Back in 1986, Riki Rachtman wanted to find a place for his friends to hang out, and if him and his roommate Taime Downe met more girls all the better. He found an old Disco club on La Cienega, persuaded the bar to let him convert it into a dance club that played rock n’ roll, and thus the Cathouse was born.
Fast forward to 2015, and Rachtman joined forces with Live Nation and Sirius XM to bring the Cathouse back on an even grander scale with the Cathouse Live! festival at Irvine Meadows. The event showcased some of the finest glam metal, hard rock and heavy metal bands to arrive from the 80’s with the stifling heat raising the mercury to around 100 degrees.
Concert goes shared admiration for the band members onstage, who despite the climate still donned their signature stage outfits largely comprised of jeans, long sleeves, leather pants, jackets, hats and makeup. Nothing was altered and the audience adored this dedication to the craft.
Even as those Southern California ticket holders had to escape the heat wave by picking and choosing which bands they witnessed in order to tap out and seek cold drinks and forgiving shade after each set. The main stage revolved with little down time between bands, and as one group finished the stage spun around to reveal yet another layout.
Opening the main stage were rising rebel metal/blues rock group Swamphammer, who took the first prize at the preceding Cathouse Live! Battle of the Bands. Having only found their way onto the stage in 2013, they demonstrated a high level of talent which started the evening off right.
Following the first stage rotation, the Bulletboys preceded to take command of the crowd. Backed by their recently released studio album ‘Elefante,’ these veteran rockers started out with “Born to Breed” and closed with the signature hit “Smooth Up in Ya” to a light crowd. Despite being in the heat of the day, Bulletboys remained in top form.
Next up was Trixter, who first played at Irvine Meadows back on tour with the Scorpions in 1991. Upon making note that they were the only performing band with all original members, Trixter strutted out to the themes of “Give It to Me Good” and “Heart of Steel.”
After we escaped from the heat for a few band rotations, Junkyard were out taking command through the anthemic “Hollywood” and “Lost in the City.” Frontman David Roach’s face was beat red from the heat, but it didn’t stop him nor the rest of the band from putting on an impressive set.
Siagon Kick followed and similarly delivered a concrete performance. Hailing from their hometown of Miami, Florida, Siagon Kick entertained the enduring crowd through songs off of their self-titled album and ‘The Lizard Water.’ When the band pulled out the classic ballad “Love Is on the Way,” the fans were all there singing along word for word.
Better crowd participation followed in time for L.A. Guns’ turn at the helm. The band’s 5:30 set time allowed for the temperature to drop a few degrees, and even a crowd of the afternoon’s musicians who already performed could be seen at the side of the stage to watch their set. Phil Lewis and boys looked and sounded great as they pulled seven songs off of ‘Cocked & Loaded,’ ‘Hollywood Vampires’ and the self-titled ‘L.A. Guns.’
Dangerous Toys similarly delivered a rowdy hard rock set, which preceded one of the event’s clear highlights. With rumors of a reunion high in the air, the crowd took their seats to watch Faster Pussycat take the stage. The audience roared when they saw Ace Von Johnson, Chad Steward, Danny Nordahl and Xristian Simon in their poses horns up. As Taime makes his grand entrance wearing black leathers, full make up, cigarette in one hand and a black umbrella in the other, Faster Pussycat opened their show with the fitting favorite “Cathouse.”
Four songs into their set, Taime introduces original guitarist Greg Steel for “House of Pain.” The rumors were true. The crowd went berserk. Founding members Brent Muscat and Eric Stacy soon followed for high octane renditions of “Bathroom Wall” and “Babylon.” Seeing original members and current members on the stage together was a moment that won’t be forgotten.
Stephen Pearcy followed with a set filled to the brim with Ratt and Roll, before Dokken hit the stage and led the crowd into another session of classic anthems such as “Into the Fire,” “Breaking the Chains” and “In My Dreams.” If anything was clear from these two performances, it’s that fans sure do love their Ratt and Dokken.
