Iggy/Stooges, Strokes, NY Dolls, etc: Little Steven’s Garage Fest Review (CRAZY LONG) [Archive] - Audio & Video Forums


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08-16-2004, 02:27 AM
This was an awesome event, despite a lame crowd. Hey, I never said this stuff was popular. I have a terrible eye for crowd estimates, but I’m figuring somewhere between 5,000 and 10,000 people. Weak. I say, if you reconstitute the Dolls & put ‘em on a bill with Iggy & The Stooges, add Bo Diddley, Nancy Sinatra, Big Star, the Raveonettes, and 35 other bands, there should be at least 50,000 there for the curiosity alone. I guess not.

I was there early early, before 10:30 in the morning. The show was supposed to start at 11, but it actually started 20 minutes early. There was a revolving stage, which broke an hour or two in. The idea, apparently (according to a letter I saw posted on the VR), was for each act (up until the more well-known acts) to have a 10-minute set, three or four songs. At the end of ten minutes, the stage would automatically turn, even if the band was still playing. And the band on the side turning to face the crowd would already be started, so there could’ve been some clashing there. But this was sort of by design, if this letter is genuine.

Unfortunately, once the stage broke, they had to do manual changeovers, which limited the sets of at least 25 bands to two songs. In a perfect world, they would’ve trimmed the lineup of some of the fat, as there was horrible dross, especially early on. But this was a $20 ticket, for 40+ bands, so who can complain? With bad weather approaching, they also moved their firm deadline of 11 pm cutoff up an hour. Even so, you’re talking about nearly 11 ½ hours of music. It really was an unbelievable undertaking.

Contributing to the ‘Hullabaloo/T.A.M.I. Show’ vibe were go-go dancers gyrating energetically throughout many sets. Not where it wasn’t appropriate, mind you, but it contributed something, especially during some of the more ‘groovy’ bands’ sets. I think there’s some good evidence of this in the many pictures I’m going to post.

My digital camera is not suited to be taking outdoor pictures, period, let alone from a distance like this, but I can get off a good shot every now & then. I tried to photograph every band I thought either nameworthy, or good enough to warrant some kind of documentation on my part. There’s one or two where the quality’s not really good enough for me to bother posting here. If anyone has any desire to see any of the ones I’m not bothering to post, PM or email me, I’ll be happy to send ‘em over. But I’m going to try to hit all the highlights here.

08-16-2004, 02:53 AM
Unfortunately, I have to start with a gripe or two here. I don’t think anyone really has much of a right to gripe considering how big this thing was, but there were a couple of gaffes that I think could have been prevented. For one thing, there were two or three characters relied on heavily to speak during changeovers. And they were all trying to do the same Murray The K/Alan Freed schtick about rock’n’roll & how great it is & how this is the real rock’n’roll, blah blah blah. I don’t mind hearing that quite as much from Little Steven. But from Kim Fowley & some other wanker? It got old, fast, and it went on all day. There were some pleasant surprises—Bruce Springsteen introduced a couple of bands, a couple of cast members from The Sopranos, and Chuck Barris (!). And there were a few DJs from the local classic rock station, people I remember well from my days of listening to that stuff on the radio more than 20 years ago, gushing about how great it is that their station was the first to pick up Little Steven’s Underground Garage program, which was a tough sell at first but is now doing pretty well in syndication, apparently. Listening to these people, you would think that the Chocolate Watchband, the Sonics, and the Flamin’ Groovies are all in heavy rotation. I had to chuckle at the comments from the DJs about how these types of bands are the ones that ‘really deserve your support.’ Of course! As opposed to Led Zeppelin & Pink Floyd, Boston & Aerosmith, the Eagles, and all the other stuff these people make a living feeding to people who never seem to tire of it.

They weren’t as bad as the others, though, who spent the day alternately exhorting everyone to thank Dunkin’ Donuts, and giving the crowd a lesson or two about how important garage rock was in the growth of rock’n’roll. Pardon me, but it seemed to me that this crowd really didn’t need that history lesson. It seemed like half the crowd were wearing band T-shirts, mostly punk, but everything from the Beatles to Johnny Cash. Generally speaking, they just didn’t seem like a bunch of dilettantes that needed to be told how important, for instance, the Beatles were. But they really were scrambling to fill time that they never expected to have to fill. Still…it was annoying as heck.

Unfortunately, the sound started out rank-amateur lousy. It shouldn’t take something like three hours to get a decent snare drum sound that doesn’t overpower everything else. To be fair, with a setup that large, until people start showing up, the physical element of bodies not being there to absorb the sonics is a factor. But I could understand if the sound is deliberately low-tech—it is garage rock, after all. But they were trying to make everything sound crystal clear, in as professional a manner as possible. If you can pull that off from the get-go, great. But considering it is garage rock, when it ends up taking so long to get anything resembling decent sound, it just isn’t consistent. Once things started sounding better, things were mostly okay. But it was a bumpy ride for awhile.

One weird thing is that the backline was fairly consistent, on both sides of the stage, and then on the one side that ended up being the only side used for the vast majority of the day. Not that that’s weird; but this being garage rock, an awful lot of bands were using Rickenbackers…and the majority of the amps on the stage were Marshalls. This is a somewhat esoteric guitar-geek observation (Troy, you can skip this paragraph & go right to the groovy photos of the go-go girls…actually, I’ve got a bunch more I’m going to send you directly that I’m not going to post here…I got ya covered, babe), but…generally speaking, Rickenbacker guitars are tinny-sounding guitars, while Marshall amps are usually utilized best when you’re plugging in a guitar with a humbucker, like a Les Paul. Exceptions abound, but you almost never see Ricks through Marshalls. I think the Exploding White Mice did this, but I’ve never seen anyone else do it. I used to have a Rick & it always sounded kinda wrong coming through a Marshall. Garage bands used a lot of Fender amps, & Voxes, too, generally speaking. And I think this contributed to the lousy sound, especially early on, when it seemed like every band had a Rick in the lineup. Oh, well. Little Steven knows a lot more, and has done a lot more, for this very important style of music than I have, so I’ll get over it.

