While the Sunset Strip Music fest has primarily been seen as a head-banger hullabaloo attracting faithful longhairs and babes in studded belts — and not much else — it's slowly evolved into a true representation of the ever-changing boulevard. Honoring the past is part of it, but this year's SSMF bill made it clear that new forms of music flourish here too.
Steve Aoki's DJ set at the East stage punctuated the point. The crowd that jumped and fist-pumped during his set was easily the most enthusiastic for any act there. It included lots of “ravers” in neon Raybans (at night), but a large portion were metalhead types and gothy Manson fans. They all even seemed to enjoy Aoki's antics, like popping champagne into the crowd and getting chicks to crowd surf on inflatable beds.
The best dance tracks are called bangers, and many metal bands these days are playing around with electronic beats. Aoki himself started as a rock guy (he worked with The Kills) and still has the locks, so it's not really shocking to see heshers digging EDM. Still, seeing the guyliner set get off on will.i.am and Lil Jon (who joined Aoki) was kind of a trip.
Speaking of trips, Marilyn Manson's headlining set across the boulevard left us wondering what the hell the guy was on. And worried about him.
The enigmatic singer referenced drugs nearly a dozen times during his long-winded show. Nonsensical chattering, really bad jokes, awkward lapses between songs and vocals that were off-key and less than powerful at times made for a strange, almost sad set. Clearly, our bizarre interview with him this week was no fluke.
Lucky for Manson strange is his thing, and even when he's a train wreck, it's entertaining in its own way. Still, we've seen this guy at the top of his game at various Ozzfests, and last night's set lacked the power and provocative flair that made him a rockstar. Eerie stage production, a tight band, and some decent Doors covers (the band were SSMF honorees this year) just barely saved this show from being a total disaster.
By comparison, the punk offerings earlier were on-point. Bad Religion sounded like monsters, attacking their catalog's more chaotic early stuff, before getting into their melodious later material. Even Offspring (whom we are not fans of) sounded invigorated, focusing on their many hits and a few off their new record.
The street festival often showcases hot new rock (Dead Sara) and hip-hop (De La Soul) during the day. Unfortunately, the temps were the most scorching ever this year, making many opt to wait out the sun until late afternoon to catch the headliners. It was still sweltering inside the clubs, though. The hottest SSMF set has to go to Mickey Avalon whom we caught dripping and drawling at the Viper Room after X Friday night.
Saturday's Street Drum Corps set inside The Roxy was filled with rhythmic drum driven jams before sunset, and lots of sweat. Lucky for dance rappers Far East Movement, travel complications forced them to miss their daytime slot and re-schedule for 12:30 at The Whisky, a makeshift after-party of sorts. After Manson, an announcer encouraged the crowds to check out the Strip's many bars and clubs, which is pretty much the point of the fest, after all.
Dim Mak's DJ-driven shindig back at the Roxy kept the party going. It was kicked off by Young Skeeter, Katy Perry's DJ and hot producer in his own right.
We ended the night with the sounds Metalachi, a band who cover metal anthems in authentic mariachi style, upstairs at On The Rox. They were a hoot and, who knows, maybe the next big thing? If metalers and goths can go EDM and hip-hop can go rock, and metal schtickers Steel Panther can rule this part of town, why not? On the Strip, anything is possible.