By Heather Harris
All Photographs © Heather Harris
“We don’t do what we’re supposed to, see?” — Beyond The Law (Pop/Williamson)
They were the smart-alecks teasing quantum mechanics and particle physics into transistors and microchips who changed the world forever in their positronic conquest, rightly celebrated at C2SV. They were the rock band first detonating the niche into a million smithereens of hardcore, punk rock, speedmetal, thrash and all hardest rock genres thereafter in music’s smoking crater and changed its world forever, rightly celebrated at C2SV.
Although its techfest seminars and multiple band showcases in twelve different venues had been ongoing two of its four days prior, on 9.28.13 C2SV (Create Converge Silicon Valley) Technology Conference and Music Festival combined both factions with one individual who encapsulated both worlds. Selfsame hardest rock game changers Iggy and The Stooges assaulted St. James Park, downtown San Jose live that night after one of their own had given a talk earlier in the afternoon as the featured keynote tech speaker. James Williamson, newly retired Sony Corp. Technology Standards Vice-President is actual Iggy and The Stooges guitarist, most notably of its seminal 1972 release Raw Power now acknowledged as the template for punk rock.
Dan Pulcrano, journalist, publisher, newspaper owner of award-winning Metro Silicon Valley and C2SV promoter conceived of it as a locale-specific alternative similar to Austin’s SxSW. His sense of humor matched the sophistication of his cred by featuring discussions with inventor of anti-virusware John McAfee whom Pulcrano cheerfully proclaimed “Our fugitive from Belize!” alongside major notables like PC inventor Steve Wozniak, video game inventor Nolan Busnell, and three days worth of assorted panelists like Dead Kennedy Jello Biafra and former WIRED editor Brian Behlendorf.
“Give it up, turn that boy loose!” — Kill City (Pop/Williamson)
Off camera and a coast away, a there-from-the-beginning Stooges insider with initial misgivings recently had declared, “James Williamson saved The Stooges. Twice.” This story can be reviewed in Paraphilia XII (“Open Up and Blood, Sweat, Tears and ‘Fanecdotes,” 2011 by yours truly) and more recent triumphs of his Stooges reunion gigs in Paraphilia 2013 (“Raw and Real Power” also by yours truly.) However, the middle act of Williamson’s life wherein he abruptly switched careers, got in on the beginning of computer technology in the late ‘70s as an engineer, moved to Silicon Valley with his young family, invented away and rose through the ranks to eventual vice-presidency of Sony Corporation hadn’t been heard aloud in the first person until this keynote address.
It was formulated as a Q&A interview with author/writer Jack Boulware (Gimme Something Better- a history of Bay Area Punk, San Francisco Bizarro amongst a C.V. that includes the New York Times, Playboy and Wired) along for the ride. The overall theme: few have experienced such deliberate career polarity at the topmost level of both. Williamson outlined his first career with the brilliant but utterly undervalued at the time Iggy and The Stooges and his own subsequent disillusionment. Of his very first viewing of a personal computer, he explained, “Rock and roll had become not very exciting to me, but this shit really was!” He noted the geographical changes in his new environs that matched the career switch as well, “The Silicon Valley was a pretty different place when we first got here: the future Google compound was literally dairy sheds.”
James mentioned that back in the day as a Stooge, “My lead singer was pissing all the way from the dressing room to the stage, and my hair was five different colors the night I met my future wife Linda.” (The coif was also spiky-cut-short in 1973’s longhaired Eagles’ hippie-o-rama daze, three years before the punks looked, listened and learned from James-era, Iggy and The Stooges Raw Power.) The two then screened a powerpoint slide of one of Williamson’s Sony executive portraits as radical comparison with suit and tie, a more eminence grise effect of late.
Interviewer Jack Boulware asked James if life on the rock and roll touring road nowadays was still nonstop sex and drugs. A: “Yeah, but now it’s mostly gabapentin,” whereupon they both cracked up along with the audience.
Best of all, Williamson deconstructed his most famous song “Search And Destroy” playing his guitar. Its novel if hyperspeed rhythms were traced to the Rolling Stones’ “Jumping Jack Flash,” the Ventures’ “Walk Don’t Run” and further back to conga-line dancing’s strong beats, revealing that “Search And Destroy, the anthem of Punk Rock, is really based on The Bunny Hop,” duly demonstrated in riffs and hops.
“I’m looking for a reason to live, I’ve only got two things to give…sex and money…” — Sex And Money, (Pop/Williamson)
Next was John McAfee’s first public appearance since his highly publicized escape from Belize and arrest in Guatemala, with self-admitted “a retinue of employees and young girls” despite active military harassment and bounties. McAfee spoke about quorum-sensing, drugs, sobriety, drugs, yoga, South American corrupt jurisprudence and drugs. McAfee used the conference appearance to announce his intentions to market a low-cost secure router to foil government and other surveillance via a localized networking platform with total, effective encryption.
