“I don’t like the new ‘punk’ bands you see on MTV now. I don’t think it’s fair to even consider them punk because punk has just as much to do with an attitude as it does about music,” I assert to the man behind me on line waiting to get into the Joey Ramone Birthday Bash at Irving Plaza. I have learned within the last 10 minutes that this man is 40, from the center of England; and has flown to New York for two days only, just enough time to catch the tribute to one of his heroes. He had to coerce Ticketmaster into selling him a ticket to an already sold-out show. He is only one of many fans so dedicated to the legacy of the Ramones that to make such a sacrifice for a small concert isn’t a question. I’ll learn that in less then an hour.
The Third Joey Ramone Annual Birthday Bash probably got as close to “the ass-kickingest party Joey would have wanted” (in the words of Rocket From the Crypt’s lead singer) as it’s possible to get with the new New York smoking ban. Despite that almost inconceivable limitation on rock and roll abandon, the crowd – a mixture of young punks and Goths and aging former punks and Goths – was in good spirits and packed Webster Hall, which was done up to look like the old Ritz that it was when the Ramones played it. Despite the good cause (all the proceeds went to lymphoma research, to aid sufferers from the disease that Joey died of in 2001), I was initially feeling very old and unexcited. A gray-haired Tommy Ramone sang “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend,” and he did a good job, but he looked about as old as I felt, and I wondered what a night of Ramones covers would feel like – just sad nostalgia?