Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Concert Review: Future-- Mansfield, MA-- May 23rd, 2017

Lineup: Future/Migos/Tory Lanez/A$AP Ferg/Zoey Dollaz ("Nobody Safe Tour")
Venue: Xfinity Center, Mansfield, MA
Date: May 23rd, 2017

Zoey Dollaz: Arrived late and missed his set.

A$AP Ferg: Arrived late and missed his set.

Tory Lanez: Tory Lanez is an artist that I've been indifferent on since he first garnered attention with his hit single "Say It" back in 2015 and after seeing him live, I feel exactly the same way. Lanez is the type of artist that is easy to tolerate, but really difficult to get excited about. He has an alright singing voice, his rapping is competent and he's half-decent at working a crowd, which makes his shows as aggressively mediocre as his studio material.

Migos: What a difference year makes. Last March, I saw Migos headline at a dingy 575-capacity club just outside of Boston. Last night, they were the direct support act at a sold-out amphitheater show. It was honestly surreal to see 20,000 people collectively lose their minds for Migos a mere 14 months after I saw them play in one of the most intimate venues in Massachusetts. As a longtime fan of Migos, it's amazing to see them finally achieve massive success after spending years grinding it out on the club circuit. Some sound issues with Quavo's mic and the often overpowering backing tracks made this performance not quite as good as the last time I saw them, but it was still a super fun performance that showcased the charisma, energy and underrated technical chops that has led to their overdue explosion in popularity.

Future: Like pretty much every other trap artist I've never seen before, I had absolutely no idea what to expect from Future's live show. My opinion on his projects have been all over the map and given the level of success he's enjoyed since Monster dropped in October 2014, I wouldn't have been the least surprised if he put minimal effort into his performance. Thankfully, this didn't ended up being the case as Future eviscerated my skepticism by putting on a very entertaining show. 

Although his rapping isn't flawless and he often cuts his songs way too short (the last four songs of the set were the only ones he played all the way through), Future is such a natural, exciting performer that you can easily forgive these issues. Outside of Kanye West, he's the only rapper I've whose shows translates well to a huge stage. His massive stage presence and constant energy allows him to make a mostly-seated amphitheater feel like a wild club atmosphere. The setlist almost exclusively consisted of fan-favorite tracks that generated a huge reaction and his obligatory "make some noise, Boston how we doing tonight, etc." crowdwork was some of the most effective I've ever seen. He might not be most the ambitious or consistent rapper on the planet, but his boatloads of charisma and infectious joy for what he does makes him one of modern hip-hop's only undeniable superstars. While it's highly unlikely to go down as one of my favorite performances of 2017, Future put on a fun-ass show that left me with a huge smile on my face.

Tory Lanez 5/10
Migos 8/10
Future 8/10

Get Right Witcha
What the Price
Kelly Price
Cocoon/Hannah Montana (choruses only)
Fight Night
Call Casting
Bad and Boujee
Handsome and Wealthy
Pipe It Up

Rent Money
Super Trapper
Chosen One
Karate Chop
Bugatti (Ace Hood cover)
Same Damn Time
Move That Dope
Thought It Was a Drought
Freak Hoe
Real Sisters
Love Me (Lil Wayne cover)
Trap Niggas
Stick Talk
Blase (Ty Dolla $ign cover)
New Level (A$AP Ferg cover) (w/A$AP Ferg)
I'm So Groovy
Comin Out Strong
Good Dope
My Savages
I Serve the Base
Used to This
Low Life
Fuck Up Some Commas
March Madness
Mask Off

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

2017 NFL Position Rankings: Top 20 Tight Ends

20.Zach Miller (Bears)
19.Charles Clay (Bills)
18.Eric Ebron (Lions)
17.Hunter Henry (Chargers)
16.Jack Doyle (Colts)
15.Cameron Brate (Buccaneers) 
14.Dennis Pitta (Ravens) 
13.Jason Witten (Cowboys)
12.Antonio Gates (Chargers)
11.Coby Fleener (Saints)
10.Kyle Rudolph (Vikings)
9.Zach Ertz (Eagles)
8.Tyler Eifert (Bengals)
7.Martellus Bennett (Packers)
6.Delanie Walker (Titans)
5.Jimmy Graham (Seahawks)
4.Jordan Reed (Redskins)
3.Greg Olsen (Panthers)
2.Travis Kelce (Chiefs)
1.Rob Gronkowski (Patriots)

