Though its history as a musical hotbed dates back to the '60s, the Sunset Strip will always be associated with the hair metal hedonism of the '80s. Saturday's Fourth Annual Sunset Strip Music Festival continued to highlight and celebrate the metal years as it has in the past, honoring the ultimate bad boys of L.A. rock, Motley Crue, while injecting other genres into the mix like hip-hop and indie rock. And despite the diversity of acts, it seems most come to the fest to get their headbang on like the old days.
It was the louder and lewder, more metal acts -- both outdoors and inside clubs such as The Roxy, The Whisky and The Key Club -- that incited crowd frenzies on Saturday. Even PE's Chuck D and Flavor Flav got the biggest reaction to their most rawkin' cut, "Bring the Noise," Anthrax's Scott Ian on guitar. Though Bush sounded clean and tight, and we hear early sets by She Wants Revenge and Cobra Starship were strong, the crowds were biggest and most boisterous for heavy-riffers and new generation noise-makers such as Black Veil Brides and Escape The Fate, both of whom look very much like the Crue did -- black hair, tattoos, makeup -- when they began. ETF singer Craig Mabbit was even wearing similar pants to Vince Neil, though the Vegas band's music is heavier.
We checked out two decent and high decibel bands inside the clubs: Warner Drive at the Roxy and All Hail The Yeti at the Whisky. Warner clearly have a more-than solid fanbase; the place was packed and the people there seemed to know the words to every number. The songs didn't suck us in as much as the members themselves, all of whom had tons of charisma and energy, particularly singer Jonny Law and hot lickin' guitarist Candice Levinson. Yeti were probably the most clamorous band at SSMF. Ear plugs were definitely in order for these shriekers, but their aggressive grinds had a groove that took hold.
Though Saturday was the centerpiece of SSMF, there were two days leading up to it. Thursday night saw the Motley Crue tribute at House of Blues followed by a Viper Room gathering featuring Run Run Run, The Tender Box and The Veronicas (see photos in our Nightranger slideshow, up soon). Friday, Dredg, Buckcherry, Motion City Soundtrack, Purple Melon and Lady Sinatra played along various Strip's venues, though Ray Manzarek and Robbie Krieger's set at the Whisky was the most buzzed, maybe literally. Manzarek encouraged attendees to "open the doors of perception" and drop acid when he spoke at the Crue tribute Thursday... Talk about retro. Hello, we love that man.
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Two big after-parties marked SSMF's conclusion: Mickey Avalon's at the Viper Room and Semi-Precious Weapons' Empire extravaganza at The Roxy. We intended to hit both, but the SPW soiree -- which usually happens at On The Rox upstairs -- kept us occupied, especially the dressing room photoshoots we did with the band and supporting acts Rye Rye, Armen Ra, Lady J and Lady Starlight (Lady Gaga's BFF). All were fab on stage and the bash saw the most varied and flamboyant crowd at SSMF. The Strip may never live down its hairspray-drenched testosterock past, and it doesn't need to. New kinds of debauchery take place here all the time and this party gave those who stayed around a tantalizing taste. Til next year!
See more pics in Tim Norris' SSMF slideshow.