Johnny Ramone Tribute 2017 - Live in Los Angeles (Cover Artwork)

Johnny Ramone Tribute 2017

Live in Los Angeles (2017)

live show

July 30th, 2017 was a night for firsts—my first time visiting the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in the handful of years I have lived in LA, and my first time attending the annual Johnny Ramone Tribute. Hosted by his wife, Linda, with help from (rather famous) friends and other Ramones’ “torchbearers” from the Hollywood scene and beyond, the night was truly something out of the ordinary, and quite refreshing, in regard to the usual punk event gamut. Proceeds from ticket sales are donated to the Johnny and Linda Ramone Foundation, which, amongst other beneficiaries, includes a cancer research fund led by world renown cancer specialist Dr. David Agus at the USC Keck School of Medicine. A good time, for a good cause, to honor a great man & musician—what more can you ask for?

In keeping with what has been the typical “format” of the evening in its more recent iterations, fans and friends were promised a peek at rare and never-before-seen Ramones memorabilia, in addition to an acoustic performance by Steve Jones (Sex Pistols), as well as Billy Idol, and a showing of one of Johnny’s favorite films, Buffalo ‘66, directed by Johnny’s close friend and 2017 attendee, Vincent Gallo. My husband and I arrived at the start of the “golden hour” which made the scene at the cemetery all the more impressive, in a somewhat morbidly romantic sense, with hundreds upon hundreds of admirers already staking their blanketed claim on the Fairbanks Lawn, alongside the Cathedral Mausoleum.

We started among the memorabilia display, housed inside the Cathedral Mausoleum, and caught glimpses of tees and leather jackets, concert posters, guitars, lyrics sheets and more. Equally as interesting was the snaking line of fans in observance: what appeared to be the progenitors of punk intermixed with the proteges by a handful of decades; Hollywood avantgarde types interspersed with Crusties, and everyone in between, demonstrating the sheer span of influence both Johnny himself, and the band, left as a legacy. After winding our way through, we hit up a seriously scrumptious food truck parked nearby Johnny’s grave and legendary bronze statue—the name of the truck escapes me, and for that I am truly sorry, as it was truly delicious, especially for being served out of the ass-end of a vehicle.

After resting and digesting for just a moment, we headed across the cemetery—literally, at first, for which we were abruptly admonished for stepping on particularly forbidden areas of grass, as opposed to other nondescript yet permissible areas of grass, but quickly course corrected to the main lane—towards the main event. DJ Howie Pyro was finishing up, and as the sun was setting properly, Steve Jones and Fred Armisen took the small stage nestled in the now packed to capacity VIP area. Amidst initial sound issues and what can be best described as an adorable lack of practice, Jones and Armisen made it through the Pistol’s “Lonely Boy,” and were later joined by Billy Idol for a rather balls-y rendition of Generation X’s “Untouchables,” after which the singer mentioned something along the lines of “touching [his] balls tonight.” Classic, Billy. 

Linda, looking lovely, took the stage to say a few words honoring the late Chris Cornell, Johnny’s close friend who now lies in close proximity to him on the cemetery grounds. Then Moby, who shared a few anecdotal remembrances regarding Johnny and the Ramones in general. Next up, Vincent Gallo—I cannot to be the cinephilic type, and so while this was the least exciting portion for me, I get the sense that there were a fair few there who were more or less ambivalent towards Johnny, but major Vincent Gallo fans. God bless ‘em—if he was cool with Johnny, who am I to judge? However, after indulging in Gallo’s opening short films The United States Wins the World Cup, which was far less sportsball-related and far more flag-waving music video than I would have initially assumed, and Honey Bunny, which was a literal montage of half-naked ladies being served up on a spinning platter, we decided that beating the impending traffic would be the perfect ending to a lovely evening, and left just before Buffalo ‘66 began.

Overall, the Johnny Ramone Tribute is a great night for a great cause, and a must-see if given the opportunity. Ramones forever.