On the eve of the third annual Sunset Strip Music Festival, Thursday night, the House of Blues on the Sunset Strip and the city of West Hollywood honored none other than hard rock guitar icon Slash, who rose to fame with Guns N Roses in the '80s to become one of the most influential and recognized guitarists on the planet.
The party at the HOB began at the end of a sweltering heat wave, around 6 p.m. while the sun was still out, and due to a full OPEN bar, a raging crowd of fans, industry insiders, and those with enough moolah for a 30-day VIP pass were in attendance.
The night was all about paying tribute to a legendary hard rock/metal icon, who aside from Guns N Roses, was also in the rock super group Velvet Revolver as well as Slash's Snakepit. Slash also released a critically acclaimed self titled solo album last April with guest appearances by everyone form Fergie and Cypress Hill TO Dave Grohl, Ozzy Osbourne and Iggy Pop, and many more.
With his signature top hat and stringy, curly hair, the axe man of the night arrived to a swarm of reporters, paparazzi, fans, onlookers, industry heads, and hot chicks, as he swam through the crowd, to enter the club through a glitzy red carpet.
The evening's MC was Jim Ladd, of KLOS 95.5, a staple for hard rock and metal fans on the LA FM airwaves. Ladd appeared in a collared shirt, and grayed hair, and kept his words to a minimum, only introducing other speakers.
Up first, Motley Crue bass player Nikki Sixx gave a few sentimental words about his quarter-century relationship with Slash. “When Slash called me to do this tonight, I was honored; and I want everyone to know Slash is not about the business, he just wants to play guitar.”
Sixx then listed several bullet points for the crowd to show how significant Slash has been in his life. “Slash was there when I died. That's rock n roll. He doesn't know he's a rock star and he doesn't care. He's continued to raise the bar with his phenomenal guitar playing and the quality of his music, and I think that's something worth being honored for,” said Sixx.
He then went on to give the crowd several past tour anecdotes. “In 1987 Guns N Roses went on tour with Motley Crue and we drank a lot, I mean a lot,” Sixx boasted. “We have both faced our inner demons, and one thing about facing your demons is they either kill you or make you stronger and every time I talk so Slash, I see how he's a great dad, musician, and a real honest soulful person, and one of the best I've met in my life. One last thing, I think it's kind of ironic that we both have the exact same hairstyle that we had 25 years ago.”
Up next was the Jack Daniels drinking, Marlboro Red smoking, Cowboy hat wearing Lemmy Kilmister, from crossover long-haired punk metal heroes Motorhead. “I hate to speak in front of people unless I have a guitar,” Lemmy said in his signature rough British accent. “I'm proud to be his friend and I'm proud I'll die before him, Slash I wish you all the best my young chap.”
Also offering a brief word or two was Alice in Chains guitarist Jerry Cantrell. “It's my pleasure to be up here, honoring Slash. I always joke that he must have had himself cloned, because there is no way he can do all the things he does and be in all those places at once. On a personal note it's not easy to live this lifestyle; you know, in rock n roll, we've all had our ups and downs. Slash is a human being, a great father and I'm just glad you're alive and here man.”
Pre-taped well wishes were shown on a wide screen backdrop to the crowd, including a monologue from Conan O'Brien, George Lopez, and messages from Billy Gibbons from ZZ Top and the Prince of Darkness himself, Ozzy Osbourne.
Before Slash came out to speak to the eager crowd, it was announced that members of the West Hollywood City Council, including mayor John Heilman, presented Slash with a plaque from the city, declaring that from now on, August 26, will be known as 'Slash Day.'
“Wow, this is all so overwhelming for me,” the main in the top hat told the crowd after receiving his plaque.
To close the evening's festivities, the crowd was treated to a 45 minute set from The Head Cat, featuring Lemmy on vocals and bass, stand up drummer Slim Jim Phantom from the Stray Cats, and guitarist Danny B. Harvey of 13 Cats, Lonesome Spurs and Rockats.
This old-school, rugged Rock n Roll trio pummeled through songs that were simple, straight to the point, and just noisy enough to make you want to move. With a sound unique, yet nostalgic, Lemmy, Slim Jim and Harvey mash through roots rock/punk infused hard rock. A rock n roll psychobilly version of Buddy Holly meets Motorhead, this set seemed more like a loose jam session, but still managed to get a sweat going on the floor.
At the end of the evening, after all the flash photography, red carpet arrivals, open bar, sweltering heat and rocking performance, there wouldn't have been a better way to kick off this year's SSMF.