Iggy and the Stooges at Riot Fest 2012 | Photos and live music review
“I’m gonna fuck you right up the ass!” hollered Iggy Pop. The almighty, headlining Stooges were just gathering momentum on the Riot Stage, entering a barnstormer rendition of “1970,” as tens of thousands stood in awe across a sprawling, trash-ridden Humboldt Park. Sure, there were plenty of too-cool-for-school chuckleheads loitering around with their arms folded, grimacing at Iggy’s dirty old man antics and his eerie visage. But the band needed them. Iggy Pop’s entire persona, nay, his existence as a performer is about making you as uncomfortable as possible. A friend of mine told me that Iggy was freaking him out a bit during “I Wanna Be Your Dog.” I told him that was the point. Iggy wins again. Your confusion is his victory, his purpose, and his legacy as the greatest frontman of all time.
That’s not to say he didn’t overstep a boundary or two. Bringing all those girls onstage to dance with him to “Shake Appeal” was a bit more awkwardly creepy than awesome, but come on. Even as I’m writing this, Iggy wins again. I just remembered what he said when the women left the stage: “Hey, we take guys, too! The other Stooges discriminate sexually, but I don’t!” The man is so far out of this world, so removed from convention and societal expectation that literally anything is fair game. As the Raw Power-heavy set progressed, I found myself dancing more and more (some credit is due to Gogol for loosening me up, and to the event programmers for that brilliant scheduling choice), but I caught myself stealing Iggy’s moves in real time. I flailed and flopped like a fish in midair, falling to the ground and never hitting. I didn’t care. No one should. Iggy knows. Every time the man gestured, I felt like I'd never seen a human being in such an embarrassing position, least of all onstage. “I really wish you guys would just bumrush this shit right now,” he said, leaning on the railing to the stage steps like a zombified James Dean. The night was full of such impulsive, slurred statements. “Hey, should I stage dive?” he asked before immediately dropping the mic with a thud and diving, accentuating the rhetorical nature of the question. My favorite line: “I’m a fucked up person!” before an encore of “The Passenger.” As if that needed reiteration.
James Osterberg, Jr. was a force Sunday night, a creepy, horny, sixty-five-year-old force of nature, but the Stooges were incredible in their own right. As any rock n’ roll scholar knows, if your only knowledge of the Stooges was their first album, your head would have exploded at Riot Fest. Even considering the later records, this band has become so tight and so talented as to be, arguably, at the all-time top of their game. Part of that has to do with a newly consistent lineup, and while James Williamson is no Ron Asheton, he still shreds like he’s trying to scrape loose skin from his fingertips. Mike Watt needs no explanation or defense, but it’s worth noting that he and Scott Asheton make a better rhythm section than can be found on any of the Stooges records. I haven’t used it yet, so they deserve the one adequate word: power. And let’s not forget Steve McKay on sax, bringing even more joyful chaos to the cocktail. There’s too much to be said about this set. All I know is there will never be another Stooges, and it’ll be a sad day when Iggy’s reign as the king of punk inevitably comes to a close. But it'll take the grave. And then, just maybe, we’ll see another. Until then, we know where to look for inspiration.