Acquired: August, 1991, Bala, Ontario
Those who know me, know I’ve never been anything like a punk rocker. But I’ve always been into music and going to concerts. Back in the summer of ’91 I had just finished my first year of University and I was up for anything. So for some reason on a warm August night one of my friends convinced me to take the drive up to Bala Ontario (where?) to see the Ramones. It was in the most unlikely of venues – the “Kee to Bala“, an old wooden dancehall in the heart of Muskoka cottage country, with a history dating back to the 1930’s. I think even Louis Armstrong played there once. But The Ramones were no Louis Armstrong.
It’s hard to imagine what the band must have been thinking as they stepped off the tour bus and had a look around. These NYC born-and-raised punk rock pioneers couldn’t have seemed more out of place in the heart of a Canuck bar a hundred miles from nowhere. These guys were more used to gritty East-village haunts like CBGB than a places that had “Group of Seven” views from the dressing room window. But here they were anyway, and they put on one hell of a show.
They were nothing like any group I had ever seen before or thought I liked up to that point. They weren’t really much to look at, they barely acknowledged the crowd at all, and played an almost indecipherable string of 2-minute songs, back to back to back, with hardly a shouted “1-2-3-4” to mark the end of one song and the start of the next. But their frenzied energy was mesmerizing, a heck of a lot of fun, a little bit dangerous (at least to my 19-year-old mind) and completely cool. I can recall standing directly in front of the stage (it was standing room only, and it wasn’t really that crowded, so you could actually walk around) looking at Joey Ramone and what little you could see of his face while he belted out song after unintelligible song. I had a blast, and so did the rest of Bala that night.
Perhaps not surprisingly, the band never returned to Bala, and quite likely forgot all about their brief Muskoka stop in the middle of a relentless world touring schedule (that sadly, ended only a few years later with Joey’s decline in health and eventual death in 2001). But I still have the t-shirt. So “Gabba Gabba Hey” Joey, and the rest of the Ramones. Whatever that means.