City Slang: Richie Ramone turns back the clock in Detroit

For those of who never had the chance to see the Ramones live, shows like this are a real gift. Of course, seeing Richie Ramone (or Marky, or CJ, or even Tommy’s bluegrass band) isn’t going to be anything like seeing the punk legends in all their glory, back in the day. We all know that. But, for those of us that weren’t there, hearing a bunch of those awesome songs performed by one of the men responsible is a blessing. The fact that Richie has assembled a killer band only helps matters.

When people talk about the Ramones and the band’s legacy, Richie gets a little short-changed. In fact, while he was indeed sandwiched between Marky stints, Richie was in the band for nearly five years, playing on the Too Tough to Die, Animal Boy, and Halfway to Sanity albums, and actually writing classic track “Somebody Put Something in my Drink.” He made a significant contribution to the band. What’s more, this writer has seen Dee Dee and Marky play solo shows before, and this was better.

Before that, we got local band Choking Susan, led by the inimitable Colleen Caffeine. Alex Kane, guitarist in Richie’s band, described Caffeine as “Detroit’s Texas Terri,” and that about nails it. She’s a tremendous front woman, a classic wild child balancing on the line between delicious punk rock “don’t give a fuck” and the tremendous amount of childlike glee that she feel while opening up for a Ramone. The band is crunchy, and it did its job well. Nobody’s looking at them, so they just had to churn out the riffs. The songs are surprisingly catchy – gnarly and rough, but bathed in melody. The records might sound great, but this is a band that you really have to see live.

Downtown Brown was next up, a band that I may have been a little too dismissive of in the past thanks to some fun but stupid (their word, not mine) Youtube vids. In fact, the musicianship that this band displayed was more than a little impressive. It’s oddball, in that Mr. Bungle and Primus sort of funk-rock way. Yes, they all scream and pull the most ridiculous of faces. And yes, they have songs with names like “Orange Bitch” (“about white girls who tan”). But this is a band that can switch between rap, funk, punk, metal and just about anything else in a millisecond. Songs change direction more than once, leaving you asking yourself, “Is this the same song?” It might be, it might not be.

And so to Richie, who found himself in front of a very enthusiastic Corktown crowd. The band really was great; Alex Kane has played with Life Sex & Death, AntiProduct, Clam Abuse, and many more. If you haven’t heard of any of those groups, do yourself a favor and look them up – all of them. Clare Misstake also played with AntiProduct, an all-girl Ramones cover band called the Ramonas, and she has a project in LA called Noizee. Look that up too. Ben Reagan was in the Feederz. You know the drill.

Richie took a 15-year vacation from music, and it obviously served him well. The man is sprightly and energetic all night, off his drum stool as often and he’s on it. His voice is surprisingly good too; Kane and Misstake sang a song or two each, but Richie took on the majority of the vocal duties. The band plowed through “Somebody Put Something in my Drink,” and “Animal Boy,” plus “Blitzkrieg Bop” and a bunch of new tunes.

Fans that stayed away may have done so because they would have expected an element of “Ramones karaoke” about this show. They were wrong. This was a quality rock ’n’ roll band having a great time playing songs stretching across the drummer’s career. The man of the moment deserves this pleasure.

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