By Heather Harris
All Photos © 2013 Heather Harris
Global rock festival goers attend for the communality, their mutual collective experience of shared ambience and solidarities of musical tastes in seeing whatever A-list, world-class acts are touring that summer. American festival attendees go for specific favorite acts. All festival audiences go for the ears and eyes. I go for the heart.
The heart specifically wanted in live rock music remains innovation, abandon with control, uniqueness, wildness, visual interest, surprise, visceral sensuousness… relentlessness… greatness… and a damn fine canon of a repertoire.
Thus ‘off to photograph its premiere exponents who invented speedmetal, punk, hardcore from the late 1960s on via their original sui generis inventiveness, Iggy and The Stooges, blasting the Ink ‘n’ Iron Festival right smack dab in front of the ocean liner The Queen Mary in Long Beach, California, beginning of summer, 2013. Our first photograph at top depicts the unique setting, the Stooges’ most surreal stage backdrop ever with a 25 foot Princess Diana and fronting an entire famous ship, gangplanks and all.
It’s not just Raw but Real Power, perpetual motion, five grown men defying gravity, the sound barrier and their own demographic by presenting almost 2 hours of 1,000mph hardest rock that they helped invent as young autodidacts. Power can be fathomed as political, bullying, providing momentum, igniting electricity, a force of nature. That last signification gets us a little closer to the phenom.
A major British music writer precisely detailed the live Stooge experience – its Promethean touchstone of hardest rock genesis performed by its original practitioners – in a mindset closer to my own creed but shimmering with more polish: “…All that had gone before had put me in that wonderful but rare state that we all crave from our music – a combination of euphoria, empowerment and something like abandonment. I was feeling the music more than I was seeing and hearing it.” – Andy Barding, Louder than War, June 22, 2013 on the Royal Festival Hall gig in London a week before the 6.8.13 Long Beach show.
“The Stooges are a pack of hyenas on the Serengeti Plains, hungry and omnivorous.” – Henry Rollins (singer of physicality extraordinaire formerly for Black Flag and assorted punks, actor, monologist, broadcast DJ, Stooges’ peer and pal) on the Queen Mary show
And we’re all off and running…
“…Multiple regions of the brain fire upon hearing music: muscular, auditory, visual, linguistic… Visual and auditory clues trigger empathetic neurons… We think of ourselves as individuals but to some extent we are not; our very cells are joined to the group by these evolved empathetic reactions to others…” From “How Music Works” by David Byrne of Talking Heads, writing for Smithsonian Magazine, Oct. 2012
Explaining why I loved “I Can See For Miles” by The Who to another of the world’s foremost guitarists whose dogs share playdates with ours, I proffered that the track conjured tsunamis, Dust Bowl cloud blackening skies, blizzards and hurricanes all bearing down on you at once to the extent that you were almost relieved when the song was over. What if these same forces of nature beguiled you, teased you, shook you to the core to want even more? Now we’re getting closer.
Reunion bands with predominantly original members… There’s this “world’s greatest rock and roll band” who still sound unquestionably magnificent and produce peerless live shows, but have you really preferred any of their newest songs to their canon of 40 years ago?
Iggy and The Stooges just released Ready to Die new numbers sifted throughout their set of fan fave classics sound seamlessly like brand spankin’ new fan favorites.
“…they reached out their hands, because they had to touch him to believe he was real.” (which is sort of lyrical as well as observational) – Don Hill’s, Sept. 2010 Fashion Week private gig of Iggy and The Stooges
Iggy Pop’s always been the world’s forgotten Tasmanian Devil/whirling Dervish, Theatre of the ProActive, visceral and peripatetic, leaping into the fourth wall, spitting, drooling, sweating, clasping others in the crowd. These may mirror practiced moves, but that’s like accusing athletes’ greatest feats anew as same. Skill always reinvents per performance. And its frontman erupts, reinvigorated with these Stooges.
Profoundly still extant in Iggy’s interactive unchoreography with his audiences are his stage dives into same, and as often seen as his well-traveled in your face routines, his one-on-one acknowledgment of how an audience touches him as much as he moves them. During its inverse, the stage invasion of the crowd during “Fun House” (audience right onstage into the band’s space for one number instead of Iggy’s former singer into audience space for half the set) (I still defy any A list act to try either maneuver of stagecraft every single gig) a goodly percentage of those positioned up front clamber onstage to writhe, lumber or even dance with the Stooges. Wholly unnecessarily, one blonde miss even executed a full on tackle of the Ig. (Note diligent stage staff at the ready, an amused Ig, her still on the floor, pleading!) Had she but waited, she might have experienced the truer connection seen in the photo with Iggy clenching one fan’s hand for practically a whole song while still singing to all.
“The ‘Screaming Penguin’ gives me another version of the razor bright sound that I like… it’s boost on top of boost, very cutting sound, no real effects. Since the Blackstar amps I use now don’t have Top Boost circuit, I add it externally. It’s a treble boost pedal like my other one but using Germanium transistors instead of FET.” – James Williamson, guitarist, Iggy and The Stooges, waxing technical about his playing which is far better known for its rapidfire but emotion-infused sheer feel.
There was exposition galore of how much admired the guitar-playing and songwriting of James Williamson remains in my Paraphilia issue # 12 photofeature “Tribute to Ron Asheton with Iggy and The Stooges, Ann Arbor MI 4.19.11: Open Up and Blood, Sweat and ‘Fanecdotes,’” plus details of his remarkable personal history, unmatched in all Rock and Roll (legend/progenitor of all hard rock genres since 1974, to Fortune 500 company vice-president via technology and back to Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee currently touring the world with Iggy and The Stooges since 2010 (and his retirement from Sony Corporation.) The life unfolds as impressively as the music it created.
