You didn’t have to be a baseball fan to appreciate what The Baseball Project was doing on Friday night at Martini Ranch, part of the band’s weeklong tour playing spring training parks around the Valley.
Oh, I could tell my wife about Curt Flood, Ichiro Suzuki and Ted Fucking Williams until her eyes glaze over. I could try to explain why the delicate storytelling and intricate details of Buckner’s Bolero – the nearly six-minute anchor on the new album Volume 2: High And Inside – gives me the chills. But I quickly realized during the band’s inspired set that the stories – for the non-baseball nerds among us – could be secondary to what was going on musically.
After all, we are talking about some indie-rock heavyweights: Steve Wynn (Dream Syndicate), Scott McCaughey (Young Fresh Fellows, The Minus 5), Peter Buck (R.E.M.) and Linda Pitmon (part of Wynn’s Miracle 3). Buck’s affiliation is, of course, exploited at every promotional turn, and it’s almost amusing – if not totally bizarre – to think that a member of R.E.M., on the heels of a new album, was tooling around the greater Phoenix area in a van to play ballpark concourses. (That said, he looked to be nothing but cordial and generous in signing autographs and spending time with fans.)
The band reached full boil when it launched into songs by Dream Syndicate (Tell Me When It’s Over), the Miracle 3 (Amphetamine) and the Minus 5 (Aw Shit Man and Twilight Distillery). As Jason Woodbury noted in his review at the New Times, “It was all exuberance and sweat last night. Save the blues for the end of the season.”
It was a great way to warm up for Opening Day, and gain a better appreciation for the talent that was collected on one stage.
To celebrate both, here’s a video (with sound that turned out amazingly clear) I took of the group performing Past Time, the opener off its 2008 debut, Volume 1: Frozen Ropes and Dying Quails.