CJ Ramone at L’Escogriffe, Montreal

Heading up to the Plateau to Bar L’Escogriffe, I had completely forgotten where the venue was. After a few minutes walk from the metro, i knew i was wandering in the right direction. I spotted a familiar older crowd adorned in converse and Ramones shirts, gathering outside on the terrace. This had to be the spot.

Showtime was in ten minutes, so I got in line, along with the majority of the crowd. For one last beverage.If you haven’t been to L’Escogriffe, it’s a basement venue, that was beginning to fill up fast. I knew it was going to be an oversold show. With the terrace still containing just as many people as there was already inside the venue.

Dog Party

With no delay, you could hear the the screech of the guitar as Lucy and Gwendolyn hit the stage. Dog Party opened the gig. Giving us “Hit And Run” off of the latest album and a variety off their five studio albums. A song with a true Riot Girl influence, “Los Angeles”,  got everyone’s head moving to the drum beat. I didn’t see many people leave so they gained some new fans last night. With a pop surf rock sound, their strong vocal harmonies resonated through the room. They wrapped things off quick with not a lot of stage banter being a younger band. It takes years to develop that.

CJ Ramone plays for the last time in Montreal // Photo : Kieron Yates
CJ Ramone

With it being CJ Ramone’s last time touring, sadly, this show was actually happening on time. A rarity in music, especially punk rock . When you have a lot of band members, it’s easy to loose track. Anything can happen between soundcheck and when it’s time to play. Especially in such a diverse city like Montreal. From getting lost while sight seeing or checking local eats, it happens often. But not this time though. Montreal is a sight-seers paradise.

Ten o’clock sharp, CJ and band-mates made their way through the fully packed venue. Being short, I had to find a place standing on a couch and perched on the windowsill. People were on tables, chairs, any object that could be climbed on, was. The show should have been moved to a bigger venue at this point. Too Late. It was time to break a leg.

Energy on a high, they kicked off the night with a beloved favorite cover – “Let’s Dance”. I don’t think there was person sitting still in the whole place. Next was a new tune, “One High, One Low”, from CJ’s new album “Holy Spell”. It was one of my favorites, so I was already singing along.

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I should have been saving my voice. Because I knew we were going to get to hear lots more Ramones cover’s. Giving us “Bonzo Goes To Bitburg”, off of the Ramones ninth studio album, “Animal Boy”. You could tell, for some this was the first time they had seen CJ live. Whether it was the first or tenth time, the lyrics were being shouted back almost as loud as the band.

I absolutely loved the amount of crowd interaction. There’s nothing more magical then that perfect unison moment when everyone is singing the song back at you. Rocking out with hit after hit, from “Rockaway Beach”, “Gimme Shock Treatment” and “The KKK Took My Baby Away”.

CJ sips a cold one in Montreal // Photo : Kieron Yates

In between each cover they would play a song off of one of his solo albums. Over the years I have seen him a couple times and it was really dawning on me that it was the last time. They went into “Sheena Is A Punk Rocker” and most girls were loosing their shit. I have to admit I was. I was a fan since I was a young lass, but I think that song always stuck with me.

With any backing band, phases and lineup changes happen through the years. One of those journeys began in 2012. When Steve Soto from two legendary bands, Agent Orange and The Adolescents, joined on guitar and backing vocals. That journey came to end in 2018 when he sadly passed away in his sleep at the age of 54. To play a fitting tribute, they played “Rock On”. A song written in memoriam of a friend.

Bringing the mood back up they continued with such hit’s as, “Outsider”, “Wart Hog”, “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend”, for all the romantics.  And “Glad To See You Go”, for the not so romantic. Followed by a couple different covers in the mix that weren’t Ramones tracks.

The band had started with a bit of room on the already small stage. By now though, people had moved all the way up as close as they could. Some were practically on stage with the boys. The ceiling and walls were soaked with condensation from the over excited crowd. Sweat dripped like a morning dew. You could see those who didn’t buy a ticket on time peaking through the small window, hoping to still catch a glimpse of the show. You could argue they had the better seat. At least they weren’t being crushed by beer guts.

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CJ’s then asked “Is then anyone in the military or has family who is?”. It was met with silence as he then realized he was in Canada. We do have our armed forces. As Peace keepers. He dedicated “Commando” to all those fighting overseas.

“53rd and 3rd” was next, followed by “Do You Wanna Dance”. There was no objection from the crowd, they were losing it. With “Pinhead” next and the famous “Gabba! Gabba! Hey!” was chanted at full force

Then it came to the end. Well not exactly. “You know, we usually leave the stage right now and then get you guys to cheer for the encore, not here, not today in Montreal. We’re having too much fun”. Probably because it would be too difficult to get off and then back onto the stage. It was hard enough for them to get on in the first place. “We’ve got three songs’s left for you guys” exclaimed CJ. Leading into two song’s everyone knows. “I Wanna Be Sedated” and “Blitzkrieg Bop”. Was it really over though?. Not before giving us Motorhead’s “R.A.M.O.N.E.S”. There was something amusing about hearing a cover of  band that sang a song about the band the guy on stage used to be in. Phew. That’s a mouthful.

I was right, we were very lucky to hear eighteen rocking tracks live.

People still tried to bride their ways in // Photo : Kieron Yates

It was a truly fun night. That I nor anyone there won’t forget anytime soon. Some older folks were lucky enough to see Ramones live. For us, we got one surviving member playing nostalgic punk rock. Legends that will be in our minds and hearts forever.