How the Replacements reunion made me feel like I finally belong to my generation

How the Replacements reunion made me feel like I finally belong to my generation

I was raised in a strict, Evangelical Christian home where rock and roll was the Devil’s music and my parents fought over having a television in our home. My mother’s church also had a church-school and I attended this school, K-12. One of the consequences of being raised in a walled-off environment is I have always felt a sort of disconnect from my peers.

As a result of this disconnect, I have spent much of my adult life trying to catch up to my fellow Gen-Xers. In my early 20s, I left home, joined the world at large, and began to socialize more with peers outside of the sheltered environment in which I was raised. As I spent more time with my new friends and acquaintances, the differences in how we were raised became more apparent.

I did not see the Space Shuttle Challenger explode in the atmosphere on television during class—the principal of my school turned on the radio after the fact and we sat at our desks and listened to reports of the aftermath. I remember sitting alone in my bedroom with the portable television my mother did not know about when I saw the video for Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” the first time, on Friday Night Videos. While I recognized Nirvana was changing the landscape for my generation, I watched the video alone and no one at my school knew or cared about Nirvana or the Seattle scene. I have lost count of the missed references I have noticed when my peers discuss literature from the required-reading lists of their public high schools.

Late this past summer the Replacements came home to play their first show in the area in 23 years and it was another experience in catching up, as I only had a general sense of who the Replacements were and what they meant to my generation. In junior high and high school, when I was able to sneak away and listen to secular music, I always listened to the local commercial rock radio station and assumed any rock music not being played on that station just was not good enough to make the cut. I had no knowledge of indie rock in my youth and did not discover the Replacements until the mid-aughts, after I finally watched the movie Singles and discovered Paul Westerberg.

I purchased my ticket to the show on Craigslist the day before the show, and observed the Cities abuzz with growing anticipation as the hour of the concert neared. When I arrived at Midway Stadium on Saturday afternoon, I started to feel an unease I immediately chalked up to attending another show alone—but the feeling persisted as the gates opened and I entered the stadium. I tweeted a couple of times about feeling uneasy around so many of my peers because I had yet to amass houses and kids and divorces, but as I tweeted passive-aggressive jokes about my discomfort I started to realize why I was feeling so uneasy. Thousands of my peers were gathered together in one place, and it was another situation where I felt like I was still catching up to them.

The show began as this realization set in and I put my thoughts on hold while watching Lucero and the Hold Steady live for the first time. The Replacements finally took the stage and the same feeling returned as everyone around me began singing along to the band, while I only knew the lyrics to some of the choruses (and most of “Swingin’ Party”; thanks, Lorde). When “Bastards of Young” was played and the crowd shifted from merely singing along to screaming every lyric from their souls the disconnect between myself and my peers seemed to reach its peak. I don’t have any sentimental attachment to the song, and I felt the contrast between my peers and I very strongly in that moment.

I battled the feelings of disconnect and trying to catch up while still trying to enjoy the rest of the show and was rewarded at the end when the Replacements played the one song I did know all of the lyrics to: “Unsatisfied.” Here was a song that meant something to me, with lyrics that resonated. Most of my adult life, in part because of all of the catching up, I’ve felt unsatisfied. There have been times I have wanted to scream at those responsible for my upbringing—my parents, my pastors, my teachers—and demand, after all of the indoctrinating, they look me in the eye and tell me I’m satisfied with the life they paved for me.

After the show ended, I went straight home and withdrew for the next 36 hours. I did not post anything on social media about the show and when friends called and sent texts and Facebook messages asking me how the show was, I could not find the words to explain. It is very rare for me to be unable find the words required to recap an experience, but I sat alone in my recliner for hours on end trying to understand what had happened to me at the Replacements show. Sometime around 4:00 on Monday morning the fog lifted and I understood what had happened.

My experience seeing the Replacements in the summer of 2014 is this: for the first time in my life I was able to share a significant experience unique to my generation with my peers, live and in-person. I still have some catching up to do—like watch Animal House and listen to the Flaming Lips discography—and I still don’t feel satisfied. However, 30 years from now when I’m sitting at a dive bar somewhere in Minneapolis chatting with the patron next to me and I’m asked if I was at Midway Stadium when the Replacements came home to play in 2014, I’ll be able to say yes. I was there.

Tim Brackett