They say it’s too slow. That it takes too long. That it moves at a snail’s pace. But they don’t understand - that’s the whole point.
Major League Baseball kicked off its 2019 season this week, and when it did, I exhaled, and felt winter finally release its icy grip on my soul. For me, MLB opening day means spring, and spring means hope, and hope means I push the darker music aside for a hot minute and start listening to Phish, the Grateful Dead, Bob Marley, and the sunniest be-bop and Latin music. All of these blend together in my mind, and frankly, I willfully embrace them, as cliched as that might seem to others.
Life is hard. Baseball and music make it better. They reveal their secrets slowly. They’re not in a hurry. A good jam unfurls just like a well-paced game.
In the social media and smartphone milieu that is our cross to bear these days, you’re not supposed to linger, languorously, digging a slow-moving vibe and letting it unfold at its own pace. You’re supposed to scroll, rapidly, as if you’ve always got somewhere else to be. You’re supposed to answer every text, phone call, Instagram post, Snapchat snap, Twitter non-sequitur and Facebook message you see, in real-time. If you don’t, you’re supposed to feel like you’re missing something.
Baseball is here to tell you that you need to chill out, dude.
What does any of this have to do with music? In my weary-but-still-hopeful world-view, an awful lot. As a 10-year-old living in the Berkshire Mountains in Massachusetts, I’d fall asleep staring at the Beatles posters that surrounded my Boston Red Sox American League Champions 1975 pennant, posed photo of Red Sox catcher Carlton Fisk and in-action snap of left-fielder Jim Rice. When I close my eyes all these years later, the after-image is easily summoned.
My parents took my brother and me to a bunch of Sox games at Fenway Park. The place was simply magical to me. The massive Green Monster hovering over left field, the 60-foot Citgo sign on Beacon St. fully visible from the park, my dad hailing the guy shouting “Getcha cold beer heah!”, the cool air blowing in from the Charles River – it’s hard to describe to anyone who hasn’t been there, but man, it felt like what I imagined heaven felt like.
Forty years later, my little family – me, my wife and our son – were hanging out in the Fenway Park neighborhood on the first weekend of September, moving the boy into his apartment as he started his second year at the Berklee College of Music. We hustled through the ordeal and high-tailed it the block-and-a-half to Fenway, where Pearl Jam was poised to take the stage.
This was it. The circle was complete. At Fenway, while glorious music filled the air, with the two people who mean more to me than any others. I was speechless. And yep, I cried a little.
I’ve had some moments in Buffalo that felt almost as special, right in our own minor league ballpark, which is one of the most aesthetically striking minor league parks in the country, even if it is named after a brand of hot dogs. I remember seeing Cheap Trick there following a game, and the Yardbirds, too. I’ve reviewed “Taste of Country” festivals there, and even if the music wasn’t really my thing, the experience was still awesome. I’d love to see more live music in our ballpark. It really is one of our city’s treasures.
If, for some unfathomable reason, you ever want to make me happy, take me out to the ballgame. And leave the cellphone at home. Let’s just chill.