One man wrecking crew Sebastian Bach took the stage twirling the mic around like a helicopter blade, with the hair flings and fist pumps of a 20 year old covering every part of the stage. There’s no other fitting way to say it: he kicked ass! Aside from “American Metalhead,” it was an all Skid Row set. Although he’s an advocate against cell phones at concerts, Bach embraced that this is 2015 and encouraged the crowd to light ‘em up during “I Remember You.” Another fitting moment was when Bach pulled Rachtman onstage for the start of “18 to Life,” which brought another meaning to the words: “Riki was a young boy!”
Tom Keifer was another force to be reckoned with that evening. With his solo band, Keifer rolled through a set mainly of Cinderella favorites while introducing “It’s Not Enough” and “Solid Ground” from his debut solo album ‘The Way Life Goes.’ Joining Tom onstage was his wife Savannah to sing “Don’t What You Got (Till It’s Gone)” unplugged, which moved some to tears. Keeping with the spontaneous themes of the Cathouse, the band covered The Beatles’ “With a Little Help From My Friends” as every fan sang along.
Closing the main stage with a sixty minute set were Extreme, and did they ever put on one hell of a show. Primarily based on the ‘Pornograffitti’ album which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, Gary Cherone’s energy was endless over the course of the show. Nuno Bettencourt’s abilities on the guitar were similarly impressive as the band rolled through acoustic takes of “More Then Words” and “Hole Hearted” as the sea of phones lit their performance. Extreme rounded out their set with a memorable version of Queen’s “Crazy Little Thing Called Love.”
As if it were even possible, by far the best occasion of the night was for Gilby Clarke’s All-Star Jam. The set started out with Riki riding out on a chopper to the side stage while thanking the crowd for the supporting. After getting a resounding “Yes!” when asked if the Cathouse Live! festival should return in 2016, the audience was welcomed up front to crowd the stage. Having Guns N’ Roses alumni Gilby Clarke in charge of the All-Star Jam didn’t disappoint, and although it was cut short due to time restraints it proved to be a jam session of great proportions.
Playing in this jam were Gilby, Evan Seinfeld (Biohazard), Brent Fitz (Slash), Chip Z’ Nuff (Enuff Z Nuff), Michael Starr (Steel Panther), Taime Downe (Faster Pussycat), Phil Lewis (L.A. Guns), Nuno Bettencourt (Extreme) Brent Muscat (Original Faster Pussycat guitarist), Sebastian Bach (Skid Row), Riki Rachtman (Cathouse/Head Bangers Ball) and very special guest, the Spaceman himself, Ace Frehley of KISS fame.
It was a treat to watch musicians that played earlier in the day join the Space Ace, who is surely someone they all have looked up to when starting their own careers. Before the last song, Bach addressed the crowd and asked if they would rather hear “Rock ‘N Roll All Nite” or “Deuce.” Surprisingly, the fans chose the latter and they still played away after the stage had rotated. You weren’t able to see them, and yet the energy was still electric.
Next year is the 30th anniversary of the Cathouse, and after the success of the first annual Cathouse Live! festival I can’t imagine it will go unnoticed. Whatever Riki has planned will certainly be an epic event!
Gilby Clarke’s All-Star Jam Set List
David Bowie’s “The Jean Genie” – Phil Lewis (vocals), Chip Z’Nuff (bass), Brent Muscat and Gilby Clarke (guitars), Brent Fitz (drums)
Iggy Pop’s “The Stooges” – Riki Rachtman and Taime Downe (vocals), Gilby Clarke (guitar), Even Seinfeld (bass) and Brent Fitz (drums)
Guns N’ Roses’ “Mr Brownstone” – Michael Starr (vocals), Nuno Bettencourt and Gilby Clarke (guitars), Evan Seinfeld (bass) and Brent Fitz (drums)
KISS’ “Shock Me” – Ace Frehley (vocals/guitar), Gilby Clarke (guitar), Evan Seinfeld (bass) and Brent Fitz (drums)
KISS’ “Deuce” – Sebastian Bach (vocals), Ace Frehley and Gilby Clarke (guitars), Evan Seinfeld (bass) and Brent Fitz (drums)