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The Village Voice’s 2013 Pazz & Jop Critics’ Poll

We did it! We, the music writers and critics of the world, have confirmed for Kanye what he’s been telling us all along. He is a god. His album, Yeezus, dominated our 2013 Pazz & Jop critic’s poll, taking the top spot for Albums and several in the Singles category (though Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” won the latter). For anyone who’s paid attention to the music press over the previous year, the results of the poll aren’t quite that shocking.

About that poll: Each year we send ballots out to music writers across the globe, seeking consensus from the minds of the men and women who live and breathe this stuff, about what the best musical works of the previous year were. In this year’s Pazz & Jop poll, 457 critics voted, 160 of whom voted for Yeezus. In the Albums category, the critics are also asked to dish out points, those weighting the poll. Each voter is given 100 points to spread around in their top ten, with the strict instruction that no one album can receive more than 30 points or less than five. Singles are not awarded points, only votes.

From there, our stats guru Glenn McDonald can break down the poll using several different and fascinating criteria. You can drill down through the numbers and votes for hours at the poll, and McDonald does a great job parsing a lot of the broad stroke info gleaned from the poll in his tabulation notes, which you can find in the essay section.

Happy hunting.

— Brian McManus, music editor


ESSAYS

Yeezy Does It
For the fourth time in six albums, Kanye West takes the Pazz & Jop prize.
By Brian McManus

The Apostate
Kacey Musgraves makes country music you can use.
By Alan Scherstuhl

Piss and Jop
Why are people finally paying attention to R. Kelly’s many crimes?
By Jim Derogatis

The Return of the Backpacker
Many of the year’s most acclaimed hip-hop artists transcended a backpack past to make great music.
By Jeff Weiss

We Can’t Stop
Our year with Miley.
By Jessica Hopper

Bow Down
Beyoncé finally lets us in.
By Devon Maloney

Emo Is Back! Maybe. Probably Not. No, Totally.
Ignored by critics, the genre carries on.
By Luke O’Neil

The Guitar Will Never Die
Says Henry Rollins.
By Henry Rollins

The Dream of the ’90s
My Bloody Valentine, Mazzy Star, and the year in ’90s indie rock revivals
By Max Blau


HISTORY

Robert Christgau’s Five Favorite Pazz & Jop Essays


COMMENTS

Tabulation Notes
This is how critics voted in this year’s poll.
By Glenn McDonald

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Brooklyn’s Deveykus Combine Doom Metal With Jazz, Traditional Jewish Music, and Chutzpah

The same June evening avant-gardist junkies flocked to Roulette to pay tribute to free jazz radical Milford Graves at Vision Fest, Greenpoint metal venue Saint Vitus played host to another kind of improvisation. Symphonic six-string slayer Mick Barr aptly curated a lineup gushing musical violence.

The highlight of Barr’s ear-bleeding festivities was, arguably, the piece he wrote for Archer Spade, the Philadelphia duo of trombonist Dan Blacksberg and guitarist Nick Millevoi. Besides acing Barr’s composition by melding finger-hopping precision with fire-breathing mastery, the twosome’s rapport goes way back; they met in middle school, were roommates, and collaborated on many projects.

But it’s been the arc of musical knowledge that Millevoi—guitarist for Philly/NYC prog-jazz trio Many Arms—has conveyed to the neophyte Blacksberg that has veered him into punk rock and hardcore terrain. “Nick handed me [Michael Azerrad’s indie rock history] Our Band Could Be Your Life and said, ‘Read this,'” Blacksberg recalls. “I read it and was like, ‘This is awesome.’ Then I checked out early Black Flag and the Minutemen.” Blacksberg’s newfound obsession galvanized Electric Simcha, their Hasidic-music-influenced wedding band, into a stomping riot act.

Blacksberg, a trombone virtuoso ensconced in the Jewish music scene, klezmer guru, and student of the late Bob Brookmeyer, Joe Morris, and Joe Maneri, had no punk or rock lineage; the influx of new sounds introduced to him by Millevoi altered his aesthetic. “We would do Electric Simcha shows and my friends would come,” Blacksberg explains. “I’ve never sung or stood up in front of an audience and screamed without a trombone in front of me. So one of my friends said to me, ‘Where did you find your inner Henry Rollins?’ Now I know what that means. Back then, I was like, ‘Henry Rollins? Who’s that?'”

