April 17, 2017
Since 2012, CJ Ramone has not only been hitting the road flying the Ramones flag, he’s also been flying the CJ Ramone flag and doing so proudly with his own releases. CJ has proved that he isn’t just a Ramones cover act out there cashing in but that he’s a very creative, talented, and exciting artist in his own right as he’s once again proved with the release of his new album American Beauty. CJ and his band of brothers once again rolled into Atlanta and this time found them performing at The Earl in East Atlanta Village.
East Atlanta Village is pretty much a scene out of some sort of apocalyptic zombie flick. It’s a dark, dank strip of tweakers, drunk hipsters, and clouds of American Spirit smoke and I pretty much dread going there but when it’s for a good show, I just suck it up, pop a Xanax and get to it. Upon entering the room, I had this sinking feeling that this was going to be an extremely awkward show. The room maybe had 30 people tops and this crowd was a pretty undesirable audience made up of a few straight Ramones fans, some extremely drunk redneck types and even a guy who admittedly told me that he “went out to smoke some rock before the show” was tweaking all over the room.
The past few times I saw CJ live, there was always this vibe, this excitement, this electrifying energy in the room but on this night, it was just stale cigarette smoke, tweakers, and some insanely out of it woman grinding on the stage monitor. This audience literally looked like the song “Cretin Hop” personified. I didn’t want this setting to ruin things for me so my buddy and I just hung back and knew that CJ would come out and let the music do the talking.
The band hit the stage and opened up with “Let’s Go” off of the latest album American Beauty and right out the gates something wasn’t right. The band was horribly out of tune and they almost seemed to kind of struggle through the 2nd song as well, “Yeah Yeah Yeah.” I thought this was it but the band took a sec, tuned up, collected themselves and from there they delivered an awesome set. In all honesty, it was the new material such as “Runaround”, “Moral to the Story”, and the absolutely stellar “Steady as She Goes” that I found to be every bit as fun and as exciting to hear.
Among the expected Ramones classics such as “Rockaway Beach”, “Sheena is a Punk Rocker”, and “Do You Wanna Dance”, it was also such a fucking treat to hear CJ dig deep and pull out the obscure “Bonzo Goes to Bitburg” which I couldn’t help but feel was a nod to the current political climate. As usual, CJ brought up The Queers’ front man Joe Queer to sing a handful of Ramones songs. It’s always fun when Joe joins the band and it’s fun to see CJ freed up to just be the bassist again and to rock out with his buddies while Joe takes the lead.
While CJ and company played really well (even after their opening snafu), I could just tell that something was amiss from this performance. CJ didn’t seem nearly as engaged has he has in the past and again, I can’t really blame him. This show was a prime example of how what kind of crowd you have at a show can totally dictate the mood of the performance. I’ve seen CJ play to small crowds before but it was nothing short of awe inspiring because of the level of excitement and interaction. This crowd, for the most part, looked like it was made of a bunch of Walking Dead extras that actually live the part 24/7. They just seemed to drain CJ quite a bit but, like a true professional and a living Ramone, he still gave 100% and didn’t short change those of us who were there to enjoy the show.
While this definitely wasn’t my favorite CJ Ramone show, the man still delivered a fun packed set list and you can tell that he still has so much love and passion for the Ramones classics and a strong sense of pride for his own original material. After this show, I couldn’t help but feel bad for the guy having to play to such a bizarre, audience that clearly had no sobering clue that what they were seeing was a living, breathing Ramone. It was really an embarrassing representation of Atlanta and I can only hope he doesn’t write us off because of this disgusting crowd. You can’t win ‘em all and I can only hope that the next time CJ comes back to town that maybe he’ll play the Masquerade again and play to a much more accommodating, appreciative, and energizing audience which is exactly what he deserves.