The Sunset Strip Music Festival shuts down the boulevard today for its centerpiece event, but parties and performances in conjunction with the annual fest have been going on since Thursday. This year there seems to be a notable nostalgia at every show that's happened thus far; including Peter Murphy at The Roxy (a venue his band Bauhaus sold out a few times in their day) and the glam metal sludge at the Whisky, including members of Great White and Faster Pussycat.
X, meanwhile, played their classic debut Los Angeles in its entirety Friday night at the Roxy with guest sit-ins from the album's producer Ray Manzarek. The show was powerful, and full of meaningful moments.
X's debut captured the city's darkness and the (cracks of) light, the eccentric faces and austere places, and the poetic fantasy and the fucked-up reality of punk life in L.A. circa 1980. Punk rock through and through, their harmonies and catchy choruses made them more accessible than peers such as Black Flag, Fear or The Germs. And, of course, the title track has become the unofficial anthem for our city, conveying the love/hate relationship many of us have with it, its urgency and chaos.
Last night, they performed their cover of “Soul Kitchen” twice, with Manzarek on keys of course. With The Doors this year's SSMF honorees and X's significant history on the strip, the pairing was a no-brainer. Sure, the Whisky might have been more appropriate, as it was the locale for The Doors most legendary shows and also where X recorded their 7th record, 1988's X Live At the Whisky Au Go Go on The Fabulous Sunset Strip. Still, the Roxy is the unofficial heart of the festival and this was the show for the most hardcore L.A. music lovers.
Though Manzarek produced X's first few albums, he doesn't play with the band very often. His keyboards didn't exactly stand out amid John Doe and Exene vocal layers, Billy Zoom's giddy guitars and DJ Bonebrake's relentless rhythms, but simply seeing him on stage with the band felt magical. It was a feeling no one in the crowd, nor apparently the stage, wanted to end. After the band played the debut, they served up several more classics for the fans including “Blue Spark,” “Hungry Wolf,” “We're Desperate,” “Devil Doll” and “The Have-Nots.”
It seemed like they could have gone all night. Despite the guys' grey hairs and Exene's past health issues, the band went full throttle, holding nothing back. The show was exhausting and exhilarating.
Personal Bias: We used to want to be Exene.
The Crowd: Punkers young and old, butch chicks (one threatened to kick our ass when our camera blocked her girlfriend's view) and band dudes playing today's fest, taking notes on how it's done.
Random Notebook Dump: We attended two SSMF before this one, one at Sky Bar where Manzarek and Robby Krieger jammed, so by the time we got to the Roxy we were a bit sauced.