From Electric Simcha and Archer Spade comes Blacksberg and Millevoi’s newest undertaking: the Jewish doom metal of Deveykus. On Pillar Without Mercy (Tzadik), the two are joined by bassist Johnny DeBlase (Millevoi’s Many Arms bandmate), guitarist Yoshie Fruchter (Pitom), and drummer Eli Litwin (formerly of Normal Love). Led by Blacksberg’s monolithic gusts of funereal trombone, the quintet creates something wholly unique: wordless Jewish traditional music fed through a doom metal grinder.

To Blacksberg, Deveykus fits right into Brooklyn’s metal scene. “That’s the world I inhabit already,” he says. “It’s not far from free jazz or just general experimental music. It feels really organic. It doesn’t feel like I have this new thing now and it’s a totally different genre. It’s just an extension, it’s fun, and it’s a great way for me to play Jewish music on my own terms and to get some of my friends to play it so I’m not out by my lonesome.”

The convergence of jazz and metal is raging right now, ubiquitous at Brooklyn venues like JACK. Downtown godhead John Zorn helped guide the metal-jazz beast with Naked City and Painkiller more than two decades ago; that hasn’t been lost on Blacksberg. Zorn’s Tzadik label was monumental in shaping the trombonist’s sound, and the crushing dirge of Pillar Without Mercy found its way onto Tzadik, joining like-minded Jewish heavy metal thrash unit Black Shabbis. “I was as psyched as you possibly can be, man,” says Blacksberg about Tzadik’s release of Pillar Without Mercy via its Radical Jewish Culture series. “I’ve been buying Tzadik records since I became aware of them. It was a dream come true.”

In order for Deveykus to take shape, Millevoi once again pointed Blacksberg into an unknown realm: doom metal. “I had these tunes from different collections I’ve played over the years in different ways, sometimes free jazz or something like that,” says Blacksberg. “I always wanted to do something with them because they were awesome. But I never really hit it.” Blacksberg’s discovery then manifested Deveykus’s inception. “Nick and some other people turned me on to bands like Sunn O))) and Earth,” he explains. “I saw Earth and thought, ‘Wow. This is so great.’ I heard all these things in the music that were kind of Jewishy. I felt like there was a lot of overlap or affinity that this music has for each other.”

Next up for Blacksberg is getting Deveykus to open a few ears and eyes on the Jewish festival circuit. “I would love to get [Deveykus] on the Jewish festivals that I’ve played traditional klezmer on, like, the Krakow Jewish Music Festival and the Ashkenaz Festival in Toronto,” he says. “Many of the bands on these festivals combine Jewish elements with extremely mainstream music in ways that I can’t relate to. I can’t figure out what’s going on, or what’s Jewish about it. We’re one of the few groups who’s finding common ground between Jewish music and the more heavy and experimental sides of rock. Not only does it sound really good but it’s got the potential to bring a whole new audience to these festivals. Basically, I’m trying to bring the rock back.”

Deveykus perform at Littlefield on Thursday, June 27, with Les Rhinocéros and Pitom

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A Band Called Death: A Beautiful Story of Life, Love and Family

By 1975, many acts had walked through the doors of Don Davis’s Groovesville Productions offices in Detroit. None of them were quite like this, a band of three related-by-blood African-American brothers who played louder, faster, and weirder than anything anyone in the city that gave birth to Motown had ever seen. They were called Death, and they were—as the New York Times article that more or less announced them to the world more than 30 years after they’d played their last note together put it—punk before punk was punk.

A band of black brothers inventing punk in Detroit only to be discovered three decades after the fact? It sounds, as Henry Rollins says in the opening of a new film about the band’s moving, hard-to-believe journey, “like a movie.” And so it is. A Band Called Death (Drafthouse Films), out this week, is a beautiful tale of life, love, music, and family, of things not working out but also working out just as predicted.