“…He was different than the others, the one who actually suffered about the Stooges situation… the way James plays, the substance he carries with him, is material with which one can think and feel. His toughness and sharpness on certain points seemed to me almost desperate: he is not the one who will cheer you up with words of hope. He will just slowly have you to face the reality sharply, and then- – – the unreliable miracle. James is a hard worker and a pure gemstone of inner self working, a lesson for coping with life.” – his friend Valerie Barnole, writing about James Williamson as a musician, colleague and as a human being.
“What ended in the seventies as a nightmare has been redeemed in the new millennium.” – Michael Flek, Underground Press, James Williamson Interview 8.7.13
Attack, sustain, release, decay are the components of a musical sound: it’s out of order for Iggy and The Stooges, who rebooted all hard rock musics and, since pioneers get all the arrows, decayed in lifestyles and momentum but never in music, went their separate ways, then reunited in the 2000s to sustain with two versions of one of the greatest groups ever, first with the late guitarist Ron Asheton then with his successor James Williamson.
Williamson, whose unique and wholly successful personal reinventions were chronicled in Díre McCain’s 30pp. interview with him in Paraphilia issue #5, remains the rapidfire human guitar anomaly that inspires further greatness from his co-horts, particularly punk legend in his own right, bassist Mike Watt.
“Saw him (Mike Watt) for the first time in ‘97… I was 17, did whole under-aged drinking thing, but half way through the show I stopped. I’m just floored, like, ‘This is for real.’ No smooth pop punk there.” – Anonymous, because witness is now respectable tattoo shop owner/businessman
Watt, busy, rapid but precise (yet soulful) bassist up to the mindmeld/competition with this band. Only two bassists in rock history have fielded such a mega-onslaught by their band partners/titans onstage as Watt has had to do, and both have been better known as guitarists: Ron Wood, who performed bass miracles similar to Watts’ in the (first) Jeff Beck Group while Beck kept inventing arena-metal-blues magnificence to Rod Stewart’s invention of himself as major powerhouse singer; and Ron Asheton, the Stooges original guitarist and bassist in the Raw Power Williamson era.
On the Raw Power Deluxe box set’s dvd of its making, Iggy even acknowledged, with traditional post-game quarterbacks’ analysis, the Raw Power Stooges being all about competition for attention, hence their greatness in wild, busy interaction. When fielding Beck or Williamson, you needed the best challengers on the planet. Absolute monster bassists all, Watt, Wood and Asheton…
Watt of course has untold numbers of other bands, all of which garner his devout effort, some of whom would be Hellride, Dos, the Missingmen, the Secondmen, Spielgusher to match his former notable Minutemen and fireHOSE. Energizer rabbit, deep feeler, stream-of-consciousness diarist as in his Hootpage website entry for this show: “This fucking boat’s underway! We’re midships this time where nine years ago queen mary was to our port and open air behind us. I think us being in front of her gives way more focus for the sound…”
Steve Mackay, on hand intermittently since 1970’s Funhouse Stooges’ recording remains another secret weapon, not only for the most appropriate and least “porn-movie-sounding” saxophone parts in the history of rock and roll added to fill out the Stoogean raw power, but also the essential assorted studio instruments, from claves to celeste/keyboard.
Everything he does from “L.A. Blues” squonks to pre-encore closer, the mighty “Open Up And Bleed”’s poignant harmonica spells sonic Stoogebliss completeness. God bless ‘im! Steve Mackay Rules OK! as the punks put in their original 1970s era, three years after their inspirations, Iggy and The Stooges Mach 1, had broken up.
Known alternately as Toby Dammit (namesake: Terence Stamp in “Spirits of the Dead” directed by Federico Fellini) a.k.a. Larry Mullins which bothers me not a whit since yours truly has separate but multiple monikers, this drummer is filling in on tour for venerable, original Stooge Scott “Rock Action” Asheton.
The latter appears on Ready To Die, but cannot tour by doctors’ orders, and we all want him around as long as possible, savvy?
Mullins/Dammit, known for solo Iggy gigs and working with everyone from Scott Walker (!) to Jessie Evans prior, percussions fast and furiously, but seems such like a genial soul for a hardcore musician. They’re lucky to have him.
Amongst the festival circuit current acts, Iggy and The Stooges is indeed acknowledged by critics’ consensus as the best of reunions of originals. They even play better than before despite having started from the top of the heap (lack of drug oblivion today aids in same. Luckily times changed.)
Folks regret not having seen Stooges back in the day (not me, I photographed them in 1973) and similarly you will regret not seeing this reunion. Rectify that, people.
It has proven difficult to write about music that means so much to me, much easier to document it visually for posterity. What an absolute marvel of brain cells and synaptic neurons for Iggy and The Stooges to have been able to create it all in the first place…
Iggy and The Stooges’ Queen Mary, Long Beach Ink ‘n’ Iron Festival 6.8.13 set list for our Paraphilia Stooges completionists:
“Search And Destroy”
“Beyond The Law”
“Ready To Die”
“I Got A Right”
“I Wanna Be Your Dog”
“Your Pretty Face Is Going to Hell”
“Open Up And Bleed”
“Sex And Money” changed to “Dirty Deal” after technical problem