WEDNESDAY AUGUST 25th:
DEATH DISCO, the Notting Hill Arts Club, 21 Notting Hill Gate, London, from 9pm to 1am. With Alan McGee, Danny Watson and live bands Kill City, The Scene and Oxford Collapse. More info here.
STEP ON at The Royale, 506 Fifth Avenue, between 12th and 13th Streets, Park Slope, Brooklyn, 718 840 0089.
Free Admission: 9pm-4am.
First Friday of every month, DJs Tony Fletcher and Posie bring you back to Madchester with a night of baggy grooves, indie dance, northern soul and Hacienda house.
Guest DJ Sep 3: Ray Velasquez.
That happens to be the title of the new R.E.M. single (and very good it sounds too) but it's also applicable to me today, as I head off to England for a couple of weeks that includes a couple of DJ slots, a reading, a weekend at the V Festival, and hopefully at least three football matches. Because I'm traveling so much, I'll be leaving the laptop behind. In other words, no updates on this page for the next two weeks. What I will do though is post some comments in the Pub as I get time; that's assuming I'm not spending all my time inside real, three-dimensional pubs. Hope to see you in there, in some shape or cyber-form.
I'm going to be away when the Republican National Convention hits New York, which is something of a relief. I think it's going to be mayhem in Manhattan around August 29. I know I've held off the political comments here of late, but that's more been to do with time: things happen so rapidly and if I can't comment properly, I sound like a dilettante. Anyway, I think I can safely guarantee that the protests that will coincide with Bush and Co.'s visits are going to be on a scale unseen in this city in 30 years or more. I just hope they're effective and that they serve to pull in the swing voters rather than alienate them. What they will surely do is let the rest of the world know that the Administration here does not operate with full public approval.
If you haven't been here for a couple of weeks, be sure to check out The Summer Hitlist, posted last week. If you're hanging in New York, there's a number of interesting new albums out by NYC bands this month or last: The Mooney Suzuki, Northern State, Inouk, Black Dice, and The Rogers Sisters to name but a few. Expect me back on this page around September 3. Enjoy your summer 'till then.
LITTLE STEVEN'S INTERNATIONAL UNDERGROUND GARAGE FESTIVAL
RANDALL'S ISLAND, SATURDAY AUGUST 14, 2004
1) 45 Bands. Not 44. Not 46. But 45. The ideal number of revolutions per minute.Observations in descending order, from best points to worst.
2) Every band that was advertised to play, played.
3) Hurricane Charley stayed away. Charley, which had left dozens dead in Florida, was due our way by midnighgt, making it less a concern for the audience than for the break-down crews. Fortunately, the hurricane tapered off before it got to us. It barely even rained. And as a bonus, the damp air was so much easier to deal with than too much sun.
4) Cheap tickets. $20 up front worked out to less than 25 cents per band.
5) Short sets. Until the bigger names came up in early evening, every band and that is, every band played just two songs. Don't like the group currently on stage? Don't worry, they'll be gone in a few minutes. Guaranteed.
6) Little Stevie van Zandt. Sure, he's got an agenda: he's building this whole Underground Garage thing into a post-E Street Band franchise (more of which later). But he's only doing that because he loves the music. Stevie has been working up his Garage thing through radio shows and downtown gigs for several years now, and it was purely his own relentless drive and determination that got this show happening. How often do you expect to see a major rock (and television) star close out a major event by screaming the name of the just-departed headlining act when it's not his own?
7) Iggy Pop & The Stooges. I've seen Iggy live before; who hasn't? And he's always a great performer. But he's only as good as his material, and in recent years that's been sagging. Since getting back together with the surviving Stooges (Ron and Scott Asheton), however, Iggy has made one superb new album and blown away audiences with a repertoire that draws almost exclusively from the legendary, 35-year old albums The Stooges and Fun House.
At Randall's Island, Iggy bounced on stage like the Spring Hare on heat and proceeded to give the gymnasts in Athens a run for their money as he and the band (significantly aided by Mike Watt on bass) powered through the classics: '1969,' 'I Wanna Be Your Dog,' 'TV Eye,' 'Real Cool Time,' 'No Fun' 'Funhouse,' the title track from last year's 'Skull Ring' album and, for the sheer repetitious hell of it, a repeat performance of 'I Wanna Be Your Dog.' Best of all, and true to the spirit of the day, Iggy caused chaos in the middle of the set by inviting the audience up on stage with him a dangerous move when playing to 10,000 people but one he pulled off with ease. During 'Real Cool Time' you couldn't even see him for dancing kids.
8) The kids. And I mean, kids. The front rows were full of teens eager to see musical legends while they were still alive. (The legends, that is.) And there was no shortage of 12-year olds wandering around in New York Dolls t-shirts. But the most encouraging sight was the number of pre-pubescents enjoying the day out. It was hard to tell whether they'd been forced to accompany their parents or whether their nostalgic parents had been forced to accompany them; fortunately, most of the cross-generational attendees looked like they were all having a real cool time.
9) The New York Dolls. I've never really bought into the Dolls myth. I don't like the rock'n'roll wasted look. I still go by the New Model Army motto: Only Stupid Bastards Use Heroin. And I was too young to be affected by the Doll's music during their short-lived heyday. But this former cynic is now a convert. David Johansen and Syl Sylvian may be all that's left of the original quintet (bassist Arthur Kane died in July, just as the group's reformation was getting under way, joining Johnny Thunders, Jerry Nolan and original drummer Billy Murcia in the group's frighteningly extensive casualty list), but on Saturday at Randall's the pair had enough chemistry to ensure that this was far more than a trip down memory lane. There were obvious visual comparisons to Aerosmith, but the Toxic Twins don't sound this dirty. And as they played 'Looking For A Kiss,' 'Personality Crisis' and 'Trash' I could clearly hear the germination of the Sex Pistols. (I always knew there was a major influence; I'd just never felt it so viscerally.) Those who saw the Dolls in their heyday have long talked about just what an astonishingly experience that would be. Based on what two-fifths of the original line-up achieved some 30 years later, I now believe them.
10) The Mooney Suzuki. I've been raving about the New York group's new album Alive & Amplified for months already. It's finally out this week, and if there's a more melodic, energetic and yet contemporary rock'n'roll album this year, I haven't heard it. (The fact that they made it with The Matrix the hit writing/production team behind Avril Lavigne and Hilary Duff is probably the most frightening aspect of its appeal.) They delivered the new set's opening track 'Primitive Condition,' the preceding album Electric Sweat's bluesy 'I Woke Up This Mornin' and kept the pit photographers hard at work throughout those few minutes by jumping about more than a tour bus full of rock'n'roll Scandinavians. Ascendants to the crown.
11) Go-Go Dancers. Lots of them, rotating on and offstage throughout the day. They were hired to add color and sex, but better than just that, they all seemed to be thoroughly enjoying themselves.
12) Bo Diddley. Let's be honest. This bill was mostly white and male. Bo Diddley and band provided a balance of all sorts, and the crowd lapped him up in enthusiastic recognition of his legendary, pioneering status. But then who wouldn't want Bo Diddley to come on stage in the middle of a festival, armed with his box guitar, to perform at least one of the songs he dared to name after himself let's see, it was either 'Bo Didley,' 'Hey Bo Diddley' or 'The Story Of Bo Diddley' - and of course, the cornerstone for every British R&B band of the 1960s: 'I'm A Man.'
13) Old hippies greeting each other with the comforting exclamation, "You're not dead!"
14) The Paybacks' singer Wendy Case, taking on the role of part-time MC, exclaiming to Bo as he came onstage, "Hey, you've got chicks in your band! That's cool!" The chicks in question are almost as old as Bo and looked rightly confused by her outburst. Hey Wendy, you've got chicks in your band, too, you know!
15) Nancy Sinatra doing Morrissey. An event like this needed some camp. Nancy, newly signed to the Sanctuary label, ably fulfilled that role, performing with a massive all-star band that included the Miami Horns and part of the Wrecking Crew, and Clem Burke on drums. Her comeback single is a cover of label-mate Morrissey's 'Let Me Kiss You.' I've noted that song as one of the few disappointments on You Are The Quarry, but I've been wrong before.
Going To A Go-Go: Somewhere in the midst of this feast of flesh is Nancy Sinatra.
