We did, but first we had to survive the heat. Good Lord was it hot! Mother Nature decided to bestow a dubious “gift” upon Cathouse Live in the form of near-record temperatures. A few days earlier or later it would have been pleasantly in the high 70’s/low 80’s, but as it turned out, the Saturday of the event was the peak of the heat wave. At 2:00 pm when the gates opened, it was a brutal 96 degrees.
Irvine Meadows is an outdoor amphitheater with not an ounce of shade at midday. For the bands onstage, it was even more intense. A southwest-facing black painted stage, in the sun, with musicians wearing denim and leather. (Luckily, the set times for the earlier bands were only a half-hour in length, which no doubt saved more than a few musicians from heatstroke).
There were actually a handful of a few brave fans baking in the seats when the BulletBoys hit the stage at 2:30 (although one girl was overheard saying to her friend as they were fleeing to find shade “I’m really not enjoying this.”) Give Marq Torien credit for bringing it with energy and enthusiasm as if it was 10:00 pm and there were tens of thousands of people in the audience.
With conditions as they were, one could excuse the bands for going through the motions to get off the frying pan as soon as possible, but everyone gave it their all, and if they were struggling with the heat no one showed it in their performances.
The bands assigned to the Festival Stage were a little luckier. Their stage faced north so while they were still affected by the heat, at least they were sheltered from the sun. In addition, while the crowd might have been smaller, they were no less enthusiastic.
On the Main Stage there were to be 16 bands scheduled, and to keep things flowing with a minimum of downtime a rotating stage setup was utilized. While one act was playing the next one was setting up on the backstage half of the turntable. As soon as the onstage act was wrapping up their final song, the backstage act started playing, so they would actually be on their first song as the turntable was rotating–pretty cool setup.
Given that it’s been a good 25 years since the Cathouse was in its prime, most of the bands that played the event have evolved to be like pro sports teams: The name itself is the franchise, while the players are interchangeable. Another way to look at it is with only a few original members (sometimes only one original member) these groups could be considered tribute bands unto themselves–an odd concept to say the least. However, all the players are pro-caliber musicians, so all but the most hardcore fans couldn’t find fault with the way these well-known and well-loved songs were presented. The visual images were sometimes jarring—wrinkles, greying hair and expanding waistlines—but hell, we fans have aged right along with our rock heroes.
Most of the bands played it straight: Picking their best known songs for their 30-minute sets. For over eight hours the music continued, with the bigger names allotted the later start times (and more stage time). One of the most commented-on performances, both at the event and later online, was Tom Kiefer’s rendition of With A Little Help From My Friends. Kiefer did play most of Cinderella’s biggest hits, but it was the Beatles cover, done in the style made famous by Joe Cocker that had this crowd on edge. The instrumentation was rock solid, the vocal harmonies were truly breathtaking, and the result was more than dramatic.
Finally, close to 11:00 pm it was time for Gilbey Clarke and the All Star Jam. The fans rushed close to the stage to see the culmination of the concert. Everyone was in full party spirit, except for one small (but one extremely important) detail: Apparently, no one realized that Irvine Meadows has a curfew of 11:30 pm. Ace Frehley of KISS came out to play, and Sebastian Bach asked the audience: “What do you want to hear? Rock and Roll All Night or Deuce?” The roar of the crowd was unanimous—Deuce it would be. The band launched into the song and all was sounding great, but about two thirds into the tune the stage suddenly began rotating. Rock gods are no match for city laws and venue regulations, but in true rock ‘n roll spirit, the band played on.
It was a surreal ending to the long, long day as the last thing the thousands in the amphitheater saw was the band rotating away from them, and then a blank wall. Only a few lucky folks backstage (including yours truly) got to see and hear the actual ending of the song.
Whether Cathouse Live turns out to be a one-time event or an annual happening, a lot of memories were brought back, and new ones were made.
CLICK HERE to view more photos from the Festival Stage.