Every so often, a special show comes along that calls on musicians from seemingly every corner of the local scene to come together and throw a big, communal party. More and more frequently, First Avenue has been home to these kinds of events, and Friday night's all-star Tribute to the Replacements show was no exception: Around every corner, bustling between the Main Room and the 7th St. Entry, hundreds of familiar faces gathered to play, sing, talk about, or otherwise worship a local group whose legacy has permanently etched itself into the grimy black walls of the famous club.
The tribute show marked more than one occasion; not only was this blustery fall evening a paperback release party for Jim Walsh's oral history The Replacements: All Over But the Shouting, but it also marked the 25th anniversary of the band's arguably most popular release, Let It Be. To celebrate, Walsh flitted through the two rooms to simultaneously harass and hug the participating musicians, while the Let It Be cover's photographer, Daniel Corrigan (who is also the longtime house photographer at First Avenue), snapped shots of concertgoers as they poked their heads through a cutout version of the album's iconic artwork.
For an overview of the evening, check out this composite video, which features clips of performances from throughout the show:
The evening started out with short bursts of two to three songs each by well-known local bands like Lookbook, Idle Hands, and Gospel Gossip, who invited Ouija Radio's Christy Hunt on stage to play guitar and pulled off one of the best sets of covers of the evening with "Left of the Dial" and "Can't Hardly Wait."
In the Entry, a handful of acoustic artists played quieter renditions of Replacements songs, with singer-songwriter John Swardson adapting "The Ledge" over rattling acoustic guitar strums and Jeremy Messersmith reprising his version of "Skyway," which he liked performing so much at the last 'Mats tribute that he included it on his last album. "This is probably the best Minneapolis/St. Paul song ever written," he said before playing "Skyway." "And in some ways it's just really freeing, like, ok, somebody already wrote the best song that's going to be written about [the Cities]. Fine. I'm just going to do whatever music makes me happy. Perfection has been achieved, so I'm just going to keep doing my poor man's Picasso."
Later on, the lines between sets became blurred and the momentum gained speed as more people pressed themselves into the Entry and back out into the Main Room. At one point booker Sonia Grover, who had initially planned to spend the evening across the street at the Timberwolves game, said she could only bear to stay away 20 minutes before coming back to the club to rejoin the party -- there was celebration in the air, and the feeling of contagious revelry was palpable as the night barrelled on.
The show's climax came with the presentation of the "Let It Be House Band," comprised of Ryan Smith and Pony Hixon-Smith from the Melismatics, Terry Eason, and Peter Leggett and dVRG from Heiruspecs, who played through the entire Let It Be album from start to finish with a variety of surprise guest vocalists like Caroline Smith, Curtiss A, Arzu, Adam Levy, Christy Hunt, and more. The band played with incredible precision, recreating the tracks off Let It Be with an accuracy that had many shaking their heads, and each guest vocalist brought their own bit of flair -- Tapes 'n Tapes frontman Josh Grier jumped up and down and screamed to "Black Diamond," while Dan Wilson sported a vintage Trip Shakespeare shirt and spiked his hair for a faithful cover of "Answering Machine."
For more on the evening, check out Stacy Schwartz's full slideshow of photos.