Meeting Mike Mills
It wasn't the first time, but last night I got the chance to meet Mike Mills, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame bass player and singer in the legendary "college rock" band R.E.M. Mills is currently part of a most unique band, the Baseball Project. Instead of playing "blues" or "alternative," the band's focus is on the subject matter of their songs. As the name implies, they are all about baseball. The band, consisting of Mills, former Dream Syndicate front man Steve Wynn, Wynn's wife, Linda Pitmon, and Young Fresh Fellows singer/guitarist Scott McCaughey, made an appearance at Louisville's Zanzabar on August 5.
After the show the members of the band were happy to pose for photos and talk to the 100 or so fans in the crowd. It was a thrill to get to meet Mike Mills again and tell him how much I appreciate his contribution to the soundtrack of my life.
I first heard R.E.M. in 1983, shortly after I was transferred to Pearl Harbor. They rapidly became one of my favorite bands of the 1980's. R.E.M. was also one of the few bands who came to Honolulu to play a show (for all its idyllic beauty, Hawaii is quite literally in the middle of nowhere!), and I saw them on Halloween, 1984. (The funny thing is I mentioned this to Mills and he remembered the show!!)
Five years later, right before R.E.M. became superstars, I saw them again, this time in Louisville. After the show, thanks to a friend of mine who worked for a subsidiary of Warner Brothers Records, I got to go to R.E.M.'s post-concert "party." Contrary to the songs like "We're An American Band" or "Traveling Band," this wasn't a burn-the-hotel-down or throw-the-furniture-in-the-pool shindig. I never saw Bill Berry that night, but I spent over an hour sitting at a table, talking music with Mike Mills and Peter Buck. (Michael Stipe, who is reported by many who know him to be so shy he's almost scared [if you've ever seen the footage of R.E.M.'s first TV appearance, in 1984 on Late Night With David Letterman, you see Stipe not doing the talking, and quickly fading into the background when Letterman came over to talk to them], was off in a corner, eating.)
And last night I once again got to meet Mills, who in the quarter century since that first meeting has gone on to international fame and induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. If you wonder about meeting rock stars and what they're like, it will depend on the person (and that's true of "normal people," too!). But I'm happy to tell you that both times I've met Mike Mills he has been very approachable, personable, and more than happy to chat with fans.
As for the Baseball Project, their music is quite good -- and the concept of all-baseball songs (some about teams, such as the A's and the Twins, but most about individual players -- and all of these songs are historically accurate!) is quite the drawing card to this lifelong baseball fan. I recommend them if they "step up to the plate" in your neck of the woods.
If you get to meet Mike Mills, I think you'll find him as warm and friendly as I have the two times I've had the great opportunity to say hello to him.
Image Credit » Mike Mills and Steve Wynn of the Baseball Project, August 5, 2014. Taken by the the property of FourWalls.
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