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MC5 Founder Wayne Kramer, Stooges’ Mike Watt, Headline at Famous Whisky A Go-Go on Sunset Strip

New Music Brings Fans to The Sunset Strip

Sean McNabb and Joe Retta perform at jam session at Whisky - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Sean McNabb and Joe Retta perform at jam session at Whisky – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

By DONNA BALANCIA – Wayne Kramer and Mike Watt are among rockers who gave the Sunset Strip a shot in the arm at the Whisky A Go-Go Tuesday night.

“This is the Whisky A Go Go, where (the jam session) belongs!”  cried emcee Paulie Z, who along with the rest of the “regulars,” perform a high-energy show to tear the house down, week in and week out.

“This is one of the most fun nights of the week,” said Jesse, who drove down from Ventura to see some of the most talented side men in the business.  And a few women contributed to the success of the night as well including Debby Holiday who has become a fixture in the festivities.  Holiday knows how to bring the house to its collective knees and she did not disappoint Tuesday.

Punks at the Whisky: Wayne Kramer and Mike Watt - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Punks at the Whisky: Wayne Kramer and Mike Watt – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Ralph Saenz, known for his wild glamrock sendup as lead singer in the big-haired, babe-bustin’ musical comedy troupe Steel Panther was on hand to sing Van Halen as a burlesque artist did her thing.

“I used to be in a Van Halen tribute band,” Saenz admitted.  Honestly the guy can do anything and make it all funny.

Paulie Z and the house band; The Disreputable Few; Joe Retta; Micki Free; Alex Kane; Mitch Perry; Chuck Wright; Joey Malone and a host of all-stars move on and off stage during the four-hour evening.  It’s a free night but even if they charged, it would be well worth a ticket to see this kind of talent. One moment to note: Paulie Z. asked for a moment of silence for the recent passing of Rainbow chef Miguel Murillo.

Joey Malone, Chuck Wright, Matt Starr, Walter Ino, Debby Holiday and Mitch Perry - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Joey Malone, Chuck Wright, Matt Starr, Walter Ino, Debby Holiday and Mitch Perry – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

“It’s great to see these guys jamming and the fans digging the music,” said Little Caesar frontman Ron Young in an upcoming interview with . “It’s a cool jam night and it’s great to see the Sunset Strip get people jammin’ again.”

But the first set belonged to special guests Watt and Kramer who in the late 1970s set the tone for punkers yet to come.  Kramer is a founder Detroit innovators MC5 and Watt was with The Stooges.

Vionlinist trio, known as V3, were featured on Love Reign O'er Me and I Am The Walrus - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Vionlinist trio, known as V3, were featured on Love Reign O’er Me and I Am The Walrus – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

With their frontman, Mike Doughty of Soul Coughing, the trio put on a rave-worthy performance of “TV Eye,” “Light Will Keep Your Heart Beating,” and the raucous “Kick Out The Jams.”

“All these super musicians get together and have fun,” said Loren Molinare of The DoGs of Detroit, who doubles as a rep for Blackstar Amplification, a show sponsor.  “This is a great addition to the Sunset Strip, the audience and music fans really want this.”


Punk Weekend Rocks With Cheetah Chrome, James Williamson in SF Show

Cheetah Chrome James Williamson and Streetwalkin' Cheetahs

Cheetah Chrome James Williamson and Streetwalkin’ Cheetahs – photo by Kuuguy1

By DONNA BALANCIA – It was a great weekend in California for the punks.

Cheetah Chrome and The Streetwalkin’ Cheetahs hit San Francisco; Richie Ramone, The Sonics and The Dead Kennedys rocked The Queen Mary in Long Beach, Calif.; and Bad Religion and Guttermouth played the Picnic in Pozo.

On a day that brought out punk rock’s best across California, the choice was difficult as inevitably, fans opted to go regional.

Cheetah Chrome

Cheetah Chrome gave a great one-off show in San Francisco – Photo © 2015 Russell Allen

Cheetah Chrome of Dead Boys fame took the stage of San Francisco’s Verdi Club stage with his West Coast Band, The Streetwalkin’ Cheetahs, and gave the crowd its money’s worth.

“The Streetwalkin’ Cheetahs got the call to back Cheetah Chrome at this awesome punk festival and he mentioned that James Williamson would be sitting in, but to keep it secret for a while,” said Frank Meyer of The Streetwalkin’ Cheetahs. “Eventually the word got out, so there were  definitely a lot of Stooges fans in the audience.

“The place was packed and Cheetah’s set was well-received throughout. Then the place went absolutely berserk when James came on stage,” Meyer said.  “People are fascinated by him.”