Another odd thing was the camera crews employed to document the event meticulously. The look of what was being shown on the screen above the stage was very film-like (as opposed to video). And it looked like they were trying to make a real professional-looking documentary, too. After awhile, all the angles look the same, so the effect gets a bit tiresome, but it was nice to see such obscure bands being given the pro treatment. Again, though—it’s garage rock…being dressed up & made to look like…Woodstock, or something. There were, at all times during the bands, one crew on a camera being pushed & pulled along a track on a recess at the front of the stage, and a guy at one or another side of the stage with a camera for up-close side shots. The crew on the track spent a lot of time obstructing some of the view, but what can you do.

That’s another point…I said to a friend, I don’t care if it’s hardcore punk, or an operetta. You put a few thousand people in a field in the middle of summer, and everyone’s a f*ckin’ hippie. Period. Anyway...don't know why, but for some reason I'm not able to post pics right now. So I'm not going to be able to do this the way I wanted to...I'll have to drop links to the pics. Here's Little Steven:


08-16-2004, 02:55 AM
Among the first bands, the Star Spangles were the first ones that I was familiar with. They’re a local Dolls/Thunders-style rock band, more trashy, I’d say, in that way, than what I’d consider to be a quintessential ‘garage’ band. They were okay…I saw them open up for the Soft Boys a couple of years ago. But I can’t say they stood out. The Swingin’ Neckbreakers followed soon after. They stood out a bit more amongst the early acts, most of whom I’d simply never heard of before. Based on the glowing words flowing forth from the MCs, you’d think the achievements of these bands towered over those of, say, the Who. No dice, pal. It was mostly forgettable, and for a long time. Actually, even better than the SW’s was a band from Boston that had won a national battle-of-the-bands competition for a slot on this bill. They were called Muck & the Mires & they didn’t win it outright, there was another band…but they were darned good, easily the best band over the first three hours. If you dig garage rock, then you’ve probably seen a link to the site with the lineup…they blew away anyone else on the bottom of the bill to my ears.

Muck & the Mires:

The first band I’d looked forward to much at all was one I’ve never seen before, in spite of a few near-misses: the Fleshtones. Some might remember them for having had a minor hit in the early days of MTV. I’ve got an EP of theirs from around 1981 or so & have always enjoyed it. Hard to believe they’ve been around for 25 years, and they don’t play all that often. But they’re good.


Prior to their going on, Kim Fowley pointed out what was probably the biggest surprise of the day: Dave Faulkner of the Hoodoo Gurus. And after the Fleshtones—plagued by lousy sound—were done with a couple of songs, Faulkner came out for a rousing version of one of my favorite Hoodoo Gurus songs, Like-Wow Wipeout. Nearly three hours into the show, I was finally starting to get warmed up. (No, this is not a Nazi salute on Zaremba's part)


08-16-2004, 02:59 AM
It was hardly a shock to me that Bruce Springsteen was there to talk for five minutes, but it was nice nonetheless. Although I never became a big fan, in no small part due to the non-garage style production on his records, I do respect his work and his legacy. Fortunately he stuck to music, I didn’t really want to hear anything about politics—and with precious few exceptions, nobody really talked about politics at all. There were a few mentions that people should register to vote, but only two or three times over the course of the day did anyone say anything political at all, which was nice. It would’ve been inappropriate…this was a garage rock festival, not a rally. I was glad they mostly left the typical left-wing griping out. Who did Bruce introduce? The Boss Martians, of course.


The other big surprise on the day was Chuck Barris. The guest speakers included the aforementioned classic rock DJs (including Carole Miller, Ken Dashow & Jim Kerr, long NYC classic rock staples…um, fixtures…er, fossils), and Tony Sirico & Vincent Pastore--Paulie Walnuts & Big Pussy, respectively, from the Sopranos…a program I am not a fan of. Sirico made no secret of the fact that he wasn’t really into the music, and his presence was frankly kind of a mystery, outside of his being a quasi-celeb pal of Little Steven’s from the show. Pastore is a guy I kinda like…between Stern show shots & an appearance on the ‘Triumph The Insult Comic Dog’ DVD, I’ve long liked him for his sense of humor. And he made it clear he is into the music. He’s involved somehow with some of the programming on Little Steven’s garage rock stations on Sirius & spoke as if he actually knew something about the music in general (though he wasn’t specific). But then there was Chuck Barris, who of course wrote ‘Palisades Park.’ Boy, did I used to love this guy’s schtick. Anyone see ‘Confessions Of a Dangerous Mind?’ Maybe not a great movie, but if you were ever a fan of the Gong Show, it’s a must-see. He offered up just a bit of Gong Show-speak: “This next act…” And the next act was pretty darned good, too—Mooney Suzuki, local favorites, who I’ve never seen or heard, but always heard good things about. And they were pretty good.


08-16-2004, 03:04 AM
About 11 or 12 years ago I went up to Albany to see the Lyres play in Bogie’s. Back in the 80s a garagey Swedish band called the Nomads had had something of a hit with a Lyres song, ‘She Pays The Rent.’ I don’t remember the details, but apparently the frontman for the Lyres, Jeff ‘Monoman’ Connolly, had not been properly compensated for some reason. He lost out on a pretty good chunk of change & was rightfully bummed about it. He’s kind of an eccentric chap, & when I’d met him once in Boston previously, he introduced himself to me, ‘I’m a twerp.’ This night in Albany I was pretty darned drunk & it was a night I did something I’ve not done before or since: I had taken a Quaalude. After the show I went up to Monoman & said ‘I know you—you’re a twerp!’ He was pretty cool about it & acknowledged that I was correct. Then I said, ‘hey, aren’t you in the Nomads?’ I’ve always been grateful he didn’t attack me…but he’d had enough & steamed off.

