The Replacements have been a favorite band of mine since my junior year of high school circa 1987/1988. It was something about Paul Westerfield's voice that first got to me. It's raspiness and depth. The soul embedded deep within it like a star set in stone. I remember singing along to their albums with my best friend Tracy. My favorite song was Alex Chilton. The lyrics reference a singer that Westerberg idolizes but I knew none of that. I only knew that the words touched something in me, like a Pied Piper speaking to me making me dance.
"I'm in love. What's that song?"
So when I found out The Replacements were playing in Queens, New York the same week we were on vacation there, I was overjoyed. Their only solo show (meaning not in a festival) was a could not miss. I bought floor tickets for hubby and I on Stubhub not even blinking at the forty dollar up charge taking a sixty dollar ticket to a hundred. I didn't care. I was going to see them on the floor in New York City. It was this punk rock girl's dream come true.
By the Thursday night they were playing, Adrian and I had busied ourselves to the point of exhaustion. We had arrived in New York on Sunday and had seen Grouplove in Central Park, the Broadway musical Wicked, and had visited the Empire State Building, the 911 Memorial, the Guggenheim and the Statute of Liberty. My feet were blistered to the point that every step I took sent tingles of pain through my feet and my back was killing me.
None of that mattered.
We spent the day walking Williamsberg and then left to Forest Hills Stadium at four in the afternoon. It was an hour train ride and we wanted to beat the rush hour. We arrived about five and walked the three blocks to the Forest Hills Stadium, which used to house the US Open, and marveled at the quaintness of the architecture. We sat outside and had food and waited for the doors to open.
By six thirty, we walked inside and listened to a New York alternative rock band called Hold Steady. They rocked it and their enthusiasm was contagious. But, I was there to see The Replacements and my excitement was making me tap my feet in line as I waited to buy a t-shirt and a hoodie and wait a second, might as well get a poster too. I wanted to memorialize this night in every way possible.
At the bathroom, Benecio Del Torro walked by me and I tried to take a picture but couldn't get my phone out in time. Eventually, we made our way to the front of the stage on the floor. I scooted my way to second from the stage but eventually got pushed back to third or fourth. A fat drunk guy, a Chris Farly lookalike, kept pushing at us trying to get past us and a girl with straight hair and glasses pushed him in the face and told him to get back. I told her she was "bad ass" and she smiled. The lights dimmed and The Replacements came on with a flourish. Paul was wearing a red and yellow cowboy shirt and matching pants. His sidekick Tommy Stinson wore a checkered blue suit. They were dapper and seemed happy to be there.
The song "Favorite Thing" started out the show but I was waiting for "I'll Be You" and "Kiss Me On The Bus" and other favorites like "Color Me Impressed", "Alex Chilton", "Unsatisfied" and "I'm in Trouble". I wasn't disappointed and their set list was a satisfying best of with a little Jackson Five cover thrown in for good measure. Paul Westerfield kept a cigarette lit and would smoke between sets taking a long drag and blowing it out the side of his mouth.
But this blog is not about the set list or what they sang or how the sound system was. It is about how The Replacements made me feel. I felt transformed into my younger self when I would jump up and down at concerts and lose myself in the music. When I had no worries except for what homework was due and how I would get it done in the morning. My feel didn't hurt any longer and my back felt loose as I screamed along to every song. My voice became hoarse but my spirit was not.
I felt as if I could conquer the world one song at a time and all my troubles faded away into the New York ether. That is the power of music in the end. It takes us away. The Sex Pistols and The Ramones and yes, The Replacements, made people feel something they hadn't before and that is why they have a place in musical history. It's the feeling the music gives you, like we are all invincible and we are. Really we are. I only need to listen to a Replacements song to remember why I listen. And, why I shout the words out and shake my head to the beat. It's as if my body remembers what my brain has forgot. We are all young.