Why I Love WeHo #3: Sunset Strip Music FestivalBy: Brittany Nicole La Hue
Summer is the perfect time for concerts and music festivals. After all, the sunny days and warm breezy nights, combined with the extra free time that summer often allows us makes for the perfect music recipe. And what better place to enjoy some great tunes than the legendary location where so many famous names got their start, on The Sunset Strip in West Hollywood?
This year marked the fifth anniversary of the Sunset Strip Music Festival (SSMF), held every summer on The Sunset Strip. Originally a small affair, the festival has expanded into a 3-day celebration of rock’s greatest names and coolest up-and-comers.
This year’s concert kicked off Thursday, August 16 at the House of Blues Sunset Strip honoring special guests, The Doors! After speeches by longtime Doors fan Marilyn Manson and city officials, members Ray Manzarek and Robby Krieger performed their first live show in forty years!
Jack Daniels, a long-time sponsor of The Sunset Strip, sponsored the event and kept attendees’ drinks refreshed.
Friday was a night of club events: all down The Strip, festival attendees could witness their favorite rockers in the music venues.
The main event came on Saturday, August 18 with the all-day street festival! The Strip was closed on Sunset from San Vicente to Doheny, and revelers filled the space in between. With 2 stages at either end of the venue, a 98.7 FM Stage and 3 clubs holding concerts (The Roxy Theatre, Whisky A Go-Go and Key Club), there was no shortage of musical acts to enjoy.
On the main stages, a lineup of bands Dead Sara, Black Label Society, The Mowgli’s, De La Soul, T. Mills, Bad Religion and The Offspring led up to main headliners Steve Aoki and Marilyn Manson.
I arrived a little bit after the start of the festival, hoping to make the most of a full day of music. The stages were over an hour delayed, and in the confusion I opted to search for shade from the hot midday sun. There were several VIP areas to escape to, including one above Bank of America and by the West Stage. More Jack Daniels products plus a full bar were supplemented by free Vitamin Water and Vitamin Water Zero. However, without sufficient shade or seating, I decided enjoying a good meal and a cold drink at the Rainbow Bar & Grill was a better idea.
After a delicious grilled cheese sandwich and Jager + Monster in a legendary venue, it was time to hear some music! Emily Armstrong of Dead Sara’s voice carried all down the street, and while I have never been a fan of heavy rock or wailing, her voice gave me the chills. She is so good at controlling it, and in some songs she reminded me of one of my favorite artists, Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. On the East Stage, T. Mills put on a great show and was more of my kind of music. Mixing a touch of rock with some hip-hop, T. Mills had quite the responsive crowd of girls that he was incessantly hitting on.
Back at the West Stage, my boyfriend bonded with some fellow Orange County-ers who had specifically travelled to West Hollywood to see local band The Offspring and were also catching San Fernando Valley locals Bad Religion. Both groups definitely had a visible following show up to SSMF, and it was inspiring to see Bad Religion’s members going gray and balding but still rocking out as hard as ever. The crowd was building so much by this point that I was grateful for the large projector screens by each stage that showed close-ups of the performances.
Unfortunately for me, a Far East Movement fan, the band suffered flight delays and didn’t arrive in time to play their set during the day. (They went on at 12:30 am at the Whisky A Go-Go instead). This made the wait for Steve Aoki (one of my favorite artists) even harder!
But once he came on stage, it was clear that the wait was totally worth it. Steve Aoki launched straight into “Turbulence,” his song with Lil Jon…who also promptly joined him on stage! This great surprise became even better when Lil Jon sprayed two bottles of champagne into the crowd, getting everyone hyped up for what would prove to be a show-stealing set. Over the course of the night, Aoki was joined by guests Will.I.Am of solo fame and the Black Eyed Peas and Travis Barker, drummer of Blink-182 who somehow awesomely found a way to drum to House music. Four regular birthday cakes, 2 bottles of champagne, gallons of red and orange heart and leaf confetti and a festivalgoer on a blow-up raft also managed to make their way off stage and into the waiting crowd.
But the literal icing on the cake was what Aoki did to celebrate recently gaining his one millionth Facebook fan – a nosedive right into a 400-pound birthday cake! After an unsuccessful handstand attempt the artist decided to simply throw handfuls of the cake at fans instead. It was one incredibly messy yet epic performance, and I’m still stoked to have gotten the opportunity to see Steve Aoki live!
The good thing about the set scheduling at SSMF is that no one was due to play at the East Stage while Marilyn Manson was playing at the West Stage, ensuring that all festival-goers could see the headlining act. The crowd was huge, especially for such a controversial artist. But even I, the opposite of a heavy rock fan, was intrigued to see the enigma that was Marilyn Manson live.
In between all of his unnecessary talk about drugs (who is taking them, who isn’t taking them, who should take them to be more energetic at his show) I enjoyed the performance. Being late to the opening and therefore stuck in the back of the throng, I couldn’t hear the lyrics. But the beats were good and all the costumed partiers were certainly entertaining to see, especially for how into the show they got. However, at a certain point, the after parties at music venues like On the Rox and Key Club appealed to me more and I headed over.
The Led Zeppelin cover band at Key Club was actually one of the highlights of my day. They were really talented and the crowd was super into it.
Although the after parties ran until 2 am, the exhaustion from a full day of sun and fun began to set in around 12:30 and I dragged my sore feet home. SSMF was definitely an amazing end to my summer and I can’t wait to see what big names they get next year!
Tags: music scene , sunset strip , things to do , why i love weho