remnants: Now I Wanna Be Your Dog, a Tribute to the Stooges, 2002

heart full of napalm.

remnants: Now I Wanna Be Your Dog, a Tribute to the Stooges, 2002

Here is something I wrote about seeing the proto-pre-Iggy-reunion Stooges at All Tomorrow’s Parties in 2002. I have lightly edited it for clarity but please read with the understanding that I wrote this over 20 years ago and it was basically not more than a blog post so I didn't have to write individual emails to my friends who weren't there

now i wanna be your dog
a tribute to the stooges
Ackerman Ballroom, UCLA, Los Angeles, CA
15 March, 2002

the stooges.

The Stooges were the first thing I ever listened to that really scared the fuck out of me. I mean, of all the music that your parents probably didn't want you listening to, this was the real deal. Sure, the New York Dolls wore makeup, platform shoes and women's clothing but underneath it all, they really were a bunch of Momma's boys. The Dead Boys scared some people because they were gross icky boys from Cleveland but you knew you could take them in a fight - well, Stiv Bators anyway, he had arms like winter twigs. And don't even try saying "Sex Pistols" - gimme a break. They were about as genuinely terrifying as a bunch of mall punks.

Even if you didn't know anything about Iggy's onstage antics, the Stooges just SOUNDED dangerous. The music was low and raw and throbbing and completely sexual. The cover of the first album (produced by none other than John Cale himself) was just plain scary... just the four of them staring at you, long greasy hair and leather jackets. Just looking at it tells you, this may have come out in 1969, but this is not Woodstock, this is down the street from Altamont in terms of sensibility. Funhouse and the cover orgy of red pseudo psychedelia practically screamed DO NOT TOUCH, FORBIDDEN, DRUGS AND UNDERAGE SEX, and let's not even get started on Raw Power.

When I first found it at the record store, it was like I'd been caught with something I shouldn't have. I saw it and my eyes got as wide as saucers, and then I really quickly flipped half a stack of records past it and looked around furtively to see if anyone was near me. I was alone. Okay. Let me go look at that again, was that really what I thought it was? Oh my god. Iggy's half-naked torso contorted diagonally across the cover, glitter and eyeliner and low low LOW slung silver spandex pants. I brought it up to the counter with something else covering it, said, "Uh, changed my mind! I don't want THAT one, just this one," and skulked out of the store. I walked in the house, surreptitiously slid the bag behind the dryer, and snuck down later in the dark to retrieve it. My parents never censored anything I read or listened to, but that record, like the first New York Dolls album, wasn't anything I felt like I could just pull out and show my mom when she asked, "So, what did you buy at Discount Records today?"

All of this would somewhat rationally explain why the Stooges tribute at All Tomorrows Parties - Mike Watt, J. Mascis, and Ron Asheton (and later his brother Scott on drums got added to the lineup) -- was the act that finally made me go and buy a ticket. Ed, sure, Sonic Youth, any day, Television, saw them last June - but the chance to see Ron Asheton play guitar and hear all those songs I know and love so much live and loud and in front of me was something I absolutely could not miss. I spent the two weeks before the show listening to Stooges records every morning on the way to work. Who needs a quad espresso, gimme "1970" or "Loose". Those records are LOUD and gritty and still put you on edge. It's amazing how well the music still holds up, and equally amazing how many bands vainly try to imitate something that appears to be so simple on the outside, yet fail miserably.

In an interview before this show, Watt said that the Stooges were like our folk music. It's along the same lines of him saying that the Ramones were our Beatles. That doesn't mean that we don't love the Beatles or don't dig the real folk music, it's just that the Stooges were OURS in a way that other music wasn't. Even though the Stooges happened before the rest of the punk rock movement started, they were the ancestors... I won't say grandfathers because Iggy could still kick anyone's punk rock ass today. And as the most recent Rock and Roll Hall of Fame broadcast showed, the establishment is still not all that happy with punk rock - at least not the punk rock they can't package and polish and merchandise and resell.

