Live at The Whisky A Go Go!
Story by James West, the-rocker.com
Photos by Danette West, therockerchic.com
As a young rocker growing up in the sticks of Arkansas I always wondered about that magical place of creativity and inspiration in California. No, I’m not talking about Disneyland! I’m talking about the REAL place where dreams come true for Rock and Rollers- The Sunset Strip!
For those of you who don’t know about “The Strip” here’s a description taken from Rolling Stone Magazine: “Nowhere was the party crazier, sleazier or more glam-rockin' than the Sunset Strip, where big-haired dudes and the girls who loved them turned the boulevard into their own personal playground.
Of course, Eighties metal men were far from the first rockers to run wild in West Hollywood — just ask the Doors, who functioned as the house band at the Whisky a Go Go in the late Sixties, and whose singer, Jim Morrison, balanced on a railing on the roof of a 16-story building on the Strip as if it were a tightrope. Or Led Zeppelin, who in the following decade would rent out up to six floors of the Hyatt on Sunset, a.k.a. the Hyatt House, a.k.a. the Riot House, and initiate a groupie-shagging, television-smashing, motorcycle-down-the-hallway-driving den of debauchery.
A lot to live up to, perhaps, but it was a challenge that Dokken, Mötley Crüe, Guns N' Roses, Ratt, W.A.S.P., Poison, L.A. Guns, Faster Pussycat and the rest of the Eighties glam lot were more than happy to take on. "You had to be able to put up . . . not 100 percent, but 1,000 percent," says Poison singer Bret Michaels. Or, as Crüe frontman Vince Neil put it in the band's gloriously degenerate 2001 autobiography, The Dirt. "We'd get drunk, do crazy amounts of cocaine and walk the circuit in stiletto heels, stumbling all over the place. The Sunset Strip was a cesspool of depravity."
Fast forward forty years and finally this young kid from the sticks has made his way to where legends both on stage and off were born- The Sunset F*ck’n Strip!!
What better way to celebrate the Strip than by seeing one of my absolute favorite 80’s Hard Rock Groups, Dokken, on of all dates, 4-20 at the Whisky A Go Go! Was this evening gonna be “Too High to Fly”? LOL
Driving by the venue seemed extremely surreal like it really wasn’t there when we arrived and parked just up the hill.
We thought we got a great deal for 20 bucks to park near the venue, but found out later we could have parked for 10 bucks just a couple doors down!
While walking down the hill toward the Whisky the Rocker Chick started to dry heave a little and explained, “We just walked by where some person took a dump on the street!” In my best Rocker voice I said, “Welcome to the World Famous Sunset Strip baby doll!” LOL
The Rainbow - Echoes From The Past
With time to spare and food on our minds we made our way down the Strip past The Roxy (which was closed) to The Rainbow Bar and Grill, where Rockers galore have hung out and feasted before and after shows.
First things first though, and that was to salute the man, the legend, and now permanent patron of The Rainbow for the past three years, Motorhead’s Lemmy Kilmister, RIP!
The vibe of the dining room at The Rainbow felt like echoes from the past breathing from the walls of memorabilia and from the booths were many a rock star sat. What caught my attention most was the upstairs “Above The Rainbow” room where I can just imagine what transpired back in the 60’s through the 80’s.
The food was ok and a little overpriced but the vibe and the spectacular aura of the Rainbow was well worth the time and money.
The outside brick walls of The Rainbow were sculpted with rock band logos as we made our way back down toward The Whisky.
Tower Records has been closed for some time now, and the Viper Room seemed like maybe it was headed for that same fate.
But, one glimpse of hope for the strip was a new Hustler lingerie store!
Going To A Go Go!
Back up to The Whisky and The Rocker Chic was given an eerie gaze and devil horn salute to her chest by some elderly rocker whom we would later discover to be Adrenalin Red’s Charlie James! Lol
That’s OK Charlie I salute my wife’s chest everyday buddy! Ha!
We also had our timing right as the members of Apocalyptic Lovers were outside taking some publicity photos and were gracious to pose with The Rocker Chic for a shot. Special thanks to drummer Dave Hope- He is a fantastic drummer and also a cool Facebook friend!
who are you?
Walking into The Whisky A Go Go the place was already rockin’ with the sounds of Hammered, which after doing an hour’s worth of research I still don’t quite know who the hell they are, but they sounded awesome with lots of energy to set the pace for the evening’s great lineup!
The sound was Scorpions meet Megadeth with lots of cool head-banging visuals and metal riffs. Hopefully they’ll get noticed and get some well-deserved publicity!
Next up on the night’s bill was Powertribe; a power trio consisting of front-woman and bassist Missy Percifield, Darren Stroud on guitar, and John Chominsky on drums. Maybe it was because we were standing far left of center stage, but Powertribe didn’t sound as good as Hammered to me, partly because the bass and drum settings on the stage were set to 10+ with little guitar to be heard.
The bass drum was tuned so loud that you felt your heart hurting from the pulse; which for some rockers may be heaven, but for 50-year-olds we much preferred to at least hear a little less thump and more high range guitar in the mix. Guitarist Darren Stroud at least looked like he had some great chops and also an uncanny resemblance to Noodles of The Offspring! What also ended the Powertribe fun for me was that the vocals to “Invisible” sounded horribly familiar to a sped-up version of Aqua’s “I’m a barbie girl in a barbie world” complete with sing-song type keyboards.
Bring The Groove!
