Shaky Knees 2019 - Day Two




Day Two threatened storms, and while the weather raged briefly in the morning, that was in the far north suburbs.  It turned out to be a perfect day until Cage the Elephant, the closer.



First up this day was Mark Lanegan, who spoke little and croaked a lot.  A former lead vocalist for Queens of the Stone Age, his voice has recently transitioned from a smoky baritone to a listenable rasp to a distress call to the ENT doctor.  Still, the music was good, even if the presentation wasn't as compelling as hoped. 

Mark Lanegan

Next up was Jade Bird, featured in 2018 by NPR and already a SXSW veteran.  On record, her country/rock songs sound "polished" in the sense that the audio quality is good, but the nuances of her voice aren't on full display.  So, what do find from a 21 year old who looks 16 and sings about heartache?  She puts on a great show, with much more expression and vitality than one might expect.  And who knew jump suits were popular?  Or even manufactured any longer?  "Ruins" and "I Get No Joy" were great examples of songs that raised the roof when she put her vocals to it.  Recorded, not quite flat, but not lively either.


Jade Bird
Chon was next, a "math rock" band according to my son, but I'd just give them the prog rock label.  Although they have a few songs with vocals, we were thankfully spared that and treated to some very fine guitar work amid complicated song structures, odd time signatures and such that musicians would appreciate.  I just liked their style - one of the surprising highlights for the weekend.

Chon
Apparently for this particular stage, mosh pits (a gentle variety as evidenced by the number of girls participating) and crowd surfing were common.  After helping a few people along to the security guy at the front of the stage, I tired of the distraction and moved to the rear.  There ended up being well over 20 guys and gals taking a ride just during this show.  Why not, when you're young and indestructible?




Off to a bigger stage, The Struts were playing.  They live up to their name, essentially anthem singers in the vein of Def Leppard with a hint of Queen.  Leading off with killer songs "Primadonna Like Me" and "Body Talks," they set the tempo for the remainder of their unabashed rock and roll set.  They were the best party band I heard during the weekend.




Japanese Breakfast, essentially Michelle Zauner with a backing band, was next.  A different shade of other bands I've heard before, I'd call it "delicate pop stylings,"  Lyrics were introspective, regretful or otherwise just another instrument in the mix, Zauner delivered the songs with enthusiasm and plenty of smiles in front of an audience that seemed very familiar with her songs.  Zauner returned the appreciation by calling the show her "best ever in Atlanta."


Japanese Breakfast

Interpol arrived with a buzz from their recent shows.  I wasn't familiar with them, but they delivered a confident set of indie rock songs that sounded vaguely European despite their NYC roots.  It's in the steadiness of the beat, the vocals, and the keyboards.  If The Struts, an English band, covered the songs, they might sound like American arena rock.  It's not hard to re-imagine "If you Really Love Nothing" with a chutzpah delivery. 

Interpol
The radar showed that storms were threatening, so Interpol started early, as did Gary Clark, Jr., an artist that I'd been really looking forward to - good vibe, good guitar solos.  Maybe the storm threw a wrench into their plans.  "Bright Lights," a song with a catchy guitar riff, started the set.  Only, it seemed to drag forever.  And pacing was the problem.  "What About Us," "Low Down Rolling Stone," and "I Walk Alone" all shared a plodding rhythm, and Clark seemed content to let his guitarist take most of the lead when the solos came around.  He played maybe 35 mins, then returned for "Come Together" when someone told him maybe his set was a bit too rushed.  It was a very disappointing set that probably didn't win any fans or left others, like me, losing a measure of interest.




Then the masses headed for the Peachtree stage, where Cage the Elephant would headline the evening amid a steady, though light, rain.  It started with pyrotechnics and lead singer Matt Shultz's best Mick Jagger impressions, dancing, twisting and gyrating across the stage.  After a costume change, he morphed into Gollum/Smeagle with a near nude look and odd crouching postures.  