16) These Boots Are Made For Walking. Anyone who came to Randall's Island, saw the Go-Go Dancers and knew the first thing about Nancy Sinatra made sure to be around for this moment. When it came, it was even better than expected: like that scene in Austin Powers, the girls came from every direction, covering the stage in brightly covered, good-natured, happy-to-be-here Go-Go Flesh. I counted around 50 of them; it was like the Go-Go Mardi Gras. One of the best moments of the day.
17) The Raveonettes. Accusations that this Festival was all about yesterday were offset by the inclusion of the two best new garage talents. For if the Mooney Suzuki's Alive and Amplified is this year's best rock'n'roll album, The Raveonettes' That Great Love Sound was last year's. Sune and Sharin (left) seemed a little perturbed to be so high up the bill, only to be reduced to two songs because of the impending hurricane, but it's fair to say they made up for it with a devastating eight minute set ('Attack Of The Ghost Riders' and 'That Great Love Sound') on par with the Mooneys.
18) The good guest MCs. There were some bad ones too (Edd Cookie Byrnes was an embarrassment), but the legendary Kim Fowley and Englishman Martin Lewis ("kick arse, not kick ass!") kept it rolling nicely. But the real stars were Stevie's friends from The Sopranos Pussy, Paulie Walnuts and even the Boss, Tony. The REAL New Jersey boss also introduced an act, but being Bruce Springsteen, he did it early in the day, before I got there.
19) Vox Guitars. I played one of these for a while back in the 80s; it was a piece of junk. But man, did it ever look cool. Several groups at Randall's offered a throwback to the Sixties with more than just the music; it was a thrill to see so man odd-shaped (and colourful) guitars on stage. All the better that the musicians got a decent sound out of them.
20) LSD. In the old days, I'm sure there was plenty of it on hand. The nearest we came to the drug on Saturday was with The Pretty Things closing out their truncated four-song set with this throwback to 1965. Back then they called it £.S.D. and kept it to two minutes in the hope that no-one would notice what they were referring to. But the song was quickly recognized as such an emphatic celebration of psychedelic drugs that over the years they've taken the opposite tack, expanding it into a ten-minute jam. Would you believe me if I said I first saw the Pretty Things in 1965 and that they looked old even then? But though they were probably only matched in the grey hair department by the Electric Prunes, Phil May and crew were by far the best blues band on the bill. Unless you count Bo Diddley, of course, after whose song 'Pretty Thing' they named themselves.
From the Pete Townshend School Of Rock: The Mooney Suzuki's Sammy James Jr...
...And one of Pete's Peers: The Creation's sole survivor, Eddie Phillips.
21) Biff! Bang! Pow! They become less certifiably The Creation with every visit. The latest casualty is singer Bob Garner. But if you check my review of the band back in 2001, you'll see that I was never enamored with him. So I had no problem with newcomer Simon singing 'Biff! Bang! Pow!' and 'Making Time,' not while Eddie Phillips was still playing guitar like a teenage Townshend, including that fantastic sound he gets out of the violin bow. (see right.) With Buzzcocks bassist Tony Barber now a Creation veteran, their five minute set assuming it was that long - was one of the most explosive of the day.
22) All the bands I saw but have no space to review: The D4, The Chesterfield Kings, The Electric Prunes, The Fuzztones, The Paybacks, The Forty-Fives, The Romantics.
23) The original Limp Bizkit. The Dictators never got their due during the late 1970s: The Ramones stole their thunder. But vocalist Handsome Dick Manitoba looked as contemporary as any rocker on stage Saturday. With a closely shaved goatee and a ski cap but, bless him, still with the biker's jacket he paced the stage with the calm menace of a big cat. He could have been Fred Durst if we'd wanted him to be. The group, complete with original guitarists Scott Kempner, Ross The Boss, and Andy Shernoff, opened with the truly appropriate 'New York New York,' and moved straight into 'Who Will Save Rock'n'roll?' complete with its perfectly appropriate lyrics about The Stooges and The Dolls. The question was purely rhetorical on this day, and The Dictators, heavy metal punks to the end, proved that they can rock with the best of them whenever they feel like it.
24) All back to Manitoba's. Handsome Dick has a bar in Alphabet City. It holds about 30 people. (Read my review of The Creation there as evidence.) That didn't stop Little Stevie frequently inviting the entire crowd of 10,000 back there for the after-show party. Whether anyone would have got in or not is a different matter.
New York front men old and new. Handsome Dick Manitoba of The Dictators...
