JELLYFISH TALE #4: HIT THE ROAD, JACK

With their debut album complete, Jellyfish prepped to play their first concerts ever. The band would end up touring almost nonstop for a little over a year. Andy Zax writes about their first moments playing live in the liner notes for Fan Club

With promotional duties looming, Jellyfish were going to have to transform themselves from what had previously been a studio-only project into a functional live band.  To do that, they urgently needed to find a bass player (Jason and Redd Kross’s Steve McDonald had played most of the parts on the album).  After a fruitless search, Roger suggested his younger brother Chris – who was just about to graduate from college – for the job.  Although Chris’s musical credentials were decidedly shaky compared to those of Andy, Roger and Jason, an audition session was quickly arranged.  The venue: an unused janitorial closet.  It was the first time the group had played any of the songs together in one room all at once.  Hearing their music live in 3-D, even in very rough form, left them giddy with excitement.  It was decided that, with some coaching, Chris would be able to handle the bass duties, and he was officially inducted into the band.  Jason quickly set about teaching him the bass parts, while carpooling to the rehearsal studio each morning enabled Roger and Jason to instruct Chris in the art of three-part harmony by singing endless choruses of Kansas’ “Carry On Wayward Son.”

How to pad a set when you’ve only got one ten song album to pull from?  A ten song album with eight playable songs.  Unlike most bands who play for years and have enough songs to make two albums when they first go in the studio, Jellyfish had a bunch of demos they weren’t that happy with as leftovers.  So, they started from scratch, writing three great crowd-pleasers just for their live show.  “Hello” was obviously designed to be a Cheap Trick-styled opener to start a set off with a bang. “Mr Late“, a favorite of producer Albhy Galuten, went through changes and ended with an impressive cascading acapella ending.  “Will You Marry Me?” was a Jelly-styled ode to nuptials with a big blues-rock ending.  They all went over great but the band never recorded any of them, though the solo of “Joining A Fanclub” echoes them a bit.  Tim Smith and Eric Dover told me they’d learned the songs before the band’s second tour but they were never played again.

In Fan Club‘s liner notes, Roger recalled how they learned the song “Always Be My Girl”, though they never did play it….
“One of my fondest and funniest tour memories occurred while this song was being rediscovered by the band.  We’d always felt very proud of this older Beatnik Beatch tune, but for one reason or another it was never made a priority track for the BELLYBUTTON album.  We desperately needed material to fill an hour-plus set on our first U.S. tour, so Jason and Chris began to learn the song shortly after we set out cross-country in our band motor home.  Time was of the essence, so Chris spent every waking minute learning this lightning-fast and incredibly difficult walking bass part.  There was only one problem; the motor home we had rented had blown rear shocks.  So every time we’d drive over the tinniest pebble, it felt as though the back of this vehicle would shoot two to three feet up in the air.  (This meant no napping/eating/reading or any other kind of relaxing in general.)  But Chris was determined to learn his part by the next night’s show.  As we all attempted to sleep up front, Chris went to the back of the motor home with his bass guitar and a Walkman cassette player.  Four hours later he emerged from his quarters having mastered the part.  But he had been so immersed in the task at hand that he didn’t realize that he had become severely nauseous and had inadvertently inflicted bruises on his legs, chest and face.  Needless to say, it takes a special type of person to be a member of Jellyfish.  Way to go, Chris!”

With their keen sense of pop history and fun, it’s not surprising that their early shows were filled with great covers. In their first shows, they played “The Logical Song” by Supertramp, the MTV theme, “Live & Let Die” by Wings, “Sugar and Spice” by the Archies, a Big Mac ad, “Couldn’t I Just Tell You” by Todd Rungren, and a Dennis DeYoung (Styx) soundalike contest where the band members sang “Come Sail Away”.  They stuck with “Let Em In” and “Jet” by Wings plus “Go Your Own Way” by Fleetwood Mac for most of their first year of touring and kept playing Badfinger’s “No Matter What” for the entire life of the band.

They rehearsed a lot but also had to stock up on clothes to go along with the image they’d dreamed up. There was no doubting they were ready to make a visual impact.  Dr. Seuss hats, bell bottoms, platform shoes, and frilly things were gathered at thrift stores and taken out on the road. They would later complain that their image got out of control, but, Roger was on MTV licking a huge lollipop from the get-go. Jason said he went for a sort-of Faces look and managed to avoid most of the worst fashion no-no’s.  They packed up the costume box, Christmas lights, white picket fence, LIte Brite and bubble machine and hit the road with soundman Shalom Aberle. The Bay Area soundman was in the midst of moving to Atlanta when he was offered the job.  “I said I really couldn’t do it,” Aberle told Mix Magazine, “but they sent me a copy of Bellybutton [the bands debut] before it was released, and I knew I would be going. The music was totally up my alley.”

These photos have been living quietly on bassist Chris Manning's Facebook page for five years without almost anyone noticing. Thanks to Harry Gale & Geoff Leamon for leaving me clues.

These photos of the band’s very first show have been living quietly on bassist Chris Manning’s Facebook page for five years without almost anyone noticing. Thanks to Harry Gale & Geoff Leamon for leaving me clues.

mj cartoonNot a whole lot of well-known bands have made a major-label record without playing a live show.  The band’s very first gig was a secret set at Santa Rosa sportsbar the Studio Kafe on August 9th, 1990, two days after Bellybutton was released. Billed as Smürf, the show was a quick warmup before an official coming out the next night at Club DNA in San Francisco, where they would also play their first Spilt Milk show in 1993.  Programs with cartoon drawings of the band and a board game drawn by Jim Bricker were given out at the DNA. Andy asked that Bricker use the 1970’s Jackson Five cartoons as inspiration and Bricker happened to have a book focused on the art of Jack Davis which had some of The J5 character model sheets. Bricker remembers the band did the MTV Theme several times that night and closed with “Fever”, which Beatnik Beatch also used to cover. Apparently, the band also played a show at Sacramento’s Cattle Club around this time. Three weeks later, they began a nationwide tour opening for World Party that started in early September of 1990.

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Program ℅ DNALounge.com

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Band drawing from DNA program ℅ Chris Manning.

Band drawing from DNA program ℅ Chris Manning. Drawing by Jim Bricker, who Andy suggested use the Jackson 5 cartoons for style inspiration. Jason commented “I look like Steven Adler….and I like it”

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Apparently, the first date of World Party’s American tour was headlining 91X’s stage at San Diego Street Scene, which I went to. Nigerian singer Majek Fajek cancelled his opening set because of immigration problems so the Blasters were called down from LA to fill in at the last minute. I’m not sure why Jellyfish wasn’t already on the bill or why they didn’t get the call but I’m not sure I would’ve been ready to see them without warning.  I recently found a handwritten account of the night I did and edited it down by about 95%. So if you’re curious about how World Party, Stan Ridgway, the Blasters or the Origin were that night, check it out.  The singer from locals the Origin, Mike Andrews, would later start the band Elgin Park, who played several shows with Jason Falkner before becoming a successful soundtracker.  Here they are covering the Kinks for fun….

