HOLLYWOOD— "Hey ho! Let's go!," the crowd screamed at the Avalon on Sunday night. Sadly, it wasn't a Ramones concert, but rather a multi-artist tribute show celebrating the 30th anniversary of the pioneering punk band's formation.
The concert, sponsored by radio station Indie 103.1, was a benefit for both the Lymphoma Research Foundation and the Cedars-Sinai Prostate Cancer Research Center — the disease that took singer Joey Ramone's life in 2001, and the one that continues to plague guitarist Johnny Ramone, respectively (see "Johnny Ramone Is Not Dying, His Doctor Says"). Despite the fact that two of the four founding Ramones passed away too soon (bassist Dee Dee died in 2002), the night never took on a somber tone — instead, the 25-and-often-much-older crowd took to the dance floor and even started moshing to the sounds of the classics.
The night began with a kooky set from the Dickies, whose singer used costumes and props to get the crowd up and laughing. Next was an unannounced set from one of the patron saints of L.A. punk, X. They played a 30-minute set, ending with a Ramones song they said they learned specifically for the event, "Sheena Is a Punk Rocker."
Next came another big surprise: The Red Hot Chili Peppers took the stage to do a five-song Ramones cover set that included "I Wanna Be Sedated" and "She's the One." "We're here because we love the Ramones with all our hearts," bassist Flea said from the stage.
Rob Zombie, the event's host, went onstage to call Johnny Ramone via cell phone so he could hear the sold-out crowd chant, "Hey ho! Let's go!," while he rested at home. According to Zombie, Johnny said (in his heavy Queens accent), "Keep it movin'!" at the end of the call.
Next up, two latter-day Ramones, drummer Marky and bassist C.J., along with longtime producer/guitarist Daniel Rey, acted as the house band for a rotating set of guest singers. Johnny Ramone's friend, Robert Carmine of Rooney, took the stage first to belt out "The KKK Took My Baby Away" and "Here Today, Gone Tomorrow." Pete Yorn, another friend of Johnny's, sang "Don't Come Close" and the lovers' lament "I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend." Considerably less crooning came from Dicky Barrett of the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, who screamed through "Bonzo Goes to Bitburg."
That band morphed into an unusual supergroup that included Rancid's Tim Armstrong and Bad Religion's Brett Gurewitz on guitars, with Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam on vocals. They also performed "Sheena Is a Punk Rocker" because, as Vedder said to the crowd, "You didn't sing loud enough the first time." The group then tackled "I Believe in Miracles" — a high point of the night.
Eddie passed the mic to Henry Rollins, who was joined by founding Sex Pistols guitarist Steve Jones to finish out the night, ending with the chant-along classic "Blitzkrieg Bop." With the last "Hey ho! Let's go!," hundreds of balloons were released into the crowd, who created the sound of fireworks going off by popping the balloons. Marky and CJ Ramone returned to the stage for a final bow and to play "Pinhead," leaving the crowd with a final chant of "Gabba gabba hey!"
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