Goin’ Hollywood

From the swamps, fumes, toxic sludge, and the congestion of New Jersey, The Sexy Armpit flew all the way across the country to Los Angeles, California. Like alot of other kids I knew, I grew up with a bit of an inflated idea of Hollywood. As a kid, I pictured famous people everywhere, hot girls galore, and bright sunny days. Regardless of my love for the state I was born and raised in, Hollywood sits on a gold encrusted throne high above any other city I’ve ever visited. There’s a slew of reasons why this town offers so much more than just the random celebrity sightings. (Mena Suvari, Ian Ziering, and Rebecca Gayheart just to name a few) If you’re trying to keep up with “the scene,” then you know that everything in Hollywood IS based on you’re look. It seems like the only people there who aren’t beautiful are some of the tourists, excluding myself of course…ahem. joke. I looked like a mutant compared to some of the natives. Those hot, hot, natives. Even the f’n mannequins are hotter there.

The most minuscule details of life in Hollywood seem to make everything about my life in New Jersey seem meaningless. I’ve always complained that “nothing cool ever happens in Jersey.” Of course that’s a generalization but it’s mostly true. It’s a disservice to say that the only thing cool about Hollywood is that there are celebrities all over the place. Actually, celebrity sightings just added to the amazing times I had there. In fact I don’t know if I can say I’ve ever had that much fun doing anything in New Jersey. If I stood on one leg eating a leftover bowl of macaroni in the middle of a street in Jersey and then did the same thing on the Sunset Strip…something tells me that it would be about 250,000 times more fun on the Strip. Maybe it’s because it’s called “The Strip?” It’s no coincidence that The Strip is home to the illustrious gentleman’s clubs that Motley Crue’s Vince Neil shouted out in “Girls, Girls, Girls” like the Seventh Veil, and The Body Shop. I couldn’t believe I was walking past places that are mentioned in a song that I’ve sang along to about 4,000 times! Screw you, that was exciting to me.

North Jersey guido’s or Jocks who are still re-living their high school football memories need not even visit Hollywood because they won’t fit in. The freaks, the flamboyant, and the filthy rich create the city’s aura and keep it’s blood pumping. New York was always said to be the city that never sleeps but Hollywood is way more of a constant party. There’s always an after party, and you’re never at a loss to find somewhere else to go. The people of the town are way more sociable than the angry, uptight NY/NJ people. Being a lifelong Jersey native and a person whose hung out in New York more times than you can imagine, it’s a fact that we’re a cold, aggressive bunch of folks. Even with smog blocking the sun on some days, Hollywood keeps it’s positive, go getting, adventurous atmosphere. That atmosphere may be what fuels people to go there to follow their dreams. Whether it was playing in a band, or acting, everyone seemed to have talent and ambition to “make it.” Believe it or not, just going out and showing your face consistently gives you your own “fun size” sample of star power.

Going to New York to follow your dreams may only land you a job on Wall Street or at a corner store selling fruit, energy drinks, and flowers. New York City in comparison to Hollywood is nothing but business. Not too much fun to be had there in Manhattan. You like Opera? Show tunes? Working your ass off? Traffic and honking? Getting lost? Then Manhattan is the place for you. Hollywood is all about a laid back, party atmosphere and it looks like not much has changed there in quite a long time. We even stayed in the Hyatt, West Hollywood because of it’s rich rock history. Click the link for a great rundown of facts about the hotel at Wikipedia.

In any local establishment in NJ all you hear over their sound system is Rhianna, Leona Lewis, John Mayer etc. All I had to do was travel 3,000 miles and in every establishment, EVEN MEXICAN RESTAURANTS, you can hear a whole slew of ’80s rock. Everywhere I was I heard Motley, Guns, Van Halen, Poison, and Bon Jovi. Even though it was only a few days, it gave me hope that at least some place in the world still likes to ROCK! Jersey sure as hell doesn’t remember that one of it’s own stereotypes was BIG HAIR!