Ah, sorry for the chuckly anecdote. I’ve seen the Lyres several times since but always kept my distance. Monoman’s a nut—I mean, take a look at this guy--but the Lyres can really cook. Anyone’s going to have a tough time being limited to two songs, but they did have the decency to do the first song off their first album, ‘Don’t Give It Up Now.’


After the Lyres, among the many bands over the next hour were the Chocolate Watchband & the Cynics. The CW’s ‘greatest hits’ made its way into my collection some months back, & it’s really good, in a Sonics/Shadows Of Knight kind of way. Though their set wasn’t spectacular, I did try to get a pic. At the time I was far, far from the stage. I tried to get a shot of the stage, with the NYC skyline in the background, but it just didn’t come out all that well. It was a nice, er, tableau, as someone might say. But my pic is inferior, sorry. The Cynics are a band I used to have an album by, ‘Blue Train Station,’ from 1986, I believe. One GREAT song, the title track, the rest mostly mediocre, and I was never inspired to seek out any more by the band. Their set was certainly competent, but nothing special.

The Electric Prunes went on around, I guess, 3:30 or so. They got a huge ovation. To be perfectly honest, ‘I Had To Much To Dream Last Night’ was never one of my favorites. But it being more psychedelic than most garage rock, it was a welcome change of pace after 5 hours of a lot of stuff that kinda all sounds the same after awhile.


After the Prunes there was the Creation, & the Fuzztones. Some time ago Brad H put together a comp consisting of early psychedelic British rock, & placed an amazing tune on there by the Creation—‘Making Time.’ Which they did, happily enough. Not long after them was the Fuzztones, the first time I got the chance to see Rudi Protrudi & Deb O’Nair in action…and probably the last. Back in 1986 I had one of their albums, and it was pretty good…or at least the Sonics covers were. They gained some notoriety due to their look (they used Vox gear, and though I saw a few Teardrops used over the course of the day, the Phantom used by one of the guitar players was the only one I managed to spy…there may have been more, but it was the only one I saw), and around that time they also made an EP (live, I think) backing up Screamin’ Jay Hawkins. I have a video of them doing ‘I Put A Spell On You’ with him from that period, which I think wasn’t long before he died. Hey, they did some good stuff, they just didn’t write any of it. Around 1988 they moved to L.A. & turned out a record or two that really sucked, & I never heard of them doing anything worth mentioning after that. And unfortunately their set sounded more like the dung from that period than anything that sounded like the Sonics. I got a pretty good pic of them, but a sucky band with a great look is not one I’m going to promote here with a pic.

The C-Kings are a band from Rochester, NY, that managed some regional success back in the 80s, probably on the same level as the Cynics (who were from Pittsburgh), I think. I like them much better & always did. I have an album of theirs from 1984 or 1985, called ‘Stop!,’ that is among the best I’ve ever heard in the genre. Whoever introduced them—it might’ve been Little Steven—did point out that they were one of the first, and one of the best bands, to emerge from the 1980s garage-rock movement, which was a retro anomaly in the time of synths & hair metal in the years after punk & disco died. Can’t say their set was great, but it was cool to see them.


Naturally, it was necessary for someone to explain to us who Pete Best was, and also to point out that what the Beatles were like when they were in Hamburg was a very early example of a major influence on this whole garage-rock movement. I don’t know why, in later middle age, Pete Best has decided to put together what amounts to a bar band, but what the hey, if he can make some money off his past, why not. Although it wouldn’t have been in keeping with the spirit of the day, I have a feeling there would’ve been a drum solo if it was something that figured in what this band does. They did cover ‘Twist & Shout.’ There just didn’t seem to be much that highlighted PB or his drumming, but I have to suppose that’s by design. The band was credible, and the timekeeping was fine. Now, on the double live album that came out in 1977 of the Beatles live in Hamburg, that was recorded after Ringo had joined, so there isn’t much evidence of PB’s supposedly inferior playing on record with the Beatles. I haven’t heard most of the Decca Records audition tapes. I do like the ‘Cry For A Shadow’ instrumental that’s popped up on, among other places, the first volume of the Anthology, and the drumming sounds just fine on that. But if he were good enough at the time I don’t suppose they would’ve gone to the trouble of firing him, though of course this is all ancient history. From my vantage point I was unable to get a direct pic of him, but I did manage to snap one when they had a closeup of him on the giant screen (which was obstructed, from where I was, by what looked like a rig). Fun for what it was, a footnote of sorts in the annals of rock history, if a bit strange.


08-16-2004, 03:09 AM
From New Zealand, the D4! NOW WE’RE TALKING! These guys are, to me, more of a LOUD LOUD FAST FAST powerhouse than a garage band, but I saw them a year ago & BOY are they ferocious! They pack a real wallop & I was very glad they were on this bill. What can I say? THEY ROCK. Their record ROCKS. And yesterday, THEY ROCKED. That’s what they do. So what are you waiting for? Go get their rec. Superb cover of ‘Pirate Love’ by Johnny Thunders & the Heartbreakers…which they didn’t do yesterday, though they did when I saw them last year, along with a cover of the Devil Dogs’ ‘North Shore B*tch.’ A band from New Zealand, worshiping NYC garage punk, go figure. They did do ‘Invader Ace.’ It ROCKED. You get the picture. What did I say they reminded me of? Well, it may be partly due to the blond Tele w/black pickguard thing (also a Springsteen thang), but they reminded me more of the mid-80s Soul Asylum than anyone I’ve ever seen. Did I mention that they ROCK?


