Re-Birth Of A Nation: How Pedro Martínez Made The Red Sox “The Red Sox”

Pedro shares a smile before the 1999 All-Star Game.

Pedro shares a smile before the 1999 All-Star Game at Fenway. (Boston Globe)

In a previous life I ran a popular Red Sox blog – the last time I wrote about the Sawx was three and a half years ago through a haze of tears as a great chapter in my life closed. Since that last sentence I’ve been able to focus on other outlets such as Visions of the Unexcused, DJ-ing, painting, and now most importantly, being a Dad. I’m content with my decision to retire the blog, and only occasionally get the itch to write about the Sox, and today that itch simply can’t be ignored, because the greatest Red Sox of my generation (no offense David Ortiz), and possibly ever, is being inducted into the the Hall of Fame.

A gorgeous sight.

A gorgeous sight.

The narrative of what it meant to be a Red Sox fan pre-2003 has been lost due to the previously unfathomable success of the Sox over the past decade. But pre-Pedro was a dark time for Red Sox fans. The Yankees were in the throes of a modern dynasty and the Red Sox were stuck in their birth-rite purgatory state of being good enough to make hope hurt. The decade before Pedro arrived the Sox averaged 80 wins per Season. The seven seasons Pedro was with Boston the Sox averaged 91, and that’s just the tip of the statistical iceberg of how much Martínez affected the Red Sox on the field, but to us Sox fans, it was his swagger on and off the field that makes him endearing. He turned our hope from its continuous pessimistic hue into a brilliantly saturated optimistic tone of possibility, not inevitability.

The keystone moment for what the Red Sox have become.

The keystone moment for what the Red Sox have become.

1999. This is the keystone year for the marketing money making behemoth “Red Sox Nation” has since become – and the Red Sox brass have Pedro Martínez (and Dan Duquette) to thank for such a solid foundation. Watching Pedro during this season, the apex of the steroid era, was the most electrifying baseball I’ve ever watched. If you had to go to the bathroom during a Pedro game you did so when the Red Sox were batting, for missing a pitch would be sacrilege. Having Pedro showcase this once in a lifetime electricity at the 1999 All-Star Game, the last to be in Fenway, as the baseball world said goodbye to Ted Williams, couldn’t have been more fitting. This was the passing of the torch.

Ted Williams and Pedro Martínez are the #1 and #2 greatest Red Sox ever. Both were inhuman in their ability to play baseball, and they both had unnerving confidence in their craft. This was shown to the World for the first time by Pedro in the best two innings in All-Star history, and then later in the 1999 ALDS, a moment that gets a little buried in a career with a plethora of amazing moments. Pedro replaced Derek Lowe in just the forth inning – this after leaving Game 1 with a back injury. The injured Pedro went on to pitch potentially the game of his life, striking out 8 over six stupendous innings of no hit ball to help the Red Sox win their first playoff Series since 1986.

It would take another five years for Pedro to help the Red Sox to the top of the baseball world, but this was the moment that made the possible real. Everything in-between that All-Star game in 1999 and Pedro holding that trophy in 2004 was magical. You never missed a pitch – his jovialness and defiance helped create the culture that made the Red Sox “The Red Sox” – which gave fans pride instead of contempt. I’ll talk of Pedro to my little boy Dylan like my Pops talked of Ted to me, another passing of a torch, and like Ted, Pedro’s light will forever shine bright on the institution he helped create – Red Sox Nation.

From Cambridge to the Dominican, thanks Pedro, congratulations on your Hall of Fame induction.


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In Defense Of: True Detective – Season 2

True Detective - Season 2

True Detective – Season 2

Reactions to Season 2 of True Detective have been filled with snark and contempt. Fans of last year can’t shake their Carcosa hangover despite some phenomenal performances, cinematography, and writing. In this author’s humble opinion this season of True Detective is the show of the Summer, but it can’t seem to escape the Yellow King’s shadow. The constant comparisons between seasons isn’t fair or justified, it’s a completely different show.

