Regina Spektor, The Bangles, Weird Al, Perry Farrell Play the Wammys, Grammy Week's Most Rocking Party

Annie Lesser

Regina Spektor performs at the 2017 Wammys.

There's a reason why it was called the 'Dive Clavis Party'....

Grammy Week can feel like spring break for suit-and-tie wearing music execs glad-handing over passed hors d'oeuvres and top shelf drinks while preening over the latest quarter's balance sheets. It can also seem far removed from music's origin story: sweaty gatherings filled with primal beats, spilled libations, dancing, singing, flirting and a hint of danger. That's where the annual Wammys party comes in.

One of the week's more informal and raucous parties, the gathering is a quasi punk alternative to some of the music biz's more staid offerings. It's co-hosted by Dhani Harrison and his manager David Zonshine and their label H.O.T. Records LTD; Jim Merlis and Ken Weinstein's Big Hassle Media and this year BMG. The Wammys was originally called the "Dive Clavis Party," which makes sense considering it falls on the same night as—and stands in stark contrast to—the concurrently-held Clive Davis Party at the Beverly Hilton, one of Grammy week's most elegant and important functions.

Annie Lesser
Perry Farrell performs at the 2017 Wammys.
Perry Farrell performs at the 2017 Wammys.Annie Lesser

This year's Wammys (which has seen four different locales in the past five years) was held at the awesome dive Dirty Laundry off Hollywood Boulevard. The event felt both more rock and roll and more tethered to Grammys than in years past. The rock was brought courtesy of the party's first-ever live band, an all-star group led by Alex Levy (The Best Fest) and his Cabin Down Below Band who performed a tribute to Tom Petty with performers who overlapped with MusiCares' Petty tribute the night before. This included Regina Spektor, Cage The Elephant, Jakob Dylan, The Shelters, Dhani Harrison and Larkin Poe.

Here, though, with some of Tom Petty's Heartbreakers in Benmont Tench, Mike Campbell and Steve Ferrone occasionally sitting in with a cavalcade of L.A. local celebs paying tribute ot Petty's classic catalog, the bonhomie felt genuine and more like "music caring" than ever. The varied and impromptu nature of the night also led for wholly unexpected moments of musical kismet.

Annie Lesser
Weird Al performs at the 2017 Wammys.
Weird Al performs at the 2017 Wammys.Annie Lesser

Here, for example, Perry Farrell clad in dandy-ish bright purple suit gave a rousing rendition of "Breakdown" that seemed almost written for his snarl. The Jane's Addiction frontman and Lollapalooza co-founder, also noted the dive's lack of headroom  "I've been playing for 30 years in Los Angeles," he said, "and the ceilings never get any higher."

Other performances included: three of the Bangles harmonizing on "American Girl;" Guster's Ryan Miller with Larkin Poe on "I Won't Back Down;" Black Rebel Motorcycle Club's Robert Been rocked "It's Good to Be King;" Butch Walker did a muscular version of "Even the Losers;" Regina Spektor laid bare a more ethereal "Yer So Bad" with her angelic voice floating atop guitar by her husband Jack Dishel, who also backed Mereki on "Stop Draggin' My Heart Around.”

Jakob Dylan's phrasing on the awesome "The Waiting" did dad proud; while Weird Al Yankovic's rocking rendition of "Refugee" was devoid of his patented absurdities—only the hirsute parodist rocking the f-word out. Cage the Elephant's Matt Shultz on "Mary Jane's Last Dance" with photographer Danny Clinch on harmonica preceded the exuberant "Free Fallin'' finale with assorted artists filling the stage including Lisa Loeb, Regina Spektor and the Bangles' Susanna Hoffs who brought the house to a fit of exultation.

Spotted in the crowd were a number of top execs, including Marc Geiger, WME's head of music, who said he was glad to be here with several of the night's performers who he knows and works with rather than the swankier cross-town affair. Others included BMG head Hartwig Masuch and evp Jon Cohen; Maker Studios' Amy Finnerty, and Vector Management' Ken Levitan, Mom + Pop Records' Michael Goldstone and Thaddeus Rudd. 

Also in the crowd were artist Shepherd Fairey, Jean-Michel Jarre, and Ben Jaffe of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band who had just come from playing the Nielsen far-more formal bash at Nightingales along with Maren Morris.

Also in the club was S-Curve Records head Steve Greenberg who with the benefit of having gone to both MusicCares  and tonight's Wammys was unequivocal in his preference. "This," he said, "is better."

2017 Grammys