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LIVE REVIEW: DEAD MEN WALKING at THE VIPER ROOM

9/21/14

LIVE REVIEW: DEAD MEN WALKING at THE VIPER ROOM

by Billy Bennight

There’s never been a time that The Viper Room has disappointed as a live music venue in my experience. There was the time That Bow Wow Wow played their first gig in 20 plus years where Anthony Kiedis and Billy Corgan were in attendance. That night it was the long awaited reunion of Annabella Lwin and the other member of Bow Wow Wow. There was the time Ronnie James Dio was hanging out in the down stairs bar at a corner table with his band mates and this delicious blond in a micro mini crawled, with her bum up – in a wheeling and dealing fashion as she crossed their table to set down next to Ronnie, good times! Then there was the time my date flashed everyone in the downstairs bar, but then constantly complained of Steve Jones slapping her bum to me, while I watched Tim Polecat come out of the closed liqueur store next door with a case of beer for the after party. While these are all over the top “Rock N Roll” antics, it portrays the energy and excitement of some of the really great shows that have inhabited The Viper Room.

Headline So when the opportunity to see one of my all time heroes, Captain Sensible of The Damned, and to watch him palling it up with other musical greats like, Slim Jim Phantom (Stray Cats), Mike Peters (The Alarm), Chris Cheney (The Living End), Duff McKagan (Guns and Roses) in the super group “Dead Men Walking” it was a call to action. This caused me to have a fever, a fever that could only be broken by seeing the Captain tear it up on The Viper Room stage!

I arrived after the Pink Slips ha played. The was plenty of time to settle in before the gig and I did. A good crowd gathered off the Sunset Strip inside the room to the increasing the noise and heat in the upper room, when I heard the scuffling of feet, rummaging of instruments and bodies mounting the stage behind the curtain. The unveil was imminent and palpable. In a moment it would be on! The boys blew up the stage by launching into Rock And Roll Kills and the explosive and concussive waves kept hitting crowd with more of the magical one-two punches from Dead Men Walking‘s set as they continued with the Stray Cats Runaway Boys and The Damned’s Neat Neat Neat! The Captain was devilishly spot on for Neat, Neat, Neat. About this time Captain Sensible declared their performance wasn’t about money but it was about having fun! In my book “Captain Sensible” and “Fun” are universally recognized as synonymous! The Captain continues to riff on a little more. He noted to the fans how he could have not written a song like Eloise, noting Dave Vanian‘s “Gothicness” as a prime inspiration to the songs existenceI was surprised and delighted that the band covered The Misfits Attitude (a personal favorite), which isn’t part of any of the band members’ discography, but an excellent choice nonetheless. Duff McKagan squeezed every ounce of energy out of The Stooges‘ I Want To Be Your Dog. All of this managed anarchy was reciprocated by the fans singing-a-longs and ruckus cheering number after number. At this moment The Damned‘s Smash It Up came in with perfect timing and everyone ate it up. This ended the set and then was followed by a brief wait for the encore. With all this amazing music it was hard to imagine that they could still burn more rubber at the end, but they did! The boys tore into The Beastie Boys’ “(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party!)”, followed by the classic “I Fought The Law” and then they dropped the Sex Pistols bomb “Pretty Vacant” on the fans, who were eating it up churning in the total mayhem and chaos! There was the added bonus of Captain Sensible delivering this Punk Rock monster hit with a classic Johnny Rotten snarl!The Viper Room was hotter than a fire cracker when this session ended. Everyone there was filled with exuberance and exhaustion because of the hard-driving power surge ofDead Men Walking’s hour and a half set of classic Punk Rock mayhem and mischief had ended. Without a doubt there will be more musical tremors and earth quakes rumbling from this classic venue in the coming years: especially, now that The Viper Room has turned 21 and is of age to really get down!

A LOVE LETTER TO THE VIPER ROOM

August 2014

A LOVE LETTER TO THE VIPER ROOM

A Love Letter to the Viper Room #21years

by heidi siegmund cuda 

I think there was a point in the early 2000s, when I decided I wasn't going to other nightclubs to hear live music. I'd seen everyone I wanted to see at the Viper Room, and if I couldn't hear 'em at the Viper, I'd spare my ears elsewhere. There were exceptions of course, but my loyalty to the blackened Sunset Strip bar had to do with the sound being so dialed in. I'd been working in and around nightclubs since I was 11, and most rooms were blown out, or too hot, or too big, or too loud. The Viper Room was perfect, show after show, night after night. 

And then of course friends of mine worked there, misfit artists drawn together by a love of music so stubborn and reckless, it was ride or die, every night. 

Although I often revise my top ten list of all time favorite shows, most were at the Viper Room. I continue to add to the list regularly because my friend, Dayle Gloria, books the room. Nearly three decades into a rock 'n' roll residency that spans the Seven Seas, Gloria has been a musical muse for this town. 

