Sunset Strip Festival Revisited

Review by Rory Maloney

The Sunset Strip was in construction mode Friday night in preparation for what promised to be an eventful day at one of best music scenes on the planet. Concert-goers who seeked an early look filtered into The Roxy, Key Club, and Viper Room but most of the buzz surrounded a crowd flowing onto the street in front of Whiskey a Go Go. Ray Manzarek and Robby Krieger of The Doors were playing a show and despite having press passes we were kept out of the sold out venue. Even a desperate plea to the band’s manager yielded no sympathy. We walked down to The Roxy instead where we caught Buckcherry’s set and witnessed what would be the ongoing theme of the weekend: Older fans with ageless enthusiasm jammed and sang along to nearly every song in the surprisingly packed venue. True music lovers were out and regardless of stage, each band would have some of its most loyal fans on hand.

Saturday felt like a lot more of a festival as people eagerly made their way into the venue which consisted of a stretch on Sunset Strip with two stages on opposite ends. Smaller bands earning their keep and hoping to catch eyes rotated throughout the small venues while the likes of Matt and Kim, Public Enemy, Bush, and Motley Crue took to the main stages. One of the most unorthodox lineups of all-time promised to entertain a vast range of people from Hollywood hipsters to diehard Motley Crue fans. Everyone embraced the atmosphere, and collectively they handed the Strip an entertaining and unforgettable evening.

Matt and Kim’s energy was evident from the second they took the stage as Kim jumped on her drum set and began dancing before sitting down and playing a cover of Let Me Clear My Throat to get the crowd warmed up.

The duo bantered back and forth and played their hits including Good Old Fashion Nightmare and Daylight to enthusiastic and energized onlookers. They were the catalyst to the evening energy and through their music they injected Redbull into the vein of the show. By looking around it was hard to tell who was there to see what, but at each main stage the feel-good vibe flowed as Kim’s personality exploded on stage. By the look on her face it was hard to tell if anyone could possibly be that into their music, but it was easy to tell that the edgy duo felt honored to play with the likes of living legends. At one point Kim ran around handing out balloons with the duos’ faces on them and got the crowd involved, asking them to blow them up and throw them in the air.

Towards the end of the set Kim promised to show a below the belt tattoo if they participated in a sing-along, and after she got what she asked for she stood on a drum and showed a small tattoo below the belt line. It was a bit awkward, but everyone appreciated the heart and love that more or less kicked off the evening. As they closed their set, people began to rush toward the other stage where Gavin Rossdale and Bush prepared to re-introduce themselves to the Hollywood scene that once embraced them and made them stars.

As Gavin Rossdale and Bush took the stage and a curious crowd edged closer only one fan didn’t want to hear a show that was long overdue from a band that never should have never stopped making music.

Gavin and the boys opened with Machinehead, one of the songs that but Bush on the map in the nineties. His voice still carries beautifully and his tone hasn’t faltered but has in fact grown more soulful with age. It’s the kind of music that makes you remember exactly where you were when they put out their debut album Sixteen Stone. I remember buying that and Oasis’s Definitely Maybe with my allowance in sixth grade and I was glad to look around at age twenty-eight and notice that I was on the younger side of the audience.

They rolled through most of their catalog including a few new hits from their first album in a decade. As Gavin cascades through Glycerine and sings “Don’t Let the Days Go By” I can’t help but think it’s a little bit ironic given the career path they’ve gone down. But they make unique choices and switch up lyrics and verses and play the meat of their hits from Everything Zen to Comedown. They even play a charismatic cover of The Beatles’ Come Together and get the crowd involved. I can’t help but wish they’d continued to put out music over the last decade but after powering through an impressive set, it’s evident that the British boys from Bush aren’t done yet. As the sun goes down on the west stage the band bids the crowd a thank you and a farewell, and leaves with hope of returning to the spotlight.

As the sun fell in the sky the crowd began to get weirder. People from all walks of life inter-mingled and despite the occasional obliterated drunk the random assortment of music fanatics co-existed fairly peacefully.

Diehard fans put on their best concert attire and as we made our way toward the Public Enemy stage the most out-there act of the night rocked the mic and got the heads on Sunset bobbing. Given that most of the people surrounding the stage only know of Flava Flav for his TV persona, Chuck D rocked and the duo pleased as they rolled through their hits. Scott Ian from Anthrax picked up his guitar and joined them on stage, and they hit their high point when they got down to Bring the Noise. Flav is an entertainer and I couldn’t help but smile as his muscle memory kicked in and threw him in a time machine, bringing him to the point in his life when he was actually coherent. As the set wound down, we turned around to a sea of people migrating back toward the other end. Motley Crue, legends of the ground we were walking on were preparing to take the stage.

As we took higher ground hoping to find a better camera angle people edged in every way they possibly could to catch a glimpse of the stage. After what seemed like hours, Vince Neil, Tommy Lee and the boys emerged amidst a cloud of smoke and rocked out to Wild Side.

By looking around it was clear that the Motley Crue faithful was representing proudly as people wore original concert shirts ranging across decades. It felt like I woke up in a different decade and I stepped out of my musical comfort zone to appreciate a band that has puked on, pissed on, and dominated the Sunset Strip scene for the past thirty years. The performance matched the get-ups and the band seemed at home as they played effortlessly yet emotionally. They were there to put on a show, and Tommy Lee played the drums upside down as his drum set took off on track into a mini-roller coaster. As they neared the end of their set they rocked out some of their greatest hits including Dr. Feelgood and Girls, Girls, Girls.

It’s amazing that they’re all alive and in-tact and even they admit it’s a miracle that they’re standing where it all began today. And as they say their thanks and head off into the night, we slink away into the crowd exhausted and enamored by what we’d just witnessed.

Only in LA can such a diverse lineup be assembled and work in unison. Only in LA can you see living legends play their original stomping grounds. As we head out into the night and smoke filters off of Sunset, only one thing comes to mind. God Damn I love the music scene in LA.

Post by Rory

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