Chrome and the Cheetahs opened with the classic “Big Cat,” and played some favorites including the RFTT tune “Amphetamine,” “Ain’t It Fun,” with Ralph Carney from Tom Waits’ band on sax, and Williamson came on for “Raw Power” and “Search And Destroy.”

Williamson, who last January hosted the Re-Licked concert featuring Chrome and The Streetwalkin’ Cheetahs, had one question about the gig: “‘Ain’t It Fun’ to catch up with Cheetah Chrome?” he asked.



See video of James Williamson, Cheetah Chrome and The Streetwalkin’ Cheetahs here courtesy of Kuuguy1:

Rock Photogs Heather Harris and Markus Cuff: Let Your Lens Find The Truth

Heather Harris and Markus Cuff are two outstanding rock and roll photographers from different eras, with different styles, and with different specialties.  But they both agree the way to handle a challenging and restrictive age in photojournalism is to let their lens find the truth.

The two well-known rock photogs were interviewed by author and radio host Nikki Palomino on her Whatever68 radio show last night.

Harris has shot some of the most interesting artists of our day ranging from punk rockers of the late ’60s to Glam Rockers and beyond — in big venues and small.  Cuff is about rockers, music, motorcycles and tattoos, and his work is published in the top mags.

In 1973, Iggy and the Stooges had the audiences frightened, standing way far away in this shot - Photo © Heather Harris

In 1973, Iggy and the Stooges had the audiences frightened, standing way far away, as Heather Harris recalled. — Photo © Heather Harris

Both agree that while digital aspects and technology have helped improve the profession, restrictions at events, increased competition among publications, and declining media space has made the art of photography tougher than ever, for veterans and newbies alike.

Harris, who was first published in 1969, said the key for her initial success was hanging with the music writers and “UCLA Mafia” who all went on to make it in the business.

“Well I was always doing art drawing, since 3, I always drew from photographs. …When I was 12,  I learned about copyright law and perhaps maybe I should take the photographs that I drew. In the meantime, in the early to mid ’60s, music was my life raft keeping me afloat, and when I started to go to concerts it never occurred to me not to bring a camera even though I didn’t have good cameras. I had a crummy Instamatic but I do have live shots of Buffalo Springfield. I went to art school at UCLA but never studied photography. I’m self-taught, I tried to figure out what the best people were doing.  I knew I preferred the natural live look. I met people who helped me a great deal. I started getting published in around ’69 and hung around with a lot of music writers so I would hear about good things coming up.”

Those good things included groups like Iggy and The Stooges.

“I knew John Mendels(s)ohn, who was an excellent writer and he introduced me to The Stooges in 1970,” Harris said. “He was a bit of a contrarian so he liked anything that was disruptive, so that was a natural with him. And people forget that outside of Detroit and New York people didn’t hear of them and when they did they didn’t like them, so he was one of their early champions. but they didn’t come back to LA until ’73. That’s when I photographed them at the Whisky. I was still a poor college student so the only freebie I could get was a second show at the Whisky. If you could, imagine the difference between a first and second show at the Whisky in 1973, and all the photos you’ve seen that I took of The Stooges there were from a 22-minute, second set of two songs.

“I didn’t have much in the way of instruction, just tried to do it. I knew the looks I wanted; there’s a lot of people who are great photographers that I studied. I liked David Garr, he always to get always the natural light but always the emotion and his pictures looked different that everybody else’s.

Johnny Ray and author and Radio host Nikki Palomino at Precious Metal Reunites Show -- Photo © 2015 Heather Harris

Johnny Ray and author and Radio host Nikki Palomino — Photo © Heather Harris

“Other than that, I tried to photograph important music, music that influenced me.  I have worked on staff at some periodicals.

Palomino asked: At the time, at the Whisky when Iggy Pop was playing, how was the audience?

“They were terrified of the band,” Harris said.  “I have one great picture of Iggy hanging off the stage and there’s no one near the stage.”

Cuff, meanwhile was in a band and made his transition by coming up through the Guitar World, Guitar School, and motorcycle magazines like Easyriders and then finally Tattoo Magazine, where he’s been for 18 years.

“My first published work was in Guitar World and Guitar School, stuff like Flea and John Frusciante,” he said. Cuff found an interest in the motorcycle world when no one else was shooting bikes.

Like the musicians they cover, both photographers create their best work while taking a risk.  Harris gave Palomino examples of bands who took a chance.

Mr. Twister, Harris’ husband, played in some theatrical proto-punk bands Chainsaw and Christopher Milk — bands that never get their due, she said.