...And pretty Julian Casablancas of The Strokes.
25) Julian Casablancas acting the superstar. The Strokes had a prestigious headlining spot sandwiched between The New York Dolls and Iggy and The Stooges. Casablancas made the most of it by jumping into the crowd during the first song. He proceeded to use the adjective 'fucking' more times introducing more songs than any performer this side of The Beta Band and he dissed Charley big time. Yes, he's in love with himself. But it's part of The Strokes' charm. It's difficult to say whether they warranted their near headline status put it this way, I didn't see many people sporting Strokes t-shirts but at least they demonstrated a desire to stir it up. And the finale of 'Take It Or Leave It' was monstrous.
26) Too many bands. 45 groups in one twelve-hour stint falls somewhere between genius and madness. There was no way I was going to subject myself to quite that much music. But I was mildly upset I couldn't get there early enough to enjoy back-to-back sets by The Caesars, The High Dials, Fonda (billed as The Fondas but hey, it was that kind of day) and The Contrast. I think I'd just about had breakfast by the time all those groups had played!
27) Too much talk. Seriously. The two-song sets enabled 45 bands to play, this is true. But even the most efficient of turnarounds necessitated a couple of minutes down time. Slightly more complicated set changes entailed waits of up to ten and fifteen minutes. Rather than have a DJ play an old garage hit accompanied by go-go dancers which would have been an easy call - Stevie and co. incessantly promoted their franchise. That meant relentless plugs for classic rock station Q104.3 and satellite station Sirius, each of which host Stevie's radio show. We noted the irony of their constant interruptions to boast that the Underground Garage Rock Show on Sirius is "commercial free."
28) Big Star. The day's only crushing disappointment. Maybe it was the fact that Alex Chilton hung back and let other band members sing as much as himself, maybe it was the fact that the drummer's vocal mike didn't work, maybe it was the fact that they're not really a garage band. Most likely, it was just bad karma brought on by their decision to do without Go-Go Girls. Oh well.
29) The Sponsorship Issue. Stevie was smart enough not to try and make money on the day, but use the event instead to build his Underground Garage Rock franchise into something truly Overground. He achieved this by cross-promoting the new Sirius show, making a movie of the day and getting corporate America cough up the cash to ensure that everyone got paid for performing handsomely. (You surely don't think Bo and Nancy came along purely out of charity? Or that The Strokes play for Springsteen guitarists for free?) The event could not have cost less than a million bucks to promote, and 10,000 tickets (maximum) at $20 would barely cover a fifth of that expense. So I suppose we, the consumers, should offer gratitude to Dunkin' Donuts as chief sponsor, and Pepsi as secondary financier, for dipping into their petty cash and ensuring we all had a great time at their expense. Sponsorship is no longer a controversial topic any more; it's just the way things are. (White Stripes free in Union Square? Thank Nissan. General Public and A Flock Of Seagulls on your jog through Central Park? Blame Nike.) Doesnt mean we have to love it, though, and while I could certainly see the point in having a festival of well-travelled garage bands sponsored by junk food companies, it still left a bad taste in my mouth. These are the companies that keep America fat and all the trendy new Iced Lattes in the world won't change that. And until we find a way to run our events without towing the corporate cash line, we'll never be able to claim we're "underground" of anything.
30) "Donuts are Better Than Drugs, 'Cos It's Legal." Alright, so I've accepted the heavy presence of Dunkin' Donuts. But did Kim Fowley of all people really need to come out with the above statement? What the hell was he smoking?
31) Bo Diddley rapping. We didn't ask for it. No way. But Bo insisted he wasn't "dead yet" and that he was down (or something) with "your generation." His God-awful rap about being an ageing rock'n'roll pioneer stunned the otherwise appreciative crowd into embarrassed silence.
32) The Pete Best Band. Little Stevie called them "as real as it gets." Bless you Steve, but that's stretching it. Pete Best has managed a 40-year career out of being sacked by The Beatles, but unlike any number of good jazz drummers, he's never led a band that gets people excited about. Put it this way: The Pete Best Band played 'Twist & Shout'; they were immediately followed by The Forty-Fives' who did 'Daddy Rolling Stone.' Guess which one rocked harder?
33) Muzak. Among the day's major sponsors was the company credited with founding elevator music. I'm speechless.
