Part of the process of "maintaining my cool"?

You know what I love about Danville Dans baseball? The BEER. It's nice to visit a ballpark where the economics of beer do not prevent me from getting a good buzz going. Now I know that last comment sounds a bit immature -- do I sound like a bleacher bum or what? -- but I do enjoy a drink from time to time, even in my old age.

My fifth Dans baseball game in three weeks was another solid game. The Dans lost, 5-4, to the up-and-coming Dubois Bombers, who now sit just 2 games back of our leaders. It was an action-packed, extra-inning affair completed by my first CICL home run, hit by none other than Dans 1B Garrett Gipe. Mr. Gipe, a junior currently attending USC, had his family in tow all the way from California. Ma and Pa and his three bronzed sisters -- known from this day forward as simply "the Gipe sisters" -- provided Garrett with a boisterous cheering section, and he responded with an eighth-inning, game-tying home run right down the third-base line. 'Twas a beaut.

No foul balls for me on this night, but I did catch a souvenir of another sort: a Crime Stoppers beer cozy. (Uh, maybe not the best way to promote the solving of crimes?) It kept my Goose Island chilly all night long.

After the game, we cruised back into town for a nightcap at Mike & Molly's. It was there that we decided an Irish Car Bomb was a good idea.

3/4 pint Guinness® stout
1/2 shot Bailey's® Irish cream mixed with 1/2 shot Jameson® Irish whiskey
Drop shot glass into pint glass and chug.

Chris and I ponder the wisdom of doing said shot. It's a slippery slope...

The stare down, a common practice in pre-Car Bomb toasts.

And they're off...

Chug! Chug! Chug!

Surveying the damage, immediately after.

It was so tasty, we had another a half-hour later. How do you know when you're officially bombed thanks to the Irish Car Bomb?

Time to go home. Gotta get up for work tomorrow ... three hours late. Many thanks to Amy L -- who turns THIRTY tomorrow -- for snapping these photos and driving our drunk asses around.

Tomorrow morning I'm off to the Pitchfork Festival, where I plan to do a lot of sweating in the 92-degree heat.


More fun with the Dans

We headed back to Danville on Saturday for our second double-header of the season. The Dans are still atop the CICL, with two weeks left in the season. The tension was mounting, and the Quincy Gems were in town! Our previous game was a Wednesday night, and the stadium was maybe a third full. But apparently there's nothing else to do in Danville on a Saturday night than take in 14 innings of baseball, cause the place was nearly packed. We had to improvise a parking space, which we did a ways away from the field. (Our previous trip taught us that foul balls break windshields. Not ours, but others.)

Oh Captain, My Captain. Sir Crunch was the big draw. He even threw out the first pitch. I'm amazed that he could see well enough to come within five feet of home plate. Did I mention that I used to have a Captain Crunch doll when I was a kid?

I enjoyed a pretzel with mustard and two "sliders" -- dogs with onions, yellow mustard, and nacho cheese. Mmmmm. I was the Designated Driver, so no Goose Island for me. Here, Chris ponders the delight that is brain freeze, mid sno-cone.

The games were a bit of a bore this time around. In Game 1, the Dans lost 4-0. They had the bases juiced twice, but couldn't come up with any clutch hits. (I don't recall seeing a single extra base hit the entire night.) Sadly, there would be no polka music piped through Danville Stadium until Game 2, when the Dans finally scored in the bottom of the second. There was nearly a brawl in Game 2, as the Quincy pitcher had a bit of Ricky Vaughn in him. He plunked three batters in just four innings. We left after the fourth inning, missing the Dans offensive explosion which led to their 8-1 win.

Interesting note that I think I forgot to mention last time: The Dans put their players to work. Here they're hosing down the field between games.

The highlight of the night for me: my third foul ball of the baseball season! A vicious foul line drive flew over our heads, bouncing off the backdrop of the stadium and bouncing back down the seats and coming to rest a couple rows below me. I grabbed it and once again turned it over to a kid. I gotta say, they don't mind using scuffed balls in Danville. Must be a cost-conscious move so they can keep their tickets so cheap.


Previewing the 'Fork Fest, pt. 2

See part one of the preview here. My friends are giving the nod to Day 2 of the Pitchfork Music Festival, and I can't say I disagree.

