Sunday, October 16, 2016

Fall Brawls...


Awright, bothers, sisters and muthas... ANTiSEEN is BACK in the U.S.A!!


We took a short break from being up in each others face all summer, but regrouped and worked up a tasty new set fortified by a new 12"ep that I hope you've all scored by now. And if youin's ain't, you better getcher ass in gear!! "WE'RE # ONE" is out NOW and going fast! We crated up a few stacks and hit the gravel with a few dates in the ol' home state, taking the NOISE to the people...




RALEIGH - Sept 4


Back in the Eighties there was some sort of inter-city scene rivalry between Raleigh and Charlotte that was fueled with a lot of suspicion, jealousy and bitterness. Raleigh was considered the more sophisticated and intelligent faction, led by Corrosion of Conformity who were making headway into the national consciousness with an effective if not wholly generic heavy metal-hardcore punk hybrid that made panties moist at the brain trust of MRR and Thrasher Magazine. Charlotte, on the other hand, was the ugly step-child; the unwanted bastard cousin led by a bunch of redneck yahoos playing a two chord sputtering mess of noise called ANTiSEEN who got notice from the poindexters at SPIN and Forced Exposure. People in Raleigh thought the whole Charlotte scene to be lost in a mish-mash of bad ideas and ineptitude while Charlotte thought Raleigh to be elitist snobs eagerly keeping up with the trends.


In a weird way Raleigh has long held a sort of uneasy truce with ANTiSEEN. There has always been a small but loyal following, however widespread acceptance remains elusive. So it was somewhat surprising to me when I discovered we had been asked to come and open a show for the infamous Midwest punk band Sloppy Seconds. Sloppy Seconds and ANTiSEEN have known each other for years. Jeff once joined them onstage in Atlanta and they opened for ANTiSEEN a few years ago in Chicago. We were only too happy to return the favor, and it was a show I was eagerly looking forward to.


Jeff rode up a day early to visit his brother. The rest of us met up at Barry's that afternoon. This was our first show since coming back from Europe. It kinda felt good to be back in our own van, tooling down backroads in our own home state. Our trusty roadie Brandon was back in tow, too. I played DJ on my iPod as we debated finer points of cultural reference such as music, television and professional wrestling. The trip was short and before I knew it we were rolling into Raleigh.


The club is called The Pour House Music Hall. It is situated snugly along a city street among other shops, bars and restaurants. Traffic and parking is a hellish experience in downtown Raleigh so we thought ourselves lucky when we found a spot about thirty yards from the club. It was merely a loading zone and although we could unload here, we had to move the van another four blocks after unloading.


We hustled the gear in quickly. Sloppy Seconds were already onstage setting up. Everyone was too busy to really chit-cat. I surveyed the limited space on the stage. We were told we could backline our gear in front of the Sloppy's stuff, but I didn't think this was fair for the opening bands. We put everything in corner spot and I hoped nobody would mess with anything.


The boys from KIFF arrive. They're one of the two other opening bands tonight. Barry, Gooch and myself tag up with KIFF's singer Andy Miller and his girlfriend Kirstin to go find something to eat. We take a short stroll around the block and stop in at a burger place called Chuck's. I get a really great BLT and am surprised to find they sell Stroh's beer. I have memories of my grandmother drinking Stroh's, but I never had it myself. It wasn't too bad. Pretty soon KIFF drummer Jason Wheeler joins us. We kill some time hanging out before heading back to the club.


When we return I find my friend Brad Mullins has arrived. I've invited him out for the show. We go to the backstage greenroom, which is actually upstairs and on the opposite end of the building. We find Greg Clayton hanging out and catch up with him for a bit. Brad and I started our first band together as teenagers and Greg played drums on my MBW records. We all played together in the final incarnation of the MBW band over twenty years ago. My new pal Brian Hase has also showed up. He came down from upstate Virginia to catch the show. We hang out and talk a long while as well.


