Meeting Iggy Pop

The First Essential Scary Truth

The Knitting Factory is considered one of New York’s finest concert venues.  From it’s original iteration on the SoHo side of Houston and Mott Streets, with it’s brilliant progressive Happy Hour (drinks started in the cents at 4pm and worked their way up to full price by 7) opened in 1987, to the 15 years in TriBeca and finally to the current Brooklyn locale.  I’ve had the pleasure of seeing bands in all three generations of the club.  However, the original remains my favorite.

In the late 80’s and early 90’s it was the norm to see the main act upstairs for $6 and a free beer to boot.  For that extremely economical price – even by the monetary standards of the day – I saw Bob Mould preview his song “The Act We Act” in the summer of 1992.  I hit on the attractive, mousy blonde sitting next to me at the bar in the late fall of 1991 only to find out it was Kristin Hersh on her first solo acoustic sets in NYC.  Most memorably, there was the 3-hour plus American Music Club shows in support of the occasionally brilliant LP Everclear.

AMC Lead singer and songwriter Mark Eitzel is highly erratic on stage.  You never know if he’ll attempt to attack the audience, fall over drunk or openly weep while he croons “The Hula Maiden.”  That faux sense of danger is what made/makes an American Music Club show of the era and now, if you can catch the usual quickie announcements in a town near you, a must see.  All you have to do is put up with the-I’m drunk-co-dependent-and–nobody-loves me songwriting.

My old friend Chad Clark, the creative mastermind behind Smart Went Crazy and Beauty Pill, bought three tickets several weeks in advance.  He thought the show would sell out, as AMC was the band of moment in October of 1991.  “We need to get there early,” he kept telling Josh Machlin and me.  It was Chad’s mantra for the days and hours leading up to the show.

Josh and I thought Chad to be a wee bit paranoid.  After all, how many New York hipsters had heard of this band out of San Francisco?  It seems all of them had as Chad was 100% correct: the show did sell out and quickly at that.   The boys decided to go leave several hours early in order to be able to push as close to the stage as possible.  However, My girlfriend at the time wanted to have a state of the relationship discussion prior to show time, I was late.  So late, I missed both opening acts and the first three AMC tunes.

Fortunately, Chad had given me my ticket early that day so the inevitable scream fest of ‘where the hell were you all night long” was avoided.  After pushing my way through a swaying and moshing sea of the Lower East Side hip and Williamsburg tragic hipsters, I was able to checking in with Chad and Josh who had decided my penance for being tardy was the next beer run.  So off I went again through the hypnotic side to side sways and occasionally violent jumps from the black clad crowd.

The bar was mercifully empty except for a tiny, longhaired, black leather jacket clad junkie looking guy and his much taller, Tina Louise looking girlfriend.  That man was Iggy Pop.  While the bartender retrieved the beers, I gushed all over my fellow Michigan expat.

“You’re Iggy Pop, man.  I love your stuff.  I’m from Michigan too,” I rambled on, sounding as moronic as the Pop is accused of being by some of his critics.

Iggy pointed to my t-shirt with the word Michigan splayed across my chest.  “Meeschigan,” he said, holding his right arm in front of his slight chest in a 90-degree angle.  “Meeschigan.”

After a minute or so of gushing and trying to open up a conversation with the man who’s music, with the Stooges anyway, was the soundtrack to much of my late adolescence and early adulthood, all I could get out of the guy was “Meeschigan.”  As I turned to go back to the boys, I decided Iggy was either too burned out by the adulation of the years and hero worshiping kids like me or the critics were right.  He was so sort of junkie savant.  Either way, I was utterly confused by our meeting.

Chad and Josh had moved back towards the bar purely for matters of self-defense.  The area in front of the stage had become one large, seething slam dance.  I was grateful I didn’t have to navigate the flannel hipster clad rage to get the guys their beer so I didn’t mention my odd Iggy Pop encounter.

Half an hour later, AMC had gone through a series of ballads that failed to alter the weird, contained rage from the mosh pit.  I felt a tug at my shirt and turned around.  I looked down right at Iggy Pop.

“Meeschigan,” he said, his arm cocked at that 90-degree angle.

“Meeschigan,” I answered him, my arm at the same angle.  He turned and walked out with his Ginger look alike on his arm.

All these years later, our quick meeting still confuses the hell out of me, even more so than his appearance on American Idol.







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