Bradley's Almanac

Farewell, Billy Ruane

Posted on October 29, 2010 at 2:50 am | No Comments

I can’t stop thinking about Billy – I’ve been in the denial phase pretty much from moment I learned that he’d left us on Tuesday night. Heart stuck in my throat, the world looking duller than the day before. How does a lifeforce that strong, that locally pervasive, suddenly just stop? The possibility of him not being around – of him not randomly appearing at all the good shows around town – never even crossed my mind. It’s not that I thought he’d outlive us all – I just never even thought of him in terms of not being alive.


Billy arrives, bearing baklava, at the Middle East Up on July 12th, 2008,
for a show with Chris Brokaw, the Kadane Bros., & Bottomless Pit

Like a lot of people who call Boston their home, I knew of Billy before I really got to know him. I heard his name well before I moved to Boston a dozen years ago from Vermont, through mutual friends and touring bands and their ever-accumulating stories. I can’t remember how I first became aware of him, but I’m sure it was from a Boston-based band who’d driven up to Burlington for a show, in drunken late-night recollections that centered around this character. Even after I came to town and started going to local clubs, it took awhile for me to connect that the trenchcoat-wearing, crazy-dancing, slick-haired loudmouth (you know, the guy who knew everyone) was the one and only. It was like a bolt of lightning when a friend finally filled me in – “That’s Billy Ruane?!”

It was only in the past couple years that Billy and I really got to know each other, but he was one of those rare people that made you feel close to him immediately – I felt more connected with him after a few conversations than others I’ve known forever. Once he met you, you were in – he’d never forget your name and would always been glad to see you. I felt no small amount of pride when I ‘graduated’ to the kissing level – he’d greet friends with two hands to the side of the head and a solid smooch. He’d usually go for the lips, but I was always able to angle in favor of the cheek. I won’t sugarcoat it – sometimes those kisses were rough ones, and depending on my mood, not entirely welcome. But they were inevitable. And now I’m grateful for every single sloppy one of ’em.

There have been dozens, hundreds of Billy stories floating around over these past three days, online and among friends in bars – often slightly varied versions of the same story experienced by many different people. They speak to his generosity, his spirit, his unending love of music. All of those qualities, in him, were pretty much unmatched. It’s not that they broke the mold when they made Billy – it’s that he jumped out and high-kicked it into a million pieces himself.

When I think of Billy, and I always will, here’s what I’ll remember…

  • How it felt when he walked into a show – he captured attention, and in so many occasions, jumped on stage to direct more of that attention at the band. If you weren’t clapping loud enough for Billy, if you weren’t demanding that a band play more songs, he’d get up there and take care of that himself. Sometimes the effort was unwanted – he could derail some nights as easily as he could energize them – but it was always from his heart. Case in point – The Jesus Lizard at the Paradise…

  • I can’t remember where I first heard this, maybe I made it up, but if he showed up at gig, I called it “Getting Ruaned”. It meant your show was officially the place to be – that it was christened the coolest thing to be doing at the time. “Hey, look! Your show totally just got Ruaned.” It also meant there was the possibility of Billy-fueled calamity, of course.
  • Getting Ruaned meant you might also get fed – Billy would often waltz into clubs with free food for all, and hand it out himself. He wouldn’t just offer it to you, he’d convince you that you wanted it. “Come oooooonnnn… take some!”. The picture that tops this post is the perfect example – swirling into the Middle East Upstairs during a Kadane Bros. / Bottomless Pit / Chris Brokaw show with a huge tray of baklava, which he’d just ‘stolen’ from the restaurant’s kitchen. A cook was chasing him, and Billy acted offended – “You know I’m good for it!”. And he was.
  • I loved that he often carried music around with him, earmarked for specific people he intended to give it to. He once had a Chris Brokaw LP he bought me, and since we crossed paths at least once a week, he kept it handy. Somehow we kept missing each other, and when we finally met up weeks later (after the obligatory kiss), he immediately apologized – “I’m so, so sorry… I gave your Brokaw album to someone else who I knew would love it.” It was summer, and he feared it would warp. I assured him I understood, because I totally did.

