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Paradise City: Take Me Down To It and Keep Me There

Slash on the Red CarpetWell it’s been a little over a month since the 3rd Annual Sunset Strip Music Festival and if you’re like me, you’re probably still reeling from some of the best performances of the decade; Slash, Fergie, rapper Big B, raucous Justin Tranter of Semi Precious Weapons—crowd surfing and spraying the audience with champagne—up and coming indie rockers Saint Motel—(one of my favorite bands, BTW) just tearing it up on the East Stage, and another fave, hard-rocking Hillbilly Herald; fronted by Jimmy Herald—the quintessential showman. Even though the SSMF is over, there are several pieces of good news here. 1) There’s always next year to look forward to, 2) thanks to Youtube, you can see a lot of what you missed as it’s hard to be at four stages at once and 3) Slash is coming to the HOB Sunset in a mere few days. So relax.

Saint Motel on the Red CarpetIf perchance you didn’t attend, what follows is my three-part series of escapades; debauchery and a behind-the-scenes look at arguably the most notable music festival to hit Southern California. The 3-day extravaganza kicked off August 26, 2010, Thursday evening with a Tribute to Slash at the HOB on what could be described as the shortest red carpet in industry history. But no matter, journalists and TV crews assembled themselves waiting for the evening’s guest of honor, Slash. Typically at these events you’re presented with a call sheet; one that provides a current picture of the talent slated to arrive along with their name and most recent credits but this was not the case. And so, the most repeated phrases of the evening were, “Who’s that?†and “Who cares, it’s not Slash.â€

First to arrive: a who-cares, all-girl, teenybopper band. First to arrive of any interest: The David George Band. I’ll admit it; I am a sucker for good-looking guys and they are eye-candy all the way, so I’m hoping they sound as good as they look. There’s nothing worse than being attracted to the boys in a band and discovering that their music blows. [Note: since this printing, I had a chance to see the band as they came off their month-long residency at the Cat Club. And yes, David George’s music (think Crowded House with a Neil Diamond-like crooner), lives up to the band’s sex appeal—keep them on your radar.] Drummer Kelly King’s been in the D.G. band for the past year and tells me he’s most excited about seeing his buddy, drummer Kenny Aronoff. “We live in the same building and we never get to see each other.â€

And then as if perfectly cued, up strides Kenny Aronoff who has played with the likes of Lynyrd Skynyrd, Jon Bon Jovi, Bob Segar and of course one of the SSMF’s headlining bands; The Smashing Pumpkins. Aronoff is currently working as MMI’s head studio drummer and partner on an iPhone app, that he says, “Makes it possible for people to be involved with their favorite artists.†Aronoff plays drums for the music team assembled by COO of Fried Green Apps and music producer Brian Smith—responsible for creating a new music format that does not require new hardware or software to be utilized. The music team is comprised of, Chris Chaney bass (Jane’s Addiction), Russ Irwin keys (Aerosmith), Phil X guitars (multiple bands) and Jim Monti engineer (KoRn).

Singer Taylor Swift was the first to sign on to the technology. Her app allows users to create their own mixes of various versions of her songs. “We create alternative versions of great music, everything from Ozzy to Soundgarden to Jonas Brothers,†explains Aronoff. “There are acoustic versions, rock versions as well as original.†Mix Me In has also created the MID (music interface device) being developed by John Kasha of Kasha Amplifiers. The MID is MMI’s effects pedal that enables users to plug in their guitar, bass or keyboards and then connect the box to their iPhone or computer which allows them to track their own processed vocals or instruments to create personalized mixes. The pedals will be available at Guitar Center starting in 2011. [Note: a more in-depth article on the Mix Me in2 App and other MMI interactive technology to follow].

“The Sunset Strip is our home. We tour all the time so to come back and be part of this is really special,†says Albert of Warner Drive. [Warner Drive hits the tour circuit after the SSMF and returns mid-October.] Their favorite moment on the strip: “The guy on PCP I saw ten cops arrest one night,†jokes Albert. But the band concurs; their most amazing experience on the strip came on March 20, 2009—the first night they sold out the Roxy.

Acidic; a band from the Westside; gives out rubber wristbands…to anyone who will take them while delivering a rote spiel; time they’re on, where they’re playing, blah, blah, blah. [Note: By the time the SSMF is over I have 20 wristbands from Acidic and each time they’ve given me one they act as if it’s the first time we’ve met. Try to stay focused guys.]

