Monthly Archives: June 2011

I’m Riding the “Winter Winds” Down to the “Hollywood Bowl”: The Top Shows of Bonnaroo X


A three person band with a female lead singer who can also shred on the bass guitar? A bunch of English folk rockers that are, “just blessed and happy by the success” blocking off half of Bonnaroo because of their sheer awesomeness? Yup, it must be my two favorite performances from Bonnaroo X (plus that whole sports comparison…thing). Enjoy:

#Shredding!

1A. Band of Skulls (“Hollywood Bowl”) as the Boise State Broncos circa 2006

1B. Mumford and Sons (“Winter Winds”) as the San Francisco Giants circa 2010

Is this me punking out on choosing one band for the top spot?! It absolutely is. See I can do that because it’s my area of the blog and I already did enough awful prognosticating and analysis last month (see: every lacrosse article in May…and there were a lot). Now, I went into this Bonnaroo weekend with pretty high hopes for Band of Skulls. I’d listened to three songs substantially (“Hollywood Bowl”, “Light of the Morning” and “Death By Diamonds and Pearls”) and a few more off and on for about two months, and they immediately became one of my must sees. Let’s just say they didn’t disappoint. Actually, let’s just say how freakishly awesome they were. Seriously, they played each of the above songs masterfully but not before playing 4 new ones (one of which is on youtube already) and belting out “fires”, a song I didn’t know well but loved anyway. They were the surprise mega success of the day and contributed to what many said was one of the best Thursdays in the festival’s history. That’s why I’m going with the 2006 Boise State Broncos here. That group was a cute success story that went undefeated in the regular season and landed a BCS bowl berth, which is kind of like what Band of Skulls did with “Light of the Morning” being the main song on the Hangover II trailer. It helped earn Band of Skulls an invite to Bonnaroo, and an opportunity for some statue-of-liberty-esque University of Oklahoma ass-kicking that immediately put them on the map. People couldn’t stop talking about the band for the rest of the festival, just like they couldn’t stop talking about Boise for the rest of 2006. Like the Broncos, I think this group is headed for some sustained success.

This kind of goosebumps, except for like an hour straight...and minus the pads and junk.

Mumford and Sons came in far more hyped than Band of Skulls but still had something to prove after being put on the Which Stage, the main stage’s little brother (albeit for a nice Saturday sunset time slot). Despite having two smash radio hits in the last year and experience at the festival (they played last year) the Londoners were almost banished to sub-headliner status. This is like underestimating the 2010 Giants (after having two time Cy-Young award winning pitcher Tim Lincecum and a slew of other great young throwers) until well into the playoffs (where they exposed Philadelphia’s occasional offensive ineptitude). Mind you this was all perfectly fine with me. Like the Giants beating the Phils 4-2 (and the Rangers 4-1), Mumford blew the proverbial doors off of the Which Stage, playing relatively slow Sigh No More to get going before deciding that (and this is a rough quote), “if it’s gonna be hot and dusty, let’s have a dance.” All the while, my girlfriend and I were able to snag a great spot behind the VIP section that afforded us a fantastic view of the band. Not only did Mumford sound better live on songs like “Little Lion Man”, “The Cave” and “Winter’s Wind” but they broke out 3 or 4 new ones to prove that these guys won’t be one album wonders. Mumford (like San Fran) is here to stay.

We might have won the Revolution, but the English have these guys. Wait s***, GO AMERICA!!

That’s all for now folks. Tune in next time for: “Federer just lost to a guy named Tsonga and Andy Murray just beat a guy his own mother hit on publically. Huh?,” “ESPN just did a special on BYU’s unfair application of its Mormon based bi-laws…amazingly the worldwide leader was the last to know…,” and “Jim Riggleman resigned right after the Nationals got over .500 this late in the season for the first time since 2005. That’s like Obama getting the unemployment rate below 5% right before the primaries and declaring ‘I’m done.'”

