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For Those About to Rock

Photos by Wild Don LewisI’m in a near dream state of too much alcohol, shivering eardrums and rock & roll over-saturation. Though the sound is ear-pummeling, I could fall asleep right here, my chin against this wooden railing. The band is Stronger Than Death, a nonsensical name even Spinal Tap wouldn’t stoop to. The lead singer demands that the crowd chant along with him to “Suck my dick!” Later, he snarls, “We’re a fucking garage band trying to make it!” He introduces the next song with “I took some ’shrooms and wrote this motherfuckin’ song! ’Shrooms! ’Shrooms! ’Shrooms! ’Shrooms! MOTHERFUCKER!!” God, I hate Stronger Than Death. It’s my third straight night at the Whisky, not even halfway to the finish line, and I’ve come to the conclusion that the hardest job here must belong to Travis. Poor Travis. He’s the big guy who tells everybody to stand clear of the imaginary strip that borders the dance floor in front of the stage and the rest of the club. When the Whisky’s packed, Travis has to push his way through the herd of humans and make sure the line stays empty in case of emergency. And when the club’s sparsely populated, he’s constantly reminding roving fans not to stand there, most often to looks of “What’d I do wrong, jerk?” You’d think he’d be a huge asshole, considering that his entire function is to quash people who are here to have fun. Yet night after night he does his tedious, toilsome, thankless job and never loses his cool. The world-famous Whisky a GoGo exists as its own black hole of rock. A once-seminal spawning ground that helped launch bands like the Byrds, the Doors, Love, Mötley Crüe, Van Halen and others, it’s now a place where desperate bands shell out their own money to get onstage, and patrons, employees and would-be rock stars get sucked in by the gravity of its past and their slim hopes for a rock & roll future. After seeing the documentary Super Size Me, where the filmmaker used himself as his own subject by eating only McDonald’s food for an entire month, I was up for a similar immersion-journalism adventure, one that would answer the question: What separates the little unknown band that pays to play at the Whisky on a Tuesday night from the marginally better-known “buzz” band that plays the so-called hipper clubs in Silver Lake and Echo Park? Besides, of course, that the bands playing the Whisky are way more likely to — intentionally, I think — spell their names wrong and call themselves something with “death,” “coma” or “black.” I knew a month of rock & rolling EVER-EE NIGHT could either kill me or lead to expensive and time-consuming rehab. So I settled on a week at the Whisky. NIGHT 1: VERB THE NOUN! “Fuckin’ Whisky — what the fuck is up?” Friday night. My first night. It’s billed as “Battle for Ozzfest,” which I expect will mean a hotly contested competition for a slot on the heavy metal mega-tour. It doesn’t. Two chicks — that’s not a derogatory term in this case — roll their eyes when I ask them where the judges are. “These bands were all on the MTV special,” one says. My first band is Stemm. The opening song begins with a prerecorded piano intro, then the foursome slam into raging, thunderous mega-chords of noise. Not good noise. Like Black Flag on steroids, minus the coherence. Even the mosh pit is subpar. I never realized there could be such a thing as lame-ass moshing, but the big boys down front try to start a human whirlpool and end up speed-skipping, then the whole thing just disintegrates due to lack of commitment and momentum. I make out the lyric “I can’t live my life the way you want me.” There’s something very disconcerting about watching a young man sing about his yearnings. When it’s communicated in a song that’s not very good, it just makes me feel embarrassed for him. They break into their Tool-sounding song, with completely indecipherable lyrics, and I feel a little better for the poor fellow. Stemm really aren’t bad. They’re giving it their all, and the lead singer shreds once-healthy vocal-cord tissue for 20 minutes in the name of his art. The last song, “Holding On,” is introduced with the thought “Believe in people and keep your friends close.” As a parent, I approve of Stemm’s positive