  • I remember when the Willard Grant Conspiracy played the Lily Pad a couple years back, Billy stormed in mid-set, either bought or brought in an armful of merch, and had to leave before the band was done their last song. Most people would quietly exit, but not Billy – he gave Robert Fisher a mid-song goodbye kiss, started to leave, then decided guest Chris Brokaw needed one, too. So he heads back up, plants one on him, and proceeds to spill the merch on the stage. Aliza captured much of this on video, below. Watching it is so painfully bittersweet – Billy looks right her camera – and you can hear him saying “Too much merch!”. As if he ever thought there was any such thing…
  • Billy hated email. Loathed it. But for someone who did, he sure wrote epic ones. Digital pages and pages of non-capitalized text filled with links to bands he loved that you needed to set aside serious time to decode. I think that’s why he couldn’t stand it – too much effort to say everything he needed to get out. He was a conversation kinda guy, that’s where he shined – and he missed the days when he’d spend all day on the phone booking shows at the Middle East. The internet was way too impersonal for Billy, and he just didn’t have the patience for it. He needed your answer now. Needed to know what you thought, how you felt, right then. A prime example was him tracking down Ryan from Hallelujah the Hills by phone at a club in Knoxville, TN because it couldn’t wait. I wish I’d taken more of Billy’s calls.
  • How generous was Billy? Sure, there was all the food he handed out, all the merch he bought from bands he loved (he’d buy multiples then give them away), all the donations he made to the Boston-area organizations (WMBR, Girls Rock Camp Boston, many, many more). He’d put together benefits for friends in need and spend more to organize them than he could possibly make back. The first time I discovered this – when he told he’d paid hundreds of dollars to fly a band here to play a benefit that raised, well, several hundred dollars less than that – my obvious first thought was, well, he could have just given money straight to his friend. And of course he knew that, but doing so wouldn’t have been Billy-esque. He needed to throw a party, finances be damned, to show his friend how many people cared.
  • Which brings me to the last thing I’ll share, and the foremost thing that will come to mind whenever I think of Billy: When Amie was diagnosed last year, and I hastily put together that spirit-raising benefit at the Middle East, Billy couldn’t be there. When he realized this, he contacted me and sounded crushed, more regretful than people we’ve known forever – and immediately offered to put together another entirely separate benefit later on. We politely declined, despite his persistence – he was a hard man to say no to – and when I next saw him he tried to put far too much money into my hand for Amie and the breast cancer organization we had chosen. He also gave us the phone number for a driver he used, telling Amie to call him up whenever she had chemo or didn’t feel well enough to drive, on him. For months, when I’d see him, the first thing he’d ask was “How is Amie?”.
  • Everyone knows how much Billy loved Boston and its music scene, but more importantly, more tellingly, Billy cared about the people who were part of it. And this place will never be the same in his absence.

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  • About the ‘Nac

    This is Bradley's Almanac. I'm your host, Brad. Barely holding it together since February 2000.

    "I love this song. It's so true. I wish this song was a whole day long. Man, I would have the best day that day."
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  • Almanac Archives

  • Boston-Area Action

    Monday, April 23rd
    Surfer Blood
    Winter
    @ Great Scott


    Tuesday, April 24th
    Halfsour
    Eureka California
    Pleaser
    Kiss Concert
    @ Great Scott


    Tuesday, April 24th
    Minus the Bear
    The Coathangers
    @ the Royale


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    Matt & Kim
    Tokyo Police Club
    Future Feats
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    (Guns n’ Roses tribute)
    @ the Sinclair


    Friday, April 27th
    They Might Be Giants
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    Hovvdy
    Half Wait
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    Saturday, April 28th
    Peter Hook & the Light
    performing both of the
    “Substance” collections by
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    @ the Paradise


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    Turnover
    Camp Cope
    Summer Salt
    Funeral Advantage (on Sunday)
    @ the Sinclair


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    Sarah Shook & The Disarmers
    @ Atwood’s


    Monday, April 30th
    Unknown Mortal Orchestra
    Makeness
    @ the Royale


    Tuesday, May 1st
    No Age
    Behavior
    @ Once Somerville


    Tuesday, May 1st
    Soccer Mommy
    Long Beard
    @ Great Scott


    Tuesday, May 1st
    Calexico
    @ the Sinclair


    Wednesday, May 2nd
    Frankie Cosmos
    Florist
    Lala Lala
    @ the Sinclair


