The Baseball Project Hits It Out of the Park at Maxwell’s in Hoboken, NJ

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Steve Wynn, Peter Buck and Scott McCaughey at Maxwell's. (Photo by Dave Bruce)

Steve Wynn, Peter Buck and Scott McCaughey at Maxwell’s. (Photo by Dave Bruce)

The sports-themed supergroup The Baseball Project played one of its occasional concerts Tuesday at Maxwell’s, [Hoboken, N.J.] and they threw strikes all night. (Sorry for the baseball puns, but any mention of sports just seems to demand cliches.)

If you’re not familiar with this group, it’s a side project made up of veteran musicians who love baseball and write and perform songs about the game, and who have recorded two albums to date. The leaders are Steve Wynn (Dream Syndicate, Steve Wynn and the Miracle 3) and Scott McCaughey (Young Fresh Fellows, Minus 5), and the band currently includes R.E.M.’s Peter Buck and Mike Mills and drummer Donna Pitmon (who plays in Wynn’s Miracle 3).

[photogallerylink id=95138 align=right]Baseball geeks will get a kick out of the lyrics, especially references to the game’s bygone days and legends (such as Mark “The Bird” Fidrych, Ted Williams, Bill Buckner, and Curt Flood). But even non-fans will enjoy the music, which is straight-ahead rock and roll played by guys (and a gal) who have tons of experience and have a lot of fun playing these songs.

The Baseball Project’s main set ran a generous one hour, 12 minutes, and then the band stayed on stage for a five-song encore. One of the highlights of the show was when Mike Mills took the mic to sing “(Don’t Go Back to) Rockville”—it was great to see two R.E.M. members playing that song in Maxwell’s, where I had seen the much-younger version of the band play in (I think) 1981.

The Baseball Project played songs from both of their albums, “Volume 1: Frozen Ropes and Dying Quails”and “Volume 2: High & Inside,” and at one point Ira Kaplan of Yo La Tengo joined the band onstage to play a song.

The Baseball Project has another NYC area gig scheduled for April 13th; they’ll be playing a set at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (yes, you heard that right) as part of “An Evening of Baseball History & Music.” (Information and tickets here; tickets still available as of mid-day Thursday.) One fan I saw at the Maxwell’s gig said that The Baseball Project would play a one-hour set on Friday, but the Met’s description doesn’t mention any kind of set length.

The Baseball Project on Letterman

This band is a lot of fun to see live and it doesn’t perform often, so if it sounds like something you’d be interested in, see them at the Met.

(Hear a live set The Baseball Project performed at WFMU the day of their Maxwell’s show.)

Opening for The Baseball Project at Maxwell’s was the Birmingham, Alabama rock band Lee Bains III and The Glory Fires. I hadn’t heard of them before, but they delivered a hot set that served as an ideal opener for TBP Their bio describes their music as “As much Wilson Pickett as Fugazi, as much the Stooges as the Allman Brothers,” which is pretty apt. Yes, they play blues-influenced southern rock, but with a nice edge to it.

An interesting side note about the Maxwell’s show: the appearance of the legends in The Baseball Project brought out a number of musical figures from Hoboken’s past (and some present), including James Mastro of The Bongos; Kaplan and his fellow Yo La Tengo member, Georgia Hubley; and former Maxwell’s owner Steve Fallon.

- © Dave Bruce

Dave Bruce is a music writer and fan in the New York City/NJ area. He frequently attends live shows and blogs about music at Podcast Party (www.podcastparty.blogspot.com), Xomba.com, and North by East West (www.nxew.ca), a Canadian indie music blog.

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