Wednesday, September 1, 2010

GIRLS RULE THE SUNSET STRIP MUSIC FESTIVAL: DAY 1

Beth Hart performs with Slash at The Whisky A Go-Go during the Sunset Strip Music Festival honoring Slash.
Beth Hart performs with Slash at The Whisky A Go-Go during the Sunset Strip Music Festival honoring Slash.
photographs by picksysticks

by JPegg

Beth Hart at The Whiskey A Go-Go was clearly the obvious headliner on the first night at Sunset Strip Music Festival 2010. Hands down, no argument. There were other concerts going on at the House of Blues, Key Club, The Viper Room, The Roxy, and Cat Club, but none near rival the magnitude of a set with her special guest, Slash.

It was a Thursday evening on The Strip, the painted black, music infested side. Slash was this year’s festival honoree. A red carpet arrival of rock legends and stars gathered at House of Blues for this special tribute. This launched the three day festival of rock that was held at six distinct music venues with two massive stages erected in the streets on Saturday that closed off part of Sunset Boulevard.


With so many bands overlapping each other, the difficulty was selecting which to cover, but the advertisements of Cherri Bomb on those Hollywood billboards decidedly peeked early interest. So it was first off to The Roxy Theater to watch them open for Filter.

Cherri Bomb is a foursome of tween girls that label themselves, “Rock’s New Generation”. Their band name revamps fascination back to thCherri Bomb's Julia Piercee all teen girl rock sensation of the late 70’s that were called The Runaways. “Cherry Bomb” was the hit single that shot this group to stardom, and now likely taken as this current band’s name to pay homage to the talented wild girls of adolescence and genre of music that they share in common. Cherri Bomb’s lead singer, Julia Pierce, in her full black hair and attire, even looked like a young spunky Joan Jett.

This new generation of youth girl rock may actually match and possibly exceed the talent and influential rock reckoning force of The Runaways. Here were these tough roses on rocks that could each kick Hannah Montana a few times around the playground. They looked dwarfed by their instruments, but when they played it was mind blasting. The show felt like a story line taken out of a movie like Freaky Friday. What rock star did these girls switch bodies with for this evening? Too skilled for school. This was not the typical sweet cutesy girl pop rock, this was full on rock & roll mayhem. Rock legends reincarnated into youth. Watching them felt like there was another band behind-the-scenes performing and these girls were just mimics, the stand-ins, the puppets. The incredible sound blasting from these four girls averaging only thirteen in age came off literally larger than life, almost superhuman. Unreal. Hello daddy, hello mom, hello world, here comes the new wicked Ch Ch Ch Ch Ch Cherri Bomb!

Rena of Cherri BombMiranda of Cherri Bomb
Cherri Bomb opens up for Filter at The Roxy on the first day of The Sunset Strip Music Festival.
photos by picksysticks


Next it was a venue hop to The Viper Room. Entrance is on the side of a hill, and going in leads through a narrow down slope corridor and then up a flight of stairs that spits into the rear of the crowd. It felt like an exclusive backdoor only club. The teens with their parents were not present. Here were the 21+ crowd of mellowed drinkers and casual talkers, a subtle, toned down relaxed mood before the show, an adult’s den, darker and more compact than the grazing spaciousness of The Roxy. An intimate gathering where the band plays on top of the audience. The Shakers were on next.

The Shakers performs at The Viper Room.
The Shakers performs at The Viper Room on day one of the Sunset Strip Music Festival.
photo by picksysticks


It was long due to get a live listen to vocalist Jodie Schell’s current band and new sound. She was former part vocalist, tambourine player, crowd hyper, fashioning her rainbow Punky Brewster appearance for the party pop band, The Automatic Music Explosion. More than a few years have passed since her Kiss or Kill nights with The AME at El Cid. Things have changed. She has matured.

