Zebra Passes by Blackboard Jungle: The annual reunion of Sunset Strip rockers Blackboard Jungle has become an event to really dig your teeth into. 1980s hair/sleaze/glam metal isn’t anything like as cool as it used to be, even around these parts. But the people that are holding on, are holding on tight. The men of BBJ know this, and every year they assemble a killer bill featuring some of the bands that strutted their stuff back in the day and hold onto a cult following, but didn’t quite crack the big time.
These shows, incidentally, take place at the Viper Room and, as far as we know, there’s a finite time for that to continue due to new owners. Right now, we don’t know where next year’s show will take place.
When they do have to find an alternative home, we hope that they can stay on the Strip. It just feels right. And for the last couple of years, a hair metal mini fest has been created; last year, the Whisky across the street was hosting Quiet Riot, so we could go back and forth. Similarly, this time Randy Jackson’s Zebra was playing the Whisky.
For whatever reason, these shows always kick off with a rap set from, Old Man Crawford, formerly Mandie of trash punk band the Glamour Punks. A medley of old school hip-hop hits and a rap version of one of his old tunes were highlights of a lively set.
The Fizzy Bangers were supposed to play this event last year but had to cancel at the 11th hour. Thankfully they’re back this time, and that’s awesome because this writer has been wanting to catch them for a few years.
There’s a gloriously goofy quality to the band’s hyper rock. Think Ugly Kid Joe and Love/Hate, with a power-pop lean. “Hai Karate,” which we know from the excellent Hollywood Rocks box set, is an ode to the cheap and nasty cologne. And “Short Attention Span,” clocking in at nine seconds, doesn’t quite reach Napalm Death levels of brevity but it’s still pretty darn rapid. They slow it down into a country twang-along that is maybe 15 seconds, for a second run through. Hella fun!
Sadly, we missed Double Cobra because that was the point that we skipped across the street to the Whisky to catch Zebra.
Randy Jackson’s Louisiana band is far more polished, and let’s say serious, than anything going on at the Viper. They were, after all, signed to Atlantic Records at one point, selling lots of records and threatening to really break huge. Three albums were well received but, by the early ’90s, they had been dropped. One album has emerged since, though they continue to perform live. Like this.
Zebra is celebrating the 40th anniversary of their self-titled debut, and the set at the Whisky leaned heavily on that. “Tell Me What You Want” and “One More Chance” are played early and, when sound issues cause a delay to “Who’s Behind the Door,” they play Zeppelin’s “The Ocean” first.
A lengthy “Take Your Fingers From My Hair” is another highlight, as the band (all original members, by the way) kicked into full gear. Zebra are apparently not horsing around!
Back at the Viper, Blackboard Jungle performed their traditionally crowd-pleasing set. “Caroline” and “Chicago” are always going to get the packed Viper dancing, and there were guests too. Singer Kenny Price welcomed members of his other band Jet 68 onto the stage to run through a couple of tunes, including “Superqueen.”
More was to come: Smashing Pumpkins guitarist Jeff Schroeder and Bullet Boys singer Marq Torien jumped up for a jam that included Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love.”
Again, these shows are a party. Long may they continue.
Zebra Passes by Blackboard Jungle: More info at viperroom.com and whiskyagogo.com.
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