Words & Images by: L. Paul Mann
Sunset Strip Music Festival :: 08.18.11-08.20.11 :: Hollywood, CA
Jump right to the gallery of the 2011 festivities here!
The fourth annual Sunset Strip Music Festival continued its tradition of offering one of the best and most diverse live music deals in the country. The festival included three days of shows in most of the Strip’s most famous nightclubs, and culminated in an all-day street fest, Saturday with two large outdoor stages, blocking the famous strip. The event kicked off fittingly at the Hollywood House of Blues with a big party on Thursday, August 18th. All VIP three day pass holders were invited to the awards ceremony and treated to a two hour no host bar featuring Jack Daniels products and free food from the House of Blues restaurant. The opening party alone is reason enough to cough up the $250.00 for the three day VIP pass. It is the only event that you can't purchase single tickets for during the festival.
|Sunset Strip Music Festival '11 by L. Paul Mann|
The event included an awards ceremony where Hollywood heroes Mötley Crüe received the Elmer Valentine Award, named after one of the founders of the famous Sunset Strip, and a long list of celebrities were on hand to heap accolades on the band. The strangest and most eloquent tribute though came from Ray Manzarek, the keyboardist of Sunset Strip legends The Doors. In a scene that seemed like it fell right out of a David Lynch movie, the aging rock legend joked about the band and then proceeded to sit at a piano and play jazzy solo versions of several Doors classics. The keyboard master would mime most of the words of the chorus lines, encouraging the crowd to sing-along. Then the Crüe - Vince Neil, Nikki Sixx, Mick Mars and Tommy Lee - sauntered on to the stage to collect their award.
The ceremony was followed by a live performance by Los Angles alternative rockers the Crash Kings. The hard rocking trio features brothers, Tony Beliveau on lead vocals and keyboards, Mike Beliveau on bass, and their friend Jason Morris on drums. The festival also featured bands all along the Strip including 70s English metal rock legends Uriah Heep at the Key Club. Led by founding member and lead guitar player extraordinaire Mick Box, the band tore through most of their classic 70's hits, interspersed with some songs from their new album, Into The Wild. The album is the 23rd studio release for the band in their long history, which includes twelve albums in the UK music charts. Although the band fell off of the American music radar in the 80s, Uriah Heep has maintained a hard core cult following in the UK, Germany, Japan and Russia, where they still perform in arena-sized venues. The appearance at the Key Club was a rare one for the band in the States. The nearly two hour set, showcased the immense musical talents of all the members of the current band, and was a lesson in the beginnings of heavy metal history.
|Uriah Heep by L. Paul Mann|
While Uriah Heep may have been the highlight of a lot of exciting moments on Thursday, the sold out Doors concert at The Whiskey was the center of attention on Friday the 19th. But the real fun took place all day Saturday on the most the infamous part of Sunset Strip, which was closed to traffic and bookended with two large rock stages featuring headliners Mötley Crüe and Bush. At the same time, an army of indie rock bands, rappers, reggae acts, and electronic artists performed short sets throughout the day at the five clubs in the concert zone. Tickets for the entire Saturday event could be had for as little as $50.00 with no surcharges when purchased directly from the festival. The outdoor West Stage featured sets by mostly metal rockers that fit the hair/glam band image so closely associated with the Strip for decades. These included the relatively new Hollywood band Black Veil Brides, with a Kiss lookalike and promoting their new hit single “Fallen Angels”, who sounded a bit like early Alice Cooper. The retro 80s sounding, Dark-Wave band from nearby San Fernando Valley, She Wants Revenge played the next set. The crowd around the stage began to swell for the late afternoon next set by the Las Vegas metal band Escape The Fate. They were followed by the only post-grunge act of the day, Bush, and headliners Mötley Crüe.
