It's easy to be cynical about Marky Ramone's Blitzkrieg, a showcase of Ramones hits featuring only one actual Ramone (even Greg Ginn managed to rustle up Ron Reyes for the Black Flag reunion). With the exception of C.J. Ramone, everyone Marky played with in the Ramones is dead. But here's the thing: Marky made sure he brought an ace live act with him. Securing party enthusiast Andrew W.K. as a Joey Ramone stand-in was a smart move. So while the Blitzkrieg band might not have been the real Ramones, their set at Philadelphia's TLA Sun., Oct. 6 was still amazing. Nostalgic for sure, but amazing all the same.
Things started off strong with local act Ex Friends. Featuring Plow United bassist Joel Tannenbaum on guitar and lead vox, Ex Friends played a fierce set to a mostly empty TLA. The turnout didn't matter; Ex Friends dropped one spitfire take after another from their upcoming full-length debut, Rules For Making Up Words. Those who did come early hooted and/or hollered for the intertwining vocals, frills-free rockage and insanely hooky choruses. Tannenbaum already released one great record this year with Plow United's Marching Band. He might have another winner in Rules.
The room was still kind of empty for Figo, a New York-based rock group that was a little out of place but nonetheless winning. Figo were pretty much a hard rock band. They sang a lot of songs that either rhymed "baby" with "baby" or talked about how "you don't know me." Sometimes they tackled both tropes at the same time. But they were also kind of fun, mixing NYC punk songs with more groove-centric burners that blended INXS and the Stooges. But man did they have a ton of technical issues. Multiple microphones broke, and some of the prerecorded rhythms they used did not jive with what the drummer and bassist were doing live.
The TLA finally filled up in time for Marky Ramone's Blitzkrieg. Good thing too, because this show was incredible. As a building block of punk rock, it's easy to forget how crucial the Ramones were in their day. It's the curse of being a gateway band. Hearing all these classics live, though, reminded me how dearly I hold the Ramones. I flashed back to being a teenager hearing the Mania compilation for the first time, and proceeded to shout out the words to nearly every song. A lot of other folks did the same.
Marky Ramone's Blitzkrieg more or less drew from Mania, a.k.a. the hits: "I Wanna Be Sedated." "Teenage Lobotomy." "Do You Remember Rock 'n' Roll Radio?" "Bonzo Goes to Bitburg." "Cretin Hop." "Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue." "Judy is a Punk." And of course they closed with "Blitzkrieg Bop." Even some covers were worked in, like the Ramones' version of Bobby Freeman's "Do You Wanna Dance?" and Joey Ramone's version of Louis Armstrong's "What a Wonderful World" (sidenote: Marky plays drums on about half of Joey's first solo record, Don't Worry About Me). There were also a few surprises ("I Believe in Miracles" is underrated! "I Don't Wanna Go Down to the Basement" tops most Teenage Bottlerocket joke songs!).
W.K. was excellent. He took a few songs to really get moving, but his pop-punk vocals were dead on from the get go. The guy revved up the crowd while giving plenty of love to Marky and the other musicians. Marky, for his part, can still play absurdly fast. It's kind of intimidating to watch him play eighth notes on the hi-hat at warp speed without moving his arm. One humorous observation, though: Dude played way more fills than the Ramones ever allowed on record. He even got a drum solo at the very end. Guess that's one perk of being your own boss.
If you weren't there, you might think it's silly the band only played a 45-minute set. But they also played two encores. All told, they probably busted out around 130 filler-free songs (I am being slightly hyperbolic but I feel justified in doing so). The band rarely let up, although W.K. did take a moment to dedicate "Pet Sematary" to "Steve King" and to extol the virtues of proper pet burial techniques. This show was fun from start to finish, and it reaffirmed the Ramones' legacy. Even with just one member, you cannot fuck with the Ramones.