Tim Flannery and the Lunatic Fringe performed last Saturday night, March 21, 2015, at the Redding Civic Auditorium. Billy Pilgrim (half of Q97s popular morning DJ team, Billy and Patrick) introduced the band, and he said that out of all the great concerts coming up in Redding this year, this concert would be the one everybody would be talking about for a long time to come.
Billy called it.
Tim Flannery and his band, The Lunatic Fringe, put on a show that was full of heart and joy before a nearly packed house. The audience got to see music performed by world class, award winning musicians who were obviously enjoying themselves on the stage with Tim. They got to hear songs written from the heart of a man obviously in love with baseball, but with so much more depth as well. Flannery’s songs work on multiple levels simultaneously…and this says a lot about the man, Tim Flannery.
Tim Flannery was already known around the Redding area, but not necessarily for music. The San Francisco Giants have a large fan base in the area, and Flannery has been the third base coach for the Giants for the last eight years. He was on the team when they won each of their World Series titles in 2010, 2012, and 2014. Flannery was the flamboyant guy at third base wildly waving players around third base and in to score.
What Redding fans might not have known is that Flannery’s passion for baseball is second only to his passion for music. Flannery both writes and performs his own music. His love of music goes back to his boyhood. The Flannery father was a country preacher, and Tim and his younger brother Tom played and sang gospel songs together in the hills of Kentucky.
Some Giants’ fans have been aware for years of Flannery’s love of music. When Giants’ fan Brian Stowe was savagely beaten in Los Angeles outside the stadium after a game, leaving his family to deal with mounting medical bills outside of insurance coverage, Flannery got his band together for benefit concerts to raise money for the Stowe family. Amateur YouTube videos can be found from some of these performances around the Bay Area. In a Bob Costas documentary for The Baseball Network, Flannery recalled handing the Stowe family $90,000 in cash after the concert series. He said “That might be the single greatest thing I’ve ever done.”
When the Giants traveled in 2014 and stayed in hotels on the road, Flannery would find a bare concrete stairwell of each hotel in which to play his guitar and sing a song. He recorded them on video and posted them on YouTube. He called these videos his Stairwell Concert Series, and he posted them from every city the Giants traveled to in 2014. Teammate Jake Peavy, who also plays guitar and sings, accompanied him for a couple of these concerts.
Shortly after the Giants won the 2014 World Series, Tim Flannery announced his retirement from baseball to concentrate on his music and philanthropic projects. Giants’ fans were sad to see him go, but glad to see him moving on to such worthwhile endeavors. Flannery had started the non-profit group Love Harder, which “is dedicated to bringing attention and funds to people and organizations in need.”
This brings us to last Saturday night in Redding. The concert had been announced months before. I was excited that Flannery and the Lunatic Fringe were coming to my town. I knew that Flannery’s band had a good following in the Bay Area. I had seen some of the YouTube videos of the band, and most of the Stairwell Concert Series. I knew that a CD called Outside Lands had been released in 2013, but I had not heard it in its entirety. Before the concert, I researched and discovered that Flannery had released sixteen CDs since the late ‘90s. Notable musicians such as Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead, Jackson Browne and Bruce Hornsby have appeared on Flannery’s CDs. Tim Flannery was not some ex-ball player trying to cash in on his baseball credentials. He was the real deal as a musician!
I learned that the band Flannery was bringing, The Lunatic Fringe, was made up of professional musicians with some impressive credentials in the music world. Doug Pettibone would be playing both the pedal steel and the electric guitar. Pettibone has worked quite a bit with Lucinda Williams. He was on a break from touring with John Mayer when Flannery called him for this gig. Jeff Berkley plays percussion and guitar in The Lunatic Fringe. He produced over ten of Flannery’s CDs, and is an award winning song writer.
Flannery told some great stories around his songs, many times involving his baseball life. He told one story of a game in Cincinnati. He could look out from the stadium and see across to his family’s home region in the hills of Kentucky. There was a very light, misty rain falling that they were playing the game through. When he wasn’t coaching third, the TV cameras caught him writing on some scraps of paper. The TV commentators supposed that Flannery had stolen the Reds’ signs and was making notes. In fact, Flannery was writing the lyrics to the song that became ‘Hillbilly Rain’, on Outside Lands. ‘Hillbilly Rain’ demonstrates Flannery’s wordsmithing talents.
Share the wine and share the whiskey,
Share the moment of the day,
Share the gift of God’s salvation
When you’re walking in
‘Bourbon County’ is another song from Outside Lands. On the surface, ‘Bourbon County’ is about traveling in a beat up car trying to get home…but is about so much more.
And I’m comin’ home just on fumes and vapors.
Engine light warns of things ahead,
And I’ve hit black ice in Bourbon County
With stains upon the road from where I’ve bled.
Flannery shared several songs from his upcoming CD. One song, ‘Compass’, was inspired by his years ‘directing traffic’ at third base and trying to get baserunners safely home. Again, baseball becomes a metaphor for life:
Does the compass that you carry
Get you lost, or lead you home?
Flannery and his crew seemed to have enjoyed Redding and the north State as well. Flannery caught a nice sized trout in the Sacramento River right outside the auditorium in which his band would play. On their off day before the concert, the band traveled north to Mt. Shasta, enjoying fishing and the small towns along the way. Flannery said the vibe reminded him of the mountain area he called home in Kentucky. He suggested during the concert that he might bring the band back to Redding in a few months for his new CD release party.
Tim, we would love to have you back!