“Thanks for all coming out and supporting this little school in Haiti I fell in love with,” said Tommy Stinson at the start of his rock benefit on Tuesday night at Club Helsinki to raise money for Timkatec, a trade school attended by abandoned and orphaned youth in Port au-Prince, Haiti. The school, which equips students with skills and tools so they can help rebuild the country after its disastrous 2010 earthquake, has become an important cause to Stinson, who handpicked all the bands for the fundraiser held in Hudson, where he now lives.
Befitting a concert organized by the current bass player for Guns N’ Roses and a pioneering member of seminal Minneapolis rock group the Replacements—who found infamy in part for their drunken performances and disorderly behavior—the event had a slackly run feel. The two women in guitar-and-drums-duo the Troublemakers started off the night with a ramshackle cover of Joan Jett’s “You Drive Me Wild,” and Stinson didn’t end his headlining set of solo material until nearly 1 AM, after the stage was strewn with empty drink glasses and Stinson had personally auctioned off a signature model Mustang V guitar and a chain-metal vest made out of tops from aluminum cans.
It was a late night for a Tuesday, but the Helsinki crowd didn’t seem to mind (“Doesn’t anyone in Hudson work?” groused one of the more time-conscious attendees). Older socially minded philanthropic types mingled with younger rockers sporting Stinson-like black fedoras and skinny suits, and a silent auction upstairs offered everything from tattoos and sports memorabilia to items ponied up by Stinson himself, including private bass lessons and Big Star’s Third album on rare white vinyl autographed by Big Star drummer Jody Stephens.
A parade of musical acts hit the stage in the meantime, including Ghent songwriter and banjoist Dan Wall, who performed a “yodelesque” waltz, and old-timey female singing trio Pocatello. The Haitian (but now residing in Hudson) reggae band Azouke drew the biggest crowd in front of the stage all night—including Stinson, who slow-danced platonically with a fedora-wearing male friend during the band’s cover of Bob Marley’s “No Woman, No Cry.”
But the night’s biggest musical highlights mostly came as the hours grew late: Milwaukee quartet Trapper Schoepp and the Shades bashed out a set of melodic and meaty Midwestern barroom rock, and Hudson Valley songwriter Elvis Perkins (son of Psycho star Anthony Perkins) displayed vividly rendered, idiosyncratic folk rock backed by his Dearland crew. The night’s main attraction—Stinson himself—may have come on late, but he didn’t disappoint, whether joined by electrified local rapper Young Paris on “Pet the Lights,” surrounded by hula hoopers on the country-tinged “Zero to Stupid” from his latest solo album, One Man Mutiny, or finishing the night with an appropriately drunk and dissolute version of “Nothing” from his post-Replacements band Bash & Pop.