Favorite Band in Raleigh

“I guess everything does change except what we choose to recall”.

Tonight I’m heading out to ring in the new year with the Avett Brothers and a few thousand of my closest friends1. Buckle your seatbelt, this is going to go from zero to ridiculous quickly.

Out of three Avett Brothers concerts I’ve attended in my life, two were NYE shows (Charlotte in 2013; Greenville, SC in 2011). This year they come to Raleigh, my hometown, and just too much for me to pass up even though I pledged to give my wife a reprieve after dragging her to three AB shows in two years. My ticket for this year was punched before we even stepped foot in Charlotte last year.

Though my sample size is small, I have never come away disappointed from an Avett Brothers show. This is notable because before each show I walk in with the perfect setlist in mind – a sure prelude for disappointment. The catalog, to my ears, is deep; the stage presence and performance dynamic in a way that breathes new life into songs that long since eluded my attention.

In short, setlists fascinate me, especially the setlist for a show put on by the same group on the same day in the same state2 every year. I don’t know if Scott, Seth, et al consider it carefully or if they just go with what they want to play and let it ride. I thought it might be fun to go a little FiveThirtyEight on this, but I don’t want to take it too far. I decided that counting album tracks per show would be as far as I would take it, and include any other kind of stat that falls below that on the minutia scale. That leaves me with notes like: most played song (‘Go to Sleep’, all seven shows); best represented album (Emotionalism); most show opens (seven tied at 1); longest dormancy for a song (‘Pretty Girl from Chile’, 2008–2013); most encore appearances (‘I and Love and You’, ‘Salvation Song’ tied at 2); biggest spread of setlist position (‘Talk on Indolence’, #4 in 2008, to #30 – last song of the encore of the longest show so far – in 2011).

I’m shocked that ‘Go to Sleep’ is the song that made every show, mostly because it’s one of those songs that flies below my radar. I listened to it to refresh my memory and immediately thought, “Ahh yes, that one!”. Emotionalism is my favorite album, though I find it interesting how well represented I and Love and You is … or do I? Last year, I correctly predicted3 that ‘Open-Ended Life’ would open the show. This year I have no similar such predictions or other setlist premonitions. If there’s one thing that I’ve gleaned from looking at all of these setlists4, it’s that I’m in for a great show no matter what.

  1. I feel comfortable calling my fellow concertgoers close because I can’t imagine a better filtering criteria if I ever really did have to identify my closest few thousand friends.
  2. For simplicity’s sake, we’ll either choose to ignore 2011’s Greenville, SC show or, since I actually attended that one, we’ll just merge North Carolina and South Carolina and call it Carolinas because, let’s be honest, that’s how most of the country sees us anyway, isn’t it?
  3. Lucky guess. It’s an obvious opener from an album they released that year. I think they could sell pretty much any song in their live catalog as an opener.
  4. Setlists sourced primarily from 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008 (reddit), 2007. data stops at 2007. I turned to reddit for continuity for 2008 which was missing from, but laziness prevented me from using it for everything prior to 2007.


It’s unfortunate (mostly for Polaris) the manner in which I came to know about the Polaris Slingshot, being that it was a story about another regulatory hurdle Polaris faces in getting the three-wheeled rig on the road. Nonetheless, I am glad I now know that such a thing exists to improve upon the already revolutionary three-wheeler segment.

Or am I?

Truth be told, I have no idea what fun can be derived from either of these seemingly amorphous transporter pods, though in no way do I wish to begrudge the creative individual who can. It is for purely time and financial frugality reasons that I nominate the Polaris Slingshot for this week’s installment of #TIDNTKIL.

Locally Notable

Have a Little Holderness

Last year, the Holderness family took the world by storm with their jammies Christmas card video-gone-viral. This year, we’re reminded that was a thing thanks to a humorous spoof from last weekend’s episode of SNL.

