South by Southwest 2014 in Austin, Texas provided a chance to photograph James Williamson, guitarist of Iggy and The Stooges in action twice. Saturday March 15th found him jamming with the talented young musicians of the Austin School of Rock at an event sponsored by Swing House Studios, Blackstar Amplifiers and others.
Singers Conner Johnson and Alanna Malcolm roared through suitably spirited renditions of Williamson/Pop compositions "Gimme Danger" and "Raw Power" respectively, the latter featuring one of the guitarist's most ferocious extended solos in his canon, to the delight of those onstage and off.
The photos below depict the School of Rockers' renditions of Suicidal Tendencies' "Institutionalized," The Yardbirds' "For Your Love" and The Doors' "Break On Through" from left to right.
Earlier in the SxSW schedule on March 14th, James Williamson gave a speech "From Riffs to Bits" sponsored by IEEE at the festival's main facility amongst the hundreds of venues, the Austin Convention Center. With journalist/author Jack Boulware and Buzz Osbourne of The Melvins in tow onstage to combat Lady Gaga's Q&A next door, Williamson detailed the pivotal turns his life has taken reaching the top of two seemingly incompatible fields, (he is in both the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and in the Engineering Hall of Fame. See LINK and LINK.) As guitarist for Iggy and The Stooges he influenced all forms of fast, hardest rock from then on with his seminal "Raw Power" release of 1972. Like most pioneering Greats in the arts, it went nowhere. After earning his degree from CalPoly Pomona he began his steady progress of invention and corporate ascent within the technology world from the late 1970s onward until his 2010 retirement as Vice President of Sony Corp., Technology Standards, whereupon he rejoined the Stooges.
A Powerpoint show with various photographs of his past life from wayward youth in Texas, Oklahoma and Michigan to assorted career highlights with Iggy and The Stooges, Advanced Micro Designs and Sony Corporation included a shot of Williamson with local blues belter/guitarist Carolyn Wonderland, indicative of the future. Williamson will release his current production and guitar work with Wonderland and other artists such as Mark Lanegan, Lisa Kekaula and Jello Biafra for the upcoming release "Re-Licked," a compilation of his audience-beloved Stooges classics that never made it past bootlegged live versions and should have constituted "Raw Power's" follow up.
No session with James Williamson would be complete without some sort of demonstration of his monumental guitar prowess. He obligingly deconstructed "Shake Appeal" and "Search And Destroy" to their musical common denominators, which in the case of the latter proved to be conga lines and the Bunny Hop.
Panelists cracking one another up abounded particularly with Osbourne's deadpan delivery and Boulware's subtle goading, but the "green room" conversation was absolutely hilarious: thank you Jack Boulware for your (unprintable) assessment of James' jam with Cheetah Chrome, Clem Burke and Alejandro Escovedo on "White Light, White Heat" for the Austin Music Awards the night before I arrived...
Above, classic James, classic Buzz.
Below left seeking shelter from severe weather, James with his "reform school buddy" Michael Adams. They played together in their reform school band The Coba Seas, with Miriam Linna's Norton Records releasing their demo 45 years later as a legendary LP. Photo on right, James flanked by IEEE's Mary Lynn Nielsen and Leigh Durst, both of SxSW's Music/Film/Interactive guest panels.
Another photo op segues us from James Williamson to The Dogs' participation in SxSW depicted below, with the Stooges' guitarist graciously posing with fellow one-time Detroiters Loren Molinare and Mary Kay, singer/guitarist and bassist respectively, and drummer Tony Matteucci.
of Swing House
joins the meet
and greet fun.
The Dogs' two SRO gigs at SxSW's Javelina and Jackalope Clubs on successive days were part of a showcase of Requiemme artists, inclusive of Okapi Sun, Jesse Malin, Born Cages and Dry River Yacht Club. The Dogs are pictured below with Requiemme's head honcho Mario Escovedo, part of the dynamic music dynasty beloved to Texas and the whole world, what with brothers Alejandro of solo roots rock band fame, Javier of The Zeros, Pete of jazz percussion fame, Coke likewise of Carlos Santana's original S.F. band Santana plus charted hitmaker niece Sheila E.
Above, SxSWesterners in Austin TX. Below, The Dogs' Mary and Tony arrive in Austin and a) do what tourists have done since the digital age began- consult their phones for their bearings instead of looking around or b) try to locate their perennially peripatetic frontman Loren.
The Dogs (expositional history, see LINK and LINK) remain a preeminent hard rock/punk power trio who've gigged for over forty years and still play with all the passion of first young love, the fast-paced precision of any of The Bigs, the surprised audaciousness of a teenager battling injustice for the first time and the ferocity of their 1960s Detroit origin (they opened for the MC5 and Stooges.) This was there second foray to SxSW. When first viewing them in 1977 at the Whisky A Gogo, I thought I could watch this band forever, their us-against-the-world, rock and roll purity dynamic was fascinating. Decades later I haven't changed my mind about them one bit.
Left: road band for four decades...
Right: Mary discovers a new potential logo.
Blue-lighting photos from the Javalena Club
Warmer-hued photos at the Jackalope Club venue which featured The Dogs alongside Urge Overkill, Jesse Malin, Riverboat Gamblers and Okapi Sun.
Below, the aforementioned Okapi Sun proved a delightful surprise to yours truly, both visually and musically. They are a dance/electronica/tribal/garage duo that write their own material, sing plus play their own instruments/program their own technology. Not a chorus boy dancer with deliberately distracting Broadway choreography in sight! Okapi Sun are Leo Parusel and Dallas Sanchez. The former has toured with her own band as Maren Parusel and the latter is a classically trained violinist, so the level of musicianship proves quite high here, unusual for the dance genres.
The two unbelievably tragic occurrences related to SxSW 2014: drunk driver Rashad Owens killed four people and badly injured 22 others when he plowed into a club and its surroundings. The all ages/all musics festival set up around Austin's temperate weather with clubs housing overflow in adjacent patios meant that all manner of people were present outside venues at any given hour, just as Owens sped past police and street barriers into these crowds. Further street barriers immediately followed in the days thereafter, exacerbating traffic congestion.
Secondly, the moment I touched down from my return plane trip and restarted the smartphone, I learned that The Stooges' drummer Scott Asheton had just passed away from a stroke at the too soon age of 64. (See LINK.) Despite Asheton's poor health for the prior two years, we can be certain how unexpected anything abnormal was by the presence a few hours before of his daughter Leanna at SxSW, seen below with The Dogs just before one of their shows, since the Asheton family remains a truly close, supportive one.