message. Since it’s a pay-to-play night, the Whisky is packed with the band’s friends and family, so there are spontaneous little reunions all over the place as people recognize their neighbors. The Whisky a GoGo could be Anywhere, USA: guys in black T-shirts and baggy pants, girls in tight tank tops and jeans, the occasional mother-of-the-band-member trying to find an inconspicuous place to stand, clutching her handbag. I ask one kid, Edward, 17, who he came to see, and he says he just came with a friend because he heard that the Doors played here. He likes Stemm. “They got pretty wild by the end,” he says after their set. Guilt by Association come on next and open with a song that sounds like “Eye of the Tiger” as covered by Gwar. It’s my first night, and I’ve made my first major mistake: I drove here. Therefore, I can’t drink, which I didn’t think would be a problem, but I can see that it is a very big problem to be sober in this environment. Next up are Manntis, from Riverside, who’ve brought a sizable chunk of San Bernardino County with them. It’s the band with the most buzz of the night. As I scribble in my notebook while in line in the ladies’ room, a Manntis fan asks me, “Are you doing a report?” Her friend chimes in, “Write that Manntis rocks! And they’re really nice guys, too.” Mark Cutter is a Manntis fan from San Bernardino, and it’s his first time at the Whisky. Without taking his eyes off the Jägermeister girls at the bar, he boasts, “I’ve been to every Ozzfest.” When a whirlwind fistfight breaks out near us, Mark quickly pulls me by the arm away from the fray. He smells like he took a shower. Tonight, Mark’s like the best man at a wedding. The upstairs balcony fills with Manntis pals and fans showing up to support the home team. Mark greets most with a bear hug as if their team has just won the blue ribbon. Manntis don’t have Metallica’s or even Mötorhead’s ear for melody, but they do what they do — bash and scream — with skill. At the end of the set, the lead singer signs off with “I love you guys so much!” The night is capped with the loudest band of the whole night: Bleed the Sky. Bleed the Sky is one of many “verb the noun” bands that play here, like Kiss the Whip and Train the Living. NIGHT 2: JET LAGGED Saturday night. Same type of bands, different head. Yep, I took a cab tonight. A one-way ride from my house is $7; parking can be $15 on the Strip. I did the math. Now, after front-loading at home with a strong vodka-rocks, I order the first beer from upstairs bartender Buffy Morton. “Weren’t you here last night?” she asks. It’s another lineup of slam-core, a term I think I coined but which sums up every band I have seen so far: The lead singer mauls his vocal cords, the lyrics are indecipherable, no choruses, no melodies, but for some reason, a pretty amazing, athletic drummer. “I love my job,” says Buffy later. I believe her. Buffy’s one of those peppy, friendly people. She moved here two years ago from Washington state and got a job bartending at the Olive Garden in Burbank, but she wanted to be on the Sunset Strip. “I dropped off my résumé, and three weeks later they called and took a chance on me. I think they thought I could relate to the tourists who come here from far away who’ve heard about all the history here. I’m just a people person.” Does she like the music? “Before I worked here, I liked hip-hop and some rock. Now I love metal. I love the energy, and maybe it’s not always clear what they’re saying, but you know the message is uplifting.” A band called This Fall are playing, and they’re really bad. The guitar solo sounds rudimentary at best. Even worse, they look bored. With six bands on the bill, it’s imperative that the bands get on and off the stage quickly and efficiently. This Fall end their set, and immediately the door to the street is opened. The next band, Onset of Effect, cram onto the little landing above the stage. They high-five each other while roadies and band members load equipment into the waiting van like worker bees. The man responsible for making everything run on time tonight is sound engineer Jet Lag (the names have not been changed). Mr. Lag, whom I never see without his cigarettes, gum and coffee, is as affable as they come. Lanky and laid-back, he tells me he