Judging by Penn’s social media reaction, the spoof was well-received. I hope the reprised recognition is also good for business.


Slim & Trim

Until Apple fully succeeds in replacing our wallet, we are all burdened with that annoying privilege of carrying our big clunky fold of bills, plastic membership or credit cards, and other miscellany like business cards, loyalty punch cards or – gasp – maybe there are even a few among us who still carry printed pictures of our loved ones around. Fortunately, a bevy of stylishly slimmed down, genuinely smart solutions have emerged over the last few years. These products are evolutions of the age-old wallet that slim down that pocket bulge in two ways – one, by packing contents more efficiently; and two, by limiting the amount of space they offer from the beginning, forcing us to consider how important it is to carry around that credit card we signed up for ten years ago in college just for the free t-shirt.

I began my foray into the slimmed down pocket revolution a few years ago by moving my wares into the J. Crew Factory Outlet version of the magic wallet. The J. Crew wallet replaced a traditional Fossil bi-fold wallet that held up remarkably well despite enabling years of overstuffing abuse. Receipts, credit cards I rarely used, loyalty reward punch cards for places I rarely visited – it was a cluttered mess. The magic wallet imposed physical limitations on what could actually fit and I had to make tough decisions about what I must carry and what I could leave at home. I even returned to pre-adulthood days by moving my wallet out of my rear pocket and back into my front pocket, no longer fearing the ridiculous pocket bulge.

It was fun while it lasted, but I ultimately grew tired of the flip-flop-flap of the magic wallet. I wanted to return to a more traditional style of wallet, but without delving back into a life of overstuffing. I started looking around and I ultimately decided on the Bellroy Slim Sleeve. The downfall of the magic wallet began when I started disobeying the physical limitations of the wallet and it became an unruly mess too difficult to manage. Cards started dropping out when I would go to pay for things, the “magic” bands would get twisted or hung up on something rigid. Looking at the images of the Bellroy, I knew I could fit everything that I needed in the wallet, but still maintain some semblance of a trimmed-down wallet. The Slim Sleeve is not going to win the Slim Clip Award for simplicity or slimness. It is, however, a very stylish and sensible solution for those of us who want to slim down, but still carry around just a bit more. Here’s my currently Slim Sleeve inventory: (4) cards with embossed account numbers; (5) other plastic cards, including my drivers license; my health insurance card; (4) cardstock loyalty cards; and (3) dollar bills. The Slim Sleeve handles all of these items without issue and yet the design itself is inspiring enough to have me consider removing one or two additional items that I rarely use.

Beyond the slimming design aspects of the Bellroy Slim Sleeve, I love the aesthetics and functional design as well. I have the cocoa color, which has standout orange accent stitching. One of the interior card pockets has a pull-out tab to provide easy access to tucked away cards. I love the premium feel of the leather and after a year of everyday use, my Bellroy shows few signs of wear and tear other than an impression of the pull-tab on the exterior side of the wallet, a subtle hint that I might need to take another look at my priorities there.

Buy the Bellroy Slim Sleeve today on Amazon or direct from Bellroy where it is available in a wide range of colors including black, blue steel, cocoa, java, cognac, slate, tamarillo, and teak.

Locally Notable

Quite A Year

It’s been a banner year for Raleigh chef and entrepreneur Ashley Christensen. Along with her James Beard Foundation award, she can now add Triangle Business Journal Businessperson of the Year to her mantle:

While her businesses are small in revenue when compared to previous Businessperson of the Year honorees, like Red Hat leader Jim Whitehurst, ChannelAdvisor CEO Scot Wingo, or Adam Abram’s Franklin Holdings, Christensen’s impact as an economic engine for the region has been growing.

Poole’s Diner is my favorite Raleigh restaurant and I’ve enjoyed every visit to Joule, Chuck’s and Beasley’s1. Christensen’s efforts have been a boon for economic activity in downtown Raleigh and I can’t wait to see what she has in store for us with her future ventures.