Rhythm guitarist Brad Shultz, Matt's older brother, was no less extroverted.  Exhorting the crowd with frequent fist pumps and shouting along with the lyrics aside his brother, it's not hard to imagine him as the rowdiest English soccer fan in a pub working the fans into a frenzy.  He was a man of the people, several times going into the crowd and body surfing. All in all, this was another band I wasn't very familiar with, but a set of 21 songs made it clear I've heard quite a lot - "Come a Little Closer," "Ain't No Rest for the Wicked," and "Cigarette Dayreams" among them.  The performance, great performance and variety of song styles left no question as to why they were a headliner for the event.


Cage the Elephant
And it didn't rain on the way back to the car.

Shaky Knees 2019 - Day One


This was my second Shaky Knees festival, held in Central Park in Atlanta's historic "Old Fourth Ward" community. A week prior, the forecast for the festival included dismal prospects of rain: 50% Friday, 100% Saturday and 100% Sunday.  However, the weather service is on a roll of late of completely missing on forecasts.  Despite occasional threatening clouds, the weekend was clear except for Saturday evening during the final set.



As usual, we were greeted by the Atlanta's ever-present scalpers, buying or selling wristbands, as well as those selling bottles of water (not allowed within) and T-shirts (unofficial ones).  Security, I'll say was fairly easy and organized, but I didn't read this year's edition of the rules.  Having spied "Wind pouches" - essentially thick plastic bags that you swoosh around to fill with air to make a chair or couch - I brought one this year, the perfect thing for hanging back when the music matters less and the back and feet deserve a break.  Well, not permitted.  What the heck?  There is literally no place to sit within the park except on the ground.  I can manage that, and did, but c'mon.

The side benefit was that I had downloaded the Lime app in preparation of a future need, and therefore was prepared to try out Atlanta's burgeoning "sharing economy" means of transportation, namely an electric scooter.  They're super convenient for the final gap of a commute when using public transit or for downtown residents.  Or, they're a public menace for drivers and pedestrians.  It depends on who you ask, and my opinion is that they're some of both.  Around the festival area, the scooters could be considered "littered" along the sidewalks.

Afflicted cities are studying related injury rates, and it turns out that hospital data is suggesting that about 30% of the injuries they receive are by first time riders.  That doesn't include the injuries that don't make it to hospitals, so... it's just a statistic, right?  No worries, though! Helmets are required per the City of Atlanta and the Lime app.  Only, eh, no one walks around with a helmet, and no scooter company has yet to figure out how to provide them without going broke.

The scooter was intuitive to operate with accelerator on the right handle and a brake on the left, with a sturdy frame.  Overall, I saved about 30 minutes to return my contraband to the car.  Interestingly, Atlanta apparently passed a regulation that they're allowed only on the streets.  That's a death sentence given Atlanta's street conditions and its frustrated drivers, so, like everyone else, I stuck to the sidewalks, which weren't too bumpy but featured low lying limbs and, of course, pedestrians to dodge.  My son later told me that "Coming through!" is the common notice to people in your way, and I suppose that's the way the younger generation literally rolls.  In any case, for $1 to unlock and $0.15 per minute afterwards, it was a bargain, allowing me to return to the venue in time to catch the second half of Curtis Harding's set.  Music.  The reason I came.


Curtis Harding
 Harding is a neo-soul artist, carrying the requisite voice, good tunes and music sensibilities.  Highlights included "Till the End" and "Need Your Love." And then it's off to IDLES, a British punk band. A quick look pretty much tells you, well, me anyway, it's not my scene, but others in my group enjoyed it, including the obligatory mosh pit.

IDLES

Speaking of the crew... A good time was had by all.  That's my son sporting my 1990 McCartney tour shirt.



Then it was on to Peach Pit, a serviceable band, with a share of fans who knew some of their lyrics. 

