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Rock the Bells and Sunset Strip Music Fest: Clashing outfits

August 14, 2012|By Randall Roberts | Times Pop Music Critic
  • DJ Steve Aoki will perform at the Sunset Strip Music Festival on Saturday.
DJ Steve Aoki will perform at the Sunset Strip Music Festival on Saturday. (Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles…)

Given that many parts of Southern California truly experience summer heat for only a few scant weeks, it's unfortunate that two of the area's most prominent specialty music festivals, Rock the Bells and the Sunset Strip Music Festival, opted to book their big outdoor events smack in the middle of the season. But this weekend as the temperature peaks and the asphalt starts to burn, both will celebrate the past, present and future of music -- albeit with little artistic overlap.

Rock the Bells has become the premier hip-hop festival for a reason: Its bookers understand that the music in 2012 is an umbrella term that encompasses many varieties and generations of fans, each of which may need a little schooling in the listening habits of the others. To wit, fans of some of the old school highlights, such as Ice Cube, KRS-One, Method Man & Redman, might not have the foggiest idea that inheritors such as Dom Kennedy, Pusha T and Kendrick Lamar are part of a group of young rappers as serious and incendiary in their skills as anyone.

And former backpacker rap heads who are giddy to witness the witty work of Deltron 3030, whose leader Del the Funky Homosapien will perform all of Deltron's self-titled classic, might learn a little something about reality from E-40 and Too Short, two veteran rappers who understand that the rap game isn't a sprint but a marathon. The kids? They won't understand anything except that DJ Lance Rock and Friends will be there celebrating the kids' rap show “Yo Gabba Gabba” -- and that's more than enough.

The Sunset Strip will feature a similar mix of generations, though the focus, hard rock and hard dance music, will draw a different demographic. The festival trades on the area's history of supporting rock music -- this year the fest honors the music of the Doors -- to bring longhairs, goths, punks and ravers into West Hollywood for three nights of music that peaks on Saturday during an outdoor street fair. Among others, fans of the guitar can witness great L.A. punk band X performing with the producer of their early work, Doors keyboardist Ray Manzarek; Marilyn Manson attempting to Frankenstein his career back into shape for a Saturday headlining slot; and Zakk Wylde's Black Label Society getting ridiculous with the electric guitar.

In the realm of dance, Far East Movement will celebrate dance pop exported from Koreatown, Steve Aoki will ride the EDM explosion -- and bang his head; and Das Racist will offer its quirky, smart New York hip-hop.

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