Cruefest Hollywood 2014
Whisky a Go – Go
Once again, local residents were on lockdown as Cruefest Hollywood 2014 hit town bringing with it the usual gang of diabolical deviants as well as plenty of unsuspecting club goers who were treated to some serious ass kicking via local and out of town acts that united under one banner.
This was the 13th annual of such event, sans one year of time off for bad behavior, and if you read The Shug, you should know the score. Cruefest Hollywood is an amazing charity event that blows in each summer to raise money for the Children’s Cancer research. Children’s cancer is horrible and this amazing ensemble of madcaps does what they can to bring an end to this infliction.
Before we dive in, let’s talk Nick Culves. None of this would be possible without his passion and commitment. Nick is one dedicated motherfucker who works and plays hard. He somehow pulls it all together with the help of a few others who share in his vision. Together they create a night many look forward to all year long, including one underground rock journalist who keeps coming back for more.
Word on the street was to get there early, as the opening band was not-to-be missed. Fuck, I wasn’t planning on getting there until after six this year. (Just in case you are wondering, the show usually starts around 5 PM and goes until The Whisky throws us out.) Nick usually schedules one of the best bands first to get the party off to a killer start, and this year was no exception. So I adjusted my schedule and high-tailed it to the show just in time to witness this year’s opener, Stingray, tear it up.
Stingray is a bar brawling cover band out of the glorious state of Missouri that got hooked up to play Cruefest through a working relationship with tonight’s master of ceremonies and Gutter Boys lead vocalist Steven Talbot. Stingray was living the dream, descending upon Hollywood and hitting the legendary Whisky a Go-Go stage. Stingray played solid crowd-pleasing rock and roll favorites from classic rock and metal bands. These guys are all ace, from the solid hard-hitting Richie “Z” Zoeliner on drums, and the booming bass lines via Phil “Hawk Reynolds, to the on the spot guitar deliveries of Kent “Big Ken” Armstrong and Danny Khom, Stingray sounds and feels like area masters on the rock and roll circuit. Then there’s the maniacal delivery of lead vocalist Warren “Potsy” Doherty. This guy is what real rock and roll good times are all about. He’s got the pipes and presence and an all around homegrown American appeal that makes a Stingray show fun. I caught up with Warren Doherty backstage at The Whisky later that night and had a nice chat. Listen Here.
Continuing the energetic momentum was Rachelle and The Rising, local musicians hailing from Simi Valley, CA. Rachelle and The Rising mixed it up with edge, passion and determination that carried over into a solid presentation. Experienced in nature and blessed with youth on their side, the band has a great future. The band played selections from their chock full of hits catalogue and then treated us to a sizzling rendition of Motley Crue’s “Kickstart my Heart”. Hey, what happened to the days when all bands playing at Cruefest were required to play one Motley Crue cover song? I am officially spearheading a campaign to bring back that requirement, as I do love to hear the various interpretations of Motley.
Next up and still early on in the rotational was L.A.’s own The Drama. The Drama has been kicking up quite a stir as of late and I was looking forward to seeing and hearing what all the commotion was about. I was a bit apprehensive as they took the stage but was instantly wowed by this fucking awesome band. Sporting a heavy blend of rock and darkness, thought provoking lyrics and some insane incendiary guitar, The Drama is intense. Travis Smith, The Drama’s killer drummer, was poised at the ready, helmed to attack each beat, each nuance with an almost maniacal manner as molten lava spewed thanks in part to some sort of contraption attached to Conrado Pesinato’s guitar. Keep an look out for this band.
Picture Yes came all the way from Indianapolis, Indiana to support the cause and rock the stage. The band, currently in the midst of a US tour, was gracious enough to arrange a stopover in L.A. to be part of the spectacular. Passionate about what they do, Picture Yes exuded a positive vibe that uplifted the gathering and penetrated the haze, literally. (The Whisky was relentless with the smoke machines providing more smoke than inside Cheech and Chong’s van.) Aaron Corbett commandeered the show as the three-guitar attack provided dynamic. Solid groundwork laid by Lindsay Manfredi and Justin Escue enabled texture at ease. Picture Yes has some really great songs and you can hear them on their Facebook page. You might want to have a listen.