Opener: Tapes 'n Tapes
Compared to Day One's opener, the Hot Machines, Tapes 'n Tapes carry a lotta expectation and hype. I'm not that into the Minneapolis natives, but maybe they'll sell me with their live show.
Tapes 'n Tapes - "Insistor"
Tapes 'n Tapes - "Just Drums"

These guys probably sounded like an A&R guys wet dream on paper: Modest Mouse crossed with Sufjan Stevens. But on record, I'm not that into them. They are a Secretly Canadian band, however, and I trust those dudes taste. So maybe something will click for me after seeing them in concert.
Danielson - "Did I Step on Your Trumpet"
Danielson - "Time That Bald Sexton"

Jens Lekman

One of my favorite songwriters of the past couple years. I'm quite excited to see Jens again. The Swedish sensation was spectacular in a club setting; hopefully he'll be able to carry that charm over for a crowd of 15,000. Back to back Secretly Canadian acts -- woo-hoo! "Yeah, I got busted. I painted a dirty word on your old man's Mercedes Benz cause you told me to do it."
Jens Lekman - "You Are the Light"
Jens Lekman - "A Sweet Summer's Night on Hammer Hill"

The National
Another hyped band, this time from NYC. These guys will fill the quotient for the 30+ alternative rock crowd, while I seek out refreshments and shade.
The National - "Mr. November"
The National - "Daughters of the Soho Riots"

Awkward transition from The National to these guys. Liars' intense live show charted at No. 18 on my Top 25 concerts of all time. I loved them in their original incarnation (listen to the first song). But they've since upped the dementia (listen to the second song), and I'm not sure I quite follow. That said, I'm stoked to see them again.
Liars - "We Live NE of Compton"
Liars - "Hold You, Drum"

Aesop Rock with Mr. Lif

Aesop Rock is one of the few hip-hop artists that I've gotten into over the past five years. The 'Fork couldn't have selected a better rapper for my tastes. Plus, he's sporting a Cardinals cap in that photo. That about says it.
Aesop Rock - "1,000 Deaths"
Mr. Lif featuring Aesop Rock - "Success"

Mission of Burma
Time for another odd transition, but I guess you'll have those at these sorts of festivals. As far as geezer-rock reformations go, Boston's Mission of Burma are one of the few bands that can still bring it. The first tune is one of their golden oldies; the second is from their 2006 release, The Obliterati.
Mission of Burma - "Academy Fight Song"
Mission of Burma - "2wice"

Devendra Banhart
Banhart sealed the deal for me. I had tickets to see him in 2004, but didn't go due to laziness. Whether you find his hippie schtick to be revolting or not, I have a feeling he's going to put on a very engaging show that should appeal to a large swath of the crowd.
Devendra Banhart - "I Feel Just Like a Child"
Devendra Banhart - "At the Hop"

Yo La Tengo

Am I the only one who finds it a bit odd that Yo La got added to this festival? I mean, they're surely going to draw well, but they're hardly a buzz-worthy band anymore. I guess we'll file them under "crowd pleaser", which they will be (for me) if they play a good deal of older, more rockin' stuff. (Did you know their forthcoming record is called I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass? Here's hoping their new stuff will feature lots of Ira Kaplan freakouts on guitar.) Now, here's two of my faves from their peak years in the mid-'90s.
Yo La Tengo - "Big Day Coming"
Yo La Tengo - "Decora"

Can't go wrong with Spoon, although I'm shocked that they weren't chosen as a headliner for Day 2 and the festival. I'm pumped to see Os Mutantes, but I'm guessing I'm in the minority.
Spoon - "Car Radio"
Spoon - "I Summon You" (demo)

Headliner: Os Mutantes
I've tried to raise the excitement level amongst my friends for Os Mutantes (The Mutants), but how do you get a bunch of peeps pumped up to see a long-disbanded, off-kilter, garage-pop band from Brazil? It's impossible to compare Os Mutantes to anyone else, because their sound is so utterly their own. So when someone says, "What do they sound like?", I'm left grasping at straws. These guys/gal haven't played together in over 30 years, but their preliminary shows this summer have received positive press. I think for festival's huge crowd, they're either gonna be an unexpectedly awesome wrap up to a weekend of great music, or they're gonna flop. I don't see much room for grey area. They sing -- mostly -- in Portuguese, and their tunes run the gamut from outsider folk with a Latin tint to Beatles-influenced LSD pop. I swear that Yo La Tengo actually covered the second tune here on one of their mid-'90s releases (probably an EP), but I can't find proof. Check out the YouTube clip as well, which is a teaser for an Os Mutantes documentary and will provide some additional perspective on the band.
Os Mutantes - "Bat Macumba"
Os Mutantes - "Baby"
Os Mutantes Documentary Movie

If you're still on the fence about attending the 'Fork Fest, two-day passes are no longer available. You'll have to purchase two, one-day passes, which still only sets you back $40.


10 good reasons to visit Danville

...and all of them have to do with the Danville Dans! Who are the Dans, you ask? Why, they're a summer-league baseball team comprised of collegians from around the country. They play with wooden bats, they're first in the league, and here's why you should go see them in action.