In it, the brothers Hackney—David, Dannis, and Bobby—watch the Beatles on TV, and become enthralled. They start making music, first naturally mimicking the Motown sound swirling all around them in a band called Rock Fire Funk Express. But the Who hit town and split their minds wide open, especially brother David’s, the guitarist, lyricist, and chief architect of the band’s sound and aesthetic. Now he wants to play chords like Pete Townshend, and solo like Jimi Hendrix.

The three practice in an upstairs room of the house from 3 to 6 p.m. every day on equipment they are only able to afford after a settlement from their mother’s car accident. No one—neighbors, family, friends—appreciates the racket, this “white boy music” coming from the house. But the more everyone complains, the more steadfast the brothers become. They channel the anger into the songs.

Sons of a preacher, they walk the word. One of the biggest tenets in the Hackney house is to always have your brother’s back. And so Bobby and Dannis abide by David’s weird vision for their band, even though they don’t fully understand it.

The Hackney patriarch dies, bringing the family closer. David emerges with a epiphany: The band will be called Death.

Everyone who hears them is either floored or flummoxed, and the rejection letters start coming from major label executives—either of the “we don’t get it” or the “we get it, but the name’s gotta change” variety. One of the biggest names in the latter camp was Clive Davis, who offered the group a $20,000 contract (quite a sum in 1970s Detroit) to lose the name and sign on the dotted line.

David did what many over the years have no doubt wanted to but didn’t have the courage: He told Clive to go to hell.

Dannis and Bobby, though angry, were Hackneys. They had their brother’s back.

If you’ve read the Times article you know what happens next. If you haven’t, giving away the twists and turns the band’s story takes would be a disservice. A Band Called Death directors Jeff Howlett and Mark Covino string the story along nicely through interviews with Dannis and Bobby and the extended Hackney family. David, now deceased, is represented through audiotapes and handwritten diaries, his vision of Death scrapbooked together by his widow, surviving brothers, and nephews. He’d always predicted Death wouldn’t get the recognition they were due until after he was gone, and A Band Called Death is a worthy vehicle for showing how that recognition came to be.

The movie packs quite an emotional and bittersweet wallop along the way, as Dannis and Bobby start to see their dead brother’s vision for Death understood by more and more people the world over.

Along the way, new fans and converts—Questlove, Alice Cooper, Rollins, Kid Rock, Joey Ramone’s brother Mickey Leigh, Elijah Wood (because of course)—attempt to properly contextualize the band, etching out where it belongs historically and describing, as best they can, this most visceral, hair-blown-back wild ride that is the sound of Death. “One day people are going to come looking for this music,” David told his brothers long after the group broke up. A Band Called Death spells out—yells out—why that is.

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Black Flag

It’s easy to forget that Black Flag existed before and after Henry Rollins, but the recently reformed line-up featuring founder and guitarist Greg Ginn alongside vocalist Ron Reyes, who began performing with them in the late ’70s, is here to catch you up. To help solidify this reunion, the band have a new album in the works and a tour that will bring together punks old and new ones to tear up venues across America.

Fri., June 14, 7 p.m., 2013

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Win Tickets To See Henry Rollins At Joe’s Pub!

Some ridiculous dipshit* somewhere, we don’t know who**, once said “There are no second acts in American lives.” Really now? Try telling that to cop killer Ice T next time he’s drinking wine with a smitten Kathie Lee and Hoda on the fourth hour of the Today show like he did yesterday. Or Arnold Schwarzenegger, World Champion Austrian Bodybuilder turned California Governor turned … well, who knows what’s next for him? Pope? Or Nicholas Brody, the dutiful Marine turned Terrorist turned CIA informant.

But you’re best to tell Henry Rollins, the one-time Black Flag singer and all-time punk icon turned actor, author, thinker, traveler, well known liar and white supremacist*** who makes his way to Joe’s Pub this weekend and into next week for a series of speaking engagements on his The Long March tour. You can tell him after one of his shows. We’ll even give you the tickets.

