As a music fan in Chicago, there's no bigger event on the summer agenda than the annual Lollapalooza festival in Grant Park. What once started out as a spotlight for alternative music in the mid-90's has now become an all-encompassing, pop music explosion in the middle of Chicago's summer. Many of music's biggest names mark this weekend on their calendar - for instance, this weekend will see Lana Del Ray, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Radiohead, LCD Soundsystem and much, much more blow into the Windy City.
That said, this local music buff has never had the chance to make it to Lolla. Unfortunately, college, money and work have always seemed to be preventative. However, I have been lucky enough to make it to an official after-show or two - Jane's Addiction and Franz Ferdinand are killer live.
Anyway, in honor of Chicago's time in the musical spotlight, I decided to re-imagine the alt/indie/pop music festival as a tribute to Chicago's time in the baseball spotlight, with some of the biggest names in the industry paying tribute to baseball's best team - the Chicago Cubs.
So, who did I get to play for this new Cubs-apalooza, which I imagine would be held on an off-day within the Friendly Confines.
Ok - relax, this is just the opening band. I realize that none of you have probably heard of Manic Sewing Circle, but who is ever really aware of the opening bands at a show/festival? Anyway, MCC is a local ska/pop punk band who made a name for themselves on WGN, performing covers of the fight songs for our sports teams.
Before the 2008 season, hopes were riding high as the team came off a division title. So, MCC decided to take Steve Goodman's ubiquitous ode to the Northsiders into the recording studio. Since we can't get Mr. Goodman himself to perform, Manic Sewing Circle will have to do.
Taking the stage next will be cult-favorite The Mountain Goats - their low-fi, folk recordings have become the stuff of legend in the indie music scene. With a loyal, but relatively thin fan base, they should make for a good second act. Many people should at least recognize the name.
The song that earns them a spot in this coveted bill is called "Cubs in Five" - a tale of all the things that will happen in the world before the John Darnielle's protagonist will fall back in love with his estranged lover. Hey John - you're time might be coming soon!
Next up on the schedule, we have a pair of classic rock stalwarts who should definitely catch the eye of any music fan:
The Ides of March and the Beach Boys are both still going strong today and both have recorded tribute songs for the "lovable losers" over the years. The Ides' 1998 tribute to Slammin' Sammy and the boys was a project of passion, as guitarist/vocalist Jim Peterik is a Chicago native and noted baseball fanatic.
Here's couple of the guys that Peterik and crew namechecked
On the other hand, the Beach Boys re-purposing of Barbara Ann was probably purely business, contracted by WGN for broadcast use just before securing Goodman's popular tune. At any rate, both recordings are catchy as hell and, if today's concert business proves anything, classic rock still sells tickets.
The Gin Blossoms are 90's alternative survivors known for their earworm-y, jangly power pop sound. After a few years away from the music scene, the band returned to the recording studio to release Major Lodge Victory (obviously a play on MLB) in 2006.
The reunion record included this Ernie Banks-inspired cut, using Mr. Cub's famously optimistic quote to inspire a jilted lover to return to the narrator. Apparently, somebody in this band is a baseball buff; I bet they'd be honored to play Cubs-apalooza.
Also, a little bit of foreshadowing here, this isn't the only song on the set-list inspired by the face of the franchise.
We've got one more local alternative option to take the stage before we get to our big headliner - The Fold. Active since 2006, the Chicago-based outfit has reached over 20 million views on their YouTube channel and even been nominated for a Grammy along the way. The Tooth & Nail recording artists were also asked to record an anthem for WGN's summer Cubs broadcasting schedule.
Local and trendy, the Fold should make for a perfect lead up to our big headliner... a name you probably could have guessed before you even opened this post:
Of course it was going to be Eddie Vedder. Pearl Jam's lead singer is one of the club's most prominent celebrity fans, showing up to several games a year and countless team functions despite a incredibly hectic touring schedule. Not to mention, his yearning, acoustic ode to the day when the team finally does win it all is the only Cubs-themed tune to come close to matching Steve Goodman's staying power.
He even get's his own Cubs baseball card
This tear-jerker is perfect for a beer bottle toasting, arm joining and lighters flaring, "Hey Judge" like sing-a-long at the end of the night. Everyone goes home satisfied.
But wait - there's more! No concert would be complete without a bonus encore:
What better way to finish of the night than with an actual Chicago Cub taking the stage. Carmen Fanzone was not much of an heir to the third base throne upon Ron Santo's retirement, but he was and continues to be a helluva horn player. He was even once given the opportunity to perform the National Anthem before a game.
So, Cub-apalooza with conclude with a lively rendition of his Grammy nominee wife's jazz number "Baseball," the recording of which features Carmen on the flugelhorn.
You blow, Fanzone!
Thus concludes the first annual Cubs-apalooza, I hope you all enjoyed the show!
In the meantime, I'm going to go drown my sorrows about not being able to make it to the real McCoy... yet again. Although, I guess I'm not TOO bummed about it - the lineup this year is remarkably weak, as far as depth goes. Beyond the headliners, there's not many bands who pique my interest.
But, my Cubs-apalooza though... that's a festival where I'd pay to see every band in the lineup, if I do say so myself. Hey Cubs marketing department - let's make this happen
Rock on, blogosphere!