ARTICLE AND PHOTOS BY TONY MOLINA
Upon a cool night stroll down historic Sunset Boulevard, where L.A. rock history stands ground against the newly gentrified horizons, the sight of the Sunset and Clark Street intersection still soothes with a mental and spiritual comfort. As of late, Hollywood has stretched in so many directions, morphing into an unfamiliar landscape far from its sweet sunset and sun-kissed, low-profile skyline. But even in the calm night, this intersection still makes me proud of what these street blocks once were witness to: legendary rock music. Who knows what time will do to these streets as changes seem to blow in quicker than a Facebook post. But for the moment, I want to cherish what these streets have been all about: musical treasure. Not just that music is experienced here, but we're lucky that the music creators walk with us here. Not every town gets this.
Yes, the band SSHH has a vision to share by gathering together a special lineup. The electro punk project of Zak Starkey and girlfriend Sshh Liguz brought reggae history upon this stage for a glorious rocker-reggae vibe. SSHH gave us musical magic with bassist Fully Fullwood, drummer Santa Davis, and guitarist Tony Chin as their band, who is a direct link to Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Burning Spear, and Soul Syndicate. Tonight we witnessed musical history—the gift of magical vibes upon us, right now.
But what's Zak's musical vision in blending things tonight? In recent years, we have seen drummers take the lead in side projects, such as Radiohead's Philip Selway and Portishead's Geoff Barrow, and the world needs more of this perspective from the song's groove, root, and spine: the DRUMMER.
Drummer Zak Starkey is Beatle lineage, taking after father Ringo Starr on the drummer's throne in Oasis and The Who. Yet, few know Zak's original musical origin is guitar, and within the SSHH project, Zak gets the best of two musical worlds as guitarist and drummer. Tonight SSHH gives us the greatest in reggae delights with a rare sight: Zak Starkey live on guitar. Along with that, his vision is of crossing and breaking musical rules—and it's total genius. But really, what is meshing musical genres, and who has really tried it? Maybe it takes a drummer, the likely risk-taker. SSHH may have clarified the meaning of "mesh." And it's happening on stage with a mix of minds, history, and talent. Zak and Liguz define it tonight.
Sshh Liguz possessed us with her easy tap into Peter Tosh's "Johnny B. Goode," with slinky Fully Fullwood bass lines waving into the Viper Room groove. But this original track was a technical effort. Yet, upon the vibe on this original 1984 Peter Tosh version of the Chuck Berry classic, legend reggae guitarist Donald Kinsey did a magical, gutsy lead solo on that track that secured his place in the books. But I froze when Zak gave a look to Tony Chin that he was about to dive into that Kinsey solo! Zak the drummer? Well, Johnny is good! Tonight Zak and the Les Paul Custom were synced, and he didn't give the drums a second thought. He's at home in this vibe on guitar. Who knew?
The vision to blend it all lives in ISSUES, the current LP by SSHH, which is a wonderfully produced gathering of rock history's greatest songs that inspired Starkey and Liguz. With guests from the original tracks, it's not just a covers LP, it's a prime example of how meshing the genres of rock can be done. And it's done with SSHH attitude.
The result is taking those solid hits to the top floor, with groovy re-interpretations that surprise with new originality and unearthed production potential. SSHH takes music into the undiscovered sonic depth of technology, boldy revising the rock genre. The creation makes you want to believe that maybe, just maybe, these original tracks should have been done this way in the first place, in the SSHH method.
And from this, tonight we hear SSHH's versions of The Pretenders' "Private Life" and Amy Winehouse's "Back to Black." Imagine a mixed textural soup of industrial rock and ambient reggae with metal emitting off the stage throughout these classics. All this celebration of rock is re-energized wonderfully, and with Santa Davis pocketing this groove down, one barely believes that this is actually happening.
Sshh Liguz's sonic punk, yet beautifully charged vocals transform Marley's "Get Up Stand Up" into a Rasta-driven, space-rock vision, a one-of-a-kind effort. Marley is channeled and tuned from Liguz's tranced spirit behind the mic. if you need an introduction to Sshh Liguz, this is it. A prime example is happening right before us as this mix of rock royalty and history just simply mesh. No borders in musical genre exist here. This blend is what music is meant to be if you travel beyond the barriers. This effort is a meaningful transformation of process. It's a sonic reward to the psyche. Wonderfully refreshing, pop, rock, reggae, and punk sound better together. SSHH is the bridge to this. It can happen.
The walk back onto Sunset Boulevard calmed down the beautiful adrenaline rush that was sadly fading away from The Viper Room vibe, a show that just left you thinking of possibilities that there is still hope in rock music. There's plenty to challenge and discover out there, and SSHH touches upon it. Experiencing historical events is a rare thing in everyday life. Tonight was a gathering of the tribes, a sharing and interpretation in vision of music. Sunset Boulevard and Clark Street can forever be that, a historical epicenter and vortex of energy to gather us all. It's good, and it's there for you—L.A.'s gift.