Apparently, from the very beginning of the tour with the world partiers, they blew minds. When I first started my Jellyfish site in 1996, I got an email from a Russ Thompson about one of the very first shows at the Wadsworth Theater on UCLA’s campus. “During every tune the crowd’s mouths were down to the floor in awe, including mine,” he said. “In-between songs people were yelling, ‘Who are you?'”  The next night, the tour rolled on to San Francisco at the Warfield.  ConcertVault.com has audio of World Party’s performance from that night on their site and a photo of Jellyfish’s set ended up in their boxed set.  I didn’t know musician John Walters was a fan until he got his copy and pointed out himself in the front row of the photo. He writes, “They opened with Live and Let Die….amazing set. The singing was insane….great show. Too overwhelmed to even remember World Party.”90 warfield

There’s little or no other evidence of the tour online. After their monthlong coast-to-coast theater jaunt with fellow 60’s/70’s pop revivalists, Jellyfish came home in October and did a short series of shows at universities around southern California, including one just a few miles from where I grew up at UCSD.

UCSD gym steps.  Photo by Merlyn Veray

UCSD gym steps. Photo by Merlyn Veray

On October 27, 1990, my high school friend Jim Cathcart was watching MTV in Santa Barbara and saw the video for “The King Is Half-Undressed”. He liked it so much that he went to see them that night at The Pub at UCSB by himself.  Meanwhile, near Los Angeles, California, I was attending my first year of college away at California State University at Northridge. I had spent my freshman year living at home and having a blast doing audio production at San Diego State University’s KCR. But, LA is the place to be to do the music thing, so off I went to the city of smog.

A few days after the show, Jim sent me a tape on which he explained to me how great Jellyfish was. He raved about them doing “Live & Let Die” and how a friend of theirs played a funky tambourine that prompted Roger to say “Inspiral Tim!” Since he didn’t have the album, he sang “King” to the best of his recollection. I totally remember him saying, “…and then it goes ‘Bapa bapa baaaaaaa…..'”  Needless to say, his one part harmony didn’t clue me in as to what I would soon be hearing.  A few weeks later he sent me a cassette copy of Bellybutton and…well…I really didn’t listen to it that much. He’d put a mix of songs on the other side that I listened to more. Once I gave it a shot, I liked it fine but didn’t love it, much to Jim’s frustration. He would soon return the favor by taking forever to get into the Posies’ Dear 23 album, despite my constant nagging.

Still, I was dying to see them live. Where the hell were they? KROQ had started to play “That Is Why” and I couldn’t believe that a California band wasn’t playing LA.  They spent November playing shows everywhere from Washington DC to Arizona, opening for Maggie’s Dream several times.  Finally, in January of 1991, I heard that they were playing a show in San Diego the following month.  Check please.

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MY FAVE TOONZ (circa 1996)

Originally posted on my Dumyhead Central page back in 1996. I added to it for a little bit then it just sat there and disappeared with the site. I dunno how many of these would still be on my list of all-time faves but it’s an interesting read 18 years later….

You can’t just sit and write a list of your favorite songs. You have to hear them randomly on the radio and think “I love this song!” (like Ione Skye in Say Anything). So anyways, that’s what I started to do. The less I hear these songs, the more likely they are to stay faves. Famous songs must be REALLY good for me to have heard them so much and still love ‘em. This is in no order, except for the first one which is undoubtedly the greatest performance of any song in the history of mankind. This is pretty random. Here goes…..

A Quick One (While He’s Away) by The Who (live on Rock n Roll Circus)
She’s A Rainbow by The Rolling Stones
Under Pressure by David Bowie & Queen
Not Too Soon by The Throwing Muses
Push by The Cure
Venus by The Shocking Blue
Sugar Kane by Sonic Youth
Is It Like Today by World Party
More Than A Feeling by Boston
More Than A Feeling by Moog Cookbook
Waltz #2 by Elliott Smith
All Day Long by New Order
Makeout Club by Unrest
I Am The Resurrection by The Stone Roses
Tobacco Road by The Nashville Teens
Henry The VIIIth by Herman’s Hermits
Natural One by Folk Implosion
This Town Ain’t Big Enough For The Both Of Us by Sparks
Green Green by Young Fresh Fellows
Junior Panthers by Sloan
After The Beach by Sandycoates
I’ve Got A Feeling (outtake with John replying “Good!” to the title) by The Beatles
Ripple by Jane’s Addiction
Obligatory Cover (For The Kids) by Funland
Two Headed Boy by Neutral Milk Hotel
Spicks & Specks by The Bee Gees
When The Levee Breaks by Led Zeppelin
Heart Are Trump by Trio (most of Trio & Error actually)
Borderska by Camper Van Beethoven
1952 Vincent Black Lightning by Richard Thompson
Open Every Window by The Posies
Only In Dreams by Weezer (and all the non-hits on the first album)
Buying The Ground by Tucker
Sweet Talkin’ Woman by ELO
Groove Is In The Heart by Deee-Lite
Get Me Away From Here, I’m Dying by Belle & Sebastian
Goodbye Goodbye by Oingo Boingo
Pearl by Chapterhouse
Everybody’s Got Something To Hide Except For Me & My Monkey by The Beatles
Nowhere Man by The Beatles
China by The Red Rockers
Down In Splendour by Straightjacket Fits
It’s All Over Now Baby Blue by Them
Rain by The Boomtown Rats
I Don’t Like Mondays by The Boomtown Rats
Carolyn’s Fingers by The Cocteau Twins
Like A Rolling Stone by Jimi Hendrix Experience (most of Live at Monterey)
Mrs. Robinson by The Lemonheads
American Girl by Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers
Letter From America by The Proclaimers
The Lady In The Front Row by Redd Kross
Goodbye Girl (fast version) by Squeeze
I’ve Returned by Squeeze
Wuthering Heights by Kate Bush
Wuthering Heights by White Flag
Polkas on 45 by Weird Al Yankovic
Reveal Love by Saltine
Ever by Built To Spill
Can’t Find My Way Home by Blind Faith
You’re On My Mind by The Event
I Sing The Body Electric by Wade Lassiter (from Fame)
Eloise (extended version) by The Damned
Don’t Box Me In by Stan Ridgway & Stewart Copeland
Hands Across The Sea by Modern English
Being Around (acoustic) by The Lemonheads
Wish I Was Skinny by The Boo Radleys
A Girl Like You by Edwyn Collins
Lust For Life by Iggy Pop
Real Love by John Lennon
Yoo Hoo by Imperial Teen
Da Beautiful People by Marilyn Manson
rerun_danceThe What’s Happenin’ Theme Song (not really but I’ve been dying to put Rerun SOMEwhere!)

Who’s On First!? Who did it first with rockstars?!

Saw this cute comic by Stephan Pastis parodying Abbott and Costello’s “Who’s On First?” go viral before my eyes tonight…..  comic If it sounds familiar….
THE CREDIBILITY GAP (1974)
Harry Sheerer (SNL, Spinal Tap, Simpsons) and David L. Lander (Laverne & Shirley)

SCTV (1981)
Eugene Levy & Tony Rosato

ANIMANIACS (1994)
Slappy and Skippy Squirrel

ROOKIE CARD (2006)
what's on second
Click on the can to buy it or listen to the song “What’s On Second?” by Rookie Card at http://www.SecretBonusTrack.com

O.G.
Originally developed on the vaudeville circuit in the mid-30’s, the 1945 film Naughty Nineties might be their most recognizable performance.  It’s much funnier in Japanese.  Trust me.

