Iggy Pop was fucking the camera. Lithe like a Romanian gymnast, his lifelines disappearing craggy into low rise jeans, the punk father writhed onstage like a human snake razor blade, and the camera beamed it into outer space. A veteran sex simulator and the energy source of his reconstituted Stooges, Pop’s completely unfakeable yowls, tumbles and cabinet climbs were typical of a show that delighted in refreshing the stale rock festival concept. There were a few flecks of grey in this 21st century version, and the occasional mohawk’d toddler waddled on by. It also took place in the shadows of a giant orange mocha frappucino. But with his Underground Garage Festival, Little Steven Van Zandt made his vibrant music id a touchable thing, and the jabberwocky prattlecock of today’s industry faraway for at least a day. And New York City rocked like a hurricane.
Our umbrellas were consfiscated at the gate (they could be used as weapons, I was told), but that was the only down note in the entire day and night of Little Steven’s Underground Garage Festival on Randall’s Island. My friend Kathy and I got there at 1 pm, having bagged an overly ambitious plan to be there for the beginning at 11:00 am (who can rock at 11:00? Apparently James Gandolfini, and missing him was a drag, but we caught a few other Sopranos who were hanging onstage, like Big Pussy Bompansero and Paulie Walnuts, along with some other of Little Steven’s pals like, oh, Bruce Springsteen, who sauntered on now and then to introduce a band). It was a day of dazzling but casual star power; everyone was friendly; there was a minimum of insider/outsider vibe, and the unpretentious, inclusive spirit of the show evoked legendary 60s rock events like Woodstock (the love vibe) and Altamont (the confiscated umbrellas, the revved-up aggression in the music) and made peace with that past by connecting it to the present.
For reasons too tedious to contemplate and therefore innumerate, I use MSN to connect to the Internet. As a result, when I long in I get to a horribly inane interface and the MSN homepage. Or maybe it is a “portal.” There is a multitude of clickable items and images, from news to weather to fashion to entertainment to. . . .
Today I happened to spot a line: “Ugliest Bands of All Time.” Which, I admit, is intriguing due to the oddity (but nowadays who can tell: who’d ever even been thinking about anthrax outside of a few metalheads or fans of “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” before now?). So I clicked through and found the following list with no explanation:
· “We’re Not Going to Take It”—Twisted Sister
· “Run-Around”—Blues Traveler
· “Pet Sematary”—The Ramones
· “American Girl”—Tom Petty
· “Heaven Can Wait”—Iron Maiden
· “Search and Destroy”—The Stooges
· “No One Likes You”—Scorpions
· “My Best Friend’s Girl”—The Cars
· “Free Bird”—Lynyrd Skynyrd
· “Tearin’ Up My Heart”—’N Sync
What the hell is this all about? Is Tom Petty thought to be uglier when he sings that song? Is Iggy more attractive-post Stooges? Does the list maker have something against Germans? And why isn’t there a picture of Dee Snider’s mug if the whole thing is about profound unattractiveness?
One thing of note is that the list consists wholly of men. Which is not sexist in the way that you might think. I’d argue that with few exceptions, ugly women just don’t make it big in show biz. From Britney to Shania, from Madonna to Jessica, it is all about looks first and pipes second. Which is often audibly unfortunate and visually appropriate. Ugly men abound, which makes me think that there isn’t, perhaps, a whole lot of distance between TV newscasts and the music industry (e.g., can you image a female version of Willard Scott talking about the weather?).