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Friday, August 23, 2013

Fans Relish The Replacements Reunion

The Replacements are reuniting, briefly, for three shows. (The Replacements)

The Replacements are reuniting, briefly, for three shows. (The Replacements)

The Replacements were an unruly rock band that emerged from Minneapolis in the ’80s. They broke up in 1991 but are still much-beloved. This weekend they are playing their first show in more than 20 years. Here & Now producer Alex Ashlock is one of those devoted fans and he helps us understand why “Mats” fans are so excited about this.

The Replacements are the band that saved my life. Their songs were messy and sentimental and they came around when I was scuffling along in my life in the 80s.

As I listen to them decades later, I still feel like Paul Westerberg is wearing my heart on his flannel sleeve. That’s why it’s so cool that the band is reuniting, briefly, for three shows.

The first one is this weekend in Toronto. I’m not going. I don’t even have a passport. Gorman Bechard does and he will be there.

Bechard is a filmmaker and he may be an even bigger fan of the band than I am. He made a documentary about the band called “Color Me Obsessed,” a play on the Mats’ song “Color Me Impressed.”

I was very jealous when I asked him how he excited he was about going to Sunday’s show.

“I feel like a 15-year-old,” he said. “I don’t think I have been as excited about anything as much as this in a long long time. I honestly thought hell would have to freeze over before this band would ever play again. I guess hell did freeze over.”

Bechard shares my love for the songs Paul Westerberg wrote for The Replacements.

“Paul Westerberg, honestly, is the latter day Bob Dylan, the greatest songwriter of the last 30 years, easily. He would write a song that could make you cry one second, make you laugh at his sarcasm the next.”

I saw the last show The Replacements played before they broke up. It was in Chicago’s Grant Park on July 4, 1991. In typical Replacements fashion, the show ended with the Mats leaving the stage and their roadies finished the show with a song.

That was 22 years ago. Since then, Westerberg has made a few solo records. Bass player Tommy Stinson has played with Guns N’ Roses. Stinson’s brother Bob, who used to play guitar in the band, is dead, and Slim Dunlap, who replaced Bob, had a severe stroke last year.

The band’s original drummer, Chris Mars, isn’t involved anymore, so it’s just Paul and Tommy and a couple of their friends for these reunion shows. Bechard says that doesn’t matter.

“I think they’re going to play a kick-butt rock ‘n’ roll set of their best songs. I think they are just going to go out there and be tight. They’re going to be loud. They’re going to be a little obnoxious. They’re going to be everything The Replacements need to be.”

The days when I fell in love with The Replacements are long gone, but whenever I feel like I’m scuffling again they are my go-to band.

How can you not relate to songs that include lyrics like this: “God what a mess on the ladder of success where you take one step and miss the whole first rung,” or “if you were a pill I’d take a handful at my will and knock you back with something sweet and strong.”

The flannel is faded but my heart is still etched on that sleeve.


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Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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