1) Danville Stadium is a total throwback -- a one-deck, wooden stadium with an outfield fence that appears to be falling backward at certain points. It was built in the '40s to house a minor-league team for the Brooklyn Dodgers. The list of big league players who have made stops in Danville -- either as part of the minor leagues or later as part of independent summer leagues -- is long and impressive: Pedro Guerrero, Gorman Thomas, Carl Erskine, Cecil Cooper, Dave Stewart, Devon White, and Jonathan Papelbon, to name just a few.

2) You're so close to the action you can hear the umpire call strikes and the catcher's mit pop clear as day.

3) Rally caps are encouraged, and good-natured taunting is, too. (Thanks for the pic, Pretty Typewriters.) Note: my rally hat failed, but I chalk that up to the fact that it was a STL Cardinals cap, and not a Danville Dans cap.

4) Rooting for college kids with dreams of making the big leagues is far more beneficial to the player than rooting for larger-than-life pros with fat wallets will ever be. These kids are not spoiled, unless you count the occasional fan that sneaks them a hot dog during the game.

5) The beer is relatively cheap -- $2.50 for a plastic cup of Goose Island!

6) The foot is edible. I repeat, the foot is edible. Chicago-style dogs, warm & salty popcorn, pretzels, and sno-cones!

7) Foul pop ups land on the wooden roof with a WHACK.

8) Where else can you see a double-header that features 8 errors in the first game, and then a five-inning no-hitter in the second? Plus, the Dans were pitching the no-hitter, yet losing 1-0.

9) Every time the Dans score a run, they pipe in this polka music that sounds as if it's being played on a Casio. And inbetween innings they play good old time rock 'n' roll.

10) You can purchase broken bats (game used!) for $5!

They only play ball through early August, so hurry up!

Syd's Dead

Sadly, in the near future we may all know where Syd Barrett lives, as he is soon to reside in a cemetary. The Pink Floyd founder died in his sleep over the weekend. While it's no great loss to the current music scene -- it's been over 35 years since the ever-reclusive Syd released a record -- his passing will no doubt affect a good number of psychedelic fans who rightfully champion his influence on the genre. Hopefully, his passing will open a new window for biographers hoping to shed light on Syd's mysterious, private life and continued withdrawal from the psych-rock scene he helped to birth.

Pink Floyd - "Take Up Thy Stethoscope and Walk"
Syd Barrett - "No Man's Land"


Previewing the 'Fork Fest, pt. 1

I'm confident about two things concerning his year's Pitchfork Music Festival: 1) it will be overcast with a high of 81; and 2) the lineup is going to kick some serious ass. Here's a quick audio preview for my friends who are going, and (like me) may not be too familiar with all of the bands.

Day One

Opener: Hot Machines
This is the only song I've heard from these Chicagoans. However, they're on In the Red Records, and their offshoot, Miss Alex White, I really dig. I think they'll be a great opener.
Hot Machines - "Tear it Apart"

Chin Up Chin Up
Meh, my indie pop days are over. (Okay, they're not. But I don't really dig these Chicago boys.)
Chin Up Chin Up - "Virginia Don't Drown"

Man Man
They've got a definite thing for Tom Waits and Beefheart. Not sure how this will go over in person.
Man Man - "Van Helsing Boom Box"
Man Man - "I, Manface"

Band of Horses
Sounds like: My Morning Jacket coupled with Christie Front Drive. I like. Could imagine them playing in the middle of a downpour. Actually, I think I'd enjoy that.
Band of Horses - "The Funeral"
Band of Horses - "The First Song"

The Mountain Goats
Two of my old faves from John Darnielle: "And the Chicago Cubs will beat every team in the league. And the Tampa Bay Bucs will make it all the way to January!"
The Mountain Goats - "Cubs in Five"
The Mountain Goats - "The Best Ever Death Metal Band in Denton"

Woo-hoo! Dan Bejar from Vancouver! Woo-hoo!
Destroyer - "European Oils"
Destroyer - "Priest's Knees"

Art Brut
I could care less about Art Brut. I know, I know -- their live show is supposed to be spectacular. Well, it'll have to be to make up for the fact that I find their songs so boring. (Although they do get bonus points for David Gedge worship.)
Art Brut - "Emily Kane"
Art Brut - "Formed a Band"

Ted Leo and the Pharmacists
Ted Leo, the new Paul Weller.
Ted Leo - "Me and Mia"
Ted Leo - "Tell Balgeary, Balgury Is Dead"