Not long after the D4, out came Big Pussy to eat up a little time by talking for a few, & eventually introducing the Dictators. Another legendary punk band I’d never seen but always wanted to (not too many left at this point on that list!). They had some REAL good energy. I was a bit disappointed that they didn’t do anything from their first album, but what can you do. I will have to get my butt out there & see a proper set of theirs some time. Good stuff.


Nancy Sinatra. Wow—quite possibly the strangest set of the day. Who would’ve expected her set to flesh out the obligatory ‘Boots’ with one song by Morrissey & another by Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore? Now, ‘Boots’ aside, she’s no great singer. But though I can’t exactly say that it worked, it sure was interesting, in a Marianne Faithfull sort of way, I guess. It did sort of sound as though she was covering a Smiths song & a Sonic Youth song. And she’s definitely a better singer than MF. But she might’ve been a bit thrown by the stage, I’m not sure; something was just a bit off. But it was a noble experiment, for sure.

Compounding the oddness was the fact that towards the end of ‘Boots,’ when the horns come in, prominently, well, we didn’t hear those horns until the sound man woke up about 10 or 15 seconds after he missed his cue. Inexcusable. Almost, but not quite, making up for it was the go-go girls, who did the choreography from the video to a T. I assume you’ve seen the video? One of the most understated highlights from the entire 1960s. Sublime stuff. But when it was over I, for one, breathed a sigh of relief in anticipation of someone else getting up on the stage.


Big Star: now here’s a band that’s better than any band you like. Anyone know if they’ve played around anywhere recently? I saw them 9 years ago, and then again, 8 years ago, & both times they were fantastic & among the best shows I’ve ever seen. This is, of course, due to their ability to draw upon the first two Big Star albums. But hey, the first document of the pairing of Messrs. Chilton & Stephens w/ Posies Stringfellow & Auer, the live ‘Columbia’ album, is damned good, in my estimation, better than 1974’s ‘Big Star Live’. That’s not a popular opinion; what do I know. But hey, they were amazing both times I saw ‘em, so I did have some expectations here. What did we get but more ineptness & incompetence from whoever it was that was supposed to be doing the sound. At times the harmonies just weren’t coming through, which is criminal. When they did ‘Feel,’ the soundman didn’t seem to notice that Ken Stringfellow was the lead vocalist, because his mike was too low, for too long. Worse, when they did ‘Way Out West,’ sung by the drummer, Jody Stephens, well, his mike wasn’t even turned on until the song was more than half over. What bullsh*t. I was really pissed. They really ought to have been ashamed of themselves for this amateurish garbage. Given Chilton’s reputation as King of the Pricks, I could see something like this—I mean, it was downright disrespectful—leading him to put the kibosh on any more Big Star performances. And that would be a damned shame. Hopefully that won’t be the case. Maybe they’ll come around again & barely manage to sell 1,000 tickets.

I mean, the first time I saw them, it was at a venue that just happened to be, that night, hosting a Rolling Stone party for a rock’n’roll encyclopedia they were publishing at the time. And there were a lot of people there who had something to do with putting it together. Who talked all through the Meat Puppets’ opening set, and gradually dispersed during the Big Star set. I mean, they were probably too loud for someone to carry on a conversation while they were playing. These are the people who write about music—rock music, of all things. By the time the set was done the room was half-empty. You know, people who work for Rolling Stone, and the very important people that they know, they obviously have much more important things to do than actually sit through a set by a band like Big Star. Who? Oh. What did they ever do, anyway?

If I were Chilton I’d be pissed, too. But what the hell. They also played ‘In The Street,’ and ‘When My Baby’s Beside Me.’ The Dictators got a little more time, and so did every band after them, so they managed to get four songs in. Good thing, too, because that way we at least got to hear one and a half of them the way they were supposed to be heard.


Next up was the Romantics…and you know what? They weren’t bad. The idea of them was kind of annoying, considering how many times I’ve had to endure that single of theirs being blared at me in several loathsome contexts, from snippets in commercials to it typically being the one ‘rock’ song that one will hear DJs play at weddings or in bars where they have to cater to people with awfully unimaginative tastes in popular music. I was never much of a fan, even in the days before I’d heard the single for the gajillionth time, but I never really hated ‘em, either. They put on a decent show, and didn’t seem out of place at all on this bill. In fact, they were miles better than most of the bottom of the bill, and the Strokes, too.

But then there was Bo Diddley. Bo got nearly a half an hour! Yay. I don’t think anyone cared that both the Raveonettes & the Pretty Things got shaved down to two songs on account of this, especially since he rocked like a mofo & was better than those other acts anyway. I saw Bo Diddley in 1985 & part of a 1989 set in Central Park, & both times he ruled. And though he now has to sit when he performs—hey, the guy’s 75 years old—he still rules. Interestingly, he finished up with, of all things, a RAP. Chuck D he isn’t, but you know what? It was very old-school, his band carried off the instrumental end of the hip-hop thing very well, and what do you know, Bo’s actually got some skills. Outside of some novelty granny who goes on the Howard Stern show, or the one in the Adam Sandler movie, definitely the oldest rapper I’ve ever seen, and it was hardly gratuitous or forced. And, as it had been with the Electric Prunes, Nancy Sinatra, & Big Star, it was a nice change of pace that interjected some variety.


Next up was the Jesus & Mary Chain…whoops, sorry, the Raveonettes. I took the pic & am posting it because I know some of y’all around here like these guys an awful lot, so here ya go. Their two-song set was pretty good, and I wouldn’t have complained had they done three, but I have to say it boggles my mind that people think this is original. I do like the rec, though.


