“Hey, have you ever heard of the Replacements?” That’s what I asked my fellow Macalester College students this week, yielding a variety of answers—some indifferent, some impassioned.
I’m a freshman at Macalester; I came to the Twin Cities just a few months ago from my home town of Bloomington, Indiana. For the first couple months of my collegiate career, I stayed within what students call the “Mac Bubble.” My initial Minneapolis excursion was to First Avenue, to see Blitzen Trapper perform.
When I learned of First Avenue’s upcoming tribute to the Replacements (November 29, $10, 18+), I was surprised to discover the band’s Twin Cities roots. I wondered if my peers knew of the origin of this influential American band and this important piece of Minnesota trivia. Do Macalester students listen to the Replacements? Are those who listen to them aware of the band’s connection to the community?
Not necessarily. In fact, within my circle of new friends and freshman floor-mates, most hadn’t even heard of the Replacements.
Take Natalie Kronebusch, a freshman from St. Cloud. Despite the fact that she’s a native Minnesotan, and despite the band’s highly-publicized recent reunion, the Replacements have never crossed her radar. “I know some more famous [local] artists but I don’t have a good grasp on the full history” of Minnesota music, she said. “I think as I get off campus more often and hopefully see concerts in the area, I’ll be more exposed.”
After multiple semesters of Minnesota immersion, older students seem to have a better idea of who the Replacements are. Junior Amy Lebowitz of Pittsburgh, for example, does not actively listen to the Replacements but recognizes their role in the history of her adopted home state. “I know they’re name-dropped a lot for Minnesota pride,” she said. “They’re also mentioned frequently in hip movies.”
Although junior Parker Field, who grew up in Edina, became a fan of the Replacements when he first heard “Busted Up” on the Current in 2009, he remained oblivious of their Minnesota roots for several months. “Part of their legacy as a cult band means years of music-making with little popularity,” he said. “There are definitely a large number of Minnesotans who are unaware of their existence.”
This isn’t to say that young people must live in Minnesota to appreciate the Replacements. Freshman Kate Davis, from Westport, Connecticut, encountered the band months before deciding to come to Macalester. She observed that many of her favorite artists, such as Green Day, cited the Replacements as an inspiration. As an East Coaster already familiar with the music of New York City, she found the Minneapolis culture intriguing. “Any major rock band that has come out of Minnesota has to cite the Replacements as an influence,” she said.
In fact, Macalester’s proximity to great music venues was a major factor in Davis’s college decision. Now that she’s familiar with the Replacements’ old stomping grounds, their music has taken on a different meaning. “I listen to songs like ‘Skyway’ and see a lot of that Minnesota landscape that I wouldn’t have paid attention to had I not been here,” she said.
Senior Evan Anderson, from Evanston, Illinois, also feels his musical experience is heightened by understanding the context of the lyrics. “Walking around St. Paul and Minneapolis, it’s clear the Replacements are associated with the Cities,” he said. “It makes it kind of cool; you see little sights and glimpses.” Sometimes while riding the 94 Express, Anderson listens to “Kiss Me On the Bus.”
Anderson is the rock music editor of WMCN, Macalester’s radio station. “The Replacements are [to Minneapolis] what the Talking Heads are to New York,” he said. “The sound emblematizes people in the city.” Anderson believes the band evokes Minneapolis’s musical peak, the era when the city was “on top of its game.”
Junior Rob Grantfeld is especially interested in the Replacements’ rivalry with another Twin Cities punk band from the same decade: Hüsker Dü. Bob Mould, Hüsker Dü’s guitarist and vocalist, was a Macalester student. “They had a healthy competition for the [position of] most popular punk band in the city,” Grantfeld said.
Of the two, Grantfeld prefers the Replacements because of their (relatively) smoother sound. “I listen to them when I’m in the mood for a punk aesthetic that’s not too heavy on my ears,” he said. “They’re a nice balance between listenability and edge.”
However, Grantfeld is unsure how he feels about the Replacements’ reunion. He worries the band has lost the youth and recklessness that was characteristic of their music. He thinks they are trying to recreate something that no longer exists.
Anderson disagrees with this notion. “In our generation, people who weren’t alive for their first incarnation can get a glimpse,” he said. “It’s good to see we’re not eulogizing them. They’re just pretty cool guys who know how to write really good music.”
Ellie Fuqua is a freshman at Macalester College. She plans to double major in international studies and media and cultural studies, and hopes to pursue journalism as a career.