Monday, May 22, 2017

2017 NFL Position Rankings: Top 50 Wide Receivers

50.Mohamed Sanu (Falcons)
49.Cameron Meredith (Bears)
48.Adam Thielen (Vikings) 
47.Kenny Britt (Browns)
46.Randall Cobb (Packers)
45.Cole Beasley (Cowboys) 
44.Tyreek Hill (Chiefs)
43.Terrelle Pryor (Redskins) 
42.Jamison Crowder (Redskins)
41.Tyrell Williams (Chargers)
40.Kenny Stills (Dolphins)
39.Willie Snead (Saints)
38.Stefon Diggs (Vikings)
37.Jordan Matthews (Eagles)
36.John Brown (Cardinals)
35.Allen Hurns (Jaguars)
34.Davante Adams (Packers)
33.Mike Wallace (Ravens)
32.Rishard Matthews (Titans)
31.Michael Thomas (Saints)
30.Pierre Garcon (49ers)
29.Kelvin Benjamin (Panthers)
28.Eric Decker (Jets) 
27.Jeremy Maclin (Chiefs)
26.Marvin Jones (Lions)
25.DeSean Jackson (Buccaneers)
24.Keenan Allen (Chargers)
23.Sammy Watkins (Bills)
22.Golden Tate (Lions)
21.Michael Crabtree (Raiders)
20.Julian Edelman (Patriots)
19.Brandin Cooks (Patriots)
18.Allen Robinson (Jaguars)
17.Emmanuel Sanders (Broncos)
16.Alshon Jeffrey (Eagles)
15.Brandon Marshall (Giants)
14.Jarvis Landry (Dolphins)
13.Doug Baldwin (Seahawks)
12.Amari Cooper (Raiders)
11.Demaryius Thomas (Broncos)
10.Larry Fitzgerald (Cardinals)
9.Jordy Nelson (Packers)
8.DeAndre Hopkins (Texans)
7.T.Y. Hilton (Colts)
6.Mike Evans (Buccaneers)
5.Dez Bryant (Cowboys)
4.A.J. Green (Bengals)
3.Odell Beckham Jr. (Giants)
2.Julio Jones (Falcons)
1.Antonio Brown (Steelers)

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Concert Review: Metallica-- Foxboro, MA-- May 19th, 2017

Lineup: Metallica/Volbeat/Local H
Venue: Gillette Stadium, Foxboro, MA
Date: May 19th, 2017

Local H: Arrived late and missed their set.

Volbeat: By the time I got to my seats, Volbeat had just broke into "16 Dollars" from their 2010 breakout album Beyond Hell/Above Heaven. While I was initially a little bit disappointed that I didn't get into Gillette Stadium in time for the start of their set, this late arrival proved to be a blessing in disguise. The sound mix was so muddy that you couldn't make out anything aside from the guitar and a handful of vocal lines, which made it really difficult to get into/properly assess the quality of their set. Even though I'm pretty indifferent towards Volbeat's recent output, I'd like to see them again in an environment where I can clearly hear what they're playing.

Metallica: I've been fortunate enough to catch a vast majority of my favorite bands live and for the most part, these performances have resulted in some of the most treasured memories I've accumulated in my 25 years of life to-date. Thrash metal legends Metallica were pretty much the only band of my top-tier favorites that I hadn't gotten the chance to see yet, which isn't exactly surprising given the fact they've played Massachusetts a grand total of once (January 2009 on the Death Magnetic tour) since I started going to shows 12 years ago. Friday night, I finally caught my white whale and for the most part, it lived up to my immense expectations.

It became clear within the first few minutes of Metallica taking the stage that this wasn't going to be an ordinary metal show experience. They have a larger-than-life rockstar swagger that you very rarely see in a genre that's primarily driven by intimate shows and subdued personalities. Everything from their sprawling stage setup to frontman James Hetfield's exuberant stage presence is much more reminiscent of an arena rock band like Van Halen or Kiss than Black Sabbath or Iron Maiden. Metallica is the undisputed most popular metal band of all-time and it's great to see them embrace their long run of absurd success with a properly excessive live show.  

While the flashy showmanship definitely plays a crucial role in their set, Metallica's live show isn't merely a empty, gimmicky spectacle. The quality of the musicianship is every bit good as the elaborate stage production. The older material has every ounce of ferocity that made the studio versions groundbreaking classics while the newer material retains all of the hard rock flash and sing-along hooks that allowed them to become the first metal band to ever resonate with mainstream audiences. Metallica has aged with a tremendous level of grace and it helped make this performance a treat for fans of any era of their music.
As impressive as Metallica was, the overwhelming shitiness of Gillette Stadium prevented it from being an all-time great performance. Football stadiums clearly aren't built for acoustics, but the sound quality at Gillette managed to fall far below my very low expectations. The wind tunnel-esque design of the stadium made it sound like they were playing in the next city over and led to every single instrument/mic cutting out at various points of the set. As an obsessive metalhead who's been waiting 12 agonizing years to see Metallica live, nothing quite crushes your soul like having the solo of "Master of Puppets" and pretty much the entirety of "For Whom the Bell Tolls" get ruined by shoddy-ass sound. How people gleefully shell out $100+ to go see Kenny Chesney, Luke Bryan and the half-dozen other pop-country jabronis that play at this coffin every summer is legitimately astonishing to me.

