Robert Lund - Man About Town
Joey Ramone 56th Birthday Bash
I dunno if anyone's noticed, but I've been more of a "Man About The House" than about town lately, so columns have become rare. But I was yanked out of semi-retirement by the lure of a comp ticket to the Joey Ramone Birthday Bash this year, and it was great to party out among the aging punks again. It was another grand multi-faceted celebration of wild good times and rock-n-roll as Joey loved, promoted, and influenced it. Unlike other Irving Plaza shows where the time between bands is filled with coming acts promo videos, the event's focus was maintained with Ramones performance videos throughout the evening, covering a vast range of venues and incarnations. I'll try to tell about it as best as I can remember, but you can find full details on the show at birthday-bash-details.
The festivities kicked off with Tyler Fyre's Lucky Daredevil Thrillshow, scantily-clad gals and guys cavorting about the stage ensnaring one another with ropes and thrashing about generally. More Ramones on the big screen, then The Bullys played a set that got the crowd rocking to the Rockaway punk. It's great to see these guys fill a hall worthy of their sound and spirit! They were followed by The Chesterfield Kings, who've been pounding out 60s-garage-rock tunes since their inception in Rochester NY in 1979. My photo pass entitled me to shoot 3 songs from in front of the barrier, then out, so I went up to the balcony for a bird's-eye view. Lead singer Greg Prevost followed me up, climbing on the stage-left equipment and up the wall to sing to within inches of the balcony-hangers' faces. Cool!
After more great Ramones videos came the debut of Slinky Vagabond, a new band consisting of lead singer/guitarist Keanan Duffty, former Sex Pistol Glen Matlock, David Bowie touring band member Earl Slick, and Blondie's Clem Burke on drums. Fantastic what good musicians can do with a few decades of practice!
Tyler Fyre's people returned with a dazzling act. While a lovely in pasties danced around, two guys filled a huge confetti-filled balloon with a leaf-blower, stretched the mouth down over her body, and she held the end shut as it totally enclosed her, so she could bounce around the stage inside this translucent ball - astounding!
With all the great Ramones videos being shown between the acts, it was hard for the remaining smokers among us to find time to tend to our addiction. Irving Plaza doesn't make it any easier. They've set up temporary fencing outside to limit the smoker's group, providing a little pen just outside the door where up to 20 people can fit shoulder to shoulder puffing away before heading back inside. This of course results in a line extending up the stairs of people waiting to be allowed outside to smoke, cutting into available time to enjoy the full experience of the show. (Ach, what would a show report be without some bitching.)
The crowd's excitement and anticipation peaked at the approach of the legendary New York Dolls, one of Joey's favoritie bands back in the day. David Johansen was his usual graceful expressive self, and they performed a good mix of their classics and their new tunes, which totally measure up to what you'd have hoped they would create in this second coming. I can't not mention (bitch, bitch), every time I've seen them they do a little tribute to Johnny Thunders, with Sylvain doing "Memory" which segues into "Lonely Planet Boy." Every time I've heard them, he sings a different random potpourri of lyrics drawn from various verses, never making any sense. Damn, if only he could take the trouble to learn one fucking verse and sing it like we all know it, it would be so great! (Sorry, Syl, but I can feel Johnny's spirit wincing every time the Dolls do this.) But OK, other than that (familiar) minor distraction, the Dolls set was fantastic, as ever.
A regular feature of the yearly Bash put on by Mickey Leigh and his and Joey's mother Charlotte Lesher was Charlotte addressing the crowd, talking about her son and the Joey Ramone Foundation for Lymphoma Research. Sadly, with the passing of Charlotte this past year, we did not have her with us. But Mickey introduced a short video retrospective on Charlotte and her life which was very moving. We got to know Joey's mom better through many old family photos and films, and such pieces as her appearance on a talk show where she sang a bit of "Sheena is a punk rocker"! A cooler, more supportive mother you could never hope to have!
The event wound up with a grand Friends of Joey All-Star Jam, the stage crawling with legends like Walter Lure, The Dictators' Andy Shernoff and J.P. "Thunderbolt" Patterson, Richie Stotts of the Plasmatics, Al Maddy, Walt Stack, Ramones producer Ed Stasium and Mickey Leigh; Jayne County did a luscious rendition of "I Wanna Be Your Girlfriend" backed by Tish & Snooky, Furious George's George Tabb did a stunning version of "Warthog," and performances by Willie Nile and others kept it going long into the night. A little bit exhausting, but well worth the trip. I might even go out again next year!