CAMBRIDGE — The air outside of the Sinclair had a palpable electricity on the inaugural night of Converse’s Rubber Tracks Live series at the cozy club. Monday’s show, the first of a five-night run of free-for-lottery-winners concerts sponsored by the shoe company, featured the Replacements, the storied Minneapolis outfit known for their scruffy, heart-on-sleeve songs about long nights and longing, feelings amplified by feedback-laden guitars and Paul Westerberg’s raspy wail. The refrain of “Can’t Hardly Wait” could have applied to any of the lucky attendees who’d grabbed places on the night’s guest list, whether through machine-applied chance, Craigslist trawling, or the kindness of strangers.

Holliston trio the Young Leaves kicked things off with a short set of bruising power pop indebted to the night’s other two acts, albeit graciously: “Obviously we’re excited to see the Replacements and Dinosaur Jr. — we’ve been ripping them off for the past 30 minutes,” frontman Christopher Chaisson said before his band closed out its hooky, noisy set.


Dinosaur Jr.’s sludged-up rock felt ideal for the early-spring evening; the band’s songs exhibit controlled chaos, opening up fully when frontman J. Mascis lets loose long, thick guitar lines. Think of the way the season’s first really warm beams of sunlight feel extra warm and clarifying and you’ll get the idea.

And then there were the Replacements — original members Westerberg and bassist Tommy Stinson, supplemented by guitarist Dave Minehan (formerly of Boston’s own the Neighborhoods) and drummer Josh Freese. After walking onstage with masks over their eyes, they kicked into the feisty “Seen Your Video” and careened through two dozen tracks.

Back in the day, live shows by the Replacements were notorious for being on the shambolic side (in 1986 they were banned from “Saturday Night Live” for playing while intoxicated), but on Monday night the energy was, for the most part, aimed toward making tracks like “Kiss Me on the Bus” and “I Will Dare” opportunities for shared catharsis drenched in distortion and led by Westerberg’s weathered voice. About midway through the show, Westerberg found a cigarette, which acted as a perhaps-inadvertent callback to the band’s more devil-may-care days — or at least the era before smoking bans became the norm at rock clubs.


The night ended with the salute to the power of pop “Alex Chilton”; the audience pogoed and thrashed along with its jagged chords and proclamations of musical infatuation, effectively reflecting those sentiments back at the stage.

The Replacements

With Dinosaur Jr. and Young Leaves

At: The Sinclair, Monday

Maura Johnston can be reached at maura@maura.com.