Every week until the Festival, we’re partnering with some of the best music writers in the industry – from Austin and beyond – to bring you a closer look at the wide range of talent taking the Zilker Park stages in October. Whether reacquainting yourself with an old favorite or discovering a new artist that piques your interest, these in-depth features are your official ACL teaser! We’re kicking off the series with a feature from CultureMap Austin‘s Managing Editor (and resident music authority), Arden Ward.
While psychedelic, LSD-induced tunes were tripping out the late-60s West Coast, something different was brewing across the country in the college town of Ann Arbor, Michigan. Iggy and The Stooges — comprised of the widely revered Iggy Pop and his band of young misfits — was transforming an experimental sound into the roots of a new genre.
From 1967 to 1973, Iggy and The Stooges tweaked, plucked and manipulated instruments as they built a grim, gut-laden sound that laid the framework for punk rock.
In 1970, Iggy and The Stooges released Fun House, an album that had all the necessary makings to become legendary — and enough unpolished bravado to keep it outside of mainstream appeal. With tracks like “Down on the Street” and “Fun House,” the album leans to the raunchy side of rock, where noisy guitar doesn’t fall victim to formulaic hooks and is complemented by bluesy saxophone tracks and rough, guttural vocals.
In the third studio album, Raw Power released in 1973, Iggy and The Stooges completed the transformation from early experimentalism into shorter, tighter, punk tunes that still maintained all The Stooges’ original edge and raunchiness. The Stooges established a sound that was pure, unadulterated and from the gut: a brand of inherently sexy, off-limits — somewhat taboo — music that was as far as you could get from by-the-book rock n’ roll.
You may recall the radio station scene in Cameron Crowe’s coming-of-age music masterpiece, Almost Famous, where a too-cautious DJ proclaims to a disheveled Lester Bangs that it’s “a little early” in the day to play “Search and Destroy,” but Bangs rocks The Stooges anyway.
Legendary music journalist Lester Bangs was a champion, and early adopter, of Iggy Pop, drawn to Iggy’s outlandish persona and risk taking onstage and in the studio. In 1977, Bangs reviewed a live show of Iggy’s in the Village Voice, paying close attention — with high critique — to the performer’s unparalleled intensity:
“He’s the most intense performer I’ve ever seen, and that intensity comes from a murderous-drivenness that in the past has also made him the most dangerous performer alive: the plunges into the third row, cutting himself and rolling in broken glass onstage, getting into verbal and occasional physical brawls with his audience.”
From the late 1970s until the early 2000s, Iggy performed solo gigs sprinkled with some touring alongside David Bowie. He reunited with The Stooges in 2003, returning to his musical naissance and a vigorous touring schedule with stage shows that rival the intensity of the band’s performances from decades past.
Want proof? Listen to the 2011 release Sadistic Summer Live 2011. Age hasn’t hindered Iggy and The Stooges’ ability to rock a crowd with insanely sharp playing and probing antics. “I want all of you to come the fuck up here and dance with The Stooges! But they don’t want us to do that. Because it’s ‘dangerous,’“ Iggy taunts as a lead into “Shake Appeal.”
Maybe that DJ in Almost Famous got it right. Although I’d dare say it’s never too early in the day, Iggy and The Stooges should be heard live, not through the speakers of an old stereo. Iggy and The Stooges are experiential: a journey that should leave you just as hot and sweaty as the band is, surrounded by a few thousand enthusiasts who will “dance with The Stooges” through the raw, unpolished roots of punk rock.