Editor’s Note: When the Replacements announced their first full-on tour in nearly 25 years back in February, there was suspiciously no Boston date. So Boston musician Mikey Holland (Mean Creek, The Dazies), perhaps the biggest ‘Mats fan in town, sprang into action, making plans to travel to Chicago for the band’s two gigs at the Riviera Theatre. When Converse’s Rubber Tracks Live series revealed the Replacements would be playing the Sinclair in Cambridge, Holland now had the chance to see his favorite band perform live, a thought once unthinkable, three times in four nights. He kept a journal of the experience and shared the madness with Vanyaland.
Home Turf! The Replacements at The Sinclair Cambridge, MA; April 27, 2015
Let’s be real here.
I was never getting into this show.
I emailed, talked to, and perpetually annoyed (sorry folks) everyone I know affiliated with Converse and the Sinclair a few weeks before the show. Most, if not all, homies we’re unaware or had already been sworn to secrecy. A friend told me at the Sonics show a few nights before that this was officially “the worst kept secret in Boston!” I guess I couldn’t agree more, but luck was not on my side.
And then: My girlfriend won the Converse “lottery”!!!! HOLY SHIT! I’ve never been so happy in a single moment then when she called me and said we we’re indeed going!
The story can’t go further without mentioning how my partner, amazing artist Erin Shaw, waited in line, in the second spot closest to the door, for nearly five hours while I was at work in Harvard Square. That is fucking love, folks!
On with the show.
Young Leaves played their Goo Goo Dolls loving hearts out. I don’t even understand how they mustered up enough courage to take the stage. Total pro’s though! Dinosaur Jr. seemed completely and genuinely unexcited. Dinosaurs, maybe?
Well-lubed and ready to rock, I see the king of cool Tommy Stinston walk on stage followed by the legend himself Mr. Paul Westerberg, super drummer/fan Josh Freese, and the one and only, forever young Dave Minehan.
I’d like to think that this was a show for SUPER fans! Seeing The Replacements in a club this small hasn’t happened since the ’80s! Mixed bag of a crowd, I gotta say, but I can’t help but feel there was some converts in the room blended in with the ones who had been waiting …this shit was on!
From the first chords of “Seen Your Video” to Paul’s barely audible mic rant about flying during the ’80s then whipping into “Waitress In The Sky”: They we’re ready and willing to deliver. They played “Unsatisfied” with some real country sadness. That song will make any non believer change their tune on The ‘Mats.
I was in the balcony the entire time losing my mind. My heroes …SO CLOSE! I had to leave early to actually play a show myself. I literally jumped in a cab, walked onstage and played. I apologize to American Echoes because I’m pretty sure I played everything about 20 times faster. Rock ‘n’ Roll!
After waking up the next morning in my bow-tie and making my way to work at the shoe store with pure excitement running through my veins (and alcohol), in walks none other than Paul Westerberg.
Holy fucking shit!!!
I said hello and just fell into conversation like I had known him all my life. I even went as far as to say “Now this, this right here is a Westerberg shoe!” And he replied excitedly, “Yeah it is!” You can’t make this stuff up. Luck has been following me lately.
Treatment Bound! The Replacements at The Riviera Theater Chicago, IL; April 29, 2015
Back in March I told myself that I would take my first EVER vacation — that wasn’t a tour, because that shit is no vacation. So here I am at Logan Airport about to go see my favorite all-time band in Chicago, the place of their ultimate demise that faithful July 4th back in 1991.
In tow with my best pal and Dazies bassist Mr. Kurt Schneider, we are trouble. The flight was a preemptive booze party bubbling with pre-show excitement. Two chatty Cathy’s going over potential set lists and stories of their wild and often disastrous past.
We land around 5 p.m. and head straight to our 4.5-star hotel (vacation)! But not before picking up dinner and essentials such as BBQ chips, beer, and a bottle of whisky. We are officially on vacation! We take the train to Milwaukee St. after some celebratory frosties.
As we pass the first tattoo parlor on the street I half jokingly tell Kurt we should get ‘Mats tattoos.
Without fail Kurt agrees, and 25 minutes later we have a beer bottle with “Treatment Bound” script. Our parents have never been more proud!
Having toured the last 10 years of my life I often forget where I’ve played. The venues and names really all start to get fumbled up after a while. When we finally arrived at the Riviera (or as we were told by a local, “the Riv”), it was exciting to see I have actually played here twice! The Replacements broke records with their two-night stint in Chicago this time around selling out both nights in less than six minutes. Not bad for a former janitor and a high-school drop out.
We missed local legends the Smoking Popes (vacation!) and arrived a quarter-way into the ‘Mats set (uhhh, vacation). Time no longer exists on vacation and of course we had to sample all the new night life en-route. We certainly arrived late to the party and only able to watch them from the furthest point in the room till we high-fived and gave it the ol’ “every man for himself!”
