Live review: The Baseball Project at The Waiting Room…

Category: Reviews — Tags: — @ 8:53 am July 9, 2024
The Baseball Project, from left, Peter Buck, Linda Pitmon, Scott McCaughey, Steve Wynn and Mike Mills, perform at The Waiting Room, July 8, 2024.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

The Baseball Project got me wondering: What are most rock songs about? Relationships, having fun, personal struggle, love and regret. Some are political anthems. Others are meaningless word salad combinations. Almost all are written from a singer/songwriter’s vantage point. 

The Baseball Project’s songs are solely about baseball, the players, the history, the game itself. It’s the ultimate concept band that doesn’t sway from its subject matter, written by people who love and know the game and its history. With that in mind, The Baseball Project could be the first rock band to win a Pulitzer for its songwriting. Each song is a snapshot of America’s past time, reported – and sung – by the songwriter. 

All of this was going through my head as I watched and listened – along with a couple hundred folks – to The Baseball Project at The Waiting Room last night. I mentioned yesterday that Steve Wynn sang most of the songs – that’s wrong. Each member of the band except Peter Buck sang leads on a song, with Wynn and Scott McCaughey handing the lion’s share. Mills sang leads on at least three songs, including standouts like “To the Veterans Committee” (consider Dale Murphy for the Baseball Hall of Fame) and “Stuff” (about illegal substances pitchers use to get more action on the ball). 

Wynn and McCaughey have terrific complimentary voices and are commensurate storytellers. They introduced each song, explaining the history about what they were about to sing. Almost every song included a year or date for context and a lot of baseball players’ names that if you’re only a passing fan of the game, will likely be lost on you, except for heroes like Willie Mays and Hank Aaron, etc. 

Take out the baseball subject matter and you’ve got some of the best jangle-power-pop rock that you’ll likely hear, and you would expect nothing less from this legendary line-up (with Buck, McCaughey and Wynn all playing guitars, Mills on bass and the remarkable Linda Pitmon on drums). You have to wonder if these songs could have been big hits if they weren’t solely about baseball – an idea I’m sure has been written about in past reviews. Because many of the melodies and compositions are as good as stuff by R.E.M. or Dream Syndicate. 

But I guess for these folks, if it wasn’t about baseball, it wouldn’t be fun. There is almost nothing controversial or polarizing about the game. I guess you could argue about ‘the Steroids Era,’ or Pete Rose or your personal take on the Designated Hitter Rule, but it’s mostly just harmless fun, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2024 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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