Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Walking on the Moon

Well, from MLC’s lips to God’s ears, apparently.

As hoped here just a few pixels below, The Police are officially getting back together to open the February 11 Grammy Awards. Not exactly a full tour (not yet, anyway), or even a concert, but beggars can’t be choosers. Given the format, Sting and the boys will likely get 10 minutes or so to kick things off, so let the speculation regarding song selection begin.

Because the Grammys, like the music industry they celebrate, are relentlessly commercial, I think the band will be obliged to play at least one megahit. Let’s stipulate that we’ll see 3 songs. The opening act needs to set a tone for the evening and get the crowd out of their seats, which means we’ll likely see an uptempo starter, or at least one with a beat. I’m thinking De Do Do Do De Da Da Da in a nod to contemporary politics – a nod that Sting will turn into a less than subtle dig.

Grammy loves medleys, and so do The Police. On top of that, the 2nd song is usually good for a mood shift, so I’m looking for Every Breath You Take to morph into Roxanne, which is effectively a requisite in this mini-concert.

So many choices to close it out, but I’ll go with Don’t Stand So Close to Me, which they’ll reclaim after the lame ’86 version. Gives them a chance to get back uptempo with a song that builds to a good finish and leaves the crowd happy.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Don't Dream It's Over

Members of a pair of my favorite bands have been channeling Peaches and Herb this winter, rejoining forces after lengthy hiatuses (hiatii?) in a sure-to-be successful effort to separate me from my hard-earned cash. The worn cliché reminds us that all things happen in threes, and fate would have it, a reunion of a different sort is percolating on Yawkey Way. I’m far less sanguine about the latter case of getting the band back together.

The Police, absent the rock scene since 1984’s Synchronicity tour, are rumoured to be patching things up in honour of the 30th anniversary of the release of ‘Roxanne’. (Pretentious British spellings in the previous sentence brought to you by Sting’s ego, the primary reason the world was deprived of 20 more years of The Police.) The day before I found out about the possibility of this tour, I told a colleague that I’d pay $500 for the chance to see The Police in concert – guess I’d better start saving some of that paycheck.

Less well known than The Police, though brilliant in their own way, Crowded House took their leave of the world music stage in late 1996 (and waited until just now to release the live recording of their final concert). After drummer Paul Hester’s suicide in 2005, the prospects for Neil Finn and bassist Nick Seymour to reprise their perfectly-crafted hooks in front of a live audience seemed bleak. Cut to January 2007, when the lads announced that they’ll be playing April’s Coachella festival as part of a larger reunion tour and color me ecstatic.

In the words of the legendary Meatloaf, 2 out of 3 ain’t bad, which is why I’m glad to have the previous reunion notices to balance the possibility that Roger Clemens hasn’t thrown his last splitter in a Red Sox uniform. My feelings for the Texas Con Man cut a well-worn path through this blog’s 900+ posts, so I’ll refrain from (another) long-winded dissertation on the subject. I’m old enough to know that we fans root for the laundry, but I’d have a difficult time separating that particular set of flannels from its wearer. Suffice it to say, in the words of Milan High’s Norman Dale, my team’s on the field.

Notwithstanding, of course, the recent news that the Sox are pursuing Colorado Rockies first baseman Todd Helton, he of the career 1.023 OPS. And, relevantly, of the far-below-career-average 2006 season and 3 consecutive years of declining OPS. I’ve always liked Helton, but he’s still owed $90.1m for the next 5 years, and even if last year was a bit of a fluke, 33 year-olds don’t typically have a lot of bounce left in their stat lines. I’d say I’m mildly opposed to this deal, unless Helton’s 2006 season was more influenced by injury that public reports indicated, and the Rockies are willing to cover a big portion of his salary.

Finally, the usually shy Curt Schilling made news today, telling Boston radio station WEEI that he’s changed his mind about retiring after the 2007 season, and now plans to pitch through at least 2008. As long as this isn’t Schilling’s way of foreshadowing his intent to embark upon his own version of Roger Clemens’ long goodbye, I’d be happy to have Schill back on the hill for one more year. Don’t dream it’s over, indeed.

Thursday, January 18, 2007


I’ve never much cared for January. It’s a dormant time of year, and life seems to slow to a halt in a number of ways. The weather keeps folks indoors more, and most people’s social calendars reside in some sort of nadir between New Year’s revelry and Super Bowl parties. After the often anticlimactic end to the college football season, we’re left with mid-season NHL & NBA, plus some early-season college hoops. This week’s Texas-OK State barn-burner aside, that’s not much. I suppose it is a decent month if you’re a fan of the English Premier League or the Heineken Cup, but you let’s face it, you’ll need to pay a bit extra and still be fortunate to see very much of the action.

And baseball is off the radar entirely. January bites.

The Hot Stove has even grown cold; we’re wandering on the desolate tundra between the flurry of free-agent inkings and the first sparks that come with pitchers and catchers. Mets fans are in a particular no-man’s land this winter. I guess we’ve been spoiled with off-season excitement the past couple of years; this year . . . not so much. The last two Januarys have seen Omar’s press conferences compete with, even outshine Steve Jobs’ Macworld unveilings. In ’07, though, the Mets are content – probably wisely, considering the circumstances – to rest upon the platform of the last couple of years and let the iPhone dominate the month’s buzz.

Not only has it been a drab off-season for Mets transactions, but it’s been a grin-and-bear-it scenario where we can’t even stir up some excitement with some justified hollering. Every big name – hell, every name whose mention didn’t induce an ugly scowl – got scooped up by a GM other than Omar Minaya, and yet I’m strangely grateful. Quite a number of this winter’s free agent contracts already loom like prison sentences for the team and its fans; everyone in town will be counting down the days until it comes off the books like a paroling, and in the meantime, a GM with a cash commitment or two like that is like a man with a prison record looking for work. Good luck with all that.

