Tuesday, August 24, 2004

We Was Rockin', Part II: The Little Steven's Underground Garage festival on Randall's Island.

If you wanted to read a review of the concert, the list of superlatives that I might string together would surely sound like just so much hyperbole. Therefore, this is not about to be a concert review as such, which I frankly stink at writing. Go read this post at Blogcritic, which pretty much says the same things I was thinking about the concert, and you can read this review in Billboard too, even though I would disagree on several points with the author, including his poor assessment of Mooney Suzuki and D4, and his grand assessment of the Strokes' performance.

This is a collection of impressions and recollections of a fine, damp evening under the haze of an August New York sky, wherein Little Steven was nominated to sit amongst the Gods in the Pantheon of Rock and Roll, as if he wasn't there already.

There was quite a trek from the parking area (read: field) to the concert area (read: field), and it occurred to me on the walk in that I might be unhappy with the walk back, after standing for 8 or 9 hours. We got there about 2 in the afternoon, even though the gate opened at 10 a.m., because we just didn't want to stand around through that many hours of fun. After 10 hours or so, "fun" tends to turn into "forced march", when you are no longer a teenager.

First thing, J. and I went around and hit up every stand that had free giveaways (I will not shill for the sponsors by listing them by name), but this meant we each got a free cup of soda, a small iced latte, a guitar-shaped car air-freshener, and some goofy temporary tattoos. Hey, free stuff is free stuff!

The stage was huge, and had these video monitors in the back, that went back and forth between old B Horror movies and shots of the stage act, which I thought added just the right touch. There were go-go dancers on a platform in front of the video screens and on either side of the stage, which was also a fun addition. The only unfortunate point to the stage setup was a set of lights positioned right behind the acts and facing toward the audience, so as the day went on, you were pretty certain that your retinas were going to be extra crispy. We took refuge on the dark side of the sound mixing tower, which was good for deflecting some of the sun in the overcast sky, and was a good spot to get the best sound mix.

We got down to the field after the revolving stage had apparently already broken, so all day long, we listened to increasingly inane chatter during the setting up of equipment. When the announcers ran out of things to say, they went to the go-go dancers for what I suppose they thought would be amusing and crowd- pleasing comments, but these girls had less than nothing to say. Some of the announcers, Kim Fowley and Martin Lewis, seemed to think that encouraging the girls to simply yell into the microphone would get the crowd going. Um, no. After enough of that "entertainment", a burly fellow to our left started to bellow, "Shut the Fuck Up!" repeatedly. Everyone around him laughed and nodded in agreement, and some joined in. It was pretty amusing.

I'm not trying to be bitchy about the dancers, either. Their look was my hippy mod 60's dress up fantasy when I was a child. They were very cute, and they were very entertaining to watch as they gyrated in their white vinyl go-go boots, hot pants, colored stockings and sequined belly shirts, some wearing neon pageboy wigs. Oh man, I would have killed for those clothes when I was young. My Barbie dolls dressed like that, and I thought that was the coolest look ever, and the stage was loaded with them. Dancing cool Barbies! But, having said all that in praise of the dancers, I now feel free to say that judging from their stage patter, they were dumb as rocks.

Speaking of rock, the day was a completely amazing mix of old garage and new, as well as an insane demographic mix of old rockers and new in the audience. I wouldn't be surprised if there were several generations of a family at this event, finally proving that rock and roll is not just the property of the young. It is not a generational dividing line any more. At least not if your parents are cool.

It was another great day for people watching, and this crowd outdid the Joan Jett crowd (previous post) in terms of Most Unnatural Hair Colors, and certainly in terms of playing Spot The Coolest Looking -Yet Obviously Most Painful To Stand In All Day Long- Shoes. There was a good portion of the audience that looked as if they were in bands themselves, or at least they dressed the part.

It was well worth spending the day standing in a field, praying that the impending hurricane would hold off until after the Stooges. I really, really, really wanted to see the New York Dolls and the Stooges most of all, as I had totally missed their heyday, and they were all I could have hoped for. The Strokes' lead singer is just a whining poseur, and I found them annoying and boring. As J. said, Lou Reed already immortalized the Totally Bored With It All pose, and this pain in the ass was just jealous that most of us were looking at the Strokes as an opening band to suffer through to get to the meat - Iggy Pop!

Others have already said it, but it is just amazing the amount of chaos this guy brings to a performance, and at nearly 57 years old. He made me tired just watching him. Jumping up on the stacks, pulling crowd members up on stage to freak out with during one song, jumping on the camera, much to the obvious dismay of the technical people, and humping the lens. Good Lord, this guy is a freak. And I mean that in a good way.

The whole day was great rock and roll spectacle, and we had a great time. I had to throw on my very attractive (NOT) rain poncho at the very end, due to the combination of the beginning of a determined drizzle and my freshly won wellness after a long bout with bronchitis, but the weather held out just long enough for the show to be completed. I'd had visions of epic Woodstockian battles with mud, and I was quite relieved.

Little Steven is just the coolest guy ever for bringing this festival together. Everyone bow down and do the Wayne's World "We're Not Worthy!" salute to this man. He is trying to keep rock and roll going in a time when we are subjected to American Idol winners and The New Mickey Mouse Club Alumni, while the Lollapalooza ticket sales were so pitiful that the tour was canceled. Little Steven is a God.

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