Go! Team, or Go Team!?

I was wearing my beat-up, perfectly faded Sox cap as I was leaving the office yesterday, so it was embarrassing to admit to a fellow staffer that, no, I was not heading over to Fenway for the game, nor going home to watch it. In fact, odds were that I would barely see one pitch of the game at all. And yes, I was all too aware that the Red Sox have a strong chance to win the World Series twice in four years—a feat not achieved by them since … well, before the Treaty of Versailles.

Instead I chose to see The Go! Team at the Paradise last night. My friends and I had bought the tickets a couple months ago, and yesterday afternoon you could feel the tension in our phone calls about what to do, see the show or watch the game. Maybe we’re fans of The Go! Team’s two records (Thunder Lightning Strike and the new Proof of Youth), but we’re bigger fans of Manny, Papi, Youk and Tek. Besides, this was hardly front-row Springsteen at the Garden, the Police at Fenway, or even Hannah Montana at Worcester’s DCU Center. In fact, my friend Jeff claimed a suddenly impending illness and opted out. Still, the rest of us went, though not without second and third thoughts.

For those not immediately familiar with The Go! Team’s music, think hip-hop, ‘70s TV soundtracks, double-dutch chants, indie rock and electronics all slammed together in one relentlessly cheery wall of sound. The band was originally a one-man affair -– created by young Brit Ian Parton back around the time that Kevin Millar was Cowboying Up –- but it has since blossomed into a six-piece that has been a cult hit on both sides of the Atlantic. We wondered how they could possibly recreate this busy, hyperactive music live, and besides, who wants to see an awkward live band on the night that Curt Schilling’s pitching Game 2? But advance word was that they blow the doors off every night, one of the most fun live shows you can see these days. It was to be their only Boston show, and it was sold out, apparently for a reason.

As we drove over the BU Bridge as Curt threw his first pitch and we saw “GO SOX” lit up on the Prudential Tower, we tried to figure out how we could somehow enjoy The Go! Team and the Olde Towne Team at the same time. With the show not technically starting until 10ish, we stopped to get a generic burrito, where we watched the first couple innings with what seemed to be about half of the BUPD’s evening shift. When Papi hit a long fly ball just foul of the Pole in the 3rd and then struck out, cops, students and magazine editors alike all stood, cheered, groaned then sat back down. This made us definitely want more, but we had a show to go to.

The Paradise was packed and hot, and of course, had no TV to watch the game. In between opening duo Matt & Kim and the main act, you could see the glow of various cellphones lit up (mine included), as audience members caught the online play-by-play. Even during the soundcheck, you could tell that the focus of anticipation was somewhat divided. A stranger grabbed me from behind at one point, waved her phone in my face and hollered “We’re up 2-1!” Later, she did it again: “Bases loaded in the 5th and the Rockies are making a 2nd pitching change!” I had to restrain myself from telling her: I know, I’m “watching” the same game.

All doubt and indecision, however, were swept aside the second The Go! Team hit the stage. Composed of three guys and three gals, the band literally bounced around the stage for 75 solid minutes. To produce a sound that was even richer than the records, they continuously swapped instruments (guitars, keyboards, glockenspiels, banjos, harmonica, even a recorder), with nearly everyone taking a turn on the drums. They were big, loud, and really, really happy. Pogoing was involuntary. Best all of was the absurdly charismatic MC, Ninja, clad in pink tennis dress, rainbow-striped knee-highs, and metallic silver sneakers. She was a fierce, rapid-fire rapper, and appeared to come from the Land of 1000 Dances. With numerous friendly call-outs in her British accent for all the ladies and fellas to “dahnse,” she even got the stolid-looking dudes in the upper balcony to jerk around. By the end of the show, cellphones had long been put away, and when Ninja got the audience to chant “Go! Team!” they were definitely cheering for the band and not the Sox.

As people exited the crowded corridors of the Paradise, they were thrilled, energized and raving about what they’d just seen. But upon emerging onto Comm Ave. with the fanboy Pru looming over the skyline, you could hear people drifting back into Sox mode: “Yeah, it’s still 2-1…Okajima struck another one out!” Soon, much of the Paradise crowd was watching the game through the windows of T’s Pub next door. As for me, we listened to the game in the car –- with a Go! Team song sandwiched between innings –- and I got home in time to see Papelbon’s 1-2-3 inning in the top of the 9th. As the Fenway crowd roared on my TV, somehow I felt like I’d been there through the whole tight game, only without the ulcer.

–by Matthew Reed Baker