There is a great turnout for this show. Pretty soon the first band starts up. I check them out for a bit. They're called Drunk In A Dumpster. I had figured they were going to be a young band but it was guys my age. They played a pretty straight forward barrage of no-frills hardcore punk rock. KIFF followed and played maybe the best set I've ever seen them do. I think they played all originals, which to my experience having seen them before was a little unusual. They were really tight and leaned into the swing.


We finally take the stage and I quickly set up my gear. The soundguy, Jack, is really cool. He's a veteran sound engineer who has spent a lot of time on tour with a lot of "big" bands. As we're setting our stage volume and monitor levels he asks if I'm cool with everything. I ask for more volume in my monitor. He goes, "Why don't you just crank that ol' Hiwatt up?" I have never had a soundguy tell me to turn up before! It actually alters my sound somewhat but I'm so shocked I barely even care.


We volley thru our set and I'm in the zone. My playing is a little loose but I'm feeling great and put a lot of energy into my playing to compensate. We are getting a really great reaction - I guess I had kinda figured the Raleigh crowd to be more reserved but I am happily proven wrong - they're into it. We have shortened the set a bit and hit it pretty hard. It's over before I know it and the crowd shouts for more, but we decide against it, not wanting to take advantage of Sloppy Seconds time.


Sloppy Seconds are great. Their pop-injected, sneering style of punk rock is what weak Lookout/East Bay/Epitaph bands aspired to achieve and failed miserably at. Of course the pedantic PC thought-police dismiss bands like Sloppy Seconds as "sexist" or some other such nonsense, but they rock harder and are more inventive than some bottom shelf pop-punk band that sounds like Sesame Street children's songs played at 78 speed. And that's the fact, Jack.


After the show we load out and say our good-byes. I'm a bit bummed I wasn't able to score one of the Sloppy Seconds Traci Lords t-shirts, but there's always next time...




ASHEVILLE - Oct 1


Last spring we received an offer to perform at this years 'Hellbilly Hootenanny' festival up in Asheville. It's an all day event largely centered around a vintage car show. We were honored with being asked to headline the music side of the festival. Perfectly scheduled in the early fall, I was looking forward to this trip up to the mountains. And Mother Nature did not disappoint - you couldn't have asked for better weather. We all convened at our practice studio in the afternoon. By the time I had arrived Barry Gooch and Brandon had already loaded the van. Jeff showed up shortly after and we piled into the truck for the ride up to Asheville.


The club is called New Mountain. Its an old building surrounded with ample space to contain the festival. We arrive to the just before sundown. We easily found where to park and were almost immediately met by Stacy, the festival organizer. She is really cool and has everything set and ready for us. we are able to score some free food and wait for our turn to load in. I wander around for a bit. An adjacent parking lot served as staging for the car show,which is long over. Most of those folks have packed up and left, however there is still a good-sized crowd lingering for the music. I expected to see a lot of rockabilly types but most were just regular folks drawn to the festivities and enjoying the evening.


Someone nudges me as I walk past. It's our friend Marcus from Germany. I am as equally surprised and yet not surprised to see him. He's known to pop up unannounced fairly regularly. I don't know what kind of job he has, but it must be pretty good to be able to afford the time and money for the travel he puts under his belt. At any rate its always great to see him. No sooner had I finished saying hello to Marcus than do I run into Josh Mayfield from Hellstomper. He's been working as an truck driver as of late. He and his lady took some downtime between trips and made it up for the show. To me it's pretty humbling to know people are still very actively devoted to following the band even after Joe Young's passing. We've worked hard to maintain a pretty high standard that was set long before I joined.
 
The band Hillbilly Casino were parked next to us and after their set we hung out a bit. They're good folks. Their bassist, Geoff, works with the great photojournalist Dave Flewwelling. They played with Southern Culture On The Skids the night before and say they were told to pass on a 'hello'. I am somewhat surprised and flattered to learn that they like ANTiSEEN. 


