Although Los Angeles’ Sunset Strip is most infamous for the rock & roll debauchery of the ’80s when bands like Guns n’ Roses, Motley Crue and Poison roamed the L.A. streets in leather and hairspray, the Strip has also fostered artists like Nat King Cole and Marilyn Monroe, and served as the playground for the Doors and Janis Joplin. It’s this rich and diverse history that was honored at the first Sunset Strip Music Festival this weekend.
The festivities kicked off Thursday night with a tribute at the House of Blues honoring the Godfathers of the Strip: Lou Adler (the Roxy), Mario Maglieri (the Whisky A Go Go, the Rainbow Bar & Grill) and Elmer Valentine (Whisky, Roxy, Rainbow). Sugar Ray frontman and Access Hollywood host Mark McGrath emceed the event with presenters like Slash, Michelle Phillips of the Mamas and the Papas and Cheech and Chong, while Camper Van Beethoven, Soul Asylum and Everclear performed. “The fact that the Rainbow is the longest standing rock & roll institution in the world and is still thereâ€¦ deserves props,” said Slash, introducing Maglieri. Slash then recalled fond memories of dressing in drag in his mother’s clothing to sneak into the Rainbow for ladies’ night since his fake ID wasn’t working. “It was fun, until I found myself standing in the Rainbow in girls’ clothing by myself. It was a novel idea at the time.” Michelle Phillips, who introduced Valentine, also had fond memories of the early days of the Strip: “There aren’t music scenes that this today, so it’s really important to honor such a meaningful scene that these three guys created.”
Other highlights of the three-day fest included Friday night’s B-Real show at the Whisky A Go-Go with special guest Slash, who put the crowd into a frenzy for the set’s two closing songs, the Cypress Hill hit “Rock Superstar” and Gn’R’s “Paradise City.” The show brought out rockers, rappers and members of the local fire department who snapped photos, flashed metal horns in the air and blatantly ignored the clouds of pot smoke filling up the air. One firefighter who asked to remain nameless summed up the event: “This is what the Strip is about.”