“They say that the pioneers get all the arrows,” Harris said. “When it’s new not everybody gets it, I was very used to this from art history, where the best people in art aren’t necessarily known in their lifetime. The Stooges were like that initially. The bands my husband were in were theatrical proto-punk bands that influenced Cheap Trick, although they deny it now, The Tubes. But again they were amongst the first to do it so they’re not necessarily remembered.  Although my husband was the first performer banned from the Troubadour for his performance … He had a very raunchy act.”  READ HERE FOR MORE ON MR TWISTER, CHRISTOPHER MILK, AND CHAINSAW

Palomino asked, “So what do you see as far as changes in the bands now?”

“I’m told that the people who are younger than me don’t want to take risks. You have to be able to do it the way not everybody else is,” Harris said.

John Frusciante and Flea taken at Flea's house -- photo © Markus Cuff

John Frusciante and Flea taken at Flea’s house — photo © Markus Cuff

“The record companies don’t want to deviate from the formula. … I think they’ve forgotten the best experience for human beings incorporates all the senses you can, not just hearing… To be there and hear things that don’t show up even, in photos or in reviews that’s what you try to get, to add something to music.”

Cuff said what ticks him off are the rules like having to put down the camera after the third song a band plays, which is ludicrous.

“The technical aspects of concert photography have gotten better than ever. Nowadays you’re locked into two or three songs unless you’re kissing somebody’s ass.  Now its so controlled, there’s no spontaneity.”

Cuff said after the management or venue stops photographs after the second or third song, he would go to the back and shoot with a long lens.  Mainly because all the action happens after the third song, he said.

Harris said that’s one aspect of the business that has gotten out of control, so sometimes you have to beg forgiveness rather than ask permission.

“I try to to see if I can’t shoot bands where I can shoot the whole set.  Sometimes it’s ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell.'” Harris said.

“I was there to do essentially what the musicians were there to do and that’s to get good art. When I started in the ’60s every publicist knew who every photographer was and photography was great publicity. Now it’s considered damage control.

“I know coming from fine art, how little it takes to really improve something. Go to a Rembrandt painting and look at the people and get very close and look at the eyes, there’s a red dot in the corner of each eye. It’s just a blob of paint but it makes the eye look watery and alive, it’s so little but has a good effect.”

“I took a grainy picture of the Who at the end of their first Tommy tour in 1970 and it showed all four members doing exactly what they’re known for, leaping in the air, going nuts on the drums, twirling the microphone and, to me, even though it was grainy, it was perfect. That was the band. That’s as active as they were, that’s as exciting as they were. That was the band. Some people would say ‘Don’t you have any others?’ No they only made just one.”

Markus Cuff has made a career out of shooting the art of motorcycles -- Photo © Markus Cuff

Markus Cuff has made a career out of shooting the art of motorcycles — Photo © Markus Cuff

Nowadays you could get off about 30 shots in the amount of time it took to snap that one, Cuff said.

Harris said the technology has improved photography.

“I don’t miss film because it was hard to deal with,” she said. “Working for magazines I don’t miss working in a cold dark room trying to make deadline,” she said.  “And what they have now is better. Some people prefer film because it’s more hands on. I wish cameras I have now, way back then.  The film i had to use to take that Who shot was called police film, even the instructions talked about the suspect rather than the subject.

As far as the intrusion of the Internet on how photographers sell their work, a proliferation of content from citizen-journalists, as well as the downsizing of magazines has hurt.

“In relation to magazines, Easyriders stopped a long time ago, I got with American Iron and then i have been with Tattoo for about 18 years. The tattoo world has been pretty rocked especially tattoo mags, by the tv shows and the ubiquity of tattoo magazines. When I started there were eight, max, decent tattoo magazines. Now there are now like 25 and they’re all called ‘Tattoo’ or some variation on that. There’s a lot of magazines, like Inked, a coffee table with a lot of girls in them. if there’s girls and they’re young even if the tattoo isn’t real good, eh it’s fine.  So it’s a whole different world now. My work was always go around the country, go to shops and shoot their best work, and it was top shops, it was double-A tattoo work. Everything’s changed a lot because now, it’s the print world is really down and the tattoo magazines are trying to readjust to the digital platform.”

The nature of the picture has changed because the music has changed, Cuff said.

“How many pictures can you get of somebody wearing mouse ears behind a turntable?” Cuff asked. “A lot of those acts they may be fun to listen to … but you get two shots and you’ve got the whole thing. There’s a lot of strange anti-theatrical music out there now that’s not particularly photo friendly.”

“That’s why I like new bands that are good, they’ve figured out they want to do something different,” Harris said. “The history of art doesn’t go forward unless you take a chance.”

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