VISITING ACT ‌ Who's Puttin' the Bomp? 

On the airwaves and stages, Little Steven presents real-deal rock 'n' roll

click to enlarge 'People miss rock 'n' roll' – 'Little Steven' Van Zandt, music enthusiast and host of the weekly Underground Garage radio show
  • 'People miss rock 'n' roll' – 'Little Steven' Van Zandt, music enthusiast and host of the weekly Underground Garage radio show

Little Steven's Underground Garage Rolling Rock 'n' Roll Show
w/ The Romantics, The Charms, Shadows of Knight, The Specs, April Invention
Tues. Oct. 24
8 p.m.
$15
Music Farm
32 Ann St.
853-3276
www.musicfarm.com
www.littlestevensundergroundgarage.com

The mighty "Little Steven's Underground Garage Rolling Rock 'n' Roll Show" returns to the Music Farm on Tuesday with a totally new lineup of rock groups collected from across the country. Presented by Q104.5 FM, Rolling Rock, AT&T, and Little Steven's hip syndicated rock radio show, "Little Steven's Underground Garage" (the antithesis to lousy commercial "rock radio"), the series is geared towards promoting, as the host calls them, "the best emerging bands from all over."

As some loyal listeners already know, "Little Steven's Underground Garage" is a weekly two-hour program of pure rock 'n' roll hosted by guitarist, record collector, and actor Steven Van Zandt. Some may recognize him as "Silvio Dante" from HBO's The Sopranos series. Music fans probably know him best as the longtime, bandana-clad guitarist with Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band and as a solo artist during the late '80s.

Since the radio show's launch in April 2002, he's kept busiest preparing material, recording announcements and segues, and hosting the weekly gig. "Underground Garage" digs deep, from the hillbilly rock and vintage R&B of the late 1950s, the hardcore British Invasion and soul bands of the 1960s, the trashy, lo-fi garage bands of the '60s and '70s (especially the obscure groups featured on the Nuggets compilations), the original punk rock bands of N.Y.C. and London, and the edgier underground alternatives to the "alternative" of recent years.

"We've done some one-off shows here and there, including a big New Year's Eve show last year," says Van Zandt, speaking by telephone from his office and studio in Manhattan. "I decided it should reflect the radio show, which is a bit of a combination of things. In some ways, it's very contemporary because we're the only radio format in the country now playing contemporary rock 'n' roll, as you know. But half of our sensibility is a bit of a throwback to the heroes of radio, like Alan Freed or Murray the K.

"When we decided to do our shows, we wanted to reflect that and have a lot of bands doing shorter sets and sharing gear," Van Zandt says of the touring showcase. "We're aware of the fact that we're turning a lot of people on to a lot of new bands, so we wanted to give a little taste — a nice half-hour or whatever — and move on."

Little Steven joined Sirius Satellite Radio as a creative consultant in 2004, creating a 24-hour garage format that launched in July. He is also the executive producer of Outlaw Country, a new 24-hour format that provides sanctuary for the rebels and renegades of country and rock 'n' roll on Sirius.

The crowd was a bit smaller than expected (but boisterous, nonetheless) at the first "Rolling Rock 'n' Roll Show" event at the Music Farm on Sept. 26. Things ran smoothly and rocked hard with a mix of '60s pop and punky garage-rock, circus tent vibes (nice curtains!), projected footage of mod music clips and old Shindig! and Rockpalaßt shows, and go-go dance zaniness.

This week's event on Tues. Oct. 24 features Detroit power-pop rockers The Romantics (remember those catchy tunes, "What I Like About You," "Talking in Your Sleep," and "One in a Million?"), Chicago's Shadows of Knight (best known for their 1966 garage rock classic "Gloria"), and Boston-based garage band The Charms, along with local support from The Specs and The April Invention.

Next month, the roving rock circus makes its way back again on Tues. Nov. 28 — this time with legendary '70s punk godfathers The New York Dolls (led by singer David Johansen and guitarist Sylvain Sylvain), The Supersuckers, The Chesterfield Kings, The Charms (again), and others.

"The idea is to slowly build up the idea so that it's a regular thing, a regular circuit," says Van Zandt. "This year, it's three 20-city tours. Next year, I hope it will be four 30-city tours or more. We want to get people to see some great new and re-formed rock bands. Thanks to Rolling Rock and AT&T's 'ATT Blue Room,' we're getting the chance to do that and keep the ticket price down. It's 15 bucks there in Charleston — that's pretty good for five good bands! Right now, it's just important for the fans to come out and support these shows and let these sponsors know that people appreciate them helping us. Our relationship with the sponsors is what makes it all possible — it's a whole different relationship than we had with sponsors when I grew up. These corporations used to be nothing but the enemy — pains in the ass who would only support bands that didn't need it, you know? It's a whole 180-degree turn now."


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