The Young Leaves
Christopher Chaisson had the night off from grad school. The reason: His professor is a huge Replacements fan. The vocalist/guitarist’s sludge-tinged indie rock band The Young Leaves got the once in a lifetime chance to open for two alt-rock pioneers at the most tiny, intimate performance either band has played since the 80’s or 90’s.
For those pinning The Young Leaves as a nostalgia act, you’re seriously missing out. Sure, songs like “Drowning Pool” or “Alive and Well” sound straight out of the mid-90’s alt-rock boom, but listen closely and there’s more to be had. From Chaisson’s deep, throaty vocals to the hyper-fuzzy guitar hooks, The Young Leaves are testament to how indie rock can still be fresh and ever evolving. Even so, Chaisson knows his history and influences. He closed out the set with a self-deprecating crack about how excited he was for the other bands because “we’ve been ripping them off for the past 30 minutes.”
Three towering stacks of Marshall amps walled off J. Mascis from the drum set. One thing is always certain about a Dinosaur Jr. show: It’s going to be mind-numbingly deafening. Even during sound check, the roadie testing J’s guitar jumped noticeably when the piercing distortion kicked in.
Per usual, Mascis had very little to say throughout the short yet sweet set of songs, reaching as far back into their discography as the song “Tarpit” from their 1987 release You’re Living All Over Me. Original bassist Lou Barlow, who rejoined the group in 2005, strummed distorted chords furiously and high up on the neck, creating a beefy bass track to support Mascis’ grooving wall of fuzz. J’s iconic, apathetic “slacker” vocals that helped the band gain such a cult following were just enough to cut over the sludge-riddled house mix. The band switched up the hits a bit with “Feel the Pain,” while “Freak Scene” found Mascis experimenting with alternative vocal melodies.
Three years ago, the idea of even seeing Paul Westerberg and Tommy Stinson play together again felt like a pipe dream for most punks. But in 2012, the legendary Midwest alternative rock band reunited onstage for the first time since 1991. Seeing a band that headlined Boston Calling Music Festival last fall playing on the compact stage of The Sinclair felt surreal. As Stinson aptly put it upon seeing the crowd, “This is weird…”
Westerberg and co. jogged onstage wearing cheap black Zorro masks, as if to hide their secret identities. It only took about 30 seconds into the opening song, “Seen Your Video,” for the front man to toss off the gag mask so he could actually see his guitar. The ‘Mats pushed through over two dozen classics, even a few they didn’t include at Boston Calling, like “Left of the Dial,” “Never Mind,” and moody sing-a-long “Unsatisfied.”
In the band’s prime, fans knew that they would be attending a show that would either be one of the best rock performances ever, or a total drunken train wreck of sloppy cover songs. Those in attendance at The Sinclair who expected a professional, cohesive set might have been a little put off when, halfway through, Westerberg exclaimed, “Fuck it, I need a smoke.” He proceeded to mumble through the next song with a cigarette dangling from his mouth, even strumming with it and getting ash and embers across the monitors. While it never quite reached drunken train wreck levels, fans of the band were getting the vintage, devil-may-care Replacements that they fell in love back in the ’80’s.
The slop level only rose to embarrassing levels with the band’s new (joke?) track, “Whole Foods Blues,” a bizarre blues improv that was more awkward than comical. But the crowd was reignited instantly with “Bastards of Young,” screaming and moshing along to the famous zeitgeist anthem.
For the encore, Westerberg marched back onstage with a sneer and a cigarette. His roadie handed him a beautiful acoustic, only for him to instantly smash it to smithereens. Most laughed and cheered as he tossed pieces of the exploded guitar out into the crowd. As the audience bobbed and danced to their final song, the 1987 stadium rock hit “Alex Chilton,” it was clear that over 25 years later, fans are still “in love with that song” and the unbridled rock ‘n’ roll chaos that is The Replacements.
- Young Leaves a high water marker for how far the Dinosaur Jr. sound has come
- J Mascis' ear drum busting guitar amps/lackadaisacal singing
- The Replacements together in a small club playing all the hits with a bit of old school sloppiness
- Westerberg had a few too many moments where he would lose his place or give up on singing
- The Replacements 10+ min blues improv. What was initially funny quickly became embarrassing and awkward
- Converse wouldn't shut off their obnoxious scrolling illustration while the headliner was playing