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Festival Watch: Taking the Sunset Strip Back by Closing the Street Down

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Shwayze Live at The Roxy | Photo by Erik Voake, courtesy The Roxy Theatre

Shwayze Live at The Roxy | Photo by Erik Voake, courtesy The Roxy Theatre
Santa Monica Boulevard sees two huge streets closures a year: Halloween and Gay Pride, both of which that draw hundreds of thousands of people. But for the first time the Sunset Strip is getting its due in a week and a half. "The street has never been closed for something like this, this is a first," explained an excited Nic Adler, the tech savvy owner of The Roxy and one of the Sunset Strip Music Festival organizers.

The festival was born last summer with various venues along West Hollywood's Sunset Strip hosting shows and events, but it wasn't organized like a traditional street festival. That was until this year when organizers will take a portion, shut it down for 24 hours and put up two stages featuring Ozzy Osbourne, KoЯn, Chris Cornell, Pepper, Kottonmouth Kings, Shiny Toy Guns, Schwayze, LMFAO, The Donnas, Unwritten Law and Fishbone. Those street shows will be complimented by nearly forty bands playing some of the Sunset Strip venues, some which will have lineups until 2 a.m.

"The festival represents what the Sunset Strip is," said Adler. "On any given night, if you look at the Strip, it will be like this: there's hard rock at The Whisky, hip hop at Key Club, you'll have some rock or pop at The Roxy and you'll have some singer songwriter at the Cat Club. We've just basically went and got the best of that and put it together. It's all rock, all these bands are about having a good time."

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For Adler, the DNA of the festival's bands are rock and roll, many of them with roots on the Strip. "Korn started at The Roxy and Whisky as well as the Kottonmouth Kings, whose home base is now the Key Club," he said. "LMFAO started at The Roxy with ten people in the audience. Now they have two songs on the radio in the top 40. All the bands chosen for the festival represent the Strip."

The three-day festival begins with a more intimate event at the House of Blues on Thursday, September 10th with a tribute to Ozzy Osbourne and Camp Freddy taking the stage with musicians including Matt Sorem, Dave Navaro, Billy Morrison and Donovan Leitch. There will also be a bit of a roast of Henry Rollins and Billy Bob Thornton. The City of West Hollywood will honor Ozzy, who hasn't played on the Strip in nearly 40 years, with either a key to the city or maybe a golden backstage pass. Back in 1970, Black Sabbath performed a five-night stand (November 11-15) at the legendary Whisky A Go-Go as part of their first U.S. tour.

On Friday, all the clubs are throwing big shows with tickets sold separately. Wild Child will be at The Whiskey, Glay at the House of Blues, Talib Kweli at the Key Club, Augustana at The Roxy and Out of Grey and Tarsha at the Cat Club. As those shows go into the night, the city will begin shutting down Sunset Boulevard between Doheny and San Vicente in anticipation of Saturday.

"Think SXSW meets San Diego Street Scene where you're on the street and you can go into any club you want to," Adler says of Saturday's festivities. "We have a lot of support from the city council, neighbors and businesses and we're going to turn the Sunset Strip around. We're authentic, we're not manucfactured. We're not Universal City. You get out of the club and you can smell it, you can taste it. We were the 80s, we were the 70s and we had some fun in the 90s," he said, yearning for another hey day.

Saturday's festivities, which begin around 2 p.m., cost $39.50 for pre-sale and $50 at the gate. "Once you're in the zone, you get entrance into all the clubs and any show on the street. It's about a dollar a band," said Adler, whose club, The Roxy, along with the Key Club will stay open until 2 a.m. sunday morning with shows. A line-up has not been announced yet, but he promises that it will be designed with genres in mind by not having popular bands compete against each other. "We've done our best to really time the festival and made sure we looked at each genre. if someone's going to pay $40, let's make sure they get their money's worth."

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