A fat, foot-long joint is being passed through the crowd as Sublime with Rome performs at One Love Cali Reggae Fest. Clouds of smoke hang low above concert-goers heads, likely providing a second-hand high to anyone who isn’t already stoned.
Backstage before their set, the band tells me they go by “the rule of thirds” when putting together their setlist. “A third of the hits, a third of the classics, a third new stuff,” explains Rome Ramirez, frontman and guitarist of the band. “Everyone loves the hits. Sublime’s got like 10 fuckin’ hits that everybody knows, and then 10 of the dope favorites that weren’t hits but still super dope, then we squeeze our stuff in there too, then some freestyle dubs, and call it a show.”
Following the rule of thirds, the band’s set consisted of old Sublime fan favorites like “What I Got,” and “Santeria,” and slightly deeper cut classics like “Scarlet Begonias” and “Garden Grove” along with some of Sublime with Rome’s originals, such as 2018 single “Wicked Heart” and “Blackout” from 2019 album Blessings.
It should be noted that mononymous Rome isn’t trying to be the late Bradley Nowell – Sublime’s original frontman who died in 1996 from a heroin overdose – or, even trying to replace him. Rather, Sublime with Rome is more of a collaborative project meshing old Sublime covers with original reggae rock and ska punk material. The current members are Rome Ramirez (lead vocals and guitar), Eric Wilson (bass), and Carlos Verdugo (drums).
So far, the band has released three albums of original music, beginning with their debut album Yours Truly in 2011. While these tunes may not currently be as well known as OG Sublime, they sure as hell are bops, and can hold their own.
Eric Wilson, bassist for Sublime with Rome, and the only band member who was an original member of Sublime, likes the fact that he gets to play songs from both his old band and new band. “I enjoy going back and forth. I love our old songs. I love our new songs. We got lots to choose from,” he says.
Not to mention, Wilson actually hand selected Ramirez to join the band after knowing each other for just a little while and jamming together a few times, when he was just an 18 year old Sublime fanboy – albeit an uber talented one.
At one point during their set, Ramirez tells the crowd that when he was younger and homeless with his brother, Wilson helped him out however he could, gifted him with an electric guitar, and told him to not give up on music. It’s a good thing he didn’t give up, and now, Sublime with Rome has already celebrated their 10 year anniversary, and the band is making its own mark on the scene, as evidenced by the huge crowd that’s watching their set, singing along to not only the Sublime covers, but also their originals.
There’s No Stoner Culture Without Sublime
Sublime is basically synonymous with stoner culture, which was very much alive and well at One Love Fest, and Ramirez admits that Sublime is what got him into weed in the first place. “Sublime was one of the very first bands that I ever heard that got me into weed, or even just put it on the radar for me,” he says. “I mean, fuck, there’s bong tokes in the beginning of ‘Smoke Two Joints.’ I didn’t know what the fuck that was! I had to ask!” The rest, obviously, is history.
Cannabis plays a huge part in the ethos of the band, and of course, is a recurring theme throughout some of their songs. As you can imagine, weed also plays a big part in the songwriting process.
“I mean, it’s funny because weed is like….” Ramirez trails off.
“Everything?” Wilson finishes.
“It’s almost like brushing your teeth or drinking water at this point. Weed is such a huge part of our lives,” says Ramirez. “We’re always fuckin’ stoned, you know? It would be weird to write music not high. At least for me.”
As for the current favorite strains that the band members have been smoking: Wilson’s is Trainwreck, Ramirez’s is LA confidential, and Verdugo’s is Do-si-do.
Ramirez is smiling and glowing the entire set, probably more so due to being high on life and gratitude than high on weed. Later in the show, he thanks the fans for giving him the best 10 years of his life.
Sublime with Rome fans can expect new THC-infused music from the band in 2020, including some exciting collaborations, music videos, and a big summer tour.
“It’s an honor for me to even be a footnote in the legacy of the band,” Rome says. “Whether it’s with weed, or ska music, or whatever, I’m fuckin’ honored.”