Friday, September 28, 2007

Uncle Monk

I went out last night to Jammin' Java in Vienna. This is the first time I've been to Jammin' Java without the kids, and therefore the first time I've been there after dark, the first time I've been there to see someone other than Rocknoceros or Mr. Frank the Banjo Man. The someone was actually two someones; a duo called Uncle Monk that featured Tommy Ramone.

I love the Ramones. And I love bluegrass. So the idea of one of The Ramones playing bluegrass was impossible to pass up. (Plus, my brother had seen Uncle Monk in New York. "Isn't this kind of a nexus for you?" he said. "You need to go.")

You might remember Tommy as The Sane Ramone, if you watched the documentary on the group, which I did. Sort of. I had to turn it off half way through because I was afraid too much information would ruin my fantasy about these guys and things turned dicey fast.  You also might remember him as The Living Ramone, as he's the only remember of the original four who's still alive today (though later Ramones, including Marky, who replaced Tommy as drummer and was around circa Rocket to Russia days, are still kicking, too.)

Tommy does not show up for performances in a leather jacket. His hair is still long, but it's gray now, pulled back in a ponytail. He wears suspenders. He looks like a guy you might see sitting outside a vegetarian restaurant reading Mother Jones Magazine. He plays mandolin pretty well. Not well like Ricky Skaggs or Dave Grisman or Ronnie McCoury, but he doesn't have anything to be embarrassed about. He also sings. His voice isn't high and lonesome. It is simply his voice, on key, honest, singing the songs that speak to him now, like "Working on a Building" and "Long Journey Home" or any of the roots-inspired tunes he made up. 

His partner, Claudia Tienan, has a voice built for bluegrass and old-time. She sings the way the old folks do, like a ventriloquist, with her mouth hardly opening at all. She plucks a steady rhythm on the guitar but I didn't see her try so much as a G-run. Her last band was called "The Simplistics," if that serves as explanation. And perhaps it does. You don't need to be Mozart to make good music. You just need guts.

In the 1970s, Tommy Ramone knew enough about music to help change it. I wouldn't say that he's changing music now. But he's making music. He still has something to contribute so he's doing it. That's punk. And that's what counts.

Monday, September 17, 2007

rip Sunday morning bluegrass

Okay, it's not totally gone, they say. They've just moved all of my Sunday bluegrass programming to HD Radio. But I don't have HD radio, I have no plans to get HD Radio and if HD Radio is responsible for the loss of my bluegrass from the regular ol' airwaves then I don't even LIKE HD Radio, no matter what the merits may be.

I could rant more, but more than anything else, this just makes me sad. 

Friday, September 14, 2007


From deep in the burbs of Washington, D.C., we offer you this tribute (or, if you prefer, parody) of The Boss. Nutstock, Vienna, Va., 2007.

Friday, September 7, 2007

random thoughts

I figure the least they could do is figure out a way to make spam gender-specific. That way I wouldn't get so many e-mails asking me to buy Viagra.

My family is on what we lovingly term "financial lockdown," due to the purchase of the new vehicle and the first car payment we've had since 1995. This, of course, makes me want to spend more money than ever before. Thus, even as we dined on beans and rice, even as I knew I could jeopardize our mortgage, I felt I absolutely HAD TO HAVE this piece of Obama ephemera after I saw it mentioned in the Washington Post. I know historic schlock when I see it.