COVERS N’ ROSES
In stormy conditions, Hookers & Blow triumph in Hollywood Holiday concert
WEST HOLLYWOOD, Calif., USA — They say it never rains in California, but it was pouring on the Sunset Strip on a Friday evening a couple of nights before Christmas — a record-breaking downfall that still threatened to wash away what turned out to be a great performance from Hookers & Blow, the party band featuring Guns N’ Roses keyboardist Dizzy Reed and Quiet Riot guitarist Alex Grossi.
It was so wet that some of the crowd had their mascara and lipstick running, their hair extensions bunching up and their silky clothes all soaked — and that was just the guys!
The uber cover band has been around since 2004, and it did not take long for Reed and Grossi to realize the Hookers & Blow name is so catchy that they could sell a lot of t-shirts, and that’s just what they’ve doing through a merchandise partnership with Forgotten Saints a trendy clothing store on Melrose Avenue a couple of blocks south.
“Everything has been going great,” Grossi said, as we huddled backstage for a chat a few moments before Hookers & Blow took the stage.
“It’s not really a band, it’s more of a cover thing,” Grossi said “We go out and have fun and do some GNR covers and some covers of other bands. The t-shirt has become bigger than the band, kinda-like. You know, you see people with Motorhead shirts or Ramones shirts, but half the people wearing Ramones shirts don’t even know who the Ramones are.”
The group stuck mostly to Guns N’ Roses songs at the Whisky, playing most of the crowd-pleasing hits like “Welcome to the Jungle” and “Patience” — Reed has a great voice! — plus throwing in a healthy dose of some of GNR’s lesser-known tracks like “Pretty Tied Up,” ‘Dust N Bones,” “Bad Obsession” and “You’re Crazy.”
Grossi shredded on guitar, and to his credit he did a great job of remaining loyal to the Guns N’ Roses originals in terms of tone and tempo.
Mike Duda from WASP played bass, keeping the rhythm with drummer Tiny Biuso from TSOL.
As for Reed, his roots go all the way back to the Strip just like Guns N’ Roses. The tall, wavy-haired keyboardist with a can-do attitude started as a founding member of The Wild, a popular local band that shared a rehearsal room. In 1990, Reed joined Axl, Slash and the boys, and what a ride it has been.
The Whisky was a starting point, a sentiment not lost on Mr. Reed. The last time he was in town, Guns N’ Roses was headlining two nights at Dodger Stadium. On Friday, there were just a few hundred soaked spectators in the building, but Reed was giving it everything he had — a testament to his professionalism.
“It always feels good to come back and play the Whisky,” Reed said. “I enjoy playing the Whisky every time we get a chance to do it.”
Grossi said it’s a smooth deal playing with Reed — not just because the keyboardist is a world-famous, international rock star but more so because of the natural chemistry on stage, plus they simply get along really well.
“Dizzy is doing a great job in GNR. He is one of the best, one of the most talented people I’ve ever met — and one of the nicest,” Grossi said. “He is the longest-running member of the band other than Axl. I mean, he never left. A lot of these guys left and came back, hence the reunion. With Hookers & Blow, we do a lot of the songs that Guns N’ Roses doesn’t do.”
The band hosted a private pre-party that included an acoustic jam featuring Grossi on guitar with Femme Fatale’s Lorraine Lewis helping out on some of the vocals; ex-Scorpions drummer James Kottak was there, too, in addition to Ex-Wives of Rock TV star Athena Bass, publicist Joe Dolan and lots of others.
Quiet Riot drummer Frankie Banali and bass player Chuck Wright were on hand at the Whisky to enjoy the proceedings, as were Paradise Kitty members Jenny Side (singer) and Rachael Rine (drums), who joined in for “Paradise City” and “Sweet Child O’ Mine.”
Obviously, Quiet Riot is Grossi’s top priority, but that does not mean he can’t have a great time doing both.
“Quiet Riot has taught me a lot. There is no bigger rush than playing ‘Bang Your Head’ in front of 10,000 or 20,000 people,” Grossi said. “Like I said, there is no bigger rush, and it’s cool because you see a lot of little kids in the audience thanks to Guitar Hero. Plus, the documentary, the Quiet Riot movie, that has definitely helped.”
Rain or shine, Hookers & Blow comes through.
“Dizzy and I started this band in 2004 as a joke,” Grossi said. “We were playing the Cat Club, which used to be next door to the Whisky, and we did it just as an excuse to get free drinks and for fun, and then we started booking shows, and it sort of snowballed into a bigger thing.
“In Lima, Peru, we sold out 5,000-6,000 just as Hookers & Blow, but we usually just play clubs. It’s been going great.”
Gerry Gittelson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org