By Crystal Larsen
If you ask keyboardist Ray Manzarek about his experience coming up on the Sunset Strip with the Doors, he'll tell you it was "the heart of everything," referring to Hollywood's famed strip as the "axis mundi," or in other words, the center of the universe.
"This is our home [and it was] a great place to grow up," Manzarek remembered as he and guitarist Robby Krieger accepted the Elmer Valentine Award on behalf of the Doors during the annual Sunset Strip Music Festival on Aug. 16 at the House of Blues. Founded in 2008 as a means to promote, preserve and perpetuate the musical history of the legendary Sunset Strip, this was arguably one of the largest and, to borrow from the Doors, strangest three days of music in the festival's five-year history.
On Aug. 16, the same day the city of West Hollywood declared "The Doors Day," Manzarek and Krieger performed a concert accompanied by guitarist Billy Morrison (Billy Idol), drummer Matt Sorum (Velvet Revolver) and special guest vocalists Franky Perez, Mark McGrath, Linda Perry, and Dead Sara's Emily Armstrong. Highlights included a Chuck Berry-esque strut from Krieger on "Break On Through" and Armstrong's sassy delivery of "Soul Kitchen," which was enough to invoke images of the late Jim Morrison.
Tribute performances continued throughout the weekend with Friday featuring Krieger teaming with the Black Crowes' Rich Robinson for a special performance at the Viper Room, and Manzarek joining fellow legendary L.A. rock band X as they performed their 1980 debut album, Los Angeles, in its entirety at the Roxy.
While it's common for people to show up "fashionably late" in L.A., that wasn't the case on Saturday as Sunset Strip up-and-comers Dead Sara were the first band up on the main stage. Playing to an already packed crowd, Dead Sara ripped through a heavy dose of rock and roll harnessing each member's own impressive level of energy led by the triumphant return of guitarist Siouxsie Medley, who recently suffered a rib fracture.
Metalheads were delighted when guitar god Zakk Wylde and his band took the stage to greet the Los Angeles Chapter of the Black Label Society. Strapped with his custom black-and-white-striped Gibson Flying V, Wylde raged through a riff-heavy set that included "Suicide Messiah" and "House Of Doom," among others. Krieger, who had been rocking out from the side of the stage, joined Wylde for a fired-up rendition of "Roadhouse Blues," combining the singer's heavy metal vocals with Krieger's iconic riffs.
The weekend proved to be a return of Southern California favorites as punk group Bad Religion took the stage and appropriately opened with their 2004 track "Los Angeles Is Burning." Fellow punkmates the Offspring contributed to the jump-worthy portion of the show with a set that included "Come Out And Play," "Self Esteem" and "Pretty Fly (For A White Guy)."
Elsewhere, DJ Steve Aoki was pleasing dance/electronica music fans in attendance with a raving set that featured special guests Travis Barker and Lil Jon. But as darkness fell over the Sunset Strip, the night was only complete with a closing set from one of the darkest artists of them all, Marilyn Manson. With the stage draped in black, the only color clearly visible from the crowd was the hot-pink stripe painted across Manson's eyes as he belted out songs such as "The Dope Show" and a fantastic cover of Depeche Mode's "Personal Jesus." However, nothing was stranger than seeing Manzarek and Krieger join the Antichrist Superstar onstage for "People Are Strange," "Love Me Two Times" and "Five To One," the latter of which Manson said was the first song he ever learned to sing. (He even has the number 15 tattooed behind his left ear.)
Where else can you find Marilyn Manson fans crowd surfing to the music of the Doors? Only in Los Angeles. Long live the Sunset Strip.