The revamped Sunset Strip Music Festival ( with a blocked off Sunset Strip between San Vicente and Doheny) showed there is always room for another massive rock festival in Los Angeles. One week after the extremely indie oriented FYF Festival ringed 10,000 turnstiles in Chinatown, SSMF matched that total with a decidedly more mainstream lineup, headlined by the America’s favorite Prince of Darkness himself Ozzy Osbourne. Going in, I wasn’t a fan of most of the main stage bands, but since there were 40 bands and 2 nights worth of shows at all of the Sunset Strip clubs—even The Comedy Store—I knew if I looked hard enough, I’d find a lot to keep me happy, and then of course you have Ozzy to cap it off. I honestly didn’t expect much from the metal legend turned television star, but I am happy to say that Ozzy is still fucking awesome! He opened his one-hour set with an energized version of “I Don’t Know,” and he looked fit and happy, and his vocals sounded great. He played a few Sabbath classics like “War Pigs” and “Paranoid” and a bunch of his solo favorites. He hosed the crowd down several times with foam fire retardant. I got nailed, and I was a good 20 yards away. I saw one dude perched in a tree yell to his friend who was standing next to me that this show was his personal rock and roll moment, just as Ozzy nailed him square in the face with the foam like he was an anarchist at a WTO rally. Man, that was the funniest thing I’ve seen in a long time, and it made his final two songs (the new stuff, Ugh!) go by a lot faster. It was really neat seeing the crowd on the hill between Key Club and Bank of America and on top of the B of A parking lot. Ozzy said that he is bringing back Ozzfest, and he will be performing on the tour next year. He’s definitely still worth checking out.
As for the festival itself, I would definitely consider it a success. There were at least 10,000 people there, and the layout of the Strip, the set times, and the overall logistics of the festival were superbly executed. I never had a difficult time working from one end of the Strip to the other. When I got hot, I would check out bands in the clubs. I must say here, that I would actually try to get out of the clubs within a half-song of most of these bands who were really, REALLY bad. To me, this element of the show re-enforced the image of Sunset Strip as the Pay to Play capitol of the world, and I think the event would have benefited by adding some of the great bands from the Silverlake/Echo Park scene that is located a mere 5 miles down the road. I walked into The Whiskey for the first time in over ten years, thought to myself, “Wow, they have a great set up, I wish they had good shows here again.” Then some lame rich-kid band from one of the Valleys went into some lame rap-rock crap that drove me back into the street and the heat within 45 seconds.
Nico Vega had a really strong set. I’m not a big fan of their songs which are kind of a second-hand Yeah Yeah Yeahs, but they put on an interesting live show. They held the people who entered to escape the heat, and by the end of their set—which was at the same time as Korn and LMFAO playing the outdoor main stages—they had a packed Roxy totally into singer Aja Volkman’s spastic gypsy dance routines. I caught Japanese legends Glay (23 million records sold in Japan!) at the House of Blues after Ozzy’s set, and they actually had a greater command of their crowd than Ozzy did at the main stage. Of course, the entire crowd was Japanese. I tried walking into the pit, and I felt like I was seven feet tall. People were hanging off the rafters and girls were crying. The band was a cross between Guns and Roses, Jonas Brothers and Queen. I have no idea what they were singing about, since it was entirely in Japanese, but I like to think the songs were about hard drugs and hookers. Sometimes, the audience would wave and move in perfect synchronicity. The lead guitarist looks like a space-age anime Nick Rhodes, but he played that noisy Melt Banana style guitar breaks into his glam boogie foundation. I think I like 2 or 3 songs. One of them I named “Hai Mojito.” It was probably named something else. They yelled it a lot. I hope it doesn’t mean friendship bracelet in Japanese. I’m glad I saw them. It was like traveling to Japan and seeing a show, except that I wasn’t afraid of going to jail for smoking pot in public, because West Hollywood is enlightened, and they don’t arrest people for smoking pot there.
As for the other main stage acts, Korn doesn’t work for me in middle age (mine or theirs), Pepper had an enthusiastic crowd, but I didn’t last 3 songs. Hot women in bikini tops like LMFAO, and that is probably the best thing about that band. I am not embarrassed to say, I like Shwayze; Ok, well, maybe, a little bit. If The Donnas were guys, they wouldn’t have any purpose. Coffee Bean gave out free coffee and Frappacinos all day, which was awesome, so even though I was dehydrating myself, I was still able to maintain a rapid heartbeat. I ate at least a dozen free Soy Joy energy bars, and they didn’t make me sick. I took a box home with me also.
Overall, it was really cool seeing the Sunset Strip shut down, and I think that while the Festival was a success as a draw, I don’t think it will increase traffic to the Sunset Strip, because ultimately nobody wants to deal with high costs for parking or drinks and admission to see bands that aren’t worth the transaction, and unfortunately that’s the majority of the local action. The Roxy actually does a good job with booking good local and national acts, but clubs like The Whiskey and The Key Club I’ll skip until next year’s festival.