While the lineup for Coachella this year was stellar, it wasn't to everyone's taste. Even those who might have wanted to see Gaga, Radiohead, Lorde and Kendrick at the festival might not have had the funds required readily available, or they might not be able to deal with the suffocating crowds, heat and dust.
However, this is Los Angeles and there’s always something going on. As it happens, this past weekend (No. 2 of Coachella) saw the Rainbow Bar & Grill host its Party in the Parking Lot. The spring edition of this biannual event was surrounded this time by three appropriately sleazy hair-metal gigs at the nearby Whisky a Go-Go. As a result, a sort of “Hairchella” — an anti-Coachella — came together over the course of the weekend.
The whole event was quintessentially Sunset Strip, and certainly the antithesis of all things hipster. A little dated, sure. But loud, gloriously dumb and a ludicrous amount of fun. And really, it's not a stretch to imagine a fan of Lady Gaga (also sporting denim, leather and big hair) enjoying the music of, say, Ratt. It's bubble-gum pop, with super-catchy choruses and designed-to-spine-tingle key changes for the big climax, a sound faithfully maintained by this weekend's groups.
Faster Pussycat, a band that perfectly encapsulates the spirit and debauchery of the Strip, kicked the whole thing off at the Whisky on Friday night, with the Bullet Boys and Pretty Boy Floyd sharing a bill on Saturday night and Cinderella’s Tom Keifer headlining on Sunday. Daytime Sunday at the Rainbow saw performances by Jetboy, Black ’N Blue and the new lineup of Quiet Riot.
“I love Faster Pussycat,” says Whisky and Rainbow owner Mike Maglieri. “It’s always a good party when they play. We were messing around with Tom Keifer, trying to find a day that worked, and at one point we thought we should throw him on the Rainbow thing. It wasn’t working for some reason, but after we booked Quiet Riot, they said that was the only date they could play. We thought, ‘Fuck it, let’s just make it a party.'”
Pussycat didn’t disappoint. There’s something perfect about seeing Taime Downe’s filth-mongers at the Whisky — I've seen them in numerous countries and states over the years, but Downe seems to offer an extra 20 percent when he’s in his hometown. He’s comfortable, and so his S&M swagger gets a little more raunchy and cocky. The room was packed, too — fans from back in the day rubbed shoulders with newbies attracted to that chapter in Hollywood’s rich history and determined to keep it alive. And there are few songs from that era more defining than “Babylon” and “Bathroom Wall.”
Pretty Boy Floyd kept up the sleazy fun the following evening, with anthems like “Rock ’n’ Roll (Is Gonna Set the Night on Fire)” recalling decadent days on the Strip. The Bullet Boys, meanwhile, are a far more “together” proposition than PBF — tight musicians and a brass section in place of sloppy and sleazy. They're like two sides of the hair coin, and neither side is wrong.
“There are so many amazing bands that have played" at the Whisky, said Marq Torien, singer and guitarist with Bullet Boys, before the show. “We always try to do something really special when we play there. We’ve got our horn section, the Bull Horns, and our background singers, the Pistolettes, for the show. We’re really looking forward to it. We’ll pull out all the stops.”
The main event, however, was the Parking Lot Party, and a few hundred people, dressed to impress, gathered in that concrete space between the Rainbow and the Roxy on Sunday afternoon, as the sun blasted down and the beer flowed. It seemed perfectly appropriate when porn legend Ron Jeremy introduced Jetboy onto the stage, and nothing seemed more aesthetically normal than the Jack Daniels bandannas handed out by smiley promotional models. You couldn’t wipe the smiles off the faces of original Metallica guitarist Lloyd Grant or Fear Factory guitarist Dino Cazares during Black ’N Blue's set, but neither of them was smiling as broadly as BnB frontman Jaime St. James.
“I’ve been talking to Frankie [Banali, Quiet Riot drummer] and this is reminiscent of a show in 1983 when we played with Quiet Riot at the Roxy,” St. James said. “It was when this thing was just taking off and we played two shows in one night, both sold out. Now we’re in the parking lot all these years later, playing with them again. Some different members after all these years, but still, Quiet Riot and Black ’N Blue together again on the Strip. That’s pretty amazing.”
Neither Jetboy nor Black ’N Blue were able to set the world on fire back in the day, but they did generate enough interest among fans of the genre to pull in a decent crowd of people in 2017 who knew most of the words to most of their songs. It doesn’t hurt Jetboy’s cause that original Faster Pussycat bassist Eric Stacy is now in the ranks. Black ’N Blue, meanwhile, lost original guitarist Tommy Thayer to Kiss, but it hasn’t damaged the sound. Both bands have a bundle of great rock & roll anthems that, while not as obvious radio hits as those produced by Poison or Mötley Crüe, are still riddled with bubble-gum pop melodies and impossibly infectious riffs.
Since classic-era Quiet Riot singer Kevin DuBrow died in 2007, the band has struggled to replace him and has been through a number of frontmen. The most recent to try to fill the gap is American Idol contestant James Durbin. The name of that TV show is enough to raise the hackles of most rockers but, in fairness to Durbin, he sounded great at the Rainbow, playing the role of metal frontman to perfection. He might look like the cocky nephew of one of the other band members, but he's proving himself worthy of fronting this group.
Sunday’s festivities ended with Tom Keifer, erstwhile frontman with Cinderella. After standing in the heat in full metal attire all afternoon, many of the fans processing from the Rainbow to the Whisky for Keifer’s set resembled some kind of glitter version of The Walking Dead. Keifer pulled out some new tunes that sat comfortably alongside the old faves, in a venue that he himself is comfortable in.
“I love the Whisky,” Keifer said. “I think the first time we played the Whisky was in 1990 or '91, on the Heartbreak Station tour. We did a special gig there, and I loved it instantly. Just the history, and the whole vibe in there is so fucking cool. That’s the only time Cinderella played it. We’ve played it two or three times now with my solo band, and we’re coming back again because in terms of that size venue, it’s our favorite place to play out there. If you’re gonna play a small venue, for me, in L.A., there’s nothing cooler than the Whisky.”
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And that was that, until the End of Summer Parking Lot Party later in the year. You can bet that the place will be slammed again then, too, regardless of which nostalgia acts are pulled out of the Rainbow and Whisky team’s hat.
“Every time we’ve gone out to play, be it with Cinderella or now with this band, the excitement level with the fans and the venues, and at the shows, is as over-the-top as it was in the ‘80s,” Keifer said. “From our perspective, it doesn’t really feel like it ever went away with them. Maybe it’s being recognized by the industry. But right down on the street level with the fans at the shows, it’s never really felt like there needed to be a resurgence with them. They’ve always been there. I feel incredibly blessed for that. It’s so amazing that 30 years later, you can walk out onstage and they’re just as excited, singing every word. That’s a blessing.”