Season 1 of True Detective was a game changer, much like Lost at its peak, it sent fans down a myriad of internet k-holes as they tried to piece together the puzzle before Rust or Marty. The acting was stupendous and the storyline was mythic and creepy. Cary Joji Fukunaga (Season 1 Director) artistically shot the Louisiana Bayou making it an additional character in the show, much like Woody Allen’s done throughout his career with NYC – and Matthew McConaughey played the absolute shit out of Detective Rust Cohle, in a role that will define his career many, many years from now.

I was most excited with Season 1 when I thought the forth wall was boldly being broken with Cohle’s now famous philosophical quips, “This place is like somebody’s memory of a town…”. That’s why I was so disappointed in the last couple of episodes, the show was able to flirt with mysticism but never truly crossed the event horizon. It devolved into what felt like just another Cop Drama as the Yellow King materialized into just an obese incestual serial killer, and let’s not forget a certain Detective’s miraculous recovery so he and his partner could have one last chat under the stars…ugh, that last Episode still makes me shake my head.

This all said, it was great TV, and one of my favorite seasons of all time, but it wasn’t perfect, and they did NOT stick the landing, much like the previously mentioned Lost. Season 2 is a lot more complex because they’ve stayed away from mysticism which can easily fill voids without real answers – everything’s instead based in a stark, and often, depressing reality. Season 1 threw a lot of red herring’s with the mystical that had absolutely nothing to do with the end game, which was a cheap trick.

How the Bayou was shot was gorgeous no doubt, but it also was a blank canvas to work from (if you don’t count Beasts of the Southern Wild), as it’s a section of America not often filmed, therefore expectations were zero. Meanwhile, Season 2 was tasked with LA, the most filmed city in the history of the medium, and thus far, I’ve been thrilled with how they’ve thrown a Bukoskian broken dream light on the region through the Vinci lens. The criticized highway shots have served as a complimentary scene setter as well as a realistic transition trick, for getting anywhere in that region a car is needed, and the twisted roads show how interconnected the worlds of a Migrant Worker, Prostitute, Senator, Guru Hippie, and Real Estate Developer may be. All roads lead to more roads.

The other piece of difficulty Season 2 is navigating is they’ve doubled the number of leads from season 1 from two to four. And those actors have to contend with the ghosts of Harrelson and McConaughey, I think each of the four is more than holding their own weight. I like that the tone often takes a pulpy noir feel, especially Vaughn as Frank Semyon. The humor’s as dry as a good Californian Cabernet Sauvignon (“Is that a fucking e-cigarette?” “You’re a mood ring maybe?”) – which gets me to my favorite part of the show, the dialog. I love the layered pulp with Frank and grizzled burnt-out mentorship of Detective Ray Velcoro – my favorite Tarantino flick is Jackie Brown because of the dialog – and the complex story that’s being pieced together here, from the hooking, to gangsters, to senators, to land developers, is admirable – all while keeping and merging four separate character arcs. It’s impressive, that’s a hell of a lot of juggling, even if life isn’t a flat circle.

Sure, there’s no Yellow King, and nothing to research on Monday morning like dark French children’s literature from the 1890’s, but that’s what makes Season 2 stand alone on it’s own as a great season, they rely on none of the tricks from the previous season, but for some, despite what’s in Detective Velcor’s cure-all glove compartment, some will never be able to get over their Carcosa hangover, and that’s too bad, because they’re missing out on a pretty damn good show.

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Episode 80 – Sundazed

Episode 80 - Sundazed

Episode 80 – Sundazed

Sometimes somedays come today – and when today is someday you’re left feeling Sundazed. Visions of the Unexcused’s run on Sundays has come to an end on WEMF Radio – and while there’ll be no show broadcasting today via WEMF – the show’s available via Episode 80, quite an accomplishment unto itself.

I’m hoping that Visions will find a new future slot on WEMF – but either way, it’s been a killer ride and I’ve made acquaintance with a lot of great individuals – but now it’s time to focus on what someday will bring tomorrow as we drift in the summer heat, looking towards the horizon, feeling Sundazed.

Per always, much love to all the Unexcused for the love, support, and listening. Let’s seize the time now, let’s seize the time.

