Last Night: The Heathens at the Juke Joint, Anaheim

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BY RYAN RITCHIE

Last night was surreal. Strange. Uncomfortable but kinda exciting. You see, I watched another man fuck my girlfriend. (Metaphorically speaking, of course.)

The truth is, I went to see a band called the Heathens at the Juke Joint in Anaheim. I used to play bass in this group and had never seen them without me. Of course, I'd never seen them with me either, so I guess that didn't need to be said.


As you might be able to tell, I'm not my normal self and it doesn't have anything to do with the way Heathens shows used to make me not my normal self. In the old days, I'd get a nice buzz going before we played and that would somehow lend itself to a sloppy mess with lots of overdriven bass and, more often than not, me taunting the crowd in whatever way I deemed funny at that moment (I've since traded those on-stage hilarious-only-to-me comments for writing like this. Unfortunately, I'm still the only one laughing.). I loved it. The rest of the band...well, let's just say they're probably having a better time sans me. This go-round, lead singer Gabe bought me a beer and that was it. One free drink. Wow, I thought. I really have given up on being a musician.

I got there early to chit-chat with the fellas. Singer/guitarist Gabe and guitarist Alfunction remain. Back for more punishment is drummer Rob, aka "the Biz." He played with us a handful of times once original drummer Anthony left. There was another drummer after the Biz named Sean, but I don't know what's going on between the group and him. So, the Biz it was. The new guy's name is Corey. Or maybe it's Cory. I don't know. Whatever the case, he did a pretty solid job of holding down my former position, but I looked better doing it.


Because I was early, there were only a handful of people at the bar and all of them were watching the Lakers. Somewhere in the middle of the third quarter, some old drunk started talking to me and Gabe. He saw Gabe's helmet (perhaps now's a good time for a history lesson: the Heathens were and always will be Gabe's band. He's a biker and rides some sort of fancy contraption that I'm sure cycle enthusiasts would gush over if I ever cared enough to remember what the hell it is. Anyway, the songs are about motorcycles.) and asked if he could sit on Gabe's bike. Gabe said no. Once the tattooed singer left to set up his amp, Drunk Guy told me he thought the band was really good. I didn't have the heart to tell him it was the house music he was listening to. Other than the drunk, there was no one there. Just like how I remember: an empty room filled only with a bartender and a bouncer. This, I told myself, was why I stopped playing music.


I ran outside to my car for a moment and by the time I came back, the Juke Joint was packed with all sorts of greaser dudes and really hot girls with tattoos. For the first time since bailing on them about three years ago, I wished I was back in the band.


We always opened with a song called "Rumble Riot Riot." Heathens 3.0 chose "Speedmaster." Not what I would have picked, but it's not my call anymore. The quartet burned through a handful of Ramones-esque tunes about panhandles, joining a biker gang and cross-country rides: all the things I used to pretend to know about so the band could keep its image.


About three songs in, the Heathens busted into a slower song. I can't remember the name, but I do remember walking over to the TV to see the Lakers blow it at the very end. I never cared for playing the mellow songs and as a fan, not much has changed. Like celery, they're good, I guess, just not for me.


Luckily, the band kicked back into some real barn-burners: "Teenager," "The Prospect" and my all-time favorite, "The President's Dead." When I first learned the latter, I asked Gabe about his new-found interest in politics. "It's about a motorcycle president being killed by the pigs," he told me. Duh.


I bopped my head and tapped my toes to kill that voice inside me screaming, "GET UP THERE AND PLAY GODDAMN IT!" But I haven't been practicing on a consistent level in years and there's no way my inclusion back into the Heathens would be a good idea for anybody. So Cory or Corey, the gig's yours.


Once I made peace with myself, like magic, the uneasy feeling left and I was in total fan mode. Things were good, the band sounded tight and the Biz was putting on a motherfucking drum clinic. Then they were done. Total bummer.


On the drive home, I realized seeing my old band wasn't as painful as I thought it would be. I knew the songs better than everyone in attendance and I didn't have to lug any heavy shit. If I didn't know these guys, I'd still dig 'em.


But I'm still better looking than the new guy.



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