At HSCM, Collided Worlds Eventually Fuse Together
Allow me to explain myself.
Mom was an opera singer and a voice teacher. She also knew that Bill Terry was the last National Leaguer to hit .400.
Dad once was a sports writer, and is my favorite baseball fan.
He also can detail musical evolution within the 15 Shostakovich symphonies.
My oldest brother Jon plays the bass, slide guitar, banjo, dobro and pedal steel. He was once considered a Don in the Chicago Bluegrass Mafia.
My other older brother Bobby was a center fielder on a really good high school team, for which I was the bat boy. The team bus picked me up at elementary school for away games.
My passions have always been split, equally. I was the kid racing from tennis practice to trumpet lessons. A trip to New York usually meant both Yankee Stadium and Lincoln Center. I’ve chased concurrent dreams, and professions, in both music and sports for as long as I can remember.
I now often go from radio shows directly to sound-checks. I sometimes sing 15 songs at a sold out concert, go home to watch a game on tape delay, then host a show in the morning.
I am a very fortunate man.
So an event like Hot Stove Cool Music this past Friday night at Metro is powerful bliss.
Hey, look! There’s Max Crawford, an original member of Poi Dog Pondering and now the leader of the Total Pro Horns, who also happens to run the electronic scoreboards at Wrigley.
Hey, that’s our emcee Lin Brehmer, a fine high school pitcher and Cubs season ticket holder who is also the best rock and roll DJ in the city.
Who’s starting the show on bass? It’s the organizer of the whole night, Len Kasper. He’s relieved that the Cubs game he just called did not go extras or have a rain delay. He’ll try to get home at a reasonable hour, because he’s doing the national game the next day on Fox.
Our greatest living baseball writer, Peter Gammons, is over there tuning his guitar as he preps to play a Paul Butterfield Blues Band song called “Born in Chicago.”
The musicians we get to play with include members of Smashing Pumpkins, Local H, Shoes, Wilco, Bob Mould, and Rage Against The Machine. In the middle of the show, Rick Nielsen and a couple other members of Cheap Trick show up and take the stage.
Every one of them loves baseball.
These realms, the two that I will always inhabit, are not that different.
Friday was a passionately played sandlot game.
You figure out who can play shortstop, who wants to catch, and who ought to be put safely in right field. There aren’t many young lefties who pull.
Who’s the best fit for this high harmony on “Surrender”? Which guitar players will step up and nail “Cherub Rock”? Whose amp should we make sure not to turn up too high?
Introduce yourselves, practice for a bit, then play. I mean, really play. Pay attention to one another, listen and watch to find the best way to make magic.
I’m torn right now as to my favorite personal moment of the night.
I stumped the Hall of Famer Gammons with my favorite baseball trivia question in the green room. For the record, Theo Epstein got it later with his first guess.
I got to sing and front “Monday” with a full horn section, Jimmy Chamberlin from Smashing Pumpkins on drums, and Wilco’s own John Stirratt on the bass.
We’ll go with 1 and 1a.
“Worlds colliding” isn’t a fair description.
Life is ours to create, experiences and interests ours to curate.
Friday night was a perfect, unforgettable night in the world I live in. And I know there are millions who live there with me.
Epstein’s guitar playing needs some work.
• Matt Spiegel co-hosts “The McNeil & Spiegel Show” 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday-Friday on WSCR 670-AM. Follow him on Twitter @mattspiegel670.