also works in recording for TV and film, has his own band (“We’re uplifting, spacious and melodic”) and a 2-year-old son, and sleeps “maybe four hours a night.” He calls Onset of Effect and their ilk “Cookie Monster” bands. “It means total aggression,” he explains. “You’re scared at what you have inside you. You gotta get the monster out. You can’t sing, but you want to be powerful. Everybody’s angry.” Even Strata, who are from the mean streets of Laguna Niguel. Grindcore, slampunk, thrash — whatever you want to call it — is, by its very nature, unromantic, undanceable, unsexy, unjoyful. It is, however, cathartic, intense and simple. I talk to Julie McCullough and her husband, who came from Laguna Niguel because their 13-year-old daughter is a fan. Julie prefers Tom Petty; her husband’s partial to the Eagles. Onset of Effect are the best band of the night (with the worst name). They play with passion and even have changing tempos. Strata sound more Tool-like than the other Cookie Monster bands. That is, their singer actually conveys raw emotion. They’re good but unremarkable. Jet Lag shrugs. “These bands spend more time on promotions than on rehearsing.” Does he think the Whisky could ever return to its pre-pay-to-play days? “It would take a superpromoter to return to the old way,” he says. “That’s just the way the industry works these days. It was developed to give everyone a fair chance. Bands actually used to audition to play here. That’s what the Doors did.” Why don’t these bands just play other clubs, where they’re based on talent, not ticket sales? “The Whisky is a whole different mindset than clubs like Spaceland. I like those bands, but Spaceland doesn’t have good sound and good lights. If you want to showcase at the Whisky, you need to look and sound great.”

 

Buffy the bartender (above) likespeople and metal. Clubbers Laura,Justine, Nora and Nesha wannarock & roll all night, and partyevery day.

NIGHT 3: PEACEFUL, EASY FEELING Driving home from West Hollywood Park on Sunday afternoon, I turn right onto Sunset from San Vicente. I point to the Whisky in the bright sun and say to my 3-year-old son, “Hey, Mojo, that’s the Whisky a GoGo. That’s where Mommy goes every night when the cab comes.” “Oh,” comes the unimpressed response from the back seat. By night three, I am fried. I feel like I’ve been here every night for a month. More than anything, I dread another marathon of Cookie Monster bands. I long for a melody, a chorus, lyrics I can identify as a language I speak. Tonight it’s “Rock the Whisky for RBI,” an L.A. Dodgers–affiliated benefit for inner-city kids. The club is crowded, and the crowd is uncharacteristically healthy-looking. There are lots of families, and onstage is a band called Private Reserve with a lead singer who in my day would have been described as “foxy.” He’s got Jackson Browne’s shiny hair that looks just like it walked off the set of a shampoo commercial. The sound is classic, Eagles-ish rock. To my pummeled ears, it sounds refreshing. Private Reserve launch into a cover of “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother,” and I want to cry. Harmonies! On-key actual singing! I never even knew I liked this song, but I love it now. When Private Reserve finish, I work up the courage (at $4.50 per shot) to approach foxy Jackson Browne–alike and ask him what it means to play the Whisky. I awkwardly muscle through his circle of admirers and show him my card. I look into his beautiful brown eyes. Me: “You guys were really good. Could I ask you a couple questions?” Foxy JB: “Well, okay.” Me: “What does it mean to play the Whisky?” Foxy JB: “We’ve played here before.” Me: “Oh, well, you were really good. Um, thanks!” Okay, so I fumbled that one, but he was really cute. Don’t drink and interview. Buffy’s back working the upstairs bar. “It’s you again — pretty different music tonight, huh? Get to give our earplugs a rest.” She hands me my second of several plastic cups of beer. The crowd cheers for the DTW Band. They’re a bunch of late-40s white guys who do cover songs. They met at a Dodgers fantasy camp, which I think is really taking the whole fantasy/tribute thing a little bit too far. By 9:30, during a credible version of “Centerfield,” many parents are carrying out sleeping