It takes an event of great magnitude to entirely shut down a portion of the legendary Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood. Each year the Sunset Strip Music Festival does just that, and it accomplishes it in adrenaline-pumping fashion. This year’s street festival was no different, closing the street between San Vicente and Doheny Drive.
One stage on each end of the street, a beer garden, a Gibson guitar demonstration area and various food trucks comprised the outside portion of the festival while the Sunset Strip’s classic, iconic venues like Whiskey A Go-Go, The Roxy and the Key Club also featured performances by bands throughout the eight-hour day and night.
This year’s festival had one theme in mind: a tribute to the very band that got its start in those clubs — Mötley Crüe. Celebrating their 30th anniversary as a band, the ’80s classic rockers (Vince Neil on vocals, Nikki Sixx on bass, Mick Mars on guitar and Tommy Lee on drums) were present to perform, with each band paying homage to them throughout the day.
The rest of the lineup was quite eclectic, featuring the frenetic hip-hop outfit Public Enemy (hyped by Flava Flav) and the electronic pop beats of married duo Matt & Kim, to name a few.
Cobra Starship also joined the extensive list of performers and played an energetic set early in the day to a modest-sized crowd. The band’s performance was enjoyable as it blazed through its pop-rock catalogue, playing favorites like “You Make Me Feel…” and the contagiously catchy hit single “Good Girls Go Bad.”
Cobra Starship sounded thrilling and brought a nice intensity to the stage — especially frontman Gabe Saporta — although the crowd did not really reciprocate, which further indicated the band’s music was out of place at the festival honoring Mötley Crüe.
Inside the various clubs, a better grasp of the classic rock genre could be felt. Though most of the bands playing on the small stages were newcomers or relatively unknown, it was easy to be pleasantly surprised by some exciting new discoveries.
One such impressive band was Love and a .38, who played to a decently sized crowd in the Key Club during the middle of the day. This aggressive quartet melded the genres of classic rock and alternative rock into a fiery presentation of fist-pumping anthems that hooked many of the fickle crowd members into watching its full performance.
Now reunited for a year, alternative rock band Bush played to a large crowd as the sun began to set, inciting crowd participation during songs like “Glycerine” and “Comedown,” in addition to performing a refreshing take on The Beatles’ “Come Together.”
It was obvious throughout the entire day this show belonged to Mötley Crüe, and it owned its moment in the spotlight. From its shocking pyrotechnic opening to its honest, heartfelt reflections about its career beginnings during the ballad “Home Sweet Home,” its hour-and-a-half set had the crowd entirely enthralled.
The band blazed through hits like “Same Ol’ Situation (S.O.S.),” “Live Wire,” “Dr. Feelgood,” “Girls Girls Girls,” “Shout at the Devil” and the subjective, unofficial anthem of our beloved city, “Saints of Los Angeles.”
Tommy Lee took the crowd on a roller coaster ride as he performed a seven-minute drum solo while riding around a 360-degree vertical loop suspended on the stage.
Mötley Crüe’s set had nonstop flames, fireworks, smoke, dancers and loud music: It perfectly personified the band’s personality and storied career and was a testament to why the band was being honored. When they closed with the crowd-pleaser “Kickstart My Heart,” the screaming of the attendees was deafening, especially when the band took an extended bow before leaving the stage. Before it left, the band made sure to dump buckets of fake blood on everyone standing within the first few rows of the stage.
The Sunset Strip Music Festival provided an exhilarating celebration of rock’n’roll — at the exact location the genre has its roots — and proved to be an unforgettable night, not just for the honorees of Mötley Crüe, but also for every person who partook in the festivities.