Words by Brett Ensbey.
Let’s say you’re at a gig, the venue is packed full of people and everybody is having an awesome time. The headline act is putting on one hell of a show. Suddenly, the lead singer steps up to the microphone and you hear those two legendary words “Hey Ho!”, what is the appropriate response? If you answered “Let’s Go!” you would be correct and hopefully you made it out to The Zoo in Fortitude Valley to catch C.J Ramone play his last ever Brisbane show. If you were lucky enough to make it to this show which is the third stop on a 15 date Australian tour, then you would have also had the pleasure of catching local favourites Dreamkillers and Flangipanis.
The self-proclaimed original metal punks, Dreamkillers were first to take the stage. It was obvious from the first song that this wasn’t the bands first rodeo. Having supported such celebrated bands as Sepultura, The Dead Kennedys, The Misfits as well as 2 other RAMONES, Ritchie and Marky on their tours, Dreamkillers are no strangers to playing it up for the crowd. The string section, made up of bassist Zoob and guitarist Matt, provided a set full of heavy but catchy riffs that captivated the audience and ensured all eyes were on the stage. Crowds of people were making their way through the doors and steadily filling the venue as the band’s set progressed, and nobody who walked in was able to escape the hard-hitting drum style of Steve Hatchman as he kept the beat rolling in a way not many drummers can. Frontman Les Jobson showed off his many years of experience, bringing the same intensity that I imagine he brought when playing to the bigger festival crowds of LIVID and Big Day Out in the past.
Between bands, it was time for a quick drink at King Lear’s Throne which is just a few doors up from The Zoo. Once that drink was done it was back to The Zoo to catch a band that has been described as the love child of Bikini Kill and Frenzal Rhomb (admittedly only by me right now, but fuck it, I’m sticking with it) Brisbane’s own party punks, Flangipanis. If you’ve been to more than a couple of punk shows in Brisbane, then odds are you’ve probably seen Flange before, whether on stage or at the bar. If you haven’t been fortunate enough to catch them yet, chances are that you’ve at least heard of them. By the time they had done their soundcheck, a solid crowd had gathered in front of the stage, eagerly waiting to be serenaded by Brisbane’s favourite drunken aunty, Jodie Lawlor, who didn’t let them down as she belted out tunes from different stages of the band’s 11 year career. Whether it was the old favourites like Stones Green Ginger Wine, the unofficial anthem of the Brisbane punk scene, I’m Drunk, So What, Fuck You or the always crowd pleasing Double Standards, there was something in their set for everybody, even those of us with “shitty haircuts” got to have our moment with Nice Haircut Dickhead being dedicated to us. Although nobody is going to forget Jodie any time soon, the other members all bring something unique to the table as well. Guitarist Josh Murphy brings a fun pop-punk style of playing and a sweet set of sideburns. Other Josh (Jansen), the drummer, brings not only his drum skills but also his ever-present smile (I seriously don’t think I’ve ever seen that guy not smiling). And then there’s bass player Paul Duncan, easily recognisable as possibly the biggest wanker in the Australian music scene (ok, just to clear up Pauly is actually one of the most loveable guys in the scene and I only said that because he’s the one who dedicated Nice Haircut to me. Plus, I made a promise to him that I was going to find a way to insult him in my review – he didn’t believe I would). After rounding out their set with a cover of Cab Calloway’s Minnie the Moocher, I think everybody at the show would agree that a half hour set for Flange wasn’t enough.