    Wednesday, May 2nd
    Dr. Dog
    Son Little
    @ the House of Blues


    Thursday, May 3rd
    Haim
    Lizzo
    @ Agganis Arena


    Thursday, May 3rd
    Hop Along
    Saintseneca
    @ the Royale


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    Life Partners
    Black Helicopter
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    the modifierS
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    Friday, May 4th
    Lake Street Dive
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    Steve Gunn
    @ the Somerville Armory


    Friday, May 4th
    The Breeders
    Melkbelly
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    Friday, May 4th
    Panda Bear
    Geologist
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    Sunday, May 6th
    Loma
    (mems of Cross Record & Shearwater)
    Jessica Williamson
    @ Great Scott


    Sunday, May 6th
    Todd Rundgren’s Utopia
    @ the Orpheum


    Monday, May 7th
    Sloan
    DJ Carbo
    @ Brighton Music Hall


    Monday, May 7th
    Hinds
    @ the Sinclair


    Tuesday, May 8th
    Trampled By Turtles
    Hiss Golden Messenger
    @ House of Blues


    Wednesday, May 9th
    Fully Celebrated Orchestra
    with very special guests
    The Hilken Mancini/Thalia Zedek Duo
    @ the Midway in JP


    Thursday, May 10th
    This Will Destroy You
    Alex Roldan
    @ Brighton Music Hall


    Friday, May 11th
    Power Trip
    Sheer Mag
    Fury
    Red Death
    @ the Paradise


    Sunday, May 13th
    Wye Oak
    Palm
    @ the Sinclair


    Sunday, May 13th
    Melvins
    @ the Paradise


    Monday, May 14th
    Liam Gallagher &
    Richard Ashcroft
    @ Blue Hills Bank Pavilion


    Tuesday, May 15th
    Alice Glass
    Pictureplane
    @ the Sinclair


    Tuesday, May 15th
    The Sea & Cake
    @ Brighton Music Hall


    Tuesday, May 15th
    Alice Glass
    Pictureplane
    @ the Sinclair


    Wednesday, May 16th
    Editors
    House of Harm
    @ the Paradise


    Thursday, May 17th|
    Quiet Slang (solo Beach Slang)
    @ Great Scott


    Friday, May 18th
    Jonathan Davis
    @ House of Blues


    Friday, May 18th
    The Fratellis
    @ the Paradise


    Saturday, May 19th
    Damien Jurado
    Naomi Wachira
    @ Brighton Music Hall


    Sunday, May 20th
    King Tuff
    Cut Worms
    @ Brighton Music Hall


    Tuesday, May 22nd
    Helmet
    Prong
    @ Brighton Music Hall


    Tuesday, May 22nd
    Suuns
    Facs
    @ Great Scott


    Tuesday, May 22nd
    Jukebox the Ghost
    The Greeting Committee
    @ the Royale


    Wednesday, May 23rd
    Parquet Courts
    Goat Girl
    @ the Royale


    Monday, May 28th
    Sylvan Esso
    Local Natives
    @ Blue Hills Bank Pavilion


    Tuesday, May 29th
    Post Animal
    @ Great Scott


    Tuesday, May 29th
    Julien Baker
    “Beyond the Band”
    presented by Berklee/Do617
    @ the Sinclair


    Tuesday, May 29th
    Primus
    Mastodon
    All Them Witches
    @ Blue Hills Bank Pavilion


    Wednesday, May 30th
    Self Defense Family
    Sanhet
    Weeping Icon
    @ Great Scott


    Thursday, May 31st
    Bat Fangs
    Shepherdess
    @ Great Scott


    Saturday, March 31st
    Corin Ashley’s
    50th Birthday Bash!
    @ Atwood’s


    Friday, June 1st
    Ghosts of Sailors at Sea
    Black Helicopter
    Stemwinder
    Reindeer Castle
    @ O’Brien’s


    Friday & Saturday
    June 1st & 2nd
    Japanese Breakfast
    LVL UP
    Radiator Hospital
    @ the Sinclair


    Sunday & Monday
    June 3rd & 4th
    Ben Harper &
    Charlie Musselwhite
    @ the Sinclair


    Tuesday, June 5th
    Middle Kids
    @ Brighton Music Hall


    Wednesday, June 6th
    Liz Phair
    Soccer Mommy
    @ the Sinclair


    Wednesday, June 6th
    “Jeff Buckley: From Hallelujah
    to The Last Goodbye” Book Q+A
    with author Dave Lory
    @ Brighton Music Hall


