12mid, Lamberts; Sat., 12mid, the Whiskey Room
Tommy Stinson might be a hero. Not bad for a bass
player, much less one who's been in two incongruously influential bands.
"I've been a replacement longer than I've been a Replacement."
Tommy Stinson cops to cribbing the joke ("Everyone's been making it"), and while it seems bizarre to contemplate, do the math. Stinson's stint replacing Duff McKagan in Guns n' Roses is now longer than his tenure doing the same job for the Replacements. But Stinson isn't heroic for any gig he's held down with four strings, nor does simply surviving Axl qualify him for a cape. He's merely transforming lives in the poorest country in our hemisphere.
"After the  earthquake in Haiti, I'd see a lot of stuff going on about it and I just felt like I wanted to help," he says.
Many people want to help. Plenty even do, mostly by writing a check. Stinson had done the same in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, donating to the Red Cross.
"I was completely disappointed with what they did," he says. "So I decided with Haiti, if I'm going to do anything, I've got to get involved emotionally and get down there and see what's going on. I didn't feel that giving money blind to some entity to hopefully do the right thing was going to work again."
After making a trip to Haiti to see the devastation firsthand, Stinson found the Timkatec school.
"People I had made connections with said there's the school that takes abandoned homeless kids off the street and teaches them a trade. Hopefully they'll be the kids that'll rebuild their country. I just thought that was a winning prospect for something I could do to help."
Through an online auction, Stinson single-handedly raised $40,000 for Timkatec. In the grand scheme of things, that's not a huge chunk of change, but that money funded an entire building extension and covered the entire first-year fees for over 20 students. Within a year of the earthquake, the extension was housing 200 and had graduated a record 61 kids.
Playing armchair psychologist, it's not hard to see where maybe some of this selflessness comes from. For someone who started in the 'Mats at all of 13, the years are starting to pile up.
"I was talking to Paul [Westerberg] about it yesterday in fact, because [Replacements guitarist] Slim [Dunlap] is in the hospital. He had a major stroke. He's on the mend right now, but it's going to be a long fucking mend, and you get to that age where people start popping off or getting sick," says Stinson, who comes to South by Southwest to work last year's under-the-radar but stellar solo effort One Man Mutiny.
"It makes you think about your mortality a little bit more than you want to," he muses. "When Alex Chilton died, it was the first sort of .... All of these guys that I know died in a very short amount of time. They were all young, you know. Rock & roll is not kind to the health, I'll put it that way.
"It's a stressful existence."
Hey, nobody said being heroic was ever going to be easy.