Ragan for president.
Well, maybe not president, but I think I'm going to start a church in his name. I’ll call it the House of Ragan. I'll found it in whatever town he's living in these days; that way he can perform at "services" at least every Sunday. The church's followers can be called “Raganites,” reclaiming the once very stigmatized term. He deserves this because his shows have the cathartic energy of a Baptist ceremony. The man knows no less than giving 110% percent and there isn’t a single ounce of anything he does that’s even remotely contrived. This rang truer than ever on May 16, 2011 at the Bell House, one of the best new venues in Brooklyn.
There were approximately 250 people out, which wasn't too shabby for a Monday night, an off-date for the tour he’s currently on with Social Distortion. I walked in as a band called SHARKS was playing and was immediately un-enthused. They looked and sounded like leftover hacks from the New York Dolls era of Lower East Side, but they were nowhere near old enough to have lived that, so it was extra not cool. I was actually surprised that Chuck Ragan had a band like this opening the show for him. They were like the Loved Ones, minus what’s good about the Loved Ones. [Sorry, we already decided this band rules. - Good Taste Ed.] BUT, once Chuck Ragan came out to sing a verse of Hot Water Music’s “Rooftops” with them, they started to sound a whole lot different. Something changed. Chuck Ragan’s magic touch had shifted the vibe. Then they played a Replacements song, which, please forgive me, I don’t know for sure, but I think it was “Bastards of Young” [It was "Can't Hardly Wait". You know, the one that goes, repeatedly, "I can't wait. Hardly wait. I can't hardly wait." - Derp Ed.]. They did a decent job with it, too. By the time they finished up, I was no longer as apathetic.
After a half-hour or so of an intermission, Mr. Ragan took the stage and delivered one of the most passionate sets I’d ever seen him play. Accompanied by Digger Barns on upright bass and Jon Gaunt on fiddle, he started with a soul-filled 30-second intro song that I’d never heard before, which segued into “It’s What You Will”, at which point my friends and I started singing louder than him, and dancing more than everyone else in the place combined. By the time he got into the second full song, “Let It Rain”, we were having a full-blown ho-down. This one pretty cute girl actually came up to me at one point and was like, “Wow, you guys like Chuck Ragan as much as I do,” and was kinda giving me the sexy eyes. That was totally awesome until some dude, most likely her jealous boyfriend, came over to her and started making out with her like they were behind the bleachers in high school. Un-coolest dude at the show, by far.
My friends and I got a little tipsy that night, so some of the details are blurry, but I can say that it’s barely worth going into how each song was because they were all AWESOME, AS ALWAYS, so much so that I couldn't even believe he’d played 21 songs by the time the night was over. It’s only now that I’m going over my notes that I’m noticing this. The show just blew by.
I do have to say, though, that SHARKS totally redeemed themselves when they came out to join Chuck, Jon and Digger for an absolutely crushing rendition of the Ramones’ “Bonzo Goes to Bitburg (My Brain Is Hanging Upside Down)”, which happens to be my favorite Ramones song. They killed it. And then they kept killing it as they went into HWM’s “Wayfarer”, blowing the roof off of the place.
Closing things out with “The Boat” and “California Burritos” was a sure way to leave the crowd remembering what Chuck Ragan is all about. Earlier on in the show, in a bout of drunken inspiration, I walked up to the stage and simply asked Chuck to sing “California Burritos” with him. He said “yeah,” but I figured he’d misheard or was just humoring me. Nope!! As he finished the first verse to the song I looked up and pointed to the other mic, flashing the “Is it cool?!?!” signal. It was cool. Super cool! I jumped up and got to close the show out with him, singing the last verse and chorus to the song. Actually, now that I’m thinking back, I think he may have played a song or two after that, but like I said—1. Beers, 2. I was in a daze of rock awesomeness, so I didn't write ‘em down if he did.
For all those interested in co-founding the House of Ragan, feel free to leave some comments.
- It’s What You Will
- Let It Rain
- Cut 'Em Down
- [new song]
- Open Up and Wail
- Bleeder [Alkaline Trio cover]
- Don’t Cry
- Do You Pray?
- Ole Diesel
- Between the Lines
- For Goodness Sake
- [new song]
- For Broken Ears
- Bonzo Goes to Bitburg (My Brain Is Hanging Upside Down) [Ramones cover by SHARKS, f/ Chuck Ragan]
- Wayfarer [Hot Water Music cover by members of SHARKS/Ragan's backing band, with Chuck Ragan on lead vocals and backups from Crime in Stereo's Kristian Hallbert]
- The Boat
- California Burritos