The Baseball Project’s jam-packed northeastern weekend was a wild success. Last Thursday night’s show in Hoboken was a complete rave-up. I was thrilled to see my old pal Dennis Diken (of Smithereens fame) open the show with his band The Bell Sound. If you’re a fan of classic pop music like the Beach Boys and Del Shannon you must discover Dennis’ Late Music album on the Cryptovision label. Visit dennisdiken.com for more fab info. I guested on some of the album tunes at Maxwell’s, and realized a longtime ambition of mine to sing the Beach Boys’ “Shut Down” live on stage! It was awesome. The Baseball Project took the stage to much fanfare, with Mike Mills flanked by Steve Wynn and I, and Linda driving the whole thing from the back seat. We performed the entire Volume One album, plus the latest Broadside Ballad “(Do The) Triple Crown” (available for download at espn.com), a song from our upcoming Volume 2 called “Panda & The Freak”, and some classics from the Dream Syndicate, Minus 5, and Steve Wynn catalogs. After the first encore (and the last of the songs we’d been able to rehearse the day before with Mike!), the crowd kept dragging us back on stage. We obliged with pretty much anything we could think of! What an amazing night — big thanks to all the people who came out to the show and made it such a fantastic time.
We stumbled out of bed the next day and made the long drive on a mostly two-lane road to North Adams, Massachusetts, where Wilco’s first SOLID SOUND FESTIVAL kicked off at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art. Wilco’s Mikael Jorgensen’s band PRONTO started things off on a high note. MASS MoCA is an amazing place, check it out when you are ever in the beautiful Berkshires! The next day we managed to check out a lot of the exhibits housed in the rambling old 19th century brick factory buildings, plus music from the Mountain Men, Sir Richard Bishop, and Vetiver, before taking the stage and basically kicking out the MF jams. Yes, we did. (Special thanks to Wilco’s wonderful forever-soundman Stan Doty for mixing us, on a very busy day for him!) Mike did a great job filling in for Peter on bass, and adding a beautiful third-part harmony vocal to Steve’s lovely Jackie Robinson tune. The rest of the weekend we shook a lot of hands — there never seemed to be more than a few minutes without someone coming up to tell us how much they enjoyed our show. A lot of baseball fans were there amongst the music aficionados (yo, Red Sox nation), and it all seemed to click somehow.
After wiping the sweat off our fevered brows (and shuffling the gear off the stage) it was on to Joe’s Field where Mavis Staples (with Jeff Tweedy guesting on some songs) destroyed the 5,000 plus fans with her gospel energy, rockin’ band, and sensational voice. Wilco brought it all home with a stunning 2 and a half hour set that left nothing to be desired. This is a band at the top of their game and should be seen whenever the chance arises! (Hey Europe, they are coming your way!)
This most awesome event concluded Sunday with stellar sets from The Autumn Defense (John & Pat’s harmony-laden Wilco side-project), the Nels Cline Singers, Avi Buffalo, and then, back outdoors in Joe’s Field, a long and beautiful Tweedy solo set. Jeff brought up a number of guests, including yours truly for a rare performance of “The Family Gardener” from Down With Wilco, and finally bringing up most of Wilco for extremely crowd-pleasing encores. Huge thanks to Wilco and MASS MoCA for putting on such an ambitious and awesome happening. And thanks of course to Wilco for having the Baseball Project along for the fun!