-Mint Pillow, 7/19/15 10:53am

1. Mac DeMarco – I’ve Been Waiting For Her (Another One – 2015)
2. Surfer Blood – Neighbour Riffs (Astrocoast – 2010)
3. Future Islands – Tin Man (In Evening Air – 2010)
4. Cut Copy – Saturdays [Reprise] (Bright Like Neon Love – 2004)
5. Porcelain Raft – Is It Too Deep For You? (Strange Weekend – 2012)
6. Sex Dream – Gods (Gods / Tundra 7″ – 2013)
7. The Soft Pack – Mexico (The Soft Pack – 2010)
8. Daniel Johnston – Ghost Of Our Love (Continued Story – Hi, How Are You – 1983)
9. The Longwalls – The Gold Standard (The Gold Standard – 2015)
10. Wilco – Cold Slope (Star Wars – 2015)
11. Outkast – Spottieottiedopaliscious (Big Boi & Dre Present… Outkast – 1998)
12. Gorillaz – Slow Country (Gorillaz – 2001)
13. Blondes – Paradise City (Touched – 2010)
14. Portishead – Silence (Third – 2008)
15. Four Tet – Hands (Rounds – 2003)
16. James Blake – The Bells Sketch (The Bells Sketch – 2010)
17. Deerhoof – Zero Seconds Pause (Breakup Song – 2012)
18. Make Light – Rodeo (Demo – 2015)
19. Pocahaunted – Make It Real (Make It Real – 2010)
20. Broadcast – Still Feels Like Tears (The Future Crayon – 2003)
21. Annie Philippe – Pas de taxi (Tendres Annees 60 – 1960)
22. King Curtis – Central Park (Everybody’s Talkin’ – 1972)
23. Jimmy Cliff – Let’s Seize The Time (Many Rivers To Cross – 1978)

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Bacteria Is Real: What I Learned From U2’s “Secret Show” at The Burren

The empty stage at The Burren. (Photo - D.Hixon)

The empty stage at The Burren. (Photo – D.Hixon)

I’ve been home about an hour and I’m still trying to piece together one of the stranger nights in recent memory. Around 5pm yesterday social media started buzzing about a potential secret U2 show in Boston. Monday was their off day in-between a four show stint at The Garden, and given they’ve done something similar as recently 2009, it seemed plausible. So on a whim I jumped into a cab and made my way down to The Burren, the bar that was getting most of the said buzz.

One of many pints became aquatinted with.

One of many pints I became aquatinted with.

Long story short, I showed up, sat belly up at the bar for hours, had Guinness & beef stew, listened to a Scientist talk about bacteria (no….for real), and listened to a Pandora U2 radio station – all while The Burren buzzed about if the show was or wasn’t happening. The fact that U2 never showed up is a lessen in social media I’ll leave for someone else to figure out. What I’ve been thinking on is why was I even there?

Hmmmm....I don't think this is happening...

Hmmmm….I don’t think this is happening…

I haven’t truly enjoyed a U2 album for over a decade, was appalled by their Apple album, and haven’t actively listened to their music in a long, long time. But as I sat over my pints I began to realize why I was there holding onto hope – U2 is a big part of my musical journey. I remember the day my brother was given The Joshua Tree on cassette from his eventual Wife and eight year old me being absolutely blown away by what I was hearing. The first CD I bought at Fay’s Drug Store was the Unforgettable Fire and I listend to it over and over and over again. I then dived headfirst into even earlier albums such as War and October and was never disappointed – these guys were amazing.

I know in certain circles it’s not hip to like U2 anymore, and as stated above, I get it, and am partially guilty. But those four mentioned albums (and a few more not mentioned) are absolutely incredible and had a very strong impact on young me, and are part of my musical DNA. My brothers loved U2, my Mom loved U2, my friends growing up and growing old have loved U2, and like it or not – a lot of the dots in my life can be connected with U2 songs, and for that I had to take a flyer to potentially see one of the biggest bands in the world in a 250 seat room.

It was a weird and surreal night for sure, but I’m glad I sat there paying my penance for the decades worth of good music and memories they provided me, it allowed me to meditate on what U2 meant to me, all while they put on an incredible show without even being there.

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Episode 79 – Win Love

Episode 79 - Win Love

Episode 79 – Win Love

Recorded in Mint Pillow’s home studio for WEMF Radio – the set starts off with exuberant hope – as this was recorded during the weekend his country, The United States of America, celebrated love – allowing all to marry whom they wanted. While the set’s a celebration – it shifts towards frustration, as Pillow ponders the tragic shootings which happened in Charlotte earlier in the week.