Every year I naïvely think that stability and sensibility will creep in and balance Major League Baseball’s fallible economic structure, and every year I look increasingly foolhardy. A small handful of teams skew the numbers and screw the system by displaying less fiscal responsibility than the dozen clowns in Rob’s and my rotisserie baseball league. Honestly, Rob, wouldn’t Brian Sabean and Tom Hicks get laughed out of the room in our league? It becomes farcical; you just get the sense that there’s more logic at work with the team intern playing Sudoku than in the execs working contract negotiations. Let the culpability be shared, though – Scott Boras, you are bad for the game and you will get what’s coming to you.

And so the best thing about this off-season is that the Mets did next to nothing. Hooray. Though the re-signings of Tom Glavine and El Duque should prove to be worthy ones (barring quadragenarian breakdowns), we’re left to celebrate one significant landing of Omar Minaya this winter, his landing into the world of discretion and prudence. It’s actually something worth lauding, but not today. It’s January 18, and it’s too damn cold to think positively.

In keeping with the new MLC triad of themes, we’re also amid the annual worst six weeks of the year for music. Around the holidays, it’s understandable that not much new music is released, what with most record companies eyeing Black Friday for the biggest new arrivals. Also understandably, bands take a break from the road to be at home with the families (or substance abuse habits) for the festivities. Somehow, though, there is a continued lull of record releases and touring resumptions that doesn’t break up until the last week or so of January. More reason to be “down on Jan.”

In the meantime, there’s plenty from 2006 to keep hearing. Been doing a lot of driving lately, not by choice, and a few albums have kept me cruising along. My Morning Jacket’s live double disc-er “Okonokos” gets me through a chunk of miles by itself. TV on the Radio is a uniquely funky operation, worth checking out if you want to stray from the straight-ahead. The Drive-By Truckers keep churning out kick-ass southern rock (with a modern edge), and I was recently introduced to the Band of Horses and their song “The Funeral”; the track hasn’t made its way out of my head, much less my car.

Speaking of funerals, Rob and I had to go to one this month, and that’s cast as large a rain cloud over this month as anything. When gauging the loss of our friend, it’s substantial in our three areas of discussion at MLC. Baseball players got sports therapy and the local teams got hearty support from him; he was a large enough force to be the biggest fan I knew of Pearl Jam, the Stones, the Black Crowes, U2, and Big Country; he also could put more beer away in one sitting than any individual with whom I’ve shared bar space. What a void there is now.

And how do we cope with these losses? By drinking, of course! It’s in this area alone that I enjoy this dreadful time of year. My most relished bar order is the McDLT – the age-old Irish pairing of hot-side-hot Irish coffee and a cold-side-cold Guinness. (I just made up that name, but I’ll be using it from here on out.) And the dead of winter is the ideal time to warm up with a mug of spiked java and a hearty stout. I found myself wishing for colder weather if only to order it; now that winter (in full effect) is here, the twin beverage order is not quite enough to justify the chill, but it’ll do, lad. It’ll do.

Here’s to sunnier days, newer music, and the submerging of sorrows sixteen ounces at a time until they float away harmlessly. Here’s to the Omar Show in ’06-’07, a show about nothing. And here’s to Dave Flynn, the original “Nutty Irishman.” God love you, kid.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Hazy Shade of Winter

Time for some long overdue updates here at MLC, now that the calendar’s turned over and the absurdly warm weather in the Mid-Atlantic region has awoken hibernating beasts of all sorts. I hate to push Whit’s sublime retelling of the Mets’ final 2006 efforts down the page, but if by doing so I can get him to post something else, then I’ve done a solid for humanity.

Sunday marked the 7th annual Hot Stove, Cool Music charity concert in Boston, where Peter Gammons has combined his love of baseball and rock and roll into a must-attend offseason event. The Globe’s brief recap mentions Theo Epstein and erstwhile Sox hurler Lenny Dinardo as members of Gammo’s band, and highlights the legendary scribe’s continuing recovery from last season’s aneurysm. We’ll add Cold Brews to the recipe and start long-tossing in advance of the 2007 season.

The Sox’ 2007 Spring Training roster looks just about complete with the addition of Joel Pineiro as the prospective closer. The bloom has certainly faded from the former buzz-baby’s reputation, as he’s put together a string of mediocre to dreadful seasons as a starter with the Mariners. Looks like the Sox see something in his delivery and makeup that lead them to believe they can reclaim Pineiro in Gagneian (Gagnesque?) fashion. Color me skeptical to terrified that the Sox are staking their 2007 hopes on this wing and prayer. Given that the only viable backup plan is to move Jonathan Papelbon from the rotation back to the end of the bullpen, the Sox are risking disruption to the entire staff should Pineiro not fill the bill.

The iTunes fairy was pretty good to Team MLC over the Christmas holiday, so we’re working our way through various additions to the song library. Pitchfork Media’s become a monumentally fun time-waster, and probably will lead to a significant dent in my checking account sooner rather than later. I’m digging The Hold Steady, which sounds like early Springsteen crossed with Marah (which is a little like saying Springsteen mixed with Springsteen). Robert Randolph & The Family Band’s ‘Ain’t Nothin’ Wrong with That’ is getting heavy rotation on the iPod, as well – funky, groovy and head-nodding fun.

This week brings news that Loudoun County’s own Old Dominion Brewing is on the verge of selling out to the man. The purveyors of top-notch microbrews (including personal fave Tupper’s Hop Pocket Ale) are rumored to be in acquisition discussions with Anheuser-Busch and other investors. One more thing for me to boycott in a feebly quixotic attempt to remain the champion of the little guy.