 

I’LL WRITE YOU A LETTER TOMORROW (a belated Replacements hometown tale)

How do you get the last word on the Replacements’ first hometown show in 23 years?  Wait a month to write it.  It didn’t help that I read so many other great reviews of their show at Midway Stadium (especially Zach McCormick’s piece for the Minnesota City Pages and Caryn Rose’s Jukebox Graduate blog). It’s already been said how great the band was that night.  This is more of a love letter to the people of Minneapolis for letting me watch them love their band. Seems fitting to finally finish it the night of their last scheduled reunion show…so far. mats paper headline

I did not travel 2000 miles to see the Replacements. That would be ridiculous. I flew from San Diego to Minneapolis to stand inside of a stadium with 13,000 of their fans. There’s just something about a homecoming show. It’s the reason I drove to Los Angeles to see Redd Kross play their first show in ten years.  It’s why I flew up to see the last Seattle Posies show in 1998 before they ruined my bragging rights and started playing again just a few years later. It’s why I went to Georgia to see Neutral Milk Hotel last year.  It’s why Drive Like Jehu’s recent reunion show on a beautiful San Diego night was one of the most special things this town has ever been a part of.

Charity poster by Aesthetic Apparatus. Closeted and awaiting wallspace.

Charity poster by Aesthetic Apparatus. Closeted and awaiting wallspace.

Last year, I saw the Replacements at the Denver Riot Fest. Like so many fans, I had mixed feelings about their reunion, even veering into purist rally cry territory (“Well, it’s not REALLY them.”). Just before they hit the stage, I felt old, tired and silly for coming all that way to see them.  Then, they ran on in dresses and orange cowboy hats and all of our heads exploded. Thanks to the damn internet, I knew almost every song that they were going to play, but, without being a drunken coverfest shit-show, it was full of hilarious banter and unexpected songs. “I think we need to play one we haven’t played,” singer Paul Westerberg announced at one point. “…in fact, one we don’t know. ‘Shiftless When Idle’…it’s in F sharp.” and off they went, playing a song they hadn’t played in 30 years….and haven’t done again since.

I wanted my reaction to be as pure as possible when seeing them for the first time in 23 years but was too damn curious. I ended up watching endless videos from their first two reunion shows in Toronto and Canada. I thought I couldn’t get excited about watching them play the songs I already knew were on the setlist. I was wrong.  To see it in 3-D at full volume was indescribable. I felt elated that I could still get excited by the rock and the roll but knew I’d never have that full-on feeling again with them.  When I heard rumors of a string of Los Angeles shows, I wasn’t remotely tempted to brave the traffic. Whispers of a San Diego show barely raised my eyebrow. Go to Coachella?  AT MY AGE?! Then, they announced that, after a year on the festival circuit, they would finally play a REAL headlining show…in their hometown…in a stadium that was about to be demolished.  A parody of the old Minnesota Twins logo accompanied the announcement. Check please.mats mn show logo

Seeing a band in their hometown is one thing but the tale of this band has always involved the land that spawned them: the people, the cold, the trees, the lakes, the basements, the skyways.  I was born in Chicago but hadn’t stepped foot in the midwest in almost 25 years.  I’d never been to Minnesota.  I love old baseball stadiums. Built in 1982? Ok, old-ish. Close enough. When Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson and Hot Club of Cowtown(!) did a tour of minor league baseball stadiums in 2004, I kicked myself for not flying out for a show.  That tour stopped at Midway Stadium, the home of Hamline University’s baseball team and the St Paul Saints, a pro team not affiliated with Major League Baseball that is co-owned by Bill Murray, who took tickets at the last homegame just a few weeks earlier.  What better place to see the band that so many critics and fans thought deserved to be in the big leagues?  My birthday was five days after the show. I had to go.

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Photo by Mark Vollrath

I was prepared to go it alone but I asked a few fellow fans if they were interested and found at least one was already planning on making the trek. That was good enough for me. When tickets went onsale, I got in quick and got my reservation for one.  I hopped on Facebook to see other fans as excited as myself but saw just as many people complaining that they’d been shut out.  People who were from Minneapolis that had been huge fans long before I was. Hundreds of excited locals posting online eased my Jewish guilt. I couldn’t wait to stand among thousands of fellow freaks and observe a 35 year love/hate affair of a band and its hometown.

mats 30 rock hallwayI had plenty to distract me in the months leading up to the show but got just a tad excited when it was announced that the band would be playing the Tonight Show the same night that Keith Richards would also be a guest.  Typical me, I started thinking of all of the connections between the band, Keef and 30 Rock and stayed up all night putting together a piece about it.  After drummer Josh Freese and Westerberg manager Darren Hill linked to what I’d written on Facebook, thousands of people read it, our Facebook page finally broke the 1000 “like” mark of (less-pathetic) respectability and, once again, the band was on the brain something fierce.  Not having a real TV to watch the show, I ended up near my parents’ house and tried to recreate 1986, the last time the band had performed in the NBC building.  Sadly, I could barely finish half of my unhealthy Carl’s Jr dinner, Baskin-Robbins was out of Mint Chocolate Chip and Keith didn’t play with the band as many had hoped.  Luckily, they looked and sounded incredible and it was great to see Paul drop behind Jimmy Fallon, even if Tommy didn’t take the bait and push him over.  The hallway photo from behind that the band posted made my year.

Before I knew it, I was buying my typically late airfare/hotel combo and packing up my Skyway suitcase, a gift I’d had for God knows how long before I noticed the manufacturer’s name. I saw someone online say that they’d talked to no less than ten people at the Austin airport who were flying up for the show but had no such luck hearing fans singing “Baggage claim is this way…” to themselves like I kept doing in San Diego and at my layover in Phoenix.  Like many travelling that day, I picked up the brand new Rolling Stone which had a great four-page article on the band.  I’m coming, Minnesota.mats rs on plane

Upon arrival, I was so distracted that everything in the Minneapolis airport says Skyway on it that I rode the train two stops in the wrong direction. As much as I wanted to see the city, it was already dark and time to head to the We Can’t Hardly Wait benefit for guitarist Slim Dunlap.  I wasn’t expecting a ticker-tape parade but sometimes it felt like no one in town was in on it.  Just ask anyone driving a cab, heading to the Mall of Americas or wearing a Vikings jersey.  I went from unsuccessfully running into fellow fans in three different states to cabbing straight to the ultimate Replacements Booster Club’s national convention.  To raise funds for Slim, who’s still recovering from a recent stroke, friends, family and filmmakers put together a night of music, raffling and outtakes from Color Me Obsessed, the 2011 documentary about people who like this band too much (totally not me). I thought one fan gathering in a packed stadium was enough for one trip but…it’s for Slim.  I RSVP’d and even brought a Westerberg promo cd to donate for the raffle.

Photo by Gorman Bechard

Photo by Gorman Bechard

I grinned as I pulled up to the eighty year old Parkway Theater and saw Color Me Obsessed on the marquee.  My people.  Here was a theater of folks I could probably talk all night with…but I didn’t know any of them. Recent instant online friend Dave James from Costa Mesa’s Factory Records was there but I’d never actually met him.  I just knew he had a habit of screaming for his favorite Replacements song when he saw the band. So, as soon as Slim’s kids, Emily and Louie, were done singing the heartbreaking Slimbob classic “Two By Two”, I yelled “CUSTOMER!” at the top of my lungs from the back of the theater.  After what seemed like a long silence, I saw some movement in the darkness of the back row and heard someone quietly say, “Adam?”

