Last Thursday night at the Paradise, baseball writer Jeff Horrigan of the Boston Herald and former Globe staffer and universally lauded hardball guru Peter Gammons gathered an interesting hybrid of sports fans and music aficionados for their second annual "Hot Stove, Cool Music" benefit. As Gammons, a one-time collegiate guitarist and three-time National Sportswriter of the year, stated, the combination makes perfect sense. "The connection between rock and roll and baseball goes all the way back to Chuck Berry’s ‘Brown-Eyed Handsome Man,’ " the sports scribe said a smile.
So if the night was short on towering blasts, it compensated with quiet precision and the focus shared by long-term teammates. That was evident in the Raging Teens’ performance. Amy Griffin’s outstanding lead guitar never overshadowed her bandmates — if anything it challenged them to play up to her level. This turned out to be a lesson former Cliffs of Dooneen guitarist Martin Crotty’s new outfit Flynn are still learning. Offering synthesized updates on Cliffs of Dooneen’s pledge of earnest allegiance to U2, Crotty’s acoustic guitar strumming too often threatened to overwhelm the rest of the band.
The same could not be said of Bill Janovitz. An ideal selection for an event of this type (if only for the fact that he has penned music for Red Sox radio broadcasts), Janovitz has been a team player for as long as anyone can remember. At the Paradise he was joined on keyboards by sometime Buffalo Tom teammate Phil Aitken and more recent Bathing Beauties pal Chris Toppin for a set of harmony-highlighted rootsy offerings. Particularly effective was the trio’s treatment of the Band classic "It Makes No Difference."
In the evening’s headlining slot, Kay Hanley impressed with a roster of familiar faces and the same power-poppy sound that elevated Letters to Cleo beyond local fame. The currently unreleased offering "Made in the Shade" even included a rapid-fire vocal similar to the Cleos’ hit "Here and Now." Hanley and her band concluded the festivities with their own version of the All-Star Game: joined on stage by Janovitz, Crotty, former Veruca Salt vocalist Nina Gordon, and American Hi-Fi guitarist Jamie Arentzen, they plowed though a ragged-but-right cover of Cheap Trick’s "Surrender" that found the voices willing even if some of the words got left behind.