Sunset Strip Music Festival: Saturday with Cherry Bomb, Black Label Society, The Offspring and Marilyn Manson

All photos by Billy Bennight for The Los Angeles Beat

 I happened on to the Strip in the mid-afternoon among many eager participants who were hitting either the Jack Daniel drinking area, cruising the boulevard or seeking another club to duck into out of the heat. I gave the strip the once over twice as I customarily do all place I review. In that process I ran into Mini Marilyn and his “Free Pussy Riot” posse. It’s nice to know that protest is still alive. I dropped by On The Rox to say hi to my old pal and fellow scenester Stephanie Mata. I then drifted past The Roxy where a stage had been sandwiched between two clubs to discover a pleasing sound from a band of attractive young ladies driving hard and deep with a razor like Punk sound. A crowd was appreciatively pulled in tight for all the action. Cherry Bomb was unloading blistering waves of sound while shaking their hair and running and jumping about the stage. They were high energy lending credence to their name sake. The girls were giving it away and the audience was eagerly riding the the fast paced rhythms and seething guitar loaded with playful vocals and well timed back ups that were spreading like fire till their set ended with cheers and cat calls.

I had heard earlier that Black label Society were about to go up. I heard later that there was some sort of snafu that led to all the bands who playing the West Stage to be 45 minutes to an hour behind. This was much to my good fortune! Once exiting Cherry Bomb I averted my eyes towards the West Stage to hear Black Metal crunch and a big guy, Zakk Wylde, with an enormous white Indian Headdress swaggering with a black and white striped Super-V Gibson guitar looking like a cross between a Viking and a Hard Core Biker. His look was as intimidating as was their sound. Dense chunky rhythmically moving Metal. A juggernaut rolling over all in their purview. This could bring on some serious head banging, and it did! They were all showmen: bass and guitar moving, John DeServio and Nick Catanese, cris-crossing to insight the fans only adding to the Metal frenzy. Chad Szeliga wrecking those skins to everyone delight. These guys know how to put on a show!

The action abated for me for a while because I had to leave to cover a Red Carpet event with Ray Romano, Jason Alexander and Cheryl Hines; which was cool. I have a budding bromance with Jason Alexander that started a number of years ago, I guess, I’m maintaining. I had to leave the Rock behind and pick up the pieces in a couple of hours with The Offspring.

Photo gallery after the jump

I arrived early in the set of the Offspring after the red carpet event. They were delivering songs we are all familiar with but the band hadn’t dug into the big hits yet. I felt like they were saving those for me. The crowd was think, sweaty and primed for action. I’ve never seen the Offspring and I was looking to seeing them live. They knew their stuff: they were tight and completely on their game. They entertained us all. Soon they were diving deep into their hits. I remember “She’s Got Issues”, “Why Don’t You Get A Job?”, “The Kids Aren’t Alright”, but “Pretty Fly (For A White Guy)” and “Self Esteem” got the most reaction. The fans tightened towards the stage, their hands waving inn the air, cheers and bodies fiercely moving on every beat the band delivered. “You know, the more you suffer the more you really care!” The Offspring Rocked to the very end and then provided the hand off to the night’s headliner Marilyn Manson.

Set up for the Marilyn Manson stage must have been a bear. There were calls for all the volunteers to come up to the stage. I could the roadies struggle with hoisting the black scrim and scurrying frantically to get all the necessary cables to the right place and get them plugged in. But the show must go on! I struck a conversation with the drummers Mother while David Duchovny drifted in and out of view from the backstage. The fans were fanatical to say the least. As the stage work was nearing completion for the arrival of Manson’s show you could feel the pressure of the people moving forward packing everyone like sardines. Then came the silence and anticipation for a long awaited performance. Mason hasn’t been touring for the last three years. So a madhouse was about to be unleashed.

The scrim dropped and it was on! Manson ran the stage! Moving agilely to the front in classic Manson gear. He had a special goggled black skull mask while laying deep into the song “Hey Cruel World” with blistering fervor. The fans responded! They were frenetic, committed and waving their freak flags. It was mania I tell you, crazy damn mania! Sans the mask he moved on through “Disposable Teen”, “No Reflection” and “mOBSCENE”. The crowd response to “No Reflection” was huge! In between songs he’d chronicle his various intrigues over the last few years. He talk about getting high a lot. Suggesting that the audience was likely high. I saw no evidence of it in my corner, but surely someone  was in the crowd was high. I guess this was all leading to the “Dope Show”. Everything progressed nicely with Depeche Mode cover “Personal Jesus” and Eurythmics “Sweet Dreams”. Much to my surprise came the appearance of Ray Manzarek and Robby Krieger to do three Doors classics. While my Classic Rock friends have recoiled in horror at this event I haven’t found it difficult to take in knowing what I know. “People Are Strange” seems to be a perfect fit for Manson and while he’s no Jim Morrison, his vocals echoed where the Doors were coming from. It was a solid tribute. I know from my conversations with Ray that he’s always game to engage music in a contemporary manner, forever giving such classic music a new twist. It also introduced the Doors’ relevant material to a new generation. We Punks, for what it’s worth, held on to the Doors and Jimi Hendrix as archetypes form the previous generation of what innovation and creativity should sound like. I felt this was a fitting tribute to share the Doors music to a new generation in a way they could grasp.

At the end Manson’s didn’t fluff it! He stayed true to his core values and aesthetic. His encore were both “Antichrist Superstar” and “The Beautiful People”. This sent the crowd into a full on meltdown. Sending the SSMF off with the appropriate fireworks to end a festival and with the right measure of style to launch Marilyn Manson’s first tour in three years. It was a day great of music. I want to toast to another big blow out weekend next year!


Billy Bennight

About Billy Bennight

Billy Bennight is a writer and photographer with expertise and years of experience in these disciplines. His musical youth started as a Punk Rocker and has expanded into exploring many genres of music, with a keen interest in art, fashion, photography, and writing. He shoots celebrity and red-carpet events for ZUMA Press. He is also a member of the Los Angeles Art Association. His images have been published in The Los Angeles Times, People Magazine, Parade, Wall Street Journal, and French Elle, both Vanity Fair and Vanity Fair Italia. He's very engaged in life. You an see more of his work at ZUMA Press at You can follow him on his Facebook page at: and on Instagram and Twitter @billybennight
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