Posts Tagged ‘The Baseball Project’

[Video / review] The Baseball Project at Silver Moon

Tuesday, April 12th, 2011

Power/pop/roots/rock supergroup The Baseball Project brought its traveling roadshow to Bend’s Silver Moon Brewing & Taproom Thursday night, and in the spirit of the night’s primary subject, let’s grade the participants in baseball terms.

The band itself wasn’t exactly at MVP level, though I thought they were considerably better live than on their new album, “Volume 2: High and Inside.” On record, The Baseball Project’s songs fall just a bit flat; their hooks — and they are there — seem obscured by the efforts of songwriters Steve Wynn and Scott McCaughey to squeeze every statistic, every name, every syllable into their story songs. Live, however, the band crackled with energy. Their guitars buzzed and their power chords crunched and their voices sounded strong and most importantly, their hooks shined through. What’s the difference? It was the power of a tight band of skilled, veteran players in action.

And then there are the songs, which are a lot of fun and mostly good, if not great. Songs about Satchel Paige, Jackie Robinson, Willie Mays, Big Ed Delahanty. Ichiro Suzuki and Tim Lincecum. Plus their epic tale of pitcher Harvey Haddix’s legendary outing that includes the names of all 20 men who’ve thrown a perfect game in baseball history. (Wynn’s also cramming in the name of Armando Galarraga, the Venezuelan righthander who lost a perfect game on a terrible call with two outs in the ninth inning of a game last year.)

If you’re a baseball geek — and especially if you’re a baseball geek in your 40s, 50s or 60s — The Baseball Project is heaven wrapped in Baby Boomer nostalgia. Fortunately, much of the Silver Moon crowd seemed to fit the description. There were several older dudes there: a couple in Yankees hats, one in a Mariners hat, and one in a Padres uniform. All wore smiles. It was the oldest average age I’ve ever seen at the Moon, a fact solidified by the contingent of R.E.M. fanboys there to see that band’s guitarist/co-founder, Peter Buck, play bass between Wynn and McCaughey. There might’ve been some photos taken of fans posing with a half-smiling Buck sitting next to a roadcase stenciled with “R.E.M. Athens, Ga.” (I’m an R.E.M. fan, but probably don’t qualify as a fanboy, and even I thought it was very cool to see Buck — one of the most influential guitar players of the past 30 years — perform in such a small space.)

All that said, the highlight of the band’s two sets was a scorching performance of “Amphetamine,” a tune from Wynn’s solo album “Here Come the Miracles.” It closed the first set, featured some spellbinding guitar work from Wynn and McCaughey, and was by far the most electric, energetic five minutes of the night. Frankly, it was awesome.

Add it all up, and I’d say The Baseball Project made the all-star team, not as a starter, but as a backup who gets into the game in the fourth or fifth inning and maybe comes up with an important hit or catch near the end of the game. A solid effort all around.

Now, the crowd. Or rather, Bend. Twenty-four hours after more than 1,000 people showed up to see Ice Cube across the street at the Midtown Ballroom, I’d guess fewer than 100 caught The Baseball Project, and that was throughout the night. I don’t know if there were ever more than 50 people in the room at one time. And that’s a real shame. It’s also a trend. I’ve been to too many good shows by good bands that drew too-small crowds in the past year. It’s lame. Shame on you, Bend.

The saving grace came in the second half of the show when Wynn asked if the audience was having a good time, and someone immediately returned the question to the band. The four folks on stage — even the stoic Buck — quickly responded in the affirmative, and they seemed to mean it. Assuming they were telling the truth, it’s nice to know the small crowd didn’t bum them out too much.

And so, everyone in Bend except for the folks who showed up Thursday night is a benchwarmer, stuck in the dugout while others are out there having a good time playing a kid’s game.

