Power-pop vets team up for Baseball Project
Peter Buck, Steve Wynn, Linda Pitmon and Scott McCaughey find a winning combination in their band The Baseball Project.
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The Baseball Project may not be the Yankees of rock supergroups, but if you're putting together a lineup for power-pop veterans, you'd want these guys on your team.
The Project -- Steve Wynn (Dream Syndicate, Gutterball), Peter Buck (R.E.M.), Scott McCaughey (Young Fresh Fellows, Minus 5, R.E.M.) and drummer Linda Pitmon (Steve Wynn IV) -- debuted last year with "Vol. 1: Frozen Ropes and Dying Quails," a punchy record themed to great stories from the annals of baseball, both tragic and victorious.
"Scott and I ended up talking into the wee hours after a party for R.E.M.'s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame," Wynn says. "We realized that we were both baseball fanatics and had both been planning on doing a record about baseball. I think the impetus to get in there and form a band was to make sure that the other one wouldn't go and do it first."
- With: The Minus 5, Steve Wynn IV.
- Where: Club Cafe, South Side.
- When: 8 p.m. tomorrow.
- Tickets: $16; 1-866-468-3401.
Until now, the Project's only live gigs consisted of "The Late Show With David Letterman" and Wynn and Pitmon's wedding, both last year. The first tour, which stops at Club Cafe tomorrow night, promises to be an exciting triple play.
"It's all going to be mixed together," Wynn says. "We decided from the start not to do the show as three separate sets but rather to present it as one big, wild variety show revue. You not only get my recent solo records and The Baseball Project and the new Minus 5 but also all of our history as well. We've been playing songs by The Dream Syndicate, Young Fresh Fellows and Gutterball as well. And we're only five shows into the tour, but every set has been completely different."
The shape-shifting Minus 5 comes to the game having just released its eighth studio record, "Killingsworth," featuring a heavy dose of the Decemberists. Wynn just released "Crossing Dragon Bridge," a dark Americana album recorded in Slovenia.
The Baseball Project just recorded a new second volume, but the bulk of its material will come from the debut, which featured songs such as the Paisley Underground throwback "Jackie's Lament," country rocker "Satchel Paige Said," '60s psych-pop tune "Sometimes I Dream of Willie Mays" and "Broken Man," which delves into Mark McGwire and steroids. One highlight is "Harvey Haddix," a country two-step about the day the former Pirates pitcher lost his perfect game in the 13th inning. Wynn rattles off the names of the 17 pitchers who've thrown perfect nine-inning games and ends with, "Why don't we add old Harvey to that list?"
"I was always fascinated by that game in 1959," Wynn says. "It's a great tale about staring perfection in the eye and then having it slip away. It's certainly something we all can relate to, right? Anyway, he won the deciding game in the World Series the next year, so Harv did win out in the end."
Wynn acknowledges that The Baseball Project might be a tough sell in Pittsburgh at the moment, given the Pirates' woeful status.
"You guys are certainly going through some tough times. Man, you've gotta start keeping some of those great players. But what a baseball history you've got. We could do a whole album about Clemente, Stargell, Mazeroski, Sanguillen, Waner and especially Dock Ellis."
Should The Baseball Project get around to Ellis, it will be the second recent song about him. Todd Snider just addressed the pitcher's LSD-powered no-hitter on his new album with a song called "America's Favorite Pastime."
If you're wondering whom The Baseball Project roots for, well, it's total confusion, as varied as the team's musical backgrounds.
"You don't know the half of it," Wynn says. "Scott roots for the Giants, A's and Mariners (I think Giants would be No. 1), Linda has adopted the Yankees but favors the Twins. I grew up a Dodgers fan but would probably go with the Yankees, even in the World Series they might end up playing against each other this year. And Peter? He just likes a good story and a player with a colorful name although his teenage allegiance would indeed be the Braves."
First Published September 15, 2009 12:00 am