Sunday, May 29, 2016
The Masquerade (Pugatory)
CJ Ramone once again returned to Atlanta on what seems to be his never ending American Punk tour. After his last tour with Shonen Knife, which I really didn’t believe could be topped, CJ proved that he still has many more tricks tucked beneath his NY baseball cap. The band took the stage going right into “Do You Wanna Dance?” which kind of caught me off guard but in a great way. It was such a fun way to kick things off and as the band kicked into “Psycho Therapy”, the room went absolutely ballistic. There I was with my buddy thrusting fists in the air and singing along with every lyrics.
This time around, CJ was playing in the smaller room Purgatory which, in all honesty, was the best room for this show. The tight quarters and intimacy of the place really gave me an idea of what it must have been like to see The Ramones back when they were a CBGB’s house band. This time around, CJ had a completely new band which consisted of Chris Eller on Drums, Josh Blackway on guitar, and Nate Sander, also on guitar. YES! Two guitarists! The addition of a 2nd guitarist took these songs to a whole new level by adding some great musical dynamics and depth that weren’t present in the previous lineups. This new band of young, energetic players really seemed to have CJ pushing himself even harder than ever before while infusing so many of those classic Ramones’ songs with vibrant, youthful energy.
CJ Ramone’s 27 song marathon set was chockfull of Ramones classics and a nice helping of material from his two solo albums, Reconquista and Last Chance to Dance. Hearing those songs such as “Understand Me?”, “Won’t Stop Swinging”, and “Last Chance to Dance” scattered amongst the Ramones classics really showcased not just CJ’s ability to keep the spirit of the Ramones sound alive but that he is a damn fine songwriter in his own right.
Ramones’ shows back in the day were always like the equivalent of a freight train hitting you at full speed. From the opening “1-2-3-4” into Durango 95 to the closing pumps of “We’re a Happy Family”, not only was there no real interaction with audience but the set lists for the better part of their last decade were pretty predictable from tour to tour. CJ wasn’t having any of that as he took time in between songs to tell stories to the audience about certain songs an even taking breaks in between songs to rally with his band mates as to what they should play next. There was such a lose vibe to this show, even more so than the previous ones, but I loved it. It made me feel closer to the music and even closer to CJ himself.
CJ seemed to be having a blast as this show that really brought some interesting moments to the table. First off, a guy proposed to his girlfriend on stage after which CJ dedicated “Baby I Love You” and then what punk show would be complete without a fight. Right after “Last Chance to Dance”, some girl up front was going off on some big burly dude who slapped her in the face with one of the weakest slaps I have ever seen. From there, the dude was dragged through the crowd by his neck where someone handed his ass to him. CJ made sure the girl was ok, and said, “Man, that was a really fucked up thing to see. This one’s appropriate” and the band launched into “Swallow My Pride.”
The band started to wind things down with an absolutely amazing version of “Danny Says” after which CJ said, “Ok, look. It’s around this time where we do the cheesy rock star thing and go backstage, make you wait, and then we come back out. Well, if at the count of 4 you’re loud as fuck, we’ll say fuck it and just up here and play what’s left.” The crowd went ape shit and from there they kicked into a blistering five song encore that started with an epic as hell “53rd and 3rd” and closed things out with the Motorhead classic, “R.A.M.O.N.E.S”. The band exited the stage and right away everyone cued up in line to meet the now legendary Ramone as he happily signed autographs and posed for photos until the last person was taken care of.
CJ Ramone is not only keeping the spirit of the Ramones but he is out there proving himself to be a very strong, independent artist/songwriter/performer in his own right. It’s also so great to see a younger generation of people who never had the privilege of seeing a Ramones show get to see these songs done by a living, breathing Ramone and having them done with passion, love, and maximum respect. Seeing CJ Ramone live reminds me why I fell in love with the Ramones in the first place and all of the sudden I’m transformed into a bouncy 17 year old who can barely contain his energy. Trust me folks. If you are a Ramones fan and have either never seen them or haven’t seen them since their disbanding, you can rest assured that you will get an unforgettable show that is something old, something new, something borrowed, and something unforgettable. If you’ve ever feared or lost faith in the Ramones legacy after the passing of the founding fathers, in the immortal words of Joey Ramone, “All is very well, C.J. is here!”