Thursday, September 21, 2023

The Baseball Project at Teragram Ballroom, 9-20-23 Concert Review

It’s all over for the Red Sox this year, but the music of The Baseball Project keeps the baseball season, and the hope that goes with it, alive all year round. Of course, here in Los Angeles, with the Dodgers doing so well again, the season is still very much alive. (Sorry, Angels.) Even if you haven’t heard of The Baseball Project, you most certainly know all the band’s members. The band is made up of Peter Buck (of R.E.M.) on guitar; Scott McCaughey (of The Minus 5) on guitar, keyboard and vocals; Mike Mills (of R.E.M.) on bass and vocals; Linda Pitmon (of Zuzu’s Petals and Filthy Friends) on drums, percussion and backing vocals; and Steve Wynn (of The Dream Syndicate) on guitar and vocals. What a great starting lineup! And these guys have a whole lot of fun with this project. All of the band’s material is about baseball, addressing various teams, players, records, and memorable games from the sport’s history. If that seems limiting to you, then you don’t know baseball. There is an endless supply of interesting things to write and sing about. And last night they picked some of their best songs to play for the crowd at Teragram Ballroom in downtown Los Angeles. They put out a new album a few months ago, Grand Salami Time!, and played a lot of material from it.

Evie Sands
But first the audience was treated to a great opening set by Evie Sands. Last night, her group was the trio of Evie Sands on guitar and vocals, Jason Berk on guitar and backing vocals, and Teresa Cowles on bass and backing vocals. That’s right, no drums this time around. But they still rocked. They came out promptly at 8 o’ clock, and Evie counted off the first number, “Don’t Hold Back,” and the night was off and running. She played several songs from her latest release, Get Out Of Your Own Way, including “My Darkest Days,” “If You Give Up” and “Don’t Look Back, Don’t Look Down.” But for the second song of the night, she reached way back to her first album for “Take Me For A Little While.” After that song, in the spirit of the evening, she told the crowd, “I’m a crazy, insane, lifelong Dodgers fan.” Some guy responded by shouting, “Go Angels!” Interestingly, she then played “Leap Of Faith” (also from the newest album), which has the line “Come down like an angel.” Her rendition of “I’m A Good Woman” was one of the highlights of the set, a fun number that became a groovy jam. My other favorite from her set was “My Darkest Days,” a more serious song that featured a fantastic, passionate delivery. Her set ended at 8:50 p.m. Members of The Baseball Project took it all in from the wings.

Steve Wynn
Twenty minutes later, the lights went out, and The Baseball Project came out to a recording of “(You Gotta Have) Heart.” Moments later they kicked off their set with “1976,” a song from Volume 2: High And Inside. This one is about Mark Fidrych, a pitcher for the Detroit Tigers who was nicknamed “The Bird.” He pitched in the All-Star game in 1976, his rookie season. If you don’t know a lot about baseball, you can learn a thing or two at a Baseball Project concert. Folks in the crowd also noticed and cheered Scott McCaughey’s shirt, which said, “We’re With the Writers Guild on Strike.” The crowd, by the way, contained a lot of baseball fans, judging by the caps and shirts. A woman near me had a shirt that read, “Ban The Wave!” which I appreciated. I thought I was alone in hating that odd tradition in the stands. Scott then sang lead on “They Don’t Know Henry” and “Erasable Man,” the latter an excellent song from the new album, a song inspired by Josh Gibson. They followed that with a couple of others from Grand Salami Time!, “Uncle Charlie” and “The Yips.” For “Uncle Charlie,” Scott moved from guitar to keys. Steve sang lead on both songs, and “The Yips” in particular had an incredible energy last night. The band was seriously rocking. “Okay, brace yourselves,” Steve then said. “This is the first of many songs we’re going to sing about the Dodgers,” an announcement that was met with both cheers and playful jeers (the latter perhaps from Giants fans?). Louder jeers came much later when Mike Mills mentioned the Yankees, but we’ll get to that. The first Dodgers song was “Fernando,” from the band’s debut album. Steve then remarked on singing songs about the Dodgers in Los Angeles, saying, “We could all walk to the stadium from here.” Sure, but I hear the game wasn’t that great. I think we were having a lot more fun at the concert.

