Ramshackle Glory’s Final Show

I remember being heartbroken when I first read that Ramshackle Glory was breaking up. After the initial shock wore off, it seemed okay. Nick was still gonna keep doing their own thing with Paper Bee, Douglas Fur still had his solo project (and now Death Has 1000 Ears), and Pat was still releasing solo stuff.

Then, a few weeks later, Pat announced he was quitting music entirely. I remember waking up one morning, and reading the goodbye letter he had posted to the music scene (which you can read here). I cried a lot. I didn’t get out of bed the rest of the day. I skipped my classes. I was devastated. I still am. It’s probably gonna get a lot worse again when the final Ramshackle Glory album comes out and I never have another Pat release to look forward to again.

Plan It X Fest started at 16:00 on Friday afternoon, so my friend and I had started our 15 hour drive very early that morning. Of course, it was one of the hottest weekends on record, with over 100 degree temperatures most of the day. I had received a severe concussion the week before after getting into a fight with a misogynistic, homophobic Trump supporter, so the heat was especially taxing on my already nauseous self. Needless to say, despite the weekend having been one of the best in my life, it had been quite a long weekend by the time Sunday night rolled around.

There had been great bands playing all weekend, but I’m pretty sure everyone there was anxious for Sunday night. Aside from Ramshackle Glory, the Sunday night lineup included Tobey Foster, Paper Bee, Michael Jordan Touchdown Pass, Nana Grizol, Loone, Backbiter, Jeff Rosenstock, and The Wild. It was a pretty stacked show from 19:30 to the end. Still, even when I was watching some of my favorite artists, the anxiety was creeping in: in only an hour or two I’d be seeing Pat take the stage for the final time.

One in the morning finally rolled around. Ramshackle set up their instruments. Luke came up and told everyone that they’re a queer, anarchist band and that the set was dedicated to the late Erik Petersen. Then they flew right into We Are All Compost in Training. Of course the first song had to be one of the sad ones; I started crying immediately. Following the track order from Live the Dream, they launched right into From Here ‘Till Utopia (Song for the Desperate).

I had seen Ramshackle live a lot of times before (probably around five or six times), and they had always played this song. It’s definitely one of my top three songs by them, but every other time I had seen them Douglas wasn’t there, so it was missing the banjo part that really makes the song what it is. Seeing this song live with Douglas shredding out on the banjo is something I’ll never be able to forget. I was screaming my lungs out, just like everyone else there, to one of the songs that has made me into the kind of person I am today.

After that, they played something new, Broken Heart. It’s gonna be on their new album later this month. It’s a sad, yet beautiful song. That sadness was supplemented by a kind of eerie feeling when they played it live. Earlier in the month, they had released a demo version of the track as part of a comp to support the victims and families of the victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting, so I had heard the song before, but like everyone else there, didn’t know all the lyrics to shout along.

The next song switched up the mood a lot. No Shelter, from their split 12” with Ghost Mice, is an upbeat song with a every member of the band singing, or, more accurately, screaming, a couple lines. It’s a fast, frenetic song and everyone in the crowd was going nuts again. After that track, there was sort of a break. The band had a couple come up on stage, and there was a marriage proposal. I don’t remember it that well, but I do remember Alyssa saying that they don’t necessarily endorse marriage right after but they wish them the best anyways.

Then the pattern of a slow/fast/slow/fast continued with Ramshackle playing Never Coming Home. One of the best parts about Ramshackle playing this song live is that they give lead vocals over to Nick, and their voice is absolutely amazing. I’m pretty sure I started crying again when I heard this one start playing, partially because it’s just a sad song in general and partially because it is (maybe was at this point, I don’t know) my friend Sam’s favorite Ramshackle Glory song and the entire weekend I kept wishing he could be here, sharing this experience with me.

Next up was the song that got me into Ramshackle Glory: Your Heart Is a Muscle. At this point, I wasn’t merely crying, I was in some kind of hysterical state, screaming whenever I could catch my breath between sobs, jumping up and down down, tears making the stage just an abstract blur. I don’t think any song has ever affected me so much as this one, specifically this one at this show. This is one of those songs where, if you get it, it changes your life. This is one of those songs where I listen to it whenever I’m ready to give up on life, because I know it can help pull me back. And hearing this song for the last time made me realize that someday soon (they had already announced a final album coming out), I wouldn’t have new songs to look forward to that can capture my emotions in the brilliant way that only Pat can. It also made me realize that everything will going be okay; I just need to keep fighting and hold on.

Then they played something I don’t think anyone was expecting. It was one of Pat’s solo songs off of his lathe-cut vinyl release Cocoon Music called Time to Wake Up. It’s a slow rolling sing-along begging you to wake up, do what you need to, and make the world a better place. The mood in the room got kind of strange. Everyone seemed mellowed out, like a wave of depression just went out over the crowd and they were all realizing this was it, Ramshackle Glory was no more. Probably because the song, both in style and lyrics, would be very fitting as the final song this band would ever play. They finished, started packing up, and went back stage.

Of course, that was all planned. I’m sure the chants of one more song had no bearing on everyone coming back out to play a few more. The first song they played after coming back was a Mischief Brew cover, Departure Arrival. Looking back at it, I wonder how almost every single band there played a different Mischief Brew cover. Did they all organize who was gonna play what? Or do they all just know them all? Regardless of that, it was a very fitting tribute to one of the most influential DIY punks over the past 20 years, may he rest in peace.

Just like any Ramshackle show, they had to play The Club Hits of Today Will Be the Showtunes of Tomorrow. I think this may be one of Pat’s favorite songs he’s ever written, considering it’s been on at least three different albums I can think of. The song started fading out as it ended, and I remember thinking, “This is it; it’s all over now for real.”

Right as the last note of the accordion faded away, Pat grabs the mic and says, “It’s been a long hard day.” I got ready to start singing along to First Song, but then Pat screamed “woowoo” trying to imitate the train whistle from the beginning of First Song, Part 2. I don’t think there is any more appropriate song to send off this band. This song really sums up what Ramshackle is all about, and what Pat’s life is still gonna be about going into the future. It’s about recovery, and how the struggle to stay sober will stay with him forever. It’s about the tyranny of the State, and how the struggle to resist will stay with him forever. It’s a song about no longer looking back and instead focusing on the future, no matter how hard it will be.

And that’s what everyone there needed to hear in that moment. Life is going to be hard. It’s going to be way harder without someone like Pat to create the music that helps us get through the day. But instead of lamenting that, we need to make plans for the future we want to create. We need to take action now. As always, Pat already said it best in Song for Next May Day:

We can’t wait for someone else to write the songs that we’ll sing on the barricades,
Or until the last police is gone to keep each other safe.
We can’t wait until we know we aren’t wrong to raise the stakes,
We can’t wait for someone else to write the songs that we’ll sing on the barricades.