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SCENE & HEARD

These Angels are punks again

''We're ready to regroup for this show, look back at what we did, and be proud,'' says singer Ron Ragona of his reunited punk band, the Lost City Angels. ''We're ready to regroup for this show, look back at what we did, and be proud,'' says singer Ron Ragona of his reunited punk band, the Lost City Angels. (DAGAN BARRETT)
By Jonathan Perry
Globe Correspondent / February 13, 2009
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Neil Young once said it was better to burn out than fade away, and when it comes to good punk bands flaming out in their prime, that adage certainly seems to hold true. Case in point: The Lost City Angels, whose members will share a stage for the first time in three years tomorrow night at the Middle East.

For a few ferocious years during the early-to-mid 2000s, the band was just about the hottest, hardest-hitting punk combo in Boston - a blitzkrieg of shrapnel-shredding guitars and pulverizing beats framing songs about tough lives and tougher luck.

The quintet opened shows for the likes of the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Social Distortion, and Pennywise. They attracted the attention of a major label, signing with the Universal subsidiary Stay Gold Records, and released a blistering album of anthems, "Broken World," that garnered great reviews and caught on with punk, metal, and hard rock fans alike. They won a 2005 Boston Music Award, headlined hundreds of shows, and toured constantly, including overseas jaunts to Europe.

Then they imploded.

"It was a constant struggle, to say the least," Lost City Angels singer Ron Ragona, 35, says about some of the group's setbacks, which included the sudden death of their guitar tech while the band was on tour in Florida and the fatal heart attack of a friend attending an Angels show in Cambridge. Then there was the time the brakes blew out on the band's van on the New Jersey Turnpike. "I never thought we were jinxed," Ragona says. "I just thought it was par for the course of being a rock 'n' roll band. But maybe not to the extremes we went through."

The ups and downs, and the nonstop grind of touring, took their toll on Ragona, who says he was also engulfed in personal troubles that left him feeling alienated from the rest of the band. In 2006, he quit the group, along with guitarist Nick Bacon. "They didn't want to stop playing music," Ragona says, "and it was hard for me to leave after everything we had built up, and had been through, and worked for."

The Angels soldiered on for a short time with a replacement singer but soon disbanded. Since then, Ragona, bassist Duggan D, and guitarist Drew Suxx have all launched new bands. Drummer Adam Shaw started a music management company. And Bacon, now a session musician in New York, was cast as a musician in the Hugh Grant-Drew Barrymore movie "Music and Lyrics."

Things have clearly calmed down for the former bandmates, and the distance from those raucous days has given Ragona a new appreciation for them. "We were a gang in every sense of the word," Ragona says. "We'd play hard and party hard and work hard. But we were pushing ourselves so hard that we started losing focus. If we took a little break and stopped for a second, we might have gone on."

For now at least, the Angels are looking at the Middle East reunion as a one-off gig - a way of rekindling once-fraught friendships and playing together again for the sheer fun of it. In fact, a week before the show, Ragona says the band had yet to rehearse.

Will any old wounds be reopened? "We'll see what happens," he says with a laugh. "Nah, we're all friends now. I think we've all grown up a little bit. We're ready to regroup for this show, look back at what we did, and be proud. It's like a cowboy movie, where they say, 'Let's saddle up one last time and ride off into the sunset.' "

EXPANDING ARTS Last fall, Watertown's Arsenal Center for the Arts, long a destination for top-shelf theater and visual arts in Greater Boston, extended its reach to include jazz music programming by partnering with Berklee College of Music. Now, arsenalARTS is further broadening its scope to include chamber, world, and children's music concerts. Tonight at 8 p.m., the 15-piece Black Sea Salsa performs a heady mix of Armenian music and Afro-Cuban jazz. Tickets are $20. Tomorrow at 11 a.m., the Cupcake Philharmonic Orchestra performs the legendary "Tubby the Tuba" children's work; free. At 2 p.m. on Sunday, the Radius Ensemble, an adventurous chamber music group consisting of winds, strings, and piano, performs a range of famous-to-little-known classical works. Tickets are $26. Call 617- 923-8487 or go to www.arsenalarts.org.

MINING DIAMONDS, PAVING WHALES The Diamond Mines, a Boston garage-soul combo whose knack for catchy hooks matches its penchant for punchy horns, celebrates the release of a terrific new EP, "Pave the Whales for Oil," with residency shows the next two Thursday nights at the Plough & Stars starting at 10 p.m. Call 617-576-0032.

Know about something cool on the local music scene? E-mail Jonathan Perry at roughgems@aol.com.

LOST CITY ANGELS At the Middle East Downstairs tomorrow night at 8 with Movers & Shakers, and the Have Nots. Tickets are $12 at the box office, 617-931-2000, or www.ticketmaster.com.

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