Scott McCaughey
They then played another song from the new album, “Journeyman,” about those players who never stay with any one team for very long. That was followed by “Nails To Thumbtacks,” a high-energy number that was a highlight of the set. After that song, Mike talked about going down to spring training and asking about pitchers doctoring the ball. Yes, these guys are serious baseball fans. That led to “Stuff,” one of my personal favorites from the new album, with Mike on lead vocals. The song has a great heavy edge to it. Steve then announced, “Dodgers song number two,” and the band played “Long Before My Time,” a song about Sandy Koufax. That was followed by another Dodgers-related number, this one from the new album, a song titled “The Voice Of Baseball.” It’s about the best announcer in baseball (I would argue in all of sports), Vin Scully. When I moved to Los Angeles, I started watching Dodgers games on television just to listen to his commentary. By comparison, I used to mute the television when I watched Angels games (those guys were awful). And each time the band sang the line, “He was the voice of baseball,” the audience gave a loud cheer. It was great to be among a crowd of people who not only appreciate both good music and baseball, but who care about such things as someone who perfected the craft of announcing a game. Steve did an impression of Vin Scully at the end of the song, and Mike pointed out that we in the audience weren’t just getting music but a variety show. And that’s when Mike mentioned the Yankees. Most folks (including me) booed the mention of that team, though again all in good fun. Heck, the Yankees have been doing as poorly as the Red Sox this season, and will be licking their wounds while the Orioles are in the playoffs. The Orioles! Can you believe that team’s season? Anyway, Mike mentioned the Yankees as introduction to “Monument Park,” which featured some good work by Peter Buck on 12-string guitar.

Mike Mills
As we knew from Evie Sands’ set, there were some Angels fans in the crowd, and one of them had shouted out a request for “New Oh In Town,” a song about Shohei Ohtani. I was hoping to see him pitch this season, but he didn’t pitch the games when the Red Sox were in town. Peter switched back to 6-string for this one. This song was a hell of a lot of fun last night, getting the crowd moving. “New Oh In Town” is on the new album, and on that disc it is followed by “Disco Demolition.” It likewise was followed by “Disco Demolition” at last night’s show, with Linda Pitmon blowing the whistle as chaos ensued on the field.  If you don’t know the story of the Disco Demolition game (July 12, 1979 at Comiskey Park), you can learn about it by listening to the song, of course. And then you can actually watch the entire game and everything that occurred on the field afterward online. It’s insane. The song was a lot of fun to dance to last night, with its disco vibe. And if you don’t want to watch that entire game, the band created a video for this song that features some highlights. The Baseball Project stayed with the new album for the next song, following “Disco Demolition” with “Grand Salami Time,” the album’s title track, yet another song with a great energy. They then kept things rocking with “¡Hola America!” and for a moment Steve and Mike were strumming each other’s instruments. Mike then mentioned being a lifelong Braves fan before the band began “To The Veterans Committee,” in which he sings about wanting to see Dale Murphy in the Hall of Fame. It’s crazy, some of the players who have still not made it into the Hall of Fame. The band then wrapped up the set with “Past Time,” with Peter back on the 12-string guitar. The set ended at 10:25 p.m.

Peter Buck
When they came back out for the encore, Steve joked, “These are extra innings.” And the band played the song I was most hoping to hear, “Ted Fucking Williams.” Ted Williams was my dad’s favorite player when he was growing up. I wish I had bought this album for him. I think he would have appreciated it. In fact, he would have loved all this band’s material. He took my brother and me to Fenway Park every summer when we were growing up. No better place on the planet, as far as I can see. Maybe I'm crazy, but “Ted Fucking Williams” reminds me a bit of Paul McCartney’s “Helen Wheels.” They followed “Ted Fucking Williams” with the fun “Harvey Haddix.” Both of those songs are from the band’s first album. The show then concluded with a song from the new album, “The All Or Nothings.” The show ended at 10:37 p.m., but the band stuck around for a while to sign things for folks.

Set List

  1. 1976
  2. They Don’t Know Henry
  3. Erasable Man
  4. Uncle Charlie
  5. The Yips
  6. Fernando
  7. Journeyman
  8. Nails To Thumbtacks
  9. Stuff
  10. Long Before My Time
  11. The Voice Of Baseball
  12. Monument Park
  13. New Oh In Town
  14. Disco Demolition
  15. Grand Salami Time
  16. ¡Hola America!
  17. To The Veterans Committee
  18. Past Time


  1. Ted Fucking Williams
  2. Harvey Haddix
  3. The All Or Nothings

Here are a few photos from the show:

Evie Sands
Linda Pitmon

Teragram Ballroom is located at 1234 West 7th St. in Los Angeles, California.

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