Ear drums were throbbing, fists were pumping, and heads were banging at the final day of the fifth annual Sunset Strip Music Festival (SSMF) on Saturday, headlined by Marilyn Manson. West Hollywood’s Sunset Strip is home to some of the most historic music venues in the world, such as the Whisky A Go Go (where The Doors were discovered), and TheRoxy. The SSMF is an event that prides itself on celebrating this legacy through performances by artists from music’s past, present and future. Every year, the festival closes Sunset Boulevard to traffic from San Vicente to Doheny so that fans can experience all of SSMF’s different acts, while hopping between a mix of outdoor and indoor stages.
Attendees roaming the street this year had the chance to view up-and-coming punk acts like Cherri Bomb, popular hip-hop artists like Far East Movement, and musical icons like Marilyn Manson. Just as diverse as the event’s lineup, the crowd that flooded the Strip ranged from small kids to middle-aged rockers, all sporting sunglasses and their favorite band t-shirt. During the day, people bounced between L.A.’s food trucks, a Bud Light beer garden, and of course, the musical performances.
As the sun went down, the energy and excitement went up. As a prelude to Manson, The Offspring took the main stage, playing to thousands of fans, packed in for two city blocks. The Offspring, who had their heyday almost fifteen years ago, proved that the 90’s were still alive and well on the Sunset Strip. Opening with “All I Want,” they sounded just as good as they did over a decade ago, and the crowd was just as enthusiastic. Though they did play a few new songs, like “Days Go By,” people didn’t really mind as they seamlessly blended in with fan favorites like, “Come Out And Play,”“You’re Gonna Go Far, Kid,” “Why Don’t You Get A Job,” and “Pretty Fly.” The audience sang along (or shouted along) with every word, jumping up and down, mosh pitting, and even holding up a few crowd-surfers at one point. Lead singer, Dexter Holland, still dressed in 90’s style and sporting spiked hair, proved that even though he is nearing 50 years old, he is still “pretty fly for [an old] white guy.”
The audience, suitably riled up from The Offspring’s rib-rattling performance, was in a frenzy as the stage went dark, and they waited (for over an hour) for Marilyn Manson. Finally, shrouded behind a giant black curtain, a few loud and piercingly creepy notes rang out from the stage, creating an ominous musical prelude to Manson’s appearance. The curtain dropped, and out of an enormous cloud of smoke, the king of goth emerged in a black mask, leather and chains. The combination of the sinister red lighting and the chokingly thick smoke was a bit much as it made it almost impossible to see Manson at all during his first few songs. Luckily, the smoke machine settled down after Manson himself grabbed it and started spraying the audience before tossing it aside.
The rocker, who screeched out favorites like “The Dope Show,”“Sweet Dreams,” and “Personal Jesus,” undeniably knows how to put on a show. Even someone (this reporter included) who isn’t particularly a big fan of the genre of industrial metal or “shock rock,” couldn’t argue that the man definitely understands what it means to entertain an audience. Manson’s performance had more costume changes than a J-Lo concert and more theatrics than most Broadway shows. The singer stopped between each song to tell a joke (usually at the expense of religion), relay a disturbing anecdote and change accessories. Manson went through a pilot’s hat, sunglasses, a sparkly black blazer, a pink boa, an old bedazzled army helmet, and more. He even paused a few times for roadies to come out and dismantle and erect new set designs for different songs.
Manson’s flare for the dramatic was nothing, however, compared to the biggest surprise of the night. Halfway through his set, the stage went black once more, and when the lights came back on The Door’s keyboardist Ray Manzarek and guitarist Robby Krieger had materialized. Everyone went wild as Manson played “When You’re Strange” with the 60’s rock legends. Manson, who spoke at this year’s SSMF opening ceremony honoring The Doors (Click Here to see our article on the event), often talks about how influential the band was in his artistic beginnings. He again reiterated how he believed that The Doors “invented the Sunset Strip,” before he played their classic, “Love Me Two Times.” Listening to the earsplitting cries of the audience, Manson spontaneously decided to play one more Doors song. As he sang “Five to One,” (the first song he learned to play) the crowd screamed louder than they had all night. When Manzarek and Krieger left the stage, Sunset Boulevard echoed with deafening cheers and applause. If everyone wasn’t already on their feet, there is no doubt they would have given them a standing ovation.
Regardless of your specific tastes, anyone that’s a fan of music would have loved Manson’s over-the-top spectacle of a performance. I don’t know how the SSMF can top the fusion of music’s most infamous and controversial rocker with some of its most legendary founders, but I can’t wait to see how they try next year.
By Darianne Dobbie