With The #3 Pick, MBP Selects Bonnaroo X’s…


Here’s my second post talking about Bonnaroo X, my favorite performances and their best songs. Without further ado; the third best performance I saw (hailing from the “This” Tent…no seriously):

Home of mushroom fountains, insane heat, naked people, phenomenal music and the worst physically manifested Abbot and Costello inspired mind-f*** ever

3. Florence and The Machine (Come on, it has to be “Dog Days”) as the Oklahoma City Thunder circa 2010-2011

I know I know, “didn’t OKC lose in the Western Conference finals 4 games to 1 in largely unimpressive fashion? Did Bonnaroo suck or something?” Hardly, in fact Bonnaroo exceeded my expectations in unexpected ways. I went in dreading the heat, dreading the lack of showers and dreading the porta potties. I thought if things were going to go well these things would have to at least be somewhat ok. I also dreaded that Oklahoma City would be too young this year, Durant too exhausted and people to cocky about what this team could do after 2010’s breakout season. They would have to mature and Durant would have to be Durant in spite of playing a year straight of basketball coming in. In fact, all of the things above somewhat materialized (Durant began the season exhausted, I didn’t shower for 120 hours, OKC looked young at times, and the porta potties absolutely did suck). The beauty is that both the Thunder and Bonnaroo managed to overcome those issues to be big successes. It just took me a little reflection to fully grasp it.

You think I'm the first to compare her^...

to him^?...

Florence and the Machine embodied this. Going in I cautiously expected great things after seeing them perform live online. Florence, like Durant, seemed like a great front-woman, energizing the crowd with her performances while managing the live vocals well (a difficult thing to do consistently when you sing like she does). I believed out of all the groups F & M had the most potential to be both great and disappointing. They started out well enough. We were reasonably close (about 2/3rds of the crowd was outside the tent, behind us in the open air) so we could hear the music and catch glimpses of the stage and Florence’s performance. The problem was, on a couple of occasions, she had to drop her voice an entire octave, altering the choruses of popular songs like Dog Days. This was like Durant altering his game early in the season (when he was missing shots like crazy) because he was worn out from leading Team USA to FIBA Gold during the summer. Florence has been touring pretty hard lately (while opening up for U2) so I’m guessing her voice has been worn down by the insane schedule. By dropping it an octave in parts she could conserve her voice while keeping the song from being too drastically changed. It wound up working out. While I was a little disappointed that I didn’t get the full brunt of a high pitched “Dog Days” chorus, the song was still fantastic, the musicians were great and the overall performance had the crowd going bonkers. Meanwhile OKC adjusted their lineup, added Sam Perkins late in the season and won the first two playoffs series of their young careers while Durant largely got his mojo back. They got to where we expected and hoped they would be, they just did it in a somewhat different way.

John Calipari's opinion of the NCAA's so-called "rules" and "bi-laws"...

That’s all for now folks. Tune in next time for:  “Hope Solo said the US Women’s 2-0 victory in the first round of the Women’s World Cup was the first time she’s had fun in an international tournament. I guess two Olympic gold medals just weren’t very “fun” for Hope?,” “Kentucky just signed John Calipari through 2019. So, if we’re keeping score kids, if you want to earn millions as a coach, leave two teams (three?) shamed with vacated Final 4 seasons and do it with relatively few repercussions; coach college basketball…,” and “The Halfwits are keeping a long run of July 4th beer ball games going this year on Sunday…it may prove to be the least athletic display of ‘sport’ in, well, ever.”

Bonnaroo X: Ho…ly…S***


The Bonnaroo music festival in Manchester, Tennessee is a blend of emotional extremes. You have your highs: bands bringing their “A-game” to every performance, constant high quality music from noon until 5 AM every day, phenomenal food and beer if you choose to partake (and can afford it) and a level of organization that Woodstock couldn’t have remotely dreamt of. You also have your lows: having to make a choice that (I imagine…) is like picking between children when favorite artists play simultaneously, the incredible ability of people to make porta-potties 20 times more disgusting than they already were, consistent 95 degree temperatures and a serious lack of hygiene. Honestly, it’s a lot like being a fan of a sports team. You have your Championship years (Band of Skulls coming out of nowhere on the first day to bring down the house) and your 2-14 seasons (literally being blinded by the rotting stench of the plastic sweat dome of terror your just bared your goods in). It is a give and take kind of thing, but by the end those highs out weigh the lows substantially.