The rock music scene is still alive and flourishing. While there seems to be no place for rock in New Jersey, Hollywood wears their rock rags proudly. Whether you wear eyeliner or high heel boots, everything rock is accepted. In fact, all kinds of music get their fair share of stage time on the strip. New York and New Jersey are famous for certain venues but I guess I missed their golden age. Music venues in Asbury Park, Atlantic City, and Hoboken have become historic because of the artists that would frequently play there. Heck, even the Izod Center in East Rutherford and The Starland Ballroom in Sayreville constantly has huge concerts with all the big names. The problem is, they aren’t the type of places you go to just hang out and coincidentally catch an awesome band who might hit it huge in a few years. Regardless of the fact that Manhattan is home to the most famous arena, Madison Square Garden, as well as places like Roseland, Hammerstein, and the defunct CBGB’s, the good stuff takes a while to travel over to the East Coast. Perhaps it’s the vastness of the metropolitan area that hinders it from being as great as Hollywood. You can’t walk down a street and choose between 3 concert venues all featuring several solid acts. I can’t imagine how far it would be to walk from Starland Ballroom in Sayreville all the way to the Izod Center in East Rutherford. (According to mapquest it’s about 36 miles and it would take about 50 minutes depending on traffic…bummer) In Hollywood I can walk from the Viper Room to the Key Club, to the Roxy all in a matter of a few minutes. Venues like the Whiskey-a-Go-Go and all the clubs on the strip are legendary for the great bands and artists that have played there. When you visit the Jersey Shore, you can hit up Jenkinson’s and check out a cover band, and then also check out Martell’s Tiki Bar and then…check out a cover band! Now don’t get me wrong I love cover bands but after you had the time in Hollywood that I did, Jersey pales in comparison.

In about 4 days here’s the rundown of all the bands I got to see, and it wasn’t even a festival! Check this out:
The Donnas 15th Anniversary show, a very intimate gathering for the Donnas hardcore fans, and family members. Wow, these girls have worked hard for 15 years already and they’re music and performances just keep getting stronger. Back in ’01 I got to interview Torry, (The Donnas drummer) for my radio show and finally got to meet her in person at this show. Their latest album Bitchin is a kick ass rock party album and is in stores now.

Vains of Jenna – I first heard about these Swedish guys a few years ago on Stevie Rachelle’s Metal Sludge site and I picked up their CD (which was released on Bam Margera’s record label) as soon as it came out. I’ve always been a fan of Swedish rock bands (like Dogpound) because the folks in Sweden eat, sleep, and bathe in rock and roll. They are so obsessed with it that they study rock music that was popular in the ’70s and ’80s in the U.S. You might ask, for a bunch of guys so serious about their craft how can they be bad? Unfortunately I was actually disappointed in the recording quality of “Lit Up, Let Down,” and there wasn’t that many tracks that blew me away. It just seemed like a bunch of guys doing throwback sleaze rock from the ’80s. WAS I WRONG! Have you ever heard the old adage that you have to experience a band live to make an accurate opinion on them? Remember how the first few KISS albums weren’t big sellers but after people started seeing their explosive, loud, rocking live show the band started to blow up. This is exactly how Veins of Jenna is going to do it. They played one blistering set of tunes that sounded almost completely separate from the tracks on the album. Their CD does not do them justice. They also threw in a cover of Tom Petty’s Refugee which was heavy and friggin‘ amazing.

I also got to check out The Atomic Punks – The Tribute to Early Van Halen with lead singer Ralph Saenz, who coincidentally is also the lead singer of STEEL PANTHER. For those who have been under a rock for the last 8 years or so, Steel Panther (formerly Danger Kitty, Metal Shop and Metal Skool) are rock’s reigning kings of the sunset strip. Their original brand of Hair Band Parody sells out every Monday night. They play ’80s hair metal from Bon Jovi to Poison and always throw in one of their original comedy rock songs like “Death to All But Metal” or “Fat Girl.” Celebs are known to show up and sing with them from time to time like Kelly Clarkson, Jessica Simpson, and Pink. I was lucky to see Matt Sorum introduce the band, Scott Ian from Anthrax join them onstage, Corey Taylor of Slipknot, and Whitfield Crane formerly of Ugly Kid Joe/Another Animal.

Some of the other amazing bands I saw during my stay in Hollywood: Franki’s Broken Toys (Franki Doll=great frontwoman), Mack Winston and the Reflections,(original, pretty damn mesmerizing music) The Binges (BEST band I’ve heard in years) and the hard driving Bullets and Octane. And more! I don’t think a feat this cool could ever be accomplished in NY/NJ or for that matter, anywhere on the east coast. There’s always a band to discover there before it makes it’s way east. I originally intended the name of this site to embrace the good stuff Jersey offered but, man, I’m not far away from making it all about how it’s so not as cool as Hollywood. But really…not many places are.