The sixth annual Rip magazine party proved, if nothing else, that hard rock is alive and well. Each of the seven bands selected to perform was, if not the antithesis of the currently hip “alternative,””Seattle sound” or “grunge” rock, closer to the straight-ahead heavy rock sound and imagery of the late ’80s. An interesting observation, as Rip historically featured cutting-edge artists throughout its half-dozen years. The night signalled, if not a return to hard rock, then at least an acknowledgement that it hasn’t disappeared completely during the past two years of alternative’s popularity.
Kicking off the festivities were Skew Siskin, a Teutonic import burdened by a ridiculously early 7:15 starting time and an excessively loud sound system. In the still nearly empty room (which later would include members of Mr. Big, MSG, Great White, Van Halen, Guns N’ Roses and Shotgun Messiah, among others), even earplugs couldn’t absorb the massive volume. Still, they issued tremendous energy as they introduced songs from their self-titled debut album. Nina C. Alice’s scream-from-the-gut androgynous vocals were both powerful and riveting.
Kik Tracee followed with a well-received set and a decidedly cleaner sound. Vocalist Stephen Shareaux’s lanky, pajama-clad form bounced around the stage like a marionette out of whack. Their music was a grooving mix of heavy and semi-psychedelic rock with a wonderful marriage of texturing and mood. Their single “You’re So Strange” segued into an innovative percussion-infused tune featuring dramatic, heavily thudding drums and guitars.
Tora Tora played an ambitious set, highlighted by a horn section, but didn’t seem to really get off the ground. Bad 4 Good, four musical prodigies in their early teens, played hard rock with a (vocally speaking) rap edge.
Jackyl, a group of self-described Southern rednecks (and proud of it) who play uptempo, heavy Southern rock, featured the over-the-top antics of vocalist Jesse James Dupree. The showman/singer played a chainsaw solo (in tune), aimed a shotgun at the ceiling and fired, chainsaw-chopped a stool in half and capped the performance singing “She Loves My Cock” wearing nothing but a G-string.
Warrant took the stage aggressively, as part of their campaign to shed their pop-rock image. Performing hits “Down Boys,””Heaven,””Uncle Tom’s Cabin” and “Cherry Pie,” they were rewarded by total audience acceptance by the now-swelling crowd, eventually closing their set with Accept’s “Balls to the Wall.”
Bon Jovi, the headlining act, set the standard for hard rock performance. Opening with cover tune “A Little Help From My Friends,” and playing such mega-hits as “Wild in the Streets,””You Give Love a Bad Name,””Born to Be My Baby,””I’d Die For You,””Blaze of Glory” and “Bad Medicine” before capping their show with the ’60s standard “Shout,” they were the consummate performers. After egging on the audience, allowing the songs to build, always in control of the stage as well as their instruments, it seemed only fitting that the band who epitomized ’80s hard rock would be the ones to signal the healthy revival of that genre in the ’90s.