The Good...

The Bad...(this is fake, but really not that far off)

For the next few days I’ll post my top 4 Bonnaroo X performances (plus a couple of honorable mentions) roughly 1 at a time. In addition I’ll list my favorite song of theirs and a corresponding (think: “major stretch”…) analogy from the sports world. I also apologize for the delay. I was moving my girlfriend up to Boston this past weekend and between that and Bonnaroo it’s been a little insane (we caught a game at Fenway too, a first for both of us…a post on it is in the works).

But enough about that (just kiddin Sar, kisses), here are a couple of honorable mentions and my number 4 pick from Bonnaroo:

Honorable Mentions: Bassnectar as the Arizona Diamondbacks circa 2001 and STS9 as the VMI Keydets men’s basketball team since roughly 2006

While I admittedly didn’t stick around for the entire set of either group I felt I had to mention both. Bassnectar does some truly incredible things with a relatively limited set of musical accoutrements on stage, literally making your heart feel like it will beat right out of your chest the second the music starts. Even as I walked away exhausted through the massive throng of dancing bonnaroo revelers and out into the relatively open air of Centeroo I could feel the sub woofer vibrations knocking around my…insides. Bassnectar’s a one man version of the 2001 Diamondbacks because he does so much with so little. Arizona won the World Series with a two man rotation that year and made the Yankee’s vaunted and financially blessed juggernaut look relatively meek in the path of Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling. It was more with less, much like Bassnectar, and like Bassnectar those guys literally thundered through the Yank’s lineup relatively un-encumbered (the Yanks didn’t score more than 2 runs in any of their starts). Plus there was that whole blown save by Mariano which, while it was only a bloop single, shook me right to the core. Now excuse me while I go throw up in a porta potty.

The difference? This doesn't trigger my gag reflex...

I actually caught more of STS9 (they wound up being my last show of the whole epic weekend) and got to get a full live taste of what I had sometimes listened to while studying for 3 years in college (my roommate turned me onto them late in my freshman year). I always knew they were unique because of a couple of distinct things. The first distinction is their electronically infused dreamy yet energetic sound, which is described by the band as “post-rock dance music,” whatever that means. The second distinction is that they use a lot of real instruments (i.e. guitars, drum kits, bongos, bass guitar in addition to multiple key boards) to produce their sound. This is why STS9 so embodies the mindset and style of play of the Keydets over the past several years. VMI runs a high powered ridiculously fast paced up and down brand of basketball that essentially operates under a “five seconds and shoot” mantra. This results in some wildly entertaining and high scoring games, with both teams usually breaking the 100 point threshold easily (the Keydets have led the nation in three pointers and scoring the last five years). In a 40 minute (college) basketball game those kinds of averages are pretty remarkable. It’s also completely unique. No team in division I plays quite the same brand of ball, and while some times they lose it seems like it’s always a hell of a ride no matter what. I get the same impression about the unique style of STS9.

The difference? These guys don't do a whole lot of "losing"...

4. Grace Potter and the Nocturnals (My girlfriend’s choice: “Ooh La La”) as the University of Vermont Catamounts from 2001 to Now

This is a somewhat more literal analogy. Both the band and basketball team (obviously) are from Vermont but they also can trace the success of their career arcs to a pretty parallel time frame. Potter was discovered at St. Lawrence University singing on campus in 2002 by a fellow band member and left school relatively soon thereafter to form the band. Their major successes came in 2006 and 2007 with songs like “apologies” and “falling or flying” before gaining notoriety recently for “Paris (Ooh la la),” which they closed with at Bonnaroo. Likewise, the Catamounts basketball team first burst onto the NCAA tournament scene in 2003 as winners of the America East conference before beating #3 seeded Syracuse in the first round of the NCAAs in 2005 (Vermont’s third straight appearance). Vermont also made the NCAAs last year as conference champs and won the regular season handily this year before being upset in the conference tourney. Needless to say the parallels are uncanny.

