Hot Stove, Cool Music bests weather

A review of Hot Stove, Cool Music at the Paradise Rock Club on January 10, 2009

, Staff Writer

Hot Stove, Cool Music, Colder Weather. Saturday night saw a snow storm in Boston, but it also saw a great time at the Paradise for the annual charity concert. All the old favorites were on hand and plenty of fans braved the elements for what continues to be an annual highlight of the Boston concert season.

The night had a decidedly feel-good vibe, which began upon entering the Paradise Lounge and being greeted by two World Series trophies and one NBA Championship trophy, all of which were sitting on a table and waiting for people to take pictures with them. Hot Stove, Cool Music, which was started by Peter Gammons and Theo Epstein, among others, celebrates the passion that Bostonians share for sports and music, and the night strikes the perfect balance between the two.

Gammons and Epstein took the stage along with the Hot Stove All Stars for an enjoyable set of rock and roll standards. Gammons shares Epstein’s penchant for surrounding himself with top shelf talent, so Bill Janovitz, Mike Gent, and Ed Valauskas were called in to fill out the band. While Gammons rocked out endearingly at center stage, Gent and Janovitz traded solos and vocal duties, carrying songs like "Make Up Your Mind" by the J Geils Band and Chuck Berry’s "Don’t You Lie to Me".

Host Mike O’Malley encouraged the band to come out for an encore of Neil Young’s "Powderfinger", during which everybody got their guitar on no matter what level of chops they had. While the backing vocals were slightly out of tune, none of that mattered when considered against the excitement of watching the jam session. While the set may not have been the musical high point, it was definitely the emotional climax of the show.

In between sets O’Malley and Gammons took baseball questions from the crowd, including, "How big of an asshole is Mark Teixeira?" (apparently pretty big) and "Who did you vote for for MVP?" which led to a nice Dustin Pedroia anecdote about a security guard refusing to believe he was a major league ballplayer. There were also several auctions to raise money for Epstein’s Foundation to be Named Later during which audience members were exceptionally generous.

Gammons and company left the real rock for the real rockers, and that meant American Hi-Fi and Letters to Cleo, two recently reunited bands with Boston roots who trade in pop-punk rock. It was hard not to be carried away by the infectious songs, and while the rest of the night wasn’t groundbreaking, it was by no means disappointing.

Hi-Fi were up first for one of their first gigs since their hiatus which began in 2005. Lead singer Stacy Jones greeted the crowd, saying, "Hi everyone. We’re called American Hi-Fi and we’re a rock and roll band from Boston, Mass." That was the only preamble to their no nonsense set, which began with "Surround" and picked up for "The Art of Losing". Jones forgot some of the words, but there wasn’t much rust to shake off at all.

The band took the chance to debut a few new songs from the album that they are currently recording. The first was "This Is the Sound", a chugging, dark tune that will contrast nicely with the second new one, a sensitive, emotionally charged song with a half-time feel chorus. Last, but certainly not least, was "Recover the Stars", which has single written all over it.

"Stars" came just before "Flavor of the Weak", the hit that the band is known for, and by the time the chorus hit the crowd had already taken the song over. Wihle it wasn’t necessarily a Hi-Fi crowd, the band certainly kept the ‘Dise entertained and won most everybody over in the end. O’Malley brought the band back out for an unrehearsed encore "Another Perfect Day", which they nailed.

Jones returned to the stage in drummer mode for his other band’s set, headliners Letters to Cleo. While the excitement level wasn’t as high as at the band’s recent reunion shows, LTC’s energy was through the roof. The entire band had their stage moves down from the get-go, and songs like "Demon Rock" and "Fast Way" sounded spot on.

Kay Hanley played, as always, frontwoman extraordinaire from behind a mess of hair, delivering endearing lines such as, "It’s a fuckin’ Saturday night! Is it a Saturday night?" and "Where’s the MVP? I wore extra lip gloss tonight so that I could meet the MVP." She seemed to work extra hard during "Awake", but her ease and sweetness on "Find You Dead" worked better.

The 12/8 "Because of You" was a nice change of pace and "Jennifer" featured some nice husband and wife harmonies from Hanley and guitarist Mike EIsenstein, but for the crowd it was all about when "Here and Now" hit, and the band did not disappoint.

Opening acts Jenny Dee and the Deelinquents and The Figgs fit very well into the theme of the night, which seemed to be about having a good time more than seriously and attentively listening to the music. In that way the Hot Stove All Stars set was very much the night’s most perfect, and could definitely have been its last, but it’s also nice that Gammons and Epstein want to leave headlining duties up to the "real" musicians. As long as they don’t turn the whole thing over to them, Hot Stove, Cool Music will continue to be one of the most uniquely enjoyable events on the Boston music calendar.

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