    Friday, June 8th
    Hot Snakes
    Vundabar
    @ Brighton Music Hall


    Friday, June 8th
    Nathaniel Rateliff
    & the Night Sweats
    with Deer Tick
    @ Blue Hills Bank Pavilion


    Friday, June 8th
    Elephants
    Mint Green
    Hexpet
    @ Great Scott


    Friday, June 8th
    Gomez
    @ the Royale


    Friday, June 8th
    Eels
    @ House of Blues


    Saturday, June 9th
    Bonnie Prince Billy
    @ the Wilbur


    Saturday, June 9th
    Depeche Mode
    @ TD Garden


    Sunday, June 10th
    Old Gray
    “Farewell Tour”
    I Kill Giants
    Cerce
    @ the Sinclair


    Monday, June 11th
    Eternal Summers
    Funeral Advantage
    Strange Passage
    @ Great Scott


    Monday, June 11th
    Jimmy Eat World
    Alex Lahey
    @ House of Blues


    Tuesday, June 12th
    Lucinda Williams
    Steve Earle
    Dwight Yoakam
    King Leg
    @ Blue Hills Bank Pavilion


    Tuesday, June 12th
    Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks
    Lithics
    @ the Sinclair


    Wednesday, June 13th
    Cold Cave
    Black Marble
    Choir Boy
    @ the Paradise


    Wednesday, June 13th
    Metz
    @ Brighton Music Hall


    Thursday, June 14th
    King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard
    @ the Royale


    Friday, June 15th
    Pianos Become The Teeth, dd
    The World Is A Beautiful Place
    & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die
    @ the Sinclair


    Friday & Saturday
    June 15th & 16th
    Ted Leo & the Pharmacists
    playing “Hearts of Oak” (on Fri)
    & Lemuria
    @ Brighton Music Hall


    Sunday, June 17th
    Matthew Sweet
    @ Brighton Music Hall


    Monday, June 18th
    Chromeo
    Pomo
    @ House of Blues


    Monday, June 18th
    Spoon
    Grizzly Bear
    Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith
    @ Blue Hills Bank Pavilion


    Thursday, June 21st
    Tracyanne & Danny
    (of Camera Obscura/Crybaby)
    @ the Sinclair


    Saturday & Sunday
    June 23rd & June 24th
    Ray LaMontagne
    Neko Case
    @ Blue Hills Bank Pavilion


    Monday, June 25th
    Jeremy Enigk (full band)
    @ Great Scott


    Tuesday, June 26th
    Southern Culture on the Skids
    @ the Sinclair


    Tuesday, June 26th
    Frank Turner & the Sleeping Souls
    Speedy Ortiz
    The Homeless Gospel Choir
    @ the Royale


    Wednesday, June 27th
    Frank Turner & the Sleeping Souls
    Jeff Rosenstock
    Restorations
    @ the Royale


    Wednesday, June 27th
    Styx
    Joan Jett & the Blackhearts
    Tesla
    @ Blue Hills Bank Pavilion


    Friday, June 29th
    Frank Turner & the Sleeping Souls
    Tim Barry
    @ the Royale


    Saturday, June 30th
    Frank Turner & the Sleeping Souls
    Dave Hause & The Mermaids
    @ the Royale


    Sunday, July 1st
    Frank Turner & the Sleeping Souls
    The Hotelier
    War on Women
    @ the Royale


    Monday, July 2nd
    Frank Turner & the Sleeping Souls
    Kevin Devine & The Goddamn Band
    Trapper Schoepp
    @ the Royale


    Tuesday, July 3rd
    Phoenix
    @ House of Blues


    Friday, July 6th
    Steve Miller Band
    Peter Frampton
    @ Blue Hills Bank Pavilion


    Wednesday, July 11th
    The Get Up Kids
    Raquet Club
    Ageist
    @ the Paradise


    Friday, July 13th
    Immersion
    (featuring Colin from Wire)
    @ Great Scott


    Thursday, July 12th
    Snail Mail
    Bonny Doon
    @ the Sinclair


    Saturday, July 14th
    Freezepop
    Party Bois
    Photocomfort
    Symbion Project
    @ the Sinclair


    Sunday, July 15th
    Beck
    @ Blue Hills Bank Pavilion


    Tuesday, July 17th
    Erasure
    Reed & Caroline
    @ the House of Blues


    Tuesday, July 17th
    Coheed and Cambria
    Taking Back Sunday
    The Story So Far
    @ Blue Hills Bank Pavilion


