Rock Luminaries & Fans Pay Loving, Respectful Tribute to Lemmy Kilmister at Rainbow Bar Memorial

Robert Knight Archive/Redferns

Portrait of Ian 'Lemmy' Kilmister with a Rickenbacker bass guitar.

In some ways it felt like just another Saturday night at L.A.'s iconic Rainbow Bar and Grill when the Sunset Strip institution shut down for a four-hour private memorial to Motörhead frontman Lemmy Kilmister on Jan. 9. Out on the patio, a mix of grizzled veteran rockers, industry-ites, and those new to the scene smoked in the corner by Sunset Boulevard. Jack and Cokes were guzzled by the gallon while people scarfed free slices of the venue's signature pizza.

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It was fitting that it felt like just another night at the no-nonsense bar, because if Kilmister were in the building -- playing video poker in his usual corner, greeting well-wishers and even buying them drinks, as longtime friends and regulars of the spot recalled -- that's how he would've wanted it. When Lemmy was at his home away from home, there was no fanfare or room for star-fucking. He would play his game and talk to people as if he were an Average Joe at the bar, not a metal icon.

To his peers and fans however, there was nothing average about him. That's what made the evening so special, as evidenced by Dave Grohl, who graciously took photos with fans throughout the night, holding court in one outside corner, where he was joined by a group of friends, including Foo Fighters bandmate Pat Smear. Mike Inez was seen walking back and forth from the patio to the restaurant on multiple occasions. Wearing shades, Shooter Jennings stood in front of a cardboard cutout of Lemmy talking with friends. And on Sunset, lines went around the block in both directions while press and paparazzi blocked the driveway that bridges the Rainbow and the neighboring Roxy. 

While it was rowdy on the street, the tone inside the Rainbow was respectful and reverent. All were on hand to pay final respects to the Rainbow's greatest patron, Lemmy, who was laid to rest earlier in the day at Forest Lawn cemetery in Hollywood. The rock legend loomed large over the whole Strip on this evening -- even office buildings along the boulevard bore signs reading "RIP Lemmy." And with the massive overflow from those who couldn't get into the Rainbow being handled by both the Roxy and the Whiskey, his presence was felt up and down the street. As fans of all ages walked from venue to venue in their Motörhead shirts, Lemmy's name rang out along the Strip from those on foot and in passing cars.

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Lemmy's presence naturally dominated the Rainbow, where a giant rendering of him on a whiteboard beneath the familiar Rainbow sign faced the world. The visage of Lemmy was flanked by three wreaths, with the middle one featuring the ace of spades depicted in flowers.

Mourners climbed up on chairs to write their tributes on the board. The loving inscriptions ranged from the typical "RIP" and "Motörhead 4 Life" to more personal remembrances such as, "It was a pleasure to play with you, brother," in addition to a few full paragraphs from friends and fans.

One message in Spanish read, "Gracias Lemmy, todo por rock and roll," and it was signed "Argentina." Such was Lemmy's influence and reach worldwide; to many, he was as essential to metal as Ozzy Osbourne. And while his absence will feel strange for regulars used to seeing him at the corner of the bar, there was a familiar sentiment echoing throughout the night that left no doubt Lemmy's legacy on the Sunset Strip will endure for years to come: "We love you, Lemmy, you are rock and roll."