Eventually its time for us to load in. The stage is fairly large and is surrounded by a large screen that has our logo digitally projected on it. I casually get my stuff together, taking whatever time necessary to tune up my guitars. I've decided to use my black Tele tonight, as it seems to be a bit "brighter" so to speak. I keep my white one on standby in case I have any problems. I don't like to switch horses mid-set, so it would have to be something fairly major. Otherwise I'll play on thru it.

After returning from the European tour we decided to tweak our set a bit, allowing room for few of A-SEEN's countrified roots to show a bit. In addition of our version of Ralph Stanley's 'Black Eyed Susie', we added Ernest Tubb's 'Thanks Alot', and Jumpin' Gene Simmons' 'Haunted House'. We also worked up another old classic 'SEEN tune, 'You're Gonna Tote An Ass Kicking'. Plus we've been playing 'LO-FI'  from our new record "We're # One" and added  'Fight Like Apes' as an opener as well.

The sound is not good here. I don't think the PA in this venue is really suitable for loud bands like ours. I was warned by the Hillbilly Casino guys that the monitors were clipping out. I personally do not experience this, but it is very difficult to hear anything. I stand rooted fairly close to my amp and rely on visual cues whenever possible. It's clear to me now that the recent heavy touring and practice schedule we've kept since the spring has seasoned us. If there are mistakes it doesn't throw us. We can adapt and adjust and keep moving forward. The idea is to deliver.

 
Always.



CHARLOTTE - Oct 6


Shortly before we left for Europe we scored a local gig with the infamous Russian band Svetlanas. They were booking another American tour and hit us up to do some shows together. We could only commit to one, but I hope we can do more somewhere down the line. They tour incessantly, having been banned and exiled from their home country. In Russia it is illegal to possess or distribute any of their recordings. Seems freedom of speech is still a difficult concept for the Russian government. But then it seems sometimes freedom of speech is a difficult concept for the scene-sters of  Plaza Midwood, too...


Recently a few locals took to calling us "misogynists" and - even dumber - "rape apologists". I took personal offence to the latter, as I have personally had experience in my own family and also close friends with this issue. I neither make light of it or wear it as a badge of broken honor. Too often I see empty rhetoric disguised as enlightened understanding and compassion that, as matter of actual fact, is little more than cheap, opportunistic grandstanding on the real hurt and suffering of others. Because it looks good for them to care.


The dry irony that the two bands opening this show  - Svetlanas and Hammerlock - both happen to feature strong females was not lost on me. Again, it isn't an issue we champion - coz we don't preach, we practice. We don't react, we act. It isn't about trying to impress anyone with our social consciousness, because lets face it - nobody gives really gives a shit. And nobody will ever give us credit if they did give a shit. I shouldn't have to speak the obvious, but people seem only too eager to paint us with a broad brushstroke. Sorry, but guess again. I don't care who you are, how you vote for or if you even vote at all. I don't what color you are, who you sleep with, how you identify or where you take a piss. You don't get to dictate to me the quality of my character just because I might have hurt your pwecious wittle feewings. Joke 'em if they can't take a fuck. And you know what? Fuck 'em anyways


Oh sorry - did I cause a "rape trigger"???


Christ. Anyways here I am ranting again. So, where was I? Oh yeah, I remember - I was just about to the part where WE kick ass and take names...


It is the Milestone Club again. The band has so much history in this room it isn't funny. It's almost eerie walking into this place. We played here over the summer. I insisted we close that set with 'Destructo Rock' because it was the first song I saw ANTiSEEN play live the first time I ever saw them, which was here at this club. The rumors are the place hasn't much life left. If indeed it should close forever, I'm content knowing that I've been a small part of the history here.


