Sunset Strip rocks anew with fest

Smashing Pumpkins, Slash top L.A. music festival

It takes a worthy cause to shut down the Sunset Strip, and what worthier cause is there than rock ‘n’ roll?

The third annual Sunset Strip Music Festival, running today through Saturday, will close the boulevard between San Vicente and Doheny for the fest’s Saturday lineup. Performers including Slash, The Smashing Pumpkins, Kid Cudi and Common will rock two outdoor stages amidst a sea of vendors, including interactive booths from fest sponsors.

Local landmarks the Roxy, Whiskey A Go Go, Viper Room, Key Club, House of Blues and the Cat Club will host simultaneous performances during all three days.

Attendance to the musical block party has been steadily growing since its maiden voyage in 2008, when 9,000 people bought tickets, to the 20,000 expected this year. The event should provide an interesting east/west contrast to last weekend’s Sunset Junction Fair, where cutting-edge acts like Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros, Meshell Ndegeocello and Ghostland Observatory attracted crowds that exceeded 50,000 per day, according to the LAPD. Police described that event as having gone off “without a hitch,” despite reaching critical mass on Sunday night.

“Almost every inch of the street is going to be occupied by some sort of sponsor, experience or band,” said Sunset Strip fest’s managing director Karmen Beck. The Sunset Strip Business Association, which organizes the event, expects visitors from as far as Australia.

From the Birds to the Doors to Motley Crue, the strip is no stranger to rock legends, many of whom got their start in its famous (and, in some cases, infamous) venues.

“For (the musicians), it’s like coming home and paying homage to where many of them began,” said Beck, adding that attendees will get more bang for their buck than in years past, with extra bands added to the lineup and extended hours for Saturday’s street fest.

Billy Corgan, lead singer of the Smashing Pumpkins, first performed on the strip at the Whiskey in the early ’90s. “Anytime you get to play a place that has a history attached to it, those are the places you tend to look back on,” said Corgan.

Fest organizers say the strip’s businesses and eateries benefit enormously from extra foot traffic, and help balance the event’s $1 million-plus price tag.

The number of attendees in 2008 helped convince City Council members, who granted the street closure, that Saturday’s events could be lucrative enough to warrant shutting down traffic. “Our main goal is to create an amazing but very safe environment,” Beck said. “And that costs money.”

This year’s fest kicks off today with a VIP tribute event to Slash at House of Blues, followed by Friday performances from P.O.D., the Expendables and Nico Vega. While general admission, at $49.50, outweighs the $20 price tag for Sunset Junction that had guests grumbling, a portion of the Strip’s ticket sales will benefit the Los Angeles Youth Network, a nonprofit which combats homelessness.

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