The start of the Cubs game was delayed due to rain on this August afternoon at Wrigley Field, which meant Plain White T’s bassist and die-hard Cubs fan Dave Tirio — scheduled to throw out the first pitch and sing the seventh-inning stretch with lead singer Tom Higgenson — had more time to dwell on the task at hand.
And dwell, he did.
The sight of his name on the scoreboard during the delay made him uncomfortable because it reminded him why he was there. Tirio felt even worse when he saw the groundskeepers rolling the tarp off the field, signifying that the game was back on. “There’s no backing out now,” said Tirio, nervously waiting in a Cubs suite with his girlfriend, friends, Higgenson and Higgenson’s son, Lennon. And when a Cubs employee let him know it was time to make his way to the field, Tirio let out an expletive under his breath.
Tirio had dreamed of this moment but was worried about following in the footsteps of pop star Carly Rae Jepsen, who famously botched her first pitch a month earlier. While Jepsen probably didn’t lose any sleep over it, Tirio is a baseball fan and used to play the sport.
“I remember pitching against Tom in Little League,” Tirio said of his baseball background. “He was a goofy kid with a ‘Higgy’ jersey. Tom hasn’t thought about doing anything physical in 15 years. God bless him for making the change and focusing on music.”
Plain White T’s -- which will perform Friday at Chicago Theatre, as part of 101.9 FM The Mix's Miracle on State Street concert -- formed shortly after Tirio and Higgenson graduated from Willowbrook High School in Villa Park in 1997. Since then, the band has gone on to release the hits “Hey There Delilah,” “1, 2, 3, 4” and, more recently, “Rhythm of Love.” The quintet will release its next album, “American Nights,” early next year.
“We finished it right before the summer,” Higgenson said Tuesday during a visit to Tribune Tower. “Our last album, ‘Wonders of the Younger,’ we released in December (2010). We thought it would be great: ‘It’s the holidays.’ (But) the market gets flooded with new albums. When we did it last time, it got lost in the shuffle. We were like, ‘You know now what? Lets hold off.’ I don’t want to put a record out and (have) nobody know about it. I want it to be a bigger deal.”
“American Nights” includes the single “Should’ve Gone to Bed,” sung by Higgenson, and “The Giving Tree,” sung by T’s guitarist Tim Lopez. Lopez’s singing duties have increased with each album, with four songs on “American Nights” compared with Higgenson’s six.
“He’s contributed more and more on every album with songs, writing a lot and demo-ing them and sending them to the band,” Higgenson said of Lopez. “So this time around there are a lot more songs to choose from. That led to a little bit of an inter-band struggle because there were so many more. ‘No, I like this song.’ Those guys like that song. … But besides that, it was business as usual. We have fun doing what we do. If that’s our big struggle, picking which song is better to record, that’s a good thing.”
Back in August, once Tirio was done throwing the first pitch — which landed in the batter’s box but was close enough to the plate that he avoided Jepsen-like humiliation, Tirio and Higgenson joined their group in the stands behind home plate. Higgenson tried to keep his 4-year-old son interested the entire day, but he was unsuccessful. Lennon was falling asleep by the third inning. It was around that time that “Rhythm of Love” came on over the Wrigley loudspeakers.
“What’s playing?” Higgenson asked Lennon, hugging him and then singing along to Lopez’s vocals.
The moment was abruptly cut short by a commercial for flooring company Luna, which got a laugh out of Higgenson. Tirio was in the bathroom when the slight occurred but was told about it once he returned to his seat. Asked if he enjoys hearing his band’s songs in public, Tirio, who said he gets nervous before performances and can’t eat, demonstrated the same self deprecation he showed before the first pitch and later that afternoon when it was time to sing the seventh-inning stretch.
“Never once,” Tirio said. “I feel like once it’s done, it’s done. I prefer the Luna song to hearing myself.”
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