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A tribute to the Replacements at First Avenue, 11/29/13

A tribute to the Replacements at First Avenue, 11/29/13
Photo by Erik Hess

A tribute to the Replacements plus a performance of Hootenanny
with Mad Ripple Hoot for Slim, Martin Devaney, Stereo Confessions, Fury Things, The Blackberry Brandy Boys, Ol' Yeller, the Crash and Burns, The Melismatics and more
First Avenue and 7th Street Entry, Minneapolis
Friday, November 29, 2013

In a year that's brought three reunion shows and a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nomination, anything seems possible for the Replacements. Just to get this out of the way: no, the band themselves did not show up to Friday night's tribute. All the same, the showcase brought with it a whole range of scenes one would have expected from the 'Mats at various stages in their career: high school bassists, drunk and disintegrating performances, and some of the most solid rock music out there from Minnesota musicians.

See Also: Slideshow: A Tribute to the Replacements, 11/29/13

The show opened with the Mad Ripple Hootenanny, led by Jim Walsh, known for writing the definitive history of the Replacements, All Over But the Shouting and adding the coffee table photo book this year. Dedicating the performance to Bob "Slim" Dunlap, "patron saint of the hoot," Walsh and the other dozen or so musicians on stage played selections of the guitarist's solo work. It was a fitting opener. Proceeds from the night went towards the Slim Dunlap Fund, supporting the 'Mats guitarist (he replaced Bob Stinson in 1986) through his recovery from a stroke earlier this year.

For the opening number of the show, Walsh's own "Sworn Member of the Slim Dunlap Fan Club," there were seven guitars playing at once, but the piece sounded remarkably cohesive and smooth, as much like a free-flowing gathering of musicians as an intimate coffee shop performance in front of a few friends. Martin Devaney continued the mood with "Hate This Town," sincerely musing "In my dream I didn't hate this town / I'm goddamn lucky to be here" and filling the mainroom with haunting, lonely harmonica.

Martin Devaney
Martin Devaney
Photo by Erik Hess

As nice a start to the evening as the tribute to Slim was, "cohesive," "smooth," and "intimate" wouldn't be appropriate descriptions of many of the performances that followed -- as it should be. In the entry, Stereo Confession kicked off their set with "I Hate Music," sneering the lyric "I hate my high school" with a level of vitriol that could only be reached by someone who is actually still in high school.

Though they were some of the youngest people at the 18+ show, they have been playing together for four years, and this experience showed in their sound. Despite rough edges, the three-piece threw out as much energy as anyone there, and even though their drummer looked like he was trying to solve a difficult math problem, they held a steady rhythm. It doesn't hurt that they know how to work a room. Their lead singer dedicated their closing song to a special fan: "So my English teacher is here tonight. I'd like to dedicate this next song to her -- it's a little number called 'Fuck School.'"

Stereo Confession
Stereo Confession
Photo by Erik Hess

Back in the mainroom, fellow three-piece Fury Things were showing off what Stereo Confession could eventually become. In a particularly apt choice for Black Friday, their cover of the consumerism aping "Customer" from Sorry Ma... absolutely shredded, stopping and exploding on a dime, the sonic equivalent of a molotov through a Walmart window.

Blackberry Brandy Boys
Blackberry Brandy Boys
Photo by Erik Hess
A tribute to the Replacements at First Avenue, 11/29/13
Photo by Erik Hess

After Fury Things cleaned out the crowd's collective eardrums, the vibe shifted from punk to Americana. The Blackberry Brandy Boys were fully equipped to produce any sound on the roots music, country, or dad-rock spectrum, with a steel guitar, fiddle, double-necked guitar and an acoustic. "Aching to Be" benefited greatly from the treatment, gaining a new level of longing from increased steel guitar and a mournful fiddle solo. The whole building seemed to be feeling a three-beer, summer night buzz as the last notes faded out.

