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Christmas in June

If you had but one standout moment in your career, you first of all would not be the White Stripes. But their colonization on Wednesday, June 20, of the recently retired Sunset Tower Records building, repainted in their token chromatic red-and-white glory for the Icky Thump L.A. record-release party, would definitely go down in history as one of the most clever and heartwarming moves in rock & roll history: two garage-rock enigmas momentarily shocking one of our city’s most revered meccas back to life.

The idea was classic: Make them wait . . .

A line of sweet-toothed rock fans began forming in the vacant Tower parking lot in the earlier hours of the previous Saturday, ensuring the most adamant White Stripes stalwarts a chance to experience an exclusive (and free) pajama-party-esque in-store engagement when Wednesday rolled around. All varieties — Oakley-sporting 40-something arena rockers, peg-jeaned teenage Eastsiders, folks from Bakersfield to Detroit — stood (and slept) alongside each other. If their nerves and tents held up, the first 200 would claim a wristband for the performance. The “Icky Thump” store began selling the album Monday at midnight and remained open through Friday.

By Wednesday the crowd was pleasantly brainwashed with White Stripes propaganda — or maybe already battling an icky, thumping headache over their media barrage. Just try to spot the five-plus magazine covers they’ve currently co-opted on any given newsstand; their publicity team deserves a medal. Christmas came early. Peppermint-striped cigarette girls hawked dildo-size candy canes, and other White Stripes mementos circled the crowd. The other Jack — Jack Black — introduced the duo.

Then Jack and Meg unleashed a performance ferocious enough to crumble the building to its foundation a good few months before its slated demolition (as was the gossip throughout the night). Jack’s falsetto and slicing guitar chops threatened to deteriorate the crowds’ eardrums by 10 years in 10 minutes. By the end of the second song, everyone, band included, was drenched in sweat, as ventilation in the room was nonexistent. They drilled favorites like “Hotel Yorba” and “Seven Nation Army” into the diehard fans, as well as a few new instant classics from Icky Thump.

The crowd was thrilled. The band was excited — and grateful.

“It’s great to have a chance to play at such an important place in this city’s musical history . . . thank you all for making it happen,” Jack said. In that little room they played like they were back in Hamtramck, Michigan, proving again that rock & roll is not dead. As manic and innocent as always, the Stripes reached another high-water mark, while momentarily breathing life back into the gasping Sunset Strip music scene.

Go to www.laweekly.com/slideshows for more photographs of the concert.

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