The Band That Wasn’t There

The Replacements won’t come back on their own. So we bring them back ourselves. 

A few years ago, reunion tours of underground bands from indie rock’s formative era were all the rage. Now they’re the norm, which would lead you to believe that one of the last great holdouts, the Replacements, would return any day now. But anyone who knows anything about the Replacements knows the band was never interested in the norm. They weren’t keen on being all the rage, either.

“I remember the liner notes to Sorry Ma,” the Hold Steady’s Craig Finn says in Jim Walsh’s 2007 Replacements oral history All Over But the Shouting. “You know, ‘Could have been better if we tried harder.’ It was the first time, as a kid, I remember rock ’n’ roll that was self-deprecating.”

The Replacements introduced a big, sloppy, bleeding heart into a self-serious underground music scene that needed it desperately. They recorded some of the best pop music of the ’80s and played some of the worst live shows in history. They were revered for both, which is why questions about a return persist.

“I’m hesitant about dragging the name out there and what damage we could do to the legend,” frontman Paul Westerberg told Billboard following rumors that the band might reunite for the Coachella Music Festival in 2007. Bass player Tommy Stinson, who has since gone on to play in Guns N’ Roses, has been even more blunt in his assessment.

“Why would we do it?” he asked in an August interview with Rolling Stone. “The only reason we would ever do it would be to get paid. We’re not going to recapture anything.”

So what’s a fan to do when the members of his favorite band refuse to honor their own legacy? Honor it for them. That’s what filmmaker Gorman Bechard did in the documentary Color Me Obsessed—a film unlike any other rock doc—which will play at Northwest Film Forum during Heineken City Arts Fest.

Staying true to his inspiration’s form, Bechard did something few filmmakers would dare: he made a movie about the Replacements that features no interviews with the band members, no music by the band and no photos of the band. This is a portrait painted with the words of Replacements fans, including famous ones like Finn and the Decemberists’ Colin Meloy alongside many more unknowns. Color Me Obsessed is a fascinating look at the power the Replacements wield over individual lives and the mythology that’s born from that power.

After listening to people talk about the Replacements’ music for an hour and a half, you will likely want to hear the music. Better yet, you’ll want to hear it live, in a bar, surrounded by drunk people singing along. The Replacements won’t give you the pleasure, but the band’s musician fans will. A number of them will take the stage at the Comet Tavern on Friday, Oct. 21, paying tribute to the Replacements by playing their songs live. Performers range from the old (51-year- old Fastback Kurt Bloch) to the young (19-year-old folk singer Ben Fisher), but every one has been inspired by the pounding sound of that big, bleeding heart and will do whatever they can to keep it beating.

Color Me Obsessed shows on Oct 21 and Oct 22 at the Northwest Film Forum