Selling Out With the Foo Fighters and Smashing Pumpkins for Corporate Cash
View all the party pics in the new Nightranger slideshow.
PARTY LIKE A STOCK STAR
Free food, a busload of top-shelf booze and intimate performances by the biggest bands of the moment — what’s not to love about corporate-sponsored bashes, except you know, the corporate part? Actually, we take that back. It’s not like Wal-Mart is throwing rockin’ red-carpet shindigs (that we go to, anyway) in a feeble attempt at hipness. No, the mega L.A. soirees that attract swag-hungry starlets (and pay big bucks for bands like The Raconteurs, The Foo Fighters and Smashing Pumpkins to play) are, for the most part, thrown by already cool companies: T-Mobile Sidekick, video games such as Fallout 3 and Guitar Hero, and Best Buy, all of which offered insane parties throughout the city recently. Nightranger was there to soak up the social scenes at each and (more importantly to us) catch the acts above.
RISE AND FALL
First of all, don’t get too jealous. We never leave these things with free phones or video games, okay? Those are reserved strictly for the A- & B-list bunches, and there is always a big ol’ bunch of ’em. For the Fallout 3 party, hosted by The Alliance, the bold-name-worthy list included Courteney Cox, David Arquette, Alexis Arquette, Ben Harper, Gerard Butler, Winona Ryder, Dane Cook, Nick Lachey, Emile Hirsch, Mischa Barton and Lauren Conrad.Held at the sprawling L.A. Center Studios downtown, it had an indoor area set up like a retro-modern bachelor pad complete with TVs for trying out the postapocalyptic game. Outside, downtown’s skyscapers (lit up by projections and office lights) looked down on the crowd and the stage as the Foo Fighters’ thoughtful testosterock shook the courtyard like a 6.0 quake. Though we’ve never been particularly big F.F. fans, the hooky likability of their tunes is undeniable. Live, the music takes on a cathartic quality, thanks to Dave Grohl’slimitless energy and un-self-conscious style. They may be unfettered and “real,” but the Fighters aren’t above gettin’ paid. They sure are busy playing these kinds of big company bashes lately. As of this writing, they’re also scheduled to play a BlackBerry event at Avalon Wednesday. We’re not questioning the band’s integrity (love how Grohl gave McCain shit for using his “Hero” tune!) but we are wondering: How do electronics companies still afford biggie bands like the Fighters when share values continue to plummet across the board? Aren’t we in the middle of a recession? Just asking.
T-Mobile’s gathering celebrating the launch of its new G1 phone the next evening in Hollywood didn’t seem budget-minded either. The Raconteurs played on a parking-lot stage near Gower and Sunset (which blared so loud, Jack White’s vox and furious riff action could literally be heard from blocks away, where we parked, even through the beat-blasting cruise-a-thon of Saturday-night traffic). Though piercing, the sound was actually pretty good and the band’s bluesy garage pop spot-on. The Rac’s last disc didn’t have much in the way of strong singles, but thankfully the band played heavily from the first release, ending the surprisingly lengthy set with the hit “Steady As She Goes.” Rosario Dawson, Molly Sims, Barton (again!), Jack Osbourne and Brittany Snow (side-)kicked it at the soiree, and surely left with new cellies too.
HERO OR ZERO?
Equally vociferous and appropriately Halloweeny, the Smashing Pumpkins’ appearance at Best Buy’s Guitar Hero World Tour Party last Saturday (on a soundstage near its La Brea store) was full of licks and treats. There was an actual pumpkin amid the gear for one, and a black-skirt-and-spider-tee-clad Billy Corgan haunted and then ravaged the stage like a menacing fiend most of the set (though he didn’t croon the line “the world is a vampire” at any point, unfortunately). Actually, unlike the Foos — who were all about the familiar numbers — we didn’t get much in the faves department (except a really lovely rendition of “Siva” from Gish). This was definitely the most self-indulgent of the corporate-party performances we saw the past few weeks, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t compelling, and even exuberant. Corgan shreds on guitar, and his noodly fits during the new-material-heavy set verged into metal and jazz territory (too perfect for Guitar Hero, which includes a Pumpkin track, “G.L.O.W.,” on the latest edition). As a fan who literally wore out her copies of Gish (on cassette!) and Siamese Dream from overplaying, we had hoped for a few more classics, but what we got instead was ultimately a lot cooler and more intense, even if the computer-geek set and reality-TV-star slew (Audrina Patridge, Karina Smirnoff and, yes, Barton again, ugh) didn’t seem to think so. A good third of the crowd left the room midset when it became apparent the hits weren’t a comin.’ In their defense, the adjacent room had really yummy food (cheesecake ice cream on a stick!), a dizzying array of drinks and the opportunity to fondle the frets yourself with random rockers (real and wannabe) on more than a dozen Guitar Hero band setups surrounding the room.
V FOR VOLUME
And finally, Nightranger popped by the grand opening of Versus Nightclub downtown Saturday to catch Dave Navarro (fresh off a “surprise” Jane’s Addiction show at La Cita a couple nights earlier) and DJ Skribble do their thang. The club is still working out the kinks, but its multilevel setup, ample seating, potent sound system and cool staff suggest it’s gonna be a promising pit stop for both DJs and live acts. We’ll be back. As for Skribble and Dave, they busted out their latest project Saturday, a thunderously rap-rousing outfit featuring MC J Mello on the mic and drummer Slynkee on the skins. Look for a rhythm-packed release from the guys soon, and in the meantime check out Skrib’s MySpace (Myspace.com/djskribbleny) for downloads, remixes and video clips.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.