On to the pleine air St. James Park main stage opening acts: Bay Area locals The Bang Girl Group Revue with high-powered rock-soul singers Angeline King and Rachel Mae Havens plus deservedly praised, eclectic guitarist (and acclaimed DJ) Derek See and company; Bosnian Rainbows with Teri Gender Bender from Le Butcherettes along with some former The Mars Voltas, then S.F. surf-ish stylists Thee Oh Sees.
A packed park crowd of disparate, multi-generation, casual to high-trendy Goth Stoogefans excitedly compared previous or newfound Stooge experiences (that’s Maria Damon showing off James Williamson’s autograph on her dress garnered in Ann Arbor, Michigan at the band’s Tribute to Ron Asheton gig. She gets around.)
“Screaming murder, bloody murder all in my brain…” — Joanna (Pop/Williamson)
Then Iggy and The Stooges hurtle onto the stage: Iggy Pop, James Williamson, Mike Watt (the sole non-runner,) Steve Mackay and Toby Dammit (Larry Mullins, filling in for Scott Rock Action Asheton.) Legendarily peripatic vocalist Iggy seems to relive “Open Up And Bleed” early on in the set, as he gashed the bridge of his nose (see close up) which remained bloody throughout. “My God, the energy of than man onstage,” exclaimed hundreds of onlookers to one another simultaneously.
A major highlight of any Stooge show remains an invasion of 100+ stomping, moshing audience persons invited onstage to wild it up with the band from its perspective, an interactive vestige of the days when Iggy would spend half the show out in a club’s audience himself, barking in people’s faces, scuttling under dresses, rather impossible with the group’s huge draw nowadays. The stage erected in the park proved inadequate for such a gambit, so a single dancer from the audience and later some lithe, body-painted nubiles solved selfsame problem to the satisfaction of all.
“I get excited, so fine, I’m alive” —Penetration (Pop/Williamson)
One hyperactive young fangirl, frenetically frenzied practically to the point of Tourette’s Disease next to Maria and me was going berserk with maximum Stoogebliss. Fearing for our own lives and limbs, all around her kept pointing and yelling “Her! her!” while helping to push her over the barrier even before Iggy called for a single volunteer to come onstage and dance with the Stooges. She was great. Win-win.
“In my head there’s a cry of pain, I wear my heart out and kill my brain…yeah, tell me lies…” — Open Up And Bleed (Pop/Williamson)
It’s a raunchy, tight, almost two-hour-long albeit speedy set of nearly twenty songs that these grown men offer a audience, but they end it with their one power ballad.
After the feedback fury and raw nerve pain/redemption of selfsame “Open Up And Bleed,” (a song so wrenching it titled Paul Trynka’s definitive Iggy biography despite its unreleased status) the band returned with its singer wearing a recent facsimile of his Street Walking Cheetah jacket seen on the back cover of Raw Power. For encore “Burn” from recently released batch of brand spankin’ new Stooge songs Ready To Die, Iggy then unexpectedly met up with a gaggle of nubile young ladies onstage, nude but for body paint and “purported bodystockings.” Promoter Dan Pulcrano had hired Trina Merry/Art Alive Gallery’s body-painted naked dancers in a surprise performance art coda with the band as tribute to his legend-enmeshed headliners.
“They’re taking over as the world turns, I’m on file with a reptile, burn, burn…” — Burn (Pop/Williamson)
Both to affirm the group’s sleazy origins and also to utterly repudiate their first band dissolution under a hale of angry debris thrown onstage at the Michigan Palace (sons et guerres in toto on the Metallic K.O album, objects crashing thuds heard throughout, exhausted singer exhorting the hecklers “Ya wanna hear ‘Louie, Louie?’ So it’s come to this!”) here’s “Louie, Louie” as final, FINAL encore of Iggy and The Stooges, phoenix fully arisen.
“I think about the meaning of my life again and I have to sing Louie Louie again…”— Louie Louie (Richard Berry) (embellished by Pop/Williamson)
Above the audience din a clarion voice nearby shrieked “I’ll never give up on you Iggy, you saved my fucking life!” Millennials, Xers, Yers or Boomers, people care about these Stooges.
Folk taxonomy of the word “paraphilia” embraces intense obsessions for atypical situations or persons. C2SV’s Iggy and The Stooges gig can further define said obsessions clinically and threefold: the band’s to excel on their own terms and to have persisted (off and on) for four plus decades; the audience fangirl’s in her going ungodly, flailing berserkness until she could dance onstage with her musical idols; and, reluctantly admitted since I don’t do selfies, your humble photojournalist here. One can observe, appreciate, photograph and even write about greatness in the same artists over and over again no matter how frequently (or seldom) encountered and witnessed. Since 1973 I’ve seen and photographed Iggy and The Stooges a half dozen times: it only gets better and better with each go.
1. Raw Power
2. Gimme Danger
4. Search And Destroy
5. Fun House/Night Theme
6. Beyond The Law
8. Ready To Die
9. I Wanna Be Your Dog
10. No Fun
11. The Passenger
12. I Got A Right
13. Cock In My Pocket
14. Your Pretty Face Is Going To Hell
15. Sex And Money
17. Open Up And Bleed
18. Burn (encore)
19. Louie Louie (second encore)