The Ramones’ hairy resurrection

The Ramones at The Anchor Pub (Photo by Christine Mitchell)

The Ramones at The Anchor Pub (Photo by Christine Mitchell)

There is a chill in the air, a damp that penetrates to the bone. It’s the tail end of October, and you know what that means: cozy indoor rock shows where folks arrive bundled up, and, in the case of late October, that might include a wig or two or other goofy accoutrements. 

And sometimes, it can feel a little otherworldly. The Stereo Wire’s All Hallow’s Eve show at The Anchor Pub was one of those nights. Folks entered to and were entertained between sets by DJ goawaysun’s appropriately spooky, punky mix.

It all started off rather straightforwardly with a typically blistering set courtesy of Nail Houses, the last of 2017, and one can only hope that Christian Smith will be keeping busy in the off season. If his DIY “Destroy Rock Music NOW” shirt was any indication, he’ll definitely be masterminding something ferocious. But in any case, when Nail Houses’s set ended (with the excellent “Smoker’s Lung”), the weirdness began. Seemingly out of nowhere, NODRA’s Ryan Alexander was posturing onstage, decked out in flip sunnies and an exceedingly loud Southwestern-patterned button down. Smith nonchalantly strapped on swim goggles (what?), and the two, um, “dove” into a cover of Weird Al Yankovic’s “Dare To Be Stupid,” throwing down hilarious poses and giving 110% on the absurdity scale. Some in the crowd appeared bemused, but the greater portion appeared to by dying in fits of laughter. For a duo who once formed two thirds of Everett’s late and great Crystal Desert, known for basement scraping, shadow-dwelling post-punk . . . it was affirming to see the other side of that coin. 

Fuzz Mutt continues to deliver a solidly badass performance each time they play. They’re stoic, they’re stolid, and they rock. Max and Sean keep things hairy up front, both in terms of coifs and their pedal utilization. Meanwhile, Jared’s in the back, hitting the skins so hard that he apparently lost his shirt. There is simply nothing extraneous going on here, and the distilled product injects into the ear canal just fine, especially tracks like “Take,” which featured that single word as the chorus. Max sings it like an ice pick tipped with acid piercing your skull, the music swirling as it drills into your brain. Perfect.

Actionesse is working on new music. They played a couple of new tracks, whetting fans’ appetites and enticing Actionesse virgins. Actionesse is a full meal deal. Joel Kenworthy’s horn work is like a special topping on your favorite food: you thought it was great before, but that was before BACON…I mean, Joel. There is an electric force field that activates when Actionesse plays, and it seems to be generated from Ian Reed’s spiraling, spiral hair, or maybe his spring-tight, cranky af vocals. Or perhaps the frenetic way he plays the guitar. Or his synergy with bassist Paddy Moran. Yeah, that’s it. Phil Kaltenbach seems to stare at Moran very pointedly and often. Moran tries to ignore him, but Kaltenbach is not so easily dismissed. His guitar is very insistent. Actionesse is very insistent. They pulled Max of Fuzz Mutt up on stage with yet another guitar and insistently ended their set with “Shark Hunting,” which is the best set ending song in the universe so go suck it. Actionesse. (We insist.)

By this point everyone was a little sweaty, and a lot beery. Maybe the crowd was seeing things. A collective vision. For behold, the hair-encrusted spectre of The Ramones appeared and began to play. The photographer’s camera was stuck on the old skool black and white setting. And while the set list was long, the set time was short, for The Ramones do not deign to dirge. Those present knew this of old, and therefore gave it their all in response to the band’s pummeling two minute punkers. “Rock N Roll High School.” “I Wanna Be Sedated.” “Blitzkrieg Bop.” The Ramones did not “banter,” in fact, most words spoken between songs were either completely Brooklyn-accented and unintelligible, muffled by hair, or held to the mantra of “One! Two! Three! Four!” From time to time, as the hair flew about, you could catch glimpses of the faces hidden underneath, and behold, Joey Ramone bore a striking resemblance to Ryan Alexander, while bassist Dee Dee favored one Henry Yarsinske Jr. of Oliver Elf Army. Fascinatingly, Johnny Ramone could have been Christian Smith’s punk father, while drummer Tommy Ramone was the spitting image of Sleepover Club’s Sid Jensen. Huh. Couldn’t be. In any case, after ending their set with “The KKK Took My Baby Away” followed by “Pet Sematary,” The Ramones faded away into the fall mist like a fading power chord. 

Christine Mitchell has been poring over album liner notes pretty much since she acquired the skill of reading, and figured out the basic structure of rock songs at an early age. Whether it’s the needle popping into the first groove of the record, the beeps that signal the beginning (or end) of a cassette tape, or digital numbers ticking off the seconds from zero, music brings Christine happiness, ponderous thought, opportunities for almost scientific study, and sometimes a few tears. When she started attending live shows two decades ago, a whole new piece of the puzzle clicked in and she has been hooked ever since.