Peach Pit
Back to the Piedmont stage, one of the two large ones, to see Sharon Van Etten.  Entirely serviceable, with a mix of styles.  Almost every artist at this festival was an unknown to me, and I put in the effort to sample music from all of them, then deciding in a playoff format which of the two bands performing at a given time that I'd rather see.  Through the afternoon, I didn't really care and floated around.

Sharon Van Etten
Next up was Liz Phair, an artist I'd heard of but hadn't actually listened to.  Her fairly straightforward set was okay, but the conversation from our resident musicologist was helpful in understanding she came to fame rephrasing or responding to the Rolling Stones "Exile on Main Street" in the view point of a woman.  And she's 52.

Liz Phair
Next up was a brief visit to hear Dashboard Confessional, a favorite of the daughter of someone in my group (#DaddyFail).  We politely listened to a couple of songs from Rock's answer to Nickelback, and departed posthaste. 



This also gave us the opportunity to get a little closer for Incubus.  This is one of those bands you've probably heard on the radio but didn't care enough to figure out who they were because they sound a lot like a number of bands.  "Drive" is their big hit, which they didn't play on this occasion.   Decent, good performance, but I was distracted by the bright red shoes in the VIP side balcony.  Why?  It's  right in the sweet spot for post Red Hot Chili Peppers rock music, good for a beat and fairly mindless. 




Next up was Tears for Fears, a favorite in my college days.  My son and I only stayed around into the third song, because of all the weekends, one of my favorite prog rock bands chose this night to play just down the road, and we had to get there in time, resulting in cutting this show short and missing Beck completely.  They started off with "Everyone wants to rule the world," which was solid, then "Secret World," a snoozer, then the Beatles-ish but overly long "Sowing the Seeds of Love."  They played "Creep" by Radiohead which I would have liked to have heard, but they only played three tracks off  their classic Songs from the Big Chair album.  So, I can live with having missed the rest of the set.

Tears for Fears

Band of Friends–Live at The Vista Room

“Are you with us?”  “Are you WITH US!?”  Bassist Gerry McAvoy raises his arms, beckoning the audience response, his voice increasingly forceful. “ARE YOU WITH US!!!!?”

In the context of a rock band and its audience, that could say it all, but for fans of this music, it’s so much more. 



There was a guitarist named Rory Gallagher.  Maybe you've heard of him.  Musicians can remark on his ability to shift between scales, his use of the pick, and general mastery of the fretboard, but for me, the translation of emotion to guitar sounds is unequaled.  He's connected in a way that most musicians can only dream about.  It's the ability to improvise regularly at a professional level, making the same familiar songs distinctive from night to night.  Pity the backing band that has to figure out where he's going and when he's going to stop.  It's the opposite of today's down pat live music that has to play to expectations or repeat the same song exactly to coordinate with visual or sound effects. 

Rory Gallagher


Anyway, the point is that there are many, many fans with deep knowledge of the “classic rock” era of blues based guitar gods – Clapton, Page, Beck, Trower, Hendrix – who have never heard a note from the guy.  Those guitar players who do know of him revere him. He was distrusting of record labels, managed his own career, wrote capable songs even if they had little commercial chance, and along the way managed to release 14 studio and live albums until he died in 1995.  For those who found him, his music can be enjoyed on those records and many others released posthumously, never mind a plethora of bootleg recordings.  My experience is that I loved his guitar solos first, then came to like the lyrics, which largely sets his mood for the next solo, and lastly his vocals, which if anything were true to his overall sound.



Band of Friends, then, falls close to being a tribute band, except that it has McAvoy, Rory’s bassist, who played on every one of his albums and was a key presence in the Rory “sound.”  No one plays like Rory, and that isn't necessarily the point.  The mission per the band is to keep his music and memory alive.