Dave and his local friend Shaun seemed like great folks, but they were taking off early, which left me to watch the documentary screening by myself.  Director Gorman Bechard was one of the organizers of the event and cut together a special “drunken” edit of the film, full of unseen outtakes (now available online).  Many fans unknowingly first saw the film thinking it would be a band bio, instead of a music-less homage to their fans.  I knew what I was getting into but, even as a fan of their fans, wasn’t as knocked out as I’d hoped, watching it on my computer.  There were some great moments but seeing a shorter, ragged version on the big screen in a theater full of insiders that were either in the movie or really knew the tale was a completely different…and awesome experience.  I’d once driven a few hours to see the LA premiere of the band documentary Love Story and had that same feeling of camaraderie watching it with the most appreciative crowd imaginable.

Photo by Deidre Caron

Photo by Deidre Caron

After the movie, it was back to the awkward situation of being surrounded by people I’d probably love talking to but was suffering from a rare bout of shyness.  Looking for eye contact or an in led to a brief talk with a couple because one of them was wearing a friends’ band shirt (thanks, Dragons!). After a few lonely laps around the theater, I finally recognized Slim’s wife, Chrissie Dunlap. It was absolutely surreal to have her introducing me to people and mentioning that I was good friends with Michael Buchmiller, who’d designed the genius Songs For Slim logo, which was everywhere that weekend.  They had it draped over the bass drum while Slim’s friends played his songs that night plus I saw necklaces and dozens of shirts at the Midway show. So strange to see it two time zones away from San Diego but not any stranger than having Mexican food as my first Minneapolis meal next door at Pepito’s.  Damn, if it wasn’t amazing.

Photo by Mark Vollrath

Photo by Mark Vollrath

Friday night’s frost warning was pretty disappointing.  It was sunny with a nice breeze the whole time I was there. I was definitley not getting the full Minneapolis weather experience but was saving money not having to buy a cap and gloves. The next morning, I slept in and went to my hotel’s second floor for a touristy photo of my first skyway. I incorrectly had thought it was a nickname for their train system like “The El” all these years. I got a quick lunch around the corner then started walking to Electric Fetus Records, an amazing record store south of downtown. Instead, I accidentally went north and ended up getting to see the famed First Avenue club, the Twins’ home Target Field and an unreal amount of clubs, theaters, shops, lofts and restaurants.  The streets were practically deserted but this was one of the cleanest, most beautiful downtowns I’d ever seen.

Jew, take the skyway.

Jew, take the skyway.

I successfully avoided spending money on records at Electric Fetus, despite the huge parking lot sale, but spent plenty on other random kitsch there. The girl who rang me up recommended the shakes at Bad Waitress and ten blocks later, I was ruining my dinner appetite with a caramel/coffee malt(!). When Dave called to tell me that he was record shopping at Roadrunner Records, on the same street, I continued heading south, stopping at some great vintage stores, eying pretty suburbs and wondering if I should just hop on a bus.  By the end, I’d walked seven miles and still had to stand in a baseball stadium for a few hours.  No matter. I was really seeing the city and loving it.  My college friend Christie, who lives nearby in Stillwater, swung by with her friend Shannon and whisked me up to Hola Arepa for yucca fries before heading out to St Paul.

Photo by Jeff Wheeler (Star Tribune)

Photo by Jeff Wheeler (Star Tribune)

Exterior stadium selfie with Stillwater VIP's and stellar bald head photobomb

Exterior stadium selfie with Stillwater VIP’s and stellar bald head photobomb

The sun was setting on St Paul as we arrived at Midway Stadium to a breathtaking view.  I couldn’t help but blurt out, “LOOK AT ALL THE WHITE PEOPLE!” The tailgate scene was buzzing like Heavy Metal Parking Lot but with much better music.  Normally, I frown upon listening to the band you’re about to see but being surrounded by this many cars and stereos blaring the Replacements was the exact scene I flew in for.  So much flannel. So much beer. Such long portapotty lines.  So many dudes peeing against the fence.  The girls left me to nerd out with some of the locals, but, though it’s very nice to meet you, Mr Guy Who Pressed Record On The Cops From Stink!, I’ve got a show to catch.

Photo by Nate Ryan (The Current)

Photo by Nate Ryan (The Current)

Jay Russell captures what I missed by going in late.

Jay Russell captures what I missed by going in late.

A dead phone meant I wouldn’t be able to meet up with anyone. I’d be sharing this experience alone….with thousands.  I didn’t get a chance to really enjoy the stadium view inside because I entered to find 10,000 people rocking out to local faves the Hold Steady in the blackness.  It was a sight I hadn’t really considered.  Wouldn’t EVERYONE want to be as close as me?  I slowly weaved my way through the masses, knowing that as soon as the Mats hit the stage, it would be complete chaos. I barely remember the few Hold Steady songs I saw. I’d seen them and Lucero before and hadn’t been over or underwhelmed by either of them. In a year full of so many great choices for their reunion shows (from bandmates to setlists to wardrobe to unique venues), getting a few younger bands that they influenced to open their hometown show was disappointingly normal.  I wanted The Time more than anyone else (I know, could you imagine?) but I would’ve taken a GnR tribute or a blues band of seniors or….anything truly left field, so to speak.

Photo by Nate Ryan (The Current)

Photo by Nate Ryan (The Current)

Trashmen air guitar. Photo by Tony Nelson, City Pages

Trashmen air guitar. Photo by Tony Nelson, City Pages

I got within a couple of hundred feet and I would’ve been an asshole to try and get closer, so I made nice with the folks surrounding me. The Mayor of St Paul coming out to officially declare it Replacements Day was a fun gesture but having “Surfin’ Bird” by the Minneapolis born Trashmen blaring when the lights went down was exactly the kind of grin-inducing wink to their hometown that I was looking for. When the band came bounding on in matching plaid Mr Turk suits, it was absolute bedlam.  But, unlike every other huge concert I’ve ever been to, 1000 jerks didn’t use the opportunity to elbow past.  All of my new friends remained within earshot as we all screamed our heads off to “Favorite Thing” (BAM), “Taking A Ride” (BAM!) and “I’m In Trouble” (BAM!!).  It was so amazing that I almost didn’t notice that it took more than a few songs to turn up Dave Minehan’s redhot guitarin’ so we could hear it. Whatever doubts I had about not being able to enjoy seeing them play these songs again one year later was out the window thanks to the energy of Josh Freese’s slammin’ drums and thousands of people witnessing it for the first time all around me.

Photo by Wendy Smith via We Love The Mats

Photo by Wendy Smith via We Love The Mats

Photo by Nate Ryan (The Current)

Once things settled down a little, I was painfully aware of my new best friend, directly to my left.  I knew that oversized grin.  I completely understood why he was so excited to share this moment with everyone around him (especially since his girlfriend seemed to care more about the Hold Steady).  I’d crossed many state lines for that feeling. But there was no denying that in his eagerness to bond and show off how well he knew all the words, he was turning to sing almost every line right into my ear….and BADLY.  I couldn’t break his heart by telling him to stop, so in slow-motion cinematic style, I let other people creep between us.  I saw a hint of sadness as he looked over to see me fading into the crowd (“Noooooooooooo!”) but I had to let him go to enjoy myself.

c/o Temple Of The Blogs

c/o Temple Of The Blogs

Photo by Wendy Smith via We Love The Mats

Photo by Wendy Smith via We Love The Mats

The nods to their hometown were mostly left unsaid. When Paul muttered “Sorry we took so long” early in the set, Tommy countered “No, you ain’t!”  After they played “Take Me To The Hospital”, with an unreal advertisement for a local hospital looming in rightfield, Paul mentioned that Slim was back in the hospital and absolutely deflated the crowd. It was nice of him to say “We wish he was here” and immediately play a bit of the Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back” but a sentimental speech would’ve been…awkward. As much as we all would’ve loved nods to angels Bob Stinson and Steve Foley, not to mention longtime drummer Chris Mars, who lives in town, we all knew it probably wasn’t gonna happen.  Still, the whole concert seemed to be a big thank you to their birthplace, whether they’d admit to it or not.  It’s all in the songs, anyways.

