After being asked more times about a prospective Replacements gig than her club’s doormen ask for IDs, First Avenue booker Sonia Grover laughed at the prospect of ’Mats leaders Paul Westerberg and Tommy Stinson showing up for Friday’s sixth annual tribute concert to their band.
“If anything, they’d probably play somewhere else while we’re doing this,” she comically noted.
A big enough fan to have traveled to all three Replacements reunion sets in August and September, Grover also laughed at the notion that the ’Mats tribute did not need to be held this year because the band itself is back in action. Sort of. As if those gigs in Toronto, Chicago and Denver alleviated Twin Cities fans’ 22-year itch to hear these tunes played live.
“I think the reunion shows actually translated into more excitement for the tribute,” Grover said, pointing to a bump in advance ticket sales.
There are several other reasons this year’s show is carrying extra buzz (too obvious a pun to be intended):
• The Replacements earned their first-ever nomination for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame last month alongside Nirvana, Kiss and one of Bob Stinson’s favorite bands, Yes. A check of the fan-voter poll at RockHall.com this week found the ’Mats ranked 11th out of 16 nominees with 28,400 votes — well below Kiss’ 200,000, but in good company with the Meters and N.W.A. near the bottom.
• The “Songs for Slim” series, benefitting Replacements guitarist Slim Dunlap, the victim of a stroke, culminated with this month’s release of the two-CD set “Rockin’ Here Tonight.” It features 28 inspired and consistently solid versions of Dunlap’s should-be-classics by the likes of Jeff Tweedy, Lucinda Williams, Steve Earle, John Doe, John Sebastian, Frank Black, Craig Finn, Soul Asylum and members of the Jayhawks.
Friday’s show will once again feature the “Slimboree,” a montage of Dunlap songs by the Mad Ripple Hootenanny gang. Proceeds from ticket sales, including auctioned VIP tables, also go to Dunlap’s medical care via First Ave’s nonprofit Twin Cities Music Community Trust.
• *Local music scribe and musician Jim Walsh — the Slimboree’s ringleader — just published his second book on the Replacements, “Waxed Up Hair and Painted Shoes,” loaded with 250-some rare and classic photos of the band. The first ’Mats tribute in 2007 was built around Walsh’s oral history of the band, “All Over But the Shouting.”
• And, of course, there’s the record at the heart of the tribute: “Hootenanny,” arguably the band’s quirkiest and most fun effort, released 30 years ago and boasting such staples as “Color Me Impressed” and “Within Your Reach” alongside odd nuggets like “Buck Hill,” “Hayday” and “Treatment Bound.” As usual, the album will be re-created by house band the Melismatics and a rotating cast of singers, including Curtiss A, Gabriel Douglas (4onthefloor), Arzu Gokcen (Pink Mink) and Josh Grier (Tapes n’ Tapes).
“This record bridged the gap of what they started as and what they would become, so there’s a little bit of both sides,” said Melismatics singer/guitarist Ryan Smith, calling last week before a gig at Los Angeles’ Silver Lake Lounge.
With their own new multifaceted album to tout, “Rising Tide,” the Melismatics have been working up the tribute songs on the road this month. The hardest track of the bunch: “Definitely ‘Lovelines,’ ” Smith said, referring to the jazz-boppy cut with lyrics read out of personal ads. “It’s just so spontaneous. We have to figure out a way to capture that spirit.”