I love summer – it’s my favorite season. But even for a Florida girl this show fell on one brutally hot summer day. If you wanted to survive the heat beating down on you it was wise to pick and choose which bands you wanted to stand up and shout for and which you wanted to listen to from a shadier spot. So with a close eye on the schedule and an ear on the stage, as well as some cold beer and water, we rocked the day from both our seats and sheltered areas.
Because there were so many bands – not that I’m complaining as having too many bands to see is certainly not a bad thing – I didn’t catch them all. For more detailed coverage and great photos of every band that played check out California Rock News. I’ll beg your forgiveness ahead of time for my bad photography below, but I threw in a few pics anyways for a peek at my view of the stage. I really need to get a better cell phone camera since an eye for photography is too much to ask for at this point in life.
I must start by questioning why they built the Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre stage facing due west. I googled it during a spat of writer’s block but instead learned (from Wikipedia) that the ampitheatre’s lease expires in 2017 and they plan on tearing it down to build an apartment complex. So I’m guessing that was my last show ever there given I don’t live in L.A. – I suppose I couldn’t ask for a better way to say good bye. The only other show I think I remember seeing there is Def Leppard in 1988. But given my CRS* memory banks, I’m guessing my concert ticket stubs would say differently. Someday I really must log them all.
I was lucky seat-wise as my bff Tami bought $99 VIP tickets for this show early on, so we had great seats to watch from and a shady covered bar and snack area to retreat to. It made it easy to escape the intense sun and then run back up and check out certain bands without having a heat stroke. Worth every cent. Of course I would have much rather preferred to rock out in my assigned spot for the entire day in cooler weather, but I won’t whine ‘cuz I was there and life is good.
Upon entering the venue I could hear the band Swamphammer playing and I plan on checking them out further because I liked what I heard – though I never did see them. I was too busy beverage-seeking, t-shirt shopping, vendor-tent wandering and, best of all, people-watching. Many were dressed for a night out at the Rainbow – though it was most certainly not a good day for all black – some were rocker-ed out more comfortably, and some just had that everyday midwestern midlife look. All types, all sorts.
We took our seats about halfway through Bullet Boys. They sounded pretty good, as did Trixter, who we listened to from afar. The stage had a most ingenious set-up…it was revolving so that as one band finished the stage twirled around and the next band [almost always] immediately started.
First favorite band up was Black ‘N Blue and I forgot all about the heat when these guys played. I love this band – I love the vibe – I love the ’84 and ’85 albums and the songs that instantly bring me to that happy-go-lucky-good-time-music place. Black ‘N Blue reminds me of 1985 when there were so many great bands to discover – it reminds me of living in my friend Cathy’s dining room (yes, dining room) in Clearwater between spouts of living in L.A. – it reminds me of how fun the Tampa Bay area music scene was back then. I’ve seen Black ‘N Blue play a few times over the past couple of years on the Monsters of Rock Cruise and they always bring me that happy vibe. Hello Miss Mystery is my favorite – and as a smile of a bonus it makes me think of my bff Randee’s ’70s era BLUE Chevy Vega with a BLACK interior that we affectionally called “Miss Mystery.” It was a great little 30-minute concert high – kind of like a sweat lodge that cleansed you down and perked you up ;o)
We went back to the shade to listen to Autograph from afar and rehydrate. I eagerly awaited Junkyard but actually only went all the way down to my seat to hear my favorite, Simple Man. I never thought I’d have a chance to see Junkyard – thanks for bringing them into the mix, Riki! Fantastic. I don’t remember seeing Junkyard play back in the day in L.A. – though I do remember a friend going to see them in clubs that remain unknown to me (she was into the punk scene – not sure of the connection there). I didn’t discover them until I heard them on Sirius XM Hairnation. Thank the gods for “new” old music. I also learned they have a new album so I need to check that out as well.
I popped back out for most of Florida band Saigon Kick‘s set. They were pretty good. I was wilting at this point so sorry if I don’t sound over-enthusiastic – I did love this band, especially The Lizard album, and used go see them all the time in Florida in the ’90s. I was pleasantly surprised to see Matt Kramer singing a few nights earlier in Hollywood at the Lucky Strike jam (which was just as great of an experience as Cathouse Live – check out more about that fantastic show I was so lucky to see at California Rock News). I’ll have to catch Saigon Kick again somewhere soon – after I go pull out those old albums that I haven’t listened to in forever. I’m looking forward to re-associating myself with this band.
LA Guns was amazing – Phil sings better than ever. It’s like listening to the album. I love that their look is still going strong. You forget that they had so many hits until they start playing them all – and sounding spot on. These guys have always sounded solid and put on great shows throughout the years.
I hate to admit that the only band I actually went and checked out on the side stage was Jetboy – they sounded really good.
We came back out of the shade for the entire Faster Pussycat show. A fun band to watch and you could tell they were having a good time, and of course they were a big part of the lore with Taime being a Cathouse co-founder. Taime’s voice was really rough – especially when talking in between songs (dude, chill on the cigarettes maybe?) – but he managed to pull off singing the songs pretty damn good. He brought out some original band members to play, which was cool to see given all the messed up ’80s band relationships out there.