Photo by Jeff Wheeler (Star Tribune)

Photo by Jeff Wheeler (Star Tribune)

Photo by Nate Ryan, The Current

Photo by Nate Ryan, The Current

As predicted, without festival schedules to deal with, the band was ready to play almost everything they’d been doing for the past year.  Of the forty or so songs that they’d probably rehearsed in the past year, they played all but twelve of them (“White and Lazy”,  “I.O.U.”, “Hangin Downtown”, “Wake Up”, “Little Mascara”, “Psychopharmacology”, “Hold My Life”, “Customer”, “Message to the Boys”, “Another Girl, Another Planet”, “Judy Is A Punk” & “Everything’s Coming Up Roses” but really, who’s counting?).  Like before, I really didn’t care what they played as long as they dished out the usual spontanaity. Not surprisingly, they served up a few tunes that they hadn’t played in a very, very long time.

Photo by Jeff Wheeler (Star Tribune)

Photo by Jeff Wheeler (Star Tribune)

First, they brought out longtime local blues harmonica player Tony Glover for a fun run-through of Jimmy Reed’s “Going To New York”, foreshadowing their upcoming show the following weekend in the Big Apple. True to form, they didn’t play it for the New Yorkers, nor did they cover “Judy Is A Punk” which they played in Georgia earlier this year (despite the Ramones hailing from Forest Hills, where the show was).  They also resurrected their very first b-side, the countrified “If Only You Were Lonely” and Don’t Tell A Soul‘s “I Won’t”, which started with Tommy’s only lead vocal turn. It confirmed earlier microphone shenanigans when he went to sing and his mic was off.  Several times in the set, Paul went over to join Tommy on his mic and it was inaudible.  Holy mute button.  It sounds like it was coming through the monitors, so hopefully all the official cameras and recording gear got the goods.

Getting to first base in the outfield on "Kiss Me On The Bus". Photo by David Tanner, Minneapolis Post

Getting to first base in the outfield on “Kiss Me On The Bus”. Photo by David Tanner, Minneapolis Post

The set rolled on and on until they were doing the longest reunion set yet.  About 25 songs in(!), they played their favorite Sham 69 cover (“Borstal Breakout”), the beautiful “Swingin’ Party” (Slim’s favorite) and a Westerberg solo tune (“Love You In The Fall”) in a row and started to lose the people around me a bit.  It was time to break out the Big Four .  Four songs that were about to get the stadium anthem treatment that they’d so richly deserved all of these years. They’d done “Can’t Hardly Wait”, “Bastards Of Young”, “Left Of The Dial” and “Alex Chilton” at all twelve of their previous reunions shows.  Well, of course they skipped “Left of the Dial” in Boston but, you know, it’s not a big college town. When Paul kicked into “Can’t Hardly Wait”, the second wind that whipped through that stadium was unbelievable.  The place EXPLODED. Only they could take such a simple guitar riff, play it 3000 times in a row and come up with something incredible.

Photo by Nate Ryan (The Current)

Photo by Nate Ryan (The Current)

The end was near, so they were either going to go out like they’d been doing all year or let it fall apart for giggles.  I’d already seen how great it was for them to goof it up for their encore in Denver, so I was rooting for something ridiculous to go with a chugging “Bastards of Young”, followed by “I Don’t Know”.  When the crew was setting up just before they started, a roadie brought out an acoustic guitar and I caught myself nerding out loud about it.  That meant we’d be hearing “Skyway” or “Here Comes A Regular”…or both.  About an hour and a half later, when Paul came out by himself for an encore, it was going to be good either way. It was “Skyway”.  No introduction.  No acknowledgement that the town’s weather and glass walkways inspired it.  It was for Minneapolis.  We all knew it.

Photo by Rick Marino

Photo by Rick Marino

Photo by Darin Kamnetz

Photo by Darin Kamnetz

That would’ve been plenty, but the rest of the band came back out wearing St Paul Saints baseball jerseys.  Paul pretended to refuse, referencing other acts who’d played at Midway and probably hadn’t worn them (REM & Bob Dylan).  This was a man who recently wore a Montreal Canadiens jersey onstage in Toronto so for him to relent and put on the hometown colors was a swell gesture.  They knocked “Left Of The Dial” and “Alex Chilton” out of the park, so to speak and exited again.  At that point, they’d played 31 songs. 31 well-played, rehearsed songs. To some, it was like the band owed Minneapolis a show like this for all the times they’d watched them play 31 drunken covers.  They had always prided themselves on not doing what they were supposed to do but here they are in their fifties giving the people what they wanted.

Photo by Mark Vollrath

Photo by Mark Vollrath

Ironically, the only song left on their setlist that night was “I.O.U.” and, like they did in Denver, they shunned that song to do something unforgettable.  Paul came out again by himself with just a 12-string electric guitar and a dangling cigarette. He started picking out a melody that I thought might’ve been a fitting “When The Saints Go Marching In” but then he went into those unmistakable chords I’d learned just last year for our own Slim benefit in San Diego. Slicing Up Eyeballs and Stereogum, two of the biggest indierock music sites on the web, both reported the Replacements playing “Unsatisfied” for the first time in 23 years as their headline news.  The band rarely played it on their last tour in 1991 and Westerberg has done it even less often since they broke up. I can understand why. It’s plodding and repetitive and….it’s our themesong.mats-headlines


(recently uploaded multi-camera vid cut from Youtube videos)

What an ending.  Tommy put down his bass and waited for Paul to head offstage to give him the biggest hug you’re ever gonna see. Then they both walked off, arm in arm, not even looking at the crowd.  After all these years, they’re still not gonna let on that they care about getting it right. We’re just lucky we got to see it one more time or, for many, the first time.  it almost makes me want to see them again, in case they ever play “Here Comes A Regular” or “Answering Machine” or “Within Your Reach” or “Talent Show” or “Never Mind” or “Sixteen Blue” or “Kids Don’t Follow” or “The Ledge”, not that I just looked up the recent poll by Minneapolis radio station the Current to see which of the top 30 they haven’t played yet because, seriously, who does that?

Photo by Darin Kamnetz.

Photo by Darin Kamnetz.

The Last Midway exit. Photo by Jim Walsh, Minneapolis Post

The Last Midway exit. Photo by Jim Walsh, Minneapolis Post

Thousands headed for the exits but many stayed behind to breathe it in, exchange knowing looks, steal grass from the outfield as a keepsake or randomly run into old west coast highschool classmates(!). In the afterglow, the crowd parted and I saw my new friend and fellow San Diegan, Howard. He was the hero of the Slim benefit from the night before because he’d come all the way from California without a ticket and deservingly won one in a raffle. We hugged and laughed and he told me how now he just HAD to get to New York by the following weekend to see them one more time. All around us, people who had not yet witnessed the reunion excitedly talked about how it couldn’t have been more perfect.  I grinned along, happy to witness the band giving the town a helluva homecoming dance, filled with nods to their old stomping grounds without being overly sappy ‘cos that’s not what we want from this band.

