Saturday, Oct. 20
Cat's Cradle, Carrboro
At age 54, Iggy Pop is largely unchanged. Actually, he almost looks better than when I first saw him--gyrating across the stage, pants pulled down so you could see his pubic hair, his chest ribbed with scars--back in 1979. He was even missing a tooth--a crucial tooth--in front. Everybody pogoed, Iggy was drenched with sweat and the crowd wanted to devour him, sort of like a pagan ritual where you eat your enemy's brain to absorb his power. Punk audiences then were as out of control as Iggy. Anything less would have been deemed unworthy.Flash forward 22 years. Iggy's Cat's Cradle show sold out almost as quickly as it was announced; the "world's forgotten boy" is now a punk icon whose music blares out of your television for ads promoting decidedly mainstream products.
After his band took the stage--their minimalist set design consisting of strips of Mylar and several corrugated metal panels--Iggy, bare-chested and wearing tight, low-riding jeans, made his entrance, twisting and moving like a sprung feral cat. From my front and center vantage point (there was a barricade, of course), Iggy's body looked exactly the same, although his chest is now smooth: no more writhing on stages littered with broken glasses and bottles; no more self-mutilation. He's also sporting white, obviously capped teeth that gleam in the dim stage lighting; the shadow of a few-day-old goatee highlights his features. And though he vogues and does a few spins and trademark kicks, breaking a sweat, he's never soaked; he's learned how to pace himself.
While Iggy's new album, Beat 'Em Up, owes more to rap metal than The Stooges or his previous solo work, it's more fun than his last release, the dreary Avenue B. The sheer volume of the band--blasting through Musiclord amps and cabinets (a Seattle-based custom company)--was still loud enough to blow out an eardrum. With the audience glued to his every move, attuned to every primal howl, it was still the smattering of classics, from "Raw "Power" and "I Wanna Be Your Dog" to "I Got a Right," that whipped the crowd into a frenzy. Iggy dove into the crowd to be surfed--a trademark move--but the people up front, acting as a single entity, collectively decided to be reverent: They pushed him back up on stage. He immediately flung himself back into the crowd, with the same results. While everyone touched him, wanting to take some of his sweat and DNA home, the crowd was weirdly respectful--no one tried to grab his package (one girl gingerly poked her finger into his belly button). Have audiences changed? Or was it because no one--"real wild child" or not--wanted to be responsible for allowing one of rock's elder icons to get hurt?
So Iggy pulled people up to join him for some love during "The Passenger," which turned into a rock show version of the Rapture: a group of believers got to join rock's martyred saint on stage for several moments of paradisal bliss--the chosen few exhibiting classic signs of euphoria. (And the audience was thrilled--they knew all the words to the "la la la la" part.) Several times, in keeping with the "body of rock, given for you" vibe of his performance, he'd strike a crucifixion pose. Apropos.
After an encore, leaving the audience wanting more, the house lights went up to the strains of The Sex Pistols' "Holidays in the Sun," a perfect choice. No one got near Mr. Pop, although hordes were waiting for him outside at his tour bus. (Walking past the backstage area, you could see a "classy lady" sharing the dressing room couch; she obviously hadn't been in the audience.) But after performing an intense set, doing the moves he made famous 30-some years ago, Iggy doesn't owe his fans anything. These days, having survived years of bad breaks, drugs and cult fame, he's unapologetically gleeful about taking The Man's (whoever: ad reps, film soundtracks, whatever) money. Why shouldn't he be? He's kept alive and he's still Iggy. And that's enough.
Saturday, Oct. 20
Five Star, Raleigh
"Cold chillin' at a party in a B-boy stance."--Run-DMC
Since Friday nights at the Five Star are usually reserved for hip-hop music, it should come as no surprise that the underground Raleigh club has embraced an aspect of hip-hop culture that's been overlooked for years: the B-boy battle. It was the '70s and '80s all over again for Five Star's break dancing contest--now in its second year--which drew B-boys and girls from all over the state. Breakers from as far away as Boone and Charlotte came to participate in and witness the event. And the battle just wasn't for bragging rights. With $250 in cash and prizes at stake, the contest featured crews that are seriously into the neo-B-boy movement."I guess some people never grow up," said Mix Master Mooney, who hosted the event. "I was breaking on the ping-pong table at my house when I was a kid. Breaking has always been hot, and people have been doing it since it started. Tonight was kind of a celebration of that."
The term B-boy was first used in the early '70s by DJ Kool Herc, one of hip-hop's true innovators and pioneers. As Herc would spin records, he'd highlight the dancers who would come to the jams he'd throw in the Bronx. B-boy derives from "break boy," the name Herc gave dancers who'd get out on the floor during the "break" segments of some of the songs. Dancers would bounce, shuffle, spin, twist and twirl in a motion reminiscent of the Afro-Brazilian martial art of capoeira. Over time, the term B-boy came to encompass those who were seriously into all aspects of hip hop, and it wasn't uncommon to hear a rapper use the term to describe himself or anyone devoted to the culture. By the '80s, breaking and B-boy culture caught the attention of Hollywood. But commercial overkill and exploitation caused the phenomenon to stall and eventually become passe.
The dance form didn't really die, but rather went into a hibernation from which it's just now awakening. At Five Star, while DJs Merlin and Blake spun old-school '80s hip-hop jams on the wheels of steel, 16 breakers gathered to square off. The B-boys and girls were paired off into four groups of four to compete head-to-head. Two winners from each group advanced from each round until a lone winner was declared. While the capacity crowd made room on the dance floor, B-boys and girls of all races bobbed and weaved, twisted and turned to classic hip-hop joints like "Buffalo Girls," "Planet Rock," "Let the Music Play" and "When I Hear Music." Four judges were selected to pick the winners.
Breaking is all about competition, and from the start, the battle was on. After some serious moves by dancers with names like Bong, Kermit, Play, Triples, Ms. Butterworth and Drewluck, the contest came down to two contestants from the same crew.
"I started breaking about four years ago," said Charlotte native Johnny Blaze, 24, the winner of the battle. "Our crew hits shows all over the East Coast. We just love to dance."
Blaze, along with crewmember and runner-up Saki and their female partner Pluto, came to the Raleigh battle on a hot streak. Their crew won in Miami last week and the trio will be in Norfolk next week, putting down moves that they hope will win their crew yet another contest. But it's hip-hop culture, not just the money, that keeps them moving.
"Breaking gives me confidence," said Pluto, 19. "I've been dancing since I was four years old, but I wanted to learn about breaking. To us, it's all about hip-hop."
--Gabriel M. Rich