21, at the second of two sold-out Stooges concerts in San Francisco's
Warfield Theatre, the illustrious J. and I began the evening by
ditching our assigned balcony seats. I had bought them online
but couldn't imagine actually sitting in the middle of the balcony
for Iggy Pop's 60th birthday show, and, praise Cthulu, I didn't
have to, thanks to a friend that I now owe a Motorhead DVD.
Though we had heard good things about the opening act Sistahs
in the Pit (and new Stooges bass player Mike Watt, a veteran of
The Minutemen and Firehose, sings their praises in his web tour
diaries), they had been replaced by a less than incendiary act
on this night, besides which I was too obsessed with finagling
our way into the downstairs to pay attention to any damn opening
We were on
the edge of stage right when Detroit's finest hit their marks
and started off the evening's festivities with a ferocious version
of "Loose," just as they did at the free show that J. and I drove
to L.A. to see at the tour's opening a month earlier (a gift to
fans who responded to an email request for testimonials of love
for the Stooges, concert viewable online at http://music.yahoo.com/promo-31904706).
gyrating, bouncing and strutting madly around the stage from the
get-go (in her rave review of the first SF show, the SF Chronicle's
Neva Chonin said he moved like "Gumby on crack"). Ron Asheton
on guitar, his brother Scott on drums, Watt on bass and Steve
MacKay on sax, backed the shirtless, sweat-soaked, ultrafit Iggy
through a hefty set of older songs taken from the band's eponymous
1969 debut and their follow-up record "Fun House," including amazing
hybrids of late '60s hard rock and free jazz that put the wildly
compelling interplay of MacKay's rauchy tenor and the feedback-drenched
leads of Ron Asheton (who Iggy later introduced as "the undefeated,
undisputed, heavyweight champion of the world!") to maximum effect.
who has ever been moved
to screaming or shouting or
leaping uncontrollably by a
Stooges record should seriously
consider trying like hell to see
the refitted, restoked lean and
mean Stooges machine in their
21st century incarnation.
They certainly helped me forget
the pathological, toxic late
capitalist world we're living in for
a few hours, and that's
from "Raw Power" was covered (for insights into why that music
didn't make the cut, check out the long
interview with Ron Asheton), but the band performed raging
versions of new songs from this year's "The Weirdness," along
with several numbers from Iggy's most recent solo outing, "Skull
beginning of the show a large, moderately bohemian-looking fellow
(an earring in each lobe and a shaved head) reacted with ridiculous
macho outrage when a drunk woman with a mop of pink-violet dyed
hair lurched into him. As the no-neck individual in question was
told not to punch the young woman, I hoped his less than tolerant
attitude toward good-natured punk enthusiasm would not be evident
in others in our vicinity.
But the testosterone-damage individual in question backed away
from our section of what is commonly called the mosh pit, and
the crowd turned into a roiling, lurching, happy beast that matched
the surges of the music. Having dived into the audience by the
fourth song, as the band blasted through the opening of "No Fun",
Iggy pulled a sizeable bunch of fans on to the stage. I was only
too happy to climb up and join the fray as the giddy fans bounced
up and down in a sea of barely controlled chaos.
As the song ended, Iggy bellowed "The Bay Area dancers, ladies
and gentleman!" like a barker at a deranged rock and roll carnival,
and added, "We spazz, we puke, we trip, we come down!" These days,
Iggy's formerly legendary intake of substances is restricted to
a few glasses of wine savored at night's end, but his checkered
history gave the words resonance.
balloons spilled from the ceiling and the crowd launched into
an impromptu, ear-splitting shout-along of "happy birthday," a
fan passed up a T-shirt emblazoned with "Birthday Boy Iggy", and
though the legendary frontman stayed shirtless, he beamed in appreciation.
The band looked pretty happy too.
In the past
few years I've seen several bands from the golden age of punk
rock well into their thirtieth anniversary (The Damned, The Buzzcocks,
Motorhead, The Cramps) who put on scorching shows that showed
it was possible to age with an admirable lust for life, if not
always gracefully (an overrated virtue anyway).
All of those bands were influenced by The Stooges, who are currently
celebrating their 40th anniversary, or rather they would be if
they were not too busy taking care of business giving longtime
and newer fans performances that put younger bands to shame. Anyone
who has ever been moved to screaming or shouting or leaping uncontrollably
by a Stooges record should seriously consider trying like hell
to see the refitted, restoked lean and mean Stooges machine in
their 21st century incarnation. They certainly helped me forget
the pathological, toxic late capitalist world we're living in
for a few hours, and that's strong medicine.
the great Mike Watt the last word. In his web diary, Watt describes
the end of the evening: "I (...) got to give thanks to ig for
being such an inspiration to work behind, what a great job he
put forth but then again, he amazes me how he does this every
gig. there is no one like him on the planet."
Ben Terrall is a freelance writer based in San Francisco and has
written more than a bit about Haiti since the February 2004 U.S.-backed
coup which ousted the democratically elected government of Jean-Bertrand
Aristide. Ben also worked with the late, lamented Indonesia Human
Right Network, and was co-editor of the print and online journal
Indonesia Alert! He can be reached at [email protected]
Visit bterrall.org for
to order the documentary, We Jam Econo, The Story Of The Minutemen.
As Ben Terrall notes: "It's a really great film about one
of the punk bands of the '80s that meant the most to me when I
was getting into the stuff, really kept a lot of us from losing
our minds in the age of Reagan, tons of fun, extremely creative
and risk-taking musically, and very political to boot. That doc
is right up there with End Of The Century, the great doc about
The Ramones (another transformative experience of a live band)."