Gerry McAvoy

Back in his heyday, Gallagher would wind the song down to a hushed guitar tone, playing with the audience, then ask, “Are you with me?”  And again. And again, drawing the audience's emotion until he finally unleashed a rocking solo.  So it's apt that, McAvoy, who was usually found to the side and behind Gallagher, remains just as animated as he ever was but now owns the stage – but chooses to share the stage with his guitarist, Davy Knowles, in a sense respecting that it's the guitar that draws a crowd, but also sharing the stage in a way that it was never shared with him.  It’s now about “us” rather than “me.”  And what a blast it was to hear the music and see McAvoy enjoying himself so much.

Davy Knowles


Foremost, though, it’s just awesome to hear songs that only Rory played, live.  Nearby.  At an intimate venue.  By a band who cares deeply about the music.   And it’s even more rewarding, in having read McAvoy’s biography, to see the guy carrying on with the same spirit three or more decades later, calling his settled audience out of its seats.  Or hushing the din of conversation for Knowle's quieter licks.  Or demanding silence when he tells a story.  There's a presence in the room, really.  Part of that is McAvoy.  And the other is Rory's music.  Live, it isn't to be "listened to;" it's participatory.  The band obviously lives and loves their work, and that makes it fun for everyone.




Ask for Irish whiskey, you get Irish whiskey


Set list (or something close to it):
  • Messing with the Kid
  • Shin Kicker
  • Do You Read Me
  • Moonchild
  • Off the Handle
  • Bought and Sold
  • Double Vision
  • Homeland
  • Riverbed
  • A Million Miles Away
  • Tattoo’d Lady
  • Bad Penny
  • Shadow Play
Encore:
  • Bullfrog Blues




Nick Mason’s Saucerful of Secrets – Live at the Tabernacle

As much as I enjoy Pink Floyd, hearing that their drummer, Nick Mason, was touring and playing their early era music was a no-brainer.  He was never the focal point of the band, but a rock legend is a rock legend, and there are only so many chances.



His assembled band, named after Pink Floyd’s second album, featured vocals by Spandau Ballet’s Gary Kemp, who also played rhythm and lead guitar, and bassist Guy Pratt, who toured with the band in the post-Roger Waters era.  Both had similar voices and at times traded verses like they were written for them.  Keyboardist Dom Beken and guitarist Lee Harris rounded out the band. 



Given the nature of the band’s first few albums and the very retro light show, it was hard not to be drawn into the psychedelic presentation of their Syd Barrett era music.  For most fans of Pink Floyd, they wouldn’t recognize that that this is the same band, given the very dated sounds and rare covers of these songs in their later years.  Kudos to Nick Mason for finding a space in the band’s repertoire that doesn’t compete with the expectations of Floyd’s two acrimonious leaders and apparently having a blast doing it.  



Gary Kemp


The segue into Floyd’s “progressive” sounds were found in songs from Meddle and Obscured by Clouds, which have smoother, groovier sound than the more clearly “psychedelic” sounds of their early albums, which might be characterized by hyperactive or spacier keyboards, odd rhythms, noodling guitar leads and vocal harmonies.

  
And for that reason, my post-concert thoughts kept returning to the show as an artifact, certainly an enjoyable one, but still a bit of a time capsule.  The show was extremely well presented, the sound and lights were excellent, and… there’s just no way that it resembled an “authentic experience,” back in an era when the music was both new and exciting, never mind that that the audience and the band would likely have been under a pharmaceutical influence sufficient to overcome lapses in the sonics and visual sophistication of the era.  Today, it’s pretty easy to identify their better constructed and and more enduring songs, and there just aren’t that many.  That said, heard and seen live, there is also a punk vibe to some of the songs, like “The Nile Song,” which aren’t too far removed from what the Clash and others brought to music ten years later.


As for Nick Mason, he played effortlessly, and filled in gaps between the songs with entertaining comments about the years past, which, based on concert reviews, were just as practiced as the music.  “We’re not the Australian Roger Waters” hits the funny bone especially well for those that understand the reference, and if you only see them once.