Came back from out of town Friday night, spent all day Saturday at Randall's Island for LIttle Steven's "Underground" Garage Rock Festival, spent all yesterday recovering from so much good music in such a short space of time. Review to follow.
A sigh of relief that CPFC's first game back in the Premiership ended in a noble draw. I didn't get to experience the excitement or anticipation that comes with being in the home country - or at least being by a TV. Then again, give me a few days till I'm back in the old land...
AUG 9-15: Step On, The Summer Hitlist
AUG 2-8: Crystal Palace are shirt, Crazy Legs are back, The British are Rapping, Losers Lounge, Step On
JULY 26-AUG 1: Farewell to Orbital, the Nike RunHitWonder, Pere Ubu in the Park, Devo, Dave Wakeling, Berger & Wyse
JULY 19-25: Live reviews: Mission Of Burma/Electric Six/The Fever/Van Hunt/Brazilian Girls/Apollo Heights/L Maestro; Crime Watch, Book Watch, TV Watch, Booze Watch
JULY 12-18: Jeff Mills' Exhibitionist DVD review, Midweek W(h)ines, Los Pleneros de la 21/Kékélé live, The Homosexuals,
JULY 5-11: Nick Hornby's Songbook
JUNE 28-JULY 4: The Streets/Dizzee Rascal/I Am X/Funkstorung live, Wine, Football and festivals,
JUNE 21-27: Lollapalooza, Morrissey, Deadwood, London Calling, Stone Roses, Euro 2004,
JUNE 14-20: Fast Food and Cheap Oil, Party Prospects, More Clash, Radio Indie Pop
JUNE 7-13: MP3s vs AIFF, Step on, June Hitlist, The Clash,
MAY 31-JUNE 6: Benzos/The Hong Kong/Home Video live, Tribute Bands, Lester Bangs, Glad All Over
MAY 24-30: The Clash, Fear Of A Black Planet, Marvin Gaye, Sandy Bull, Richard Pryor, Stoop Sale LPs, Michael Moore, Nat Hentoff
MAY 17-23: 5th Ave Street Fair, James, Surefire/The Go Station live, Crystal Palace
MAY 10-16: Radio 4 live, John Entwistle, Jeff Mills, Wine notes, Joy Division covers
APR 26-MAY 9: Twenty Twos, Morningwood, French Kicks, Ambulance Ltd all live, More Than Nets, Mod, Turning 40
APR 19-25: 5 Boroughs Rock, The Number 3 Bus, Orbital split, MC5 reform
APR 6-19: British Press Cuttings, More Than Nets, Art Rockers and Brit Packers
MAR 29-APRIL 5: The Rapture/BRMC/Stellastarr* live, The Chinese Beatles, Freddie Adu
MAR 22-28: Singapore Sling live, Kerry on a Snowboard, Pricks on Clits, Eddie Izzard, Who's Two
MAR 15-21: TV On The Radio live, Tracking Terror, Bloomberg's Education Bloc, The Homosexuals,
MAR 8-14: The Undertones live, Winemakers Week, Madrid Bombings, Just In Jest
MAR 1-7: Rhone-gazing, Pop Culture Quiz answers, Who's Hindsight, March Hitlist
FEB 16-29: Lad Lit, American Primaries, New York novels, Candi Staton, the Pop Culture Quiz, World Musics In Context
FEB 9-15: Grammy gripes, Spacemen 3, Replacements, Touching The Void, Moon myths, Voice Jazz & Pop Poll
FEB 2-FEB 8: Suicide Girls in the flesh, Johnny Rotten's a Celebrity...So's Jodie Marsh
JAN 26-FEB 1: Starsailor/Stellastarr*/Ambulance live, Tiswas, Wine Watch, Politics Watch
JAN 19-25: Brooklyn Nets? LCD Soundsystem, Iowa Primary, The Melody, TV On The Radio
JAN 12-18: The Unicorns live, New York w(h)ines, Sex In The City, Curb Your Enthusiasm, S.U.V. Safety, Bands Reunited
JAN 5-11: Tony's Top 10s of 2003, Howard Dean and his credits, Mick Middles and Mark E. Smith, Mick Jones and Don Letts,
2003 MUSINGS ARE LISTED HERE
2002 MUSINGS ARE LISTED HERE: