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Rain can't dampen Hot Stove at Fenway

Let's talk about lemonade -- the kind you squeeze from a lemon of a rainy day that threatens to derail a beloved annual charity concert at Fenway Park.

Hot Stove, Cool Music was all of half an hour into a marathon line up when sprinkles turned to showers and Boston rockers the Gentlemen were whisked off the stage. Moments later the audience was instructed to take cover under the bleachers. Amps and instruments were hustled inside, a makeshift stage was hastily erected under a Lobster Roll sign, and -- in the words of local singer-songwriter Tom Glynn -- ``it was the best concert I've ever seen at a concession stand."

Among the casualties: ``American Idol" alum and Wrentham native Ayla Brown, whose musical set was downgraded to an interview with MC Mike O'Malley, and James Taylor, who sang only one song. ``I just wish the audience were a little drunker," muttered Taylor before taking the stage for a valiant and spirited jam with Buffalo Tom on ``Steamroller" -- surely the lowest-fi performance the six-time Grammy Award-winner has delivered in decades.

The Click Five had the unenviable first slot on the indoor stage, and suffice it to say the sound quality wasn't optimal. But everyone forged ahead with great good cheer. As Red Sox GM and Hot Stove, Cool Music co-founder Theo Epstein noted, ``This is what rock 'n' roll is all about. Just set up and play."

By the time Kay Hanley and her band hit the midpoint of an infectious pop-rock set, audio kinks had been resolved and the remaining audience -- event officials estimate that the crowd shrunk by at least two thirds -- was settling in for what turned out to be an uplifting if haphazard night of music and live auction that raised more than $300,000 for Epstein's A Foundation To Be Named Later, a Red Sox charity that benefits disadvantaged children.

The New Orleans band Cowboy Mouth transformed the puddle-filled breezeway into a steamy church of rock, thanks to singer-drummer Fred LeBlanc's shamanistic powers of persuasion. Maine troubadour Howie Day followed with a handful of sturdy, lovely ballads, and a loose pageant of local luminaries including Bill Janovitz , Chris Colbourn , Theo Epstein, Mike Gent , Hanley, and bluesman James Montgomery closed down the night with exuberant covers of Tom Petty and Neil Young.

The one piece missing was Peter Gammons, the veteran baseball commentator and Hot Stove co-founder, who is in the hospital recovering from an aneurysm. Gammons' s wife , Gloria , appeared onstage to deliver a message of gratitude from her husband, after which the Peter Gammons All Stars ( a.k.a. most of the musicians at Fenway) performed Gammons's own ``She Fell From Heaven."

It was a heartfelt tribute, especially rousing on a night that was all about overcoming obstacles.

Joan Anderman can be reached at

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