It seems surprising to some fans, but Little Steven Van Zandt says Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band are as well-suited to play massive festival dates as anyone else.
"I love that fact that we're playing to, I don't know, probably half of the audience who maybe never even heard of us -- certainly never heard us. That's nothing but fun and nothing but exciting," Van Zandt said during conference call with reporters regarding the group's June 13 stop at the Bonnaroo Music and Art Festival. Springsteen and company will also play the Glastonbury Festival in England on June 27.
"I'm hoping we do a whole lot more of these, and I think what I'm expecting...is just, I hope, a lot of young people that have never seen us before, and it's going to be fun."
Van Zandt said he's happy to see summer festival culture growing in North America -- "In Europe it's a festival almost every week in almost every country," he noted -- and dubbed it "a way of balancing out what has been a kind of isolated generation or two between computers and video games and that sort of thing."
As for Bonnaroo itself, Van Zandt said the E Street Band, with its lengthy and heavily improvised shows -- and some songs chosen off the cuff from fan requests -- fits in well with the "jam band" vibe that's still associated wtih the festival.
"We change things a lot normally," he noted. "Every night is different...There is a very wide variety of songs that we've done over the years that Bruce has written over the course of...30, 35 years. There's a lot of stuff to pick from. And then on top of that we build in a certain amount of spontaneity right into the show...The last two weeks we played Ramones, Clash and Tommy James...and all kinds of fun sort of bar band type songs.
"It just loosens everybody up and keeps the thing fresh. There's nothing like playing a song you've never played before and never rehearsed before 20,000 people. It's just kind of an immediate sort of electric sort of joke that kind of keeps everybody very awake."
Van Zandt does see something missing from Bonnaroo, however -- the garage rock that he champions on his syndicated radio show "The Underground Garage," with his Wicked Cool Records label and, he hopes, on a TV show in the near future.
"I took a quick look at the (Bonnaroo) list. I didn't see anybody that we play regularly in our format," he said. "I think as the genre starts to expand here...more young people will be starting to get to know this garage rock world. I think it's probably going to be the next generation that really embraces it. It's a little bit underground right now, still.
"So maybe in the next couple of years, Bonnaroo will start to have a underground garage stage or tent or some kind of garage rock day or some part of the festival. Maybe we can work something out in the future."