Next up, the Pretty Things (who, although named after a Bo Diddley song, didn’t play directly before or after him…) Now we got a spiel about how great THESE guys were. Now, I’ve never heard their most lauded work (I don’t think), but I have heard this & that here & there over the years, & I never felt like I was really missing out on anything. There are those who say that these guys were as good as the Stones, only raunchier, and that they were as good as all the other British bands of the mid- and late 60s, but I’ve never heard it. However, they were good, they were fun, and they did a nice version of ‘Roadrunner.’ What more can you ask?


08-16-2004, 03:25 AM
Okay, here’s what I was waiting for. Quite obviously, the anticipation was a tension that you could easily feel as the changeover was taking place. Now, calling this the NY Dolls is a reach, but you know what? It’s rare enough that you’re going to see Johansen doing this material, so he & Sylvain could call it ‘Kenny G’ & I’d still swim through quicksand for an opportunity to see them do this.


Was it a great set? Can’t say that. Very good, for sure. Problem is, I guess, that I was too far away. A few years ago, before I got sick, I did have the very good fortune to see DJ do a set of Dolls & David Johansen Group material with some local blues band in a very small club. That sort of helped me go into this with less in the way of expectations, which is good. I mean, 60% of the band is dead, you know? I think the drummer is in the Libertines, and the guy replacing Thunders was fine, as was the bass player, whoever the heck he was. They got the first full set, and opened up with (I knew this would be the opener, somehow)

“When I’m in love, you’d best believe I’m in LOVE, L-U-V.” Yup, it was ‘Looking For A Kiss,’ along with ‘Private World,’ ‘Trash,’ ‘Puss N’ Boots,’ ‘Jet Boy,’ a hybrid of ‘You Can’t Put Your Arms Around A Memory’ and ‘Lonely Planet Boy’ (which are very similar anyway), and ‘Personality Crisis’ to end, of course. I might’ve missed one. Oh, yeah—DJ announced ‘Pills’ by saying something like, ‘Now we’re gonna do a song about DRUGS.’ He is absolutely hysterical. One of my favorite rock stars, ever, period. Hey, you know what? He IS my #1 favorite. Anyone ever see a Buster Poindexter show? ‘A skeleton walks into a bar & says, “Give me a beer & a mop.”’ THE funniest & most charismatic frontman I’ve ever seen (though I didn’t see Mick Jagger in his prime).


There was an interview with DJ in the NY Daily News the other day, Friday, I think. He made the point that the Dolls influenced both punk & hair metal, which is really an amazing achievement when you think about it. Could there be two more wildly opposite genres? This is a band with one of the most special legacies of all time. Hopefully they’ll come to a town near you soon & nobody’ll show up anyway.


Wow, were the Strokes ever out of place on this bill. That nice change of pace I mentioned that was heard in the Electric Prunes & Nancy Sinatra & Bo Diddley? And the Raveonettes, even? Yeah, well, here it was pretty darned annoying. Or maybe it was just them. I don’t know. Here’s a band that I like but don’t love, and have to agree with an awful lot of people that they’re just plain overrated. What the hell is this band doing in this slot?

Sorry…what have they done—two albums? (Oh, well, the Dolls only had two, the Stooges three, whoops…oh, but wait a second there…those are LEGENDARY albums) Hey, don’t get me wrong, they certainly weren’t bad. But I can only imagine that they were on in the slot they were on because someone must’ve thought that if they went on before the Dolls & Stooges, that they might’ve lost some of the younger folks after their set, and I can say with some certainty that if they’d headlined, that there would’ve been a MASS EXODUS after the Dolls & Stooges were done. Again, not that they’re bad, or anything, but after a long day of sitting in heat & humidity in a field on an island in the middle of the East River, I don’t think even the Strokes would’ve stuck around to see themselves.

Okay, maybe that’s a bit much. But…a friend said to me, ‘they’re trying to sound like the Cure.’ Not an unreasonable assessment, sez me. Hey, they didn’t do ‘Last Nite’! I wonder why. I thought it was their most well-known song? They did do ‘New York City Cops,’ though.

Big deal. Honestly, the Romantics surprised me by being better. But maybe it didn’t help that they got some razzing from the crowd. Which prompted the singer to say something like, ‘hey, if you don’t dig us, then why don’t you go get a beer, then you can come back.’ It’s too bad, I guess, that they had to hear jeers. But they’re just not quite my cup of tea—good stuff, but not something I can get excited over—and they were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.


At this point I had moved from the VIP bleachers to the blanket of a friend who had set up shop at pretty much the closest point to the stage you could claim some real estate. It was just as far from the stage as I had been, but close to the middle, not off to the side. It made a difference. All day long I’d been in the midst of a bunch of stiffs, few of whom seemed to be genuine fans. Some were okay, but…quite a few of them were drinking wine. Garage rock is not wine-drinking music. But I wasn’t really there because it was where I wanted to be, it was a matter of necessity. Again, this was my first festival. I knew there was a difference between being in amongst hordes of fans & being sequestered in a VIP section. I might’ve enjoyed some of the other bands had I emerged sooner; but just as likely I would’ve been good & tuckered out by the time the headliners came on. And guaranteed it would’ve taken far longer for me to regain my strength after the pain in the butt it took to get home.