  1. I haven’t been to Fox Liquor Lounge yet, but I hear it’s pretty all right.


“If you don’t mind, I’m going to coach my butt off for a long time.”

Locally Notable

When the Lights Go Up in Suburbia

When I was younger I enjoyed an annual trip to Walnut Creek amphitheater to check out the Celebration of Lights. In the years since that stopped being a thing1, though, I never really replaced it with any similar such luminary tradition. My wife loves lights, though, and I started to really feel the presence of that void so we made it a point this year to find light displays around the area to enjoy together and with our young daughter.

Thankfully, a few years ago Budweiser Miller LIte helped ignite a DIYer revolution with their commercial featuring a Mason, Ohio home with a light display synced to Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s “Wizard of Winter”. Coupled with the viral, word of mouth power of the Internet, it is incredibly easy to find similarly captivating DIYer displays around town. This area also has several farm-inspired venues that feature fun activities for the whole family along with expansive light displays.

I’ll keep a running list here of the places we visit, along with a few notes/comments about each display. WRAL has a great page with a map highlighting area neighborhood displays. Gas is way down at the pump, so there’s never been a better time to hop in the car and go light display hunting. Just plan out your route so you can burn that gas as efficiently as possible!

Happyland Christmas Lights, Apex: The display is impressive, with a unique band of characters. The subtle placement of some of the characters also makes for a fun time of discovery and surprise. The music broadcast didn’t seem to be working when we drove by, so that put a slight damper on things, but the display itself is well worth visiting.

Abbey Lane, Raleigh: Abby Lane, just down Morgan’s Way was our second stop on the first night of our self-paced Christmas Lights tour. The music was rocking and the lights were bright, in your face, and like the other displays we’ve seen, quite impressive. This is the first stop where we noticed the projection of Santa in the window – if you have kids old enough to get some excitement out of seeing Santa in the window, you might want to try to spot the projection and steer their eyes toward it. Expect to get “trapped” in a line of cars, but just relax and enjoy the show and it’ll be all good. The primary music and lights experience is available on FM 90.3, but there’s also a secondary/side show of the Peanuts’ Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown playing on a secondary station (look for the sign toward the front-left side of the property if you’re looking at the house). This was our favorite display until last night when we checked out …

Lowe Family Christmas Lights, Cary: We loved this house because, of the houses we’ve checked out so far, it was the only one that was seemingly not afraid of empty space. The display has plenty of lights, but the timed animations have a greater impact because the entire display allows for brief moments of complete darkness, a characteristic that was hard to find among the other always-on displays that we’ve seen so far. The time of night (and possibly relative obscurity) helped as well. When we pulled up there were only 3 cars around us and each car was able to position itself for optimal viewing without interfering with neighborhood traffic. There were other houses without light displays with more cars in front, possibly a couple of neighborhood house parties proving more popular than the light display on this night. Great music, almost perfect light display animations, and great viewing angles made this our favorite so far!

Hill Ridge Farms ‘Festival of Lights’, Youngsville: We only recently discovered Hill Ridge Farms, but they’ve been offering up seasonal, farm-inspired amusements for many years now. Admission is $10 per person (4 and under are free), which includes a hayride and access to the farm park’s many kid-friendly amusements like a maze, tube slide, and more. There are fire pits placed throughout the property for warming up or making s’mores (supplies available for purchase). I wasn’t particularly interested in the “included hayride” until I learned that’s the primary (and only) way to take in their light display – and it was actually a lot of fun! A nice highlight is a patriotic “we support our troops” stop toward the end of the Festival of Lights hayride tour, with ‘God Bless America’ playing in the background. There’s an optional train ride for $3 per ticket – the train ride was nice, great for kids, but you don’t see much on the ride. My wife remarked that it’s almost more fun to watch the train ride around the track than it is actually riding it.