This week in GO! Magazine’s music section

Friday, April 1st, 2011

Hip-hop legend Ice Cube rolls into Bend’s Midtown Ballroom on Wednesday! In this week’s GO! Magazine, I make the case for why you shouldn’t turn your nose up at a chance to see the man, given his enormous influence on rap music over the past 20 years.

After “The Predator” (plus his increasing interest in film work), Cube’s musical dominance waned, no doubt about it. But hindsight provides perspective on the importance of Ice Cube’s stint with N.W.A. and his first three solo albums, which, along with fellow gangsta rap pioneer and N.W.A. alum Dr. Dre, ushered in an era of hip-hop that valued gritty street tales and speaking truth to power over, say, a pair of glittery parachute pants. It was an era that would reign for nearly 15 years, until Kanye West came along and spawned a generation of emotive, Auto-Tune-happy singsong rappers like Drake and Kid Cudi.

These days, Ice Cube sounds like a man intent on securing his legacy. His 2010 album is called “I Am the West” and on the chorus of its lead single, “I Rep That West,” Cube defends himself against those who criticize his career arc and reminds us he’s a “hall of famer” in the rap game.

That’s understandable, but unnecessary. Ice Cube doesn’t need to apologize for being a fortysomething dude who has made a ton of cash in his lifetime and can no longer rap knowledgeably about life on the streets.

Sure, the game has passed him by. But it also owes him so much in terms of style, culture and history, thanks in large part to a hyper-productive, ultra-creative five-year stretch more than two decades ago. Even in 2011, the man deserves respect for that.

On the fence about buying a ticket? Click here to be convinced that you should.

Speaking of legends, yes, R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck plays bass for The Baseball Project, and yes, the baseball-themed band is coming to Silver Moon on Thursday. But the Project is the brainchild of pop-rock lifers Scott McCaughey (Minus 5, Young Fresh Fellows) and Steve Wynn (Dream Syndicate, Miracle 3), two super-fans of our national pastime. I caught up with McCaughey shortly after the band wrapped up its tour of spring training sites in Arizona.

GO!: Because of the subject material, is The Baseball Project more fun than your other, non-baseball bands?

SM: I can’t say one’s more fun than the other because of course we love playing our other songs as well, but this is a whole different thing. In a way it’s sort of a relief … to write about another subject. Even though some of the songs end up being personal, a lot of them are also just sort of writing in the folk tradition, the oral tradition of recounting a story or reciting a ballad or whatever, which is a lot different from what Steve and I write normally. So it’s kind of refreshing. I like it. Sometimes I get so into it that it makes it hard to tune back into writing a song about my boring life or whatever.

I will say, though, (at the spring training gigs) I found myself really kind of getting lost in some of these songs … so I felt pretty good about that. They weren’t just exercises in cleverness or something like that. I think they have some emotional weight. At least it feels like it to me when I sing some of ‘em. We’ve been writing songs for so long that we have … a certain standard that we hold ourselves to. Just because these songs are about baseball doesn’t mean that they don’t have to be good songs.

Click here to read the whole thing.

Elsewhere in the music section, we have a fundraiser for Shireen Amini’s new album, tonight’s CD-release party to celebrate Jay Tablet’s “Put It On the Tab,” and the Central Oregon Songwriters’ Association’s annual Song of the Year show, plus The Dangerous Summer, Christabel & the Jons, Necktie Killer, The Mowbray Collective and MC Mystic doing ladies night right. There’s a lot going on in town this weekend, so be sure to check out The Bulletin’s calendar for more options!

Peter Buck of R.E.M. is coming to Silver Moon

Friday, February 25th, 2011

That subject line is what we call “click bait” folks!

Per the Silver Moon Brewing website:

Besides the involvement of the guitarist for one of the world’s biggest rock bands, it should be noted that The Baseball Project, The Minus 5 and Steve Wynn are all terrific artists in their own right.

Kudos to Gabe Johnson, booking dude at Silver Moon (and his own company, Parallel 44 Presents), on a “home run!” (Gah. That was terrible. Sorry.)