NEW YORK -- It was almost 15 years to the day since Sublime's self-titled album was released and sent on its way to eventual quintuple platinum. On Wednesday night, the two surviving original band members, drummer Bud Gaugh and bassist Eric Wilson, took the stage alongside their new-generation lead singer, Rome Ramirez, and performed in an intimate setting at the MLB Fan Cave.
They are touring now as "Sublime with Rome" and they played five acoustic tracks off their brand-new and chart-climbing album, "Yours Truly" -- plus "Wrong Way" from the 1996 album. As their sound wafted into the open doors onto Broadway, it seemed very much like baseball itself. Tradition is treasured, but the game goes on and every day is a new performance with the potential to reach new fans.
"Reaction has been phenomenal," said Gaugh, who drummed on the wooden box he sat on. "It's been out about two weeks now; we're No. 9 on the [Billboard 200] charts, which is actually the highest that Sublime has ever charted before. Not that that means anything. We're just happy with the work that we've done on our own level. We're just really happy that the other people are digging it as much as we are."
Sublime's original lead singer, Bradley Nowell, was found dead in a San Francisco hotel a couple weeks before that 1996 album release. A generation later, a new figure emerges ironically from the Bay Area, complete with an "SF" Giants tattoo on the right wrist as it powers across a guitar.
"I actually got this tattoo here in New York. I'm not lying, like right around the corner last year," Ramirez said. "Truth be told, I know absolutely nothing about sports. San Francisco Giants? I'm from San Francisco. I was born there. So to me, it's a landmark. When I'm missing home, I just look down at the arm and I'm like, 'OK.'"
Ramirez -- born in 1988, the year Sublime was formed -- was told that 2010 actually was an auspicious year to get a Giants tattoo. You know, the World Series championship thing. The festive frontman, sitting next to his bandmates on a couch downstairs before the concert, replied in his bubbly, effervescent style: "Heck yeah! I love basketball, man."
Sublime with Rome played these songs off the new album: "Take It or Leave It," "Lovers Rock," "You Better Listen," "PCH" and "Murdera." Then as they finished up, Ramirez encouraged the crowd to "sing along" and was obliged for a finish of "Wrong Way." Both the 1996 major-label album and the 2011 release were produced by Paul Leary, another common thread. There was a little old to go with the new.
"You know what's cool, when I was living in Los Angeles, I kind of got into Sublime," said MLB Dream Job winner Mike O'Hara, the former L.A. Irish punk-rock band lead singer who introduced the band. "They do have such a cool sound. Every time I hear them, I think Long Beach, Calif., right away. They're really cool guys. To lose Bradley and still to be able to pick up where you left off, with Rome, and sound that great, it's a really cool thing. So many times you have a band where they lose a lead singer or the lead singer moves on or whatever, and you just don't get that same sound. But they sounded great. It was awesome having them here."
There is plenty of buzz out there among fans of the original Sublime. Some of it is all positive as the band moves on with a new touch. Some of it is the devout fan base wishing the group would have chosen a different band name today. Nowell's estate won a court case restricting the band from continuing to perform as "Sublime," citing that Nowell owned and even trademarked the original band name. So the concession is made, but given the first two weeks since the new album release, it's a new day off to similar success.
"Talk is good," Ramirez said.
"As long as they're saying something," Gaugh added.
Wilson can feel it again. The music resonated in the '90s in a time of Cali punk rock. On Saturday, he and the band will be performing on tour in Atlanta on the 15th anniversary of the big album release.
"I was skateboarding through the park with my kid the other day," he said, "and there was a baseball game going on, and I heard some music. It was the album, 'Yours Truly.' That was awesome."
Rome is in a unique position, seemingly unfazed by time, completely his own person. He looked more than comfortable at the Fan Cave, as if it were his place. He and the band signed the autograph wall along with the names of about 50 Major Leaguers, Hall of Famers and various celebs.
How does he approach filling this role?
"For this band, really man, the whole thing is just based around having a good time," Ramirez said. "I know it sounds simple, but that's the whole joy of it all. They wanted to get the band back together, because they wanted to play the music again. When you play this music, you have a great time doing it. We use that mentality for everything that we do -- for making this record, for going on tour, for doing interviews, for everything. As long as it's fun and as long as it's genuinely positive, we want to be a part of that."
Here's what Gaugh said of Ramirez: "It's a lot of fun. He's like a breath of fresh air [as Rome playfully blows air at him] to the music. He's just a great all-around dude. If there's anybody I'd like to have on my team, it's definitely Rome, because he's a lot of fun to be around. He's smart. Just an all-around good guy."
Wilson added: "He also carries a baseball bat in the back of his truck."
Which is not to say the new lead singer is really into baseball. But at this rate, he is going to pick it up.
"I think [the Fan Cave] is awesome," Ramirez said, looking around the basement. "I think it's kind of modeled after the Playboy mansion in a weird way. I dig it. I'd like to make this my living room, especially those Ozzy Osbourne chairs. It's pretty rad."
"I need one," Gaugh added.