Sandy West Memorial Tribute Concert
December 9, 2006
The Knitting Factory
Concert Review by Junkman
Sandy West, the beloved drummer for the all female 70s band the Runaways, passed away on October 21, 2006. She inspired many young girls to pick up the sticks and get behind the drum kit to bash out their aggressions and make music. The Runaways were way ahead of their time. In an age when “cock rock” was about to explode, these five sexy young women made guys like me stand up and take notice. Although I was always hot for the Runaways singer Cherie Currie, as a drummer I was quite impressed by the talents of Sandy West. Years later I actually got to know her, although not very well. On December 9, 2006, those who knew her the best paid tribute in a sold-out concert at the Knitting Factory in Hollywood. It was both an emotional and musical sendoff that brought out some amazing talent.
Organized by the aforementioned Cherie Currie, who still looks gorgeous, and her manager Mara Fox, I witnessed some of the best of what LA has to offer in terms of live performance. Opening the show was Athens, featuring Currie’s son Jake Hays. Although I missed the set, was told by many that they are something to watch for in the future. There were many highlights throughout the evening — space limits keep me from listing all of them — but I’ll tell you about quite a few. I entered the building as Ian Mitchell from the Bay City Rollers and his band were bashing out a version of the Rollers’ big hit “Saturday Night,” and that got me thinking about the mid 70s when the Rollers and Runaways were starting to hit.
Rhino Bucket rocked the house with a brief three-song set featuring tunes off their new CD And Then It Got Ugly. A band consisting of former Nashville Pussy bassist turned clothing designer Cory Parks and her partner Die Hunns leader Duane Peters, along with D.H. Peligro of Dead Kennedys fame, played a complete train wreck of a set that started the dorkiest group of moshers I’ve seen in quite awhile. A friend of mine and I decided that one guy was worthy of a “swirly”! Look it up or ask yer kid…
The Adolescents sent that same group and many more into an absolute frenzy with a very energetic set that really got the night going. The first appearance onstage in years of LA’s own White Flag was a lot of fun as well, and there were smiles on the faces of people during a very somber time. The announcement of the launching of the Sandy West Foundation raised the spirits of the crowd after solemn remembrances by both Currie and family members. All awhile, a slide show collage of Sandy West was projected on the big screen in front of the stage in between acts.
Not A highlight for me was the appearance of Michael Des Barres and Freelove Foundation, a 12-piece soul band featuring a horn section and three background singers that got the place rocking. Des Barres is truly a legend in this town, and he and the band sounded wonderful. Speaking of legends, two of my heroe, brothers Carmine and Vinnie Appice, performed “Drum Wars,” a drum duet between the two of them as a fitting tribute to Sandy.
The Bangles followed with a very tight set, featuring songs from their entire career. Their wonderful harmonies were intact during their cover of Simon & Garfunkel’s “Hazy Shade Of Winter,” “In Your Room,” and “Hero Takes A Fall.” Cherie Currie then took the stage and rocked out some Runaways songs backed by the band Sweet Justice, featuring Frank Meyer on guitar and a special appearance on a number by Prescott Niles from the Knack, whose drummer Bruce Gary recently passed away. Currie is a great front woman, and rocked the adoring crowd with songs that she and West, along with Lita Ford and Joan Jett amongst other former Runaways members, made famous all those years ago.
Following a rocking appearance by the surviving members of the Sandy West Band, the Donnas played a set that owed a lot to the influence of the Runaways, and many others that appeared this very evening. They’re a great bunch of rocking women and a great band. As I made my way backstage to say my goodbyes to the performers that I knew, the Binges hit the stage and rocked out.
There were lots of hugs, kisses, and pats on the back for what was truly an extraordinary evening and a fitting tribute to a real rock and roller. My condolences to Sandy’s family and friends, but her music and spirit live on. In this season of giving, please give to the Sandy West Foundation and others, and try to remember those who are no longer with us. I know I will.