kindergartners. I know that tonight is a little oasis of comfort rock and that the rest of the week will likely range from uncomfortable to excruciating, so I welcome DTW with open ears, even the Goo Goo Dolls song and “867-5309,” which comes off like a golden nugget. “Most of you are not old enough to remember the Whisky,” says lead singer Rob Glushon as the band breaks into “So You Wanna Be a Rock & Roll Star.” “This one was redone by Tom Petty,” he adds, and I stop myself from shouting back, “And Patti Smith!” In the ladies’ room, I corner two 8-year-olds, Lauren and Ava. “Have you ever heard of the Doors?” That gets a “no,” as do Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix and Van Halen, all Whisky alumni, whose ghosts are lost to our future generations. I ask Buffy how much a shot of Patron tequila is. “It’s $8, which is pretty pricey, but if you go to the Standard, it’s $10.” The DTW Band are now doing “Wonderful Tonight,” and for the first and only time, the Whisky feels like the last dance at the yacht club, albeit a dark yacht club — with parents and kids dancing together. Rob Glushon, the DTW lead singer, introduces the Green Day hit “American Idiot” by saying, “This is our attempt at reaching you under 25.” A cover band with a singer who looks like Huey Lewis, a bass player who resembles Paul McCartney, and a guitarist who could pass for Bill Clinton: How can you not love these guys? And their “Roadhouse Blues” is family-friendly, top-notch and stripped of all sexy raunch. Full disclosure: Tonight I break Rule No. 5 of the list of rules I made for myself to follow while on this assignment. Rule No. 5 states that I must stay out until midnight each night. Tonight, I tiptoe into the house at 11:45. NIGHT 4: MORE BEER! MORE REVERB! It’s Monday night. At 8:45 p.m., there are maybe 40 people here. More than lack of sleep, I’m feeling a reality deprivation. It’s not the real world at the Whisky. Like Disneyland or Las Vegas, this is a place you come for escape, except there’s more frisking here. By now, everyone knows me. I stride though the front door with barely a glance from security man Ricardo. I head straight upstairs, where Buffy or Ruth pours my beer before I hit the bar. I feel like the Whisky has become my Cheers and I am its Norm. A band called the Richards are playing, and they soon live up to their nickname. They’re trying for a New York Dolls–y sound. Between songs, the young, behatted lead singer makes demands — to whom? — for beer and “more reverb.” The Richards have a lot of attitude for a band playing to maybe 50 people on a Monday night, and rip off every lick from the Stooges and the Dictators. At one point, Johnny Thunders Jr. calls the audience “faggots,” then breaks into a faithful “Tequila.” A pillow’s worth of smoke rises from the stage, which must mean it’s their last song, and Jet Lag drains the last of his coffee, with a long night in front of him. But I have to wonder: Don’t all bands suck when they’re new? Is it possible that the Richards could be as revolutionary as the Stooges or White Stripes in a few years? I really like Dead End Jane before their first song is finished. The thundering riffs I’ve loved since my first boyfriend, and a lead singer who’s a little bit Jack Black, a little bit that singer from The Commitments, warms my blackening heart. And he uses his long blond hair as a whirling prop, which, though it’s been done a million times, I can never get enough of. There are three people, including me, standing on the floor. Dead End Jane are the first band I’ve seen that look like they’re having fun. The lead singer’s goofy swagger and “Thank you all! God bless you! Goodnight!” to all three of us are charming. Their logo is even a lipsticked mouth with a cigarette hanging from it. Suddenly, this better-than-okay heavy metal has stolen my heart. I gladly accept a demo CD from the singer’s pregnant girlfriend. Lead singer Bourke Armour, in a proper post-rock sweat after his set, sits down upstairs and says the Whisky treats the bands “the best” here of all the clubs he plays, which include the Roxy, the Key Club and the Vault 350. “Guns N’ Roses played here,” he says, “and I always wanted to play where Axl played.” But the crowd doesn’t exactly measure up to the Strip’s