stylist Tatiana Lesnikova set large curls with pins and Oribe superfine hairspray. A spritz of texturizing spray to the roots added volume for teasing—a necessity, said Lesnikova as she demonstrated proper technique, that women shouldn’t be so afraid of. The result was a classic style fit for a stride down the rouge-colored runway of any awards show.
Salon Mario Russo announces upcoming dates of pop-up beauty bars on its blog and social media outlets. Beauty mavens can expect future themes to fit changing seasons—there's already talk of beach-inspired trends for summer. Should be beechin’.
$40 at Pop-up Beauty Bar, Salon Mario Russo
9 Newbury St., Boston | 617-424-6676 | mariorusso.com
It’s still February and the forecast for summer festivals is already heating up -- to say the least.
Yeah, Bonnaroo will host Paul McCartney, Mumford and Sons, Tom Petty, Bjork and a ton of other acts. But would you rather see Wilco, the Lumineers and Jim James at that hot Tennessee field, or at two of the country’s most unique and intimate outdoor settings? New England’s a much brighter place for festival-goers with the return of Wilco’s Solid Sound (following a year off) in addition to the Newport folk and jazz fests.
The Newport Folk Festival continues to build in national reputation – and ticket demand. The folk fest has already sold out its Saturday/Sunday main days for July 27-28 -- five months in advance! And that’s with fewer than 20 of the artists announced so far in a day-by-day trickle (the latest big additions are the Mountain Goats and Iris DeMent). Tickets only remain for its July 26 Friday night kickoff, which includes Boston upstarts Kingsley Flood. Other artists slated so far for the historic festival at seaside Fort Adams State Park include Jim James, Jason Isbell, and the Lone Bellow on Saturday and the Lumineers, Andrew Bird, and Spirit Family Reunion on Sunday. Expect much more. http://www.newportfolkfest.net/
The week-later Newport Jazz Festival already has its full slate announced, with tickets available for that entire Aug. 2-4 weekend. The jazz fest kicks off indoors with Natalie Cole, but most of the action's Saturday and Sunday at the Fort Adams site overlooking Newport Harbor. Saturday looks more enticing with Wayne Shorter’s 80th birthday celebration featuring both his stellar quartet with Danilo Perez, John Pattitucci and Brian Blade and guest Herbie Hancock, plus upstart Esperanza Spalding’s Radio Music Society band. That day also includes Marcus Miller, Michel Camino, Robert Glasper and Terence Blanchard, while Sunday’s more evenly distributed bill features Chick Corea, Eddie Palmieri, Roy Haynes, Joshua Redman, Hiromi, Jim Hall, and the Dirty Dozen Brass Band. http://newportjazzfest.net/
Perhaps most exciting at the moment is the full lineup announcement for the Solid Sound Festival, which returns to the Mass MoCA campus in North Adams. Wilco headlines the first two nights of the June 21-23 weekend as part of an eclectic cast that includes Neko Case, Yo La Tengo, Low, Foxygen, Os Mutantes, the Dream Syndicate and Medeski Martin & Wood with guests. They’ll also be two unique guitar duos: Marc Ribot and Los Lobos’ David Hidalgo’s “Border Music,” and jazz upstart Julian Lage with Wilco’s Nels Cline (one of the host band’s featured side projects) plus comedy and kids’ programs. Best of all, Solid Sound taps into that museum of contemporary art’s cool infrastructure: the musicians perform in the theater, courtyards and a large field, while festival-goers also have the run of the huge galleries inside the museum's factory-styled complex. Three-day early bird passes are still available. http://solidsoundfestival.com/
In between Solid Sound and Newport, there’s also the Green River Festival in Western Mass., though that roots-oriented fest in Greenfield won’t be announcing its June 20-21 lineup for another month. http://greenriverfestival.com/
Hard to imagine making plans for this stuff with snow on the ground, but some people clearly are!
Forget about another impending storm: there’s a mini-blizzard of music choices to bury your no-snow Friday night. Start with Identities Are Changeable: Tales from the Diaspora, an ambitious, multi-media program by alto saxophonist/composer Miguel Zenon. He’ll personally explores the cultural identity of fellow Puerto Ricans in videos intercut through a Jordan Hall concert that features both his quartet and the New England Conservatory Jazz Orchestra: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pSkYJM-5Y0o.
Or jam to a relaxed yet spiky groove with Bay Area guitar virtuoso Steve Kimock and his current all-star quartet featuring funk-king keyboard foil Bernie Worrell at the Brighton Music Hall. Here’s an idea of what that veteran combo live ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n0S1X0qVDgE) or you can jump to my recent interview with Kimock here: http://www.improper.com/going-out/crazy-fingers/. On the other hand, in-the-know youngsters who dig feel and flow in their improvised rock can also zone into the cushion of East Coast denizens Dopapod (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yf7hx64cZvY), who form a mighty double bill at the Paradise with Boston’s classic-rock astronomers Ghosts of Jupiter: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pwCYJh0kZUM. And if you’re into hip-hop, you shouldn’t miss the return of local heroes 7L & Esoteric to the Middle East Downstairs, where they’ll be cutting it up with Wu-Tang member Inspectah Deck and other guests. They’re celebrating the release of their strong joint project Czarface, which has cameos from rappers Ghostface Killah and Cappadonna and DJ Premiere.
Cape Cod character Chandler Travis and Maine-bred upstart Aly Spaltro are far apart in their journeys, but they’re both iconoclasts who express their personality through music with little filter. The leader of the crazed big band Chandler Travis Philharmonic (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cZjwb8T5mbw) has extra reason to be over the moon at the Lizard Lounge. Steve Shook, his old mate from the popular ’70s act Travis, Shook, & the Club Wow and co-founder of their band the Incredible Casuals in the ’80s, will make his first Boston appearance in 30 years to perform material from his solo debut with Travis.
Yet Spaltro, who performs under the name Lady Lamb the Beekeeper, could be Friday’s best catch. Now Brooklyn-based, Spaltro returns to T.T. the Bear’s, where she’s given emotional performances in tribute to late scenster/supporter Billy Ruane. And she’s got fresh momentum in her long-awaited debut album, Ripely Pine, which leaps beyond her homespun recordings of the past. Already a raw conduit of feeling with just voice and guitar, Spaltro still recasts some old favorites on the album with stripped-down clarity. However, on “Aubergine,” she swoops and soars to surprisingly soulful heights with a horn-boosted band, naturally adapting to backing musicians after years of… well, she’s still 23. Expect Lady Lamb the Beekeeper to quake solo (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0t94-HOUNG0) as well as with growing band at T.T.’s.
As the snow filters in Saturday, you can still enjoy a night of Buster Keaton shorts undercut by the cinematic swath of the Alloy Orchestra at the Somerville Theatre. Or consider an evening of precise, puzzle-like patterns from So Percussion (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4WD1fdA-Plo) at the Museum of Fine Arts’ Remis Auditorium, bluesy soul-rock from singer/guitarist James Hunter at the Sinclair (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XWVfDg0Vqm0) or an entertaining jazz/bluegrass/rock mash-up at the Regattabar with Soulgrass (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=To19gcF_uXs), featuring onetime Miles Davis saxman Bill Evans, keyboard explorer Marco Benevento and local banjo ace Ryan Cavanaugh. And if you’re out to toast the waning snow come Sunday, Conor Oberst appears with his sonically raucous emo-core outfit Desaparecidos at the Paradise: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rwtT-XEAy38. But even without the storm, music-heads might still be reeling from Friday night alone.
Post-modern piano trio the Bad Plus has reimagined everything from Black Sabbath to Ornette Coleman and Aphex Twin, but classical music has been lower on the list for such whimsical deconstructions. That changes with pianist Ethan Iverson, bassist Reid Anderson and drummer David King's Boston premiere of On Sacred Ground: Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, presented by World Music/CRASHarts at the Institute of Contemporary Art for two shows Friday. It’s not the first time that the Bad Plus has tackled Stravinsky (here’s the group’s take on the Russian composer’s piece “Apollo”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yablSAAlggw). However, the long-form ballet -- an influence on the dark, chordal progressions of early King Crimson -- offers a more elaborate rumination with haunting video images by lighting designer Cristina Guadalupe and film director Noah Hutton on the backdrop.
Friday also marks the 15th anniversary celebration of the Moroccan-influenced jazz/world/groove collective Club d’elf at its cozy Lizard Lounge home base. Leader Mike Rivard, who plays electric and acoustic basses as well as the lute-like sintir, has assembled a particularly top-notch lineup for the two-show event with oud maestro Brahim Fribgane, slide guitar visionary Dave Tronzo, keyboardist Paul Schultheis, woodwinds ace Ned Rothenberg, DJ Mister Rourke, congas anchor Vicente Lebron and drummer Dean Johnston. If you’ve never caught d’elf at the Lizard, it’s the closest thing we have to Manhattan’s downtown jazz/experimental scene: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9JY7pEoMtpc.
On Saturday, progressive string band the Punch Brothers are revving up for the rock ‘n’ roll atmosphere of House of Blues. Don’t expect your father’s bluegrass. Virtuoso mandolinist/singer leader Chris Thile (who was just awarded a MacArthur “genius” grant), guitarist Chris Eldridge, bassist Paul Kowert, banjo player Noam Pikelny and fiddler Gabe Witcher subvert tonal and rhythmic conventions in traditional pop song form, bridging Radiohead covers with new millennial Appalachia and a hip New York sensibility: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BE_XhGsm_4Q. The quintet’s new EP Ahoy! offers additional material from sessions for their fabulous 2012 album Who’s Feeling Young Now?
Modern metal bands such as the Deftones have cited the influence of the widely respected Swedish band Meshuggah, who are masters of extreme, technical metal and have been around since the late ’80s: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RQRLhU0CCZs. The group headlines House of Blues on Sunday, but if you’re a progressive metal fan, you’d best arrive early to catch Animals as Leaders, who nail the genre with seven and eight-string guitars and killer drums: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hsHHYx2fiv4.
There’s nothing like following up the 55th annual Grammy Awards with the Residents’ 40th anniversary tour to start the week with a flip-flop in pop perspective. The Residents included a tune from their 1980 release The Commercial Album in their sold-out show at the Institute of Contemporary Art Tuesday. But that album title’s a joke of course, and that song didn’t really differ from the rest of the avant-garde cult outfit’s absurdist fare. Oh, by the way, the Residents are currently peddling their Ultimate Box Set, a refrigerator filled with original pressings of the band’s sprawling catalog (40 LPs, 50 CDs, etc.) for only $100,000.
The ICA setting was perfect for the San Francisco-born group, which pioneered performance art before such a thing really existed. From a musical standpoint, however, the near-two-hour show seemed a tad sterile and repetitive for a retrospective of the Residents’ 40-year history. Yet the band was always an acquired taste, balancing dissonance and cynicism in theatrical, pop-size chunks.
The towering Barbara Lee Family Foundation Theater, its harbor-view windows blackened with curtains, focused attention on the three-man combo, whose sonic and visual staging seemed to be dwarfed in the wide-open setting. Whereas the anonymous members once paraded onstage in eyeball heads with top hats (popular but unwieldy, frontman "Randy Rose" explained), this show was simplified in tone and setup, although the sound mix was pristine, showcasing the atonal accents of guitarist "Bob" -- in his tendrill-covered headpiece -- better than the murky tinkering of keyboard and laptop player "Chuck." At least the bulk of sounds appeared to be created live.
Not that people could always understand what Rose was singing either, as he electronically manipulated his voice while cavorting at center stage in a grizzled Bozo mask and a Santa Claus suit in front of huge, inflatable lawn figures of a snowman and Santa tilting candy canes into an arch.
The singer was indeed “randy” with his dirty old uncle shtick, providing the night’s most entertaining bits as he babbled between songs about his failed marriages and groupie conquests, although his supposedly personal narrative eroded the old Residents mystique. Not that anything was played straight. “This one’s about a demented midget in a co-dependent relationship with a giant and they’re into rough sex,” Rose said to introduce “Teddy,” where he repeated “Touch me!” over punctuating guitar cries and a tribal, machine-processed beat.
The comedy effectively eclipsed the music by the time Rose ranted about not making it in the porn business, waved a rubbery prop, and the Santa/snowman structure deflated on cue. Then he took a mock phone call about his cat Maurice getting hurt, mumbled in a disoriented state, and turned to the audience to say, “I’m sorry I’ve been so weird.”
Ha, that’s what people expect from a 40th anniversary tour titled “Wonder of Weird.” Yet compared to the Residents' stage shows of decades past (and even a spooky appearance at the Middle East a few years back), this one honestly could have been weirder and broader, beyond the clownish stand-up act. When the inflatable prop was resurrected at the end to create a Christmas tree capped by an eyeball with top hat, band members and fans rose together as if in salute to the elusive underground days of old.
Here’s my rundown on last night’s no-sweep, hit-and-miss Grammy Awards, at least the major wins and the dominating performances:
Record of the Year: Justice prevailed when Goyte and duet partner Kimbra won over fresher contenders Frank Ocean and Fun. for their viral smash “Somebody That I Used To Know.” Goyte also gave perhaps the night’s most gracious, inclusive speech after he and a giddy Kimbra bowed to presenter Prince (who said “I love this song” when opening the envelope) as an inspiration -- certainly as a studio visionary they relate to. The unfortunate flip-side was that Gotye's more uneven Making Mirrors took the Grammy for Best Alternative album over the deserving Fiona Apple and Tom Waits.
Album of the Year: Brit folk-pop darlings Mumford & Sons salvaged their night by snatching this biggie for Babel from the Black Keys, the seemingly on-a-roll Fun, and the both more deserving Frank Ocean and Jack White.
Song of the Year: This was Fun.’s prize for “We Are Young,” featuring Janelle Monae, who looked oddly sad, perhaps not getting enough of the spotlight? “Call Me Maybe” contender Carly Rae Jensen echoed the title of her single, looking even more bummed for missing her one-hit wonder moment. Nice touch: Fun. singer Nate Ruess wryly noted the band isn’t actually young (its age 30-ish members have kicked around the music biz).
Best New Artist: This was the Fun. coup, besting Frank Ocean and soul-rockers Alabama Shakes and making a wave toward the other big prizes look possible at that moment.
Collaborations: Usually the most interesting performances but also potential train wrecks. More worked than not this year, at least the larger-scale ones, especially the tributes. The tribute to the Band’s Levon Helm proved a straightforward delight with Mumford & Sons, Zac Brown (whose band challenged Jack White in the why-didn’t-you-wash-your-hair category), Elton John (who did name a song after Levon) and Alabama Shakes shouter Brittany Howard, who’d have stolen the segment if not for Mavis Staples, who kept testifying on “The Weight” after everyone else had finished.
The Bob Marley tribute seemed strange yet invigorating with Sting joining young super-talent Bruno Mars and his hot band to pump their vaguely Marley-inspired hits before the “Could You Be Loved” climax with Marley scion Ziggy and don’t-trip-on-my-dreadlocks Damian, plus a slinky Rihanna. Kelly Clarkson soared in a stripped down tribute to Patti Page and Carole King, though Clarkson’s rave-up of “(You Make Me Feel Like a) Natural Woman” echoed Aretha Franklin’s version more than King’s.
The Black Keys’ spirited sendup of “Lonely Boy” still never lived up to potential in having the Preservation Hall Jazz Band and the voodoo-costumed Dr. John (whose Locked Down rightly drew a blues album Grammy as well as a production honor for the Keys’ Dan Auerbach) along for the ride and underutilized. The night’s final hip-hop jam "Whaddup" was more of an entertaining mess with host LL Cool J, rap foil Chuck D (oddly stuck repeating the same Public Enemy rhyme), guitar terrorist Tom Morella and wicked drummer Travis Barker all letting it hang out past the closing credits. They included a sincere if awkward shoutout to late Beastie Boys rapper Adam "MCA" Yauch. But it all seemed like a weird way for “NCIS: Los Angeles” actor LL Cool J to reassert his rap cred.
Individual performances: More of a mixed bag. Mumford and Sons simply revved up the passion and dynamics of “I Will Wait,” blindingly backlit by columns of bulbs much like their TD Garden sellout last week. Justin Timberlake flashed more style than substance in his big comeback, leading an “orchestra” in sepia B&W on TV for “Suit & Tie” before Jay Z sauntered up for an enlivening in-color cameo. Jack White effectively rocked both his all-female band (in acoustic form) and all-male band in “Love Interrupted” and “Freedom at 21,” maybe not the best picks from his dynamic but shut-out album Blunderbuss. Like fellow ex-“American Idol” Clarkson, Carrie Underwood soared on her performance of her Grammy-winning song “Blown Away” with a gown that turned into an etch-a-sketch.
Fun. got wet entertaining in mock-rain during “Carry On,” which unfortunately saw Ruess going off-key. Frank Ocean wandered into a pitch problem of his own during his odd, mellowly monochromatic “Forrest Gump,” which worked best as performance art with a three-way screen flanking his keyboard to depict him “running” in place as part of a backing movie. But speaking of performance art (and singing a bit flat in the process), there was no greater flop than Taylor Swift’s opening number, where she led an “Alice in Wonderland”-type circus to sing “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” to a sap on a spinning wheel. I wondered if the flame jugglers would accidently bump the stilt-walkers and spark a conflagration that would create a true Grammy spectacle.
Here’s the list of winners: http://www.grammy.com/nominees
Video From Our Bachelor/ette Mixer
The bachelors and bachelorettes from the Class of 2013 gathered for a mixer at Storyville, and we caught it all on video. Here are some of the highlights.
Video by Tony Kress.
Read the full article, Aces of Hearts.
Class of 2013 Bachelors and Bachelorettes
We rounded up our 20 bachelors and bacheloretts and conducted a 2-day photoshoot at the beautifully designed Hawthorne.
A huge thank you to Kristin Collins, Lia Maria Nicoll and Erica Dennison, the lovely ladies from Leon & Co. in Belmont, and Joanna Petit-Frere from Visage-1 Studios.
Check out these stunning photos by Adam DeTour.
The impending blizzard is wreaking havoc on the live music circuit, at least during Friday night’s primary whipping weather. George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic’s House of Blues show has been postponed to Wednesday while Daughtry and 3 Doors Down will rock the DCU Center on Monday instead. Shaun Wolf Wortis still plans to host the 20th anniversary Mardi Gras Ball at T.T. the Bear’s Place, except that the colorful two-night extravaganza will be condensed to Saturday only. The onetime Slide frontman will lead his Legendary Vudu Krewe with a lineup slated to include Jesse Dee, Peter Moore, Jen D’Angora, Holly Brewer, Malcolm Travis and many others. All proceeds benefit the New Orleans Musicians Clinic, helping to provide musicians with health care. Now if Wortis could only conjure something closer to Big Easy weather to cooperate with the celebration: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z0cEJ6YLBqE.
Speaking of New Orleans, saxophonist Branford Marsalis leads his fiery, refined quartet featuring pianist Joey Calderazzo, bassist Eric Revis and drummer Justin Faulkner in a three-night stand through Sunday at Scullers Jazz Club: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ql9RnPkSpbY. Music fans who dig themselves out to get out Saturday have a few other fine options. Local institution the Tarbox Ramblers churn up some primitive, folky blues in an early show at Johnny D’s Uptown to toast a new solo album for guitarist Michael Tarbox: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y9afTtO_YaA. Electro-pop sensations Passion Pit get back on track following a break for singer/songwriter Michael Angelakos, throwing down at the hometown Agganis Arena (update: been pushed to Sunday): http://tinyurl.com/bd68tnh. And you can’t find a better up-and-coming local group than Kingsley Flood, which mixes Americana textures with punk-inspired energy and spirited vocals from frontman/songwriter Naseem Khuri: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uPYQwIXo9Vs. The band revs up the Brighton Music Hall behind its brand new second album Battles on a Saturday bill that also features fellow local upstarts Air Traffic Controller.
Our Cover Shoot with Tyler Seguin
Very eligible bachelor, Tyler Seguin, shoots some pool and turns hat tricks at Boston Beer Works.
Video by Tony Kress.
Tricks of the Trade
Where did your love of magic start?
When I was an awkward little teenager, I was always trying to come up with stupid, clever ways to impress girls. One day I was riding my bike with rollerblades on, trying to be a hotshot. I ended up falling and breaking both my arms at the same time, looking like a total ass. I was in a cast for six months and the doctor recommended card tricks to get my dexterity back.
How would you describe your brand of magic?
I feel like in 2013, people have a sense of cynicism and are a little jaded about magic. People like Criss Angel and David Blaine do what they do really well, but they have this persona, as if they believe what they’re doing is really magic. I take the complete opposite approach. The show is just as comedic as it is magical. It’s still fun and crazy magic sh*t happens, but we’re all in on the joke.
What’s the most difficult trick you’ve taught yourself?
I close one show with a trick where I predict a tweet. We bounce a beach ball around and someone gives me an activity, a place in the world and a celebrity for a tweet and the goal is that I predict what they say. I think it’s the one trick people talk about most. I did this trick when I did The Ellen Show for the first time, and it’s fun reading the YouTube comments. Some people think that I hypnotized the audience to say certain things or that everyone in the audience is planted, and they’re not, of course. The things that people come up with for the ways I do it are far more complex than what actually happens.
You performed at the White House Halloween party two years ago and got a standing ovation from the president—what was the trick you did for him?
For the closing trick, I told a story about the first president to die in the White House, William Henry Harrison, and it just so happened there was a picture of him on the wall. So I had this table that I told the kids and the audience was William Henry Harrison’s nightstand—which it wasn’t. I covered it with a cloth and the table started to float as if it was haunted. People were trippin’ out. The First Lady was like, “We’re freaking out, Justin!”
Is there anything left to accomplish after that?
Honestly, after that I thought I could retire.
What’s it like hosting Cupcake Wars, and how did you land the role?
Hosting is similar to magic—it uses a similar set of skills. When I moved to L.A., I started going out to hosting auditions and, as it is in L.A., you audition for a thousand things and you don’t get 999 of them. Cupcake Wars happened to be that one thing that I got. All of us involved with the show had no clue it would last eight seasons and run 101 episodes. It’s wild.
Do you do any magic backstage or while the cameras aren’t rolling?
I’m always doing magic. Occasionally they’ll put it in the show—sometimes I’ll do a quick trick when I’m shouting out that [contestants] have 30 minutes left.
Do you bake?
I’ve never baked a cupcake. But I love eating them. I don’t know if I’m breeching my contract with the Food Network saying that, but whatever.
Are there any big goals left on your to-do list?
I think magic is making a comeback and getting more popular in the public perception. I’m working on some magic for TV formats and looking to expand my audience and tour more. There’s nothing I like better than doing a live show that’s heavy on audience participation.
The Play Pen
Slack Lines III, Super Bowl
Betting advice by morons, for morons
Current Slack Lines standings:
The Improper’s Nick Altschuller: 51-36-2
Parlor Sports/Trina’s Beau Sturm: 48-37-3
Matt Roberts: 45-41-2
Silvertone’s Cedric Adams: 42-43-3
Wondering where is all went so wrong:
Rory Duyon: 31-35-2
Green St. Grill’s Greg Reeves: 31-36-1
Well, unless I have a Patriot-level meltdown, it looks like I’m the Slack Lines winner for the third year in row. My epic run is the product of study, dedication and having five friends who never bother to check my math.
I’m finding it hard to get pumped up for this Super Bowl. On one side, the 49ers are saying all the right, tedious things. Randy Moss tried to make some noise by declaring himself the best wide receiver in history, but that statement was met with all the attention paid to a deli that calls its meatballs “world famous.” On the other side, we’re now in the “Tear Down Your Idols” stage of the Ray Lewis redemption tour. The latest plotline has Lewis using deer antler extract to recover from a triceps injury. My first instinct after hearing that story was to buy a horn and shave it over my dinner like a white truffle, which shows how bored I am with Lewis. I’d rather fantasize about PED Chopped than think about how his supplements would affect the game.
But I’m sure fake gambling will get me excited. And here’s to one last weekend betting with the Slack Lines crew, prognostication’s version of the Avengers, starring me as Iron Man (’cause he’s the coolest, duh), Beau as Thor (at the top, and he’ll get you hammered), Matt as Black Widow (dead sexy), Cedric as the Hulk (the occasional strong performance, usually quite mild mannered), Rory as Captain America (no real powers to speak of), and Greg as Hawkeye (’cause he’s the worst).
On to the picks!
Baltimore vs. San Francisco (-3.5), Over/Under: 47.5
This is a flat-out good football game—hit-first defenses, big-play potential and potent rushing attacks. Even the reality-TV fan has some fun side stories like murderer-come-saint Ray Lewis, homophobes, deer antlers and brother vs. brother.
Have I ever mentioned that I hate Ray Lewis? I want him to get embarrassed in this game. I hope no amount of elk’s tears or whatever will save him from the veer option attack that he’s sure to see. I hope that Frank Gore or LaMichael James runs him over, and Colin Kapernick is kissing those biceps in the Super Dome end zone. However, this is a blog that examines the game from a gambler’s perspective.
This season, the two teams that the Ravens have faced featuring a rushing QB (Mike Vick and RGIII) only mustered 34 yards each on the ground. However, they both beat Baltimore.
The Ravens and the 49ers both have great front sevens on D, both have hot QBs, both have hit-happy DBs, both have underrated WRs, and both have great game-planning coaches who happen to have the same last name. Mistakes will dictate the outcome of this game—a fumble, a pic-six, a kick return. The question is, who’s gonna screw up
In the postseason, the Ravens lead almost every defensive category, including interceptions and forced turnovers. They’re only allowing 19 points per game. Also, Ray Rice is leading the postseason in rushing. However, San Fran has only given up 185 rushing yards.
Damn. I just don’t know! So, I’ll just flip a coin. Beau’s Pick: Ravens, Over 47.5
Super Sucker Prop Bets:
Kaepernick’s first run will result in less than 5.5 yards: -110
Ravens win by 1-4 points: +450
The game will be tied again after 0-0: +105
I promised myself I wouldn’t talk about Ray Lewis again. I talked myself into just leaving it alone, not getting worked up, and just trying to write about the 49ers. But I couldn’t bring myself to do it. He is simply too awful to be ignored.
Iʼve said it before, and will say it again, I honestly DO NOT care about the murder trial, or the PED allegations. It’s the constant religious grandstanding and fraudulent moral high ground that drives me insane. First of all, religion? Seriously? That’s still a thing? I thought we proved we didn’t need that anymore. This man has the audacity to say he doesn’t have to answer questions about the 2000 murder trial because now is “the Lord’s time.” He has dodged questions about the deer antler spray because that line of questioning is a “trick of the devil.”
This whole time I’d been thinking that Ray is an unintelligent, terribly spoken jackass, when it turns out he’s some sort of idiot savant, giving men of the cloth everywhere a perfect get out of jail free card.
“Father, did you drink the rectory’s supply of fortiﬁed wine?”
“Quiet, child. Now is the Lawwwwwd’s time.”
“Father, why are you wearing your underwear on the outside of your robes?”
“Be still. That’s a trick of the devil.”
Reverend Ray’s affectation and constant quoting of scripture may give the appearance of intelligence, but it’s all a dog and pony show. And I for one, will be laughing maniacally like a Bond villain when this man loses. Matt’s Pick: 49ers, over 47.5
Prop Bet Locks of the Century:
Times that daddy Jack Harbaugh is shown on TV: Over 2.5. Biggest no brainer in the history of Earth.
Odds that Jack Harbaugh will be wearing a half-Ravens, half-49ers “Harbaugh” jersey, cut and stitched down the middle: 2 to 1. If this were real, I would bet it.
Can we just play the damn game, the hype has been endless and annoying the past two weeks!
Being a believer the offense-wins-games-and-defense-wins-championships theory, we have the best defenses from each conference remaining.
1. Can Kaepernick handle the pressure along with the various schemes the Ravens defense will show? Can he be expected to outperform Tom Brady with less than a year's experience as a starting quarterback?
2. Will Gore be able to run the ball versus Baltimore's front seven effectively?
3. Can Flacco continue his stellar playoff production and throw deep against Goldson and Whitner?
4. Will Ray Rice get 20+ rushing attempts?
5. Is San Francisco hoping their kicker isn’t needed in the last five minutes of this game?
The answer to all these questions is NO, except the last one. Expect a low scoring, hard hitting (Pollard), field position game. Cedric’s Pick: Ravens, Under 47.5, SF 17 Baltimore 14
MVP: Adrian Peterson. 2000+ yards, end of conversation!
Rookie of the Year: Russel Wilson. Find me a better third-round QB pick in the last 10 years. Luck and RGIII lived up to expectations; Wilson surpassed them.
Mesi (-0.5) to score more goals than Gore touchdowns
Kaepernick (+4) to have more completions than Wade points
I was watching a SportsCenter segment on the Pistol offense, and they were discussing the crucial moment when both the quarterback and the running back have their hands around the football. Merril Hoge called it the “mesh point.” (Incidentally, Hoge calls any tie that ends five inches above your belt “high fashion.”) At the mesh point, both the QB and the back have to read the defense and decide who’s going to keep the ball. Were I running the option, I’d lead my team to 487 turnovers. That, or my running back and I would clothesline defenders all the way down the field in a moment of heroic indecisiveness.
Colin Kaepernick seems to have a handle on it though. And while the Ravens D is tough, they’re the older, more banged up of the two imposing sides. Here’s hoping Kaepernick can slide by Lewis and his crocodile tears. I’m still retching after Beyoncé’s staged press conference to prove how wonderful she is. If this game ends with Jim Nance sucking up to Ray Lewis, my sanity will spin off it's axis. Nick’s Pick: 49ers, Under 47.5
(Hey! Remember The Wire! That show was in Baltimore! And it ended years ago; can everyone please shut up about it?)
Which team will make the first coach’s challenge: 49ers, -110. Big brother’s gotta take little brother down a peg.
How many players will attempt a pass: Over 2.5. The props bets are really the only time this brother dynamic comes into play. You know one of the Harbaugh’s has a trick they’re just dying to bash their sibling with.
Have fun, everyone!
Email Nick at email@example.com
Follow the Slack Lines team on Twitter: @altschuller, @beausturm, @CedricAdams, @KidRob21 and @roryduyon
A week from Sunday, power-pop upstarts Fun. will be performing at the Grammy Awards. This Friday, the emo-inflected combo fronted by singer Nate Reuss will be playing the Orpheum Theatre on a relatively light Super Bowl weekend for live music: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_wpB75SBRG0. Also hot on the other side of town Friday, the fledgling Shovels & Rope lasso followers with two acoustic guitars and a beat-up partial drum kit at the Sinclair. The Americana duo from Charleston, S.C., has become one of the first acts announced for this year’s Newport Folk Festival, which appears ready to keep landing breakout artists on the rise: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nzj-w11vuMo.
There are a few great shows around on Saturday, led by Brooklyn’s unique world-party group Red Baraat at the Sinclair. Bandleader Sunny Jain, who plays the double-sided barrel drum called a dhol, drew inspiration from North Indian brass bands in launching the jazzy nine-piece ensemble, which balances heady horns and funky Punjabi dance rhythms: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y1qfLh8kLWk. Delightfully off-kilter indie-rockers Big Dipper merged angular noise and sweet pop on Boston’s late ‘80s post-punk scene, and they haven’t lost their knack. After a 2008 anthology and reunion tour, the group hatched the charming new studio disc Big Dipper Crashes on the Platinum Planet, which includes an ode to Guided by Voices main man Robert Pollard, who painted the album’s cover art. Big Dipper crashes into the Middle East Downstairs Saturday following a Friday date at Northampton’s Iron Horse Music Hall.
Brighton Music Hall has also been hopping with locals celebrating stellar album releases this winter. Last week it was Moe Pope + Rain, doing hip-hop proud with guests from rappers John Robinson and Dutch ReBelle to singers Julia Easterlin and Bad Rabbits’ Dua Boakye. Expect more cameo magic this Saturday when Christian McNeill & Sea Monsters rev up for the national release of their debut album Everything’s Up For Grabs. McNeill has already lined up fellow soul singer Jesse Dee (who’s got his own release party there Mar. 9) and mandolinist Jimmy Ryan as guests, but with blues-rock compadre Tim Gearan and girl group Jenny Dee & the Deelinquents on a fabulous triple bill, who knows how many musicians will end up being honorary Sea Monsters: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Y16_zb2m6w.
Finally, if you have time to tuck in some music a couple hours before the Super Bowl kickoff (or could care less about football, especially without the Patriots in it), check out guitar virtuoso Shun Ng at Club Passim. A Berklee student who grew up in Singapore, the young singer/guitarist knows how to wow people with his deft, dynamic fingerpicking: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HpmzWsOo0rY. The 4:30 p.m. Sunday show is even free for students.
Variations on Genius
Photo by Mark S. Howard
Madness is genius—or so they say—and this month the madness that is Beethoven is fully exposed in 33 Variations. Written by Moises Kaufman and directed by Spiro Veloudos, the play originally appeared at the Arena Stage in Washington, D.C., in 2007. The Broadway debut in 2009, which starred Jane Fonda as Dr. Katherine Brandt, was nominated for five Tony Awards.
And now, Beethoven does Boston.
Using juxtaposed narratives, 33 Variations tells the story of debt-ridden Beethoven (James Andreassi) and his creative process as he writes multiple variations of a waltz for no-name publisher Anton Diabelli (Will McGarrahan). Accompanying him onstage is musicologist Katherine Brandt (Paula Plum), who is just as taken with Beethoven as he is with the waltz. To research what may be the last thesis she will ever write, Dr. Brandt travels to Bonn, Germany, 200 years after Beethoven to figure out what exactly his fascination was.
The seemingly distinct characters share a story, however, which intertwines and unwinds as the play progresses. Their connection is revealed only when the wall between the two crumbles, spurring an interaction all its own.
33 Variations plays through Feb. 2 at the Lyric Stage Theater
140 Clarendon St., Boston | 617-585-5678 | lyricstage.com
Our Cover Shoot with Kristen Kish
Check out some behind-the-scenes footage of our cover shoot with Kristen Kish, Top Chef contestant and chef de cuisine at Stir!
Video by Tony Kress
The Play Pen
Slack Lines III, Pre-Super Bowl Shenanigans
Betting advice by morons, for morons
Current Slack Lines Standings:
The Improper’s Nick Altschuller: 51-36-2
Parlor Sports/Trina’s Beau Sturm: 48-37-3
Matt Roberts: 45-41-2
Silvertone’s Cedric Adams: 42-43-3
On a farm upstate with plenty of land to run around and squirrels to chase:
Rory Duyon: 31-35-2
Green St. Grill’s Greg Reeves: 31-36-1
No football this week, unless you count the Pro Bowl. So, no football this week. But Matt and I are here to keep you entertained. Unless you count the Pro Bowl as entertaining. In which case, I need you to seek medical attention immediately.
Matt and I watched the Pats game last weekend, and as you can imagine, we’re a little bitter. So as far as analysis goes, this week we’re going to take a pass. (A pass that Wes Welker will probably drop.) Instead, it’s time for quick hits! (Like the hit Tom Brady could have easily avoided had he bothered to run three yards into the open field instead of floating a wounded duck on fourth down, sealing that atrocious performance.) Wheeeeeeeeeew, deep breathes, Nick. You can do this.
1. 2013 marks the 10-year anniversary of the greatest Super Bowl commercial of all time. Anyone who think’s this ad isn’t the best is in for a surprise—A RUDE, PAINFUL SURPRISE!
2. Obviously, the most insufferable storyline for next week’s game—the Super ’Baugh, or the Har’ Bowl, as they’re calling it—is that two brothers are facing each other for a championship. Let me just say, the Harbaugh parents are getting entirely too much credit.
Congratulations, you raised two hyper-competitive blowhards with hair-trigger tempers. Nothing stands between them and winning, even if they have to bash their own sibling’s head in to get there. Most NFL coaches are the product of overbearing, impossible-to-please fathers. You raised two such creatures. Kudos on your team effort.
3. Obviously, the most insufferable storyline for next week’s game—The Ray Lewis Redemptions Tour 2.0—has been beaten to death. But we shouldn’t forget this could be Randy Moss’ farewell, too.
Moss is twice the player Ray Lewis is. What’s more, when he talks, I’m actually interested in what he has to say. Sure, he pantomimed mooning the crowd at Lambeau. Sure, he flipped out on an innocent caterer. Yes, he love-tapped a meter maid with his automobile. But he never fake-cried during the National Anthem. If Moss torches Lewis for a touchdown in the Super Bowl, I will donate all my Slack Lines winnings to charity. (So either way, I’m not donating any money to charity.)
Take it way, Matt.
The Hater’s Guide to the Super Bowl
As a disgruntled fan of our local gridiron heroes, I was understandably less than stoked with the result of last week’s AFC championship game. I already hate the prospect of watching the Super Bowl next week. I’m so disgruntled that I seriously contemplated breaking down this week’s Pro Bowl, in painstaking detail, position-by-position, just to troll the hell out of anyone nice enough to read this here column. Thankfully, I came to my senses, and I’m producing something only slightly more tolerable, the Hater’s Guide to the Super Bowl. Hate-ability of a person/thing based on 1-10 scale, with 10 being least hate-able.
10. Colin Kaepernick He trademarked “Kaepernicking” this week, on the off chance that “Kaepernicking,” whatever that is, becomes a thing. And from there, I assume the logic goes, it would become a proﬁtable. It won’t, and will not.
9. Alex Smith Looking forward to a million shots of his mopey mug on the sidelines while Kaepernick makes out with his wife while running over Ed Reed on the way to his fourth TD of the day.
8. Every Writer at Grantland not Named Bill Barnwell or Katie Baker Simmons is so out of his mind he’s now become a parody of himself. Just throw a current event plus a line from a movie into the Bill Simmons Random Pop Culture Generator, and there’s a paragraph.
I used to love Bill and didn’t get on board the hate train until recently. A quick breakdown of the others:
Rembert Browne Too cool for school. Wears a dumb hat.
Chuck Klosterman The guy who tries to recreate a killer Friday night, the next Friday night. Bloody useless.
Jonah Keri Dumb haircut, once blocked me twice in a pickup hoops game. Writes about baseball. Booooooooring.
7. John Harbaugh Not very hate-able. Except for the time he said the Patriots championships deserve asterisks due to Spygate, when he was all pissed for losing to them.
6. Jim Harbaugh Total tweaker. I honestly believe he’s a user of strong methamphetamine. Look at his eyes in the press conferences. This man is no stranger to carpet-farming.
5. The Har’ Bowl Some enterprising nitwit actually tried to patent this, but the NFL shouted him down with their cabal of lawyers, which I assume looks similar to C. Montgomery Burns’ crack law team. The NFL said that using the word “bowl” infringed upon their entitlement to the term “Super Bowl.” Tossers.
4. Naming Rights “Funyons, the ofﬁcial snack of the Super Bowl.” “The All State Coin Flip, brought to you by Doritos.” “This look under the hood is brought to you by Summers Eve.” “The Matt Roberts Hater’s Guide to the Super Bowl, brought to you by Matt Roberts.” I feel like its college football bowl season all over again.
3. Ex-player Interviews Ooooh, Joe Montana, please tell me more about the guacamole that you’re pimping! Who needs a little give-and-take with the interviewers? Why don’t you get right into your plug, you daft wanker?!
2. Bernard Pollard Bernard Bleeping Pollard. Bernie Mother-bleeping Pollard. Of course we all know the difference between sports-hate and real-life hate, but this guy is treading pretty damn close to the line. Checklist: 1. Destroyed Brady’s knee. 2. In area when Welker blew out his ACL. 3.Tore up Gronk’s ankle, costing the Pats their fourth title. 5. Concussed Stevan Ridley, effectively ending this year’s AFC championship. I will now pour myself another Scotch.
1. Ray Lewis The murder charge is overplayed by hacky, less accomplished trolls; I don’t factor it into my feelings about Ray. I honestly could give a rat’s ass about that case, or the fact that he rolled over on his two stab-y buddies. If it was me in that situation, I’d have burned my white velour tuxedo and matching church crown so fast it would make your head spin. And within 24 hours, I’d have turned state’s evidence on Rory and Nick.
My feelings on Ray remind me of a quote about Barry Bonds during the height of the steroid witch-hunt surrounding him. A sports radio caller said, “I don’t hate Barry Bonds because he took steroids. I hate Barry Bonds because he’s an asshole.” This is how I feel about Reverend Ray. His holier-than-thou shtick, combined with his belief that Yahweh, Allah, or the face of Jesus Christ in a bowl of Rice Krispies is somehow intervening to make the Ravens win playoff games, is insufferable.
This concludes your ﬁrst annual Hater’s Guide to the Super Bowl. If there is enough outpouring of public sentiment, I’ll ﬁnd a way to get my Pro Bowl analysis to all seven of you who read this. (Hi, Ma!)
Super Bowl Extravaganza with the whole team coming up.
Until next week!
Email Nick at firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow the Slack Lines team on Twitter: @altschuller, @beausturm, @CedricAdams, @KidRob21 and @roryduyon
Boston’s radiant MC/DJ tandem of Moe Pope and Rain (plus Pope’s rapping foil Christopher Talken) inject fresh energy and musicality into live hip-hop with their group Quills, at the Brighton Music Hall Friday. Moe Pope + Rain are celebrating the release of their dynamic, cross-pollinating new album Let the Right Ones In, which features producer Rain on live drums and other instruments as well as vocal cameos from Julia Easterlin (who’s joined the bill), Bad Rabbits’ Dua Boakye and Lady Lamb the Beekeeper among others. Here’s a sample of Quills’ onstage breadth: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-dOoO_GyCfg. And here’s my profile of Pope as one of 10 promising Boston bands in 2011, along with Easterlin and Lady Lamb (guess they swapped contact info): http://www.improper.com/features/acts-to-follow/P4/.
Another Friday alternative: basking in the funky, electronica-fused jams -- and crazy light show -- of Lotus, which has graduated to House of Blues: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ncOPOZbxfWU. Get there early if you want to catch the sax-goosed grooves of the dubstep-conscious trio Moon Hooch blossoming in the opening slot: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bL1VGmqzEzA.
Saturday offers a couple of contrasting options. Syracuse-born indie-rockers Ra Ra Riot share their stripped down, heightened verve at the Paradise (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p5zvmrmAgDY) while gloomy shock-metal prince Marilyn Manson brings his latest dope (or dopey depending on your view) show to House of Blues: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-IgoOcG4VCU.
Sunday’s got even hotter indie-rock shows with forthright Jersey/NYC punk-rockers Titus Andronicus (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R8bbi_2-soE) at Harvard Square’s new Sinclair club. You can hop here to my recent profile with Titus frontman Patrick Stickles: http://www.improper.com/going-out/act-locally/. And Canadian sister act Tegan and Sara get intimate for their fervent following at the Brighton Music Hall in support of their new album Heartthrob, which continues the duo’s shift from folk-rock roots to catchy, danceable synth-pop: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WS6xWOqYq20.
Black Hole Fun
Soundgarden dealt a powerful painkiller to help shake off the New England Patriots’ playoff loss Sunday. Just as football fans began cursing the Pats’ second-half fall in sports bars around the Orpheum Theatre, Seattle’s reborn grunge-era rockers were crushing a coincidently perfect mid-set pairing of “Blow Up the Outside World” and “Fell on Black Days.” Leonine frontman Chris Cornell sang, “How could I know, that this would be my fate?!” and the band’s funereal catharsis proved a much better choice than TV misery.
People got all excited when the Kurt Cobain-less Nirvana jammed with Paul McCartney at the 12-12-12 Sandy relief benefit. Yet here were all four members of Soundgarden’s classic lineup, sounding better than ever on the third date of a tour behind their solid if unremarkable comeback effort King Animal. Playing without an opener (well, I caught the first half of the Pats game), the band tucked six songs from that first studio album in 16 years through two and a half hours of music balanced with vintage favorites.
Soundgarden’s 2011 reemergence at the Comcast Center suffered from both a slow start and the group’s refusal to submit to arena-rock posturing, but neither was an issue at the long-soldout Orpheum. For starters, Soundgarden frontloaded its 26-song set with high-octane nuggets: “Spoonman” and “Jesus Christ Pose” rode pummeled cross-currents from drummer Matt Cameron (also now of Pearl Jam). Then Cornell set aside his guitar, checked the Pats score with the crowd, begged off from the continued role of “messenger” and launched into the lurching raveup “Outshined.” The intimate theater better served such subtle interactions amid the bright but diffuse lighting. Playfully sulking bassist Ben Shepherd mimicked a surfer in pointing to the balcony before crashing back into his “My Wave” undertow. And Cornell casually slapped an outstretched hand from the second row while he stalked and screamed along the stage lip in “Incessant Mace,” a bluesy oldie laced with lead guitarist Kim Thayil’s sonic shards.
The second half of the long set was mired in a few too many Zeppelin/Sabbath-thick guitar workouts (like the sludgy “Mailman” piled on top of the new “Blood on the Valley Floor”), but at least Soundgarden kept its rhythms intriguing, especially in pulling out “Burden in My Hand” and the psychedelic “Head Down.” Served early, “By Crooked Steps” remained the best of the new songs with its driving lockstep. And the band made sure the encore was as convincing as the show’s kickoff with the rattling “Rusty Cage,” the Beatlesque dirge-hit “Black Hole Sun” and the final nail “Slaves & Bulldozers,” capped by an extended feedback coda where Cornell and Thayil patiently toyed with their guitars before sauntering off in triumph. Unfortunately, the Patriots weren’t able to close with the same level of intensity.
The Play Pen
Slack Lines III, Conference Finals
Betting advice by morons, for morons
Current Slack Lines standings:
The Improper’s Nick Altschuller: 50-33-1
Parlor Sports/Trina’s Beau Sturm: 47-35-2
Matt Roberts: 42-41-1
Silvertone’s Cedric Adams: 39-43-2
Buried in a shallow grave with a cross made of twigs:
Rory Duyon: 31-35-2
Green St. Grill’s Greg Reeves: 31-36-1
No time for small talk. Big games ahead.
I’ll just say that I’m very impressed with the rest of the Slackliners this week. Four write-ups and not one Manti Te’o joke. We’re serious about our gambling here.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to make a crack about a man’s nipples.
On to the picks!
Nick on: San Francisco @ Atlanta (+4)
Colin Kaepernick may end up in the rare club of quarterbacks who’ve gone from nobodies to champs in the same season. In 2001, Drew Bledsoe had his sternum fused to his spine by Mo Lewis. Enter sixth-round pick Tom Brady, who led the Patriots to their first Super Bowl win. (He’s now married to a supermodel and sleeps on a unicorn-hair mattress.) In 1990, Phil Simms broke his foot in Week 15. Jeff “Hoss” Hostetler, with his rifle arm and push broom mustache, led the Giants through the playoffs and to a win in Super Bowl XXV. (He now owns his own contracting business, the same Velcro ’stache and nipples that long to see the sun.)
As we’ve seen this season with great rookie quarterbacks (as Matt Ryan once was), talented nobodies who end up starting enjoy a fruitful grace period, racking up wins as opposing teams come in underestimating their opponent. Eventually, teams get up to speed, which is why Ryan never won a playoff game before this season, and (WVU alum) Hostetler went from Super Bowl hero to has-been in the time it takes to grow such a stubbly mustache.
Kaepernick ran for a record 186 yards last week—teams aren’t up to speed with him yet. And as Atlanta was torched by running QBs all season, there’s no way they’re catching up by the time Sunday afternoon arrives. Nick’s Pick: 49ers (24-19), Under 48.5
Patriots (-8.5), Over 51 I can’t see Baltimore winning. Not in an I’ve-Done-the-Research kind of way. More in an I’m-Hiding-Under-Some-Coats kind of way. Call me when it’s finished.
Cedric on: San Francisco @ Atlanta (+4)
Matty Ice finally got the gorilla off his back with a last-minute win over Seattle. But this Sunday will be the biggest challenge of his career. The Falcons need Ryan to be at his best versus the vaunted 49ers defense. Michael Turner and Jacquizz Rodgers must get yards between the tackles against Aldon and Justin Smith, something the Packers couldn’t do last week. This will allow Ryan to throw deep to Roddy White and Julio Jones.
When San Francisco has the ball, expect Colin Kaepernick to keep playing at a high level. Mobile quarterbacks have given the Atlanta defense fits all year. Expect Colin to take shots deep early and Frank Gore to run for 100-plus yards. At some point, we must acknowledge that Jim Harbaugh has an ability to develop quarterbacks, and that he has the best team left. Cedric’s Pick: 49ers (35-21), Over 48.5
Ravens (+8.5), Under 51 Flacco isn’t Brady, but with his defense he doesn’t have to be.
Beau on: Baltimore @ New England (-8.5)
Here’s the thing: I’ve made it no secret that I don’t like either of these teams. I also don’t think these are the two best teams to represent the AFC. However, they’re here, and they took a tough road to get here (although the Patriots seem to make it look easy).
Baltimore is riding emotional momentum. That may sound like a negative, but it’s worked to put Super Bowl rings on the fingers of the Giants (twice), Packers and my Steelers.
Remember all the way back in paragraph one when I said the best two teams in the AFC aren’t represented in this game? Well, that’s because there’s only one team good enough to actually compete for and win a Super Bowl, and that’s the Patriots. As a matter of fact, I think that they’re playing the best all-around football of all the teams left, and they’ll hoist their fourth Lombardi Trophy. This won’t be a game.
You have no idea how happy it’ll make me to me to say, “Bye bye, Ray Lewis! Don’t let the door hit you on the ass on your way out of the NFL.”
Beau’s Pick: Pats (38-17), so, I guess I’m taking Over 51, too.
The only team who can give the Pats a game: 49ers, Over 48.
[Editor’s Note: Every part of me believes this was an elaborate jinx job. Beau’s known hatred for the Ravens be damned.]
Matt on: Baltimore @ New England (-8.5)
One absolute ironclad guarantee this week: If and when the Patriots win, the Ravens will say they cheated. This is a long and illustrious line of drivel that has roots in the Steelers, Jets and Ravens franchises, as well as the country at large. Last year, after this very same championship matchup, John Harbaugh was the latest member to be lumped into the club. He asserted that something was ﬁshy about the stadium scoreboard, and that the down and distance for the potential game-tying ﬁeld goal were wrong, thus screwing up the timing of the Ravens’ ﬁeld goal unit. He then went on to say that all the Patriots championships would have asterisks, due to Spygate. That, in my humble opinion, is loser talk. Maybe a more appropriate topic would be the inability of a geriatric Lee Evans to hold onto a sure TD in the ﬁnal seconds, or the inability of his puddle of a kicker to make a chip shot.
As a quick aside: Why do all scandals in this country need to have “gate” attached to them? The Watergate was a hotel where a scandal took place; it wasn’t a scandal ABOUT water.
This will, with any luck, be the Ravens last game of the season, and since the Ravens are indeed from the city of Baltimore, I will have no more chances to make Simmons-esque gratuitous pop-culture references to the HBO program The Wire. So without further ado, let me say that I am praying that Ray Lewis’s career ends up in the same place as so many of Marlo’s victims: the vacants.
Ray is a fraud of the highest order. All last week he used the cry of “no weapon” to rally his team. This references Isaiah 54:17, which says, “No weapon forged against you shall prevail, and you will refute every tongue that accuses you,” and so on and so forth, yadda yadda yadda. The man actually believes that the good Lord himself prefers that the Ravens win American football games. He’s a delusional, murderous, unhinged lunatic. He’ll probably be the next mayor of Baltimore.
Oh, and Joe Flacco looks like a bird. Matt’s Pick: Patriots (31-20), Under 51.5
Lock of the Century:
Falcons (+4), Over 49 Eye test be damned, I’m taking the home dog. Also, my fantasy football priapism for Julio Jones has yet to subside.
Until next week.
Email Nick at email@example.com
Follow the Slack Lines team on Twitter: @altschuller, @beausturm, @CedricAdams, @KidRob21 and @roryduyon
Iris DeMent’s Ozark-inflected voice doesn’t appeal to everyone, but her simple, observant truths about common people make her lyrics affecting to anyone. In recent years, the folksinger’s made rare rounds on the road, but the studio’s proven more elusive. DeMent comes to the Sinclair Friday in support of Sing The Delta, her first album in 16 years. Here's a rendition of her first hit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r9ux5fFSx00.
Same venue, very different sound, when local heroes Mission of Burma roar into the Sinclair Saturday. The avant-punk veterans have earned more acclaim in their second life (after disbanding from 1983 to 2002 due to guitarist Roger Miller’s tinnitus) and sounded better than ever when I caught them last year at the Brighton Music Hall. They just returned from their most extensive European tour they’ve ever undertaken, so the wheels are greased more than usual for a band that works as occasional weekend warriors. And Burma has even promised guest horn players to spice up the sonic shifts at the Sinclair: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MM4myAcn9J4.
Another longtime alternative band worth catching is Blonde Redhead, a NYC-born group fronted by vocalist Kazu Makino that has evolved from noise rock to more electronic experimentation since the ‘90s and rolls into the Brighton Music Hall Saturday: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WMsOjf_3hnk. Or for an old-school party, heavy glam-rockers the Darkness take the Paradise Rock Club over the top the same night. Best known for the 1993 hit “I Believe in a Thing Called Love,” the Darkness also broke up for a spell, but make this Paradise gig a return visit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3NfDh7z4ato. For a more abstract alternative, vigorous New England Conservatory-bred pianist Matthew Shipp teams with bassist Michael Bisio for improvisatory outbursts in the intimate space Outpost 186 in Inman Square: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tary1-W6IDQ&list=UUAs4YTpmDAfn1dcpyu7XLWQ.
Sunday’s big show: the return of Seattle grunge-era standouts Soundgarden, touring behind its solid reunion album King Animal with a soldout show at the Orpheum Theatre. Chris Cornell retains one of the most powerful voices in hard rock and drummer Matt Cameron (who doubles behind the kit for Pearl Jam nowadays) really drives the heavy guitars: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RO-U2pLsRxI.
The Play Pen
Slack Lines III, Playoffs, Round Two
Betting advice by morons, for morons
Current Slack Lines standings:
The Improper’s Nick Altschuller: 46-29-1
Parlor Sports/Trina’s Beau Sturm: 43-31-2
Matt “The Minotaur” Roberts: 37-38-1
Silvertone’s Cedric Adams: 34-40-2
Rory Duyon: 31-35-2
Green St. Grill’s Greg Reeves: 31-36-1
It’s the second round, the odd, exciting limbo in which you’re cheering for your team to win, but you’re also shamefully selecting a second choice should everything go to hell.
According to the Huffington Post, where all REAL experts go for their football news (I get my stock tips from Etsy), the Pats have a 14.4 percent chance of winning it all. That means there’s an 85.6 percent chance that someone else will be hoisting the Lombardi Trophy. Here’s my off-the-cuff, self-analytical breakdown of who I’d want that to be:
7. The Baltimore Ravens
Do I really have to breakdown why I don’t want the Ravens to win? Does anyone outside of Maryland like the Ravens?
6. The Houston Texans
Because they’d have to beat the Pats to get there. And Houston is a sprawling industrial hellscape where it’s always 110 degrees. I’m confused on both why the city exists and why people choose to live there.
5. The Denver Broncos
Peyton has built up some goodwill by displaying a decent sense of humor over the years. But if he wins the Super Bowl after suffering neck termites, Roger Goodell will ensure he’s given demi-god status, and insufferable sports writers around the country will declare him the best QB in history, for ever and ever, and that's not a world I want to live in.
4. The Atlanta Falcons
I don’t know how a team with such a great passing attack is still soooooo boring. I blame Matt Ryan. The man has the personality of a rutabaga.
3. The Seattle Seahawks
Truth be told, I really like this team. But—even though he CLEARLY jumped off the bandwagon earlier this year—I can’t have a Bill Simmons prediction come true to such an extent. Stop, just stop.
2. The San Francisco 49ers
Great city. Great team. Great organization. But Alex Smith makes me sad. Cheer up, buddy. Jacksonville needs a QB (and then you can lose your job to Tebow).
1. The Green Bay Packers
…Actually, this comes as a surprise to me, too. Aaron Rodgers seems like a good dude, though. And I suppose it’d be nice if he had more championships than Brett Favre. Plus, Cedric would be happy, so he’d start doling out the green and gold Chartreuse and High Life combos. So, my gut says Packers; my liver takes the field.
On to the picks!
Nick on: Baltimore @ Denver (-9.5)
Manning is 0-3 in playoff games when the temperature is 40 degrees or below. In those games, he’s thrown 1 TD and 7 INTs. He’s going to wear a glove on Sunday to counteract the cold and the change in grip he’s experienced since his Franken-bolt procedure. (Manning never wore a glove before 2012.) All this means that Denver is going to give more carries to Knowshon Moreno. In other words, “The Porsche is in the shop, so I’m driving my Saturn with Fumble-matic transmission.” And so concludes the paragraph in which I try and talk myself into the points.
The Broncos have won 11 in a row. They’ve won nine straight against the Ravens, a team they’ve had two weeks to prepare for, and a team they were beating 31-3 in Baltimore just four weeks ago. In other words, “Man, the leather seats in this Buick Verano are so buttery. Phone call: Papa John. Hut! Hut!”
“Hey, Peyton. I was just cutting you a giant check.”
/looks into camera
“How about that?”
/with eyes off the road, Manning crashes into a series of orange barrels. His stapled-together neck and billboard sevenhead are saved by an airbag stuffed with lose $100 bills.
Nick’s Pick: Broncos, Under 46
49ers (-3), Under 45 Vernon Davis is due for a redemption game. And Randy Moss owes the Vikings a little love.
Seahawks (+2.5), Under 46 Matt Ryan is a total Fredo.
Patriots (-9.5), Over 47.5 It’s a stupid amount of points. I suppose taking the Pats is a vote for fun and against hypertension.
Cedric on: Green Bay @ San Francisco (-3)
The best game of the weekend!
[Editor’s note: I’m pretty sure you say that every weekend.]
Three questions will determine the winner:
1. Can the Packers keep Aaron Rodgers upright and not running for his life from the Smiths (Aldon and Justin, who’s returning from a torn bicep)?
2. Will Kaepernick and Gore win the time-of-possession battle, or will the return of Charles Woodson give the edge to a Green Bay defense that’s finally healthy?
3. Does Harbaugh have any confidence in his kicker?
Answers to our quiz:
Yes, Rodgers’ quick release will save him from a beating.
No, Expect the young QB to be overwhelmed by the moment.
No, January is not the time to be trying out kickers.
Cedric’s Pick: Packers, Over 45
Ravens (+9.5), Under 46 Ravens lose, but their defense covers.
Seahawks (+2.5), Over 46 Seattle wins outright with a defense built to contain teams like Atlanta.
Texans (+9.5), Over 47.5 Dear Houston, please leave the letterman jackets at home!
Beau on: Seattle @ Atlanta (-2.5)
I fondly remember an upstart team with a fired-up coach, a great running game, a snot-bubble-inducing defense that played with a chip on their shoulder and a rookie QB that did nothing but win. That work of football art was the 2006 Super Bowl Champion Pittsburgh Steelers. They sound kinda similar to another team in the playoffs this year, huh?
Mike Smith’s Atlanta team has been in this spot before, and they’ve gotten embarrassed. In fact, they haven’t won a playoff game during his tenure. The strength of their team is their tall and fast wide receivers and their future Hall of Fame TE, Tony Gonzalez. They just win the jump balls that Matt Ryan lobs up. But this won’t work with Seattle for two reasons. First, Mattie Ice can’t throw the ball lying on his back, which is where the future Defensive Rookie of the Year and former West Virginia Mountaineer Bruce Irvin will put him. Second, they have an unusually big/mean defensive backfield. Browner and Sherman have size. They can go get the ball with anybody, and they have the best safety in the game, Earl Thomas, helping over the top and in man-coverage with Gonzalez.
Then there’s “Beast Mode”… Beau’s Pick: Seahawks, Under 46
Slightly Uncertain Locks of the Week:
The Baltimore Convicts (+9.5), Under 46
Packers (+3) on the road, Over 45
Texans (+9.5), Over 47.5
Matt on: Houston @ New England (-9.5)
Of course, our longest-tenured sportswriter, Dan Shaughnessy, controlled the national dialogue in the lead up to Patriots vs. Texans. His “tomato can” commentary on Houston raised the ire of both Texans and Patriots fans alike. Houston fans thought they were getting short shrift, and New England fans thought old Dan was jinxing them, and they’re prepared to blame him should the Patriots lose.
Tip of the cap to former Slackliner Rich Levine, who successfully parodied the situation with his Twitter creation of Shaughn Daniels, the Texas equivalent of jackass-cum journalist, Shaughnessy. With incendiary tweets like “Patriots defense? Ha! #texans #domination #spygate,” and “Talib’s gonna wish he was drinking OJ instead of guarding AJ on Sunday #boom #texans #winning,” the predictable responses from my Cro-Magnon masshole brethren started to ﬂow in. My personal favorite response to a @ShaughnDaniels tweet, concerning the Texans already preparing for the Broncos: “Denver sucks just like your mom.” I’m sure this one had Shaughn/Rich madder than Carmelo Anthony at KG’s thoughts about breakfast cereal (topical!).
As Bill Belichick said this week, you don’t win a war by digging a foxhole and sitting in it, you need to attack. Or something to that effect. I’m going to take that to heart this week in my picks, and play it fast and loose. As tempting as it is to take the points when the spread is so high, I’m going to sound the HOMER alarm and pick the Pats to cover. Kubiak is a dunce, and Schaub stinks to high heck. Matt’s Pick: Patriots, Over 47.5
Baltimore (+9.5), Under 46 Since I’m not a Ravens homer, I’ll be taking the points.
San Francisco (-3), Over 45 The 49ers have balls. I like balls.
Atlanta (-2.5), Under 46 Everyone is riding the Pete Carroll train, but the fact remains: Seattle is not the same team on the road. Plus, there’s that West-Coast-team-coming-east-for-a-1 pm-game thing going on, too.
Until next week.
Email Nick at firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow the Slack Lines team on Twitter: @altschuller, @beausturm, @CedricAdams, @KidRob21 and @roryduyon
Irish-born singer Susan McKeown has spent half her life in New York, delving into American roots music and collaborating with both the Klezmatics (with whom she won a world music Grammy for an album with Woody Guthrie lyrics) and Natalie Merchant. She’ll bring her beautiful voice to Johnny D’s Uptown Friday in support of her first Americana album, Belong. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R7TrK1t9nh0. Maybe they’ll even be an onstage cameo from local cousin Erin McKeown, who guests on one song on the album.
Music and baseball cross paths at Saturday’s annual Hot Stove Cool Music benefit, led by its all-star band featuring sportswriter/musician Peter Gammons, Buffalo Tom’s Bill Janovitz, ex-Red Sox GM Theo Epstein and actor/MC Mike O’Malley. This one doesn’t look quite as star-packed as past years, but local celebs past and present are still joining the fun, among them Kay Hanley, Robin Lane, Christian McNeill's Sea Monsters, Tanya Donelly and the Parkington Sisters, a spirited Cape Cod group that has shared stages with the Dropkick Murphys http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=piS0-xWbd4o&list=UUjWlRJY8UFPK2PMUzkXFojQ&index=6). If you want to absorb frenetic blues-rock energy in a small room, there’s also a sleeper show on Saturday at Berklee’s Café 939 with the London Souls, a NYC-based duo that makes a swell, soulful power trio. The group’s about to release its second album in the wake of guitarist/singer Tash Neal’s recovery from several surgeries after a hit-and-run accident that left him hospitalized and in a coma. This certainly isn’t comatose music, especially with drummer/singer Chris St. Hilaire egging Nash on: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ZDqNw_Y-JE.
On the jazz front, Scullers Jazz Club sports a supergroup of organist Joey DeFrancesco, drummer Jimmy Cobb (who played on Miles Davis' iconic Kind of Blue) and guitar hero Larry Coryell, paying homage to icons Jimmy Smith and Wes Montgomery on Friday and Saturday: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F2jQZn_Kp4I&feature=player_embedded. And the Regattabar counters the same nights with tastefully nimble pianist Bill Charlap and his longtime trio featuring bassist Peter Washington and drummer Kenny Washington: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Og-DP_kaAg.
Speaking of piano, rocker Leon Russell’s an American treasure, a former studio cat who recorded with Joe Cocker and Bob Dylan scored his own ‘70s hits with “A Song for You” and “Tightrope.” He’s also a striking figure with his long white hair and beard -- and no, he was never in ZZ Top. But the singer/pianist sadly fell under the radar until Elton John drafted him for their great 2010 duet album The Union and tour. Russell’s still getting out on the road http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g_iWISawhyI and you’ll find him at the Wilbur Theatre Sunday, where he’s supporting the latest incarnation of Little Feat, which retains an old core in guitarist Paul Barrere, bassist Kenny Gradney, percussionist Sam Clayton and co-founding keyboardist Bill Payne: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b8X-qpwiXJg. And for a more quirky underground sensation, Sunday finds Chicago’s alt-country pioneers Freakwater reunited at Johnny D’s, where longtime friends Catherine Irwin and Janet Beveridge Bean engage in rustic, reverent harmonies on a rare tour: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B9O3tNWXQpY.
The Play Pen
Slack Lines III, Playoffs, Round One
Betting advice by morons, for morons
Current Slack Lines standings:
The Improper’s Nick Altschuller: 42-25-1
Parlor Sports/Trina’s Beau Sturm: 39-27-2
Matt “The Minotaur” Roberts: 35-32-1
Silvertone’s Cedric Adams: 31-35-2
Rory “The Merman” Duyon: 31-35-2
Green St. Grill’s Greg Reeves: 31-36-1
It’s been an exciting regular season here at Slack Lines. We’ve had our glorious ascensions (me!), our disastrous free-falls (Rory, 7-19-2 in his last seven weeks), and we’ve watched our self-titled Ambassador of College Football (Beau) go 0-14 (approximately) picking games in his area of expertise, making Beau the John R. Bolton of gambling.*
*Jan. 4, 2013. Nick makes his first political joke. He thoroughly Purells his hands and unknowingly sprouts three gray hairs.
With it now being playoff time, it’s time to separate the wheat from the chaff, the men from the boys, the Alec from the other Baldwin brothers. And so we say farewell to Greg and Rory. Greg had some hot streaks, but he could never get it going consistently. To see him in his element, please eat at Green St. Grill. Also, please flip your table, shout the profanity of your choice about the Giants, salsa, and run out into the street. Caution: You may be stabbed.
As you see above, Rory and Cedric ended the season tied, but broke that deadlock with a bet on the Orange Bowl. (Rory, apparently, had faith in NIU’s vaunted “fetal position” defense.) He remains the greatest sports statistics mind I know. After his losing streak, he also remains in hiding. If you see Rory, tell him Eddie “Knee Caps” would like a word.
All together, the Slack Lines team ended the regular season 209-190-9 for a winning percentage of 51.2 percent. What is that? Proficiently mediocre? Competently unexceptional? It’s a percentage that wins money but impresses NO ONE, which in the end is probably the best we could have hoped for.
Of course, the playoffs are a different game. There’s more on the line; we’re making more picks, and eventually we’ll have a winner. The most forgettable, lackluster champion ever to be met with complete indifference by an entire sporting public. What a day that shall be.
On to the picks!
Nick on: Cincinnati @ Houston (-4.5)
These two teams met in the first round last year, and conventional wisdom says that since the Texans neutered the Bengals 31-10 in that game with third-stringer T.J. Yates behind center, they should whip Cincinnati thoroughly with two-time All-Pro Matt Schaub at QB. But conventional wisdom doesn’t say anything about the spread. (T.J. Yates, however, would like everyone to know he’s totally cool with starting, if you guys want.)
The Texans defense gets a lot of pub—especially J.J. Watt, who got the full Grudenization treatment on Monday Night Football and is now unavoidable—but the Bengals D has been great. Over their last eight weeks, they’re allowing just 12.75 points per game. Over the second half, no team scored more than 20 against them. As a result, they won seven times and went 7-1 against the spread.
Of course, they are the Bengals, and I have no faith in Marvin Lewis. The guy kind of creeps me out, to be honest. He seems like the type to hold eye contact waaay longer than is socially acceptable. AJ Green scares me in a different way, in that he’s just a monster WR. I see him grabbing a couple scores this weekend. Nick’s Pick: Bengals, Under 43.5
Packers (-7.5), Over 46 Rodgers throws a few TDs; Ponder throws at least one going in the opposite direction.
Colts (+7), Over 47 The annual first-round game I don’t care about missing. A Ray Lewis, Andrew Luck, Chuck Pagano love fest brought to you by Jim Nantz and Phil Simms? No thanks.
Seahawks (-3), Under 45.5 With the Knicks doing well, I’m already dealing with a self-satisfied James Dolan. I can’t handle a smug Daniel Snyder on top of that.
Beau on: Minnesota @ Green Bay (-7.5)
In the spirit of the New Year, I have made my first resolution in all of my 38 years: Stop betting on college football. How on earth did Louisville destroy the no. 3 team and SEC juggernaut, Florida?
Anyway, it’s playoff time for both the NFL and the Slackliners, and in the words of Pete Carroll, I’m “pumped and jacked!” This might be the best first round I can remember. Plus, the comeback kid, Cedric Adams, came from nowhere to get into the Slack Lines playoffs.
In Week 17, the Vikings narrowly beat the Packers in Minnesota behind 199 yards and two TDs from Adrian Peterson and a solid performance from Christian Ponder. But here’s the thing—Randall Cobb was injured, and Jordy Nelson was out for virtually the entire second half, and Aaron Rodgers still put up 365 yards and four TDs and only lost by three.
So what do I think? Minnesota sucks in Lambeau. Ponder is a born choker, and Charles Woodson is back after being out the last nine games, so say goodbye to any passing attack that the Vikings might have had. Rodgers is the opposite of a choker, and even if Green Bay’s screen-door defense lets AP go off again, the Pack will simply outscore a Vikings team that cannot win a shootout on the road in the frigid air of Lambeau. Beau’s Pick: Packers, Over 46
Slightly Uncertain Locks of the Week:
Texans (-4.5), Over 43.5 I can’t bet on ginger QBs or any AFC North team not in Pittsburgh.
Colts (+7), Under 47 BTW, I can’t wait for a Ray Lewis-free NFL.
Redskins (+3), Under 45.5 Seattle is a far different team on the road.
Matt on: Indianapolis @ Baltimore (-7)
It’s an honor and a privilege to be able write up the last game of Ray Lewis' career. Make no mistake: This line is outlandish. Since we’ll be picking the over/under this week in addition to point spreads, I will be parlaying both picks for each game together, via my illegal Latvian internet bookie. HOWEVAH, I feel so strongly about this game that I'll be parlaying the Indy money line (gasp!) and the OVER for a payday the likes of which haven't been seen in this town since those nuns robbed that Laundromat/bank in the North End.
Ray announcing his retirement this week is a specific ploy to counteract the emotional wave the Colts have been riding with the return of Chuck Pagano. This don't sit well with me. A motivational tactic has to be more naturally occurring to be effective, and I feel the timing of this is contrived. I'm not sure how Ray retiring will pump up his team anymore than his typical fire-on-the-mount pre-game speech. He already has them boys running around like a pack of rabid javelinas. And the Lord said you got to rise up-ah!
No sir. The storyline of this game will be "Joe Flacco pisses on Ray Lewis' testimonial." Flacco will absolutely spit the bit in this game, because that’s what Joe Flacco does.
The one uber-nerd stat that I actually feel is extremely valuable in rating teams and predicting future performance is DVOA—defense-adjusted value over average—brought to us by the incredibly talented stat geeks at Football Outsiders. If you’re still awake, I won't bore you any further by breaking this stat down, except to say that Indy is BY FAR the worst 11-5 team in NFL history. I value this stat greatly, but am choosing to ignore it, instead going with the Pagano + Flacco / Lewis2 theorem, which is heavily weighted towards Flaccoism. In layman's terms, the Flacco narrative will be the driving force, and it won't be a positive story. Matt's Pick: Colts, Over 47
Stone Cold Locks:
(In the last 110 playoff games, the over has come up 55 times and the under 55 times. Since there’s no pattern, I will be picking the OVER for all four playoff games.)
Bengals (+4.5), Over 43.5 Whudey will win this one outright, never mind cover. "Celebrity" Texans fans Bun B and Jenny Johnson weep, making Bun a less than trill OG.
Packers (-7.5), Over 46 I can't see the Packers gift wrapping another one for the Vikings, but All Day could certainly throw a monkey wrench into the cover.
Seahawks (-3), Over 45.5 Seattle has the highest DVOA and weighted DVOA in the NFL this year. Great matchup for them versus a banged-up Bobby Griffin.
Cedric on: Seattle @ Washington (+3)
The best game this weekend! “Old School” Mike Shanahan versus “Rah Rah” Pete Carroll. Banged up RG III versus Russell Wilson. Marshawn “1590” Lynch versus Alfred “1613” Morris.
The Seahawks oversized and aggressive secondary has the best man-to-man coverage in the NFL, allowing their linebackers to focus solely on limiting the Washington running attack. Expect Seattle to pound Washington’s defense on the edge, leading to a win in the time-of-possession battle. In an epic battle between rookie quarterbacks, victory goes to the sixth-round pick. Cedric’s Pick: Seahawks, Over 45.5
Vikings (+7.5), Over 46 Green Bay wins but doesn’t cover.
Bengals (+4.5), Under 43.5 Cincinnati wins outright.
Colts (+7), Under 47 Mr. Lewis lives to play again, but Luck covers the spread.
Until next week.
Email Nick at email@example.com
Follow the Slack Lines team on Twitter: @altschuller, @beausturm, @CedricAdams, @KidRob21 and @roryduyon
The new year starts slow on the concert front, but Friday still offers two fine singer/songwriters with local ties. Rockport native and Berklee alumna Paula Cole quickly moved to large halls in the mid-90s behind hits like “I Don’t Want to Wait” (featured on the teen TV series Dawson’s Creek) and “Where Have All The Cowboys Gone?” plus a tour as Peter Gabriel’s onstage foil. Her recent resurgence has been more modest, but it’s still a rare opportunity to catch Cole in a space as intimate as Club Passim, where she’ll open the weekend with two shows. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_PVAkM-9PZM. And country-folk upstart Amy Black returns to Johnny D’s Uptown the same night to record a live album. She’ll have her band with guitarists Jim Scoppa and Russell Chudnofsky as well as drummer Lorne Entress, who produced the Alabama-bred, Boston-based singer’s last album, One Time, which showcases her Southern-flavored style: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2DDUTSTpB80.
The Play Pen
Slack Lines III, Week 17
Betting advice by morons, for morons
Current Slack Lines standings:
The Improper’s Nick Altschuller: 41-22-1
Parlor Sports/Trina’s Beau Sturm: 37-25-2
Matt “Father Time” Roberts: 33-30-1
Silvertone’s Cedric Adams: 31-31-2
Rory “Baby New Year” Duyon: 30-32-2
Green St. Grill’s Greg Reeves: 29-34-1
It’s the final week of the regular season, and there’s a lot on the line. Yes, NFL teams are playing for a chance at history, but more (really much, much less) importantly, four Slackliners are fighting for the final two postseason berths and a chance to win whatever gift cards I can scrounge from our accounting department. Do you want 25 percent off your next purchase at Wigs ’n’ Stuff or not, Duyon? Let’s see some hustle.
Because he is kind, and was bored at work, Matt calculated the magic numbers. Unsurprisingly, a lot hinges on the prognostication of Rory, whose record has taken an absolute nosedive. Here’s a man who looked like he was a postseason lock in Week 12. Here in Week 17, he’s gone full Cutler.
For Matt, the magic number is 2, of either wins or Rory losses. Cedric’s number is 4, again of wins or Rory losses. For Rory himself, wins or Cedric losses totaling 5 be a push. (The tiebreaker would involve some kind of American Gladiators-style contest. Personally, I’m partial to Assault.) A magic number of 6 would clinch Rory a spot. Finally, according to Matt’s calculations, Greg is “f***ed.”
On to the picks!
Cedric on: Baltimore @ Cincinnati (-3)
What have we learned about beating the spread? Absolutely nothing in the past 16 weeks, but we can’t quit now.
Both teams are guaranteed playoff spots, but this game is all about developing momentum without sacrificing health (expect the Ravens to rest Ray Lewis ’til the postseason begins). The chess match will come down to the Bengals shaky running game versus the Ravens defense, leading to Baltimore’s front four dominating the game when Dalton has to throw the ball. Flacco believes he’s an elite quarterback, and this Sunday he will be—for one day. Cedric’s Pick: Ravens, 31-17
Packers (-3) Peterson gets the record. Packers get the victory.
Seahawks (-11) The best defense in the NFL continues its run to the playoffs.
Saints (-5) Brees is still elite.
Nick on: Green Bay @ Minnesota (+3)
The Vikings win and they’re in. Their cyborg running back, Adrian Peterson, needs 102 yards for 2,000 and 208 to break Eric Dickerson’s 28-year-old record. They seemingly have more on the line than the Packers, and they’ll come out with everything they’ve got.
However, while the Packers are guaranteed a playoff spot, they can earn a bye with a win. And if they lose, their opponent in the first-round would most likely be: the Minnesota Vikings.
You never want to face the same team three times. They know your tricks, your schemes, your weaknesses, your preference in wine. If the Packers start holding back, playing rope-a-dope with a lesser opponent, they could quickly find themselves changing from the league’s hottest team to a squad back on its heels. All of a sudden it’s the playoffs, and their battling a Vikings team that knows when Randall Cobb is going to reverse it, how Clay Mathews like to rush the quarterback, and the night before, a bottle of Barbera is being sent to Aaron Rodgers’ hotel room instead of the Bordeaux he SPECIFICALLY asked for. Pre-game routine = ruined. Nick’s Pick: Packers
I’m a Lock-It Man:
Chiefs (+16) How many points do you really need to be up on Kansas City before the game is over? What with his Frankenstein neck, I’m sure Peyton is pulled from the game as soon as Brady Quinn touches the ball.
Cardinals (+16.5) The 49ers haven’t been favored by this much since 1998. Impressive. The Cardinals haven’t been given this many points in 34 years! Not even the 1991 team, led by QB Tom Tupa—who spent the other 15 years of his career solely as a punter—was ever this big of an underdog.
Jets (+3.5) I’d love this team to end the year with a blowout win, just to make their offseason that much more difficult.
Rory on: Philadelphia @ NY Giants (-7.5)
I understand that clichés are a big part of sports. Listen to any interview, and you’re bound to hear both the broadcaster and the player/coach/front office manager use them. My favorite QB, Tom Brady, is no stranger to such sayings as “we need to execute better,” and “this was a team win.” But I’ve never heard such a nauseating exchange of useless clichés, softball questions and generic answers as the one I just heard between Eli Manning and the insufferable Mike Francesa.
The following is paraphrased:
“So Eli, it’s going to take a win and a bit of help on Sunday to make the playoffs. What was your message to the team this week?”
“Well, we can’t give up. Stranger things have happened, and we need to focus on beating the Eagles.”
“In addition to a Giants win, you need losses by the Cowboys, Vikings and Bears. Is it going to be hard on Sunday not to be thinking about those games while you’re on the field?”
(A version of this question has been asked 7.2 million times, and broadcasters are still trying to find a player dumb enough not to say the following:)
“No, we’ve just got to focus on the task at hand, and that’s beating the Eagles. It’s a divisional game, and they always bring it, so we’ve got to play our very best. Then we’ll have to watch and hope for the best.”
“Obviously, you guys are the defending champs, but you’re 2-5 in your last seven games. Has your confidence wavered since coming into the season off the Super Bowl win?”
“No, we still feel good. It’s just a matter of making the plays we know we can make.”
“Eli, how do you feel about the fiscal cliff?”
“I’m rich, Mike. I don’t give a sh*t.”
Ok, I made up the last one, but what does this all mean for the Giants chances to cover a 7.5 point spread? Who the hell knows? Look at my record over the past month and a half, and you should know that betting against me is easy money.
I do have a feeling that Michael Vick is going to leave it all out on the field in an effort to show GMs everywhere that he’s still got something in the tank. It’s a divisional game, and the Eagles would love to be the team to keep Big Blue out of the postseason. Giants fans, you’re welcome—I’m taking the points. Rory’s Pick: Eagles
Matt on: Chicago @ Detroit (+3)
I asked my friend Brian Larsen, a Ypsilanti native and lifelong Lions fan, to contribute his opinion on the team:
“The tragedy that is the Lions, and their truly hopeless fans (self included), has been bemoaned since their beginning. For perspective, the Cleveland Browns have been closer to glory in the NFL than the Lions, who have won once in 11 playoff games since the beginning of the NFL. Enough said.
The best Lions coach? ‘Cocaine’ Wayne Fontes. Best Lions quarterback? Erik Kramer. Even Barry Sanders, arguably the most physically talented running back ever, ran his fastest on his way out of town instead of facing the suck that is the Lions. He never looked back. Megatron will eventually do the same. Who could blame him? It’s not that they’re loveable losers or plagued by a curse, they just stink, every year, always, period.
The only saving grace is that we can count on ineptitude and disappointment, like the sun rising in the morning. To that end, we know that the Lie-downs are going to ﬁnd, if nothing else, a unique way to lose almost every week. If they win, it always feels like a miracle. So, like those fantasy football seasons where you can’t crack the playoffs, we start talking draft in Week 10, needlessly laboring over the minutiae that will make up next year’s version of our terrible team. We’re never waiting for the turnaround season, because, like Santa Claus, eventually you have enough experience to know it doesn’t exist. Never has, never will.”
Well done, sir. Matt’s Pick: Bears
Locks of the Week:
Cardinals (+16.5) Up 14 points, the 49ers will take a knee to end the game inside the Arizona 10-yard line, causing degenerates everywhere to tear their hair out.
Colts (+7) Chuck Pagano back, plus Matt Schaub puking on his shoes, equals an Indy win.
Packers (-3) No way Green Bay falls for the same script that Houston did last week.
Greg on: Miami @ New England (-10)
First and foremost, I’d like to thank Rowdy Roddy White, Calvin Johnson, AJ Green, Alfred Morris and, my personal MVP, Marshawn Lynch for helping me win in fantasy football this year. Would it be crazy for me to name my first-born Marshawn Reeves? I think it has a nice ring. I wish I were as successful in picking winners in Slack Lines. Since this is the last week, and I need to rally, I’m going to use a new. I’m going to give reasons why I think my picks will cover and then pick the opposite.
[Editor’s note: Ah, the Costanza method. A dangerous technique employed only by the truly desperate.]
When this game starts, New England will know how significant this it’ll be for their playoff position. Brady is playing at a MVP level, and he might be adding the NFL’s top tight end to his arsenal. That doesn’t bode well for the Dolphins. Philbin will also have a tough task in keeping his team focused and motivated, because they have nothing to play for. I don’t see the Patriots starting off as slow as they did against the Jaguars, so I would pick the Pats in most weeks. Greg’s Pick: Dolphins
Being a Giants fan I need the Packers to beat the Vikings. Aaron Rogers really likes to throw TDs, and he’s really good at it. Rodgers, like Brady, is getting his weapons back from injury. Vikings (+3)
Chicago versus Detroit is another game that will affect my team’s chances. The Bears are desperate, and Lovie Smith’s job could be on the line, so they’ll be motivated. While I think Cutler is a punk, he’s really good at getting the ball to Brandon Marshall. Detroit is an undisciplined team with a bunch of thugs, except for my homeboy Megatron. Lions (+3)
The GMen really need to win their game against the Eagles. Vick is playing, and he likes to make the Giants look bad. Look for New York to get out of the gate strong, take a big lead, and then flush it down the toilet. Eagles (+7.5)
Beau on: Dallas @ Washington (-3)
Week 17 is a mixed bag. Playoff teams rest their starters; non-playoff teams fight for pride (see: the Pittsburgh Steelers), and bad teams just want to get this week over with. However, there’re always a few contest that are de facto playoff games. For the Redskins and the Cowboys, it all comes down to this. The winner claims the division championship. Also, for a select few Slackliners, this week also has playoff implications (ask Matt, it’s too complicated for me).
So lets get right to it:
1. Washington leads the NFL in rushing. Dallas is ranked 31st. DeMarco Murray should help the Cowboys, who ran for a measly 65 yards in their last meeting with the Skins.
2. Tony Romo chokes (see: every big game he’s ever been in), and Bobby Griffin doesn’t, or at least hasn’t yet. Dallas was in the exact same spot last year but against the Super Bowl Champs. I said Super Bowl Champs, so obviously that didn’t work out so good for Romo’s Lone Stars. Romo and Dallas also faced the same scenario in ’08. Again, Dallas went home without a division title. And dare I mention the fumbled field goal hold?
3. Dez Bryant is playing like the guy everyone expected him to be a couple years ago, and he’s been doing it the past couple of weeks with a broken finger.
4. Washington’s defense, though ranked in the middle of the NFL, has improved remarkably toward the end of the season, mostly because of nose tackle Barry Cofield and London Fletcher. They still can’t cover #88, but they’ll pressure Romo, and we know what happens to good ol’ Tony when there’s pressure (see: point #2).
5. DeMarcus Ware is hurt, therefore Dallas’ D, which was never any good this season, is now worse. They lost tackling machine Sean Lee early in the season, significantly reducing their ability to stop the run. Morris Claiborne is one of the best young DBs in the game. He will negate whatever mediocre WR Washington lines up opposite him.
6. Mike Shanahan vs. Jason Garret. Come on. Beau’s Pick: Redskins
Packers (-3) prove a point in Minnesota.
Colts (+7) cover at home.
Steelers (off) get to a paltry 8-8.
WVU (-3.5) wins big over their old rival Syracuse.
Email Nick at firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow the Slack Lines team on Twitter: @altschuller, @beausturm, @CedricAdams, @KidRob21 and @roryduyon
The nights leading into New Year’s Eve often prove as potent as the big event itself, particularly when there’s a weekend involved. Jam-band fans who aren’t flocking to New York City for Phish’s vaulted annual four-night run at Madison Square Garden should consider catching the likewise-combustible quintet moe., stretching its wings at the Palladium in Worcester both Friday and Saturday: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TRIX8nwaNn0. On a different front, fresh off tour with Joe Jackson’s big band, violin virtuoso Regina Carter glides into Scullers Jazz Club both Friday and Saturday in support of her latest project Reverse Thread, which explores African folk music: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BF4ifBXx-Z8. Also on Friday, the Devil Makes Three gives folk music a fresh edge along with Brown Bird at the Paradise Rock Club: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5eU9j7es-HA.
Then there’s ska, the uptempo precursor to reggae that gets highly represented by two veteran Boston outfits this weekend. On Friday, there’s the esteemed yet underrated Bim Skala Bim, back for its semi-annual Middle East Downstairs raveup: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G25cWfjc3jU. And once-national breakout heroes the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, fronted by the rascally barker Dicky Barrett, convene their traditional Hometown Throwdown at the House of Blues on Saturday through New Year’s Eve: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YqvD0UxNqAk.
Sunday adds other spirited options. The Hold Steady (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ndaqay-a2aI) rocks the populist trenches behind the savvy wordplay of frontman Craig Finn on a double bill with the rootsier Lucero at Royale (rescheduled from Revere's Wonderland Ballroom). And guitarist Eric Krasno fuels the funky organ trio Soulive in their first of two nights at the Paradise (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i1NjifNpbdw), setting up a heavier than usual New Year’s Eve that also includes Soulive kindred spirit John Scofield bringing his electronics-laced Uberjam group to Berklee and the Magnetic Fields at Symphony Hall (both part of First Night) and My Morning Jacket at the Agganis Arena. But that's looking ahead: first let’s get through the weekend.
The Play Pen
Slack Lines III, Week 16
Betting advice by morons, for morons
Current Slack Lines standings:
The Improper’s Nick Altschuller: 38-21-1
Parlor Sports'/Trina’s Beau Sturm: 34-24-2
Matt “Power Wheels” Roberts: 30-29-1
Rory “Itchy Sweater” Duyon: 29-29-2
Silvertone’s Cedric Adams: 29-30-1
Green St. Grill’s Greg Reeves: 29-30-1
Hey, everyone. Happy holidays—all of ’em. Columbus Day came and went, and I didn’t say anything. If I don’t see you, have a great Boxing Day, too.
Who else isn’t done with their shopping? I’ve bought all of two gifts so far. I’m really pushing the limit. Merry Christmas, grandma. I hope you like semi-used lip balm wrapped in tinfoil, because I totally forgot you were coming over this year.
Yes, it can be a stressful time. Good thing I am CHILLIN’ at the top of the standings. Only four guys make the playoffs, and it’s going to be a battle for the final two spots. Come on, fellas. A chance to keep writing for no money or adulation. WHO WANTS IT MORE?!
I’m off to Logan now. The weather is terrible here, and I’m flying to O’Hare. Getting in or out of O’Hare without a delay is like hitting all green lights on your drive home—for an entire calendar year. Plus, it’s snowing in Chicago. I should arrive by Christmas 2014.
On to the picks!
Beau on: Cincinnati @ Pittsburgh (-4)
The season is winding down, and I’d be remiss in not pointing out that our editor has been in first place for virtually the entire season. It would also be misleading not to point out that I’ve been in second place for almost as long. Here’s the thing, though: I know more about football than Nick, however, he’s playing chess while I’m a checkers player. He knows that my incredible NFL analytical skills and vast knowledge of the subtle intricacies of the game are only usurped by my blind fandom. Therefore, he’s stacked the deck in his favor in a brilliant yet subtle manner only fitting of a calculating sociopath.
[Editor’s note: Agreed on all counts, except I’m more of a whimsical sociopath.]
Yet another example is this week’s handpicked selection for ol’ Beau: My beloved Steelers, with their backs against the wall, versus their division rival vying for the same playoff spot. The Evil Editor has my number. He knows how much this game means to me. He knows that I’ll be blinded by my love for the Steel City. He’s banking on the premise that I’ll rant about their ginger-headed QB and their history of convicts and do-nothing divas. He probably already knows that I’ll poke fun at Andre Smith, the ridiculous 2009 #1 draft bust by the Bungholes.
[Editor’s note: Sir, you are reading me like a handsome book.]
However, I’m not gonna fall for the bait. I’m aware that the Steelers have only one starting offensive lineman remaining from the first week of the season. I heard Big Ben oafishly complaining about the offensive pace Todd Haley set in last week’s loss to the Cowboys. I know that Ike Taylor is out; therefore, there’s no hope of defending A.J. Green in man coverage. I’ve seen that Troy Polamalu looks as though his rehab consisted primarily of Miller High Life and pulled pork. The “law firm” BenJarvis Green-Ellis has finally discovered how to run the football. I know what your trying to do, Nick. I smell it… Beau’s Pick: The Stilers, 35-24. Woo hoo! Yeah! I love you guys! Road to the Super Bowl, man! Woo!
F*$k it, the world’s not ending, so:
Ravens (+2.5) at home versus the Giants
Packers (-12.5) They’ll win by two touchdowns over the Titans
Saints (+3) New Orleans marches through Dallas
Nick on: New England @ Jacksonville (+14.5)
I picked Justin Blackmon toward the end of my keeper-league draft. The level of self-congratulation that I reached was shocking and completely unwarranted.
“With the 94th pick, I select, oh, I don’t know, OUR LORD AND SAVIOUR, JESUS CHRIST!”
“Have fun eating my dust in perpetuity, suckers!”
Yeah, that didn’t work out as planned.
This spread is gigantic, but Jacksonville is giving up more than 27 points per game. Last week, the Pats put up 24 points in one quarter. The guys on the Jags have nothing to play for—except for your roster spot, Blackmon! Nick’s Pick: Patriots
Johan Sebastian Locks:
Bears (-5.5) My girlfriend has nine (!) uncles who are all Bears fans, and who have all threatened my life at one point. That Jay Cutler sure…seems like…a winner? Oh, this going to be horrible.
Saints (+3) If Drew Brees is going down, he’s taking Romo down with him.
49ers @ Seahawks (Over 39) San Francisco put up 41 last week. Seattle has scored 108 (!) in their last two.
Greg on: NY Giants @ Baltimore (+2.5)
A matchup of two teams trending downward. The question is: Who’s going to play worse?
The Giants seem to play better when their backs are against the wall, but they’re extremely inconsistent, and their pass rush has sucked this year. The biggest variable of this game will be injuries. The Ravens LBs keep getting hurt, and the GMen get Prince Amukamara and Kenny Phillips back, so that might give New York the edge.
When it comes down to it, Ray Rice is nasty, but Joe Flacco is a punk. The Murder is coming back for Baltimore, but there isn’t enough on the Ravens defense to make the big plays they need. Greg’s Homer Pick: GMen
Browns (-13) Points are precious in the league. Pat Shurmur has this team playing hard. The Broncos will win but not cover.
Bills (+4.5) Miami played way better than expected this year, but they’re not that much better than the Bills. CJ Spiller is a TD waiting to happen.
Bucs (-3) Greg Schiano has done a good job with this team. The Rams give the 49ers a tough time, but that’s the only team they’re tough with.
Rory on: Chicago @ Arizona (+5.5)
Five hours, 23 minutes and 21 seconds. That’s how much game time has passed since a Cardinals quarterback has thrown a touchdown. During that time, they’ve thrown 10 interceptions.
Tom Brady has 13 touchdowns and just three picks in his last 21-and-a-half quarters. In that same span, Brady has racked up 1,719 yards. Lindley and Skelton? 724 yards. You get the picture: It’s not pretty in the desert.
As bad as the Cardinals are, it’s worth pointing out that the Bears have scored 17 or fewer points three games in a row as their December dive is well underway for a second year. They’ve lost five of six after losing five of their final six in 2011 and falling out of the playoff race.
So what do you do when you get a terrible team coming off a fluke win getting 5.5 points at home against a good team that’s playing like garbage?
Believe it or not, having gone 5-13-2 in the last five weeks, I can relate to a couple of teams that don’t have a clue on how to right the ship. So which struggling team am I? The Bears or the Cardinals? According to this website, I’m the Bears. Rory’s Pick: Cardinals
Falcons (-3.5) Only because I'm going against Matt Ryan in my fantasy championship, and I just don't feel good about it.
Browns (+13) Too many points!
Patriots (-14.5) Not enough points!
Matt on: San Francisco @ Seattle (+1)
When can people stop saying Russell Wilson is a “great kid” and a “natural leader” and just start calling him a damn good quarterback? Wilson doesn’t ﬁt the mainstream media’s idea of a prototypical QB, so they search for obscure explanations for his performance. Sure his intangibles are highly rated, and they’re necessary to his success. But his tangibles are also highly rated, i.e. his ability to matriculate the offense down the ﬁeld. Moving the chains, as it were.
This game is hands down the marquee matchup of the weekend, and promises to be, in the words of John Madden, a real slobberknocker. Both teams are primarily based around power rushing, opportunistic big plays in the passing game and stout defense. While San Fran has a two-game lead in the division, the Seahawks are one of only two teams in the NFL undefeated at home. I can’t say I know why, but Seattle plays in one of the very few stadiums that actually has a bona ﬁde home-ﬁeld advantage. This, combined with a short week for the 49ers, essentially makes this game a pick ’em.
Without a fantasy team left in play, I will be wagering heavily on this one. I will also be wagering heavily on the fantasy semiﬁnals in one of my other leagues, against a guy who’s also not managing one of the teams participating. In addition to all the picks you see below, there’s my college hoops pool, futures gambling and day trading. It’s going to be a very merry (or horrifying) holidays at the Roberts home. Matt’s pick: Seahawks
Lock and Awe:
Falcons (-3.5) I tried to make the Lions my second team, but even being a casual fan brought up the deep-seated memories of the Rod Rust-era Patriots.
Redskins (-6.5) Cousins, Bobby Grifﬁn, doesn’t matter. Philly has no haahht.
Dallas (-3) No way the Saints repeat the performance of last week. In other news, I hope Josh Freeman gets the ﬂu really, really bad and pays for what he did to me.
BONUS: Ball State (+7) over Central Florida. The power of Whitlock compels you.
Cedric on: San Diego vs. NY Jets (-2.5)
The quarterback controversy that’s been brewing all year has become a general manager problem. Rex Ryan has named third-stringer Greg McElroy the starting quarterback over second-teamer Tim Tebow, which relegates “Butt Fumble” Sanchez to the scout team.
I may laugh at the Jets offense, but their defense is still viable and the reason they’re giving points. Vegas is pretty much telling Norv Turner his head coaching skills are nil, and his career is ending in San Diego. Cedric’s Pick: Jets
Colts (-7) This game is over by halftime. KC started waving the white flag weeks ago.
Falcons (-3.5) Disappointment continues in the Motor City, and this Packers fan couldn’t be happier.
Redskins (-6.5) Washington has made me a believer.
Email Nick at email@example.com
Follow the Slack Lines team on Twitter: @altschuller, @beausturm, @CedricAdams, @KidRob21 and @roryduyon
Local artists run wild the weekend before Christmas. Johnny D’s Uptown buzzes across the spectrum Friday, starting with a 7:30 show by the Either/Orchestra, shifting from their usual Ethiopian grooves to honor the work of Danish free-jazz saxman John Tchicai, a former collaborator who died this fall at age 76. Here’s a recent snatch of the Either/Orchestra: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9nC_NhUa_hQ. After 9:30, Johnny D’s will then rock with booker Randi Millman’s free holiday/birthday bash, featuring short sets by Marc Pinansky, Jenny Dee, John Powhida, the Dirty Truckers, Tsunami of Sound and others.
Two distinctly different multi-night stands are also on tap. Homegrown punk band the Street Dogs (featuring onetime Dropkick Murphys frontman Mike McColgan) hold court with friends at the Paradise Rock Club both Friday and Saturday: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FqP584EeJ4o. And country-folk songstress Lori McKenna stays close to her Stoughton housewife roots with her annual sold-out holiday stand at Club Passim, performing Friday with Mark Erelli, Jake Armerding and Zack Hickman in a covers show, Saturday with her band, and Sunday solo http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zXwe9iqDUyg.
It was prescient that singer Casey Desmond performed Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” on the first season of NBC’s “The Voice.” She’s taken her theatrical electro-pop fixation to heart on her new album Déjà Vu, and graces two bills this weekend. Prone to sporting day-glo body paint onstage, Desmond rounds out a Saturday all-ages show at the Brighton Music Hall with stylistic bedfellows Stereo Telescope and rising electro-pop headliner Young London: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OD1-km0dCg0. Then she heads to Arlington on Sunday for the Regent Theatre’s fourth annual Rock ‘n’ Soul Holiday Concert (to benefit Toys for Tots and the Music Drives Us education charity), joining a broader cast that includes recent Improper covergirl Shea Rose, the Cars’ Greg Hawkes (on ukulele), J. Geils Band bassist Danny Klein’s Full House, Jon Butcher, Charlie Farren, John Powhida, Brian Templeton and the incomparable Barrence Whitfield: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nHWAecbRAdM.
So you can go for all that local action or get grandiose with the Trans-Siberian Orchestra at two Sunday shows at the TD Garden. Forget Christmas Eve, the clock’s ready to burn for the Mayan apocalypse: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=omCaw_HtD2o.
To battle the dreary weather before the holidays, add a little pop to your life—Boston Pops, that is.
One of the Hub's favorite traditions, the Boston Pops orchestra dates back to 1895. Under the direction of Keith Lockhart since 1995, the Pops play their annual holiday show through Christmas Eve. The concert combines classic seasonal favorites and sing-alongs with dance, decoration and a little jolly ho-ho-ho for this family-friendly event. Santa’s been known to make appearances too—so be on your best behavior.
The Boston Pops orchestra holiday show plays now through Dec. 24, $29–$129, at Symphony Hall, 301 Mass. Ave., Boston (888-266-1200) bso.org
The Play Pen
Slack Lines III, Week 15
Betting advice by morons, for morons
Current Slack Lines standings:
The Improper’s Nick Altschuller: 35-20-1
Parlor Sports/Trina’s Beau Sturm: 32-22-2
Rory “Morning” Duyon: 29-25-2
Matt “Nightingale” Roberts: 29-26-1
Silvertone’s Cedric Adams: 27-28-1
Green St. Grill’s Greg Reeves: 26-29-1
Not a great week for the Slack Liners, as only one of us had a winning record. Cedric went 3-0-1 on the strength of his latest wagering commandment: Bet with the better defense. So far, it’s working, but I promise that if Cedric starts going full Simmons on us, with 74 part gambling manifestos complete with footnotes, I promise to have him running numbers on dog-sledding competitions in Manitoba by January. This is a Shawshank free zone, Adams! Consider yourself warned.
Also, Roberts and I lost our rec league basketball championship in triple overtime. It was tough, especially since I had to watch from the sidelines, as my humerus is still not on speaking terms with my shoulder socket. On the plus side, I did get to watch Roberts invent a new form of low-post defense. Wary of picking up a fourth foul, Matt kept his hands free and battled for position with his noggin. I dub this technique “The Stampy.” Did it work? Not in the least. Did witnessing it ease the pain of defeat? Absolutely.
On to the picks!
Cedric on: Green Bay @ Chicago (+3)
The Packers and the Bears are heading in opposite directions as the season ends. The Bears defense has been devastated by the injury to Brian Urlacher, and their Cutler-led offense continues to be pathetic, averaging just 16.5 points over the last four weeks. The only bright spot has been Brandon Marshall, who’s leading the NFL in receptions.
The Packers defense is getting healthy with the return of Clay Mathews, and Aaron Rodgers will get Jordy Nelson back to add to his arsenal of weapons. I see the Pack doubling up the Bears, 28-14. Cedric’s Pick: Packers
Lions (-6.5) The Cardinals raised the white flag last week. They’re done for the year.
Seahawks (-5.5) Russell Wilson is for real, and Pete Carroll can coach!
Colts (+9) Luck isn’t lucky, and Houston isn’t 10 points better than Indy.
Beau on: NY Giants @ Atlanta (-1.5)
Mattie Ice. Ice Cube. Ice T. Vanilla Ice. BOOM! You just got Iced! The nickname is dope! Look at who and what has carried the “ice” moniker: a triple threat (gang member, underappreciated comedic straight man and rapper), a Law & Order alum and husband of a reality TV star, perhaps the most underrated entertainer of all time aaand a delicious malt beverage that’s the cornerstone of frat/restaurant practical jokes.
It’s all about the ice.
So how about Eli Manning getting an awesome nickname? I mean, he’s elite now. He’s won two championships. He’s a Super Bowl MVP for Christ’s sake! How ’bout “Clutch” Manning? How ’bout “Cool Hand” Manning? Or “The MANning”?
Think about it.
[Editor’s note: That was horrifying. I’m nauseated. I mean, how could you mention Ice T and not talk about Surviving the Game?]
The Falcons and the Giants are perfectly matched. Both defenses are bad. Both can’t (or chose not to) run the ball. And both have great quarterbacks.
So why are the Falcons, who are 6-0 at home, still just a 1.5-point favorite? New York is coming off a huge win over New Orleans—but the Saints are pretty soft this year. And Atlanta isn’t playing their best football—they’re coming off an ugly loss to Carolina and “Scam” Newton (see, even he has a nickname). But I’m not jumping off the Falcons train yet. They need this game in front of the home crowd to get back on the Super Bowl track. Plus, Matt Ryan has a cool nickname; Eli Manning doesn’t. Beau’s Pick: the Atlanta Ices
“Thank God These aren’t Jake” Lock-ers:
Broncos (-2.5) The Ravens suck. In every way they suck. Go Pappa Joh—ahem—Peyton Manning.
Colts (+9) It’s a lot of points. Plus it’s a short week for a Texans team coming off a tough loss.
Lions (-6.5) The Cardinals aren’t playing good football. At all. Not even a little. Detroit will cover no matter where this spread goes.
Rory on: Denver @ Baltimore (+2.5)
It seems like every sports story, no matter how big, eventually reaches the point of overkill, and I just don’t care anymore. The vacating...vacationing...whatever, of the Bountygate suspensions is apparently a big deal. It’s important, but I just can’t be bothered to care about it anymore. I felt the same way with Lance Armstrong and PEDs, the Tiger Woods infidelity scandal, the Brett Favre penis texts and, of course, the news that rocked the sports world: Nick Altschuller’s plot to pay off NFL players so he can win Slack Lines every year.
[Editor’s Note: I’m working on it. You’d be surprised how many guys do not accept the Discover card.]
The Baltimore Ravens are reeling after back-to-back losses to the Redskins and the Charlie Batch led Steelers. Adding insult to injury, or injury to insult, Terrell Suggs is sidelined for the second time this season, and the Ravens look like a one-and-done team come January.
On the flip side, the Broncos are the only team in football with a longer winning streak than the Patriots. Coincidentally, their last loss came at Gillette Stadium back on October 7. Granted, they’ve only seen one opponent with a winning record since then.
Surprisingly, the Ravens defense, which appears underwhelming this year, is actually tied for the fifth best turnover ratio in the league at +12. Last season they were a blown Billy Cundiff chip shot away from the Super Bowl with a +2 margin for the season.
The knee jerk reaction says Denver all the way, but it’s hard to imagine Baltimore dropping three in a row. Gimme the home dog. Rory’s pick: Ravens
One week to the A-LOCK-alypse:
Browns (+1) For the first time since they were owned by Art Modell, the Browns are the best team in the AFC North.
Colts (+9) A few too many points to give on a short week for the Texans.
Giants (+1.5) While we all prepare for the holidays, the Falcons are beginning to prepare for what always happens to them after the holidays.
Matt on: Indianapolis @ Houston (-9)
Nine points? Nine? This is the kind of line that made me run to my computer and open up my Bovada account to pony up my wife’s wedding ring, my parent’s boat and the pony I bought myself for an early Christmas gift (including stable fees) on the Colts. And by “run to my computer,” I mean open up another tab on the computer at which I was already sitting.
Is this a knee jerk reaction by a Patriots homer to the whooping the Texans took this past Monday? Of course it is. But the feeling is strong, and I’m not letting pesky things like “analysis” and “facts” get in the way of this groundswell of confidence.
The Texans will show what type of team they are in how they respond to last week’s beating. They’re either the type to use it positively and come out ready, or they’re the type to let it shake it them to their foundation. My vote is on the latter.
A Broncos at Patriots AFC championship game feels like it’s preordained at this point, and one of the blocks that needs to fall in order for that to happen is another Texans loss. Indy will win one of their remaining two games with Houston. And even if it isn’t this one, the nine-point spread is just screaming backdoor cover. Matt’s Pick: Colts
Locks of the Millenium
Denver (-2.5) Joe Flacco looks like an Eagle.
Detroit (-6.5) The 2012 Cardinals are even making the Lie Downs seem like a safe bet.
Jacksonville (+7) The battle for Florida will be, errr, HOTLY contested. Ugh. /shoots self
Greg on: San Francisco @ New England (-5)
The Patriots are coming off a dominating victory over the Texans, and they have another big game this week to see how good they really are. The 49ers are trying to establish a new offensive identity with Colin Kaepernick at the helm. What’s going to give?
We know it doesn’t matter who lines up to catch the ball for the Patriots, because they can make it work as long as Tom Brady is throwing the ball. They’ve brought back Donté Stallworth, Deion Branch; who’s next, Chad Jackson?
The 49ers are coming east and have had trouble stopping Sam Bradford and the Rams, so I’m leaning towards the favorite here. Look for Hernandez to come up big again and New England to cover. Greg’s Pick: Patriots
Saints (-4) Tampa is coming off a horrible game against the lowly, lowly, lowly, incredibly horrible, badly coached, overrated, last place Philadelphia Iggles. The Saints now go from the victims of Bountygate to spoilers. Drew Brees is due.
Broncos (-2.5) Peyton is nasty, the Broncos defense is much improved, and Joe Flacco is turning into Jay Cutler.
Packers (-3) The Packers will pretty much lock up the division here, even though their underachieving tight end, Jermichael Finley, is the biggest idiot in Wisconsin. Look for Cutler to screw something up.
Nick on: NY Jets @ Tennessee (-2)
Somehow, New York is still in contention for the playoffs. After they were rightly dismissed following the 49-19 Thanksgiving lambasting they received at the hands of the Patriots, the Jets have flown under the radar and eked out two wins. And if it wasn’t for the world famous Butt Fumble, no one would have noticed. Yet as it stands, they’re 6-7, and they finish the year against the 5-8 Chargers and 5-8 Bills. A 10-7 record and a postseason berth isn’t out of the realm of possibility.
Except this is a Monday night game, and when the Jets fail, they love to have an audience. They’re humiliation exhibitionists. It’s like the Butt Fumble was a cry for attention. In this game I expect to see Mark Sanchez take a snap to the groin, Rex Ryan to audibly fart on national television and various Jets cornerbacks to be caught with their pants down, and not even in a figurative sense. They’ll be ugly, asinine and proud of it. Honestly, the Jets are the Juggalos of the NFL. Nick’s Pick: Titans
Lock Ness Monsters:
Ravens (+2.5) I’m the only dummy not completely sold on the Broncos. Baltimore is 9-4, can run the ball, is well coached, and they’re getting points at home. I can’t say no.
Raiders (-3) I’m going to keep going with the Raiders until they love me back. But as Oakland fans can tell you, this ploy hasn’t worked in a loooooong time.
49ers @ Patriots (Over 46.5) Brady’s going to keep chuckin’ it, and I see some aggravating Kaepernick runs coming on Sunday night.
Email Nick at firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow the Slack Lines team on Twitter: @altschuller, @beausturm, @CedricAdams, @KidRob21 and @roryduyon
The Sinclair has finally opened in Harvard Square as a sleek, concrete/brick club with great sightlines, including a three-tiered balcony centered by a sweet-spot terrace that overlooks the intimate floor. Chadwick Stokes and friends open the 525-capacity room’s first weekend in acoustic mode on Friday http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L-a1ltFQyk0 before the Dispatch frontman leads his more electric vehicle State Radio http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DiYKGEstWBM at House of Blues on Saturday, with both of the shows benefitting his activism outlet Calling All Crows.
Radio show Boston Emissions hosts gift drives for foster kids at two other events stacked with diverse local bands, the blog Boston Band Crush’s farewell Holiday Spectacular at Brighton Music Hall with Freezepop, Sidewalk Driver, the Field Effect and Band of Skinny Men on Friday and OldJack’s Holiday Homage with Gentlemen Hall http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rq5G25ag5QY, Mellow Bravo and Parlour Bells at the Sinclair on Saturday. Also on Friday, there’s Winterbloom -- an all-star team of Boston-bred singer-songwriters Antje Duvekot, Anne Heaton, Meg Hutchinson, and Natalia Zukerman -- celebrating the season with two shows at Harvard Square’s classy Oberon: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6QtrqFQFJ2U. Filling out the local roundup, groovy roots-soul favorites the Ryan Montbleau Band play to the Paradise crowd both Friday and Saturday http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wA0pK22lv-8 while the acoustic summit known as Session Americana returns Saturday to Club Passim for two shows: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qj2upqAjfsY.
The weekend’s big ticket, however, is the return of Leonard Cohen to the Citi Wang Centre, where the melancholy poet fronts his deft band both Saturday and Sunday, supporting his wondrous recent album Old Ideas. After Wednesday’s spectacular, star-studded 12-12-12 concert for Sandy relief, there was a lot of grumbling about Adam Sandler’s ribald revision of Cohen’s much-covered “Hallelujah” -- for good reason. That classic is the closest thing to a hymn in contemporary music. Here’s the master himself reciting it in September just before his 78th birthday: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P6-IdLTUJzk.
Through heartfelt notes, Improper Bostonian columnist John D. Spooner imparts sage wisdom to his grandchildren. In No One Ever Told Us That, the man of letters now shares his life lessons—from relationship guidance to personal finance tips—with young readers on the brink of adulthood everywhere. Learn how to navigate finding (and losing) a job, choosing a proper lawyer and knowing if your spouse is “the one” with the help of his wise and witty words. The leading financial advisor and acclaimed novelist will sign copies of his latest Boston Globe bestseller on Dec. 18 at Blackstone’s from 5 to 7 pm.
Blackstone’s of Beacon Hill | 46 Charles St., Boston | 617-227-4646 | blackstonesbeaconhill.com
The Play Pen
Slack Lines III, Week 14
Betting advice by morons, for morons
Current Slack Lines standings:
The Improper’s Nick Altschuller: 33-18-1
Parlor Sports/Trina’s Beau Sturm: 31-19-2
Rory “Mountain” Duyon: 26-20-2
Matt “Mole Hill” Roberts: 27-24-1
Green St. Grill’s Greg Reeves: 26-26
Silvertone’s Cedric Adams: 24-28
Fantasy football playoffs start this weekend (unless you’re in some bizarre league that likes to stretch things out and have the championship decided by Brady Quinn versus Brock Osweiler in Week 17).
I’m usually pretty levelheaded about fantasy football. As long as it looks like I’ll make the playoffs, I’m not that invested in the first 13 weeks. But once real elimination becomes a threat, I get a little edgy.
Drew Brees throws a pick in Week 7? We’ll get’em next time. Owen Daniels drops a six-yard pass in the first quarter in Week 14? I may try and throw the couch through a load-bearing wall.
Best not to invite me over on a Sunday until everything’s been decided.
On to the picks!
Matt on: Baltimore @ Washington (-2.5)
When Robert Edwards played for the Patriots, my buddy Ryan and I used to try to convince non-New Englanders that locals referred to him as “Bobby Edwards.” Of course, no one ever called him anything but Robert Edwards, except us and the guy at Sullivan Stadium that looked like a grown-up version of Charlie Brown and called everyone a “stiff” all game long. If you’re keeping score at home, that’s two guys that called him Bobby, one guy that called him a stiff and inﬁnity guys that called him Robert.
So I would like to formally use this space to start the rumor, which is true, that people in the greater D.C area refer to their rookie quarterback as “Bobby Grifﬁn.” They don’t use that other nickname. How convenient that the letter G rhymes with the number three.
This is the week that the wheels come off the turnip cart for the Ravens. The once formidable defense got shredded by Charlie bleeping Batch in the fourth quarter last week. The offense, from what I can see, consists of throwing four-yard passes to Ray Rice and praying for a miracle. I would say their offense is one dimensional, but I don’t even know what that dimension would be. Their offense is no dimensional.
This game will be blowout, and the Skins will be led by All American Bobby Grifﬁn.
Matt’s Pick: Redskins
Jaguars (+2.5) Home dogs against the JETS?! What planet am I on?
Steelers (-6.5) Absolutely no chance the Chargers rally around lame duck Norv.
Giants (-5) Eli will bounce back from last week’s tough loss at the hands of our hero.
Beau on: Chicago @ Minnesota (+3)
Chicago is reeling after going 7-1. Since then, they’re 1-3 with their only win coming against Minnesota. The Vikings are 1-3 in their last four as well, but Adrian Peterson has found his game. In those four games, he’s rushed for 182, 171, 108 and 210 yards. So the moral of this story is AP is a fantasy beast again. But this is a blog about betting games, so as a gambler this tells me one thing: The Vikings can’t throw the ball. Christian Ponder was a bad QB at Florida State, and he’s a bad professional player.
On the other hand, the Bears are top 10 in defending the pass, a skill that they won’t really need in this game (see previous paragraph), but The Monsters of the Midway couldn’t stop Everett High’s rushing attack, especially without Brian Urlacher, who’s out, most likely for the remainder of the season.
It all comes down to the dapper Debbie Downer: Jay Cutler. When he’s not faking an injury to get out of a playoff loss, selling out his offensive line or throwing picks during potential game-winning drives, he can flat out sling the rock, and the Vikings can’t stop it. (“It” being Brandon Marshall.) Beau’s Pick: Da’ Bears
We’re coming down the stretch, so I’m bringing out the big guns. My betting guru,
J Bellao’s Locks:
Andrew Luck (-5.5) at home against the Titans
Seahawks (-10) Russell Wilson is 5-0 at the loudest place in the NFL. Seattle blows out Arizona.
Bills (-3) There’s no dome in Buffalo in December, know what I mean?
Contributor’s note: After four seasons of hollow guarantees, snacks, delusions of grandeur and more snacks, Rex Ryan finally shut the *edited* up. Rex has even managed to force the most annoying fan in all of sports, Fireman Ed, into hiding. Now I know why he brought in Tim Tebow this season: to pray for his job.
Cedric on: New Orleans @ NY Giants (-5)
The Saints were expected to have a disappointing year with the Bountygate penalties handed down by the league. Yet the Giants at 7-5 seem like greater underachievers. But before we kick dirt on NY, I think we’ve seen this show before, and it’s led to two Super Bowl championships.
Whenever a must-win situation arises in New York, Coughlin, and especially Manning, come up winners. So pick the over, and watch Mr. Cruz salsa all night. Being a Packers fan, this hurts. Cedric’s Pick: Giants
Packers (-7) Hopefully Suh keeps his feet to himself.
Panthers (+3.5) P.S.A. to Cam Newton: Everyone loves you when you win! (I especially like you when you cover.)
Redskins (-2.5) I believe in RGIII.
[Editor's note: He's referring to Bobby Griffin]
Nick on: Dallas @ Cincinnati (-3)
The Bengals remain my betting kryptonite, as I remain unable to spell Cincinnati on the first try.
Both these teams are hot, with the Bengals going for their fifth win in a row and the Cowboys going for their fourth win in their last five. The Cowboys have had a sloppier go of it, though. Their last three games have been at home, and in that span they needed a fourth quarter comeback to beat the Eagles, they lost to the Skins, and they needed overtime to beat the Browns. The Bengals, on the other hand, are coming off a strong road win, and they’re holding opponents to just 10.5 points per game during their win streak.
I know I’m screwed either way. The worst part is I assign these picks. Why did I do this to myself? Let’s go with Cinnsinatti and see what happens. Nick’s Pick: Bengals
Sir Robin of Locksleys:
49ers (-10) San Francisco is going to the playoffs. If they want to get there without a debilitating QB controversy, Kaepernick is going to have to destroy a team. This is his best shot.
Bills (-3) Jackson and Spiller grind the Rams down and get the Buffalo fans’ hopes up for next year (so they can let them down again).
Detroit @ Green Bay (Under 49) Neither team can run the ball—Green Bay just picked Ryan Grant back up!—and catching balls is going to be tough on the tundra.
Greg on: Detroit @ Green Bay (-7)
Remember back when we had replacement refs, and Arizona was “for real”? Man, those were the days. Now the Giants are sliding, Jim Harbaugh created a QB controversy, Charlie Batch is a great lead blocker, and Rex Ryan is fat and obnoxious. At least it looks like Norv Turner and A.J. Smith will be fired, but it’s sunny in San Diego, so no one will really care.
Now, on to Sunday and the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field. Green Bay is trying to resurge after a slow start and is banged up. The Lions are pressing the Raiders to be one of the most undisciplined teams around. Megatron is really starting to turn it on, and that should worry the Packers.
It’s supposed to snow Sunday, and it’s going to be cold in Wisconsin, so that doesn’t bode well for these two offenses. When it comes down to it, Matt Stafford has good numbers but has underwhelmed as a leader. Look for Aaron Rodgers to light up Detroit’s secondary and take control of this division. Greg’s Pick: Packers
Bills (-3) St. Louis wishes it could play San Francisco every week, but they can’t. Both these teams have been stagnant at best, but Buffalo is home in the cold and has two very good RBs. Look for Spiller to have a great day, because that would be awesome for my fantasy team.
Colts (-5.5) Suck for Luck really paid off for Indianapolis. The Colts have a lot more on the line, and a lot more to play for. CHUCKSTRONG.
Dirty Birds (-3.5) Atlanta is the Rodney Dangerfield of football, they get no respect. Maybe they should bring back Jerry Glanville. Screw Cam Newton. I hope he has an unpleasant colonic before the game.
Rory on: Houston @ New England (-3.5)
There’s a part of me that thinks Dante Scarnecchia could turn Nick, Cedric, Greg, Beau and myself (sorry, Roberts...you’re a lost cause) into a respectable NFL offensive line. But J.J. Watt still scares the crap out of me.
This is a big week, Pats fans, where you get to measure your team against the class of the AFC.
Houston has Super Bowl fever for the first time since Frank Reich ripped their hearts out with that 32-point playoff comeback against the Oilers 20 years ago. They’ve got the balanced offense and a defense so strong that only Chad Henne could penetrate it. Between the back-to-back overtime wins against two sub .500 teams, it seems like the Texans have been teetering on the edge of mediocrity, but no matter how you look at it, they’re still 11-1.
The Pats have a nice little six-game win streak of their own, but every injury seems to sting a little bit more. The Brady Bunch could withstand the loss of Gronk for 4-6 weeks, but as linemen continue to fall, and Julian Edelman hits the IR, Patriots fans have more and more to worry about.
New England hasn’t lost a home game after December 1 since falling to the Dolphins on January 1, 2006. That’s a stretch of 14 straight wins—10 by double digits. It’s hard for me to imagine the Patriots crushing Houston in their current state, but then again, I guess winning by four points wouldn’t exactly qualify as a “crushing.” Rory’s Pick: Patriots
Eagles (+7.5) The defense is still atrocious, but last Sunday night’s game showed us that the offense can keep this game close enough against a mediocre team like the Bucs.
Cards @ Seahawks (under 35.5) First team to 3 wins.
Chiefs (+6.5) The Browns have played some pretty good football lately, but they’re still the team who inspired this and several other great Mike Polk YouTube videos. Gimme the points all day.
Email Nick at email@example.com
Follow the Slack Lines team on Twitter: @altschuller, @beausturm, @CedricAdams, @KidRob21 and @roryduyon
It’s the last crazy round of shows on the calendar until December winds down. Caspian sails waves of instrumental post-rock, which isn’t the stuff of fame and fortune. But the Beverly-launched band has made bold inroads on the international circuit, touring behind its impressive latest album Waking Season. Caspian returns home to deliver its atmospheric thrash atop a Friday bill at Royale (initially slated for the Sinclair). http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wW5DDdcMUGE. A different kind of rising band, the folk-pop outfit Pearl and the Beard, delights with the quirky minimalist touch of guitar, cello and percussion under their voices, and hits the Middle East Downstairs the same night. Here’s the trio on its NYC home turf: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lNjJZD54JyI. Also on Friday, ex-Doors guitarist Robby Krieger and his Jazz Kitchen nod to another classic-rock touchstone, Frank Zappa, whose former sidemen Tommy Mars (keyboards) and Arthur Barrows (bass) are aboard to bite into some Zappa fare when the group pulls into Johnny D’s Uptown Friday: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EztbIcdSArg.
Coy, showy singer Marina Lambrini Diamandis has generated quite the buzz in the U.K. and has begun to build momentum here with her group Marina & the Diamonds. She certainly doesn’t have the pipes to eclipse her Welsh countrywoman Florence Welch, but her band’s out to entertain Saturday at House of Blues: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4fQVzlXGvc4. Indie-rockers the Faint, a dance-punk group from Omaha that originally included Bright Eyes’ Conor Oberst in its ranks, returns to plays its dark 2001 album Danse Macabre in its entirety at the Paradise Rock Club; expect a bit of a visual attack as well: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q57uQs3O0Vs.
Sunday sees the return of the venerable Dave Matthews Band to the TD Garden, but there are a couple of other heavyweight alternatives that night. Band of Horses strikes me as a less interesting counterpart to My Morning Jacket, but some solid songwriting and a great sound haven’t hurt in the Seattle-launched/Carolina-based band’s rise to major-label status (with its new Mirage Rock) and larger venues like House of Blues: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ONLzYW5zvGg. Less predictable (except to those who have caught the group’s frenetic shows), the Vancouver punk duo Japandroids moves up to the easily soldout Paradise Sunday behind its rocketing second album Celebration Rock. The kinetic onstage abandon and gang-style choruses of guitarist Brian King and drummer David Prowse spreads like wildfire among fans, as witnessed in this clip from Japandroids’ mosh-happy stop at the Brighton Music Hall earlier this year: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MqvLu67Ugbs.
Dead Sea Revival
Newbury's newest skin care shop puts you in close contact with ancient lands
With Arianna Skin Care, lifeless winter skin can be revived with just a bit more…death.
On Wednesday, Nov. 28, Arianna, which uses restorative properties found in minerals in Israel’s Dead Sea, celebrated its grand opening at the new storefront of the Common. This is the third store from the 5-year-old company, with other locations in Martha’s Vineyard and Newport, RI.
The curative properties of over 21 different minerals found in the Dead Sea have attracted visitors for thousands of years, including Cleopatra, Herod the Great and Arianna CEO Miri Torres, who was born in Israel. In high school, Torres was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, the treatment for which severely affected her skin. After visiting the Dead Sea and noticing a dramatic change in her health and appearance of her skin, Torres decided to bring the ancient Israeli secret to the States in her own line, which includes exfoliating scrubs, body butter, peels and more.
Check out the store to discover yourself how this all-natural, paraben-free line can make you feel dead alive.
Arianna Skin Care
151 Tremont St., Boston | 781-874-2147 | arianna-skincare.com
The Play Pen
Slack Lines III, Week 13
Betting advice by morons, for morons
Current Slack Lines standings:
The Improper’s Nick Altschuller: 32-15-1
Parlor Sports/Trina’s Beau Sturm: 29-17-2
Rory “Xana” Duyon: 26-20-2
Matt “Please Call Me Eric” Roberts: 25-22-1
Green St. Grill’s Greg Reeves: 25-23
Silvertone’s Cedric Adams: 23-25
Late start today, so let’s not dally. Just two things on the agenda.
Last week I tried to find out more about this epic man on the 49ers sidelines. Steve in Colorado passed along what appears to be his Facebook page. From there, you’ll find his Twitter and Instagram accounts. It’s a real treasure trove of mulleted awesome. Oh, and he IS an equipment manager. I’m a predicting king this season.
Also, apparently the Parlor Sports team is now serving the “Tailgate in a Glass” Bloody Mary, made with “mud” horseradish and Appalachian beef jerky. In other words, it’s a French fry away from being what I call “Steelers Fan’s Ensure.”
On to the picks!
Cedric on: Seattle @ Chicago (-3.5)
This battle of top NFC defenses should be fun to watch. The Seahawks’ D will be complete for the last time this season, as the “PED Twins” are appealing their suspension and can play this weekend. The problem for their defense will be upfront against the Bears’ running game. Expect Forte and Michael Bush to pound the ball between the tackles, controlling the clock and field position for Chicago. Though Russell Wilson has had an excellent first year, expect some growing pains against a Bears defense boasting a +13 turnover ratio. If Jay Cutler doesn’t tinkle down his leg, the Bears move closer to clinching the NFC North. As a Packers fan, that sucks! Cedric’s Pick: Bears
Ravens (-8) No Big Ben, no chance.
Texans (-5) Houston is the top team in the AFC.
49ers (-7) Defense covers the spread!
Rory on: Indianapolis @ Detroit (-5)
The Lions need to trade Ndamakong Suh. This guy gets surly when you make him play on Thanksgiving. There was the Evan Dietrich-Smith stomp last year, and of course the Matt Schaub “cup check” this year. For a young player who already has a reputation for being dirty, how did he not get suspended for a game? Hasn’t he forfeited the benefit of the doubt?
I realize that the Colts aren’t exactly the best 7-4 team in NFL history, but they’re getting more than a field goal from a team whose only wins are against the Jaguars (two wins), the Eagles (three wins), the Rams (four wins) and the Seahawks (1-5 on the road).
By the way, I’m watching the Saints and Falcons, and just saw a promo for Barry Sanders, a Football Life. Can you imagine what he would have done if he had Emmitt Smith’s line/passing game? Easily the best running back I’ve ever seen in my life. You know what else I just saw on TV? A Jared commercial. Jared is single handedly ruining the Christmas season for me, and it’s not even December yet.
And speaking of the Christmas season, a buddy told me today that Justin Bieber did a version of the song “Little Drummer Boy” with Busta Rhymes. I haven’t heard it yet, but I can’t imagine that it measures up to Bing and Bowie.
...How the hell did I get here? Rory’s Pick: Colts
Bears (-3.5) Did I mention the Seahawks are 1-5 on the road?
Giants (-2.5) I don’t care how well the Skins have fared against the Giants lately, watching that defense last Sunday night against the Packers gave me some horrible flashbacks to last February.
Bucs (+7) According to USA Today, the Broncos are 16-34-2 against the spread in their last 52 home games, and the Bucs are 18-7-1 against the spread in their last 26 on the road...good enough for me.
Sidenote: Can’t bring myself to pick this game, but how far have you fallen when you’re home underdogs against the Browns? Looking at you, Raiders...
Nick on: New England @ Miami (+7.5)
Have you guys heard the Bieb’s version of “Little Drummer Boy”? That ish is tiiiiiight.
The Pats need this one. They’re just a game behind Baltimore for the #2 seed, but with Charlie Batch starting again for Pittsburgh, the Ravens are going to move up to 10-2.
(I have to imagine being a third-string QB that finds himself starting has to be the closest real-life equivalent to those dreams where you’re back in college, and you have a final for a class you forgot to attend all semester. What? This wasn’t supposed to happen! I bet Batch sleeps with the playbook under his pillow has night sweats like a POW.)
The good news is Baltimore finishes the season against the Skins, Broncos, Giants and Bengals. The Pats have the Texans and Niners at home, but end the year against the Jaguars and Dolphins. If New England can beat the teams they should, and take one out of two in the Houston-SF gauntlet, they might be able to grab that first-round bye.
Plus, the Pats are in full-on kill mode, averaging 47.5 points in their last four games. Welker torches his old team, again. Tannehill develops the acquired taste for FieldTurf. Nick’s Pick: Pats
Ravens (-8) Seriously, right now Charlie Batch is standing at the top of a flight of stairs, just thinking about it. Oh, man, coach. I slipped, and now my wrist, it, uh, it hurts so bad. I don’t think I can play Sunday. Such a bummer.
Bills (-6) It’s going to be cold and rainy on Sunday. Let’s see if Henne stays hot in that mess.
Raiders (+1.5) Dennis Allen is probably coaching for his job, and if Carson Palmer can’t win this one, I can finally write him off for good without feeling guilty about it.
Greg on: Tampa Bay @ Denver (-7)
Tampa Bay and Denver are two teams on a roll. Peyton should be licking his chops, as Tampa’s top CBs have been suspended and traded. The question is: Will Denver be able to move the ball without Willis McGahee?
Doug Martin is a beast, and Freeman has some weapons with Jackson, Williams and Clark. Denver always plays well in Mile High, but this going to be a hard fought game. The Broncos’ defense will be the difference, as Von Miller already has 14 sacks. Look for Denver to win but not cover, again. I know this all too well. Greg’s Pick: Bucs
Pats (-7.5) Brady hasn’t made many mistakes and will continue that trend. Miami is great against the run, but the Pats are nasty everywhere else. Tannehill is playing well, but he makes too many mistakes.
Packers (-8) Green Bay got slaughtered by the GMen last week and look to rebound against the Vikings. Ponder will be a great backup QB in a few years.
Panthers (-3) I hate Cam, and Ron Rivera will be gone next year, but they’re playing Kansas City. The Chiefs wish they could suck for Luck, as they position themselves for the top pick in the draft. Maybe Brady Quinn is the answer, and maybe Barney could beat Mr. T in a steel cage match. Yeah, right. Not my Romeo, not my problem.
Matt on: Philadelphia @ Dallas (-10)
The second annual Wasted Talent Bowl. The Red Ranger and his Cowboys cling to very slim playoff hopes, while the lame-duck Walrus and his Eagles have none.
Just two years ago the Eagles were touting themselves as the Dream Team. Well, at least their backup QB labeled them as such. I, for one, am shocked and appalled that the prediction of a man who blew the bulk of $26 million in career earnings at TGI Friday's and The Cheesecake Factory didn't come to fruition. For shame, Vince Young. At least go the respectable route and go broke on fast cars and fast women, not on Loaded Skillet Chip Nachos and Awesomely Outrageous Jalapeño Poppers.
The team that started as Mike Vick, Shady McCoy and DeSean Jackson has morphed into Nick Foles, Bryce Brown and Riley Cooper.
And the Cowboys *rubs temples vigorously*. Over the past decade and a half they've re-written the script on heart-breaking, mind numbingly stupid ways to lose. How to handicap a game when both teams are experts in snatching defeat from the jaws of victory? Even though I have no faith in Philly, 10 points is far too many to cover for the NFL's derp-iest franchise. Matts Pick: Eagles
Lock City, USA:
Redskins (+2.5) David Carr trying to simulate RG3 at practice this week ain't gonna get it done.
49ers (-7) Kaepernick fever sweeps the nation.
Bears (-3.5) Adderal enhancement aside, Cutty can pick apart the vaunted Seahawks D.
Beau on: NY Giants @ Washington (+2.5)
The only two teams in the NFL who don’t have injuries to report are the NY Football Giants and the Washington Redskins. However there are some extracurricular distractions that may affect this game.
Victor Cruz has apparently been eating Chunky Soup from his mom, who has been posing as a Giant mascot to gain access to her son during games. With the recent sting by the NFL on Adderall abusers, I anticipate that this nutritional substance will soon come under league scrutiny. Also, according to the DirectTV commercials, Eli Manning is also struggling. He’s been miniaturized and teamed up with his new private conditioning coach/guru/mentor, Deion Sanders. This new and unhealthy partnership has led the two to verbally abusing fans in their own home! This does not look good for the Giants.
Here’s the real skinny though: The Giants won the game but didn’t cover in their first meeting this season. Today, the Skins have the best rushing offense and are ranked third defending the run. The Giants are one of the best passing offenses in the League. Both defenses, though without any starters out, are banged up. The Skins are hurting at linebacker, and the Giants are struggling to defend the deep middle, but did a good job of containing, but not stopping, RGIII, who threw for 228 and 2 TDs while rushing for 89 more in Week 7.
I’m going with the team that can run the ball playing at home. Beau’s Pick: Redskins
Locks of the Week:
Chargers (+1.5) San Diego is a dog at home versus the Bangles? That’s a long trip for a bad team to be the favorite.
Pats (-7.5) New England wins big in Miami.
Steelers (+8) Pittsburgh versus Baltimore is usually close. Steelers cover.
I put my money where my mouth is on this one: Alabama (-7) @ Georgia
Email Nick at firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow the Slack Lines team on Twitter: @altschuller, @beausturm, @CedricAdams, @KidRob21 and @roryduyon
Grace Potter & the Nocturnals have evolved from spunky jam-band to tangential country teasers with Kenny Chesney. But the Vermont group’s march to the mainstream (Grace and Co. record for Disney’s Hollywood label) seems complete with new album The Lion, The Beast, The Beat, a slick and solid if oddly titled slab of pop-rock whose single “Stars” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JWAPxKOtx30) even sparked prime-time exposure when covered by “The Voice” contestant Amanda Brown. Of course Potter always had the voice, and she and her band will most likely be rocking House of Blues silly Friday and Saturday. Get there early for bluegrass anarchists Trampled by Turtles, likely to toast Boston with a good Pixies cover to help blow minds: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vXMTCP9UxMM.
For a more acoustic-based Friday night hoedown, T.T. the Bear's Place offers two of the best Northeast bands to rock last year’s Newport Folk Festival with former schoolteacher Joe Fletcher and his Wrong Reasons: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=it0AqzIdth0 and Brooklyn's amped-up traditionalists Spirit Family Reunion, who just took a spin around Ireland: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D0503TygZ1k.
Speaking of Newport favorites, Boston’s own dynamic David Wax Museum continues its indie-folk ascent Saturday downtown at Royale, another show switched from yet-to-debut new Cambridge club the Sinclair: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BiQdLGb6IE8. Ex-American Music Club frontman Mark Eitzel fuels his melancholy magic at Johnny D’s in Somerville. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KlxrhDNL7RM. And for an oldie but goodie, it’s hard to beat English journeyman Ian Hunter, who’s not only likely to revive his Mott the Hoople favorites like “All the Way From Memphis” and “All the Young Dude” but other parallel-era rock ‘n’ roll classics like “Sweet Jane” with his Rant Band at the Paradise Rock Club Saturday: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-QOYZSBzsOk.
The Boston Music Awards climaxes this unusually crazy first week of December on Sunday at the Liberty Hotel. The bustling annual event will include performances from such newcomers as Mean Creek, Young London, Air Traffic Controller, Banditas, Streight Angular and Earthquake Party as well as veterans Edo G, the Real Kids, O Positive (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UjS7TuSim4U), and an Boston Rock Tribute with guitar hotshot Johnny A and members of Guns ‘N Roses, Deep Purple and Stone Temple Pilots (largely the same gang of sidemen who rocked Ernie Boch Jr.’s last summer bash with a spontaneous jam). And across town, Sunday rocks with other classic headliners in pioneering rap group Public Enemy, with still-potent foils Chuck D and Flavor Flav bringing the noise to Royale (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rxESio15hmI), and LA punk engine X (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jn7RSnDnqZw) returning to the Paradise. A sure ‘80s flashback.
The Play Pen
Slack Lines III, Week 12
Betting advice by morons, for morons
Current Slack Lines standings:
The Improper’s Nick Altschuller: 29-14-1
Parlor Sports/Trina’s Beau Sturm: 27-16-1
Rory “Thigh Meat” Duyon: 25-18-1
Matt “Giblets” Roberts: 24-20
Green St. Grill’s Greg Reeves: 24-20
Silvertone’s Cedric Adams: 21-23
Happy Thanksgiving to all. No time for chit-chat today, though, because:
1. It's a holiday, so it's time for family/drinking.
2. I'm at home, so there are lots of chores I need to pretend to do.
3. My only football goal for this week is to identify this man:
I spotted him a couple weeks ago on the Niners sideline. He is by far the chillest, slack lineingist assistant coach—ok, probably equipment manager—I’ve ever seen. If I can only complete one football mission for the rest of this season, it’s to find this epic dude, befriend him, run away with him, then together we’ll lead a life as roadies/private investigators.
On to the picks!
Beau on: Atlanta @ Tampa Bay (+1)Tampa is getting points at home. This is tempting to any gambler. Plus, they’re coming off a gritty win over the Panthers (Cam Newton is a dirt bag), and alternatively Atlanta is coming off of an embarrassing loss to Arizona where Boston’s favorite QB not named Brady, Mattie Ice, threw five picks and coughed up one more turnover.
On paper, Atlanta should run away with this game. However, I think that these two teams are going in opposite directions: Atlanta is cooling off, and Tampa and their new, and GREAT, head coach are starting to gel. I like Tampa, but I have to say, Josh Freeman should grow his afro back. That thing was awesome!
Happy Thanksgiving to my fellow Slackers and our loyal readers (thanks again mom and dad, and Mr. and Mrs. Altschuller). Beau’s Pick: Buccaneers
Locks of the Week:Jaguars (+3) Chad Henne is good at football.
Panthers (-2) over the Philly Quitters (I hate Cam Newton.)
The “Bet the Other Way” College Pick: USC (+5.5) to cover at Notre Dame
Matt on: Seattle @ Miami (+3)
One thing you can set your watch to in this game: Petesy Carroll will be pumped and jacked. Take the OVER on fist pumps and aggressive gum chewing. The defense thrives off the energy shown by the coach and the home Seattle crowd, so we'll see how they respond in the Sunshine State.
In a remarkable turn of events, it appears the Dolphins brass may, *may* not have made another huge mistake in the draft. While all the votes still haven't been counted on the potential of Ryan Tannehill—Karl Rove is still waiting on some precincts in Hamilton County to report—so far he looks the part as an NFL quarterback. The direction of the team under Jeff "Is Your Mother a Prostitute?" Ireland has been terrible at best, but he looks to have gotten the QB right.
I'm going against the tired and lazy adage of "never bet on a West Coast team traveling east for a 1 pm game" and riding with the 'Hawks to cover. Matt’s pick: Seahawks
Locks of the Week:
Bucs (+1) The Falcons finally get their comeuppance.
Packers (+3) Rodgers torches the Giants secondary; Tom Coughlin scowls.
Jaguars (+3) Home dog that’s been playing better against a below-average Titans team? Yes, please.
Cedric on: Baltimore @ San Diego (+1)
Happy Thanksgiving to all, especially those who serve in our armed forces!
It’s the final swan song for Norv Turner and crybaby quarterback Philip Rivers. Expect the injury-ravaged San Francisco defense to continue their Turkey Feast on the Chargers’ pathetic offensive.
Philips doesn’t like pressure and will be on the run all day. Running back Ryan Matthews won’t gain more than 50 yards against the Ravens’ front seven. Expect the Chargers receivers to hear footsteps all day and drop/short arm a few balls, intimidated by the Baltimore D. When the Ravens have the ball, expect their running game, a.k.a. Ray Rice, to dominate, leading to lot of play action opportunities for Falco to torch the San Diego secondary. Cedric’s Pick: Ravens
Packers (+3) over Giants. Statement game for both teams. Will Rogers start his late-season push for MVP?
Bronco's (-10.5) over Chiefs. Hey, Romeo Crennel, the Patriots will be looking for a secondary coach at the end of the season. Come on home!
49er's (-1) over Saints. Game two of the Kaepernick era. Nice knowing you, Alex.
Rory on: San Francisco @ New Orleans (+1)
The Saints’ impressive run has gotten them back in playoff contention, but with the 49ers, Falcons and Giants ahead in the next three weeks, the climb has only just begun.
The Colin Kaepernick Experiment went better than expected Monday night, and the
49ers appear to be the class of the NFC, but can you really bet against a home dog playing so well? Especially as they host a team on a short week that just finished beating up Jason Campbell?
I’m impressed by what San Francisco was able to do on offense, but defensively what they did was to be expected. If you’re not good enough to keep the Redskins starting job in your prime, I think that says a lot about your abilities as a quarterback and a human being.
Ok, that was mean and uncalled for. Jason Campbell might be a good guy, but he’s a crappy quarterback, and I stand by that. Besides, I think even the casual sports fan knows that New Orleans is 10-1 against the spread in their last 11 games played in the month of November. Rory’s Pick: Saints
Lock Three Times:
Falcons (-1) The Bucs are 8-2 against the spread this year, but you have to feel like the overrated Falcons are going to come to play after two lackluster weeks. I just stepped in the trap, didn’t I?
Panthers (-2) The question isn’t whether the Eagles will fire Andy Reid, but whether they’ll wait until after the season.
Steelers (-1) Beau has some kind of crazy cosmic powers. Every time I try to talk a little trash with him, he gets stronger. This is my offering to whatever gambling god that Beau is working with.
Greg on: Green Bay vs. NY Giants (-3)
The Packers come into MetLife on a roll, with Aaron Rodgers throwing touchdowns all over the place. Both of these teams have top-rated offenses, but they’re heading in different directions.
The Giants know a thing or two about second half slides. Eli has gone from ELIte to shELI very quickly. The GMEN’s defense has been inconsistent at best, and their pass rush has under performed all year. The Pack do come in limping, with Mathews, Woodson, Shields and Jennings out. The GMEN will need Victor Cruz to do some salsa dancing and Eli to remember how to throw TDs again if they’re going to have a shot. Greg’s Pick: Packers
Ravens (-1) San Diego is coached by Norv Turner, so look for the Ravens to roll.
Steelers (-1) Charlie Batch will be the difference. Yes, I did say Charlie Batch will be the difference.
Seahawks (-3) Marshawn Lynch hasn’t stopped in over two and a half years. Reggie has fizzled out quickly this year. Bruce Irvin is from West Virginia (ode to Beau) and is good at rushing the passer.
Nick on: Carolina @ Philadelphia (+2)
During the first two years of Slack Lines, I asked my mom to pick a game every week. It did not go well. But last week, Beau turned to his dad for three picks, and his old man went undefeated.
Since she can’t escape me in this house, I cornered my ma and asked her about this game. My mom likes the Eagles. Apparently, my mom also thinks they play in Washington. Nick’s Pick: Eagles
Jags (+3) I feel like now is finally my chance to not regret drafting Justin Blackmon.
Bears (-1) Just put the girlfriend’s iPod through the wash. Betting on her team outta make up for that.
St. Louis @ Arizona (Over 37) I am just BEGGING to go 0-4.
Until next week.
Email Nick at email@example.com
Back in its heyday, the Who always came across as a messy bunch, especially when Keith Moon tumbled across his spread of drums – with his body as well as his sticks when he passed out during a 1976 concert at the old Boston Garden.
So it seemed kind of ironic when Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey struck an apologetic note at the end of Friday’s mostly stellar TD Garden show for making some mistakes in their restaging of the Who’s entire 1973 rock opera Quadrophenia. If anything, the surviving duo’s eight-piece backing band seemed a bit too methodical during the epic work’s first half, with frontman Daltrey singing in a lower register, not hitting notes quite so high or as long as he once did. Still, at 68, Daltrey looked and sounded damn great. So did songwriter Townshend, 67, with his gruff vocals and guitar.
The crashing cymbals and cascading rolls of Zak Starkey, Ringo Starr’s son and the best drummer for the Who since Moon’s 1978 death , helped immensely in driving songs like “The Punk and the Godfather” and “I’ve Had Enough,” where Daltrey and Townshend both mused, “I’m finished with the fashions, and acting like I’m tough.”
But when the Who hit “5:15” to launch that double album’s back half, the show flew off the rails -- in a positive way. Having left much of the set’s lead guitar to his brother Simon, Townshend slashing into a solo, horns kicked in, and the band jammed. Daltrey, his shirt largely unbuttoned to reveal firm abs, shot Townshend a grin. And the now-animated Townshend bit into the vocal of “Drowned,” snapping off his sunglasses for the first time to intone “I am not an actor, and this can’t be the sea” before slipping into a gospel-tinged refrain of “I want to drown in your sweet, sweet love.”
Impressive video collages on the porthole-like span behind the stage kicked up another notch with neatly synched footage of fallen brethren Moon and bassist John Entwistle, who died in 2002 as a similar drug casualty. It was simultaneously eerie, sad and entertaining to watch Moon sing his lines in “Bell Boy” as Daltrey looked up at the screen and sang, “I remember him from those crazy days.”
The violent storm of “Dr. Jimmy” churned through teenaged Mod protagonist Jimmy’s drug and testosterone-fueled rage, with Daltrey-belted lines like “Who is she? I’ll rape it” sounding more shocking today than they did 40 years ago. Imagery and emotion peaked in the instrumental “The Rock,” with Townshend ripping a solo to match a bizarrely intense video timeline from the Vietnam War to 9/11 -- with the Twin Towers cloud chasing people through the streets like a monster. Then everything settled into the rock opera’s triumphant finale “Love, Reign O’er Me.” Daltrey began the song solemnly with arms held wide and closed it with his shrieking cry of "love!" before a tightly coiled last round of Townshend's windmills on electric guitar and Daltrey's lariat-like swings of his microphone cord.
A 40-minute encore of Who anthems left the two-hour show with extreme highs and lows. After a swirling “Who Are You” where Townshend sat to pick a brittle jazzy solo, Daltrey soared in hearty voice for “Behind Blue Eyes” and especially a bold “Baba O’Reilly,” giving Townshend plenty of space to drop his famous power chords. Yet the duo crossed signals on vocal parts in “Won’t Get Fooled Again” (of all songs) that closed the rock portion of the evening with surprisingly sloppy execution that stung more than the subtle missteps of a jammed-out Quadrophenia.
When Daltrey and Townshend sang of getting old in a finishing acoustic duet of “Tea & Theatre,” leaving the early ‘70s for one song from the past decade, it could have cued the last gasp for a band that probably should have packed it in long ago (I purposely hadn’t seen the Who since Entwistle died, since he was as much a part of the original quartet’s combustible conversation as Moon).
Yet Townshend and Daltrey proved they remain a singularly vital tandem, not quite ready for pasture 30 years after the Who’s first supposed farewell tour. And fans can still catch the “Quadrophenia and More” show in neighboring states over the next few months: the Who plays Mohegan Sun Arena Dec. 9, Manchester’s Verizon Wireless Arena Feb. 24 and Providence’s Dunkin’ Donuts Center Feb. 26, the last date of an extensive tour. By then, those offending mistakes should be entirely gone; hopefully the same won’t be said for Townshend and Daltrey’s voices.
The Play Pen
Slack Lines III, Week 11
Betting advice by morons, for morons
Current Slack Lines standings:
The Improper’s Nick Altschuller: 25-14-1
Parlor Sports/Trina’s Beau Sturm: 24-16
Rory “Love, Love Me” Duyon: 24-16
Matt “What About” Rob-erts: 21-19
Green St. Grill’s Greg Reeves: 21-19
Silvertone’s Cedric Adams: 18-22
Lot of quarterback concussions last week, with Michael Vick, Alex Smith and Smokin’ Jay Cutler all looking shaky.
I think one of the biggest disadvantages a team faces when their QB gets his walnut cracked—besides the fact that their starter can’t play—is that their franchise guy, a player lots of coaches and teammates rely on while preparing for the next contest, is going to be kind of a dum-dum for a few days.
In college, my friend was snowboarding and landed on his head attempting a backflip. On takeoff, he was a reliable lab partner. After the wipeout, he couldn’t crayon his way through the maze on a kids menu. Once he got back from the hospital, he spent the entire night asking us to explain what happened. We’d tell him. Then he’d forget and ask again. It was infuriating. It took all my willpower not to hit him with a folding chair.
I’m just saying, there are effects of the NFL concussion issue that are we’re not considering.
On to the picks!
Nick on: Green Bay @ Detroit (+3.5)
The Packers are on a roll, winning four straight. Now they find themselves only one game behind the Bears for first place in their division, and with Chicago playing without Cutler in San Francisco, now looks like a great time to pull even and then pull away for good.
On the other side, Detroit’s playoff hopes are alive, but in their final six games they play the Texans, Colts, Cardinals, Falcons, Bears and the Packers for a second time. They’re 4-5 now, so getting to the postseason will be a Herculean task. And we all know how the labors of Hercules went: He killed the Nemean lion; clubbed the Lernaen hydra; stabbed the Ceryneian hind; then he got to the Erymanthian boar, looked down at his to-do list and was like, “Jesus—I mean Zeus, there’s eight more of these things? Screw this, I’m out.” And then he went home and cleaned out his DVR. Full disclosure: mythology = not my strong suit. Nick’ Pick: Packers
MTV’s Rock ’n’ Lock All-Stars:
Saints (-5) Their D is improving, and this is a game they have to win.
Ravens @ Pittsburgh (Under 40) I don’t see Leftwich getting anything done.
49ers (-5) Because ma’lady is a Bears fan, and I like to make my evenings as awkward as possible.
Greg on: New Orleans @ Oaktown (+5)
Remember Hue Jackson? Yeah, neither do I.
Here’s a matchup of two teams with two quarterbacks playing well. We all know that the Saints offense can score points in a hurry, so will Raiders coach Dennis Allen be able to throw out some different personal and blitz packages to slow down Drew Brees? The answer is a big no.
Oakland comes in missing their top two running backs, and safety Tyvon Branch and ex-Patriot Richard Seymour haven’t practiced all week. Darren Sproles should be back for the Saints to give his offense another weapon. Jimmy Graham is coming off Player of the Week honors, and look for him to be right back there next week. Greg’s Pick: Saints
Green Bay (-3.5) Green Bay is playing great right now. They get Jordy back this week, and Detroit is regressing. Suh is a thug; Megatron only has two TDs this year, and Stafford is overrated. Look for the Packers to roll and take over this division.
Bengals (-3.5) If the Chiefs were smart, they’d take a page from the old Patriots playbook: Cheat. If they could start taping the other teams’ practices, they might have a shot. Too bad it’s too late for that. Dalton and AJ Green will just be too lethal.
Broncos (-8) The Broncos might be the best team in the AFC, possibly the NFL. Norv Turner is a hipster who should go back to being an offensive coordinator. Manning to Thomas; get ready to hear some more of that.
Beau on: Andrew Luck @ The House that Brady Built (-9)
I’m back home in West Virginia getting ready to go to the Oklahoma/WVU game this Saturday. Football is in the air. I walked in the house late last night to my mom cooking us soup and my dad watching Ray Lewis’ A Football Life and declaring that he’s “not a complete scumbag” but that “he’s still a complete ass on the football field.” I love being home…
As a gambler, nine points is a lot of points to bet against. This game seems to be set up for the Pats though:
It’s at home in the cold of November.
The defense got a much-needed new toy (although a slightly broken toy in my opinion) in Aqib Talib.
Mostly, rookie QB’s don’t do so well with Big Bad Bill game-planning for them.
As we have all seen though, this is not your average rookie QB. Last year’s Colts were one of the worst teams that have ever played in the NFL. This kid has turned them into a playoff contender with little more than a slew of rookie pass-catchers and a team rallying around one tough SOB head-coach.
I’m gonna take New England, but I hope I’m wrong. Go Colts! Beau’s Pick: Patriots
[Quick side-note: My man-crush on Luck has nothing to do with his father being the Rhode Scholarship-winning QB for the West Virginia Mountaineers and the current athletic director.]
My Dad’s Locks of the Week:
“Baltimore will spank the f@#k’n Steelers with that Cookie Monster-looking backup quarterback.”
“I’m not even gonna call Cleveland beating Dallas an upset.”
“The Saints are playing good, prideful football. They can beat anybody right now.”
Beau’s College Sacrifice: Oklahoma (-11) over WVU and the under (74.5)
Matt on: San Diego @ Denver (-8)
Working Title: Peyton Manning, American Hero
I don’t like to use the word hero lightly, but Peyton Manning is the greatest hero in American history. The NHL labor talks could take a lesson from the brand of hard-charging negotiation tactics employed by this irrepressible scamp in his bid to secure us Americans 1 million free pizzas. All it took was a couple knowing glances and a face-to-face bro-stare (trademark Steve Young), and the legendarily iron-willed Papa John couldn’t say no to Peyton’s demands. Credit is also due to Mr. Shatner and his devil-may-care attitude, leaving caution to the corporate corncobs at big pizza and providing the nation with a concept everyone can rally around: free ‘za. His contributions are especially important in this time of global crisis, given the current economy.
The fortunes of both these teams turned at the exact same point this season, halftime of their Week 6 matchup. The Chargers were in control, leading 24-0 at the half. From there the Broncos got their act together, scored 35 straight points, and won 35-24. Since that game, the rise of the Broncos has been as ascendant as the fall of the Chargers has been precipitous (10-cent word alert!). I expect this game to more closely resemble the second half of the previous meeting. Denver wins going away. Matt’s Pick: Broncos
Locks of the Week:
Tampa Bay (-1.5) The Bucs have shown a lot more will and sticktoitiveness than the Panthers in recent weeks.
Cincinnati (-3.5) Any team playing the Chiefs should be seven-point favorites automatically.
New Orleans (-5) The Sean Payton hangover is wearing off; Oakland stinks.
Rory on: Baltimore @ Pittsburgh (+3)
This game is sponsored by NAPGCM, the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that multiple players on the defensive side for the Steelers and Ravens are headed for Canton when their careers are over, which for some of them should have been in 2009. (Seriously, watching Ed Reed and Ray Lewis in 2012 is like watching Larry Bird and Kevin McHale in 1992.)
These teams combined to hold opponents to single digits 17 times in 2010-2011. In 2012, the Ravens have done it once (woo-hoo, the Chiefs!), and the Steelers haven’t done it.
On the bright side, they both know how to move the chains, though I still contend that Joe Flacco is a bum. And the Steelers offense was in good shape until Mr. Roethlisberger hurt his shoulder and his ability to corner defenseless women.
The Steelers are in trouble with Byron Leftwich under center, though I will give him kudos for one of the manliest displays of playing hurt I ever saw. Unfortunately, that happened in 2002, and Leftwich hasn’t been taking regular snaps since 2006.
Being the rivalry game that it is, it’s tough to go against the Steelers getting more than a field goal at home—I bet you can count the number of times that’s happened in the last 20 years on one hand—but they’re just too banged up.
My good friend Chris Harvey is calling for about a six-point loss, and as he’s the only Stillers fan I’ve ever liked, that’s good enough for me. (No offense, Beau. Technically we haven’t met. Come down to Stamford; I’ll buy you a beer, and we can change that. Or maybe we both end up bloodied and bruised in the back of a cruiser. Call it 50-50.)
Last thing before I wrap up: I’ve read Beau’s take on a number of the Steelers’ rivals this season. (Sorry, dude. You’re 11-1 in your last three weeks, so the gloves are comin’ off...so, maybe 60-40 in favor of the cruiser scenario.) They’re scumbags and a team with a superiority complex. Must be nice to be a Steelers fan knowing that your team has nothing but upstanding citizens from their offensive coordinator, who defines the term “stand up guy,” to a wide receiver whose antics would have made Gordon Bombay proud. (Bombay before the Hans intervention in the first Might Ducks.) Yup, the Steelers are the class of the NFL. Ask any one of their fans, they’ll tell you! Rory’s Pick: Ravens
Rock Chalk JayLocks:
Colts (+9) The Patriots are surrendering 24.5 points per game at home, and if you factor out the first Buffalo game, they’ve been outscored 61-37 in the 4th quarter this season. How the hell are they going to win by double digits?
Rams (-3.5) Five Slack Lines writers who wish to remain anonymous bashed Nick Altschuller this week, saying that he’s an awful editor and wears ugly shoes. (Roberts put his name on that last part.)
[Editor’s note: Not going to lie, the shoes part stung.]
Saints (-5) I’d take the over in this game, but I’m a little more confident in the Saints winning by more than a TD.
Cedric on: Chicago @ San Francisco (-5)
If I was playing with real money, I’d skip this game until I knew who was playing Monday night. But I can’t, so here we go!
As of late Thursday night both starting quarterbacks are out with concussions. San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh just had a “minor” heart procedure and was sent home from practice by the team’s doctors. Don’t like him as a coach, but he’s one tough SOB. With backup quarterbacks in this game, expect very little scoring from either offense. Neither Forte or Gore will have success running the ball, as both teams will put eight men in the box and dare the other quarterback to throw on them. So in a game of field goals, I believe the Bears defense will force a turnover and score the only touchdown of the game. Cedric’s Pick: Bears
Jacksonville (+15.5) Just a points grab here. Can any team in the NFL be that bad?
Green Bay (-3.5) Not Thanksgiving yet, so let the Packers treat the Lions as the turkeys they truly are.
Cardinals (+10) Don’t believe the hype; Atlanta’s defense isn’t that good.
Until next week.
Email Nick at firstname.lastname@example.org
Tommy grabbed the attention, but the Who’s 1973 opus Quadrophenia was the more muscular and cohesive rock opera of the two, bridging energy and emotion in the tale of Jimmy, a young Mod with a split personality. Led by surviving members Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend, the Who will perform Quadrophenia in its entirety at the TD Garden Friday, backed by a crack band that includes bassist Pino Palladino and drummer Zak Starkey: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M2J1zd4TlSc&feature=relmfu. And if that majestic double album isn’t enough to satiate the masses, expect the Who to cap the night with a handful of more familiar anthems. Also on Friday, the exuberant indie-rock act Matt and Kim returns to House of Blues to throw a crowd-rousing party from the duo’s keyboard/drums pedestal: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=443LXIImaMI&feature=related. And the Sword cuts through with Black Sabbath-rooted metal http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B0EYvogWTK8&feature=plcp) at the Middle East Downstairs, followed Saturday by the rambunctious, oddly named Austin alt-rockers …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of the Dead: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hSYh7tRRGm4.
But the weekend largely belongs to local hero Amanda Palmer, who rounds out a three-night stand at the Paradise Rock Club on Friday and Saturday with her new Grand Theft Orchestra. Riding the million-dollar success of a Kickstarter campaign behind her fabulous, '80s-flavored new album Theatre is Evil, Palmer knows how to connect with a crowd both onstage and off, as she demonstrates at this recent New York show http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2tYmbEw9GuA, mining her conceptual chutzpah for all its worth. You can jump to my recent interview here: http://www.improper.com/going-out/naked-truth/. Also on Saturday, guitarist/singer Simon Townshend (yes, Pete’s brother) takes advantage of an off-night from the Who tour to play an early show with his own band at Church: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LIgHPOx6H8E.
On Sunday, back at the Garden, another legendary old-timer comes round again. But if the Who’s Daltrey has seemingly regained his form from throat surgery, Bob Dylan’s ragged croak has only grown more inscrutable, which makes the perfect (if equally frustrating for some) match to his highly rearranged classics in concert: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vVLlN6h0LXQ. Whether or not he pays much attention to his strong new album Tempest, Dylan not only has guitarists Charlie Sexton and former Bostonian Stu Kimball in his sturdy band, but he’s got ex-Dire Straits king Knopfler serving as both opening act and cameo trump card. And speaking of bards, Waterboys frontman Mike Scott rolls through the Brighton Music Hall for an hour-long reading from his memoir Adventures of a Waterboy, followed by a 40-minute acoustic set with Waterboys fiddler Steve Wickham. Scott’s next album, An Appointment with Mr. Yeats (due in March) will set that Irish poet’s words to music, but Waterboys fans can expect to hear some of Scott’s old favorites Sunday: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cdUwSZJzjTw.
Because it's hard to tell what mood you're in until the weekend comes around.
Here's the deal: We've got a new blog in town, covering everything from culture to entertainment to the arts and food. Whatever is improper—right now—is ripe for the clicking. Which brings me to the first ever edition of Fancy Free, because it's hard to tell what mood you're in until the weekend comes around.
Though he's been in the biz for more than 20 years, it wasn't until Ron White ("Tater Salad" for those in the know) joined the Blue Collar Comedy Tour with Jeff Foxworthy, Bill Engvall and Larry the Cable Guy in 2000 that his stand-up took off. Now known for smoking cigars and drinking scotch on stage, the Texas comedian goes on a bender for 3 shows at the Wilbur this weekend.
Ron White plays the Wilbur Theatre on Nov. 10, 7 and 9:45 pm; Nov. 11, 7 pm. $49.50. wilburtheatre.com.
In its 26th year (like most of the town's population), the Allston Open Studios spans Saturday and Sunday, altogether showcasing more than 30 local artists. There are 3 studios to check out, plus the gallery at Orchard Skate Shop, displaying everything from pet portraits and leather-works to printmaking and fashion design. With any luck, there will be some excellent performance art dropping in and out of Orchard's half pipe, too.
Allston Open Studios takes place at 1 and 119 Braintree St., 20 and 32 Rugg Road and 156 Harvard Ave. on Nov. 10-11, 12-6 pm. Free. allstonarts.org.
The Play Pen
Slack Lines III, Week 10
Betting advice by morons, for morons
Current Slack Lines standings:
The Improper’s Nick Altschuller: 22-13-1
Rory “What Would Jesus” Duyon: 21-15
Parlor Sports/Trina’s Beau Sturm: 21-15
Matt “Cradle” Roberts: 20-16
Green St. Grill’s Greg Reeves: 19-17
Silvertone’s Cedric Adams: 16-20
Man, physical therapy is BORING. Every day I have to do 45 minutes of tedious stretching and isometric exercises. I just stand there and push my fist or elbow in the wall like I passionately regret my choice in wallpaper. Every night it’s like I’m reenacting the training scenes from Kill Bill, but instead of hitting me with a cane, my girlfriend is just annoyed when I leave Thera-Bands tied to the doorknobs. THEN she hits me with a cane.
On the upside, staring at the wall for such a prolonged period of time gives me a chance to think about the upcoming NFL games. Normally that would spell doom for my choices, but good lord, the Slack Lines team is ON FIRE right now. Check it:
Beau followed up his 4-0 Week 8 with a 4-0 Week 9.
Over the past three weeks, Roberts, Greg and I are all 9-3.
Over the past three weeks, every Slack Liner has a winning record, and as a group, we’ve gone 50-22.
That’s crazy. And bound to change. You don’t write out stats like that and not expect a giant pile of fail to arrive on your doorstep. Blaze of glory ahead.
On to the picks!
Matt on: Buffalo @ New England (-11)
I will be in attendance at said game, attempting to engage traveling Bills Mafia members during pregame for friendly banter/cocktails, via the Twitter machine (@TheBillsMafia). A recent Grantland article about the Bills and their supporters painted a pretty bleak picture of current fandom in Buffalo. One group was pre-pre-gaming at a local bar before the Week 4 matchup with the Patriots, watching a replay of last year’s Week 3 Bills win over the New England. One younger fan summed that game up as the greatest moment in his life. Dire times in Buffalo, indeed.
Having a bad football team is nothing longtime Pats fans are unfamiliar with, but the last decade of success has gone a ways to softening us as a group. The vacant red seats and gaping holes in the stadium design of Gillette contribute to the church-like atmosphere at home games, at least by NFL standards. Long gone are the days when my uncle and I used to see people get carried INTO the stadium.
Contrary to what hacky sports writers would have you believe *cough—Shaughnessey*, no sports fans would trade the winning for the losing, but I definitely miss the danger of the old days. Matt’s Pick: Patriots
Ironclad Locks of the Week
Seahawks (-6) The Jets O won’t be able to cope with the rabid ‘Hawks D and crowd.
Falcons (-2.5) No way New Orleans can slow down the vertical passing game. Expect a huge game for Julio, Roddy and Tony.
Bears (-1) In the battle of the league’s best defenses, one point isn’t enough to give.
Rory on: Atlanta @ New Orleans (+2.5)
The Atlanta Falcons have been a team on a mission—eight games, eight wins, no problems. On the other sideline is a team that has spent 2012 in complete and utter turmoil. From bounty-gate to an 0-4 start, and now all the talk about Sean Payton maybe going to the Cowboys, not much has gone the Saints’ way...until just recently. They have three wins in their last four games and a chance to make a big statement this Sunday afternoon.
(And hey, if the Payton thing doesn’t work out, bring back Ditka! Can’t go any worse than the first time around, right?)
The Saints have won 10 of their last 12 meetings with Atlanta, and the Falcons are going to stumble at some point. And Jonathan Vilma’s return has transformed the Saints defense from horrendous to terrible. (Terrible is a tiny step up from horrendous, right?)
Call it a hunch, but the Saints have the home crowd, they’re playing their best football of the year, and this is one of those rivalries where anything can happen. Sign me up for the home dog. Rory’s Pick: Saints
Buccaneers (-3) I’ve gone against Doug Martin in each of my fantasy leagues the past two weeks. Let’s see if he can perform at somebody else’s expense.
Lions (-2.5) Somebody from Michigan has to win this week...by the way, I’m quitting my job so I can get an Obama Phone.
Bengals (+4) Eli Manning has ripped my heart from my chest TWICE. Last week, when I need him to do it to somebody else, he fell flat on his face. Thanks, buddy.
Beau on: Denver @ Carolina (+3.5)
I enjoy the game of football as much as anyone, you know. I will stop and watch a Pop Warner game on my way to work and think stuff like, “If that number 23 grows, pfffheww, he’s gonna be a BEAST!”
I really like football.
However, for as much love as I have for the game, I have equal hate for Cam Newton. I suppose it’s a perfect sporting counter balance: heaven and hell; good and evil; Biggie and Tupac. It’s because of this dislike that I cannot be unbiased. Hey, it took me a long time to come around on Peyton Manning, but come on…those Buick commercials? How can you not like that guy?
[Editor’s Note: Exhibit A: Those Papa John’s commercials.]
Both defenses rank around the middle of the NFL pack. Carolina can run the ball with surprising efficiency, and Denver can flat out sling the rock. I mean, Manning has made Eric Decker look good.
But the turnover bug has bitten both teams. At the same time, though both teams have mediocre defenses, they’re opportunistic. So, turnovers will determine the winner. Since Cam Newton is such a complete dirtbag, he will screw this up. I see a scenario in which he fumbles the ball on the potential game-winning drive, then blame the fans for the loss, thus forcing ownership to fire the fans. Beau’s Pick: Broncos
Locks of the week:
Raiders (+7.5) keep it close in Baltimore.
Texans (+1) beat Chicago bad.
Buccaneers (-3) win big at home over the Chargers. (When will Norv Turner get fired?)
BC covers versus Notre Dame
Cedric on: Dallas @ Philadelphia (+1.5)
Here’s the Super Bowl of unfulfilled promises.
Neither team will make the playoffs, so where do we start? For Dallas, owner Jerry Jones needs to heed his own advice and fire himself as general manager. Coach Jason Garrett’s questionable game-time decisions (especially during the two-minute drill) need to be corrected. And Tony Romo’s big-game miscues are legendary and proof of his lack of toughness.
On the other side, we have Mike Vick, who’s being hit like a piñata every time he drops back to pass. Of course, he fumbles the ball, but it’s not his fault that four out of five of his starting offensive linemen are missing. Coach Andy Reid has never lost five straight games, ever; but his players are playing like they don’t care, and replacing Vick is not an option. Whoever is under center for the Eagles will be under duress all game. Better to have a QB who can run for his life.
If this game were 7-on-7, Philly would win. As it stands, Dallas wins and covers. Cedric’s Pick: Cowboys
Steelers (-12.5) I would take Alabama over KC.
Giants (-4) The NFC is just better than the AFC.
Seattle (-6) Pete Carroll can coach defense, and Rex Ryan has no offense.
Greg on: Houston @ Chicago (-1)
Here’s a matchup where each team has the possible Defensive Players of the Year (JJ Watt and Charles Tillman). The Bears have a lot of momentum, a very opportunistic defensive and most importantly, a Jay Cutler.
Sorry, he’s playing AIGHT, but Cutler’s a punk. Brandon Marshall is a difference maker, but you never know with Smokin’ Jay. He might hit Marshall with a long bomb or an offensive lineman in the face.
Both these teams are good on both sides of the ball, but the pressure JJ Watt creates will help Cutler revert back to the old Jay, and he’ll implode, again. Greg’s Pick: Texans
Iggles (+1.5) I love the fact that either way, the Eagles or Cowboys lose. What’s the over/under that one of these teams will be calling Bill Cowher next week?
Broncos (-3.5) Peyton is playing better than Brady. Cam is a bum, and I hope he falls down a lot.
The New York Football Giants (+4) Eli has been horrible lately; Nicks has been transparent, but Sundays are reserved for salsa dancing. Victor Cruz is in a contract year and wants to make some dough. He and his mom are taking over for McNabb and company in the Chunky soup ads, and he’ll make enough plays for the Giants. Plus, the GMen are the best road team in the NFL. Total homer pick.
Nick on: Kansas City @ Pittsburgh (-12.5)
I’m sold on Steelers running back Jonathan Dwyer. Through Week 6, Pittsburgh was 31st in the league in rushing. Week 7 rolls around, and they feed the big man 17 carries, and he gets 122 yards. Week 8, 17 for 107. He was out last week, but Isaac Redman cleaned up. Now with Dwyer back healthy, a) the Chiefs are in trouble, and b) Dwyer needs a nickname.
In the town of the Bus, why not the Minivan, or the Short Bus?
(By the way, I rode the short bus to school. It was speedy and efficient and had no negative connotations. I lived in a small neighborhood! WHY WASTE THE GAS!?)
The line makes me nervous, but I see a blowout coming. I’ve just never bet against so many points before. It’s like I’m going all in at the poker table, but one of those fancy poker tables where the chips are giant rectangles instead of little plastic circles. (Right angles = CLASS.) I feel like during this game I’m going to dab at my eye with an expensive handkerchief as I imposingly cry blood.
Bond reference! I’ll see you guys at Skyfall. Nick’s Pick: Steelers
Lock and Awe:
Ravens (-7.5) I think Baltimore is ready to become part of the playoff discussion again.
Pats v. Bills (Over 52) These teams combined for 80 in Week 4. And Sunday is supposed to be sunny and 60 degrees. Great scoring weather, says science.
BC (+19) I’ve never won a BC bet in my life. Beau is 1-9 this year with college football. This all but guarantees Notre Dame by 50.
Until next week.
Email Nick at email@example.com
Welcome to November’s best spread of shows. First up, rock fans who lament the retirement of both Midnight Oil and R.E.M. and haven’t seen The Tragically Hip should enjoy themselves at House of Blues on Friday. They’ll probably be in the company of excited Canadians who cross the border to catch that veteran quintet in smaller halls than in their mutual homeland. Fronted by Gord Downie, who’s equally enigmatic in his lyrics and stage movements, the Hip just released a typically solid new album, Now For Plan A, as the band amazingly approaches its 30th year as an intact unit. Here’s one of my favorite Hip songs live from a few years back: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6emctNoSONI&list=UUJlTNV-9HgE8ihg-Ghd0ZbA&index=13&feature=plpp_video.
Tame Impala won’t remain an unknown species in the mainstream for long. The groovy Australian psych-rockers led by Kevin Parker are becoming a hot commodity in this country with an advance Friday sellout at Royale: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zmtHUWnifa4&feature=relmfu. And speaking of psych-rock, Texas pioneer Roky Erickson, who can boast a mind-blowing backstory of drug imprisonment and mental illness, made a stellar comeback with 2010’s True Love Cast Out All Evil, backed by the band Okkervil River. The scraggly singer/guitarist and his hearty touring band return to rock an intimate early set at T.T. the Bear’s Place: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PBZFP0qLOjs&feature=related. Local Irish expatriate Christian McNeill and his soul-rock review Sea Monsters also open a two-night stand at Precinct on Friday. They’re toasting their long-overdue Everything’s Up For Grabs, which exceeds expectations, fleshing out McNeill’s songs (led by the dynamite “Zero”) with a cast including Duke Levine, Lyle Brewer, Jesse Dee, Tim Gearan and Nicole Nelson, who recently shined on “The Voice.” Here’s a glimpse of some Sea Monsters action from a performance at Q Division studio: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DyXRsyNUhdY&feature=relmfu.
But the weekend’s hometown highlight remains Human Sexual Response, playing Boston for the first time in nearly 25 years at House of Blues on Saturday. The playfully provocative art-punk septet (with four singers, three musicians) turned this town on its ear before breaking up in 1982. Members moved on to other projects (the Zulus, Sugar and Frank Black) and moved around the country. But they’re back to celebrate a new live DVD that should be available at this rare reunion. Here’s a song from that 1982 concert shoot http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=swXqa_jkfvs and you can hop to my recent feature on the Humans here: http://www.improper.com/going-out/aroused-again/. Alas, you’re not about to see Pink Floyd reunite, but you might experience the next best thing when the Australian Pink Floyd plays Saturday at the Citi Wang Center and Sunday at the Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester, N.H. I’m not keen on tribute bands, but when you’re invited to play Floyd guitarist David Gilmour’s 50th birthday party and present a light show to rival that of your models, you’re liable to make fans happy: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ktPsFI9Noqw.
Sunday offers a couple of other great options. Singer/rapper Lauren Hill has been absent or erratic in the decade-plus since her fame with Fugees and her wondrous solo debut The Miseducation of Lauren Hill. But she’s back in action of late (if not quite at the top of her game), and her appearance with firebrand rapper Nas at House of Blues offers a two-for-one payoff. The two headliners are also likely to team up as they have along the way: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W7EN9oOP7os. And haunting indie-rocker Sharon Van Etten makes a welcome return to the Paradise Rock Club in support of her album Tramp: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aVA2CsM4R44.
The Play Pen
Slack Lines III, Week 9
Betting advice by morons, for morons
Current Slack Lines standings:
The Improper’s Nick Altschuller: 19-12-1
Rory “Bad Boys, Whatcha Gonna” Duyon: 19-13
Matt “Cops ’n’” Roberts: 18-14
Parlor Sports/Trina’s Beau Sturm: 17-15
Green St. Grill’s Greg Reeves: 15-17
Silvertone’s Cedric Adams: 13-19
We had unprecedented success this past week. Both Beau and Matt went 4-0, and would you look at that: Now we have four guys with above .500 records. Overall, we’re winning 53 percent of our picks, which is shockingly not abysmal, and to be honest, I think that’s the best we could have hoped for.
We’re certainly better at picking games than all the old players on the Sunday morning pre-game shows. These men actually know something about football, AND they’re not even betting with a spread. I don’t think I’ve seen Mike Ditka ever pick a game correctly. The guy probably had Patriots (+10) in Super Bowl XX.
No more time for dawdling. We’ve got a newfound reputation to ruin.
On to the picks!
Greg on: Denver @ WKRP in Cincinnati (+3.5)
[Editor’s Note: Way to do date yourself, Bill Simmons, Jr.]
Denver is going to win because of one reason: They have a Manning. If you look at a lot of the top teams: the Giants have Eli Manning; the Broncos have Peyton Manning and even Houston has Daniel Manning. All are divisional leaders, and all are favorites this week.
But for real, Peyton is clicking on all cylinders and is 7-0 against the Bengals in his career. Demaryius Thomas is going into beast mode as the season goes on, and McGahee is quietly having another solid year. To add insult to injury, Marvin Lewis has a .250 winning percentage against Denver. Look for Von Miller to plant Dalton on his back as Denver wins and covers the spread. Greg’s Pick: Broncos
Bears (-3.5) The Titans screwed me last week, so I hate them. The Bears D is the highest-scoring defense around, so they can AND WILL make up for however Cutler decides to screw up.
Buccaneers (+1.5) The Bucs young talent will shine, and Doug Martin will run all over Oakland.
Hotlanta (-4) Too many injuries for the ‘girls. The culture in Dallas will prevent them from ever really being a contender again. Atlanta is undefeated and gets no respect. Look for Roddy white to get back on track and get me some fantasy points.
Matt on: Arizona @ Green Bay (-11)
Who would have thought that an NFL team would need a semi-functioning offense to succeed? It’s a hard lesson the Cardinals are learning, and the problem starts at the QB position. Most agree that Andy Reid is a boob of a head coach, but all could agree that the one thing he has proven most proﬁcient at is selling off his useless quarterbacks to the rubes of the league (AJ Feely, anyone?). Kevin Kolb is the most recent detritus jettisoned from the Eagles, and in exchange they received functioning NFL corner Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. Kolb, in the meantime, has gone on to lose the starting job to a graduate of Fordham University, which, to put it gently, is not a football factory. Someone please light a candle for Larry Fitzgeraldʼs dead career.
Last week I was rewarded by taking the points with Jacksonville (+15) over Green Bay. This week I really wanted to do it again and bet Arizona, but I can’t bring myself to do it. Even if the Green Bay offense falters (which it won’t), I can’t see the Cardinals scoring. The only thing that’s even making me pause is the potential for a Patrick Peterson Special Teams Backdoor Cover Special (TM). The Cardinals defense isn’t what it was earlier in the season, and the Pack will light them up. Blowout city, baby! Matt’s Pick: Packers
Lock City, Baby!:
Chargers (-7.5): The Chefs are in full-on “Blow for Geno” and “Shat for Matt” mode (Smith and Barkley, respectively, for all you college football neophytes). *winks at Beau
[Editor’s Note: I can confirm that this pick was in before last night’s game, and that Beau knows nothing about college football.]
Eagles (+3) A midweek press conference where the HC says “Michael is still our starting quarterback” isn’t a good sign. That said, the Saints D may be the worst in NFL history.
Browns (+3.5) It’s about time the people rose up and overthrew the oppressor! Attica! Perennial also-rans take a huge step and win a grudge match against their waning rivals.
Nick on: Miami @ Indianapolis (+2)
Andrew Luck seems a rather likable fellow, which is too bad, because I really enjoy hating the Colts. Sadly, they’ve been making an effort to be less infuriating. First it was Peyton Manning displaying an annoyingly charming sense of humor. Then it was the creation of owner Jim Irsay’s Twitter account. Here’s one tweet from today:
“...I would guess she's in New York,with lots of money,in the bank...although I could be wrong.....”
He writes that with no context! Who’s in New York, Jim? And why is she in the bank? You’ve made “with lots of money” a nonessential phrase, you delightful/grammatical dum-dum. Aaaargh, I want to hate him, but I also really want to hang out with the guy because he’s an eccentric billionaire who bought the original manuscript to On the Road and collects classic rock guitars. You only get a few eccentric billionaires in your life. Gotta hold on to this one.
And now his stupid team is getting two points at home against a Dolphins squad probably starting back-up QB/Soul-patch enthusiast Matt Moore. To be honest, I almost WANT them to them lose by one. Nick’s Pick: Colts
Locks of Seagulls:
Ravens (-3.5) When I first looked at this week’s spreads, I spent a full minute thinking “Baltimore” meant the Colts. That team moved to Indianapolis in 1983. I’ve had PLENTY of time to get that right. I think I need a CT scan.
Lions (-4) Detroit is due for an offensive explosion. On top of that, they average 23 points a game, and Jacksonville averages 14.7. Plus, Maurice Jones-Drew is still out for the foreseeable future. This is my Krypton Lock of the Week.
Bills (+10) Fred Jackson has enough life in him to keep this respectable. And maybe returning to Houston will be the one thing capable of motivating Mario Williams.
Cedric on: Pittsburgh @ NY Giants (-3)
This battle of top-tier teams will be the hardest-hitting game this weekend—at least the game involving professionals. (’Bama vs. LSU game will be the hardest-hitting game for those not collecting checks.)
The offensive and defensive lines will decide this one. Expect Bradshaw to rush for 100+ and Ben to be pressured all game long, leading to a couple of interceptions. The Giants seem to be in postseason form already. Cedric’s Pick: Giants, winning 27-14 (Sorry, Beau.)
Bears (-3.5) Defense wins games and covers spreads. I must remember that mantra!
Broncos (-3.5) Peyton does not lose to Cincy under any circumstances.
Falcons (-4) Jerry will be livid after this blowout. Romo must go!
Rory on: Dallas @ Atlanta (-4)
Hold the phone. First, as a Pats fan, I have to say that I’m excited about the move to acquire Aqib Talib and help the miserable secondary at the deadline. Some people are only looking at the negative side, with Talib having to serve one more game of a four-game suspension. I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing. With a bye week and then one week to sit and watch, this gives him two full weeks to learn the Patriots system. Yup, that’s two full weeks to learn how to get burned and then run into the receiver while trying to recover without looking back for the ball. Hey-ooo!
But back to the lecture at hand. Tony Romo is a mess. Since a big win over the G-Men on opening night he’s thrown six touchdowns with 12 picks while going 2-4 in that span. The only thing that’s going in his favor is that he’s playing on the road. Romo has just a pair of touchdowns and 10 interceptions in three home games this season.
I’ve discovered that more often than not, when a point spread looks too good to be true, it usually is. In this case, with the most complete team in the NFL giving only four points at home against a Cowboys team that is unraveling before our eyes, it sure seems like one of those spreads. Normally, in a too-good-to-be-true scenario, I’m able to talk myself into going with the not-so-obvious pick, because let’s be honest, Vegas knows what they’re doing.
By the way, what would happen if these teams ever met in the playoffs? Romo vs. Ryan in January? One of them would HAVE to win, right? What would the odds be on Earth getting struck by an asteroid or slipping into a black hole before the game ended?
I can’t talk myself into the Cowboys this time. Atlanta wins going away. Rory’s Pick: Falcons
Giants (-3) It scares me how much better the NFC is than the AFC this year. (The AFC is 12-20 against the NFC.)
Bears (-3.5) Since I only get to pick three locks, as a rule I almost never pick against home dogs, but the Bears are AT LEAST a touchdown better than the Titans.
Vikings (+4.5) It shouldn’t be that hard to win by more than four points, right? Well, the Seahawks haven’t done it in their last 10 games (4 wins).
Beau on: Philly @ Nawlins (-3)
First things first: Greg, my team is better than your team, and I’m willing to wager on it to prove so. Take that!
I love getting these games! These two teams are the headliners in the great NFL imbroglio. The storyline is classic:
Philly co-stars the tragic Wilford Brimley look-alike who’s coaching for his job and the convict trying to make good. The Saints are equally sad. They star the good guy trying to will his team to wins every week despite a JV defense and no leadership (other than him). The wagons are circling, Drew…
The Saints have what is being called one of the worst defenses of all time. They've given up more than 400 yards in seven straight games. Yet, they're throwing for more yards than anyone in the league. This reminds me of the tact of my alma mater, West Virginia University, who also don't care to fret about defense en lui of filling the sky with footballs. (It’s not working out so good for WVU.)
The Eagles fired their D coordinator, but the D wasn't that bad. In fact, it was in the top half of the league in most categories. Offensive turnovers are what’s killing the Eagles. I've got some advice for poor ol' Andy: tell conVick to hold on to the ball with both hands and run. Run like Forrest Gump. Don't even look down field. RUN! No matter how often the 6-foot-tall southpaw tries to be a classic passer, he’s not. What is he? A guy who can run a 4.3 40.
This game could end 3-2 or 65-48. I love football!
New Orleans gives up 400 yards again, but they win the turnover battle to cover. Beau’s Pick: Saints
Locks of the Week:
Steelers (+3) Pittsburgh is getting points this week? Seriously? Come on, easiest pick of the year. Blitzburgh!! BOOM!
Buccaneers (+1.5) My boy Josh Freeman (Kansas State Standout) takes down the Raiders.
Lions (-4) Detroit over the Jags on the road
And how the hell is Oregon only -8.5 at USC? I know that I’m something like 1-9 picking college football, but I just can’t resist this game. The Ducks, BIG.
Until next week.
