It wasn’t just the Cubs who traveled to Boston last weekend. A brigade of Chicagoans took over Beantown as the two former long-suffering franchises celebrated a weekend of success.
One of the highlights was the Hot Stove Cool Music benefit concert at the Paradise, which saw Eddie Vedder cover Springsteen, The Who and more, Theo Epstein take a tumble while playing guitar, and the World Series trophy getting dinged up while crowd surfing.
670 The Score host & Tributosaurus frontman Matt Spiegel was part of the musical lineup in Boston. Spiegel served as a vocalist during the evening and alongside Tributosaurus guitarist Curt Morrison, shared the stage with Eddie Vedder & more.
We caught up with Spiegel to see what it’s like performing with Eddie Vedder, the atmosphere in Boston, and what fans can expect at the Chicago show.
You guys previously played alongside Eddie Vedder at the Hot Stove Cool Music Benefit in Chicago, how’d the Boston gig come about?
Theo and his twin brother Paul have been doing the concerts in Boston for 17 years, and for the first one in Chicago 5 years ago, a group of Boston musicians came to Chicago to be a part of the concert here. 3 years ago, Len Kasper asked a few of us if we wanted to go to Boston and return the favor. That was a no brainer. This past one was just unbelievable fun, with all of us feeling more comfortable than ever both musically and socially. It’s an amazing group of people to hang out and perform with.
How did you guys rehearse for a show like this?
There was, as always, a neverending stream of emails discussing the set list, details, vocal assignments, baseball jokes, and more for months leading up to this. Then we got together one night when Len didn’t have a ballgame to call and ran through the tunes. Everyone is a pro, and does their homework, so it goes quickly. When I walked into the room, Len was there, but his world series ring was being passed around the room. Every Cub who has a ring has been cool like that; letting we pedestrians hold it, try it on, etc. It’s tremendous social currency.
What’s it like working with Vedder on stage? What kind of feelings come with knowing you’re performing alongside one of the most recognizable figures in rock?
Vedder is awesome. He cares deeply about the performance being great, so the rehearsal is always passionate, with tremendous attention to detail. He loves what he does, and it’s contagious… it also makes people comfortable, because we all love it too. The passion is the thing. The other thing about Vedder is that he’s incredibly kind and generous as a musician; he wants people to bring their own authenticity to a song, while also doing what he thinks it needs. He communicates like a pro, but as a supportive band member as well. He does not have to be that way; he just is. My respect level for the guy has gone through the roof.
Then, when he sings, well…he’s one of those performers with an ability to make any song feel like it was written for him. He did “Taillights Fade,” the great Buffalo Tom song, with the man who wrote and sings it, Bill Janovitz. Bill sounds awesome, then Vedder does a verse and you look to each other like “oh, this is an Eddie Vedder song?” It’s uncanny. He’s in a small group of people with that kind of presence and power.
While Vedder takes the headlines, there’s a lot of talent up on the stage. Is there a tendency to yield to him when performing? Do you guys play off him?
You always know he’s there. You’re conscious of wanting him to be comfortable, supported, and to not interfere with him. But he helps you be comfortable enough that your musicianship just takes over. Then you end up looking around at the amazing players and people around you. Everybody has their own amazing story and musical baseball tie-in. Max Crawford leads the horn section, and runs a videoboard at Wrigley Field. Josh Kantor is the organist at Fenway Park, and plays with The Baseball Project. Gerald Dowd is a lifelong Red Sox fan who gets to experience these shows, when he’s not busy playing drums for Robbie Fulks. Then there’s the play-by-play voice of the Cubs who happens to be a solid indie rock bass player and a passionate bandleader. Oh hey, there’s Bernie Williams, who once held the record for home runs in the post-season, and is a legit great jazz guitar player. Hey look over there on the side of the stage; it’s Theo, Jed Hoyer, Red Sox president Sam Kennedy, Sean Casey, and Tanya Donnelly from the band Belly. World collissions everywhere, and all are smiling, having the time of their lives.
BTW, check out this picture of Eddie, digging the guitar playing of Curt Morrison from Tributosaurus. That’s the maniacal Eddie look from the Alive and Jeremy videos isn’t it?
Eddie Vedder’s a noted baseball fan while your bandmates like Len Kasper, Theo Epstein, Peter Gammons are big music fans. What topic tends to dominate conversation backstage?
Music, and the show itself come first. But loads of baseball. The thing is, you tend to talk music with the baseball people, and baseball with the music people. Why talk about what you usually do every day? I always learn cool facts. This year, we realized that The Paradise rock club is right in front of what used to be the stadium for The Boston Braves. It’s now a multipurpose stadium for Boston University. Warren Spahn had a restaurant right around the corner from The Paradise, which is where U2 played their first ever American show in 1981. Those kind of convergences are the gold for me.
Who’s got better guitar chops, Theo Epstein or Peter Gammons?
Theo would tell you himself that it’s Gammons. Gammons deeply loves old soul and rock from the mid-60’s and beyond. Knows it well, and can play it too. Theo has, um, a great passion for the chords he knows. :)… But seriously, his ability to cathartically let loose and rock is obviously very valuable to him. Imagine being as on point as he always needs to be, intellectually, publicly. So when he chills out and enjoys some music and a stage, he is as into it as anyone up there. Good for him. Side note: when he crowd surfed, after the trophies did, and Vedder too, I was the guy who happened to help him back onto the stage. That’s a crazy moment I won’t forget.
The next Hot Stove Cool Music Concert is taking place on June 2nd. What can fans expect at the show? Any surprises up your sleeve that you can reveal?
There are so many conversations happening about possible guests and surprises. I genuinely don’t know what might happen. I know this: every time I’ve done this event, for 5 years in Chicago and 3 years in Boston, it immediately jumps onto the list of the best gigs I’ve ever been a part of. I expect June 2nd will be no different.
Tributosaurus will next perform at Wire in Berwyn on Friday, May 12th as they become Elvis Costello. Get tickets and more information about the show here.