1000 Words: Hot Stove Cool Music is another smash hit

Theo Epstein has repeatedly proven he knows how to run a baseball team. In recent years, he’s also demonstrated a unique ability to put on a good rock show.

Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder surprised fans Friday night when he took the stage at The Metro in Wrigleyville, joining an all-star roster of Chicago and Boston musicians who stepped up to the plate for Chicago-area youth at the fifth annual Hot Stove Cool Music Chicago benefit concert. Vedder, a die-hard Cubs fan, joined the Hot Stove roster for the second consecutive year, helping raise more than $400,000 for Chicago Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein’s Foundation To Be Named Later.

Vedder joined Epstein, Hall of Fame baseball writer Peter Gammons, Cubs broadcaster Len Kasper and an all-star lineup featuring Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter Liz Phair, Smashing Pumpkins drummer Jimmy Chamberlin, Latin Grammy nominated jazz musician/former New York Yankee Bernie Williams, JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound and Avid Dancer.

Ensemble performances by the “Hot Stove All-Stars,” a host of distinguished Chicago and Boston musicians who anchor the Hot Stove Music line-up, rounded out the bill. The “All-Stars” include Kay Hanley (Letters to Cleo), Jennifer Hall, Max Crawford, Dag Juhlin (Poi Dog Pondering), Gerald Dowd, Scott Stevenson (Robbie Fulks), Gail Greenwood (Belly, L7), Freda Love Smith (Blake Babies, Mysteries of Life), Hilken Mancini (Fuzzy), Liam Davis (Justin Roberts), Steve Frisbie (Frisbie), Curt Morrison (Tributosaurus), Matt Spiegel (Tributosaurus), Will Dailey, Chris Cote (Upper Crust), Jen D’Angora (Downbeat Five, Jenny Dee & the Deelinquents), Ed Valauskas (Gravel Pit), Paul Ahlstrand, Phil Aiken, Gerald Dowd, Jen Trynin, and more.

“Once again Chicagoans stepped up and answered the call to support underserved youth and families in our community,” Epstein said. “The need has never been greater and so we deeply appreciate the support and dedication of all the musicians, sponsors, fans and volunteers whose tireless efforts ensure Hot Stove Cool Music raises funds to provide opportunities for kids across Chicago.”

Vedder took the stage with Epstein on guitar and tore through a set of solo and Pearl Jam favorites and covers including “Better Man,” “Big Hard Sun,” and his acoustic Cubs tribute “All The Way.” The iconic rocker electrified the crowd when he invited Cubs Manager Joe Maddon and coaches to the stage as backups on the tambourine and cowbells, closing his set with Neil Young’s “Rockin’ In The Free World.” He returned to the stage at midnight to close the show with the “Hot Stove All-Stars,” ending the evening with the Split Enz “I Got You.”

The annual event, presented by Chicago Trading Company, was hosted by Epstein and Gammons, with Mad Men actor Joel Murray and WXRT-FM’s Lin Brehmer serving as emcees. Other special guests in attendance included Cubs pitcher Jason Hammel, Alumni Ryan Dempster, Chariman Tom Ricketts, Special Assistant Kevin Youkilis, coaches and other front office execs. The evening also included live auctions featuring signed music and sports memorabilia, including a signed Eddie Vedder guitar that sold for $26,000.

In addition to the concert, the Hot Stove Cool Music series of events featured a three-day leadership program for Chicago and Boston youth athletes, culminating into the Summer City Urban Baseball Classic June 18 at Jackie Robinson Park. The event, which shined a light on the importance of youth baseball and the role it plays in the development of successful young leaders, featured urban youth playing exciting baseball as Chicago’s Jackie Robinson West, Garfield Park Baseball, Lou Collier Baseball Association and The Boston Astros faced-off.

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