See Also:
Actor, Author, Activist, Musician, TV Host Henry Rollins: “I Need A Job”

Rollins has, over these last few years, punched his Passport more than most, and has seen the world up close: lived it, felt it, breathed it all in. Along the way he’s seen some incredible things, and will be telling tale of his travels at Joe’s. He started last night, in fact, and is at Joe’s until the 13th. We’re happy to give you tickets to his Monday, November 12th show. All you have to do to win them is be a functioning adult human in the year 2012. That means, of course, having a Twitter account. You’ll need to follow us @soundofthecity, but you should be doing that already. To win the tickets just @ us “I <3 HENRY GARFIELD” and we’ll pull the lucky winner from our messages. Shoot us as many @s as you’d like. The more you send, the more you’ll increase your chance of winning. You’ll also likely piss everyone in your timeline off, which is just a bonus. We’ll notify the winner via DM. Contest ends Monday morning, the 12th.

Best of luck.

* Jokez

** Jokez II

*** In his very well acted role on Sons of Anarchy.

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How Not To Write About Female Musicians: A Handy Guide


 

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Actor, Author, Activist, Musician, TV Host Henry Rollins: “I Need A Job”

Henry Rollins is not a man who likes to sit idly by. Actor, author, activist, musician, journalist, TV host, spoken-word artist; he’s got as many careers as he’s got tattoos. Which it to say, a lot. He doesn’t do the relaxation thing well.


Henry Rollins: The Long March is at Joe’s Pub November 8, 9, 10, 12, and 13.

See Also:
Henry Rollins Meets a Woman in a Black Flag Shirt Who Doesn’t Know Who Black Flag Is
Henry Rollins Visits The Cake Shop: “You Hear Laughter Because To These People, I’m Old and in the Way”

Rollins’s intense mien and no-nonsense approach served him well onstage in the early-to-mid-80s with seminal hardcore icons Black Flag as well as later in the Rollins Band, his no-bullshit Renaissance Man/Neanderthal persona garnering him a lot of dude fans and media admirers. And, oh yeah, he acted in Heat along with like-minded heavies DeNiro and Pacino.

In recent years, Rollins has eschewed music in favor of more serious-leaning artistic endeavors, including his current “The Long March” tour, featuring socio-political commentary with entertaining yet pointed commentary and anecdotes about his travels in North Korea, Vietnam, Tibet, Sudan, Haiti and Cuba. The man who once wrote such incendiary lyrics as “I wanna crucify you to your front door with the nails from your well stocked garage family man / …saint dad! father on fire! I’ve come to incinerate you /
I’ve come home,” has lost none of his punk fire, he’s just channeling it in a different direction.

What did you do election night? Did your election predictions come true? I watched it for hours, until the end, and yes, I did get what I wanted. Elizabeth Warren was the first bit of good news, more was to follow. Akin, Mourdock, Walsh — done. Karl Rove goes back to square one.

Since your current tour is about timely commentary, will you adjust your New York gigs with regard to Hurricane Sandy?

I don’t think there is much I could say that would add to the conversation at this point. I am careful to avoid seeming patronizing. I hope the city is recovering quickly.

I understand that the “Capitalism” tour is all 50 state capitals and DC, but what is the content and conceptual difference between those shows and gigs you perform during your “The Long March” tour?

On that leg of the tour, I talked a lot about voting and how important it is. I think that part is over with. Other than that, I talk about what I see and who I meet, this is what I normally do. It’s more story telling than anything else.

With your gigs and even the Capitalism 2012 You Tube series — what is your goal and ultimate message? Do you feel you’re often preaching to the converted?

I talk at whoever shows up. I can’t really control that but of course, you’re preaching to the perverted. I do get quite a few people who would perhaps vote against me but still show up because we disagree respectfully. I don’t know what to do about the fact that an audience goes to see people they like/agree with.

You’ve spoken about the Ramones’ debut album being influential to you. Did you know Joey Ramone, and if so, any good stories?

I met Joey many times in my life, but would be hesitant to call him a friend. He was always really cool to me, which means a lot to me. I remember one time we stood next to each other at CBGB and watched the Dictators, that was a great night of my life.

Since you’ll be spending time in NYC during your Joe’s Pub residency, what specific “only in New York” things do you like and plan to do?

