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.

    Comments

    Leave a Reply





  • 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."
    - The Kids In The Hall
  • Almanac Archives

  • Boston-Area Action

    Monday, July 16th
    Two Inch Astronaut
    Pet Fox
    Hex Pet
    Alexander
    @ O’Brien’s


    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
    Hamilton Leithauser
    @ Blue Hills Bank Pavilion


    Wednesday, July 18th
    Faust
    @ Brighton Music Hall


    Thursday, July 19th
    Poster Children
    Mill Pond Falls
    @ O’Brien’s


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


    Friday, July 20th
    Jerry’s Kids (final show)
    Moving Targets
    Straw Dogs
    Mung
    plus a performance by
    members of Bullet Lavolta
    @ the Middle East Downstairs


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


    Friday, July 20th
    Hallelujah The Hills
    Adam Remnant
    Planet of Adventure
    @ the Midway in JP


    Saturday, July 21st
    The Magic Numbers
    @ Great Scott


    Saturday, July 21st
    Camp Cope
    Petal
    @ the Sinclair


    Saturday & Sunday
    July 21st & 22nd
    Foo Fighters
    The Struts & Monsieurs (21st)
    Dinosaur Jr. & Speedy Ortiz (22nd)
    @ Fenway Park


    Sunday, July 22nd
    Girls Rock Campaign Boston
    2018 Showcase!
    @ Brighton Music Hall


    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
    Heavy Blanket
    Dylan Carson
    @ 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
    Metric
    @ 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


    Monday, August 6th
    Free Cake For Every Creature
    Horse Jumper of Love
    Puppy Problems
    Tuft
    @ Great Scott


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


    Friday, August 10th
    Billy Joel
    @ Fenway Park


    Saturday, August 11th
    Mourn
    Chastity
    @ Great Scott


    Saturday, August 11th
    Wussy
    Sleepyhead
    @ Sonia


    Saturday, August 11th
    Joan of Arc
    @ the Middle East


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


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


    Sunday, August 12th
    Kal Marks
    Clearance
    Bike Thiefs
    Earthquake Party
    @ O’Brien’s


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


    Monday & Tuesday
    August 13th & 14th
    The Gaslight Anthem
    Matt Mays
    Worriers
    @ House of Blues


    Wednesday, August 15th
    Agent Orange
    Silver Screams
    @ Brighton Music Hall


    Wednesday, August 15th
    Gold Muse
    28 Degrees Taurus
    Kelly Spyglass
    @ O’Brien’s


    Wednesday, August 15th
    Sparta
    @ the Sinclair


    Thursday, August 16th
    Ra Ra Riot
    @ the Sinclair


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


    Saturday, August 18th
    Alkaline Trio
    Together Pangea
    @ the House of Blues


    Saturday, August 18th
    Calpurnia
    @ the Paradise


    Thursday, August 23rd
    Belly
    @ the Royale


    Thursday, August 23rd
    Miguel
    dvsn
    Nonchalant Savant
    @ the Blue Hills Pavilion


    Friday, August 24th
    Hellrazor
    Halfsour
    Freak Heat Waves
    Kristian North
    @ O’Brien’s


    Friday, August 24th
    Beach House
    Papercuts
    @ House of Blues


    Saturday, August 25th
    Luna
    Old Yolk
    @ the Sinclair


    Sunday, August 26th
    Amen Dunes
    @ the Sinclair


    Monday, August 27th
    LVL UP (final tour)
    @ Great Scott


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


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


    Friday, September 7th
    The Jesus Lizard
    All Souls
    @ the Royale


    Friday, September 7th
    First Aid Kit
    Julia Jacklin
    @ Blue Hills Bank Pavilion


    Saturday, September 8th
    Ex Hex
    EZTV
    E
    @ Great Scott


    Sunday, September 9th
    Saint Etienne
    DJ Carbo
    @ Brighton Music Hall


    Monday, September 10th
    Let’s Eat Grandma
    @ Great Scott


    Tuesday, September 11th
    Killing Joke
    <PIG>
    @ the Paradise


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


    Tuesday, September 11th
    Palm
    @ Brighton Music Hall


    Tuesday, September 11th
    Interpol
    with Sunflower Bean
    @ the Orpheum


    Thursday, September 13th
    Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever
    @ the Sinclair


    Thursday, September 13th
    Car Seat Headrest
    @ the Royale


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


    Friday, September 14th
    The The
    @ the Orpheum


    Friday, September 14th
    Remo Drive
    Field Medic
    Prince Daddy & the Hyena
    @ the Sinclair


    Friday, September 14th
    Sarah Shook & the Disarmers
    @ Great Scott


    Saturday, September 15th
    Ash
    @ Brighton Music Hall


    Wednesday, September 19th
    Mothers
    @ Great Scott


    Wednesday, September 19th
    The Growlers
    @ the Royale


    Wednesday, September 19th
    Arthur Buck
    (Joseph Arthur & Peter Buck)
    @ Brighton Music Hall


