I was not planning on attending the Sunset Strip Music Festival this year because I have recently turned old and the only way I would pay $50-$65 for a ticket would be to see the Smashing Pumpkins again. But, I’ve seen them so many times in the past and I saw that amazing show at the Viper Room.. how could a big festival show compare? Well the good people at the Smashing Pumpkins PR firm kindly offered me a pair of tickets so I could attend and write about the show and I kindly and enthusiastically accepted.
I arrived at the SSMF around 4pm because my ladyfriend / LA Snark photographer for a day had to work until early afternoon. We showed up in just enough time to hit up some drinks at the Rainbow Bar and Grill’s upstairs bar. If you know anything about me you know that I looove the Rainbow in a pretty-unironic way. Upstairs they were playing some classic hair metal and that sunken sometime-stage-that-day-dance-floor was shaking to the rhythm of a few drunk girls grinding to Whitesnake or something. I don’t really remember, I was in drink mode and these bartenders, while friendly, were not able to keep up. So there we went, off to the SSMF beer garden. We paid $6 for some plastic cups of Bud Light and another $6 for a lukewarm veggie burger. Then we met up with a couple friends that both wore hats. That last sentence is unnecessary but it’s staying.
We were not there for the cuisine or to taste barley and hops from across the globe, we were there to see Slash, Fergie (I was pretty sure she was making an appearance,) the Smashing Pumpkins, and also to discover some new local talent. Before long it was Slash time.
We all know very well that Slash is amazing. I should mention it again because it was his name on the program: Slash is amazing. Slash used to be amazing, Slash is still amazing, Slash will continue to be amazing. That said, Myles Kennedy is also amazing. That dude can sing. It’s amazing what an actual singer can do when there is no LSD (Lead Singer’s Disease) erasing his will to rock. Myles Kennedy hit notes that Axl probably took 20 takes to hit back in 1987. Myles Kennedy: Wikipedia that guy, he is something else. Looking all Ethan Hawke and singing like recording-studio-Axl meets Chris Cornell. You can probably tell how shocked I am to go to a rock show and hear a guy hit notes. It’s rare. Right? Yeah.
Hey you know who else will blow you away live? Fergie. Fergie, yes Black Eyed Peas, Fergilicious, FERGIE. Damn that lady is on fire. Slash set the bar high, Myles exceeded expectations by myles ( <– check that out), and Fergie lit the entire west side of the Sunset Strip Music Festival on fire. She sang Beautiful Dangerous, her contribution to Slash’s first solo album, then Heart’s Barracuda, and then closed with Paradise City. This woman is crazed. Have you ever seen Ann Wilson do cartwheels in leather pants? No you have not (wait, have you?) Fergie belted out all those Ann Wilson vocals AND did cartwheels in leather pants. Imma Be looking that up on YouTube:
After Slash’s set we headed to The Roxy where we caught Wicker. When I saw their street team waving around signs for Wicker I felt like they’d be some kinda Pier 1 Imports-themed band, but NO these guys were all early NIN meets Chemlab, meets other bands from the 90′s that had haircuts that made me think they had violent opinions about politics. These guys were great, very entertaining. The white picket fence around the keyboards made me feel at home while at the same time, very far away from home.
After Wicker we headed back onto the strip and bought a pretzel.
After watching Kid Cudi open up with the intro of Pink Floyd’s “In the Flesh” I decided that was as good as that was going to get so I headed back to the West stage to see my Smashing Pumpkins. I’m pretty sure at this point they’re mine. Billy Corgan and Co. are a smart people: They know some drunk people holding themselves up on the Sunset Strip by leaning against a tree or police officer have no idea the band went through a huge lineup change and are currently releasing new music. The Pumpkins carefully constructed a set that included lots of old favorites like Today, Hummer, Tonight Tonight, Bullet With Butterfly Wings, 1979, and Zero while also throwing in some newer songs like Song For A Son to keep themselves and the real hardcore fans happy. It was a perfect set, the highlight being when Billy took the time to list his influences that had frequented the Sunset Strip in the past, including a shout out to “Guns n’ Fuckin’ Roses.” Awesome.
After the Pumpkins we headed back to the Roxy and caught Audible Mainframe, a super-amazing band that you should pack up and go see right now. Go knock on their door, they seem like the kinda guys that will play a show anytime, anywhere. Tell them LAist sent you (just in case they’re not the kinda guys that will play a show anytime, anywhere.) I soon learned that even before my ears had a chance to decide they loved Audible Mainframe’s music, my brain was already convinced because somehow I had been slipped the knowledge that these fellas packed up and left Boston for Los Angeles, JUST LIKE ME. These guys are my brothers. We are best friends. They don’t know it yet, but I do. Audible Mainframe: you don’t come up with a smart name like that in Los Angeles, you import smart names like that.
After the Roxy we headed upstairs to On the Rox, which was great because I. Love. Puns.
Next stop, The Cat Club, a place that has messaged my old band’s MySpace page numerous times asking us to play even though all of the members are currently living 3,000 miles east of here. This place was the hot, sweaty, rock-powered mess that you’re supposed to experience on the Sunset Strip. We caught the end of San Diego band Dirty Sweet’s set, which was great . I think they even had a second set to play later in the night somewhere inland. These guys are troopers.
Highlight of the night: Adler’s Appetite at the Whiskey A Go Go. Holy balls, considering the fact that Axl is years past being able to sing a line without gasping for breath, original GnR drummer Steven Adler’s Appetite For Destruction cover band is the closest you’re going to get to hearing those songs the way they were meant to be played. Steven was psyched, the crowd was psyched, and I was psyched because I hung out til past midnight to hear what I was sure was going to be a sad cover band but what turned out to be an awesomefest.
I wish the Sunset Strip Music Festival was every weekend. I loved being able to wander in and out of clubs discovering new music all night. That is the way it is supposed to be, stumbling around on a weekend night and happening upon some band that just hits you the right way. That’s the way people used to be exposed to new bands. It was nice to remember a time when you didn’t need a production crew and a viral video to make some new fans. If there are ever any other “one price gets you into all these clubs” events on the Sunset Strip, TELL ME. I will be there.
Also, I thought the pretzel was pretty good but the girlfriend thought it was just ok.