Email Nick at firstname.lastname@example.org
It’s not enough to be another generation’s guitar slinger a la Stevie Ray Vaughan. Gary Clark Jr., from Vaughan’s old stomping grounds of Austin, Texas, runs the gamut on his impressive new full-length debut Blak and Blu. Showcasing both gritty guitar sparks and smooth old-school vocals, Clark tries his steady hand at silky soul, easy hip-hop and acoustic blues as well as a grungy deconstruction of Hendrix’s overdone “Third Stone From the Sun” and melodic riff-rock that neatly nods to the Stones and Lenny Kravitz. But if the album shows surprisingly deft range, make no mistake: Clark’s meaty guitar prowess will become the focus when his band plays a Friday show at Royale (in place of pending Harvard Square club the Sinclair, whose opening has been delayed until mid-November). Yet Clark’s pairing with another Austin upstart, the coyly engaging jazz-pop singer Kat Edmonson, sets the tone for Clark to cut a broad swath before he leaves sold-out clubs for larger venues. Here’s just one of the guitarist’s cold shots: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tOeFJF3tTSU&list=PLTmFZBSZal5jsY3PN60vT5_Y2vCEHocMY&index=1&feature=plcp. And here’s Edmonson in more of a stark setting: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=65JIncZNC5E.
Saturday provides outstanding choices for pop or jazz along Boston’s music college corridor. Winsome singer/songwriter Aimee Mann brings her smart pop tunes and seasoned band to the ex-‘Til Tuesday siren’s onetime Berklee digs: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NdWtpwlDGF0. And the 35th annual John Coltrane Memorial Concert at Northeastern’s Blackman Auditorium will feature a sharp array of local veterans including saxophonists Bill Pierce, Stan Strickland and Leonard Brown as well as bassist John Lockwood and drummer Teri Lyne Carrington (if not once-hoped guest Pharoah Sanders). Here’s the event in 2009 with many of the same players: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X_Y7GjFZhYQ. Downtown, Royale keep rolling Saturday as shaggy indie-rockers Grouplove pump their own sunshine sellout, with a poppy pinch of Pixies dust on this number: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AqczqZc_y6A. And Sunday brings the flow of Somali Canadian singer/rapper K’naan to the same club, which picks up another original Sinclair booking: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CypWvNlOPxg&feature=relmfu.
The Play Pen
Slack Lines III, Week 8
Betting advice by morons, for morons
Current Slack Lines standings:
Rory “Monkey See, Monkey” Duyon: 17-11
The Improper’s Nick Altschuller: 16-11-1
Matt “Cops ’n’” Roberts: 14-14
Green St. Grill’s Greg Reeves: 13-15
Parlor Sports/Trina’s Beau Sturm: 13-15
Silvertone’s Cedric Adams: 12-16
Beau is our official Ambassador for College Football. It’s a title he’s earned with his enthusiasm, experience and general good nature.
For gambling purposes, however, good lord, the man is awful.
Last week he picked South Carolina (+3.5). The Gamecocks were slaughtered by 33 points. The week before, Beau picked his beloved Mountaineers, who were giving four points to Texas Tech. WVU was steamrolled by 35. Before that, the Auburn Tigers were giving a whopping 9.5 points to Arkansas. They lost by 17, at home. The esteemed Mr. Sturm is 0-5 on college games.
In response, our A.C.F. is delivering three college picks this week! Slow down, big fella! You’re like the Goose that Laid the Golden Eggs. Sure, you’re eggs are diseased, but the key is they’re profitable. We know the gift we have, so we can’t over work you.
In related news, the rest of the Slack Lines team went 15-5 last week, so bet heavy. I’ll be here next week to answer all your angry emails (email@example.com) once things go off the rails.
On to the picks!
Rory on: New England vs. St. Louis (+7)
I apologize to the readers in advance. I’m in Tampa at a job-training event, and I’m in a horrible mood. This might be the worst city I’ve ever been to in my life. The people are total jackasses, and the cab drivers refuse to turn the meter on and then charge you $18 for a half-mile ride. I’m fuming. Karma is going to see to it that I go 0-4 this week for whining and then shortchanging the readers of any kind of funny anecdotes or “real” analysis. This is where my solid season falls off the tracks.
[Editor’s note: Sweet! And you’ve obviously never been to Houston.]
While I’m feeling surly, I want to take a minute to single out a player from a team I’m not covering because I find him and his organization to be completely despicable. I’ve seen LeBron James, the Montreal Canadians and a countless number of professional soccer players pull some gloriously heinous flops, but I’ve never seen anything as embarrassing as the shenanigans pulled by Emmanuel Sanders last Monday night against the Bengals…shameful.[Editor’s note: Beau, Rory is at the Tampa Ramada, room 317.]
The Patriots defense sucks; they can’t close, and they’re 0-2 against the NFC West. Somehow, my buddy, Matt, talked me into counting on them to win by more than a touchdown. The Pats find a way to get it done, but if they don’t, I picked up Sam Bradford on one of my fantasy teams just to start this week. Hedge your bets, kids. Rory’s Pick: Patriots
Cedric on: Jacksonville @ Green Bay (-15)
Check the light bulbs on the scoreboard, as Green Bay and Aaron Rodgers end this one early. The Jags have major problems: no Maurice Jones-Drew to run the ball and an injured Blaine Gabbert (with Chad “INT” Henne as his back-up). The Packers losing Woodson won’t be a factor this week because no matter who’s starting for Jacksonville, their offensive line can’t keep their QB upright. Expect some Lambeau Leaps for Nelson and Cobb this week.
It’s a lot of points to give, but I can’t figure out how the Jaguars will score. Cedric’s Pick: Packers
Redskins (+4.5) over the Steelers. I’m a RGIII believer! Steelers win 28-27, the Redskins cover, Beau’s happy!
Chargers(-3) No Richardson for Cleveland, no chance!
Atlanta (+3) The dream continues for Matt Ryan. The nightmare continues for Vick, compliments of Asante Samuel.
Beau on: Washington @ Pittsburgh (-4.5)
RGIII is sooooo cool. He can run; he can pass; he won a Heisman Trophy; he says all the right things; his coaches and teammates love him, and he has great socks. Big Ben is hated by most people (including his fellow teammates and his new offensive coordinator); he’s ugly; he has a sexual criminal history, and he may be just plain dumb. Here’s the rub though: Robert Griffin III has done nothing but earn a 3-4 record and BIG MEAN BEN is 10-4 in the postseason, has two Super Bowl rings, has been to the AFC Championship four times in his eight-year career and has never had a losing record as a starting QB in the NFL.
However, there are 21 other guys on the field besides the one behind center. It’s for that reason that the Steelers will win this matchup by more than five points. Try this: Name two defensive players on the Redskins. Nobody can, outside of his family.
The Steelers are just a better team, position for position. They get Pouncy back at center. They’re moving Doug Legursky back to guard. This means that our fearless editor, Nick, could run for almost 100 yards against a very poor Washington D line. On the other side of the ball, the Steelers can’t do much, but they can stop the run, even if it’s a QB on the run.
I will say this though, of Washington’s four losses, none have been blowouts, and all have been to good teams. I like the Skins. They play hard. It won’t be easy, but the Steelers make a statement this week. Beau’s Pick: Steelers
Locks of the Week*:
Sweep the leg Giants (-2)! The Lone Star Losers are mentally frail. Put the nail in the Cowboys’ coffin. (Greg, LT don’t ID! Know what I mean?)
The 49ers (-7) destroy the hopes and dreams of Arizona.
Raiders (+1.5) against Brady Quinn. The defense rests.
College Football Extras:
Northwestern (-5) over Iowa at home
Duke (+27.5) keeps it close-ish with Florida State
Mississippi State (+24) will scare the invincible Crimson Tide!
*If you put $100 on this seven-team parlay, you will lose $100.
Greg on: GMen @ Cowgirls (+2)
Here’s the second Dallas meeting between these two rivals, as the Cowboys try to beat the Giants for the first time since Jerry Jones spent a billion on that crazy stadium.
This is a must win for Big D, but they’re limping into this one. Murray is probably out, and Lee is gone for the year. Eli is rolling, and Dallas has a hard time getting to the QB, with only 12 sacks this year. That doesn’t bode well when you have a rookie cornerback. Plus, Romo picked the wrong season to be in a contract year, as he’s got more INTs than TDs.
The Giants running game has been rejuvenated the past couple of weeks, and look for Victor Cruz to Salsa dance in Dallas. Greg’s Pick: Giants
Rams (+7) Last week, the Patriots really showed the talentless Jets who was boss. Jeff Fisher is turning this defense around, just like Big Bill is doing in New England. (Those statements are half true.) Look for the Rams secondary to shut down the Pat’s wide receivers.
Falcons (+3) Philthy is undefeated after bye weeks, but they just lost their D coordinator, and Mike Vick is the one QB that has more turnovers than Romo. Hotlanta is off a bye, too, so look for Matty Ice to get back at it against the Iggles secondary.
Titans (-3.5) The Colts defense gave up 161 yards to Shonn Greene, so look for CJ2K to double that with the roll he’s on. Luck is on his way, but maybe next time.
Matt on: New Orleans @ Denver (-6)
Peyton Manning walks into a stable and John Elway says, “Why the long face?” They then share a bag of oats and a few apples (core and all). Ladies and gentleman, Peyton Manning and John Elway resemble horses! (Thunderous applause)
Watching Elway golf-clap and grin through gritted teeth as Tim Tebow led the Broncos to a series of improbable comebacks last season was the real life embodiment of the movie Major League. Only instead of wanting the team to fail in order to move the franchise, the brass wanted their popular QB to fail so they could bring in their own guy. There was also no way John Fox and the lads were peeling a section off of an Elway Fat-head with every win, and at no point was old horsey-face revealed in all his glory.
Regardless of the manner in which it was done, the Broncos offseason acquisition of Peyton has gone extremely well, much to the chagrin of non-Broncos fans, and anyone not having the last name Manning.
This game has the making of the shootout of the year. Both the Saints and Broncos score at will, but they can’t stop anyone. The over/under for this game (55.5) is the highest of any game of the docket this weekend, and I’m still hammering the over, and Denver to cover. At home, they’ll be able to get the one or two key stops that the Saints defensive unit won’t be able to match. Matt’s Pick: Denver
Quick aside: Jonathan Vilma ﬁling a defamation suit against the current league commish (the Ginger Hammer) is the ballsiest move I’ve ever seen, and it doesn’t get enough play.
Locks of the Century of the Week:
Colts (+3.5) How the Titans are giving more than three points to any professional football team is beyond me.
Jaguars (+15): Henne is an upgrade over Gabbert. Gotta take the points.
Oakland (+1.5) Betting the wife’s ring on this one. You wait so long for the day to bet against Brady Quinn, and when it ﬁnally comes, you don’t know what to say.
Nick on: San Francisco @ Arizona (+6.5)
They’ve lost three in a row, but the Cardinals D remains rock solid. Last week, Arizona held Minnesota to just 209 total yards, with QB Christian Ponder throwing for just 58.
Beau threw out the joke notion that I could run for 100 yards behind the Steelers O-line, but I think 58 yards is actually a fair over/under for the bet: How many yards could an amateur gain if he was named the starting QB on an NFL team?
I mean, 58 yards? I’m pretty sure I could handle taking a snap, defecting in my spandex, then throwing a weak dump-off to Adrian Peterson. I couple quarters and a couple wardrobe changes, and I think I could cover that bet.
Of course, in reality, every play would look like this. After one possession, my spine would be snapped and shoved through my sternum. I’d look like John Hurt in Alien. (I won’t link to that scene. Far too gruesome.)
The problem for Arizona is they can stop an air attack, but they’re D is 20th against the run. The 49ers success is predicated on Alex Smith just being adequate. If he doesn’t throw up big numbers, so what? Running back Frank Gore, on the other hand, is on a tear. Just look at this play for last week. Nick’s Pick: 49ers
If This Van’s a Lockin’, Don’t Come a Knockin’:
Patriots (-7) No game played in London has been even the least bit interesting. The Pats continue the sad tradition with a blowout win.
Falcons (+3) An undefeated team getting three points against a team in turmoil. Done.
Chargers (-3) It’s put up or shut up time for Philip Rivers.
Email Nick at firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow the Slack Lines team on Twitter: @altschuller, @beausturm, @CedricAdams, @KidRob21 and @roryduyon
When I caught “Celebration Day,” the new film of Led Zeppelin’s 2007 one-off London reunion concert, I marveled at how guitar icon Jimmy Page and his cronies (even drum heir Jason Bonham) truly rose to the occasion -- and how much fun it would have been to be there. Warren Haynes, known for his own guitar prowess in the Allman Brothers Band and Gov’t Mule, was in that audience. Just a coincidence that the Mule performed Zeppelin's Houses of the Holy album on Halloween 2007 and keeps dropping tunes from that band’s catalog? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UFuhOr2cMKI. The Mule kicks into the Orpheum Theatre Friday with new originals on the way. But if I had to bet on likely covers, I’d pick Jimi Hendrix over Zeppelin as a possible warm-up for this year’s Hendrix Halloween in Chicago. There’s another Friday night alternative at Royale in rootsy, Ohio-bred garage band the Heartless Bastards, fronted by feisty singer Erika Wennerstrom and now based in Austin, Texas: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ETIJUW9P4Lo&feature=related.
Saturday’s even busier, especially if you need to put in the legwork to wrangle a ticket to one of three choice sold-out shows. At this point, you might have heard of Rodriguez, the Detroit singer/songwriter who languished in obscurity (working in demolition and earning a philosophy degree) after his two early ‘70s records made him a cult hero in South Africa. He’s the subject of the new documentary “Searching for Sugar Man” and was just featured on “60 Minutes,” and he'll pack Johnny D’s Uptown for an early show: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CrFnJekygLk. Likewise, English singer/songwriter Laura Marling brings her thoughtful, angelic folk to Club Passim for a more intimate venue that her last visit to Berklee. So she used to date Marcus Mumford; it’s her own music that enchants: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rjgG4z9sjzU. And Phish fans who can’t wait until the band’s four-night New Year’s run at Madison Square Garden (or Phish’s 30th anniversary tour next year) might catch guitarist/singer Trey Anastasio at the Orpheum Saturday. He’s out with his eight-piece band, including horns and percussionist Cyro Baptista, in support of his indie-flavored album Traveler, which sports a keen cover of Gorillaz’ “Clint Eastwood” (look for an empty chair?) and features a studio cast that includes members of the National. Anastasio’s also likely to toss in Phish favorites “Sand” and “First Tube” as well as more tempered new stuff into his latest Orpheum groove: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ox3hp1Vd61A.
As the leader and only constant of the Smashing Pumpkins, Billy Corgan could well be touring under his own name as well. But there’s no brand appeal in that, and the shaven-headed singer/guitarist sounds newly inspired with his latest Pumpkins lineup on the new Oceania. They’ll play Agganis Arena Saturday, and in addition to waves from that album, you can expect nuggets like “Bullet with Butterfly Wings” (in case you want to feel like a rat in a cage) and “Cherub Rock” as well as covers of David Bowie and even KISS. Between talk of those makeup marauders and pumpkins, let’s look forward to Halloween (Stay away, Sandy). Here’s a fresh taste of Smashing Pumpkins from the new album: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9jVKARgBBfU&feature=related.
The Play Pen
Slack Lines III, Week 7
Betting advice by morons, for morons
Current Slack Lines standings:
Rory “Hüsker” Duyon: 14-10
The Improper’s Nick Altschuller: 13-10-1
Parlor Sports/Trina’s Beau Sturm: 12-12
Matt “Grave” Roberts: 11-13
Green St. Grill’s Greg Reeves: 10-14
Silvertone’s Cedric Adams: 9-15
Just had my first physical therapy session. It was a ton of fun, as the first step in treating a torn labrum is to quintuple check where and how severely it hurts. I am very much looking forward to my next session.
Speaking of painful life changes, looks like Beau has to sell his hot rod. Apparently, our man needs to buy a boring automobile because he went and married a lovely woman and had adorable twin babies. WHAT AN IDIOT. I offered to race him in my Volvo 240 for pink slips, but the coward didn’t show.
And speaking of throwing money away, let’s move…
On to the picks!
Greg on: Baltimore @ Houston (-6.5)
Tough week for Baltimore, losing “The Murder” and Webb, and now they come in to Houston to play the Texans. Can Flacco put this team on his back and get a win? Can Houston win without Cushing?
I don’t see Baltimore being able to come back after losing their captain. Arian Foster is a beast—and I hope he gets stifled, since Beau has him in fantasy this week—but he won’t, and neither will Ben Tate. JJ Watt seems to be disruptive on every play, and he’ll find a way too put Flacco on his back. Greg’s Pick: Texans
Bills (-3) Tennessee just isn’t that good, and Buffalo has too many weapons in their backfield.
Saints (-2.5) After a bye week, Brees will be focused, and Jimmy Graham is due.
Jets (+10.5) A battle of division leaders. How can the Patriots have a superior roster but have the same record as the lowly Jets? Maybe they’re not that good, or maybe their coaching is suspect, or maybe their QB is old, or maybe they don’t know how to draft any good DBs, or maybe the OL is a weak. They’ll probably win, but the Jets are the pick.
Matt on: Dallas @ Carolina (+2)
Quick quiz: In which Carolina do the Panthers play? I, as a lifelong NFL fan and current low-rent handicapper, do not know the answer. And I like it that way. I’m not looking it up. Market research shows that only 40 percent of Slack Lines contributors know the answer. (Ok, I made up that percentage, but you can use percentages to prove anything. 18 percent of all Americans know that.)
[Editor’s Note: How the hell do you not know the correct Carolina? I’d fire you, if gross incompetence weren’t a job requirement.]
It took one season for Cam Newton to rise to the status of most celebrated QB in Panthers history. But when the competition is Steve Beuerlein (career backup), Kerry Collins (universally loathed/boozehound) and Jake Delhomme (poor manʼs Brett Favre), it isn’t that impressive a feat. For a fan base that endured the quarterback pu pu platter of David Carr, Matt Moore, Delhomme and Vinny bleeping Testaverde, Cam not only achieved instant-legend status, but was mistaken by Panthers fans as the second coming of Christ. However, in his second season, he’s regressed. Much to the delight of the Harvey Updike lovin’, historic tree killin’, mayonnaise sandwich eatin’, ﬂannel and suspenders wearin’, gun rack havin’ contingent of the U.S. population known as Alabama fans, the #9-#12 pick in your fantasy draft has fallen below the mean. When the entire fate of a team rises and falls with one player, and that player performs poorly, positive results don’t follow. Roll damn tide.
While last week’s last-second loss to the Ravens was even gut-punchier and mind numbingly brain-fartier than your average horriﬁc Cowboys loss, they still covered the spread. This week the coaching/execution will be slightly less intolerable, and they’ll backdoor their way into a three-point win. Matt’s Pick: Cowboys
Locks of the Week (sponsored by Kars for Kids):
Packers (-5.5) With “Wes Welker After Taxes” (credit @RumfordJohnny) out injured, the Rams don’t have the offense to keep up.
Bills (-3.5) Hasselbeck should be looking for condos in West Palm Beach, not starting in
Cowboys (-2) The lines this week are so unappealing, I’m picking this game twice.
Beau on: Washington @ NY Giants (-6)
What’s the first thing you think of when you see this matchup? I think defense. I think of LT throwing his helmet of in a cocaine fit, realizing he just ended Joe Theismann’s career. I think of Parcells and Belichick. I think of cold, single-digit games ending in a wind-affected field goal. D-E-F-E-N-S-E!
Well this game ain’t it. These two teams rank among the bottom of the NFL in total defense, and both are in the top five of total offense. This is a matchup of the most exciting young QB in football versus a guy who’s made the big throw to win the big game twice.
This is a hard game to pick.
Shanahan has the Giants’ number. They won both games last year against the Giants. NY never seems to be able to put two good wins in a row together until December. Then again, this is the defending Super Bowl Champ playing at home and playing with confidence. Just last week, the Giants crushed the best defense in the league in their win over the 49ers. They rush the passer better than any other defense. Buuut, the Vikings rush the passer pretty damn good, too, and look what happened to them last week: RG III was the NFL’s second leading rusher.
This game is hard to pick. Beau’s Pick: Redskins… maybe. Six points seems like a lot.
Locks of the Week:
Buccanneers (+2.5) The Saints suck. Sorry, I know everybody feels bad about it, but the NFL neutered New Orleans.
South Carolina (+3.5) at Florida’s swamp
[Editor’s note: That’s NOT the Carolina that’s home to the Panthers.]
Cedric on: NY Jets @ New England (-10.5)
AKA, the Battle of Dysfunctional Teams.
Patriots fans who worship at the altar of Belichick have witnessed more bad in-game and late-game coaching decisions in the first six games than in the past six years (including “Fourth and Two”). Jets fans have suffered a season of devastating injuries. Now, this game becomes a battle of quarterbacks. Can Sanchez exploit the Patriots’ terrible secondary without Santonio Holmes? Can Rex devise a game plan to keep Brady from attacking Revis’ replacement while staying away from Cromartie? The answer to both these questions is NO.
This game may be over by halftime. The only drama in this one is how many positions Tebow plays. Cedric’s Pick: Pats
Packers (-5.5) Watching old tapes of The Greatest Show on Turf inspires Aaron Rodgers.
Vikings (-6.5) Who’s the Arizona quarterback? Can’t pick’em if you don’t even recognize the name.
[Editor’s note: John Skelton. 6-2 as a starter. This is almost as bad as the Carolina thing. I’m LOVING the ineptitude this week.]
Redskins (+6) Hopefully RGIII remembers to run out of bounds versus the Giants front seven.
Nick on: Pittsburgh @ Cincinnati (+1.5)
The Steelers are 2-3. It’s the first time they’ve been below .500 this late in the season since 2006. Unable to close out games, their three losses stem from giving up 17 unanswered points to the Broncos in Week 1, a last-second field goal by Sebastian Janikowski in Week 3, and surrendering 10 points in the final 4:20 against the Titans in Week 6. On top of that, many of their key players are hurt, including Troy Polamalu, Maurkice Pouncey and Chris Carter.
See, Beau? Losing your car ain’t so bad. It’s all about perspective, and you’ve got plenty of other depressing things to think about. You’re welcome, buddy.
Speaking of depressing, I saw Bengals all-time rushing leader Corey Dillon in a bar once. He was alone, shooting pool, wearing a hat from the Iceberg Slim collection at Saks. I was in Cincinnati on a road trip, and earlier that day, the Bengals had defeated the then undefeated Kansas City Chiefs. The Bengals hadn’t had a winning record in 14 years, and here was Dillon, by myself, in an establishment I would charitably deem humdrum, after the biggest team win in over a decade.
So either Corey Dillon was that unpopular with his teammates, or there really is that little to do in Cincinnati.
The question is who do I feel worse for, the citizens of the Queen City or Señor Sturm? Nick’s Pick: Steelers
Padma Lock-shmis of the Week:
Packers (-5.5) If Rodgers can toss six TDs on the road against the Texans, I’m confidant he can stay hot against the Rams.
Colts (-2.5) I’m going with the 23-year-old rookie over the 29-year-old rookie.
Cardinals (+6.5) I’m big-timing Cedric again. Hell, it worked last week. And the QB play hasn’t been what’s making Arizona a dangerous team. It’s their D, and they’re healthy on that side.
Rory on: Detriot @ Chicago (-6.5)
Last year the Lions and Bears went head-to-head in a Monday night game in Week 5. Detroit outscored Chicago 17-3 in the second half en route to a 24-13 win and a perfect 5-0 record. At that point, the Lions became a popular team to root for, and why not? As if being from Detroit isn’t bad enough (Matt, apologize to your wife for me), their football team hadn’t won a playoff game since the Bush administration...yeah, that’s George H.W. Bush.
The Motor City finally had a football team to feel good about, but in the 16 games since that Monday night (including playoffs), the Lions are 6-10. They battled the Bears again a few weeks later and got destroyed 37-13. In their last eight road games, they’ve gone 2-6 while surrendering 34.9 points per game, so in case there’s a small part of you hanging onto that image of 5-0, I’m letting you know right now: They’re still the Detroit Lions.
The Bears, on the other hand, have been rock solid after a rough start to the season. Heading into their bye week, the Bears defense had more fantasy points than the number one wide receiver (AJ Green) in fantasy football. Their defense/special teams have five touchdowns in the past three games.
No matter how many ways I tell you that the Bears are a quality football team and the Lions suck, the one thing in the back of my mind is that betting on Jay Cutler is like playing roulette, but only playing the inside numbers. He can look like an MVP, or he can look like the whiney coach’s son that turns the ball over four times and then blames the offensive line, the wide receivers and the grounds crew before actually looking in the mirror.
I know I’m going to regret this, but divisional game... Monday night... gimme the points... and Matt, congratulate your wife on the Tigers making the World Series. I don’t want to be on her s*** list. Rory’s Pick: Lions
Redskins (+6) Is this not the Redskins team that swept the Giants last season and outscored them 51-24? No, this Redskins team is better.
Colts (-2.5) Congratulations, Browns. You got your one.
Ravens (+6.5) Why can’t I wrap my head around the Texans being a legit Super Bowl contender?
Email Nick at email@example.com
Follow the Slack Lines team on Twitter: @altschuller, @beausturm, @CedricAdams, @KidRob21 and @roryduyon
No blockbusters this week, but still some cool shows, starting with contemplative indie-rockers the Walkmen, who support their matured if still wiry new release Heaven at Royale Friday: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M1WqhvOTToc&feature=fvwrel.
Saturday’s the busiest night. Israeli-born jazz clarinetist Anat Cohen’s broadly expressive work on that less-prominent reed instrument draws sympathetic support from her fine quartet at the Regattabar: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rpih1WLAfvk. Acoustic guitar virtuoso Leo Kottke shares his wit at Sanders Theatre: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lkmQm8I-oIA. Chicago indie-rockers The Sea and the Cake spin their jazzy, precise indie-rock eddies at the Brighton Music Hall: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J4yMj5mJXYk&feature=related. And rockers Yo La Tengo salute the architect of the geodesic dome with live accompaniment to the film “The Love Song of R. Buckminster Fuller” in sold-out screenings at the Institute of Contemporary Art.
But the weekend’s biggest show (including props and screens) comes from Primus, the eccentric Bay Area trio that returns to the Orpheum Theatre Saturday with its “3D” show of stereoscopic visuals and quadrophonic sound: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=anyeDgfuJGk&feature=related.
Primus moves to the Providence’s Veteran’s Memorial Auditorium Sunday, the same night that passionate rock survivor Melissa Etheridge stirs the faithful at the Orpheum (as she does at this recent show: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wIqimoTBOB0). Sunday also sees the Dum Dum Girls churn their noisy dream pop at the Paradise. Here’s a taste of the all-woman quartet at a recent date in Germany: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N8FpYJg1Zu0&feature=related.