We got a crash course in Booking 101 last week from recently-returned Viper Room booker Dayle Gloria, whom we joined in planning a duel birthday bash (we're both Aug. 6-ers) at the legendary Sunset Strip venue Saturday night. Putting together a rock show isn't as easy as it might seem, either. There are schedules to be considered, band compatibility, fees, production, guest lists, timeslots, and let's not forget behind-the-scenes people drama … Ultimately all the back and forth was more than worth it, as the evening turned out to be an epic celebration, thanks in largest part, to the bluesy rock stylings of headliner The Michael Des Barres Band.
Des Barres, who is probably best known for his acting roles (and for being the only man to get author/groupie legend Pamela Des Barres to walk down the aisle) was also the lead singer for Silverhead, a seminal glam rock band of the '70s. Between thespian pursuits, he's gone back to music a few times, most notably replacing Robert Palmer as the lead singer of the Duran Duran offshoot project The Power Station.
As we discovered Saturday night, the silver head-turned-silver fox still knows how to command a stage as comfortably and charismatically as he does a small (or big) screen. MDB's band plays classic, soulful and dramatic rock n' roll with the just the right amount of twang and a whole lotta balls. Harmonica great Jimmy Wood joined on a couple original tunes and a sizzling version of “Hoochie Coochie Man,” plus the obligatory Rolling Stones song, “Jumpin Jack Flash,” for yours truly (yeah, we're a Stones dork, always have been).
Ending the set with a climactic take on “Wild Thing,” Des Barres was joined by Billy Idol guitarist (and E!'s Married to Rock star) Steve Stevens. Even though his guitar gave out for a portion of the tune, what he did contribute was rapturous and indeed, wild. We wanted more! Des Barres has been playing gigs at the 3 Clubs and the band's got a gig at Silverlake Lounge on Sept. 8 that we highly recommend, but there's something about the audaciousness of the Strip that suits the band nicely. Here's the hoping the buzz about a possible MDB residency at Viper becomes a reality.
Speaking of audacious amusements, The Wonder Show, starring magician Christopher Wonder and burlesque performer Cleo Viper (fitting name) made for a colorful opening act. Ms. Viper, who is from Italy, where Wonder has been residing for the past several months, does a gorgeous butterfly act and she's been making quite an impact on the L.A. burlesque scene since coming here. Wonder, whom we've been a fan of since first watching him perform the streets of Silver Lake (OG Sunset Junction Street Fair) has come a long way and his professional act has some cool illusions while retaining a punk spirit (a bonanza of magically appearing brewskies and tattooed flesh.)
The Leo love fest–which built up momentum starting with acoustic sets by Chris Dye and Peter Knight–ended on a boisterous note, with a Ramones tribute and jam with fellow birthday guest, drummer Richie Ramone (the guy who held down the skins with the group from 1983-1987). Fun facts about Richie via Wiki: He wrote quite a few of the Ramones' tracks in that era and was the only drummer to ever sing lead vocals with the band. You can't go wrong covering the Ramones and there were some ferociously fun moments, particularly when Richie got on drums and then the mic, showing off his potent singing skills.
Unfortunately, there was also a somewhat awkward moment too: One of the guest singers took his cell phone on stage and tried to read the lyrics from it! Johnny would've kicked that guy's ass, right? (Sorry, but as Des Barres called out from the stage earlier about us, “That girl tells the truth!”)
In all, it was rollicking evening and a great sort of early kick off for the upcoming Sunset Strip Music Fest (which we'll be covering here) beginning with a pre-party at Viper on Aug. 18. Congrats to Gloria, whose illustrious career discovering and nurturing L.A.'s best bands via Club Scream (the first club we ever went to!), Club With No Name and pretty much every venue on the Strip has made her the undisputed queen of rock booking in Los Angeles. Congrats to the Viper Room for snagging her back. Now we'll leave the booking headaches to her… until next year.
More pics on our Nightranger slideshow.
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