After heading outside the venue to get some “fresh Valley air” (a mixture of cigarette smoke and various flavoured vape clouds), it was finally time to make our way back upstairs and wait for the man of the hour C.J Ramone to hit the Brisbane stage one last time. I was out of town last time Mr Ramone played here and my friends have made sure to remind me of what a great show I missed ever since, so there was no way I was going to miss this one. Although I was obviously looking forward to hearing RAMONES classics, I was equally as excited to hear songs from C.J’s solo albums and I wasn’t disappointed. From the moment he walked on stage the Brisbane crowd welcomed the rock n roll icon with open arms, and in return we got treated to an amazing set from an equally amazing performer. Kicking off with Let’s Dance (a Chris Montez cover) and moving straight into One High, One Low from his latest offering ‘The Holy Spell…’. C.J practically had the audience eating out of the palm of his hand from the very first note he played. So far, the set was off to a great start, and it was about to get better. Everybody knew it was coming eventually, but when C.J and his band roared into the first RAMONES song of the night (Bonzo Goes to Bitburg) the crowd lost their minds. From there it was time for the iconic songs we all know and love to start being fired off one after another with all of the energy and excitement you would expect from a RAMONES gig. C.J’s vocals were so on point that you could be forgiven if you forgot momentarily that you were not actually witnessing the original band. The vocals, however, weren’t the only thing that made the gig so authentic. A massive shout out has to be given to C.J’s band, made up of other punk rock veterans, Dan Root of Adolescents on guitar, Pete Sosa of Street Dogs on the drums and Lenny Lashley, also of Street Dogs fame, acting as the bands second guitarist. These guys played the songs like they themselves had been performing them since the 70’s. If there was anybody left in the crowd who was not moving, this was taken care of as soon as the band burst into The KKK Took my Baby Away. As the night drew on, the hits kept coming, with C.J and his gang playing a string of RAMONES classics, including Do You Remember Rock and Roll Radio?, Sheena is a Punk Rocker, Rock and Roll High School, Commando, Pinhead and many more. Amidst all the classic punk tunes, C.J took the time to play Rock On, a song written for his fallen friend and former guitarist, the late Steve Soto, who was also known for his roles in Agent Orange and Adolescents.
With the crowd, singing, dancing and drinking the night away, we were all suddenly hit with the inevitable words that nobody who is enjoying a gig wants to hear, “Thank you, good night”, and we watched as the band exited the stage. Of course, nobody left their spot on the floor because we knew they’d be back. The familiar chant of “one more song” filled the air, and C.J made his way back out. Although when he took the stage this time, instead of his bandmates he brought his new friends, Aussie punks The Chats, with him. The four flew straight into an awesome cover of Stranded by Brisbane punk rock royalty, The Saints, with Chats frontman Eamon Sandwith taking the lead. After thanking the crowd and The Chats, C.J welcomed the “old guys” back out on stage and it was time for another RAMONES hit, I Wanna be Sedated. By now we were all well and truly ready for what was about to come, a familiar drum beat hit, the boys from The Chats, made their way back out and before long we were all singing the words I mentioned at the start of the review, “Hey Ho, Let’s Go!”. Sure, C.J didn’t take the microphone for Blitzkreig Bop, but he had more than enough help from The Chats and all of us in the crowd. Although that song would have been an awesome end to the night, the band had one more left in them and they really had saved the best for last. What possible song could have better ended this set than Motorhead’s R.A.M.O.N.E.S? Trick question, there is no better song to bring the gig to a close.
And with that, it was done. C.J Ramone had played Brisbane for the last time. After witnessing the show, it was easy to see why original member Tommy Ramone personally thanked C.J during his induction speech for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, crediting C.J with keeping the RAMONES young. The RAMONES kicked off in 1974 with C.J joining them in 1989 and although many years have passed since his first run with the band, he still brings a youthful energy to a scene that’s been kicking for over 40 years. There are still a number of dates left on C.J Ramone’s tour (dates listed below) and if you have the opportunity to get to any (or all) of them, I highly recommend you do. I’m sure you will be left with the same feeling I was at the end of the show; sure, it sucks that he won’t be coming back to play, but what a hell of a send-off.
Check out the rest of C.J Ramone’s tour at the venues listed below with tickets available through www.oztix.com.au:
Sat Sept 14 – Croxton Bandroom, Melbourne
Sun Sept 15 – Barwon Club, Geelong
Wed Sept 18 – The Basement, Canberra
Thurs Sept 19 – Factory Theatre, Sydney
Fri Sept 20 – Small Ballroom, Newcastle
Sat Sept 21 – Narrabeen Hotel, Narrabeen
Sun Sept 22 – The Tote, Melbourne
Wed Sept 25 – Karova Lounge, Ballarat
Thurs Sept 26 – Lion Arts, Adelaide
Fri Sept 27 – Bar 1 Nightclub, Hillary
Sat Sept 28 – Prince Of Wales, Bunbury
Sun Sept 29 – The Rosemount, Perth