Sunset Strip Music Festival

Credit: Timothy NorrisA hellion with washboard abs escapes from Club Hell; Credit: Lina Lecaro


Lina Lecaro

(Click to enlarge)

A hellion with washboard abs escapes from Club Hell

A historical hotbed that’s birthed countless nightlife trends and seminal music movements over the years, the Sunset Strip is more than a street, it’s a state of mind. This is especially true for those of us who grew up with the mythic rock milieu in our own backyard. During Nightranger’s tender teenage years, the Strip beckoned almost weekly, and we’d often be found strutting amid the hordes of hairspray-doused degenerates and dreamers who littered the streets with their cheap Copymat band flyers in hopes of being discovered, or, at the very least, getting laid. Over the years, it’s been more about catching great performances than cruising for cute (loser) rock dudes, but the energy outside the clubs remains as vital as on the stages inside. This was definitely the case at the first annual Sunset Strip Music Festival last week. Events included a pre-party at House of Blues (where Cheech & Chong reunited to honor Strip icon Lou Adler), a roundtable discussion hosted by Larry King, a daytime parking-lot spectacle with Camp Freddy and performances galore (Camper Van Beethoven, Mickey Avalon, the 88, to name a few). The Whisky, notably the week’s hair-metal hub, was more packed than it has been in years, with an L.A. Guns show Thursday and a filled-to-capacity smash featuring Slash and Cypress Hill’s B Real Friday. Not able to get into the Whisky? Now that was a flashback from way back.

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We did make the VIP party at the Standard Friday, where Hell’s Kitchen winner Michael Wray (now the exec chef there) prepared sushi rolls for the likes of Louis XIV and Adler (honored for the second time that week by Virgin America for his charity work). After quickly filling up on booze ’n’ bites, it was off to House of Blues, where Dilated Peoples were scheduled, as it turned out, late. (We did enjoy the video presentations splicing Space Balls, the “Laughing Baby” viral video and hip-hop rhymes though.) The Roxy was definitely the place to be later Friday, where the Deadly Syndrome got caustic on the drums (all four of ’em at the same time) and Hot Hot Heat had the teenybopper set boiling over onto the stage. The band played an ebullient set, but singer Steve Bay’s stuffy-nosed vox lose their appeal (for us, anyway) kinda quickly, so it was off to the Cat Club to check out long-lost goth-grinders Godhead. Of course, we missed ’em, but we did get to chat with singer Jason Miller and C.C. owner Slim Jim Phantom outside, and watching the skinny-jeaned queens and kings milling in and out of the gritty dive conjured the mojo of the old days maybe more than anything else at the fest that night. On the other end of the spectrum, the Viper Room was packed with more industry types for Juliette and the Licks, who turned in one of their signature spastic shows (Jules even crowd-surfed at one point). We’ve had a hot-and-cold relationship with the notorious nightclub (during the Depp years, we were manhandled by overzealous security there and didn’t step foot back for a quite a while). We eventually bonded with many of the staff, even deejaying Indie 103.1’s Check One … Two nights, a couple of times, but despite what we reported recently, it seems the recent buyout by Pink Taco’s Harry Morton is changing the place, as many feared. Casualties of the new regime include beloved door fixture Casper (thankfully, he still deejays there), and more recently bookers Melissa Hernandez and Anna Geyer. The club’s even parted ways with venerable rock & roll PR faves MSO. Only time will tell if more skin is to be shed at the V Room (and if we might really be seeing the nightclub franchised in tourist traps around the country à la the Taco), but we won’t judge just yet. Bashing uncaring corporate snakes is so cliché. We'll save our venom for something a little more obvious: Like the A-holes who zoom down the Strip on a nightly basis, often sauced, distracted or catcalling (usually all three), making for an accident waiting to happen. Well, it did Friday. In fact, we almost couldn’t leave our parking structure due to the barricade of ambulances and police cars clustered at the crosswalk in front of the Rainbow (which, by the way, was a glaring omission on the SSMF events schedule, as was any mention of the Strip’s “mayor,” Rodney Bingenheimer!). Anyway, we hear the collision wasn’t fatal, thank the (golden) gods.


When it comes to ominous cruiser chaos, there’s only one street that can compete with Sunset: Hollywood Boulevard, of course. Last week, Nightranger battled a bevy of Beemers at Ivar and Hollywood waiting for the valet in front of Eva Longoria’s Beso and Cinespace, but we weren’t there for either. Nope, we were going to Hell, Club Hell, that is, a mad monthly goth/industrial night at the adjacent Club Ivar. Forget about the open-to-all, live S&M and bondage presentations that go on continuously (in the areas usually reserved for VIPs and bottle-service bozos) or the vendors selling fanciful hats and corsets, nudes and mummy photography, coffin jewelry boxes and the like, or the ghoulishly great bands (Digital Betty, Experiment Perilous last Wednesday) who play in a separate soundproof room overlooking the dance floor. What really makes this bizarre psycho circus go off are the patrons themselves. Upon our visit we were accosted by pirates and vampires, shot at by a scary puppet roller-skating around the dance floor with a toy gun, and chatted up by two guyliner-wearing comedians — one sans a hand (“he lost it while fisting someone,” he joked) and the other, who actually calls himself the Goth Comedian (“I make you laugh and depressed at the same time” was one of his many creepy one-liners). Goth culture is rife for parody, of course, but the vibe at this dance purgatory is anything but woeful or dark. It’s definitely freaky, though. Think we’re exaggerating? Check our eye-popping slide show on this week to see Hell’s debauched demons and half-naked dames for yourself.

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