    Tuesday, July 17th
    Weezer
    Pixies
    Sleigh Bells
    @ Xfinity Center


    Wednesday, July 18th
    Arcade Fire
    @ Blue Hills Bank Pavilion


    Thursday, July 19th
    Bent Knee
    Gatherers
    Animal Flag
    @ the Sinclair


    Friday, July 20th
    Jon Langford’s Four Lost Souls
    @ Atwood’s


    Saturday, July 21st
    The Magic Numbers
    @ Great Scott


    Saturday, July 21st
    Camp Cope
    Petal
    @ the Sinclair


    Saturday & Sunday
    July 21st & 22nd
    Foo Fighters
    @ Fenway Park


    Monday, July 23rd
    Greta Van Fleet
    @ the House of Blues


    Friday, July 27th
    Arctic Monkeys
    Mini Mansions
    @ TD Garden


    Friday, July 27th
    Boy George & Culture Club
    The B-52s
    Tom Bailey (Thompson Twins)
    @ the Wang Theatre


    Saturday, July 28th
    Sleep
    @ the Royale


    Saturday & Sunday
    July 28th & 29th
    Radiohead
    @ TD Garden


    Monday, July 30th
    The Cult
    Stone Temple Pilots
    Bush
    Big Jesus
    @ the Blue Hills Bank Pavilion


    Tuesday, July 31st
    Quicksand
    Glassjaw
    @ the Royale


    Tuesday, July 31st &
    Wednesday, August 1st
    David Byrne
    Benjamin Clementine
    @ Blue Hills Bank Pavilion


    Tuesday, July 31st
    The Smashing Pumpkins
    @ TD Garden


    Thursday, August 2nd
    Alex Cameron
    @ the Sinclair


    Friday, August 3rd
    The Essex Green
    @ Great Scott


    Friday, August 3rd
    Jeff Beck
    & Paul Rodgers
    + Ann Wilson (Heart)
    @ Blue Hills Bank Pavilion


    Friday, August 10th
    Pedro the Lion
    H.C. McEntire
    @ Brighton Music Hall


    Friday, August 10th
    Billy Joel
    @ Fenway Park


    Saturday, August 11th
    Wussy
    @ Sonia


    Saturday, August 11th
    Toad the Wet Sprocket
    @ the Wilbur


    Saturday, August 11th
    Journey & Def Leppard
    with Cheap Trick
    @ Fenway Park


    Monday, August 13th
    Cake
    Ben Folds
    Tall Heights
    @ the Blue Hills Bank Pavilion


    Wednesday, August 15th
    Sparta
    @ the Sinclair


    Friday, August 17th
    Counting Crows
    Live
    @ the Xfinity Center


    Friday, August 24th
    Beach House
    @ House of Blues


    Sunday, August 26th
    Amen Dunes
    @ the Sinclair


    Sunday & Tuesday
    September 2nd & 4th
    Pearl Jam
    @ Fenway Park


    Monday, September 3rd
    The Fixx (playing “Reach
    the Beach” and more)
    @ City Winery Boston


    Saturday, September 8th
    Ex Hex
    @ Great Scott


    Tuesday, September 11th
    Killing Joke
    @ the Paradise


    Tuesday, September 11th
    Van Morrison
    Shana Morrison
    @ the Blue Hills Bank Pavilion


    Thursday, September 13th
    MC5
    “MC50: Kick Out the Jams –
    the 50th Anniversary Tour.”
    @ the Paradise


    Friday, September 14th
    The The
    @ the Orpheum


    Saturday, September 15th
    Ash
    @ Brighton Music Hall


    Friday, September 21st
    Outlaw Music Festival with
    Willie Nelson, Sturgill Simpson,
    Nathaniel Rateliff & The
    Night Sweats, Margo Price,
    Lukas Nelson & Promise of the
    Real, Particle Kid
    @ the Xfinity Center


    Friday, September 28th
    Bully
    @ the Sinclair


    Wednesday, October 17th
    Goo Goo Dolls
    “Dizzy Up The Girl
    20th Anniversary Tour”
    @ House of Blues


    Sunday, October 21st
    Courtney Barnett
    Waxahatchee
    @ House of Blues