I love rollin with her, because I get to meet rock stars and break up fights. Dayle from the Bronx is a verbal pugilist. She has sacrificed all for rock n roll, a perfectionist in an art-damaged business. 

As the reigning Queen, Gloria wanted to pay tribute to the Viper's 21 years on the Strip with a week-long music orgy. It was perfection.

In no particular order: Jimmy Gnecco, Paloalto, Jesse Malin, Metal Skool, James Hall, Mike Stinson, Billie Joe Armstrong, Louise Goffin, Steve Stevens, Billy Morrison, Billy Duffy, Steve Vai, Carla Harvey, Sebastian Bach, Phil Buckman, Grace McKagan, Bettye Lavette, and oh yeah, Billy Idol.

Keep in mind, all this rock 'n' roll mojo is taking place on the Sunset Strip, the sexiest patch of land outside of the River Seine. Lovas crawl out of dark shadows, step into the night and make their way to the door on Larrabee. Unless you're a newbie, then you try to get in the backdoor, and then I get a show. I get to watch Big Dave's eyes pop out and steam come out of his ears as he splains, "You gotta enter from the front." Even better, I get to watch another doorman, Derrick, do his impersonation of Big Dave telling people to enter from the front.

And then of course, I walk in the backdoor. As a member of the Queen's entourage, I got privileges. But I don't ever overstep. I humbly walk with gratitude. Like watching Billy Idol from Booth No, 4, with my producing partner Susan von Seggern and Josie Stevens, the sweet wife of guitarist Steve Stevens. And from this precious perch, I wave to the Queen in the DJ booth, who is smiling and nodding, "uh huh," cuz she pulled off another epic night. And then I get the text: "I'm actually in a good mood tonight."

And I'm relieved, because there will be no reenactments of "Roadhouse" tonight.

I guess I'm a spoiled brat, because I've been friends with each regime and have loved them all. And when we fought, when my words in the paper didn't go down easy, we always kissed and made up. Well, usually we had a smoke.

It's nice to know the Viper Room is still the Viper Room, and the old ghosts remain. The night Billy Joe Armstrong played with Jesse Malin was classic Viper. The Green Day frontman snuck his way through the crowd and hopped on stage to play "Rock and Roll Radio" with Malin. The crowd went nuts and phones were whipped out accordingly to capture the moment. But by the second song, the phones were holstered, and it was all about the music again. We're used to celebrities at the Viper Room, but since most of us are united by music, we come to hear what's new and to be inspired. 

Some sweet memories of last week: fangirling Jimmy Gnecco. Sigh. Heartthrob. Swoon. And Jesse Malin's sweet un-love songs. Sigh. Swoon. Omigawd and then there's Paloalto, perfect poetry for starry nights as sung by man who looks chiseled from marble. 

I go outside to get air, and to give gratitude because I know whatever fate befalls me, I have new soldiers in my musical arsenal of life, and this makes me happy. I talk to the doormen, Big Dave, Derrick and Steve Miller Band, a new guy they're breaking in who's doing a stellar job.

I rolled up like a baller on Saturday night, the final night of the 21st anniversary week, with photogs Big Al Banks and Brent Broza by my side. Two of South Bay's finest. Banks is my road dog, a punk photographer who is all heart. I knew he could capture the spirit of the night. Broza is sick. I just try to stay out of his way. Check out their sweet gallery from Saturday night.

Jeepers, I learned so much last week. I learned Billy Morrison, who led the Viper Room all-stars, is a genius. I learned Duff and Susan McKagan are gonna have their work cut out for them. Their daughter Grace, the singer of the Pink Slips, is a lethal combo of beauty and talent. I learned Sebastian Bach is still Sebastian Bach, talented, temperamental, a part of the family. I learned Steve Vai, Billy Duffy and Phil Buckman could not be any foxier, and Carla from the Butcher Babies is amazeballs. I learned when Billy Idol says he's gonna be there, he means it. But I already knew that. He was just a little late and That Genius Billy Morrison sang "White Wedding" in his stead as a finale, which turned out to be just the end of the first act. Because when Idol rolled in a few minutes later, we got another set. 

And that's just how it is at the Viper Room, a neighborhood bar with the best music in the world. 

So many moments.

Opening night, I showed up early because I didn't want to miss the great soul singer Bettye LaVette. I looked to see who was in Booth No. 4 and saw Bryan Rabin and Joseph Brooks holding court with the Queen. That was a moment. Three icons of the Hollywood scene, three of its greatest heavyweight champs, united by music they stand. 

And each time I head out to get air, I make a friend. Sigh. Swoon. Even writing these words, I simply feel gratitude. Grateful to have been there, grateful to still be going. 

#21years xoxo

(heidi siegmund cuda is a former nightclub columnist for the l.a. times who now writes screenplays)

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