The Whisky a Go-Go is a place where I never go, it is soaked by the leftovers of the Sunset Strip good old days, a time when the asphalt of Sunset boulevard was covered by flyers announcing rock shows, when flashy cars were following each other bumper to bumper from one club to the next. It was the 80s, the hair metal days and the strip was the playground of bands like Guns N’ Roses, Poison and Mötley Crüe, whereas a decade earlier, Led Zeppelin was the king of the strip. I was not living in Los Angeles during any of these decades, I have just heard and read about it, I am now living in Los Angeles in 2015, and the glorious and decadent rock ‘n’ days of the strip seem long gone. However, people never want to let go and a club like the Whisky definitively doesn’t want to let go.
If I never go to the Whisky, I was nevertheless there on Tuesday night, for David Z tribute show, and the whole thing turned into a messy marathon of music, some incredibly long night draining all the energy you still have inside yourself… it started around 8 pm, I could not get inside the club before 9:30 because of the long line, and I was home around 2 am? What was that exactly?
Each Tuesday night, the Whisky has its Ultimate Jam Night, which is what you could expect, a jam night with musicians who have played with more famous musicians and bands, stretching a show till the wee hours. It’s free and everyone is welcome, but tribute shows for dead musicians are always in high demand, these events draw a large crowd, and the Whisky can dream, for a night, it is still 1981. Plus it’s not as if there was a shortage of dead music legends these days, so the Whisky had its Lemmy night, its David Bowie night, its Chris Cornell night,… and it goes on and on.
But David Z, who was David Z? Everyone was talking about him in very nice and laudatory terms last night, and I had no idea who he was. David Z, who was a very talented musician, very respected for his humanity, formed the band ZO2 with his brother Paulie and toured with Kiss and Poison. As a bass player, he was involved with a bunch of other bands such as the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, the popular ’80s tribute band Rubix Kube, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts and Jeff Scott Soto’s solo band to name a few. Basically he has gravitated around enough rock ‘n’ roll, metal, punk bands to be known by many, and David Z’s tragic death last month was another opportunity for the Whisky to revive its hot glam rock days, with a line stretching all around the block.
I thought I would never get in, and when I finally did, I looked at all the nostalgia memorabilia covering the walls of the venue, even though it was not my first time inside. The Whisky never wants you to forget that the Doors were the house band in the 60s, and can you just imagine this now? The atmosphere inside is very different from my usual Silverlake scene, even the crowd is different, one out of three guys looks like Nikki Sixx, and the air is filled with that metal hairspray from the days of the Crüe. There’s a lot of nostalgia inside, and the venue is attached to its myth and legend, even though all of this is gone forever.
I am not certain why I had come, I was there to take pictures of Eagles of Death Metal since Jesse Hughes was announced in the lineup as well as a bunch of famous to semi-famous people such as Twisted Sister’s Dee Snider, Poison’s Rikki Rockett, Skid Row’s Sebastian Bach, Sugar Ray’s Mark Mcgrath, but I had no idea whom 95% of the other people were: Bruce Kulick (Kiss, Grand Funk Railroad), Bumblefoor (Guns N’ Roses), Frankie Banali (Quiet Riot), Richie Kotzen and Mike Portnoy (Winey Dogs), Jeff Scott Soto (Queen, TSO), Mark Wood, Roddy Chong, and Joe Retta (TSO), Dug Pinnick (King’s X), Marq Torien (Bullet Boys), Chris Wyse (Ace Frehley), Joey Cassata (ZO2), Lucia Marco and Danny Hechter (Rubix Cube), Mike Hansen (Hurricane), Steve Wilson (Heaven and Earth), Chuck Wright (Quiet Riot), Matt Starr (Mr Big), Derek Frank and Joshua Ray (Shania Twain), Julia Lage and Abby Genette, Alex Kane (Little Ceasar), Steve Dawson (CJ Ramone), Laura Kaye, Stephen Chesney, Cherie Martorana, Zak St John, Greg Reigle and Gerard Steixner, Michael Martinsson (Dilana), Robbie Genette, Bumper Renga, Ed Roth (Robby Krieger), Sven Marton (Liz Phair), Katja Rieckermann, Jeff Lewis, Julian Gralle, Mitch Perry (Edgar Winter), Sean McNabb (Dokken, Lynch Mob), Joe Travers (Kenny Wayne Sheppard), Walter Ino (Survivor), Forrest McKinnon.. Plus a few unannounced guests, plus the band Dead Poet Society as opener. If you can make sense of such a lineup, please let me know.
The show, hosted by Paulie Z (David’s brother who is usually hosting the Ultimate Jam Night) was an endless succession of musicians and bands playing about anything they wanted, from metal songs to pop tunes, from Led Zeppelin to Madonna – there was even a Michael Jackson impersonator who came on stage for a famous Jackson cover moment.
How did they imagine people would go through this? I did because I am crazy, but it was an exhausting night, often interrupted by people crying and hugging Paulie on stage. Some people want to grieve publicly on stage, even while performing, and that’s okay with me, even though I could never imagine doing so.
The night had its moments, especially when Dee Snider came on stage with his son Jesse carrying his cute son, they sang together, with the wide-eyed toddler in arms, who seemed to ask himself what was going on. Snider was all muscles with a powerhouse for voice, and definitively not your average grandpa. Sebastian Bach was a sort of disappointment as he never sang or performed anything but rather told us about these ‘bunch of musicians who had committed suicide lately’, and how mad he was because David did not want to leave us (he died in a car accident). Jesse Hughes with his acolyte Jenny Vee of Eagles of Death Metal covered the Beatles’ With a Little help From my Friend’ with Marq Torien, and it was a weird vision but interesting change of pace: they were wearing immaculate white among these all these black-addicted metal heads, and the song did contrast with the heavy guitar-jam repertoire of the night.
Beside being a simple tribute, the point of the night was also to attract the attention on the David Z fund created for his memory, but it was only talked about once, and barely reached the chatty crowd. There was a lot of heart and good intention in this tribute, people behind me were sobbing during the grand finale and the collective cover of Dylan’s ‘Knockin’ On Heaven Door’, but why inviting someone like Jesse Hughes (who obviously had attracted a large crowd that night) and let him perform only one song at 1 am? But may be that’s always the case, may be the Ultimate Jam Night is always this endless succession of jams. Last night was obviously a very emotional one for all the people on stage, but, an outsider like me, who had to stood up for 5 hours in the middle of all these ageing metal heads, had some difficulties to concentrate on the purpose of this marathon night.
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Thank you readers, thank you Alanis, thank you, thank you, karma.
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