I’m not going to write a review of yesterday’s Riot Fest show in Toronto, I’m sure you can find a shitload of people’s opinions online. Hell to be honest I was contemplating not even going to Riot Fest – I am not a fan of outdoor festivals at all, but the lineup was just too good to pass up: Iggy & the Stooges, Dinosaur Jr., Rocket from the Crypt, Best Coast, the Flatliners, the Weakerthans, local boys Single Mothers and, oh yeah the first Replacements show in 22 years. How could I sit at home knowing that two hours down the road the sometimes-greatest rock and roll band in the world was playing?
The last Mats show was July 4, 1991 in Chicago. I saw them in Toronto in February of that year. I remember even then things were tense – they were touring on All Shook Down, an album that has always seemed more like a Westerberg solo record than a Replacements album. I saw them drunk and disorderly in 1986, and I saw them nail it in 1989, with a two hour-plus set list in Chicago. You know the saying about a Mats gig: the show might go on. Musically, The Replacements were the bomb for me in the mid-80s and Westerberg has always been my generational icon. Others have Bob, John or Paul, Elvis, Bruce, or maybe Kurt or Trent if you’re younger. But for me, it’s Westerberg.
His lyrics always hit home. His songs spoke of being lost, confused, angry, frustrated, of not giving a shit, but knowing you really do give a shit – “Anywhere is Better Than Here” he said – yeah, that was basically my 20s. He was a punk, but a great songwriter. He wasn’t political or preachy; he was just one of us, but he had a way with words and melody.
“Try to breathe some life into a letter, Losing hope, never gonna be together”
“I’m the boy they couldn’t ignore, for the first time in my life, I’m sure”
“Oh, then one day, I saw you walkin’ down that little one-way
Where, the place I’d catch my ride most everyday
There wasn’t a damn thing I could do or say
Up in the skyway”
“The ones who love us least are the ones we’ll die to please, if it’s any consolation, I don’t begin to understand them”
“I’ll write you a letter tomorrow; tonight I can’t hold a pen”
“And even alongside old sad eyes, who says
“Opportunity knocks once then the door slams shut”
All I know is that I’m sick of everything that my money can buy
A fool who wastes his life god rest his guts”
In the end I couldn’t justify sitting at home while The Mats played a couple of hours away, and holy crap was it worth dodging dumb-ass drunks and lining up to piss.
You can download and stream the whole show from the bands’ Facebook page here:
or from Slicing Up Eyeballs here: