Memphis PowerPop Festival
Memphis PowerPop Festival
The Baseball Project
w/ The Sonny Wilsons (with special guest Jon Auer)
September 2, 2023
The Overton Park Shell
Growing up in Memphis, you were constantly reminded of the musical heritage of our city. Rhythm and blues, soul, gospel, funk, rockabilly, rap, and of course that guy with the swivel hips and sneer.
Incredibly, there was more. Go back in time and get your hands on your college cassette collection and you’ll probably find a healthy dose of R.E.M., The Replacements, and Let’s Active. Fast forward another decade or two, and thumb through those scratched up Wilco, Posies, Teenage Fanclub and Lemonheads compact discs. What do these bands have to do with Memphis? They all cite Memphis’ own Big Star, as a defining influence in their development.
‘Power Pop’ music is rooted in the harmonic structure of the Beatles and Beach Boys with the harder edge of The Who at its core. Big Star soaked it in and added their own spin, drawing upon the melting pot that is the Memphis music scene. The result was a three album catalog from the 1970’s that to this day is in Rolling Stones 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
It’s that legacy, and really Memphis’ musical legacy, we are celebrating through the festival.
This year, the Memphis PowerPop Festival is proud to partner with the Overton Park Shell to present The Baseball Project, which is comprised of an All-Star lineup (pun intended!) including Mike Mills and Peter Buck of R.E.M., Scott McGauhey of the Young Fresh Fellows and Steve Wynn of The Dream Syndicate.
Sign up to hear upcoming shows, albums, and events.
In 2008 they busted out of the box and easily reached first with their Frozen Ropes and Dying Quails. The Baseball Project was on base and immediately posed a threat to go further. In 2011, they moved on to second with some wildness aptly called High andInside. They were halfway home. Three years later in 2014, the quintet of Big Stars moved on down the line to the aptly titled 3rd, an epic double dip delight of craftsmanship and savvy.
And there they stayed. For 9 long years at the hot corner, but we’re happy to say that The Baseball Project is finally coming home, scoring big and touching ‘em all with their fourth album Grand Salami Time. The scoreboard is lighting up and the fireworks are illuminating the sky.
Speaking of reaching home, this album is a homecoming of sorts, as the band recorded and produced the album with none other than the legendary Mitch Easter. BBP members Peter Buck and Mike Mills’ made their first albums with Mitch back in the early 80s with a swingin’ little combo called R.E.M.
Scott McCaughey and Steve Wynn kept busy themselves, busting out new tunes with the Minus 5/Young Fresh Fellows (Scott) and The Dream Syndicate (Steve), while stockpiling a passel of penned poetics about the national pastime, many co-written with Peter. Mike adds a new classic of his own about doctored baseballs called “Stuff.”
Linda Pitmon, who along Peter and Scott has been part of a steady rhythmic nucleus, bashing out epic rock platters with Filthy Friends, Alejandro Escovedo, Luke Haines & Peter Buck, is back driving the ship from behind her mighty drum machine.
All in all, a fancy pedigree but, as Wynn points out, “this is our only band that plays stadiums” -- true story as The Baseball Project has performed full sets along with the National Anthem and “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” at major league parks in Boston, Chicago, Milwaukee, Denver, Minneapolis, Philadelphia and more minor league and spring training fields, as well as having thrown out some exceptional first pitches (nothing but strikes!) as well.
It’s all part of an unusual arc and fun story of a band whose first gig was an appearance on Late Night with David Letterman followed by a festival in a medieval Spanish city. For a quintet that has seemingly done everything over the years with their other bands, The Baseball Project always offers new and uncharted experiences.
The album was recorded at Mitch Easter’s fabled Fidelitorium Studios in Kernersville, North Carolina, with the entire band performing live together in the same room, a joyous experience that seemed impossible to imagine only one year before. Mitch adds guitar on a few tracks and the record also features appearances by Stephen McCarthy (Long Ryders) and Steve Berlin (Los Lobos).
The Sonny Wilsons is the power pop project of Adam Yancey (Solo artist, Afterglow, The Chain Hopsons, The Becky’s) and Allen Couch (East Link).
Adam Yancey, who gigged his way through flight school is, and this is a direct quote, “The only idiot in the world that got into the music business for the money. And the only idiot, in the history of idiots, which is a long list, who had to fall back on a music career to become an airline pilot!”
Multi-instrumentalist Allen Couch's love of music began when he stumbled upon, and subsequently appropriated, his parent's 8-track copy of Abbey Road. Yep, he's that old…. Thus began a lifelong appreciation for a well structured pop harmony.
They are joined by singer-songwriter-guitarist Danny McGreger (Lately David), guitarist Chris Swenson (El Dorado Del Ray, Black Oak Arkansas, studio engineer) and bassist Johnny Norris (Crash Into June, Your Academy).
The Sonny Wilsons’ first album, recorded at Ardent and High/Low studios with Jon Auer (Posies, Big Star) producing, will be released late summer of 2023.
Please visit https://overtonparkshell.org/visitor-experience for information relating to parking, seating, food and beverage options as well as venue rules.