Claremont Showground
Sunday, February 5, 2006

Hyde Park Hotel, Perth
Saturday, February 4, 2006

Words and photos by GEORGIA KENNEDY
(avid and regular I-94 Bar reader, first time contributor)

The weekend of Sunday February 5 loomed slowly for us here on the sunny side of Aus.  Why is it that time just drags so much when there’s something coming up that you’re looking forward to so much?  No mind, there were a few things in the lead up to the 2006 Big Day Out to keep my thoughts occupied. 

I was invited to help celebrate a friend’s birthday on the Friday night which promised to be a big night, and then received an e-mail from an old mate who now lives in Sydney, asking if I wanted to catch up while he was in Perth.  Another old mate who resides in Melbourne also got in touch – he would be in Perth too that weekend.  So a group e-mail went out, calling all the old gang to arms to meet over a beer or three at the Rosemount Hotel on Saturday afternoon.  A sizeable group of old pals, all still kicking around from the old days of the Perth music scene, including some veritable luminaries of the late 1980’s from Perth bands past such as Division Four, Greenhouse Effect, Rust (to name but a few), ended up sitting around a wrestling ring set up in the Rosemount’s beer garden, shooting the breeze.  But given the appearance of the wrestling ring (part of an event at the hotel later that night) and the request for $20 entry fee to keep drinking there, we went down early to the good old Hyde Park Hotel for more cold bevvies, and to see Brian Hooper’s solo show later that night.

The Bumhead Orchestra tune up

Good job too.  About half an hour later, in walked all members of this incarnation of The Beasts of Bourbon, who ambled to the “stage” area (and I say stage in inverted commas, as anyone who has visited our shores and gone to the Hydey can attest, there is no stage here, but just an area in the front of the public bar where bands perform.  It’s a great venue…) and took their places with about a dozen or so assorted others to form the Bumhead Orchestra in an unannounced performance.  And for about 20 minutes or so, we heard many bells, whistles, trumpets, saxophones, and other assorted instruments trilling away at Tex Perkins’ direction.  A terrific surprise.

Tex Perkins conducts the Bumhead Orchestra

A few more pints (and hours) later, support acts The Painkillers (one of James Baker’s current bands) and The White Swallows (featuring Kim Williams) churned out solid sets.  Unfortunately by the time Brian Hooper took the stage, I was quite pissed and my recollection of the set isn’t too flash.

Brian Henry Hooper plays before a hometown crowd

Sunday morning arrived without the anticipated hangover (a happy and most welcome surprise) but with strong, hot sunshine.  A breeze was promised, and we hoped like hell that it would eventuate by the time we planned catching the train to the Claremont Showgrounds for the Big Day Out.  I had a hundred things to do before our 3.30 departure time, most of which were thwarted by the discovery of a flat car battery.  That dealt with, I packed my bag of essentials for the day, met my mates, and we were on our way.

Like many others apparently, after attending almost all of the Big Day Outs from go to whoah (with the exception of 2002 and 2004), I decided after last year (I only went to that one as I’d won free tickets) that unless there was a really, really good reason, that would be my last.  And then came the announcement that we’d all hoped for, The Stooges would be on the bill, and bloody hell, there was the reason.  Having Mike Watt in the lineup was such a bonus; the only time I’d been lucky enough to see him perform was at Seattle’s Crocodile Café in 1997 in support of his Ball-Hog or Tugboat? album.

The Perth BDO lineup was much the same as eastern states ones, except (for the most part) for the local contingent, and by the sounds of things, the timetable was somewhat different too.  We planned to arrive in good time for the meeting of friends, and entered the grounds just as The Kings of Leon took the stage.  We were worried – there was an enormous, mostly youthful crowd gathered in front of the two main stages, and quietly, I wondered whether we would actually get to see The Stooges at all with that many others to contend with.  But that aside for the time being, we headed to the back of the showgrounds to one of the smaller stages, where The Beasts of Bourbon would be playing.  They hit the ground running with Chase the Dragon, and the dedicated but small crowd in front of the stage cheered appreciatively.  Sometimes I think we are lucky here in Perth, because so many tours end here and we quite often find ourselves experiencing relaxed, buoyant performances, and the Beast’s set did not disappoint on this front.  There were smiles all round from the band as they ripped through their set.

