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

    "One good minute could last me the whole year..." - Superchunk
  • Almanac Archives

  • Boston-Area Action

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


    Thursday, October 18th
    BOSTON EMISSIONS TEN!
    Anngelle Wood celebrates 10 years
    as host with a live broadcast & bands:
    Exit 18, Parlour Bells, & Stars Like Ours
    7:30pm @ ONCE Somerville


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


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


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


    Friday & Saturday
    October 19th & 20th
    The Town & the City Festival
    dozens of artists over 2 days
    in Lowell, Massachusetts


    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 Belle Game
    @ the Paradise


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


    Monday, October 22nd
    Guided By Voices
    Park Doing
    @ the Sinclair


    Tuesday, October 23rd
    The Church
    @ the Sinclair


    Tuesday, October 23rd
    Garbage
    @ House of Blues


    Wednesday, October 24th
    Lily Allen
    @ the Paradise


    Thursday, October 25th
    Minus the Bear
    Caspian
    @ the Paradise


    Thursday, October 25th
    Pile
    The Spirit of the Beehive
    Lilith
    @ the Sinclair


    Friday, October 26th
    We Were Promised Jetpacks
    Hurry Up
    DJ Carbo
    @ Brighton Music Hall


    Friday, October 26th
    The Bevis Frond (two sets)
    @ the Rockwell


    Saturday, October 27th
    Mountain Man
    The Dead Tongues
    @ the Sinclair


    Sunday, October 28th
    Wavves
    Beach Fossils
    Kevin Krauter
    @ the Paradise


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


    Tuesday, October 30th
    Violent Femmes
    @ the Royale


    Tuesday, October 30th
    Minus the Bear
    Caspian
    @ the Paradise


    Thursday, November 1st
    Lemuria
    Bethlehem Steel
    @ Great Scott


    Thursday, November 1st
    Mom Jeans
    Just Friends
    Awakebutstillinbed
    Retirement Party
    Two shows @ Once Ballroom


    Thursday, November 1st
    Tune-Yards
    @ the Paradise


    Friday, November 2nd
    Hot Molasses (album release show!)
    Sugar Cones
    @ the Lilypad


    Friday, November 2nd
    Roky Erickson
    @ the ONCE Ballroom


    Saturday, November 3rd
    Ian Sweet
    Young Jesus
    Sean Henry
    @ Great Scott


    Monday, November 5th
    Maggie Rogers
    Mallrat
    @ the Royale


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


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


    Monday & Tuesday
    November 5th & 6th
    Lucinda Williams & Buick 6
    @ the Paradise


    Tuesday, November 6th
    Fucked Up
    Bad Waitress
    DJ Carbo
    @ Brighton Music Hall


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


    Thursday, November 8th
    Julien Baker
    Phoebe Bridgers
    Lucy Dacus
    (solo & together)
    @ the Orpheum


    Thursday, November 8th
    Cursive
    Meat Wave
    Campdogzz
    @ the Paradise


    Friday, November 9th
    Low
    In/via
    @ Brighton Music Hall


    Friday & Saturday
    November 9th & 10th
    Hassle Fest 10!
    Boston’s Underground
    Music & Art Festival
    all ages shows
    @ Brighton Music Hall (on 9/10),
    Lilypad, Studio 550, Green Street
    Studios, Hardcore Stadium, & more


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


    Monday, November 12th
    Saves the Day
    Kevin Devine
    An Horse
    @ the Paradise


    Tuesday, November 13th
    Pale Waves
    @ the Sinclair


    Wednesday, November 14th
    Richard Thompson (trio)
    @ the Paradise


    Wednesday, November 14th
    The Alarm
    The Gobshites
    @ Brighton Music Hall


    Wednesday, November 14th
    Wild Nothing
    @ the Royale


    Thursday, November 15th
    Jason Narducy (Split Single,
    Superchunk, Bob Mould’s band)
    @ an Allston living room


    Thursday, November 15th
    Weakened Friends
    Nervous Daters
    Save Ends
    @ Great Scott