Taking a bit of a break, I wandered upstairs to have a look-see at this years donated raffle items, which included, an official Cruefest Hollywood bass guitar with amazing graphics courtesy of Jason Oberly Airbrush Studios, a killer piece of artwork by Nic Van Hees, a rad Jagermeister guitar courtesy of Schecter, a six string from Godin Guitars, assorted t-shirts, drawings, CD’s and tons more. There was even a $75 gift certificate from Guitar Center donated by yours truly. All these items were presided over by two mainstays in the Cruefest family, Derika Hibbs and Randi Keaton, both amazing women who give above and beyond. I lured Derika backstage, and here is what ensued. Listen Here
Returning to the evening’s lineup, the notorious Hollywood hooligans, “Rebel Hotel” was firing up to saturate with their special blend of streetwise rock and roll. Fronted by vagabond extraordinaire Ricky Ohrn and electrified by guitar slinger Gabe, the band is low down, despicable and oh so fucking good. Satoshi Ichiyanagi slaps so hard his fingers have got to bleed, and hey, I know that drummer, that’s Carl Marelli. Carl has earned quite a reputation in town for being a hard hitting professional and a solid “go to” studio ace. He also played drums in one of my favorite bands from not so long ago, Jet 68. I got Rebel Hotel’s song, “Keep the Pace” embedded in my brain. Go to their website, the song plays in an endless loop and I can’t get enough.
Extremely popular Girl on Fire made their way down from Seattle, Washington and was next to ply their wares. Girl on Fire sports modern rock riffs with crying for radio play lyrics and melodies. Sing along anthems well up feelings from within, no doubt one reason their fan legions stay loyal. Standout performance by guitarist Nick McMahan, whose solid sound and feel good attitude made good show. Girl on Fire is gearing up to schedule some tour dates so keep an open eye.
Needing some air, I stumbled out in front of the club for a refresh. On my way out I stuck my head into the ticket window to say hello to the one and only Susy Wilson, aka Suzy Creemcheese. Susy is yet another rock soul who dedicates countless hours of her time to help organize and run Cruefest Hollywood. Each year she spends most of her time in the booth selling tickets and dealing with the special ones whom are “on the list” but are not. Hell, she doesn’t even get to watch the bands or hang at the bar. Special kudos to Suzy. You rock!
And speaking of people who rock, who’s that man moving cross the stage? Why it’s none other than Kirk “Hippy” Akers, hustling the raffle each year while striking a pose. Kirk has been coming to Cruefest Hollywood for forever and is instrumental in keeping things running smoothly. There is enough chaos, and without Kirk, things would surely run amok. I cornered Kirk outside the club for a quick interrogation. Listen Here.
Kemical Kill was back in action returning for a second year at Cruefest Hollywood. As most of you know, Kemical Kill features Nik Kai the young mega guitarist who has been the subject of a lot hype, and most deservedly so. What I noticed about this year’s performance is that Kemical Kill has melding more into a cohesive unit, a full-fledge band, as oppose to last year when they were just a tad overshadowed by Nik’s amazing talent. It’s this unity that will be their staying power. Kemical Kill laid it down heavy with some industrial appendage, giving the band mystic as they let loose power.
Another local favorite and returning band to Cruefest Hollywood was Stonebreed. This band plays rock steady stadium anthems that place Stonebreed into the upper esculent of today’s rock circuit and a lot of folks are taking notice. Stonebreed has even landed a prestigious slot on the upcoming event, Farm Rock 2014 taking place on August 31st in Wauconda, Illinois. Tasty guitar played pure and hard by Troy Elizondo and Brandon Paul was first rate and who doesn’t like Stonebreed ringleader Carlos Cruz. Carlos is totally approachable, totally genuine and totally rocks the shit. His performance tonight was filled with rebel rousing, crowd-pleasing mastery. No wonder, wherever they go, Stonebreed rocks the house.
Last in line, sans the Crue tribute band that I did not have a chance to witness, was Murder FM. Murder FM has torn through the state of Texas to land a knock out punch to the US and abroad. Not for the weak of heart rock fan, Murder FM looked tough and played tougher. The band had a diabolical presence on the Whisky stage that lured in even the most unexpecting festivalgoer under their spell. Sinister vocals from Norman Matthew ranged from growl to melodic all the while accompanied by a barrage of sound. J6 filled volumes on the bass while Matt on guitar made the mix potent. Murder FM is currently on tour opening for some major headliners as well as some main event gigs of their own.
Opting out on the closing Crue tribute act (sorry guys) for an offer I could not refuse, I headed out into the Hollywood night. Before I left I said my yearly goodbyes, knowing damn well that next years Cruefest Hollywood will be here in a rock and roll minute. If you have not yet attended one of these events, you had best get on it, as the rock gods willing there will one day be a cure.
Rachelle and The Rising
Girl on Fire
Whisky a Go Go
Rainbow Bar and Grill
Oberly Airbrush Studio
Cruefest Hollywood Facebook