Fastball – Live in 2024

Fastball played songs very old & very new at Mercury Lounge....
Fastball : Live
Fastball : Live

Most of our nineties alt-greats are long gone, or only come back for cash-in reunions because their kids are going to college. But there are also a few who have kept going throughout the decades, and even though they won’t be on MTV anymore, they’re still putting out great music in their own vein. Such is the case with Austin’s Fastball, who came to New York’s intimate Mercury Lounge on Saturday, April 20th to play songs very old & very new.

The band that had pop hits like “Fire Escape” back when MTV played music (and you can still hear at your local fast food joint) is still together, notably not just the frontman plus some newer, younger recruits, but rather singer/bassist Tony Scalzo, drummer Joey Shuffield, and singer/guitarist Miles Zuniga, as the trio has always been an ensemble over hierarchy. They’ve shifted like many veteran artists these days to crowd-sourcing, with their own Patreon funding June 14th’s Sonic Ranch. At a packed Mercury (QRO venue review), there was everything from opener “Fire Escape” to a number of Sonic songs. Indeed, the band would usually introduce and name each new track before playing, as the naturally older crowd was not one so used to new music. Sonic pieces included the sweeter “Off My Mind” and “Hummingbird”, swaying alt-country “America”, the catchy “On and On” and standout fun guitar-pop kiss-off “Rather Be Me”. It was even noted that they have a video for “Rather”, because this is the group that once sang, “If ya got no video / Well then folks don’t wanna know.”

Tony Scalzo

Those lyrics come from “Warm Fuzzy Feeling”, the second number of the night after “Fire Escape”, both from 1998 breakthrough All the Pain Money Can Buy. There’s always a question with musicians many years removed from their most ubiquitous work, if they’re gonna play the old hits you wanna hear, the new songs they wanna play, and what about all the ones in between? Fastball nicely loaded the front and back of the evening with All the Pain, while peppering in the middle not just Sonic tracks, but also ones from the rest of their long discography. Of particular note was a great “All I Was Looking For Was You” (2009’s Little White LiesQRO review), “Help Machine” (2019 album of the same name), “Love Comes In Waves” (2017’s Step Into the LightQRO review), and “House On the Edge” (2022’s The Deep EndQRO review). Yet they still went into the encore break with Pain’s “The Way”, probably their biggest hit, and closed out the night with Pain’s “Sooner Or Later”.

Miles Zuniga

It is of note that, while Fastball came up in the alt-nineties, in many ways they hew to an older guitar-pop sound that is both timeless, and fitting for an older crowd. This is a band that could segue into The Steve Miller Band’s “Joker” in the middle of “Waves”. Instead of divisiveness, they’re looking to bring people together, with Zuniga noting before “America” that he was sick of hearing that we’re on the verge of a new civil war (Shuffield had just seen Civil War, giving it a mid-thumb review), because the band goes all around the country, and people they see are all cool.

You’re not young anymore, and neither are your favorite bands, but that doesn’t mean that it’s all over and you should just move to a Florida rest home. Embrace where you are now and that you’re still going, like Fastball.


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