It’s hard to really knock “Hot Stove, Cool Music.” A benefit for worthy organizations…goodwill gestures…helping CHILDREN…

And THAT is the root of the problem, I realized last night as I stood within Paradise’s main room. I was suddenly convinced that everyone in the Boston scene who has ever written anything about Hot Stove was so afraid of knocking the event that they lied to me!

Those knock-wusses, all afraid of offending The Children! Well let me tell you, I am not afraid of being branded a Kiddie Hater. I know that I’m a good person. I believe The Children are our future and I am ready to let them lead the way, showing all the beauty they have inside.

But the show? Not so hot. The music? Not so cool. And while I otherwise might have just told you, dear readers, that I was disappointed by the gig, the utter lack of Hot Stove knocks and the fact that I felt duped made me angry.

And when I get angry, I snark.

I’m a girl who makes a decent number of trips up Commonwealth to hit up Paradise gigs. I knew, for instance, how nice it was to make the trip on a Sunday night and score free parking, instead of $8 (on a non-BU event night) or $25 (when BU has something going on at the Arena). I’ve seen some great shows at that place. My standards are high because I usually walk out of the venue shaking my head in dazed disbelief.

I’m also a Red Sox girl. I love the team, the players (most of them) and the basic notion behind all the good Red Sox-affiliated events do for the local community. So when I knew I’d be seeing the two entities fused together, coupled with all of the raving about how great these annual January nights are, I thought it was a no-brainer. I’d see Red Sox folks loosen up. I’d cheer. I’d hear good music. Peter Gammons would shred.

The last one happened, and that was pretty much it. So I’m left able to cross “Attend Hot Stove, Cool Music” off the list off things I wanted to do and am otherwise down $50 bucks. Which, for me, is a hefty sum of money to hand over for a concert.

Bitter? Moi? Well, I feel justified. While these shows are For A Good Cause, they are also supposed to Provide A Good Time. Are my standards too lofty? Have I attended too many memorable Paradise shows?

Is it just me?

I’ve heard some folks say today that the evening reflected the tried and true success of Hot Stove. The usual folks, the typical setup, the customary success.

But when a first-time HSCMer walks in and realizes everyone’s going through well-worn motions, that causes concern.

When I leave my front-row spot because my ears are being pierced by the lead guitarist in the second band, that results in temporary near-hearing loss and no idea of what the lead singer sounded like (note to said guitarist: TURN DOWN YOUR DAMN AXE.).

When Kay Hanley introduces another song with “And here’s another song I don’t know how to play,” that makes me roll my eyes.

When the only person who can make an opening — and final — bid of $5,000 for a chance to throw out an opening pitch (something I would seriously consider homicide — or at least, maiming* — to do) is MC Mike O’Malley, that makes me feel disconnected.

And when Theo Epstein comes off as bored and super-removed during his performance onstage, that elicits a sad sigh. (OK, no, that’s not entirely true. There’s a moment that such boredom comes off as brooding, and that makes me remember how incredibly hot a good brood can be. Sorry. Brains + Looks + Baseball Knowhow = Swoon.)

Props to Gammons for rocking. Kudos to Lenny DiNardo for making a cameo on rhythm guitar, clearly nervous but still willing. Applause to the Sox who had agreed to sign things for the silent auction, although DiNardo was the only one to show in person.

I wasn’t expecting the entire Sox starting lineup (whomever may happen to constitute that at the moment) to take the stage and jam**. I wasn’t waiting for Theo to crowdsurf. I did, however, think Sunday night would provide me the chance to see all the fun I’ve heard and read about for the six previous years. Sox and fans letting loose, everyone having a good time and some strong bands taking the stage.

C’mon, people: I took today off so I could be recovering from my first Hot Stove experience! I was dopey psyched — and I never allow myself to show my dopey excitement to people outside my inner circle!

Well.

The good news is that I contributed money to very worthy organizations, and I did so in a manner that reflects two of my strongest passions. I was able to applaud the basic concept. I got to take some fun photographs AND Theo and I shared a smile (*sigh*).

The bad news is that an event touted as the Hottest Event on the Red Sox/Music Calendar is severely over-hyped. For its seventh year, it seems Hot Stove is resting its laurels strictly on the fact that everyone will agree whatever they see is worth the price of admission.

After all, it IS for a good cause.

* KIDDING. Mostly.
** I was disappointed, though, to see that Pap had shown Saturday and not Sunday, the supposed Big Night.

Hanley Lenny, Gammons HSCM5 Peace Epsteins

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