Set list:
  • Interstellar Overdrive – Piper at the Gates of Dawn
  • Astronomy Domine – Piper at the Gates of Dawn
  • Lucifer Sam – Piper at the Gates of Dawn
  • Fearless – Meddle
  • Obscured by Clouds
  • When You’re In – Obscured by Clouds
  • Remember a Day – Saucerful of Secrets
  • Arnold Layne – Piper at the Gates of Dawn
  • Vegetable Man – unreleased
  • If – Atom Heart Mother
  • Atom Heart Mother
  • The Nile Song – More (soundtrack)
  • Green is the Colour – More (soundtrack)
  • Let There be More Light – Saucerful of Secrets
  • Childhood’s End – Obscured by Clouds
  • Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun – Saucerful of Secrets
  • See Emily Play – Piper at the Gates of Dawn
  • Bike – Piper at the Gates of Dawn
  • One of These Days – Meddle
Encore:
  • A Saucerful of Secrets
  • Point Me at the Sky – single

Sledding

Having braved the frozen tundra of NW Wisconsin to try ice fishing last year, I couldn’t help but take the opportunity to revisit… and maybe try something different.  Last year, as I sat on my bucket on the ice, holding a short fishing pole and a beer, I couldn’t help but notice the number of people zooming past on snowmobiles.  When there is snow everywhere, and the lake freezes to over 12” thick…  sure, why not?  Never mind that I’ve never driven a motorcycle and only done a jet-ski once.   But…  “Hey, Bob.  What would you  think of snowmobiling this year?”

Fast forward.  The alarm goes off and it’s –22oF.  Yeah, not including the wind chill advisory.  But, it’s kind of like “There’s no crying in baseball.”  Well, my northern bred host might be looking for signs of weakness, and I signed up for this – literally with a pre-paid rental fee.

I researched WI weather, snowmobile operation and safety rules, and, significantly, product reviews on clothing to keep me warm.  Temperate Georgia did me a favor by putting insulated boots, rated to –25oF, on sale.  I have wool socks, bought years ago as a manufacturer irregular and worn maybe twice.  I listened to a sales person explain the differences in the warming qualities of different materials for thermal underwear, sorry, “layered under-garments.” The marketing language probably costs me double, but in retrospect, I have no regrets buying Merino wool. I also bought a balaclava – a robber’s mask but intended for good (I should have bought a more expensive one…) And, Bob has the rest, insulated and windproof bibs, gloves and ski jacket.  Bob loaned boots to me last year, but… we agreed I didn’t need to ride a snowmobile with Frankenstein sized boots.

So, –22oF in Wisconsin.  It’s like the desert.  It’s a dry cold.  It’s not like the bone numbing, penetrating cold that we get in the south, where the humidity gathers in wait for the summer.  And I’m well wrapped.  Confident.

The rental has been paid for over a month, and it’s not cheap.  But it’s for 24 hours.  That means we’re up early and arriving at Hayward Power Sports before they open at 9:00 a.m., to find that they’re already open.  Operating a snowmobile is pretty dang simple.  Start, accelerate, brake, and the gas goes here.  The check-in instruction was as succinct with obligatory pointing, including to sign the waiver that I have been trained (and am liable for anything that precludes the return of an
undamaged snowmobile).

Even less helpful was the rental helmet process.  There are different sizes, and I got one that fit.  Now, it’s time to put up or shut up.  I start the “sled,” accelerate and whee!…. 100 yards later, my visor is fogged and the moisture is forming ice crystals on the inside.  I’m wearing the balaclava, and it’s supposed to help redirect my breath down the neck and away from the visor.  Supposed to.