  1. While researching information for this post, I learned that some of the lights from the defunct Walnut Creek display live on at Meadow Lights in Benson, NC.
Field of Play

What the Hess?

Being the casual NC state fan/observer that I am, my participation in tonight’s contest unfolded in much the same way it often does – I’m slightly aware that said contest is set to take place but I generally forget until sometime just before or after the contest starts when my Twitter timeline explodes with game time commentary. Tonight’s chatter was particularly loud because of the return of referee Karl Hess from a 3 year hiatus from Wolfpack competition. While I’m sure no one was surprised there would be D-R-A-M-A drama, I don’t know if Aaron Sorkin could have written a more tightly wound script than what unfolded in Reynolds Coliseum tonight. After setting the table brilliantly with an early technical foul against NC State head coach Mark Gottfried, Hess was handed the ultimate Wolfpack troll bait.

Down one after a reportedly brilliant set play from Wofford, State gets the ball back with two seconds left on the clock. Trevor Lacey takes the inbound pass, dribbles down the court and nails the game winning shot! Or does he?

Lacey’s shot dropped through the net after time expired so the burning question immediately following the quick celebration from the Wolfpack bench and Reynolds crowd – did Lacey’s shot leave his hands before time expired? Oh no, State fan, look who has the chance to redeem himself or just continue his lifelong troll of Pack fans everywhere.

In the end, Hess makes the right call, but I have to admit I got just a bit worried for him once I realized the call he had to make. Would the threat of a rabidly insane fan base be enough to tease him into making the wrong call? No way, he’s too much of a professional for that, isn’t he? What if he makes the wrong call? How would I feel about that, knowing that a redemption call played a part in ruining a well-earned victory for the Wofford players?

And here’s the real rub. Regardless of who was making the call, what call they had to make or why, there’s no way it should have even come down to that call anyway. If State fan wants to be upset at anyone it should be the players, the coach or just the night – a potentially off night that wasn’t going to see us walking away with the win even if we had the most pro-Pack referee giving us all the calls. I didn’t watch the game (all details provided herein courtesy of Twitter, Vine, and YouTube), but it certainly doesn’t seem like we were the better team tonight and that to me is a much harder pill to swallow than coming out on the wrong end of a great catch, run and shoot that was just a hair too late.

Photo Credit: @PackPride on Twitter via SI

Field of Play


This year’s NC State football team feels miles away from the 2002 team that went 9–3 and defeated Notre Dame in the Gator Bowl. And yet, if the 2014 Wolfpack defeat the UCF Knights in the Bitcoin Bowl in St. Petersburg, FL on December 26th, they will finish the season 8–5, just two losses behind that highly touted Wolfpack squad. Further muddying the perspective, State fans were dismayed by the bowl selection process1, feeling like our 3–5 conference record earned us a spot in what? The Belk Bowl? Come on, State fan. Think about that.

We had a very nice season this year, but let’s not remove ourselves too far from reality. We looked good against our arch rival for 60 minutes and for 15 minutes against Florida State, a team that hasn’t shown up for a first quarter all season and a program that, somehow, we perennially match up well against for some reason or another. The rest of the season, we looked pedestrian and that probably serves as a clearer indication of where we actually stand as a football program – improving, but not quite good. Remember, our four non-conference wins did the most to make us bowl eligible and no one in their right minds is going to trot out that resumé as a justification for a better bowl game.

That said, we did what we needed to do. We won those early games, we competed in a few others, and we came away with victories in enough conference games to show some visible improvement over last year and we were rewarded with a trip to a bowl game. I personally would have loved a trip to the Belk Bowl, primarily because it’s closer and I might have considered attending, but the reality is we didn’t earn it and it’s time for State fans to take a step back and face reality2.

Photo Credit:

  1. State fans weren’t alone among ACC faithful in decrying the committee’s selection process and motives.
  2. I have no idea how we’ll do against UCF, but I think reality would have settled in real quick against the Bulldogs.