Monthly Archives: March 2017


School Protection in Out-Rounds at NPDA Nationals 2017: an analysis

Categories: A Day in the Life, The Agony of the Wait is the Agony of Debate, Tags: ,

While my overall interaction with 2017 NPDA Nationals was overwhelmingly wonderful, some of the joy was marred at times by confusion over a very strange tab policy that was included in this tournament. The tab policy was to protect schools against hitting their own teams in elimination rounds, breaking the bracket to do so.

Here’s the official wording of the policy:

In the event that two teams from the same school meet in elimination rounds, brackets will be broken according to the following criteria: (1) protecting the highest seed; (2) changing the fewest number of brackets; (3) preserving original bracket order.

Now in most debate tournaments, it’s normal to try to prevent teams from the same school from competing against each other (“hitting” each other) in preliminary rounds. APDA makes an exception if a team is the majority of a given bracket, but APDA also has a much larger appetite for school/school “civil wars” than NPDA. In NPDA, these rounds are never actually held, but one team (almost always the higher seed at the tournament) is simply chosen by the coach to “walk over” the other team. And while I can sort of understand a distaste for a coach’s decision walk-over ending someone’s career or Nationals run, school/school protection to upend the bracket seems to be a really extreme reaction to that distaste. And the effect is very imbalancing, strongly favoring schools who bring and break a lot of teams.

But when one subjects this year’s NPDA Nationals tournament’s application of their own policy to rigorous analysis, it doesn’t necessarily even hold up as consistently applied, which is even more problematic. This post will examine the bracket-breaking switches made by the NPDA Nationals 2017 tab staff and their subsequent impact on the tournament and competitive fairness for all teams participating. And while the goal is to be objective and submit this with few comments, I must say that the data leads to the conclusion that this policy is sub-optimal for future such National Championships.

Let’s first examine the base bracket:
Partial Triple-Octofinals

It’s probably worth noting at the top how many schools broke teams to the elimination rounds as context for this policy and its impact:
Washburn: 6
Concordia: 4
Utah: 4
Lewis & Clark: 3
Point Loma: 3
Rice: 3
Texas Tech: 3
Berkeley: 2
Idaho: 2
Kansas City Kansas: 2
Mercer: 2
Pacific: 2
UT Tyler: 2
Western Washington: 2
12 other schools: 1 each

So fully forty of the fifty-two teams involved had teammates in the break! This demonstrates that the scale of magnitude for this question is not small. And with six teams in the break, including the 1 and the 4 seeds, it is unsurprising that Washburn will be a major player as the drama of bracket-breaking unfolds.

Now as we look at our partial-triple-octos bracket, we find that the two Mercer teams have been paired to hit each other, which would be pretty bad luck were they allowed to actually hit. But under this policy, the following swap is made:

This seems pretty reasonable on face – the teams are in neighboring brackets and the 40 is switched with the 41. Interestingly, however, it violates the stated first priority in the protection policy, namely to protect the higher seed. In this switch, the higher seed (#24 Mercer AL) now gets a moderately higher draw, #40 Rice PT, instead of the #41 seed. Granted, this is a very minor difference in opposition quality, but it still punished the higher seed. Worth noting, at this point, that to not punish the higher seed, you would have had to swap the #42 seed with the #41, but then that punishes the new higher seed involved (#23 Lewis & Clark MM), so this problem cannot actually be solved without kicking the can down the road all the way to the top of the bracket. Which basically shows that the “protect the higher seed” priority, despite being first, makes no sense.

