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Photos by Wild Don Lewis

Sunset Junction
August 27-28
Saturday: With temperatures pushing 98 degrees, thousands of neighborhood Angelenos
(sensibly) stayed away from the street fair this year until well past sundown.
Instead, sparse crowds stood motionless in the blazing heat for lackadaisical
sets by Vagenius and Foreign Born, while a slightly less lethargic mass swayed
to the ambient, doom-laden rock of Vancouver’s excellent Black Mountain. Though
they only managed to conjure passion and dynamics by half, they were — as always
— a pleasure to see. Finally, the sun diminished on the horizon and the street
began to fill. Though troubled by equipment failures, the Walkmen played a spirited
mess of brash, Pogues-influenced indie-rock — until frontman Hamilton Leithauser
(per usual) screamed his face purple and blew out his throat. Troubadour Jason
Falkner bashed out a passel of nice-guy tunes, while from their perch on the
Echo Stage, bratty dance punks Gravy Train cheekily begged, “If there are any
celebrities around, please come up. I’d love to take a picture with Flea.” No
surprise, John Cale was just as lovely and obtuse as he wanted to be. For the
third year running, the “former ladies of the Supremes” (alums Scherrie Payne
and Lynda Laurence, and hired gun Freddi Poole) provided a kickass revue of
Motown hits, replete with choreography, matching red gowns, fierce hairdos,
big diamond rings, and even bigger voices. Around 11 we hauled our ragged asses
downtown to the after-party at Hanging Jury, where DJs spun records between
sets by Foreign Born, Rolling Blackouts and Dios Malos. Appearing far more energized
and in-their-element, Black Mountain closed out the night to an admiring house
of thoroughly exhausted but for the most part happy freaks.
Sunday: First thought upon arrival: “Oh God, kill me now, it’s too hot.” (Note
to organizers: Any chance you jokers might provide some shade, seats and a few
sprinkler-tents, as at other outdoor events? Have some humanity.) Stoner-gods
Nebula valiantly tried to stir the crowd with three brilliant Black Flag covers
— yet, once again, people stood withering. The Burning Brides did the trick:
Smiling maniacally, they owned the most energetic rock set of the weekend —
nice to see people losing their shit in the crowd and onstage, like a proper
rock show. Olympia’s the Gossip came in a close second with a rowdy set of queer-positive,
gospel/punk testimonials. (Goddamn, that girl can sing.) Attendance peaked just
as Eagles of Death Metal took the stage at 6:45 p.m. All was well until they
brought out Jack Black and the Suicide Girls. Yes, the Eagles are absurd — but
in a harmless, kooky way; their porn-staches and ham-fisted riffs need all the
attention they can get. As for the SG schtick, they’re boring beyond measure;
not sexy, not empowered, not even particularly talented. Eventually the performance
thousands had waited all those long, hot hours (even years) for was upon us.
Looking like a cross between Tawny Kitaen and Iron Maiden’s Eddy, the always
wry and stunningly coifed David Johansen, with guitarist Sylvain Sylvain and
their well-selected fill-in players (including Hanoi Rocks’ Sami Yaffa) delivered
a ballsy, enthusiastic take on the New York Dolls’ legacy. Rolling through a
wealth of classic material, they astutely massaged the crowd and tossed shout-outs
to deceased bandmates. Thirty-four years on, whether glam’s your bag or not,
the Dolls were stunning. Taking stock of the satisfied faces in the crowd, despite
the heat and haggard limbs, it looked like Sunset Junction was again a success.

—Arlie Carstens

More Sunset Junction photos following the article.

Snoop Dogg/Red Hot Chili Peppers/Ice Cube
at the Greek, August 25
The LAPD cavalry was out in force to corral this banged-out benefit for Snoop’s
youth football league. Things got poppin’ with Ice Cube, who wore a white No.
18 Randy Moss Raider jersey while Westside Connection homie W.C. sported the
black version. Backed by DJ Crazy Toones, Cube and W.C. blitzed through “Check
Yo Self,” the Isley Brothers–sampling “It Was a Good Day” and W.C.’s spitfire
flow on “The Streets.” The gang pledged allegiance to Westside Connection via
“Bow Down” (without absent Mack 10), comedian Chris Rock came out to support
the home team, and Cube and W.C. skip-skip-skipped to “Gangsta Nation.” Then
hail the Red Hot Chili Peppers, who kicked into “Scar Tissue” atop Chad Smith’s
skins. Wearing an old Eddie Jones No. 6 Lakers jersey and matching golden shorts,
Flea informed the crowd, “We [Flea and Anthony] graduated [from Fairfax High]
on this stage,” then picked the aggressive bass line to “Parallel Universe.”
Anthony Kiedis, in a gray coat with matching cutoff pants, gripped the microphone
stand and showed off his crazy rain-dance moves on “Can’t Stop,” “Other Side”
and “Californication.” Guitarist John Frusciante did his falsetto sing-thing
on Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love,” later extemporizing Alice Cooper’s “School’s
Out.” After introducing “the funkiest rapper on Earth,” Flea launched his trunks
into the crowd.
Snoop Dogg brought a full live band (including horns) to pump “Murder Was the
Case,” “Gin and Juice” — which brought out Uncle Junebug and his moves — “Ups
and Downs” and “Nuthin’ but a ‘G’ Thang,” as skunky bud filled the air. He revived
the old Death Row days with Tupac’s “2 of Amerika’s Most Wanted”; D.J. Battlecat
warmed up the ladies for “Beautiful,” then — surprise! — out came Tommy the
Clown and his young krump dancers from the film Rize. Snoop finished
with “Who Am I?” and the crowd answered in unison, “Snoop Doggy Dogg,” toasting
the dogg who helped raise almost $250,000 for the pigskin project.

—Ben Quiñones

Arthur Adams

The Leaving Trains

David Johansen

The Weirdos

Jody
Watley