Ole Yeller
Ole Yeller
Photo by Eric Hess

Ol' Yeller, though not without a few moments of twang, brought it back to straight-up guitar rock. Their renditions of tracks from Let it Be were particular standouts. The guitars of "16 Blue" carried almost human sadness, and the solos seemed to be less breaks in the normal rhythm of the song than uncontrollable outbursts of feeling. "Answering Machine" was similar, more wailed than sung or played, and building to a powerful and hard-rocking conclusion. I half-expected to hear yells of "Freebird!" from the crowd as they exited, and I mean that in the absolute best way.

 

As satisfying as masterful guitar work can be, sometimes all you really want is noise, and Crash Burn brought that to the entry in their 11-minute, six-song set. Their opening "Goddamn Job," while not the most technically precise performance, was the best rendition of the song all night, so fast and tense that it seemed almost pressurized. The band was heavy and slapped together, drank a few beers on stage, and at times seemed not to be in sync, all of which made them more fun to listen to.

Back in the mainroom, the it was time to close the night with a performance of Hootenanny by the Melismatics and a host of guest vocalists. The band was able to keep the songs going through the chaotic mix of singers in various states of preparation and sobriety.

The pair of vocalists from Pink Mink, Arzu Gokcen and Christie Hunt, turned two of the albums' strongest (and most comprehensible) performances. Arzu demonically wailed through "Run it," and Christie Hunt built her rendition of "Take Me to the Hospital" from something fairly standard and by-the-book to a truly wild and visceral performance by the closing notes.

Curtiss A
Curtiss A
Photo by Erik Hess

Curtiss A's "Color Me Impressed" was also notable, though for less-traditional reasons. It was probably the strangest performance of the night by far. His movements were clearly more than stumbling, but couldn't be called dancing either, and the lyrics were warped and distorted by an intentionally grotesque vocal styling that fit the definition of neither screaming nor singing. The first adjective that comes to mind is "unpleasant," and yet it commanded the crowds attention from the first note to the last, punctuated by a prat-fall to the stage, and no one could deny how interesting and entertaining it all was.

Christie Hunt
Christie Hunt
Photo by Erik Hess

The album run-through also included Mark Mallman performing "Lovelines" with a poster board mock-up of the City Pages classifieds that provided the lyrics to the cynically funny "love" song. The best visual of the album performance, though, was that of Dale T. Nelson of Otto's Chemical Lounge throwing all of his tiny, white-haired frame into snarling "You Lose." It got the crowd hyped up enough that the subsequent "Heyday" inspired a few small instances of moshing here and there, a rare sight in the fairly stationary audience.

Dale T. Nelson
Dale T. Nelson
Photo by Erik Hess

After "Treatment Bound" ended with the very 'Mats exclamation "I fucked it" and a mic drop, a short encore set brought a crew of performers from throughout the night to the stage. Martin Devaney led the night's only performance of "Here Comes a Regular" on acoustic guitar, shrinking the room to where it was at the start of the tribute to Slim.

It's a hootenanny!
It's a hootenanny!
Photo by Erik Hess

As the "last song" came to a close, Ryan Smith of the Melismatics could be seen conferring with the now dozen or more musicians on stage, setting up an second performance of "Hootenanny." The title track of the album, with the 'Mats switching instruments and generally messing around, was always meant to be a bit of a joke, and this version lived up to that history. It ended by falling into chaos--shouts coming seemingly at random, an electric guitar being passed from person to person, arrhythmic drumming. It was simultaneously the worst musical performance of the night and the best way the show could have ended--by dissolving into pure irreverence and ending because there was nowhere it could go.

Critic's Notebook:

Random Notebook Dump: Here's a quick high point from the performing bands I didn't mention in the review. Van Stee performed "Can't Hardly Wait" with the appropriate level of aching sincerity. Crankshaft and the Gear Grinders lent a new level of bluesy soul to the Westerberg demo, "Bad Worker." And though I only caught the second half of Myotis's last song, they really brought the bile to a kick-ass degree.

The crowd: Original Replacements fans were well represented, including in the front row, but the crowd overall was diverse in terms of age and comfort with studded leather.


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