The start of the Major League Baseball season means the beginning of spring, the crack of the bat, the call of the announcer, and, for the last few seasons at least, time for another tour from The Baseball Project. The band, started by Scott McCaughey (The Minus 5, The Young Fresh Fellows) and Steve Wynn (The Dream Syndicate) as a one-off side project celebrating their mutual love of the sport, has taken on a life of its own, appearing on ESPN and even, last Saturday, playing a show at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY. The day before that, on Friday, they played a show in Harrisburg, PA at the Harrisburg Midtown Arts Center. The roster for the band was rounded out with Mike Mills (R.E.M.) on bass, Linda Pitmon on drums, and Josh Kantor (organist at Fenway Stadium) on keyboards.
Although their focus is very specific – baseball and only baseball – the band has found a wealth of characters and stories to mine for their songs. Through four albums so far, they have explored diverse territory ranging from egotistical players (“Ted Fucking Williams”), the lives of famous players like Henry Aaron (“They Don’t Know Henry”) and Fernando Valenzuela (“Fernando”), and stories such as the time when Atlanta Braves pitcher Pascual Perez got lost on the way to the stadium (“Pascual on the Perimeter”). Friday even saw the debut of a new song by Mike Mills, “Stuff,” about doping. Through these songs and more, for an hour and a half the band led the audience through a tour of the sport’s triumphs, its shames, and its dark secrets. Even a non-fan of the game can find plenty to latch onto in the band’s songs, as both catchy melodies and choruses, along with interesting tales of the teams and the players lead them on a journey through the life of the sport.
Opening the show was McCaughey’s long-standing collective The Minus 5, touring for their recent release Dungeon Golds, a single-disc collection of songs taken from last year’s limited five-album release Scott the Hoople in the Dungeon of Terror. With an ever-changing lineup, this incarnation of the band featured most of the members of The Baseball Project, with Michael Giblin (The Split Squad, Parallax Project) substituting in for Mills on bass. The band played several songs from the new release, including “My Generation,” “Adios Half Soldier,” and “Hold Down the Fort,” along with classics including tracks from the band’s self titled album – “Twilight Distillery” and “Aw Shit Man” – and “The Days of Wine and Booze” from Down With Wilco.
All photos by Matt Condon. Click to embiggen.