heavy metal heyday. “Yeah, I’m kinda pissed,” he says about the turnout. “We never play Monday nights, but they told me there would be label people here tonight to check us out.” Armour says they don’t have to pay to play anymore, since he knows the booker, Gena, and the band usually draw a good crowd. After majoring in classical performance at Loyola University High School, Armour enrolled at the L.A. Music Academy and met his drummer from Germany, bassist from Sweden and guitarist from Norway. Armour, 21, is married and expecting his first child in a month. He and his wife, Kate (for rock-cred reasons, he prefers that she tell people she’s his “girlfriend”), both have day jobs at Burke Williams spa. Armour’s been in plenty of other bands, but is now thrilled to have found fellow musicians who share his discipline and big-time dream. “You can tell the world this,” he says with youthful sincerity. “By the time I’m 27, I will have sold out Madison Square Garden for two nights in a row.” When “the kid pops out,” Armour has no intention of sidelining his goals. “My wife understands that my music is equally important as family,” he says. “She’s made a million sacrifices. We’ll probably wait a year after the baby’s born and then move to Germany.” Jet Lag tells me I may like the band coming on next, a female three-piece from England called R.E.D. “They’re really good — Chaka Khan–ish,” he says. “They were on the show with that Virgin Airlines guy.” Seeing men in suits escort the ladies into the club raises my hopes even higher. The three black women of R.E.D. are knockouts, dressed in thigh-high Hollywood Boulevard boots, with star-quality giant hairdos and glamour to spare. The club is starting to fill up a bit. God, I want to like their music. Meanwhile, Room 2012, with their synthesizers, bravely try to sound like New Order trying to sound like Gang of Four circa Manchester, 1983. “Pet Shop Boys,” says a voice out of nowhere into my right ear. It’s Jet Lag, who has appeared at my side like the Roadrunner. “They built those keyboards in the ’80s. That emulator weighs like 500 pounds,” he offers with a sneaky grin, and disappears back to his post at the soundboard. Tonight I am drinking like a groupie: four beers, and it’s only 10:20; must remember to take Hangover Helper before sleep (two Tylenol PMs). While Buffy eats potato skins and reads a magazine at the upstairs bar, R.E.D.’s manager, Mike Walker, introduces himself to me (it must be because of my supercool rock-journo pen that lights up). Looking like models with instruments from the Victoria’s Secret catalog, R.E.D. take the stage, sexy as hell. “What’s up, Whisky, L.A.?” lead singer Chenette greets. The first song is a rudimentary rock song. The singing is mediocre. I was so hoping R.E.D. would be my personal discovery, but they’re no better than any of the other bands and I’m really tired and the club smells rank and way too familiar and this is supposed to be a place you come to have fun and it feels like work and I’m cranky and I’m past the point where I can avoid having a hangover tomorrow morning when the alarm goes off at 6:55 and now R.E.D. even remind me of Journey and why am I here? I oughta have my head examined, not banged. Manager Mike’s growling that the “sound engineer is horrible” and goes off to tell him so. Finally, R.E.D. play a pretty groovy song that incorporates “I Love Rock & Roll” and “Pour Some Sugar on Me,” and the crowd’s getting into it. A bombastic ballad follows, and I think how mediocrity comes in so many forms. Maybe I’m too tired to judge. Sure enough, when I wake up the next morning, I smell like the Whisky: dank, like drummer sweat and too many spilled cocktails. I selfishly turn off my alarm to give myself an extra half-hour of sleep. When I finally go downstairs to wake my son, I see he’s lying in bed, wide-awake, with a leaky diaper, jammies soaked in pee. He gives me a look the way I imagine a toddler Mackenzie Phillips would give Papa John when he stumbled in after a rough night. I’ve broken Rule No. 1. Rule No. 1 says that I can’t let this project interfere with being the Mother of the Year.

 

They don't know what the name means, but they know they'reproud: Mary and Mark Karas(above) watch their son's band,Pushing Syrai.