Undisclosed downtown hotel room shortly before getting naked with local press.  Everyone's gotta have a hobby.

Undisclosed downtown hotel room shortly before getting naked with local press. Everyone’s gotta have a hobby.

mapThat town.  I couldn’t get enough, so I got up early the next morning, walked across the street and took a guided city bus tour.  I was happy not to take the fanboy route and find the Let It Be house and other band-related sites until I saw artist Kevin Cannon’s amazing map that someone could’ve used to make a few bucks taking fans around town that weekend.  I lucked out and got hilarious, retired newscaster J.B. Eckert as the host and he was a walking Wikipedia of the Twin-Cities.  Everywhere we went, it was beautiful lakes, huge theaters, revitalized downtown construction, endless tree lines and historical buildings of all kinds.

mats jukebox

Yeahbut smart enough to have Chilton/Bell? Huh.

For lunch, I tried the infamous Jucy Lucy burger at Matt’s Bar. Apparently, there’s no “i” in melted cheese goodness and no Mats on the jukebox, despite the namesake name (seriously?).  I spent the rest of the afternoon south of downtown seeing old friends and meeting new ones, just to make it even harder for myself to leave.  Perhaps most surprisng was that seeing the Flaming Lips perform 1993’s Transmissions From the Satellite Heart for the first time at the legendary First Avenue wasn’t anti-climactic after such an epic previous night.  Funny what a little glitter and the most appreciative crowd I’ve ever seen will do.lips in mn

I got what I came for.  I wanted to see a city embrace its long-time heroes.  Where else could I have stood in a STADIUM with so many other people who felt that way about those songs?  Where else would they be on the cover of every weekly magazine and all over the papers?  Where else does a 12 year old working a fashion outfit app on an iPad ask, “Dad, do you think Paul Westerberg would wear this?!”  It was bizarro world and the weather was nice to boot.

Pleased to meet you, Minneapolis.

Photo by Darin Kamnetz.

Photo by Darin Kamnetz.

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Click on any of the pictures to see larger versions or more by these amazin’ photographers.  Every time I thought this thing was done, I’d find another amazing set of pictures I wanted you to see. Per usual, they’re all credited and linked wherever possible.  If you want a link, credit or photograph changed or removed, just let us know.

 

An open letter to the couple that asked us to sit down

I recently had Myspace send me my old blogs, just to retrieve this one (the only one worth mentioning).  I remember it being the most liked thing I’d ever written at the time. I sent this to the Los Angeles Times and the LA Weekly on September 21, 2007.  I’m not sure if they published it.

Dear Sir and Madam,

I am so sorry that a giggling, smiling four year old and myself were blocking your view while you ate your dinner and drank wine in your boxed seat at the Hollywood Bowl last night.  I thought that when my girlfriend bought me tickets for my birthday and we drove with her daughter from San Diego that the price included my right to stand and/or dance in said purchased space.  It was also my understanding that LCD Soundsystem’s music encourages movement, possibly even inspiring people to rise out of their chair.  It was unfair of me to think that you might not be a huge LCD fan just because you looked like you were in your late 50’s and would be content to simply watch two huge video screens which we weren’t blocking.  Had you been sitting directly behind me, I might’ve been more sympathetic but two rows of chairs and a walkway separated us, which is a direct insult to my waistline and dancing skills.  I’m sorry you didn’t appreciate my offer to sit down if you could name one LCD song and I hope you didn’t think less of us when I denied your request to stop dancing with references to the 1984 film Footloose.  I thought that the band you paid to see would maybe want as many people to dance as possible but since you hissed at how incosiderate we were in between songs, you obviously felt that your right to relax at a rock show was more important.  You had every right to get a security guard to ask us to sit down.  I’m sorry that it didn’t work.  I hope you enjoyed the show anyways, especially when 17,000 people all stood up to block your view of the Arcade Fire.

Sincerely,
Adam Gimbel
down in front

 

Everything you need to get excited about the Replacements, Keith Richards and 30 Rock.

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The Replacements posted this video to their Youtube channel the other day….

Their 1986 Saturday Night Live appearance is legendary, so it’s a kick to see that they were letting them back in the building at 30 Rock.  There was some speculation that it could mean they were playing Seth Meyers’ Late Night but Tonight Show booker Jonathan Cohen confirmed that they are playing the show today on Twitter.
Screen Shot 2014-09-06 at 3.11.37 PMThen, Paul Westerberg fan site Man Without Ties pointed out that Keith Richards is scheduled to be a guest on the show.

SHIT
JUST
GOT
REAL

Here’s everything you need to know to get excited about the possibility of anything remotely resembling Keef and the Mats being near each other in the NBC building….

January 18, 1986.  The Replacements appear on Saturday Night Live with Harry Dean Stanton hosting.  Unable to leave between dress rehearsal and the live broadcast, they did what any musical guest would do: trash the dressing room and get yourself and the host drunk. They played a fantastic “Bastards of Young” first. Paul yelled “C’mon, fucker” to Bob before the solo, then just kinda got bored at one point and didn’t sing. 

Paul, Tommy and Chris switched into each other’s clothes and came back later in the show to play “Kiss Me On The Bus”, which isn’t shown in shortened syndicated show repeats.

We were picked up to go to the studio at 10 in the morning in a limousine stocked with booze, and from 10 to five you couldn’t leave that floor.  Anything you want they’d send for.  Before we played we were completely just out of it.  Harry Dean Stanton was in there drinking booze with Tommy.  They were all fucked up.  I was in the bathroom getting high.”  -Bob Stinson in All Over But The Shouting (click to read more of his hilarity)

Producer Lorne Michaels was apparently livid and threatened to ban all Warner Brothers acts from future shows unless they paid for the damage that the band did to their hotel and dressing rooms.

On December 17, 1988, the Replacements played their only show of the year and their very first arena show, opening up for the last date of Keith Richards and the X-pensive Winos’ US tour at the Meadowlands Arena in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  They’d spent most of 1988 recording and getting ready to release the Don’t Tell A Soul album.  Since they’d be rusty, even by Mats standards, they actually rehearsed for it at 1st Avenue in Minneapolis, which turned out to be their only known taped band rehearsal.  Of course, it didn’t matter. One fan described their set as “BEYOND shitfaced” (show recording link).  

Photographer Paul Natkin recalls, “So, I spent about 3 weeks with Keith Richards and the X-Pensive Winos in November and December of 1988, traveling coast to coast with the coolest guy in Rock and Roll. The tour ended on Keith’s birthday, with a huge party after the show backstage at the Meadowlands in New Jersey. The Replacements, who were the opening act that night, asked me if I could take their picture with Keith. I told them to hang out and when he was through cutting the cake I would ask him. He of course said OK, so we went back to the Replacements table (This was about 15 minutes later,) and two of them were gone and the other two were passed out at the table. Keith and I just looked at each other, smiled, shrugged and went about our business.”

Happy birthday to Keith/Unsatisfied

Keith doing a timely Chuck Berry tune from that night’s show

Keith and the Winos on that one show

Tony Pierce (full 2008 LA Weekly interview): I saw a picture of you with Keith Richards who has got to be a big hero of yours. Did you guys have a chance to sit down and talk?