    Friday, November 16th
    Kal Marks
    Maneka
    Nice Guys
    Rong
    @ Great Scott


    Friday, November 16th
    Robyn Hitchcock
    @ City Winery


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


    Friday & Saturday
    November 16th & 17th
    Letters to Cleo
    American Hi-Fi
    @ the Paradise


    Sunday, November 18th
    (Sandy) Alex G
    Half Waif
    @ the Paradise


    Tuesday, November 20th
    Echo & the Bunnymen
    Enation
    @ the Orpheum


    Saturday, November 24th
    Death From Above
    Le Butcherettes
    @ Brighton Music Hall


    Saturday, November 24th
    Thom Yorke
    Oliver Cooke
    @ the Wang Theatre


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


    Monday, November 26th
    Stove
    Pet Fox
    @ O’Brien’s


    Monday, November 26th
    Preoccupations
    Protomartyr
    Rattle
    DJ Carbo
    @ Brighton Music Hall


    Tuesday, November 27th
    Speedy Ortiz
    @ the Sinclair


    Thursday, November 29th
    Kississippi
    gobbinjr
    Ruler
    @ Great Scott


    Thursday, November 29th
    Peter, Bjorn, & John
    Georgi Kay
    @ Brighton Music Hall


    Friday, November 30th
    Cloud Nothings
    The Courtneys
    @ the Sinclair


    Saturday, December 1st
    Snail Mail (two shows!)
    @ the Sinclair


    Sunday, December 2nd
    The Helio Sequence
    Wild Pink
    @ Great Scott


    Monday, December 3rd
    Cults
    @ Great Scott


    Wednesday, December 5th
    Lindsey Buckingham
    @ the Wilbur Theatre


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


    Friday, December 7th
    Soccer Mommy
    Ratboys
    @ Brighton Music Hall


    Saturday, December 8th
    Marissa Nadler
    @ Great Scott


    Saturday, December 8th
    Phosphorescent
    Liz Cooper & the Stampede
    @ the Royale


    Sunday, December 9th
    Old 97s Holiday Extravaganza
    Caseymagic
    Rhett Miller
    @ the Sinclair


    Sunday, December 9th
    Justus Proffit & Jay Som
    Kal Marks
    @ Great Scott


    Monday, December 10th
    Priests
    @ Great Scott


    Wednesday, December 12th
    Gang of Youths
    @ Brighton Music Hall


    Thursday, December 13th
    J Mascis
    Luluc
    @ the Sinclair


    Saturday, December 15th
    Night Birds
    Dark Thoughts
    Conmen
    @ Great Scott


    Monday, December 17th
    Hiss Golden Messenger
    @ The Sinclair


    Tuesday, December 18th
    Beach Bunny
    Field Medic
    @ Great Scott


    Friday, December 28th
    Bad Rabbits
    STL GLD
    Haasan Barclay
    @ The Sinclair


    Saturday, December 29th
    Hop Along
    @ Paradise Rock Club


    Monday, December 31st
    The Felice Brothers
    @ Brighton Music Hall


    Monday, January 14th
    The Lemon Twigs
    @ the Paradise


    Thursday, January 17th
    Camper Van Beethoven
    @ the Middle East Downstairs


    Thursday, January 24th
    Neko Case
    @ the Royale


    Friday, January 25th
    Rubblebucket
    Diet Cig
    @ the Paradise


    Wednesday, February 13th
    Joe Jackson
    @ the Shubert Theatre


    Friday, February 8th
    Sharon Van Etten
    Nilufer Yanya
    @ the Royale


    Wednesday, February 13th
    Metric & Zoe
    July Talk
    @ House of Blues


    Thursday, February 14th
    Car Seat Headrest
    @ the Royale


    Saturday, February 23rd
    Julia Holter
    @ Brighton Music Hall


    Friday, March 8th
    Tokyo Police Club
    @ the Sinclair


    Monday, March 11th
    Teenage Fanclub
    @ the Paradise