Annual Bishara Live Music Wrap-up 2016

Another year, another bunch of music gigs. The previous two roundups averaged 20 gigs a year, but I came up a little short this year at 17 (that I could account for). My idea going into January was to enact more quality control into my events by weeding out some of the old timers who just go through the motions in favor of younger, more vibrant acts. Not sure I succeeded (ahem, Stevie Wonder, RHCP), but I did see at least one pretty awesome younger act in The Wild Feathers.

So without further ado, from Las Vegas to London, here they are in chronological order:

Jason Isbell  – Kentish Town Forum, Jan 22 (paid face value: £22.20)

This was the third year running that I caught a Jason Isbell show, and the fifth gig overall in those three years. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Jason is one of the best live acts performing today, and one of the most talented songwriters in the world. And for just 22 pounds? Fuggedaboutit. The only small downside — albeit one that did not impact me — was that the venue was moved from the larger Shepherd’s Bush Empire to the Kentish Town Forum, so people were scrambling to find a place just to stand with a view.

Lindi Ortega – Islington Assembly Hall, Feb 4 (cannot remember cost, but it was about £14)

My second time seeing this Canadian-Latina Nashville transplant with a monster voice perform in London. She was just as awesome as she was two years before that (or was it three?). She can absolutely hold her own as a songwriter too — which is what saddened me somewhat when I saw her Instagram post discussing her struggle to fix a broken vintage Gibson acoustic guitar because she couldn’t really afford to.

Dave Stewart – book reading and gig  at Hospital Club, March 7 (Cost: about £20 with a free copy of Dave’s autobiography thrown in. I was kindly invited to this event by a friend who is a member of the club)

Wonderful 2-3 hours of the ex-Eurythmics icon reading chapters of his book interspersed with moments of him playing guitar, telling stories, and sharing demo tracks — including an isolated version of Stevie Wonder’s harmonica solo on “There Must Be An Angel (playing with my heart).” According to Dave, Wonder kept them waiting for hours in a Santa Monica recording studio, until they had finally had enough and went back to their West Hollywood hotel at 2am — only to get a call saying Stevie was ready and waiting for them back in SM. Back in the car then….

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Should the NBA rest players and screw its own fanbase?

All this and more covered in this week’s Big E Show on SB Nation Radio. Listen to my twenty minute segment by clicking on the soundcloud link here

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This is way better than playing…and we’re getting paid millions too! LOL, NBA fans are some funny-ass people.

Dawn of a new NBA season

Hello All, the NBA season starts Tuesday night, and what better way to kick off the season than to read and hear all of my rambling thoughts on Cleveland, Golden State, the Lakers, Knicks, Spurs, et al.

My second annual NBA preview: “NBA 2017: 10 big predictions for the new season…plus the winner” was published for CNN earlier today and you can read that here.

You can also listen to my segment on the Big E Show podcast (part of SB Nation Radio) here:

Please do hit me up with your feedback. Would love to hear what YOU think about this upcoming season.

i

No two teams have ever met in three NBA Finals in a row, not even during Larry and Magic’s epic Celtics-Lakers battles in the 1980s. But it’s almost certain that LeBron and Steph will meet again for the third year running.

Rio 2016: Team USA ballers can be beat, Phelps is greatest all time, Ticketing scandals abound, and more

Hello from Buenos Aires, where I’m taking a much earned four day break from the madness in Rio.

Before I left, I filed this CNN story on the ticketing situation in Rio where I discuss the unsavory markups by CoSport, the official reseller in the US and UK, as well as the thriving ticket scalper market (where you can get half price deals to some of the biggest events, if you’re lucky).

I also wrote this Aljazeera profile on Saudi Runner Sarah Attar, who will be racing in her tenth marathon in Rio on Sunday.

It follows my profile on Kuwaiti swimmer Faye Sultan who won her heat on Friday as an Independent Athlete at the Games.

And, lest I forget, this think piece for CNN on the perilous state of Brazilian football.

I also did this segment for the Big E Sports show on SB Nation Radio where I discuss all things Olympic related, including Team USA basketball, Michael Phelps and even the US women’s gymnastics team.

One story I left out was losing my wallet in an Uber in Rio on the way to the Rugby Sevens finals…and managing to get it back just 40 mins later, while waiting on the side of the highway. Once you go Uber, you never go back.

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Selfies are a global phenomenon. Bonding with Team USA fans after Phelps won his 20th and 21st golds was pretty awesome.

 

NBA Finals Game 4 preview, Yahoo Sports Radio

Hello All,

Last night I went on Yahoo Sports Radio’s Big E Sports Show with the awesome Elissa Walker Campbell to preview tonights Cavs – Warriors huge Game 4.