The next band up is one I’ve just recently come to know and love- Apocalyptic Lovers! This band has been around for a while now (previously as Love and War) but has garnered fans across the U.S. and is still going strong with new material. Of all the groups at The Whisky that night Apocalyptic Lovers was the closest “Dokken-sounding” band of the night.
Dave Hope was on drums, Sean Magee on guitar, Mike Nagy was on bass, and Robert Kane belted out the vocals. Robert reminded me somewhat both in looks and in vocal sound as Dave Bickler of Survivor. Apocalyptic Lovers delivered a great set and the sound was a whole lot better than Powertribe. I just wish we were able to get some decent shots of Dave behind the drum kit. From our vantage point he looked like he was sitting in a hole or something behind his kit. At least The Rocker Chic was able to get a drum stick from him to prove he was there!
Woodstock Meets Hellfest
Next on the bill was the surprise of the night for me with Adrenalin Red- What a killer band! They were more in the Motley Crue-type vein but came on like a hurricane for their set. Despite Charlie James’ actions earlier in the evening with my wife he redeemed himself by belting out great lyrics with a killer metal voice!
I could have sworn I heard the band play “Wicked Sensation” by Lynch Mob, which may have been a jab at George’s absence from the upcoming Dokken set, but I may just be stirring some shit up here! What amazed me the most was the playing of guitarist Valerio MG! I could’ve sworn I was being transported back in time to ’69 Woodstock with Valerio’s Santana-like expressions while he played. Plus, he totally ripped on his Les Paul! Whisky’s Go Go girls came out during the set also but really weren’t needed, although this boy ain’t complainin’ one bit!
the hard way
METAL AND MOHAWKS
They also came out during the next band’s set from The Hard Way. This time with one of the dancers sporting a healthy mohawk among other things. Again, it made for some cool shots but not necessary as vocalist Eric Jeffreys and the rest of The Hard Way also delivered a blistering set of Hard Rock and Metal. Eric is also a cool Facebook friend and has been around for a few years opening up for some great legends in rock in addition to Dokken!
His vocals sounded like AC/DC at times, but at other times a lot darker and heavier, which added to the multi-flavor of sounds from bands during the night. Besides Jeffreys on vocals, The Hard Way has both Andres Yepez and John Huldt on guitars, Nick Diiorio on bass, and Jonas Streffer on drums. Streffer was a killer on the drum kit and seemed to be having the time of his life while he was at it. The Rocker Chic also commented that he looks an awful lot like Chris Pine of Star Trek fame so that may be why he played with “phaser-like” precision and had that “beaming” smile on his face! Sorry… couldn’t resist…
Transformation & Transcendence
So, after five bands; each playing 30-minute sets and 15-20 minutes between bands, we were finally ready for Dokken, or were we? Another 30 minutes went by and fans started to worry. In my crazy thinking I thought, well, maybe king George Lynch is getting ready to surprise us all and come out and play with Don. Hell, after all, they’re playing a gig together on the East Coast in a couple of months, maybe they need to rehearse a little! Then my mind started thinking the other way to Don and his age and condition, maybe he just said screw it and decided to hang out upstairs at The Rainbow instead; hell, he’s Don f*cking Dokken, he can do whatever he wants at this stage of his career!
It seems there was an issue with the sound setup and when Don did come out he wasn’t necessarily the happiest camper in the world. I thought he might just storm off, but instead, he worked through the frustration and finally he and the rest of the current lineup of Dokken hit the stage around midnight.
At first, I was a bit mesmerized with the thought of being about 10 feet away from one of the greatest songwriters and vocalists in rock history! Also, I tried to remember Don’s vocal surgery and battle with cancer a few years ago, and yes, his vocals are not what they used to be. During the first part of the performance I was a little worried as Don seemed a little “out of it” and was stumbling a bit. The 65-year-old was a trooper though and worked through it and the show then went on a tremendous upswing as the evening wore on.
A lot of this energy increase was fueled by the supporting crowd at The Whisky. The more Don and the band played the more the audience fed off it and gave back that energy to Don. He started to sing more precise notes and soon you could hear Dokken of days’ past coming out of him. I couldn’t believe the transformation, and this connection between band and fan brought the performance to new levels I didn’t expect.
Songs like “Alone Again” and “Just Got Lucky” from the album Tooth and Nail especially shone brightly in both vocal and band performance. Even though I’ve been writing specifically about Don so far, I can’t continue without first giving praise to Jon Levin as well.
Never did I think someone could ever hold a string on Dokken guitar duties the way Jon did that night. He was spot-on in both performance and loveable attitude, and also a complete professional.
I sincerely believe he’s playing Dokken better than what George Lynch could play Dokken right now. Jon Levin is an absolute beast on guitar! I also believe the Whisky A Go Go’s heritage and soul helped Don Dokken out that night also. Parts of this performance were simply transcending in nature with Don even channeling inner-Jim Morrison in both vocal delivery and performance. Don quoted several Doors’ song references at one point in the show and it brought his performance to new heights.
Drummer Mick Brown was on vacation so BJ Zampa filled in and did an awesome job! Also, The Rocker Chic especially loved the bass playing (without a pick-like it should be) by Chris McCarvill. Speaking of my wife Danette she was also thrilled to death when Don Dokken pointed her out in the crowd and told her he loved her hat! So, she scored both a drum stick and a Dokken compliment that night, but I was given something I haven’t felt in quite a while at a Rock concert- incredible transcending energy from both crowd and band in a venue that is magical in its own right- The Whisky A Go Go!