Well, it’s gonna be hard to top that one. Don’t get us wrong, each and every Hot Stove Cool Music event we’ve been to has been nothing but good times, miles of smiles, and an overall positive vibe — not only emanating from the stage and audience that night, but reverberating throughout the community weeks and months later as the charity event’s proceeds go towards helping those in need.

But last night (April 29) at the Paradise Rock Club, the 2017 edition of Hot Stove Cool Music was something truly special.

Seventeen editions in, Theo Epstein and his cohorts continue to blend sports, music, and community service for a series that has grown beyond Boston towards the friendly confines of the Chicago music and sports scene. Epstein’s move to the Cubs’ organization has sprouted a second franchise of Hot Stove Cool Music in Chicago, and sure enough, as the Brookline native helped vanquish the Red Sox’ Curse of the Bambino, last fall he led the Cubbies in erasing their century-plus World Series drought. With the Cubs in town playing the Sox at Fenway Park and Eddie Vedder leading a charge of Boston rock royalty, the stage was set for a wildly memorable Hot Stove party. And with multiple World Series trophies in the house (’04 Sox, ’16 Cubs), Epstein and crew have furthered a perfect storm of great music, sports victories, and a bonhomie that spreads two time zones.

At the ‘Dise last night, emcee Mike O’Malley his sidekick, ex-Sox player Sean Casey (himself showcasing comedy chops) periodically auctioned off items like a round of golf with Epstein, a season pass to concerts at Fenway, and an autographed guitar with Eddie Vedder manning the Sharpie (not to mention facilitating a game of Name That Tune with current Sox and Cubs players).

But the music portion of the programming remains Hot Stove’s cleanup hitter, with usual Hot Stove suspects Bill Janovitz (Buffalo Tom), Kay Hanley (Letters To Cleo) and Hall of Fame baseball writer Peter Gammons again front and center. The late-breaking addition of one Edward Louis Severson meant that tickets to this annual shindig were scarcer than usual, and the Paradise was host to a show that could have easily been at House of Blues or somewhere even bigger.

And Vedder took the appearance seriously.

Wearing a t-shirt with “Who The Fuck Is Theo Epstein?” printed across the front, Vedder turned what is typically at Hot Stove a headlining set of a handful of songs set into a 20-song marathon performance, capping it with a crowd surf as the dying notes of “Rockin’ In The Free World” were vibrating through the heads of the cheering crowd. Earlier on, the Janovitz-led version of the Replacements’ “Unsatisfied” was almost matched by the Chicago All-Stars’ version of “Bastards of Young,” and it was a treat having Vedder play and sing on Buffalo Tom classic “Taillights Fade.”

Former Yankee all-star Bernie Williams also held his own, but perhaps nothing eclipsed the sheer fun of Band Of Their Own, a Boston-centric supergroup — pencil in this Hall of Fame lineup: Hanley, Hilken Mancini, Jenny Dee, Jen Trynin, Belly’s Tanya Donelly and Gail Greenwood, Magen Tracy, Chris Toppin, and Blake Babies’ Freda Love Smith — blasting through covers of The Runaways, ‘Til Tuesday, and others.

The whole night was something else.

Note: All photos by Tim Bugbee for Vanyaland. View his full gallery below.

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