LIVE REVIEW: Sunset Strip Music Festival 8/28/2010
For the record, Common is one of the best live performers I have ever seen.Â That’s saying quite a bit seeing as how I have been to literally thousands of live shows in my life. More on Common in a minute. First, let’s set the scene.
Saturday’s Sunset Strip Music Festival was a great time for all who came out to see an eclectic mix of rock, pop, and hip-hop. My friends and I decided to forgo the parking and traffic nightmare that would inevitably put a damper on our trip, so we four cabbed it over from my Beverly Hills residence. At 3 dollars a head it was a no-brainer. We arrived to a very long line, but thanks to the lovely, accommodating, professional staff and security, we were able to get in and enjoy the people-watching, street food, and dueling outdoor stages.
We surveyed the setup and settled on the East Stage which featured Saint Motel, Big B, Neon Trees, Semi Precious Weapons, Common, and Kid Cudi. Along the south side of Sunset Blvd booths featuring the 98.7FM live radio broadcast, the Vitamin Water photo booth, the MINI display (featuring two minis), and several other sponsors served as a great place to stop by and get free stuff before heading to the beer garden and then the East Stage.
From our shady spot on the north side of the street, just outside Frankie & Johnnies Pizza, we watched as techs struggled to get the sound onstage up to par for the live drummer, keyboardist, and DJ. We repeatedly heard requests to get the monitors going and make sure the DJ was included in them. When the set start time came and went, the performers decided to just get going so the crowd could get the full show. Common came out in full force, with high energy and doing the entire set without monitors. At the midway point between a collection of hits from his BE and Finding Forever albums, he launched into I Used to Love H.E.R. his famous tribute to hip-hop. It was further enhanced by an additional PAIR of tributes to hip-hop: the first being a medley of great hip-hop hooks and the second, a 6 minute freestyle calling out sponsors, fellow performers, and West Coast/Sunset Strip greats as well as President Obama. The set wouldn’t be complete without a dedication to his fallen friend J Dilla, who he said, “loved Los Angeles” and a stirring rendition of “The Light” with long-time friend and collaborator, Bilal.
When they left the stage, we headed over to The Roxy to check out the VIP lounge at On The Rox and grab some grub at the Grilled Cheese Truck, one of the many famous food trucks on hand to serve the masses.
We caught the last few minutes of Slash and Fergie‘s set including “Barracuda” and “Paradise City” before it was time to get a good spot for The Smashing Pumpkins.
The Smashing Pumpkins (now Billy Corgan and a whole new cast of characters: Mike Byrne, Jeff Schroeder, and Nicole Fiorentino) took the stage and opened with Teargarden Kaleidyscope track “Astral Planes.” The set list was comprised of songs from most of the band’s legacy albums as well as the newer tracks. The sound was exceptional for a street stage and the mix lent itself to the music of the Pumpkins’ distinct style. A humble Billy Corgan read aloud a list of L.A. musicians, most of whom got their start on the Sunset Strip, to whom he played his own tribute. Wailing guitars and Billy’s nasally howl took us all back to the 90s as a noticeably older than 25 year old crowd hovered closer and closer to the stage. The straggling teenagers making their way over from the late-finishing Kid Cudi set hung out in the back and seemed to be discovering these sounds for the first time. Perhaps they were recognizing the familiar t-shirts peppering the audience from Scott Pilgrim vs. the World or maybe they thought they heard one of their favorite bands of the day onstage. Either way the crowd swelled and grew until the final song when all were dancing and shouting “Emptiness is loneliness and loneliness is cleanliness and cleanliness is godliness and god is empty just like me.”
The peaceful crowd moved into the rest of the venues still hosting events well into the night: The Roxy Theatre, The Viper Room, Cat Club, Whisky A Go-Go, and the Key Club. The sun and the long day proved to be too much for me and my crowd so we walked a few blocks down from the big party and caught a cab back home.
If you are a music fan with an eclectic music collection, a wild wardrobe, and an open mind, you would have thoroughly enjoyed this festival. The growing success of the Strip businesses partly due to their leader, Nic Adler owner of The Roxy Theatre and partly due to the support of the local community means they show no signs of stopping their steady upward movement. There will no doubt be a SSMF next year and I would anticipate a swirl of great shows in the fall season from these terrific venues. The area continues to reinvent itself, so the next time you’re in L.A., don’t forget there’s always a party on the Strip!
The Smashing Pumpkins – Sunset Strip Music Fest Setlist
As Rome Burns
A Song for a Son
Bullet with Butterfly Wings
That’s the Way (My Love Is)
Stand Inside Your Love