RiotFest co-organizer Mike (Riot Mike) Petryshyn has a soft spot for Toronto. He has close family friends in Brantford – their grandparents all grew up together in the same Ukrainian village and kept in touch after immigrating to North America (Mr. Petryshyn’s family wound up in Buffalo) – and his sister lived in St. Catharines for a time. This, he says, is why Toronto was chosen as the first stop on his three-city RiotFest tour this year, whose roster notably includes iconic Minneapolis college rock band The Replacements’ first live appearance together in 22 years. The band’s three RiotFest performances will mark its only North American shows this year. The surrounding buzz, a riot unto itself.
How did you and RiotFest co-organizer Sean McKeough come to orchestrate this Replacements reunion?
Ultimately it was the band’s decision. I think it was just perfect timing, to be honest with you. The stars aligned, the planets aligned, and the band was like, ‘Hey, let’s do some shows.’ We started working on it at the end of last year and we stuck it through and it happened. We’re ecstatic about it.
Are you a fan?
Of course. Who isn’t? When they finally confirmed, we had to take a step back and say, ‘Holy smokes. This is actually happening.’
Did you ever get a chance to see the band the first time around?
No. I had a bootleg cassette tape as a kid of their final performance, in Chicago’s Grant Park in ’91. It was broadcast by one of the radio stations in Chicago. I would listen to it all the time. I’m still trying to dig it up. I know I didn’t throw it out.
I imagine the response to this thing has been kind of overwhelming.
There were rumours beginning to fly around a couple weeks before we announced, but it was pure speculation. I think it was more like, ‘Wouldn’t it be awesome if The ’Mats [a longtime Replacements diminutive] were reunited for Riot?’ But once we announced it, it went viral pretty quick. I don’t go online and read many articles [about RiotFest] – I keep away from that. But, with that said, I do know that I had friends of family who saw it on CNN and stuff. I’m guessing that’s good.
Why do you think The ’Mats have managed keep such an enduring fan base?
It’s just the music. They just wrote really great songs. With any band that has that kind of legacy, it’s not so much about the band’s members itself but that their albums are just classic. People want to hear those songs.
Do you worry that getting them on board has distracted from the rest of the lineup?
I don’t know about that. I think after the early splash of the reunion sets in, you realize, ‘Holy crap.’ The Stooges are playing. Dinosaur Jr. The Weakerthans. Rocket from the Crypt. It’s a pretty powerful bill, even without The Replacements on it. We’re pretty proud of that bill