Situated on the most high-profile corner of the Sunset Strip, the Whisky A Go Go is a venerable live music institution in Hollywood. Having hosted nascent bands like The Doors and Frank Zappa & the Mothers of Invention in the 1960s and rock/metal groups including Guns N’ Roses and Metallica in the 1980s, the club has added to its diverse resume in recent years by staging reunion announcements for the media by veteran acts such as The Police and Black Sabbath. 2014 marks the 50th Anniversary of the venue and throughout January a full roster of famous acts returned to perform (or played for the first time) within these historic walls. So it was only fitting that the final show for this month-long celebration would be by a powerful one that I had patiently waited 20 years to see live: Infectious Grooves.
The lineup of Infectious Grooves is a supergroup in every sense of the word. Four original band members Mike Muir (vocals) and Dean Pleasants (guitar) from Suicidal Tendencies, Metallica bassist Robert Trujillo and Jane’s Addiction drummer Stephen Perkins were joined by ex-Faith No More axe man Jim Martin, replacing initial guitarist Adam Siegel. While Infectious Grooves had one other concert in the past 3 years, at Metallica’s Orion Festival on Detroit’s Belle Isle last summer, they had not played in Los Angeles in well over a decade, so the anticipation in the room for their patented amalgam of funk metal was extremely high. Openers Mondo Generator featuring bassist/vocalist Nick Oliveri, formerly of Queens of the Stone Age and Kyuss, provided an aggressive set for the full house that contained a fine cover of Kyuss’ “Green Machine” before the changeover began for the headlining act.
Shortly after 11 pm, Infectious Grooves’ reptilian mascot Sarsippius slithered down the stairs to the stage with a posse of masked clowns in tow to introduce the band and the 90 minutes that followed were a ridiculously entertaining and wild display in terms of musicianship, audience interaction and ancillary antics. Although a majority of the setlist was comprised from their first album, The Plague That Makes Your Booty Moves…It’s the Infectious Grooves, cover songs by artists such as Led Zeppelin, David Bowie and Journey were also played for the amped up attendees who moshed, pogoed and crowd surfed along to the high energy tunes. Of note was “Monster Skank” which featured preposterously fast slapping and popping from Robert Trujillo throughout its duration. This one in particular floored me, if for no other reason than to see Robert let loose and put his abundant bass skills to the test after years as a member of Metallica have relegated him to a more reserved and regimented role admidst their thunderous, arena-filling sound.
Mike Muir bounced around unrestrained and lived up to his nickname of “Cyco Miko” with an endless series of unpredictable gestures and full body contortions while delivering staccato verses of lyrics. Stephen Perkins held court behind the kit in his inimitable style with a wide array of drum rolls, jackhammer beats and cymbal splashes. The two guitarists impressed, particularly Dean Pleasants whose open ended vamps propelled the band throughout much of their set. Jim Martin was the wild card in this unit and while I was most enthusiastic about seeing him play for the first time since 1992 (the Guns N’ Roses/Metallica/Faith No More stadium tour), he seemed to be given more of a rhythm role and wasn’t allowed too many solos; though I relished the few he graced us with.
It was a fulfilling performance that exceeded expectations and quelled a couple of fears I had going in about the venue in terms of PA acoustics and the occasionally heavy handed security. This was a show that pushed the reset button on all those lingering doubts as a throwback band left their mark during a retrospective era for the Whisky A Go Go. I’m not sure I’ll get the opportunity to see their virtually indefinable, uniquely intense blend of thrash and bottom-heavy funk again but the vivid memories of this night are seared for all time.
Setlist: Infectious Grooves @ Whisky A Go-Go, Hollywood 1/31/14
These Freaks Are Here to Party
You Lie…And Yo Breath Stank
Immigrant Song (Led Zeppelin cover)
Stop Funk’n With My Head
Punk It Up
Fame (David Bowie cover)
I’m Gonna Be My King
Green Eyed Lady (Sugarloaf cover)
Lights (Journey cover)
Violent & Funky
Boom Boom Boom
Do The Sinister