Hammerlock are from Oakland, California. They were on tour and decided to come up to catch this show. Once we heard that, it seemed a no-brainer to add them to the bill. They play a style of punk infused southern style rock that kinda brings to mind Nashville Pussy. They open the show in a direct, no-nonsense style. Svetlanas follows. They are fronted by Olga Svetlanas, easily one of the best frontpersons of any band out there today. Her style is pretty down and dirty; all agro and in your face - literally. She spends most of the set on the floor in the crowd. The band is tight, driven by the solid drumming of her husband, Diste. They blister the place and set the bar pretty high. I'm not intimidated as I am inspired. This is a tag-team effort. Everyone wins tonight.


We hit the stage opening with 'Fight Like Apes'. Everything that was "off" in Asheville is most definitely "on" now. The Milestone is simply the best sounding room in Charlotte. It's not a big turnout, but we turn it out. We roar thru the set and it feels great. I can't see, however. The sweat is burning my eyes. I don't mind. I like playing against myself, both sonically and physically. We knock off a mean-assed version of 'Walking Dead' and I let my HiWatt drone out a long wave of feedback in the middle of the song before slamming it back into gear and driving it home. I'm so absorbed with what I'm doing and where I am that I get lost in the moment and charge into 'Fuck All Yall' at the wrong spot. We improvise and jump off into 'Haunted House' at a key point totally unrehearsed. It works. I'm so proud to be a part of this line-up, how well we play with and off each other. We hit a double barreled encore of 'Cactus Jack and Queen City Stomp' and then its all over.


After toweling off and changing shirts I hang out a bit, speaking with some of the folks who came out. One guy drew sketches of us while we played. This sort of thing is always cool, I'm flattered when he asks me to sign it. We take pictures with Hammerlock and Svetlanas. I can remember standing in the exact same spot nearly twenty-five years ago taking pictures with Cocknoose and the Murder Junkies. It's weird how much things have changed, yet also stayed the same. As I drive home I see the city skyscrapers turn out their lights and again feel fortunate to be a part of this, a worldwide sub-sub-culture of people that aren't unlike myself - unable to fit in, trying to make something happen for themselves outside the conventions of mainstream mediocrity. We are similar, yet so very different  - too different, perhaps, for even the acceptance of what has become 'credible' punk rock ideologues. We at least have each other.


And we make these nights our own...





Meanwhile we keep moving forward, doing what we do. And there are lots of irons are in the fire. We are busying ourselves with the process of writing and recording new material. I know I keep promising that, but it's coming, believe me. There's also some cool unreleased stuff in the vaults that will soon finally be released. We have no shows scheduled until December, when we will return to Chapel Hill. Details on that are forthcoming. We also have dates we are ironing out for winter, so keep your eyes and ears open for those. As always check out www.antiseen.com or find us on Facebook. You can also find my personal fb page at www.facebook.com/madbrotherward  and of course write me direct at madbroward@yahoo.com  - comments here are welcome, too. Questions? Suggestions? Requests? Insults? Let me hear you!!


Hope to see yall soon!

Sunday, October 2, 2016

I Was A Teenage Ramones Roadie...

I've written before about what a game-changer it was seeing ANTiSEEN for the first time in the fall of '89. Another standout moment for me happened the following spring. I was eighteen years old and trying to puzzle it all together. I had the raw ingredients; the requisite bad attitude, an appetite for change and unquenchable thirst for a knowledge of this crazy new world I was clumsily wading into. I simply needed a starting point - something that both gave foundation and direction. Something that could bring all my crazy ideas into focus.

And then the Ramones came to town.

Now, obviously there's nothing I can tell you about the Ramones that you don't already know. However at this point there was a LOT that I didn't know. When I was about 10 years old there was an article in the local paper about punk rock; what it was and what it all meant. It focused on a local band called "Luke Puke and The Vomit" (I can't make this stuff up, y'all). Coupled with other stories  and rumours I had heard, I figured that vomit was a regular and vital part of punk rock. And as anyone knows me can attest, I was (and remain) a Class-A vomiphobe of the highest order. There is probably nothing I find more repugnant. Moreover for all I could tell, punk rock was violent, tuneless and ugly. So I dismissed punk rock with this simple prejudicial reasoning. However the truth of the matter was that punk rock confused and scared me.

