Friday, February 18, 2005

Smash and I went to the Ridge last Friday to see End of the Century: The Story of The Ramones. It was a good documentary—a grainy, entertaining mishmash of material from various sources. It had some good laughs (most of them provided by Dee Dee) and plenty of sadness (Joey and Dee Dee are dead by movie’s end), and I learned a lot about the arc of their lengthy career. The Ramones were one of those bands that were just kind of “there” when I was a teenager. I liked what little Ramones material I heard, or saw, via Nite Dreems on channel 10. I hadn’t really considered that the Ramones had the potential to “break big” in the early days. They did what they could, packing albums with strong material and expanding their sound by hiring producers like Phil Spector. But when it became clear to them that they’d never crack the mainstream (no thanks to radio programmers), they knuckled under, stayed out on the road, and did pretty well. Hey, you could argue they invented punk rock and the entire American ’80s underground music scene, so you have to respect The Ramones.

Obligatory progressive rock connection: the movie shows a clip of ELP playing “Knife Edge” as an example of the bad old days when virtuosos ruled the rock scene. Fair enough—point taken. Most rock bands probably shouldn’t bother tackling Janacek and Mussorgsky. However, I thought the filmmakers could have used a better example of the sorry state of the musical status quo, because the ELP clip was insanely rocking.

After the Ridge, we headed east to the Cottage Bistro, arriving in plenty of time to catch 21 Tandem Repeats, who are Super Robertson, Alick Macaulay, and Two-Sticks Hobbs. It’s an interesting lineup—two guitars (one acoustic, one electric) and drums—that results in a fairly full sound. Super’s acoustic guitar provides a decent bottom end. They played a mix of Super songs and Roadbed material and went over well despite the high level of chatter in the room.

I was glad to see that my friend JR got out of the house to attend the show, but his presence made the evening a bit hazardous. Super was doing a meet-and-greet, making his way towards us at the back of the Bistro. When it was our turn, JR gave him a Bear hug and complimented Super on his brick shithouse physique. Witnessing this self-assured display of manly physicality, I was overcome with discomfort and could offer only a limp handshake when the Paternal Postman turned to me. I can smile about it now, but at the time it was terrible.

I’m getting rides to work these days from a coworker who likes to ask big tough questions. She hit me with “what music would you like them to play at your funeral?” last week. I really couldn’t begin to answer it other than to say that I couldn’t bring myself to inflict my musical tastes on a captive audience, even after my death. I decided I’d prefer to have a wake at the Cottage Bistro where my friends could all play for each other. Every band I’d ever performed with – from Upstart to Huxley, from Logan Sox to Tarkake—could do a couple numbers. I thought about the funereal power of having a drum kit onstage with no one to play it—the empty stool would be an unsubtle reminder of my absence. That would be a drag though. Everyone would have to have a go at the drums that night, just as I’ve been having a go for the last 25 years.

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