I have to stop and mention that Taime Downe was one of the nicest guys on the Sunset Strip back in the ’80s. He would always hang out at the Rainbow “party in the parking lot,” walking around introducing himself and chatting with anyone and everyone. I can actually say that the man was gracious…a very odd trait for a rocker back then. It’s hard to say whether he was being an excellent marketing man or just a nice guy, but it was refreshing either way.
We checked out a song from Stephen Pearcy before heading back to the shade. He just can’t pull off the Ratt stuff as a solo artist, vocally or stage-energy wise (totally unlike Tom Kiefer with Cinderella stuff or Sebastian with Skid Row stuff). Stephen has that nutty Vince Neil vocal thing going on: singing every second or third word of a song. When he sang “Lay…Down” it was eerily similar to Vince singing “Shout…Devil.”
I stayed in the VIP shade for most of Dokken. I saw them a few months ago and it was probably the most disappointing ’80s band I’ve seen over the years. It took awhile to figure out what song they were doing because it was so, errr, sung wrong. I don’t profess to know off-key or off-pitch, and I don’t like to be negative, but dude, sheesh. But I guess it’s all good – he’s still bringing those great songs to the fans.
I was really looking forward to Sebastian Bach, having no recollection of seeing him before. The man has showmanship – he put on a high-energy spectacle that cured the crowd of their heat stroke. He yelled the songs, and as Eddie Trunk would say, mostly used his “cookie monster” vocals rather than the stronger, prettier voice we all know is in there, but it didn’t matter. That melodic voice still came out here and there throughout the set. Sebastian went old school with a mic on a cord and did a lot of the Roger Daltrey-mic lasso swinging. I’d check him out again.
Luckily the sun was going down a bit as Tom Kiefer came out. I saw him on the MOR Cruise this past year and was really impressed. I’ve always liked Cinderella‘s songs but Tom’s voice literally causes pain in my ears in some of that old stuff – kind of like fingernails on chalkboard. Not anymore. I recall he had some type of throat issue and surgery so maybe that’s why. He sounds fantastic, his band sounds incredible, the songs are awesome, and most impressively, the harmonies and background vocals are loud and tight and oh so pleasing to the ear. I’ll check out some of his new music too. They ended the set with With A Little Help From My Friends and the vocal mix was like rock angels singing at the rock church. I’ll go see these guys over and over.
I was really looking forward to Extreme as they blew me away on the MOR Cruise this past year – in fact, they won for most kick-ass show on the cruise TWICE. And I really wasn’t even into Extreme much before that. Oh, I liked them because of their vocals and harmonies and good songs, but I didn’t buy the albums. By the time they came onstage the crowds were dispersing – most likely from a full day of heat exhaustion – so they had a sparse audience. They sounded great but this show was nothing like the MORC shows – I can’t quite say if it’s because everyone left or why everyone left.
Extreme’s magic is Nuno, the full rhythm and harmonic sound, and Gary’s very own brand of weirdo stage energy. He’s a wired-up ball of energy that bounces and snaps around in a variety of spaz-voguing-posing movements that are just, well, weird. I have to admit I never really liked Gary much after Van Halen III because it was so freaking bad and I’ll never, ever understand how someone with such amazing vocal ability can freak things up that badly (some blame Eddie – I dunno). And the one time I did force myself to watch a VH III performance on some video or other (because my husband likes anything Eddie does, no matter who is singing), Gary did the bend-over-upside down-and-grab-his-ass-movement….which he did on the MOR Cruise and AGAIN at this show. It’s become a pet peeve of mine. Stop doing that. I will also mention an even worse move I saw on the MOR Cruise pool deck show: lost-in-spaz-mode-Gary actually grabbed the bass player’s head banging hair and DRAGGED him across the stage BY THE HAIR back to his mic stand, and when the bass player looked up I could see him look at Gary and angrily mouth “What the fuck?” This just confirmed Gary goes into his own little space up there – and since he sounds good I’ll forgive him.
The show ended with a Gilby Clarke all-star jam session that featured a bunch of musicians all happy to be playing with each other, including, among others, Gilby, Riki, Taime, Mike Starr from Steel Panther, Nuno, Sebastian, and the idol and forefather of all these guys: Ace Frehley. Fun to hear and see, especially when Riki called all the people in the back down to the empty front row areas – then that really cool crowd energy thing kicked in and the vibe picked up for a cool finale.
And last but not least, the smokin’ hot strippers dancing off and on throughout the show – they added a nice touch and deserve a mention. It simply wouldn’t have been the Cathouse without the strippers. I must add an amusing comment I once heard – I can’t cite the source but I think it was from a VH1 documentary: that the stripper is a close cousin of the rocker chick. So true. We’re all pals. I would venture to guess there were quite a few ex-strippers in the crowd as well – still looking good.
Even though Riki Rachtman said to “stop thanking him” for putting on this show, I’ll say thanks anyways. Having had many fun and crazy party nights at the original Cathouse, this was an enjoyable and entertaining way to relive them in the here and now. To wrap it up I’ll simply quote Taime Downe from the show: “Long live the M*f#n Cathouse!” ;o)
*CRS = Can’t Remember Shit (readers see this often in my blog)