Throughout most of my teenage years I suppose I considered myself a metal-head. Of course, I was far too nerdy to ever be accepted by the true hoodlum juvenile delinquent metal-heads. Plus I never could stand the stench of cigarettes, which, along with a chain wallet and long hair, was de rigueur for any self-respecting hood. I was already swimming upstream with an overbearing Christian zealot mother who disallowed anything she deemed "satanic" to violate my virgin ears. Still I tried in vain to grow my hair (which was so thin the ends would split into these goofy curls and was perpetually oily no matter how much I showered) and collected whatever records I could embezzle my lunch money to buy. It was of no use. The metal kids just laughed at me.

By tenth grade I had manage to build my own little troupe of outsiders, rejects and misfits. We had our own little assembly area in the courtyard of East Mecklenburg High School amid the established social order of jocks, hippies, hoods, blacks and preps. There was a sort of hierarchy of relative cool. And we came in dead last. My group was
a mishmash crosshatching of all the others; like someone had made a casting call for an ensemble of stereotypical high school kids. And much like Anthony Michael Hall in the movie 'Sixteen Candles', I was the leader, the "king of the dipshits".

My friend Diane tried to turn me on to the Ramones. She was convinced I would love them. She once tried valiantly to goad me into going with her to see them at a place called the Pterodactyl Club. She liked all the weird "alternative" music that I have always found to be mostly weak and stupid. But I knew and actually liked a few Ramones songs, so she almost had me talked into it. However she also once tried telling me that I would love the Red Hot Chili Peppers, too. Not happenin'. Ironically Diane's older brother Lee was very briefly the bassist for ANTiSEEN. Small world.

Among my group of friends was a guy named Scott. He was a big dude, about 6'2 and an easy 200lbs. He also sported a red Mohawk and a black leather jacket with the logo of the band the Exploited painted on the back. At first I thought this guy was a joke, but somehow we became pretty good friends. It was Scott who connected the dots for me to get into punk rock. He reasoned since I liked Metallica and I also liked Danzig that I would probably like the Misfits. And that did the trick. I was slowly introducing myself to a plethora of bands that I was discovering was way more exciting than what I had been listening to. Scott let me borrow a lot of his records, stuff I still listen to today. He was also the guy who turned me on to ANTiSEEN.

Scott actually worked for the Pterodactyl Club as well as it's sister club, the 13-13. One day he called and asked if I was interested in seeing the Ramones for free. They were scheduled to play the 13-13 the next day. All I had to do was help load in. I didn't know what exactly that entailed, but I was open for anything. He said just be at the club at one o'clock on the following afternoon.

I arrived early, in fact I think I was the first one there. Soon several other people showed up, all part-time employees of the club. I recognized a couple of them as members of local bands. Live music was still a new experience for me and I was excited to be around it all. The club had contracted out for a PA , but my memory on this is hazy. Looking back I suspect it was only to augment what the club already had. Sometimes bands have particular requirements for sound and lighting. I do remember, however, the load in door to the club. There was a loading dock with a bay door that opened directly to the stage, leaving maybe only about five feet of overhead clearance. It was a tight fit. It had started to rain and we scrambled the stuff in fairly quickly. Despite being a bit wet, I started to think this "roadie" stuff was a piece of cake...



Then the Ramones stuff arrived.

The Ramones had a large Ryder-style truck that was tightly packed with their gear. They opted not to back all the way to the dock, fearing the truck might get stuck in the mud. The truck had one of those extending metal loading ramps, so to compensate they extended the ramp, bridging the distance between the rear of the truck and the dock. Only the truck was sitting somewhat higher than the dock, so the ramp was uneven. The rain made all the surfaces slick and somewhat treacherous. Unloading stuff off the truck proved tricky, trying to maintain your balance and not slip while manhandling the heavy equipment cases down the metal ramp.