Despite my issues with the venue and some of the setlist choices (playing five tracks from The Black Album while only playing a combined two songs from Master of Puppets and ...And Justice for All is blasphemous), it was still awesome to finally cross Metallica off my bucket list and experience some of my all-time favorite songs ("Fight Fire with Fire", "One", "Fade to Black") in a live setting. Hopefully the next time Metallica rolls through Massachusetts, they won't book a show at Robert Kraft's poop palace.

Volbeat 6.5/10
Metallica 8.5/10

Volbeat (last 6 songs):
16 Dollars
The Hangman's Body Count
Hallelujah Goat
Lola Montez
Dead but Rising
Still Counting

Atlas, Rise!
For Whom the Bell Tolls
The Unforgiven
Now That We're Dead
Moth Into Flame
Wherever I May Roam
Halo on Fire
Sad but True
Master of Puppets
Fade to Black
Seek & Destroy

Fight Fire with Fire
Nothing Else Matters
Enter Sandman

Friday, May 19, 2017

2017 NFL Position Rankings: Top 50 Running Backs

50.C.J Prosise (Seahawks)
49.Shane Vereen (Giants)
48.Duke Johnson Jr. (Browns)
47.Jacquizz Rodgers (Buccaneers)
46.Terrance West (Ravens)
45.Alfred Morris (Cowboys)
44.Chris Ivory (Jaguars)
43.Thomas Rawls (Seahawks)
42.Derrick Henry (Titans)
41.DeAngelo Williams (Free Agent)
40.Mike Gillislee (Patriots)
39.Rob Kelley (Redskins)
38.Eddie Lacy (Seahawks)
37.Danny Woodhead (Ravens)
36.Darren Sproles (Eagles)
35.Ty Montgomery (Packers)
34.Dion Lewis (Patriots)
33.Carlos Hyde (49ers)
32.Charles Sims (Buccaneers)
31.James White (Patriots)
30.Theo Riddick (Lions)
29.Giovani Bernard (Bengals)
28.Bilal Powell (Jets)
27.Ryan Matthews (Eagles)
26.Doug Martin (Buccaneers)
25.Matt Forte (Jets)
24,Jonathan Stewart (Panthers)
23.Marshawn Lynch (Raiders)
22.Jammal Charles (Broncos)
21.Tevin Coleman (Falcons)
20.Jeremy Hill (Bengals)
19.Isaiah Crowell (Browns)
18.LeGarrette Blount (Eagles)
17.Spencer Ware (Chiefs)
16.C.J. Anderson (Broncos)
15.Latavius Murray (Vikings)
14.Melvin Gordon (Chargers)
13.Adrian Peterson (Saints)
12.Lamar Miller (Texans)
11.Mark Ingram (Saints) 
10.Frank Gore (Colts)
9.Jordan Howard (Bears) 
8.Todd Gurley (Rams)
7.Jay Ajayi (Dolphins)
6.DeMarco Murray (Titans)
5.Devonta Freeman (Falcons)
4.Ezekiel Elliott (Cowboys)
3.LeSean McCoy (Bills)
2.David Johnson (Cardinals)
1.Le'Veon Bell (Steelers)

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Album Review: Paramore-After Laughter

The first five months of the 2017 musical year has mimicked the unpredictability and insanity of the real world. Calvin Harris has suddenly morphed into R&B's most reliable, innovative hitmaker. Kendrick Lamar proved his mortality by releasing a generic album. Justin Bieber landed a prominent  guest spot on a hit Spanish-language pop song. If you had told me any of this wild shit was going to happen six months ago, I would've assumed you were a methhead with a rich imagination. Paramore is the latest act to throw a curveball in this chaotic year by ditching their angst-filled brand of power pop/punk for 80's-inspired new wave and while there are some notable bumps along the way, it's an unexpected change in direction that mostly works.

What Carley Rae Jepsen was able to do with vintage synthpop on Emotion, Paramore does for new wave with After Laughter. This record is a passionate revival of a long-dead musical movement that pays tribute to the genre's pioneers without ever sounding like a direct rip-off. The palatable love and respect Paramore has for the new wave/alternative dance scene goes a long way in helping this pretty drastic shift in musical direction go as smoothly as possible.

