I felt a strong urgency to attend this years Sunset Strip Music Festival. With so many changes happening in the area, it’s hard to see anything left of the Sunset Strip I grew up with. Like most things Los Angeles, investors and city planners have their sights set on a historic slice of the city to make it more appealing to a higher-end crowd. Last year, the Key Club closed its doors to make way for the atrocious 1 Oak nightclub which is the third club that has opened there since the historic Gazzarri’s nightclub closed its doors 21 years ago. Anyone remember the ill-fated venture called Billboard Live?
Buildings aren’t the only things being demolished on the Sunset Strip. The very soul of Sunset is being strangled. All the remaining, legendary venues such as The Whiskey A Go Go and The Roxy have turned into cheaper, number crunched version of themselves with pay-to-play policies that strangle young bands who have daydreamed of playing in venues that launched and hosted the likes of The Doors, David Bowie, Van Halen and Guns and Roses, to name a few. Props to Goldenvoice for stepping in recently to book and promote shows that now sell out at The Roxy based on the merits of the bands and good promotion.
Yesterday kicked off day one of the SSMF. When I walked into the gated areas that closed off Sunset to everyone but festival attendees, I headed straight for the Whiskey and opened a tab. I caught a bit of Beware of Darkness on the main stage on the way to the historic venue. This would be home base for the next couple hours. Luckily, I arrived right when speed metal band, The Killing Lights started their set and I was instantly transported to a time when the Sunset Strip was at its purest. With hair and arpeggio’s flying everywhere, The Killing Lights encapsulated everything I wanted to see. I stepped directly outside of the Whiskey and was treated to freakish, new wave dance band Nightmare and the Cat. Complete with dancers on stage of men and women in pink dresses, people in cat heads and other cosplay curiosities, Lead Singer Django Stewart conjured images and the vocals of a young George Michael, minus the cheesy arrangements that accompanied Wham. Solid band. You couldn’t help but shake your ass and move your feet even though it was a bit of a departure from the rock and roll vibe I was looking to capture at day one of the festival.
Punks, hippies, junkies, rockers, b-boys and ravers all love analog synth warlords, Fartbarf. I’ve seen these demented Neanderthals from outer space play a handful of times now and have yet to see them fail at making entire audiences smile and move their feet. Beautiful women and grizzled gutter punks can all agree: Fartbarf is the SHIT. Driving 80’s synth bass lines, Zap and Roger-esque vocals with killer live drums are a hypnotic recipe for peaceful alien colonization. Everywhere that Fartbarf go, they are completely taking over and they don’t even need any anal probes to do so.
After barfing farts at The Whiskey, I had to run all the way across to the main stage to check out Taylor Hawkins project, Birds of Satan. It’s hard to imagine anyone having more fun playing music than Hawkins. The thing that struck me in his shit eating grins behind the drums was that this was a guy that was truly happy to be there. That type of attitude is infectious and is transmitted to an already stoked audience who were able to see Hawkins and mates Murphy and Hodgden jerk their instruments off all over a hot and bothered audience.
Deftones front man Chino Moreno and his new project, Crosses drew in the hungry rock and metal crowd and didn’t let them go until they were done having their way. This is the second time I’ve seen Crosses and the moody mix of dark, digital orchestration with dissonant power chords enhances the mastery of Chino’s vocal arrangements. I really think they have something here and I hope to see them gain some momentum.
After pit stopping and connecting with some friends, it was time to check out Fullerton’s own, Cold War Kids on the main stage. I wanted to absorb their set but found myself connecting with friends making their arrivals to see Jane’s Addiction play in the next couple hours. Once they played Hang Me Up To Dry, I made my departure to close out my tab at the Whisky and connect with more friends to get prepared for Jane’s Addiction. I caught the hip hop curiosity and reality star, Riff Raff on the Murs stage. He was surprisingly solid as a live performer with the crunk hi hats and deep 808’s driving each song. His trademark corn rows were let down in a waterfall of pink hair but fear not, half way through his set, he had his hair braided back up through the course of the next two songs, never missing a note or a lyric as he sat on stage throughout the entire process.
Photo by Elisabeth Fried
I made my way over to the 9022 Salon on Sunset at around 9 p.m. to connect with the heads from Venice Beach to be around “family” during Jane’s Addiction. Venice Originals were abound to pay homage to their friend Perry Farrell and welcome Jane’s Addiction back to the launch pad of their career. They were to play Nothing’s Shocking in it’s entirety, an album I first heard walking down the streets of Santa Monica with a Walkman when I was a teenager. From start to finish, the band nailed each note like they had been in a lockout the last few weeks, doing nothing but rehearsing. I tried not to be obnoxious by singing each word of every song but I failed. Perry had to recalibrate a couple parts of songs to make sure he could hit the impossible notes he arranged vocally as a younger man but it’s hard to imagine Jane’s Addiction being any more perfect that they were last night on the Sunset Strip. Even the absence of Bassist, Eric Avery might have served for a better show by removing the usual tension you can taste between Farrell and Avery during original lineup performances. They started with Up the Beach and played all the way through to Pigs in Zen to complete the sequential order of their legendary release, even throwing in Been Caught Stealing and Stop as sweet cherries on top of an already powerful and moving performance. It was everything I hoped it would be.
Photography: Tamea Agle
Review: Danny Baraz
Check out our photos of band and fans a day one of the Sunset Strip Music Festival!
Michael Rey & The Woebegones
Nightmare & the Cat
Birds of Satan
Cold War Kids
Cold War Kids
Want more photos of the 2014 Sunset Strip Music Festival? Check out the photo gallery below!