You can listen to my 10 minute rambling here, where I dissect Cleveland’s lineup, berate their management and discuss all things NBA:

And while I’ve got your attention, you can also stream another podcast stint I did back in April following Kobe Bryant’s final NBA game — that 60 point, 50 shot umm, classic [That’s the segment where I preceeded Hall of Fame basketball writer Bob Ryan]:

Lebron Shout

A who seh me don?

NBA in London: Two CNN features and one Yahoo podcast

 

Two NBA features and one NBA podcast in five days. Bam. Now that’s what I call a busy week. But that’s what happens when the NBA comes to London; everything stops and I’m scrambling to go to open practices, conduct interviews, and eventually go to the big game itself — which was a thriller. Toronto beat Orlando in overtime at the O2 on Jan 14.

Both articles were Toronto Raptors related and featured an in-depth interview with team president and GM, Masai Ujiri. Ujiri was born and raised in Nigeria, played low-level college and pro hoops, yet is running an NBA team. Wow.

I don’t want to get all cliche, but honestly, he’s inspiring. If he can do that, then anyone can do anything if you work hard enough and set your mind to it. Seriously, the man overcame some massive obstacles, but had persistence and smarts to get to the top — and good on him.

First feature focuses on the Raptors being the NBA’s first truly global team (one Nigerian GM, seven international players, and one Sikh superfan: the Turbinator):

Click here to read CNN Story

The second feature is on Ujiri’s vision for an NBA populated with talented Africans — much like today’s European soccer leagues:

Click here for the story

Finally, last but certainly not least, is my podcast with the legendary Elissa “Big E” Walker Campell from Yahoo Sports Radio. We’re talking all things Raptors, New York Knicks (IE Porzingis) and Eastern Conference basketball in 10 minutes of riveting dialogue.

Listen to the podcast stream here:

photojoiner

Between Michael and I, we’ve racked up 6 rings.

 

 

My live music wrap-up 2015

Well hello all. I know I’ve gone silent in the second half of 2015. I got busy, what can I say? But I’m back with the second annual Bishara live music wrap-up.

Last year I attended a good 20 gigs, and 2015 was no different (boosted by a music-themed Nashville to LA road trip in October). So without further ado, here they are in chronological order:

Ryan Adams (Hammersmith Apollo, paid £25, face value was  £36), Feb 27.

Mr. Adams is probably my favorite rocker on the planet at the moment. He’s a gifted songwriter with a sweet voice and a style that ranges from hard riffs, to country crooning to cover songs (see his brilliant end-to-end cover of Taylor Swift’s 1989 album).

This performance was marred by a lot of chatter at the back of the theater (which Adams derisively commented on a number of times), but no matter. We just moved up to the front and heard terrific ballads like this one below. I’d see Adams anytime anywhere.

 

Passenger (Union Chapel – paid 49 pounds, face ? but it was a lot less), April 20.

A poor man’s Ed Sheeran, which is no small feat. In fact Passenger (aka Mike Rosenberg) opened up for Sheeran at Wembley last summer (the show that got away from me).

Passenger is a gifted finger picker and accomplished songwriter, chiefly for ‘Let Her Go’, a clip from which you can watch below. Union Chapel is also a personal favorite venue. Short gig but a winner.

#lethergo #passenger #solo #acoustic #unionchappel

A post shared by motez (@motezb) on

 

Eric Clapton (Royal Albert Hall – paid £50 vs £100 face value), May 18.

Clapton at Albert Hall. Need I say any more? BB King had died that week and so Slowhand played some stellar tributes, like the one below, taken from my seat in the lower level. I purchased the ticket via touts outside (RAH is always a tout hangout) and sat next to an American who had originally purchased the ticket for $250 for his girlfriend who didn’t make the trip. They had a fight the day before and he hopped on the plane without her. Her loss; my gain.

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Talkin’ NBA Free Agency on Yahoo Sports Radio with Big E

Hello All,

Last week I had the pleasure of returning for a guest spot on the Big E Radio Show with Elissa Walker Campbell to discuss the NBA off-season. We hit on Deandre Jordan’s back and forth with the Dallas Mavs and LA Clippers, along with the Knicks questionable first round pick, Kristaps Porziņģis, the Spurs rebuilding effort and a bunch of other topics.

For a print journalist, it’s always special to be able to discuss your thoughts on air, and I value these spots a great deal. In fact, the show has recently been syndicated on Sirius Satellite Radio, meaning it’s beamed out to millions of listeners all over the United States. Not bad for a kid who played high school ball at the American School of Kuwait!

The show was broadcast in two segments, which you can stream here:

Click here for Part 1

Click here for Part 2

Thanks everyone, and please chime in with any feedback, it’s always welcomed and appreciated!

Lastly, please check in to my Twitter account for updates on new articles I’ve written.

In case you missed them, I had two features that ran for CNN World Sports in July.

One was in-depth look at the off-court lives of professional tennis players outside of the top 10.

The other was a light-hearted profile of the 10 types of people you’ll see in a yoga class.

