Sunday, August 22, 2004

The Best of All Rock Festivals

Because his wife is awesome, my homeboy Shane got to come up from DC last weekend (when I say "last weekend" I'm talking the weekend that started with Friday August the 13) to go to the "Little Steven's International Underground Garage Festival" (a.k.a. "Underground Garage" from here on out) with me. The concept behind the Underground Garage was/is mindblowing: over 40 rock bands from throughout the 50 year history of rock n roll, all dedicated to the raw and primal sound that is "garage" (or, speaking more specifically and archetypically: garage should be the sound and intensity of the Hamburg-era Beatles). On its face, not much more needs to be said about this festival to explain why Shane and I needed to go to it, but here's some more historical information: I met Shane when I was a freshman at BYU (back in 1995) when I began stalking a local band called Thee Martinis for whom he drummed under the guise of "Wiggles Martini." Somehow Shane took me to be a cool enough guy to hang out with him and he educated me in the history of the finest 60's rock n roll and it's most loyal modern imitators--the lineup of the Underground Garage contained at least a dozen bands which Shane and I were nuts for back in 1996, so the event, aside from being awesome, was infused with a certain rock n roll nostalgia.

I would tell you every last thing Shane and I did over the course of the weekend, but that'd be lame of me. Yes, we ate crazy Indian. Yes, we ate crazy Thai. Yes, we even ate crazy Mexican. But I'm just going to tell you about every band that I saw at the Underground Garage, if that's all right.

(Shane and I arrived at the Underground Garage [the festival was held on Randalls Island, FYI] at around 2, three hours after it started. I think this means we missed around 20 bands. It should be said that there were annoying MCs between sets, that a dozen go-go dancers were just about always on stage, that the entire thing was being filmed with very expensive looking cameras, and that there was a video screen above the stage that usually was used to show trailers for and scenes from 50's and 60's sci-fi and horror movies. From this point on, you're just getting a list of bands and my impressions)

The Charms The first of only three girl-fronted acts that I caught. Not the best band of the day.

The Lyres The second band of the day for me and the first of which I had 1996 memories. It should be said now that these bands from early in the day each played 2 or 3 song sets, but the Lyres seemed to just play one long song.

The Stems According to my notes I saw a band called "The Stems" -- I don't remember them at all. But I do remember that they were followed by "Eek the Geek", a Coney Island Sideshow Act.

The Woggles Another band I "knew" coming into the event. But I didn't realize they were so old.

The Chocolate Watchband A "pivotal" (it seems so silly to say such a thing) 60's psychedelic garage band and someone that the crowd was excited to see. Plenty of maracas and tambourines and the first great sing-along song of the day, "Don't Need Your Lovin' No More."

The Shazam A good modern act, but they only just barely fit the bill.

The Electric Prunes The oldest looking band of the day and a big hit with the older looking members of the audience (a.k.a. everyone who was at the festival not just to see the Strokes) many were floored by "I Had Too Much to Dream Last Night" which was often brought up as one of the day's finest performances by the MCs later on that night.

The Fuzztones New York "legends" (the term is used loosely right now because I'm going to have to use it to describe real legends like the Dictators and New York Dolls later on) and first real rockstars of the day.

The Creation The Creation provided the crowd with the first great rock-out moment with their second number, "Making Time" (a.k.a. "that song from Rushmore"). Feedback bliss, totally awesome.

Chesterfield Kings No, forget the Fuzztones, these guys were the first real real rockstars of the day. Also, Bruce Springsteen came out to introduce them. No joke. Now I have actual interest in and respect for the Boss.

The Mooney Suzuki They dress psychedelic now, so I nearly didn't recognize the guys and I think they have a new drummer. Anyway, it was a surprise that this fairly popular current band didn't play later on in the day, but their three songs were hot and they were introduced by Mr. Gong Show/CIA Assassin Chuck Berris. There were all sorts of odd intros throughout the day. It should be said that the Mooney Suzuki are to garage what the Darkness are to rawk, but that's no reason to hate on anyone.

The Paybacks Second girl band of the day. A Detroit presence.

The Pete Best Band You have to wonder what it's like to be Pete Best. Well, at least he has a so-so band that he's in now, living off the fact that he wasn't in the Beatles when they were successful. So, a lack of success breeds "success" and everyone gets on with their lives.

The 45's All I have written in my notes about them is "good", so I suppose they were good. Yet not memorable.

D4 I knew D4 was hot, but I didn't know they were this hot. One of the surprise high-points of the day was their cover of Guitar Wolf's Planet of the Wolves track "Invader Ace." Intense, awesome.

The Romantics Mod old men. Don't know if I really wanted or needed to hear "What I Like About You", but I heard it, and there's nothing I can do about that.

