Tonight, a trifecta of punk with the Saints, Buzzcocks and Stooges. But first, another panel (I think I am the only one interested in these things). Chuck D, Alejandro Escovedo and Cyril Neville were among the speakers at “Say It Loud, I'm What? and I'm Proud” discussing the burden of otherness – Black, Latino, Armenian-Iraqi-American- from-North-Hollywood, etc – in music. Which begs the question: Why does one of the world's biggest music festivals that brings together bands from Mexico to Uzbekistan to Iceland draw only predominately white audiences? It went unanswered. David Marsh, rock critic and co-founder of Creem magazine, wasted time recounting his childhood in “cracker” Pontiac, Michigan, practically weeping and taking…very…long and uncomfortable pauses. Even Chuck D was preaching to the choir: “America is still as black and white as an old TV set.” But when the baddest baritone in the biz talks about “white supremacy society syndrome” and calls all music “look-out love music,” you pay attention. Escovedo remembered playing a Buddy Holly tribute show and being mistaken for a waiter. Unfortunate, you bet. But talk to us when the name on your mail is often misspelled “Sirhan,” who, if you recall, is the man who assassinated Robert F. Kennedy.
Learning tidbits about the world's first music festival at “Monterey Pop at 40” with Lou Adler, Michelle Phillips and former Stones manager Andrew Loog Oldham was more fun: Otis Redding took over the Beach Boys' slot and had never before performed to a white audience; the Mammas and the Pappas played only once after Monterey; Janis Joplin sang on two days; Ravi Shankar was the only artist to get paid; and it was a coin toss that decided the Who would play before Hendrix.
Hungry for more than another hot dog-on-the-go, I selfishly sit down for a meal with cloth napkins and once again caught the Buzzcocks' last remaining songs at Emo's, the same as the night before, with the addition of “Harmony in My Head.” Got word they had decided to do “Boredom” and wanted to jump in the Colorado River. But as my editor said, “It's like Sophie's Choice here.” Still on a quest for more really oddly-named bands – missed Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin, couldn't find Michael Zapruder's Rain of Frogs – I check out Sacramento's Who's Your Favorite Son, God? at the Blender Balcony at the Ritz and heard noise. Unmitigated noise. Prog rock noise. Causes-sterility noise. Seated between dueling guitarists singer Zac Nelson was screeching like a cat being put out of its misery. “I practice broken glass steps before blood awakens,” reads his Myspace. Jello Biafra, my favorite malcontent punk rock spoken words-man after Henry Rollins, was holding court at The Parish a few blocks down, and here's an incoherent rambling sampling of the spewage: Yellow-ribbon McCarthyism…Pentagon parrot pundits…I don't do junk mail….look in your bags conventioneers….if it sounds like the Eagles with heavy guitar, out of my stereo it goes…punk was invented to destroy the Eagles, not repackage it…..megalomaniac Oprah Winfrey….Oprah Winfrey is the Kim Jong Il of America….they can't draft you if you're overweight, so don't march down the street and yell, “Hell no, we won't go,” march down the street and yell, “Supersize me.” Doink! Biafra is hit with cup of ice.
Definitely not wanting to miss the Saints at the Blender Bar at the Ritz, I had to wiggle my wait out of the Stooges show (Fun house? Try nut house.) like a trapped sardine midway through. I caught on to Australia's the Saints, whose 1977 (I'm) Stranded is one of the best punk albums, after once hearing their killer cover of “River Deep, Mountain High.” And to my knowledge, this was their first U.S. show in years. Too bad it was St. Patrick's Day. And too bad this was a bar with more drunks trying to dance a jig than fans. Singer Chris Bailey, the only original member, seemed kind of dour, at one point arguing with someone in the audience. “I'm Stranded?” Missed that, too. Just take me to the river.
Yeah, having to leave the Stooges at Stubb's early was a bitch, in more ways than one. Finally the night had come for Austin to eat some Detroit crow. But peering through the cracks between people's bodies – how about a panel on the burden of being short? – and avoiding cigarette burns is no way to watch wily and wiry Iggy Pop contort his sculpted body like a Cirque du Soleil reject. Taking this as a challenge, the boy next to me had to hold his chest every time he yelled “Woooo!” No doubt he had a collapsed lung last night. “Hello VIP,” he greeted the limbs dangling from the stairs. “Hello losers,” he said to the rest of us on dirt. Pop, Ron Asheton, Scott Asheton and Mike Watt on bass unveiled cuts from the new Stooges album, The Weirdness, including “Trollin'” and “My Idea of Fun.” But they kicked things off with “Loose,” which lead to “I Wanna Be Your Dog,” “Fun House” and “1970.” How amazing would it be if a reunited Damned, who've covered “1970,” and the reunited Stooges got together on this one? Like all the others I've missed – the Fratellis joined by Pete Townshend, Slash, Perry Farrell and Wayne Kramer with Tom Morello – they'll probably wind up here as the “special guests” next year.
So……South by Southwest. You've given me blisters, blackened lungs, flyers that have killed every tree, pizza sitting on used condoms on a littered sidewalks, and so much music in my system I feel like I'd taken a musical suppository for four days. Same time in 2008? You crazy.