Tuesday, September 30, 2014

God, What a mess: Summer Ends Festival Part I & The Replacements First Club Show in over 20 years

"They sing, "I'm in Love, what's that song? Yeah, I'm in love, with that song…"
~The Replacements "Alex Chilton," written by Paul Westerberg~

The Replacements are my favorite band. More appropriately put, they're "my favorite thing, bar NOTHING." I put Paul Westerberg's lyrics in a room with Bob Dylan. There's that room with those two, and then there's everyone else. Those words, that band, has meant so much to me that last year my wife (hereafter "human credential") and I drove over a dozen hours to outside of a Denver to see one of the 3 reunion shows at RiotFest. That's an experience that was near spiritual for me, and to be honest, I never wrote about it here because I don't know if I could do it justice. Maybe one day…
Photo by Hudson Hawk
Beautiful Melodies Telling You Terrible Things Vol. Now Everyone I know Knows the Replacements,
Though Now, If you Don't Know the Replacements...Then you're No one I know
THE SHOW - SUMMER ENDS MUSIC FESTIVAL: Not much of a stretch past Lucky Man's annual St. Patrick's Day Music Festival, it takes the same idea and same venue - a bunch of musical acts playing all day at Tempe Beach Park - and adds a couple days around it to turn it into one of those cool of this era Music Festivals. Those beautiful events filled with overpriced food from lucky to not be shut down by the health board vendors, bands no one's heard of so you can feel you're "in the know," dudes with patchy beards and girls who take headbands from the native Americans, a shall from a Geisha, their grandmothers giant sunglasses and shorts from their 3 sizes smaller than them little sister and call it a fashion statement. So here it was, Arizona's big chance to make a splash (pun intended) in the ever popular multi-day music festival market…

"God, what a mess, on the ladder of success,
Where you take one step and miss the whole first rung…"
~The Replacements "Bastards of Young," written by Paul Westerberg~

Photo by Lucky Man Concerts
THE VENUE: TEMPE BEACH PARK: Tempe Beach Park is more of a place I like to visit with my wife (hereafter "human credential") than see a concert at. I like a more traditional amphitheater or inside venue and while it's size and locale would potentially mean that many more people would hear "Bastards of Young" for the first time, it also means it's very douchebag friendly for concerts. My earlier jokes aside, I enjoy most of the vendors that show up, and you can usually find a place to yourself in some hidden corner….

That is, if by "Summer Ends" it didn't apparently mean hurricane like monsoon. My human credential and I showed up about the time we figured the Maine would be coming on. Knowing parking would be atrocious and expensive, we parked across the Lake and in some covered parking. We knew shit was going down as soon as we got out and the wind was blowing over every trashcan in sight and a giant wheelchair accessible porta-potty was moving across the parking area like a skateboard…right into a car. Looking down on the river? Some geniuses enjoyed the rapids of the lake…
Photo of Idiots by Hudson Hawk
Now listen, I'm, just as much as anyone, willing to say that most Phoenix/Valley people are either one of two things when it comes to rain: pussies or idiots, but this took the latter choice to a new level. I saw a few jock douchebags pull up and get out their canoe and head out in major rain and lightning. It was obvious things weren't going well, and the music we first heard when we pulled up turned out to not be from the venue but from a guy in his car blasting a local band. We decided to make the trek across the Mill Avenue Bridge…well, this was almost as dumb as the creatures from the douche lagoon down below. Halfway across the storm crashed down like a hammer from Thor, if Thor was Aqua-Man and Marvel and DC lived in the same universe, which would then cause a multitude of both jizz and bitch festivals on the Podcasts featured on this very site. It didn't help they decided to try and block freeloaders from watching the concert with some heavy mesh material near the end of the bridge, and the wind had blown these up and into our faces. It was that, or walk into traffic. By the time we got to the entrance we were soaked (understatement) the venue was closed ( all the fans and workers already in were apparently huddled under the bridge like a sardine can) and we found really pathetic refuge in what could be called a overzealous umbrella. Better than the security guards stuck in it…
Photo of Soon to be reported missing guards by Hud-Hawk

We ultimately took one of the breaks in the rains action (it was reportedly waiting for enough cheers to come back for an encore, which it did) to make it back to our car to try and dry off. After a lengthy conversation with a band member, he ultimately got the official text "SHOW CANCELLED."

