Don't Start a Riot

Fourteen years after Bradley Nowell's tragic death, Sublime (With Rome) are back and headed for a town near you

Before the show, Gibson introduced herself to Ramirez. “I was so nervous I didn’t know what to say,” she says. “I was speechless, and he said he wasn’t trying to replace Brad and that the whole reason he was there was because of Brad, that he learned to play guitar because of Brad.” Gibson says she’s glad Ramirez is able to live out his dream of playing Nowell’s music. “I think Rome’s a good kid, and he’s really good at what he does,” she concludes. “It’s definitely bittersweet. It should be Brad, but it can’t be. Should it be Rome? Sure.”

It’s clear that Ramirez’s unbridled enthusiasm for Sublime’s music—and that it’s shared by so many other young fans—has brought a newfound sense of purpose and professionalism to the two surviving members of the band. Both Wilson and Gaugh say they’re humbled by the expense that has been brought to bear to ensure their upcoming tour is a success. “We’ve never had a tour that wasn’t totally fucked, so we’re not used to this,” Wilson says. “A lot of the times we played, we sounded really shitty because of, uh . . . circumstances.”

“People used to come to our shows and stand outside while we played our first song,” Gaugh says, “just to see if we sounded like shit before they went in.”

John Gilhooley
Bud Gaugh, Rome Ramirez and Eric Wilson prepare for an all-polka album
John Gilhooley
Bud Gaugh, Rome Ramirez and Eric Wilson prepare for an all-polka album

“Or to see if we even showed up,” Wilson says, laughing. “Sometimes a show would be, we’d just take mushrooms and laugh at our equipment, and that was that.”

Ramirez is the first to acknowledge the dilemma he faces in trying to fill Nowell’s shoes. “I’ve had people ask me how it feels to be compared to Brad for the rest of my life or tell me that I’ll never live up to Brad,” he says. “For me, personally, you’re just comparing me to my biggest influence because what got me into playing music was Bradley. You can compare me to him all day long, and I’ll just take it as a compliment. I am the biggest Sublime fan in the world.”

nschou@ocweekly.com

This article appeared in print as "Don’t Start a Riot: Fourteen years after Bradley Nowell’s tragic death, Sublime (With Rome) are back and headed for a town near you."

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