Tuesday, September 7, 2010


Nikki & Rich performs at The Roxy during the Sunset Strip Music Festival.
photos by picksysticks

Last Saturday was the big finale of the third annual Sunset Strip Music Festival. The lineup so big, the Sunset Strip had to be closed to hold top acts like caged animals - Neon Trees, Semi Precious Weapons, Common, Kid Cudi, Slash, Fergie – all there to keep the 30,000 in attendance at bay for the festival's headliner – The Smashing Pumpkins. Billy Corgan gave the fans what they wanted, a 90-minute set of hard rock, screeching guitars and loud music that would've made the ghosts of the Sunset Strip proud. It was a night sure to added to the many legendary stories of the famed Sunset Strip.

It began much earlier in the day, anticipation of the unexpected. The Sunset Strip, the Mecca of rock and roll had given up its musical throne to the likes of Silverlake and Echo Park. Three days. Two outdoor stages. Five venues. Over 100 bands. The SSMF was built to take the crown back and return the Strip to its past glory.

The Strip, helping shape the musical careers of The Doors, Guns n' Roses, The Byrds and Alice Cooper was also instrumental in the careers of other musicians. When girl-fronted bands were just seen as novelty acts, The Sunset Strip helped launched the careers of bands like The Runaways, The Go Go's and The Bangles.

Queen Caveat performs at The Viper Room on the last day of The Sunset Strip Music Festival.
photo by Picksyticks

The women who were able to crash this male-heavy lineup proved they belonged on The Strip, rocking all three days of the festival which saw the likes of Beth Hart, The Shakers, Cherri Bomb and Nico Vega. And on the final day of the festival, there was no slowing down for the girls.

Monte Carlo's Star 98.7's sponsored media lounge at The Viper offered performances and live interviews throughout the day. Queen Caveat, scheduled to play later in the night at 11:30 pm, played a toned down set in front of the media. Queen Caveat seemed like a deer in headlights in front of hundreds of camera flash bulbs and buzz of interviews in the background. At night, a totally different band took the stage on the dark recess of a dim stage. And what a difference between night and day makes for this four-piece band from Los Angeles. Instead of flash bulbs, an intense spotlight carved them out of the darkness. Queen Caveat's adrenalin fueled performance was throttled by spark-plug front-woman Lauren Little. This was their element. And this late-night show a more fitting time for their dark and sultry melodies. As people scattered to their cars after The Smashing Pumpkins electrifying set, Queen Caveat served to fill the void for those not ready to go home.

HDR performs at The Cat Club during The Sunset Strip Music Festival.
photo by picksysticks

HDR was a two-piece band playing an early set out of The Cat Club. Spending many a nights on the Sunset Strip, adjusting to HDR heart-pounding bass and drums took awhile. It just didn't seem right. Maybe it was the bright afternoon sunlight flushing in every time someone opened and walked through the door. No coffee needed this early in the day, vocalist and bassist Amy Tung breathed life into me and found my pulse like a defibrillator and I quickly head-banged through their entire set. It was great start to the day. HDR took no prisoners, slapping the crowd silly like a no-holds barred sledgehammer beating them senseless. To my surprise, at the end of the set, Amy revealed that their lead singer/guitarist Joe Mora couldn't make it. And to that, I say, "Who needs him?" Amy and drummer John Lord held their own and didn't miss a beat. But to be fair, I came home and listened to their studio recordings (with Mora) and was actually pleased by what I heard. HDR is definitely worth a second viewing with full band in tow.

Next up was The Roxy. Unfortunately, The Roxy was running an hour and a half behind schedule. Those who packed the club to see L.A. based Nikki and Rich had to wait almost two hours until they took the stage. Those who couldn't wait left to watch Slash tear it up with Fergie on the West Outdoor Stage. But those who remained were treated to Nikki and Rich's soulful/pop inspired melodies. Inspired by pop, hip-hop, R&B and classic '60's girl groups, Nikki & Rich bring fun back into music bringing to mind the sounds of Adele, Amy Winehouse and Duffy. In a festival that heavily featured hard rock, Nikki & Rich were a true standout dubbed the most anticipated new duo in music. Songs from their debut album, "Everything," released last month has been burning up the airwaves and already found placement on numerous television shows and films. When curtains lowered on Nikki & Rich, those who stayed to catch this amazing performance realized it was well worth the wait.

Which leads us to Slash, the honoree of the Festival. Playing with Myles Kennedy, special guest Fergie joined them onstage to sing super-charged renditions of Barracuda and Paradise City. Later, they gave way to Billy Corgan and his Smashing Pumpkins who proved that they're as strong as ever, hard as ever and exciting as ever, delivering a 90-minute, 17 songs set to close the night.

Nikki & Rich's Nikki Leonti performs at The Roxy during the Sunset Strip Music Festival.
photos by picksysticks

If The Sunset Strip Music Festival's goal was to promote The Strip's legacy and continued relevance, then this year's festival went beyond that, reminding people that The Sunset Strip and Los Angeles is still the music capital of the world, a breeding ground for up and coming artists. The three-day event merely awoke a sleeping giant from years of slumber.

Fans gather to watch honoree Slash perform with Fergie.
photos by picksysticks