When curtains rose for Schell and The Shakers this night, the rainbow girl was gone, with the exception of the familiar hot pink bangs. She stepped out of the smoke and lights clad in black, fitted tight to a vest. All grown-up now, the raggedy rainbow was now stream line and rock star slick. Her vocals reflected a grave maturity as well. Her sweet pink Poky Stick sound was no more. It was now a razor edge sword. Angry high pitched fine cut vocals that sheer smooth every verse. No jaggedness, no sloppiness, no lose ends, nothing soft loops about it, just straight, true, and precision sharp. She was accompanied by Chris Lee torturing up hell on guitar. He was so ravenous on the screaming strings that it was a strike first, strike back sword slashing of thin strings versus vocals. Each battle forged a song. Brad Lee on drums and Nick Woods on bass were mere undercurrents, seemingly present only to keep the steady rhythm. The live experiencing of The Shakers puts their recorded tracks to shame. Why does it often sound like girl rockers wear bunny ears and chew bubble gum when recording in the studio? This sudden fan of The Shakers should have started going to these shows over a year ago when they initially formed in the early part of 2009. They are for sure a must watch again.

Soon it was time to head to the main show at the Whisky A Go-Go. There had been a line going into the club all evening. After a half-hour of standing in the cool breeze, I was given a Jack Daniel’s stamp on the hand, and stepped into the past.

It was an odd chill to step inside, this being one of The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inducted landmark venues. This was where music greats got their start before they became legends. Two levels of simplicity in black viewing towards the corner stage. It felt like nothing had changed from the day it opened in 1964, a haunting museum coming to life in the after-hours of night. The stage of equipment waiting for the next band felt like anything could happen, even apparitions of Whisky past appearing seemed possible. Would it be The Doors, Buffalo Springfield, Love, Van Morrison, or Frank Zappa? There was a sudden hair raising breeze from behind that headed towards stage, then nothing, but felt like an eerie premonition of history about to happen again. Nobody seemed to notice as the crowd packed, turning the place into a sweat box.

The time was heading towards midnight when it did happen. The stage came to life with Beth Hart. There was something oddly familiar about her wavy dark hair and her look of a cold sweat natural beauty in recovery, but seeing the band turned everything back to normal, another venue, another show. The usual rainbow of lights waved down from above, the crowd got loud, and Beth Hart opened the set with an Aretha Franklin cover. It sounded of some good old Motown gospel soul. Little did I know she was conjuring up another soul as well.

Beth Hart
Beth Hart at the Whisky A Go-Go during the Sunset Strip Music Festival honoring Slash.
photos by picksysticks


After the first song, Beth Hart turned into Janis Joplin. That was the oddly familiar that she resembled in appearance. She now sounded like Joplin , too. Her vocals turned into that famously infamous voice of psychedelic blues rock parched by alcohol, drugs, and tired lungs in tar. It felt like I had become part of an audience witnessing first hand the live lost performance of Janis Joplin at Whisky A Go-Go. I had fallen back in time. Or somehow I was reliving somebody’s memory or stepped into a Joplin documentary I had seen earlier. Or was this just a movie set with Richard Donner getting started on his next film? Somehow, the past had come to life, and it was perfect for this historic venue.

Then something else happened.half way through the set. Slash took the stage. It looked like he stepped out from the 80’s with his Guns N’ Roses oil slick tire tread hair flowing out from under his black trademark curved out top hat. Janis Joplin and Slash together at Whisky A Go-Go, circa 2010. The awe was in applause. Slash was the real Slash, and Beth Hart was that amazing.

Slash and Beth Hart started with their song, “Mother Maria”. Hart on piano, while Slash on stool next to her, slowly waking up his guitar. Every note he played resonated emotion. It was like he was strumming the guitar and it responded with a gentle cooing. The guitar was a life of its own, and Slash was only tickling the baby to get it to sing. But the lullaby of politeness didn’t last long. Slash would soon slap that puppy awake, take it by the leash, and turn it mad dog frothing.

Beth Hart and Slash
Beth Hart and Slash at the Whisky A Go-Go during the Sunset Strip Music Festival honoring Slash.
photos by picksysticks

The encore performance took away the piano and stools, leaving Slash and Beth Hart open range to let wild: one song, twelve minutes of malicious metal, “I Don’t Need No Doctor” by Humble Pie. Frampton Comes Alive! He had to be feeling this performance where ever in the world he was. This show not only felt historic, it had epic appeal, a greater surprise than a reunion tour. Whatever I missed at Winterland ‘68 and on the Sunset Strip in the 80’s, I was seeing and feeling it here tonight, together. And this was only the end of day one of the three day experience at this year’s Sunset Strip Music Festival. More to come.

Beth Hart
Beth Hart at The Whisky A Go-G0 during the Sunset Strip Music Festival.
photos by picksysticks