NEW PLAN - ZIA & CORLEONE'S: With the Show apparently cancelled, what else was there to do? We dried off, sort of, with the cars heater and made our way down the road and ultimately across a flooded Mill Avenue parking lot Noah built to Zia. Not all was lost as a used copy of Warren Zevon's Preludes: Rare & Unreleased Recordings was to be found, a release from 2007 I never got around to picking up. We then made our way across a flooded intersection, watching a Mustang behind us spin out like a scene out of the Fast & Frolicsome, before hitting Corleone's right on Mill. One of our favorite pre or post concert spots and a great place to get a cheese whiz covered Philly. Then I get word from my friend and fellow concert reviewer (and 'Mats fan) Mark "Show's back on at the Marquee, Replacements are playing." Wait, what…The Replacements, at the…Marquee? This Talent Show could be the "biggest day in my life" indeed after all…

Photo by 93.3 AZAltRock
THE ACTUAL VENUE: MARQUEE THEATER:  It's hard to remember the first show I saw here, but it's easier to remember the Marquee. A small little theater on the corner at the tail end of anything interesting on the northern end of Mill Avenue, it's a place with literally no bad views. Also, no bad breathing either since it was remodeled and no longer plagued by apparent asbestos falling from the ceiling. Paul Westerberg played a solo gig here in 2005 (his last solo tour, or tour of any kind until last year) and it's been a 'Mats fans dreams to see the reunited band in a place like this. It's been all big time festivals and then more recently stadiums in Minnesota and New York since their reunion. It took an act of God (obviously, much like his God's daughter was in filmmaker/writer Gorman Bechard's book, The Second Greatest Story Ever Told, God is a 'Mats fan) but dreams do come true. Even pathetic ones like seeing a band in a small club theater instead of a big festival setting.

So after waiting in line for nearly two hours we got in…only to wait another hour for the stagehands and crew to finish the preparations of moving everything over, and then the Maine to soundcheck. It sucked, sure, but you had to give these guys and Luckyman Concerts for making such a quick, and necessary (just see that earlier destroyed Beach Park stage pic) change. The only problem? It's to be a condensed show, opener for 25 minutes, next few bands for 40 minutes each then the Replacements for 45. However I talk to a crew guy who tells me "the Replacements are gonna have free reign to keep on if they feel it." I can only hope, and I'll talk about the other bands we saw later, but for now…
Photo by Instagram User Asstomouth
MY FAVORITE THING: THE REPLACEMENTS: Much like the earlier bands, it seemed to be taking forever to the Replacements soundcheck to get finished up. Suddenly Paul Westerberg shows up, rocking a hat, cigarette in mouth, leprechaun like threads on, with band in tow. Tommy Stinson, ever that teenage boy from the bands early years (they started when he was 13), rocking a telly-tubbies costume. Most bands, especially ones their age, could try something like this to only fail or feel contrived. But this? This just felt like the Replacements. One cigarette put out (don't worry, there would be "more cigarettes," just not the song) and before you know it, Tommy's bass is thumping, and that jangly guitar comes on as the band opens up with "I Will Dare," maybe the greatest single to never make it big. Only problem? Interupting a soundcheck has issues, like your mic not being on. It didn't matter though, the crowd filled in the blanks and Paul had fun with it, even pushing guitarist Dave Minehan's mic up and away from him being able to add any backup vocals. Early on into the next song, "Kiss Me on the Bus," the mic's kick in and the crowd erupted. Afterwards Paul, ever the smartass, quips "that's the first time we were cheered for people being able to hear us." After barnstorming through the absolute punk rock of "Takin' a Ride" off their debut LP, Paul mentions they're going to do some songs then take requests.

Photo by Hudson Hawk
The thing that sticks out about this show is the absolute variation in song types the band was able to put out. The Descendent's, the prior band, almost equally legendary, equally as old, played a fun and blistering set but it was filled with the same type of punk song over and over. The Replacements would go punk with "Take Me Down to the Hospital," dial it back to get a melancholic singalong with "Androgynous," rock out alt-rocker "Merry Go Round" (even changing maybe the best verse about "waking to find the wind blowing out of key with your sky" to instead be about waking up to find another piece of cake missing) to an ironic yet all too genuine cover of the Jackson 5's "I Want You Back," only to make you laugh in between songs at banter or Paul's sarcastic ability to self deprecate at any lyrics he blew. I know several guys I talked to on day 3 of the festival (day 2 for us we didn't hit day 1) left after whatever band they were there for and missed the Replacements, and I can't help but thing of those that stayed that had never heard them before. There's no way to walk away from the eclectic mix of ironic punk and introspective rock the band poured out without feeling they absolutely shredded ever act that came on the stage before them. My human credential's favorite band is the Violent Femme's, and as much as she loved their performance on day 3, she too couldn't help but admit they were her second place performer to the 'Mats.

