Sunset Strip Music Festival spills onto the street
In its second year, the Sunset Strip Music Festival is going bigger, just like a righteous hair-metal guitar solo.The lineup for the festival, which opens Thursday and runs through Saturday, includes several of the Strip's progeny, such as Korn, Chris Cornell, the Donnas, Pepper, Kottonmouth Kings, LMFAO, Shwayze, Shiny Toy Guns, Unwritten Law, Fishbone, Iglu & Hartly, Living Things, the Ringers, the Pricks, Nico Stai and Thenewno2.
But the crowning metal stud of the festivities is a closing night performance from the Godfather himself, Ozzy Osbourne, who, outside of a few Camp Freddy one-offs here and there, hasn't performed a full show on the Sunset Strip since Black Sabbath played a five-night stand at the Whisky a Go Go in 1970.
He'll also kick off the party tonight at the House of Blues, where he'll be honored by friends including Slash, comedian Jim Norton, Billy Bob Thornton and Henry Rollins. Limited tickets are available to the public through the festival's website.
Speaking from his home Tuesday, Osbourne waxed sentimental about those early days on the Strip. "It was like a different world. I remember seeing hippies on every corner, just trying to catch the vibes. For us English guys, it was like landing in some beautiful paradise. It was the start of my love for L.A."
In addition to Osbourne's performance, perhaps the most notable boost to this year's festival is the closing of the Sunset Strip between Doheny Drive and San Vicente Boulevard on Saturday from 2 p.m. to 9 p.m., a first for this particular stretch of legendary road.
In place of the usual stream of joy riding cars will be two concert stages, three beer gardens and around a dozen food and drink vendors, similar to Sunset Junction in Silver Lake.
The organizers of the festival, the Sunset Strip Business Assn., in conjunction with key Sunset Strip venues, are anticipating 10,000 people on Saturday. They see this year's festival as the start of a grand tradition that capitalizes on a lively neighborhood.
"There is where it all began," said Todd Steadman, executive director of the festival, "but we don't want to rest on our heels."
The Strip's participating venues include the Cat Club, House of Blues, Key Club, the Roxy Theatre, Viper Room and Whisky a Go Go, most of which will feature live performances during the day as well as Saturday night (some of the venues will charge a separate cover after the street closure ends at 9 p.m.).
In total, 40 bands will play on Saturday; 10 of them on the outdoor stages.
For the Donnas, the choice to play the festival was a no-brainer. Speaking from San Francisco during a tour stop with Blondie and Pat Benatar in July, lead singer Brett Anderson said the Strip's lore and legend have always attracted the band.
"Its heyday was a long time ago but it was a good time," she said. "We still go to the Rainbow Room and the Roxy -- we love those places."
For the all-girl rock group, it's also a spiritual home -- whiskey stench, animal-print leggings and all. "We don't have a whole lot of places where we fit in, so it's going to be nice to be in a place where we belong," Anderson said. "That's what the Strip is all about to me -- not having to apologize for your sense of humor or anything about yourself."
Photo: Ozzy Osbourne. Credit: Kevin Winter / Getty Images