THE REPLACEMENTS at RIOT FEST | 9/21/13 Surely it wasn't lost on anyone when Paul Westerberg and Tommy Stinson came on stage wearing pink skirts and orange cowboy hats. The two were clearly nodding to the absence of Stinson's late brother Bob, who frequently performed in such attire. Clad as they were, the two deftly addressed the issue without having to say a thing, all the while making a sly, sardonic statement at the same time. It was the perfect symbol for how the Replacement's songs make no bones about everyday life, and how it's important to have a sense of humor even about things that seem unmentionable in polite company.
See also: Riot Fest Denver full schedule
The set itself was part The Replacements and part The 'Mats. The foursome played many of its most beloved songs but it also threaded in covers and micro covers inside other songs for what seemed like a classic Replacements show as much as it could be in a big music festival format. The band did its level best in that regard.
At the end of "Tommy Gets His Tonsils Out," the guys played a bit of Jimi Hendrix's "Third Stone From the Sun." At the beginnings of other songs the Replacements teased, to varying degrees of seriousness and success, bits of the Beatles, the Who and others, and the band also played more or less full covers of "Maybelline" by Chuck Berry and "Borstal Breakout" by Sham 69. The Chuck Berry song came in attached to a Replacements song. That kind of free association and goofing, planned or otherwise, seemed to irk a few people, but it's The Replacements, and that's what they do; it's part of the band's charm.
At one point, someone made some remark to Stinson about "You know where you are? You're in the jungle, baby." And Stinson said, amiably, "I knew that was going to come up." Westerberg seemed to chuckle silently and made a remark about giving Stinson shit about being in Van Halen "bus driving." After that lighthearted burn, fittingly, the band went into "Kiss Me On the Bus."
Outside the jokes and fooling around, and even inside all of that, we got were treated to some great renditions of classic tunes like "Takin' A Ride," "I Will Dare," "Alex Chilton," "Can't Hardly Wait," and "Left of the Dial." In those songs, Westerberg and the gang displayed the unvarnished tenderness and vulnerability and homespun wisdom that has made the Replacements great.
When you scratch that surface and go beyond the obvious gags and humor, there is a warmth and compassion for everyday issues that strikes a bit of a mythical chord. Offering some of the most poignantly personal commentary ever written, the Replacements' songs captures the common experiences and struggles of those who have lived life in middle of America and dared to dream for more than they're given on a daily basis, imagining a life that's bigger and more rewarding.
That is what has made this band so important to generations of music fans and musicians who don't hear merely straight ahead bar rock and dismiss this band as such. Instead, they hear what made this band natural allies with all the other misfits and weirdoes who were part of an underground rock scene in America in the 1980s.
Personal Bias: Even for someone like me who makes experimental, ambient music, the Stooges and the Replacements have made a major impact on me for more than two decades. Random Detail: Westerberg mentioned how they had picked up their shirts in downtown Denver (at Rockmont we, presume), and then went on to point out that the shirts were made in India. "I thought western was here," he said with a laugh. By the Way: The food vendors weren't the usual carnival variety but there were plenty of those too, along with two carnival rides.