So, partial-trips happen and, as luck would have it, both Mercer teams drop. Turns out they’d have been better off with the walk-over after all, but good news for Grand Canyon RS and Rice PT, one of whom really should be out of the tournament. On to double-octos:


Again, we have one problem to resolve in the school/school protection question, where Pacific’s two teams are set to hit in round 22. And there would be a danger of a Rice/Rice round just below in round 23, but this has been conveniently resolved by the previous swap of a Rice team in to upset Mercer. So, here’s the switch still necessary:

This looks dramatic, because it switches the teams all the way across the brackets, but the 15/18 match is the natural cousin of the 16/17 match. Here, the higher seed is actually protected, because they now get the 18 seed instead of the 17, but that’s only because the actual team entitled to the higher seed is #50 Lewis & Clark BM, the lowest seed left in the tournament. They inherit the #15 seed slot, so they should probably get protected, but no matter.

Of course, you know what’s going to happen, right? We can’t just have things resolve cleanly. Both Pacific teams pick up their rounds (tough luck to the #50 seed and to Puget Sound’s lone team who should’ve hit them). And, for extra fun, both Rice teams that couldn’t hit also pick up their rounds, slotting them to hit one round later than they would’ve anyway (bad news for UT Tyler and Grand Canyon, one of who should be through instead). At this point, Challonge won’t even let us express the bracket as it’s been altered because of too many swaps, so we have to start over in doubles with manual seeds listed.

Thus, here’s how things stand going into octos:

The problems are multiplying. The Rice teams that should have hit last round again are hitting this round. And now we have a double Washburn match to take care of as well. Teams are going to be sent flying to other bracket halves again. And it’s worth nothing that #17 Pacific PV, the second overall team in the season-long rankings, is now stationed in place of the 15 seed, staying on the other half of the bracket from where they should have traversed the tournament. This will have major consequences for #2 Nevada AM, as we’ll see in a bit.

So here are your swaps for this round:

First, the Washburn/Washburn round:

This is where we became aware of the switching. We even called tab to ask because we thought we were supposed to hit Idaho and they said “there’s no bracket that we’ve released, so you shouldn’t expect to hit anyone”. They could have just explained that there were school-switching swaps here, as stated in the packet, but they chose to be cagey. It’s worth noting here that, while this is the technically least invasive switch, both Tulane and Idaho can have a legitimate concern with this swap. They are both supposed to hit teams lower in the seeding order. In fact, Idaho has gone from hitting a 37 seed to a 4 seed just to protect Washburn. By comparison, our swap from a 21 seed to a 13 seed looks relatively fair. But this still concretely hurt both team’s competitive chances, favoring Washburn significantly by both sparing them the harder match-ups and preventing them from eliminating each other.

Meanwhile, here’s the Rice/Rice resolution:

Again, some upset teams from get penalized for their wins here. Not systemically, mind you, but by happenstance that nonetheless risks impacting their tournaments significantly. Rather than the 23 and 26 seeds enjoying their 7/10 octofinal as a reward for upsetting those teams, the 23 is shipped off to face the #8 seed, while the #40 gets the #26 instead of the #8. This is ostensibly a reward for both the #40 and the #26 to get each other, but also ships the #40 to a whole new half of the bracket where, like #17 Pacific PV above, they never would have been but for all these switches.

Here, the Cinderella teams maintained their runs, as #37 Tulane upset the #13 seed, and both the #40 and #23 triumphed over their higher seeded opponents. But this also offers us a rare situation where exactly one of the protected school teams in each instance won their rounds, meaning that restoration of the bracket should be possible in the quarterfinals. For the Tulane/Washburn quarter, this is irrelevant, but for the Rice and Lewis & Clark teams, this mattered very much indeed.

So, let’s see where things stand going into quarterfinals:

Here is where the most obviously problematic decision was made in the whole tournament. The tab staff chose to leave this bracket alone. But the problem is that #23 Lewis & Clark MM belongs in quarterfinal match 11 as listed in the above link, being in the bottom half of the bracket. And #40 Rice PT belongs in up in match 9 on the top half. They both just swapped with each other to avoid a Rice/Rice round. So why were they not restored to their original brackets? Surely that is preserving original bracket order as stated in the policy. And it doesn’t create a school/school conflict, because Washburn can safely hit Rice while Pacific hits Lewis & Clark.