1. Visions Intro
2. The Sumo Brothers – I Love Music (The Sumo Brothers – 1978)
3. White Fence  – Mr. Adams (White Fence – 2010)
4. The Kinks – Johnny Thunder (Are The Village Green Preservation Society – 1968)
5. Gregory James Edition – Ain’t No Sunshine (Prophets Of Soul – 1973)
6. The Sweets – He Is My Neighbor (He Is My Neighbor – 2014)
7. Marc Desse – Video Club (Video Club – 2012)
8. Meat Puppets – Wind And The Rain (Mirage – 1987)
9. Sore Eros – Tightest Touch (Second Chants – 2009)
10. Teddy Robin & The Playboys – What’d I Say (Magic Colours – 2006)
11. Minutemen – Fake Contest (Post-Mersh, Vol. 1 – 1987)
12. Modest Mouse – Sleepwalkin’ (Building Nothing Out of Something – 2000)
13. Adriano Correia De Oliveira – Rosa De Sangue (Adriano Correia De Oliveira – 1967)
14. Steve Gunn – Street Keeper (Time Off – 2013)
15. Cool Ghouls – New Moon (A Swirling Fire Burning Through The Rye – 2014)
16. Kurt Vile – Wedding Budz (“It’s A Big World Out There [And I Am Scared]” – 2013)
17. Karantamba – Na Dinding Fatty (Ndigal – 1984)
18. Mahlathini – Kwa Mfazi Onge Mama (The Lion Of Soweto – 1987)
20. Seun Kuti + Fela’s Egypt 80 – Many Things (Many Things – 2008)
21. Fuji – Revelations (Revelations – 1970)
22. Drive-By Truckers – The Three Great Alabama Icons (Southern Rock Opera / Act I – 2001)
23. Neil Young – Southern Man (After the Gold Rush – 1970)
25. President Obama – Amazing Grace (Rev. Clementa Pinckney Service – 2015)

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Episode 78 – Covered

Episode 78 - Covered

Episode 78 – Covered

Cover Songs are a lot like coffee. If made poorly and with bad product then it’s warm brown sludge that I want nothing to do with – however, when made properly with fresh ground goodness everything around me becomes sharpened and turned for the good. The satisfaction of a well made cup of coffee is similar to that of  good cover song. It depends who’s covering who and what the song actually is, for sure – but how they’re covering is most important. You don’t want anything too rote from the coveree, an ideal cover will give a knowing nod to the original as the artist imparts his own style & self into it. The songs played in Episode 78 first aired on WEMF Radio, and are all covers that perk me up like a sensible cup of joe – I hope you feel similarly sharpened as well.

1. Minutemen – Have You Ever Seen the Rain? (3-Way Tie for Last – 1985)
2. Uncle Tupelo – I Wanna Be Your Dog (I Wanna Be Your Dog 7″ – 2013)
3. Chauncey – Suffragette City (Live EP – 2003)
4. The Pets – Este Es El Fin (The Pets – 1968)
5. Otis Redding – [I Can’t Get No] Satisfaction (Otis Blue – 1965)
6. Townes Van Zandt – Dead Flowers (Roadsongs – 1994)
7. Jimi Hendrix – Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Hendrix In The West – 1972)
8. Stereophonics – Don’t Let Me Down (I Am Sam – 2001)
9. Esso Steel Band – My Sweet Lord (Front Street – 1970)
10. Jah Malla – Bad Moon Rising (Jah Malla – 1981)
11. Toots & The Maytals – Take Me Home Country Roads (Funky Kingdom – 1973)
12. Don Sornrabeab – Mao [Drunk] (Thai Funk Volume 2 – 2011)
13. The Black Seeds – Black Magic Woman (The Black Seeds – The Sound Trek – 1972)
14. Hugh Masekela – I Just Wasn’t Meant For These Times (Hugh Masekela’s Latest – 1987)
15. The Standells – Sunny Afternoon (Dirty Water – 1966)
16. Condo Fucks – With A Girl Like You (Fuckbook – 2009)
17. Sneakers – Let’s Live For Today (Sneakers – 1976)
18. Ted Leo and the Pharmacists – Everybody Wants to Rule the World (Av Club Undercover – 2010)
19. Mastodon – A Spoonful Weighs A Ton (A Spoonful Weighs A Ton 7″ – 2012)
20. Jay Reatard – Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge On Seattle (R.I.P.  Jay – 2010)
21. Sonic Youth – No Garage (Hang Them All / No Garage 7″ – 2009)
22. Beck – Green Light (Pay No Mind / Green Light 7″ – 2009)
23. The Jesus and Mary Chain – My Girl (Peel Sessions – 2000)
24. Thievery Corporation – Light My Fire (Sounds From The Verve Hi-Fi – 2001)
25. Low – Stay (Stay/Novacane – 2013)
26. Atlas Sound – Freak Train (Bedroom Databank Vol. 1  – 2010)
27. WAVVES – Hybrid Moments (nathan williams’s Album – 2012)
28. Brick Mower – Exit Flagger (Box Turtle flexi 7”  – 2010)
29. Soundgarden – Girl U Want (Superunknown: The Singles – 2014)
30. Ryan Adams – Wonderwall (Bristol Flyer; England – 2000)