The Beasts of Bourbon greet the afternoon crowd

The combination of Spencer P Jones and Charlie Owen on guitar was exemplary, and complemented so well by home town heroes Brian Hooper and Tony Pola.  And then the announcement that I’d heard from the horse’s mouth the night before; special guest “the man this city is built on” according to Tex Perkins, James Baker joined (some of) his old band mates on stage.  Their rendition of Drop Out, with Baker on vocals, was terrific, partly for the quite touching affection displayed for the special guest, and partly for his inability to remember the words!

James Baker tells it like it is – “I’m a Drop Out”

“The man this city is built on”: Mr James Baker

Once the Beasts finished, we decided that it might be opportune to head down to the main stages to wait out the arrival of The Stooges in the hope that we might get a decent vantage point.  And were we rewarded?  You betcha.  Right on the fence, with only a small group of teenage girls in front of us. The thought of being on the fence at a BDO was certainly a daunting one, given the enormous crowds and de rigueur large contingent of testosterone fuelled youths crowd surfing at any given event in Perth.  But I am 40 this year, and seem to have developed a bit of a “devil may care” attitude towards such things (as was also evidenced by my stage front position for Motorhead’s recent visit).

It was a long wait, which was made somewhat amusing by the young kids dotted about with home made BDO and Trainspotting shirts - and clearly not much of an idea as to who The Stooges were.  But the wait was rewarded just after sunset when The Stooges casually took to the stage to the appreciative roar of the crowd, and they launched in to “Loose”.  Shit.  We were seeing The Stooges.  Amazing.  The set list didn’t differ too much from that of the Sydney show (although the complete and accurate set list is lost of me and my friends), it was almost a case of who cared what they played, it was THEM!

Iggy says 'Hi

“I Wanna be Your Dog” followed; other songs (in no particular order, as I can’t remember) were No Fun, 1969, 1970 was in there as well.  And Dirt – "When your on top you’re a fucking genius, but when you’re down, you’re dirt"... the stand out of the set in my book, it palpably throbbed with yearning and burning.

The original crazy dancer

Iggy introduced the band to the audience – "the man driving the Stoogemobile.... Rock Action...".  Steve Mackay joined the band on sax for the second part of the set – what a treat.  Iggy leapt, twisted and cavorted with the abandon and flexibility of a man less than half his age.  His vocals were superb, strong, clear, and focused.  Mike Watt followed almost every move he made, completely tuned into the man and his vibe, taking it as direction.  Ron Asheton’s churning guitar was just superb.  Straight up rock n roll.

Mike Watt watches for his cue...

...and takes it

Only danger moment was when Iggy invited the crowd to join him on stage during “Real Cool Time”, and 28 000 people surged forward, hoping to get close enough to the fence to take him up on his offer.  I had knees and feet in the back of my head and face as people grabbed hold of anyone nearby to thrust themselves upwards and over.  The security handled the interlopers well; they remained on stage for one song (or was it two??) and then were directed off stage quickly and efficiently.

Members of the audience take Iggy up on the offer to join The Stooges on stage

The band closed their set with their reprise of I Wanna Be Your Dog – as anticipated, with full blown saxophone accompaniment courtesy of Steve Mackay of course.  They bade the crowd a quick farewell, and exited the stage without fanfare, to the ecstatic applause of the very grateful crowd.  We were spent, hot and sweaty, completely drained from the experience.  One of my friends has since needed physio on her neck as a result.

I ’m not sure what else I can really say about the band’s performance – except it sounded just so damn fine, everything I’d ever hoped and anticipated The Stooges live would be.  It was definitely one of those rock moments that will last forever, a true stand out for so many reasons.  I’ve since spoken to a mate who was also there, and he agrees – it’s difficult to describe in detail what the gig was all about, except that they came out and performed a no bullshit, power set of songs, delivered the way they were recorded, without stage-style hype or fanfare.  Brutal, chunky sounds presented live exactly the way we’d grown to love them, right off the record.

Living in Perth we often miss out on gigs, it’s a hard place to live sometimes.  Me and three mates made a road trip to Perth in 2004 for the MC5 show at the Palace, which was an expensive but completely worthwhile experience.  So I was so grateful that The Stooges made it out way – even if it was as part of the BDO – so I could tick the band off my mental list of “things to do before I die”, a joy considering I never thought this one would come off!!

We made our way back to the train station as The White Stripes commenced playing.  Pity them.  Roll on Feb 15th for Radio Birdman @ The Verandah…