The Dropkick Murphys/Boston Red Sox team-up for charity

Sox, rock bands cook up a 'Hot Stove' good time

Critiquing Boston Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein as a guitarist is a bit like trying to evaluate former Letters to Cleo singer Kay Hanley as a second baseman. It's all about context, of course. And in the friendly context of Sunday's sold-out "Hot Stove, Cool Music" benefit concert and auction, which raised $55,000 for the cancer-fighting Jimmy Fund, Epstein and his cover-playing band, Trauser, acquitted themselves just fine. As members of the headlining Dropkick Murphys generously -- and loudly -- pointed out during their own raucous set of Irish-punk rave-ups, it takes guts to get onstage and play the Guns N' Roses hit "Sweet Child O' Mine" in front of lots of people who aren't family.


But that's the bond the night's slate of performers and audience seemed to have, for five hours anyway. It was one big, carousing, mutually supportive community, drunk on good will and good cheer and egging one another on for a good cause.

A few Red Sox -- new manager Terry Francona, reigning American League batting champ Bill Mueller, and fan favorite Kevin Millar, among others -- were on hand at the Paradise to reassure the crowd that the team's chances in 2004 looked very bright indeed.

All manner of memorabilia was auctioned off, from bats signed by Texas Rangers superstar shortstop Alex Rodriguez and Sox catcher Jason Varitek to "Super Sox '75" CDs autographed by pitching great Luis Tiant to a power lunch with ESPN reporter and "Hot Stove" cofounder Peter Gammons. A nonspeaking, credited part in an upcoming Farrelly Brothers film about the Three Stooges (airfare, limo service, and lunch with the stars included) netted $13,000. Meanwhile, sales of a star-studded compilation CD, "Hot Stove, Cool Music Volume 1" (Fenway Recordings/Q Division), seemed steady.

As impressive as the baseball star power was -- and as gamely as groups such as Stickfigure (fronted by former Cy Young Award winner Jack McDowell) and Sandfrog (fronted by the Seattle Mariners' Scott Spiezio) attempted to rock out with conviction -- when it came down to making actual enjoyable music, the stage belonged to those bands whose members likely never made it past the high school junior varsity squad.

The Loveless delivered a sweetly ferocious opening set of roaring, hook-heavy rock with numbers such as "Gift to the World" and "Suicide Machines," a roiling slab of poison paradise accented by singer-guitarist Dave Wanamaker's guitar climax. Following her own briskly engaging set, Hanley sparred with the Dropkick Murphys onstage for a rousing reading of "The Dirty Glass."

But the evening easily belonged to the blistering Stones-meets-AC/DC raunch 'n' roll of the Gentlemen, who administered a riotous, dynamite set that sprinkled older salvos such as "Top Heavy" and "Speedbaby" among new material from the group's forthcoming album, "You Get What You Pay For."

The exception to the jocks-who-rock rule was baseball expert-cum-singer-guitarist Gammons, whose Southern-fried vocal take on Chuck Berry chestnuts such as "Carol" and "Around and Around" had a surprisingly soulful flair. That the ex-Groton prep schooler had an all-star lineup of local talent including Buffalo Tom's Bill Janovitz and members of the Gentlemen covering the musical bases didn't hurt, either.

By Jonathan Perry, Globe Correspondent,

© Copyright 2004 Globe Newspaper Company.