Strange ’80s 3D Brings Rock, Reflection + Recognition for Mental Illness
The '80s generated a lot of great music and were responsible for a lot of iconic memories and with the spirit of a well-regarded era in mind, a number of rock's finest came together in Hollywood Saturday night for the third annual Strange '80s benefit. This year's event incorporated a 3D element, with those wearing the special glasses being treated to special announcements between sets, and a number popular '80s characters roamed the crowd and greeted music fans upon entry. Bush's Gavin Rossdale, Eagles of Death Metal's Jesse Hughes, Stray Cats' Slim Jim Phantom and members of Sum 41, Weezer, Atlas Genius and Crowded House were among the top names of the night, with many having ties to the reason for the benefit, which was to put a spotlight on mental health awareness.
Talinda Bennington, whose 320 Changes Direction organization was one of the night's recipients of funding, credited Charity Bomb for organizing the show and involving her organization. "They came to us and said we love your organization and what you do and would love you to be part of this. They have all this amazing production for the show and we’re so humbled that they would donate the proceeds and it’s doing so well," said Bennington, whose son Jaime was also making his performance debut during the festivities.
Brandon Jordan, Rock to Recovery's program administrator who joined in the fun of singing Beastie Boys' "Fight for Your Right," said of the night, "We’re all gonna get together, sing songs, get sweaty and just be like, ‘I’m so glad that happened,’ but what happens to the person who talks themselves into not coming tonight, that’s what we’re kind of dealing with. We’re talking about isolation and not pushing through to get to the place where people love you or getting involved in the things that make you feel good."
The feel good spirit got underway early with the young music students from the Paramount Academy of Music opening the night with The Clash's "Train in Vain." Other early evening highlights included a grunged up cover of Soft Cell's "Tainted Love" and a killer medley of hard rock classics from Bleach; Otto, the upstart band with Tye Trujillo, bringing some serious heavy with their own material as well as a cover of Misfits' "Astro-Zombies" and Rachel Lorin's moving cover of the Tears for Fears favorite, "Mad World." "I’ve loved Tears for Fears since I was little, and they’re very hard to emulate or imitate. 'Mad World,' I think is just a brilliant, brilliant song," she told us earlier on the red carpet.
Matt Pinfield hosted the evening, while freestyle rapper Harry Mack helped keep the audience entertained and the energy high while helping to fill time between set changes. Some of the mid-show standouts belonged to artists that may not be as well known, but definitely hit their mark with the crowd. Shiragirl's high energy performance of Joan Jett's "I Hate Myself for Loving You" with an assist from Sonny Mayo lifted the room, Jam Akler had the audience singing along to an emotional cover of "Purple Rain" and the jaw-dropping power vocals of Winter Rae on Heart's "Alone" drew major applause. Lauren Ruth Ward pulled in an assist from Crowded House keyboardist Mark Hart on "Don't Dream It's Over" before revealing her "Live Aid" shirt as she bopped around to Cyndi Lauper's "She Bop," and 8MM's Juliette Beaven channeled her best Siouxsie Sioux on a well received cover of "Cities in Dust," before nailing 'Til Tuesday's "Voices Carry."
As the night continued, Sum 41's Frank Zummo treated fans to an absolutely crushing drum medley featuring Faith No More's "Epic," Aerosmith's "Walk This Way," Beastie Boys' "No Sleep 'Til Brooklyn," Motorhead's "Ace of Spades" and a re-"Imagine"-ing Van Halen's "Jump." Zummo, who has close ties to late Linkin Park singer Chester Bennington, jumped at the opportunity to take part after initially doing so last year. "I’ve lost too many dear friends because of mental illnesses. I’m such a supporter of what Chester Bennington’s wife is doing. I want to be a part of this and I jumped on it last year with Deryck [Whibley] and we did a Metallica medley. It was so fun," said Zummo, who also took some pleasure of playing a different kind of set. “It’s so great having just been on tour to have a five minute soundcheck, just walk in and it’s me being a solo artist. It’s just a fun change, and I’m glad to be home in L.A. because I’ve been gone for five weeks.”
The latter part of the evening found Five Headed Cobra sharing their love for the hair metal era with nods to Motley Crue and Guns N' Roses, Aussie alterna-rockers Atlas Genius sending out an S.O.S. with The Police's "Message in a Bottle" and re-imagining Dead or Alive's "You Spin Me Round," and Slim Jim Phantom sporting the night's coolest purple threads while staying true to his Stray Cats roots with "Rock This Town."
Eagles of Death Metal's Jesse Hughes, who just did a covers album, pulled out two '80s favorites in David Bowie's "Blue Jean" and Peter Gabriel's "Sledgehammer" with the help of No Doubt's Adrian Young and two of No Doubt's horn players. Hughes, who has dealt with his own demons since the terrorist attack while his band was playing in Paris, credits benefits like these for putting the spotlight on an issue that people might not always be aware of. "I’m living proof that having the right support will help you fight the demons. I was in a terrorist attack three and a half years ago and it was very easy that I might not have performed again. But everyone in our world got interested from U2 all the way on down and it was as if no one was willing to let us go. You have to be willing to be like that all the time. Eternal vigilance, if you will," said Hughes. The singer recalled to us on the red carpet, “Later on that night [after the terrorist attack], two people came up and hugged me and I was like, ‘What are you hugging me for?’ And they’re like, ‘Thank you, when you left, we saw how to get out.’ Really, it was just me leaving, and I didn’t have to do anything other than that but to show a few people how to get out. So maybe that’s what we need to do. Sometimes you’ve just got to get up and make a move to the right place to show everyone else how to do it. I’m not willing to lose any more of us or to suffer that loss anymore, and if we’re not willing, it won’t happen.”
Female duo Bones U.K. took the lead for another Joan Jett homage, this time rocking up "I Love Rock and Roll" with backing support from Jaime Bennington. Then it was time for Chester Bennington's son to take the lead, performing The Ramones' "Blitzkrieg Bop" with backing from Weezer's Scott Shriner and Sugarcult's Marko Desantis. Jesse Hughes then returned with a majority of the night's performers for the Beasties Boys' "Fight for Your Right to Party."
While that seemed like it could have been the conclusion for the evening, there were still more performers left. In what could be considered the night's encore segment, violinist Lindsey Stirling did wonders as she bounded about the stage on Wham's "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go" and Europe's "The Final Countdown." A collective of musicians including James Lomenzo on vocals performed Tom Petty's "Running Down a Dream," and guitarists Lomenzo and Tyler Bates, keyboardist Roger Manning, drummer Fred Coury remained as Gavin Rossdale performed an acoustic cover of Cyndi Lauper's "Time After Time" for a friend who had passed, then amped up the energy with Simple Minds' "Don't You" that had Jaime Bennington returning to perform with one of his dad's peers. Finishing out the night was Drop the Needle, a band featuring Jane's Addiction's Stephen Perkins, Fabrizio Grossi, Rafa Moreira and Alex Alessandroni Jr., as they took on Power Station's "Some Like It Hot," reimagined KISS' "I Was Made for Loving You" and continued rocking into the early morning hours.
Check out our photo gallery from the Strange '80s 3D benefit and if you're interested in learning more how you can donate to the Charity Buzz-organized benefit's goal in raising awareness for mental health issues, click the link here.
Strange '80s 3D Photo Gallery