I’m still alive, but barely

Sorry for the lack of posts this past week or so, I’ve been out of town. I’ve slept in cars (both moving and stationary), in tents, on the floor, on a couch, on a plane and just plane passed out in a field. Twas fun.

I traveled to Colorado last weekend to hit up some camping, disc golf and concerts. I caught Dispatch two out of the three nights they played at Red Rocks. I highly recommend catching a show at Red Rocks, it was absolutely gorgeous. Dispatch was really good too; much better than when I saw them in Boston. I didn’t care for their new EP at first, but the songs work really well live.

We camped at Bear Creek Lake park in Lakewood, Colorado, which is about 3 miles outside of Red Rocks. I really dug it. The scenery was great, the location was perfect and it was pretty reasonably priced ($20 a night).

Because I’m slightly insane, I decided to follow up the weekend of camping and hiking with Bonnaroo 2011 (more camping and more concerts!).  I love going to Bonnaroo, it’s as close to an annual get-together as some of my friends and I have. Some quick Bonnaroo thoughts:

– Bands I really dug: Primus, Pretty Lights, STS9, Mumford & Sons, Explosions in the Sky, Black Keys, Grace Potter & the Nocturnals, Scissor Sisters, Beats Antique, Black Angels, Cold War Kids and NOFX. I’m sure I’m forgetting others.

– There is something cool about seeing a band play for a large crowd, when they aren’t used to playing large crowds. Seeing Mumford & Sons flabbergasted at the sea of humanity watching them was pretty cool. The same can be said for Cold War Kids and Explosions in the Sky.  These bands played their asses off and you could tell they appreciated the large crowds.

– Unlike the Strokes, who showed up late and left early. And took a shot a Beirut in the process. Classy move, boys.

– NOFX was a refreshing punk rock break during a weekend filled with jam band, indie rock and hip-hop. “Hey, 3 minute songs with funny banter! Oh ya, I like stuff like this as well!” Not all music concerts need to be same. Nor should they be.

– Maybe I’m getting old, but the crowd seemed a lot younger this time around. I’m used to seeing a nice mix of young people, old hippies, weirdos and families walking around, but this time I felt I didn’t see many of the older folks.

– There seemed to be a lot of problems with the set up. Which Stage had sound problems all weekend; the mix was off for Mumford & Sons and I heard it was the same for the Strokes and you couldn’t hear Buffalo Springfield at all. For the Buffalo Springfield set, my buddy and I were in the back, waiting for them to go on and we then learned that that wasn’t the house music playing, but the band. We left.

– That’s right, I left a show of rock legends to go wait for Eminem to start. That is not right.

– Eminem didn’t really fit. He’s so angry and it just didn’t mesh well with the whole ‘feel good’ vibe of the weekend. He kept trying to get to crowd to participate with “fuck you, Mom” chants and “turn to the woman next to you and say ‘Fuck you bitch!'” and various other things. Not really my thing. Plus, he kept playing this gunshot sound effect, which can really fuck with all the tripping hippies. Not cool, man.

– Eminem was a headliner, but not really. Eminem headlined with Widespread Panic, Black Keys, Arcade Fire, My Morning Jacket, Buffalo Springfield and (I guess) Primus. In years past, each night usually had one headlining act (Bruce Springsteen, The Police, Phish, Tom Petty, Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Dave Matthews, etc) on the main (What) stage. I enjoyed this because the headliners got 3 hour sets (so it was like a real concert, as opposed to the hour/90 minute sets everyone else gets) and since there was nothing else going on, almost everyone saw the headliner. It was nice to have everyone there still have a collective experience considering how crazy the rest of the day is. Only Widespread Panic got the 3 hour block (Sunday night), the other headliners alternated sets on different stages.

– Also, Widespread Panic show is a glow-in-the-dark ho-down. Just fantastic, I highly recommend. So much dancing. Panic can play, too (<— understatement of the year).

– I believe this is the first time I didn’t catch any comedy at Bonnaroo. In the past I’ve seen Patton Oswalt, Lewis Black, Dave Attell, David Cross, Mike Birbiglia, Janeane Garafolo, Zach Galifinakas and Chris Rock. But this time, no one really struck me. The guys from The League, LIVE?!?! Pass. (And I’ve heard good things about The League, but not to the point where I’m missing music).

– Lot’s of dust this year. With no rain and 100,000 people using dirt roads, there’s gonna be dust, that’s just the nature of the beast. But in years past, they’ve had trucks come out to mist/water the ground, just to keep the dust somewhat manageable. I didn’t see that this time around. The dust was so bad that you couldn’t see the bands play unless you were inside the tent (which can’t always be done).

– There were a ton of lines; lines for the restrooms, lines for water and even a line to enter to enter ‘Centeroo’ that wrapped around the streets in the camping area (I did not wait in that line, you should never ever wait in that line). Most of these lines were from changes made to the bathrooms (bunched together in tents) and water, but you still had to figure out how to navigate them.

– But you know there has to be some people who waited in that long Centeroo line, who didn’t get to hear Buffalo Springfield, who waited for two hours for Bootsy Collins to show up and dealt with all the dust.  I doubt that person thinks Bonnaroo was worth the $280 ticket price. Which is really unfortunate.

Last Thursday I watched Game 5 of the Finals in Bonnaroo’s (air-conditioned) Cinema Tent. It was a fantastic atmosphere to watch a playoff game. You had Mavs fans and Heat fans trash talking, you had competing team chants and a tent filled to the brim with crazy Bonnaroo folk. Just glorious.

I decided not to watch Sunday’s Game 6 because A) I kinda figured Miami would win (w/50 free throws) to force a Game 7 and B) because there was music to be watched.

Needless to say, I’m thrilled Dallas won. How can you not like the Mavericks? This was a TEAM, with guys playing roles, with a coach that drew up plays and made changes (and even used zone!).

