Disclaimer 1: During the summer of 2010 I was unemployed. I didn’t have much to do during the day so I started this ill-fated pool blog. To my surprise it was still up so I thought this would be an ok to place to share my thoughts about the Replacements show on Saturday.

Disclaimer 2: My ability to separate art from the artist sucks. I tend to like the music that I like, but I love that same music when I know the musicians themselves rule. I don’t think this is a good or bad thing – I just know it’s important to me. When I’m able to meet a musician who’s music I dig, and that person seems decent enough through third person interactions, AND it turns out he/she is a good person upon meeting them, well shit, I call it a day. All is right. Sometimes I even try to avoid meeting a person that seems like an asshole if I admire their music – I don’t want it to be ruined for me.

Some of my closest friends and bandmates think this is a dumb approach, because, ya know, fuck that person if they are lousy to you for no good reason. And I completely agree. But what happens to all of the time that you spend with their records? I find myself listening to them less and less. And that’s why I never want to meet Paul Westerberg.

I am too young to have never seen the Replacements (before last weekend). I listen to them everyday, have read all of the books and have had lots of Grain Belt at the CC Club. They have always made sense to me: punks with melody that dressed like blue-collar front row boys – only pretending to not take themselves too seriously in order to obscure their sensitivity. I love their folklore. I form Replacements tribute bands with my pals and drag my family to the Bob Stinson Memorial in Minneapolis. I love the Replacements.

However, I did not like everything about the (2013) Replacements. So I’m writing this to my buds that weren’t able to catch them during these three Riot Fest shows. Dudes: I wasn’t blown away. Here’s my review, and one more quick disclaimer:

Before they took the stage, I had put a lot of pressure on the show. How the hell can they call this a reunion? They didn’t even ask Chris Mars because they said they knew they’d say no. That should tell you something about the state of the ‘Mats in 2013. I am a Slim fan, as well, but he is sick and couldn’t make it. And I love Bob. But Bob isn’t around anymore and if there is one piece of ‘Mats’ history I can never shake its when Paul demanded Bob drink before a five night stint at 7th Street Entry. Bob, trying to sober up and not die was told that he must drink in order to take the stage. This is more folklore, and I don’t know the validity of it, but holy shit that’s heavy.

But, on Saturday night, Tommy and Paul (and two remarkable musicians that we’re a little too polished for the occasion) delivered a near cut copy of what they had did the other two Riot Fest shows. There were some physical audibles: Tommy and Paul wore skirts, much like Bob (or Dick… but I’ll get to that in a minute), perhaps in homage to the older Stinson, something I saw as kinda shitty – thinking of the time Paul forced Bob to take a pull before hitting the stage (I know, that is my fault for taking that perspective). Other than the attire though, it appeared that we were gonna get what Toronto and Chicago got.

“Taking a Ride” started the set and it fucking ripped (just like it did as the first song in both Chicago and Toronto). In fact, most of the set ripped. It sounded excellent and they were tight. I did not expect this, but after a while it made sense: the shit was not gonna hit the fans when there were 10,000 of them there. No way, even though I think that is what I wanted. Not even the 1984 ‘Mats could have that done that. What we got was a professional presentation of a greatest hits package: something nicely put together for a reunion show. Again, I had my expectations and I had a lot on the line, but now I know I was hoping for something that wasn’t gonna happen. Were the contracts full of “don’t play shitty Grass Roots covers” or “keep clothed” or else “Tommy and Paul” wouldn’t get paid? Probably – Riot Fest had few audibles: predictability was high and I was searching for anything Paul and Tommy would do to deviate from what I thought to be pretty stagnant.

A Kiss cover (Detroit Rock City, not Black Diamond) was the audible I was looking for. Paul hopping up on drums and other weirdo covers hit the spot, but just for a minute. I thought Paul blowing the lyrics to Androgynous was spontaneous, but after other reports, I saw he’d done the same thing in Toronto and Chicago. But of course the crowd knew all about Dick/Jane, skirts and chains and we got through it together.

One thing I gotta admit, though – the encore, or rather the lack of an encore, was confusing, stupid, and excellent. It left me wanting to listen to the ‘Mats more: right then, there and forever. They fumbled and I loved it. Their awesome imperfection, vulnerability, and not giving a shit to do whatever they really didn’t wanna do came through as they gathered to discuss playing a few more tunes. As nonchalant as anything they turned away from the crowd – making me think much more than twice about their set at on Saturday night and causing me re-examine my reactions throughout the show, eventually spitting out this here blog.

The encore fumble made me think about some of the tracks they played off of Sorry Ma, in particular, “Love You Till Friday” and how it was mashed up with Chuck Berry’s “Maybelline” made me forget about everything and smile. And ya know, I breathed heavier during “Left of the Dial” and clenched up during “Bastards of the Young.” No matter what biases I brought into the show, or what motivations the 2013 Replacements brought to the show, these songs are still a huge part of my life and hearing them live was a big deal for me.

So, yeah, I know it’s partially my fault. What was I thinking? This was Riot Fest, not a St. Paul basement. Or even Saturday Night Live. It was 2013 in Byers, Colorado and I was kinda unsatisfied. I didn’t meet Paul Westerberg, but I saw him play. And that may have even too close for me. I don’t think I will listen to the Replacements less now, because, well, they are still just the greatest. But maybe if I did listen to them less, I wouldn’t be such a pessimist about this kind of stuff in the first place and I wouldn’t spend an hour writing this here post on my band’s webpage

I’m not sure if I can ever learn to separate the art from the artist, but I think I might have to learn to separate the ‘Mats from what I saw last weekend.