Of course, it’s worth noting that Pacific PV also belongs in the top quarterfinal there: because of all the bracket-breaking, three teams from the same quarter of the bracket are now in quarterfinals. Here, let’s flash back to the opening of the tournament when all the seeds were in order:

So really, all three of those teams should be squeezed into that one match-up. But that’s not clean and that’s not really doable at this point, so leave Pacific PV where they are. Restoring the bracket is clearly the least disruptive action here as it regards Rice and Lewis & Clark, since their bracket switch just happened the previous round and puts each of them in their rightful position without creating additional conflicts.

Nevertheless, they left the altered bracket as-is and ran these quarterfinals. The lower seeds were both bounced, though Lewis & Clark nearly upended the top seed, so we can surmise they might have had a better chance against Pacific. And the top seed should have been “protected” by getting the easier and rightful draw of #40 Rice.

So here’s where we were going into Semifinals:

And here, as you can imagine, what proved to be the last two rounds of the tournament were, again, switched to protect Washburn. #6 Berkeley traveled up to hit #1 Washburn BK instead of the #17 seed and #4 Washburn BS came down to hit the #17 instead of the #1. Both Washburn teams triumphed, yielding the first closeout in NPDA Nationals history and cancelling the final round.

Once again, the competitive disadvantage for Berkeley and Pacific is clear. Each should have had an easier path to the finals. Meanwhile, both Washburn pairs were rewarded for having their teammates still in the tournament, receiving a much easier draw.

I want to be clear about what I’m not saying. I am not saying that anyone involved with NPDA Nationals deliberately took any actions to favor Washburn, or any particular school. However, it is clear that this policy directly contributed to Washburn being able to closeout, as well as favoring Washburn teams generally. Washburn can attribute much of their top two teams’ ultimate outcome to getting 6 teams into the break in the first place, maximizing bracket-breaking that ultimately worked in their favor.

The main counter-arguments that could be levied to my concerns are, as I see them, twofold:
(1) Schools should be rewarded for breaking more teams.
(2) Teams still failed to win the rounds they were in to advance and should not blame the bracket.

As for (1), I think it’s a little silly. For one thing, the standard bracket does reward them, slightly, by guaranteeing in the instances where a school would hit the same school that one of those teams definitely advances. It’s an advantage – ask Mercer if you don’t believe me. But there’s still a difference between a reward and being able to negatively impact the fates of several other teams in the wake of getting you to avoid hitting your own school. I know it’s sad to leave your last tournament on a walk-over, but it’s also sad to hit a much better team than you deserved to. When both of these are sad outcomes, it seems like honoring the original bracket is best, especially when not doing so leads to subjective judgment calls like failing to restore the bracket for quarterfinals.

I find (2) to be a little more compelling, but ultimately a red herring. Obviously we care very much about honoring seeding and the bracket in general at tournaments. We don’t break brackets at other tournaments, for one thing. But we also spend eight (8) full preliminary rounds determining how the seeding should be allocated. Teams have worked hard to earn their seeding and their position. And teams that have won big upsets deserve to get rewarded for those upsets. If they didn’t, we would re-seed the bracket every time and #40 Rice PT would have had a date with #1 Washburn BK back in octos (presuming they’d gotten by #2 Nevada AM in doubles). We don’t force Cinderellas to do this, any more than the NCAA basketball tournament forces you to hit a one seed after beating a one seed. So the instances above where upset teams were supposed to hit each other and were instead switched to hit higher rated teams – it seems these squads have a legitimate complaint.

The past is the past. We’re not going to re-run NPDA Nationals. Some of the teams were little impacted, but many arguably would have gone further or less far based on this bracket decision. Ultimately, all the rounds were won and lost and judged fairly as they were announced. But in future years, it seems obvious that the NPDA should at the very least clarify what these alleged tab priorities mean when breaking brackets (addressing, for example, bracket restoration and what exactly “protecting the highest seed” really means). And most likely, they should just scrap this school/school protection scheme altogether and let the seeds fall where they may.