Whammo! Holy cow, I didn’t expect this. Now, it was great to see something calling itself the NY Dolls, but this was so far & away the best set of the day that it WASN’T EVEN FUNNY. I can’t even put words together to attempt to describe how ROCKIN’ this was. It was UNBELIEVABLE. If you can picture 500 locomotives on speed, then you’re starting to get the idea. Now, I’d never seen Iggy prior to this, let alone the Stooges…I missed the boat on them last year when they came around. HOLY SH*T. Now, if you listen to the first & second Stooges albums, as compared with Raw Power, it’s hardly a reach to say that Raw Power is the most ferocious of the three—because it is. Regardless of any discussion having to do with preferences, it’s indisputably more aggressive—faster, and louder, with less fuzz & more crunch in the guitar tone. Now, the reconstituted Stooges (with Mike Watt on bass) do not do any of the Raw Power material—James Williamson is not part of the band, and Ron Asheton (or is it Scott? The guitar player was Ron, right?) was pushed aside onto bass for that album. Not sure if that’s the reason, but in any case, they stick to the first two albums. BIG DEAL. Oh, my GOD, did they ROCK.


Iggy put on the chaotic show I expected. This guy is HOW old? He’s in his late 50s, right? This is someone that a band like Blink 182 needs to have piss on them to give them an idea how lame they are by comparison. But Iggy, amazing as he was, was only part of the story here. The band was a MONSTER. I just don’t know how to express it.

They opened with ‘Loose,’ and hit quite a few from both of the first two albums, including ‘1969,’ ‘Now I Wanna Be Your Dog’ (twice), ‘Down On The Street,’ ‘Fun House,’ ‘1970,’ ‘TV Eye,’ ‘No Fun,’ and ‘Real Cool Time.’ They also did ‘Skull Ring,’ from Iggy’s album from last year. A ways into the set, Iggy got tired of climbing onto the amps & started trying to wreck the (very expensive) camera equipment that had been getting in everyone’s damn way all day long. He did, apparently, do some kind of damage to something on the unit that was on the track at the front of the stage. Then he tried to jump into the crowd. The bouncers in the pit at the front wouldn’t let him. He kept trying to get past them, but they weren’t having it. I guess they’ve never seen him before! They actually took him & threw him on the ground. He gave up & returned to the stage, got back on the mike, and ORDERED them to let fans on the stage. All of a sudden there were at least 50 people up on the stage. It was bedlam, it really was. And a lot of fun to watch.


The rain, which, with a couple of brief exceptions, had held off pretty much the whole day, was now starting to fall, and started in pretty heavily literally minutes after the Stooges were done. By the time we got to our friend’s car it was friggin’ pouring. Fortunately they were able to drop us off in Brooklyn, at a spot easily accessible to our home. Which we were thrilled to see the inside of, even soaking wet. It was a long day…but a good one. And, for better or worse, an unforgettable experience.

One weird thing that I’ll leave you to ponder…once in the car, we crawled out of the parking lot in a Queens (and Brooklyn) bound direction. Not ONE vehicle was heading in this direction—it was all Manhattan & the Bronx. I don’t get it. Anyone going that way wasn’t coming from Queens, Brooklyn, or Long Island. It makes no sense. Ah, well, who cares. Really, now.

08-16-2004, 04:52 AM
Wow, incredible post dude, thanks for the pictures too, it looked like it was a bizarre gig!


mad rhetorik
08-16-2004, 06:00 AM
Wish I could've been there to see The Stooges' set alone. From your description it sounded pretty kickarse. I will forever maintain that Ron Asheton is my fave Stooges guitarist--his playing was exactly right for the band. Also wish I could've been there to see Bo Diddley and Dave Johanson (kinda hard to call them "The NY Dolls" when only two members of the band are left). I've heard that the D4 and The Lyres are good; I'll have to give 'em a listen one of these days.

I also find it funny as hell that The Strokes were getting heckled. Garage band they ain't, and the crowd knew it. I've heard frequently that they suck live. Total lack of energy, all ironic posing. I used to own <b>Is This It</b> and while I liked it, it got tiring after a while. Just didn't retain its freshness and appeal for me.

I've heard lots of good stuff about Big Star, but I haven't heard any of their albums yet. I know that Paul Westerburg has mentioned them in the past (and Alex Chilton sung backing on "Left Of The Dial"). Which Big Star albums do you reccommend, Jay?

Anyway, thanks for the great report.

08-16-2004, 08:14 AM
You should be doin this for a livin. Of course your editor would be yelling at you to pare it down but I found the whole thing fascinating as a musician. Great reviews of bands I know and some I never even knew existed. Hope they didn't lose their shirts on this. I like the idea of folks doing "something different". Hell, run it up the flag pole and see who salutes. How did you survive such a marathon session? Whew.. you're a better man than I am Gunga Din.

Da Worfster :cool:

08-16-2004, 11:55 AM
Hey, what a great review. Thanks for taking the time, fascinating stuff and good photo's too.

Damn now I've gotta go to work...4C pissing rain and snow on the hills behind us... I love the winter!


paper warrior
08-16-2004, 03:36 PM
Chocolate Watchband and the Electric Prunes- far out man!

08-18-2004, 11:21 PM
Thanks for the comments, guys. I wanted to try to give as detailed an account as possible. In the past few days I've seen a couple of pieces that I have to take some exception to. One was the NY Post review, which referred to the festival overall as a 'bore':


This actually isn't a terrible piece overall, it's just written with a bit of a snarky attitude. There were definitely a lot of problems with the day and the way it unfolded. But it was an enormous undertaking & the fact that it wasn't a total & complete failure based on the technical difficulties is something, so far as I'm concerned. At least Acquilante noticed that the Strokes were, er, placed, perhaps, a bit inappropriately:

> The audience was fairly unresponsive to the Strokes. The band didn't get a fair shake by the crowd who seemed to act as if the Strokes had no right to be sandwiched between Iggy & the Stooges and the New York Dolls reunion set.

