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Hey! Ho! Let’s go! Joey Ramone B’day Bash rocks on

Mickey Leigh playing at the birthday bash.  Photos by Patrick Eves
Mickey Leigh playing at the birthday bash. Photos by Patrick Eves

BY TINA BENITEZ-EVES  |  On what would have been the Ramones lead singer’s 64th birthday, the annual Joey Ramone Birthday Bash rocked The Studio at Webster Hall on Tues., May 19. The annual event was started by the Ramones frontman in 1997 at the Continental, as his opportunity to showcase local bands and a medley of punk friends.

The event has continued on, with a posthumous 50th birthday party for him, pulled together by his mother, Charlotte Lesher, and brother, Mickey Leigh, in 2001, shortly Joey Ramone’s death from lymphoma.

After Lesher passed away in 2007, Leigh has kept the annual tradition going. This year’s birthday bash also benefitted the Foundation for Lymphoma Research through ticket sales, a raffle and silent auction.

The emcee was Punk magazine founder John Holmstrom, who illustrated the Ramones’ “Rocket to Russia” and “Road to Ruin” album covers.

Fit for a punk king, Joey Ramone’s party kicked off with a one-song set by My World that faded into a 1-2-3-4 rendition of “Rockaway Beach” before Long Island’s Serontones took over. Jiro got the room jumping to an anthemic “Punk Rock Generation” before The Independents, one of Joey Ramone’s favorite bands, who played the very first birthday bash and were once managed by Joey.

“The Ramones began the punk rock movement,” said David Peel, who was next in line. David Peel and The Lower East Side paid tribute to their late friend by performing “Happy Birthday to Joey Ramone” before they launched into their own 1978 single “Uptight Manhattan.”

Stop played new songs from their current album, “Stop,” while the Sic F*cks, featuring Russell Wolinsky and Manic Panic sisters Tish and Snooky, continued the momentum. They were joined by the Alice Cooper Band bassist Dennis Dunaway playing “Pet Semetary” before a fitting “School’s Out.”

Carrying punk from over the pond, original Sex Pistols bassist Glen Matlock joined in, first playing an acoustic punk set, then plugging in for the Pistols’ cover of “Stepping Stone” by The Monkees before a “Pretty Vacant” close. In his fifth appearance at the annual bash, Matlock, who flew over from England for the event, told The Villager that the Ramones managed to help pull the two ends of punk together.

“The Ramones were part of this with us,” he said. “It’s like putting your arms across a punk rock friendship.”

In America by way of Greece, the Barb Wire Dolls bolted on stage next with petite, platinum-haired vocalist Isis Queen sporting a torn, ripped white crop T with “Make Riot Not War” scribbled on it.

Isis Queen of the Barb Wire Dolls
Isis Queen of the Barb Wire Dolls

“The Ramones are inside every one of us,” Mickey Leigh said before introducing the band’s longtime tour manager, Monte Melnick, who then introduced C.J. Ramone, the group’s bass player from 1989 through the Ramones’ disbandment in 1996. C.J. Ramone paid homage with an all-Ramones eight-song set, closing with Motorhead’s tribute “R.A.M.O.N.E.S.,” a song he was often tasked with singing when touring with the band.

The former Ramone returned along with several guest singers for the next Ramones set. Walt Stack was joined by Bullys band mate and singer Joey Lanz for “Psycho Therapy,” before Andy Shernoff took over for two songs, “Stop Thinking About It,” which he co-wrote with Joey for his first solo album, “Don’t Worry About Me,” posthumously released in 2002, and the Ramones’ “Leave Home” track “Swallow My Pride.”

Leigh finished the remainder of the set, starting off with “Something to Believe In” from the Ramones’ 1986 release “Animal Boy,” and sprinkling in more of Joey’s own music, including his homage “New York City”  and his rendition of “Wonderful World.” Leigh was joined by the son of Bob Thiele, who co-wrote “What a Wonderful World,” on guitar. Jackass and District Pipe Band closed the show with Leigh looking on.

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