Sunset Strip Music Festival

Marla Schevker

Members of Unwritten Law from left to right: Bassist Pat Kim, singer Scott Russo and guitarist Steve Morris
Members of Unwritten Law from left to right: Bassist Pat Kim, singer Scott Russo and guitarist Steve Morris. Photo Courtesy of Suburban Noize Records

With the Sunset Strip being a place of historical significance for so many bands in the music scene, it only made sense to Todd Steadman (executive director for the Sunset Strip Business Association) and Karmen Beck (the Sunset Strip Business Association’s business development and sponsorship director) to hold a historical music festival on the very street that helped many famous bands get their start.

“If you look at all the bands that got their start or jump start (here) in their career: The Doors, The Birds, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Jane’s Addiction; it makes so much sense,” Steadman said. “Music is part of the DNA of the Sunset strip.”

Members of Pepper from left to right: Guitarist-vocalist Kaleo Wasman, drummer Yesod Williams and bassist-vocalist Bret Bollinger. Photos Courtesy of Suburban Noize Records
Members of Pepper from left to right: Guitarist-vocalist Kaleo Wasman, drummer Yesod Williams and bassist-vocalist Bret Bollinger. Photos Courtesy of Suburban Noize Records

Starting tonight, Sept. 10, the Sunset Strip Music Festival will be underway. The festival ends Friday with the closing of Sunset Boulevard in between San Vicente Boulevard and Doheny Drive for an all-day music fest. There will be plenty of music tonight and tomorrow as well, with a tribute to Ozzy Osbourne tonight and with performers like Talib Kweli and Augustana performing in clubs such as The Roxy, The Key Club and House of Blues.

The all-day finale on Friday will mark the first time that the Sunset strip has been closed for a music festival. While it took a lot of cooperation from the city, community and residents of the area, Beck felt this festival was important because of the musical history the Sunset strip has.

“The sunset strip has a musical heritage that goes back many many decades,” she said. “Here we are, we have a strip on one of the most famous streets in the world with six of the most legendary venues in the world. We’re not creating a festival; it’s the real thing, the grassroots for many different bands. There are so many bands that have some sort of connection to this legendary boulevard and it needs celebration. It’s the crown jewel of rock music.”

Bands performing at the street festival include Pepper, Kottonmouth Kings, Unwritten Law, Korn, Ozzy Osbourne, The Donnas and Super Mash Bros. Yesod Willams, drummer for Pepper, said even though touring can be crazy he is looking forward to performing.

“At the end of the day, with whatever is happening on the negative side, once you hit the stage and play the show and hang out with the fans, you come back to earth and don’t take anything for granted,” he said. “To play the music live is the essence of playing in a band.”

Willams said once they got invited to play at the Sunset Strip Music Festival, there was no doubt as to whether nor not the members of Pepper wanted to perform.

“We thought it would be cool ever since we started walking on the Sunset strip and it’s a historic thing so we’re all over it,” he said. “They didn’t have to ask us twice. Then we found out that there were all these other bands playing. It seems like it’s going to be something to remember and a thing for the record books. The only thing we had control over was saying yes as fast as we could.”

Members of Unwritten Law, another band performing at the street fest, say people enjoy their music a lot more in concert than they do by playing their albums. While some bands don’t have a lot of energy or soul when they play live, Unwritten Law is the opposite, according to singer Scott Russo.

“I feel that our band has more energy and soul live,” Russo said. “Our band is Russian roulette: you never understand what kind of show you’re going to get. We’re not afraid to get loose, shit can pop off at any show; we’ve had fistfights on stage. You might get an ultimate fighting show and a rock show at the same time.”

Russo said he heard about the Sunset Strip Music Festival almost by chance. His friends from Hollywood called him and asked if they could get tickets.

“I didn’t even know we were playing,” he said. “So I asked my manager about what it was all about. I’m excited to be a part of it. It’s going to be a dub day especially with the diverse crowd. It’s a pretty rad line-up; I think the promoter was pretty smart to cover that many genres.”

Also performing on Saturday, the Kottonmouth Kings have a unique style of music.

“I would describe our music as rebel music or freedom music,” Brad “Daddy” X, vocals for Kottonmouth Kings, said. “We tread a lot of hip-hop, areas of punk rock, a little big of reggae, classic rock and real mellow stuff. At the end of the day it’s the (underlying) message of personal freedom, having good times, enjoying life and celebrating it and talking about the bad times also.”

The Kottonmouth Kings have a long history of performing on the Sunset Strip, X said. They have played all of the clubs and are honored to have been asked to play at such a historical event.

“We’re taking the stage at 4 in the afternoon,” he said.  “It’s going to be unreal. Korn, Ozzy Osbourne, the line up is pretty insane. I encourage everyone to come out; it’s going to be a great party. Afterwards all the clubs are going to be open for the after-party with all kinds of groups performing. It’s great to be a part of history and (Kottonmouth Kings) will definitely come to represent.”

Beck encourages people to buy their tickets in advance. While tickets will be on sale Sept. 12 (the day of the show) for $50, tickets purchased ahead of time will be $39.50. It’s better to buy the ticket in advance than to stand in a long line, she said. They are expecting 8,000 to 10,000 people to be at the festival.

“If you’re a music lover and you want to hear a really diverse group of musicians perform for maybe a dollar a band … because we have 40-plus bands and the entry ticket is 39.50,” Beck said. ”It’s a terrific way, if you’re familiar with the Sunset strip, it’s a terrific way to enjoy what you already know. If you’re not familiar, it’s a fantastic way to come and have the experience of entering our clubs, of seeing what its all about.”