I’m notorious for saying that I have no bands left on my “need to see” bucket list. I’m always wrong. Some bands aren’t even on my bucket list. They are just bands that I figured I would never get to see live and had come to terms with that fact. Sublime is definitely one of those bands. (I realize that last night was Sublime With Rome, not just Sublime but that is the absolute closest I will ever get to see Sublime so I’ll go ahead and let myself check Sublime off the bucketlist.) I never, in a million years, thought I would hear Sublime’s songs live but life works in mysterious ways and I was in awe as I stood in the sold out crowd hearing the songs that were on repeat throughout my years of working at a hippie owned record shop.
The show started off with a personal favorite of mine, Less Than Jake. If you’ve been following this blog since the beginning, I’m pretty sure I’ve written about these guys at least a half dozen times and you’re sick of hearing about them but suck it up and read on. I love them and just can’t get enough. It works in my benefit that they seem to make a stop in the Twin Cities every couple of months.
Less Than Jake’s music is fun– really no other way to put it. It’s upbeat, it’s got horns, and it has an infectious punk attitude about it. With a beat that you can’t help but groove along with, LTJ is a band that truly makes you get up and dance. Their music bridges the gap between punk, pop, ska, reggae and far too many other genres to list. I think that’s why I have been so obsessed with these guys since my teenage years. Their music is so versatile and every time you hear one of their songs, you tend to notice a new element that you had never heard before.
As if the fun music radiating off the stage wasn’t enough to keep these guys in my top ten live bands, their banter on stage is priceless. Singer Chris DeMakes is the master of self-deprecating jokes and the rest of the band is great at backing up the comments with a sense of banter that I wish every band I saw had. “We’re like herpes! We come back every couple of months!” Chris joked as the crowd erupted in laughter. After asking for a congratulations from the crowd for the January 14th finalization of his second divorce, Chris had the rowdy crowd start a circle pit around the First Avenue employee who walks around the crowd with a box of beer on his head to sell (shout out to Bryan!). It was one of those things where you had to be there to truly appreciate the moment so I’m sorry that you missed it!
Less Than Jake’s set didn’t really feel like an opening set. It had as much energy, if not more, than many of the headliners I see weekly and was the length of some headlining sets (nearly an hour long). I’m definitely not complaining and I don’t think many people in the crowd would complain either. Regardless of if you had never heard of LTJ before and were only at the show last night to see Sublime With Rome, you had a smile on your face as LTJ’s road crew broke out the toilet paper guns and showered the crowd with DIY balloons and beach balls (and by DIY I mean the crowd had to blow them up themselves and that’s exactly what they did). When their set ended, I was sad to see LTJ leave the stage but I know, based on the past, it won’t be long before they make a triumphant return to the Twin Cities.
As I mentioned earlier, Sublime is one of those bands that I never thought I’d get to see due to the death of singer Bradley Nowell in 1996. I knew that the band was reincarnated back in 2009 but I honestly hadn’t given the new group any thought. Before I get into talking about Sublime With Rome’s set, let me just lay out the line-up for you. On vocals you have Rome Ramirez, Eric Wilson (the sole original member of Sublime left) on bass, and then Carlos Verdugo (from Tribal Seeds) on drums. Honestly, it felt a little weird for me to say that I would be seeing Sublime With Rome knowing that it was truly only one real member of Sublime but I was trying my best to stay optimistic. Sublime was one of those bands that I felt was just too good and there was no way they could continue on without Bradley. That being said, when I was given the opportunity to catch Sublime With Rome last night, I couldn’t resist and found myself truly excited to see what it would be like.
As soon as the trio took the stage, the music started and I instantly recognized the songs. Sure, I knew they were going to play some old classics that I recognized but I figured that they had some songs that were new and by “Sublime With Rome”, not just Sublime, and I figured they would hold off on playing the quintessential songs until the end. When they started their set off with “Date Rape” and “Smoke Two Joints” right away, I knew that this was exactly what I wanted it to be. Sure, it wasn’t technically Sublime and I would never get to see the “real” Sublime but this was pretty damn close and it was perfect.
With an 18 song set followed by a four song encore, SWR definitely pulled out all of the stops for the sold out First Avenue audience. They played a little bit of everything including the predictable Sublime songs, some unpredictable Sublime songs and multiple covers including a great cover of “Scarlet Begonias” originally by The Grateful Dead. The crowd was eating up every single note and as the room filled up with smoke (yes, marijuana smoke… sorry mom and dad) I started finding myself completely forgetting that this was not the original line-up of Sublime. The three members had such a relaxed vibe about them that I couldn’t help but wonder how different their set was from a “real” Sublime set.
Sublime With Rome closed their set with two favorites of mine- “What I Got” and “Santeria”. As the band left the stage I was left with that feeling you get when you’ve just witnessed a truly amazing show. Sure, I was exhausted, beads of sweat were dripping down my back from the unrelenting heat of the sold out show and of course it was pouring down rain when I was walking to me car but I had a smile on my face the entire time.