Eat good food and do good shows. When I am in show mode, I am all about that more than anything else. I used to live there and really like the city a lot.

Your career has so many aspects. If, say, the guy at the dry cleaners asked what you do for a living, what would your answer be?

I always try to be low-key with that kind of thing so I tell them I work at a publishing company, which is true. I am the owner, but I still work there. [2.13.61, which has put out Rollins Band albums, all of Rollins’s spoken-word work, and books including “Get in the Van”] Often I am recognized before the topic of “what do you do” comes up.


Regarding your role on Sons of Anarchy, what feedback were you allowed to give regarding your character, a white supremacist gang leader? Did your punk background help you get the role?

I took a meeting about the part, (producer/director) Kurt Sutter asked if I wanted it, I said yes and that was it, pretty much. I didn’t question the I script or anything, it was all pretty straight ahead. I have no idea what got me the part to be honest.

Was there one particular incident that got you into activism? How did your work with the West Memphis Three start and what made you believe in their innocence?

As soon as I was making enough money to where my life was somewhat stabilized, I could look around and help others. It was more that than anything else. It’s hard to help when you’re treading water yourself. I saw the documentary about them and figured that if I were in the same situation, I would really want someone to help me out, so I went for it. It seemed like the right thing to do. It was to me, quite obvious that they were innocent or at least not given due process of law.

You’ve done USO tours and been to IRAQ. Do you watch Homeland, and/or what are your favorite recent political-leaning shows/movies/books?

I have not seen the show. The last political book I read was Eric Foner’s The Fiery Trial. It’s about Lincoln and his views on abolition and slavery. I really liked Margin Call as a film as well as Too Big To Fail.

You’ve indicated that you’d love to do music still/again, but don’t know what new you’d create? Is that accurate, and can you explain further? What was the last concert you attended?

No, actually. I have not had a band for many years. I don’t really think about it at all. Last show I saw was the Stooges in Katowice, Poland.

How often do you listen to your own music? How do you feel about songs like “Gimme Gimme Gimme” and “TV Party” 30 years after the fact?
I don’t, actually. Greg Ginn wrote the two songs you mentioned. I think they are very good, especially the former.

What’s in store for Henry Rollins, 2013?

I need a job. I have book work to do and voice over work that I do a lot of but as far as something that would take up a good bit of my time, I don’t have that yet. I have been in meetings and hopefully, something comes up.

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IN HIS HEAD

He’s come a long way from his Black Flag days, but Henry Rollins never misses out on an opportunity to expose his inherently punk-rock and political nature. For the past several weeks he’s been urging audiences to vote in the capitals of all 50 states on his “Capitalism” tour. As soon as the election season comes to a close, Rollins will begin a five-night stint at Joe’s Pub as part of his multi-continent spoken-word tour dubbed “The Long March.” This post-election portion of the tour will include the Grammy winner’s perpetually funny and insightful thoughts on American politics, his extensive travels, and, of course, the outcome of the election, which should provide him with plenty of new fuel for what’s sure to be a fiery performance.

Thu., Nov. 8, 9 p.m.; Fri., Nov. 9, 7 p.m.; Sat., Nov. 10, 9 p.m.; Mon., Nov. 12, 9 p.m.; Tue., Nov. 13, 9 p.m., 2012

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California Demise: Tyler, the Creator and EMA Feel the Bad Vibes

Tyler, the Creator is stuck inside “Yonkers” with those California hate-fuck blues again. Don’t ask him what the matter is—you’ll get an album-length spleening in response. He’s rap’s nouveau old-model bad boy, showing the kids that “breaking rules is cool again,” rhyming impolitely about his problems with, well, everything. Many spent the year trying to gauge the murder-minded messiah MC. On Goblin, he came across as so ferociously indifferent, it was hard to imagine he could give a shit about anyone at all—including himself.

He’s unlike all the other cool California kids of recent memory, who wrote songs that seem to have picked up where David Crosby’s sailboat docked. They’re obsessed with the various qualities of sand, sunshine, friendship, and/or the waves, and they’re too high to take a position on much else. Last year’s chillwave wave was the latest iteration of California’s musical posi-vibe, all bright smiles highlighted by a deep tan. Chillwave’s methodology of easy hooks submerged in reverb and delay served as a constant reminder of being distant and of singers floating in their own, womby worlds.