Tulane Debate Reaches NPDA Nationals Quarterfinals in Historic Upset

Categories: A Day in the Life, Marching to New Orleans, Primary Sources, The Agony of the Wait is the Agony of Debate, Tags: , , ,

The Tulane University Debate Team on Sunday at NPDA Nationals. Left to right: Alexander Parini ’18, Ben Ozur ’18, James Capuzzi ’17, Sina Mansouri ’17, Khristyan Trejo ’19, Michelle Daker ’17, and Claire Kueffner ’18. (Not pictured: Elise Matton ’14)

The Tulane University Debate Team reached the quarterfinals of the National Parliamentary Debate Association (NPDA) National Championships last Sunday at the Colorado College in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The partnership of Claire Kueffner ’18 and Khristyan Trejo ’19 finished in the top eight of the title tournament, besting more than 125 rival teams from more than forty schools across the country.

After 8 preliminary rounds of competition, Tulane KT broke to partial-double-octofinals (52 teams) with a 5-3 record. Their preliminary run included an opening round win over the 15th ranked partnership in the nation, a team who had just made the quarterfinals of the National Parliamentary Tournament of Excellence (NPTE) the prior weekend. Tulane KT entered the single-elimination playoff as the 37th seed. They proceed to knock off #28 Utah HH (#7 in the season rankings), #5 Berkeley GY, and #13 Washburn PH in three consecutive elimination rounds on Saturday night and Sunday morning. They were finally eliminated by #4 Washburn BS (#6 in the season rankings), a team that went on to win semifinals and share the National Championship with other teammates from Washburn.

This was the first time Tulane won an elimination round at NPDA Nationals at only the second NPDA Nationals the team has attended. Trejo and Alexander Parini ’18 made the double-octofinals last year, losing that round to Nevada. Trejo was the top novice speaker at that event.

This year, Parini attended the tournament with Ben Ozur ’18. Seniors James Capuzzi ’17 and Michelle Daker ’17, the team’s President and Vice President, also competed. The combined results for the three pairings gave Tulane overall a twentieth ranking in the tournament’s sweepstakes.

Not only is the quarterfinal finish an amazing result for a team competing in its second NPDA Nationals, the top eight finish placed Tulane among several elite teams at this culminating event. The seven other teams in quarterfinals were all ranked in the top twenty in the season-long rankings; Tulane KT was ranked 456th. The other teams were ranked #1, #2, #3, #6, #10, #14, and #19.

Full tournament results can be viewed here.

Tulane has been competing in both NPDA and the American Parliamentary Debate Association (APDA) this year, two national leagues of parliamentary debate with some stylistic differences. The school as a whole finished the NPDA season ranked 47th on the NPDA circuit out of 179 schools. The school is ranked 26th on APDA. Tulane will finish the debate season this year with trips to the William & Mary APDA tournament and the APDA National Championship at Rutgers University.

Tulane University has only had a debate team for six years, at least in its modern incarnation. The team has a website, but in one of those administrative confusions that seems universal to college campuses, we’ve been locked out of the ability to update it. And while there’s a lot on Facebook and in various places about how this past weekend happened and felt, I felt compelled to put a little write-up here for posterity as well, since this has been such a big part of my life so far in 2017.

Alex and I have been coaching the Tulane team for almost two years, invited to help late in the year prior by their then-coach, Andrew Bergman, a Pitt (APDA) dino who graduated from Tulane Law last spring. Last year, we volunteered and this year we are receiving a nominal stipend for our time, which largely consists of coming to two out of three weekly practices and the occasional tournament, plus generally trying to support the tournaments we don’t attend as much as possible. We’ve also been offering logistical help to their hosting of tournaments and navigating various debate leagues. The team started out competing in IPDA, then went to NPDA, and now sits at a crossroads between NPDA and APDA where it’s finding success in both formats.