Paul Westerberg: Yeah we met about three times and that was the time we were doing a television show… no that was his birthday. Funny thing is that was his 45th birthday, I was 28, and now that I’m 45 I’m trying to get a picture of me and someone who’s 28 and compare them. Or take one of me and Keith now. No, that was very– I just snuck backstage through the security guard and took a Polaroid of us. I wasn’t scared of him. He gave me the look like he was going to kill me but he knew I was safe.

Polaroid found on Gypsy Dungeon tumblr

Polaroid found on Gypsy Dungeon tumblr

Seven years later after the first 30 Rock appearance, Lorne Michaels either forgot, forgave or didn’t know that Paul had been the singer of THAT band. In 1993, 3/4 of the current Replacements lineup was the musical guest on SNL (with Paul’s longtime manager Darren Hill on bass). They played the Keef influenced “Knockin On Mine” and the Replacements’ “Can’t Hardly Wait” with the house band’s horns.  Paul told drummer Josh Freese to yell something during the pauses, so he blurted out “BURT REYNOLDS!”.  In the end, he’s busting ridiculous moves that even Steve Moore would approve.  In a hilarious account of the night on Facebook he said, “I’m such a goddamn hot dog during the performances (I was 20 though…c’mon) that I can barely watch it”. He mentioned that they were told to keep it quiet that Paul was a Replacement for fear that they might not let them play.  The show ended without incident but 70-year old conservative host Charlton Heston couldn’t remember Paul’s name during the closing goodbyes. Paul made a “Ah, these people don’t care about me” gesture but then coughed into his hand and gave Heston a firm handshake.  A+

pw snl pw snl2

pw-n-chuckSo, what if Keith actually played with the band on Tuesday night?   What would they play?  Probably some old blues or early rock & roll song but the amazing Replacements Live Archive made it easy to find what Stones songs they’d done before……



Happy and Honky Tonk Woman on PaulWesterberg.net

Last Time, Let It Bleed, Midnight RamblerMoonlight Mile Start Me Up (Replacements Live Archive download links)

Plus

After the PW and HOF show at SF’s Great American Music Hall I was fortunate to get to meet with Paul and talk with him at his bus. Music was coming from inside the bus and when the Stone’s/Richards’s song “Happy” started playing, Paul turned and pleaded, “Can you turn that up?” I acknowledged the song by saying, “Keith!” Paul shook his head solomnly and said, “I love Keith Richards.”   -Brianlux

I might just have to stay up late and watch.  As if I’m not excited enough about heading to Minneapolis in….uh oh, I need to buy some plane tickets.

UPDATE
Is this the first time NBC has actually admitted that someone was banned from SNL? http://www.nbc.com/the-tonight-show/filters/guests/11346Screen Shot 2014-09-08 at 8.56.58 PM

Soundcheck in NY for @fallontonight.  -Josh Freese, Instagram

Screen Shot 2014-09-09 at 5.02.44 PM Screen Shot 2014-09-09 at 5.03.19 PM

 

 

Tonight…. via The Replacements’ FacebookScreen Shot 2014-09-09 at 5.03.29 PM

Questlove and Tommy Stinson. I like this duo. via Jonathan Cohen’s Instagram

Screen Shot 2014-09-09 at 5.03.44 PM Thank you, goodnight!  via The Replacements’ Facebook

Screen Shot 2014-09-09 at 5.04.00 PM @officialKeef & @ruby_stinson (daughter) via Tommy Stinson’s TwitterScreen Shot 2014-09-09 at 5.04.19 PM Keef and the Mats in the hallway after @fallontonight. I am a very happy and lucky fellow. via Jonathan Cohen’s InstagramScreen Shot 2014-09-09 at 5.04.34 PM The cards say it all. Thank you, Paul and Tommy. SPOILER ALERT via Jonathan Cohen’s Instagram  Screen Shot 2014-09-09 at 5.04.46 PMALSO CHECK OUT
The Last: words on the Replacements at Denver RiotFest
Elvis Costello on Saturday Night Live: The most overrated “punk” moment in TV history.
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Latest…..Riot Fest report……EVER, Denver 2013

After returning from last year’s Riot Fest in September, I had to immediately blab about seeing the Replacements and it ended becoming one of the most read Yer Doin Great pieces to date. Let’s see what my olde man memory can remember about the rest of my Denver trip four, er, eleven and a half months later. Seeing the amazing photos taken by my three friends is helping bring it all back. Just in time for Riot Fest 2014!

RF_Denver_Admat_web-1The first announcements about last year’s Riot Fest lineup in Chicago were tempting but when the Replacements and an additional date in Denver were added, I started thinking about going a little more seriously.  I’d never been to Colorado, I have friends there I’ve never visited and I’d just missed both of Rocket From The Crypt’s hometown reunion shows.  Then it was announced that original RFTC drummer Atom Willard would be playing with the band for the first time since 2000. When I met singer John Reis for the first time a few weeks before the festival at the Tower Bar, he insisted on getting me tickets.  How could I say no?!

I flew into the Denver darkness late Thursday night. It was strange visiting a new city and not actually getting to see it but by the time I bused into the city, I was barely awake.  Only a cool documentary about the Sunset Strip could’ve prevented me from crashing.  I woke up the next morning with no plans and a flip phone to (not) guide me.  I knew I was within walking distance of Twist & Shout Records so I headed that way and wasn’t disappointed.  After hitting a bookstore next door, I saw an amazing looking building across the street which turned out to be East High School, built in 1924. There were some purdy trees over yonder, so I headed north into what ended up being a huge park with museums galore.rf hs

I haven’t followed baseball in years but I couldn’t let my childhood dream of visiting every major league baseball stadium die, even if I didn’t care about an expansion team that didn’t exist the last time I could name more than three current baseball players. So I cabbed over to Coors Field, scalped a great third base side ticket, befriended some locals who schooled me on local history and watched the most unreal fireworks finale I’ve ever seen. The stadium was built to look like a classic and the hometown team prevailed, so it was a good night.

Highschool friend/punk icon Matt Page and his girlfriend Ambeur whisked me away to Denver suburb Northglenn afterwards and, since his daughter was away for the weekend, I slept in her bottom bunk while Justin and Selena posters watched over me.  Felt like home. They were also housing fellow highschooler and former Lorna’s Italian Kitchen slave Sarah and her awesome husband Greg (Ribshots).  As if they weren’t fun enough company, between the four of them, they introduced me to an endless stream of cool, interesting folks at the festival.

(fast forward seven months after I started writing and I can remember less….)

After a quick lunch, the five of us headed to the small town of Byers, Colorado, about 45 minutes east of Denver.  We didn’t hit a lot of freeway traffic but, understandably, the line of cars to get into the festival was not short. The parking lot route took us past the entrance and we drove at a slow crawl, getting further and further away from our destination as we watched exhausted pedestrians pass in the other direction. It was at least an hour until volunteers guided us into our parking space and we started the long hike back to the farm hosting Riot Fest.

c/o Your Older Brother

c/o Your Older Brother

c/o Greg Jacobs, Ribshots

Airborn ‘chunk c/o Greg Jacobs, Ribshots

There were some extremely unhappy Superchunk fans in our crew when we finally arrived to catch just a few Chapel Hill anthems on the stage closest to the entrance.  The entire festival was put on three huge stages all spaced apart and facing the same way. I’d never seen a set up like it but it worked fine.  We started to run into friends as soon as we walked up to see Guided By Voices. I’d never seen the original lineup that had recently reformed but I found myself missing the late-era replacements I’d seen so many times.  Bob’s Peter Pan juice ran dry for the rest of the band and they looked and played like their age. Strangely, the only song that really seemed to get the crowd going was “Teenage FBI”, which these guys hadn’t even played on.  They ended just in time for me to catch a few Dismemberment Plan songs and go help stake our claim up front for RFTC.

