The Replacements - 6:15 p.m.
Twelve months ago, you could probably count the number of people who thought the Replacements would ever play another gig on two hands. Paul Westerberg hadn’t played live in nearly a decade and Tommy Stinson had been a regularly touring member of Guns N’ Roses for even longer. But, starting with last year’s Riot Fest gigs, the pair – backed by ‘Mats superfans and onetime Westerberg sidemen David Minehan and Josh Freese – have been sporadically playing festivals and headline shows, and perhaps even more surprisingly, they’ve met the hype. A band with a catalog and reputation like the Replacements’ could have easily gotten by on nostalgia value alone, so credit is due to Westerberg and Stinson for putting just enough effort in to perform, but not enough to make it seem contrived. Like the rest of the reunion shows, Saturday evening’s set was somewhere between gloriously sloppy and amazingly competent; Westerberg’s greatest strength was always walking the line between pensively wounded and disastrously self-destructive, so for every highly self-aware off hand comment (“Do you guys want to hear a song by Lorde?”), there was a snapshot of the earnest man behind the songs (his voice going soft during the line in “Alex Chilton” talking about the aforementioned songwriter’s death). The list of highlights could go on for a while – “Can’t Hardly Wait”, opening with “Favorite Thing”, their cover of The Jackson 5′s “I Want You Back”, all of Tommy Stinson’s burns on Paul Westerberg – but the one that stands out the most is the encore. Without much warning, Westerberg jumped into the photo pit and began playing “Left of the Dial” with his back to the audience, before turning around for the final verse, locking eyes with the diehards on the barrier as they sang the closing lines of “And if I don’t see ya, in a long, long while/I’ll try to find you/Left of the dial” together in ragged unison. It was an unplanned, highly unorthodox, and highly affective move on Westerberg’s part, but at the end of the day, that’s what the Replacements were all about.
Mission of Burma - 7:00 p.m.
At this point, Mission of Burma are in the rare scenario where they’ve recorded about three times as much material post-reunion as they did during their initial run. It’s a little bewildering on paper, but seeing the still-kicking live quartet thrash out material from their entire run helps it all make a little more sense. Roger Miller, Clint Conley, Peter Prescott, (and post-reunion addition Bob Weston) remain as frenetic as they were when they were in their twenties, and while the audience was less familiar with the produced after 1983, the band seemed unfazed, focused solely on kicking out the jams. Of course, when they did pull out a classic like “That’s How I Escaped My Certain Fate” or “That’s When I Reached For My Revolver”, the crowd joined the band in their frenzy. Like the band’s reunion as a whole, better late than never, right?
The Dismemberment Plan - 9:00 p.m.
Even though their best work was driven between the tension between youthful idealism and reality (or, in simpler terms, being confused in your twenties), The Dismemberment Plan seemed pretty happy on Saturday night. “Usually we’re staring at a beer advertisement when we play festivals,” noted frontman Travis Morrison, “but tonight we’re staring at the Space Needle. That’s a blessing.” Morrison and bassist Eric Axelson’s humorous interactions with a crowd member identified as “Seth Rogen” aside, the band’s set drew primarily on the singular, self-aware indie rock that, fifteen years later, still sounds fresh when Travis Morrison teams up with the audience for one liners while the rhythm section bounces back and forth between song sections. Complimenting the band’s late ’90s/early ’00s material were songs from their recent, middle-age document Uncanney Valley, which, much to the chagrin of some critics, finds the band in a fairly happy mood. The band all have day jobs now – most of their recent gigs have been one offs on the weekends, rather than proper tours – so they’re just doing it for kicks at this point, but maybe that’s what they were dreaming about when they were in the van touring behind Emergency & I: if you can come out of early adulthood in one piece and still play music with your longtime friends on the weekends, maybe you’re doing alright after all.
The Head and the Heart - 9:30 p.m.
It seemed like the moment everyone (who wasn’t waiting for the Replacements) at Bumbershoot was waiting for the Head and the Heart, so when 9:30 came around on the Mainstage, the metaphorical stage was set for a set that wasn’t anything but triumphant. After a few songs, it was clear that the Head and the Heart were going to deliver on that hype. Even though they’re starting to regularly play bigger venues and festival slots, there’s an additional element to playing a large, outdoor headlining set in your hometown, but the sextet rose to the occasion. The quiet moments (“Sounds Like Hallelujah”, “Winter Song”) still felt intimate, and the more anthemic songs, of which there were many more, felt like they were always meant to be experienced with an audience this size. Even though they verbalized it throughout the set, the beaming expressions the band wore onstage said volumes more of what the gig meant to them, and for good reason: in the past four years, Seattleites have had plenty of chances to see The Head and the Heart, but nothing like this – the homecoming heroes couldn’t have asked for a better night, a better crowd, or a better moment to cap the second chapter in their book.