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Sublime With Rome pays tribute while moving forward

Toben Shelby

Sublime With Rome's journey has been an interesting one -- a group formed by the surviving members of popular reggae/punk band Sublime, faced with the challenge of fulfilling expectations of longtime Sublime fans while seeking out new opportunities. Now with more new members than old, the group seeks to light a new fire with fans this summer, with a busy touring schedule that includes stops in Fairbanks and Anchorage.

Sublime may be best known for the 1996 hit song "What I Got," which garnered mainstream attention and still maintains a prominent spot in pop culture, a longtime radio playlist staple that's also appeared in hit video games like "Guitar Hero 5" and "Saints Row: The Third."

Unfortunately, the song that brought Sublime the most success also marked the end of an era. Lead singer Bradley Nowell died of a drug overdose before the song became a hit.

Surviving members Bud Gaugh (drums) and Eric Wilson (bass) started the Long Beach Dub Allstars in '97, and the group performed Sublime songs along with new material. But in 2009, the pair reunited under the Sublime moniker for Cypress Hill's Smokeout festival and added Rome Ramirez (vocals/guitar) to the mix.

"It seemed like the right thing to do because I always wanted to play the songs that we recorded with Brad that we never got to play because he died," Wilson told Blunt Magazine in April. "Before Rome, I'd just never met anybody that could fill Brad's shoes, so to speak, but he's up there in talent and he's a great musician."

"It was a crazy experience, having Bud and Eric play songs that I wrote," Ramirez said in an interview with Our Stage magazine in March. "I was just honored to be a part of the whole process."

Returning to the music scene under the Sublime name wasn't without controversy, though. Nowell's family and estate objected, and a court case led to the new moniker, Sublime With Rome. Under that name, the group continued with more live performances and last July released a new album, "Yours Truly."

Not long after the record's release, Gaugh announced he was leaving the band to spend more time with his family. He was replaced with Josh Freese, who also performs with The Vandals and A Perfect Circle. That leaves Wilson as the only remaining member from the original Sublime days.

With a firm lineup back in place, Sublime With Rome is booked solid through the summer, offering a chance for fans who never got to hear Sublime's music played live the first time around.

"We wanted to make music that would have people dancing and then have them thrashing around -- our kind of party music," Wilson told the Australian website Tone Deaf earlier this year. "Our intentions are still the same."

By Toben Shelby
Daily News correspondent