MP, Apollo9RFTC & me. -Matt Page

MP, Apollo9RFTC & me. -Matt Page

GBV -Your Older Brother

GBV -Your Older Brother

-Matt Page

DPlan -Matt Page

All reports of the Rocket reunion shows were, unsurprisingly, raves. It felt good to be that excited in my olde age, up front, jumping up and down and dancing like an idiot with fellow San Diegans, while our boys absolutely destroyed and I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t a little cool to be on their guestlist.  To see Atom up there on drums again was beyond special and Superchunk’s Jon Wurster even bounded out to yell and tambourine along like he’d done in the studio with them. Speedo was in rare form and kept thanking the rock community of Byers (population 1,160) for such a strong showing. Quite a few folks said their set was probably the best of the weekend. They rocked fierce and tight and I could feel my cheeks lodged into a semi-permanent smile.  This trip was already worth it.

-Your Older Brother

-Your Older Brother

Us up front having a little fun. -Ribshots

Us up front. -Ribshots

-Your Older Brother

-Your Older Brother

Atom -Matt Page

Atom -Matt Page

Atom -Matt Page

Atom -Matt Page

RFTC w/Jon Wurster during "Sturdy Wrists", photo by Matt Page

RFTC w/Jon Wurster during “Sturdy Wrists”, photo by Matt Page

-Ribshots

-Ribshots

rf Riot Night ob

-Your Older Brother

There was time after Rocket to grab some quality foods and try to avoid the unavoidable: AFI, the Brand New and Toxic Airborne Whatever blaring away with no audio shelter to be found.  A roving noise/marching band and conversation with my new best buddy, Tim from Dagger Zine, helped but it was hard to keep my energy up at my age at that hour.  I had flown from California to see the Replacements but was barely standing as Iggy and the Stooges tore into their set.  God knows what they’ve got Iggy on to get out there and be that crazy but it was motivating.  All around me, kids half my age gawked in shock and ran to get a closer view, some even getting onstage. I stayed my distance and walked off within earshot of the searching and destroying to jockey for position for the Mats.

-Your Older Brother

-Your Older Brother

-Your Older Brother

-Your Older Brother

-Ribshots

-Ribshots

-Matt Page

-Matt Page

I’ve already told the Replacements tale.  I thought I had no energy.  I even thought I’d be happy leaving without seeing them. I couldn’t have been more wrong.  After that fun, we all found each other and went back to Rocket’s trailer, where they’d left us their wristbands that would allow us anywhere for Day Two.  Boy, did we need them…..

-Matt Page

-Matt Page

I don't even drink. -Matt Page

I don’t even drink. Rudy’s Can’t Fail Cafe Oakland sweatshirt RIP-Matt Page

DAY TWO
After a long drive home and a good night’s sleep, we returned a little later and found all the  traffic problems had been solved. Not sure how or why but it was nice to avoid that mess again.  It’s a brand new festival in a remote location, so I figured there’d be plenty of kinks to work out. I’d say it all went pretty smooth considering everything that was about to happen….

Waylon from Kitten. -Matt Page

Waylon from Kitten. -Matt Page

We got there just in time to see California kids Kitten. I’ve known ex-School of Rock guitarist Waylon Rector for a few years, so to see him and the band do their thing way out in Colorado at a huge festival was a big kick. They jumped around like crazies per usual and the ol’ “Purple Rain” bit was fitting on such a gray day.  I eventually found fellow LA SOR guitarist Jacob Butler, whose Dad dropped him off like he was dropping him off at the mall and we went over to watch Peelander-Z, who was like a Yo Gabba/Power Rangers act for kids.  In broken English, they sang about tacos for 11 minutes and the youth contingent ate it up.  Huh.

-Ribshots

-Ribshots

-Ribshots

-Ribshots

I gave Naked Raygun a try but even hardcore fans said they were disappointing so I made the trek to the Public Enemy stage guilt free.  Their set got off to a worrying start.  There were only two S1W’s and they barely moved.  All the cutting and strutting with military precision was nowhere to be seen and, worse yet, they started into the first song and Flavor’s parts were pre-recorded but he was nowhere to be seen.  Oh no.  SIKE!   He came bounding out halfway through and the place went ballistic.  They jumped and rapped and preached, gave us all the classics and Flav played passable bass and drums for a few seconds. The mostly young crowd gave the band deafening call and responses, waved their hands in the ayah and jumped when told. Hell, no one even corrected Flavor when he gave shout outs to other bands on the bill, including Blondie and the Violent Femmes who’d played the Chicago Riot Fest but weren’t there that day.  I had almost forgotten they were playing so it was a great surprise to see them for the first time.

-Ribshots

-Ribshots

It had started to drizzle a lizzle at the end of PE’s set but, right as I met up with YDG reader and San Diego stranger Martin Weinstein, the wind picked up and we saw a bunch of trash go flying across a hill.  As we walked over to watch FLAG, who sounded monstrous, I saw a few flashes of lightning in the distance. The wind had just blown away the stage’s side banners and it felt like my contact lenses might go with them when they cut the power to the stage and announced that the National Weather Service had declared it unsafe and that everyone had to head to their cars until further notice.  In the chaos, I managed to find the rest of our posse quickly and we rushed backstage just as someone they knew pulled up in a minivan and yelled for us to get in.

-Ribshots

-Ribshots

-Your Older Brother

-Your Older Brother

While thousands of poor people had to walk a mile back to their cars and wait, we were whisked to a central barn to hang out with all the bands.  For my punk loving friends, it was an unreal chance to chat with buddies and heroes while eating free food and drink.  I got to see the Kitten folks before they used my phone to get a taxivan to come pick them up and catch their flight.  The organizers and hosts were doing a great job of keeping everyone safe, happy and informed.  You could see people on laptops, sending out notes on Twitter and Facebook while redoing and printing new band schedules as the rain started to let up.  After a couple of hours, we all headed back and the masses all returned to the festival grounds.

While Greg had been sidestage taking amazing pictures all weekend, I was finally getting my first VIP view. As we walked up the stairs to see Bad Religion, I saw a volleyball fly behind the stage followed by the sound of thousands of disappointed people chanting “WILSON! WILSON! WILSON!”. Having JUST seen Castaway for the first time, I put two and two together, ran back down the stairs, grabbed the ball, squeezed by security telling us to back up, walked onstage and gave ‘em back their ball, just before the band walked onstage. Biggest…cheer….ever.  Punk anthems never sounded so triumphant as they did playing to a field full of people who thought their weekend had just been cut short.

Photoshop free. -Matt Page

Photoshop free. -Matt Page

-Your Older Brother

-Your Older Brother

As we started to walk from behind the first stage over to the third, the skies EMPTIED.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen it rain that hard in my life.  We made it to a small tent near the stage where Rancid was playing and found other people like us, just seeking shelter.  After awhile, I figured there might be some coverage onstage and made a break up the stairs. The sides of the stage were packed so I ended up with a few other folks behind the band’s amps watching them play to a deafening throng of kids as SHEETS of rain came down on them.  It was an amazing sight and a perfect ending to a great weekend.

-Matt Page

-Matt Page

You don’t think we’d actually stay for Blink 182, do you?