Getting It On & Taking It Off – Sunset Strip Music Festival 2009

The crazy train has left the station…and either you were on it or you’ll have to wait until next year’s local trip.

The Sunset Strip, long a place where spandex covered dinosaurs crawled between the Rainbow and the Whiskey has had a resurgence, mostly due to Roxy owner Nic Adler’s social media make over experiment. His crazy communist manifesto of community based music and entertainment has created an alliance with the Viper Room, the Andaz Hotel, The Comedy Store and a few other hot spots. Their online presence,  from tweet crawls to ticket twofer giveaways, has lured hipsters back to the place where rock music once reigned. The fact that the Sunset Strip has gotten it’s own music festival, now in it’s second year, shows that the Strip’s death rattle has reversed course and the infamous piece of WeHo history begun a little rock renaissance. And this year’s renaissance faire got the go ahead to shut down the boulevard to honor the Prince of Darkness himself, Ozzy Osbourne.

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The festival kicked off with a big tribute to Ozzy at the House of Blues, which funnily enough for a frenzy of social media mavens, seemed to be a twitter dead zone. The night was MC’ed by Billy Morrison who was most memorable for his cheekbones which could cut glass. There was a pre-taped congrats from Lemmy…uh, what, he couldn’t stumble from the Rainbow-only mere yards up the strip-to say it in person?

Brought up to roast/honor Ozzy were comedian Jim Norton, who showed a slide show of mainly photos of himself with famous people (yawn). Then followed a spirited anecdote from Henry Rollins about underestimating the roar of an Ozzy crowd. Next up was an unfathomable speech of nonsense from Tommy Lee about drinking his own urine (Ugh, Tommy). Nothing much interesting from Slash – just a tale of  listening to Iron Man on acid.  Slash, we really want you to lead us here. You are positioning yourself as a rock hero and guitar legend. Let’s work on the public speaking charisma, dude. If you’re going to wear the Monopoly top hat, then let’s act like the mayor of Guitarville, mkay?

And theeeeen what followed, what I was really curiously waiting for, a few quips from Billy Bob Thornton.

Now Billy Bob was an interesting choice for a few reasons…one: I was hoping he’d do the whole speech in his Sling Blade voice and then he and Ozzy could have an unintelligible-off.  Two: Now being known as a ‘musician’,  I am obsessed with him wanting to give any kind of speech after he completely melted down on a CBC radio show. If there was ever an awkward music interview, Billy Bob takes the cake. I have a sick, twisted desire to interview him and let the train derail and then sort through the wreckage. Oh please, pr gods.

Though I do have to give him credit for mentioning Sharon. He was the only one to say that if we were all honoring Ozzy, we also had to honor the woman who made Ozzy possible. Never would have pegged you for a feminist, Mr. Thornton, but kudos and a plate of french fried potaters to you, sir.

The plaque ceremony and photo op with a quick “I love you all!” from Ozzy, was followed by a performance from Camp Freddy.  I couldn’t help thinking that for Ozzy, this must be like watching a bunch of his friends do karaoke. Sober.

With a couple fun softball performances from Donovan Leitch and some hot rocking blasts from best Freddy member Franky Perez, they bring out Mark fucking McGrath from Sugar Ray. Yeah, the host of that cheeze wiz entertainment show. Either Mark is going grey, or he overdid it on the frosted tips just for this occasion. Doesn’t he have some McG beach blanket music video shoot to go host? He pointed up to Ozzy in the balcony and said “Ozzy, my brother, this goes out to you from Newport Beach!” And then he began to butcher ‘Cat Scratch Fever’. It’s at that point I had to leave. Come to think of it, the balcony seats emptied out pretty quickly too. CAMP FREDDY FAIL.

Friday was reserved for the big Andaz Hotel party and the House of Blues Rock N Roll wine tasting event. I was lucky enough to be staying at the Andaz, which is quite plush since it’s remake, but still underneath has a bit of that riot house/Hyatt house vibe.

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With guests like Ozzy staying there too, it had to still have that edge under all the class. The Virgin America/Andaz party boasted a red carpet event up by the rooftop pool with the promise of a few performances, including one by Chris Cornell who had been strangely left off all the set list time announcements. (Was Cornell forced from the festival by the Osbourne train or did he bow out on his own accord?) Although Chris made an appearance to shake some hands and pose for pictures, he didn’t perform, which prompted me to put forth divorce proceedings. The gorgeous hotel view skyline and ample cocktails made for a fun evening, even when an Aussie actor ambushed my camera techniques and turned the tables on me…

The day of the festival was bright and sunny with everyone in hot anticipation for Ozzy’s big performance. The music kicked off with spirited performances from The Donnas and Fishbone.

credit: eric voake
credit: eric voake

As the afternoon wore on and clothes were stripped off, Shiny Toy Guns played a very low key quiet set…(did they think they were playing for KCRW?) and Korn played angry head banging anthems proving that they lost one too many games of dungeons and dragons when they were kids. I skipped festival favorites Nico Vega to catch Brooklyn’s best, Earl Greyhound, whose new material shows a maturity yet they still know how to kick out the jams.

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At last, I settled with my VIP vetted friends on the Bank of America parking lot roof and awaited the crazy train. Ozzy took the stage in front of a mass of all ages – toddlers to senior citizens. And hie performance was pleasing to all. Despite lobbing the f word here and there and hosing people down with foam, it was essentially a good, clean, tame Ozzy (minus Harriet) show. As Thornton had said earlier “Who says the Prince of Darkness can’t be a nice guy?”.

credit: Eric Voake
credit: Eric Voake

Here’s some choice moments and interviews with The Donnas, Iglu & Hartly, Norwood of Fishbone and The Mashup Brothers:

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