Photo by Devon Adams
Around a third of the way into the show, long after Paul had lost his hat and jacket and Tommy had thrown his tele-tubby head and costume into the crowd (he said he was "keeping the boots cause they're the best of of the costume," though he threw out those, too, after the show) they got back a legal pad and paper Paul had Tommy hand out, saying "write down your favorite songs, Maybe we'll play some." The first one read off was "Don't You Get Married" (which Paul sarcastically at first read as "Don't You Guys Practice?," a reference to a remark Bob Dylan made to them in studio has they did a spoof of his song "Like a Rolling Stone") and that got my heart palpitating. One of my true favorites of the rare kind. We had already gotten outtake/B-sides such as "Nowhere is My Home" and the anthem to those drunk, lonely and horny everywhere: "If Only You Were Lonely," now this too? Nope, Paul Tim, and then Westerberg took out a harmonica for "White and Lazy," saying the person who requested it said they did because "they look funny while playing it." Legendary Tony Glover joined them on-stage for this some weeks back, but even he would have to give a nod of approval to Paul's mouth-harp playing here during this ramshackle white-boy blues fused with punk.
went to the next one, announcing it as drummer Joss Freese's least favorite song, "a little Mascara" as Paul faked tears. I'm not sure why it's Freese's least favorite song, maybe the lyric about "for the kids you stay together?" After rocking Mascara out, it led into "Left of the Dial," much like it does on the album

Photo by Hudson Hawk
After maybe their two best known songs, "Can't Hardly Wait" and "Bastards of Young," the band left, already long past their 45 minute set-time with over 20 songs already played. They returned though, rocking out "Alex Chilton," much as they did in their return to 30 Rock on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon recently, another 20+ year long wait. Westerberg has long stated he gets nothing out of playing "Unsatisfied" from their seminal college rock masterpiece Let it Be anymore, but they played it, and he sang it like he did. After "Love You in the Fall," a song from the Open Season soundtrack that reunited Westerberg and Stinson, they went back to the request board. After all, as Westerberg said, "we don't' have anything else to do but go back to the hotel room." After teasing with a few seconds of "Mr. Whirly" ("Mr. Whirly!? We haven't played that since Bob died…" Westerberg smiled and said to his brethren, and Bob's half brother, Stinson) before they finished up with a song they often covered in the old days but hadn't done since reuniting, "Another Girl, Another Planet" by the Only Ones. "I think I'm on another world with you," indeed. At 1AM, they were done, and Westerberg simply said "This was nice. I wanna thank you guys for this," before disappearing behind the rest of the band.

I walked out, barely, My knees and legs more or less shot from the days proceedings and several hours of standing and rocking out. I've gotten to see the Replacements twice now, and I've seen two fantastic shows. I was too young (as the Femmes put it in "American Music": "I was born too soon, I was born too late…") to see them in the old days. I saw a guy with a self made shirt that said "I got to see Paul, Tommy, Bob and Chris in 1984!" and I had to wonder, did you get your moneys worth like I just did? Or was it just fun legend? Then I realized, one day I would be saying "I was there the night a huge monsoon hit and the Replacements ended up playing the Marquee theater, their first club show in over 20 years…" and then I realized, there's nothing wrong with that.

I Will Dare
After-Show Photo by Drummer Josh Freese, his son sleeping
Kiss Me on the Bus
Takin' a Ride
Favorite Thing
I'll Be You
Tommy Gets His Tonsils Out
Take Me Down to the Hospital
Color Me Impressed
I Want You Back (Jackson 5 Cover)
Nowhere is My Home
If Only You Were Lonely
Achin' to Be
Merry Go Round
Little Mascara
Left of the Dial
White and Lazy
Can't Hardly Wait
Bastards of Young
Alex Chilton
Love You in the Fall
Mr. Whirly (Only for a Few Seconds - "a moment, just not a memorable one" as Tommy said)
Another Girl, Another Planet (The Only Ones cover)

One Last Hawk, er Thought:We got teased a bit during the soundcheck as someone sound checked an acoustic guitar, obviously tuned to the tune of "Skyway,"  but beggars can't be choosers, especially since the legal pad passed around never came my way. It's not like they could have read my writing if it did. So an acoustic guitar was never played, but plenty of others were, and that's good enough for me.

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