Playing makeup, wearing guitar

Indulge me.


Tomorrow night I am going to see The Replacements.

This probably means nothing to you. And that’s okay. It means nothing to 99% of the world’s population. But it means something to me. And here’s why.

The Replacements are a seminal Minneapolis rock band who were active from 1981 until about 1991. They were known in their early days as drunken louts with a bunch of great songs that they would play at punk venues throughout Minneapolis. They were the Minneapolis sounds – sorry, Prince – before there was a Minneapolis sound. Their songs are Minneapolis.

Their shows were either trainwrecks or brilliant. And when they were signed to a major label this didn’t change. And it was ultimately their downfall. They released their last record – appropriately titled “All Shook Down” in 1990 and broke up in 1991. Founding guitarist Bobby Stinson died in 1995. Their second drummer Steve Foley died in 2008. Songwriter, singer and guitar player Paul Westerberg released a bunch of schlop records. Bassist Tommy Stinson joined Guns N’ Roses. Guitarist Slim Dunlap suffered a massive stroke in 2012. The Replacements as we knew them were gone forever.

I came to the band “late.” I bought their second to last record ‘Don’t Tell a Soul’ in 1989-ish, and bought their last album the week it came out. I was not party to the glory years of Minneapolis punk. The days of all-ages shows at 4:30 in the afternoon when they were stumbling drunk. But I went and bought “Tim”, “Pleased to Meet Me” and “Let it Be” and those albums followed me everywhere I went. They were staples of my car stereo. I lived, drank, breathed, loved those records.

(Note: I work 100 yards from the house on the cover of “Let it Be“).


I have mentioned how they were drunks several times now, but I should probably mention the songs.

Oh, those songs.

Westerberg wrote some of the most perfect rock songs ever in existence. They are about hope and loss while simultaneously sad and funny.  He sings about rebellion and bars and Minneapolis over perfectly crafted pop guitar. It’s perfect. They are perfect. Go listen.

Last year they reunited, probably for financial reasons but who cares, and tomorrow is their first show in Minnesota in 23 years.

And I am going.

It’s at Midway Stadium, a minor league baseball park in St. Paul.

At first I was mostly excited because it was going to be a fun summer outside romp with my wife and 13,000 of our closest friends. But then this morning I read this paragraph from local writer – and Replacements historian – Jim Walsh:

there’s no preparing for the two-hour rush of emotion that happens while you’re hearing all those songs you’ve been listening alone to for so many years, but suddenly they’re unfurling in the open air with thousands of other like-minded and super-solitary souls…

That’s it. That’s it right there. It put a lump in my throat and I realized that tomorrow is going to be far more emotional for me than I ever imagined.

I have listened to “Left of the Dial” a thousand times. But each time I was alone or maybe with a handful of people. Tomorrow night I am going to hear it with 13,000 people who also have only heard the song on their car stereo for the last 23 years.

I get emotional just thinking about that.

The Replacements weren’t everyone’s cup of tea. But if you loved them, they were yours. They belonged to you. They were outsiders who sang songs for other outsiders. The downtrodden, the outcasts, the rebels. Us. All of us. All together in one place. Belting out the chorus to “Bastards of Young” all together finally and probably for the last time.

It’s going to be perfect.


I had plans to tie cricket in here. To mention that maybe an experience at a cricket match – something I have never done – would be equally as emotional for me. To be up close, to be part of this game I have followed and written about for so long. But the segue felt hackneyed. And nothing will ever compare to seeing the Replacements. Live. Which I am doing tomorrow night.


One Reply to “Playing makeup, wearing guitar”

  1. You describe it perfectly. I saw them back in 1989 when “Don’t Tell A Soul” had just come out. It was a free show at my college, Florida State. I remember running into Tommy Stinson and being too tongue-tied to actually say anything.

    I had been listening to Replacements for years at that point. I remember my friend Brad introducing me to their records the night before the Challenger accident. We stayed up all night listening to Stink and Tim over and over. Then over breakfast, we watched live as the shuttle took off and fizzled out. A weird connection, but it somehow seems to connect with the band’s music and career in a way.

    I remember also loving another group from Minneapolis, Husker Du. But over the years, I found that I came back to the Replacements far more often than the Huskers. What I finally concluded was that Husker Du sang about the feelings you had that you wanted other people to know about: righteous indignation, determination, hope. But the Replacements sang about the feelings you were afraid to share with others: insecurity, vulnerability, social awkwardness, fear of being alone or not alone mixed together. Songs like “Unsatisfied,” “Kiss Me On The Bus,” and “Bastards of Young” capture perfectly that sense of disorientation that comes with the beginnings of adulthood, and remains long after you think you should know better. The last verse of “Bastards of Young” is especially poignant, “The ones who love us least are the ones we’d die to please” is all too accurate.

    “How do you say ‘I love you’ to an answering machine?” We all learned to do it, and I’m not sure we’re better off as a result. I hope that this music is still finding its way to teenagers who need to know someone else understands.

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