The Baseball Project with Split Squad
Review and photos by John Keegan
A couple of baseball referencing “super” groups slid into Great Scott recently. The Split Squad includes Plimsoul guitarist Eddie Munoz, Fleshtone guitarist Keith Streng and Michael Giblin on bass (all took vocal turns). Sox organist Josh Kantor had to miss the set to work at his day gig. On drums, Blondie drummer Clem Burke. No practice squad hangers in this crew: starters all. Split Squad fill the small GS stage and launch right into their revved up blend of garage punk pop alchemy. Burke and Giblin skip the pitcher’s duel and keep things moving right along. Munoz plays meaty rhythm and sinewy leads. He is doing his bit for feet on the ground and basic black. Streng, in contrast, flies around the stage like proud escapee from Cirque du Soleil. There is a future GQ rocker issues out there with his name on it. His solos are a splay of cool and coordinated accessories.
The band plays most of its debut disc recorded at Woolly Mammoth Studios. They blare out the staccato riff of title tune, Now Hear This. They like that woman’s bad reputation and the riff struts along for Touch and Go. They borrow the Small Faces’ gal and tell the boys, Sorry She’s Mine. For your slow dancing pleasure the band offers up a swaying, keyboard-laced, date night number called I Can’t Remember. They pepper the set with a couple of sweet covers. First up is the Tommy Ramone tribute I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend. The second is a flawless cubic zirconium rockin of The Plimsouls’ A Million Miles Away. Add these guys to your watch list.
The second half of the split squad game gives us The Baseball Project. Talk about first string. They boast Steve Wynn and his wife Linda Pitmon from The Miracle Three and later day Dream Syndicate, and Mike Mills, Peter Buck and Scott McCaughey from REM. The band has just released their third baseballcentric disk, 3rd. There are some among us, ahem, who love Fenway but prefer to arrive in the third and stretch, turn and slip away in the seventh. Or, even better, watch the game on the news. Don’t let this genetic predisposition cause you to balk on The Baseball Project. These guys obviously love the game, its history, the players and especially the stories that come with them.
The band sings the praises of Stats. They examine the bright and dark sides of being a Cuban ballplayer (shout out Luis Tiant) in Hola America. They run down the list of flawed practitioners in They Played Baseball. Mike Mills lobby’s for a personal favorite in To the Veterans Committee and Wynn sings an ode to baseball card collections in The Baseball Card Song.
If this all sounds a like a little too much of America’s pastime, don’t skip the game, the band hits like Big Papi and fields like Dustin Pedroia. Linda Pitmon plays hard. She whaps that snare and tosses an occasional wisecrack curveball at the boys. Josh Kantor’s keys fill the gaps. Who wouldn’t sign a starting guitar rotation that included Buck, Mills, McCaughey and Wynn? Finally, outside, on a sultry July night, even the squealing Green Line can’t wipe away the memory of a Don’t Go Back to Rockville walk off.
Not by Rock Alone
Jamie Wyeth - MFA: he's alive, frequently lives in costal Maine and his work is currently on exhibit at the MFA through December. Family history of Artism. If you love realism you will love this exhibit. Still worth the visit if you don't. Warhol crew, thick watercolors and the seagull series all demand attention.
Willie Alexander on songwriting - the Gloucester Writer's Center: An intimate audience with the crown prince of Boston Rock. Willie was elegant, funny and informative. He took questions from the audience and discussed his creative process. He suggested aspiring songwriters write about what they know, follow inspiration wherever it leads and find a strong rhythm. Discipline doesn't play a large role in his writing habits but it may work for others. He found that two or three chords are often enough and that then the words and vocal have to do their job. He keeps a notebook to jot down lyrics or ideas; you may use them some day. The GWC is located in poet Vincent Ferrini's former home. Willie ended the night, fittingly, with two Ferrini poems played with minimal keyboard arrangements, Life is the Poem and The Gold. Check out their website at gloucesterwriters.org.
Dark Chocolate Caramallows - The Harbor Candy Shop, Ogunquit, Maine. Worth the drive in the dead of winter.