By Michael Traversa
“We finally made it to the Sunset Strip”. Punk rock band from Orange County The Offspring came on stage and embraced the warm welcoming from the crowd of the Sunset Strip Music Festival, now in its fifth year. That one and half mile of Sunset Boulevard rose to fame in the Seventies, thanks to its soon to become world famous clubs such as the Roxy and the Whiskey a Go Go which hosted breakthrough shows of bands such as The Doors and The Police. Now that strip is once a year closed to the traffic to host a music festival that gathers the most iconic acts of hard rock.
“We used to drive up here from Orange County to see the Ramones play the Palladium or to see the Clash play the Whisky and the Roxy“, said guitar player Noodles. On Saturday night The Offspring shared the bill with Marilyn Manson (more on that later) and kicked off a powerful set with All I Want that got everybody jumping up and down from minute one. The band was always on the mark, never wasting a second and successfully mixing popular hits with new material out of the freshly released Days Go By. Mosh pit often broke lose among those closer to the stage, especially on all time favorites Bad Habit, Want You Bad and The Kids Aren’t Alright. New songs Dividing by Zero, Slim Pickens Does the Right Thing and Rides the Bomb to Hell got a very positive response as well. Lead singer Dexter Holland had everybody at his feet with sing-alongs while guitar player Noodles often claimed the spotlight.
Dexter, Noodles and co. have come a long way since their shot to success in the nineties. All their songs made of recognizable riffs, catchy choruses and ya-yas and oh-ohs definitely deserved their place in the history of music. When Dexter wasn’t joking with the crowd, “Hey that’s something everyone can enjoy” (one of the many intros off Americana), he would embrace the guitar to slow things down on the hypnotic Kristy, Are You Doing Okay? only to go back and have everybody screaming Pretty Fly (for a White Guy). The humble approach to their presence at the festival “Thanks for checking out our set“, albeit being listed as top billing, goes to show their sincerity in music and connection to their fans.
This fast and furious show (it clocked at about 70 minutes) was probably one of the best concert I ever witnessed, never a dull moment and with so many hits on a career that spans over more than twenty years it was impossible not to get carried away.
Manson drew a more hectic crowd, several people throughout the set had to be escorted out by security, sometimes kicking and refusing to leave. The reverend himself, recently back on the music scene (his latest album Born Villain was released in May after a three year hiatus), had a somewhat more sober show when compared to his tours of the past. He left the theatrics at home for most part and seemed more concentrated on giving a private show to some elected kids gathered backstage on the left end.
The show kicked off with the heavier tune on the setlist Hey, Cruel World… and soon started maneuvering between the hits Disposable Teens, The Dope Show and brand new songs No Reflection, Pistol Whipped. Manson was often chatty in between songs. Declaring his love for California, which has become his new home, and inviting his fans (only half way joking) to steal his albums instead of buying them. He made fun of the war, talked about his dad and warned the people about not doing drugs, “At least don’t do my drugs“, which served as introduction to The Dope Show. The set really started having a bigger impact on the crowd when the covers Personal Jesus and the signature rendition of Sweet Dreams were played. His frantic movements on stage and a few props (helmets and a plastic knife) reminded me of the Manson that once was. He’s now more of a rockstar than a gothic controversial figure.
He often expressed his privilege to play the historical Sunset Strip, all that love translated in an impromptu mini set with the remaining members of The Doors Ray Manzarek and Robby Krieger who came on stage to perform not one but three songs off their catalog. Manson in particular looked happy of being able to play with his idols, “I don’t know if you guys invented the Sunset Strip, but you pretty much paved it“, he said. In fact when he asked the crowd if they wanted one more Doors song, he declared, “This is the first song I learned to play” (Five to One).
The encore brought back on stage the choreographic part of a Marilyn Manson show. From a pulpit Manson tore pages off the Bible only to chew on them and spit them out towards the crowd while performing Antichrist Superstar and later top it off with super smash hit The Beautiful People (“This song was written for you“) which closed the set among an explosion of white confetti and an invite on shouting as loud as possible.