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When The Going Gets Weird: Weirdo Records Is Dead. Long Live Weirdo Records.

Long Live Weirdo Records. (Photo - D.Hixon)

Long Live Weirdo Records. (Photo – D.Hixon)

It’s been a heart wrenching week for Central Square, and selfishly, myself. First news trickled out that the seminal rock club, one in which I’ve seen both friends and heroes play in, TT the Bears, is closing it’s doors – and now…..this. Pound for pound Weirdo Records was the greatest record store in the world, and now….it’s gone, as Central Square takes one more giant step to becoming Kendall fucking Square. Jesse was right, Hi-Fi Pizza becoming a goddamn vegetarian spot was only the beginning. The gentrification of Central Square is now in full throat. But Hey, at least we have a bunch of soulless and pretty pharmaceutical buildings creeping up our ass. Yikes, this could get ugly quick….let’s get back to Weirdo.

The first time I entered Weirdo Angela Sawyer (Godhead & Owner of Weirdo) turned to me and asked over some sort of percussion driven screech chant “music” if I wanted a beer. I of course said yes and my experiences only improved from there – Weirdo was always perfect for me. As a DJ, blogger, podcaster, and overall music freak I can’t overstate how important Weirdo Records was to me. I was admittedly intimidated by the place at first. Walking into Weirdo Records was like entering a tomb. The claustrophobic feel of the large closet called store berated your senses and didn’t allow you be comfortable – and that’s why it was utterly fantastic. There’s still plenty of great shops in Cambridge, but none push your taste or limits like Weirdo – and that’s what a shop’s supposed to do, expose you to new sounds, make you a little uncomfortable, all while helping you cultivate the musical garden garden of taste in your head, and my garden never grew faster than it did with Weirdo. It was like this strange sonic miracle grow for my ear taste.

If I’ve turned you on to new music, you’ve seen me spin out, or listen to my radio show or podcast – then you should certainly shed a tear with me. So much of what I play was discovered and mined out of Weirdo – and it gives me more than minor (major?) anxiety now that it’s gone. Where the hell am I going to get my Afro-Beat, Asian Soul, Middle Eastern Psych or rare Garage from? Goddamn it. The more I type the more I realize how big a hole such a small place is going to leave.

If she reads this (and I think she will) I want to take a step back and thank Angela. I was mostly quiet in there, but you always pushed me in directions that were beyond good, and from that first beer to last purchase, you made the most intimidating shop the most accessible and in the end the best – I’ll be a cow-eyed shoegazer the next few days as I wallow in my “loss” – but am beyond thrilled for your future adventures. We need more Angela’s in this world. Full Stop. End of Sentence.

I’ll be spinning records tonight at State Park from 9:00pm to 12:00am and will wear my Weirdo Records T-Shirt with pride while playing a healthy amount of wax from the pound for pound undisputed Record Store Champ. Drinks on me if you can make it Angela.

Weirdo Records is Dead. Long Live Weirdo Records.

Mint Pillow @ State Park 05/21.

Mint Pillow @ State Park 05/21. (Photo – J.Nguyen)

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