by Danielle Holian and James Fleming
As THE MAN himself would sing in a mere hour’s time; ‘hey ho let’s go…’
The doors of Monroe’s Live open. Many of us have been pre-drinking. God bless the off-license… More drinks are ordered once inside. A decent crowd of around 20 to 30 people milling around, swilling beverages and mingling with the other devoted few who have ventured out to see THE MAN.
Heineken in hand and wine in belly, we head out to the deserted smoking area. Away from the skinny-jean-clad faithful and the Green Day blasting from the PA system.
The sound of the crowd is muffled by the heavy wooden double doors. I exhale through my nose and stomp the butt out with the heel of my shoe just as the first distorted guitar chord cuts through the air like a knife through flesh.
I am less than enthused.
There was a time when the mere mention of a distorted electric guitar filled me with awe. Now, I’ve learned that anyone with an electric guitar knows how to distort the damned thing. But only a select few know how to use that distortion. To create something out of that wall of sound.
And that chord didn’t fill me with hope.
The fact that the band are dubbed Tequila Mockingbyrd also lowered my expectations.
However, as we saunter through the double doors, a Joplin- like wail soars out of the speakers. And the low expectations are smashed. Not to bits mind you, but definitely broken. The combination of bluesy/soulful vocals and heavy instrumentation has been milked mercilessly since THEY discovered it sells records/tickets.
But, Tequila Mockingbyrd pull it off somehow. They lack the danger that the rawk bands they clearly admire thrilled us with. But, they’re a pleasant enough experience. Whether that makes them good or bad is up to you, reader.
Polite applause follows the crowd back out the double doors to the smoking area or over to the bar. Tequila Mockingbyrd retreat to their merch desk. It’s 10:00PM. An anxious fifteen minutes of smoking ensues…
THE MAN’s band walk onstage before he himself appears, as is so often the case. They pick up their guitars; one lead, one rhythm, and one bass, finish tuning up and await the arrival of THE MAN like the rest of us.
Then, he appears.
His name is Richie. He’s one of the last Ramones. Clare, the bassist, evokes the ghost of Dee Dee himself when she leans into her microphone and roars ‘1234!’ Richie tears into his kit like a man possessed, and, for one blessed hour, we get to experience the closest thing we will ever see to the real deal Ramones in this day and age.
We see songs, long thought forgotten, suddenly living, breathing and jumping once more; I Don’t Wanna Go Down To The Basement, Havana Affair and of course, Richie’s own Somebody Put Something In My Drink.
It’s refreshing to see a resurrection at the tail end of a year of so much loss. We lost so many greats it’s made us appreciate the ones we have left. And Richie is a Ramone who deserves more appreciation than he gets.
He drives the band with ferocious drumming, at times he moves out from behind the kit and takes a more quote-un- quote “traditional” frontman position. Not once, not once, does he talk to the audience. He lets the songs do the talking. His drumming, his voice, that’s all we need to hear.
I Fix This, Blitzkrieg Bop, I Just Wanna Have Something To Do, Pretty Poison, they flow freely as the booze. Melding seamlessly together, the machine runs like clockwork but it’s never mechanical, never soulless. The passion is always in your face.
As the last chord of Sheena Is A Punk Rocker fades away to silence, we all know THE MAN’s not finished. And sure enough, his tall, shadowy figure is seen coming back onstage. He takes his place behind his kit and blazes through at least five songs in the space of ten minutes. And then he’s gone.
But his work’s not done.
THE MAN walks among us. He signs the autographs “Richie Ramone ’16” and puts his arms round his fans for pictures. The roadies are still working. There’s a local band on after, to attract the punters.
We didn’t stay.