By Christopher Arnott
10:50 AM EDT, August 3, 2012
Last Friday's Replacements tribute nite at Cafe Nine was encouraging. It felt exactly the way it should have felt—loose and sloppy, amiable, anything-goes. Anything too slick would have sucked. There were countless comforting bar-band rock & roll moments, due as much to the cafe nine ambience as to the waitress-in-the-sky spirit of the band being celebrated.
The screening of the Replacements documentary Color Me Obsessed, with its creator Gorman Bechard in attendance, attracted a full club of attentive cult- rock cineastes. (The film will be released on DVD, with bonus materials, in November.) Many of them stayed afterwards for the extra attraction: a Replacements cover band put together by one of the film's co-producers, frequent cafe nine denizen Dean Falcone. The main players —guitarist Dean, bassist Ed Valauskas and drummer Jim Balga— do similar duty every Thanksgiving at Dean's patented Vomitorium events, where Replacements covers are regularly performed. One of the other certainties of the Vomitorium, a Cheap Trick song, even infiltrated the Replacements show thanks to a chance remark by Dave Schneider of the Zambonis that set them off into "I want you to want me."
There were guest stars aplenty, but no pompous introductions or genuflections. The unrehearsed band called for reinforcements as needed.
Ed Valauskas, the Gravel Pit/One Hundred Faces bassist and Q Division Studios engineer/producer, had brought a ringer with him from his hometown of Somerville, Massachusetts: Tom Baker from the Boston band Dirty Truckers. Baker was called upon regularly to sing and strum Replacements standards. The vibe in the room was such that it was easy to walk up to him at a break and ask “Who are you? Do you have a band?” Based on their CD, it’s a fine band, Dirty Truckers, rooted in Stonesy R&B and guitar-based pop/rock smarts. Baker was an inspired guy to add to a Replacements tribute. His obvious devotion to the Rolling Stones also came into play when the cover band (dubbed The Replacements Stink and So Do We!!!) ended the evening with “Beast of Burden,” a song frequently covered by The Replacements themselves.
The no-frills, no-big-thing nature of the evening was its saving grace. Guest vocalists such as Dan Greene (of Butterflies of Love and The Mountain Movers) and David Brooks (of The Streams) were anguishing that they’d forget whole chunks of lyrics. Live Mic of DefCon Five and Dave Zamboni added endearing comic patter to their brief stints. Shellye Valauskas added the only female element of the evening, and one of the few acoustic ones.
I brought a uke, which I carried around the room all night as casually as if it were a pint of beer. Nobody mentioned it once. When my spot to play came—a solo acoustic rendition of “Androgynous,” from the album Let It Be—it was after a full-band break, so nobody knew I even playing. Then they had to acclimate to the weirdness of a Replacements song on uke. It kind of felt like I’d lost a bet. But folks were sweet, the way folks are sweet at sloppy drunken bar shows.
Pity that more bands can’t elicit such appropriate tributes as this. Johnny Thunders’ Heartbreakers would seem a likely candidate, as would Guided By Voices or The Minutemen—bands where the live vibe fomented by the band in its prime is as much missed as (or more than!) the individual songs. This show proved that such vibes can be conjured up credibly—as long as those paying tribute, in the spirit of those being paid tribute to, refuse to take themselves too seriously.
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