The Futureheads
I don't know much about these guys. Did I miss the boat? I didn't know they were so influenced by late-'70s Brit punk. By this point in the day the audience's calves are gonna be sore from so much pogo-ing.
The Futureheads - "Help Us Out"
The Futureheads - "He Knows"

The Walkmen
God I love these guys. Hamilton Leithauser will be the best frontman in attendance. More organ!
The Walkmen - "Lost in Boston"
The Walkmen - "The Rat"

Headliner: Silver Jews
Odd choice for a headliner, but considering there will be about 15,000 people at the festival who have never seen David Berman before, I suppose it's a good choice. Let's hope he sticks to the rock, and cross our fingers that Stephen Malkmus makes an appearance.
Silver Jews - "Punks in the Beerlight"
Silver Jews - "Friday Night Fever"

Day 2 coming soon.


Vacationing near the 'Burgh

Just got back from a five day getaway in southwestern Pee-ay with M. I won't bore you with all the details, but here's a quick recap of the highlights.

1) I've now seen three Frank Lloyd Wright homes in three weeks. I visited his "masterpiece", Falling Water, and one of his Usonian homes, Kentuck Knob, just a few miles away. Falling Water was spectacular, in so many ways. The below photo (top) showcases how it works with nature, but there's just as much of interest inside the home. Kentuck Knob (below, bottom), by comparison, was a snooze, although it did feature a circular kitchen with a nearly two-story tall ceiling. (If you've ever been to a FLW home, you know how strange that is.)

2) Later that day, we visited Ohiopyle State Park and took in some river rapids and Cucumber Falls. (Lots of falls for one day.) It was nice to actually visit the mountains after spending a lot of time in southwestern Pennsylvania ignoring them on previous trips.

3) Spent a day-plus in Pittsburgh, and took in my second Pirates game at PNC Park, which still gets my vote for best park in the majors (that I've visited, at least). Our seats were great, about even with the first base bag and around thirty rows in. I haven't had seats that good at a major league game for years. I told M before the game I felt good about my chances of catching a foul ball. Well, I underestimated myself. I had a play on two foul balls. The first came off the bat of Curtis Granderson. (He's on both of my fantasy baseball teams, so maybe he was rewarding me for being faithful.) Curtis hit a pop up that landed two rows directly behind me. It bounced off a guy's hand and I snagged it on the fly with my left hand. After taking a bow, I gave the ball back to the guy's kid, who was probably four at the oldest. Less than a minute later, the ball went whizzing by my head, landing about eight rows in front of me. Apparently, the kid wasn't too happy that his dad didn't catch it. Or something. I retrieved it and gave it back to the kid, and he managed to hold onto it the rest of the game.

A couple innings later, another of my fantasy players, Chris Shelton, hit a pop up directly above me, which landed in the second deck. I waited a beat, and sure enough, it dropped down from the deck. I reached across the aisle and got my right hand on the ball, but it hit my hand and dropped right into the lap of some dude who wasn't paying attention. He kept the ball. Oh well, 1-for-2 ain't too shabby. I wish I would have remembered to have M take a picture of me and the ball, but neither of us thought of the idea until it was too late. I did get a picture of this guy, however. Gotta love someone daring enough to wear a Craig Paquette jersey (autographed, no less!) to the ballpark.

There was no shortage of Tigers fans at the park, and Pirates fans were particularly interested in Detroit's first-base coach, one Andy Van Slyke. M's sister brought her vintage Van Slyke pennant to the park, along with the ball Andy tossed her when she was a kid. But Andy wasn't paying any attention to the crowd.

It's hard to root against these Tigers. Like the Pirates, they've been in the dumps much of the last decade. Unlike the Bucs, however, they've turned things around this year and currently find themselves with the best record in baseball. They've also got a couple ex-Cardinals (Van Slyke and current Tiger, Placido Polanco), a great group of young players, and one vicious bullpen (Todd Jones and his handlebar mustache aside). I was hoping for the game to be close enough in the 8th inning for Detroit to bring in ace set-up man Joel Zumaya. The Pirates did their part, rallying late in the game to force Jim Leyland's hand. Zumaya entered the game, pitched pretty well, but topped out at 99 mph on the gun. (He hit 101 on a pitch just two night's earlier.) Sadly, I'll have to wait a bit longer to see 100 in person. (Oddly enough, the last young gun to almost hit 100 for me, Matt Anderson, was a Tiger as well.)

4) After the game, I tried Ethiopian food for the first time. I gotta say, it wasn't bad. Although their bread, called injera, shares a similar texture to a sponge.

Coming up later this week: thoughts on Ben Wallace, a preview of the Pitchfork Fest, and some photos from our trip to see Central Illinois' Danville Dans.