    Wednesday, September 19th
    Michael Nesmith &
    The First National Band
    @ the Somerville Theatre


    Thursday, September 20th
    Gary Numan
    Nightmare Air
    @ the Paradise


    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 21st
    Rooney
    Mating Ritual
    @ Brighton Music Hall


    Sunday, September 23rd
    Portugal. The Man
    Lucius
    @ the Blue Hills Pavilion


    Tuesday, September 25th
    Alvvays
    Hatchie
    @ the Paradise


    Wednesday, September 26th
    Michael Hurley
    Darren Hanlon
    @ the Rockwell


    Wednesday, September 26th
    Mt. Joy
    @ the Royale


    Friday, September 28th
    Bully
    @ the Sinclair


    Monday, October 1st
    Blizten Trapper
    @ Great Scott


    Monday, October 1st
    The Charlatans
    @ Brighton Music Hall


    Tuesday, October 2nd
    Brian Fallon (Gaslight Anthem)
    Craig Finn (the Hold Steady)
    @ the Royale


    Wednesday, October 3rd
    Simple Minds
    @ the Orpheum


    Wednesday, October 5th
    Great Lake Swimmers
    @ the Sinclair


    Friday, October 5th
    The Decemberists
    Marissa Nadler
    @ the Orpheum


    Saturday, October 6th
    Active Bird Community
    @ Great Scott


    Saturday, October 6th
    Social Distortion
    Will Hoge
    Pony Bradshaw
    @ the House of Blues


    Sunday, October 7th
    Nothing
    Swirlies
    Big Bite
    Smut
    @ the Sinclair


    Sunday, October 7th
    Ben Howard
    Wye Oak
    @ Blue Hills Bank Pavilion


    Monday, October 8th
    Liz Phair
    Speedy Ortiz
    @ the Royale


    Monday, October 8th
    Gruff Rhys
    @ Great Scott


    Tuesday, October 9th
    White Denim
    @ Brighton Music Hall


    Thursday, October 11th
    Swearin’
    Empath
    @ Great Scott


    Friday, October 12th
    Florence & the Machine
    @ the TD Garden


    Saturday, October 13th
    The Jayhawks
    @ the Somerville Theatre


    Sunday, October 14th
    The Vaccines
    @ the Sinclair


    Sunday, October 14th
    Gorillaz
    Little Dragon
    @ TD Garden


    Sunday & Monday
    October 14th & 15th
    Death Cab for Cutie
    Charly Bliss
    @ the Wang Theatre


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


    Thursday, October 18th
    Big Thief
    The Range of Light Wilderness
    michael
    @ the Paradise


    Thursday, October 18th
    The Proletariat
    Savageheads
    Silver Screams
    @ Sonia


    October 19th & 20th
    Nine Inch Nails
    The Jesus & Mary Chain
    @ the Wang Theatre


    Saturday, October 20th
    Mitski
    Jessica Lea Mayfield
    @ House of Blues


    Saturday & Sunday
    October 20th & 21st
    Chvrches
    Lo Moon
    @ the Orpheum


    Sunday, October 21st
    Johnny Marr
    @ the Paradise


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


    Tuesday, October 23rd
    The Church
    @ the Sinclair


    Tuesday, October 23rd
    Garbage
    @ House of Blues


    Wednesday, October 24th
    Lily Allen
    @ the Paradise


    Sunday, October 28th
    Monster Magnet
    Electric Citizen
    Dark Sky Choir
    @ the Sinclair


    Thursday, November 1st
    Tune-Yards
    @ the Paradise


    Friday, November 2nd
    Roky Erickson
    @ the ONCE Ballroom


    Monday, November 5th
    Shannon & the Clams
    @ the Sinclair


    Monday, November 5th
    Tenacious D
    @ the House of Blues


    Tuesday, November 6th
    The Joy Formidable
    Tancred
    @ the Sinclair


    Friday, November 9th
    Low
    @ Brighton Music Hall


    Saturday, November 10th
    Elvis Costello & The Imposters
    @ the Wang Theatre


    Tuesday, November 13th
    Pale Waves
    @ the Sinclair


    Wednesday, November 14th
    The Alarm
    @ Brighton Music Hall


    Wednesday, November 14th
    Wild Nothing
    @ the Royale


    Friday, November 16th
    Jim James (from MMJ – solo)
    Alynda Segarra
    (from Hurray for the Riff Raff)
    @ the Shubert Theatre


    Saturday, November 24th
    Kurt Vile & the Violators
    Jessica Pratt
    @ the House of Blues


    Wednesday, December 5th
    Reverend Horton Heat
    & Junior Brown with
    The Blasters
    Big Sandy
    @ the Royale