I did not travel to Colorado with the team for this tournament, a decision I quickly came to regret as the successes piled up and our pre-round calls became increasingly excited and frantic. But in some ways, it was still a perfect tournament, even to be appreciated from afar. Below, I’m including my public thank you to the team who went (and Alex), as I posted on Facebook yesterday…

Y’all, please allow me to give some individual thanks in a public venue to a team that did something really incredible this weekend…

Sina Mansouri, it has been a real pleasure to work with you this year and observe your intense dedication to fostering this team and ensuring Tulane’s debate legacy continues to grow. I’m so glad you got to be on the ground this weekend to coach and be a part of this incredible accomplishment for the team you helped start.

Alexander Parini & Ben Ozur, I know this weekend didn’t go as well as you’d hoped for y’all individually, but I know you met your challenges with resilience and high spirits. I can’t wait to work with you on APDA next month and everything next year as we build toward what I think will be Tulane debate’s finest hour yet.

Michelle Daker & James Capuzzi, I am so glad you won your last NPDA round ever and that this weekend proved to be a holistically good experience for y’all. This accomplishment is a testament to your leadership this year and I appreciate all the time and hard work you’ve put into the team. I am so excited to see how y’all do in our upcoming April marathon swing through the mid-Atlantic!

Alex Jubb, I still maintain that you had the single best suggestion for every single round from the bubble through quarters. You have been an amazing coach for this team, even when they’re competing in a style that we’re both still learning. As sad as I was to not be in Colorado this weekend, it was a joy to share the vicarious excitement with you here in New Orleans.

Elise Matton, I don’t think this could have happened this weekend without your presence. When Alex first told me she’d met someone who went to my high school, was in her TFA cohort, and had founded the Tulane debate team, I couldn’t believe it, but I knew you would immediately be a person I shared a real connection with. I am so glad that you were able to lend your expertise and wisdom to the team this weekend, that you were the team’s leader throughout, and that you got to see firsthand the results of your creation.

Finally, of course, Khristyan Trejo & Claire Kueffner, I am simply in awe of y’all. I am still coming to terms with the magnitude of what you accomplished, for a partnership ranked 456th in the season standings to finish in the top 8 at Nationals among teams all ranked in the top 20, for a total outsider student-run team to crash a party reserved for teams that fly every weekend on the school’s dime with mammoth professional coaching staffs and scholarships. And that you did it your way, talking about what you feel is most important, *convincing* people that it *is* most important, makes it all the more special. You are the change we want to see in the world. Thank you.


Seventeen Years of Blogging

Categories: A Day in the Life, Adventures in Uber, All the Poets Became Rock Stars, Let's Go M's, Marching to New Orleans, Metablogging, Politics (n.): a strife of interests masquerading, Quick Updates, Read it and Weep, Telling Stories, Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Here are two relatively unflattering portraits of me, seventeen years apart. What can I say – blogging hasn’t always been pretty.

Yesterday was the seventeenth anniversary of Introspection, my first blog. It lasted for just seven years and change before the daily short-format gave way to this more haphazard long format, now nearly ten years into process. My first post was mostly about dreams and teeth. My first post on StoreyTelling was mostly about Introspection, but also my larger history with blogging and the web. Today’s post will be about neither, really, but it felt like an anniversary to mark, not least because of the significance the number 17 plays in my life. But I haven’t posted in a while and that’s partially because I’ve had only a bunch of micro-post ideas flitting around in my head and that reminds me of Introspection and its flitty, flighty, one-liner format. So here we go:

-Mardi Gras was great for parades and great for Uber and kind of terrible for Uber. I gave multiple $150 rides and also had half-hours where I went six blocks without a rider the whole time and wanted to tear the steering wheel out of the car. Ultimately, it was still a very very good couple of weeks. I got pretty Zen about the traffic once I saw just how much I was making on most of the rides that I actually was able to give. I’ve also never had so many cancellations and frustrations since both Uber and especially Lyft had no real idea how to line people up with a pickup spot that made sense given parade routing. Driving during the parades was the worst; just after was much better.