Far too generous was a piece in the NY Times by a fellow named Kelefah. He said things like

>On Saturday at Randalls Island lots of performers talked about Hurricane Charley, sounding either nervous or cautiously optimistic. But Julian Casablancas, the leader of the Strokes, was the only one with the gall to taunt the storm. "I don't see any flippin' hurricane," he sneered, more or less, before telling slightly damp fans, "You're not horny enough," and slithering through yet another oily, petulant song.

>Nearly four dozen bands squeezed onto a single stage, many playing no more than a single song, which meant that the celebration sometimes seemed more like a stunt.

>Certainly the 16,000 resilient concertgoers who filled the front third of the field (the concert was nowhere near sold out) often seemed more like bystanders than fans, although only Mr. Casablancas had the bad manners to point this out. "It's not loud enough," he declared, after yet another faint smattering of applause. When that didn't work, he tried flattery. "You're pretty good lookin'," he added, emphasizing the "pretty." "I'm a shallow guy."

>Still, thank goodness for the Strokes, who have figured out ways to smuggle ambivalent poses and feelings into seemingly simple songs; their set hinted at something much more complicated than joy. The songs from "Room on Fire," the disappointing second Strokes album, sounded much wilder and more unstable onstage than on the CD. "Reptilia" sounded particularly good, an accusatory love song ("You're not trying hard enough") pockmarked with sudden guitar cutouts.

>Even better, Mr. Casblancas's between-song monologues helped puncture the day's single-mindedly celebratory attitude. Baiting the fans, mocking the organizers, messing with the cameramen, he provided a welcome infusions of bad vibrations. When nearly four dozen bands get together in a park, who says it has to be a celebration? Who says it can't be a fight, instead?

Here's a link to the entire article, lest someone accuse me of taking things out of context.


And I would point out that there are a few inconsistencies with his report. For instance, I did hear that 16,000 tickets were sold (out of 25,000 that were made available). However, though I might be wrong, I'll bet ya a Twinkie that there's no way living there were 16,000 people there. More like half that number, really. Apparently the weather scared a lot of people away, but also I think a lot of tickets were sold to people who initially thought it was a cool idea, but ended up not coming down because they're not garage rock fanatics. There just aren't a lot of 'em. Moreover, this guy's review was so much about the Strokes, you would've thought they were super-important, or something. I'm sorry, I just don't see it, and I kinda resent it given the historical implications not only of what Little Steven was trying to do in general, but also just the idea of collecting a bunch of bands I consider to be personal favorites & sticking them on the same bill. With all of the writing that's been done on bands like the Stooges & the Dolls & Big Star & their influence on this movement & these bands & this & that scene & this performer, regardless of the turnout, I say the opportunity to see all these bands, let alone at the same time, was musically historic. And this guy's making it all about the friggin' Strokes? Holy crow. Also, not to pick nits, but there were two stages for a time (it revolved until it broke), and there were about 40 bands, not 48. And no band was limited to a single song. I saw EVERY band, from start to finish, and that simply isn't true. I know some people who know this Kelefa guy, and I'm told he's a real good music writer, but for Pete's sake, this piece gives me the idea not only that he didn't emerge from the backstage area all day, but also that he actually considers the Strokes to be more important than the other bands on the bill. Obviously there's going to be someone who's going to feel that way--and I'll agree that the Strokes are more relevant than, say, the Pete Best Band, but that aside, in general, I throw my hands up in the air on this one. If he don't get it now, he ain't gonna get it.

So, again, thanks for the kind words. I had a lot of fun writing this, possibly more fun that I actually had that day...but then again I spent about 11 hours sitting on a bleachers. You try that sometime; very comfortable! But I was able to join the great unwashed for the Stooges set, and that did make quite a bit of difference.

Dave, you still need to hear some Flamin' Groovies. Remember I was busting yr chops about that amidst all yr posts about prog? It's a shame they weren't there, actually. I'll try to hit you w/a PM & see what I can do about getting you some of this stuff. It deserves to be heard.

Mad, I know you've stuck to yr line about Ron Asheton. Can't disagree w/you based on this performance, I've gotta tell you. I still think that Raw Power is the most amazing guitar album, but for the sake of argument, after having seen this performance, it would be difficult to even consider having an argument, or a discussion, about who was better or even who suited the band more. They are an unbelievable powerhouse, in no small part due to the presence of Mike Watt, and I can't exhort you to see them enough. This is not a Jefferson Airplane reunion or a Sex Pistols reunion; I have never seen this much passion in a reunion-style gig (though the times I saw Big Star a few years ago did come kinda close), and rarely, if ever, in a gig by a band that wasn't, er, reunited for the set. Like most people who care enough about music to post in places like this, I have a short list of greatest shows I've ever seen (though it's been done, it's always a good idea for a thread, though of course it usually degenerates into people listing their favorite bands, which has not exactly been my experience, honestly), and while the Dolls' set doesn't really make it, the Stooges' set does, and with a bullet.

Now, I wouldn't say that the Strokes sucked, just that what it is that they do--which they do well--just didn't make all that much sense on this day, with these acts, & most definitely in the slot they were given. If they were playing a festival with, say, Franz Ferdinand, the Vines, the Von Bondies, British Sea Power, Snow Patrol, Interpol, and the Killers, then they'd deserve the sort of slot they had the other night. Those bands weren't the focus of the day. I'd give them a chance on a more appropriate bill. But the fact remains that they were jerks, and what makes it worse is the cachet they carry with NY Times writers who made the piece mostly about them. It was so NOT about them it wasn't even funny. If the Rolling Stones had appeared at a Folk Festival in 1964, not only would they have been out of place, they probably would've been heckled for being arrogant, and they wouldn't have deserved top billing on a bill with, say, Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger, Joan Baez, et al. Like with this, people would've been speculating that though they didn't really fit, they were added to the bill to try to attract young people who weren't necessarily fans of the genre that was being celebrated.