Reunions are a funny thing, and as hard as it is, I try to stay far away from them. People have to be prepared to let go of old baggage and check egos at the door, or there has to be a need for a happy ending, there has to be a story that wasn't quite finished. Or, you have to have something new to say. Catering to youthful nostalgia and longing for a fat paycheck doesn't interest me. Television barely qualified; the Soft Boys reunion, on the other hand, was totally successful. This being a Stooges tribute and not a reunion was actually a good thing. As much as I would love to see Iggy with those guys, I worry that the egos and past history might have fucked it all up - and that would have been heartbreaking. It was almost better having the 2/3 of the band who wanted to be involved along with other musicians who just utterly and totally love the music and care about it down to their very core.

While I knew J.Mascis was legendary for being loud, I wasn't quite prepared for what that would mean, as we watched him set up a double Marshall stack. That's DOUBLE MARSHALL STACK. "Hey, do you think this is gonna be loud, or something," snicker these two kids behind us. My friend J. takes a look at the setup and says, "Oh my god, when they turn this stuff on, everyone in the first five rows is gonna be blown backwards." I assured him that I was kind of counting on this, as I dug out earplugs for both of us. Watt referred to this equipment setup as "brain floss" in an interview, and that's a vividly accurate description. Anyone down front who didn't have earplugs in spent the show holding their ears. It was easily one of the loudest shows I have ever seen (the loudest ever being the Dictators at CBGB).

And then, no fanfare, before we know it, they are on that stage. Ron fucking Asheton. Scott Asheton on drums. This hasn't happened since 1971. Watt. J. Mascis. There is a very large collective breath holding in the audience before that first note - WHAT is it going to be? And then Watt takes the first notes, and my reaction is utterly instinctive, purely visceral, my mind let go and my body took over: "Funhouse". Everyone in the front is moving and it's not choice, it's a fucking command performance. This stuff does that to you. These songs do that to you. Watt is so intense he cannot even sing, he kind of shrieks out a few lines of lyrics. I mean, if you've seen Watt, you know that the man delivers each and every show like it's the ONLY show, right? Well, imagine that intensity multiplied to the 100th power and that was Mike Watt tonight. The only thing missing here is the saxophone, "Funhouse" is this riot of punked-out blazing psychedelia. I was gonna say "Iggy Pop meets John Coltrane" but then I realized what I was saying, and all I can say is - yeah. That's it. Like Captain Beefheart on speed with amphetamine-flavored guitar solos turned up so far past 11 you can practically taste the metal in your mouth. And it goes on for more than 7 minutes.

"This is fucking insane," J. intones in my ear. He's going to say that like after every song during this set and he probably didn't even realize that he did. I am utterly without the power of speech myself. Thurston Moore runs onstage and it's my turn to say, "OH MY GOD," as he takes the mic and nails "Real Cool Time" as though he was Iggy himself. Deadpan, deadly serious, intense as hell.

Barely time to recover: "Look out!" Watt takes the vocals for "Loose":

"hell i'll stick it deep inside
i'll stick it deep inside
cause i'm loose..."

Watt is bright red and looks like he's going to explode. (As another friend commented after the show, utterly deadpan, "Yeah, it was great, but Watt's gotta work on his intensity a little.") J. Mascis is fucking attacking his guitar on the other side of the stage. I rip out one of my earplugs because I REALLY NEED TO HEAR THIS AS LOUD AS FUCKING POSSIBLE. I think this is when the mosh pit opened up. It was a real pit, caused a genuine expression of enthusiasm and excitement over the music, that peacefully coexisted with the rest of the audience. I would have been almost disappointed if there hadn't been one for this set. BECAUSE THIS IS FUCKING PUNK ROCK. This isn't some fucking pretender to the throne, these are the people who built the foundation to the fucking kingdom.

Josh Homme stumbles out onstage as the band starts "1969" and J. and I turn to each other and say at the same time: "Oh my god, Josh is so fucked up." And I don't mean good fucked up, like Iggy on speed smearing himself with peanut butter and rolling around on broken glass fucked up, I mean sad and sorry fucked up, like fat babbling drunk era Jim Morrison type-fucked up. I felt bad for him. I mean, I love Queens of the Stone Age1, he totally deserved to be there, but he didn't come through. He barely got through the song. He will never have this chance again, most likely, and he blew it. It was this anemic, lackluster performance. Watt picked up some of the vocals with him, but the band totally carried the energy on this one.