-After a fantastic January for writing, February and March so far have been dismal. I partially blame Mardi Gras, but also wedding planning and also that it’s just flipping hard to focus on writing and anything else. Like yes, Uber is both a pretty easy casual job and the subject of my book, but it still consumes 35-45 hours a week, depending, and that’s time that really needs to be close to empty for me to write effectively. And/or I am also wrestling with too many internal confidence demons to really commit to writing fully and effectively. And/or there is too much variation and too little routine? I am inclined to think they are all factors, in the order presented. The book remains half-finished, but feels over the tipping point and should still be available to my loyal friend readers by summer at the latest (no whammy).

-Today was one of the first times I’ve ever delivered rolled change to the bank and they didn’t kind of whimsically roll their eyes at me. This is kind of a thing that I do regularly, in part because I find rolling change relaxing and re-ordering for me. I was almost heartbroken when Capital One briefly decided they weren’t accepting rolled change anymore and had me actually unwrap and unceremoniously dump all my change into a bucket so it could be fed into their automatic coin-sorter. By the next time I was ready to turn my change into electronically tracked currency, however, their coin sorting machine was out in the shop, perhaps indefinitely, and they were back to asking me to roll it. The bankers are always kind of bemused by me bringing in rolled change like I’m some sort of crank, but then again, most all commercially available change starts in rolls – someone is doing it somewhere, regularly, to keep the economy going, right? Is it so weird?

-Another relaxing and re-ordering practice for me is reading, which has been even more dismal all year than writing in the last forty days. I blame my ambition as a reader – I’ve spent most of the year allegedly reading The Familiar, vol. 1, a gigantic graphically bedecked book that looks like an elaborate prank. It was a mistake to try to read this, especially at a time when I want to be writing, but I really liked House of Leaves by the same author. The last renewal ran out at the library today and I returned it, having done about 160 pages in two months. I’m sure it’s brilliant in some way and I found some of the characters intriguing, but it just hadn’t spoken to me sufficiently to make it worth the work. I need to be reading regularly, though, and it needs to feel like a joy and not a chore. I may return to it someday, but long after I’ve written a couple more books.

-I am so insanely jealous of the folks living in the path of the snowstorm that’s about to batter the eastern seaboard. There’s a lot I don’t love about the northeastern United States, but the regular access to blizzards is not among them. I keep repeating the promise to myself that someday I will live in a place where I don’t have to anxiously anticipate snow, but it will be a regular occurrence with no possibility of not happening. I worry that places that used to be on this list are starting to fall off of the list, but no matter. Next year in Murmansk.

-Was there ever a more short-sighted decision than to decline to name that British ship Boaty McBoatface? Now the yellow sub they allowed to be called by said moniker is getting all kinds of press its expedition never would otherwise. Sometimes you have to steer into the curve. People are so often their own undoing by taking themselves too seriously.

-The Louisiana state government is having massive budget shortfalls this year because gas prices are low. This prompted them to try to charge state taxes from me from 2014 on all of my New Jersey-earned income. My only Louisiana income that year were some poker winnings from a large payout at Harrah’s. They sent me a bill for nearly $2,000 a few months back, including fees for failing to file and interest (as though interest were something that exists in the world these days). They sent multiple threats via certified letter. After three responses from me, all also sent certified, they sent me a check this weekend for $108, which was actually what they owed me for taking too much out of the poker payout in the first place. I was happy to let this money go in exchange for not filing a Louisiana return back in 2014. But they wanted to push it, so I’m happy to make them pay. Of course, in reality, it all feels like a huge waste – of state employee time, of my time, of the certified mail system. But I know to them it’s not a waste, because like all made-up bills, 80% of people probably just get scared and pay them no questions asked. And we wonder how the poor are kept poor in our system.