That would be the main story of the day, driving while peering through a sliver of non-iced visor, or with it open fully.  I had also chosen a balaclava that would allow wearing my glasses.  They iced also, so instead, I was left with an exposed face.  The 600 miles of trails are undeveloped, meaning there are pine trees and evergreens covered with a fresh 4”–6” of snow everywhere.  Sledding, though, is not a scenery sport.  Never mind the lack of eyeglasses.  Sure, the visor is frozen, or my eyes are tearing and freezing as I zip along, but it’s more than a little important to focus on the trail.  That’s a good thing.  Who would want to sled down an interstate? 



So… sledding.  A jet-ski on snow, right?  Pretty much.  And just like a jet ski, you take breaks.  It seems the area businesses are primarily open during the winter (for those who ice fish and/or sled) or the summer (fishing/boating or ATV riding, but not both seasons.  Maybe all the employees shuffle between employers?  In the winter, those businesses located at the various end points of the trails are open, offering bar food, beverages and heat to thaw your frozen visor.  Each stop was interesting in its way, with most bars/taverns decorating not just the walls but the ceilings with deer and moose racks and other bric-a-brac. 






At our second or third stop, as both Bob and I were frustrated with our visors, I asked a guy who had zipped past us – and slightly above as he jumped a driveway - I.e. “PRO” - about the helmet fogging issue.  “There’s vents.”   Oh.  “Let’s see, the top one is open, and, here, now the bottom is open, and I’d recommend you keep the visor open about a fingernail width.”  So I did that, and it worked for a good number of hours until it didn’t.  There’s a systematic “thing” going on there with the fit of the helmet, the balaclava, the tucking of collars, perhaps, and the pernicious nature of chance.   Or, maybe this method worked when the sun brought the ambient to 8oF, before humbling my optimism when the temps dipped again below zero.

We trekked roughly from 9:15 to 8:00 p.m.  And, thanks to Bob and his trusty paper map, we pretty much had an idea where we were, as cell phones were dead in the area.  I downloaded an app for tracking where we traveled, as cell phones include a GPS enabled chip that does not rely on cell towers.  The only problem is that the app drains the battery.  I was able to capture most of Saturday afternoon’s travel as well as returning the sled the following morning.




About the sled itself, kudos to the designers.  The Ski-Doos had super soft seats, extremely forgiving shock absorbers, and heated handlebar grips (This really makes a difference.  Try periodically accidentally turning them off and you have the proof).   So, it was surprising the following day to find my hands, forearms and back muscles were tired.  Sledding is not strenuous, at least as we did it, but it does require a constant exertion.


At times the trails were wide and flat, but there were (happily) many areas that were narrow, twisting, and hilly, particularly approaching Clam Lake.  The pacing was slow and fast depending on the trail and lasted just shy of 120 miles.  It doesn’t seem like much, but in snowmobile miles, I think it’s decent.  On the trails, it’s not hard to average 20, so that gives an idea of how frequently we stopped for breaks (which included three bargain priced meals.)… or stopped to consult the map.


The sleds are fitted with skis for groomed trails.  I didn’t know that there were options, but I figured something was up when I intentionally put one ski in the powdery snow that had been plowed to the side and had to fight to pull it back on the trail.  Once learned, I didn’t do that again… until I accidentally did it coming over a curved hill, and in one of those “time slows down” moments, applied the hitherto almost unused brakes.  That left me and the sled about 6’ off the trail, sitting in about a foot of snow.  Meanwhile, Bob, who had been leading the way, continued to lead the way without me, unaware of my little side trip.   Two guys following not too far behind me came along and helped free the sled, which isn’t a small chore, it turned out.  It wasn’t a big deal, per se, but it would be if I was alone, enough so that it provided an appreciation for staying off the moors.



At night, with my visor fogged again (and Bob’s as it turned out), and having decided to go “that way” at an unmarked intersection, we went into a peninsula with some sort of campground that was closed.  Uh oh.  Dead end.  Only, there goes Bob, right over the edge and… duh.. onto the lake.  Seemingly obvious, right?  But, it wasn’t until that point that we rode across a lake.   It turns out we were still in the right county (which doesn’t say much), but as the first bar we came to wasn’t the one we were expecting (and apparently understaffed and not serving food), I trusted Bob the Navigator as we ventured one way and the other, hopeful for a warm meal and short ride home. Note:  Bob boats this lake frequently and knows it well to find all of his favorite fishing holes.  Put ice on it and turn out the lights and not so much.  