At this point, sets started to get longer and my Rock N Roll stamina decreased steadily as the Rock N Roll awesomeness of the event increased steadily.

The Dictators Big Pussy from the Sopranos introduced these (here we go again) New York Legends. One of the liveliest sets of the day, very good work--good intensity, high intensity. Mr. Dick Manitoba is a force of nature, the Andrew WK of the 70s, a real 100 push-ups a day sort of guy. The Dictators have been described as the missing link between the New York Dolls and NYC Punk, and that's a great description.

Nancy Sinatra Okay, so when I first saw that Nancy Sinatra was on the Underground Garage lineup I was like, "OK, cool, she'll play "These Boots are Made for Walking" and then get off the stage. I can deal with that. Well, that's not what happened. Ms. Sinatra seemed to think she was on a world tour and that we were all dying to hear a handful of songs from her new record, but really, we weren't. Still, she finished up with "These Boots", backed up by about 60 (no joke) Go-Go Dancers. Almost redeemed her.

Big Star This is what my notes say: "I'm tired. 5:50. 70's show theme. I'm not feeling it." That about sums it up.

Bo Diddley The big bad black Grandad I never had, Mr. Diddley was awesome. One of the very best acts of the day, the entire audience hung on his every word and guitar lick. He dropped four of his greatest hits (Bo Diddley, I'm a Man, Crackin' Up, and Hey Bo Diddley) and left the crowd hungry, no, starving for more. I must admit I had my fingers crossed for "Who Do You Love", but I'll take what I can get. That song is as hardcore as they come. "I use a cobra snake for a neck-tie/I got a brand new house on the roadside/ Made from rattlesnake hide" -- dude doesn't mess around.

The Raveonettes These Danes could've dropped one of the night's best sets on us, but fears of the arrival of Hurricane Charley cut their set very short--just two songs, thanks a lot, Nancy Sinatra.

The Pretty Things One of them said, "I never used to worry about Charlie showing up." That was awesome. Can't really say the same about their set.

The New York Dolls For the record, probably the band Shane was most excited to see, if I'm allowed to make such a statement. Now, it's all fine and good that many fathers will raise their children on the Beatles or the Rolling Stones (or the Beach Boys, if your dad is Randy Barnes), but if fathers really want their kids to grow up loving rock n roll, then they should be playing junior the New York Dolls nonstop. To borrow from the vernacular, the Dolls' set put a hole in it. The night very easily could have ended with them and no one would have had any reason to complain. Spectacular set, and their rendition of "Pills" did Bo Diddley right. Pretty great to hear "Trash" live, too--sure, not a surprise, but perfect, right on down to the "how do you call your lover, boy?"

The Strokes Ok, so now I've seen the Strokes live. When they were done, all the teenagers disappeared from the audience.

Iggy and the Stooges I was ready for this set to go either way. Coming up to the Underground Garage, I had never felt any need or desire to see Iggy Pop live. What could the old man have to show me? If I had only known! At 57, Iggy Pop's body is nothing but skin and muscle and he ran onto the stage with an energy and intensity a man less than half his age would be jealous of before the last MC even finished introducing him. Watching Mr. Pop, I immediately realized that something had been missing from the festival: the essential sense of danger and troublemaking that should be inherent in all rock, I mean, this is rebel music, isn’t it? The reckless abandon with which Mr. Pop threw himself about stage and from the speaker stacks was astonishing, his performance seemed to be set on obliterating the stage—of course, he got a little help in that department when he encouraged the audience to storm the stage. Watching him and the Stooges, it was clear to me that Iggy was a neglected rock and roll king and a force of nature that could take all comers. A street walking cheetah with a heart full of napalm, indeed.

And that, my dear readers, is the short-version of my experience at the Underground Garage Festival. I can't properly describe how satisfying the event was, how (and I'm trying not to be stupid here) impressed I was with myself for having such fine taste in rock and roll. You and your lame friends can sit around all day talking about what Eddie Vedder means to you if you must, me, I'll be blowing my ears out with this stuff. I hope and pray that the Underground Garage returns next summer and that Mr. Little Steven thinks to invite Billy Childish.

And you thought I was just going to post links to other sites for the rest of Steady Mobbin's life, didn't you?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You'll have to stretch your brain somewhat for this one Brig...

'back in the day' of academic year 1995-1996, I shared a DT floor with a couple guys who had a decent presence with their band in the local Provo scene. Vocalist was about my size with dark curly hair, and guitarist was a bit taller with red hair. Names escape me, unfortunately, as does the name of the band. I do recall, however, one of their more popular tunes - had a lead riff inspired by Smashing Pumpkins 'Drown', and the song name was 'Elanor'. I seem to recall several shows they played at the Wrapsody.

Any recollection of these geezers?