It was hard to know whether to call Tommy Stinson’s group last night at 7th Street Entry a new band or an old one. By the end of the nearly 90-minute performance, though, it was at least clear why the unit carried the name Bash & Pop, which was also the moniker Stinson used for his first post-Replacements band circa 1992-’94.
Thursday’s packed Entry gig was the first official live appearance for Stinson’s revived/recreated ensemble, whose new album, “Anything Could Happen,” lands next Friday via Fat Possum Records. The choice of venue obviously added more of a historic tinge to the proceedings, since Stinson started playing the small room at age 14 not long after the Entry first opened in 1980. Tickets for the show were given out to fans who supported a Pledge Music campaign for the record, which Stinson recorded over different sessions with an all-star casted that included his Memphis bud Luther Dickinson (North Mississippi All-Stars, Black Crowes) and his former Guns N’ Roses bandmate Frank Ferrer.
The lineup that took the stage Thursday as Bash & Pop had its own impressive resume, too, with the Hold Steady’s Steve Selvidge on guitar, drummer Joe Sirois of the Mighty Mighty Bosstones and bassist Justin Perkins – none of whom were in the original, short-lived Bash & Pop. Neither the new nor the old Bash & Pop were reinventing the wheel, though. Thursday’s lineup provided the same sort of spirited, Faces-meets-Johnny-Thunders, barroom-rock backdrop for Stinson’s loose, snarling but melodic and sometimes melancholy tunes.
Fans who listened to the lyrics – a pre-show listening party in the main room helped clue them in – would have easily noticed that the songs from the new record are by far some of the most downcast and personal of Stinson’s songwriting career, many heavily tinted by divorce. The acoustic track “Anytime Soon,” delivered mid-show, included a refrain about “dangling from the rafters.” The single “On the Rocks,” played third in the set, is a blistering breakup song that sounded especially barbed live.
Thursday’s mood was nonetheless rowdy and happy on and off stage. The band opened with a charmingly ramshackle “Fast & Hard,” from the original Bash & Pop’s lone, cult-loved album “Friday Night Is Killing Me” (1993). They stuck mostly to the new songs until the second half of the set, when they also dropped in “He Means It,” “Tiny Pieces” and “Nothing,” also from that earlier album. The '93 and '17 songs really did fit together seamlessly. Selvidge helped tie them up with a blues-punky tinge to both new and old alike. He especially cut loose in the encore during the older classics “Never Aim to Please” and “Friday Night Is Killing Me.”
Stinson coyly, cockishly joked with the up-close crowd for much of the night, including a guy who told him he was going to name his kid after him (“Be careful about that,” Stinson shot back). He dropped the attitude toward the end, though, and flatly admitted, “This has been a great show. It’s good to come home.” He could have meant Minneapolis or Bash & Pop as "home," but clearly there was a familiarity to both that made Thursday's show a triumphant one.