Nostalgia can be a wonderful thing. While keeping a finger on the pulse of modern music is a noble endeavor — nobody wants to be considered a dinosaur, after all — it’s natural to get all warm and fuzzy about the music that we listened to in our formative years.
For many who reached their teens and early 20s in the 1980s, that means the glam metal that was all over the radio and MTV. If you were in L.A. during that time and age range, then you were at ground zero. Words like “Sunset Strip,” “the Roxy,” “Whisky a Go-Go” and “the Rainbow” were being echoed around the globe by people who could only dream of visiting the places that served as the backdrop for many a Mötley Crüe and Guns N’ Roses video.
A lot has happened since the 1980s across the musical landscape, but that era and its carefree, decadent vibe still holds a certain allure, especially here in the city where it all started. So SiriusXM's Hair Nation Festival this Saturday promises to be quite special.
Featuring everyone from Vince Neil and Lita Ford to the lesser-known but no-less-fascinating Odin and Tuff, the day is jam-packed with sleaze-rock goodness. It might be impossible to shoehorn all that was gloriously dangerous and debauched about 1980s Hollywood into the confines of the Irvine Meadows Amphitheater, but Hair Nation comes close.
In L.A., ’80s-style metal has never really left the Strip — and nationally, it feels like there’s a buzz about it again. Lita Ford thinks so.
“It does seem that way,” she says. “I really didn’t give it any thought when I came back to the music industry. I just wanted to be me, and I felt that I had earned and deserved to be me. I don't even want to hear what’s on the radio these days.”
Former Mötley Crüe lead singer Vince Neil says he’s been seeing the signs of a nationwide resurgence for a while, performing sold-out shows in the middle of nowhere, sometimes two hours from the nearest big city. America wants to hear these songs.
“Bands like Great White and Lita play their hits, and people remember those songs from growing up on the radio and MTV videos,” he says.
Neil has been touring heavily since the final Crüe show, which took place at Staples Center on New Year’s Eve. He says he’s working on a new solo album, his first since 2010’s Tattoos & Tequila, but that the set at Hair Nation Fest will be heavily weighted toward Crüe material because, again, that’s what the people want.
“Here’s the thing — we only have so long to play, and everybody wants to hear the Mötley stuff,” he says. “We throw in some other stuff — some covers and Vince Neil tunes — but it is heavy Mötley."
Ford was out of the music biz altogether until the 2009 album Wicked Wonderland, her first new material after the 14 years she spent focusing on her family. In her recent autobiography, Living Like a Runaway (which shares its title with her 2012 album), Ford details the unhealthiness and unhappiness of her marriage, and the profound effect that naturally had on her for a long time. But now she’s back, and recent shows suggest the former Runaway is at the top of her game again.
Both Ford and Neil are saddened by the fact that this will probably be their last chance to perform at Irvine Meadows, which is set to close for good when this year’s program comes to an end. Hair Nation is one of the concerts seeing it off with a bang.
“I couldn’t even count how many times I’ve played there,” Neil says. “It’ll be sad to see it go. It had always been a fun venue and people have always loved being out there. It’s just a good-sounding place, and I’ve had a lot of fun [there].”
“You don’t want to see change,” Ford says. “It’s like tearing down the Whisky. Why would you do that? It’s a piece of rock & roll history.”
While Neil’s Hair Nation set will focus on his Mötley Crüe catalog, Ford plans to play songs from the various stages of her career.
“We play a lot of the earlier stuff — Runaways, Out for Blood. We go through the catalog,” she says. “The Lita album of course, and Stiletto. A little from Living Like a Runaway. It’s a very, very powerful set. I would not want to be the band that follows us.”
That band will be Slaughter, while Faster Pussycat is on immediately before Lita, and Vixen before that. It really is a killer bill, paying tribute to an era of our local music that refuses to be forgotten, regardless of trends.
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“That’s where this music started, in Los Angeles,” Neil says. “It’ll be a lot of fun to go back with all these bands that grew up in L.A. and sharpened their teeth in the music scene here.”
Hair Nation with Vince Neil, Bret Michaels, Kix, Yngwie Malmsteen, Slaughter, Lita Ford and many more happens Saturday, Sat. 17, at Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre in Irvine. Tickets and more info at hairnationfest.com.