The Ramones road crew were all seasoned New Yorkers with all the attitude that goes with being one. It wasn't that they were rude, they just didn't seem to give shit about anything. They were literally sliding down the ramp with expert skill. One guy sang "Surfin' USA" as he whooshed down the ramp with a giant equipment case. I kept expecting someone to fall, or at least drop something over the side, but nobody ever did. Everything worked in rapid order, but it was hard work. My ineptness was apparent but they didn't seem to mind. At one point I was carrying  part of the drum riser. It was painted metallic silver and at a glance looked to be heavy steel. But it was just made of wood. It got slick with rain and as I crossed the ramp it nearly slid out of my hands. I quickly caught hold of it but not before leaving a four inch splinter imbedded in my finger. I pulled it out and started to bleed profusely. One of the roadies smirked, "aw, you got a boo-boo?". Somebody got me a Band-Aid and I kept humping gear.

It took several hours but we finally got it all loaded in. The roadies were busy setting everything up when one of them asked if I would set up the dressing room. He pointed to a large case and told me basically what to do. I arranged everything but discovered they later rearranged it after I had finished. I later discovered the big case was actually their wardrobe case. In it were drawers of picks and strings and various other items such has hand towels and whatnot. However I was surprised to discover this was also where they stored their leather jackets. They hung neatly on hangers looking like superhero costumes waiting to be donned.


Some of the other local guys starting mocking the lead crew guy behind his back because he reminded us of the comedian Jon Lovitz. I cannot say for certain this was the infamous long suffering Ramones Tour Manager Monte Melnick - I've long suspected it was, but now as I write this I have serious doubt. I figure Monte was likely handling and corralling the members of the band rather than the members of the road crew. A large amount of deli sandwiches arrived and soon the crew had all gathered around the bar to eat. I wasn't sure if I was included in this, so even though I was starving I stayed back and out of the way.

Then the Ramones arrived.

Even though I wasn't really fan yet, seeing the Ramones walk into the 13-13 Club is something I'll never forget. I mean, they looked so ordinary and yet so... different. I obviously recognized Joey straight away, towering over the rest. Johnny was wearing a jean jacket even though it was early May. Marky looked huge to me, like a pro wrestler. CJ had only recently joined and looked incredibly young. Joey slinked around aimlessly while the others talked with the road manager guy. There was a game room located in the rear of the club, and Joey wandered in there, staring at the screen of a video game machine. Meanwhile Marky was yelling at the lead crew guy. "I don't know what you guys have been doing all day, but I'm worried about how we're gonna sound tonight!!", he hollered. The lead crew guy just smiled a wry smile and nodded as he chewed on a sandwich. "Here", he said "have a sandwich, Mark." I thought maybe Marky might punch the guy but he simply threw his hands up in disgusted resignation and stormed away.

Suddelny Joey comes slinking back, giving me a passing nod. I'm still taking the whole scene in, standing against a wall, minding my place. Joey walks into the main room, surveys the stage and comes back over to me. "Hey", he shyly asked, "you have any quarters?" His voice sounded like a muppet, only with a thick nasal New York accent - "qwahtahs". I'm struck dumb, fumbling in my pockets aware that I'm essentially being invited to play video games with Joey Ramone. Unfortunately I had no quarters and he slinked off to ask someone else. 

The crew finish preparing the stage and soon the Ramones are assembled for a soundcheck. I cannot remember what they played, but I do remember they couldn't barely start a song. Johnny would hit a chord and look over at CJ. CJ would look back questioningly (no pun intended) and Johnny would nod. Then CJ would bark "ONETWOTHREEFOUR" and they would all blast a single note, stop and stare at each other. It didn't seem they knew what the hell they were doing. I wondered what the hell kind of show this was going to be. This was the legendary Ramones?? They did this several times before actually playing a whole song. Then they disappeared, shuttled away to a hotel somewhere.