NIGHT 5: PUT YOUR HANDS TOGETHER FOR . . . UZUMAKI? I take a nap. I am fried. The real world — work, the husband, the kid, the house, the pets — is merely what occupies my time while I gear up for going out at night. Even though I’ve been getting five hours of sleep each night, I feel I’ve been up for five straight days. I’ve stopped reading the newspaper. During each morning’s shower, I notice THAT SMELL. An effervescent Red Hot Chili Peppers appreciation band called Exaths kick off the night. They have the energy, and they’re cute and funky, but it’s obvious they haven’t played much. Their power ballad makes me long for the Scorpions; I must dig out Animal Magnetism. Afterward, lead singer Lon’s adrenaline level is still at 11. He’s jazzed to have played the Whisky. “We sounded great, but I’m pretty disappointed at the turnout. We had to get together more than $700 worth of sales to play here.” I’m reminded of what Jet Lag said about bands spending more time on promoting than rehearsing. The downstairs bartender is Barbara Witte, who’s poured drinks here for 16 years. “I also do real estate now,” she says, and hands me her Coldwell Banker card. She keeps working here because of the contacts. I wonder how many people have bought their home from the bartender at the Whisky. “It’s like a family,” she says, “but working here does take a toll on your body.” When I ask her age, she declines, saying, “I’ve worked here for 16 years, that should give you a hint.” Tonight she’s looking forward to the Phunk Junkeez — “You can dance to them” — a band that’s been playing around town for years. For the most part, Barbara wears earplugs, and “I just tune the bands out,” she says. There’s a decent-size crowd for Uzumaki, who are from Japan and have a sumo-size guy dancing onstage. They don’t sing in English, but they know enough to start off their set with the lead singer saying, “Do you like ganja? We like ganja.” Uzumaki, I’m guessing, means “hard funk,” or maybe something to do with raging against something. Fans Leilani Villamor and her cousin Brian came from Palm Springs to see the Phunk Junkeez. Leilana, who’s decked out for the evening in a top hat and bright-red satin jacket, is in a band called the Dodo Heads. “I came because I respect the Phunk Junkeez, because I heard they refused to sign to a major label,” she says. “I’ve played the Whisky twice, and the sound guys here are the best. It’s every artist’s dream.” When I ask her if she’d like to play Spaceland or the Echo, she says, “Sure, I like underground stuff. Do they stream your video?” It’s clear the Phunk J’s have been together forever; they are tighter than a rolled-up ball of rubber bands, and definitely the best band I’ve seen all week, though the guys look a tad too old for this. The band, for once, are too good to leave. They do a line from the Doors’ “The End.” Who can blame them? At the downstairs bar, Whisky manager Tisa eats a sandwich. Tisa Mylar is the granddaughter of iconoclast Whisky/Rainbow owner Mario Maglieri. She’s been manager of the Whisky since being promoted to Rainbow bookkeeper in 1980. Being manager of a famous nightclub is like being a den mother/cop. “Overseeing everything is what’s hard,” she says, “making sure everyone is safe and has a good time. It’s important that everyone knows their job.” When I ask her what are the rewards of overseeing everything, she responds, “A thank-you every now and then.” She doesn’t mean from customers or staff but from Mario, with whom she checks in every night at the Rainbow after closing. “No one will ever work as hard as him,” she says. “It’s very hard for him to say ‘Job well done.’ But the other night I heard him say to someone, ‘There aren’t a lot of Tisas out there.’ That meant a lot.” The mother of an 18-year-old daughter, Tisa works in family time at lunches and dinners, since she often doesn’t get home to Granada Hills until well after 2 a.m. What does she listen to in the car? “Love songs,” she hesitantly responds. “I turn it down very low.” As far as being mother hen to the staff, she’s glad her employees pal around after work but steers clear herself. “I’m more of an outsider. My grandfather taught me you have to do that.” Though her demeanor is a businesslike, Tisa enjoys seeing people have a good time at the club. “Those of us who work here tend to forget what a famous place this is. I talk to tourists all the time who think it’s the greatest.” NIGHT 6: APETIT FOR DESTRUCTION