Sunset Strip Music Festival
Sunset Strip, West Hollywood
Aug. 1-3, 2013
The Sunset Music festival sought to reverse sagging attendance this year, and the line-up got a shake-up. There was less emphasis on head-banging, with instead such artists as rap-rock arena rockers Linkin Park, a mix of hip-hop acts like Wale and Pharcyde alums Fatlip and Slimkid3, and indie faves Black Rebel Motorcycle Club.
While the performances were all pretty stellar, the crowds didn't appear as large as years past. One reason might have been, ironically, the date change; the fest was moved up a couple weeks to avoid punishing mid-August heat, but that meant it coincided this year with the Hard music fest and X Games — drawing denizens downtown — as well as Lollapalooza in Chicago.
In any case, we personally dug the diversity of the 2013 bill. It was reflective of the Strip itself these days, which has expanded its musical offerings to include hip-hop, pop, and EDM, as well as swanky dance clubs and colorful restaurants. Hollywood and Silver Lake may get the scrappy, indier-than-thou set, but when a band is truly on the rise, it plays the Strip, where legendary rock icons were born.
The most exciting part of the weekend was Thursday night, when Joan Jett was awarded the Elmer Valentine award and paid tribute by everyone from Rodney Bingenheimer and Pat Smear — who appeared live — to Debbie Harry and Kim Fowley, who appeared via video. Jett performed as well, serving up a bombastic, hit-filled bash, which had the fans singing along.
See also: Joan Jett on Her Sunset Strip Glory Days
We couldn't help but think how awesome it would have been to have her headline on Saturday, on the main outdoor stage. Like past honorees Motley Crue and Slash — who did exactly that in previous years — Jett playing the closed-off boulevard would have killed. It also would have been meaningful, seeing as she once lived just off the strip and her band The Runaways were born and bred there.
Headliners Linkin Park gave their set everything they had, busting out new tracks, which were more melodic than the rap-driven numbers they made their mark with.
They were really into it, definitely more so than Marilyn Manson was last year in the same slot. The members even had a couple of emo moments, talking about their beginnings and dreams of playing on the Strip. They even mentioned “tearing up” a couple times.
It was a potent set, but ultimately they just weren't the right fit for the Fest. Linkin Park still have a sizeable following, but those kids weren't necessarily the types to shell out 80 bucks to see them at a festival in West Hollywood. And the ones who did, bouncing around to hip-hop artists such as Mellow Man Ace, Slick Rick and Doug E Fresh, didn't seem to get into newer alternative acts like Sabrosa Purr or The Last Internationale. The latter (pictured below) were great by the way, and we predict big things for them.
We're not sure why the genre blend didn't seem to work as well as years past. But one thing was obvious, the older, more nostalgic acts definitely trumped the newer, lesser-known ones.
Take Friday night, when we hit The Roxy to catch an impressive line-up including Gateway Drugs, Retox (with ex-members of The Locust) and the Icarus Line, who have a great new record out. The place was not crowded. At the same time, former '90s hot mess/ Stone Temple Pilots frontman Scott Weiland packed the Viper Room just up the street.
The Strip as a destination most definitely continues to change and evolve, but capturing this shift while celebrating the boulevard's amazing history is tricky business. With so many festivals boasting bills with hip, new “next things” in music, perhaps SSMF is better keeping its focus on its glorious past. No other part of L.A. can match it, after all. Either way, we hope a lower turnout doesn't prevent it from moving forward for years to come.