Any doubt of Paramore's ability to embrace their inner Duran Duran is quickly shattered with the triumphant trio of tracks ("Hard Times", "Rose-Colored Boy", "Told You So")  that kicks off After Laughter. The massive, goofy synths and bouncy guitarwork serve as PED's for Haley Williams' bubbly vocals, and help create a vibe that is so irresistibly upbeat that even a soulless, 80's-hating prick like myself couldn't help but smile. The rest of the record mostly fails to match the magic of the opening tracks, but tracks like "Caught in the Middle" and "Idle Worship" still manage to produce the type of sugary earworms that burrow into your brain for weeks at a time. Fans of the more melancholy material found on their beloved 2009 album Brand New Eyes might be disappointed with this record's over-the-top embrace of all things warm and vibrant, but I really appreciated this record's unrelenting positive energy and authentic vintage sound.    

As good as the uptempo songs are, After Laughter loses its way when it heads into obligatory ballad territory. The slow songs consistently arrive at inopportune times and successful kill the momentum built up by their breezier counterparts. "Forgiveness" throws water all over the aforementioned three-track party that opens the record while the even duller "26" and "Pool" act as tire-popping speed bumps in the middle of the record. Not even Williams' consistently serviceable vocal performances can save these cluster of tracks from being tone-killing duds. Paramore has crafted some excellent slower tunes in the past ("Decode", "Part II"), but the ones on After Laughter are consistently forgettable and wildly out-of-place given the brisk tone of the rest of the record.

After Laughter is a well-crafted, engaging return to form for Paramore following their middling 2013 self-titled record. Given the lack of memorable hooks and melodies that plagued their last record, I fully expected the 2010 departure of founding guitarist/primary songwriter Josh Farro to be a crippling blow that the band wouldn't be able to recover from, but this record proves that Williams and longtime guitarist Taylor York are risk-takers that have the creative juice to keep this band afloat for years to come. While the flat ballads and my sketchy relationship with the new wave genre prevented me from loving this record, After Laughter is a fun, creative 42-minutes of music that I respect the hell out of.

3/5 Stars
Standout Tracks
1.Rose-Colored Boy
2.Hard Times
3.Caught in the Middle

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

2017 NBA Mock Draft 1.0

After months of predicting the different lottery scenarios, the ping-pong balls were finally drawn last night in New York City and in a not-so surprising twist, the Boston Celtics came away with the #1 overall pick. With the draft order now established, I proudly present my 1st mock of the season. I will fully admit that my level of research and tape study for this paled in comparison to what I do for the NFL Draft every year, but as a blogger and basketball fan, I figured I was obligated to throw my hat in the mindless pre-draft speculation ring. Make sure you check back on June 23rd to see just how wrong I was.

1.Boston Celtics: Markelle Fultz, point/shooting guard (Washington)
2.Los Angeles Lakers: Lonzo Ball, point guard (UCLA)
3.Philadelphia 76ers: De'Aaron Fox, point guard (Kentucky)
4.Phoenix Suns: Josh Jackson, small forward (Kansas)
5.Sacramento Kings: Jayson Tatum, small/power forward (Duke)
6.Orlando Magic: Malik Monk, shooting guard (Kentucky)
7.Minnesota Timberwolves: Jonathan Issac, small/power forward (Florida State)
8.New York Knicks: Dennis Smith Jr., point guard (NC State)
9.Dallas Mavericks: Frank Ntilikina, point/shooting guard (France)
10.Sacramento Kings: Zach Collins, center (Gonzaga)
11.Charlotte Hornets: Jarrett Allen, center (Texas)
12.Detroit Pistons: Justin Jackson, small forward (North Carolina)
13.Denver Nuggets: Hamidou Diallo, shooting guard (Kentucky)
14.Miami Heat: Lauri Markkanen, power forward (Arizona)
15.Portland Trail Blazers: John Collins, power forward (Wake Forest)
16.Chicago Bulls: Justin Patton, center (Creighton)
17.Milwaukee Bucks: Donovan Mitchell, shooting guard (Louisville)
18.Indiana Pacers: TJ Leaf, power forward (UCLA)
19.Atlanta Hawks: OG Anunoby, small forward (Indiana)
20.Portland Trail Blazers: Terrance Ferguson, shooting guard/small forward (Australia)
21.Oklahoma City Thunder: Luke Kennard, shooting guard (Duke)
22.Brooklyn Nets: Harry Giles III, power forward (Duke)
23.Toronto Raptors: Ike Anigbogu, center (UCLA)
24.Utah Jazz: Derek White, shooting guard (Colorado)
25.Orlando Magic: Isaiah Hartenstein, power forward/center (Germany)
26.Portland Trail Blazers: Rodions Kurucs, small forward (Latvia)
27.Brooklyn Nets: Frank Jackson, point/shooting guard (Duke)
28.Los Angeles Lakers: Jordan Bell, power forward/center (Oregon)
29.San Antonio Spurs: Johnathan Motley, power forward (Baylor)
30.Utah Jazz: Bam Adebayo, center (Kentucky)