“Color Me Obsessed” Minneapolis Premiere

It was a cool and sunny day and I was walking around the intersection of N. First Avenue and Seventh Street South, an intersection as historical as 12th Street and Vine and one that looms as large in my legend as does Bowery and Bleecker. I’m standing in downtown Minneapolis, Replacements blasting in my earphones, taking photo after photo of the stars on the wall of the nightclub at that location, that valhalla that launched the careers of every band I have loved from Minneapolis. Purple Rain was filmed here. And the Replacements played around the corner in what locals call “the Entry,” the tiny triangle shaped dark box that reeks of beer and cigarettes (still). I spent the rest of the afternoon wandering the downtown, the entire Replacements catalog cycling through my ears, walking around streets I know solely from addresses in rock and roll records and the pages of fanzines: Nicollet Mall. Hennepin Ave.

It could be 1985, but it is 2011. Today I am here to see the Minneapolis premiere of Color Me Obsessed, the Replacements documentary. If I was going to see it anywhere, it would have to be here.

I probably should have made this trip back in the day, and I am not sure why I did not; I made it to other outposts of the revolution, like Chapel Hill and Athens, and honorary corners in Boston and DC. I stopped here once in 2004, when I was driving back home to New York from Seattle, and an overnight stop put us just outside of town. I got up an hour early to make the trip to 2215 S. Bryant, which is otherwise known as the Stinson family house and the roof that the Replacements posed on for the cover of Let It Be. I came back in the summer of 2010 on a trip to see U2 and Target Field but also very much to stand in front of the stars on First Avenue (which were being painted at the time – I almost ran a red light at the intersection when I realized they were all blank), have a beer at the CC Club, and sit for a few minutes on Bob’s Bench and listen to a recording of “Little GTO” recorded at CBGB’s years ago. You will either find this awesome or pathetic. The difference between coming here now as opposed to 1985 is that I would have been too self-conscious to do the kind of blatant fangirling I am completely reveling in now. I would not have had nearly as much fun.

Onto the movie. Color Me Obsessed has evolved dramatically since I saw an early screening back in the fall of 2010. Back then, it was a complex, meandering thicket that would have given up its secrets to the truly dedicated. I was fine with that, because the Replacements were not for the casual fan, not for the “well convince me why they are so good” fan, not for the fairweather fan. It wasn’t worth going if you weren’t invested, because something would annoy you or piss you off or infuriate you. I won’t tell you that there would always be something brilliant because that simply wasn’t true. But most of us went back, time and again.

Color Me Obsessed in its current, final incarnation is brilliant in the way that The Kids Are Alright is brilliant. TKAA didn’t pander, didn’t explain, didn’t put things in context like a Ken Burns documentary – you had to pay attention. You had to follow what was going on. You needed to care, passionately. The first time I saw it, I had no idea what was going on, only that I loved every single second of it and wanted to go home and find out everything I could about the Who (and at the time I thought I knew a fair amount. I knew nothing). I didn’t need subtitles or long explanatory passages or someone setting up who this person was and why they were Important. I also didn’t mind doing my homework, I didn’t mind seeing it again and again and again until all the pieces fell together and I sat there, triumphant.

This movie can do that for you.

The story is constructed, layer upon layer, introducing you to person after person. Some you will know, others you won’t. For some you get an explanation of who they are and why they’re important; others it just doesn’t matter. What matters is what they say and what story they have to tell. This is dense prose; this is intricate construction. If you blink for a minute you will miss something you do not want to miss. I loved when the audience laughed out loud but I also hated it because then I missed what was said next. There was such economy of space, every word that everyone said served a purpose. Space served a purpose. Laughter served a purpose. I loved the 80s era photos of the speakers popping up as they spoke, reminding us of what it was like, once upon a time.

What matters is what they say, because you will nod your head – if you were there – because you thought that or saw something like that or remember that. The fans manage to speak for everyone in some fashion, even if everyone’s experience is still unique, even if you were at the same show, you know there can be multiple versions of how it exactly went down. (I am involved in one of those segments, although it turns out – thanks to someone else’s better memory – that two shows are confused as one by even the person who promoted it.) The legends are dissected, the rumors debunked – no, the master tapes from Twin-Tone did not go into the Mississippi River (for example) – but it’s not done in a way that leaves you completely shattered or upset or wishing you still had your original version of the story. If you know this band (and I mean ‘know’ in the way that all fans know a band), you will walk out of the movie wanting to hear the catalog from start to finish again. If you weren’t lucky enough to have been there but love this band, you will feel like you were, after you see this movie. And if you don’t know this band, you will either walk out saying “Seriously?” or want to go buy everything they have ever done and begin at the beginning.

Which is the whole point, after all.

I expected a Minneapolis audience to be hooting and hollering and booing and cheering and yelling things at the screen. Aside from the women behind me who giggled the entire time at absolutely everything (if I hadn’t been resolute that nothing could ruin this for me, I would have killed them. That, and I wasn’t a local), there were few of these revelatory, communal, very local moments. It almost made me sad that this sold-out, packed theater did not have that, but upon later reflection, maybe it is more Minneapolis this way. (I am told that the Boston screening was like a revival meeting. I am not surprised, because that town loved this band.) It was over before I wanted it to be over, and I was sad I could not stay for a second screening the next day (three in total, all sold out).

There is no music in this movie, the band do not appear, the director did not even try. Some people don’t believe him, think he couldn’t afford it or the band said no or he was blacklisted, but I am also in this movie and I wouldn’t have done it if I didn’t think he was being honest, if I thought he was being disingenuous. So many of us grew up on “Behind The Music” and assume that that is the only way to tell the story of a rock and roll band and think that anyone else is doing it wrong. I could not think of anything more boring than a “Paul Westerberg was born on…” type of movie, which talked to his next door neighbors and his classmates in high school and dutifully played a few live clips and had promo shots of the band fade in and out from left to right. Why would anyone, anywhere, want that for this band? I don’t get it.

When the movie was over, the afterparty was at the Entry, where the locals explained to me how the club was laid out back in the day, and I drank Rolling Rock while Matthew Ryan stood in the middle of the audience and sang ‘Here Comes A Regular’ acoustic while someone held the lyric sheet for him, while another band brought out horns for “Can’t Hardly Wait” (a point on which I wax eloquently in the film), while drunk local after drunk local insisted that they were the one who yelled “FUCK YOU” at the beginning of “Kids Don’t Follow,” while I sat with my back against the wall and sang along to every single song like I did once upon a time, in a galaxy far far away.

p.s. After the movie, I called a cab to take me from the screening to the afterparty.
“What’s at the Entry tonight?” he asked, after I gave him the address like I’d lived there all my life (or so I hoped).
“It’s an afterparty for a documentary – about a local band.”
“Oh, is that the Replacements documentary? I was supposed to be in that. I lit Paul’s cigarette before they played the first song at the first show at the Longhorn.”