Enjoy and have a great week!

This crazy-ass beard just got me  a $200 million contract from Adidas!!

This crazy-ass beard just got me a $200 million contract from Adidas!! I’m the richest hipster in the world!

Talkin’ NBA Playoffs with Big E & My Feature on the Obese Pro Athlete — fat or fit?

Happy Monday all,

Last week I went on the Big E Sports Show — streamed by Yahoo Sports Radio as well as Sirius Satellite Radio all over the United States — to talk about the NBA playoff picture and coaching carousel. A fun and lively segment, as always.

You can listen to the podcast streaming here:

On another note, a rather meaty feature I wrote for CNN World Sports ran today. The topic: Overweight pro athletes competing at the highest level. Can they do it? How do they do it? Why do they do it? Do fad diets work? What are the pros/cons of dumping carbs altogether (as many top athletes are doing today)?

I weigh in on these topics by asking the experts — including Adebayo “The Beast” Akinfenwa of FC Wimbledon, and South African Rugby international Ollie le Roux (who weighed over 300 pounds in his heyday).

Here’s the intro, and a link to the complete article is at the bottom of the page:

Fat or fit? These ‘obese’ athletes are proud of their extra pounds

By Motez Bishara, CNN

(CNN) For a brief 10-minute spell at LA’s Staples Center earlier this month, one imposing NBA player got busy throwing his weight around — literally.

The man known as “Big Baby” — all 206 centimeters and 131 kilograms of him — contorted his body to sink improbable layups, dive for loose balls, rebound, block shots and turn into an all-around disruptive force for the Clippers in a win-or-go-home victory over the defending champion San Antonio Spurs.

A week later at Tropicana Field in Tampa, a 201 cm, 138 kg behemoth named C.C. Sabathia struck out nine batters in seven innings to clinch a win for the league-leading New York Yankees. The pitcher’s protruding belly shook like a washing machine on fast spin after each pitch.

In an era where top athletes obsess over body fat and favor kale smoothies over traditional pregame pasta, Sabathia and Glen “Big Baby” Davis are two of a handful of professional athletes thriving in spite of their girth.

“People look down on them, because they say they shouldn’t be out there,” Ollie le Roux, a former South Africa rugby international, told CNN. “But the nice thing about the big guy, the fat guy, the guy that doesn’t look athletic, is that when he runs over the little guy that looks like a superstar, it makes it more human.”

“It’s amazing to watch guys like Michael Jordan as well, but you don’t relate to them on a physical level like you do the overweight guy,” adds le Roux, who tipped the scales at 137 kilograms during the 1999 Rugby World Cup.

CONTINUE ARTICLE HERE

Baseball and male nudity. A nightmare to many.  (PHOTO: ESPN The Magazine/Body Issue)

Baseball and extreme male nudity. A nightmare to many.
(PHOTO: ESPN The Magazine/Body Issue)

The Kentucky Derby: My Two Week Crash-Course in Horse Racing

Happy Friday Frugal Fanners!

Over the past two weeks I’ve been assigned to write not one, but two features on the Kentucky Derby for CNN.com. I knew exactly nothing about horse racing, so I had to get up to speed on the sport pretty quickly.

Fortunately, I was able to secure an interview with Ahmed Zayat, an extremely affable gentleman who has three horses entered in the race, a feat that hasn’t been achieved in decades. Even more fortunately, he was Egyptian and happened to also be an alumnus of BU. So we struck up a friendly conversation off the bat and he very kindly granted me an extended interview and helped get me up to speed on the industry.

The piece’s headline is “American Pharoah chases racing’s biggest crown” and can be read here.

The next piece was a more ‘inside baseball’ look at horse racing. I’m linking the story to baseball on purpose, because the expression ‘hitting home runs’ was used so often by all the people I spoke to in the industry, that I could have been interviewing the New York Yankees.

In horse racing terms, hitting a home run is investing in a horse that wins big races and becomes a champion stallion. His stud fees (what owners charge other breeders to have his baby horses) can go up to $100k per birth, up to 100 times a year for 20 years. I can hear the sounds of “Cha-Ching!” as I’m typing.

That piece, entitled “Kentucky Derby: The Horses Swinging for Home Runs” can be read here.

Between the two articles, I interviewed owners with stakes in 5 of the 20 horses competing in the field tomorrow.  

So I’ll definitely be tuning into the Kentucky Derby at 11pm UK time on Saturday. It should be a thrilling finish.

Oh yeah, there’s also a boxing game going on tomorrow too… 4am UK time….. Let’s Get Ready to Rummmmmble!

Two weeks ago, everything I knew about horse racing could be traced back to the American Express ad from the 1980s. RIP Wilt and Shoe.

Two weeks ago, everything I knew about horse racing could be traced back to this American Express ad from the 1980s. RIP Wilt and Shoe.

wilt-chamberlain-willie-shoemaker

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