With decades of this cheery jangle as a cultural inheritance, it’s easy to see why Tyler’s Wolf Gang wants to kill ’em all, let God sort ’em out, and then kill God, and why EMA came blazing for “California” with nothing but middle fingers and lick shots for the left coast. Can you blame them? The thrill of popping that bubble is undeniable. Tyler’s most (or only, depending on whom you ask) obvious talent is antagonism, a puerile needling that knows to go for the jugular—to say the exact thing you don’t want to hear, flippant and cruel in equal measure. Although plenty of Californian MCs have paired rage with ridicule, Tyler’s effusively macho hate is less Straight Outta Compton and more like that of the man who made it his trademark: Henry Rollins. (This time around, Syd’s got the 10 1/2.)

Historically, California punk has had its share of post-teen loathers with suicidal tendencies. Rollins is Tyler’s clearest primogenitor (Eminem be damned!)—the myopic focus on bad feelings, a hangover of confused adolescent tumult tangling hard with violent solutions. Tyler’s sober indifference isolates him from the other California girls and boys, and the intensity with which he doesn’t give a fuck belies just how much he actually does. It’s the most un-L.A. thing he could possibly do.

So much is the same for Erika Anderson—known on-record as EMA—even though she is, in essence, Tyler’s inverse. Born-and-bred Midwestern riot girl rides west in search of new liberation in noise, gets grown, and explodes her heart and head open on Past Life Martyred Saints. It’s a violent real-girl reveal: She’s done with the archetypes and instead has an album full of blood and “20 kisses with a butterfly knife.” Self-preservation is not a principal interest—she is gutting her guts and blunt about the trauma she has known instead of engaging in the apathetic yearning that typifies indie rock’s notion of a “confessional.” Like on Goblin, the volatility and capriciousness is unsettling—it makes you believe she’s howling her truth.

When Anderson faces her audience, foot up on the monitor in confident rock-star repose, and begins noosing herself with the mic cable, her methodical calm is what shocks. Her easy acquaintance with violence makes her shows seem less like performance and more like a visceral expression of how little (or much) she cares. She’s a spectacular songwriter, coaxing howls of beautiful scree from her half-stack, a tall, beautiful blonde calmly cooing, “I used to carry the gun/The gun, the gun, the gun.” In the underground, she’s as much of a “walking paradox” as Tyler.

Both artists goad unease for different reasons (EMA’s violence is directed inward; Tyler’s viciousness is often directed toward queers and girls), but discomfort is crucial fuel for their spectacle. The placement of “Yonkers” and “California” in this year’s poll offers evidence that listeners are taking them up on the vicarious thrill of their Cali-kid violence—whether it delights or disgusts.

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Henry Rollins in Conversation With Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth

Musician, actor, writer, DJ, and activist Henry Rollins speaks with Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore about Occupants, Rollins’s newest work. The book is a compilation of Rollins’s photographs from Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, South Africa, and other nations that he found to be politically charged, controversial, or simply far away. Rollins attaches his own written commentary to each of the photos in an attempt to create “a visual testimony of anger, suffering, and resilience.”

Friday, October 14 at 7 p.m.
McNally Jackson Booksellers
52 Prince Street
mcnallyjackson.com

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Broken Social Scene+the Sea & Cake

They come together, they break apart. Such is the nature of sprawling collective Broken Social Scene, whose recent forays into publishing (This Book Is Broken) and film (This Movie Is Broken) haven’t stopped them from undergoing a busy touring schedule that includes their adolescent heroes, from Pavement to the Sea and Cake (drummer John McEntire, also of Tortoise, produced the band’s latest album). Though frontman Kevin Drew’s stage antics often blur the line between Henry Rollins and Timothy Leary, the drippy cacophony of scenester laments “Forced To Love” and “Me and My Hand” will seem resplendent in Central Park, if you can figure out where BSS ends and the openers begin.

Sat., Sept. 18, 5:30 p.m., 2010