mats portland
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It was one of those Replacements shows. Towards the end of the band’s tour in support of the album Pleased to Meet Me, the Minneapolis quartet was booked into the Pine Street Theatre in Portland, Oregon. Regional heroes the Young Fresh Fellows opened the show. Surely, it was a hot ticket, or at least a warm one, just a little uncomfortable to the touch.

By this point in time — 1987, to be precise — the Replacements had plenty of people lining up to declare them the best rock band in the U.S. They also had a deserved reputation of self-sabotaging disasters, a crew of drunken miscreants who leveled the combativeness of the punk rock ethos most effectively at their own shared career. A showcase on live, national television? That opportunity can be blown to bits for sure. And Replacements fans swapped tales of concerts that collapsed in on themselves, all because the band members took mighty swings at the load-bearing walls.

This brings us back to Portland. The fateful night mentioned above has gone down in Replacements lore as one of their most reckless wrecks of a show, at least from the later years, when expectations of onstage professionalism ran a little higher. While it’s always difficult to separate the truth from the myth when it comes to Mats debacles, it supposedly began with our heroes hurling junk as the Young Fresh Fellows as they played the opening set. By the time the Replacements took the stage, they were reportedly weaving from drink and whatever other party favors had been laid out backstage. Starting their own set with a take on a Rolling Stones song, the Replacements launched into several other covers — some abandoned midstream — as the night wore on, a sure sign they were in the extended process of giving up. According to the posted set list, the last song of the night was “Gary’s Got a Boner.” Of course it was.

Although there were undoubtedly more ragged Replacements concert, the Portland show has loomed large. In addition to the reasons noted above, that’s surely because it’s one of the few rough evenings the band addressed directly, recording a song that bears the city’s name and closes with Paul Westerberg sedately saying, “Portland, we’re sorry.” Even if the Portland show didn’t really reach the level of earlier acts of entertainment combustion perpetrated by the Replacements, at least it was commemorating in song.

Listen or download –> The Replacements, “Portland”

(Disclaimer: I’m not sure if “Portland” is in print in a physical format that can be purchased from your favorite local, independently-owned record store. I lost track of all the various Replacements reissues and comps long ago. Regardless, I offer this not as an excuse to eschew commerce, but as encouragement to do so. It is a sample and an enticement, and shared under the concept of fair use. Still, I do know the rules. I will gladly and promptly remove the music file from my little corner of the digital world is asked to do so by any individual or entity with due authority to make such a request.)

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