It’s a few hours before their headlining show at Manhattan’s Bowery Ballroom, and all four members of The Long Ryders are in the venue’s downstairs bar and lounge.
They’re on the verge of stepping out for dinner, but before they depart, an important question is asked: How long has it been since the Los Angeles-bred band played a show in New York? Singer-guitarist Stephen McCarthy speaks up and gives two answers: one that’s silly (“65 years”) and another that’s serious (“29 years”).
In rock ’n’ roll years, 29 might as well be 65. Nevertheless, when the Ryders — McCarthy, singer-guitarist Sid Griffin, singer-bassist Tom Stevens and drummer Greg Sowders — hit the stage around 10:10 p.m., not only do they proceed to successfully turn back the clock to their 1980s heyday, but they also reinforce Griffin’s claim that “we were Americana and alt-country before anyone used those terms.”
On this night, the Long Ryders leaned heavy on material from their last studio effort, 1987’s Two Fisted Tales, most notably Griffin’s “Gunslinger Man,” Stevens’ “A Stitch in Time” and McCarthy’s “Man of Misery,” as well as the McCarthy-fronted cover of NRBQ’s “I Want You Bad.” The set also included a version of Bob Dylan’s “Masters of War” and an audience-assisted encore of “Looking for Lewis and Clark.” (Final Wild Songs, a four-CD Long Ryders box set released in January on England’s Cherry Hill Records, contains studio or concert versions of all the aforementioned songs.)
The significance of the show was not lost on the suspenders-wearing Griffin, who gave a shoutout to a relative in attendance for driving a significant distance to be there. He also made a joking reference to the many years between Long Ryders shows in the Big Apple. And with the group’s Nov. 12 gig in New Haven, Conn., marking the end of its brief East Coast tour, when will the on-and-off Long Ryders play again — and where? It’s not a silly question — nor is it a simple one — but it is a question that deserves a serious answer at some point.
— Review and photos by Chris M. Junior