At the end of 2015, comedian Chet Wild was hosting a Christmas party and enjoying the Pandora playlist just like everyone in attendance. Little did he know that what would transpire that night would set in motion the events of the next 18 months of his life. Pandora's seemingly random selection of music included a band he hadn’t heard in years, Austin, Texas–based Fastball, who had their heyday in the late ’90s.
“Fastball came on and somebody was like, ‘They only had one hit,’” he recalls. “That’s a trigger for me because they had multiple hits. I really had to go out of my way to convince people that they had multiple good songs. I would say that there’s maybe five Fastball songs that are on heavy rotation in the background of our lives. You may not pay attention to them but they’re there.”
That incident sent the comedian down a Fastball rabbit hole. For many, the pop-rock outfit are known as the one-hit wonder who produced the quirky single “The Way” in 1998. After that party, Wild discovered that the band had continued making music, albeit at a more deliberate pace. As he familiarized himself with their later catalog, Wild’s fandom grew.
He decided to take his love of the band to the Unpopular Opinion podcast, where he worked as a producer. Impulsively, Wild jumped on Twitter and decided to tweet at the band and to tell them directly how underrated they are and why folks should know about them. Thus the hashtag #FastballAtChets was born, and it has been circulating for nearly 330 consecutive days.
“Why it’s so successful and worked, I think, is Fastball have the perfect level of notoriety that when you sit there, it gives intrigue, but ... the general public is [not] well up-to-date of what they’ve been up to,” Wild says
A week later, Wild headed up to Ventura to check out a Ben Folds solo set. From time to time, Folds takes cover requests onstage between sets. Following his Fastball reawakening, the comedian quickly scribbled a request for Fastball’s “Out of My Head” on a piece of paper and said he’d explain it on Twitter if played. He turned that sheet into a paper airplane and made a feeble attempt to get it onstage but it landed under a seat. Wild thought that was it for his unusual request. He was wrong.
“The second request he [Folds] did was Fastball’s ‘Out of My Head,’ and says the thing about Twitter,” he recalls. “I don’t know how the hell it got up there, but he does a two-minute version where he breaks it into four-part harmonies and gets the audience to sing the song. Afterward I got to hang out and talk to him about it, and he endorsed [the campaign].”
Just before the Ben Folds incident, Fastball songwriter-singer Tony Scalzo appeared in a sketch for Top Story! Weekly where he was subjected to jokes about the band’s irrelevancy. Scalzo retorted by mentioning that Machine Gun Kelly and Camila Cabello had interwoven Fastball’s “Out of My Head” into their smash single “Bad Things." The song’s popularity helped thrust the band back into the spotlight to a small degree and gave the #FastballAtChets movement more momentum.
Wild continued to pester the band on Twitter, and guitarist Miles Zuniga eventually called in to Wild and Adam Tod Brown’s The Least Anticipated Podcast of the Week to discuss the merits of Oasis. The subject of whether or not Fastball would actually play at Wild’s house was broached on air, and Zuniga said that if the band’s expenses were covered, they would be down for it.
Wild had conversations with the band’s manager over email in the months that followed as the band put the finishing touches on their first album in eight years. After sending Fastball’s manager a 5,000-word manifesto explaining his plan, which also included a documentary, TV coverage, a podcast appearance and the opportunity for Zuniga to perform stand-up, the band realized there was a method to Wild's unorthodox approach.
“It took them forever to understand this, but they do morning radio and morning TV, and what’s the actual conversion rate on that?” Wild says. “Not very much. Meanwhile, I’m doing this thing through a podcast network that gets thousands of dedicated listeners every week. If you search #FastballAtChets on Twitter, at least 75 percent are related to my podcast, and have gone to see the band on their tour, and made #FastballAtChets T-shirts that have been sent to me.”
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It took a while but Wild finally lured the band out to Los Angeles to perform in his living room. The show takes place tonight, Monday, Sept. 18, as a fundraiser for victims of Hurricane Harvey. It coincides with a video shoot directed by Nigel Dick (“Welcome to the Jungle,” “Wonderwall,” “Baby One More Time”) and for their new single “Best Friend,” with the house-party scene being shot at Wild’s house hours before the show.
“There may be people that find humor in the absurdity of it — I can understand that,” Wild says. “But this is not making fun of Fastball. From my perspective, this was to get as many eyes and ears on Fastball. It’s Fastball awareness. Now it's turned into a charitable thing and that’s awesome. A lot of people gave me shit and have mocked me for it — and that’s fine, too!”
Wild always felt confident his Fastball campaign would be a success. The Indiegogo campaign for the event just hit $10,000 and at the band's Saturday show in Pasadena, they invited Wild onstage to explain #FastballAtChets to the potentially unknowing audience.
“Why would I waste 300-plus days of my life if I didn’t think it was going to happen?” Wild says emphatically. “I am truly satisfied that this was an organic thing that came together. Here’s the thing. I petitioned to have the whole band, and this is going to be just a stripped-down acoustic show. Now, on account of a technicality, I haven’t decided if I fulfilled the promise of the campaign, or if I still have more work to do after this. But, based on what happens, there’s a rabbit hole full of expectations, including trying to get Ben Folds to play next.”