May 12, 2002
May 12th was a tough night, with two simultaneous Joey Ramone Birthday celebrations to choose between, held at CBGBs and Bowery Ballroom. Both factions refused to reschedule their bash, so I opted for the Bowery Ballroom. Not only a better show venue (despite the historical significance of CBs), and more bands I wanted to see (though I hated missing the Misfits at CBs), but because it was put on by Joey's mom, Mickey Leigh, and George Tabb.
While the crowd gathered, the mood was set by Ramones videos projected on a large screen. After moving greetings from mom Charlotte and Mickey, not-so-furious George introduced the opening band, Charm School. They rose to the occasion with two of their original numbers, and lovely Tina did a great cover of "I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend." The Star Spangles followed, coming across even better than usual, with a slight shift from their Brit-Mod style to more of a NY Punk Rock show for the occasion.
We were treated to a rare appearance of ex-NY rocker Coyote Shivers. As I'd hoped, his set included "Plus One", which includes a call to the "Ramones farewell show at Coney Island High." MC George then donned his Furious George persona and covered "Blitzkrieg Bop." His band also backed guest lead singer Sam (The Kick) for a great rendition of "Sonic Reducer."
There followed a short break from the music to remember the reason for the event, as Barbara Freundlich from the Lymphoma Research Foundation, and then Joey's mother Charlotte, delivered pleas for the cause. And former Ramones manager Danny Fields (immortalized in their song "Danny Says") spoke in honor of Joey.
Then, out steps Dean Haglund, who plays the long-haired blond hacker Langley in The X-Files, proudly wearing the "JOEY LIVES" T-shirt he wears on the show. For the final episode, he had a tribute to Joey inserted into the script, and the show segment was projected on the large screen. Some government slug sees his shirt, asks "Joey who?", and when Dean says Joey Ramone, the guy tells him to "Get a real hero." Dean's speech on why Joey IS a real hero, who NEVER sold out, provoked wild cheers and raised fists from the audience. A great moment!
The legendary Ronnie Spector followed with (naturally) wonderful renditions of several of her 1960s hits the Ramones had covered. And especially poignant was her cover of Johnny Thunders' "You Can't Put Your Heart Around A Memory" (weirdly ironic, since that's what most of us were trying to do at this bash). The Independents played next (a horror punk band from South Carolina who put the "fun" back in "funeral"), the lead singer leaping off the stage to cavort among the moshing fans for "Blitzkrieg Bop" (can't get enough of that number).
Speaking of the audience - I dunno whether it was the Ramones' music, or the energy of the occasion, but this was not your typical "walking dead" crowd so prevalent at most gigs these days. There was plenty of dancing, shaking, moshing, the way it ought to be!
I try to see every band in existence (I really do), but how the hell did I miss The Queers till now?? These krazy punks blasted us with a couple of tunes, my favorite being THIS PLACE SUCKS, a great sing-along number. Tom Clarke took it down a bit with a moving performance of "Memories Make Us Cry", sung to acoustic guitar.
New York's beloved Bullys, joined by Mickey Leigh, got the energy going again with a great set of their hard-assed rock numbers. I'd never heard of the closing act, Hotsocky, so I have to admit I fell for it when George Tabb introduced them as a band from Brisbane Australia (gullibility dies hard). OK, so they're a NY band, not bad.
After milling about for a while, lots of folks went on up to CBs to catch the end of the other party, arriving just in time to see Jerry Only tearing down his gear while dealing with a plethora of groupies. Everyone exchanged tales of how great both parties had been before heading off into the night for more NYC hedonism. And they said to themselves, "What a wonderful world!"