Bo Diddley regaled us with a rap tune. Nancy Sinatra covered Thurston Moore. The Pretty Things sang about the wonders of ”LSD.” It could only have happened at Little Steven?s International Underground Garage Festival, held Aug. 14 at Randall?s Island in New York City. It was an awe-inspiring spectacle any way you look at it. First, there was the sheer volume of bands — more than 40 — that the garage guru managed to squeeze into the allotted 12 hours. That the bulk of them played only two, sometimes three songs was a plus: There was no time to get bored, especially since most of the tunes were short, sharp, raucous, and devoid of filler. (The day gave new meaning to the phrase ”kick out the jams.”)
Highlights were abundant. The Dictators? metallic punk was as rousing as ever, the Paybacks? Janis Joplin-fronting-the-Hives histronics were revelatory, and the Creations? handling of their ?60s classics proved that near-60-year-old ex-mods could rock as hard as any 22-year-old.
And what other show this summer could boast guest announcers like Steven?s occasional boss Bruce Springsteen and fellow Sopranos thug Paulie Walnuts (a.k.a. actor Tony Sirico), who hoped we were having a good time ”listening to all this garage trash”?
Speaking of ”Trash,” the reconstituted New York Dolls played that 1973 classic and several other chestnuts. (The fest?s most bizarre moment: hearing a field of 10,000 garage gourmands singing along to the band?s ”Jet Boy.”)
The day?s one true note of anarchy was struck, aptly enough, by Iggy Pop, who invited the audience to defy security and climb on stage during ”Real Cool Time” and ”No Fun.” ”C?mon, this isn?t f?ing Nazi Germany,” he said as a truckload of crazed fans swarmed him. It was a beautiful, if terrifying, moment, as the Stooges? set?and the day?ended, with a dazed Little Steven wandering the stage repeating ”Stooges! Stooges! Stooges!” like a mantra. All told, it was a real cool time indeed.