"Down On The Street" next, and J.Mascis just totally fucking rules. He is the fucking mad hatter and cheshire cat rolled into one, grinning madly while tossing off these insane leads, trading on and off with Ron Asheton. I gotta give props to Watt again. In addition to singing everything that didn't have a guest vocalist, he totally led that band tonight. He conducted it, he kept things on track, he tried to keep the guitar soloing from being completely self-indulgent (and in the interests of objectivity, I will admit that there was a little bit of overplaying). BUT IT'S THE STOOGES! THAT'S THE WHOLE POINT! I expected the guitar solos to be totally over the top and would have been disappointed if they hadn't been at least slightly excessive.

"Down On The Street" is followed by an introduction of the band, with Watt introducing himself as Jane Weidlin. "Turn it up!" yells someone behind me, with a wicked sense of irony. "Not Right" follows, with "Little Doll" coming in afterwards, Watt totally cueing Scott Asheton to get him to play the opening rhythm exactly right. And then, and then – Kim Gordon bounds out on the stage and grabs the mic, and as the three opening chords to "I Wanna Be Your Dog" shudder and thunder out from the stage, the crowd lets out this enormous roar of approval and recognition.

Kim, as they say, completely and utterly threw down up there. She literally shredded her vocal chords up on that stage, kneeling on the ground, she had no voice left whatsoever when she was done, and she did not care. Thurston is practically falling over on the side of the stage watching her perform - everyone backstage is practically standing on their tiptoes watching this utterly explosive performance. And she totally egged the band on, they matched her anarchy note for note, measure for measure. I've never seen her do this with Sonic Youth and it doesn't matter, I'll never need to see her do this with any other band than what I saw tonight. She completely channeled Iggy at that moment. I saw a guy on Saturday with a t-shirt that read "I WORSHIP KIM GORDON' and while I always basically agreed with that statement, watching her own the stage at this moment earned her every bit of love and respect I could possibly muster from now until the end of time.

Just when I thought it couldn't possibly get any better, the riff to "TV Eye" shrieks out of the amps. I rip my earplugs out and hurl myself up into the front of the pit, crossing paths with a kid half my age who points at my MC5 button (I couldn't find my Stooges pins, the MC5 was the closest I could come to Detroit) and then points at his own on his jacket, and then bounds away happily. I just wanted to completely lose myself in the music at that moment, Ron takes a solo, trading on and off with J. Mascis, and I just feel utterly glowing and alive and like every cell of my being is plugged into those amplifiers. This is, hands down, one of the best shows I have ever seen in my life. It is one of those singular, frozen in time, once-in-a-lifetime rock and roll moments, the ones that we live for. The band go into that jamming middle bridge where everyone plays together, and then they stop, I throw my fist into the air as Ron takes that solo, the drums kick in and it's like I've never heard this song before but it is indistinguishable from my soul at the moment, screaming the words along with Watt.

And they're done, and that's fine. There could not possibly be any more right now, short of Iggy descending on this stage. "That was fucking INSANE," I babble for like the 12th time, oh my god. People are screaming and cheering and I'm wondering if we maybe get an encore, there isn't much left that they haven't played. It is the last act, it's not like they're taking anything away from the next band or fucking up the schedule. And then there's Watt and J. Mascis again and then OH MY GOD, there is Eddie Vedder and his mohawk and NO FUN! The pit opens up again, I'm just in front of it, jumping up and down and laughing my ass off.

The show ends, and I find that whatever voice I have left is raw and hoarse. I badly need a cigarette (and I don't really smoke. Really. I don't2). I am completely and totally fucking HIGH, walking on air, cackling and jubilant and ready to go on for the rest of the night. And I cannot go to sleep, even at 4am, because I have the opening riff to "Funhouse" on an endless loop in my brain.

Yeah. It was a good show.

[Interesting footnote: Although Watt/Mascis/Asheton/Asheton soundchecked early in the afternoon, they did so without any guest appearances. Apparently, Ed got to practice "No Fun" with a lyric sheet and a cd, sitting in a car out in back of Royce Hall, once his set solo finished.

  1. At the time I wrote this, yes, I did, but that was before he kicked a photographer in the face.

  2. At the time I had quit but I definitely started again after this night.