Live review: Ron Asheton tribute at the Roxy
The Roxy was still mostly empty Wednesday afternoon when Leanna Asheton picked up her cell, a little nervous about the night's tribute to her uncle, the late Stooges guitarist Ron Asheton. Many players hadn't yet arrived, including her father, Stooges drummer Scott Asheton.
"Would you do me a big favor," she said into the phone, "and pick up my dad?" Doors were set to open soon, and as musicians and crew set up equipment, saxophonist Steve Mackay called out from stage to Stooges guitarist James Williamson. "Hey, James! Soundcheck?" as he playfully hit a single, relentless E note repeatedly on a keyboard, recreating the intense melody of "I Wanna Be Your Dog."
Soon, the night erupted with a three-hour concert of short sets by newer punk and garage acts and the surviving Stooges (currently in rehearsals for a 2010 tour), minus singer Iggy Pop. They were joined at times by former Stooges keyboardist Scott Thurston and drummers Chad Smith from the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Stephen Perkins from Jane's Addiction, among others.
The youngest acts were particularly well-chosen by Leanna Asheton, 18, who organized the show and picked dangerous up-and-coming artists with an inflamed attitude, an especially appropriate tribute to her uncle, whose intense guitar-work helped pave the way for generations of punk and alternative rock.
Billy Boy On Poison ripped up "Search and Destroy," igniting garage rock riffs as singer Davis LeDuke stood twitchy and restless behind the microphone. Night Horse opened with the cranked-up stomp of "Angel Eyes," and dedicated its set not only to Asheton but to young garage-rock singer Jay Reatard, who died earlier in the day.
The Entrance Band unleashed a rumbling wall of noise, veering from protopunk and into throbbing psychedelia. "The Ashetons -- great heroes of rock 'n' roll," said Entrance singer-guitarist Guy Blakeslee from the stage, playing his Jazzmaster left-handed and upside-down. "This is all for Ron. I wouldn't have this guitar if it wasn't for that man."
The club wasn't sold out, but had a large enough crowd for an exceptional good time. Any proceeds from the show were set for the Los Angeles Animal Welfare Trust Fund, in honor of Ron's love for his many cats and dogs. "He liked animals way more than he ever liked people," Leanna said.
Things went off the rails during an extended rendition of "No Fun," with Smith behind the drums and Mackay on sax, when singer Mike Jtone of Circus Boy slipped into a clumsy punk-rock trance, tumbling across the stage and knocked over Mackay's keyboard. Bassist Steve Baise then fell, chest-out, into the photographers up front.
As the song ended, Mackay gave Jtone a prominent middle finger, and Baise told he crowd, "This is for Ron, this isn't for you losers." Soon enough, Perkins was flailing behind the drums as current Stooges bassist (and punk icon) Mike Watt shouted "I Feel Alright" and "1969" from the gut with absolute joy and muscle, as Thurston slashed ragged riffs on guitar.
When the tribute concert was nearly over, Perkins was backstage with Leanna, already reliving his quick set with Watt, Mackay and Thurston, marveling at the bassist's depth of feeling: "Watt was leading all of us." Then Leanna heard her father hitting the beat of "TV Eye," and said, "I wanna see this band," and hurried back downstairs.
Perkins was right behind her.
BROTHER: Scott Asheton plays at the show. Ron was found dead Jan. 6. Credit: Jay L. Clendein / Los Angeles Times
MUSICAL PROGENY: Sam James Velde of Night Horse sings during the concert dedicated to the late Ron Asheton. Credit: Jay L. Clendein / Los Angeles Times