Dressed to the nine’s in matching plaid suits (how on Earth does Josh play in those?!), the Replacements looked like a ripe batch of golfers. It’s a look they’ve perfected. I made my way to the very front all the while pissing off every folded armed concert goer. Sorry everyone, this is the Replacements and fun will be had!
I arrived for “Androgynous” into “Kiss Me On The Bus”, “I Will Dare,” and few others that just became a bit of a blur. This was that ramshackle ‘Mats show you hear about where Paul forgets and everyone either stops or just sails on. The crowd wasn’t ready for this and in-turn became silenced to almost a dull roar. They played with reckless abandon and had a very every man for themselves vibe on stage.
Chicago wasn’t ready but the set rolled on for another 15 more songs. With a bag of BBQ chips waiting at our glitzy hotel me and Kurt were ready to be hotel-bound, but not before a quick nightcap of course. We got hustled in a cab back to the hotel for $20.
Welcome to Chicago!
Emotions Fly! The Replacements at the Riviera Theater, Chicago, IL; April 30, 2015
I’m not sure if it was the burning urge to drink a gallon of water, or that my mind has been paved and beat into waking up at ungodly hours for work even when on ‘Mats vacation, but 8 a.m. here I am.
Since it’s vacation and all it really was kind of a treat to start the day, though. We walked around aimlessly till a local told us where to go to see some “cool shit”. It’s safe to say that two guys like me and Kurt are not football fans. Unbeknownst to us the NFL Draft was happening in Chicago this very day exactly where we ended up. There was a lot of “You here for the draft?” talk to us. To be honest two long-haired weirdos don’t really scream football, but everyone was very pleasant. Midwest manners in full effect!
Millennium Park was excellent and filled with all sorts of cool sites such as Cloud Gate the giant reflective ball. I was really taken aback by that, almost instantly obsessed. Such a beautiful piece of art that really serves to be a great addition to that wonderful Chicago sky line.
But enough tourist notes — I’m going to get right into the show here because it was fucking fantastic!
The Smoking Popes took the stage to a huge roar. Local Chicago heroes playing to their people! I love love love their 1995 album Born To Quit. Great songs, great drumming — it even excited Morrissey! There is a fine line between pop and punk. Maybe because I was so amped to see the entire Replacements set, I didn’t love the Popes effort. But they really did come across as a bit childish. Lots of songs I’m unfamiliar with but they lost something for sure in the shuffle and now have more in common with Blink-182 rather than the Smiths.
The Replacements took the stage with an enormous roar. The people who were here last night were sitting down and the rest of us with a pulse were quite ready for them. Before a note was played Mr. Cool himself, Tommy Stinston (I love this guy obviously), walked over to the mic and let the crowd know he wasn’t going to tolerate last nights muted excitement.
And with that maybe the best live rendition of “Takin’ A Ride” into a bunch of classic ‘Mats Husker-inspired barebones white knuckle speed bangers! Tommy got it right and song after song they delivered as did the crowd’s excitement. They were so unbelievably tight I was just in awe.
With all the talk of how terrible they could be live or how drunk they played cover sets, you forget these guys (with the new ‘Mats) can fucking play. There is not enough words to praise Dave Minehan’s role in this band. I’m going on record and saying this is the BEST live ‘Mats there has been. They are having so much fun and finally enjoying some of that reward they so badly deserve. This is a reboot and the reboot is fucking solid!
Tommy was smiling endlessly and chatting Paul up every-other song; these guys have this bound and love and it was infectious. You looked next to you and just gave that nod like: “THIS IS HAPPENING.”
When they launched into first-album punk classic “Customer,” not everyone felt that love — particularly the NARC who was about four times the size of me. After throwing both me & Kurt halfway across the room because we were consumed with the pogo excitement, he then punched me in the jaw then pushed me across the room stumbling into 20 people on my way. You know, that shit is really not cool and he hit me like a real chump.
After walking up to him and telling how pathetic the punch was and how I had pillow fights offer better blows, Kurt wisely dragged me away and we watched the rest of the show from the side. For about seven minutes I wanted blood. But then I looked at Boston’s very own Dave Minehan DESTROYING a cover of the T-Rex classic “20th Century Boy” and realized I’m at home.
I’m with my best friend watching my favorite band in the world. The band that made me want to pack up all my things and just carve a place of my own. I try to tell people why they should listen to the Replacements and why they are so important all the time and it hit me in Chicago. They are important because there is a piece of them in all of us. If you’re a musician, writer, painter, poet, or artist of any-type: You’ve probably been pushed around and let down so many times you don’t even know what is up anymore.
The Replacements are the champions of DIY. They are the champions of dreaming for something that seems unattainable. They are the champions of staying true to what your heart tells you no matter how far you go or how hard it becomes. Watching them this night reminded me that everything is possible and the only limit you have is the one you make.
After the show some crazed fan of me, for some reason, told me I had this beautiful energy surrounding me. He also said he was the seventh guitar player for Ministry. All those things were cool, until he kissed me about 10 times on the head and eye, but he made me smile.
All photos by Mikey Holland