Concert review: Sublime with Rome at the Roseland Ballroom in NYC (with video)

Sunday night’s concert was the second of two shows at Roseland Ballroom, located right in the main artery of Manhattan, off Broadway in Time’s Square. When I arrived around 8 p.m., people were billowing out of the 3,500-capacity theater along with a familiar skunk-like scents often associated with the sounds of Sublime.

Lucky for this girl, I was on the list courtesy of Sublime With Rome and The Dirty Heads (opener), so I got to skip the massive line of multigenerational concert goers. Del Mar, Bud Gaugh’s side project, was onstage performing their punk ska and surf rock beats as people poured in and scattered throughout the dark, pink-and-red-hued venue.

The Dirty Heads took the stage at 8:30 p.m., frontman Jared Watson and fellow lead singer/guitarist Dustin “Duddy” Bushnell exuding SoCal cool with their long hair, flat low brim hats, and tattoos, the band rounded out by David Foral (bass), Matt Ochoa (drums) and Jon Olazabal (percussion). The hip-hop reggae rockers dove into an hour-long set of songs from their debut album Any Port in A Storm (2010), including “Check the Level,” “Taint,” “Believe” and “Lay me Down” (which just hit No. 1 on the Billboard Alternative charts). There were also a few songs mixed in that I hadn't heard and that stuck to the band's percussion-infused back-beat and reggae dancehall feel. They also threw in a cover of The Rolling Stones' “Paint it Black,” which was infused with a reggae-dub Dirty Heads flavor.

On the whole, I was super impressed with the band’s set and feel like they can only get better. Watson and Bushnell’s MC skills as well as their melodic and harmonic abilities shined, the rhythms flowed and their voices were completely in-sinc as they spit off rhymes and feed off each others' energy.

Another notable part of their set was Foral’s bass abilities. The people in my immediate circle were feeling it, and when Watson gave Foral a shout out, the crowd howled in approval.

As the crowd watched these urban beach boys get down, it was clear from the majority hadn't heard of DH and if they had, it wasn’t much beyond "Lay Me Down" (see the clip from Sunday's set below). The mass of people in attendance just crowded the stage and took in the music with looks of confusion and intense interest that read, “What is this fabulousness that I am hearing right now?” As the beat went on, they started to move more, clearly thinking, “I can jam to this,” bobbing their heads and pumping their fists to the hip hop beach beats.


In “Shine,” The Dirty Heads describe their music and vibe in the lyrics: “Take a look around when we startin' the sound / It’s like a public toilet seat man you don’t wanna sit down.” This was the feeling I got Sunday from the crowd -- as the DH energy built up, so did the crowd’s enthusiasm and their willingness to rock out to the new sound.

With Dirty Heads more than effectively doing their job as an opener – hyping up the crowd – Sublime With Rome took the Roseland stage to the sounds of soulful screams, whistles and howls coming from the mass of fans in attendance showing their love.

The Sublime wave swelled as soon as they took the stage and the audience rode it all night long, never coming down and connecting in appreciation at witnessing the reunion of a band no thought they'd ever see perform again -- a musical fact Sublime fans had fully come to terms with until the recent 2.0 version. The collective singing intensified song after song and there were moments where individual screams and shouts turned into one loud howl for more music.

Considering it’s their first tour together, Wilson, Ramirez, and Gaugh most likely need time to build up a connection with one another, but their dynamic worked really at the NYC show.

In a quick run down and in no particular order, the set list included “Badfish,” “Smoke 2 Joints,” “Wrong Way,” “What I Got” (the encore), “Garden Grove,” “Date Rape,” “Jailhouse,” “Under my Voodoo,” "40oz to Freedom," “Get Ready,” “Seed,” “Scarlett Begonias,” “Johnny Butt,” (encore) “Greatest Hits” and “Doin’ Time.”

"What I Got," was definitely a high point. I cannot possibly put into words the experience of singing this Sublime staple with more than 3,500 people -- I don't think the energy in the Roseland could have gotten any higher.

Eric (donned in his characteristic shades and hat) and Bud performed the tunes of their career as if they'd never stopped. There was a moment when I was side stage, watching Gaugh flip his sticks and thrash the drums, and I just stood there awestruck; here I was a few feet from Bud effin’ Gaugh of Sublime. It was, well – sublime. (Below is a brief clip of the moment, but I admit, it's really not an example of my best video skills.)


I'll end by giving mad props to Rome for his vocal cababilities and the ability to recreate the Sublime sound so respectfully and in the most humble way. Nothing about him makes me think he is cocky or taking his ride on the Sublime wave for granted. In fact, he exudes the exact same appreciation for the music as any other Sublime fan, showing this throughout their performance by shouting things like “Rest in peace, Bradley.” Basically, all the haters out there need to move on and rest assured that Bud and Eric knew what they are doing when they brought Rome on.

As for Rome’s voice, I knew he had the soft soulful sound of Nowell, but I was worried about how he'd accomplish the raspy growls Bradley would often improvise in his music. I was blown away by this guy’s skills, both vocally and on the guitar. For me, in the live setting, he offered the perfect balance of replicating the music while not copying everything Bradley did. Rome’s own style came through, but clearly it is just a spin-off of Bradley’s own, since so many of us in the crowd insisted, “This sounds just like Brad Man!” as we swayed and cheered Rome on.

Over all, the NYC show provided an all-time live music high for this beach bum Sublime fan and I'd like to think it was the same for all the rest in attendance.

The sold-out spring tour has clearly been a success for the re-emergence of a beloved band; 19 additional summer dates were released this week, and that tour will feature Matisyahu and The Dirty Heads. Two will land in Florida in July – Boca Raton and St. Augustine. See ya there.

**Disclaimer: I have loved a little band called Sublime since first hearing Stand by Your Van in 1999 — three years after Bradley Nowell’s death. I never thought in my wildest live show dreams that the band would find another singer, get back together and take to the road; therefore, I will try to keep my fanaticism under control, but I can't make any promises.

When I was first told by a fellow Sublime junkie that bass player Eric Wilson and drummer Bud Gaugh were working with a new singer in an effort to recreate their 1990s punk-reggae rock outfit, I felt threatened and immediately responded, in the snobbiest of tones, “No way, it’s not Sublime without Bradley.”

Like any person obsessed with a band, I felt an instinctive urge to protect the music that had been playing through much of my existence. However, after about five minutes of surfing YouTube videos that featured new singer Rome Ramirez, I decided to break down my fanatically purist wall. “Bradley was all about the music,” I thought to myself, “Rome does have a legit voice and he seems humble about it at least.” So, over the next several months, I became accustomed to the idea of new singer as the guys announced they'd be calling the new lineup Sublime with Rome (after a brief tiff with Nowell’s family regarding who had rights to the name), and would be performing a series of dates this spring.

After last Sunday night’s sold-out stop in New York City, my whole perspective has changed, and I've come to the realization that I was wrong about the band not being Sublime without Brad.

This might sound like a total cliché, but when I closed my eyes at the show, it was like Brad's spirit was there. As the music filled the air, I could feel him in the lyrics and in the basslines, in the rhythms and guitar riffs, he was in the audience’s energy, and I could even hear him in Ramirez’s voice. That funky fresh Sublime vibe is Brad, and Sublime with Rome dutifully and with the utmost amount of reverence and rocking out, channeled Brad’s spirit for all the fans, and I assume, themselves as well.


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