Enter Head Cat: Lemmy Kilmister (Motorhead), Slim Jim Phantom (Stray Cats) and Danny B. Harvey (Lonesome Spurs). “It’s great to see the Sunset Strip opened up again, the way it was 30 or 40 years ago,†remarks Harvey. Phantom, who also owns the Cat Club adds, “The Strip is very special to me. I’ve lived here since the ‘80s; my kids have grown up here. To see it busy and packed and what it’s supposed to be is very important. It’s also great to be doing a show tonight for our buddy Slash.â€

Franky Perez, guitarist for Scars on Broadway adds, “People have been making and breaking it on this street for so long. There’s so much history. Everything you can possibly imagine has happened here. It’s great to finally put a name to it…â€

There aren’t many establishments that have managed to hold their own and remain at the forefront of the music scene, but several iconic clubs—The Roxy, The Whisky and the Viper Room and one bar; The Rainbow—always come to mind. The Roxy has seen the likes of iconic musicians and entertainers since it first opened its doors back in the 1970s so it’s no surprise its owner—Mr. Nic Adler—makes heads turn when he hits the carpet. Adler recounts a time he was 11 years old in his babysitter’s car; and she was playing her boyfriend’s demo tape. Her “boyfriend†was Izzy Stradlin from Guns N’ Roses and the song was “Welcome To The Jungle.†“I’ve grown up with Slash,†says Adler fondly.

Just then, Slash arrives. Okay, let’s be candid here, it’s bedlam. Remember I told you how this was the shortest red carpet? Well the dearth of properly cordoned off area to segregate talent from all others allows press to get in front of the ropes and spill onto that short red carpet. I’m literally, next to Slash at one point. I mean, if I wanted to I could stick my fingers in his curly locks—I restrain myself, of course. A more pressing issue (literally) is the female photog, with the biggest butt this side of the Mississippi, who has somehow managed to get between me and Slash. Each time I try to snap a shot she turns around at that precise moment and, “Bam!†I get tossed towards the ropes and a precariously placed tri-pod, causing me to nearly topple over. [I find out later she is the cause of dismay for more than several of us on the press line]. Slash who’s talking now, speaks so softly I can’t hear what he’s saying over the din and my tape recorder doesn’t pick up jack. Just as I’m about to move in for a question, security arrives and whisks him inside.

Now, in any other instance, I would be disappointed, but following on his heels are one of the best new indie bands to emerge on the music scene in a long, long time; and the only band to have the exclusive privilege of playing both the Sunset Junction (a prior festival) and the SSMF—this is of course Saint Motel. “It’s amazing to be a part of the festival. It’s an honor,†says drummer Greg Erwin. Saint Motel has been hard at work in the studio and will showcase a few new tunes in addition to current favorites. “We’ll be playing our classics. How long does a song have to be around to be a classic?†jokes Erwin. “A couple months?†I quip back. “Then we have eight classics!†laughs Erwin. Eight classics, indeed! For those of you who don’t know them yet, Saint Motel is the type of band you could see every night; each show would be a different, kinetic, auditory explosion. You remember Freshen Up gum, the gum you chew that squirts a flavorful treat in your mouth? Think of Saint Motel like that, surprisingly unexpected, wildly enticing and always the perfect blend of long lasting musical flavors. I can’t wait for their show.

Later, inside the House of Blues, 95.5 KLOS’s Jim Ladd emcees the proceedings. While drinks flow from an open bar (which I can’t enjoy because I’m in training) and hors d’oeuvres (also not part of my fitness plan) filter past, artists such as Motley Crue’s Nikki Sixx, Motorhead’s Lemmy Kilmister and Alice in Chains’ guitarist Jerry Cantrell take the stage offering kudos for their buddy Slash. Back in the crowd, press hover near the kitchen door inhaling the food—yes, of course the photog with the fat butt is there—and get antsy for the talking to stop and the show to begin. West Hollywood mayor John Heilman takes the stage, calling out all the artists, and together they present Slash with a plaque from the city deeming August 26, 2010, “Slash Day.â€

“This recognition means a lot to me. When I first moved to Los Angeles I was right in the middle of the Sunset Strip music scene…I was raised on the Troubadour, the Whisky, the Roxy, and the Rainbow of course. I picked up my first guitar in West Hollywood, and got my first record deal at Geffen on Sunset, everything important in my life started here. This is one of the most memorable events that I’ve ever been a part of. Thank you all very much,†says Slash eloquently as he accepts his award.

Slash is playing Tuesday, October 5, 2010 at the HOB on his “We’re All Gonna Die Tour†featuring: Myles Kennedy. This is your chance to see him play, and let me tell you, if you missed him at SSMF, you will not want to miss this gig.

Now, if someone had told me in the late 80s that Slash—hard rock’s exemplary bad boy, from one of the wildest, out-of-control bands to hit the Strip would one day be honored…and have his own, “day,†I would have laughed myself sick. But this is “Paradise City,†folks, “Where the grass is green and the girls are pretty.†This is where anything can happen. This place…this is home.

For more info on Slash’s upcoming show check out: www.houseofblues.com
For up and coming bands check out: www.SaintMotel.com, www.HillbillyHerald.com and www.davidgeorgeband.com

All photos by Taylor Van Arsdale
Reprinted with permission from www.Music-and-Mayhem.com

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