-Something I have been doing a lot lately is play chess. It’s not quite as relaxing as reading or walking or even writing sometimes, but it’s good for me. The problem is that I should spend more time between chess club “tournaments” practicing, but that would cut into time potentially writing or driving. This is actually an argument that cuts into a lot of things lately, including a pretty successful video-game moratorium I’ve put on myself for all of 2017 till the book is finished. Chess, like all games, is great patience practice, even the fifteen-minute games I favor and we play on Monday nights. The problem is that I still am spending more time looking at my mistakes and how to get out of them than not making them in the first place.

-I lost about an eighth of a tooth the other day. I think I swallowed it. I have an impacting wisdom tooth that’s pushing its neighbor on a tilt out of position, and I’ve just realized that this has made my bite sufficiently uneven so as to hammer into the tooth below with every chew. As a result, the top corner of the tooth below finally gave way. Luckily the root was not exposed; unluckily I have not had dental insurance since 2014. Trying to get into the LSU dental clinic is proving to be a chore, but at least after three days my tongue toughened up enough so that the newly jagged tooth edge stopped serrating it. It was an ugly couple days at first adjusting to the new reality.

-The Mariners lost their Spring Training game today by a score of 24-3. That said, all their best players are at the World Baseball Classic. They were doing really well before the WBC started. I am irrationally exuberant for the lineup of Dyson, Segura, Cano, Cruz, and Seager.

-Peak Trump Outrage seems to have passed. I know a lot of people want everyone to stay angry and vigilant, but I feel like Trump has slowed down into a kind of plodding pace of not being able to get any of his agenda done. I had long predicted that a President without either party really behind him would have a lot of trouble getting anything done and I think that’s coming to fruition. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t stay vigilant or react strongly to the truly bad stuff that comes out of the administration, but a half-assed tweak on a bad healthcare law to make it slightly worse doesn’t pass muster on that for me. Especially when the best analysts don’t think they even want it to pass in the first place.

-Speaking of which, “Get Out” is one of the most flawlessly executed movies in recent memory. Right up there with “Arrival”. However, the former’s third act is its weakest point while the latter’s third act is its best, so just keep that in mind. “Weakest” in this context, however, is still mighty strong.

-I feel supremely lucky to live in a time when the Lumineers can be as popular a band as they are. The Lumineers being popular feels like one of those things that shouldn’t be able to happen – they defy all the tropes of what you’d expect of rock music success. And yet, there they are. Alex and I saw them ten days ago in the UNO basketball stadium and it was incredible. They seemed to express the same kind of incredulity at their success and following that I felt. At one point, referencing the time that they used to spend playing in living rooms and similar tiny venues, they came out into a literal pop-up stage in the center of the arena, closer to our seats, and played part of their set there. It was magical. The Lumineers feel magical in the way that New Orleans does when it’s at its simplest, most historical, and most charming. They seem like they shouldn’t be real. They aren’t passing Counting Crows or anything, but I forget how transporting and inspiring music can be sometimes. It can get so habitual and dull or so processed and rote. The discovery of music, the reimagining of it, makes me supremely sad that I didn’t end up in music somehow even though I have no natural ability there whatsoever…

Flowers in Your Hair
Ho Hey
Gun Song
Dead Sea
Classy Girls
Where the Skies are Blue
Charlie Boy
Slow it Down
Sleep on the Floor
Big Parade
In the Light
My Eyes

Long Way from Home
Subterranean Homesick Blues
Stubborn Love

-Nothing compares to the magic of having by far and away your favorite song from a band close the encore. Especially the first time you see them. You’ve spent the entire show wondering if they’ll play that song or not, with the drama increasing the whole way. And then finally it happens and it’s their sign-off and you don’t even want them to keep playing after because it’s too perfect. I think this has literally only happened to me one other time, the first time I saw Counting Crows. That was in November 1999, notably just more than seventeen years ago. You would think that means you can’t read what I thought of it at the time online now. You would be wrong.