Much like seeing up-and-coming bands play the large crowds, seeing Dirk win (with all he had to go through), you can tell how much this means to him. He appreciates all the hard work and sacrifices that had to be made to win a title. I dunno, it’s just cool to see.

As a Cleveland fan who traveled the country during the Finals, I kept finding myself having the same “LeBron conversation” with random people. The whole “it’s not that he left, it’s how he left” stuff.  And for the most part, people get it. But you still have people say, “well, put aside how he left…” and then go on to mention Dwyane Wade or the weather or Pat Riley or whatever.

But that’s the thing, you really can’t separate “how he left” with the leaving. I dunno if anyone saw PTI today, when they asked Dirk about why he stayed in Dallas (as Dirk was a 2010 FA too, before the Jamison trade, my pipe dream was the Cavs signing Dirk to compliment Bron-Bron. *sigh*), Dirk just mentions how he went to Mark Cuban’s house and blah blah blah blah. Wait, Dirk went to Mark Cuban’s house?!?!? LeBron wasn’t taking Dan Gilbert’s freaking phone calls. There’s a level of respect that LeBron didn’t have for Cleveland fans or the Cavalier organization. I think that’s fairly plain to see (the fact that he made a show called “The Decision” is really all you need to know about what LeBron thought of Cleveland fans).

That’s it. It’s that the issues in Cleveland were never him. He was the guy holding free agency over the Cavaliers like a guillotine. He always had bad teammates (so bad that they had the best record in the conference twice). His coach was always terrible (so bad that the Lakers hired him). He never went to the post to make the offense work easier. He never wanted to use picks or run the offense, always settling for step back treys and beating his man off the dribble. Then when he slinks his way out the door, he calls us ungrateful. Then you see him recruiting guys like Mike Miller to Miami… gee thanks for doing that here, Bron-Bron.

I could go on.

On PTI, Dirk talked about how he grew to be more comfortable in late game situations as the franchise player. How being The Guy means you have to be the one producing late in games and it took him awhile to get used to it. From the outside, it looked like LeBron wanted to be the Global Icon, but have Dwyane Wade do all the late game heroics.

I felt like the Cavs were building something when LeBron left. They built two really good teams practically on the fly and then LeBron aborted the plans. They didn’t win but I felt like they were on the right path. When LeBron jumped ship, it felt like he was taking the easy way out.

LeBron and Miami will win a title eventually. They’re too talented and they’re going to get better as the years go on and they get used to each other and add better role players. But it’s not going to be easy. LeBron won’t always be the biggest, fastest, strongest man out there forever. There isn’t always next year.

Which is why I’m happy that this particular Heat team lost, especially to this particular Maverick squad. A team full of players who fit together as a whole, as opposed to three stars teaming up with a bunch of scrubs. Dallas had guys who were staring at the end of their careers and they knew this was their best and last chance and they took it. They knew this was it.

During their pre-season celebration, LeBron acted like it would be so easy to win multiple titles. That him and Wade and Bosh are so good, that they’ll just own the league for years to come.

And hey, that could still be true. This slapped together Heat squad was two wins away from a title. LeBron will probably get there. He’ll just have to work for it. Maybe learn how to play off the ball or down in the post. Work on his free throws or mid-range game. (You know, all those things I’ve been screaming for him to do on my blog for years).

As Dan Gilbert tweeted, there are no short cuts.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I really need to shave.

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3 Responses to I’m still alive, but barely

  1. Titus Pullo says:

    Good lord, reading this makes me feel so old. I’ve heard of only two of the music groups you talk about (Eminem and Explosions in the Sky, and I’ve only heard of them because I watched Friday Night LIghts).

    Plus the thought of being in a dust bowl with 100,000 dirty, unwashed people for days sounds miserable.

    Sadly, I think I am officially old. Not sure when that happened. But welcome back.

  2. Erik says:

    LeBron still clings to the notion that it will be “his time” at some point, and he just needs to ride out the bumps in the road. Possibly. But the guys that have “their time” are usually ferocious competitors with a strong stomach for adversity, who will do anything possible to win. They create “their time.”

    LeBron has fully fallen into the trap of waiting for his circumstances to lift him up, instead of taking charge of his circumstances. I just think he was too coddled, allowed to get away with too much as a young player (going back to high school), and it’s damaged him as a competitor. Guys like that always tend to blame everyone but themselves, and always tend to turn tail and run when the fire gets too hot.

    Perhaps it’s better that LeBron left. Better for Cleveland and for the Cavs. In the short term, the Cavs will be struggling back up the ladder. But is that worse, or is it worse to still have LeBron, and still go on believing that he possesses the heart and balls to be what we wanted him to be? Because what he is falls way short of what we wanted him to be.

  3. Nick says:

    Bonnaroo was awesome. There aren’t enough good things that could be said about it. I only have one real regret as far as I’m concerned. Not getting to see Buffalo Springfield. You’re right Ben, we were way at the back and could barely hear anything, but i still wish I would have fought my way through the crowd to hear them. They are all legendary artist who we won’t have many chances to see again. Especially in an atmosphere like that.

    As for The Finals, of course I’m happy Dallas won. They deserved it. It’s another example of how one (or two and a half) superstar player can’t do it all. Every team needs role players. Eventually, Miami will learn that and they will win a championship. LeBron will learn how to set picks and post up like a big man (he’s only 6’9″ 260 lbs after all). But it still shows the ridiculous amount of talent on that team to make the run that they did the first year they played together. They were still the Eastern Conference Champs…. Something Bosh has now done once, and both LeBron and Wade twice. I see them winning a few championships, but not more than the greats that existed before them.

    And now can we Cleveland fans please move on…. It’s over.

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