Big Star: run, do not walk, to wherever you have to go to find the first two Big Star albums. They were released a decade or so ago on a twofer. The titles are "#1 Record' & 'Radio City.' They are evocative of the Beatles, Jonathan Richman & the Modern Lovers, Badfinger, and elements of the Beach Boys & even Led Zeppelin at times. Great songs, incredible vocal harmonies, and overall, simply put, a pop music gem that everyone should hear. Absolutely essential, and in this house, more important than cooking utensils or perhaps even toilet paper. Just an indispensible disc.

Beyond that, most people would probably say the third album, 'Sister Lovers.' But while it's an interesting, brooding, mood record, it's not the Big Star of the first two albums, not at all. Alex Chilton has retained a singularly difficult reputation, and his most significant creative collaborator probably in his entire career was Chris Bell. They clashed during the recording of the first album, and Bell bailed not long afterward. He was persuaded to rejoin & contribute material for the second album, but he wasn't really part of the band anymore, and was gone once again by the time it was released. It sounds like he was there, but he really wasn't. He went on to put out some very good solo work, much of which is compiled on a Ryko collection, but he died in a car accident in 1978, by which time Chilton's attempts to keep the name 'Big Star' alive had pretty much fizzled, in spite of 'Sister Lovers' and his having refused to fold the name, continuing to work with players here & there. 15 years later, though, Chilton decided to re-form Big Star, with original drummer Jody Stephens, and the guitarist & bass player from the Posies. They released a live album of the first-ever performance of this incarnation, which has been playing basically the same set now for over decade, when they do play. That's not a criticism; it's one of the best sets you'll ever see. This album waxes a live album that was released posthumously, from a 1974 show. Which suffered from the fact that the band was a three-piece at that point, with Bell gone & the original bass player having bailed too (I believe he simply retired from music, which has something to do with there being two Posies in the current lineup).

There is a cult of the third album, Sister Lovers, which was recorded around 1976 or thereabouts, but I've just never felt it's as good. It's melancholy & moody & just doesn't flow so well as far as I'm concerned. I'd equate it spiritually to the Replacements album All Shook Down, which is really the first Paul Westerberg solo album. The joy present on earlier Mats recs simply isn't there, and the level the material would have to reach to overcome this & make it an outstanding moody album (like, say, John Lennon's Plastic Ono Band) just isn't there. Same with Sister Lovers. There are some who disagree with this, but whatever. That's just how I've always heard it. These types don't even acknowledge, typically, that the Columbia album from 1993 is worth listening to. I say it's absolutely amazing; it can probably be had used on Ebay quite cheaply, and it's just a dang good rec any way you slice it. They lean heavily on material from the first two albums, and add a few nice tidbits: a cover of a GREAT Chris Bell solo song, 'I Am The Cosmos,' one song from 'Sister Lovers,' which I think is 'Daisy Glaze,' and a great cover of Todd Rundgren's 'Slut.'

Get the twofer first--and look up somewhere the terrible tale of how the band were victimized by the record company going under, and all of the distribution difficulties they encountered. Between that & Chilton's general rep for nastiness dating back to his Box Tops days, it's been suggested that they endured the equivalent of being blackballed, to an extent. Not that there was an organized movement to do this, but it does seem to have just kinda happened. They had a lot of bad luck for a long time, and considering how great the recs are, it's difficult to imagine that the chips all just fell that way. I do think that somewhere along the line some measures were taken somewhere in the business to bury them. The Replacements kept Chilton in the alternative public eye, and these days the music's at least out there, being performed. When Rolling Stone staffers can keep their mouths shut long enough to listen to these Beatleesque--and Beatles-worthy-pop/rock gems. Which are better than the Raspberries, better than Badfinger, to these ears. And a big influence later on people like Nick Lowe, I think. But enough about them. There's the scoop, sez I.

Worf, that's real cool of ya to say. I have done a couple of tiny reviews that a friend who is a music editor threw me a couple of years ago, in a 'laddie' magazine. One of 'em, he was trying to evoke a certain sentiment I had some difficulty getting to. He had to start leaning on me, and we're talking about 40 words here. I'd love to do this for a living, don't get me wrong--but I don't pursue it because I can freewrite here & not leave anything out that I don't want to leave out, and I don't have to get into that realm where an editor's kinda breathing down yr neck & you've got to avoid cliches & lazy crutches & obvious mentions of influences & similar-sounding acts to get a point across. It isn't easy! Throw in the fact that a lot of rock journalists are really a bunch of cretins, & it ends up looking like, shall we say, not the most attractive-looking of professions. But that was a tremendous compliment, & I appreciate it. You nailed it--any editor would look at what I posted above, not to mention in this thread, and order a hatchet job. I do take pride in the words I put together & like the idea that I have to condense & edit a lot less than I would if I did this for a living. BTW I'm going to try to maneuver myself into a gig up Albany way. I haven't seen or spoken to her in quite some time, but if you remember I used to play with someone who was in 1313 Mockingbird Lane a long time ago & I'd like to get in touch with Kim W from Last Vestige. Do you ever shop there? You know who I'm talking about? You ever see her? I need to get an idea of what sort of band up there would be a good one to do line up a bill up there, and down here, with both bands, and what expectations they might have in terms of a NYC gig. I'll get in touch with her soon, just wondered if you'd had any contact with her. I know it's a small music scene up there & everybody knows everybody else. Last Vestige might be a bit freakish for you, but I figure you have to know the place. If there's a band called the Decadent Royals that's still around, I may end up talking to them, in spite of Opie's, um, creative approach towards interacting with other people. I'm assuming you know who I'm talking about?

Chris! Winter, huh? Hey, after 2-3 months of heat & humidity, I look forward to winter. Tell me, you know the D4 down there?