If there is one thing that musicians love to do, it’s get together with other musicians, pull out the guitars and jam for fun. When you’re able to do this to help an organization or a friend in need, it makes it all the more sweet. So when former Guns N Roses drummer Matt Sorum asked a few of his buddies to help him raise some money and heighten awareness for The Dolphin Project, they were there.
Although it was a beautiful day in Hollywood, it was a sad day in The Cove. Thousands of miles away in Taiji, Japan, pilot whales were succumbing to the death traps and dolphins were being herded into a holding area, sensing the tortures that were in their imminent future. It is that time of the year that only hundreds know about yet millions are unaware of. And this is precisely what Sorum was hoping to change with the concert at the Avalon Hollywood on this Monday night in November. With his band the Kings Of Chaos headlining, and special guests appearing throughout the whole show, the evening was a huge success in more ways than one.
Although sound check ran a little long, those who held VIP tickets were not complaining, as they were given the rare opportunity to see some of their favorite musicians run through songs in almost their barest pre-show form. Afterwards, they were able to take portraits with the band and an auction was held for autographed drum heads, photos, posters and a beautiful black guitar.
Master Of Ceremonies Sorum walked out on the stage in a funky blue suit and talked about his involvement with the Dolphin Project. He was bookended by two shockingly vivid films about the importance of the organization and it’s founder Richard O’Barry, who also appeared onstage giving a blunt yet heartfelt speech about his life helping not only dolphins but all ocean creatures who are being exploited and killed for the pleasure of others. Knowing firsthand what these beautiful mammals go through in captivity, O’Barry was straightforward and honest about his past: how he himself was a forefather of the trade by capturing and training dolphins for the hit sixties television program Flipper. He cannot change the past but he can try and change the future, hence his life’s work trying to stop what he himself virtually created.
Looking around at the crowd, I saw tears on cheeks as O’Barry talked about the pain the mammals go through, how they sense their doom, how they cry out as they are speared while trying desperately to escape. Dolphins are highly intelligent and are known to have feelings and intuitions. The smile they wear on their face has become their most misleading feature and O’Barry reminded us that when you swim with dolphins at overpriced resorts or watch a performance at Sea World, to remember that the smiles hide the fact that they are deprived of food in order to perform silly tricks. He asked us to remember that exotic delicacies sprang from violent deaths. O’Barry was enthusiastically applauded for giving his life so selfishly over to helping those that cannot help themselves.
Sorum, along with his solo band Fierce Joy, performed a solemn new song called “The Sea,” which hits home his message of love for the ocean and all it’s inhabitants. A young singer-songwriter named Arielle next performed a couple of songs, her youth and innocence and lovely voice making for a memorable moment in the spotlight. Arielle too has been physically involved with the Dolphin Project since reading O’Barry’s book Behind The Dolphin Smile a few years ago.
By special request, Glenn Hughes sang a haunting rendition of Deep Purple’s “Mistreated” on acoustic guitar. For a man in his early sixties, his pipes sound alarmingly spry, hitting the high notes with the greatest of ease.
And then we rocked. Opening with some Deep Purple and continuing through covers of AC/DC, Led Zeppelin and Queen, the momentum kept building and the crowd was loving every minute of it. To highlight Billy Idol’s guitar player Steve Stevens, Stone Sour’s Corey Taylor came out to sing a vibrant “Rebel Yell;” then honed in on his inner Axl Rose by belting out “Mr Brownstone” and “It’s So Easy” to represent GNR bassist Duff McKagan and guitarist Slash. Actress and punk rocker Juliette Lewis speeded through a hyperkinetic “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap” while Franky Perez handled “Tie Your Mother Down” and “Paradise City,” and almost stole the show with his rendition of “Immigrant Song.”
One of the highlights was of course the blues jam featuring Slash, Stevens, McKagan, Sorum, Hughes and Survivorman’s Les Stroud blowing a mean harmonica sound. It was dirty, it was grungy, it was sexy and they completely nailed it.
With so many cooks in the proverbial kitchen, this could have turned into a chaotic mess but it never even came close. Everyone had joined together on this night as a unit to help raise awareness and have a good time. Smiles were often spread across the musicians’ faces as egos were firmly checked out on the red carpet. Stevens may have looked the most rock star-y of the group in his sparkly open to the navel shirt and dangling cigarette but he shared solos and rhythm with Slash like it was the most natural thing in the world to do. Even Billy Ray Cyrus, all scruffy hair and beard and long scarf, made an appearance during the closer, “Paradise City,” skipping around the stage like a giddy teenager. And spotted in the crowd? Legendary music photographers Gene Kirkland and Jimmy Steinfeldt, guitarist Nuno Bettencourt, CSI actor Gary Dourdan, True Blood’s Kristen Bauer, Moby and bass player Nikki Sixx, all showing their support subtlety, not allowing their presence to overpower the message at hand.
After two hours of rock & roll maelstrom, Sorum thanked everyone and encouraged people to spread the word. One voice telling another voice CAN make a difference.
And watch next week for my interview with Matt Sorum about his involvement.
Photos by Leslie Michele Derrough