An opening band arrived and set up. I had nothing to do now but hang out. Scott showed up with another friend of his whose name I cant remember. Like Scott, he had a Mohawk only it was jet black and lead to a long pony tail hanging down his back. We hung out after the doors were opened and made fun of people as they made their way in. "New Wave Yuppies!" snorted Scott. "They are reliving their college past - but wouldn't be caught dead here otherwise!" I remember spotting Joe Young and nervously making small talk with him about the home video ANTiSEEN had just released titled "Video Shit" (good luck, collectors).

The opening band was called 'Slurpeee!' and I really don't remember anything about them other than that at key points the singer held up poster boards with stupid sayings on them, like "SKANK" and "SLUT" or some such other nonsense. I don't remember liking or disliking them, and honestly probably couldn't tell the difference at that point. It was a live band and that was exciting enough for me. Their set was brief and soon the stage was being readied for the Ramones.

I stood towards the rear of the room to watch. The crowd started to chant "HEY! HO! LETS GO!" as the pre-recorded opening of  the theme to "The Good, The Bad & The Ugly" played over the PA. Suddenly Marky appeared behind the drums. The others strolled to position onstage and then they blasted into their set, and I was blown away. This band that couldn't barely play a single song earlier at soundcheck suddenly were ripping thru song after song after song without barely stopping to so much as breathe. I was unaware this was the Ramones M.O. and the shock of it all was leaving a massive impression on my teenage brain. They played the handful of songs I knew almost straight away. After that it was just BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! Song after song in rapid succession, drilled out tightly and quickly. And athough I didn't yet know these songs, I knew I would immediately make effort to learn.

After the show the band huddled in the tiny dressing room waiting for the crowd to leave. There was still some downtime before I'd be called into action again, as the crew had to take down the equipment before we could load it out. I tried to buy a t-shirt but the merch guy was already packing up and hissed a nasty "we're closed!" Clearly my fifteen bucks wasn't gonna make or break his night (this is something I've always remembered, especially when I sold merch for ANTiSEEN - I've always tried to make whatever concession I could for someone wanting to purchase something. Even as recently as our European tour, I gave my personal shirt I was saving to a fan in Prague. I never want to treat fans poorly).

Somebody mentioned to me that Semie Mosely was here. "Who's that?", I asked. I was told he was the guy who built Johnny Ramones guitars. He had brought a new one this night as a gift (there is a picture of this in the book 'Ramones: An American Band). I assumed he had jetted in from somewhere but was told he now lived up in the mountains here in North Carolina. As he was leaving I got to shake his hand, totally ignorant to the fact I was meeting another legend.

After we had finally finished loading out I walked across the stage and noticed a mic stand on the floor. It was the one Joey used, sticky with the gaffer tape. The footing had broken and the roadies merely cast it aside. I asked permission from the club owner to keep it, he said sure. I kept it in my possession for years but I think it was eventually lost or stolen.

This night clearly proved itself to be a very special and memorable experience for me. The very next day I got my first Ramones album and never looked back. It was one of those intangible 'got it' moments that once it hits, you can never lose it. I think that although my experience is hardly exceptional, it is notable if only that this was at a point when the Ramones had long since quit making relevant music. Looking back they were clearly phoning it in, collecting the paycheck and not giving a shit. But to me it was magic. It maybe wasn't so much how they did it, but that they even existed at all. It was so different and direct, serving as conduit channeling a mega-wattage adrenaline spike that I've never recovered from.

And I never will.

I really can't think of anyone that "hates" the Ramones. From the old school to the new, from the crusty street punk to the suburban mall punk to the skinhead to the anarchist and beyond - the Ramones are in our collective DNA. They are the pivotal touchstone that grounds and directs everything that came after. In this age of watered down sub-genres, post-genres and endless redefining and recycling, the Ramones remain the unbreakable common thread that - however tenuously - connects it all.

Our culture will continue to assimilate, re-assimilate, fracture, fragment, regurgitate and - if not simply outright decline, at least just apathetically slouch. But we will always have the music and memory of the Ramones, and all the potential it provided for the disenchanted and disenfranchised.



We accept you, one of us...