The Replacements: 2013 in review
Photo By Erik Hess
For fans of the Replacements, 2013 provided one memorable moment after another from a band that no one was sure they would hear from ever again. The 'Mats not only released a new EP to benefit their ailing friend Slim Dunlap, they reunited for a string of thrilling shows that had dedicated fans from all over the world flocking to see them take the stage once again, and were even nominated for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to top it all off.
There were no shortage of headlines and unforgettable occasions provided by Paul Westerberg, Tommy Stinson, and the gang throughout the past 12 months, and here we take an affectionate look back at a year that truly belonged to the Replacements.
Following months of rumors and wild speculation, the Replacements' Songs For Slim EP finally goes up for auction on January 15. The 250 10-inch vinyl copies of the first new material from the 'Mats in 23 years (with album artwork designed by drummer Chris Mars) ultimately raise over $100,000 to benefit guitarist Slim Dunlap, who is still recovering from a stroke.
The excitement and overwhelming response to the EP, and Paul and Tommy's convivial recording sessions at Flowers Studio, play a part in the guys deciding to finally take to the stage together once again, and the 'Mats reunion plans slowly begin to turn from long-whispered rumors and hoped-for dreams to a genuine possibility. Little do we all know what is in store for us at this point.
A series of limited-edition (and entirely awesome) 7-inches released throughout the year continue to benefit Slim's ongoing medical care. Minneapolis mayor R.T. Rybak even shows the former 'Mats guitarist some well-deserved love by fittingly proclaiming Valentine's Day, Thursday, February 14 to be Slim Dunlap day in the city.
The initial news that the Replacements will finally reunite at Riot Fest in Toronto, Chicago, and Denver send shockwaves throughout the Twin Cities music community and beyond. Long-time fans and younger listeners alike still can't quite believe that they will have the chance to see Paul and Tommy play together live. The announcement has dedicated fans scrambling to make travel plans to see the momentous event live, with Stinson stoking the fires of anticipation even further by appearing on stage with Wilco as they cover the Replacements' celebrated Hootenanny jam, "Color Me Impressed."
Everyone is collectively holding their breath ahead of the Riot Fest shows, hoping that the chaotic, unpredictable history of the band won't derail their first shows in 22 years. Meanwhile, the band teases out frustratingly brief (9 seconds!) rehearsal footage of them running through "Alex Chilton," ratcheting up the music world's excitement level for their forthcoming shows.
Har Mar Superstar takes advantage of everyone's intense interest in all things Replacements by causing a mild internet uproar (and duping Spin in the process) by claiming on Twitter that he was joining the 'Mats. The joke is eventually revealed to be a ruse (who would've guessed from Har Mar?!), but for a few brief moments in June plenty of people are deceived and amazed at that collaborative possibility, while proving that the 'Mats rumor mill is officially spinning wildly out of control at this point.
Former City Pages music editor Jim Walsh affectionately adds to the growing sense of nostalgia by announcing the release of a wonderful photographic history of the Replacements called Waxed Up Hair & Painted Shoes, a visual accompaniment to his excellent 2007 book, The Replacements: All Over But The Shouting: An Oral History.
Photo courtesy of Voyageur Press
Paul and Tommy also settle the debate as to what musicians were going to be joining them for their Riot Fest reunion shows, settling on a backing band of drummer Josh Freese and guitarist David Minehan which would round out the modern 'Mats lineup.
People then begin debating what songs they needed to hear live at the upcoming shows, while painstakingly diagramming the Replacements' vast musical family tree, and ranking their studio albums from worst to best, making it clear that the 'Mats are on everyone's mind, and the reunion shows themselves can't arrive soon enough.
In advance of the highly anticipated gigs, Tommy Stinson revisits the famous Let It Be house with the A.V. Club, while the band secretly gets together at First Avenue for three days of rehearsals in late August for some last minute tune-ups before their first reunion show in Toronto.
Photo By Ivy Lovell
All of the hype and endless anticipation finally is put to rest on August 25, as the Replacements finally take to the stage in Toronto. They start the show appropriately enough with "Takin a Ride." The 'Mats charge through a 75-minute set that delights the large contingent of local fans who made their way up to Canada to witness a bit of musical history. Paul's mismatched socks seemed to be the only thing that don't fit together at the show, as the music world celebrated the rowdy return of one of the best bar bands of all time.
As countless videos surface documenting nearly every moment of the grand reunion, Westerberg himself reassures Minnesota music fans by emphatically stating that the band would eventually get around to playing some shows closer to home. We're still waiting, by the way, Paul!
Photo By Erik Hess
Meanwhile, Riot Fest rolls raucously into Chicago in mid-September for the second Replacements reunion show, with many more locals making the trek down to the Windy City to take part in the fun. The rain can't dampen the spirits of the longtime 'Mats fans who finally get the chance to see their favorite band once again, and the guys deliver another memorable set (here's extensive video proof of their potency) that sends everyone home happy.
Photo courtesy of Riot Fest's Facebook page
The 'Mats seem to fully shrug off any pressure they feel from these reunion gigs by the time they got to Riot Fest in Denver on September 21, as Paul and Tommy don pink skirts, plaid western shirts, and orange cowboy hats for their final show together (as of yet). The show gloriously comes unglued at the end. The band fittingly bring both the set and their string of reunion shows to a fractured end with dismantling covers of KISS' "Detroit Rock City" and the Who's "Substitute," with Stinson teasing their fans as the set dissolved by warning, "You asked for us."
While we await a local show announcement by the Replacements, as well as word of whether or not they will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, area 'Mats fans turn out in big numbers at the annual Replacements Tribute at First Avenue.
And we all have another chance to contribute to the Slim Dunlap fund by purchasing the just-released benefit compilation, Rockin' Here Tonight.
It's obvious that the music and the mystique of the Replacements still resonates loud and clear with music fans in Minnesota and throughout the world, and hopefully the guys continue to give us all something to get excited about in 2014. But until then, the 'Mats have one last feisty, single-digit parting shot to sum up the past year and the warm feelings they have for us all.
Photo By Erik Hess
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