The Doors of the 21st Century keyboard player Ray Manzarek performs in July… (Jan Dzban, European Press…)
When Ray Manzarek and Robby Krieger reformed the Doors with a comeback gig at the Whisky at last year's Sunset Strip Music Festival, it was the hottest ticket at the event, with landmark songs like "Riders of the Storm" and "Light My Fire" echoing once again at the club where the band first made its mark. This year's festival is giving the iconic '60s band an even larger spotlight.
Now in its fifth year, the Sunset Strip Music Festival once again pays homage to the Strip's illustrious musical heritage with an event at the House of Blues on Thursday that will pay tribute to the Doors with Krieger, Manzarek and John Densmore in attendance. "We are very excited by this," Manzarek said. "This was our home turf and where we got our start first playing at the long-gone London Fog and then as the house band at the Whisky. There were some insane times and some amazing music played. It's great to be back on the Strip and acknowledged in this way."
The three-day celebration reaches its peak on Saturday when Sunset Boulevard will close to traffic between Doheny Drive and San Vincente Boulevard for an expansive street fest where 10 bands are sandwiched between two giant stages set at either end. Besides headliner Marilyn Manson, there will be a heavy dose of pumping rock with the Offspring, Bad Religion and local band Dead Sara, as well as hip-hop and dance music with performances by De La Soul, Koreatown's Far East Movement and DJ Steve Aoki.
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The all-inclusive pass also includes access to the Strip's many rock clubs, which will be featuring over 50 bands throughout the day from a variety of genres, including Wu Tang Clan's RZA, Peter Murphy, Unwritten Law and James Ingram.
Manzarek and Krieger will also be doing their own individual sets during the festival. Krieger joins Rich Robinson at the Viper Room on Friday night, while L.A. punk veterans X will give a rare performance of its Manzarek-produced 1980 album "Los Angeles" at the Roxy joined by the legendary keyboardist.
"We have been more focused on our recent past celebrating the '70s and '80s with our past honorees like Slash, Ozzy Osbourne and Mötley Crüe, so we felt it was fitting this year to reach even further back into our history," said Nic Adler, owner of the Roxy and co-producer of the festival. "This is the first time our honoree is not the headliner or playing a full set, but they are definitely the theme of the festival with many bands paying tribute to them."
Recently reinvigorated with a new tour and a new album "Born Villain," Manson is thrilled to acknowledge the band that was a key influence. "When I was in 10th grade I read 'No One Here Gets Out Alive.' If it wasn't for Jim Morrison I wouldn't have picked up a pen to write poetry or to go on to sing," the goth rocker said by phone from a tour stop in Montreal.
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"The first gig I played in L.A. was at the Whisky," Manson said. "To be on the same stage that Morrison had been meant so much to me then so it's so exciting for me to do this festival now as they honor the legacy of the Doors. You could say I am so full of macho pride, even though I am wearing lipstick."
Manson will be joined by Manzarek and Krieger in a grand finale to close out the festival. "We are going to blast Doors' music into the ether," said Manzarek. "To be in the middle of the Sunset Strip and doing this, I know Jim Morrison would have loved it."
While it may be the Strip's main legacy, the festival is not just about celebrating rock 'n ' roll. "I think we have really expanded the talent this year. It's all about having a wide musical choice," Adler said.
"There really is nothing like this festival," said the seemingly ever-touring Aoki from a recent gig in Nicaragua. "I have been playing festivals in Europe all summer and they are all DJ-based. Even a mixed festival like Coachella has a stage just dedicated to DJs, so to be on the bill with these amazing rock acts is pretty thrilling to me."
Aoki, with his label Dim Mak, will also be hosting an after-party at the Roxy on Saturday night, which will feature Canadian electronic music producer Felix Cartal and DJ Yung Skeeter. "We will definitely be keeping the energy alive inside the Roxy," Aoki said.
Sunset Strip Music Festival
Where: Street festival on Sunset Boulevard, between Doheny Drive and San Vicente Boulevard. Clubs on Sunset also hosting shows Thu.-Sat. (See website for participating venues.)
When: Saturday's street festival from 1 p.m. to 11 p.m.
Price: Club venues are priced individually. The Saturday Street Fest is $75. VIP tickets (which include all venues and special events), $135. (All tickets sold at http://www.ticketweb.com/SSMF)