The Ramones Museum is usually a quiet, reflective experience on the history of the Ramones and the life of the 1970s punk scene. It’s sparsely populated with a silent bartender and walls covered in Ramones memorabilia, as well as the signatures of bands who have come through to take the stage and pay their respects. These signatures range from The Cute Lepers and No Use for a Name, to The Subways and countless others: a wall of inked musical memories. And now The Gaslight Anthem has brought its own brand of music to the walls of the Ramones Museum. The museum hit capacity as fans lined up outside of the venue and were crammed into the small place amidst Flo Hayler’s collection—their wrists adorned with RCMC stamps and hearts filled with the desire to hear Brian Fallon croon his songs of honesty and hurt.
“This feels like Eric Clapton Unplugged,” Fallon joked to the audience as he sighed before starting “Misery,” a track that sat forgotten on a 10” released for Record Store Day. Fallon apologized for possibly not being able to play the song correctly. “The times I search for Gaslight songs is rare,” he said, as he explained he found it sitting in his musical library and didn’t even remember the correct progression of the song, let alone the chords. The song was played, complete with a cheat sheet by the monitors.
Fallon explained that he has been going through his catalogue and learning to play the songs a bit slower, a bit more purposefully—and turning up the reverb, because when you turn up the reverb, it’s just “more spacey and less country.” He laughs—a charming laugh, and a smile that reeks of honesty and the introspection of failed romances—one that is making all of the ladies in the front row swoon as they sing along. And “Wherefore Art Thou, Elvis?” begins: “I sang the blues like the dogs left too long in the street/I still sing the blues with the dogs.” At the close of the song, the notes of the guitar sustained and Fallon asked the audience what they wanted to hear. “The Patient Ferris Wheel!” “Mae!” “The Queen of Lower Chelsea!” Song titles from the last seven years were heard throughout the room. Fallon admitted to not being able to play them all, and “Mae” and “The Patient Ferris Wheel” were settled upon—a chance to let the fans hear songs that aren’t always performed during an electric performance. During “The Patient Ferris Wheel,” Fallon started over a verse after fumbling a few notes. He held up his hand to show that he was shaking. “It’s one of those,” he mumbled to his accompanying guitarist.
“I’m gonna need something to drink and then smoke,” Fallon said, as he announced that just one more song would be in the acoustic set. “I think we can do ‘Helter Skeleton,’” and Fallon counted off the song. With lyrics that embrace the common theme in The Gaslight Anthem’s Bruce Springsteen-tinged lyrical stories of getting closer and leaning on one another, “Helter Skeleton” was a great way to wind down the set. The crowd lingered, awaiting more musical heartbreak to leave Fallon’s lips. But he was finished. And a cigarette beckoned him outside, as he retreated from the stage with acoustic guitar and jean jacket in hand.