What isn’t is the dynamic end to their major 2011 performances. The Catamounts faltered, but Potter and the Nocturnals most certainly did not. In front of a great (and massive) day crowd on the main stage Potter pulled off her best Janis Joplin impersonation with a cleaner (read: not as raspy) musical sound and truly came off like a rock star. I’d never even heard of herbefore my girlfriend circled her as a must see prior to the festival, but I’m certainly glad I didn’t miss out. In a gorgeous white dress that accented her long straight blond hair Grace embodied all that is in her name, sweeping across the stage with thunderous vocals while alternating between a guitar and a piano easily. Like the Catamounts in ’05, this little group from Vermont made some thunderous noise on the biggest stage. Bravo.

Like I said; Janis Joplin…except wayyyyyyyyyyyy hotter
That’s all for now folks. Tune in next time for: “I’ll give you a hint on number 3: female lead singer, crazy lyrics and lots of awesomeness,” “Mark Cuban has said that he wants to do super cheap/free beer days if he gets to own a baseball team by allowing beer ads that stretch across entire sections of seats. So basically, we should boycott the MLB until this happens,” “The Nats are above .500 this late in a season for the first time since the end of the ’05 season and Washington couldn’t be…any less interested” and “Kyrie Irving just became the first 1/2 and done number 1 overall pick in NBA history. Remind me again why this rule exists?”
 

NCAA ‘Ships Plus Virginia’s Redemption, And Why I Hope I Never Have To See It Again


I want to start by saying that I have an immense amount of respect for all of the competitors at this year’s NCAA Lacrosse Championships across all divisions. While they basically played “ants under a magnifying glass” for two hours straight yours truly spent most of his time in Baltimore outside under a Red Bull tent enjoying the (shaded) festivities. Not that Salisbury, Mercyhurst and Virginia players didn’t do plenty of celebrating and relaxing in Baltimore on Sunday night and Monday night, but it took them a combined 240 minutes of lacrosse (half of which were played by Virginia) to get to that point. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if those guys took a one night respite to rest before officially beginning the celebrations. Wait, scratch that, there’s no way these guys abstained from celebrating as soon as possible, especially when you consider the story lines coming in…

My theory? This ^ is what pissed Salisbury off the most...

I explained it in my post last week but I’ll say it once again; Salisbury was immensely hungry coming into Sunday and holy mother of Berkman did it show. Most teams view a four goal loss in the national championship as at least a great season (if not a legendary one). Shoot, my alma mater’s never even made the NCAA Tourney. For the sea gulls, it was like choking on spoiled female blue crabs marinated in skunked Natty Boh. From all accounts these guys literally spent 364 days reminding themselves they’d gotten beat by a bunch of powder blue wearing New Englanders with Dumbo for a mascot. So in all actuality, there was really no way Salisbury was going to lose. I just wish I’d predicted more of a blow out.

Coming into Sunday, all I knew was that they wore green.

All I know about Mercyhurst is that they hail from Erie, Pennsylvania (that’s north of Pittsburgh on, you guessed it, Lake Erie), wear green and had never won a national championship coming into Memorial Day Weekend. So the storyline here is? They knocked off one of Division II’s old champions (a resurgent Adelphi squad) in a closely played 9-8 contest. It was the most exciting game of the weekend from the least discussed Division in the sport. Lastly, their mascot is you guessed it, the Lakers.

At the end of the day, there was no chance that Steele and that extra 'E' of his were going away losers.

Finally, UVA put aside a lot of issues to rise again to the top of the lacrosse world. It doesn’t get much better in this game than being the NCAA Division I champion. For the first Division I team to win it with five losses on their resume this is even better. In a year where no one seemed truly dominant, a champion in a team peaking at just the right time also seems very fitting. Virginia was four minutes (and a four goal deficit) away from being knocked out of the first round 3 weeks ago. Now they’re champs. In the process they momentarily exorcised the demons brought on by George Huguely’s ugliness, honored Yeardley Love’s memory and won with a selfless team that probably should’ve been playing like this all along. The coach and the players stuck to their guns on harsher team rules, received more negative publicity because of it and still managed to persevere. They could’ve covered up the Bratton’s violations. They could’ve let Colin Briggs play in the NCAA semifinals. This isn’t basketball or football, there’s no guarantee that those team violations (we’re still not sure what they violated but an educated guess is some sort of harsh team substance abuse and alcohol policy) would’ve been exposed to the public. Still, the team captains and Dom Starsia made the ultimate decisions to uphold these suspensions, whether it looked bad or not. At the end of the day not only did it make this team closer, but who among us can question it?

My parting thought on this final is this: as much as I’ve enjoyed watching these past couple of teams earn redemption, enough is enough. Duke came back from one of the worst scandals in lacrosse and NCAA history to win a national championship four years later (2010) with many veterans from that 2006 team. Virginia not only absorbed numerous big suspensions this season, but were able to compartmentalize the tragedy of Yeardley Love’s death one year later in a way that kept her in their memories, but dulled the pain enough to let them play to their fullest potential. That’s a difficult psychological balance to strike, and they did an admirable job of it. Still, we shouldn’t have to come into every Memorial Day weekend talking about a story line of this nature. It would be a relief to watch a team win and not have to dredge up some awful memory from the past. And while we do need to always remember what happened to Yeardley so that we can honor her memory and prevent something like it from happening again, we don’t need to have a storyline like this be the centerpiece of the conversation around lacrosse and this community. Hopefully the only adversity future champions will overcome is a couple of injured players or the loss of a large graduating class. As a lacrosse player and fan it’s bittersweet to have watched these champions over come what they have. I’m proud of them for doing so, yet it still hurts that they had to do so at all.

"One Love" (www.joinonelove.org)

On a lighter note, the Michigan Wolverines are set to add both a woman’s and men’s lacrosse program in the next two years. Now, lacrosse is something of a very open fraternity/sorority. It has exploded in popularity and growth in just about every part of the game except for the pro leagues (which have stayed mostly static) and the men’s Division I level (where it’s tough to get funding). That is why the introduction of Michigan into the men’s Division I ranks for the 2012 season should come as a refreshing and welcome surprise for the sport. Michigan is a powerhouse athletic program with immense resources, a national fan base, membership in one the oldest and most influential conferences and a strong presence and history in Division I football. The only other athletic program of its caliber at the Division I level that has lacrosse (with heavy emphasis here on football and basketball strength) is fellow Big Ten member Ohio State. Most of the schools to recently add or move to Division I lacrosse have been places like Bryant, Jacksonville, Detroit, St. Josephs and St. Johns, which is awesome and I certainly don’t begrudge it. But still none of those schools (save for maybe St. Josephs and St. Johns occasionally in basketball) are big time athletic programs. Michigan brings a different level of exposure, and the lacrosse world should be celebrating this big time (yes that includes you OSU fans). Plus, just look at the helmets:

My obsession with helmet decals; not nearly as debilitating as my one with sunglasses

That’s all for now folks. Tune in next time for: “I swear I’ll talk about something other than lacrosse for the next few (dozen?) posts,” “Dirk’s torn tendon is all for show…you know VW over-nighted that spare part before Game 2,” “ESPN just called Curtis Granderson the best centerfielder in the game. Subsequently, I am counting the days until he’s hurt,” and “The plate collision fiasco seems like MLB’s answer to the concussion blow up in the NFL. Do you think Bud Selig wonders why his sport isn’t more popular? Do you think he cares?”