So, about those sledders zipping by the prior year.  At night, there are reflectors on the ice about every 75 yards to guide you across the ice to stay on the “trail,” specifically where it picks up again at the next land mass.  Very helpful.  It had snowed just a couple days prior to my arrival, and the winds had shifted the snow to form moguls.  So, it’s dark, getting colder, the visor is unhelpfully frozen, we’re tired and hungry, lacking certainty on our exact location, and bouncing around on the lake at 42 mph…  It’s kind of fun.  Sure, I’m wondering if my exposed skin will freeze and blister, but my mind was focused on how to turn the grip warmers back on, because the sled doesn’t have “cab lights” to see the controls, or at least that I was told.  Brrr.

We arrived without incident at the (backup) place Bob intended to go, and it was a fitting end to a fun day.  Good food, a couple of beers, and a short distance to his house.   The next morning’s return trip was fine, but not enjoyable as the trails had been more heavily used and were thin on snow.

The next highlight was the drive back to civilization, where Bob stopped in Roberts, WI at Bobtown Brewhouse and Grill.  Small, warm, good food, good beer, and good friend.







Clemson Football 2018 Championship

I feel an obligation to post something to recognize my alma mater’s second football championship in the last three years.  It’s funny how I care about an achievement that I had nothing to do with, other than throwing a few insignificant dollars to the athleticuntitled-9 department. 

I like to see sports played well, regardless whether it’s an individual or a team.  I’m not a particular fan of professional teams, maybe because Atlanta teams tend to suck, but also because geographical proximity lacks any meaning.   Talented athletes get paid to play near where I live.  Good for them, but I mostly lament their perennial lack of success. 

It’s not really for me to fathom how or why people attach to a favorite team, and it’s not wrong however they come by it.  For me, I’m Clemson alumni.  Done deal.  Like pro teams, the players come and go, but the difference is that they chose Clemson.  That may be because the athletic program offers a perceived opportunity to earn income afterwards, but that’s what college is.   The difference for me is that it’s Clemson and the memories from those important years.  Maybe I ascribe to later students and players that they’re finding something as meaningful in the people and culture that they experience. 

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Of those people, only one other couple was willing to brave the cool weather and early start, and I’m thankful for them.  It’s fun to support the team – I’d probably go by myself because of the fondness I have for football and the accomplishment that a national championship is, but that would still be hollow in a sense.  It’s the relationships that matter.

This year’s parade included two of my favorite players, both captains.  I don’t know how other schools handle media access, but Clemson is generous in allowing players to speak to beat reporters after the game.  You get a sense of who they are, and Hunter “Mighty Warrior” Renfrow and Christian Wilkins are among those who reflect the character that I hope to find in my university’s representatives, in this case one unassuming, the other a larger than life character.  Both represent in different ways the caliber and kindness of the people I met in my days, and that is the thing I most admire about coach Dabo Swinney.  I don’t know that a university could ask for a better public face.

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While the parade stopped, someone slipped Wilkins a box of donuts.  At this point, he began telegraphing donut tosses to the crowd. 

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Whoops? I suspect he hit someone accidentally…

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Below, QB Trevor Lawrence checks his watch to see how long until the next championship parade.  Ridiculously talented and poised, the future looks bright, with a record setting 30 TD passes by a true freshman, with an asterisk for playing part time through the first four games.  He even did a hair flip on request.

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Swinney put his stadium speech together more cohesively at the White House reception.  I can’t help but wonder if the Proverb about “in the multitude of counselors there is safety” was intended for POTUS, who seemed taken with the team’s visit, so maybe he listened.