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Rockers bop to Ramones' furious beat at tribute show

Thirty years after the band's raucous debut, its spirit is captured by appreciative adherents.

September 14, 2004|Steve Hochman | Special to The Times

If the Ramones 30th anniversary tribute concert at the Avalon on Sunday had really been in the spirit of the band, it would have been 35 minutes, including encores.

Breaks between sets Sunday lasted longer than any of the New York punk originators' 2,263 shows (by the band's count), from a 1974 debut at CBGB's to a 1995 finale at the very site of the tribute, then known as the Palace.

But when the Red Hot Chili Peppers did a fast-and-furious mid-show run of five Ramones songs, something special happened. It happened again when Rancid's Tim Armstrong and Bad Religion's Brett Gurewitz fronted the night's house band for a super-charged "Cretin Hop," when Eddie Vedder joined them to lead "I Believe in Miracles" and "Sheena Is a Punk Rocker," when Henry Rollins and the Sex Pistols' Steve Jones took over for three songs concluding with the essential "Blitzkrieg Bop."

In those moments -- as well as in appearances by Rooney's Robert Carmine, Pete Yorn and the Mighty Mighty Bosstones' Dickey Barrett -- the boisterous fans saw the rockers clearly reliving their formative years of singing along to Ramones records in their rooms as if their lives depended on it.

Playing with drummer Marky Ramone (who joined the band in 1977), bassist C.J. Ramone (who took over when Dee Dee quit in 1989) and guitarist Daniel Rey (who produced many Ramones recordings), these musicians were in heaven -- the Ramones were their Beatles, their Elvis, the Big Bang in their musical and cultural universe.

The show, which also featured L.A. punk veterans the Dickies and a surprise set by X, was as much about the missing as the music. Singer Joey Ramone died in 2001 from lymphoma, Dee Dee succumbed to a drug overdose a year later, and guitarist Johnny is fighting prostate cancer and was not able to attend (the concert was a benefit for prostate cancer research). Emcee Rob Zombie called the guitarist on his cellphone from the stage so fans could shout "Hey ho, let's go!" to him.

Founding drummer Tommy Ramone recalled the band's attitude from its first rehearsals: "We thought we were the best band in the world. Everyone else would have to catch up with us."

Has anyone caught up yet? Gabba gabba hey.

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