Former Ramones drummer Richie Ramone will be performing at Mohawk Place tonight. Richie is one of the four surviving members of the iconic punk band. Richie was one of the group’s three drummers, all of whom are alive. The other surviving member is former bass player C.J. Ramone.
The Ramones were one of he hardest working bands around when they were active. They performed more than 2,000 concerts during their 22-year run. I saw one of their shows on Sept. 17, 1981. It was an evening I will never forget and even though I have attended well over 1,000 live concerts in my lifetime, it was the only show I went to that impressed my kids when they were growing up.
The show left a permanent impression on me — but not for the reason you might expect. I was 15 years old when I attended the general admission show in a mid-sized venue in Rochester. I am shorter than average, so my friend Charlie Abbott and I looked for a spot as close to the stage as possible and we wound up in the front row on the far-left side of the stage.
The opening act was loud but nothing out of the ordinary. When the Ramones hit the stage I was a few feet from guitarist Johnny Ramone and about five feet from the Marshall amp stack hooked up to his guitar.
Early in the show I realized that Charlie and I were so close to the guitar amps that we literally could not hear the drums, vocals or bass. I thought something was wrong with the sound system but The Ramones were known as a loud and brash band and the guitars were cranked as loud as possible.
In true punk rocker fashion, Johnny wound up getting into an argument with a concertgoer right behind me and security intervened before it got physical. The show ended not long after that, and on the way out of the show I realized that I could not understand anything that anyone said to me. It all sounded like a garbled mess.
The next day all human speech was still unintelligible but within a few days most of my hearing returned in my right ear. My left ear never fully recovered and even today the impact of the noise-induced hearing loss is evident. It could have been a lot worse, and thankfully I am still able to attend live concerts, but I almost always must use hearing protection in my left ear and I have had recurring tinnitus in the ear for decades.
In case you haven’t figured it out by now, the purpose of this column is not to promote a Richie Ramone show, it is to promote the use of hearing protection at concerts — especially for children under 16 years old.
There are venues that provide earplugs, I know that Seneca Niagara’s Bear’s Den has a box of earplugs available as soon as you walk into the venue. It’s hit and miss at other venues and I always carry extras in case I see a young person or anyone that is not used to loud music.
There are plenty of great products that don’t muffle the sound but still help protect your ears. If you do a basic search on the internet you can find them. I keep my permanent pair and a stack of disposable earplugs in my camera bag.
For the cost, I hope all venue owners start making them available to attendees but until then, if you attend a lot of live shows you can help out by bringing some spare disposable earplugs for anyone that needs them — and don’t stand in front of a stack of guitar amps.
Thom Jennings covers the local music scene for Night and Day.