But before these two headline acts amassed a huge crowd around the West Stage there was a steady lineup of bands inside the clubs along the Strip and on the outdoor East Stage. All the clubs featured a rotating schedule of showcase sets lasting late into the night, and club access was included in the general admission ticket price. Inside the cavernous Key Club at the East end of the Strip, rapper Hugh The MC was playing a spirited set just before Bush was slated to hit the outdoor stage directly outside. Right next door a Thai restaurant was offering up yummy lunch specials and a drink special featuring a Thai beer and a shot of Thai whiskey for $8.00. In addition to all the clubs and restaurants open in the zone, there was an array of trendy new food trucks brought in, as well as a beer garden in the center of the festival. Further west along the Strip, “indietronica” band The Limousines was playing a late afternoon set in the Roxy. Electronic magician Giovanni Giusti and vocalist Eric Victorino played a compelling set to mostly young dance music fans. At the far west end of the Strip, hard rock indie band ACIDIC was quickly followed by another Los Angeles hard rock and even more metal band Key To Chaos, fittingly at the dark legendary Whiskey. Directly outside, the West Stage had offered up the most diverse lineup of the day. Bands included Southern California reggae rockers Tribal Seeds and The Dirty Heads. New York synth-pop dance bad Cobra Starship was sandwiched between the two reggae bands.
|The Limousines by L. Paul Mann|
By the time Matt & Kim hit the stage in late afternoon, a large crowd had gathered. The indie pop minimalist duo has been one of the hardest working staples on the national festival circuit for the last several years. The acrobatic duo electrified the audience with their feel good music and playful antics that make them appear to make gleeful eye contact with nearly every member of the audience. Kim Schifino, who loves to stand on her drum kit, incited the crowd to “Go nuts. You should do it for me”. Her coconspirator Matt Johnson is equally as animated, jumping up and down on his keyboards frequently. The closing set on the West Stage was played by American icons Public Enemy. Rappers Chuck D and Flavor Flav led a large posse of musicians, brilliantly blending hard rock and rap. The group 's innovative approach, which they perfected in the 80s, opened the door to today’s world of diverse mash-up pop hits. Another recognizable pop icon, metal guitarist Scott Ian of Anthrax, joined the group to recreate “Bring The Noise,” the hit song that they made together in 1987.
|Matt & Kim by L. Paul Mann|
Back down at the East Stage, a huge crowd was gathering for a set by Bush, the English rock band formed in 1992 in the heyday of grunge music. The new Bush is on their first U.S. tour in nearly a decade. Original lead singer, guitar player and the most recognizable face of the band Gavin Rossdale was joined by original drummer Robin Goodridge and newcomers Chris Traynor on guitar and Corey Britz on bass. With minimalist lighting and stage decor, the band tore ferociously through their biggest hits of the 90s, interspersed with a couple of new tunes. Rossdale, animated as ever, made several sorties deep into the huge, tightly packed crowd. The fans responded ecstatically, fighting to be near the vivacious performer. In a quieter moment Rossdale reminisced about the band's first appearance in Hollywood in 1992 at the Roxy just across the street from the stage. By the time the sun had set on the West Stage the crowd had grown even larger, stretching all the way down the infamous Strip.
|Bush by L. Paul Mann|
Headliners Mötley Crüe exploded, to the delight of the crowd, with a massive pyrotechnics and a stage show right out of late 80s arena rock as they began their 90-minute set. Lead singer Vince Neil, with an American flag sewn into his crotch, pumped his fist in the air and sang the band’s comeback hit, 2008's “Saints of Los Angeles”. Nikki Sixx spit up fake blood a la Gene Simmons style while performing numerous guitar solos along with Mick Mars. But the most grandiose part of the show featured infamous rock drummer Tommy Lee's massive roller coaster drum set, taking him on a wild ride along with his nine drum and multi-cymbaled kit. He even took his friend dance music maven Deadmau5 along for a ride to the recorded strains of the Ohio Players’ classic “Love Rollercoaster”. The show ended with a medley of 70s rock classics like Gary Glitter's “Rock and Roll Part 2” and Brownsville Station's “Smokin in the Boy's Room”. It was a fitting end to a celebration of the historic Strip and its place in rock history.
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