Buffy greets me with “All right! Is this night six?” I give her the devil’s-horns sign: “Two more nights!” Buffy tells me I’ll like the music tomorrow night; it’s one of her favorite bands, the Dreaming. Jet Lag will later quip, “She’s probably hot for the lead singer.” There’s almost no drink order Buffy finds annoying, but she cringes when someone orders a Three Wisemen: Johnnie Walker, Jim Beam and Jack Daniel’s. “Cuz I know it tastes terrible.” She’s also not much for fancy drinks in plastic cups. “And we don’t do lemon twists.” Apetit are sludgier than other Cookie Monster bands; their lead singer growls like an angry bear. Once again, the guitar solos are appallingly bad, but the drummer is pretty great. (Why is that so often the case? Must interview faculty at Musicians Institute for next story.) I can only make out the words destroy and maybe we. The 25 fans/friends here applaud heartily. Most Cookie Monster bands compensate for the lack of one skill by overcompensating with another. Not Apetit. I’ve seen bands with zero songwriting skills, awful singers and unremarkable musicianship who can still get the crowd worked up. If you have a guy literally shredding his throat and moving like an ape in heat onstage, people will respond. Someone should explain this to Apetit. There are six people on the floor for Pushing Syrai. Two of them are Mark and Mary Karas from Hemet, whose 18-year-old son, Rick, is the drummer. “We’re happy he’s not in a partying-type band,” says proud Mary, a high school teacher who won’t get home till 3 a.m. tonight. “They do songs about lost love. I know the words because they practice at my house four times a week. All my neighbors know the songs, too. It was culture shock to me to see him onstage; he’s a smart kid but quiet.” Does she know what the band’s name means? “I have no idea,” she laughs. To my pleasant surprise, Pushing Syrai have good songs. It’s industro-rock for sure, but with a straight-outta-Hemet theatricality. They break into their thunderous power ballad as if they’re at the Forum while the staff starts to close down and Tisa and Barbara chat about needing glasses. NIGHT 7: HEY, KIDS, ROCK ON! On my final stroll down the Strip, I spot a celebrity: It’s Keanu Reeves, standing outside a nightclub (not the Whisky). Tonight’s bill is a huge draw, and the line down the block reminds me of seeing PJ Harvey, Eleven, Throwing Muses, X and umpteen other faves I’ve gladly braved the throngs for. Tonight, though, I get the wave from Tisa, who’s checking IDs, and glide past the riffraff. The bands come from the Marilyn Manson school of hammering goth rock — Godhead is a Manson-label signee, and Loser features Manson guitarist John 5, so the crowd is the best dressed of the week. These fans look smashing, and, oddly, I feel proud to have them here, as if they’re the visiting team from a cooler school come to show my school how it’s done, and it’s so refreshing to see not one Silver Lake senso-boy in his Conor Oberst uniform. There are even some homo-goths. The mosh pit has much improved, and includes a guy with glasses, which I admire. I get a hug and beer spilled on me from bartender Barbara, who is here on her night off with a cute guy to see the Dreaming, a Pearl Jam–ish act with a heavy dirge thing and a powerful singer. I wonder if they took their name from the Kate Bush album. Godhead steals the show — living proof that metalheads, goths, headbangers, hot rocker chicks, burnouts and stoners can all get along. Walking east on Sunset before catching my final cab, I have Viper Room envy. The sidewalk scene in front of the Viper always has cuter guys and hipper chicks, and makes it feel like there’s a real scene inside. The Whisky’s sidewalk scene is younger, usually a gaggle of family and friends high-fiving the buddy they drove several area codes to see. My dream this week was to see just one little band that might rocket to White Stripes town. That didn’t happen. Besides gaining a renewed appreciation of the power ballads of the Scorpions, what did I learn after 12 cab rides, 14 Tylenol PMs, two lost pairs of earplugs, 27 bands and a case of Miller Lite? Mainly, that I have a soft spot for bands like Manntis and Stemm and Bleed the Sky. Do I think they have talent? Nope, but who cares? They played the same stage as the Doors. Oh, and, as Jet Lag says, everybody looks and sounds their best at the Whisky.


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