Since the Best Fest — the charity concert series benefiting Sweet Relief that originated in New York City — arrived in Los Angeles in 2012, it's become one of the more popular nights for musicians to come out and pay tribute to various rock legends, all for a good cause. Beginning with Petty Fest, then Stones Fest, George Fest (honoring George Harrison) and last year’s Brian Fest (for Brian Wilson), Best Fest returns this week with the two-night Fleetwood Mac Fest.
The past half-decade has been kind to the soft-rock favorites, as their popularity has resurged, particularly among a younger generation of fans. The band played at the Hollywood Bowl in 2013 and reunited with longtime singer/keyboardist Christine McVie the following year as part of a full-fledged reunion of the band’s best-known lineup.
Unlike last year's Brian Fest, which featured few collaborations until the man himself took the stage, the 28-song, 2½-hour Mac extravaganza featured numerous one-off pairings and even a reunion or two. Unfortunately, that didn’t include any members of the Mac showing up as guests of honor. Even so, the night featured plenty of crowd-pleasing Fleetwood Mac hits, deep cuts and even some Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham solo material.
As the whiskey flowed, the boozy crowd and relaxed performers treated the charity event like a glorified bar session. The performances for the most part were far from crisp, but as Best Fest's resident backing group, the Cabin Down Below Band, took the wheel, the featured singers and musicians found a comfort zone that allowed them to do their best imitation of whichever band member they were channeling.
“I’m not a great karaoke singer,” Dead Sara singer Emily Armstrong confessed to the sweaty crowd before her take on “Edge of Seventeen.” “But when you’re at a bar with your friends, you’re at your fucking best!”
Armstrong’s assessment was as spot-on as her version of the Stevie Nicks classic-rock radio staple. Jack Dishel’s take on Buckingham’s “Holiday Road” had some fans hoping Christie Brinkley would pop up. An early highlight was Carly Rae Jepsen, fresh off her appearance on Grease Live and showcasing her vocal range and maturity, reminding attendees that she isn’t merely a one-hit wonder.
Though it's nearly impossible to replicate Stevie Nicks' vocal style, her fashion sense is a different story, and several singers paid homage with their outfits. Phases’ Z Berg wore an ensemble that likely would have piqued Nicks’ fashion sense when the band performed “Everywhere,” and the same goes for sister duo The Pierces, whose version of “Say You Love Me” was true to the original. Courtney Love was on her best behavior for most of a relatively subdued “Silver Springs,” at least until she flashed her panties to the crowd.
The title of the night’s most versatile performer went to Karen Elson. Though she’s known more for her modeling career (and for being Jack White's ex) than her music, Elson showed tremendous range. First trading vocals with Last Man on Earth star Will Forte on “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around,” then delivering her own spirited version of “Rhiannon,” and finally taking on “The Chain” with Butch Walker and Alison Mosshart, Elson more than held her own with the varying degrees of talent she was paired with.
Mosshart also appeared with hit-making producer Mark Ronson on a dark version of “Dreams.” Under blue stage lights, with Ronson on guitar and backed by Cabin Down Below Band, Mosshart’s reinterpretation of Nicks' vocals was one of the night’s highlights — as was the moment when she got on Butch Walker’s shoulders as he knocked out the solo on “The Chain.”
The night’s big finale of “Don’t Stop” was so rousing it would have even cheered up the Clintons on a tough primary day. With everyone filling the stage, there was little room to maneuver. That didn’t stop Walker, Farrell and Sarah Silverman — whose “Go Your Own Way” was as fun as it was chaotic — from enjoying themselves and reminding the audience that the Fleetwood Mac songbook remains one of the most important in rock.
Tusk – CDB Band
Hold Me – Carly Rae Jepsen
I Don’t Wanna Know – Jess & Holly of Lucius
World Turning – Elvis Perkins
Holiday Road – Jack Dishel
Little Lies – Noah Gunderson
Second Hand News – Danny Masterson, Adam Busch & Bijou Philips
Edge of Seventeen – Emily Armstrong
Never Going Back Again – Jamestown Revival
Say You Love Me – The Pierces
I’m So Afraid – Ruby Amanfu
Landslide – Dhani & Mereki
Everywhere – Phases
Monday Morning – Butch Walker
Gypsy – Jessie Baylin
Stop Draggin' My Heart Around – Will Forte, Karen Elson, Brian Bell
Rhiannon – Karen Elson
Black Magic Woman – Doyle Bramhall II
Man of the World – Cold War Kids
You Make Loving Fun – KT Tunstall
Stand Back – Juliette Lewis
Beautiful Child – Joanna Newsom
Go Your Own Way – Sarah Silverman & Butch Walker
Silver Springs – Courtney Love
Dreams – Alison Mosshart & Mark Ronson
Gold Dust Woman – Perry & Etty Farrell
The Chain – Karen Elson, Butch Walker, Alison Mosshart
Don’t Stop – FINALE
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