The next night, a little farther up Boylston, a sweaty Paul Westerberg summed up his just-completed gig at the grand opening of the new First Act Guitar Studio. "This is like one in a million," he said, slugging back Maker’s Mark. "I don’t like playing for people who don’t sort of know who I am." Assured that there some people in the audience familiar with his music, he added, "There were definitely some suits there. It brings me back to when we [the Replacements] first started and people used to stand like this [blank stare] in front of us. We used to open for Black Flag, and Henry Rollins would be sitting out there in front of us like that. So I’m used to being ignored."
It had indeed been a funny scene — imagine a who’s who of Boston pop plopped down in the middle of a showroom, surrounded by walls of guitars, hors d’œuvre, cocktails, businesspeople, contest winners, and the few Westerberg fanatics who managed to talk their way in <cough>A-Reg</cough>.
About halfway through a loosey-goosey 45-minute set, local producer and former Neighborhoods frontman Dave Minehan, who’d once toured as part of Westerberg’s backing band, joined him on guitar. Their last three songs were a highlight: rousing versions of the ’Mats songs "Valentine" and "Alex Chilton" plus the suddenly topical "House of the Rising Sun." "I had never played that song publicly. It felt good," Westerberg told me later. "Dave was gonna sing the last verse, but I looked at him and he gave me the look like, ‘I can’t remember it.’ So I sang the first one over again."
After the song, Westerberg promptly smashed his guitar (a signature model, yet unnamed), then thanked First Act and walked off. "I thought it was great," said Buffalo Tom’s Bill Janovitz after the Minehan/Westerberg finale. "Usually with these in-stores, they have someone like Nuno Bettencourt play, and these guys couldn’t get through the first song you learn at guitar lessons."